Tag Archives: Indianapolis Colts

Patriots/Seahawks Preview (Super Bowl XLIX)

29 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: New England Patriots (AFC Champion) vs. Seattle Seahawks (NFC Champion)

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

After the miraculous sequence of events in the NFC Championship Game, the question must be asked; are the 2014 Seattle Seahawks a team of destiny? A win this week will absolutely answer that question with a resounding ‘yes.’ The two-time defending NFC Champion Seahawks face off against the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. With a win, it will mark the 9th time in NFL history a team has repeated as world champions and the first since the 2003-2004 Patriots. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 8-8. Their last meeting has re-emerged in the media in recent days as preparation for Super Bowl XLIX continues. In that October 2012 meeting, Seattle erased a 13 point fourth quarter deficit and came back to beat the Patriots 24-23. That game arguably launched the future success of this entire team, as the Seahawks have posted a 38-11 record since. This game is perhaps more well known for the postgame episode between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in which Brady told Sherman and Earl Thomas to see his after the game (when New England won). The Seahawks instead walked off the field victorious and shortly after the game Sherman posted a picture of him loud-mouthing Brady postgame with the caption “You Mad Bro.” A lot has changed since that rainy fall day two seasons ago. Here is what I will be looking for in Super Bowl XLIX.

Russell Wilson: Last week the Seahawks offense shied away from the read-option until late in the game, which is when our offense had the most success. In regards to the read-option I have the same mindset this week that I did before Super Bowl XLVIII. This is the last game of the season and regardless if we win or lose we are going home no matter what. Why not completely open up the playbook and let Russell Wilson run free? Wilson has rushed for over 50 yards in six games this season. The Seahawks are 4-2 in those games, losing the two games by a combined 6 points. The Seahawks have not played a game this season where Russell Wilson keeping the ball is a top offensive priority so I do not expect the Seahawks to use a lot of read-option in the first part of this game. If the Seahawks get off to a slow start it would not surprise me to see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell call more read-option plays rather than be patient to see if we can work out our potential offensive problems.

Offensive Matchup to Watch: RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Patriots DT Vince Wilfork. In reality the matchup I really want to see is Beast Mode against the entire New England defensive line but of all Patriots defenders I think Wilfork could give Lynch the hardest time. Wilfork leads all Patriots interior linemen in tackles with 47 on the season and his ability to penetrate the offensive line is uncanny. He may not show up in the stat sheet regularly but his ability to overpower the offensive guard forces the opponents running game to the outside. Lynch thrives off of being able to run through the middle of the field and gain yards after contact. Running to the outside could be the most effective strategy for the Seahawks to pick up yards on the ground. Wilfork could be the reason why we see the Seahawks use both Lynch and Russell Wilson in the running game on the outside.

Defensive Matchup to Watch: SS Kam Chancellor vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. The only Seattle defender that could possibly cover New England tight end Rob Gronkowski one-on-one is Chancellor. I believe the possibility of Chancellor delivering one of his signature “Bam Bam” hits to Gronkowski would be worth the price of admission. I want to see two things out of the Seahawks defense this week. The first is an expanded “big nickel” package. With Gronkowski mostly playing in the slot, I want to see Chancellor line up at nickel corner instead of Jeremy Lane or Tharold Simon and for the Seahawks to bring reserve safety DeShawn Shead on as an extra safety playing in Chancellor’s normal spot. This would give the Seahawks a 4-2-5 defensive look which will allow the Seahawks to rush four defensive linemen while also adding an extra blanket of coverage on Gronkowski. The second thing I want to see is something that we have struggled to do in the playoffs; put pressure on the quarterback. Tom Brady is a pure pocket passer who does not tend to scramble. The Seahawks need to use the likes of O’Brien Schofield, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith in interior blitz packages to overwhelm Brady. If the Seahawks can sack Brady three times and hold Gronkowski to limited catches the Seahawks will have put themselves in a great position to win this game.

Patriots X-Factor Player(s) to Watch: All the talk this week in regards to the New England running game is how the Seahawks are going to be able to corral running back LeGarrette Blount. What’s to say Blount is even the feature back on Sunday? The Patriots have several weapons on the ground at their disposal and that is where I put my X-Factor spotlight for Super Bowl XLIX; on running backs Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been known to be very hot-and-cold when it comes to which personnel to use. Gray, Vereen, and Bolden have combined for 842 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. I believe Vereen would give the Seahawks the most trouble out of these three as he plays the most versatile game. Blount, Gray, and Bolden are all physical runners that I believe the Seahawks defense would have an easier time containing. For as good of a game Blount had in the AFC Championship Game I believe there is a good possibility we will not see Blount as the primary running back and instead we could see one of New England’s three other backs.

