Tag Archives: Erin Andrews

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

2 Jan
cardinals preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

Last week there was a possibility that this game would not matter to either the Seattle Seahawks or the Arizona Cardinals. However after losses by the Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers and wins by the Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, the regular season finale in the desert is now extremely important for both teams. The Seahawks head to Arizona for the first time since the disastrous ending to Super Bowl XLIX as they take on the NFC West champion Cardinals. The Seahawks are 9-6 and with a win they will have won 10 or more games in each of the last 4 seasons. The Cardinals are 13-2, winners of nine straight games, and arguably the best team in football. Arizona leads the all-time series against the Seahawks 17-16. In their previous meeting earlier this season the Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday Night Football 39-32. Here is what both teams have to do in order to head into the playoffs on the right foot.

Against the Rams a week ago the Seahawks finished the day -3 in turnover differential. The only way the Seahawks can win this game from an offensive perspective is to take care of the ball. It will be a difficult challenge because the Cardinals have forced 33 turnovers this season, good for second-best in the league. What worries me is how panicked Russell Wilson may play if the running game cannot get going and the Seahawks face a deficit late in the game, much like how last week’s game played out. Note though that Wilson has thrown only one interception since these two teams last played on November 15th. If the Seahawks can also control time of possession it will put us in a comfortable position for later on in the game. If the Seahawks can keep their offense on the field and if they win the turnover battle, this game will absolutely be winnable.

Much like how time of possession is an area of importance on offense, the same can be said of defense. The way to win T.O.P. on defense is to force Arizona into punts, and in order to force punts you need to stop them on third down. The Cardinals are the best team in the league on third down this season, converting nearly half of their third down opportunities (47.3 percent). The only way the Seahawks will be successful in getting the Cardinals off the field on third down is to put constant pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer. Over the course of this season the Seahawks have been very hot and cold when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Bruce Irvin will have to have a big impact from the outside linebacker spot and he will be a dark horse player in the game if he can successfully penetrate Arizona’s stout offensive line.

All season long the Arizona Cardinals have done an incredible job creating explosive plays. With the Cardinals still using a running back by committee since the injury to Chris Johnson, the game will be won through the air. I expect to see Carson Palmer target wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald more than any other receiver since he is the best short and intermediate threat Arizona has on the offensive side of the ball. If Kam Chancellor remains sidelined I expect head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator James Bettcher to dial up several long passes down the field. If this is the case the speedy John Brown could be primed for a big game, as he will likely line up across from either DeShawn Shead or Jeremy Lane. Also keep an eye on Michael Floyd who could also have the opportunity to get loose with Richard Sherman likely covering Fitzgerald.

My number one focus on defense for the Cardinals is how the secondary will fare for the second straight week without safety Tyrann Mathieu. With Deone Bucannon likely moving from linebacker back to safety to fill in for Mathieu more will be required of the other three starters in Arizona’s secondary. Specifically I will be watching how the middle of the field will covered without the “honey badger” on the field. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cardinals is their other starting safety, Rashad Johnson. Although he missed last week’s game against Green Bay Johnson has recorded 48 tackles this season, sixth among all Arizona defenders. The scariest number that jumps out on Johnson’s stat sheet is his team-high 5 interceptions. If the Seahawks throw the ball in the middle of the field look for Johnson to be in on each play. If the Cardinals can record multiple turnovers they will have an excellent chance to come away with the victory.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will break out the wolf grey uniforms for the second time this season. We are 6-0 all-time in this look. The Cardinals are eligible to wear their black alternate jerseys but I would not be surprised to see them wear all red instead… This week’s game has been picked to be “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX. Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews have the call… This week’s referee is second-year white hat Brad Allen… I hope the field is in good shape. University of Phoenix Stadium hosted the Fiesta Bowl on Friday afternoon so it is possible the field will be beat up. Luckily the Cardinals are one of the best teams in terms of getting their field prepared for a game. They’ll probably roll the field outside, work on it and let it sit in the sun tomorrow, then wheel it back into the building early Sunday morning… It feels a little strange to have regular season football being played after the new year. This is the first Seahawks regular season game played in January in 4 years (2011 season finale in Arizona)… If the Seahawks win I will be cheering like crazy for Green Bay in the Sunday night game. If Seattle loses I’ll be cheering like crazy for Minnesota instead. This is going to be a fun and wild ending to the regular season.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are 4 different possible scenarios that can play out on Sunday, one of which will determine who the Seahawks will play in next week’s wild-card playoff game. It will depend on who wins this game AND who wins the Sunday Night Football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. Here are the possibilities for next week’s wild-card game:

At Minnesota: Seahawks loss + Vikings win OR Seahawks win + Vikings win

At Washington: Seahawks win + Packers win

At Green Bay: Seahawks loss + Packers win

Prediction: If the NFL hadn’t flexed the Carolina Panthers game to 1:25pm I think there would be a better chance the Seahawks would come away victorious. However since Carolina and Arizona now play at the same time both teams will play at full strength to try to earn the number one seed in the NFC. Carson Palmer will throw for three touchdowns and the Arizona defense will force three turnovers. The Seahawks running game will be extremely inefficient for the second straight week. The Seahawks will finish the season 9-7, stumbling into the playoffs, and we will get ready for our wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers next week.

