Tag Archives: Luke Willson

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

Seahawks/Vikings Preview

5 Dec
vikings preview 2015

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Raise your hand if you had this game as the Seahawks most important game of the season when the schedule came out. After three consecutive games at home the Seahawks hit the road for two straight games. Up first is a huge conference matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks are 6-5 and are coming off a huge win over Pittsburgh a week ago. The Vikings were a team that many experts said to keep an eye on at the start of the season and they are proving the experts right. Minnesota holds an impressive 8-3 record and are currently the leaders of the NFC North. Seattle leads the all-time series 8-5. In their last meeting the Seahawks crushed the Vikings 41-20 in Seattle and the Seahawks eventually went on to win the super bowl. This could very well be a preview of a potential playoff matchup next month. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Minnesota defense allows an average of only 17.6 points per game, second best in the league. It is imperative for the Seahawks offense to be able to stay on the field and drive deep into Vikings territory. Thomas Rawls will face his biggest challenge of the season and I will be keeping close tabs on his yardage coming on first down opportunities. If he can gain at least 4 yards on first down it will put the offense in a good position to gain first downs and keep drives alive. In the passing game I will be focused on the blocking by left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Justin Britt. The right side of the Vikings front seven consists of lineman Everson Griffen as well as linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. These three players have combined for 14 of Minnesota’s 25 sacks this season (56 percent). I expect Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to take care of the ball just like how he did a week ago against Pittsburgh but he must be more aware of his blindside in this game. If Okung and Britt struggle to block it would not be surprising to see Wilson get hit and fumble the ball multiple times. Quick passes to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Luke Willson may be the best way to attack the Vikings through the air this week.

If there was one game this season where I wish we still had Red Bryant it would be for this game. Priority number one for the Seahawks defense this week will be to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It will be up to Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin to lock down the middle of the line of scrimmage. Given the solid play of Minnesota’s offensive line penetrating the line will be difficult. Good fundamental tackling will go a long way to limiting Peterson’s production. One guy on defense that may see more playing time than usual is Jordan Hill. In an attempt to limit Peterson’s presence it may not be surprising to see Hill, Mebane, and Rubin all play on the line at the same time.

The Minnesota Vikings have the top ranked rushing offense in the league. In contrast they also sport the league’s second worse pass offense. At age 30 Adrian Peterson is still as productive as ever and the Vikings offense is only as effective as he is. Peterson leads the league in rushing yards with 1,164 and has rushed for over 100 yards six times this season. The Vikings are 6-0 in those games. My worry is that the Vikings will use other ways to move the ball on the ground in an attempt to avoid throwing towards the Legion of Boom. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Vikings this week is one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and the man that makes the entire Minnesota offense work, Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater has not thrown for many touchdowns, he is a very conservative passer who tries to move the ball in small chunks to wear out the opposing defense. Bridgewater has had a completion percentage of over 65 percent in six games. In those games he has thrown only two interceptions. The main reason why he is my X-Factor this week is the threat of him keeping the ball and running. Although he has not nearly put up the type of rushing stats as Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick of seasons past, Bridgewater is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league and he will scramble and take off if he feels the pressure and does not have any open receivers. Peterson may be the number one priority of the Seattle defense but Bridgewater also contributes to that top ranked rushing attack. Plain and simple, shut Peterson and Bridgewater down on the ground, win the game.

Something that is not garnering the attention that I believe it should is one fairly significant advantage the Seahawks have in this game. Gone are the days of playing the Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was one of the better home field advantages in the NFL. It would be a tougher challenge for the Seahawks if we were playing at the Metrodome. Instead the Vikings are playing the second of two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota while their brand new stadium is under construction. The stadium seats just over 51,000 which is the smallest capacity of any current NFL stadium and crowd noise will hardly be a factor.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants. Seattle is 0-4 all-time in this combination. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the play-by-play and commentary respectively on FOX. Pam Oliver will report from the sidelines… Terry McAulay will be this week’s referee… I briefly considered hitting the road for this game but ultimately decided to go to Dallas instead. The reason behind that decision was the potential weather in Minneapolis. Being a December game I thought there was a realistic possibility of it being below freezing and snowing. Hindsight is 20/20 and in that vein it looks like it will be a nice day for football. The high temperature on Sunday will be in the low 40’s and it will be sunny. That is exactly the kind of weather we have experienced in Seattle the past two weeks… After this week the combined record of the Seahawks next three opponents is 10-23. Translation: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings, you will be extremely hard-pressed to make the argument that Seattle will miss out on the playoffs.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs and with a win we are locked into this spot for at least another week; we cannot move up but a loss may knock us out of the current playoff picture. Seattle is three games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. Here are games to keep track of that may have NFC playoff implications this week. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-2) at St. Louis (4-7)