Comparisons to the 2013 Broncos: Many of my friends have asked me how the 2014 Patriots compare to the 2013 Broncos whom we beat in last year’s Super Bowl. Here is my quick take on this subject. On offense no team is going to be much better than last year’s Broncos, who set records left and right. Historically, the 2013 Denver Broncos are the best offensive unit in NFL history so this year’s Patriots are obviously not as good as the offense we faced last year. I do believe however that this year’s Patriots defense is better than last year’s Broncos defense, which is why this Super Bowl will be a tougher game for the Seahawks to win. Last year the Broncos allowed an average of 24.9 points per game while the 2014 Patriots are only allowing an average of 19.5 points per game. Since New England has the better defense, I have to say that I believe that overall the 2014 Patriots are a better team as a whole than the 2013 Broncos.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are the designated home team in this year’s Super Bowl so we will be wearing our navy blue home jerseys this week. We will likely wear our navy pants and I would be stunned if we wear white or wolf grey pants. The Patriots will wear their white jerseys and navy blue pants; the first time they have worn that combination in a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXXIX… Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya have the call for NBC this week. NBC will broadcast 5 hours of pregame coverage starting at 10am Sunday morning… Bill Vinovich is the referee for Super Bowl XLIX, his first. Vinovich officiated one Seahawks game in 2014; our 24-14 win over Philadelphia in December… For the first time ever the Seahawks are playing in a Super Bowl in a warm climate. I cannot wait to get my sunburn on down in Phoenix this weekend. It will be nice to escape the 50 degree weather and the rain for a few days and be able to walk down the street in a t-shirt and shorts in the evening… Two words to describe the price of ticket prices for this year’s Super Bowl: holy cow. If you don’t have an idea, go check StubHub right now… I am staying two miles away from University of Phoenix Stadium so I will likely just walk to the game on Sunday. That will be a nice change from taking two trains to and from New Jersey last year and getting back to Manhattan after 2am… I hope the weather does not cooperate on Sunday. Bad weather would force stadium officials to close the stadium’s roof. The current plan is for the roof to stay open for the game but inclement weather would force them to keep the roof closed. That would be a significant advantage for the Seahawks. I would like the building to be as loud as possible… Last season in New York the 12th Man made a lot of noise at MetLife Stadium. It makes me wonder how the 12’s will travel this year since the Super Bowl is being played closer to home. Phoenix is significantly closer to Seattle than the New England area so I would not be surprised to see the overwhelming majority to be Seahawks fans. I think more Seahawks fans will be at this game than last year’s game… With a win the Seahawks would become the 13th NFL franchise to win multiple Super Bowls. The teams we would tie with 2 championships would be the Broncos, Dolphins, Colts, and Ravens… Last year in New York I met/got pictures with no celebrities which was a disappointment. This year I have to see and meet celebrities. I would honestly settle for just one picture with someone famous… I do not think we can start “dynasty” talk if we win this game just yet, but knocking off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls would be unbelievable.

Prediction: The game balls will be properly inflated.

Oh you wanted a game prediction! Okay here it goes…

This will absolutely NOT be a 43-8 shellacking like last season however that doesn’t mean the Seahawks will lose this time around. The Seahawks defense will hold the Patriots offense to under 300 total yards and Tom Brady will fail to throw for a touchdown for the first time in his Super Bowl career. Marshawn Lynch will run for 85 yards and a touchdown while Russell Wilson throws a touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. Lynch will win Super Bowl MVP and the Seahawks will head back to Seattle with their second Lombardi Trophy in as many seasons.

Seahawks 23, Patriots 13

I will be back from Arizona Tuesday night. Check back late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning for my Super Bowl XLIX review. Enjoy the game everyone and to those lucky enough to attend, enjoy this moment because you do not know when this opportunity will present itself again. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

20 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 16, Cardinals 8

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

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!

Broncos/Seahawks Preview

20 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

This Sunday marks one of the most anticipated matchups at this point in the young 2014 NFL season. For only the 6th time in NFL history the two teams that squared off in the previous year’s Super Bowl meet in the regular season. This time around it is the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks playing host to the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 1-1 and are coming off a 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos are 2-0 and are coming off a win at home over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 38-20 but by now you already know what happened the last time these two teams met in a meaningful game, a 43-8 Seahawks win in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of those previous 5 Super Bowl rematches, the defending champion is 3-2. Here is what I will be focused on from section 340 this week.

I think a lot of Seahawks fans are thinking “if we play the Broncos exactly like how we did in the Super Bowl we should win easily again.” I am adamant that this approach will not work and it not what I expect the Seahawks offense to do this week. In the Super Bowl Russell Wilson only threw for 206 yards and this week I think it is crucial for him to take advantage of the third worst passing defense in the league so far this season. If he is healthy Marshawn Lynch will see his share of opportunities but I believe that Seattle must rely on the passing game to move the ball down the field and score points. If the defense struggles like they did against San Diego more will be required of Wilson to throw the ball to go blow-for-blow with the Broncos offense. Percy Harvin will have a big impact in this game but look for Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to have a significant impact on the outside. The Broncos will start Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at cornerback this week, two players who did not play in the Super Bowl hence they do not have the experience of going up against Seattle’s receivers. Look for Baldwin and Kearse to make a large impact throughout this week’s game.

After being picked apart by Philip Rivers last week, the challenge does not get any easier with Peyton Manning coming into town this week for the Seahawks defense. There are a couple of specific things on the defensive side of the ball I am looking for. First I want the Seahawks enforcers to come out and make a physical statement early in the game. A lot of players in the locker room believe that when strong safety Kam Chancellor hit Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route early on in Super Bowl XLVIII the game was already over; that the Broncos were intimidated and that threw them off their game for the rest of the night. Laying the wood early could do the exact same thing this time around, especially at home. I’m calling on Chancellor and our entire linebacker corps to make hard, clean hits on Denver’s skill position players to take away any momentum the Broncos may have. Secondly I want to see how the Seahawks defense handles a potential no-huddle offense led by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. It would not surprise me the least bit to see Manning try to get to the line of scrimmage fast to try to silence the crowd. If the Broncos offense is successful in the no-huddle, I could see the Seahawks struggling, at least in the early part of the game.

The defense of the Denver Broncos sports many new faces this year. After the butt-kicking they endured in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made large financial commitments to high-profile free agents to help their defense become more competitive, especially in big games. My X-Factor player to watch this week is one of those new players, defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Ware leads all Broncos defenders in sacks so far this season with 1.5 and after watching film of last week’s game Ware’s presence on the field cannot go unnoticed. Although he is 32 years old, Ware proved in the preseason against the Seahawks that he can still chase down even the most mobile quarterbacks, sacking Russell Wilson once in the first quarter. For the entire Denver pass rushing unit, the key will be to try to contain Wilson inside the pocket. If you let Wilson scramble he will find ways to get away and make throws which will kill the Broncos defense. If the Broncos are going to be successful in putting pressure on the Seahawks offense, much like how San Diego was successful last week, you must stop the run, force third downs, and keep the quarterback in the pocket.

