Tag Archives: K.J. Wright

Seahawks/Panthers Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

16 Jan
panthers divisional preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Carolina Panthers

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

Kickoff: 10:05am

We meet again. For the second consecutive season the Seahawks will take on the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional playoffs. This time around however the tables have been turned. The Panthers enter this game after a 15-1 regular season, an NFC South division title, and earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. With their win last week the Seahawks advanced to the NFC Divisional round for the fourth straight season but instead of hosting like they did last season they have to travel across the country to take on the Panthers this January. The Seahawks won games against the Panthers in Charlotte in three consecutive seasons from 2012-2014. In their 2015 meeting in Seattle earlier this season however the Panthers bested the Seahawks 27-23. This will be an extremely difficult matchup for the Seahawks but I believe we match up well with what the Panthers will put onto the field. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Marshawn Lynch mystery drags on for at least one more week. The star running back has practiced all week and proclaimed to ESPN that he is “ready to go” but it will come down to a game-time decision if Lynch actually suits up and plays. If Lynch cannot go it will be Christine Michael who starts at running back once again. For the rest of the Seattle offense, much improvement needs to be shown in order to compete with the Panthers on the scoreboard. Quarterback Russell Wilson must improve on his accuracy because there is little doubt the fantastic play of the Minnesota defense last week rattled him. Limiting turnovers will also be a big key in the way this game plays out. Carolina leads the league in turnovers with 39, which are 10 more than any other team. They also lead the league in turnover differential with a mark of +20. The Seahawks offense will need to take the majority of their drives deep into Carolina territory in order to stay in this game.

Many people may not realize this but the Seahawks defense will play this game with a couple of big-name players who did not play against Carolina back in week 6. Back in October K.J Wright moved from outside to inside linebacker in place of Bobby Wagner who missed the game with an injury. This week Wagner will be back starting at middle linebacker and will be a tackling machine in the middle of the field. In 3 career games against the Panthers, Wagner has averaged 7.3 tackles per game and has also sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton once. In addition to Wagner, Jeremy Lane will start at cornerback. Cary Williams, who is no longer on the team, started at cornerback against the Panthers earlier this season. Lane’s primary job will be to cover Panthers wide receivers Philly Brown and Devin Funchess. Last week the Seahawks only forced one turnover. If the Seahawks defense can force at least two turnovers in the game we will be in decent shape.

The Carolina Panthers offense is one of the very best in the National Football League. Quarterback Cam Newton is considered to be a most valuable player candidate this season. All year long Newton has had fantastic on-field chemistry with tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is Newton’s number one target and his numbers correlate to this notion. 26 percent of Newton’s passes were completed to Olsen this season. That percentage translates to 77 catches for 1,104 yards (both team highs) and 7 touchdowns. Olsen’s second best game of the season came against the Seahawks back in October. There is much more to the Carolina offense however and there are two other players whose presences cannot go unnoticed. My X-Factor Players to Watch for the Panthers are Pro Bowl running backs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. I put my X-Factor spotlight on these two guys not because of their production on the ground, but the role they can play in the Carolina passing game. Stewart and Tolbert have combined for 253 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns this season. After watching film I see the possibility of Newton targeting these backs on screen passes and wheel routes/rollout passes inside the redzone.

Each level of the Carolina defense features incredible talent. Four Panthers defenders have been named to the Pro Bowl. The middle of the field will be a risky place for Russell Wilson to throw into as the Panthers are led by veteran linebackers and tackling machines Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Cornerback Josh Norman has had a meteoric rise to being one of the best cornerbacks in the league. His 4 interceptions and team-leading 18 passes defensed defend this reputation. The matchup that may have the most say in the Panthers season continuing on to the NFC Championship Game will be defensive tackle Kawann Short against the Seahawks offensive line. Short recorded 11 sacks this season and is considered one of the best pass rushers in football. Short is averaging one sack in each of his last 5 games and he was also able to bring Russell Wilson down in the backfield twice earlier this year. In short (no pun intended), this Panthers defense is scary good and it will take a monster effort to take them down.