Cardinals 31, Seahawks 17

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

17 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (2) Green Bay Packers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 12:05pm

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach, the Seahawks were one divisional playoff win over the Chicago Bears away from hosting the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately we fell short but now four seasons later the Seahawks now have that matchup set. The Seahawks and Packers meet in Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon. The winner will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. The loser goes home. Green Bay leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-7. The Packers have had Seattle’s number in the playoffs but the Seahawks have had the better luck as of late, winning the past two games including a 36-16 win over Green Bay earlier this season for NFL Kickoff 2014. This is what I believe must happen for the Seahawks to successfully defend their NFC Championship and advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

In their first meeting back in September running back Marshawn Lynch torched the Packers defense for 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. This week could be more of the same. The Seahawks will once again attempt to establish the running game with Lynch in an effort to control the clock and the tempo of the game. A successful day running the ball I believe will lead to a Seahawks victory. In the passing game the Seahawks could benefit due to the fact that our number one weapon in our first meeting this season, Percy Harvin, is no longer on the team. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as tight end Luke Willson combined for 5 catches for 23 yards back in week one. Given that these three guys were not primary features in our offensive game plan in that game, I believe this adds a wrinkle in our offense this week that the Packers have not seen. Quarterback Russell Wilson was willing to throw down the seam to Kearse and Willson against Carolina last week and I believe both could be primed for big games yet again this week.

The very first play of the 2013 NFC Championship Game was a Russell Wilson fumble recovered by the San Francisco 49ers. That play ultimately resulted with 3 San Francisco points. Three Colin Kaepernick turnovers in the second half ultimately doomed the 49ers. See where I am going here? The Seahawks number one priority in this championship game must be to protect the ball. I am fully confident that the Legion of Boom can force Green Bay turnovers so it is imperative that Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch among others hold onto the ball to prevent extra offensive opportunities for the Packers. We will not win if our offense turns the ball over multiple times because Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of extra opportunities, especially short yardage opportunities. The Seahawks did not turn the ball over last week and we won by two scores. Another clean game and the Seahawks could be cruising to Arizona.

The number one storyline on the offensive side of the ball for the Green Bay Packers is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers played last week with a strained and possibly slight torn left calf, an injury that limited his mobility but not necessarily his ability to make plays. Immediately following last week’s game Rodgers came out and said that his calf was not feeling as good as in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game. It is likely that Rodgers’s mobility will once again be a question mark this week. The best way to rattle the ailing likely league MVP is to send pressure from all directions, whether this results in sacks or forces Rodgers to retreat from the pocket. Rodgers has been sacked 11 times by the Seahawks in his last two games in Seattle. Bruce Irvin and O’Brien Schofield are the two guys I expect to see on the field a lot this week. I will consider it a success if Irvin and Schofield can quickly penetrate the Packers offensive line and get to Rodgers at least one time each. If Green Bay struggles to protect Rodgers early on, it could be a very long game and the threat of Rodgers injuring his leg worse will absolutely increase.

With the majority of the attention on the Packers offense, the fact that Green Bay ranks 10th in the league in pass defense has flown under the radar. Four members of the Packers secondary rank among the six best tacklers on the team. Only one of those guys has recorded double-digit passes defensed, and that is why cornerback Tramon Williams is my X-Factor player to watch for the Packers this week. Williams has recorded 61 tackles this season with 13 passes defensed. Williams is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. I expect to see Williams line up across from Jermaine Kearse for most of the game but do not expect to see him also go up again Ricardo Lockette and Kevin Norwood in dime packages.

Normally this last point would be worthy of a note in “Random Thoughts” but given the circumstances I feel that this is important to point out on itself. Seahawks fans are not used to early starts. In fact, this is the first time since CenturyLink Field opened that the Seahawks have hosted a game that starts at noon. To everyone attending Sunday’s game, BE IN YOUR SEATS AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO KICKOFF. When we go live to the nation on FOX at noon, I want to see 68,000 people all in their seats waving their rally towels as the Seahawks get ready to be introduced. Please plan accordingly.

Random Thoughts: The Packers will wear their classic white jersey/yellow pants combo this week. The Seahawks in all-blue per usual… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines… This will be the first time the Seahawks host the earlier conference championship game. Both of Seattle’s previous trips to the NFC Championship Game kicked off at 3:30pm… Tony Corrente is the referee this week. Corrente previously officiated the Seahawks win over San Francisco on Thanksgiving… This is going to be one of the earliest wake-up calls for a Seahawks home game I have ever had. Definitely planning on being downtown with a drink in hand by 8am… As previously mentioned, the giveaway this week once again is rally towels… The National Anthem will be sung by 2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee… The Seahawks announced Friday that the halftime show will be Seattle band Alice in Chains. That will be pretty cool but in my opinion not as cool as Macklemore last year… I would love to see former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren raise the 12th Man flag this week, especially since it would come against his other former team, the Packers. I doubt it will happen but I would love to see it happen. There has been a lot of talk about letting Paul Allen raise the flag again. I personally think we should let somebody else do it. It would become super predictable for potential future NFC title games if Mr. Allen gets to raise the flag for every single one. My dark horse candidate to raise the flag is Randy Johnson… In the 24 or so hours following this game should we win, will be the shopping spree loading up on Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX merchandise… Why does this game feel like no big deal? Have we become spoiled? Is it because we are not playing the arch-rival 49ers again? Something just feels a little more relaxed about this year’s NFC Championship Game. My guess is that all changes once we all get down to CenturyLink Field.

Prediction: This game will be an instant classic and will see-saw until the very end. The Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal with the Packers adding a field goal of their own. A Seahawks second quarter touchdown pass to Luke Willson will give them a 10-3 lead with Green Bay tying the game just before halftime. There will be two more instances in the second half where the game gets tied up; 17-17 and 24-24 respectively. The Seahawks will take the clock down to the wire and Steven Hauschka will kick the biggest field goal in Seahawks history; a 42-yard field goal as time expires to send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX.

Seahawks 27, Packers 24

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my NFC Championship review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. 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!

