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Titans/Seahawks Preview

12 Oct

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Matchup: Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

After losing their first game of the season last week the Seahawks look to bounce back in week 6 as they finish their tour of the AFC South by hosting the Tennessee Titans. The Seahawks hold a one game lead in the NFC West with a 4-1 record. The Tennessee Titans come into this game a somewhat surprising 3-2 and are one game behind the Indianapolis Colts for first place in the AFC South. Including the playoffs, the Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise 9-6. Their last meeting came in week 17 of the 2009 season. Chris Johnson broke the 2,000 yard mark on the season as the Titans defeated the Seahawks 17-13. The Seahawks finished the season 5-11 and just days after the defeat Jim Mora was fired and Pete Carroll was hired as Seahawks head coach. Here are my keys to victory and some things to look for this week.

With Max Unger likely back this week, the Seahawks will have their healthiest starting offensive line in three weeks. Given this I hope to see better pass protection of quarterback Russell Wilson which hopefully also translates into better production from Wilson. After 3 solid weeks, Wilson’s numbers slipped in his previous two games. Wilson threw for a combined 333 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in back-to-back road games in Houston and Indianapolis and last week was the first week since week 2 his completion percentage was under 50 percent in a game. Wilson also has not seemed to be as accurate so far this year as he was at the end of last season. I think the offensive line could make all the difference in the world. I expect the Seahawks passing game to get back on track this week and I would not be surprised to see Wilson throw for between 250 and 300 yards against the Titans.

This week is the first week that all of our pass rushers will play together in front of the 12th Man. This could spell disaster for Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even though the defense struggled down the stretch last week, our front 7 still sacked Andrew Luck twice and recovered a fumble on a strip-sack. I think the pass rush will play a huge factor this week and Fitzpatrick will be sacked at least four times. One thing that could affect the Seahawks on defense this week is linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner is dealing with a low grade high-ankle sprain and head coach Pete Carroll suggested that Wagner’s final game status could be determined during pregame warm-ups on Sunday. If Wagner cannot play, Heath Farwell will most likely start at middle linebacker. Wagner is the leader of the defensive huddle and he may be the most important defensive player as he relays the defensive formations to the rest of the defense. Wagner also has the second most tackles so far this season behind safety Earl Thomas. I am confident in Harwell’s ability to fill in but look for Tennessee to try to take advantage of the “weaker” middle of the field by dumping passes off to tight end Delanie Walker and primary slot receiver Kendall Wright.

The Tennessee Titans have gotten off to a rather surprising start to the 2013 season. After starting the season 3-1 they lost in two aspects last week against Kansas City Chiefs. They lost the game, and they also lost starting quarterback Jake Locker for the next 6-8 weeks with a hip injury. Without Locker, the Titans now turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick to command the offense. Ideally with a backup quarterback at the helm the offense will turn to their running back to carry the load to try to take some of the pressure on the quarterback. The Titans definitely have a running back capable of carrying the load in Chris Johnson but playing in Seattle, Johnson may be facing a long and tough day this week. The Titans will be forced to throw a lot this week especially if the Seahawks can build a lead early on in the game. On offense for Tennessee this week my X-Factor player to watch is wide receiver Justin Hunter. Hunter, a rookie from the University of Tennessee, was a player I had my eye on at this year’s combine and the time before the NFL Draft. Hunter’s height and speed to break away from defenders made him a perfect #2 wide receiver immediately in my eyes. This week he will line up across both Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner depending on the play. The Titans have a lot of wide receivers that will see playing time this week. With Kenny Britt and Nate Washington receiving most of the attention, look for Hunter to possibly make a bigger impact than expected against the Legion of Boom.