Random Thoughts: At the start of the playoffs I assumed since the Seahawks would have to play three straight road games to get to the Super Bowl, that we would be wearing white throughout January. Instead the Panthers have elected to wear white jerseys and white pants this week. This means the Seahawks will wear college navy jerseys. The Seahawks will pair these jerseys with wolf grey pants. The Seahawks won in this combination in Carolina in both 2012 and 2013… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX’s only broadcast of Divisional weekend… The referee this week is Tony Corrente… Nothing and I mean NOTHING would make me happier than to see all the Seahawks players “dab” on the sideline and take a group photo if we win. For those not familiar these are the hijinks the Panthers have participated in all season long at the end of their games and it would be a tremendous troll job if the Seahawks came away victorious and stuck up the proverbial middle finger in this way. If this happens look for Michael Bennett and perhaps Richard Sherman to lead the way… Brunch n’ ball for the final time this season. I’m glad this is the final 10am game of the season… Speaking of 10am starts, a random thought unrelated to this game. I am thrilled the Rams have relocated to Los Angeles. We know better than any other city what greed and corruption happens behind the scenes when it comes to franchise relocation (SuperSonics, duh) and from this perspective it is sad to see the Rams leave St. Louis. The reason I am thrilled however is because it benefits the Seahawks. Instead of traveling to the middle of the country each season we will now fly to Southern California. This eliminates one 10am kickoff each season and the Seahawks never have to play at the Edward Jones Dome again. The Seahawks went 7-7 in St. Louis dating back to 2002. Instead these road games against the Rams will be played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the next three seasons which is a stadium not known for having an intimidating home field advantage. It is still a little weird to see “Los Angeles Rams” in print. It will take a little while to get used to.

Prediction: The Seahawks have lost 6 straight Divisional playoff games played on the road. Although I hope I am wrong I believe that streak continues on Sunday. The first half will be an entertaining defensive battle with Carolina taking a 13-10 lead into halftime. In the second half however the Panthers defense will shut the Seahawks offense down. Carolina will score a touchdown (with a missed extra point), and two field goals on their first three possessions of the second half. The Seahawks will have opportunities to claw back into the game but Russell Wilson will throw two interceptions and the Carolina defense will also force a fumble near the end of the third quarter. The Seahawks season will end and the Panthers will move on and host the Arizona Cardinals in next week’s NFC Championship Game.

Panthers 25, Seahawks 13

Seahawks/Vikings Preview (NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

9 Jan
vikings wild card preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (3) Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:05am

On December 6th the Seahawks rolled into Minneapolis and delivered a monumental beat down to the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. One month later the Seahawks will look to do the same thing in order to keep their season alive. The Seahawks travel to TCF Bank Stadium once again on Sunday as they take on the NFC North champion Vikings in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. The Seahawks enter as the number 6 seed and a win will punch their ticket to Charlotte for the NFC Divisional playoffs. The Vikings are the number 3 seed and a win will send them to Arizona to play the Cardinals next week. Of course the loser of this game sees their 2015 season come to an end. The theme in this game is “different.” There will be multiple things that will be different this week from the last time these two teams faced off 5 weeks ago. For the Vikings, several things will have to be different in order to advance to next weekend. Here are a small handful of differences I will have my attention on in this game.

Last time around Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 78 percent of his passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Seahawks also added 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground by running back Thomas Rawls. Rawls is on injured reserve and this week the Seahawks will start someone who was not even on the roster back in week 13, running back Christine Michael. Michael will be thrust into the starting role after the unexpected breaking news Friday night that Marshawn Lynch, who practiced all week and seemed ready to go, ruled himself unable to play. Michael has an opportunity to completely change critic’s opinions of him as an NFL player with a strong performance in Minnesota. Establishing the run on first down will remain important but do not be surprised to see more passes called on first down than runs. If Michael can get going early and be able to put up at least 80 yards on the ground it will take pressure off of the passing game and the Seahawks offense will be able to control time of possession, putting Minnesota at a disadvantage.

In my preview of our regular season matchup against the Vikings I talked about how important it was for the Seahawks defense to corral Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. This is the one and only constant I will be focused on this week. It is the same story as last time: shut him down, win the game. Peterson was held to his worse stat line of his season against the Seahawks, rushing 8 times for 18 yards. In the 4 games to end the season after playing Seattle Peterson averaged 21 carries for 76 yards and recorded 3 touchdowns. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright combined for 17 tackles against the Vikings in the regular season so look for Kris Richard to stuff the box to help defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin, and Jordan Hill out.

One of the biggest reasons this game will be different for the Minnesota Vikings is unlike in our last meeting, Minnesota’s defense is close to full strength. Multiple players who were inactive or hurt during our matchup five weeks ago will be on the field this Sunday. This includes safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr. I am putting my X-Factor spotlight on another one of those players who may be back on the field on Sunday. My X-Factor player to Watch for the Vikings this week is defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Joseph’s absence was a contributing factor in the Seahawks being able to accrue 173 total rushing yards on December 6th. He is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and I believe he is extremely underrated, much like Brandon Mebane is for Seattle. Right before he got hurt he was putting up big numbers in the tackles category, averaging just over 6 tackles per game in his last 5 games. He has also recorded 7 tackles for loss this season. Against an average Seahawks offensive line Joseph could be poised for a huge game statistically. If the Seahawks run Christine Michael up the middle look for Joseph to make a big impact.

