Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys

Panthers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

9 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (4) Carolina Panthers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:15pm

I love the city of Seattle in the month of January. Everyone has a pep in their step in preparation for the NFL Playoffs. After an eventful Wild-Card weekend we know which of the surviving teams gets the opportunity to play at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Divisional playoffs. That team is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers take on the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks Saturday night. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. The loser goes home. Last week the Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their first playoff game after entering the postseason with a losing record. Including that win last week over the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers enter this game 8-8-1. The Seahawks are 12-4 and are looking to make it back to their second straight NFC title game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Carolina 6-2. Their last meeting came earlier this season when the Seahawks beat the Panthers 13-9 in Charlotte. The Seahawks went on to win 8 of their next 9 games. The Seahawks are also 3-0 all-time against Carolina at CenturyLink Field, including a 34-14 win over the Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith led Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game. There are a lot of storylines to take note of this week. Here is what I will be looking for.

In last season’s divisional playoff game against New Orleans, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. His effectiveness in the running game allowed the Seahawks to control the tempo of the game and there was never any significant threat of the Saints taking the game over. The same must happen this week. Seattle’s ability to run the ball is crucial this week since they are facing a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since October 30th (Week 9). If Lynch himself can run for at least 80 yards it will lead me to believe that we can control the clock and control the game. If the Panthers do a solid job stopping the Seahawks running game my number one guy to watch in the passing game is wide receiver Doug Baldwin. In three career games against Carolina he has 189 receiving yards and in his last two games against the Panthers, Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. In addition to playing on the outside look for Baldwin to spend a lot of time in the slot this week, as quick throws and routes down the seam could be effective.

Just like how the running game is priority number one on offense, stopping the Panthers running game is priority number one on defense. This will be difficult, as Carolina will use feature back Jonathan Stewart and the threat of quarterback Cam Newton scrambling gives the Seahawks an additional element to focus on. The Seahawks have faced Carolina each of the last three seasons. In each of those games I thought there was a serious threat of Newton running wild if the going got tough for the Panthers offense. In each of those games Newton rushed for only 42, 38, and 24 yards respectively. In a playoff situation I think now is as good a time for the Panthers to let Newton run wild if the Seahawks play great defense. Newton’s build and strength will make it difficult to wrap him up and get him to the ground. If there is a player you must keep a close eye on when Carolina has the ball, it is Cam Newton.

Over the past few weeks the Carolina Panthers defense has been playing similarly to how they played all of last season, suffocating. If could be a difficult challenge for the Seahawks to get their offense going as the Panthers sport two tackling machines at the linebacker position in Thomas Davis and pro-bowler Luke Kuechly. Davis and Kuechly have combined for 253 total tackles so far this season, by far the best of any tandem in the NFL. The Panthers do come into this game a bit banged up however, as it was announced Wednesday that starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured foot. Lotulelei will not play for the rest of the season. As important as Carolina’s front seven is for the Seahawks to be aware of, I will be keeping a close eye on the play of the Panthers secondary. One of Carolina’s starting cornerbacks was inactive when these two teams met back in October so I have decided to put my X-Factor player to watch spotlight on that player, cornerback Bené Benwikere. Benwikere, a 5th round rookie from San Jose State, is a physically small player who has shown he can play big in his limited playing time this season. Benwikere has recorded 24 tackles in 11 games and has also picked off one pass and forced one fumble. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will both likely line up across from Benwikere throughout the game and since he did not play in the first meeting, I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson throw in his direction multiple times in the first half.

This last point cannot be overlooked. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has never played a game at CenturyLink Field. Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played in the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Seattle, came out this week stating there is no way to prepare for just how loud the 12th Man is. It had been reported earlier in the week that the Panthers were having serious difficulties handling artificial simulated crowd noise during practice; a serious red flag. Over the past few years we have seen what kind of problems “Clink rookies” have had communicating in the huddle once they get lined up. Colin Kaepernick immediately comes to mind as his 49ers failed terribly at handling the noise in his first game in Seattle in 2012. This week the 12’s need to give everything they have to make life a living hell for Newton. I believe Newton has no idea what he is in for and it will be a harsh reality once kickoff rolls around Saturday night. The Panthers used no huddle for 22 plays last week against Arizona and they will likely use a similar dose of no huddle this week. To the 12th Man, stay loud all game long, even between plays. Our voices could be the difference between advancing to the NFC Championship Game and not.

Random Thoughts: The Panthers will wear all-white with the Seahawks wearing all-blue this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. This is not a surprise given the potential ratings of the other NFC Divisional game (Dallas at Green Bay). It makes sense that FOX would send their number one crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to Lambeau for that game instead… The referee this week is Terry McAulay. McAulay officiated the Seahawks divisional round game last season and Super Bowl XLVIII… Saturday is going to be a very long day but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love primetime football. This is going to be a very special game… The giveaway this week is “We Are 12” rally towels. I love it. Towels should be the giveaway for all playoff games and I am glad to see the Seahawks are fixing their mistake from last season (they gave away 12th Man flags vs. the Saints)… Even though this is an evening kickoff it is the playoffs, and it should be expected that everyone be in their seats by the time pregame ceremonies start. I want to see a full stadium waving their towels as the Seahawks run out of the tunnel… I believe that there is an incredibly strong possibility that former Mariners pitcher and 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson will raise the 12th Man flag this week. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet… One of my favorite postseason traditions is when the Seahawks play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” with a video encouraging fans to get loud as the television broadcast is coming back from a TV timeout. If they bring this back on Saturday night I am going to get super super pumped… This week marks the return of the Skittles in section 340. To everyone possibly sitting below me this is your warning to watch out. Streamers will also be making a re-appearance in these playoffs. Let’s make this playoff run a full on raging party in the stands… One win away from the NFC Championship and two victories away from Super Bowl XLIX. It’s on the tips of our fingers.

