Tag Archives: Jeff Triplette

Seahawks/Rams Preview

12 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Site: Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The preseason-long wait is finally over. The two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks begin their journey for a third straight Super Bowl appearance on Sunday when they take on their NFC West rivals, the St. Louis Rams. In their meeting in St. Louis last season, the Seahawks came close to completing a massive comeback. Unfortunately some Rams trickery and possibly some help from the officials was enough to doom the Seahawks as they lost 28-26. No matter how good or bad the Rams are, they ALWAYS play Seattle tough at the Edward Jones Dome. Since the Seahawks and Rams became rivals in 2002, Seattle has beaten St. Louis by more than one score only twice at the dome. Given that this is the first game of the season, this will be a much more evenly matched game than you may think. Here is what I will be looking for this week.

It may be only week one, but believe it or not this may be the toughest road test the Seahawks will face all season. It is crucial that our offense does not struggle. This week on offense I am looking for the Seahawks to break from their traditional offensive approach. What I mean is this. The Seahawks tend to formulate a game plan and for the first half they stick to their blueprint no matter what happens. This sometimes means the Seahawks struggle, fall behind, then in the second half they adapt to what the opposing defense is doing and in the process call plays that will take advantage of the defense’s weaknesses, thus moving the ball and scoring points. I would not be surprised at all if the Seahawks try to establish the running game early and struggle, allowing the Rams to control the momentum early. I believe stretch runs, screens, and quick slants are the best plays to call for the Seahawks to thrive this week due to the uncertainty of our offensive line play against the Rams superior front seven. Given this, Tyler Lockett could make a big impact out of the slot this week. If the offense can put at least two touchdowns on the board and Marshawn Lynch can run for at least 70 yards, Seattle will be in fantastic shape.

It should be obvious what my defensive focus is on this week. Half of our Legion of Boom starters have turned over from last year. Strong safety Kam Chancellor continues his holdout, which means that Dion Bailey will start in his place. Cary Williams will start at cornerback opposite of Richard Sherman. If Rams quarterback Nick Foles gets good protection I expect him to challenge our secondary early. It also would not surprise me if the Seahawks play a good amount of nickel coverage with Marcus Burley this week to take away the potential speed threat of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in the slot.

The St. Louis Rams enter this week’s game somewhat of a mystery on offense. They are led by a new quarterback, Nick Foles, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia over the offseason. Running back Tre Mason is questionable this week and rookie Todd Gurley will be inactive as he is still rehabbing from a torn ACL he sustained while at the University of Georgia last year. At this point it is looking like Benny Cunningham will start at running back. To make things even murkier, St. Louis will start two rookies along the offensive line. For the first time ever I am putting my X-Factor Players to Watch spotlight on these rookie linemen, left guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein. Brown will have to deal with Brandon Mebane in the A gap while Havenstein will have his hands full with Michael Bennett on the outside. If Bennett can penetrate the line of scrimmage with ease the Rams could be in big trouble throughout the game. Short passes may be the best strategy for the Rams given the questions in pass protection and because of how poorly the Seahawks defended quick passes during the preseason, especially on third down. I believe Foles will look to his bigger receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick on the outside. Keep an eye on Quick in particular, as he will likely line up against Cary Williams.