There is one matchup that I rank above all else this week: Peyton Manning versus the 12th Man. As surprising as it may be, this week will be the first time Manning plays a full game at CenturyLink Field. His prior two trips to the Clink include a preseason game last season and a game in December 2005 where Manning played in a preseason capacity. In that game, Manning’s Colts had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Manning only played the first couple of series before turning the game over to backup Jim Sorgi. This will be Manning’s first “true” dose of the 12th Man and I have no idea how he will handle our crowd. Other than Peyton Manning, the last 10 opposing Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are a combined 5-12 playing at CenturyLink Field. The last of these quarterbacks to beat the Seahawks in Seattle was Eli Manning’s New York Giants all the way back in 2010. With the complicated snap counts the Broncos use and the silent counts they will have for this specific game it will be crucial for the 12th Man to be constantly deafening to try to frustrate Manning and confuse the entire Denver offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy jerseys and navy pants while the Broncos will wear white jerseys and white pants this week… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines. This is the Sunday afternoon game of the week and the majority of the country will get to see this game on television. The only major cities that will not see Broncos/Seahawks on CBS are Phoenix, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Miami… Bill Vinovich is this week’s referee… In addition to this being a Super Bowl rematch, this will also be a Super Bowl reunion. I will be taking my friend James to this week’s game. James and I both went to New York for the Super Bowl back in February so we are both excited to see two meaningful Broncos/Seahawks games in two different seasons, but only 7 months apart of each other… I know this sounds crazy but hear me out. What if instead of booing the Broncos when they run out of the tunnel, the 12th Man gives them a roaring cheer? All the Broncos did was be the final team on our way to our first Super Bowl championship. It probably won’t happen but I think that would be an interesting way to maybe throw Denver off guard. Kind of a “thank you for our first Lombardi Trophy, Denver”… Speaking of tunnels, it is rumored that the Seahawks may run out of the tunnel as a team for every game for the rest of the season. I personally do not like this idea because one of the main parts of pregame is to get the 12th Man fired up. The best way the Seahawks do this is by introducing the individual members either the starting offense or defense. Introducing the entire team kind of takes the fun out of all the pregame festivities in my opinion… Looks like it will be a hot one on Sunday with a game time temperature in the mid-80’s. Dress appropriately… With an early bye week this year this week’s game is of even greater importance. It would be terrible start the season 1-2 with 13 straight games ahead of us following the bye week.

Prediction: Although this game will not be as lopsided as the Super Bowl, I am still confident in the Seahawks bouncing back to beat the Broncos this week. Russell Wilson will outgain Peyton Manning through the air and will throw two touchdowns to Jermaine Kearse and one to Zach Miller. The Seahawks will go to 2-1 heading into their early bye.

Seahawks 33, Broncos 24

Check back late Sunday night for by Broncos review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Down to 53

30 Aug
Seahawks OL Garry Gilliam, Photo Credit: facebook.com/OneDeliciousLife

Seahawks OL Garry Gilliam, Photo Credit: facebook.com/OneDeliciousLife

The Seahawks have made their final cuts and the 53-man roster we currently hold (for now) is the group that will take the field in 5 days when the Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers. Here is a breakdown of the Seahawks transactions from Saturday.

Contracts Terminated

OT Eric Winston

CB Phillip Adams

 

Waived

QB B.J. Daniels

QB Terrelle Pryor

RB Demitrius Bronson (Bronson was re-added to the roster after the 75-man roster cut down)

RB Spencer Ware

FB Kiero Small

WR Arceto Clark

WR Chris Matthews

WR Bryan Walters

TE RaShaun Allen

TE Morrell Presley

OL Caylin Hauptmann

OL Nate Isles

OL Patrick Lewis

DL Benson Mayowa

DL Andru Pulu

DL Jimmy Staten

LB Korey Toomer

DB Akeem Auguste

DB Terrance Parks

DB Steven Terrell

 

Placed on Injured Reserve

DT D’Anthony Smith

The Seahawks also made a trade, trading a 2015 6th round draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Marcus Burley. Burley is in his second year after spending his rookie season on the practice squads of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, and St. Louis Rams. Indianapolis signed Burley to a future contract following the 2013 season. With 5 other cornerbacks on the roster, I do not expect Burley to see much playing time right away and I could see him being waived and placed on our practice squad at some point this season.

To me, none of these moves are a shocking surprise. The only cut that slightly surprised me was that of offensive tackle Eric Winston who was signed during the first week of training camp as our potential starting right tackle. The dramatic improvement of rookie Justin Britt made Winston expendable and it is now clear that Britt will be our starting right tackle on Thursday night.

Among the players who made the Seahawks final roster here are some brief thoughts:

The decision to waive both Terrelle Pryor and B.J. Daniels opened up an extra roster spot at a talent-filled position such as wide receiver. The Seahawks kept 7 wide receivers on the active roster. Congratulations to Kevin Norwood and Phil Bates for snagging the final two spots.

I am surprised to see offensive lineman Stephen Schilling make the final roster. Schilling, a product of Bellevue High School, looked average at best during the preseason but he was also able to fill in at center, a position where the Seahawks are thinner than you would think. He will likely be a third stringer at both guard and center.

The Seahawks have the most talented roster from top to bottom in the National Football League. To make our final roster is impressive but making our final roster as an undrafted rookie is even more impressive. A huge congratulations goes out to offensive lineman Garry Gilliam and linebacker Brock Coyle for making the Seahawks roster. Both of these guys worked their butts off during training camp and their hard work has paid off big time. Gilliam will be a third string offensive lineman while Coyle will likely see playing time on special teams as well as being middle linebacker Bobby Wagner’s primary backup.