Prediction: The Panthers and Seahawks will keep this game close until the closing minutes of the first half. With the Seahawks holding a 7-3 lead, Richard Sherman will intercept a Cam Newton pass and Marshawn Lynch will score a touchdown with under one minute remaining in the half, giving the Seahawks a 14-3 halftime lead. The Seahawks will carry that momentum into the second half as they will take the opening kickoff and drive the length of the field, culminating in a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, giving the Seahawks a 21-3 lead. Beast Mode will add one more score in garbage time and the Seahawks will cruise to the NFC Championship to face the Green Bay Packers.

Seahawks 28, Panthers 10

Due to a belated birthday celebration for myself with all of my friends after the game I will not have my game review published until Sunday night most likely. By then we will know who we will face in the NFC Championship Game should we win on Saturday. Check back Sunday night for my take on Saturday’s game. Go Seahawks!

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Commentary: Who Will it Be?

1 Jan
From L-R: Panthers QB Cam Newton, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Lions WR Calvin Johnson

From L-R: Panthers QB Cam Newton, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Lions WR Calvin Johnson

The Seahawks and the 12th Man will not know until late Sunday afternoon who we will play in our NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 10th. One of three teams will be traveling to Seattle for that playoff game. If the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions this Sunday, the winner of Saturday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers will play the Seahawks. If Detroit beats Dallas, the Lions will play the Seahawks on January 10th. Here is a brief breakdown of all three potential opponents including who I personally would like to play, and who I think the Seahawks will probably face in their first playoff game.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their division and enter the playoffs with a losing record. Unlike the 2010 Seahawks who went into their Wild-Card playoff game double digit underdogs to the New Orleans Saints, the 7-8-1 Panthers are 5.5 point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals this week. The Panthers are the team I believe the Seahawks will face next Saturday night. Carolina has won 4 straight games and getting to play at home against a backup quarterback gives them an advantage. With a win, the Panthers will record their first playoff win since defeating the Chicago Bears in the 2005 NFC Divisional playoffs.

The Pros: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is the only quarterback of the Seahawks potential opposing quarterbacks to have never played at CenturyLink Field. The fact that he would be playing in front of a playoff revved 12th Man makes the idea of the Seahawks advancing to the NFC Championship Game highly likely. The Seahawks are 3-0 against Carolina all-time at CenturyLink Field.

The Cons: I do not know how Bears fans felt when they hosted the 2010 Seahawks in the NFC Divisional playoffs but I would be a little worried that the 12’s would not treat this game like a true playoff game because of the Panthers record. The fact of the matter is that the Panthers were good enough to get into the playoffs. It shouldn’t matter what their regular season record says. At the end of the day, it’s still win or go home.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are making their first playoff appearance since 2009 but they are stumbling into the playoffs, having lost their last two regular season games with Ryan Lindley at quarterback. I think it is possible that if they can beat Carolina this week, Drew Stanton will be back as the starting quarterback by the time they would play Seattle. The Seahawks have beaten both Stanton and Lindley this season. Stanton played the game in Seattle and went 14/26 for 149 yards and one interception. The Cardinals defense is arguably the best of these three potential opponents and could give the Seahawks the closest game.

The Pros: Now that Jim Harbaugh has left the NFC West, the coach the Seahawks should now love to hate the most is Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Arians has stated that he believes the Cardinals can with the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton, but that was when the Cardinals controlled the division by 3 games over the Seahawks. Things have fallen on hard times in Arizona since and it would be awesome to beat this team and the likely NFL coach of the year for a third time this season. This is likely the beginning of an intense rivalry with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cons: This may be the future of our division rivalries but it simply does not have as “hateful” of a feel that playing the San Francisco 49ers three times last year had. I think we would beat Arizona in this playoff game handedly, possibly making the later parts of the game kind of boring.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have not played in Seattle since 2009. They have a talented defense that is capable of stopping Marshawn Lynch. The Lions boast the most explosive offense of any of these three teams and would provide the best and most exciting challenge for the Seahawks defense and the Legion of Boom. I for one would love to see Richard Sherman go up against Calvin Johnson, and to see the return of former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. This is the matchup that I would most like to see.

The Pros: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has played in Seattle before but that was when the Seahawks were not very good. He has only played in one playoff game and he lost. The playoff inexperience of the Lions could give the Seahawks a significant leg up in this matchup.

The Cons: None.

Rams/Seahawks Preview

27 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is a case of déjà vu for the Seahawks this week. Once again we end our regular season at home against the St. Louis Rams and once again a Seahawks win will clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks are 11-4, winners of their last 5 games. The Rams are 6-9, last place in the NFC West, and are looking to avoid their first double-digit loss season since 2011. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 20-13. St. Louis’s win over the Seahawks back in October is the only divisional blemish on the Seahawks record. This week the Seahawks and the 12th Man want to ensure the road to Super Bowl XLIX goes through CenturyLink Field. This is what must happen for the Seahawks to avoid an epic upset that could cost us the #1 seed.

