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Saints/Seahawks Preview

1 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:40pm

The Seahawks kick off the final five games of the 2013 regular season this week on Monday Night Football as they host the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks are 10-1 and currently hold a one game lead on the top seed in the NFC playoff race. Enter the 9-2 Saints, who are the ones that trail the Seahawks in the NFC standings. The winner of this game will have the edge for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 6-6. Their last meeting came in a 2010 NFC Wild-Card playoff game when the 7-9 Seahawks upset New Orleans 41-36. Of course the iconic moment of this game was Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard “Beast Quake” touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that essentially cemented the Seahawks with the victory. There is a lot on this line this week and a nationally televised audience will witness one of the more highly anticipated games of the second half of the season. Here is what I will be looking for out of both the Seahawks and Saints in this game.

I start with the Seahawks defense because we will be without a key starter in the secondary. Cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy thus he will not play this week. Byron Maxwell will start and Jeremy Lane will also see playing time opposite of Richard Sherman. The main key on defense this week is to play smart and to not give up big, game-altering plays. Facing an elite quarterback such as Drew Brees, it will be likely that the Saints offense will try to stretch the field and with younger players filling in in the secondary, the chances of coverage’s being blown could be greater than if Thurmond or Brandon Browner were playing. In order to prevent Brees from having time to make deep throws our pass rush needs to have one of their best games of the season. The Saints offensive line ranks 5th in the NFL in sacks allowed so it will be necessary to send various blitz packages to confuse New Orleans and to force Brees into sacks and bad decisions. I have full confidence in Lane and Maxwell to step up and play well but their matchups this week are not favorable, especially after having a long break following the bye week.

After scoring 41 points against Minnesota two weeks ago, the Seahawks offense is primed to breakout starting on Monday night. It all starts with the running game. If the Seahawks can get Marshawn Lynch going early, control the ball, and control the clock, the Seahawks will be well on their way to a victory. The problem is that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is one of the best coaches in the game and he will certainly be orchestrating a gameplan that will put a focus on stopping the Seahawks running game. It will be very important for the Seahawks offensive line to protect Russell Wilson so he can utilize all of the weapons around him, especially since wide receiver Percy Harvin will not play due to a hip injury. Golden Tate will be Wilson’s go-to guy this week and Jermaine Kearse could also make a big impact this week. Keep your eye out for those two playmakers to get the ball in their hands often this week.

The New Orleans Saints boast one of the league’s most dominant offensive units. They are good because of a two-headed monster; the interchangeable and underrated running game featuring running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, and the powerful passing game led by quarterback Drew Brees. Brees is 353 yards away from becoming the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 this season. The Saints passing game ranks second in the league overall and it will be the primary emphasis for the Seahawks defense this week. After studying the Saints on film I took away an interesting statistic. In the “first 15” (the first 15 plays previously scripted for an offense to run) the Saints threw the ball at nearly a 2:1 ratio, more than any other team the Seahawks have played so far this season. Drew Brees is known for picking apart the weaknesses of opposing defenses and he does an excellent job doing so, which is why I believe he will try to throw to wide receiver Kenny Stills often this week since Stills will line up opposite of either Byron Maxwell or Jeremy Lane. There is also a big matchup to watch in the middle of the field, literally. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is Brees’ favorite receiver and it takes multiple players to bring Graham down. Look for Kam Chancellor to shadow Graham on passing plays, as Chancellor is the biggest defender in the third level of the Seahawks defense.

The Saints dominant offense has been around for a long time but it is the Saints defense that has helped turn the team into an elite power. The Saints defense ranks in the top half of the league in both passing yards allowed (3rd) and rushing yards allowed (15th). When looking at the Saints defensive stat sheet there is one column that worries me greatly this week: the Saints do an incredible job of rushing the passer. The intimidating pass rush threat could force Russell Wilson into bad throws this week. Wilson must know where cornerback Keenan Lewis is lined up on the field, as Lewis leads New Orleans defenders in interceptions with 3. In regards to the Saints pass rush, 14 different players have recorded sacks this season and 7 of those players have recorded 2.5 sacks or more. Cameron Jordan leads all Saints defenders in sacks with 9.5 but my X-Factor player to watch this week is linebacker Junior Galette. Galette has 6 sacks so far on the season and has forced one fumble. Galette is New Orleans’s Bruce Irvin; a pass rush specialist who sees most of his playing time in third down situations. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can move the ball effectively in early down situations Galette could become a non-factor much like how he was against Atlanta last Thursday night.