If there is one thing the Seahawks should have learned in these games in St. Louis is to be on the lookout for special teams funny business. In 2012 the Rams successfully executed a fake field goal for a touchdown and the Seahawks lost by 6. Last season the Rams conducted a fake punt to perfection, baiting all the Seahawks special teamers to one side of the field with a decoy returner while Stedman Bailey fielded the punt on the other side of the field and ran straight down the sideline for an easy touchdown. Then late in the fourth quarter, punter Johnny Hekker lined up to punt but threw the ball for a first down, extending the Rams final drive. The Seahawks, as you know, lost by 2. I believe everything is fair game on special teams in this game. I believe three fake-outs in three years is enough for Pete Carroll and the coaching staff to finally put a heavy emphasis on trick plays in practice this week. The Seahawks will surely be on alert. I dare the Rams to try to catch us off guard on special teams.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are finally telling the fans in advance what their uniform combo will be. We will be wearing white jerseys and college navy pants this week. Hopefully the Seahawks will give this kind of notice every week this season… The Rams will wear navy jerseys. My guess is they will wear navy pants with them… Kenny Albert and Daryl “Moose” Johnston have the call for FOX this week… The referee this week is Jeff Triplette. Since Bill Leavy has a new role with the NFL, I now believe Triplette is the worst referee in the league. Don’t be surprised to see many questionable and/or wrong calls this week… It will be nice to have a bunch of friends over for football this week. Barbeque and Bud Light all day long!… The Rams are yet another team threatening to relocate to Los Angeles next season and they may be in most dire need for hometown support. The Rams are struggling to fill seats at the Edward Jones Dome for this game and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the majority of the upper deck empty. Given the excitement around St. Louis for the Cardinals success and the fact that they play at the exact same time as the Rams on Sunday, support for the Rams will be visibly lacking, perhaps virtually nonexistent at the dome. Personally I would love to see the Rams move to Los Angeles because the NFL would kill two birds with one stone. The Rams moving to LA would mean that the NFL wouldn’t have to worry about division realignment (something that would have to occur if the Chargers and Raiders both moved to Los Angeles). In my mind a Rams move would also create a geographically perfect NFC West with teams in Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, and Los Angeles.

Prediction: I expect rust. I expect penalties. What I do not expect is for the Seahawks to lie down. Marshawn Lynch will catch a touchdown out of the backfield in the red zone and Jermaine Kearse will add a deep touchdown of his own. Steven Hauschka will miss one extra point but will redeem himself in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard field goal. The game will come down to a 57-yard field goal attempt off the foot of Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, which he will hook wide right. The Seahawks will survive and start the season 1-0 for the third straight season.

Seahawks 16, Rams 14

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Review: Seahawks 27, Rams 9

29 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

As I sit here sporting my own 2013 NFC West champions hat, allow me to once again congratulate the Seattle Seahawks on clinching our division title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks defeated the St. Louis Rams 27-9 on Sunday in a game that may have felt close at the beginning but as the Seahawks continued to score and put the game away, you realized perhaps how big of a mismatch overall this game actually was. The Seahawks end the regular season tied for the best record in Seahawks history (13-3) and will host an NFC Divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field in two weeks. The Rams finish their season at 7-9 and are in surprisingly good shape heading into the offseason, given that they have the Washington Redskins first round pick in 2014 (#2 overall). Here are the noteworthy talking points I took out of this week’s game.

Run Defense Forces Clemens to Throw: At the end of the third quarter I was told to take a look at the stat board in the south end of the stadium. I couldn’t believe what it said; the St. Louis Rams had -1 rushing yards through the first 45 minutes of the game. One of the points in my Rams game preview was to eliminate the running game to force Kellen Clemens to throw. The Seahawks mastered this aspect of the game plan. When it was all said and done, the Rams only ran for 13 yards and running back Zac Stacy’s longest run of the game was a meager 7 yards. Bobby Wagner played a great game covering the run as he finished the day with 12 tackles. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel also made a significant impact at the line of scrimmage, combining for 9 tackles and 3 quarterback hits. What pleased me the most about the Seahawks run defense was the ability to stop Stacy up the middle. The Rams seemed to have a focus of running up the gut just like how the Arizona Cardinals ran against us last week. The Seattle defense clearly made the proper adjustments and Stacy could not get anything going all game long. The Seahawks were able to force Clemens to throw two interceptions including one that was returned by linebacker Malcolm Smith 37 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks now have recorded 11 interceptions in their last 3 games.