Overall, I believe both the Seahawks offense and defense ae plenty capable of getting the job done this week. The only way I see Seattle losing is if we beat ourselves which is a big reason as to why we lost to the Rams earlier this season. There are three things we need to avoid doing in order to come away victorious. The first thing the Seahawks must do is not to commit penalties in excessive fashion. Last week penalties were a huge problem especially in the first half. The Seahawks are averaging 8.5 penalties per game and there have only been two games this season where Seattle’s opponent commits more penalties than the Seahawks themselves. If the Seahawks can hold their number of penalties to under their season average we will be in tremendous shape. Specifically, the Seahawks must show they have fixed their problem with procedure penalties. Seattle committed two false starts and two offsides penalties last week. Zero is my target number this week. Anything greater than zero is a failure in my eyes.

The second thing the Seahawks must do is not commit turnovers; something they have done an excellent job controlling the past few weeks. During our five game winning streak the Seahawks have turned the ball over only three times. The Seahawks have also averaged only one turnover per game at home this season. Ball security has been a huge strength of this team down the stretch and the Seahawks will absolutely secure a victory if they can continue to not turn the ball over.

The third thing, which is the broadest yet the most important thing that must happen, is to avoid major injuries. With the playoffs coming up, the worst thing that can happen is for the Seahawks to lose important pieces of the starting lineup especially on defense. The Seahawks have played as complete of football since the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and the re-emergence of strong safety Kam Chancellor. We are ready to make an impact in January. The only thing that could threaten our hopes of making a deep playoff push is injuries.

After watching the St. Louis Rams drop back-to-back games the previous two weeks I am reminded of our matchup against the Arizona Cardinals last week. I say that because of the temporary leader of the Rams offense, quarterback Shaun Hill. After a lackluster game against Arizona two weeks ago, Hill bounced back with a 75% completion percentage and threw for 290 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and an interception in a losing effort last week against the New York Giants. This tells me one thing; Hill is a very inconsistent quarterback where even his best effort is not enough to win. Like Arizona last week, if the Rams have any chance at winning this game it will have to come at the hands of their defense and special teams. The Rams sport a very talented defense with recognizable names at all three levels but my focus this week is on a player who does not get constant recognition. My X-Factor player to watch for the Rams this week is safety T.J. McDonald. Not many Rams defenders do multiple things really well but McDonald does a very good job getting to the ball carrier to make tackles and also does a good job tracking the ball in the passing game. McDonald ranks third among all Rams in tackles with 98 on the season. McDonald also gets to the quarterback when safety blitzes are dialed up, recording two sacks this season. In the secondary McDonald has seven passes defensed and one interception. I do not expect the Seahawks to air the ball out consistently this week so I expect McDonald’s biggest impact to be getting to the ball carrier. If McDonald can force a Seattle turnover it is possible that St. Louis can keep this game close.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks in all blue, Rams most likely in all white this week… Gus Johnson and Charles Davis have the call for FOX this week. This is the first and only NFL game Johnson and Davis call this season, as they normally are FOX’s number one broadcasting crew for college football. For those of you unfamiliar with Gus Johnson’s broadcast style you are either going to be wildly entertained or wildly annoyed. His nickname is “screamin’ Gus” for a reason. Just type his name in on YouTube and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I would love to hear a Gus Johnson call of a long Marshawn Lynch touchdown this week… We have played the Rams at home in week 17 four out of the past five seasons. Hey NFL, how about we switch the schedule up next year… Going to switch it up before the game. Pyramid Alehouse for lunch and perhaps a beer at Safeco Field before heading into the stadium. Looking forward to Pyramid’s fish and chips… The Seahawks are giving away “We Are 12” t-shirts at the gates this week. I hope they look cool. We’ll see if the Seahawks encourage the fans to wear the shirts or to use the shirts to wave like towels… The postseason schedule will likely be announced at halftime of Sunday Night Football between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. As excited as I am for the Seahawks game, I am almost more excited to see when and at what time the Seahawks will play their first playoff game. I am hoping we get to play on the Sunday of divisional weekend instead of Saturday like last year… Barring an epic collapse my hope is to be down at the Seahawks Pro Shop after the game getting my Seahawks 2014 NFC West champions gear just like last year!

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: A Seahawks win gives us the NFC West title and virtually guarantees we clinch the #1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The only way the Seahawks do not earn the #1 seed with a win is if the Lions/Packers game ends in a tie. If the Seahawks lose and the Cardinals lose, the Seahawks will still win the NFC West but could earn the #1, #2, or #3 seed depending on what Detroit, Green Bay, and Dallas do on Sunday. A Seahawks loss and a Cardinals win would give Arizona the NFC West title and the Seahawks will be the #5 seed. Here are Sunday’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Dallas (11-4) at Washington (4-11)

Arizona (11-4) at San Francisco (7-8)

Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4): The winner of DET/GB wins the NFC North and clinches the #2 seed in the NFC. The loser clinches the #6 seed in the NFC.

Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9): The winner of CAR/ATL wins the NFC South and clinches the #4 seed in the NFC

Prediction: The Seahawks know what is at stake and they will not let anything prevent them from winning this game. Marshawn Lynch will score a pair of touchdowns and Russell Wilson will also throw for a pair of touchdowns. For the second straight week the Seahawks will not allow a touchdown and the Seahawks will coast into the playoffs as the 2014 NFC West champions. Seattle will wrap up the #1 seed in the NFC and will take a week off before getting ready to play either Atlanta, Arizona, or Detroit in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

Seahawks 31, Rams 6

Check back late Sunday night as I review our regular season finale against the Rams. I will also take a first look ahead to the NFL Playoffs and who I believe the Seahawks will face in their first playoff game. Enjoy the game and Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

20 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

The Seattle Seahawks have the opportunity this week to prove one of head coach Pete Carroll’s most well-known mantras right; it’s  not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Arizona Cardinals have been the top dogs in the NFC West all season long and the Seahawks have the chance to knock them off their throne and take full control of the division. In front of a nationally televised audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football the Seahawks will take on the Arizona Cardinals in what some people are calling the biggest regular season game in Cardinals history. Arizona is 11-3 and Seattle is 10-4. A Seahawks win would give both teams an 11-4 record with Seattle taking the division lead based on the head-to-head tiebreaker they would have over Arizona. A Cardinals win clinches the NFC West and home-field advantage for themselves. This is without a doubt the biggest game of the season and many of the matchups definitely favor the Seahawks. In a game that should be filled with dominant defense, this game will likely be won and lost and the hands of the offenses, which is where I put my primary focus for both teams this week. Here is what must happen on Sunday for the Seahawks to take over first place in the NFC West.

There are two things I am looking for out of the Seahawks offense on Sunday. First is we need to get off to a fast start by scoring early points. Two of the top defenses in the league will be featured in this game and points may be at a premium all night long. The best way to do this is to try to establish the run with Marshawn Lynch. If Seattle is unsuccessful running the ball, the best option in the passing game may be to use all sorts of quick passes, screens and slants in particular. In his last 3 games against the Cardinals, quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 14 times. The Seahawks cannot afford to move backwards via sacks in this game. If the Cardinals front-seven does a good job penetrating the Seattle offensive line early on, my hope is to see Wilson use his legs more than usual to pick up yards and use quick passes to take the pressure off of himself.

If the Arizona Cardinals have any chance to win this game it will be up to their defense to play their best game of the season. I say this because of the potential anemic play of the Cardinals offense. Arizona will start third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley on Sunday, who in 7 career games has not thrown a touchdown pass. This week I analyzed all of Lindley’s game film including 6 games from the 2012 season and the quarter and a half he played last week in St. Louis in place of Drew Stanton. Here are my thoughts on Ryan Lindley:

There a lot of negatives that I take out of Ryan Lindley’s game. He is a very inconsistent player who struggles doing the most fundamental aspects of the quarterback position. Lindley’s most glaring weakness is that he stares down his receivers, almost as if he predetermines which receiver he is going to throw to. Lindley also struggles reading the rest of the field, oftentimes unknowingly throwing into double or even triple coverage. This could mean big things for the Legion of Boom, as they thrive on reading the quarterback’s eyes to get in position to make a play. Lindley is a traditional pocket passer and he cannot throw on the run to save his life. He is very inaccurate outside of the pocket and even struggles mightily at times hitting receivers in stride from inside the pocket. If Lindley is going to have any success moving the ball the Cardinals will have to throw similarly to how I think the Seahawks should approach the passing game; with short passes and screens. In 7 games, Lindley is 2/27 on passes that travel 15 or more yards in the air (7.4% completion percentage on deep throws). There are two things the Seahawks defense can do that I think can shut Lindley down. If the Seahawks stack the box with 7, 8, or even 9 defenders and send heavy blitzes, Lindley will be flustered easily and may make horrible throws. This is the approach Rex Ryan’s Jets took in a game against Lindley in 2012 and he finished with a 32% completion percentage, 72 passing yards, and one interception. The Cardinals only scored 6 points in that game. The other thing the Seahawks can do is play press coverage on the outside all game long. If the defense plays zone, you are basically giving Arizona free yards and Lindley can take advantage on quick out routes and curls on the outside. Press coverage would eliminate the cushion Lindley would have to make throws to his receivers.

