Tag Archives: Monday Night Football

Review: Seahawks 27, Redskins 17

8 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

In a game that should have been a lot uglier on paper, the Seahawks extended their Monday Night Football winning streak to 9 games defeating the Washington Redskins 27-17. The Seahawks advance to 3-1 on the season and are tied with Arizona for first place in the NFC West. Washington falls to 1-4 on the season and they have a comfortable seat in last place in the NFC East. Here are some brief thoughts I took away from this week’s game.

The Read Option Returns: On Monday night the Seahawks ran 14 read option plays, their most since 2012. These plays allowed quarterback Russell Wilson to control the game virtually on his own. Wilson threw for 201 yards but his 122 rushing yards allowed the Seahawks to take control of field position and the game clock. Even though the Seahawks were a disappointing 36 percent effective on third down conversions, Seattle possessed the ball for 34:56 on Monday night. The Seahawks 225 total rushing yards this week are a season high and it will be interesting to see how we plan our running game for Dallas next week. Is the spike in read option play calling something that will stick around, or was the expanded running via Russell Wilson something specific that the Seahawks were trying to expose from watching film specific to the Washington Redskins. Time will certainly tell.

Defense Played a Solid Game: If you take away two deep completions from Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a combined 117 yards, the Seahawks defense played a dominant football game. The Legion of Boom did a good job of shutting down the Redskins short and intermediate passing game and the running defense led by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Kevin Williams did an outstanding job of holding Washington running back Alfred Morris to only 29 yards rushing on 13 carries. This is the kind of defensive performance I was hoping to see in a road environment. After we lost to San Diego I openly wondered if this team will slip back into their historical struggles on the road. After this win over the Redskins however, I am now starting to think this team can get back on track and go on a big winning streak, especially with a home game upcoming.

A 30 Burger?: It would have probably happened if it wasn’t for a whopping 13 penalties for 90 yards on Monday night. Holds and personal fouls negated not one, not two, but three Percy Harvin touchdowns, two of which coming on back-to-back plays. Without the penalties it would have resulted in 14 extra points and the Seahawks would have had the game won perhaps by the time halftime rolled around. Penalties must be fixed in practice this week and it is my belief that a solid expectation should be to trim this penalty in number in half next week.

Seahawks Struggle to Take Advantage of Field Position: If a drive starts on your own 40-yard line, it should take only 25 yards to get into comfortable field goal range. This week the Seahawks struggled mightily with a short field. The Seahawks started 6 drives from within 60 yards of the endzone. These 6 drives resulted in only 10 points (including 4 punts). With an offense as explosive as ours, there is no excuse for us not to turn all of these drives into points and our inability to take advantage of a short field was very frustrating this week.

Random Thoughts: Most of my random thoughts will be featured in a piece detailing my trip to Washington D.C. for the game. Look for that piece to be published later this week.

In addition to a review of my vacation to the Nation’s Capital, look for my preview of Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys to be published on Saturday morning. Thanks for reading and Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Redskins Preview

2 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Site: FedExField (Landover, Maryland)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

After a two week break the Seahawks are back for the extended stretch run of the season, consisting of 13 straight games. The Seahawks conclude the first quarter of their season on Monday Night Football as they head across the country to face the Washington Redskins. The Seahawks are 2-1 and are coming off a nail-biting 26-20 overtime win over the Denver Broncos on September 21st. The Redskins, who will be playing this game on 11 days rest, are 1-3 and are coming off an ugly 45-14 loss at home to the New York Giants last week. Washington leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 11-7. Their last meeting came in the 2012 playoffs with the Seahawks defeating a banged up Robert Griffin III led Redskins team 24-14. With Griffin hurt and out for the foreseeable future this time around, the Seahawks and specifically the Legion of Boom will face Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for the very first time as a starter. Here is what I will be looking for from section 125 at FedExField on Monday night.

This week I want to see two things out of the Seahawks offense. First, I want to see as close to an evenly balanced attack as possible which in turn hopefully leads to being able to control time of possession. The Seahawks may be a top-5 rushing offense but Marshawn Lynch’s 36 rushing yards in our last road game will not cut it this week. It may be a challenge on the ground this week as the Redskins have allowed an average of only 87 rushing yards per game, 7th best in the NFL. If we can get Lynch going early and control the tempo of the game we will be much better off. We were unable to do all of that against San Diego and Russell Wilson was ultimately unable to carry the team on his shoulders. My target production for Beast Mode in this game is 90-95 yards. If Lynch can achieve this number with Robert Turbin helping out as well, the offense will be in good hands. Given the production of Ricardo Lockette thus far in the season, it would not surprise me to see the inexperienced Redskins secondary overlook the starters. With Percy Harvin as a threat all over the field, Russell Wilson may look to Doug Baldwin to carry more of the load this week. Do not be surprised if Baldwin leads all Seahawks receivers in targets. Secondly, I want to see a turnover-free performance. The Seahawks have only turned the ball over three times this season, one coming in each game. They have done a very good job of protecting the football and if the Seahawks turn it over multiple times the Redskins have the potential to turn those turnovers into points. I think the Seahawks can afford to turn the ball over once and be fine but this week I am calling for a turnover-free performance in all phases of the game. Like head coach Pete Carroll preaches “it’s all about the ball” and if the Seahawks put up a 0 in the turnover category this week, we will almost certainly win this game.

The defensive game plan should be fairly simple this week; Put pressure on Kirk Cousins and force him to make bad decisions in the passing game. The Legion of Boom must have been licking their chops watching Cousins throw 4 interceptions against an average Giants defense last week. There is no reason to believe that cannot happen again if the Seahawks front seven does an adequate job of penetrating the Redskins offensive line to get to Cousins. While Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will have their hands full with Redskins tackles Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus, it is Williams, Polumbus, and the rest of the Washington offensive line that will need to create holes for running back Alfred Morris. Morris has averaged 4.4 yards per carry so far this year, however the 63 yards he gained last week is a season low. The Redskins would be wise to watch film of the Seahawks loss in San Diego. An effective running attack will tire the Seahawks defense and if Washington faces third and short situations Morris is a dangerous threat to move the chains. If the Seahawks can stop Morris at the line of scrimmage, force Cousins to throw, and force turnovers the Redskins offense will be no match on this Monday night.