Seahawks/Eagles Preview

6 Dec
Photo Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Photo Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles

Site: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

If you look at each of the Seahawks final four games, you may think this week’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles may be the toughest. It very well may be. The Seahawks start the final quarter of the regular season on Sunday when they face off against the Eagles in a rare east coast late-afternoon game. The Seahawks are 8-4 after a convincing win over the San Francisco 49ers last Thursday. Seattle is currently second in the NFC West and is one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the division lead. The Eagles are currently leading the NFC East at 9-3 and are coming off a big win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Philadelphia leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 7-6. Their last meeting came in 2011 when Seattle defeated the Vince Young-led Eagles 31-14. The Seahawks have played two games against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field and beat them both times by a combined score of 70-24. This week the Seahawks will face a style of offense that they have not even come close to seeing by any other team in the NFL. This is what I will be looking for this week.

The Seahawks have not scored more than 20 points in a victory in four weeks when they put up 38 on the New York Giants. Even though our defense has been playing dominant football the past couple of weeks the Seahawks offense needs to finish their drives this week. Settling for field goals may not be good enough to combat the point barrage the Eagles have put on other opponents. This week I will be focused on what the Seahawks offense does on third down opportunities particularly within field goal range. It is these plays that will determine if the Seahawks put 3 points on the board or 7 points on the board. Even though Seattle will be facing the 12th best run defense in the league, it is my opinion that on third down the Seahawks should stick with giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch or Robert Turbin. The Seahawks running game could ultimately dictate the outcome of this game. If we can take advantage of our opportunities, run the clock to allow our defense to rest, and exchange field goals for touchdowns, we will be very difficult to beat.

Never before have I put the word stamina and the Seahawks defense together in the same sentence. However this week the stamina and speed of our defense is crucial to being able to stop the Philadelphia offense. On average the Eagles run a play every 22.9 seconds, by far the fastest rate of any team in the league. If Philadelphia has success in moving the ball and putting points on the board it will be extremely difficult for our defense to stay rested later on in the game. It is crucial for the defense to set their tone early on. The formula to success is nothing new, stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. The Seahawks defensive line will have my attention this week more than any other group. If Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett can get to Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez and simply hurry him the chances of us having opportunities to force turnovers are huge. Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, and Jordan Hill will have their hands full with an Eagles offensive line that has helped plow the way for the 6th best running game in the league. The Seahawks have allowed 64 rushing yards in each of their last two games. I estimate that a successful day on Sunday will see the Seahawks allowing between 80-90 combined rushing yards.

When you see the weapons that head coach Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have on offense it is no wonder why they are sitting on top of their division with a 9-3 record. They have an explosive backfield featuring running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles and the 5th best passing game in the league including wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and rookie Jordan Matthews. However since the collarbone injury to starting quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles have had to rely on backup quarterback Mark Sanchez to lead this team for the rest of the season. In Sanchez’s 4 starts since the injury to Foles, the Eagles have gone 3-1 with Sanchez throwing for 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. In those 3 wins the Philadelphia defense and special teams have done a tremendous job in forcing turnovers and even scoring points. In those victories the Eagles forced 11 turnovers, recorded one interception return for a touchdown, and added a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown. In a nutshell, the Eagles have put Sanchez in a position to not have to do a whole lot on his own to win games. The possibility of him having to do more work than normal to win this game makes Mark Sanchez my X-Factor player to watch for Philadelphia. This week more than any other week I believe that Sanchez will have to do considerably more through the air to win this game and thus far he has not proven enough for me to believe that he is a completely different Mark Sanchez than the one that butt-fumbled his way out of New York. It would not surprise me to see Sanchez manage the game similarly to how Alex Smith played the Seahawks last month to prevent turnovers. If Sanchez looks rattled early on, regardless of Seattle’s success rushing the passer, the Seahawks will be in a great position to take control of this game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks cannot wear wolf grey for the rest of the season since NFL rules only allow teams to wear their “alternate” jerseys twice per season. The Seahawks will wear white jerseys in Philadelphia this week. Pant color TBD however personally I hope we wear white pants… The Eagles will wear their midnight green jerseys with white pants… This game is FOX’s “America’s Game of the Week.” Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call with Erin Andrews reporting from the sidelines… Bill Vinovich is the referee this week. Vinovich also officiated the Seahawks week 3 win over the Denver Broncos… I think Philadelphia is the only city I would not go see the Seahawks play in. I have heard bad things about their fans in general, but then again the same could have been said about Raiders fans and I had a wonderful experience going to a game in Oakland wearing Seahawks stuff (even though it wasn’t a Seahawks game)… I love the 1:25pm start for a game being played on the east coast. The last time the Seahawks played a late afternoon road game in the eastern time zone after daylight savings time going into effect was two seasons ago when the Seahawks beat the Buffalo Bills in Toronto… I have remained more confident going into this week’s game than I was going into last week’s game in San Francisco… If the Seahawks win this game, I believe we will win out, putting us at 12-4.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With Seattle’s win and Arizona’s loss last week the Seahawks now sit one game back of the Cardinals for the NFC West lead. With one more game against the Cardinals left, the Seahawks now control their own destiny within the division; running the table gives us the division title. Should the Seahawks win this week, if the Cardinals also win the Seahawks will remain in the wild-card chase for at least one more week. A Seahawks win and a Cardinals loss will put Seattle in the #2 seed. A Seattle win, an Arizona loss, and a Green Bay loss on Monday night, and the Seahawks will have a hold on the #1 seed and home-field advantage with 3 weeks of the regular season left to play. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Tampa Bay (2-10) at Detroit (8-4)