Seahawks/Falcons Preview

9 Nov
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)

Kickoff: 10:00am

On January 13th in the NFC Divisional playoffs, the Seahawks erased a 27-7 deficit and with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, the Seahawks held a 28-27 lead over the Atlanta Falcons. If they had held Atlanta it would have been the biggest comeback in franchise history and would have carried the Seahawks to the NFC Championship Game. Key words: would have. The Seahawks could not protect 35 yards in less than 30 seconds and the Falcons kicked a game winning field goal to win the game and end Seattle’s season.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

On Sunday, the Seahawks return to the Georgia Dome to face a 2-6 Falcons team that has arguably been the NFL’s most disappointing team of the 2013 season. The Seahawks are 8-1 and are looking to maintain their NFC West lead and while the Falcons have not mailed their season in just yet, they are looking to play spoiler and try to build some sort or momentum into the weeks ahead. Seattle leads the all-time series with Atlanta 8-6. Here is what you need to watch for this week against the Falcons.

Last week at home the Seahawks patchwork offensive line did not allow a sack of quarterback Russell Wilson but the pressure provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense did flush him out of the pocket on many plays. Two weeks ago against the Rams, Wilson was sacked 7 times. That game was on the road and parallels what Wilson and the offensive line faces again this week. Until Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini come back from their injuries I feel obligated to continually make the Seahawks offensive line and passing game my number one thing to watch on offense, especially in road games. After the pressure patterns that have forced Wilson out of the pocket the past couple of weeks, I believe screen passes must be a focal point of our offensive gameplan against the Falcons. Last week against Tampa Bay Doug Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers with 75 receiving yards and a touchdown. Baldwin must make a big impact again this week. Of passes caught by wide receivers last week, all but one went to three different receivers (Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse). Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters made no impact in last week’s game and I believe it will be the same story this week in Atlanta. The wild-card this week will be Golden Tate. Tate can catch screen passes while also creating room to run in the open field and he can go up and grab deep passes. If Baldwin is used short and if Kearse is targeted for moderate-length passes, it will be Tate that Atlanta should worry the most about, as he can catch any type of pass that Darrell Bevell calls.

“Roddy White? Top 100? No. I just don’t think he’s a top 100 player.” This came from cornerback Richard Sherman during NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2013” countdown during this past offseason. After Sherman’s trash talk going into last year’s Divisional playoff game and after White beat Sherman on a deep 47-yard touchdown early in that game there has been subtle tension between these two players over the past 10 months. Call it a rivalry or call it a competition, this matchup will be the one to keep an eye out for when the Seahawks are on defense. White has not played since October 7th when he injured his hamstring and he believes he will be ready to go this week. With Julio Jones out for the season, White, regardless of his health status, instantly becomes the Falcons number one wide receiver moving forward with Harry Douglas on the opposite side.

Although I suggest keeping an eye on Sherman and White, that does not mean I think that is the most important matchup for the Seahawks on defense. The secondary has done a good job shutting down receivers wide and deep the past few weeks and this week should be no different. What hurt us down the stretch of last year’s playoff game could be the same thing that gives the Seahawks defense problems this week; stopping the middle of the field and shutting down Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. If Seattle can stop the Atlanta running game to force third downs, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan likes to throw in Gonzalez’s direction in the middle of the field. A strong performance by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright could limit Gonzalez’s effectiveness and will force punts. Man-to-Man coverage and limiting separation for the Falcons wide receivers could be a big ally for the Seahawks this week. Expect a conservative passing game from Ryan this week to prevent throwing into the Legion of Boom.

One of the weaknesses of the Seattle defense over the past two weeks has been stopping the run. They’ve given up an average of 202.5 rushing yards per game over this span. That does not bode well against the Falcons as they feature two very talented, yet very different running backs; power back Steven Jackson and the speedy, agile Jacquizz Rodgers. Having said this, the Falcons rank last in the league in rushing yards per game. If the Falcons are competitive and make this a close game, I believe it will be because of Jackson and Rodgers. The difference in running styles could be a disadvantage for a Seahawks defense that tends to gravitate towards making bone-rattling hits instead of fundamental tackling. The potential absence of defense end Red Bryant could also play a factor in the effectiveness of the Falcons running game. On the other hand, the Seahawks have seen Jackson twice a year dating back to 2004 so they understand what it takes to stop him. I believe if the Falcons offense shows they can be productive in the running game early on, they will try to ride Jackson and Rodgers for most of the game. One other thing to note in the Atlanta running game is the way carries are split. In their last two games, Steven Jackson has gotten 77.4 percent of the carries while Jacquizz Rodgers has gotten the remaining 22.6 percent. I think it is safe to expect a more even split-up of carries this week and the hotter hand could wind up seeing more playing time. To start the game however, expect Steven Jackson to get the first chance in the backfield and if he gets off to a cold start, they may hold off on giving Rodgers carries to try to see if they can get Jackson going later on in the first half.

The Falcons have added many new faces on defense this season and they feature an interesting mix of veteran leadership and youth in each level of the defense. According to the official Falcons depth chart on their website, their three starting linebackers have 4 years of NFL experience combined, including two rookies. It will be necessary to spotlight how the Falcons use these young linebackers when rushing the passer. Although Atlanta averages only 2 sacks per game they are facing their easiest challenge of the season as they will go up against both Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie on the left and right sides respectively. My X-Factor player to watch this week for the Falcons is rookie outside linebacker Joplo Bartu. Bartu is tied for 3rd on the team with 2.5 sacks on the season and has also recorded 42 tackles which ranks 2nd on the team. Although veteran pass rushers Osi Umenyiora and Corey Peters have been productive and cannot go unnoticed, Bartu adds a dynamic in the second level of the Atlanta defense that could give both our passing game and running game trouble. Don’t be surprised to see the Falcons use Bartu in blitz formations against Seahawks right tackle Michael Bowie. Whether he blitzes on any given play or not, the confusion that Bartu could potentially create could allow Umenyiora, Peters, or a different Falcons defensive end to beat Bowie off of the line, creating problems for Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense.

