Tag Archives: Minnesota Vikings

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

Review: Seahawks 38, Vikings 7

6 Dec
vikings review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

It is ironic that the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings faced off in a college stadium on Sunday because one team on the field certainly played like a college team while the other looked like a serious Super Bowl contender. The Seahawks came into Minneapolis and thanks to strong play on both sides of the ball launched the Seahawks to a runaway 38-7 victory over the Vikings. The Seahawks improve to 7-5 on the season and currently hold one of two NFC wild-card spots. The Vikings fall to 8-4 and hold the other NFC wild-card spot. Here are my brief thoughts on today’s game.

Wilson on Point: After throwing 5 touchdowns a week ago, Russell Wilson followed that performance with his most complete game of the season on Sunday. Wilson completed 21 of his 27 passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns while also running 9 times for 51 yards and a touchdown. He could have had over 100 rushing yards and a second touchdown but his 53-yard scamper and score was negated by an offensive holding penalty. Wilson’s near-perfect 146.0 passer rating is also his second best mark of the season. Once again this week there was a correlation between Wilson’s production and the protection he received from his offensive line. The line only allowed one sack and Wilson had more than enough time on several of his throws to complete his passes. With the exception of one pass that was a little high intended for Jermaine Kearse, this was also Wilson’s most accurate game through the air. Something just seems to click with Wilson when the calendar turns to December.

Rawls Shines Once Again: Another week, another 100-plus yard rushing day for running back Thomas Rawls. His day got off to a shaky start after fumbling on his second carry of the game. Luckily that turnover, the only Seattle turnover of the game, did not lead to any Minnesota points. Rawls rode his 5.3 yards per carry average to 101 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. His quickness really seemed to be a problem for the depleted Vikings defense. Here is a number that is sure to surprise Seahawks fans. With 4 games remaining in the regular season Rawls is only 214 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards on the season. During the broadcast they talked about the two-headed monster the Seahawks will have in the backfield once Marshawn Lynch returns from injury but to be honest I think it might be in our best interest to shut Lynch down and ride Rawls for the remainder of the season. That may sound like an absurd idea but the production Rawls has had along with what he is projected to do going forward may not be something head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell want to mess with.

“Shut Peterson Down, Win the Game”: I wrote about this in great detail in my game preview and this is what I told everyone who asked me my thoughts about this game. The Vikings were only going to be as effective on offense as Adrian Peterson was and the Seahawks shut him down and kept the Vikings offense off the scoreboard. Peterson was held to only 18 yards on 8 carries which are both season lows. The dynamic play of the Seahawks run defense put the game squarely on the shoulders of Teddy Bridgewater and he did not impress whatsoever. With Bridgewater having only thrown 8 touchdowns this season he is the textbook definition of a “game manager” and you could tell that he was struggling to make plays on his own. We took his feet away from him and we flustered him easily in the pocket, sacking him 4 times. By my count Bridgewater was only able to complete two of his throws for 10 or more yards. This was by far the best game our defense has played all season long and to do it on the road against a playoff caliber team should raise eyebrows.

Penalty Problem: In the first quarter alone the Seahawks were flagged twice for false starts and once for 12 men in the huddle. This many procedure penalties in one quarter alone is alarming and we had problems with penalties all game long. Luckily the majority of our penalties were small yardage penalties. We had 9 penalties on Sunday, but they were masked by Minnesota’s penalties because the Vikings penalties would come at what seemed to be the worst times including three straight offensive penalties leading to a notable and laughable 1st and 38 opportunity. Mental mistakes have improved greatly over recent weeks but we took a step back on Sunday.

Thoughts on Minnesota: Long term the Minnesota Vikings have the talent to contend down the road. Short term may be a different story. The Vikings have a playoff caliber defense but they will only go as far as Adrian Peterson takes them. An offensive outing in a potential wild-card round game like the one they played on Sunday and it will be a quick and ugly one-and-done for the Vikings. With three of their four remaining games against NFC division leaders, it will be difficult for Minnesota to re-claim first place in the NFC North and if they struggle they may have to fight to even earn the #6 seed.

Random Thoughts: Although the temperature was said to have been in the high 30’s and low 40’s it looked like people in the stands were miserably cold. Maybe it’s because it was cloudy and looked like it could start snowing… My opinion is the Seahawks will be the #5 seed in the playoffs. With our next 3 games coming against losing teams now is the time to pull away from the rest of the wild-card pack to solidify our spot in the NFL playoffs.