Last season Richard Sherman led all NFL cornerbacks in interceptions with 8. This year, the Titans feature a guy in their secondary that could wind up leading the league in interceptions by season’s end. Cornerback Alterraun Verner has intercepted 4 passes so far this season and I believe he has established himself as the permanent replacement to former Titan Cortland Finnegan. What is interesting about the Titans defense is that they have a handful of guys that are effective in rushing the passer and another handful of guys that are effective getting to the play and making tackles. My X-Factor player to watch on defense is a guy who falls into both of these categories, outside linebacker Zach Brown. Brown, a second year man from the University of North Carolina, has recorded a team-high 3 sacks so far this season and also ranks third on the team in tackles with 29. Brown has also forced one fumble. Watching him on film, Brown does a very good job at being the first defender to figure out what type of play the offense will run. He does a good job of getting to the ball and is has more of an impact on running plays than on passing plays. I expect Brown to rush to the right side of the Seahawks offensive line to catch J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie off guard.

Random Thoughts: This is the first home game in three weeks and the only home game in the three weeks upcoming. Talk about a bummer from a fan’s perspective but I would rather knock out the majority of our road games now so we can enjoy back-to-back home games on two separate occasions later on in the season… The Seahawks will wear blue uniforms and blue pants this week… Carl Cheffers is the referee for Sunday’s game… Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf have the call for CBS this week. They are CBS’s #2 crew, meaning they get the privilege to broadcast one playoff game each season so these guys are pretty good all things considered. Should be a good call if you’re watching from home… I’m changing up my pregame plans this week. I’ll be a bar north of the stadium, probably King Street Bar and Oven. I don’t think I’ve been there since the 2012 preseason… Oh yeah, pregaming starts at 9am sharp… I need to get more pink Seahawks stuff to wear for breast cancer awareness month. All I have is an NFL logo pink ribbon pin and a bracelet… Sunday is a 1:05 start, not a 1:25 start. I’ve stated in the past that this 20 minute difference is actually pretty significant and not as many fans are in their seats for the start of the game if it is a 1:05 start. To all the people going to this week’s game please keep this in mind. Be in your seats by 1:00pm (okay, 12:45 just to be safe).

Prediction: Last season the Seahawks lost a close game to the Miami Dolphins and responded by winning 6 straight games before losing to Atlanta in the playoffs. I think that the Titans may open up this game with an early lead but the Seahawks will regain complete control shortly thereafter. Earl Thomas will intercept a deep pass and the Seahawks defensive front seven will force two fumbles. On offense, Sidney Rice will lead the receivers in yardage with 80 and a touchdown. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch will both run for touchdowns and the Seahawks will get ready for the Arizona Cardinals with a 5-1 record.

Seahawks 30, Titans 13

Check back Sunday night for a review of the Seahawks game against the Titans. I will be blogging a lot in the coming week as the Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals on a short week in week 7. Enjoy the game. Go Hawks!

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49ers/Seahawks Preview

22 Dec

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Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:20pm

When the 2012 schedule was released back in April a lot of people circled September 24th’s game against Green Bay and October 14th’s game against New England on their calendars as “must-see” games. I definitely saw those games as big games but this week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers was the game I looked at and got the most excited about. I had thoughts of two incredibly talented teams playing in week 16 with playoff implications and possibly the NFC West division title on the line. Although the division lead is not on the line at this time, the Seahawks have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win. The matchup is so intriguing, the National Football League flexed this game into Sunday Night Football two weeks ago making it the game of the week. The 49ers are 10-3-1 and beat the AFC East champion New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football last week by a score of 41-34. The Seahawks are 9-5 and are coming off an impressive 50-17 win over the Buffalo Bills in Toronto last week. San Francisco leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 14-13. In their last meeting back in week 7, the 49ers beat the Seahawks 13-6 in a defensive duel on Thursday Night Football. 9 weeks have passed since that October night at Candlestick Park and the Seahawks are a completely different team, especially on offense. Here is what I will be looking for on Sunday night.