The Washington Redskins defense boasts some of the better talent in the NFL but right now the Redskins are paper thin at the cornerback position. After starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall tore his Achilles earlier in the year, members of the Washington secondary are filling in at positions they do not normally play. My X-Factor player to watch on the Washington defense this week is David Amerson, one of the Redskins two starting cornerbacks. Last week Amerson recorded 8 tackles and after watching film I believe the reason why he had so many tackles was because the Giants threw in his direction more than any other member of the Washington secondary. On the passing plays where Amerson made the tackle, the Redskins gave up an average of 10.3 yards per play. The Seahawks could be very effective in the short and intermediate passing game this week and if Amerson’s play does not improve the Seahawks could dink and dunk down the field all night long.

Random Thoughts: I have it on good authority from a source within the locker room that the Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. To my knowledge I do not know which color pants the Seahawks will wear. The Redskins will likely wear gold pants with their maroon home jerseys… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN this week with Lisa Salters covering the sidelines. In addition to ESPN, the game will also be broadcast locally on KONG (Channel 6) for those without cable, and WatchESPN.com for those without a television… Jeff Triplette is the referee this week. The last Seahawk game Triplette officiated was week 17 last season against St. Louis… I am sitting in the lower bowl of FedExField so hopefully my face will make it on some sort of media platform. I would love to get on ESPN if they show visiting fans in the stadium… This will be the latest game I have ever attended. Kickoff in D.C. is slated for 8:30pm. The latest start time for a Seahawks game I have been to was the Super Bowl last season which started at 6:30pm local time… In addition to the game I am really interested to take in the sights that Washington D.C. has to offer. I have 3 full days to sightsee before the game on Monday and I know 3 days will not be enough time to see everything. It will be a hectic few days but I cannot wait… I have no idea how ruthless Redskins fans are or can be. As a fan of the defending Super Bowl champions I will probably be walking around with a proud pep in my step so we’ll see how I am welcomed… This will be the 11th Seahawks game I attend on the road. My personal win-loss record seeing the Seahawks on the road is 3-7 but I went 2-1 last season including Super Bowl XLVIII… One last thought. I feel like I should address this because we are playing the Washington Redskins this week. There is an ongoing debate about whether or not the term “Redskins” is a racial slur and if the team name should be changed. Here are my brief thoughts on this topic. I really don’t have an opinion on if “Redskins” is a racial slur and I don’t really care whether or not they eventually decide to change the team’s name. Here is what I know. As a blogger I try to write and report as accurately as possible including using the correct terminology of whatever I am writing about. I have chosen to include the team’s name throughout this preview because whether I like the name or not the fact of the matter is “Redskins” is the team name of the franchise. As far as I am concerned my opinion of this issue is irrelevant. Plain and simple, they are the Washington Redskins and as someone who is going to write accurately, I will continue to address the team as such.

Prediction: This game could start one of two ways. I think the Seahawks could put together a fast scoring drive to start the game or it may take a few series to effectively move the ball and put points on the board. Russell Wilson will throw for 225 yards and a touchdown but it will be Marshawn Lynch that leads our offense. Lynch will run for over 100 yards and add a touchdown of his own. On the defensive side of the ball Richard Sherman will record his first interception of the season sometime in the second half. Kirk Cousins will play a better game than last week but his effort will not be enough. The Seahawks will go to 3-1 on the season and I will be flying home on Tuesday night a happy man.

Seahawks 24, Redskins 13

Next week will be a busy week on the blog. Look for my Redskins review hopefully late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning once I get home. Also I will chronicle my entire trip to Washington D.C. in a detailed post which I hope to have published late next week.

Thanks for reading peeps! Go Hawks!

Seahawks 2014 Schedule Review

24 Apr
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The Seahawks will Host the Green Bay Packers for NFL Kickoff 2014
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

The Seahawks 2014 regular season schedule was announced Wednesday night. Here now are my thoughts on what the Seahawks are looking forward to this fall.

Primetime Thoughts: In my primetime outlook post earlier this week I nearly guaranteed that the Seahawks would be scheduled to play five games in primetime. To my surprise I was wrong. The Seahawks have been preliminary scheduled four primetime games, with the possibility of up to two more games flexed into primetime. The Seahawks will play three of these four games on the road; at the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, at the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night on NBC, and at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football.

To my amazement the Seahawks were only scheduled one home game in primetime and it was the one game we all knew was coming; on Thursday September 4th against the Green Bay Packers to open the 2014 season. As a season-ticket holder I am furious that we only have one home game in primetime. As the defending Super Bowl champions I feel we have earned at least 2, maybe even 3 home games in primetime. However perhaps we were too good to be scheduled in primetime at home. ProFootballTalk reported late Wednesday night that “the NFL was wary of putting Seahawks home games on in prime-time due to their track record of blowouts in nationally televised games played in Seattle the last several seasons.” As disappointing as this may be, it is accurate. In the Pete Carroll era, the Seahawks are 7-0 at home in primetime. Excluding the win over Green Bay in 2012, the Seahawks have won these games by an average of 21 points.

From where I am sitting the best possible Seahawks home game to be flexed into Sunday Night Football that is currently scheduled for Sunday afternoon is November 9th against the New York Giants. Our week 12 home game against Arizona could also be a candidate to be flexed into primetime but only if the Seahawks/Cardinals game in Arizona week 16 is flexed OUT of Sunday Night Football. I would also expect that FOX has protected the Seahawks week 15 home game against San Francisco, eliminating that game from possibly being flexed into primetime.

NFC West Slugfest: The Seahawks will play their first 10 games and let the cards fall where they may. Once week 11 rolls around however, they will be entering a full 12-round fight cage-match style. The Seahawks will duke it out with San Francisco, Arizona, and St. Louis in 5 of their final 6 games. In this same 6-game stretch Arizona will play 4 games against the NFC West, San Francisco will play 3 games against the NFC West, and St. Louis will play 2 of their final 6 against NFC West foes.

Light on 10am Starts: The Seahawks are scheduled to play only three road games in the 10am Pacific Time slot this season. Our game in St. Louis against the Rams will be played in a dome, our game in week 8 against the Carolina Panthers could be played in warm weather, and the other 10am game in week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs could be played in a colder climate.