What’s Next: The Seahawks will hit the road for their final 10am game of the regular season next week against the Baltimore Ravens. Look for my game preview on Saturday morning.

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.

49ers/Seahawks Preview

21 Nov
49ers preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is amazing to think how far this rivalry has fallen in a mere 24 months. Two years ago these two teams were arguably the two best teams in football, battling for not only the NFC West division title but for supremacy in the National Football Conference. We now sit here in November of 2015 and our matchup this week against the San Francisco 49ers is a game that will be largely overlooked by the entire country, possibly for good reason. The Seahawks sit at 4-5, needing a win to avoid being virtually eliminated from playoff contention altogether. The 49ers are 3-6, and have not improved since these two teams met four weeks ago in Santa Clara. In fact San Francisco’s season has gone so far south that head coach Jim Tomsula has benched franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 19-15. Here is what to watch for on Sunday.

Patrick Lewis will start his second consecutive game at center on Sunday. I believe that our running game and Russell Wilson’s ability to find open receivers (as evidenced from the first time we played San Francisco) will be fine as long as we can control the tempo; something we were not able to do last week. My primary focus on offense this week will be how well the offensive line blocks. After making small progress in prior week’s our offensive line regressed significantly against Arizona last week. Along with the inability to protect Russell Wilson we were also called for numerous holding penalties which did not allow us to do what we wanted to do in the offensive game plan. What I would like to see this week is for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to put together a game plan that can take the pressure off the offensive line. The Seahawks have played 10 games and it should be obvious that we cannot have Wilson drop back five or more steps, have the time to go through his progressions, and make confident throws down the field. I would like to see more read option as well as quick passes and screens against the mediocre 49ers defense. Putting each play in Marshawn Lynch’s hands or in the hands of the receivers close to the line of scrimmage will help our offense thrive in this matchup.

The Seahawks lost outside linebacker Bruce Irvin to a sprained MCL late in last Sunday’s loss and he will not play in this game. My focus on defense will be how we replace Irvin both in coverage and in pass rushing situations. Mike Morgan will likely start in his place and play the majority of the snaps. Look for Morgan’s main contribution to be in pass coverage. On third down head coach Pete Carroll said this week that Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh will see expanded snaps in place of Irvin. With both of these players defensive ends, it would not surprise me to see the Seahawks play more of a “52” defense with five defensive linemen. If the Seahawks can sack Blaine Gabbert at least three times I think our defense will but us in good shape to win the game.

The San Francisco 49ers look like a completely different team on offense from the unit we saw back on October 22nd. As I previously mentioned Colin Kaepernick has been benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Two weeks ago Gabbert was able to do just enough to squeak out an impressive upset victory over the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to Gabbert at quarterback, starting running back Carlos Hyde has been sidelined with a foot injury. Two weeks ago the 49ers used a running back by committee system. Shaun Draughn saw the majority of carries against Atlanta while Kendall Gaskins got the goal line carries. These two backs will likely split time again if Hyde does not play. One thing to always keep an eye on is which skill position players are favorited by which quarterbacks. My X-Factor Player to Watch is a guy who is favorited by Blaine Gabbert, tight end Garrett Celek. According to the official 49ers depth chart following the trade of Vernon Davis to Denver the starting tight end is now Vance McDonald. Celek however was the offensive star of Gabbert’s first and only start of the season. He caught both of his only targets for 12 yards but both were also touchdown catches. Given the Seattle defense’s ineffectiveness in covering tight ends down the seam it would make sense for Celek to see a fair share of targets if the 49ers can drive the ball deep into Seahawks territory. Celek will be Gabbert’s favorite target in red zone situations.

Commentary on Russell Wilson: There has been talk over the past week about the recent performance and perception of Russell Wilson. Some have blasted his bye week vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend Ciara. The idea of whether or not Wilson is a “tool” was also debated on local sports radio. Seriously. Here are my thoughts on all this noise. Wilson came to Seattle as a 3rd round pick and had to earn his spot as our starting quarterback with Matt Flynn presumably already our starter. His performance during training camp and the 2012 preseason earned him the job. Three years later he is the winningest quarterback through his first three seasons in NFL history and has led the Seahawks to three playoff appearances, two conference championships and one world championship. So what’s the problem? I believe, fair or unfair, that his work ethic was so intense and admirable that it became the expectation. What I believe we are seeing now is Wilson taking his foot only the slightest bit off of the gas in regards to his daily routines and because he is not seemingly spending every waking moment in the film room like he may have been doing in seasons past if feels like he is being punished by Seahawks fans who are ready to blame Wilson for our 4-5 record. I just do not believe that this is fair. Would I had loved to see Wilson use the bye week to stay in Seattle, get healthy, and use the extra time to prepare even more intensely for the Arizona game? Absolutely. But the man is human after all and I believe he has been overly criticized for how he spent his week off.

