Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

Panthers/Seahawks Preview

17 Oct
Photo Credit: Panthers.com

Photo Credit: Panthers.com

Matchup: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

For the second straight week the Seahawks will face off against an undefeated opponent, this time at the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field. The defending NFC South champion Carolina Panthers come to town to take on the Seahawks in what will be their 4th straight season meeting in the regular season. The Panthers have gotten off to a 4-0 start and control first place in the NFC South. The Seahawks of course are 2-3 after losing a heartbreaker in Cincinnati last Sunday. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Panthers 7-2. Their last meeting came back in January when the Seahawks dismantled Carolina 31-17 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Before the season many 12’s would have rolled their eyes at this matchup and assumed a win was imminent. Instead this will be a very difficult game for the Seahawks to win and they are going to have to earn it. Here are some points of emphasis I will be looking at in this game.

Last week before the Seahawks defense collapsed late in the game the Seahawks offensive line did a decent job of protecting quarterback Russell Wilson. With no personnel changes coming along the line this week, I expect more improvement from this unit. It will be a challenge because once again the Seahawks will face one of the best defenses in the league. Last week the Seahawks offense found success especially in the long passing game. Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin in particular had very productive days. Against Carolina expect to see more of what worked against the Bengals, including deep shots, and intermediate passes in the middle of the field. Running back Marshawn Lynch is also expected to be back this week which should bolster Seattle’s offensive game plan. Keep in mind however that in his last 4 games against Carolina, Lynch has run for an average of only 62 yards per game. The Seahawks will be in good shape if they can score at least 24 points on Sunday.

This week on defense the Seahawks must play a clean game. My eye will be on Michael Bennett in particular. Last week Bennett was flagged for a personal foul penalty at the end of the first half and he also jumped offsides once, something that has unfortunately become his trademark. Eliminating penalties will go a long way in making sure we have a successful day on defense.

The evolution of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has steadily progressed in 2015. With limited resources around him at the skill positions, Newton has had to take the game into his own hands to make big plays happen. Newton should absolutely be the Seahawks defense’s number one priority. The Seahawks have yet to face a duel-threat quarterback this season but have done an excellent job in stopping Newton in prior matchups. This season Newton has only thrown for 200 or more yards one time, and he is averaging 49 yards per game on the ground. In his career against the Seahawks however Newton has averaged only 171 yards per game passing and 35 yards per game running. Shutting Newton down will mean the Seahawks will likely come out of this week with a win.

As I said above, the Carolina Panthers offense is missing key playmakers due to injury. Starting wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is out for the season with a torn ACL and receiver Stephen Hill is also unavailable. In the passing game it will be up to rookie Devin Funchess and veteran tight end Greg Olsen among others to get open for Newton to be effective through the air. It will be an extremely difficult task, but in my eyes the best way for the Panthers to be successful on offense is to pound the rock with running back Jonathan Stewart. Stewart is now the lone option in the backfield after the departure of DeAngelo Williams. Using the read-option with Stewart could take a lot of pressure off of Newton. Keep in mind however that Stewart has not scored a touchdown yet this season and is only averaging 55 yards per game on the ground. Misdirection must be a key component for the Carolina offense in order to trick the Seahawks defense for yards and possibly even points.

Of all the defenses the Seahawks have faced so far this season, no unit may be better as a whole when healthy than the Carolina Panthers defense. This week the Panthers will be close to full strength with the return of all-pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly from a month-long concussion. Outside linebackers Thomas Davis and rookie Shaq Thompson have combined for 37 tackles and a pair of sacks in their first 4 games and the secondary is anchored by Josh Norman at cornerback who has averaged in interception in each game thus far. Defensive end Jared Allen was traded to Carolina from the Chicago Bears two days after Allen suited up for the Bears in Seattle against the Seahawks in our home opener on September 27th. Although he has been ruled out with a back injury, Allen should have a fresh memory of what he went up against three weeks ago so his expertise and mentoring of the rest of Carolina’s defensive personnel could give them a leg up in game preparation. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Panthers is likely the primary beneficiary of Allen’s injury, defensive end Mario Addison. After recording two sacks in their season opener, Addison has made minimal impact rushing the passer. His season high for tackles is 4 back in week 3 and he did not show up on the stat line in their last game against Tampa Bay. With the help of Allen in the film room however, do not be surprised if Addison makes a big impact in this game.