Atlanta (6-5) at Tampa Bay (5-6)

Prediction: The Seahawks are 12-2 in games played in December with Russell Wilson at quarterback. Each of the prior three seasons our December success has carried us to the playoffs. With the win last week we will be riding some serious momentum into this game. Thomas Rawls will run for over 125 yards and score two touchdowns. Wilson will also throw a touchdown to Luke Willson. The game will come down to Minnesota’s final drive. After a punt by Jon Ryan pins the Vikings at their own 2-yard line, Bridgewater will have to drive 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. On the first play of the drive Minnesota will be penalized for holding in the endzone, giving the Seahawks a safety and in-turn, clinching the game for Seattle. We will improve to 7-5 and be in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card berth.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

Review: Seahawks 39, Steelers 30

29 Nov
steelers review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Last week the Seahawks were fueled by rookie power. This week it was the veterans who stepped up huge. Doug Baldwin caught a career high 3 touchdowns and Jermaine Kearse added a pair of touchdown catches to help propel the Seahawks to a much-needed 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The win gives the Seahawks a 6-5 record, their first winning record of the season. It was great to see the Seahawks finally close out a close game in the fourth quarter after it looked like Pittsburgh would make a late charge. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s victory.

Happy Birthday Russell: On his 27th birthday Russell Wilson went out and had the best game he could have possibly asked for. Wilson completed 21 of his 30 passes for 345 yards and 5 touchdowns. The best part? He did not turn the ball over once. Seattle’s offensive line did a tremendous job protecting Wilson. It also felt like the offensive game plan was designed to help Russell out in the pocket, meaning he may not have had as many progressions on each play which is a big factor in how long Wilson holds onto the ball. Wilson was also able to do something that has not been done all season. The Seahawks trailed two separate times in the fourth quarter and we were able to score 19 points in the final frame to re-take the lead twice and hold on to it. Our offense as a whole had played their best game of the season and could provide some serious momentum moving forward.

The Good News and the Bad News: The good news is that the Seahawks finished the game +4 in the turnover department. Those four turnovers, all of which interceptions, led to three Seahawks touchdowns. As much as I want to praise the Legion of Boom for forcing these turnovers, the bad news is that the Seahawks defense gave up 480 yards through the air and 538 total yards. According to this statistical category it was the worst outing for our defense all season. A lack of a pass rush directly contributed to our defensive struggles. In my game preview I emphasized the importance of putting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger or else he would have time to make deep throws, something which he thrives on. Roethlisberger threw deep several times on Sunday including a high-arching 69-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. I think DeShawn Shead played a decent game in place of the inactive Cary Williams and it would not surprise me to see him start in Williams’s place once again next week.

Graham’s Injury and Moving Forward: The Seahawks were dealt a huge blow in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard pass to the back corner of the endzone intended for Jimmy Graham. Graham fell to the ground and immediately grabbed his right knee. After the game it was reported Graham tore his right patellar tendon, an injury that will require surgery and end his 2015 season. Many people have gotten on Graham’s case for not being the offensive machine he was in New Orleans but keep in mind that entering Sunday’s game Graham led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. Luke Willson will start in Graham’s place for the rest of the season and Cooper Helfet will likely see expanded playing time. As devastating this injury is I believe it is positive to stay optimistic. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on all three drives following Graham’s injury. Perhaps with Graham out some of our offensive chemistry from last season will be rediscovered.

Thoughts on Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Steelers offense can be one of the best in the league but if they want to compete for a wild-card spot their defense must play better than they did on Sunday. Unfortunately a lot of their talent is young which may not translate to a deep playoff run. This team is good enough to make the playoffs now but I would wait a couple more years before I would consider them legitimate super bowl contenders.