Something else that must be talked about is the weather conditions for Sunday’s game. In our last meeting in Minnesota the temperature was in the high 30’s; an abnormally warm temperature for that time of year. This week brings a completely different story as the Seahawks will be playing in the coldest game in franchise history. The temperature at kickoff is projected to be no higher than 3 degrees but I have seen reports from the national weather service over the past few days that claim the temperature at kickoff could be as low as -20 degrees plus wind chill. It will be painfully cold and the weather could absolutely play a factor in how the game plays out. I remember two seasons ago the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay to play the Packers in an NFC wild-card game. The 49ers were no doubt the better team but because the temperature was so low it allowed the Packers to play San Francisco tough almost to the point of them upsetting them. It will be harder to throw, harder to tackle, harder to kick, and harder to score. These circumstances could give the Vikings an advantage that is difficult to overlook.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants this week. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for a rare NBC matinee broadcast this week… Walt Coleman is our referee in this game… I find it very interesting the NFL decided to have both NFC wild-card games on Sunday rather than one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. It makes sense going from week 17 into the postseason but one team playing this weekend will lose a day of preparation for next week because they will have to play Arizona the following Saturday… Many people approached me over the past week and asked me if I was going to Minneapolis for the game. I would love to be there even with the weather being what it is, but unfortunately I will not be there. Hopefully I get to make at least one more road trip before the end of our season… I am not a fan of the morning start in the playoffs. That’s the price we pay for going on the road I guess.

Prediction: It will not be a blowout and the weather will be a factor, but I still believe the Seahawks will punch their ticket to the Divisional round. Russell Wilson will throw touchdowns to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. A late touchdown run by Adrian Peterson will keep things close but the Seahawks will be able to convert third down opportunity with under two minutes left to seal the win. The Seahawks will come home and get ready for an NFC Divisional playoff against the Carolina Panthers.

Seahawks 27, Vikings 17

Seahawks/Ravens Preview

12 Dec
ravens preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens

Site: M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, Maryland)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Before the regular season started I picked the Baltimore Ravens to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50. With this game originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football many people including me thought this game could shape the postseason picture for both teams. As it turns out only the Seahawks are vying for playoff position heading into this week. Seattle heads to Baltimore for the first time since 2003 to take on the Ravens. After a 38-7 thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings last week the Seahawks are 7-5 and are in prime position to make a serious push for the #5 seed in the NFC. The Ravens however struggled out of the gate and never recovered. Poor play and a wide array of injuries to key players have put the Ravens at 4-8 on the season. The all-time series between these teams is tied 2-2 with Seattle taking the last two meetings. These two teams last met in Seattle in 2011 where the Seahawks upset the Ravens 22-17. Here is what I will be watching out for in this game.

The main offensive key for the Seahawks this week is to remain consistent in order to carry over the success from last week. In the games we have won in recent weeks the running game led by Thomas Rawls has been superb. The Seahawks will likely establish the run again but it is only a matter of time before Rawls has an off game. Could this week could be that game? Baltimore ranks 10th in run defense allowing only 97.5 rushing yards per game. This may be a game where Russell Wilson has to do more through the air to score points instead of relying on Rawls for big pickups. With the emergence of wide receiver Doug Baldwin as Wilson’s go-to target over the past two weeks it would not surprise me to see Baldwin receive extra coverage from the Ravens secondary. This should open up looks for our other receivers. With the Ravens only allowing 39 yards receiving to tight ends per game look for Jermaine Kearse to make a significant impact in the passing game.

This could be a fairly easy day for the Seattle defense. We will not be facing regular Ravens starters Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, and Steve Smith. There are two keys to victory on defense I will be focusing on. The first will be to put pressure on whichever Ravens quarterback starts. I believe the slightest bit of pressure will throw either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen off and he could be more prone to forcing the ball and throwing bad passes. The second key is to make sure we tackle well and do not give up yards after contact. With a backup quarterback comes the very high probability of them throwing a lot of high percentage passes. High percentage passes means the ball carrier or receiver will have space to make big plays potentially happen. Look for linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to make a huge impact in the middle of the field.