Random Thoughts: All navy everything for the Seahawks this week. The Panthers will wear white tops and silver pants… Sam Rosen and John Lynch have the call for FOX with Pam Oliver reporting from the sidelines. Rosen takes over play-by-play duties from Kevin Burkhardt who is currently covering the Major League Baseball postseason for FOX. This is normally the #2 FOX broadcast crew… This is the first of two 1:05pm kickoffs at home this season. A public service announcement to those attending; please be aware that kickoff comes 20 minutes earlier than the Chicago game. Make sure you leave the bars and tailgates a little earlier so you’ll be in your seats with time to spare… Terry McAulay is the referee this week. McAulay previously called the NFC Divisional Playoff between these two teams back in January… This week I will be tailgating in the sky. I’m taking a friend who lives in the Stadium Place apartments in the CenturyLink Field North lot. We’ll be on the roof hovering over those making their way into the stadium. It should be fun. I was up there before the preseason game against Oakland but the roof was completely empty. Maybe things will be spiced up since this is a regular season game… What I like about the view from his building is that you can eavesdrop into the stadium hours before the gates even open, so you get kind of a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the gameday presentation rehearsals. After this game there will be a 28 day gap between home games. Normally that would be brutal but good thing I’m going on a couple of trips in between to dull the pain.

Prediction: The Panthers always play us tough and this week will be no different. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch will run one in from 25 yards out. The Seahawks defense will be faced with a similar situation from last week and will redeem themselves. Needing a touchdown to take the lead, Cam Newton will be intercepted by Earl Thomas with less than two minutes left, clinching the Seattle victory. The Seahawks will get to 3-3, the same record they had after 6 games a season ago.

Seahawks 20, Panthers 16

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Seahawks/Bills Preview

15 Dec

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. Buffalo Bills

Site: Rogers Centre (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Seahawks conclude their regular season road schedule north of the border in Toronto this week as they take on the Buffalo Bills. For the Bills, this is their annual “Bills Toronto Series” game which will take place at Rogers Centre; home of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays. The Seahawks are riding in on a two-game winning streak and an 8-5 overall record. The Bills have not been as fortunate. Although they are still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff picture, they have a record of 5-8 and need a lot of help to make their microscopic playoff dreams a reality. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Bills 6-5. Their last meeting was kickoff weekend of the 2008 season when Buffalo trounced the Seahawks 34-10. This game is a must-win if the Seahawks want to keep their hopes of the NFC West title alive. Here are my focuses of this weekend’s game.

I think a lot of people look at last week’s 58-0 win over Arizona and expect our offense to keep its strong offensive momentum going against the Bills. I hate to break it to you 12th Man but there is no chance we will be nearly as dominant as last week you should still be satisfied if we are still able to move the ball and put up points at a normal rate. I look at the Chicago game two weeks ago to compare how to go about playing the Bills this week. There are two big things to look at this week on offense. First, the wide receivers. According to Coach Carroll, Sidney Rice is dealing with a bruised foot and has been held out of practice all week. Rice says he expects to play but his status is uncertain. He started the week with his foot in a boot. The boot has since come off but he is still questionable. If Rice can go, things will be normal on the outside and I could see Rice having a big game this week. If he cannot go, the wide receiver field will be somewhat switched up. Coach Carroll said in his Friday press conference that Charly Martin has been placed on injured reserve, ending his 2012 season. No receiver roster move was made after putting Martin on IR. Jermaine Kearse could see expanded playing time if Rice cannot play. I do not think Doug Baldwin will start because we will want to have some height starting on the outside. Let’s pray Rice will be able to play, since Kearse has not started a game in his NFL career.

Over the past three weeks, the Buffalo Bills have given up an average of 72 rushing yards per game. Before that stretch however, Buffalo had the worst run defense in the NFL. It is time for their run defense to get back to its original ways. Running back Marshawn Lynch is set to play in his first game against the Bills since he was traded from Buffalo to Seattle at the 2010 trade deadline. After a three touchdown performance last week I expect to see a lot of Lynch early this week. If Lynch gets off to a fast start, it is likely we will put up points, get out to an early lead, and be able to stick to the game plan and not make too many changes later on in the game. If the Bills are successful in stopping Lynch, the plan will change and I would not be surprised to see a lot of zone-read option plays where Russell Wilson tries to run.