Random Thoughts: I was surprised that the fog did not completely burn off this afternoon. Sitting in the 300 level, I love when it is foggy because since you cannot see any surrounding buildings it feels like the stadium is in its very own cloud… There were way too many terrible towels but only a couple around me fortunately. No incidents between Steelers and Seahawks fans in my close vicinity also so that was good… Let me talk for a minute about that Steelers fake field goal/pooch punt formation/pass which was executed horribly and intercepted by Jeremy Lane. What in the world was that?! Why are you going for a fake that early in the game? A field goal would have given the Steelers a 6-0 lead but instead it led to Seattle’s first touchdown and a 7-3 Seahawks lead. Good on Lane for not biting and staying with eligible receiver Alejandro Villanueva on the outside. Worst play call I have seen from any team all season… NBA hall of famer and former SuperSonic Spencer Haywood raised the 12 flag on Sunday. I love when they honor former Sonics because it feels like they are keeping the spirit of the Sonics franchise alive… Two huge road games coming up. Two must-wins. Minnesota’s first up.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With the Seahawks win and losses by Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC Playoffs. The Seahawks are 3 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West.

What’s Next: Look for my preview of next week’s crucial game against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday morning.

“Pre-Review”: Seahawks 13, Cowboys 12

3 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

For the first time ever on the blog I made a critically stupid mistake. I forgot to post my game preview before I left for Dallas last Friday. I am sorry to those regular readers who I could not provide pregame analysis to. Rather than posting just a review of our exhilarating 13-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, I am taking what I had written prior to the game and reflecting on my pregame analysis. That’s right. I am combining my preview with my review to make my first ever “Pre-Review.” Here is how this will work. Everything below that is in standard font is my unaltered pregame thoughts. After each paragraph I will have a bolded italicized section of review in which I reflect on what I was successful discussing and where I was off. Let’s take a look at how accurate I was at discussing this week’s game.

Success on offense for the Seahawks means one thing primarily and that is to give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch. To prevent Russell Wilson getting beat up as much as he has been so far this season, giving the ball to Lynch will take immense pressure off of the passing game. This is the week to pound the rock because Lynch is riding a wave of momentum coming off his 122 yard performance in San Francisco last week. Lynch could be poised for another big game given the lackluster performance of Dallas’s run defense. With the exception of allowing only 7 rushing yards to Philadelphia back in week 2, the Cowboys allow an average of 120 rushing yards per game. Running Russell Wilson in read-option looks will also confuse the Cowboys defense and could help us control the momentum and time of possession. If the Seahawks allow Wilson to stay in the pocket and wait to go through his progressions he will surely be putting his body at risk. If the Seahawks cannot get the run game going it could make for a very long afternoon.

Marshawn Lynch ran for 71 yards on Sunday. Although it was not his most effective day running by any means, he was still able to take pressure off of Russell Wilson. Wilson was not sacked on Sunday, marking the first time he stayed perfectly clean since Super Bowl XLVIII. Read option was once again not present this week but the protection Wilson had allowed him to step up and make key throws including his touchdown pass to Luke Willson. These throws along with a couple of huge scrambles also allowed the Seahawks to move down the field rather easily on their final drive, leading to Steven Hauschka’s game-winning field goal. It was not the prettiest day on offense, but we were able to do just enough to win the game.

The Cowboys still have one of the better offensive lines in the league. Dallas quarterbacks have been sacked an average of only twice per game so far this season. Just like Marshawn Lynch riding momentum running the ball, the biggest key for the Seahawks on defense is for the pass rush to ride the wave of momentum they created last week. Seattle sacked 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick 6 times last week, a season high. In Dallas we must use the same package of rushers to confuse the Cowboys offensive line and get to quarterback Matt Cassel. I believe the only way the Cowboys can be effective on offense is to move the ball through the air, especially since starting running back Joseph Randle is out with a strained oblique. If the Seahawks can get to Cassel at least three of four times the defense will have what I consider to be a successful day.

Seattle only sacked Matt Cassel once but it may have been the biggest play of the game. Bruce Irvin’s sack of Cassel on 3rd down on the Cowboys final drive of the game virtually sealed the win for the Seahawks. With Dallas needing to go about 60 yards to get into manageable field goal range to win the game, it is logical to think that Cassel could have taken four shots down the field and hope for a pass interference call or a penalty that would have given Dallas a huge chunk of yards. Fortunately the indecisiveness of Cassel allowed the Seahawks pass rush to wear down the Cowboys offensive line and Irvin was able to chase him down, creating a 4th and 16 with less than 30 seconds left. Give credit to the Cowboys offensive line but with our next three games coming at home, I expect to see huge improvement in our pass rush coming off our bye week.