Since installing a heavy zone-read look, this will be the toughest defense Russell Wilson and the zone-read will have faced all season. The biggest reason why is because San Francisco runs a similar offense. San Francisco’s defense will be practicing against as close to an accurate simulation of the Seahawks as humanly possible. Russell Wilson needs to make sure that the momentum carries over from the past two weeks. If he gets rattled in the pocket, he needs to take a deep breath and improvise. My concern is that if Wilson is flushed out of the pocket, the speed of the 49ers defense will catch Wilson behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in decent sized chunks of yardage lost. Russell Wilson will be the single reason that determines how effective our offense is this week. Marshawn Lynch could have a big impact but the run defense is the bread and butter of the San Francisco defense. I think using a plethora of receivers this week will benefit the offense. If Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Anthony McCoy, and Zach Miller can each catch a couple of passes, the offense will be highly effective. Spread the wealth this week Russell, and don’t be afraid to take shots down the field.

On defense this week, the Seahawks will be playing the cornerback shuffle once again. Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant have been held out of practice all week with injuries but Richard Sherman will be available after having his Adderall suspension ruling delayed until at least next week after his appeal on Friday. If Thurmond and Trufant are both inactive, our starting cornerbacks Sunday night will be Sherman and Jeremy Lane. Lane started last week and was tested early. He passed the tests Buffalo threw at him and he solidified the confidence Coach Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has in him. The defensive line is also banged up this week. Defensive tackle Jason Jones was placed on injured reserve this week, taking away a significant interior pass-rush threat. Greg Scruggs will see an expanded role at defensive tackle this week. The 49ers have a good offensive line but at home, the pressure put on a quarterback is significantly amplified. Add-in the primetime factor and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 5 or 6 sacks of Colin Kaepernick this week. Look for Chris Clemons to have an impact as usual but also have an eye on K.J. Wright this week. Wright is most effective in coverage but I predict he will have a sack early in Sunday night’s game.

The San Francisco 49ers have also seen significant changes in their offense since our matchup in October. For starters, Colin Kaepernick is the new starting quarterback after replacing a concussed Alex Smith in week 10. Kaepernick is 4-1-1 since week 10 and the 49ers have used a similar offensive scheme as the Seahawks. What is most impressive about Kaepernick in my mind is his arm strength. He is not afraid to sling the ball down the field. This was evident last week as he threw three touchdown passes of 24 yards or more; a 24-yard pass to Randy Moss, a 27-yard pass to Delanie Walker, and a 34-yard pass to Michael Crabtree. Add in the fact that he can take off and run provides an extra threat to the Seattle defense. The Seahawks must focus on play-action looks this week. The 49ers do a good job at disguising runs and throws and anything is fair game at any time. Like the Seahawks, San Francisco also has a wide variety of weapons at the running back and receiver positions. Expect Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis to all get involved in this game evenly. We held San Francisco to 13 points on the road in week 7. Although the 49ers average close to 27 points per game on the road, coming into CenturyLink Field, it is very possible to think they may struggle.

I have to be a realist. As much as it hurts me to admit, the San Francisco 49ers have the best defense in the league. The San Francisco defensive line is my main focus this week. It may seem obvious, but the man the Seahawks MUST contain this week is Aldon Smith. Smith is tied for first in the league with 19.5 sacks on the season; 3 shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record. Smith will mostly line up against Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung. Okung has done a decent job shutting down edge pass-rushers this season but Smith will be Okung’s toughest challenge to date. Aldon Smith had one sack against the Seahawks in their first meeting. One thing to note is the health of nose tackle Justin Smith. With San Francisco leading New England 31-3 last week, Justin Smith left the game with an arm injury. Without Smith on defense in the second half, the Patriots scored 28 unanswered points and nearly came back to win. Early indications from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area point to Justin Smith being unavailable this week for San Francisco. This is where the Seahawks must take advantage. If Marshawn Lynch can do some damage up the middle, the 49ers will have a difficult time on defense.