Kansas City (7-5) at Arizona (9-3)

San Francisco (7-5) at Oakland (1-11)

Atlanta (5-7) at Green Bay (9-3)

Prediction: This will be a classic back-and-forth football game. The Eagles will start the scoring with a short LeSean McCoy touchdown run. The Seahawks will come right back with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7. Philadelphia will add a field goal at the end of the first half and the Eagles will take a 10-7 lead into halftime. The Seahawks will come out red hot in the second half, scoring 10 third quarter points and Seattle will take a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter. After Philadelphia ties the game at 17-17 thanks to a Jeremy Maclin touchdown reception, the Seahawks will take control of the game for good on both sides of the ball. In the final 10 minutes, the Seahawks defense will force three Philadelphia drives to stall and with 5 minutes left to play, Russell Wilson will find Luke Willson in the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. The Seahawks will get a huge win and with Arizona’s loss to Kansas City, the Seahawks will be the leaders of the NFC West by the time Sunday Night Football kicks off.

Seahawks 24, Eagles 17

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my review of this week’s game. Go Seahawks!

Giants/Seahawks Preview

8 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After finishing the first half of the regular season at 5-3 the Seahawks open up the second half of the season at home this week against the New York Giants. The Seahawks, with their 5-3 record, currently sit in second place in the NFC West while the Giants stumble into CenturyLink Field this week. The Giants are 3-5 and are coming off a brutal 40-24 blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts at home. To make matters worse, they played the Colts last Monday night which means they will play this game on a short week. New York leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-7 but the Seahawks have most of the recent success, beating the Giants 23-0 at the Meadowlands last season. The Seahawks have also won 2 of the last 3 meetings played at CenturyLink Field, including the famous 2005 matchup won by the Seahawks (more on this later). We cannot afford to let this game slip away. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

This week on both sides of the ball my primary focus is how we can improve our play with key players returning from injury. On offense I am looking for Marshawn Lynch to carry over his success from last week on the ground and I am looking for Russell Wilson to make clean throws from inside the pocket, thanks to the return of center Max Unger. Unger has not played since week 5 against Washington when he injured his foot late in that game. In the 4 games Unger missed, the Seahawks have averaged 326 yards of offense per game and Lynch has only run for an average of 61 yards per game. Lynch has not had a 100 yard rushing game since week 1. This week could be the week Lynch tops that plateau once more as the Giants allow an average of 119 rushing yards per game. This week do not be surprised to see Wilson throw Jermaine Kearse’s way a lot. With Doug Baldwin nursing a groin injury that may or may not limit his physical ability, Kearse may be the receiver Wilson is most comfortable with. After rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood combined for only 31 receiving yards last week, I believe that Wilson’s comfort level with these guys is not where they would like it to be just yet. I would not be surprised if Kearse is Seattle’s leading receiver this week.

Although linebacker Bobby Wagner has been ruled out, the Legion of Boom may be back at full strength this week. Safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Byron Maxwell have both been participants in practice this week and will likely play. The LOB is my primary focus on defense this week, considering the success they had forcing 5 Eli Manning interceptions in their matchup last season. After intercepting his first pass of the season last week I believe Richard Sherman is a guy to watch and it will be interesting to see if Manning is willing to test Sherman or if he will try to avoid him for the majority of the game. The front seven must put pressure on Manning to take pressure off of the Seattle secondary. Bruce Irvin has stepped up in recent weeks and I hope to see him step up again in this game. Also keep an eye on Brock Coyle and K.J. Wright. Wright stepped up big to help Coyle out last week, recording 13 tackles however more should be expected of Coyle this week in the middle of the field.

The New York Giants are kind of a mystery to me on offense. Eli Manning has shown that he can be a great quarterback but they have not played at a high level consistently the past couple of seasons. Plain and simple, this is not the same Giants team that won the Super Bowl a mere three seasons ago. In a hostile environment, I believe that New York must establish the running game to have any success on offense. My focus this week however is on the Giants defense. Gone are the days of a strong veteran pass rush anchored by Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Instead the Giants have gotten younger and they have shown to have very good talent. The only problem is that like the Seahawks, the Giants have been depleted by a rash of injuries. Certain players have been thrust into starting roles that they were nowhere near close to holding at the beginning of the season. My X-Factor player to watch for the Giants this week is one of those kinds of players, cornerback Jayron Hosley. Hosley has found himself starting at cornerback this week after Prince Amukamara was placed on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending biceps tear on Monday night. Hosley began the season on New York’s practice squad and he was suspended for the Giants first 4 games for violating the NFL’s drug policy. 3 of Hosley’s 4 tackles this season came after replacing Amukamara against Indianapolis and he also added a pass defensed against the Colts. Given the uncertainty of the Seahawks wide receiver situation this week, Hosley will likely line up on both sides of the field. Hosley vs. Jermaine Kearse will be an interesting matchup to watch given the height advantage Kearse will have. Keep an eye out this week for how the Seahawks attack Jayron Hosley and if he can step up to prevent the Seahawks from moving the ball in large chunks.