Easiest Stretch of the Season: The Seahawks have a chance to separate themselves from the rest of the pack between weeks 9 and 12. Three of their four games in this stretch are at home, as they host the Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, and Arizona Cardinals. Their one road game comes week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Toughest Stretch of the Season: Having to play San Francisco 2 out of 3 weeks is no picnic. Road games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals only add to the brutality. This is exactly what happens between weeks 13 and 16. The combined record of the Seahawks opponents in these 4 games last season was 44-20.

Toughest Stretch of the Season #2: The beginning of each season provides the most mystery, as teams could start off their season hot but then flounder as the season progresses. The Seahawks will travel to play the San Diego Chargers, a 2013 playoff team, in their home opener week 2. The Seahawks will then come home for a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos the next week. After their super early bye week (week 4) the Seahawks will travel all the way across the country to play the Washington Redskins in what I see could be an early “trap” game.

Seahawks 2014 Primetime Outlook

22 Apr
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Photo Credit: cbssports.com

*Before I start this post, let me first apologize to everyone for the two and a half month hiatus. Life has been pretty hectic but I’m back!*

The NFL will release the 2014 regular season schedule on Wednesday night, meaning we will know the “when’s” and “what times” attached to the Seahawks 16 regular season games. To many football fans, the release of the regular season schedule is no big deal but to avid fans and season ticket holders such as myself, the release of the NFL regular season schedule is the most highly anticipated date of the offseason as we finally get to make our plans for the fall. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks will certainly see their fair share of the primetime spotlight this season. At the time of the NFL schedule release, teams can be scheduled in primetime no more than five times, and can qualify to play a sixth primetime game via flexible scheduling during the season. It is almost guaranteed that the Seahawks will have five games in primetime when the schedule is released Wednesday night but the speculation as to which games will be in primetime adds to the mystery. Like last season, I have tiered all of our matchups to separate which games I believe are more attractive to a primetime audience. There are four tiers:

Tier One: Games I think will (and should) be scheduled in primetime

Tier Two: Games I think could be scheduled in primetime

Tier Three: Longshot games I could see scheduled in primetime, but are not likely to be

Tier Four: Games I do not think will be scheduled in primetime

TIER ONE

49ers at Seahawks, Seahawks at 49ers, Broncos at Seahawks, Packers at Seahawks, Seahawks at Panthers, Seahawks at Redskins

After playing them three times in 2013 including the NFC Championship (or the unofficial Super Bowl as some called it), there is no doubt that one of our games against the San Francisco 49ers will be scheduled in primetime with the other game going to FOX on a Sunday afternoon, and once again I believe it will be the game at CenturyLink Field that is destined to be played under the lights. I believe that the NFL will want to start the 2014 season off with a bang, which is why I predict 49ers at Seahawks will be the game scheduled for NFL Kickoff 2014 on Thursday night, September 4th. At first I thought it would make more sense to schedule the Seahawks/49ers game at Levi’s Stadium as the primetime game between these two teams as the NFL would want to highlight the 49ers new stadium. However after learning that the 49ers will likely not play any Monday or Thursday night home games in 2014 due to traffic concerns it became more logical in my mind that the Seahawks would host the 49ers in primetime for the 3rd consecutive season.

I would be absolutely stunned if the Broncos/Seahawks game, a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII, is not slated for primetime. It makes too much sense. The fact that these two teams are once again the early favorites to make it back to Super Bowl XLIX makes this game a potential ratings wonderland. I expect this game to be a serious candidate for Sunday Night Football, or possibly Monday Night Football.

Two years ago the Seahawks beat the Packers in Seattle in what has been remembered then and now as the infamous “Fail Mary” game. The Packers return to Seattle this season to try to avenge that sour loss and I believe this matchup will be the Seahawks 3rd game scheduled in primetime. I think it would make all the sense in the world to have this game scheduled on Monday Night Football just like it was two seasons ago.

NOTE: On paper the Seahawks have a more attractive road schedule than home schedule, so I think the Seahawks will have two scheduled primetime games on the road and if Seattle qualifies for a sixth primetime game sometime during the season, that too will be a road game.

This is the third consecutive season that the Seahawks travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. This season however, both teams are defending division champions and took the top two seeds in the NFC Playoffs last season. The Seahawks game against the Panthers is one of the more attractive road games we play this season and I could see this game being played on either Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football.

This year the Seahawks also play the NFC East, the one division that the NFL loves to over-schedule into primetime every year. If the Seahawks are going to play one game in primetime against an NFC East opponent, count my vote towards our game in Washington against the Redskins. Even though the Redskins finished in last place last season, couldn’t you see the “Russell Wilson wins a Super Bowl before #2 overall pick Robert Griffin III does” storyline be dissected for days leading up to the game? I definitely could. Monday Night Football would be the best fit for this game.

TIER TWO

Cowboys at Seahawks, Cardinals at Seahawks, Seahawks at Eagles, Seahawks at Chiefs

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most attractive teams for the NFL to have playing in primetime. Any Cowboys game is a candidate to be in primetime and their game against the Seahawks in Seattle is no different. I believe there are more attractive teams for the Seahawks to play in primetime at home but a Cowboys/Seahawks game is definitely a possibility.

Last season the Arizona Cardinals snapped the Seahawks 14-game home winning streak dating back to December 2011. With the competition within the NFC West getting stronger there will certainly be some NFC West rivalry games slated for primetime in 2014. I could see Cardinals/Seahawks in Seattle on Thursday Night Football.

I could also see the Seahawks play two other 2013 playoff teams in primetime in 2014. The Philadelphia Eagles are the defending NFC East champions and will see an expanded slate of primetime games this season. Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football would be the ideal landing spot for this game. If the Seahawks are going to play a road game in primetime against an old AFC West foe, I think it should be the Kansas City Chiefs. Monday Night Football or an early season Thursday Night game would be the best fit for Seahawks/Chiefs.