There are several things to keep your eye on when the Cowboys offense is on the field. Given their quarterback situation they will surely try to establish the run with running back Darren McFadden. If the Seahawks do a good job in shutting down the Cowboys rushing attack, it will be in Matt Cassel’s best interest to throw high percentage passes instead of trying to stretch the field. The purpose for throwing short would be to limit turnovers. Matt Cassel threw 3 interceptions in New York last week, two of which traveled 20 yards or more in the air. One final thing to watch out for is how the Cowboys will use wide receiver Dez Bryant if he is active. Bryant has been recovering from a fractured foot since the first week of the season but he may be rushed back into action this week given the progress in his recovery and the desperation Dallas is feeling to save their season. I believe if he plays Bryant will primarily be used as a decoy to confuse the Legion of Boom. Do not expect Bryant to make a big impact in the passing game.

Darren McFadden had a very nice outing on Sunday. McFadden finished the day with 64 yards rushing on 20 carries and also added 49 yards receiving out of the backfield. It felt as though his performance single-handedly kept the Cowboys in the game. Dez Bryant’s production was just about what I thought it would be. Richard Sherman blanketed Bryant the entire game and he had 4 passes defensed; one of which could have been easily intercepted. Bryant finished the day with two catches for 12 yards but given Sherman’s stat line it was clear Cassel was trying to throw in Bryant’s direction often. Bryant was not a “decoy” per se, but given that the most productive receiver was Terrance Williams with 20 yards receiving just goes to show how inept the Dallas passing game was.

The Dallas Cowboys defense features some well-known names at each level.  They include defensive end Greg Hardy, linebacker and leading tackler Sean Lee, linebacker Rolando McClain, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. My focus will be on the Dallas pass rush and the middle level of their defense. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cowboys is outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens is a phenomenal tackler and also makes an impact getting to the quarterback. So far this season Hitchens has recorded 20 tackles, which is good for third on Dallas’s defense. He is also one of only four Cowboys with multiple sacks on the year. Only Hardy and defensive tackle Jack Crawford have more. Along with Hardy on the left side it is Hitchens’s presence that leads me to believe the Seahawks will throw more towards the right side of the field.

Greg Hardy gets the headlines this week because of his tipped interception. Anthony Hitchens was my X-Factor Player to Watch and he did virtually nothing this week. The only thing he was credited for was one quarterback hit on Russell Wilson. Barry Church had probably the best day of any Cowboys defender in my eyes, racking up a season-high 10 tackles.

Random Thoughts: None

Prediction: I think the Cowboys have enough fire power to keep this game close. In the end however the fact that Matt Cassel is their starting quarterback gives the overall edge to the Seahawks. Both Cassel and Russell Wilson will throw a pair of interceptions but the Seahawks running game will blow Dallas’s out of the water. Marshawn Lynch will run for 105 yards and a touchdown and Tyler Lockett will also return a punt for a touchdown. The Cowboys will play a sloppy game on both sides of the ball and will not be able to get going until late into the second half. The Seahawks will head into the bye 4-4 and will have a week off before we play the first of three straight home games to kick off the second half of the season.

Seahawks 23, Cowboys 14

As it turns out the Cowboys did have enough fire power to keep this game close and as it turns out the presence of Matt Cassel did ultimately give the edge to the Seahawks. In hindsight if Tony Romo had played in the game the Seahawks would probably have gotten blown out. The game did not turn out to be as sloppy as I predicted but once again the Seahawks won even though they lost the turnover battle 1-0. At the end of the day the Seahawks are heading into the bye with a 4-4 record and on the whole I am satisfied.

Seahawks/Packers Preview

19 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Site: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

It has been six years since the Seahawks last played a meaningful game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Amazing to think about what has happened since.

The Seahawks head back to the frozen tundra for Sunday Night Football this week as they take on the defending NFC North champion Packers. The Seahawks are 0-1 following their 34-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams last week. Green Bay started their 2015 campaign on the right foot, defeating the Chicago Bears 31-23 last Sunday. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-8. By now you know what happened the last time these two teams played but here’s a quick reminder. The Seahawks trailed 19-7 late in the fourth quarter. After a Russell Wilson touchdown run, a successful onside kick recovery, a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and  a successful Luke Willson two-point conversion, the Seahawks suddenly took a 22-19 lead. The Packers drove down to tie the game at the end of regulation and in overtime Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the game winning 35-yard touchdown. Seattle advanced to Super Bowl XLIX. Green Bay’s season ended. This is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Seahawks to win. Here is what I will be looking for.