Random Thoughts: All blue everything for the Seahawks on Sunday. The 49ers will sport white jerseys and gold pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber have the call for FOX this week. This is the first Seahawks game Myers will do play-by-play for since week 17 of the 2013 season. I believe when the schedule came out this game was going to be “America’s Game of the Week” with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman but because San Francisco and Seattle is not a nationally appealing matchup anymore, combined with the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings playing host to the 6-3 Green Bay Packers at the same time we play, we are stuck with Myers and Barber. To those watching on television I am sorry. It is going to be a brutal game to watch… This week’s referee is none other than Ed Hochuli… The annual wiener dog races is the halftime show! It is probably the only halftime show I enjoy watching… There’s also a giveaway this week! “We Are 12” gloves. Those will certainly come in handy as the game-time temperature is predicted to be in the low 40’s… Breakfast in Bellevue and pregaming at the Hawks Nest for the first time since week 3. Out of the house by 7:15am.

Prediction: This week will be a domination that could springboard the Seahawks into a run towards a wild-card spot. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns and Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns; one to Jermaine Kearse and one to Tyler Lockett. San Francisco will struggle so bad that Blaine Gabbert will be benched in the third quarter in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will lead a garbage time scoring drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. The Seahawks will go to 5-5 and head into the Thanksgiving weekend happy.

Seahawks 31, 49ers 10

Seahawks/Bengals Preview

10 Oct
Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals

Site: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The onslaught of tough defensive lines continues for the Seahawks this week. The Seahawks head to the Queen City for the first time in 12 years on Sunday as they take on the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. After winning last Monday the Seahawks are 2-2, tied for second place in the NFC West. The Bengals are 4-0 and they off to their best start since 2005. Cincinnati leads the all-time series with Seattle 10-9. In their last meeting back in 2011, the Seahawks started Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback but his dismal performance early in the game caused head coach Pete Carroll to substitute in an injured Tarvaris Jackson to finish it. The Seahawks never got going and the Bengals won easily by a score of 34-12. This will be the very first time Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom get to go against the Bengals, but Cincinnati poses difficult matchup problems with the talent they possess especially on defense. This will be an extremely tough challenge for the Seahawks. This is what to watch for.

After the struggles on offense a week ago, a lot must change in both the passing game and running game in Cincinnati. It would be in our best interest to exclusively run a package of quick passes and roll-outs. Given the shaky play of our offensive line recently, the Seahawks will run the risk of putting quarterback Russell Wilson in harm’s way if he stays in the pocket and tries to go through his progressions. Do not be surprised if Jimmy Graham has another lackluster outing on Sunday. Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin should be Wilson’s go-to guys if we stick to short passes. I believed that we could beat Detroit without running back Marshawn Lynch. Although we won with Thomas Rawls carrying the load, this week we will be in deeper trouble offensively with Lynch once again inactive and Rawls getting the start. A successful day on the ground should be a minimum of 70 yards rushing yards out of Rawls.

The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Gone are the days of Carson Palmer throwing to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Now it is Andy Dalton, Cincinnati’s 5th year quarterback, who has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first 4 seasons. The Bengals have a plethora of talent at the skill positions but the interesting thing will be to see how well the Seahawks defense matches up against these players. Number one wide receiver A.J. Green has averaged 104 receiving yards per game over his first 4 games and he will garner the attention of Richard Sherman. Seattle cornerback Cary Williams will line up across from Marvin Jones. Expect Dalton to throw in the direction of tight end Tyler Eifert a lot, especially in red zone opportunities. Eifert has averaged just over 5 targets per game but co-leads all Bengals receivers in touchdowns with three. The Bengals also sport a two-headed monster in the backfield with running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill and Bernard combined have averaged 115 rushing yards per game but they will be facing the best front seven they have seen all season long.

If there is one stat to note about the Bengals offense it is this. Dalton likes to take shots down the field at any given time so be on the lookout for him to test the Legion of Boom, especially in the first quarter. Cincinnati has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the first quarter so far this season. An early lead has been the norm so if the Seahawks can hold the Bengals to less than a touchdown in the first quarter it will bode well for the rest of the game.