Random Thoughts: After this game 4 of our remaining 6 games are at home. I may be stating the obvious but that is a huge advantage for us moving forward… Along the same lines (sort of) I am going to one of our remaining two road games so after we play Atlanta I will only watch one more regular season Seahawks game on television… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. The last Seahawks game they broadcasted was our loss to the Indianapolis Colts in week 5. Bad omen? Maybe… Bill Vinovich is the referee this week… My prediction: white jerseys and white pants this week, the same combination we wore in Atlanta in the playoffs last season… It’s sad that Tony Gonzalez came back for one final season to a “contender” but the Falcons season has not gone as they planned. If I were him I would have asked for a trade to a contending team at the trade deadline… This is our first 10am start since losing to the Colts… Only one more 10am kickoff after this game… A win in fantasy football this week would put me at 4-6 and a playoff push could be in my future… The Falcons do something that really annoys me. Try to hear the Georgia Dome PA announcer when the Seahawks offense faces a 3rd down. The announcer says ttttttthhhhhhhhiiiiiiirrrrrrrddddddd down with increasing pitch tone, kind of like a game show announcer if you know what I mean. Hopefully we won’t face many third downs on offense… Go Panthers. Go Cowboys… Once again, here’s the bold prediction I have told my friends and I have posted on the blog before. If we beat Atlanta this week, we will win the NFC West and will be well on our way to home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Prediction: I hope you guys are back to full health after the heart attacks the Seahawks gave us last week because this week is going to be the exact same story. Over the past couple of seasons there seems to be one game per year that leaves me beyond angry; closer to pissed off. It was our 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2011 and our 24-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2012. I get a bad feeling that it could be this game this season. The Falcons will be effective in the running game and I believe we will have significant trouble stopping the Falcons offense on third down. This game will go to overtime and the Falcons will drive down the field on their first possession and score a touchdown. If the Seahawks can win the turnover battle I think we can win but I think the Falcons will find a way to pull this one out.

We have played terrible football overall the past two weeks and unfortunately this week on the road is when I think it will finally nip us in the bud. We are the better team. Unfortunately we are not completely healthy and we would definitely win this game if we were completely healthy. Of course I hope I am wrong but with the way Seattle has played the past couple of weeks you need to take a good look in the mirror if you seriously expect the Seahawks beat the Falcons easily this week, especially on the road in a hostile environment.

Falcons 26, Seahawks 20 (OT)

Check back Sunday night for my Seahawks/Falcons review and a quick look at week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. Enjoy the game and go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

16 Oct

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 5:25pm

In week 7 last season the Seahawks came off a close win the previous week and played a division rival on Thursday Night Football. The Seahawks are now set for their déjà vu moment this season. On Thursday night, the Seahawks will face their division rivals the Arizona Cardinals for the first time this season. The Seahawks are 5-1 and are coming off a 20-13 win last week over the Tennessee Titans. The Cardinals are tied for third place in the NFC West as they hold a 3-3 record. They are coming off a 32-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals lead the all-time series 15-13 but in their last meeting in December 2012, the Seahawks demolished Arizona 58-0 in the Seahawks most lopsided victory of all-time. Although the Cardinals currently hold a worse record than at this point last season, many including myself believe Arizona is a much improved team this year and this could be a significant challenge and this could potentially be a trap game for the Seahawks. Here is what I think we need to see out of the Seahawks this week in order to have a good chance of coming home victorious.

There were a lot of things on offense last week that frustrated me. Upon reviewing the game film however, there were some aspects that are encouraging and are showing signs that our offense is indeed improving. Quarterback Russell Wilson did not have a flashy performance against the Titans but did manage to throw for 257 yards and record a passer rating of 98.5. He himself made no fundamental or mental mistakes including no turnovers. Over the past few weeks it seems to me that Wilson has not been as accurate on longer throws and because of that he has played more conservatively. This week I think it will be necessary for Wilson to get back to his 2012 self by confidently stretching the field. Facing a Cardinals defense that will try to take advantage of weakened offensive line, Wilson will be forced to make hurried throws. If the Seahawks offensive line can effective manage Arizona’s pass rush, Wilson could exploit the coverage of the Cardinals secondary. Look for Golden Tate to make a big impact and I think Jermaine Kearse’s height could make him a key contributor as well. Wilson has hit Kearse deep for touchdowns in two of the Seahawks first three road games.

The biggest key to an all-around good game from the offense could be the return of tight end Zach Miller. Miller has been a valuable asset in both the passing game and the running game as a blocker. Miller has been sidelined the past two games with a hamstring injury. Surprisingly, without Miller this season the Seahawks average 45 more yards rushing per game than with him. The Seahawks offense also average about 1.5 sacks less without Miller than with him. Given these numbers the Seahawks are averaging 3.3 more points more with Miller than without him. Adding Miller back into the mix could definitely help the Seahawks move the ball better and Miller’s presence could lead to more scoring opportunities. If we can take advantage and score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals the Seahawks will be in great shape.

There are three things on to keep an eye out for on defense this week. The first two are individual players. Defensive end Chris Clemons is unlikely to play this week after suffering a hyperextended elbow against Tennessee. If Clemons is out we are down to only three primary pass rushers. Bobby Wagner’s absence was also noticeable last week as the Seahawks used many different linebacker packages. Heath Farwell was who I expected to step in primarily for Wagner last week and he only recorded one tackle. Wagner was missed tremendously last week and I think it would be beneficial to limit the linebacker rotation to a small handful of players instead of the cornucopia of linebackers the Seahawks used against the Titans. With a smart veteran quarterback in Carson Palmer, the Cardinals may know how to exploit the Seahawks in the middle of the field more effectively than a Ryan Fitzpatrick if Wagner is not there to balance out our defense.