After giving up 34 points last week it is crucial that we see improvement out of the Seahawks defense. There has been ongoing talk during the week about cornerback Richard Sherman lining up at nickel this week in order to cover Green Bay’s best wide receiver Randall Cobb. I think we may see Sherman on Cobb a little bit but Sherman will predominantly play on the outside like normal. The number one thing I am focused on this week will be how we go about eliminating explosive plays. Last week the Seahawks gave up 13 plays of 10 yards or more. The correlation? Although we sacked Rams quarterback Nick Foles twice, for the most part he had plenty of time in the pocket to go throw his progressions and make his throws. In order to eliminate the big plays this week, something that the Packers are well equipped to do, we must put excessive amounts of pressure on Aaron Rodgers. The Packers offensive line did not allow a sack last week so it will be difficult to rattle Rodgers. My hope is to see Bruce Irvin used as a pass rushing specialist. Frank Clark could be a pivotal player this week. The more pass rushers we can get on the field at the same time, the better off the Seahawks will be.

For the Seahawks offense my main focus will be on the play of the offensive line, and how their play will have a domino effect on the rest of the offense. The offensive line’s performance last week was second-rate. The Packers sport big time players in Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and B.J. Raji who do an exceptional job getting to the quarterback. This week I believe Russell Wilson must take it upon himself to avoid the kind of pressure that he faced in St. Louis. Screens and slants may be the most effective strategy in the passing game. I would also like to see Wilson be more assertive in the running game. The read-option was nonexistent last week which I believe was necessary for our offense to keep drives moving. There were multiple plays last week where Wilson could have easily run for a first down. Instead he elected to stay behind the line of scrimmage to try to make a throw. If it is necessary this week or if plays are broken, I want to see Wilson run for yards.

It is no secret that the Green Bay Packers have one the most explosive offenses in football. Aaron Rodgers is a master at playing to the weaknesses of the opposing defense. I believe Rodgers will take a Tom Brady-esque approach in regards to how to face the Seattle defense. This could mean a lot of three step drops and short passes. Instead of going deep he will rely on his receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and James Jones to pick up yards after the catch. As tough as the Packers passing game is to defend, running back Eddie Lacy may be poised to make a significant impact on the ground. In 18 career games at Lambeau Field, Lacy has averaged 81 yards per game and a solid 4.6 yards per carry. If these numbers can hold up in this game it will greatly contribute to an outstanding performance by the Green Bay offense.

On defense for the Packers one position in particular has my full attention. Last week starting middle linebacker Sam Barrington injured his foot and was placed on season-ending injured reserve shortly thereafter. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Green Bay this week is Barrington’s counterpart in the middle of the defense, Nate Palmer. Palmer enters his third season with the Packers but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over him. Before last week, Palmer had not played since 2013 after injuring his foot.  He spent the entire 2014 season on injured reserve. In 2013 Palmer played in 9 games, accruing only 17 tackles. To make things even murkier, Palmer made the transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to 3-4 inside linebacker during this past offseason. His inexperience could give the Seahawks offense an advantage in the middle of the field. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy noted that Palmer will wear the “green dot” helmet, meaning the coaches will communicate the defensive play calls through the radio in his helmet. Given that these are new responsibilities for Palmer, there is a possibility that the Green Bay defense will have communication issues.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks tweeted out their uniform combination Friday night. We will be wearing white jerseys and white pants… The Packers will wear their traditional home look of green jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee… The Seahawks have only beaten the Packers once at Lambeau Field. I remember the game well. It was Monday Night Football during the 1999 season. Mike Holmgren made his first trip back to Green Bay after leaving for Seattle following the previous season. It was Brett Favre’s worst career game, as he went 14/35 for 180 yards, one touchdown, and 4 interceptions. Shawn Springs was the player of the game as he blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown and intercepted Favre twice. The Seahawks won the game in dominating fashion, 27-7. Let’s hope for the same kind of result this week… Random travel story of the week: I am not looking forward to flying Southwest Airlines to Milwaukee. My only ever experience flying Southwest was in 1999 coming home from Omaha, Nebraska. On Southwest your boarding priority is determined by the time you check in. The earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board. My family was filling up our rental car with gas near the Omaha airport when the street was shut down so Vice President Al Gore and him motorcade could come through. We were late getting to the airport and were placed in the “C” boarding group (the last group to board). I was separated from my family on the plane (something somewhat traumatic for a 9-year old) and I wound up sitting in between an older couple. I had a book of word searches with me and I just did word searches for the entire flight. Surprisingly, the older woman next to me had no idea what a word search was so she looked over my shoulder and watched me do word searches for the majority of the flight. Talk about awkward… I will be tailgating on someone’s property right off of Lombardi Avenue, directly across the street from Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Green Bay tailgating scene is somewhat restrictive to non-Packers season ticket holders so it will be fascinating to see how Packers fans do tailgating… I am beyond excited to step inside Lambeau Field. I consider it to be the cathedral of professional football. So much history has occurred inside that bowl that I’m sure to get chills just walking around. Just like going to Notre Dame Stadium in 2009, this is sure to be a trip I will never forget. The only thing that will make it better will be a Seahawks win!