There are two other added elements to keep your eye on this week. The first of which is the weather. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the mid to low 30’s and the last forecast I saw calls for a 40 percent chance of snow showers. The last time the Seahawks played a primetime game in the snow was in 2006 and the Seahawks were able to run for 235 yards in that game against the Green Bay Packers. Although it is unlikely, if snow becomes a factor this week I give the edge to the Seahawks, as the Saints do a better job stopping the pass than the run. The other thing to keep an eye on this week is the noise factor. I always emphasize that the 12th Man seems to have a bigger impact in primetime games and this week the intensity inside CenturyLink Field will definitely be higher. To make matters better, the 12th Man will be attempting to regain their status as the world’s loudest fans as they try to once again break the Guinness World Record for “loudest roar at a sports stadium” as was announced earlier in the week. Bad weather and noise could be the ultimate recipe for the Saints to struggle so the Seahawks must take advantage of these circumstances.

Random Thoughts: The blue jersey/blue pants combination will be seen once again this week. I expect the Saints to wear black pants with their white jerseys… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN this week… It would be cool to try to get a picture with the ESPN pregame crew consisting of Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer, Steve Young, and Ray Lewis. I tried to get a picture with Bob Costas back in 2011 when Sunday Night Football came to town but I failed… Expect to see an iconic Seattle sports figure raise the 12th Man Flag. It has become customary for a well-known Seattle icon to raise the flag before bigger games… Ray Dalton will sing the national anthem before the game. I guess he’s taking a break from the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis world tour… One of the coolest things to see at a primetime Seahawks game is when the video board says “ESPN, can you hear us?” If you’re going to the game on Monday night you should know what to do when you see this… The giveaway this week is roller banners that say “LOUDER” along with a Seahawks beanie. Can I get a rally towel one time Seahawks?!?! I guess they are saving towels for our home playoff games… Ed Hochuli is the referee this week. In my opinion Hochuli is one of the best referees in the NFL. He does a really good job of explaining his calls… I wonder if the weather will prevent Hochuli from showing off his trademark muscles. We’ll see… It’s going to be a long pregame on Monday before the game. Good thing we’ll be down there before traffic really gets bad… I love late season primetime games because it is dark by the time kickoff rolls around… I love the cold weather, also… I’m sure a lot of memories of the last time we played the Saints are going to run through my brain on Monday. It is hard to rank that game but that playoff game is no doubt in my top 3 of sporting events I’ve ever been to.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold a one game lead on New Orleans for the number one seed in the NFC playoffs and we hold a 3 game lead on San Francisco and Arizona for first place in the NFC West. If either Arizona or San Francisco loses on Sunday, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Here are the matchups to keep an eye on this week that could affect the NFC playoff race. Teams to note are bolded.

Tampa Bay (3-8) at Carolina (8-3)

Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1)

Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5)

St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4)

Prediction: The way I see it, if a 7-9 Seahawks team can beat Drew Brees and the Saints, a 10-1, Super Bowl contending Seahawks team can surely beat Drew Brees and the Saints. With the Saints in town and a healthy, rested Seahawks offense a lot of people may think this game will be an offensive shootout much like what happened in the playoffs three years ago. I do not believe this game will be as high scoring and both defenses will make their presence known. The Seahawks will make one or two bigger plays than New Orleans this week and that will lift Seattle to victory. Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate will score touchdowns for Seattle and linebacker K.J. Wright will intercept a Drew Brees pass in the fourth quarter that will seal the win. The Seahawks will go to 11-1 and will all but officially clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Seahawks 27, Saints 17

Following Monday night’s game will start a very busy week on the blog. Check back Tuesday morning for a review of our game against the Saints. Enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 29, 49ers 3

16 Sep

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In my time as a season ticket holder I have braved 70 mile per hour winds, a sideways torrential downpour, and two snowstorms. Add more wacky weather to that shortlist. Tonight, after a 60 minute lightning delay, the Seahawks offense got going and made our 29-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers the best and most special home opener I have ever been a part of. The Seahawks go to 2-0 on the season and take sole possession of first place in the NFC West. The 49ers are now tied with St. Louis and Arizona for second place in the division. Here are some things I took away from this unbelievably epic night.