Like I previously mentioned the Baltimore Ravens have one of the more depleted offenses in the league. On the offensive side of the ball running back Javorius “Buck” Allen will have to have a big game to take the pressure off of either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen in the passing game. If Baltimore has any shot to win this week it will come on the shoulders of an extremely impressive defensive performance. Similarly to the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple weeks ago, the Ravens have lost dynamic leaders on the defensive side of the ball over the past few years. Future hall of famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone. All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs is also injured and out for the season. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil leads all Ravens defenders in sacks with 6 but my focus will be on the second level of their defense. There are two guys I will have my eye on in particular and they are both responsible for defending the middle of the field. My X-Factor Players to Watch are inside linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley. Smith is in his 12th NFL season and is on pace for the best statistical season of his career. Mosley is in his second season after being drafted in the first round by the Ravens last season. These two guys have combined for 174 tackles so far this season which is good for nearly one quarter of the Ravens total tackles. They can also get to the quarterback and drop into coverage. They each have 3 sacks this season while Mosley has dropped back to record 5 passes defensed. Watch out for how these two players attack Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, Luke Willson, and all the Seahawks receivers on short crossing routs to the middle of the field.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants. No word on what color jerseys the Ravens will wear but there is this stat: The Ravens have only worn their black alternate jerseys once this season. With three home games remaining including this week and one more eligible opportunity to wear their alternates, there is a 33 percent chance the Ravens will sport black in this game… Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis have the call for FOX with Tony Siragusa commentating from the sidelines. Many complain about other announcers such as Joe Buck and Chris Myers but I think Seahawks fans will be really annoyed with the broadcast this week. Why? Siragusa is a former Raven who could have a biased loyalty towards the home team. If you watch this game and get frustrated because the commentators are not giving the Seahawks proper credit this is probably why… Walt Coleman is the referee for this week’s game… It looks like it will be another abnormally warm week weather wise. The game-time temperature is slated to be in the low to mid 60’s and cloudy. It’s funny because that is pretty much the same weather the Seahawks had in Washington D.C. for a game in early OCTOBER last season… Quite frankly I am glad this game got flexed out of Sunday Night Football and the reason I am glad is because of the players. A primetime game on the east coast starts at 8:30pm which means the game won’t end until close to midnight. After meeting with the media, driving to the airport, and a cross-country flight, the Seahawks likely would not land back in Seattle until about 5:00am pacific time. This would make for an epically cruel and tiring Monday. Having the game start at 10:00am pushes that itinerary back. Now the Seahawks will likely land back in Seattle around the same time Sunday Night Football ends, which is about an 8 hour difference… Fantasy playoffs start this week and I made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Shoutout to my starting lineup: Aaron Rodgers, Amari Cooper, Marvin Jones, Jonathan Stewart, T.J. Yeldon, Thomas Rawls, Gary Barnidge, Graham Gano, and the Carolina Panthers defense.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With a win the Seahawks take control of the #5 seed in the NFC. If the Seahawks lose they will still hold the #6 seed if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also lose. The Seahawks fall out of the playoff picture if they lose and the Buccaneers win. Here are other games this week with playoff significance. Teams to note are bolded.

New Orleans (4-8) at Tampa Bay (6-6)

Atlanta (6-6) at Carolina (12-0)

Prediction: This game will not be as close as the score indicates. Both Husky receivers Jermaine Kearse and Kevin Smith will catch touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, Smith’s being the first of his career. Thomas Rawls will also gallop for a 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Ravens will score two garbage time touchdowns but the Seahawks will have the game wrapped up. The Seahawks will head home 8-5 with two straight home games on deck in the middle of the holiday season.

Seahawks 30, Ravens 17

Rant: Seahawks 13, Lions 10

6 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

A win is a win, right? It is true but why do I feel so frustrated and disappointed? The Seahawks survived a late charge by the Detroit Lions offense and thanks to Kam Chancellor forcing a fumble and K.J. Wright batting the ball (illegally) out of the endzone, the Seahawks survived to win 13-10. The victory gets the Seahawks to 2-2 and one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The Lions fall to 0-4. There was one consistent negative in this game and it has my full attention in this week’s postgame review. The Seahawks offense line has struggled throughout the season but tonight I feel the line hit rock bottom. Things must change so the Seahawks can maximize the full potential of the offense. Instead of a traditional review, here is a rant dedicated solely to the Seahawks woeful offensive line.

Wilson Feels the Heat and Rawls Struggles: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked five times on Monday night and turned the ball over twice after fumbling. He was consistently flushed out of the pocket and the majority of his throws came on the run. Out of the shotgun there were multiple snaps that were low or to the side of him that he struggled to corral. The last straw came in the final minutes of the first half. After moving the ball inside the 10-yard line, Wilson was sacked twice which moved our goal-to-go opportunity back to the 33-yard line. Instead of a touchdown, we were forced to kick a long field goal. It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep Wilson healthy long-term if he continues to take the beating he has been subjected to so far this season. The saddest part is that there has been little or no improvement along the offensive line this season. I understand that in 3 of our first 4 games we have faced top-tier defensive lines but on a week to week basis there has been nothing to show me that we are going to get better any time soon. This line is a long way off from completely gelling. As far as the running game goes…