There is one last thing to watch this week and hopefully true Seahawks fans already know what I am talking about given that the Giants are in town. In 2005 the 12th Man helped force the Giants into 11 false start penalties. The Seahawks went on to win that game in overtime and I believe that game was the unofficial start of what has become the most intimidating fan base in all of sports. Even in the 2 Giants/Seahawks games played in Seattle since, Eli Manning and the Giants have continued to struggle handling the crowd noise and I am confident this week will be no different. The Seahawks will definitely do their part to remind the fans in attendance on Sunday what has happened in past meetings and it will fuel the 12’s to be as loud as possible. Crowd noise may be a bigger factor this week than in any other Seahawks game so far this season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-navy once again this week. The Giants will wear white jerseys and gray pants. I find it funny yet interesting that the Giants (nicknamed Big Blue by the way) feature so much red on their away uniforms… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews reporting from the sidelines… Pete Morelli is the referee this week… This week is the Seahawks salute to service military appreciation game. Both teams will wear camouflage accessories and the national anthem will likely feature a field-sized American flag. In past years stadiums have also done a red, white, and blue card stunt during the national anthem but that will not happen this year. I bring this up because this is the only game where the 12th Man flag raiser is revealed in the days leading up to the game. This week’s flag raiser is Major Scott Smiley and according to seahawks.com Smiley is “the U.S. Army’s first blind active duty officer”… Having two consecutive home games is the best. It always has, and always will be… Go Saints, Go Rams.

Prediction: I believe the score will be close but it will feel like the Seahawks run away with this game. Marshawn Lynch will run for 80 yards while Russell Wilson puts up 275 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Eli Manning will throw a touchdown and a pair of interceptions with the Giants offense racking up 3 false start penalties as well. The Seahawks will win this game and go to 6-3 on the season.

Seahawks 24, Giants 16

Check back on Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Broncos Preview (Super Bowl XLVIII)

29 Jan
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks (NFC Champion) vs. Denver Broncos (AFC Champion)

Site: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

Kickoff: 3:25pm

The Seahawks made sure that the terrible feeling that followed their Divisional playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons last season would not happen again. After earning a 13-3 record, an NFC West championship and their second NFC championship, the Seahawks are heading to what FOX Sports has dubbed the “biggest, boldest, and coldest event in history.” The Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday afternoon. With a victory the Seahawks will earn their first ever world championship along with the Vince Lombardi trophy. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 34-19. Their last meeting game in 2010 in Denver where the Broncos crushed the Seahawks 31-14 in what has remained the hottest (temperature) regular season home game in Broncos history. That meeting in 2010 was Pete Carroll’s second ever game as Seahawks head coach. In the 68 regular season and postseason games since, the Seahawks hold a .603 winning percentage. This is also Seattle and Denver’s second ever meeting in the playoffs. This is what to look for and what the Seahawks must do in order to become world champions.

Many wondered if Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would choke once again in this year’s playoffs but when you are not sacked through your first two playoff games it obviously makes it easier to complete your throws, move the ball, and score points. This is the primary reason why Denver’s offense has been so successful in this year’s playoffs and it is up to the Seahawks defense to change this narrative on Sunday. Putting consistent pressure on Manning will be a big priority. In Seattle’s two playoff games this season defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has used both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on one side of the ball while using linebacker Bruce Irvin as a spy to read where the quarterback may be looking to throw. This strategy will be used on Sunday but I would like to see an addition to our pass rush. Chris Clemons has gone unnoticed over the past few games and he has not recorded a sack since playing San Francisco in week 14. The Seahawks cannot afford to let Peyton Manning have ample time to make his throws so a heavier dose of pass rush could make it challenging for Manning to get comfortable.

It is time for Percy Harvin to make his $12 million salary this week. Harvin, who was sidelined in the NFC Championship Game while recovering from a concussion, is listed as probable this week and head coach Pete Carroll has said Harvin will be a full go. Harvin will not be limited on offense and he will also return kicks for the first time this season. There is one example of Harvin’s explosiveness that really gets me excited to wonder about his impact in Super Bowl XLVIII. Before he exited the NFC Divisional playoff game against New Orleans, the Seahawks ran a fly sweep with Harvin with the ball deep in New Orleans territory. Harvin took the snap from Russell Wilson and ran around the right side of the line for 9 yards before stepping out of bounds. It was the fastest I have seen a Seahawks receiver run all season long. This play has truly opened my eyes to what our potential on offense is this week. Throwing in Harvin’s direction is a tactic that I do not believe Denver is ready for. Look for Harvin to be a major player in the bubble screen game this week and I also would not be surprised to see him line up at obscure position such as at running back. As far as kickoffs go, I really hope Harvin gets a chance to return one, unlike against the Saints when Shayne Graham’s kickoffs went for touchbacks. If Harvin busts a kickoff return for a large gain, it will send positive shockwaves throughout the entire team and will put the Seahawks in great position for Russell Wilson to lead scoring drives.

I am a firm believer in sticking with a game plan that carried you into a position like playing in the Super Bowl. However after watching film of the Denver Broncos I believe there is a facet of our offense that if we turn loose, could have significant positive consequences. Over the course of the regular season the Denver Broncos played 4 games against teams with running quarterbacks; 2 against Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland Raiders, one against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, and one against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. In those 4 games, opposing quarterback kept the ball and ran a combined 26 times for 133 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The Broncos played a limited number of games against running quarterbacks and the Denver defense practices on a daily basis against a quarterback who is the furthest thing away from a running quarterback. I think that this could be the right time for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to call a heavy read-option package for Russell Wilson to keep the Broncos defense guessing. If Wilson keeps at least 5 times the Seahawks will add solid numbers in the running game but if the Seahawks have Wilson run and the read-option continues to be highly effective, 5-10 rushes by Wilson would not be surprising to me. The read-option is an intriguing wrinkle in our playbook that could give us serious momentum and go a long way in controlling the tempo of the entire game.