Prediction: After the Fail Mary and the NFC Championship miracle comeback, the Packers finally get back at us. Aaron Rodgers will come out firing and will throw touchdowns to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the first half. The Seahawks will only be able to counter with one Steven Hauschka field goal as the Packers will go into halftime with a 17-3 lead. The Seahawks will make the proper adjustments and will score two second half touchdowns; one by Marshawn Lynch and another to Jimmy Graham. The Packers will lead 23-20 and will deliver the dagger with just under 5 minutes left to play. Rodgers will find Cobb for his second touchdown of the game and the Seahawks will head home for their home opener with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Packers 30, Seahawks 20

Programming Note: My game review will be published on Monday when I get back from Green Bay, NOT late Sunday immediately following the game.

Raiders/Seahawks Preview

2 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

We are so close to the season opener in St. Louis. The only thing standing in the Seahawks way is the preseason finale. On Thursday, for the 10th consecutive season, the Seahawks conclude their preseason slate against the Oakland Raiders. This is the final job interview for many players fighting to make our week one roster. The starters may play the first series of the game, if that, and then their nights will be done. The spotlight in the fourth week of the preseason is on the young guys. This week I will be focused on position battles. In this preview, I will gloss over what our opening day starting units may look like while noting which battles may be important to watch this week at each position. Let’s get to it.

Quarterbacks: If Tarvaris Jackson is able to play this week, the plans at the quarterback position will surely be set. If he can play, which to me is unlikely, Jackson may see a little bit of playing time before R.J. Archer takes over. If Jackson cannot go, then Archer will likely play almost the entire game. In the grand scheme of things, if Jackson is healthy enough to play this week that makes R.J. Archer’s performance extremely important. During the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks only carry two active quarterbacks on the roster with a third quarterback on the practice squad. Archer’s performance against the Raiders will be the difference between him making the active roster and him getting cut and re-signed to the practice squad.

Running Backs: If Thomas Rawls has any chance to steal Christine Michael’s or even Robert Turbin’s roster spot he must ball out on Thursday. It may be next to impossible for Rawls to make the team now that we know the Seahawks have interest in signing free agent running back Fred Jackson. Rawls started the preseason strong but has been overshadowed by the strong play of Michael the past two weeks. Michael and Rawls will both see a lot of playing time but I believe that Rawls will have to bust off several huge runs and at least one touchdown to even have a chance at earning a roster spot.

Wide Receivers: The trade of Kevin Norwood to the Carolina Panthers on Monday makes the wide receiver competition something to watch very closely this week. I believe 6 roster spots will go to wide receivers. I believe Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, and Ricardo Lockette will all have jobs on this team this year. With Paul Richardson starting the season on the PUP list, that means there are four receivers to watch in this game that are fighting for two spots. What will make the coaches decisions difficult is that they all play special teams. B.J. Daniels and Kevin Smith have seen their share of playing time on punt and kickoff returns while Kasen Williams has made a couple of clutch catches including one which set up Steven Hauschka’s game-winning field goal last week. Chris Matthews showed his potential in Super Bowl XLIX but has been a ghost in relation to these other players so far this preseason. Keep a tab on the number of snaps each of these guys see on offense this week. Their presence on the field alone could be a major indicator of who has the lead on the final wide receiver spots.

Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are locks to make the team. The final tight end spot will go to either Cooper Helfet or Anthony McCoy. Given that McCoy has battled injuries over the past three seasons, and that Helfet had a solid season in 2014 it would make sense if it is Helfet’s job to lose. It very well may be. McCoy will get the opportunity to prove his worth this week. This is one spot that I think could go to either player.

Offensive Line: The release of Lemuel Jeanpierre affirms our starting offensive line going into the season. From left to right our starting line will be Russell Okung, Justin Britt, Drew Nowak, J.R. Sweezy, and Garry Gilliam. This week will give us a chance to see what our depth looks like along the offensive line. One guy to keep an eye on this week is undrafted rookie Kristjan Sokoli. Sokoli has made fantastic progress during training camp and is a favorite of Coach Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable. Unfortunately he is listed as our fourth string left guard, likely because he is still working on converting from defensive tackle to offensive guard (similar to J.R. Sweezy). Due to his standing on the depth chart Sokoli may be destined for a possible practice squad spot. Backup linemen Mark Glowinski and Terry Poole are our drafted rookies who are listed as the backups to Sweezy and Gilliam respectively. Expect to see them on the field a lot.

Defensive Line: The feel-good story of the offseason and training camp was the comeback of defensive tackle Jesse Williams. The third year lineman had a cancerous kidney removed back in May and amazingly has returned to game action this preseason; a remarkable recovery indeed. Unfortunately Williams has a very real chance of not making the team since he is listed as a fourth string defensive tackle. Along the defensive line on Thursday look for Williams, David King and Julius Warmsley. I believe one of these three players will claim one of the Seahawks musical chairs. The others will be left out once the music stops.

Linebackers: I am putting the “you never know” label on the backup middle linebacker job. Brock Coyle won this job last year and he is probably going to earn his job back in 2015. Alex Singleton however refuses to back down without a fight. Singleton has been on the field a lot this preseason, appearing solely in the second half. I get a hunch that our coaching staff likes Singleton a lot but even a great outing on Thursday still makes him a longshot to earn a roster spot but like I said, you never know.

Cornerbacks: I get a weird feeling that surprises are on the horizon in this group. Cary Williams has struggled this preseason and if he did not make so much money I think he would be a serious candidate to be cut. Williams will make the team due to his cap number which puts pressure on our backups. Tharold Simon has played well thus far and Marcus Burley has seen his fair share of playing time with the starters. Two guys to watch are Will Blackmon and Tye Smith. Blackmon is a veteran who has bounced around the league and found himself back with the Seahawks for training camp. Smith is a rookie who was drafted in the 5th round back in May and has impressed me thus far. My guess is that we will keep 5 cornerbacks. One of these guys will make the team and the other will not.

Safeties: The free safety position is settled in my mind. Earl Thomas starts, Steven Terrell backs him up. Strong safety is still up in the air at this point but I believe the breakdown is simple. If Kam Chancellor does not report to the team by the time our roster is trimmed to 53, Dion Bailey will make the team as the presumed backup to starter DeShawn Shead. If Chancellor does report, Bailey will be left out of the picture. This is the only position on the team where the simple presence of one player will likely determine the fate of another player.

Random Thoughts: All College Navy everything for the Seahawks this week. The Raiders will wear white jerseys with silver pants… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard will have the call one last time this preseason. The game will be broadcast on Q13 FOX… Lunch at Tat’s Delicatessen before the game. I’ve never been there but by the looks of the menu I’ll probably enjoy their Philly cheesesteak… Pregame location is to be determined but I wouldn’t be surprised if we make our way to Hawks Nest for the first time this season… Off the top of my head I cannot remember a preseason which included terrible weather for both of our home games. The forecast is calling temperatures in the mid 60’s and a 50/50 chance of rain.

Prediction: The nice way we will be describing this game after the fact is that it will be a “defense battle.” Russell Wilson will fail to lead a scoring drive on his one possession of the game. R.J. Archer will once again struggle to lead touchdown drives but will progress as the game wears on. On defense the Seahawks backups will slightly outplay the Raiders defensive backups which will keep us in the game. The Seahawks will win another close game in the fourth quarter and will finish the preseason 2-2.