Given the horrible play of the Seahawks offensive line recently, this is the kind of matchup that probably makes the mouths of the Bengals defensive linemen drool. Cincinnati is tied for 6th in the NFL in sacks and they sport two of the game’s better defensive players along their line. Geno Atkins is a sack master who does a great job penetrating the interior line of scrimmage. So far this season he already has 3 sacks. My main focus however is the man that will likely go up across from Seahawks right tackle Garry Gilliam. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Cincinnati this week is defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap leads all Bengals defenders in sacks with 3.5. He has recorded at least one sack in 3 of their first 4 games but has yet to face an offensive front as weak as Seattle’s. His tackle numbers are not high and after watching film, Dunlap plays his best on passing downs. If the defense does a good job forcing the Seahawks into third downs, Dunlap’s presence on the field will definitely be felt. It will be up to the Seahawks to keep the tempo up and move the ball successfully in early down situations in order to make Dunlap’s impact minimal or obsolete.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks announced on Friday they will wear white jerseys and College Navy pants. Cincinnati wore their orange alternate jerseys last week so chances are very good they will wear black jerseys and white pants this week… This week FOX has the Sunday single-header, and Seahawks/Bengals is the most attractive matchup on their lineup, so Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will have the call… This week’s referee is John Parry… This next point I feel obligated to discuss. Andy Dalton is the only redheaded starting quarterback in the league. Watching him speak in his press conferences this week I cannot help but be jealous of how his hair looks. My red hair looks good short but once it starts to curl it gets disproportionate and all over the place. Dalton has wonderful-looking straight red hair. I would trade my red hair for his red hair 11 times out of 10… This is the last Seahawks game I’ll watch at home until we play the Minnesota Vikings in week 13. Crazy.

Prediction: Any road game is tough especially at 10am pacific time, but I think this will be a very long day for the Seahawks on offense. Russell Wilson will be sacked 5 times and will throw two interceptions on tipped balls. Marvin Jones will catch one touchdown from Andy Dalton and Jeremy Hill will run for two more. The Seahawks will head home 2-3 and will be pressured to make offensive personnel changes before we take on Carolina in week 6.

Bengals 24, Seahawks 16

49ers/Seahawks Preview

13 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

A little over two weeks ago we sat down with our families on Thanksgiving and enjoyed two things; a delicious turkey dinner and a Seahawks win over the San Francisco 49ers. On Sunday, with just under two weeks until Christmas, the Seahawks and 49ers square off for the second time in a three-game span, this time however at the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field. When the schedule came out many thought that this game could determine who wins the NFC West. Instead the Seahawks currently sit at 9-4 and are still alive for the division title. The 49ers are 7-6 and a loss to the Seahawks this week will all but mathematically eliminate them from playoff contention. Since we played San Francisco only a handful of days ago, nothing should be new from a game-planning perspective. Nevertheless, here are some brief points of emphasis I will be watching for in this game.

Two weeks ago in Santa Clara the Seahawks racked up 157 total rushing yards, 104 of them coming from Marshawn Lynch. This week I am confident that a 100 yard day from Lynch will all but assure a Seahawks win. This week I am looking to see how involved Robert Turbin and Russell Wilson will be on the ground. I do not expect to see Wilson scramble as often as he has the past couple of weeks. A steady mix of Lynch and Turbin will be the Seahawks go-to on early downs this week. In the passing game it would not be a surprise to see Russell Wilson throw deep early in the game to test the San Francisco secondary. That may be it for the deep ball however, as I think short passes and controlling the clock may be Seattle’s strategy after holding the ball for nearly 42 minutes last week. Most importantly I do not want to see the Seahawks try to get fancy on offense. We played a solid offensive game in San Francisco two weeks ago and it was effective. There is no reason to fix something that is not broken for this game.

On the defensive side of the ball I am curious to see how the first San Francisco offensive possession plays out. I believe how the Seahawks defense plays on that first series will determine how the rest of the game will play out. Simply put there are three different scenarios I could see playing out. If the Seahawks can stop San Francisco for a three-and-out, this game could get ugly very quickly in favor of Seattle. If the 49ers can drive down the field but fail to put points on the board, they may be able to keep it close for the first part of the game. If the 49ers can put together a successful first drive that results in points, this could be a close game throughout. It will be up to the enforcers at each level of our defense to make sure that the 49ers come away empty handed. I am looking at Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, and Kam Chancellor to have monster games making tackles. I would also not be surprised to see Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell make an impact forcing turnovers as well.