Shorthanded, Tate Steps Up: Although Jermaine Kearse was active against the Rams, he saw no playing time while nursing an ankle injury. The Seahawks started Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin at wide receiver this week with Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters also seeing a handful of plays. It was Tate however that stepped up and played a game that the Seahawks needed badly on the offensive side of the ball, also confirming the talent and potential depth the Seahawks will carry into the playoffs. Tate caught 8 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. How dominant was Tate’s performance on Sunday? When you crunch the numbers, Tate caught 75 percent of the yards thrown by quarterback Russell Wilson. I was pleased with the way the Seahawks used Tate this week as he was used in the screen game and in the deep vertical passing game. Even though it is likely Percy Harvin will be out for the playoffs, Golden Tate’s performance on Sunday should allow the 12th Man to rest easy. With Kearse likely back in time for our first playoff game, the Seahawks receiving corps may be in better shape than ever heading into January football.

Offensive Line Still a Weakness: One stat category that the Rams dominated over the Seahawks this week was sacks. St. Louis recorded 4 sacks on Russell Wilson, including Robert Quinn’s league leading 19th sack of the season. This week the interior offensive line played a much better game and from my seats it looked as though both tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini had a hard time stopping the outside pass rush of the Rams. The Seahawks had aspects of their offensive game plan to work around any potential struggles protecting Wilson but he was still hit way too often. I need to see more consistency in the playoffs because the Seahawks will have a hard time moving the ball if the offensive line cannot block the ferocious playoff-caliber defenses Seattle is sure to face.

Langford Seals the Win: With a Seahawks holding a 13-3 lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter the game on paper seemed to be far from over. A 10-point deficit with over a full quarter left to play is surely enough time to overcome and take the lead. However, the stupidity of the Rams Kendall Langford cost the Rams a score, and the momentum of the entire game. After stopping Robert Turbin on a run for no gain, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on St. Louis linebacker Alec Ogletree, while explaining and arguing with the officials, Rams defensive end Kendall Langford accidentally stuck his arm out and knocked the hat off of one of the referee’s heads. Langford was flagged unnecessarily for unsportsmanlike conduct and was ejected from the game due to the physical contact with the official, even though it was clearly unintentional. While trying to plead his case to head referee Jeff Triplette, Langford threw his helmet to the ground in frustration and was once again penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. After these three consecutive dead-ball penalties, the Seahawks had the ball on the St. Louis 1-yard line. Two plays later Marshawn Lynch punched it in for a touchdown to give the Seahawks a 20-3 lead. These penalties got the crowd fired up to a fever pitch that had not been felt or heard until this point in the game and it was obvious that the Seahawks were in the Rams heads from this point forward. The actions by Langford on this sequence virtually handed control of the entire game to the Seahawks and ultimately emotionally propelled Seattle to victory.

Thoughts on St. Louis: It is amazing that 3 years ago a 7-9 team would have been a division champion in our division. This year the 7-9 Rams finish in last place in the NFC West and I honestly believe they would have been division contenders in about half of the divisions in the NFL. With two top 15 draft picks on deck in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Rams will be able to plug some holes, primarily on offense, that could give them a significant chance to contend in the NFC West next season. Be on the lookout for a healthy Sam Bradford and a rested Rams defense that could also be one of the league’s best in 2014.

Random Thoughts: Congratulations to Earl Thomas who won the 2013 Steve Largent Award… I had a really great time with my sister throughout the day on Sunday and I could clearly tell that she was having a lot of fun also. Definitely something to remember for future seasons; that my sister is a fun guest to take… The randomly chosen season-ticket holders that got to be on the field for pregame introductions also got to run out of the tunnel prior to. I was extremely jealous. That would be a dream come true to get to run out of the tunnel in front of 68,000 screaming fans just like the players get to… The Seahawks Pro Shop was a madhouse following the game. Everyone wanted to get their hands on the 2013 division champion shirts and hats. They had plenty of both so I was happy I could get a hat. Thanks again for the early birthday present Kelle!… Seahawks halftime shows are still embarrassing to watch… 2 slices of pizza and a Bud Light inside the stadium is $23.75. I don’t think I need to explain how bad of a rip off that is. The price speaks for itself… I think the 12th Man should be rooting for the New Orleans Saints to beat Philadelphia next Saturday night. New Orleans is probably the easiest matchup for the Seahawks at home in the playoffs, at least for the Divisional round. I absolutely cannot wait for our first playoff game in 13 days. There is a distinct difference between a regular season game and a playoff game in regards to the overall stadium atmosphere. I have a feeling that this is going to be a very fun January.