TIER THREE

Rams at Seahawks, Giants at Seahawks, Seahawks at Cardinals, Seahawks at Chargers

The Seahawks were challenged by the St. Louis Rams last season and the Rams may be ready to make a splash in the playoff conversation this year. Rams/Seahawks in Seattle is sure to be a longshot given the Seahawks other home opponents but it is the better matchup of the two. The New York Giants are another NFC East team which could draw big ratings in primetime but I do not believe this game is likely to be played in primetime. The one thing potentially working in favor of this matchup however is the legacy of the series; specifically the Seahawks win over the Giants in 2005 when New York surrendered 11 false start penalties.

Seahawks/Cardinals in Arizona was a primetime matchup last season which is why it is unlikely to be repeated in primetime this season. Of the matchups in this tier, the Seahawks game in San Diego against the Chargers may have the best chance to be scheduled in primetime, especially since the Chargers also made the playoffs last season.

TIER FOUR

Raiders at Seahawks, Seahawks at Rams

The only way Raiders/Seahawks sneaks its way into the primetime schedule is the argument that the NFL wants to display former bitter AFC rivals on a national stage much like they did the last time Oakland came to town in 2006. I think this matchup is a gigantic mismatch on paper at this point and could be just as ugly as the Super Bowl was. An early double-digit Seahawks lead could turn viewers away later on in the broadcast.

Last season the Seahawks played the Rams in St. Louis on Monday Night Football and that game went head to head with the World Series which was being played just down the street. The environment inside the Edward Jones Dome that night was less than ideal and introduced the prospect of St. Louis missing out on attractive matchups in primetime down the road. Pencil this year’s matchup against the Rams in St. Louis into a Sunday morning/afternoon slot.

Saints/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

10 Jan
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) New Orleans Saints at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:35pm

The last time the Seattle Seahawks hosted a playoff game, Marshawn Lynch personified “Beast Mode,” Matt Hasselbeck broke a Seahawks franchise record for touchdown passes in a single playoff game, and the Seahawks won in perhaps the biggest upset in NFL Playoffs history. The opponent on that crisp January afternoon was the New Orleans Saints. On Saturday, the Seahawks hope to add the next chapter to the book of highly anticipated victories over the Saints. After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild-Card round, the Saints stamped their ticket to Seattle to play the Seahawks in an NFC Divisional playoff game. The winner of this game will play either the San Francisco 49ers or the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with New Orleans 7-6 and in their last meeting 6 weeks ago on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks annihilated the Saints 34-7 to take control of the top seed in the NFC. Although I personally believe that this is the best possible draw for the Seahawks in the Divisional round, this is NOT an automatic win by any means. This is what I will be looking for out of both teams on Saturday afternoon.

Even though Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was able to throw for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns on New Orleans back in week 13, the Saints still have the NFL’s second best pass defense, averaging 194 pass yards allowed per game. I expect to see the Seahawks come out and try to control the clock early in this game by running the ball. In their first meeting, the Seahawks ran the ball on 56% of their total plays. This week I think it is possible to see the Seahawks run the ball between 60% and 63% of their plays in order to control the clock and to keep Drew Brees and the Saints offense off the field. If Marshawn Lynch struggles early in the game I believe it would be better for the Seahawks to keep emphasizing the running game instead of panicking and having Russell Wilson throw, especially on first down. By running the ball, eating the clock by extending drives, and scoring on those drives, the Seahawks will be in good shape and the offense will be able to charge the 12th Man into staying loud when the Saints have the ball.

On defense this week the key to stopping the Saints from scoring is to do the exact same thing we did the last time we played; to make the New Orleans offense one dimensional. Stopping the run to make Drew Brees throw would be the stereotypically ideal way to minimize the Saints offensive attack but this week it is necessary to keep Brees from throwing in order to force the Saints to run the ball. I believe the Seahawks defense will be able to shut down Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram which will be extremely beneficial to the Seahawks but this is why I want to see the Seahawks prevent the Saints passing game. One stat that favors the Seahawks this week is the dramatic shift in the passing defenses Brees will face in back-to-back weeks. After facing the NFL’s worst rated passing defense last week, the Saints will face the top passing defense in the league this week. After putting up a season-low 147 yards passing against Seattle, Brees has bounced back nicely. In the final 4 weeks of the regular season and last week’s playoff game against Philadelphia, Brees has averaged 324 passing yards per game. He has also thrown 11 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions in this same span. Add the motivation of getting one more shot at the Seahawks and on paper, Brees is a weapon that the Seahawks must eliminate in order to be successful, just like they did in week 13.

New Orleans has the personnel on the offensive side of the ball to be successful. There is no questioning that. Drew Brees has the capability to make everyone around him better. In order for the Saints to be successful on offense this week, the offense needs to do something that they failed miserably at the first time around; they need to block much better. The Saints running game was a glaring weakness in week 13, as leading rusher Mark Ingram only ran for 22 yards. New Orleans only ran for 44 yards total in that game. Creating holes for Ingram to run through will keep the momentum of the game with New Orleans and the will be able to move the ball and keep the 12th Man quiet. In the passing game, the Saints will be in charge of stopping a Seahawks pass rush that will be charged up at home. There is one significant change in personnel from our last meeting to this week’s game. My X-Factor player to watch for the New Orleans Saints this week is left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead, a rookie lineman from Arkansas- Pine Bluff, will be starting just his fourth career game this week. Armstead made his NFL starting debut in week 16 following the benching of starter Charles Brown. In his 3 previous starts, Armstead has faced the defenses of the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Philadelphia Eagles. This week he will face arguably the toughest pass rushing group in the NFL while also playing in the league’s most hostile postseason environment. The Saints will need Armstead to step up as he faces the daunting task of protecting Drew Brees from Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin. I am also curious to see how Armstead handles the crowd noise this week, as rookie mistakes prior to the snap will put the Saints at a disadvantage trying to move the ball. If Armstead can successfully pass block for Brees, the Saints will have a much better day than they did 6 weeks ago.