With another appeal delay on tap, cornerback Richard Sherman is expected to play once again this week on defense. As with every road game, the biggest key this week is stopping the Bills offense especially on third down. This week the Seahawks appear to be healthy but two starters in the secondary have been hurt in practice this week. Cornerback Walter Thurmond is dealing with an ankle injury and safety Kam Chancellor is dealing with a groin injury. I am hoping both these guys can play but I believe Chancellor is the one guy who must play due to his ability to get to the play and stop the offense from gaining positive yards because he is such a hard hitter. Getting back to the defensive play on third down, I am hoping Bruce Irvin can have a big impact. Irvin leads all rookies in sacks with 8 and he himself predicted a double-digit sack season. If Irvin can record two sacks and get a couple more from a mix including Chris Clemons, Bobby Wagner, and Brandon Mebane, the defense will be in great shape.

The Buffalo Bills primary strength on offense is the running game. Buffalo holds the 6th best run offense in the league and this week due to the injury of Fred Jackson last week, the load will be entirely on C.J. Spiller. Spiller is a very talented running back who can be explosive especially if he gets loose. Spiller ranks first in the league in yards per carry with a 6.6 average. It will be very important for the Seahawks front four to penetrate Buffalo’s offensive line to make initial contact in the backfield to stop Spiller. Buffalo’s quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick who is averaging only 200 yards passing per game. Before last week against St. Louis, Fitzpatrick struggled as he did not throw for more than 168 yards in their prior 3 games and he has thrown only 4 touchdown passes in his last 4 games.

The Buffalo defense sports some great talent but their unit has been banged up as of late. The Bills biggest offseason acquisition was defensive end Mario Williams who signed a 6-year $100 million contract during the offseason. Williams is having a decent year but has arguably not lived up to the expectations of his contract. He has 37 total tackles and 10.5 sacks so far this season. Other than Williams, the Bills have other notable names staring on defense including Marcell Dareus, Nick Barnett, Jairus Byrd, Leodis McKelvin, and 2012 first-round pick Stephon Gilmore. Barnett and McKelvin are the two biggest names to keep an eye on because they have either not practiced or practiced on a limited basis this week. The Buffalo defense has the talent to make special plays happen. It will be up to Russell Wilson to exploit the flaws within this deep Buffalo defensive unit.

The biggest story in the Buffalo media this week is not the return of Marshawn Lynch surprisingly. Instead, it is the rumor that backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is not smart enough to handle the Bills offense. Jackson, who was acquired from the Seahawks at the end of training camp this year, has been Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup all season and this week will be a unique tool for Chan Gailey and the Buffalo coaching staff to use to try to exploit the Seattle offense that he had learned prior to being traded. Gailey downplayed the notion that a player with ties to another team can help a whole lot in trying to predict what that team will throw at you. I think it will be really funny if Fitzpatrick has to leave the game and Jackson comes in to replace him.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks have not won three road games in a given regular season since 2007… The Seahawks will debut the alternate grey uniforms this week. The jerseys will be paired with grey pants. According to seahawks.com this will be the only game the grey uniforms will be worn this season, which dashes my hopes of us doing a “grey out” for the San Francisco game… It will be nice to have this game be a 1:05 pacific kickoff for an east coast game. The last east coast game to start at 1:05 was the Carolina game in week 5. We won that game… The Bills have only won one game in their Toronto Series since it started. Their only win came last year against Washington. Let’s make sure that stat does not become a winning streak… How did Richard Sherman not win NFC player of the week last week? Two interceptions is not good enough for the NFL anymore?… Dick Stockton and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. It’s nice to have a break from the inseparable duo of Chris Myers and Tim Ryan… The referee this week is Scott Green… This week’s game will be played in a dome and will most likely feature the smallest crowd at an NFL game this season. Rogers Centre only seats about 50,000 people anyway… Please New England, beat the 49ers on Sunday Night Football.

Prediction: The Seahawks should know what is potentially at stake this week. I do not see us losing focus, especially since we are coming off an impressive road win in Chicago and a complete annihilation of Arizona at home last week. This week, the offense will not be nearly as impressive but will put up a decent amount of points. The defense will struggle on third down like they usually do but they will be able to stop the Buffalo offense when it matters most.

Seahawks 31, Bills 17

Check back for my review of the Buffalo game and an updated playoff outlook on Monday afternoon. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!