Most importantly in my opinion, I will be looking at the Seahawks fourth quarter defense. After shutting the Houston Texans down in the fourth quarter and overtime three weeks ago the Seahawks have given up a long game-winning drive to the Indianapolis Colts and a 96-yard drive to the Titans last week which resulted in a field goal. Both of these drives came in the final 15 minutes of the game. If the game is close entering the final quarter of the game I will be extremely worried. The Cardinals were able to go down the field for a long game-winning scoring drive against us last year in Arizona and this year could spell the same fate with an improved Cardinals offense. The perfect way to avoid this is to run away with the game in the first three quarters. But what if the game is close? The Seahawks need to take it one play at a time and don’t panic every time Arizona moves the chains. Third downs will be very important and smart tackling could prevent disappointment. Do not go for the turnover, just focus on wrapping up the ball carrier. If we can force an Arizona turnover late in the game we will most likely win. Fundamental defense will be our biggest ally in these situations. Do not get fancy and play smart. Smart play and good fundamental execution will put us in good shape.

The Arizona Cardinals feature a rather improved offense this year. A lot of this has to do with their new starting quarterback Carson Palmer. After 3 seasons with a rotating quarterback carousel, Palmer adds stability to a position and a team that has not made the playoffs since Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009. The Cardinals do not boast an overly-impressive running game and it will be very tough to run on the Seahawks run defense. This makes the passing game my focus of the Arizona offense. Usually I like to pick an X-Factor player that flies under the radar but this week how can you not pick Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald? Fitzgerald is the Cardinals leading receiver with 405 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fitzgerald will line up across from Richard Sherman this week and if there is one receiver who could give Sherman trouble it’s Fitzgerald. I expect Carson Palmer to test Sherman a lot on Thursday night by trying to get the ball to Fitzgerald. Look for the head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to build a game plan that will feature creative ways to get Fitzgerald open.

Even though the Cardinals have gone 8-14 dating back to the start of last season, they feature one of the best defenses in the league. I think their defense is very underrated and they play extremely well at home. Patrick Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and the return of linebacker Karlos Dansby has added a dynamic tackler to the Cardinals linebacking corps. The Cardinals held Russell Wilson to 139 yards passing and also sacked Wilson 3 times in week one last season. There are two players on the Cardinals defense that are worthy of being X-Factor players to watch. Rookie cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has the second highest number of tackles on the Cardinals defense with 40 and his speed could present a problem for the Seahawks receivers. The best pass rusher the Cardinals have is defensive end Darnell Dockett who has 4 sacks this season. Dockett had a big impact when the Seahawks played in Arizona last season and it will be crucial to double team Dockett to prevent Russell Wilson from getting knocked down.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will most likely wear white jerseys this week. No word on pant color yet… Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock have the call for NFL Network this week. After discussing broadcasters and analysts with a couple of friends last week, I came to the conclusion that Mayock is my favorite analyst on any network. He knows the game of football very well, knows the talent on the field being an NFL Draft expert, and can be critical of players; something you oftentimes do not see on a television broadcast. *Cough, Jon Gruden, cough.*… NFL Network features a 2-hour pregame show as well as live look-ins all day on their weekday shows. I look forward to Rich Eisen’s comedy, Kurt Warner’s Arizona bias, and Deion Sanders’ ridiculousness on TV this week… For those of you who do not know who Priyanka Chopra is you are going to find out right before Thursday’s game. Her single “In My City” is the theme song for Thursday Night Football and not only is it a catchy song, she is also a stone-cold fox… Why does it seem like the Seahawks never get to play at home for Thursday Night Football? Since TNF started in 2006 the Seahawks have only played a TNF game at home twice… The crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium is the loudest I have heard on any of my road trips. Add in the fact that Thursday’s game has been announced a sellout and that it is in primetime, the Seahawks may have trouble at the line of scrimmage this week. Hopefully not though… If the Seahawks can pull out a victory they will head into a mini-bye week before week 8 against the St. Louis Rams with a 6-1 record!… To anyone who is going to Thursday’s game and Saturday’s UW game at Arizona State, I am extremely jealous (that means you, Dad).

Prediction: Rushing yards will come at a premium this week for both teams. I think the Seahawks will struggle mightily at times on Thursday night. The Seahawks will ride a roller coaster consisting of solid plays and frustrating plays. The Cardinals will be able to move the ball effectively but I think Carson Palmer will throw at least two interceptions this week. After giving up a field goal to make it 21-19 Arizona, the Seahawks will successfully drive down the field and Steven Hauschka will kick a game-winning field goal with mere seconds remaining. The Seahawks will barely escape with a 6-1 record and will hold a 1.5 game lead on the rest of the NFC West heading into Sunday’s games.

Seahawks 22, Cardinals 21

Check back on Friday for my review of Thursday Night Football. Go Seahawks!

Titans/Seahawks Preview

12 Oct

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Matchup: Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 30, Titans 13

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

Review: Colts 34, Seahawks 28

6 Oct
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Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

In the 93 year history of the National Football League only four teams have had an undefeated regular season. Hopefully that is something to remember as we disappointed Seahawks fans saw our team lose for the first time this season on Sunday. Seattle’s 34-28 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts drops the Seahawks to 4-1 on the season and we hold a one game lead on the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. There was some good, some bad, and a bit of frustration mixed into this week’s game. Here is what I saw.

First Half Offense Shows Improvement: The first 12:15 of the game could not have gone any better for the Seahawks. After getting on the board with a field goal, the Seahawks drove 64 yards on 8 plays capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate. After forcing another Indianapolis three-and-out, Jermaine Kearse blocked Pat McAfee’s punt which resulted in a safety as the officials ruled that Jeron Johnson did not have complete control of the recovered blocked kick in the endzone. Instead of a touchdown and a 17-0 lead, the Seahawks had to settle for the safety and a 12-0 lead. Add in a Jermaine Kearse touchdown in the second quarter and the Seahawks scored 19 points in the first half; 13 more points than in the first half’s of their first two road games combined. I think that the fast start will pay dividends going forward as it shows that we are capable of getting out to an early lead and taking the initial momentum of the game.