Photo Credit: The News Tribune

Photo Credit: The News Tribune

This picture sure says a lot doesn’t it? After rushing for over 100 yards last week running back Thomas Rawls did not produce nearly as well against the Lions. Rawls averaged a meager 2.8 yards per carry and his longest run of the night was only 10 yards. Rawls struggled because our offensive line could not provide adequate running lanes. I have heard a lot of talk about how our offensive line scheme is a “system blocking” style, meaning it does not necessarily matter who our personnel is along the line, you can plug in players at will as long as each lineman does their individual assignment within the zone-blocking scheme. If you can put 5 successful blocks together in unison you will have either excellent pass protection or solid run blocking. At some point it must matter who we have along the line because I am sick of seeing Justin Britt and Drew Nowak specifically getting blown up or struggling to block. It may soon be for the Seahawks and offensive line coach Tom Cable to consider personnel changes up front. In short and in closing, I just wish we still had Max Unger.

Controversy in Relation to the Offensive Line: The Seahawks dodged a massive bullet late in the game when safety Kam Chancellor knocked the football out of Calvin Johnson’s hands one yard short of the goal line. The ball bounced to the back of the endzone and linebacker K.J. Wright batted the ball out of the endzone for a touchback. The only problem is that Wright’s clutch play is illegal but fortunately it was not called. If a penalty had been enforced on Wright, Detroit would have maintained possession at the one-yard line. I believe the Lions would have successfully scored a touchdown and the Seahawks would have faced a 17-13 deficit with less than two minutes left. The Seahawks would have had to go the length of the field and score a touchdown in order to win the game. The way we blocked for Russell Wilson up to that point I would have had no confidence in our ability to drive down the field to take the lead. That potential situation would have taken away our running dimension, which would have allowed the Lions defense to stack the box and put immense pressure on Wilson, pressure that our horrible offensive line would definitely had not been able to handle. If it wasn’t for that non-call on the batted ball out of the endzone, there is no question in my mind the Seahawks would have lost and fallen to 1-3 on the season.

Random Thoughts: None.

What’s Next: Look out for my preview of our week 5 game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday morning.

Lions/Seahawks Preview

4 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

For the second time this season and the first time at home, the Seahawks welcome the primetime lights to CenturyLink Field. This week the Seahawks welcome ESPN Monday Night Football to the Emerald City for our week 4 matchup against the Detroit Lions. After our win last week the Seahawks are 1-2. The Detroit Lions won 11 games a year ago but have gotten off to a very rocky start in 2015. They have stumbled out to a 0-3 record and coming out to Seattle will be no easy task. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Detroit 7-5 but in their last meeting in 2012 the Lions got the best of the Seahawks, beating us 28-24 at Ford Field. The Seahawks are also 8-0 in regular season primetime games at CenturyLink Field under Pete Carroll, winning those games by an average of 18.5 points. Here are my points of emphasis going into this week’s game.

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is battling a hamstring injury and reports earlier in the week indicate he has a 50/50 chance of playing. As great as it would be to see him active this week, I believe we can win without him. If he is inactive it will be important for quarterback Russell Wilson to get everyone involved. Giving Detroit a taste of their own medicine may be the best way to go about attacking their defense, making them play nickel and even dime coverage. Doug Baldwin could be a major beneficiary in the short passing game this week and I think we are well off using both Jermaine Kearse and Jimmy Graham in the intermediate and deep passing game on the outside. I believe getting off to a fast start and early lead will go a very long way in preserving a Seahawks victory. Detroit’s offense becomes very predictable if their opponent takes an early lead. Detroit hung tight in two of their first three games; week 1 in San Diego, and last week at home against Denver. In those two games combined, the Lions ran a very even balance of plays on first down, throwing on 55 percent of their first down opportunities. In their second game of the season, a 26-16 loss in which they were never really in the game, the Lions threw the ball on first down 90 percent of the time. An early lead for Seattle will likely force the Lions to completely abandon the run.

There are three things the Seahawks defense must do against this potentially powerful Lions offense. First, they must take away the edges, keeping plays in the middle of the field.  Detroit has added a lot of speed both at running back and wide receiver and the majority of their large chunks of yards come outside the numbers. The second thing Seattle must do is a no brainer, successfully cover Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson will line up across from Richard Sherman and even though Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has shied away from throwing the one-on-one jump ball up to Johnson, it may be in our best interest to shadow Johnson with double coverage. It would not surprise me to see defensive coordinator Kris Richard use K.J. Wright to drop back in coverage to help Sherman cover Johnson. The third thing we must do could go a long way in forcing turnovers. Have you ever heard of the phrase “you cannot make chicken salad out of chicken s—t?” After watching film of each of the Lions first three games, this phrase basically sums up Matthew Stafford in a nutshell. His 5 interceptions so far this season are tied for 2nd in the league. If Stafford feels pressure and tries to scramble, the chances of him throwing interceptions are great because instead of smartly throwing the ball away he tries to make something happen. It would be wise to dial up all sorts of pressure packages to try to confuse Detroit’s rather inexperienced offensive line. I cannot emphasize this enough. If we can successfully penetrate the Lions offensive line regularly it will go a long way in winning the turnover battle.