When Will They Learn?: It is funny to me that the analysts on television who picked San Francisco to win tonight always ignore our defense and always ignore the effect our home field advantage has on the offense. They just dish out hollow statement after hollow statement about how they just think the 49ers are the better team. Tonight, once again, the Seahawks defense showed why it is not wise to pick against us at home. The defense is not at full strength yet but the play of Cliff Avril and Bobby Wagner among others was the primary reason Colin Kaepernick recorded the worst passer rating (20.1) of his career. The Seahawks sacked Kaepernick 3 times and the 49ers only converted 3 of their 12 third down opportunities. Perhaps what is most notable though is that the entire defensive unit did not seem to get worn down and fatigued as the game wore on. The defense played with ferocious tenacity throughout the entire game.

“It’s All About the Ball”: You hear head coach Pete Carroll preach ball security all the time and tonight turnovers really made a difference. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 5-1and thanks to great field position based off those turnovers, it became much easier to put points on the board. The Seahawks offense did not have to stretch the field. The Seahawks only had two offensive drives longer than 50 yards and both resulted in touchdowns. The Seahawks key to success this season will ride with the defense and forcing turnovers. The Seahawks are 2-0 this season when winning the turnover battle and the record is surely to improve in the coming weeks.

The Lightning Effect: Two things worried me about the hour-long lightning delay in the first quarter. First, the 49ers have recent familiarity with extended in-game delays. They nearly came back from double digits down to win Super Bowl XLVII after the Superdome lights went out. In that game San Francisco proved they could make adjustments that could potentially change the outcome of the game. Second, when play resumed the 49ers had the ball to start their next drive. I was worried that the fans that fled for shelter due to the weather would not make it back to their seats in time for the resumption of the game, similar to fans that leave during halftime and trickle back to their seats throughout the third quarter. Fortunately the 49ers did not gain any sort of advantage from the weather delay and every single fan was back in their seats for the first play after the game resumed.

Offense Needs to Improve, Get Healthy: The Seahawks left Sunday’s game with one potentially huge injury. Russell Okung left in the first half with what is being called a case of turf toe. He did not return. Turf toe can be a lingering injury that keeps some players sidelined for multiple weeks. When Okung left the game Paul McQuistan moved from left guard to left tackle and James Carpenter took McQuistan’s place at left guard. After Okung left the game the Seahawks gave up three of 49ers four sacks. The offensive lined looked average this week even considering Marshawn Lynch was able to run for 98 yards. With Jacksonville next on our schedule, this is the perfect time to try to get Okung healthy to be ready for Houston in week 4. If Okung can’t play for another couple weeks, the Seahawks have a great opportunity against a weaker team to establish newfound continuity among the makeshift offensive line.

#LOUDER: This is the official hash tag of the Seahawks this season and on Sunday night the 12th Man proved why. CenturyLink Field and the 12th Man are officially the loudest stadium and loudest fans in the world. After coming up just short of the Guinness World Record for “Loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium” on the first San Francisco offensive play, the 12th Man broke the record later on in the game registering a decibel reading of 131.9, .14 decibels louder than the previous record holder, the Turk Telecom Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. What is even more impressive? The 12th Man broke their own record later on in the game. After a defensive stop in the third quarter, the 12th Man registered a decibel reading of 136.6. This record will stand for a very long time and it is hard to imagine another NFL fan base breaking this record. I personally made an impact in reporting this story to the local and eventually the national media so I feel very happy and proud we were able to accomplish this very impressive feat.