Thoughts on the Zone-Blocking Scheme: One of the things I always look for is for the Seahawks to be effective in the running game. Today the Seahawks seemingly looked unstoppable on the ground. I don’t want to take anything away from Marshawn Lynch because he gained over half of his yards after initial contact but the fact the Seahawks had two 100 yard rushers (Lynch and Russell Wilson) shows how the zone-blocking scheme implemented by offensive line coach Tom Cable is supposed to work at its best. Even without Pro Bowlers Russell Okung and Max Unger as well as starting right tackle Breno Giacomini, it is a telling sign that the talent along the offensive line is not the most important thing when it comes to running the ball with the zone-blocking scheme in place. Could you imagine if our 2005 offensive line (Jones, Hutchinson, Tobeck, Gray, Locklear) was blocking for Marshawn Lynch in the zone-blocking scheme now? Lynch may be a 2,000+ yard rusher with that unit. As our offensive line continues to get healthier, I think Marshawn Lynch’s production will only increase and both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael could also see improved statistics if they see playing time.

Defense Struggles: After forcing three straight three-and-outs to open the game, I thought the Seahawks were going to run away with this game. Unfortunately there were three quarters and change left to play at this point. The Colts were 7/12 on third down on Sunday and Andrew Luck was very effective in picking apart the Seahawks defense on short passes later on in the game. After doing a decent job of stuffing Trent Richardson in the first half, the Seahawks were unable to stop Richardson for little or no gain when it mattered the most. Richardson’s longest run of the game was only 16 yards but his short yardage runs on first down made it easier for the Colts to convert over half of their third down attempts. I was very disappointed in the tackling this week, especially in the open field. This was never more evident than on T.Y. Hilton’s 73-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter when Earl Thomas overran Hilton, allowing Hilton to cut and walk in for the touchdown. Overall, our offense is what kept us in the game until the very end. I’m not taking anything away from Indianapolis, as they have dynamic playmakers on offense that are capable of scoring points, but allowing 31 points is unacceptable for this group. After allowing only 10 points in their first two games, the Seahawks have allowed 17, 20, and 31 points in each of their last three games respectively. Fixing fundamental problems on defense should be a focus in practice this week. With a home game on deck, this is a prime opportunity for the Seattle defense to get back to the way they were playing in their first couple of games.

Thoughts on Indianapolis: At the start of each season my friends and I like to predict the playoff field, seedings, and playoff matchups leading up to us predicting a Super Bowl champion. I predicted that the Colts would win the AFC South over the Houston Texans and this game proved why they belong at the top of their division. The Colts have very impressive talent on offense and what I believe to be an underrated defensive unit. Andrew Luck really impressed me against the Seahawks. The poise he showed rivals the current elite quarterbacks in the NFL and it will not be long before we mention Luck’s name with the likes of Rodgers, Brees, and Peyton Manning. The Colts are going to be good for a while and if they play like they did against the Seahawks, I would not be surprised to see them make a push for a division championship along with a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs this season.

Thoughts on the Officiating: I understand that there is no changing what the final outcome was today but I do believe that there were multiple calls that went against Seattle today that could have changed the outcome of the game. The calls I question were a pass interference call on Brandon Browner on third down and long, a pass interference call on Richard Sherman where receiver Reggie Wayne simply slipped and fell down on his own, and a pass interference non-call on our final drive (where the Indianapolis defender had his arm wrapped around the waist of receiver Sidney Rice) which would have given the Seahawks a fresh set of downs and would have gotten us closer to the endzone. Two of these calls occurred along the Colts sideline with the players and coaches signaling the officials to convince them to throw a flag and it seemed to work. Last week I mentioned the role the crowd can play in determining whether or not a flag is thrown and I feel like that may have cost us today. At the end of the day, the loss stands and the Seahawks will move forward and try to get better to make sure these situations do not come to fruition in future games.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks wore white jerseys and white pants just like I said they would in my game preview. It wasn’t so bright inside the stadium however because the roof was closed… As much as I enjoyed getting a break from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan on the FOX broadcast maybe they are our good luck charms. We are 2-0 so far this season when Myers and Ryan have the call… John Lynch didn’t really seem to have a lot of good things to say about either offense this week. Not surprising though since he was a defensive player who was taught to hate the opponent’s offense… I understand and appreciate the gesture of having pink penalty flags in honor of breast cancer awareness month but they are kind of an eyesore and also very confusing. Since the players towels are also pink there was confusion in this game as to whether or not a penalty flag was thrown or not. I say go back to the yellow flags for next week’s games… The Seahawks do not have another 10am kickoff until week 10 when we play Atlanta… The most encouraging thing I saw online after this loss was from Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times. He stated that in the long run this game will not have any serious effect on the Seahawks playoff chances and that “the feeling was that Seattle needed to win one of two games at Houston and Indianapolis, and that’s what the Seahawks did.” My hope was that the Seahawks needed to be at least 3-2 after their first 5 games to stay in good shape in the division race. The fact that they are 4-1 is a huge plus and most Seahawks fans would accept that record in a heartbeat. Arguably the toughest road stretch of the season is over and in our next 4 games we have two against sub-.500 teams and two at home. That is something to think about moving forward. Don’t panic yet, 12th Man.

Check back on Saturday as I preview our week 6 game against the Tennessee Titans. Thanks for reading. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Colts Preview

5 Oct

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts

Site: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks won 3 regular season road games all of last season. This week they have a chance to match that number and it is only week 5. The Seahawks head to Indianapolis to take on the AFC South leading Colts. The Seahawks are 4-0 and are looking to extend their best start in franchise history. The Colts are 3-1 and are coming off a dominating 37-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Seahawks are 4-6 all-time against the Colts. Their last meeting came in 2009 in Indianapolis when the Seneca Wallace-led Seahawks lost to Peyton Manning’s Colts 34-17. Here are the keys I believe the Seahawks need to focus on in order to escape Indianapolis with a win.