A Public Service Announcement to Everyone Attending Saturday’s Game: There is a distinct difference in the stadium atmosphere between a regular season afternoon game and a regular season primetime game. There is an even greater difference in the stadium atmosphere between a regular season primetime game and a playoff game. When the Seahawks hosted the Washington Redskins in an NFC Divisional playoff game back in 2006 (2005 Super Bowl season), I distinctly remember that everyone (I mean EVERYONE) was at their seats at least 30 minutes prior to kickoff and no one in my section sat down for the duration of the game. I am hoping that the environment is the same this week. Everyone who is going, make sure to give yourself extra time to get into the stadium and in my opinion, be at your seats between 12:45pm and 1:00pm. Give 100% vocal participation when the Seahawks are on defense and wave your 12th Man flags (one of the confirmed giveaways) proudly and in unison to make a cool, spine-tingling sight. This, perhaps by default, will be the most exciting game of the season. Making sure you are early and loud will help make this game an experience that you will surely never forget.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week. My prediction is that the Saints will wear the same uniform combination they wore in Seattle last month; white jerseys and black pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines… As a late birthday present, it would be really cool to get a picture with Erin Andrews before the game. She didn’t respond to my tweet asking for a picture though. That won’t stop me from trying… Yes, my birthday was this past week and it is awesome if the calendar lines up right to where the Seahawks play in the playoffs on my birthday. It has happened twice before, the last time coming 3 years ago when we played the Saints… Terry McAulay is this week’s referee. It is possible that we could see McAulay in 3 weeks at Super Bowl XLVIII as well. It was announced this week that one of the 4 divisional playoff referees will earn the right to referee the Super Bowl… It is a mystery as to who will raise the 12th Man flag on Saturday but I might have an idea. In two of our previous home playoff games, the Seahawks have had current members of the team raise the flag; players that were hurt at the time of the playoffs (Ken Hamlin in 2005 and Marcus Trufant in 2006). If the Seahawks decide to go that route this week, I predict that K.J. Wright will raise the 12th Man flag… Here’s a stat that may come as reassuring to Seahawks fans. In the Seahawks 6 postseason games at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks have outscored their opponents by 50 points, going 5-1 in those games. The Seahawks also hold a +1 turnover differential in those 6 postseason home games (10-9)… The pregame starts early this week. Pregaming at the Nest starts at 8:30am before heading into the stadium a couple hours before kickoff… Good thing I sit undercover. The last weather forecast I saw called for a 100% chance of rain and wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. Those conditions certainly would favor the Seahawks over a team that plays in a dome… Hopefully the Seahawks do something fun to pump the crowd up before introductions. They have played some sort of NFL Playoffs hype video in past home playoff games and they always get the crowd fired up… I will be screaming and streaming this week if you know what I mean. The Skittles might be gone but I think the NFL Playoffs calls for a new kind of touchdown celebration. Get ready #section340crew… We are one win away from the NFC Championship Game. Remember that on Saturday.

Prediction: Almost everyone in the national media has been talking this week about how the Seahawks won’t blow the Saints out just like they did last month. I agree with all their arguments but I still do not see how the Saints can come into CenturyLink Field in a playoff atmosphere and win. This game will be controlled by the Seahawks running game. Marshawn Lynch will run for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Percy Harvin will also be a difference maker, especially as a decoy receiver. Harvin will catch 3 passes while helping spring Golden Tate as the Seahawks leading receiver. The Seahawks defense will give up an early second half touchdown but will play a sound game overall. The Seahawks will win and they will get an extra day to rest as they wait for either San Francisco or Carolina.

Seahawks 29, Saints 17

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my Saints game review and potentially an early look at the NFC Championship Game next week. Enjoy the game everybody. We Are 12! Go Seahawks!

Rams/Seahawks Preview

28 Dec
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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!

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

21 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

At the beginning of the season a lot of casual fans probably would have overlooked this week’s game on the whole. However this week’s matchup has turned into a very important game for both the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks enter this week at 12-2 and a win would clinch both the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals come to Seattle a rather surprising 9-5 and a win would keep them alive in the NFC wild-card hunt. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-14 but Seattle has had Arizona’s number of late. In their last meeting the Seahawks defeated Arizona 34-22 back in week 7, however note that the last time they played in Seattle was last December when the Seahawks won 58-0 in the most lopsided win in team history. It is very important for the Seahawks to not get ahead of themselves this week because if we struggle the Cardinals are definitely capable of gaining and maintaining a lead. This is what I will be looking for from both the Seahawks and the Cardinals this week.

After shutting out the New York Giants last week, it will be important for the Seahawks defense to keep their momentum rolling this week. After dominating the Cardinals back in week 7 it may be understandable for Seahawks fans to think that we will be able to shut them down again on defense this week. What you may not realize is the offensive roll the Cardinals have been on since our last meeting. In the 7 games since our last meeting with Arizona, the Cardinals offense has averaged 30 points per game. This week my primary defensive focus is on the Legion of Boom and if they can keep up their dynamite production after intercepting 5 passes last week. Richard Sherman will line up against Larry Fitzgerald and Byron Maxwell will battle both Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I will be interested to see how often Carson Palmer decides to throw downfield given that he has been the most efficient throwing slants and out routes in the short to intermediate passing game, and since he fully understands the potential danger of throwing into our secondary.

Running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin as well as controlling the game clock will be the most important thing for the Seahawks offense to do this week. The Seahawks were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock last week in a winning effort. This week I would like to see the Seahawks run the ball more on third down instead of having Russell Wilson look for a receiver and take the risk of losing yards or even getting hurt, something that I discussed briefly in my Giants game review. Although he has been running the ball well, Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball 20 times or more in a single game once in his last four games. This week, even against a ferocious and talented defense like Arizona has, I think it is in the best interest of our offense to feed the beast and let him run at least 25 times this week, using Robert Turbin for a handful of carries as well. If the running game struggles early I believe we will see creative packages and different play calling from Darrell Bevell in order to catch the Cardinals off guard. In short, the running game needs to be the Seahawks primary focus on offense but do not be surprised to see Russell Wilson be willing to run and throw if the Cardinals shut Lynch down.