The biggest storyline in regards to the Denver Broncos this week is their record-setting offense against the Seattle defense, in particular the Legion of Boom. The Broncos have four weapons at the skill positions in wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker, along with tight end Julius Thomas; all of which have proven to be reliable targets and they all have the potential to put up big numbers if they can get open. If they can get open. Even if the Seahawks can stop Knowshon Moreno and the Denver running game they still have to deal with Peyton Manning. The key for the Broncos offense is for the offensive line to give Manning time to make his reads and make his throws because if Manning has time he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when it comes to picking apart opposing defenses. This is why one of my three X-Factor players to watch for the Denver Broncos this week is left tackle Chris Clark. Clark started 14 of Denver’s 16 regular season games and both of Denver’s playoff games. Clark replaced an injured Ryan Clady shortly into the 2013 season but has emerged as one of the best pass blocking tackles in football, ranking in the top 10 in pass blocking efficiency according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos can beat the Seahawks solely through the air which makes Knowshon Moreno’s potential impact on the game an added bonus for Denver. If the Broncos can run the ball effectively against the Seattle run defense, this could put Denver in a great position to win the game.

The Broncos defense has one huge mission this week and that is to stop the Seahawks running game, especially running back Marshawn Lynch. The Broncos have the 8th best running defense in the league, holding opposing teams to just under 102 rushing yards per game. Given Seattle’s recent struggles in the passing game, stopping Lynch will likely determine the outcome of the game. In recent days many people have discussed the importance of the role Broncos defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton will have in stopping the run game but there are other players to watch out for that will also play key roles in stopping Marshawn Lynch. My first of two X-Factor players to watch on defense this week is the Broncos leading tackler, linebacker Danny Trevathan. From the linebacker position, Trevathan really can stretch the field and contribute in all facets of the defensive game plan. He leads the team in tackles with 128, he has 2 quarterback sacks, and when Trevathan drops into coverage he has 10 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. Although he is an outside linebacker, Trevathan is the Bobby Wagner of the Denver defense. He commands the huddle and his play on the field makes him one of the best linebackers in the league. My second X-Factor player to watch on the Broncos defense is a man that may not produce the flashiest stat sheet come Sunday night but he has had recent familiarity and success playing against the Seahawks, linebacker Paris Lenon. Lenon played the Seahawks twice last season while with the Arizona Cardinals and he recorded the second most tackles among all Cardinals defenders in the first of those two meetings in 2012. Lenon will rotate at middle linebacker with Wesley Woodyard and I think Lenon can contribute significantly to the Broncos figuring out how to stop Marshawn Lynch.

Along with playing in the Super Bowl come the distractions of playing in the Super Bowl. Many football players would argue about the importance of having a routine and staying in a routine game after game, week after week. This week the routines and tendencies those players have throughout the season change dramatically. They may not be noteworthy to a lot of people but to the players it could mean the difference between winning and losing the game. The most notable routine that will be altered this week is the halftime break. For all other NFL games during the season, halftime is a mere 12 minutes long, giving teams a short time to make small in-game adjustments and giving players a quick rest before heading back to the field for the second half. At the Super Bowl, halftime is 30 minutes long, so while Bruno Mars is on the MetLife Stadium stage entertaining the fans in the stadium and those watching around the world on television, the players are in the locker room trying to stay loose for the second half. Too long of a break can wear players bodies down so it is necessary to be able to stay loose while taking the extra time for second half adjustments. The team that comes out strong at the beginning of the second half may have the upper hand for the rest of the game, regardless of what the halftime score is. This was apparent in last year’s Super Bowl even though the longer intermission in that game was for the Superdome power outage; after the blackout break, San Francisco came screaming back and almost won the game. Be sure to pay close attention to the first few minutes of the second half to get an idea of which team will have the fire power to close out the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: Whether you have been following my blog since the beginning or if you’ve just stumbled on my page looking for any kind of Super Bowl XLVIII literature, of course I start with uniforms. The nice thing about the Super Bowl is that the uniform combinations are announced well before game day. The Seahawks have been designated the road team and will wear their white jerseys with their navy blue pants. This is the same combination they wore when they played at MetLife Stadium in December. The Seahawks are 2-0 in this combination this season and 2-1 all-time. The Broncos will wear their orange jerseys and white pants as the designated home team… Terry McAulay is the referee for Super Bowl XLVIII. He was also the referee in the Seahawks divisional playoff win over New Orleans… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines. Curt Menefee will anchor 4 hours of pregame coverage on FOX along with the FOX NFL Sunday crew both from inside and outside the stadium… The national anthem will be sung by renowned opera singer Renee Fleming… The halftime show for Super Bowl XLVIII is Grammy award winner Bruno Mars. Personally this is the most anticipated Super Bowl halftime show in my lifetime mainly since I am a big fan of Mars’ music. The fact that I will be in attendance to see this halftime show live is the cherry on top of the cake… Game time temperature is supposed to be clear and in the low to mid 30’s; manageable but cold nonetheless. Time to break out the layers… I am nervous and excited about getting to the game. I will be taking a train from Penn Station in New York City to Secaucus Junction, then transferring to a shuttle train that takes us straight to the Meadowlands. It’s cheaper than alternative modes of transportation and will likely get me to the game faster than if I took said alternative modes of transportation… This week is going to be nuts in New York City. I have 5 and a half days to try to do so much stuff. It will be interesting to see how crowded the city is compared to any other day… I am sure to see celebrities galore and I will post my encounters and updates on Twitter @EricHansman as much as possible so be on the lookout for those… If we win on Sunday, IF we win on Sunday my hope is to celebrate in the heart of New York City with a cigar in my mouth and a glass of champagne in my hand. That would be an amazing feeling… We are almost at 200 days since the start of training camp. It is amazing to think what has taken place since. We are one win away from the Lombardi Trophy and a world championship. Win or lose, we had a fantastic season and we should not discount that at all if we come out on the short end of this. I promise you this, Seahawks fans may be outnumbered around town and at the Stadium on Sunday, but we will certainly be louder. Take it to the bank.