Penalty Watch: The Seahawks had 10 penalties for 84 yards this week. The most frustrating penalties were holding penalties along the offensive line. Max Unger was called for a pair of holds and Breno Giacomini also committed a holding foul. The most frustrating part about holds is that they always seem to negate big gains. The Seahawks were also called for two false starts, something that should not happen at home. The Seahawks must get the number of penalties down to about 5 or 6 per game. 10 penalties is excessive for as talented and smart of a team as us.

Thoughts on San Francisco: San Francisco 49ers fans should not be worried about their team as a whole. Even though we scored 29 points, their defense looked pretty good. The 49ers pass rush looks better than ever and will be a tremendous asset for them once again this season. If Colin Kaepernick gets a little cold the defense can propel San Francisco to victories. On offense, the Seahawks did a great job of highlighting the lack of weapons at wide receiver. That could be a problem if opposing defenses can create solid game plans to limit the presence of Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.

Random Thoughts: In two weeks of NFL football we have had 5 safeties scored and three game delays for lightning. That is pretty amazing… I hate it when the weather is bad but it is still warm enough not to wear a coat underneath my jersey. I got stuck carrying a sweatshirt the entire day… Watching the game on my DVR after the game, the reason why the Seahawks had their first punt blocked was because a 49ers fan blew a whistle and caught the Seahawks off guard. They thought the play was dead so they did not block. What is amazing though is that Cris Collinsworth heard the whistle on the NBC broadcast but I could not hear it from my seats. Good thing that play did not cost us points… Shaun Alexander raised the 12th Man flag. I know a lot of people did not like Shaun while he was a Seahawk based on his running style or his sometimes selfish attitude, but I was glad to see him get a warm welcome in his first trip back to Seattle since being released. Here’s a crazy “did you know” fact; did you know that after the 2005 season the Seahawks re-signed Alexander to an 8-year, $64 million contract. This season would have been the 8th and final season of Alexander’s contract. Think about everything that has happened since Alexander was released. That is pretty crazy to think about… That lightning delay was annoying and cool at the same time. It was great to get an extra bathroom break but we got really bored since we were told to stay in our seats to stay safe… I am sorry to anyone who texted me during the game yesterday. Even though I usually turn my phone off during Seahawks games I was down to 1 percent battery life just before kickoff… Last year before the Seahawks/49ers Sunday Night game I got to the Hawks Nest bar at 1:30 and was easily able to get a table and sit down. This year my buddy Alan and I got there at 12:45 and it was shoulder-to-shoulder standing room only. That was pretty amazing… Alan, that was the most extroverted and intense I have ever seen you act at a Seahawks game. Well done sir. I’m glad you had fun. Oh one more thing Alan, that picture from last year’s SNF game that you kept showing everybody around me, that wasn’t funny… I’ve got some new people sitting next to me this year. Let’s just say this year is going to be a lot of fun… The giveaway this week was the new clear plastic bags that are approved to bring in to NFL games. I was hoping for rally towels. Consider that disappointing… The offense was introduced this week with new pillars that shoot fire lining the tunnel. I like it a lot… The Seahawks wore blue jerseys and blue pants this week like always… I missed the halftime show but I was told it was the best halftime show in years. That sucks because Seahawks halftime shows suck for the most part… I don’t want to jinx it, but with the Jaguars coming to town next week, I know we will be 3-0 to start the season.

On Saturday check out my preview of our week three game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thanks for reading. I hope you all enjoyed the game. Go Hawks!

49ers/Seahawks Preview

14 Sep

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Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

Back on April 18th, the National Football League released its full slate of games for the 2013 season. What I like to do when the schedule comes out is go week by week and reveal game by game. As the games were revealed in week 2, both the 49ers and the Seahawks had not been scheduled. Then I got to Sunday Night Football. The Seahawks pull the first of two games against San Francisco here in week 2 in a crucial early season divisional battle. With the Falcons favored over the Rams in one of Sunday’s early games, the Seahawks could be playing for a sole possession of first place in the division, and a one game lead over the 49ers. The Seahawks are coming off a 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco is also coming off a victory; a 34-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. There is a lot to be mentioned so let’s get down to it.