We have played the San Francisco 49ers once already this season in primetime. This week it is our turn to remind the country that we have the best home-field advantage in the National Football League. As a fan, late season games are also more fun in primetime because the sun sets well before the game even starts. Ever since this game was flexed into Sunday Night Football a couple of weeks ago, I have been picturing what the scene will look like during pre-game and I can see it now: the Sea Gals performing to their annual Christmas routine, the San Francisco 49ers being introduced to a chorus of extremely loud boos, the bone-chilling bass that gets blasted over the public address system, the long pause between team introductions while SNF is on a television commercial break, the warning that the 12th Man is now live to the nation on NBC, the blasting of “Bittersweet Symphony” over the PA as we are welcomed to CenturyLink Field by PA announcer Randy Rowland, the epic pre-game video played right before the Seahawks are about to run on to the field, and the majestic green and blue fireworks that shoot off as the starters are introduced onto the field. The 12th Man will be going absolutely nuts during this sequence and I absolutely cannot wait.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys this week. Pant color is TBD (most likely blue)… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week. I’ll be sure to set my DVR… The referee this week is Bill Vinovich. Vinovich has been absent from the sidelines since 2006 due to personal health reasons. He will be working with Bill Leavy’s crew… No pre-game giveaway this week. I’m disappointed that rally towels will not be given out. I thought this would be a big enough game to do towels… The starting defense will most likely be introduced this week since the offense was introduced against Arizona two weeks ago. I could see the offense being introduced though, since NBC would want to get a good shot of Russell Wilson running out of the tunnel… The people around me better be ready for a heavy Skittles shower, I plan to break my personal record for most Skittles brought (and thrown) when MoneyLynch scores. Please don’t let me down beast!… Sunday night’s halftime show: Mattress racing. #KillMe… There are rumors floating around Twitter about who will be raising the 12th Man flag before the game. I have heard it may be Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or Shaun Alexander. I would be content with either of those choices but I think Alexander would be more epic… Sunday will be a 5-hour energy kind of day. My wake-up call will be set for 6am, a mere 11 hours before kickoff… For the second consecutive year I will be playing for my fantasy football consolation bracket championship. AKA, the “I don’t give a crap bowl”… This will be the 3rd primetime game between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle since I’ve been a season ticket holder. The first was in 2006 on Thursday Night Football when San Francisco dominated the Seahawks 24-14 in the midst of a monsoon (later known as the Hanukkah Eve Storm). The second was a 24-0 shutout win by the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in 2007… When the 49ers beat the Patriots last week, I was upset because that meant this week’s game would not be for the NFC West lead. However local sports radio has lifted my spirits because of the Seahawks playoff scenario generator. If we had been in position to win the division and did in fact win it, we would most likely host a wild-card game and then play the Packers in Green Bay in the divisional playoffs. That may be the hardest scenario for the Seahawks. If the Seahawks get the 5th seed which they are positioned to do, they would play on the road against the NFC East champion in the wild-card round, and then most likely play Atlanta at the Georgia Dome in the divisional playoffs. Although the former gets us a home playoff game, the latter is the easier path to the NFC Championship game in my opinion. With the momentum the Seahawks currently have, it may be for the best that we have to travel throughout the playoffs which actually gets me pretty excited.

Prediction: This will be a drama-filled game. No team will completely dominate the other and the scoring and stats will be pretty even. It will all come down to the last play of the game. With the Seahawks holding a 21-20 lead with 5 seconds left, San Francisco’s David Akers will line up for a 45-yard field goal. The kick will have the distance but will sail wide left, sending the Seahawks to the playoffs and the CenturyLink Field crowd erupting into complete pandemonium.

Seahawks 21, 49ers 20

I apologize if I do not publish my 49ers review on Monday since it is Christmas Eve. If I do not have the time Sunday night or Monday, expect my review to be posted on Wednesday afternoon after Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody. Thanks so much for reading. Go Seahawks!