In our last game against the 49ers I put a focus on the San Francisco defense. This week I am choosing to focus on the offensive side of the ball. In his last 5 games played in Seattle, 49ers running back Frank Gore has averaged only 36 rushing yards per game. He has not run for more than 30 yards at CenturyLink Field since 2011. It is because of these numbers that I am not worried about Gore. If our game two weeks ago is any indication, I am also not worried about the arm of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The only way I can see the 49ers putting points on the board is on the legs of Kaepernick. For the second straight week I put my X-Factor focus on the opposing quarterback; Colin Kaepernick is my X-Factor player to watch for San Francisco. In the NFC Championship game last January, Kaepernick put the game in his own hands as he ran for 130 yards. This season we have not seen much of Kaepernick on the ground, as he has been more patient behind the line of scrimmage. His three most productive games running the ball all came way back in September. This week the 49ers will be in trouble if Kaepernick tries to stay in the pocket and read his progressions. If I were 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, I would give Kaepernick the green light to take off if he does not like his first read. A solid day on the ground for #7 is the only way I see the 49ers staying competitive in this game.

One other thing that cannot happen this week is for the Seahawks to overlook this 49ers team. I know the Seahawks can and should win this game but the worst thing that could happen is to get overconfident and play as if a win is a guarantee. We are smarter than that. I will be a bit worried and angry if we play cocky, at least to start off when the game is close. Wrap this win up, then move on to next week’s game against the Cardinals.

Random Thoughts: I guarantee that I will not mess up the uniform combinations for either team this week. The Seahawks will go with their navy/navy home look. The 49ers will wear their classic look pairing white jerseys with gold pants… For the second straight week the Seahawks are featured as “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX. Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews have the call once again… Ed Hochuli will officiate his second Seahawks game of 2014 this week. Ed previously called the Seahawks week 9 win over the Oakland Raiders… I love going to late season home games when it is supposed to be sunny. They’re calling for partly cloudy with temperatures in the high 40’s. Should be plenty comfortable… A reminder to everyone going to the game that kickoff is scheduled for 1:25pm. Allow yourselves enough time to get inside the stadium by kickoff… The giveaway this week is ribbons raising Ebola awareness. I understand that this Ebola is a serious matter but couldn’t the Seahawks have figured out a different (better) giveaway? There have been almost no good giveaways at the gates this season. That is pretty disappointing… The halftime show this week is high school marching bands featuring my old high school, Newport High School. Here’s a funny story. 9 years ago I participated in a Seahawks halftime show with the Newport marching band. We were all given blue Seahawks wristbands which my friends and I later learned gave us access to all parts of the stadium. After we performed at halftime we snuck into the game and watched about 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter from the club level. We were then tattled on when we caught up with the band (after we found out they were leaving without us). We failed the “assignment” and I would up with an A- in band that quarter. Would I do it again? Absolutely. It was totally worth it in my opinion. It is kind of sad to think this is likely the final Seahawks game against the 49ers with Jim Harbaugh as their head coach. As much as the 12th Man hates Harbaugh, I will kind of miss him for the sole reason that this potentially marks the beginning of the end of our rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers, which has been quality entertainment for the past 4 seasons.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks are 9-4 and with the Arizona Cardinals win over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday we are currently 1 ½ games behind Arizona for the division lead. A Seahawks win will get us back to within one game of the division lead however we will be locked into the #5 seed for at least another week. Although a win would give us 10 on the season, we cannot clinch a playoff berth after this week. A Green Bay Packers loss to the Buffalo Bills can clear the final road block for the Seahawks to claim home field advantage (if Seattle wins out). Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Green Bay (10-3) at Buffalo (7-6)

Minnesota (6-7) at Detroit (9-4)

Dallas (9-4) at Philadelphia (9-4)

Prediction: Let me be frank. The Seahawks will dominate this game in all phases from start to finish. The Seahawks will take a comfortable 17-3 lead into halftime and the pick barrage will begin in the second half. Colin Kaepernick will throw 4 interceptions, 3 coming in the second half. Byron Maxwell will have two of those interceptions. Richard Sherman and Tharold Simon will add the other two. The Seahawks will improve to 10-4 and will get ready for easily their biggest game of the season in Arizona next week.

Seahawks 27, 49ers 6

Check back late Sunday night/early Monday morning for my 49ers game review. Go Seahawks!