I am curious to know how short Ryan Lindley’s leash is. If he struggles early will Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians pull the plug and replace him with rookie Logan Thomas? Arians stated early this week that they will implement a package of plays for Thomas but he did not go into details. If the Cardinals start ice cold on offense I think it is possible Arians will try to pull several tricks out of his hat, including using cornerback Patrick Peterson in wildcat formations. With Peterson already a dominating defender, the threat of his speed making an impact on the offensive side of the ball makes him my X-Factor player to watch for the Cardinals this week. I would not be surprised to see Peterson play both ways on Sunday and I do not think it is crazy to think he will see an expanded role on offense to get the running game going.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys on Sunday but it is unclear once again what color pants we will wear. I personally hope we wear blue pants… It is my opinion that the Cardinals will ditch their traditional red jerseys for this game and will instead wear their black alternate jerseys. They usually wear black twice per year (as NFL uniform rules permit) but they have only worn them once in 2014. With this being their last home game, I would not be surprised at all to see Arizona wear black jerseys and white pants this week… Al Michaels will provide the play-by-play and Cris Collinsworth will provide commentary for NBC this week. Michele Tafoya will report from the sidelines… This is the first Sunday Night Football game the Seahawks will play on the road since playing at Tampa Bay in 2008. (This season’s game on Thanksgiving does not count towards this stat)… Walt Anderson is the referee this week… Sunday is going to be a long and tense day leading up to kickoff. I don’t think I’ll be nervous, but I’ll just want the game to start already… Last December the Seahawks played the Giants at MetLife Stadium with the hopes that they would make a return trip for the Super Bowl in the coming weeks. The Same goes this week. You can’t tell me it won’t be discussed among the players and staff that the goal is to get back here [to Arizona] next month for Super Bowl XLIX… I was considering going down to Arizona for this week’s game over the summer. I should have made the investment. My hope was to have all of my Christmas shopping done and all my presents wrapped so I could head down to the valley of the sun and spend a nice relaxing weekend in the warm weather, down by the pool with a drink in hand, and watch the Seahawks play. Looking forward to doing all that is we make it to the Super Bowl!… It will be interesting to see what kind of home-field advantage the Cardinals have this week. Last season the 12th Man invaded University of Phoenix Stadium and made it their own. My hope is that the same thing happens this week. Are we going to see the biggest regular season game in Cardinals history and not have their own fans show up in full force and in full throat? Look at the second deck of the stadium, particularly the corners of the second deck and we’ll have the answer to that question.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: Things are getting simpler. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals, we clinch a playoff spot, we take control of the NFC West, and we take control of the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. We would then  be able to clinch the division with a win at home next week. If the Cardinals win, they clinch the division and home-field advantage and the Seahawks can finish no better than the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Philadelphia (9-5) at Washington (3-11)

Detroit (10-4) at Chicago (5-9)

Green Bay (10-4) at Tampa Bay (2-12)

Indianapolis (10-4) at Dallas (10-4)

Prediction: I was talking to one of my friends earlier this week about what it will take to give the Seahawks a win in this game. We agreed on two things; the first team to score 14 points wins and/or if the Seahawks return an interception for a touchdown at any point in this game we will win. Although I do not predict a pick-six, I do believe the Seahawks will intercept two Ryan Lindley passes and the Seahawks defense will allow less than 175 yards of offense to the Arizona Cardinals. Even though Arizona will do a good job shutting down and stalling Seattle’s offensive drives, Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and three Steven Hauschka field goals later in the game will preserve the victory for the Seahawks. We will take first place in the NFC West and will be in prime position to clinch the division next week.

Seahawks 16, Cardinals 8

Check back late Sunday night or early Monday morning for my review of this game. Thanks for reading and enjoy this game everyone. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 17, 49ers 7

14 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The Seahawks could not be clicking at a better time. In a game that to me was too close for comfort for the majority of the afternoon, the Seahawks found a way to pull away from the San Francisco 49ers late, escaping with a 17-7 victory. The Seahawks improve to 10-4 and will play for the NFC West lead next week in Arizona. The 49ers fall to 7-7 and with this loss they have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The focus in Seattle is going to shift very quickly to next week’s game against the Cardinals but let me break down what I saw out of the Seahawks in this game.

Offensive Line Struggles: The Seahawks offensive line may be the most inconsistent group on the team. After keeping quarterback Russell Wilson clean the past two weeks, the Seahawks offensive line and a very difficult time stopping the pass rush of the 49ers. Wilson was sacked 5 times on Sunday and was hurried or flushed out of the pocket on the majority of plays that San Francisco blitzed 5 or more defenders. Justin Britt in particular had a hard time adjusting to calls at the line of scrimmage and picking up his blocks. In all honesty, the Seahawks played better in the second half after starting left tackle Russell Okung exited the game at halftime with a chest bruise. One silver lining is that the Seahawks offense rushed for 152 yards in this game, 91 of which coming from running back Marshawn Lynch. Looking ahead however, it will be extremely difficult for our offense to score points next week if the Arizona defense plays the way it did last Thursday in St. Louis. As dominating as our defense has played the past few weeks, 17 points on offense is not going to win us every game. With Max Unger hopefully back in the lineup next Sunday, I believe our offensive line can bounce back in a big way.

Unsung Heroes: Paul Richardson caught his first career touchdown pass on Sunday, a 10-yard slant route which extended the Seattle lead to 17-7. Richardson gets the spotlight because of the touchdown but don’t forget about the roles wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse played on Sunday. Baldwin and Kearse caught two-thirds of Russell Wilson’s completions and combined for 131 receiving yards, including a 47-yard reception by Kearse and a 35-yard catch by Baldwin. Both plays came on first half drives which should have ended in points. Instead the Seahawks came away empty handed. With the quality production from our top 3 receivers on Sunday it is possible that Russell Wilson is comfortable enough with his weapons to take more chances down the field.

Kaepernick, Hyde Fluster Defense: I was not the least bit concerned with 49ers running back Frank Gore coming into this game. Gore finished the day prematurely, leaving with a concussion after gaining 29 yards. Instead the quickness of Carlos Hyde and the willingness of quarterback Colin Kaepernick to run seemed to catch the Seahawks off guard. The Seattle defense gave up 140 rushing yards to the 49ers on Sunday, the most allowed at home since week 6 against Dallas. Hyde was on a roll until he too left the game with an injury, leaving fullback Bruce Miller and third string running back Alfonso Smith to carry the load late in the game. The Seahawks defense found an answer to stop Miller and Smith but that also begs the question of would this have been a closer game if Gore and Hyde did not get hurt. Many of San Francisco’s runs went off-tackle and the Seahawks adjusted accordingly as the game progressed. Moving forward it may be beneficial if we spread out our personnel earlier in the game, especially next week against an Arizona rushing attack that averaged 4.3 yards per carry this week.