Prediction: *To start, keep in mind that the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than 7 points since November 6th, 2011.* In the first half, Percy Harvin will catch a touchdown pass from inside the redzone and Marshawn Lynch will also add a touchdown run. The Broncos will storm back with a quick touchdown drive capped off by a pass from Peyton Manning to Eric Decker. Matt Prater and Steven Hauschka will exchange field goals respectively in the second quarter; Hauschka’s coming in the final seconds of the first half. Halftime score: Seahawks 17, Broncos 10

In the second half the Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal before the Broncos have the 12th Man questioning the durability of our defense. A Manning pass to Julius Thomas will cut the Seahawks lead to 3. The Seahawks will once again exchange a series of field goals with the Broncos, the last of which coming with 4 minutes left to go in the game. In a hurry up offense with the Broncos down 26-20, Peyton Manning will drive to the Seahawks 40-yard line but the Seahawks defense will step up to produce the biggest play in franchise history. Chris Clemons will strip-sack Manning and Brandon Mebane will recover the fumble. The Seahawks will run out the clock and will win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Seahawks 26, Broncos 20

On the first day of training camp I posted the following status to Facebook:

“Never before has the anticipation for Seahawks football been so high. After the conclusion of last season, the moves made in the offseason, and each practice during OTA’s and minicamp, the expectations for this team placed by the media and the fans are at a “super bowl or bust” level. I am extremely confident in this team and I could not be more proud to call myself a member of the 12th Man. It all starts today. I have a feeling that this team is about to take all of us and this great city on a very special journey; a journey that we will not soon forget.”

As it turns out we HAVE made it to the Super Bowl and it HAS been a journey that we will never soon forget, which will be made even more memorable if we win on Sunday. Win or lose I am extremely proud of this team and to be a part of this amazing fan base.

To all of my friends and family know this: Even though you will not be joining me at MetLife Stadium physically, I will carry you with me in my mind and in my heart and I will surely scream my lungs out on behalf of everyone I know.

I will not have my computer with me in New York and I will not be home until late Tuesday night. I hope to have my Super Bowl review published by Wednesday night. Enjoy the Super Bowl everyone! Go Seahawks!

49ers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

18 Jan
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: (5) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

Not very often do you get an opportunity like this, even less often at home. It has been 8 years since the Seahawks played the Carolina Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game and personally I have been waiting for the Seahawks to get back on this national stage ever since. I became a season-ticket holder in 2006 and for all the games I have been to over the past 8 seasons, opportunities like the one presenting itself on Sunday makes having tickets and going to games during the bad years absolutely worth it. In front of a nationally televised audience on FOX, the Seahawks will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. If the Seahawks lose the season is over, but if the Seahawks win they punch their ticket to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2nd. The all-time series between the Seahawks and 49ers is tied 15-15. Their last meeting came on December 8th when San Francisco defeated Seattle 19-17 in the final seconds at Candlestick Park. This is the first meeting between the two teams in the playoffs. There are many storylines that have gained momentum from both a local and a national perspective in the days leading up to this game. Here are my thoughts as we head into the biggest home game in franchise history.

The absolute number one key for the Seahawks this week comes on defense. In the last two 49ers/Seahawks games played in Seattle, the Seahawks have held 49ers running back Frank Gore to a total of 44 rushing yards. What I’ve noticed when you dig into all of Colin Kaepernick’s career starts is that he has been successful because of a dynamic rushing attack helping him. When opposing defenses are able to shut the San Francisco running game (especially Gore) down, Kaepernick becomes extremely vulnerable. Once again the number one key for the Seahawks is to stop Gore. Unlike last week where I wanted to see the Seahawks force the New Orleans Saints to run, forcing Colin Kaepernick to throw will help the Seahawks mightily. In Kaepernick’s 28 career starts he has thrown only 11 interceptions. 4 of those interceptions have come in his two starts in Seattle. The Legion of Boom will be Kaepernick’s worst nightmare if the Seahawks run defense allows it to. My target rushing total for Frank Gore this week is between 50-60 yards. If the Seahawks can hold Gore to under 60 yards on the ground, we will be in fantastic shape.

The Seattle offense is a unit that has not lit up the stat sheet recently but they have been efficient enough to win football games. There are three things I need to see out of the Seahawks offense this week. The first thing is for Marshawn Lynch to have a productive day at the office. Unlike Frank Gore, Lynch has been very efficient running the ball against the 49ers in Seattle. In the same two game span that Gore has rushed for 44 total yards, Lynch has rushed for 209 total yards and has also added 3 touchdowns. I fully expect the majority of fans to panic if the Seahawks cannot get the running game going early but it will be necessary to be patient through the first half to try to get Lynch large chunks of yards. The second necessity for the Seahawks offense this week is to protect Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 3 times last week and he has been sacked 18 times in his last 6 games. The last time the Seahawks and 49ers played in Seattle, the Seahawks were without two starting offensive lineman and lost Russell Okung to a foot injury early in the game. This week the entire starting offensive line is healthy and I expect significant improvement in pass protection. Keep an eye on the left guard position this week as Michael Bowie is expected to start again after playing a great game last week in his first career start at that position. The third thing I need to see out of the offense this week is an extension of my second offensive key, only the weight of this key falls more on the shoulders of Russell Wilson. There have been instances throughout the past few games where when Wilson drops back to pass, at times he seems to bail from the pocket and move around to try to make throws while at other times he seems a bit too overconfident being patient in the pocket. In those instances he will wait for a receiver to get open and by the time he decides on his read he is either on the ground sacked or throwing the ball away. Wilson needs to be more aware of what is going on around him to know how much time he has to throw. Confidence in the pocket and connecting on throws down the field will help the Seahawks greatly this week.