Seahawks Divisional Playoff Outlook: With the win on Sunday, the Seahawks are the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs and will host an NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 11th. Kickoff is slated for 1:35pm. There are three teams the Seahawks could potentially face in the Divisional round, depending on how the following Wild-Card matchups play out:

The Seahawks will play the Green Bay Packers if…

Green Bay defeats San Francisco AND Philadelphia defeats New Orleans

The Seahawks will play the San Francisco 49ers if…

San Francisco defeats Green Bay AND Philadelphia defeats New Orleans

The Seahawks will play the New Orleans Saints if…

New Orleans defeats Philadelphia

I will jump back on the blog in the upcoming week if any notable Seahawks news breaks and once we know which team we will play in the Divisional playoffs. Enjoy the bye week and enjoy Wild-Card weekend everybody. Now the fun really starts. Go Hawks!

Rams/Seahawks Preview

28 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After losing to the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Seattle Seahawks have a third and final chance to clinch the NFC West division title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs this week against the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 12-3 after last week’s loss and the Rams enter Seattle having won 4 of their last 6 games. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 19-12 and have won the last two games including a 14-9 win in week 8 in St. Louis on Monday Night Football. It is also noteworthy to point out that the Rams currently have an 8-game losing streak in Seattle. Their last win at CenturyLink Field came on January 8th, 2005 in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. This week’s game has become the biggest game of the season and I expect and anticipate a playoff-type atmosphere on Sunday. This is what will be in the way and what the Seahawks must do to be the 2013 NFC West champions.

Forget about how well the defense played. Forget about the bad calls that went against us. The primary reason why we were unable to win and clinch last week was the inept play by the Seahawks offense. Protecting quarterback Russell Wilson is by far the most important thing the Seahawks must do in order to be successful this week. J.R. Sweezy has been practicing this week and it is logical to believe he will be back starting at right guard, adding stability to a position that was a brutal weakness last week with Michael Bowie filling in. As important as the running game will be with Marshawn Lynch this week, it is the Seahawks passing game that will need to step up to move the ball in chunks, extend drives, and get into scoring range on a more consistent basis. Last week Arizona forced 7 Seahawks three-and-outs, which was a significant factor in Arizona being able to control the clock and tire our defense out. If the Seahawks offensive line does a sub-par job protecting Wilson, look for the Seahawks to utilize a screen pass package that could feature Golden Tate on bubble screens and Marshawn Lynch on conventional screens out of the backfield.

The Seahawks defense has not allowed more than 20 points in a game since before the bye week. This week, in an effort to improve exposed aspects of our defensive game plan last week, it is imperative that the Seahawks must be able to stop Rams running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has been on a tear as of late, running for 133 yards and 104 yards in the last two weeks respectively. Stacy also ran for his season high 134 rushing yards against the Seahawks back in October. Although St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens has been playing decent football since starting quarterback Sam Bradford got hurt that does not diminish the fact that Clemens will have to play in front of a revved up 12th Man that will be at full roar on Sunday hoping to boost the Seahawks into the division title. The Seahawks have intercepted 9 passes in their last two games and putting pressure on Clemens could significantly up that number this week. This is why Stacy becomes such a viable weapon for St. Louis and by eliminating Stacy’s production and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw will give the Seahawks a tremendous advantage this week. Look for the Seahawks pass rush to also make an impact on the left side of the Rams offensive line, as starting left tackle Jake Long is out for the season. Rodger Saffold will start in place of Long this week.