Since Matthew Stafford was drafted in 2009 the Lions have been known to be an extremely pass-heavy offense. Detroit will use packages including 3 or even 4 wide receivers and/or multiple tight ends. On the outside they will use Golden Tate in the quick passing game and tight end Eric Ebron gives them another weapon between the hashes. This year however they have made strides in balancing their offense out. After struggling to stop Bears running back Matt Forte early on last week I have doubts on whether or not the Seahawks will be able to contain the run again on Monday night. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Detroit Lions this week is their rookie running back Ameer Abdullah. Regardless of the fact that running back Joique Bell has already been ruled out this week, there is no question in my mind Bell’s presence is a complete waste of a roster spot. Abdullah is Detroit’s best option at running back. His quickness and ability to bounce runs to the outside make him difficult to stop. His burst at the line of scrimmage is also scary as his speed and size allow him to gain extra yards after contact rather easily. Abdullah is also Detroit’s kick returner so it will be important for Steven Hauschka to kick the ball deep or out of the endzone to eliminate the possibility of Abdullah giving the Lions good starting field position. The best way for the Lions offense to be effective will be to keep the tempo up. If they can keep the Seahawks defense on the field and tire them out the Lions will have a chance to stay in this game.

After three weeks there are still questions regarding the Seattle offensive line. If Detroit wants to make an impact on defense they must be able to put pressure on Russell Wilson. They are fully equipped to do so. Even though they lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency they still have two very talented pass rushing ends in Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah. They also added defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to take Suh’s spot on the interior line. This week may also mark the return of leading tackler DeAndre Levy at outside linebacker. Levy has been out all season with a hip strain. He is a ball hawk who will make plays in coverage. The secondary is led by safety Glover Quin who led the NFL in interceptions in 2014. His two interceptions so far this season also puts him tied for the lead in picks in 2015. Much like forcing Matthew Stafford into turnovers is a key for the Seattle defense, the exact same can be said for the Detroit defense. I believe the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game.

Random Thoughts: Nothing special as far as uniforms go this week. Seattle will go all College Navy and the Lions will wear white tops with silver pants… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN with Lisa Salters reporting from the sidelines… The referee this week will be Tony Corrente… Even though ratings for Monday Night Football have dropped since ESPN took over the broadcast in 2006, MNF is still a very special game to attend. It is the only game of the day and they entire nation is tuned in. This will be the 8th and a half Monday Night Football game I attend live. If you’re wondering what “and a half” means, I could attend only the second half of a Monday Night game against St. Louis in 2011 because I had a final exam to take at the University of Washington. My professor would not let me reschedule so I missed Doug Baldwin block a punt for a touchdown, the only exciting highlight of that game… A pregame lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings before the game will certainly be fun… This week I am taking my friend Josh to the game. He has gone to a game with me every year since 2007. I note his presence because of the games we have attended the past two years. Since the beginning of 2013 the Seahawks have a 19-2 record at home. Our two losses in this span were to Arizona in 2013 and Dallas in 2014. I took Josh to both of those games. He has certainly been Mr. Unlucky over the past couple of years. I’m confident we will turn this run of misfortune around this season!

Prediction: I said the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game. The Seahawks will intercept Matthew Stafford three times which will lead to three separate scores. The Seahawks will finally play a satisfying first half and by halftime the game will have already been won. Russell Wilson will throw two touchdowns and Fred Jackson will also run one in from the redzone. The Seahawks will get to 2-2 and get ready for Cincinnati in week 5.

Seahawks 27, Lions 13

Review: Seahawks 26, Bears 0

27 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Call it whatever you want; a shutout, a goose egg, a 20 burger with cheese. However you want to put it the Seahawks came out and absolutely took care of business on Sunday, defeating the Chicago Bears 26-0. For the Seahawks it is our first shutout since December 2013 and our first victory of the 2015 season. The Bears fall to 0-3. As great as it was to see us get into the win column, there are still things we need to work on moving forward. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s win.

Defense Back on Track: With Kam Chancellor in the lineup and starting the Seahawks defense looked like a unit that picked up right where they left off LAST season. Forget the past two weeks, this absolutely looks like a reborn unit. The most impressive part may be that we could only sack Jimmy Clausen twice, not force a turnover, and still dominate defensively. The linebacker unit put on a clinic, combining for nearly 40 percent of our total tackles. K.J. Wright had a fantastic game in coverage, leading the Seahawks defense with 10 tackles. Chancellor’s presence intimidated the Chicago offense, as Clausen was extremely hesitant to throw down the middle of the field. It may be difficult to assess just how good this defense is or could be simply because the opposing offense we faced today was wretched. With this unit back on the field together, barring injury, I expect us to be competitive in every game for the rest of the season.