One of the big things that propelled the Seahawks to a victory last week was the improved pass rush in the second half and overtime. This week the Seahawks have a 4-headed pass rushing monster that could give the Colts trouble. Bruce Irvin is back from serving his 4-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. The Colts offense will have to prepare for Irvin along with Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and a healthy Michael Bennett. Back during training camp and the preseason I pondered about the creative blitz packages Dan Quinn could draw up using all four of our primary pass rushers. This is the first week Quinn will have a chance to implement a gameplan that uses all of these guys. I will be keeping an eye on Indianapolis’s third down efficiency because these four guys will make the biggest impact on third down. I would not be surprised to see more blitzes called on first and second down this week to try to confuse the Colts offense and get to quarterback Andrew Luck early and often.

A struggle of the Seahawks in the first half last week was the play of the offensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 5 times last week and was pressured in 16 total plays throughout the game. This week, regardless of who starts along the offensive line, Seattle must contain the pass rush of the Colts. We are not going up against the best defensive player in the NFL this week but we are going up against one of the most underrated defensive units in the league. Indianapolis linebacker Robert Mathis has flown under the radar so far this season. He leads the league in sacks with 7.5 on the season. I expect the Seahawks to struggle early in this game if they try to throw the ball. The trend on the road this season seems to be a slow start matched with in-game adjustments to improve on what the opponent throws at them on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks have averaged only 3 points in the first half of their two road games. One way to avoid a slow start this week is to get Marshawn Lynch going in the first half. If you take out a 43-yard run in the first quarter last week, Lynch only rushed for 17 yards and also turned the ball over via fumble in the first half. Effective running by Lynch will wear down the Colts defense and could potentially prevent us from having to come back from a deficit late in the game.

The Seahawks have won the turnover battle in each of their first four games. They have forced over twice as many turnovers (13) as they have turned the ball over themselves (6). This week will be a big challenge in the turnover department as the Seahawks defense faces a Colts offense that has only turned the ball over twice this season. Consider this to be an extension to the point of establishing a consistent pass rush. If the Seahawks defense gives Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a lot of time, he will pick our defense apart much like how Matt Schaub picked apart our defense in the first half last week. If we win the turnover battle this week, I think we will be victorious once again.

The Indianapolis Colts are loaded on both sides of the ball. Andrew Luck has one of the brightest futures of any young quarterback in the National Football League due in large part to his mental capability and his underrated athleticism. Add the talent of veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and powerful running back Trent Richardson, the Colts offense is definitely capable of moving the ball and scoring points. The Seahawks run defense has not given up a touchdown on the road all season so I am confident that they can stuff the run effectively. I am not worried about Richardson and the Indianapolis running game as much as I am worried about their air attack, which was an aspect of the opponent’s offense that was a weakness for the Seahawks last week in Houston. In their two road games so far this season the Seahawks have allowed an average of 225 passing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Colts offense has averaged 231 passing yards in their two home games. Richard Sherman will line up against Wayne this week and I am confident he can hold him to minimal catches and yards. My X-Factor player to watch this week on offense for the Colts is tight end Coby Fleener. With starting tight end Dwayne Allen out for the season with a hip injury, Fleener has emerged as the #1 tight end moving forward. Given his history with Andrew Luck dating back to college at Stanford, Fleener could be a reliable target this week, especially given the potential unwillingness to challenge the Legion of Boom on the outside. Fleener could be primed for many catches this week if he gets open when the Seahawks defense is in zone coverage.

On defense for the Colts, another X-Factor player to watch is linebacker Jerrell Freeman. As I discussed earlier linebacker Robert Mathis has earned a lot of attention for his sack total but Freeman has also made an impact in the opponent’s backfield. Freeman has recorded 3 sacks of his own so far this season and his speed could be a challenge for the Seahawks makeshift offensive line this week. Look for Freeman and Mathis to make an impact on second and third down often this week.

Random Thoughts: This week is the only road game where I know exactly what uniform combination the Seahawks will wear. Per NFL rules, each team is required to notify the league office of which uniform top they will wear for each week of the season by the end of July. Some teams choose to post explicitly what their uniform combinations will be each week but the Seahawks choose not to. However I have learned that before the July deadline, Russell Wilson requested that the Seahawks wear white pants along with their white jerseys against the Colts. Wilson believes that the white/white combo will make it easier for him to see his teammates and the opponent because the way Lucas Oil Stadium is designed, it can be very bright down on the field, thus it is hard to make out who you are throwing to if both teams are wearing similar colored uniforms… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. It will be nice to have a break from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan… Now that I think of it, Seahawks fans will not be exposed to a Myers/Ryan broadcast until at least week 9, as our next three games after this week are on CBS, NFL Network, and ESPN respectively… Ron Winter is the referee this week… You will be able to tell how old and unathletic Winter is. Maybe he is the referee that is retiring at the end of this season… I am having a bunch of people over for the game this week so that will be a lot of fun. I haven’t hosted a “watch party” since the playoffs last year… Go Panthers, go Jaguars, and absolutely go Texans this week!… A win this week means a 5-0 start. I was talking with my friend James earlier this week about the upcoming schedule. I did not want to look too far ahead, as I try to take the same “one game at a time” approach the players and coaches do. However, it gets me excited to think about what could be in store if we beat the Colts and get to 5-0. With Tennessee at home, Arizona, a struggling St. Louis Rams team, and an unraveling Tampa Bay team at home, following this week’s game is there any part of you that thinks the Seahawks could be looking at a 9-0 record like I do?

Prediction: Going into this season I thought that the Seahawks would split their back-to-back road games in Houston and Indianapolis. I did not know which game would be a win and which would be a loss but I was content to accept the possibility of losing one of those two games. However, following last week it has become increasingly difficult to count the Seahawks out of any game regardless of how bleak it may look. I expect the Seahawks to struggle but I believe Russell Wilson will play a better all-around game then he did last week. Big plays by the Legion of Boom will be the difference. Bobby Wagner will force a fumble and Earl Thomas will pick off a deep Andrew Luck pass in the 4th quarter to seal the win and give the Seahawks their first 5-0 record in team history.

Seahawks 26, Colts 24

Check back Sunday night after the game for my review of the Seahawks matchup with the Colts. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. And as always, go Hawks!