The last time these two teams played, the St. Louis Rams defense did a surprisingly incredible job of shutting down a Seahawks offense that had been rolling in their previous few games. It was this game that the Seahawks were unfortunately introduced to defensive end Robert Quinn. Quinn is currently the NFL leader in sacks with 18, racking up 5 sacks in his last two games, thus he comes into Seattle very hot. The way the Rams control this game is to make life miserable for Russell Wilson. And the way Seattle blocked against Arizona will not cut it this week as the Rams pass rush may be one of the league’s best right now. The Rams like to use pressure early and they will use packages that include Quinn, defensive end Chris Long, defensive end William Hayes, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Quinn will be the primary focus of the Seahawks offensive line and it would not surprise me to see Quinn line up at defensive tackle to try to penetrate the soft spots in the Seahawks offensive line. Double teaming Robert Quinn will be necessary at times but being able to harness the rest of the Rams pass rushers will make it easier for the Seahawks to take care of Quinn.

On offense for the Rams there will be a gigantic emphasis on the running game because St. Louis averages less than 200 passing yards per game this season. If the running game cannot pick up steam, quarterback Kellen Clemens will be forced to throw. Much like how I think Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense can effectively run screen passes this week, I think the same goes for the Rams. Kellen Clemens does not want to throw into the Legion of Boom and being able to play conservatively in the passing game could benefit the Rams offense overall. Using screen passes could be the best way to move the ball through the air this week and my X-Factor player to watch this week is a man who has suddenly become Clemens’s most popular target; wide receiver Stedman Bailey. Bailey is a rookie wide receiver from West Virginia and was taken two rounds after his college teammate Tavon Austin was also taken by St. Louis. With a season-ending injury to Austin, Bailey has seen significant playing time and has seen an increasing number of targets over the past 4 weeks. Last week Bailey led all Rams receivers in targets with 5, catching 3 of them for 44 yards. Bailey is short yet quick and I consider him a possible Doug Baldwin/Golden Tate hybrid. Using Bailey in the quick passing game is what I will look for this week while the Rams are on offense. If the Rams decide to throw bubble screens, expect Bailey to be the top target on the outside.

Like I previously stated earlier in this post, after last week’s loss the sense of urgency this week has blossomed from easy comfort to overblown panic. To all of the fans, especially those attending this week’s game, I remind you that we still control our own destiny but the Seahawks need us to do our part now more than ever. The 12th Man needs to enter CenturyLink Field on Sunday with the belief that this is a playoff game. I expect an extremely loud atmosphere (even for a Sunday afternoon game) that will make St. Louis struggle as badly as San Francisco and New Orleans did in primetime atmospheres. Plain and simple, this is a playoff game. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare during pregame and cheer and yell like it is a playoff game.

Random Thoughts: This week’s game theme is fan appreciation and the Seahawks will be giving away tons of prizes throughout the game. I haven’t won anything on fan appreciation day since 2008… Last season the Seahawks chose 60 season ticket holders randomly to be on the field for player introductions. If they are doing it again this year I didn’t get picked. Oh well… The Seahawks will wear all blue this week and the Rams will likely wear white jerseys and white pants… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will broadcast their final Seahawks game of the season this week on FOX… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee. Triplette’s crew has been rather controversial this year. In a Sunday night game between the Giants and the Redskins a few weeks ago, Triplette’s crew incorrectly told Redskins coach Mike Shanahan that they moved the chains for a first down but they really had not gained enough yards for a first down. The Redskins could not convert and the Giants won the game… This week I am taking my sister to a Seahawks game for the first time since her birthday in 2008. This is also the first time I’ve taken a family member other than my Dad to a game since then. She recently turned 21 so I will be able to show her what a normal gameday is like when I take my friends. Pregame at the Hawks Nest Bar starts at 9am… Shortly after the afternoon slate of games the NFL usually releases the schedule for both Wild-Card weekend and Divisional weekend. The Seahawks will likely know what day and what time they play their first playoff game by 5pm Sunday night. Congratulations to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas for being named to this year’s Pro Bowl and congratulations to Russell Okung, Golden Tate, and Steven Hauschka for being named Pro Bowl alternates. However, hopefully they trade their trip to Hawaii for a trip to New York to play in the Super Bowl instead.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As we enter the final week of the regular season there are 3 scenarios that could determine the Seahawks road to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Scenario #1: A Seahawks win clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #2: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers loss to Arizona clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #3: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers win over Arizona clinches the NFC West for San Francisco; the Seahawks would be the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

The NFC North and NFC East division titles will be decided by win-or-go-home games that will determine who will be the #3 and #4 seeds.

