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Seahawks/Rams Preview

18 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

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

Kickoff: 10:00am

Even though we are the defending world champions and even though we are playing one of the toughest schedules in the National Football League, for the first time in a long time the 12th Man is feeling a bit uncertain moving forward. After falling at home to the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Seahawks now face two straight road games that are now even more important to win. This stretch starts on Sunday when the Seahawks take on the St. Louis Rams in our first NFC West game of the season. The Seahawks are 3-2 on the season and with the loss last week we currently sit in 3rd place in the division. The Rams are 1-4 and are in last place in the NFC West. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 20-12 and in their last meeting the Seahawks defeated St. Louis in Seattle by a score of 27-9. Here is what to watch for in this week’s game.

This week there is one over-arching question that must be asked on both sides of the ball. How will injuries to core players affect our play? On the offensive side of the ball I am focusing on the Seahawks offensive line. The Seahawks will be without Max Unger for the second consecutive week. Russell Okung is likely to play but he is still has a labrum injury lingering in his shoulder. It will be crucial for the offensive line to create running room for Marshawn Lynch and to give Russell Wilson a clean pocket to throw from. The Rams have a lot of talent along their defensive line and historically they have given Seattle problems when playing in St. Louis. Although the Seahawks only allowed two sacks of Russell Wilson last week, the talent the Rams will send his way is much better in my opinion than what the Dallas Cowboys had to offer. The running game must be effective for us to have any chance in winning this game. It starts with Marshawn Lynch. After only 10 carries in a losing effort last week, expect his workload to be dramatically higher this week. Even if Lynch struggles to get going early, I expect offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to not shy away from calling Lynch’s number especially after the criticism he was faced with after last week’s game.

On defense the Seahawks will be without at least one starter and possibly without one other starter. Bobby Wagner is suffering from turf toe and has been ruled out of this week’s game. Seattle will play the linebacker shuffle this week, moving K.J. Wright to middle linebacker with Malcolm Smith taking Wright’s spot as the starting “Will” linebacker. The Seahawks may also be without starting cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has not practiced all week while recovering from a calf strain. After Wagner exited last week’s game it felt as though our defense fell apart. The Seahawks defense allowed 23 points once Wagner departed in the second quarter. The tackling in the middle of the field worsened in the second half and the Cowboys skill position players found lots of room in the open field. It will be important for Wright to be an anchor in the middle of the field and make clean, fundamental tackles. Last week Rams quarterback Austin Davis was able to make clean throws to receivers Kenny Britt and Austin Pettis among others in the middle of the field against a banged up San Francisco defense. This week look for Davis to use these receivers and speedster Tavon Austin out wide to test the Legion of Boom especially if Maxwell is inactive. Marcus Burley will likely start for the Seahawks if Maxwell cannot go and it is very possible to think that Davis will look in the direction of a raw inexperienced starter rather than to throw in the direction of all-pro Richard Sherman.

This season the St. Louis Rams defense is not putting up the numbers like they did a season ago but they are still an intimidating bunch, especially the front seven. Last season Rams defensive end Robert Quinn ranked second in the NFL in sacks with 19. That dominant performance earned him a new contract but so far Quinn has not earned his newfound money. Quinn has only 12 tackles so far this season with no sacks. The only sack the Rams have recorded this season belongs to my X-Factor player to watch, defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald, from the University of Pittsburgh, was a first-round pick of the Rams back in May. He along with Michael Brockers form one of the best up-and-coming defensive tackle combinations in all of football. Just like Robert Quinn, Donald has also recorded 12 tackles including 4 tackles for loss. I loved Donald coming out of college because of his potential as an interior pass rusher and with Max Unger out this could be the perfect opportunity for Donald to show what all the hype was about back before the draft. Donald vs. Seahawks center Stephen Schilling is a matchup to keep an eye on this week. If Donald is successful in getting through the middle of the Seahawks offensive line it could be a frustrating day once again for Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and the rest of the Seattle offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks have confirmed via their Twitter that they will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants this week… The Rams will wear navy blue jerseys with either white or navy blue pants… Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, and Tony Siragusa have the call for FOX this week… Brad Allen is this week’s referee. Allen is one of 4 rookie referees in the NFL this season… I was hoping the St. Louis Cardinals would extend the National League Championship Series into Sunday. It would have been great for the entire city of St. Louis to be infatuated with playoff baseball, virtually making this week’s Rams game an afterthought. That will not be the case however, after the Cardinals season came to an end on Thursday night… In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 2-2 playing the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome… St. Louis would have been an interesting road trip to do. Game tickets are dirt cheap but round-trip airfare to St. Louis is a bit on the pricey side. I have given some thought into doing a spontaneous short-notice weekend trip to St. Louis for the game this year and in previous years but have never done it… I have been to every NFC West for a Seahawks game except for St. Louis… I am not in panic mode yet but if the Seahawks lose this game I am sure this entire city will be panicking. My word of encouragement: Never lose faith in this team.

Prediction: I could see this game going down to the wire, much like some of our previous games played in St. Louis. I think it will be incredibly difficult for the Seahawks running game to get going once again this week and it will be up to Russell Wilson to extend Seahawks drives. The only Seahawks touchdown will belong to Wilson on a scramble from inside the redzone. The Seahawks defense will play a much more sound game this week, including three sacks of Austin Davis. The Rams will win the turnover battle however and that could cost the Seahawks a chance to win the game late. Of course I hope I am wrong, but I believe the Rams will win a tight, physical game and the Seahawks will lose back-to-back games for the first time since weeks 7 and 8 of the 2012 season.

Rams 17, Seahawks 16

Check back on Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

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Rams/Seahawks Preview

28 Dec
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 21, Rams 16

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