The San Francisco 49ers come into the NFC Championship Game red-hot and firing on all cylinders. My 49ers preview is rather broad this week as there are only three things that I believe will help the 49ers be more effective this week. The first key is to ride the wave of momentum that comes with an 8-game winning streak. San Francisco comes into the NFC Championship Game as perhaps the more confident team, which comes naturally riding a long winning streak. My other two 49ers keys will be the most important to keep that momentum going.

The 49ers need to handle the crowd noise much better than they have in their last two visits to CenturyLink Field. Shorter verbiage and hand signals will be necessary this week and I would not be surprised to see the 49ers use a no-huddle package, especially early in the game. San Francisco will want to take the 12th Man out of the game as early as possible so it will be very important to score early. On offense for San Francisco this week there is only one player that I believe is deserving of my X-Factor player to watch, and that is the most important player that was not on the field the last time the 49ers played in Seattle. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has elevated the 49ers passing game to extraordinary levels since returning from a torn Achilles on December 1st. Crabtree has averaged 62 receiving yards in 7 games this season and he has also been targeted an average of 8 times per game. It is hard to believe how big of a difference Crabtree has made since returning; the 49ers have not lost since his return. Taking Crabtree away will limit Colin Kaepernick’s weapons to tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

In my “Making Memories” post earlier this week, I recall the 2005 NFC Championship Game in great detail. One of the things I mentioned is how I never sat down throughout the duration of the game and the 12th Man did not let up on the Carolina offense all game long. I cannot stress the importance of duplicating that stadium environment again this week. At last week’s Divisional playoff game many fans left following Marshawn Lynch’s final touchdown assuming the game was all but over. For a playoff game I find that behavior utterly pathetic. This week cannot and hopefully will not be the same as last week. I hope to spend the majority of the game on my feet regardless of who has the ball. I expect every single fan to scream when San Francisco has the ball. I expect no fan to leave before the fourth quarter clock hits zero. If everything goes right this should be the biggest party in the city. I hope you will not want to leave as the game gets closer to the finish. In addition, I want this game to be the loudest Seahawks game I have attended up to this point in my life. We the 12th Man WILL have a voice in deciding the outcome of this game. Do not doubt that. We also owe it to the guys on the field to give it our all. If we stay consistently ear-drum-bursting loud this week, the 49ers will have no chance communicating and coming into our house and stealing a victory.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will likely wear blue jerseys and blue pants for the final time this season. I say “likely” because should the Seahawks win, they will be designated as the road team in Super Bowl XLVIII. The 49ers will wear their classic white jersey/gold pants look… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee. He called the Seahawks week 8 game against the Rams in St. Louis and Steratore’s crew loosely called that game. He let the players play. Hopefully the same goes this way because if the game is called tight the Seahawks may be in trouble… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews covering the sidelines. In addition, the entire “FOX NFL Sunday” pregame crew will be attendance this week and they will do their pregame show from inside the stadium, an annual tradition, starting at 3pm… The giveaway this week is white rally towels. All I can say is hallelujah. I’ve been waiting to get the chance to wave a rally towel all season and it is entirely fitting that chance comes in the biggest home game of the season… Ann Wilson from “Heart” will sing the national anthem before the game which actually surprises me because I thought FOX would bring in the most recent American Idol or X-Factor winner to sing it like they have done in the past… The halftime show is one that I am very much looking forward to. Grammy nominated and Seattle recording artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will perform at halftime, which turns the NFC Championship Game into a mini Super Bowl in my opinion. Hopefully the Seahawks take control of the game in the first half so I can actually enjoy Mack’s halftime performance… In my opinion there is only one group that I think should have the honor to raise the 12th Man flag this week. Back when we played Tampa Bay in November, the Seahawks honored the 30th anniversary of the first playoff team in franchise history. Members of the 1983 Seahawks stood at the flagpole while Steve Largent did the honors of raising the flag. This week should hold the exact same concept. The only group that I see fit to raise the 12th Man flag this week is members of the 2005 Seahawks led by head coach Mike Holmgren, the first Seahawks team to play in the Super Bowl. I will be extremely disappointed if this does not happen. Even if they do not celebrate the entire team, Coach Holmgren deserves the chance to raise the flag this week… Goal for Sunday: Try to meet up with all of my friends that I know are going to the game… Streamers are a must once again this week. Gotta go all out… If we win, the Halas Trophy presentation will be really awesome to be a part of again… Let this sink in: We are 60 minutes away from playing in the biggest game in Seahawks franchise history.

Prediction: There is no doubt that this will be a physical game and it may be close until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. Zach Miller will catch a first quarter touchdown to make it 7-0 Seahawks. A Steven Hauschka field goal will extend the lead to 10-0 before the 49ers score on a Michael Crabtree touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the half. Halftime score: Seahawks 10, 49ers 7.

In the second half the Seahawks will take full control in the running game. Marshawn Lynch will run for a pair of touchdowns, the second of which coming in the final 5 minutes of the game. That will be the dagger. Vernon Davis will catch a garbage time touchdown under the two-minute warning but by then it will be far too late. The Seahawks will win, hoist the Halas Trophy, and will head to Super Bowl XLVIII as the 2013 NFC Champions.

Seahawks 24, 49ers 14

Whether we win or lose check back late Sunday night for my review of the NFC Championship Game. Whether you are watching on television or at the game, enjoy this one everybody because hopefully this will be a game we all look back on as one of the best in team history. Go Seahawks!