Sacks for Everyone: The Seahawks team up with Jack in the Box and award a free Jumbo Jack to all fans if the Seahawks defense can record three sacks. For the first time, we the fans had our free burgers by the end of the first quarter and that was only a small sample of the dominance the Seahawks front seven displayed this week. The Seahawks dialed up the pressure all game long and it resulted in 6 sacks of Colin Kaepernick. The interior pass rush had me very satisfied, as defensive tackle Jordan Hill recorded two sacks and defensive tackle Kevin Williams had a sack of his own. Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin also had sacks up the middle, which goes to show how bad of a game 49ers backup center Joe Looney played. In our last 4 games the Seahawks defense has allowed an average of just under 7 points per game, by far the best average in the league. To me however, the lack of offensive production overshadowed the performance of our defense. Upon reflection, when the Seahawks extended it to a two-score game it was definitely over. This defense needs to show up big next week. If the defense can stay on this path, it will be incredibly hard for Arizona’s third string quarterback to beat us next week.

Thoughts on San Francisco: This 49ers team seemed to have played this game inspired but their prideful effort was too much for the talent the Seahawks threw at them. This was most likely Jim Harbaugh’s last hurrah as the head coach of the 49ers and you have to wonder how this season would have played out if they could have stayed healthy throughout. The 49ers are capable of bouncing back in 2015 but just like how Harbaugh coached Mike Singletary’s talent to the best of their abilities when he arrived in 2011, the same must go for whoever the 49ers next head coach is. The way the NFC West has been built in recent years however, it may take more than one year for San Francisco to get back to playoff contention.

Random Thoughts: It was an earlier arriving crowd at the bar before the game. All tables were full by 9:15am. It was a very festive atmosphere that almost felt like a playoff game… That festive environment before the game seemed to dissipate real quick once the game started. It almost felt as though the 12th Man was taking it easy on the 49ers for the first part of the game. The intensity was not what I was hoping it would be but it got better later on once we took our first lead and the noise did not stop until the end of the game… In my opinion the Ebola ribbons handed out as the pregame giveaway was a huge failure. I saw no one wearing them. Literally no one… Great weather on Sunday. I love late season games with nothing but sunshine… John Olerud raised the 12th Man flag before the game; a legitimate candidate that I approve of… The blue endzones are back because the Sounders season is over. Thank goodness. I love the blue endzones. It gives the field a classic look… One of the highlights from the day was when they put 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on the video board complaining after the questionable roughing the passer call which favored the Seahawks. The entire stadium booed. It was one of the loudest moments of the day. It was awesome… If we win next week, holy moly. That’s all I can say.

This upcoming week is by far the biggest of the season. Check back Saturday when I preview our week 16 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks for reading and go Seahawks!

49ers/Seahawks Preview

13 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

A little over two weeks ago we sat down with our families on Thanksgiving and enjoyed two things; a delicious turkey dinner and a Seahawks win over the San Francisco 49ers. On Sunday, with just under two weeks until Christmas, the Seahawks and 49ers square off for the second time in a three-game span, this time however at the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field. When the schedule came out many thought that this game could determine who wins the NFC West. Instead the Seahawks currently sit at 9-4 and are still alive for the division title. The 49ers are 7-6 and a loss to the Seahawks this week will all but mathematically eliminate them from playoff contention. Since we played San Francisco only a handful of days ago, nothing should be new from a game-planning perspective. Nevertheless, here are some brief points of emphasis I will be watching for in this game.

Two weeks ago in Santa Clara the Seahawks racked up 157 total rushing yards, 104 of them coming from Marshawn Lynch. This week I am confident that a 100 yard day from Lynch will all but assure a Seahawks win. This week I am looking to see how involved Robert Turbin and Russell Wilson will be on the ground. I do not expect to see Wilson scramble as often as he has the past couple of weeks. A steady mix of Lynch and Turbin will be the Seahawks go-to on early downs this week. In the passing game it would not be a surprise to see Russell Wilson throw deep early in the game to test the San Francisco secondary. That may be it for the deep ball however, as I think short passes and controlling the clock may be Seattle’s strategy after holding the ball for nearly 42 minutes last week. Most importantly I do not want to see the Seahawks try to get fancy on offense. We played a solid offensive game in San Francisco two weeks ago and it was effective. There is no reason to fix something that is not broken for this game.

On the defensive side of the ball I am curious to see how the first San Francisco offensive possession plays out. I believe how the Seahawks defense plays on that first series will determine how the rest of the game will play out. Simply put there are three different scenarios I could see playing out. If the Seahawks can stop San Francisco for a three-and-out, this game could get ugly very quickly in favor of Seattle. If the 49ers can drive down the field but fail to put points on the board, they may be able to keep it close for the first part of the game. If the 49ers can put together a successful first drive that results in points, this could be a close game throughout. It will be up to the enforcers at each level of our defense to make sure that the 49ers come away empty handed. I am looking at Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, and Kam Chancellor to have monster games making tackles. I would also not be surprised to see Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell make an impact forcing turnovers as well.