Even with the 12th Man behind the defense, it is crucial that the Seahawks be as healthy as possible to add to our powerful home field advantage. Cliff Avril has been practicing with the first-team unit this week and his presence should bolster a Seahawks pass rush that only sacked Cam Newton once last week. Avril will take O’Brien Schofield’s place as our starting “Leo” defensive end. On third down, Avril, Schofield, and Benson Mayowa will be featured in our blitz package. I am both nervous and excited about our pass rush. Being at home with the crowd noise will help but we need to jump off the ball better than last week. I don’t expect to see many sacks this week but I do expect us to have more than one. In the secondary, Brandon Browner has been nursing a pulled hamstring and is questionable again this week. My prediction is that Browner will miss his second straight game and Walter Thurmond will start once again this week. Like last week I am fully confident in Thurmond to do his job well. Our run defense will also be a focus of mine. The Seahawks defense held San Francisco running back Frank Gore to a mere 28 yards rushing last season and Gore has not ran for more than 100 yards against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field since 2006. In the 6 games against the 49ers at home dating back to 2007, where Gore has ran for less than 100 yards, the Seahawks have a record of 4-2. If our run defense shows improvement from last week and can stuff Gore at the line of scrimmage and eliminate yards after contact, we will force third downs and will have a better chance to force San Francisco to punt.

The million dollar question on offense this week is this: which receiver will be the leading receiver and/or the star of the game? Last week Jermaine Kearse caught the game winning touchdown pass and Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks in receiving yards. This week at home I think we are going to try to profoundly display our most explosive receiver. Not Percy Harvin obviously, but Golden Tate. Last week Tate lined up for two plays in the backfield; the spot that Harvin will most likely line up in when healthy. I think the Seahawks will open up the playbook this week to highlight Tate among our other offensive weapons. Russell Wilson will considerably more read-option plays then last week and there will be some sort of trickery at some point on Sunday Night. A lot of experts think that the 49ers will win this game because of their explosive offense and stout defense able to stuff a “weak” and “rusty” Seahawks offense. Sunday Night is our night to show the country that we just had a bad game offensively last week. I am not expecting the productivity of last season’s game, but don’t be surprised if our offense bounces back similarly to how we played Dallas in our home opener last season after struggling week one in Arizona.

The San Francisco 49ers come into town with an offense that played exceptionally well last week and a defense that is still incredibly talented but gave up 28 points at home. The big question coming into the 2013 season for San Francisco was who would step up to be the playmakers at wide receiver after Michael Crabtree was lost to an Achilles injury. Last Sunday the answer may have been found in Anquan Boldin. Boldin was traded to the 49ers from Baltimore during the offseason and made an immediate impact last week, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. If the Legion of Boom can shut Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis down, the 49ers may be low on options at wide receiver. Kyle Williams could be the X-Factor and is my offensive man to watch of the 49ers this week. Williams caught 3 passes for 36 yards last week and was the leading receiver when you take out Boldin’s numbers and Davis’s numbers. If the Seahawks are effective in containing these two guys, Colin Kaepernick could have more of an impact than head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman originally intended him to. Kaepernick will run more than he did last week and he may be forced to in order to keep drives alive.

The Seahawks always try to test new players. When the 49ers lost safety Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay during free agency, they used their first round draft pick this past year on Eric Reid from LSU. With Reid still learning the ways of playing in an NFL defense, this could be the 49ers main weakness this week. Russell Wilson may try to go deep down the middle to test Reid and if the Seahawks are successful, they will keep trying to stretch the field to pick on Reid. In regards to the 49ers front 7, there is one huge difference between who played last year and who will play this year. Nose tackle Justin Smith is healthy after missing last year’s week 16 matchup with a triceps tear and his absence was absolutely noticeable in the running game. The Seahawks ran for 176 yards. With Smith back it will be harder for the Seahawks to run the ball this week. The Linebacker corps is still the strongest unit of the San Francisco defense. Russell Wilson must be aware of the personnel on the other side of the ball because Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith will make the Seahawks pay if they can get into a groove.

One underlying note this week is to keep an eye out on chippy play and personal foul penalties. These two teams hate each other so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some players getting in each other’s faces to try to draw a late flag.