Lynch Exits Early, but Take a Deep Breath: Entering Sunday Marshawn Lynch was considered a game time decision as he nursed a calf injury he sustained in Green Bay last week. He did not start but did see the field later in the first quarter. Unfortunately Lynch’s performance was short lived. Lynch left the game with a hamstring injury and did not return to the game. Luckily this injury does not appear to be serious. All indications from head coach Pete Carroll following the game are that Lynch’s absence was precautionary and that he will be fine moving forward. It would greatly surprise me if he is not active for next week’s game against Detroit. In the meantime however what a game Thomas Rawls had in Lynch’s place. Rawls ran the ball 16 times for 104 yards, averaging a magnificent 6.5 yards per carry. This performance reaffirms the chance John Schneider took when he decided to part ways with both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. It also shows the 12’s that Rawls’s wonderful preseason was no fluke. It looks like we have a reliable every-down running back on deck if Lynch is lost for any period of time later in the season.

“We Have a Great Weapon in Him”: These were the words from Pete Carroll when asked about the performance of Tyler Lockett. I agree with coach. After the team got off to a sluggish start, Lockett opened the second half with a bang, returning the second half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. Lockett now has both a punt return and a kickoff return through his first three professional games. Something else I loved was how we also used Lockett as a decoy. The Seahawks must have watched Utah slaughter Oregon Saturday night because they took a play right out of the Utes playbook. After the Bears second offensive series, Pat O’Donnell punted and the Seahawks were successful in drawing the entire Chicago special teams unit to where Lockett was on the left side. Meanwhile, Richard Sherman fielded the punt on the right side of the field and took it down the near sideline 64 yards to the Bears 19-yard line. There is no question Lockett is a game changer. I am excited to see how opponents prepare for his speed in future games because if you decide to kick it to him there will always be potential of him taking the kick back for a score.

Offensive Line Woes: Entering this game the Chicago Bears defense had yet to record a sack. It only took them two plays to get to Russell Wilson on Sunday. Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Pernell McPhee each recorded two sacks and the defense as a whole put constant pressure on Wilson leading to a large quantity of quarterback scrambles. Many of Wilson’s completions came after surrendering the pocket. The run blocking was greatly improved but I am still waiting for the Seahawks offensive line to play a complete game. It is still early and you can see this unit is gelling, but not fast enough for many fans liking.

Thoughts on Chicago: The Chicago Bears remind me of the Seahawks of about 10 years ago. They had a solid core group of players and in the meantime the Bears were a perennial playoff contender. As time went on those core players got older, got hurt, or both. The players Chicago has brought in via the draft and free agency are not up to the caliber of their predecessors, and the team has started to struggle greatly. The 2015 Chicago Bears may very well be the worst team in football. Not only will they finish last in the NFC North, they may struggle to win even 4 or 5 games. At this point it may not even surprise me to see the Bears wind up with the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Random Thoughts: Nothing like terrible Irish coffee and Rainier at 9:30 in the morning. I was extremely disappointed with the Hawks Nest’s Irish coffee because all it was Jameson and terrible drip coffee. I was hoping for a little cream and sugar to go with it but you live and you learn… The Nest was packed and it was a lot of fun. Not sure if I’ll make it back for the next two home games, so the next time I step foot in there may be in November. Yikes!… Weather was perfect for a September afternoon. Hopefully it won’t rain for Monday Night Football next week… The defense was introduced this week and Kam Chancellor definitely got the loudest cheers. Kind of a shock to me, but I guess all of the 12’s are willing to forgive and forget… The halftime ceremony was awesome as the Seahawks honored former players to celebrate the franchise’s 40th anniversary season… In the same vein former wide receiver Darrell Jackson raised the 12 flag. The fireworks on top of the Toyota Fan Deck were a wonderful added touch, something that did not happen during the preseason. I bet that will look really cool in primetime and on national television.

What’s Next: The next installment of my #10for10 series will be published this upcoming Thursday. My preview of next week’s game against the Detroit Lions will be published next Sunday.

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

28 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 5:00pm

The third week of the preseason is often tabbed “dress rehearsal week” in the NFL and for the Seahawks there is an awful lot of show that the 12’s need to see. After two disappointing outings, the Seahawks look to show significant improvement this week as they take on the San Diego Chargers. The starting units will likely play the entire first half and a series or more into the third quarter. This will give us the best look of where our team stands before the regular season starts. Here are the areas I will be closely watching this week.

