Tag Archives: Football Night in America

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!

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Seahawks/Panthers Preview

7 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The 38th season of Seahawks football kicks off Sunday as the Seahawks head to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. Seattle leads the all-time series against Carolina 4-2. These two teams last met last October. Thanks to an errant pass by Cam Newton on 4th and goal, the Seahawks escaped with a 16-12 victory to improve their record to 3-2. It is very important for the Seahawks, this season more than any other, to take each game one at a time. We cannot afford to start slow like against Arizona last season because these early season games could come back to cost you big time at the end of the season heading into the playoffs. Here are some keys to this week’s game.

Given the handful of injuries and Bruce Irvin’s four-game suspension, I am most interested to see what our starting defensive unit looks like this week. Specifically, I am curious to know who will start at the “Leo” defensive end position. Chris Clemons has been ruled out by Coach Pete Carroll this week. Cliff Avril has been nursing a hamstring injury but he has been practicing this week. His status for Sunday’s game is still up in the air. Michael Bennett is also nursing an injury to his toe. I expect Bennett to play this week but he will see snaps at defensive tackle for most of the game. If Avril is unable to play, the starting defensive end will be O’Brien Schofield. I would be more comfortable having Schofield start over rookie Benson Mayowa simply because he has prior starting experience. He started at outside linebacker on a good Arizona Cardinals defense last season. I am not sure if Mayowa is ready to be thrown into the starting rotation. Mayowa would be best used exclusively on passing downs. I believe using Mayowa at defensive end and Schofield at outside linebacker on third down would be the best pass rushing option if Avril is unavailable. If Avril is available, our third down pass rush package could consist of Mayowa on the other side of the line with Schofield at outside linebacker.

The number one key for the Seahawks offense this week is avoiding a slow start. Last season when we opened up the season at Arizona, many including myself believed that we could handle the Cardinals easily which would entail jumping out to a strong, early lead. Instead the Seahawks scored only 3 points in the first half and lost the game after scoring only 16 total points. Avoiding a slow start in essence means limiting the Panthers to build any kind of momentum. If the Seahawks can score a minimum of 14 points in the first half, I will consider us to be in good shape. A sub-key to achieving this goal will be to control the tempo of the game and win the time of possession battle. In a week one situation, you do not want to give Cam Newton and the Panthers offense time to move the ball. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can be effective in the run game, it bodes well for the Seahawks to control the time of possession battle and to jump out to an early lead.

One more thing to keep an eye out for this week is Jermaine Kearse on special teams. It was announced on Monday that Jermaine Kearse would get the first crack at filling Leon Washington’s shoes as the Seahawks kick returner. Kearse’s one kick return in the preseason was returned for a touchdown. That one kickoff return earned him the chance to be the Seahawks kick returner to start the regular season.  I am interested to see what the rotation will be if Kearse struggles. I would not be surprised to see Golden Tate to get the next chance at returning kicks. Tate will return punts on Sunday.

Like last year against the Panthers, the player that the Seahawks defense should be most worried about is quarterback Cam Newton. I predicted a Seahawks loss in Carolina last season, based on the notion that I thought Cam Newton was going to go off, throwing for multiple touchdowns and rushing for a significant amount of yards. Although Newton did not play well last season, especially against the Seahawks, the potential remains there for him to break out at any time. If we were scheduled to play the Carolina Panthers later in the season, I would probably feel more confident in the Seahawks being able to beat them. In week one however, any outcome is possible regardless of who you we playing and where we are playing. The Seahawks defense must use their speed to slow Newton down and limit his running lanes if he is forced out of the pocket. If we are successful in taking Newton’s feet away we will definitely have a better chance to win. I am not expecting much out of our pass rush this week but if Newton can buy time and is going to scramble, the movement of our linebackers and secondary, not the defensive line, will be the key to our defense this week.

The Carolina Panthers have a very young, yet talented defense. Each level has one player that cannot go unnoticed this week. Along the defensive line is rookie Star Lotulelei. Star, the cousin of Seahawks linebacker John Lotulelei, was Carolina’s first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Lotulelei showed a lot of physicality during the preseason and beat out former Seahawk Colin Cole and fellow rookie Kawann Short for the second defensive tackle job. Lotulelei will be effective in stuffing the run if he can beat the man across from him. I expect the Panthers to line Lotulelei up against right guard J.R. Sweezy. In the second level the Panthers boast the 2012 defensive rookie of the year, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly led the Panthers in tackles last year and he does a great job of getting to the play. I am looking to see how Kuechly handles the zone-read option. The Seahawks had not installed the zone-read option when these two teams played last season. If the Seahawks are effective in fooling Kuechly, it will bode well for us extending our drives and scoring points. The man to watch in Carolina’s secondary is cornerback Josh Thomas. Thomas lost his starting job in the middle of last season and with the release of veteran Drayton Florence at the end of the preseason, Thomas earned his starting job back for the start of this season. Expect Sidney Rice to line up against Thomas this week and I believe Russell Wilson will try to test Thomas early and often by throwing to Rice in the first half.

One of the things I felt was crucial during the playoffs last season was the Seahawks mindset that every game was a win-or-go-home playoff situation. I think it would benefit us tremendously if we come out and show the same sense of urgency against the Panthers. If we put playoff level effort and show playoff level urgency in every regular season game, we will be better off in the long run.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys this week. With a game time temperature expected to be in the high 80’s or low 90’s, the Seahawks will most likely wear either white pants or grey pants this week. The Seahawks wore the blue jersey/grey pants combo in Carolina last season… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week. Sigh… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee… This is the only game I’ll be watching from home in the first month of the season… I don’t like these 10am kickoffs. But it is the first week of the season so my adrenaline will be flowing all day Sunday… 2 games on NFL Red Zone in the afternoon: Packers/49ers and Cardinals/Rams. I get to watch and keep track of the entire NFC West this week and I’m pretty pumped about that… If anyone is interested in my television routine on a gameday where the Seahawks play on the road, here it is: NFL GameDay Morning on NFL Network from 6am-8am, ESPN Fantasy Now on ESPN2 from 8am-9am, FOX NFL Sunday from 9am-10am, the Seahawks game from 10am-1pm, NFL Red Zone from 1pm-4:30pm (the Seahawks game and Red Zone are flipped when the Seahawks play at 1pm), Football Night in America on NBC from 4:30pm-5:30pm, and Sunday Night Football following… Call me a fan or call me a fanatic… If the Seahawks lose and the 49ers win I am going to be pissed.

Prediction: A lot of my friends believe the Seahawks are going to blow out the Panthers. I think we will win but it will be a very close game. The Seahawks and Panthers will both get off to slow starts in the first half but the Seahawks ability to wear down the Panthers defense with long drives will be the difference. The Seahawks will score touchdowns; the Panthers will kick field goals. The Seahawks will head home 1-0 and will start preparation for a huge game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Seahawks 23, Panthers 16

Check back on Monday for my review of the Panthers game. Enjoy the weekend everybody. Welcome back football! Go Seahawks!