One final note, as I broke back in July the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “loudest crowd road at a sports stadium” this week. The first official attempt will be on the 49ers first offensive play of the game. If you are reading this and will be in attendance on Sunday Night, do NOT forget to yell, clap, whistle, etc. As loud as it is at a Seahawks game, not everybody screams when the Seahawks are on defense. If we can get close to 100 percent vocal participation from the 12th Man, I think we have an excellent chance to break this record.

Random Thoughts: Is it really supposed to rain on Sunday Night??? I have never been to a home opener with rain in the forecast. If it does rain though consider us to have an advantage. We played the 49ers in the rain last year and they struggled holding onto the ball… The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week… John Parry is the referee this week… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC… I’m taking my buddy Alan this week. This is the second time he has been to a 49ers/Seahawks game with me. The first time was Monday Night Football in 2007… Praying to God alcohol enforcement doesn’t come up and ruin my Seahawks/49ers gameday again this season… On a similar note, undercover Seattle police officers are going to be in 49ers apparel this week. I guess I’ll just stick to booing. I don’t want to risk getting myself in serious trouble… With a 5:30 kickoff, it is still up in the air how we are going to spend our time before the game. Probably bouncing around the bars and checking out a tailgate or two… I’ve noticed ticket prices for this game are dropping on the secondary markets. Sellers are starting to realize their initial asking prices were too unreasonable for people. If you don’t have tickets but want to go to the game, I would suggest checking StubHub or NFL ticket exchange right now (49ers fans, ignore that)… I hope the Seahawks give away towels this week. It’s primetime. Towels would look awesome during pregame.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will throw for another 300+ yards this week along with two touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch will not break 100 yards rushing but will score his first touchdown of the season. Colin Kaepernick will get off to a fast start but the Seahawks defense will figure out how to slow him down later on in the game. The Seahawks will win their 9th straight home game, take sole possession of first place in the NFC West, and get ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 2-0 record.

Seahawks 30, 49ers 20

It will be a long night after the game, but check back on Monday for my 49ers/Seahawks game review. Whether watching on TV or you are lucky enough to be in attendance, enjoy the game everybody! Go Hawks!

Raiders/Seahawks Preview

28 Aug

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Matchup: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

For the 8th straight season and the 3rd straight at home, the Seahawks conclude the preseason against their former division rivals the Oakland Raiders. In their last 7 preseason meetings the Seahawks are 6-1. Seattle’s only loss came in 2010 in Oakland. Last week the Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-10 while the Raiders lost at home to the Chicago Bears 34-26. The last preseason game is mainly for players who are on the bubble to make the week one roster to show what they’ve got to impress the coaching staff and convince them they deserve the chance to be on the team. Here are some things to watch on Thursday night.

If you are watching the game on television this week and want to watch Russell Wilson and the rest of the starters, make sure your TV is on right at 7. Don’t blink either because you might miss it. The starters are only expected to see a series this week (if they play at all) and then the backups will play the rest of the game. As is the case with most of the other teams around the league, the last preseason game is a tryout for the backups to prove that they are one of the best 53 men on the roster. There are several guys who are fighting for a Seahawks uniform come September but I spotlight five players to keep an eye out for on Thursday night. I believe these players are on the bubble to make the final roster and a strong performance on Thursday night could be the difference between a trip with the Seahawks to Carolina for week one and perhaps a spot on the waiver wire.

Spencer Ware: Ware is battling Michael Robinson for the starting fullback job. I do not expect Ware to beat Robinson out but he will get a good look on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if Seattle keeps Ware on the active roster or if they release him, potentially with the hope they can place him on the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Cooper Helfet: With the Seahawks weak tight end corps, Helfet is battling Sean McGrath for the 3rd and final tight end spot. Helfet’s numbers in the preseason have almost mirrored McGrath’s. In three preseason games, Helfet has three catches for 47 yards while McGrath has three catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. Helfet needs to outperform McGrath this week and if he does he could win a spot on the roster.

Rishaw Johnson: Among a position group filled with young talent, Johnson may be an odd man out. Johnson’s main competition at offensive guard are rookies Jared Smith and Ryan Seymour. The mistakes guard Lemuel Jeanpierre made against Green Bay may have raised Johnson’s stock.