The Carolina Panthers can clinch the NFC South and the #2 seed with a win over Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Tampa Bay. New Orleans wins the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss.

Here are this week’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3)

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11)

San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5)

Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7)

Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5)

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7)

Prediction: This game will feature shades of our first game against St. Louis and last week’s game against Arizona. The Seahawks offense will struggle to get going and the Rams will have the lead at halftime. A couple of big gains in the passing game and a touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch from just outside the goal line will give the Seahawks a late lead. The defense will play a consistent game throughout the day and they will step up when we need them to the most. The Rams will need to put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes to win the game but Richard Sherman will pick off Kellen Clemens, giving the Seahawks the win, the NFC West title, and home field advantage.

Seahawks 21, Rams 16

Check back for my Rams/Seahawks review as well as a brief outlook on the start of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday night. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Panthers Preview

7 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

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

Kickoff: 10:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 23, Panthers 16

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

Rams/Seahawks Preview

29 Dec

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Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

The Seahawks are on a roll. There is no denying that. After winning their last 4 games by a combined score of 173-47, the Seahawks look to continue their impressive streak before heading into the NFL playoffs. To wrap up the regular season the Seahawks host the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks are 10-5 and are trying to get to 11 wins for the first time since they won 13 games in 2005. The Rams are 7-7-1 and a win this week would solidify their first winning season since 2003. This is the last regular season game of the season and there are a lot of different playoff scenarios in play on Sunday that will determine where the Seahawks will play in January. For now however, our focus is on St. Louis and this is what I’ll be looking forward to this Sunday.

After putting up at least 42 points in each of our last three games, I have no worry that our offense will be firing on all cylinders especially at home this week. Our main focus should be to keep our guys healthy for the postseason. Russell Wilson is two touchdown passes away from breaking the NFL record for most touchdown passes by a rookie, set by Peyton Manning in 1998. If Wilson breaks the record and the Seahawks are up by a substantial margin by the end of the third quarter, we will see Matt Flynn get some playing time in order to keep Wilson fresh for January. The same goes for Marshawn Lynch. I think we will see a good amount of Robert Turbin at running back this week. Keeping the offense healthy is the most important along the offensive line. Four of our five offensive linemen have started every game this season and having one or more of them get hurt one week before the playoffs would be a major blow. My player to watch this week is Doug Baldwin. He caught two touchdowns last week against San Francisco and he is seeing more playing time. With Sidney Rice nursing a knee injury and the playoffs right around the corner, we might see more of our depth at receiver which includes Baldwin.

At home the defense is always dominant. Against a solid but average St. Louis offensive line it is very real to think we can put a large amount of pressure on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Richard Sherman will be available this week after winning his appeal for performance enhancing drugs and his presence gives the Seahawks defense a confidence boost and his swagger and positive attitude seems to have a reverberating effect on the rest of the defense. My guy to watch on defense this week is Bruce Irvin. On an episode of Michael Robinson’s “Real Robinson Report” from rookie mini-camp in May, Irvin was asked how many sacks he would have in 2012. “I won’t give a specific number because I don’t want to jinx myself but I will say it will be at least double digits” was Irvin’s answer to the question. With one game left in the regular season Irvin sits at 8 sacks, two away from his preseason prediction and goal. Irvin will be especially hungry this week in order to reach double digit sacks. I would expect to see a lot of him this week and a lot more of him on first and second down. Irvin has three games this season with two sacks or more; his last coming in week 10 at home against the New York Jets so it is a definite possibility he will get to 10 sacks on the season this week.