Over the second half of the season the Arizona Cardinals have developed one of the league’s most improved offenses. Quarterback Carson Palmer has averaged 307 yards passing in his last 5 games to his array of wide receivers including perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, as well as the younger, potential-filled talent of Michael Floyd. Over the years, regardless of who their quarterback has been, the Cardinals have continued to be a predominant passing team but the newfound effective running game has helped keep Arizona winning week after week as of late. Last week the Cardinals ran for 145 yards on the Tennessee Titans and they have implemented a running back rotation that is continuing to work due to head coach Bruce Arians’ faith in establishing and continuing to run the ball. My X-Factor player to watch for Arizona this week is one of their two running backs, Andre Ellington. Ellington sees roughly half the number of carries that starter Rashard Mendenhall sees but his statistical averages make him a player the Seahawks front 7 must focus on. Technically as a backup, Ellington has averaged 56 rushing yards over the past three weeks including 71 rushing yards on 10 carries last week. Although these numbers do not scream “feature back,” the truth to Ellington’s effectiveness shows in the yards per carry category, where he averages 5.6 yards per carry over the past three weeks (7.1 yards per carry last week). Eliminating Ellington and the running game as a whole will force Palmer to throw which, in my opinion, is high risk/high reward when you think about the talent he has to throw to and the defense he is throwing into.

I have held the belief that the Arizona defense is one of the most underrated units in the league for a long time and they are maintaining and building on their quiet production leading into this week’s game. Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one ranked rushing defense in the league. As important as it is for the Seahawks to get Marshawn Lynch going early, the Cardinals are going to do everything they can to force Russell Wilson to throw. The Cardinals have a dynamic mix of pass rushers and tacklers loaded in their front 7. In the running game I look for leading tackler Karlos Dansby and linebacker Daryl Washington to make it hard for Marshawn Lynch to break through the first level of the defense and to fight for yards after contact. Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals in sacks with 11.5 and along with Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, life will be made tough for Russell Wilson in the passing game, especially on passing downs. The Cardinals like to send maximum pressure using these three pass rushers and it could be even tougher for the Seahawks if the Cardinals are leading, or if the score is close late in the game. Something that also cannot go unnoticed is how the Cardinals try to force turnovers. The Cardinals average almost one forced fumble per game and John Abraham has forced 4 fumbles on his own this season. Due to the multiple ways Abraham can disrupt an opposing offense, it will be crucial (and perhaps necessary) to double team him along the outside. I recommend looking at how James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini do controlling Abraham on the line this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-blue once again at home this week. I’m curious if the Cardinals will wear red pants this week, something they only do on rare occasions especially on the road… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Scott Green will be the referee this week… I am taking my friend Josh to this weekend’s game and he is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan first, Seahawks fan second. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football so we will probably head to a bar after the game for him to watch the Eagles game. It will be interesting to see which jersey he wears on Sunday… It’s funny that Josh is an Eagles fan because this will be the 4th time he goes to the annual Cardinals/Seahawks game with me and we have gone to one game per year together for 7 years… Hopefully the Seahawks Pro Shop will have division champions gear for sale following the game if we win. I would love to be one of the first ones to get their hands on a division champions t-shirt and hat… This is the first Seahawks afternoon home game in 5 weeks. I’m going to have to get down to the bars early again this week… The Seahawks are giving out “#LOUDER” cheer cards this week to the first 20,000 fans. I don’t understand why they can’t make enough for everyone. All it is basically is a piece of stock paper… Remember, kickoff is at 1:05 not 1:25. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare if you are going to the game… I am hoping that the before the game, either before team introductions or before kickoff, they announce to the 12th Man what is at stake in terms of winning the division and clinching home field advantage with a win. I distinctly remember them doing that before we played the Cardinals in December 2007 and we won the game and the division.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win. Regardless of whether we win or lose, Seattle can also clinch the division and home field advantage with a 49ers loss on Monday Night Football. Here are this week’s games that can affect the NFC playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11)

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7)

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1)

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4)

Prediction: The Cardinals and Seahawks will combine for 5 interceptions and 7 sacks. Although the game will include strong defensive play there is no way you can doubt the Seahawks at home. Russell Wilson will throw for three touchdowns and the Seahawks will clinch the 2013 NFC West title and will make sure that the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Seattle.

Seahawks 30, Cardinals 10

Check back for my Cardinals/Seahawks review late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/49ers Preview

7 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Candlestick Park (San Francisco, California)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

In his weekly press conferences, Russell Wilson religiously states that each game “is a championship opportunity.” For the first time this season Wilson’s mentality can be taken literally. This week, in one of the more highly anticipated games of the week, the Seahawks have the opportunity to clinch the 2013 NFC West title and a first round bye in the NFC playoffs. In their way are their arch rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks are 11-1 and are coming off of a thrilling 34-7 win over the New Orleans Saints last Monday and will take on the 49ers in San Francisco on a short week for the second consecutive season. The 49ers enter this week’s game at 8-4 and they are coming off a 23-13 win over the St. Louis Rams last week. Although coming back to win the division is highly unlikely, the 49ers are battling several teams for the final NFC wild-card playoff berth and a win this week would certainly help their case to make the playoffs. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 15-14 and Seattle defeated San Francisco 29-3 in their last meeting back in September. Here is what I will be looking for from my upper deck first row seat at Candlestick Park on Sunday.

Russell Wilson has started 29 career games for the Seahawks and the worst performance of his young career came last season in San Francisco. At that point last season the Seahawks had yet to unleash their entire playbook and I believe playing conservatively cost the Seahawks multiple scoring chances and ultimately the game. This year things are different. I believe that Pete Carroll will try to feed Marshawn Lynch the ball early but in the later parts of the game I expect to see the “Russell Wilson show.” I think that the read option will be a pivotal part of the Seahawks offense this week. I realize that the 49ers will be preparing for everything the Seahawks pose as a challenge but the read option has not be used on a regular basis over the past few weeks, simply because we have not had the need to use it. The read option has turned into an emergency package that is only used in excess when the Seahawks are struggling or trailing late in games. I could see the Seahawks struggle in the first half of the game and if Seattle is leading by one score or if they are trailing, halftime adjustments will be made with a serious attempt to unleash Russell Wilson and the read option. I believe that Wilson is just now starting to play his best football of the season and using him in read option this week could put the 49ers at a serious disadvantage.