Review: 49ers 13, Seahawks 6

22 Oct

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I am finally back from San Francisco. I apologize for how late this review post is but I did not have the chance to write while I was down in the Bay Area. The Seahawks fell to 4-3 over the weekend after losing to the San Francisco 49ers 13-6 in a well fought game. Let me jump right in to what I took from Thursday night’s game.

What Both Defenses Proved: Both defenses proved that they deserve to be among the best units in the National Football League. The Seahawks held the 49ers to 138 passing yards but were unable to stop Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. After holding San Francisco to only 3 points in the first half, they gave up a long drive which resulted in a touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Delanie Walker and a short time after that San Francisco was able to put together another decent drive which resulted in 3 more points. The biggest thing I saw from the Seahawks defense was that they got tired late in the game. These two long second half scoring drives wore them down and the inability for the offense to stay on the field to give the defense a rest also hurt. The Seahawks were able to sack Smith twice and Brandon Browner also picked Smith off in the endzone which kept the team in the entire game which was great. The Seahawks are now giving up an average of 16 points per game on the road which should be enough to win ballgames. Unfortunately, especially on Thursday night at Candlestick, this was not the case. As far as the 49ers are concerned, their defense played great coming off their loss to the New York Giants the previous week. The pressure they were able to put on Russell Wilson late in the game was the deciding factor in the outcome. They have some extremely talented playmakers on that side of the ball.

Home Wilson vs. Road Wilson: Get used to the sight of two different Russell Wilson’s Seahawks fans. The road version of Russell Wilson is a lot uglier than the home version. Russell Wilson struggled on Thursday night. Wilson ended the night 9/23 for 122 yards and one interception. As a fan it is frustrating to watch Wilson on the road because most of this completed throws look so good but then when it matters the most the offense cannot get the ball into appropriate scoring range. Why does Wilson play poorer on the road? My only thought regarding this is that the home-field advantage of wherever Wilson is playing against hypes up the defense and they are more able to force him into bad decisions. Next week will be tough for Wilson playing on the road once again. At this point if Wilson cannot throw for at least 215 yards and a touchdown next week in Detroit, the Seahawks could very well be looking at a .500 record after next week’s game.

Dropped Passes Could Have Changed The Outcome: My last point is the most crucial of all. There were three crucial passes that were dropped by the Seahawks receivers that either would have been points, or would have put the ball in field position where points would have been automatic. The first of these passes, a streak down the sidelines intended for running back Robert Turbin which bounced off his hands. The pass was thrown perfectly and Turbin could not bring in in. The play would have gone for 30+ yards and Turbin may have been able to score on the pass, as he would have caught in roughly 8 yards shy of the endzone. Unfortunately, Turbin did not catch the ball and the Seahawks had to settle for a Steven Hauschka 52-yard field goal. The second dropped pass occurred in the second quarter. 3rd and 5 from the San Francisco 17 yard line, Wilson fired into double coverage and seemed to have hit Braylon Edwards in the chest but the former 49er could not hang on to the ball. The Seahawks had to settle for another Hauschka field goal, this time from 35 yards. The third dropped pass came in the first drive of the second half. The Seahawks had put together a solid drive and had taken 4 minutes off the clock when on 3rd and 2, Wilson tried to hit Golden Tate on a slant to the right and Tate took off running before he controlled the ball. The play would have gone for at least 20 more yards because the only other defender in the area (San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson) was playing deep. The completion would have definitely put the Seahawks in field goal range but instead Jon Ryan punted on the very next play. In my eyes the first two dropped passes would have resulted in touchdowns. I’ll figure the third pass would have been a field goal. The Seahawks would have come away with 11 more points off those drive than they actually did, giving them a total of 17. That would have been enough to beat the 49ers.

Random Thoughts: Most of my random thoughts this week are about my trip to San Francisco. I will post about my trip to the Seahawks game coming up soon. Look for my post about my gameday experience tomorrow afternoon.

Thanks for reading everybody. It’s time to get ready for the Detroit Lions next week. Go Seahawks!