It is hard to predict special teams plays but last week Red Bryant and Richard Sherman made a blocked field goal and touchdown return look easy. I would not be surprised at all to see something big happen in the special teams game this week. If this is to happen, look at pro bowler Leon Washington. Washington has only one kick returned for a touchdown this season but the Rams have had a history of special teams blunders in Seattle, most recently a blocked punt returned for a touchdown last season; blocked by Doug Baldwin, returned by Michael Robinson. Washington could be a dark horse factor this week and field position will be very important for both teams in this game.

Although the St. Louis Rams are 7-7-1 they have one big consistent strength this season. That is their play against NFC West opponents. The Rams have a 4-0-1 record against NFC West rivals this year and although they haven’t been dominant, the consistent factor in these games has been the play of their defense. The X-factor for St. Louis this week is cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The rookie from North Alabama has had a strong second half of the season. In his last 5 games Jenkins has recorded 25 tackles and three interceptions including one interception last week against Tampa Bay. One other St. Louis defender to keep an eye on is Chris Long. Long is always a consistent worry to opposing teams because of his ability to put pressure on the quarterback, however with Russell Okung playing his best football combined with Russell Wilson’s elusiveness, I do not see Long playing a big role in the St. Louis defense this week.

I am excited to see Greg Zuerlein kick for the Rams this week. The rookie kicker nicknamed “Legatron” is having a strong season and I for one am pumped to see him attempt a long field goal. I do not doubt he can nail a far field goal in Seattle and if he lines up for a 50+ yard field goal I think he will make it.

Congratulations to the Seahawks players participating in this week’s game who will be representing the NFC at the pro bowl next month. The representatives are Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, Max Unger, Russell Okung and Leon Washington. Let’s all hope these guys will get the opportunity to skip the pro bowl because they will be preparing for the Super Bowl in New Orleans!

Random Thoughts: The gameday theme this week is fan appreciation. This game is always fun because the Seahawks give out a ton of random stuff. I have only won one thing on fan appreciation day since becoming a season ticket holder; a 12th Man car flag in 2008… The Seahawks are also dubbing this game a “blue-out.” They are asking all fans to wear blue to this week’s game (in case you don’t already). If you are going to the game this week, wear blue!… Sunday’s halftime show is the annual wiener dog races. I love this halftime show because at least one dog always seems to break loose and run all around the field which is incredibly amusing… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week, their first Seahawks broadcast since the Arizona game 3 weeks ago… Not confirmed yet but it looks like Jeff Triplette will be the referee this week… I am taking by friend Dylan to this week’s game. He was supposed to go to the Patriots game with me but had to reschedule because of school obligations. Sorry D, but I don’t think this week’s game will be as exciting as the New England game… This is most likely the final home game of the season this week. Unless the pieces fall in our favor and Arizona beats San Francisco, this will be the last time I see everyone around me until August which is always sad… I will definitely be scoreboard watching on Sunday. My first priority is the Arizona/San Francisco game and I do not expect the Cardinals to hold the lead for any amount of time in that game. My second priority is the Green Bay/Minnesota game as a Vikings win and a Cardinals win would give us the division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs… Even though everyone around me at the San Francisco game did not take offense to the actions of my guest last week, I still feel I owe them a huge apology for what happened. Maybe I’ll even offer to buy a round of beers also. I’m still embarrassed but I can guarantee myself or my guest will not have a run in with security or alcohol enforcement this week.

Prediction: The Seahawks will end the season with their 3rd best regular season record in team history. The scoring will not be as dominant as past weeks but it will still be very impressive and will leave the 12th Man extremely confident heading to the playoffs. The Seahawks will win but the 49ers will win so we will settle for the 5th seed in the NFC playoffs. By 9pm Sunday night, the Seahawks will be prepping for a trip to Washington D.C. to play the Redskins in an NFC wild-card playoff.

Seahawks 38, Rams 14

Check back for my review of the regular season finale with the Rams on Monday afternoon. I will also share a brief mini-preview of the Seahawks NFC wild-card playoff game. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!