When it comes to the Seahawks defense this week, there are several things that concern me. Seattle has faced 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice but never at Candlestick Park. That plus the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree from a torn Achilles adds a wrinkle that could put the Seahawks at a disadvantage because there is only one game’s worth of Kaepernick/Crabtree game film this season; last week against St. Louis. Forcing turnovers and getting off the field on third down will be very important for the Seahawks defense this week but the main key to controlling the ball and preserving a victory will be to put excessive amounts of pressure on Colin Kaepernick. In preparation for this week, I suspect the Seahawks paid very close attention to the game film of the 49ers game against Carolina from four weeks ago when the Panthers were able to sack Kaepernick 6 times and held him to a career-low 91 yards passing. Although the sack totals have not been present over the past couple of weeks the Seahawks have been doing a much better job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Look for Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin to step up and have big games for the Seahawks on defense this week.

The San Francisco 49ers offense has proven to be a rather shaky unit this season. It seems as though they play well against average or bad defenses and they struggle immensely against good defenses. Although San Francisco has Michael Crabtree back I would not be surprised to see him make a minimal impact this week. In last season’s matchup in San Francisco, running back Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards on 16 carries. If the 49ers are to have any offensive success this week it starts with Gore. If Gore is effective against a Seahawks run defense that has vastly improved in their last three games, that opens up the offense and could help Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis get open, thus the 49ers offense will be two-dimensional. If the Seahawks shut Gore down, the passing game will become the focal point of the offense and the Legion of Boom will have an easier time creating confusion for Kaepernick in the passing game.

The 49ers defense has been consistently good all season long. A solid front seven is starting to gel with a young secondary to create a strong cohesive unit. Much like it is a key for the Seahawks defense to stop Frank Gore, it will be equally as important for the 49ers defense to be able to stop Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers allow an average of 105 rushing yards per game and I believe they will have keep Lynch to fewer than 100 yards rushing on Sunday in order to have a chance to win. For San Francisco to do this I put my spotlight on the middle of the 49ers defense. My X-Factor player to watch this week is 49ers defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. Prior to last week against St. Louis, Dorsey’s most productive game of the season came in Seattle in week 2 when he recorded 5 tackles. In San Francisco’s base 3-4 defense, Dorsey is mostly responsible for clogging running lanes on the interior of the offensive line, with the help of linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. On interior running plays it will be Dorsey’s responsibility to make initial contact with Marshawn Lynch or Robert Turbin to slow them down or to make the solo tackle. Lynch likes to pound the ball on the inside and run defenders over so Dorsey will have the chance to make a big impact in this game. A solid performance by Glenn Dorsey could help propel the 49ers to force turnovers, manage the game clock, and control the tempo of the entire game.

Random Thoughts: I am once again going to bank on the Seahawks wearing white jerseys this week. I think they have maxed out the number of times they can wear their grey alternate jerseys so I’m going to be packing my white one. Please wear white, Seahawks. I don’t want to wear the wrong color jersey on both of my road trips this year… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX… Clete Blakeman is the referee this week. Remember, Blakeman and his crew were the ones responsible for waving off pass interference at the end of the Patriots/Panthers Monday Night Football game… I have been looking forward to this weekend since I booked airfare and bought tickets to the game back in May. I am excited to experience a Seahawks road game for the first time with my friends James and Grant. Even though I have given them excessive information about what to expect on gameday in San Francisco, they really have no idea. They are just going to have to experience it for themselves. My gut feeling is that they are going to have a blast… To all Seahawks fans heading down to San Francisco with us this weekend, don’t forget about the 12th Man takeover at Pier 39 on Saturday night. The “attending” count on the Facebook event is currently at 900 so it is going to be very crowded… And very fun!… I’ll be tailgating in the southern part of the Candlestick Park parking lot most likely… The 49ers are giving away red rally towels this week so of course we are going to counter. We will be waving white Seahawks rally towels so be on the look for us. For those watching on TV, we are sitting on the Seahawks sideline on the north goal line in the first row of the upper bowl (left side of your screen)… I find it hilarious that the 49ers sent out their version of “Ram Rules” to their season ticket holders this week. If I were a 49ers fan I would be completely embarrassed and pissed off. I’ll be sure to use that in any friendly trash talk we engage in on Sunday… I’m also excited to see the Seahawks banner fly over the Stick before the game. It seems like the 12th Man is getting more and more creative when it comes to making an impression on road trips… Let’s clinch this division. I don’t want to sit at the airport gate unhappy after the game. It would be an incredible feeling to be en route home knowing we are the 2013 NFC West champions and I was there to witness it.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As previously stated, the Seahawks can wrap up the NFC West and lock up a first-round playoff bye with a win this week. San Francisco can boost their chances at earning a wild-card berth with a win. The winner of this week’s Sunday Night Football game between Carolina and New Orleans will have control of the NFC South. Here are this week’s games to keep an eye on with potential NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Seattle (11-1) at San Francisco (8-4)

Detroit (7-5) at Philadelphia (7-5)

St. Louis (5-7) at Arizona (7-5)

Carolina (9-3) at New Orleans (9-3)

Dallas (7-5) at Chicago (6-6)

Prediction: Although this game will be higher scoring than last year’s Seahawks/49ers game in San Francisco, it will still feel like more of a defensive battle. Russell Wilson will throw for one touchdown and will also run for a score. Frank Gore will score the only 49ers touchdown. I am 1-2 when seeing the Seahawks play the 49ers at Candlestick Park. The Seahawks will not only help improve my personal record to 2-2, but they will exit Candlestick Park for the final time in grand fashion; as champions of the NFC West.

Seahawks 20, 49ers 13

My flight home leaves San Francisco around 9pm and I do not believe I will be home until at least 11:30 or midnight, barring a flight delay. Look for my Seahawks/49ers game review on Monday morning. I will also chronicle my weekend in San Francisco in a post that I hope to have published by the middle of next week. Let’s clinch this everyone! Enjoy the game and for those of you attending I hope to see you there. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 34, Saints 7

3 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

If there is anyone who doubts the ability for the Seattle Seahawks to win at home, especially against the better teams in the National Football League, I would like to meet them. Under the Monday Night spotlight, the Seahawks routed the New Orleans Saints 34-7. With the win, the Seahawks go to 11-1 on the season, have clinched a playoff berth, maintain their 3 game lead on San Francisco in the NFC West, and the Seahawks now have a 2 game lead on the Saints and the Carolina Panthers for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. There is so much to get to after this game so let me jump right into my thoughts.