Heath Farwell: If Farwell gets cut it would come as a shock to me. It is possible though. Farwell is a tremendous asset on special teams and his roster status may not come down to his play at linebacker. If the coaching staff thinks someone can make a stronger impact then Farwell on special teams, he will most likely be cut come the end of the weekend.

Jaye Howard: Howard remains a bubble player to me even after the news that Jesse Williams has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the 2013 season with a knee injury. The emergence of Jordan Hill I believe will determine if Howard is a Seahawk this season or not. Hopefully Howard will get a good amount of playing time this week to prove he can be solid depth to a defensive tackle group that has all of a sudden become one of the weaker groups on this team from a depth perspective.

The Oakland Raiders are coming off a 4-12 season. They have a new quarterback in Matt Flynn, whom they traded for from Seattle during the offseason but this week the spotlight is on another Raiders quarterback who is suddenly a strong candidate to start Oakland’s first game. Due to arm soreness (where have I heard this before…) Flynn will not play on Thursday night. Instead Terrelle Pryor will start for the Raiders. Pryor is viewed as a lock to be the backup quarterback in Oakland this season but due to poor play and injury by Flynn, Pryor is now in a position to make his case to be the Raiders starting quarterback this season. It would be the second time in as many years that the presumed starter, Flynn, would be beat out by one of his backups. I think that Pryor will see an extended amount of playing time and if he is successful in moving the ball I predict he will be Oakland’s starter week one.

When you are a 4-12 team and still in rebuilding mode you are going to have a plethora of weaknesses on your team. For the Raiders, no weakness is greater than along the offensive line. The Raiders lost starting left tackle Jared Veldheer to a torn triceps earlier in the preseason. Rookie Menelik Watson will start at left tackle for Oakland Thursday night. As sad as it may be to say, even though Veldheer arguably Oakland’s best offensive lineman, it is skeptical to believe Veldheer would be good enough to be Seattle’s starting RIGHT tackle. The running game will be my focus for Oakland this week. I am not expecting a whole lot out of running backs Rashad Jennings and Jeremy Stewart but if they can move the ball my optimism would grow if I was a Raiders fan heading into the regular season.

Random Thoughts: With this being the final game preseason game comes my annual five dollar bet on the game with my Raiders friend Josh. I have never lost and he has never seen the Raiders win in Seattle. I expect to win again this season. If we can beat Denver by 30 at home during the preseason, I think this will be an easy bet to win… The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants most likely this week… The weather forecast looks bleak, even for a preseason game. I’ve seen a game time temperature of 71 degrees and a 40 percent chance of rain… It’s going to be a busy day Thursday. On tap: lunch at Dixie’s BBQ in Bellevue, pre-gaming at a bar downtown, getting into the stadium right as the gates open so I can watch warm-ups and Josh can get autographs at the Raiders tunnel, and finally the game… My friend James is also taking his girlfriend Christine to her first game. The best part? They are sitting two rows down and three seats to the left of me. That will be a lot of fun I imagine… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week… No word on the referee… The starting defense will be introduced this week during pregame introductions… Sidney Rice is the only Seahawk on my fantasy team and he is my #3 wide receiver… I think I like the Marshawn Lynch “Madden 25” commercial than the one Russell Wilson is in. Lynch is just a goofier guy and the advertisement he is in is slightly more ridiculous… This is your final warm-up, 12th Man. Make sure you shake the rust off on Thursday because the next time we all get together it will be to break the Guinness world record for “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium.” (I broke that story, you know). I’m not trying to overlook the Raiders game but I’m just saying make sure you know what is on deck for the next game.

Prediction: The game will get off to a slow start but Tarvaris Jackson, Brady Quinn, and Christine Michael will warm-up and score multiple touchdowns. The defense will feed off the 12th Man and will not have any trouble stopping Oakland’s running game. Overall, I expect this game to be a cakewalk and could be over by halftime.

Seahawks 37, Raiders 10

My game review will be posted Friday afternoon. Check back this weekend for an analysis of the Seahawks final roster cuts. Then a week from this Saturday be sure to check back for my preview of “Back to Football” weekend and our week one matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Enjoy the game. Go Hawks!