Seahawks 16, Raiders 13

Review: Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (OT)

18 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Honestly I do not even know where to start with this post and I apologize if this review is all over the place. When I woke up at 5:30am this morning and hopped in the shower a thought ran through my mind; “how could this NFC Championship Game top last year’s?” I thought that there was little that could happen that could dethrone last year’s title game as the greatest game I’ve ever been to. That “little” was a miracle, and after 55 minutes of terrible football, the Seahawks orchestrated what I believe to be the greatest comeback in NFL postseason history, given the span of time it happened in. The Seahawks, down 12 points with 2:00 left to play in regulation, came back to defeat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime to re-claim their spot as NFC Champions. The Seahawks now head to Arizona to face the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Here are my scattered thoughts on today’s incredible victory.

Wilson’s Worst: Head coach Pete Carroll preaches “it’s all about the ball” but if you were to tell me that the Seahawks would turn the ball over 5 times, including 4 Russell Wilson interceptions, and still win this game I would have told you that you were crazy.  As the stat line shows, Wilson had his worst game of the season on Sunday which included a season-low passer rating of 44.3. What was most frustrating was the decision making behind his throws especially two of those which were intercepted. On his second interception of the game, Wilson threw what felt to be a desperation heave on first down into double coverage. The ball was picked off by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who was draped all over intended receiver Jermaine Kearse from the get-go. Wilson’s third interception was also thrown in Kearse’s direction but cornerback Sam Shields was playing lockdown coverage and easily snatched the ball away from Kearse in the endzone. For a guy who has played flawless football throughout his playoff career, I was shockingly disturbed about the way Russell Wilson played for the majority of Sunday’s game.

“This is Where He Earns His Contract”: This is what my friend Jake screamed in my ear after the Seahawks recovered the onside kick trailing 19-14 with an opportunity for Russell Wilson to lead the next drive and take the lead. That is exactly what he did in the final 5:28 of the ballgame. Wilson finally used read-option and it worked with great success as the Seahawks drove 50 yards culminating in a 24-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch, giving the Seahawks a 20-19 lead. The following two-point conversion was classic Wilson, as he wildly scrambled far to the right before throwing up a prayer to the left which was somehow caught by tight end Luke Willson. Seahawks 22, Packers 19. In overtime it seemed as if Wilson had completely put the first part of the game behind him, connecting with Doug Baldwin on a beautiful arching pass for 35 yards. On the very next play, after calling an audible similar to the one he called on the Baldwin touchdown against Carolina last week, Wilson threw a beautiful rainbow which was hauled in by Jermaine Kearse to win the game. What a moment for the most resilient athlete I have ever seen.

Play of the Season: Let’s rewind to the two-point conversion the Seahawks completed to make it a 22-19 game. Two points must be made. First, if the Seahawks decide to kick the extra point, the Seahawks are up by 2 with 1:25 left and the Packers have one more chance to potentially win the game in regulation. As it turns out, Green Bay was able to drive into field goal range and kick a game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime. An extra point could have ultimately given the Packers the win in regulation 22-21. Second, Luke Willson absolutely made the catch of the season hauling in the wild Russell Wilson pass. If that pass falls incomplete (which it very well could have) the Seahawks would have been up only one and Green Bay would have still drove into field goal range to win the game. This conversion saved our season, and in a game with hugely clutch plays down the stretch, this one play cannot go unnoticed.

General Thoughts on the Comeback: I’m fighting back tears as I am writing this. This was the most unbelievable 60 minutes of football I have ever been a part of. Bar none. Down two possessions with two minutes left, the ability for the Seahawks to seemingly turn on the switch and play the championship caliber football we all knew they were capable of playing is absolutely incredible to me. To see Russell Wilson, Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, and Earl Thomas all in tears after this game; there are simply no words to describe the feeling. As sweet as it was to see us win our first Super Bowl last year, I honestly cannot remember the last time I was this happy.

Random Thoughts: Only one random thought this week. If there was ever an example to show why you should NEVER EVER leave a game early, today is it. To everyone who left, it amazes me how little faith you have in this team. I understand that the odds were greatly stacked against us but today proved that anything can happen. It was an awesome sight to see those people who left early stand still outside CenturyLink Field’s north plaza, most of whom I would imagine absolutely regretting leaving. Shame. On. You. All.

In the next two weeks I hope to hop on more frequently as the Seahawks prepare for Super Bowl XLIX. Be on the lookout. Go Seahawks!