It is my hope that the starting defense, the front seven in particular, can build on their success from last week in Kansas City. The pass rush was very effective in penetrating the line and getting to the backfield. This week I am looking for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to put continuing pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. With Bruce Irvin possibly out this week after suffering a concussion last week, my X-Factor Player to Watch, second year man Kevin Pierre-Louis, may start at outside linebacker this week. Pierre-Louis has backed up both Irvin and K.J. Wright this preseason but it will be interesting to see how he plays. Irvin is best used for rushing the passer while Wright plays in coverage. Pierre-Louis got hurt last year so I have not seen nearly enough tape on him to truly know what his strengths and weaknesses are in the second level. KPL is certainly the one guy on defense this week to have your eye on.

I am looking for two key improvements by the front seven this week. First off, last week we struggled mightily at getting off the field because of penalties. Alex Smith’s one touchdown drive last week benefitted from the Seahawks inability to get off the field. After ranting about the continuing penalty problem I am hopeful that the Seahawks spent a lot of time in practice this past week to correct it. Secondly, third down and short has been a problem so far this preseason. I am looking for big stops, specifically in the running game on third and short. Our defense must be able to stay fresh. Stopping Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, and Branden Oliver in short yardage situations will go a long way towards the Seahawks defense playing a much more consistent game.

This week the secondary will be the closest thing to the Legion of Boom we will see until the regular season starts. Richard Sherman will likely start at corner opposite of Cary Williams. Earl Thomas may start at free safety but it would not be a surprise if he is held out until he is a little bit healthier. Kam Chancellor is the only starter of the Legion on Boom who will not play for sure, as he continues his holdout. I would like to see Rivers test the secondary this week to see where we stand. I thought our defensive backs had a very below-average outing against the Chiefs last week unlike how the defensive line and linebackers showed significant improvement. If the Chargers complete long passes and the cornerbacks and safeties struggle I will be teetering on terrified for the start of the season.

It is no surprise what I want to see out of the Seattle offense this week. In a little over one full half of playing time so far this preseason, the Seahawks starting offense has this to show for it: 6 drives, 6 points, 0 touchdowns. Russell Wilson will lead the offense for this amount of time in this week’s game alone and it is time to settle our nerves about the functionality of this unit. My expectation is two touchdown drives in the first half and three total scoring drives before R.J. Archer takes over in the third quarter. For this to happen everything has to be in sync; the pass protection must be on point, the running game must be able to take pressure off of Wilson, and I would also like to see the playbook opened up a little bit. 17 points is my hope for the Seahawks by the time the reserves take the field in the second half.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks will wear white this week. My prediction for pant color is college navy. San Diego will wear navy blue jerseys and white pants most likely… Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week. When we are good, the Seahawks are good for one nationally televised preseason game. Luckily this year it comes on the road, which means I am not forced to watch a local broadcast production and listen to local commentators. This will probably the best game to watch on television this preseason… Tony Corrente is the referee for this week’s game… Due to the national TV broadcast this game does not start at a traditional local start time. Usually if we played San Diego in the preseason the game would start at 7pm but because CBS is broadcasting the game it starts at 5pm which I really prefer… It is disappointing that this could be the final season of Chargers football as we know it. If you didn’t already know, the Chargers are one of three NFL franchises who are looking to relocate to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. Many believe that San Diego may in fact be the frontrunner to be heading to Tinseltown. The Seahawks and Chargers were rivals in the AFC West for 23 years. The franchise has been in San Diego for over 55 years. It would be a complete shame for San Diego to lose the Chargers but we of all cities know what it takes to keep a professional sports franchise in town. Qualcomm Stadium is a concrete dungeon and without plans for new digs, the Chargers will absolutely be heading to LA. Here is a very interesting stat to note, which goes to show you how fast the economic climate can change in professional sports. The city of San Diego hosted Super Bowl XXXVII 13 years ago. Among other reasons, Super Bowls are awarded to cities that have economically viable stadiums, which was the case with San Diego 13 years ago. The NFL would never let San Diego host a Super Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium today. Seattle’s KeyArena reopened after a “state of the art” remodel in 1995. In the exact same amount of time, 13 years, KeyArena became economically obsolete which was one of the factors why the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. I would love to see the Chargers get something done at the 11th hour in San Diego. The “Los Angeles Chargers” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as the “San Diego Chargers” does.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will lead scoring drives resulting in 10 points in the first half. With Wilson at the helm to start the second half, the Seahawks will drive into field goal range and Steven Hauschka will kick another field goal. The Seahawks defense will have a very solid game and several defensive players fighting for a roster spot will make big plays, making their final audition next Thursday that much tougher for the coaching staff to determine their fates. I predict 3 takeaways by the defense in this game. The Seahawks will finally get into the preseason win column, eeking out a close victory.

Seahawks 23, Chargers 21