In our last game against the 49ers I put a focus on the San Francisco defense. This week I am choosing to focus on the offensive side of the ball. In his last 5 games played in Seattle, 49ers running back Frank Gore has averaged only 36 rushing yards per game. He has not run for more than 30 yards at CenturyLink Field since 2011. It is because of these numbers that I am not worried about Gore. If our game two weeks ago is any indication, I am also not worried about the arm of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The only way I can see the 49ers putting points on the board is on the legs of Kaepernick. For the second straight week I put my X-Factor focus on the opposing quarterback; Colin Kaepernick is my X-Factor player to watch for San Francisco. In the NFC Championship game last January, Kaepernick put the game in his own hands as he ran for 130 yards. This season we have not seen much of Kaepernick on the ground, as he has been more patient behind the line of scrimmage. His three most productive games running the ball all came way back in September. This week the 49ers will be in trouble if Kaepernick tries to stay in the pocket and read his progressions. If I were 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, I would give Kaepernick the green light to take off if he does not like his first read. A solid day on the ground for #7 is the only way I see the 49ers staying competitive in this game.

One other thing that cannot happen this week is for the Seahawks to overlook this 49ers team. I know the Seahawks can and should win this game but the worst thing that could happen is to get overconfident and play as if a win is a guarantee. We are smarter than that. I will be a bit worried and angry if we play cocky, at least to start off when the game is close. Wrap this win up, then move on to next week’s game against the Cardinals.

Random Thoughts: I guarantee that I will not mess up the uniform combinations for either team this week. The Seahawks will go with their navy/navy home look. The 49ers will wear their classic look pairing white jerseys with gold pants… For the second straight week the Seahawks are featured as “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX. Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews have the call once again… Ed Hochuli will officiate his second Seahawks game of 2014 this week. Ed previously called the Seahawks week 9 win over the Oakland Raiders… I love going to late season home games when it is supposed to be sunny. They’re calling for partly cloudy with temperatures in the high 40’s. Should be plenty comfortable… A reminder to everyone going to the game that kickoff is scheduled for 1:25pm. Allow yourselves enough time to get inside the stadium by kickoff… The giveaway this week is ribbons raising Ebola awareness. I understand that this Ebola is a serious matter but couldn’t the Seahawks have figured out a different (better) giveaway? There have been almost no good giveaways at the gates this season. That is pretty disappointing… The halftime show this week is high school marching bands featuring my old high school, Newport High School. Here’s a funny story. 9 years ago I participated in a Seahawks halftime show with the Newport marching band. We were all given blue Seahawks wristbands which my friends and I later learned gave us access to all parts of the stadium. After we performed at halftime we snuck into the game and watched about 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter from the club level. We were then tattled on when we caught up with the band (after we found out they were leaving without us). We failed the “assignment” and I would up with an A- in band that quarter. Would I do it again? Absolutely. It was totally worth it in my opinion. It is kind of sad to think this is likely the final Seahawks game against the 49ers with Jim Harbaugh as their head coach. As much as the 12th Man hates Harbaugh, I will kind of miss him for the sole reason that this potentially marks the beginning of the end of our rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers, which has been quality entertainment for the past 4 seasons.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks are 9-4 and with the Arizona Cardinals win over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday we are currently 1 ½ games behind Arizona for the division lead. A Seahawks win will get us back to within one game of the division lead however we will be locked into the #5 seed for at least another week. Although a win would give us 10 on the season, we cannot clinch a playoff berth after this week. A Green Bay Packers loss to the Buffalo Bills can clear the final road block for the Seahawks to claim home field advantage (if Seattle wins out). Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Green Bay (10-3) at Buffalo (7-6)

Minnesota (6-7) at Detroit (9-4)

Dallas (9-4) at Philadelphia (9-4)

Prediction: Let me be frank. The Seahawks will dominate this game in all phases from start to finish. The Seahawks will take a comfortable 17-3 lead into halftime and the pick barrage will begin in the second half. Colin Kaepernick will throw 4 interceptions, 3 coming in the second half. Byron Maxwell will have two of those interceptions. Richard Sherman and Tharold Simon will add the other two. The Seahawks will improve to 10-4 and will get ready for easily their biggest game of the season in Arizona next week.

Seahawks 27, 49ers 6

Check back late Sunday night/early Monday morning for my 49ers game review. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 24, Eagles 14

7 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

For the second straight week I started the game as a nervous wreck and by the time it was over I had to question myself as to what I was so nervous about in the first place. The Seahawks added yet another defensive gem to their resume as Seattle went all the way across the country to Philadelphia and physically dominated the Eagles en route to a convincing 24-14 victory. The Seahawks and Eagles both now sit at 9-4. With the win Seattle has a firm grip on an NFC wild-card playoff berth while still sitting one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the division lead. For Philadelphia, Sunday’s loss ties them atop the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys but they remain the division leaders based on their tiebreaker over the Cowboys. This was the toughest game left on Seattle’s schedule and with this win I believe the path has been cleared for the Seahawks to make some noise in the playoff standings for the rest of the regular season. For now here is what I took out of this week’s game.

Wilson’s Indecisiveness Costs Seahawks Points: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson played a very good game overall, throwing for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns as well as running for 48 yards and a touchdown. It seemed as if he got more comfortable with his timing and his throws as the game wore on. I did see Wilson make two mistakes in the first quarter, both possibly taking points off the board. The first came on the first drive of the game. With the Seahawks facing a 3rd and 5 at the Eagles 30-yard line Wilson scrambled to the right and instead of throwing the ball away he tried to find an open receiver and ran out of room, stepping out of bounds for a loss of 4 yards. With the wind swirling throughout the game, those 4 yards made the difference between the Seahawks attempting a field goal and punting. Instead of taking a 3-0 lead, the Seahawks punted. The second mistake occurred with just under 4 minutes left in the first half; virtually the same situation. With the Seahawks in field goal range on third down, Wilson was pressured and threw the ball away and did not get the pass back to the line of scrimmage. Intentional grounding was called on Wilson and the Seahawks were forced to punt once again after the 15-yard penalty. A field goal in that situation would have made it a 10-7 game and I believe those two opportunities could have given the Seahawks at least 16 points going into halftime.

Offensive Line Thoughts: The Seahawks surrendered only two sacks of Russell Wilson on Sunday. Just like how the entire offense played better as the game progressed, the same could be said for the Seahawks offensive line, specifically the right side of the line anchored by tackle Justin Britt. Britt had trouble blocking the wide array of weapons Philadelphia threw at him. It seemed like Britt had no answer for Connor Barwin, Fletcher Cox, and Bennie Logan for the entire first half. As the first half was coming to a close, I noticed that right guard J.R. Sweezy started to help Britt out and the Seahawks stuck to that strategy in the second half, resulting in significant improvement in the passing game. Lemuel Jeanpierre played a good game at center in place of Max Unger, proving that he can be a serviceable player until Unger returns from injury. If Unger can play next week this healing and improving offense will only continue to grow and put more points on the board.

Boom > Speed: The number one question coming into this game was how the Seahawks defense would handle the speed of the Philadelphia offense. Coming into this game the Eagles were averaging 412 yards of offense per game. On Sunday, the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom completely shut down Mark Sanchez and company, holding the Eagles to 139 yards. In my game preview I wrote about how to this point Sanchez has not been required to do a whole lot for the Eagles to win games. Today his weaknesses were exploited. The Seahawks were able to hold Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to 50 yards rushing on 17 carries, forcing Sanchez to throw for Philadelphia to move the ball. Sanchez finished the day 10/20 for 96 yards, 2 touchdowns, and one interception. Both touchdowns however came with the Eagles working with a short field (14 yard and 54 yard drives respectively). In our last three games the Seahawks have averaged less than 7 points per game. With the reeling 49ers coming to Seattle next week, this defense could be primed for another dominating performance.

Time of Possession: With all the talk about Philadelphia’s lightning-fast pace on offense it is amazing to me that the Seahawks possessed the ball for 41 minutes and 56 seconds of the game (69%). That number sets a Seahawks franchise record for time of possession. Everything related to time of possession fell into place and you could see it on the field. The Seahawks gained 28 first downs, were able to run the ball to keep the clock running, and perhaps most importantly our defense was able to stay rested throughout the game. As far as clock management goes this was as perfect of a game I have ever seen the Seahawks play and it could not have come against a better opponent.

Procedure Penalties Still a Problem: Although total penalties improved from last week to this week (8 penalties for 67 yards), the Seahawks still need to clean up easily avoidable pre-snap fouls. Half of Seattle’s penalties this week were procedure calls which included two false starts and two delay of game penalties. These fouls are continuing to give me a headache. These situations are fundamental in practice and there is no excuse for giving the opponent easy yards like we did again on Sunday.

Thoughts on Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Eagles are a good team but without Nick Foles this team could be headed towards another early round playoff exit. I believe they have the talent on defense to push this team to a division title. Even though they played the #1 defense this week this offense is not broken. I do question Mark Sanchez’s ability to lead this team deep into January. I believe the Eagles are good enough to win a wild-card playoff game at home but with Sanchez at the helm, if the Eagles have to travel in the playoffs, particularly to Seattle, they will have a very difficult time winning.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went white/blue this week. This was the first time since beating the Redskins in week 5 that the Seahawks won in white jerseys… I am going to talk way more about the Eagles uniforms than I probably should. In my game preview I said the Eagles would wear their midnight green jerseys with white pants. I was wrong. They decided to go with their black alternate jerseys and black pants. I found this surprising considering the Eagles were forced to wear black for the first half of the season after a snafu with Nike in regards to having their green jerseys ready for the first part of the season. Considering that black is the Eagles “alternate” jersey, I would have thought that they could not wear that jersey anymore this season. Oh well… Ricardo Lockette what was that flop all about??!! Terrible… On Saturday night punter Jon Ryan spent his evening playing Nintendo 64 Mario Kart with kicker Steven Hauschka and long snapper Clint Gresham. Perhaps Ryan should spend a little more time practicing catching the ball. Two straight weeks now Ryan has fumbled a punt but this week he could not get off the kick and the Eagles took advantage of the short field we gave them. The Seahawks defense saved Ryan from being the goat of the game in my opinion… Richard Sherman almost had his 4th interception of the season early on in the game. I continue to be amazed that Sherman is rarely penalized with the style of play he sports… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. I believe we will win out and go 12-4. We need to take it one game and one week at a time but I believe we can run the table.

Thanks for reading everyone! Check back on Saturday as I preview our week 15 game against the San Francisco 49ers. Go Seahawks!