Seahawks Defense Forces Brees into Worst Performance Since 2006: Thanks to the pass rush pressure of the Seahawks front 7 and outstanding coverage by the Legion of Boom, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was only able to complete 23 of his 38 attempted passes for 147 total yards, including one touchdown. Brees’s yardage total marks the lowest number of yards he has thrown for since December 24th, 2006 when the Saints played the New York Giants. Although the Seahawks only forced one sack of Brees, the pressure was present throughout the game, frequently collapsing the pocket. Brees never got comfortable behind center and the noise certainly did not help. Brees was effective throwing to tight end Jimmy Graham who had 3 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, however Brees tried to explore all of his options throughout the game and receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills simply could not get separation from the Seattle secondary. Perhaps New Orleans would have been more effective by throwing in Graham’s direction more often but as each drive happened and the more points the Seahawks scored it was going to be impossible for Brees to focus on one receiver and expect the Saints to get back into the ballgame.

Next Man Up: It was an all-around incredible performance from the Seahawks defense on Monday night but the play of cornerback Byron Maxwell should calm everyone who was worried about a back-up cornerback facing an explosive offensive unit like New Orleans has. Maxwell stepped in for Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond and held his ground, making 2 tackles and recording 2 passes defensed; one of which was nearly intercepted. Without both Browner and Thurmond in the lineup, the Seahawks are 5-0 dating back to last year when backup cornerbacks start in their place. Maxwell gave me no reason to think he cannot do the job and hold down the fort until Thurmond comes back in week 17. The depth of our roster especially at cornerback is proving to be an asset that is continuing to pay off. Next week against San Francisco will be a challenge for Maxwell, especially on the road. Maxwell certainly earned the faith, trust, and respect of the 12th Man on Monday night.

Avril, Bennett Make Play of the Game: New Orleans had no chance of winning this game after what happened on a 3rd & 5 with just under 7:00 left in the first quarter. Defensive end Cliff Avril rushed around Saints right tackle Zach Strief and stripped the ball away from Drew Brees. The ball was caught by Michael Bennett and ran back 20 yards for a “fat guy” touchdown and a 10-0 Seahawks lead. Although this play only made it a two-score game, the feeling inside CenturyLink Field was that the 12th Man was in no way going to let New Orleans get back into this game. Plays such as this one give the fans something to scream about and once the stadium exploded and the Saints immediately got the ball back I knew what was coming; the kind of noise that gives an opposing offense zero chance of being effective moving forward. This was the number one game altering play of the night. The Seahawks outscored New Orleans 24-7 after that play and that 10 point deficit following the Bennett touchdown was the closest the Saints trailed the Seahawks all game.

Meet Our MVP Candidate: During the ESPN postgame show the 12th Man let out chants of “Russell Wilson, MVP” and it got me thinking, could Wilson actually be a legitimate MVP candidate after a performance like he had on Monday night (22/30, 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, 139.6 passer rating)? Wilson now ranks 3rd among eligible quarterbacks in overall quarterback rating, and his 22 touchdowns versus 6 interceptions is one of the best ratios in the league. On the field imagine how the Seahawks would do if Tarvaris Jackson was our starting quarterback instead of Wilson. When you take significant (and I cannot stress the word ‘significant’ enough) players out of the equation is sets back your entire team dramatically. Taking Wilson away from the Seahawks is becoming more and more parallel to taking Peyton Manning out of Denver and Aaron Rodgers out of Green Bay (as Packers fans are currently learning). If he keeps up his dynamic production for the rest of the season, I would consider Russell Wilson a serious candidate for the 2013 NFL MVP award.

Thoughts on New Orleans: Take away the primetime factor and the home field advantage out of Monday’s game and I think the Saints would have had a better chance of staying with the Seahawks. No team would have much of a chance in an environment like what the Seahawks hosted on Monday Night. The Saints are a very good team and I could definitely see a rematch next month. Right now however the Saints need to be more and more worried about losing the NFC South to the Carolina Panthers. The Saints have the capability of getting to the NFC Championship Game and perhaps even the Super Bowl, but if they have to pay Seattle another visit in the coming weeks I expect their goal of a Super Bowl championship to evaporate.

Let Me Be Bold: The Seahawks are now 6-0 at home this season and have beaten both San Francisco and New Orleans in primetime settings. I now expect the Seahawks to earn home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs and if that is the case, I believe the Seattle Seahawks will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. All worries about a possible home game letdown at some point this season have transformed into a solid, unmistakable truth: NO, and I mean NO team can come into our house against this team and win. If you thought the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field was crazy for this game, just imagine what it will be like here in the playoffs. From where I’m sitting, if you are a Seahawks fan I would definitely be comfortable making your reservations for New York City immediately.

Random Thoughts: I took my friend Dylan to the game and we started the day by having lunch at Chuck’s Hole-In-The-Wall Barbeque on James Street downtown which was a long overdue first for me. In my opinion it is the only place around town that challenges Dixie’s in Bellevue for my favorite BBQ restaurant. I highly recommend the brisket with spicy BBQ sauce… Got to the bar at 12:30 and all the tables were full by 1. That was pretty amazing. Good thing we got one of the three booths… It’s really fun to walk across the street to the stadium as the sun is setting. It really gets me excited for the primetime feel of a Seahawks game… The defense was introduced this week and although Byron Maxwell started in place of Brandon Browner, the Legion of Boom was still announced to the crowd as a group… Ed Hochuli deserves to be the referee for Super Bowl XLVIII. He did an incredible job explaining calls and very few penalties were inaccurately enforced… I should clarify, he did an incredible job explaining calls except for when he got too into detail when he said at one point while explaining a call “we didn’t let the team [run a play] because we were stretching our balls.” [Insert joke here]… Pizza is to damn expensive in sports stadiums… There were very few Saints fans in attendance this week. That was a pleasant sight to see… After the game we made our way down to the lower level for the postgame show and it was packed. It is amazing to wonder what a game would look like down that close. In the upper deck the players look like ants sometimes and on the lower level not only is the game closer, but the stadium feels incredibly big. I can only imagine what the 12th Man sounds like from the lower level… Let me say this, I appreciate the job that alcohol enforcement does on a game-by-game basis but sometimes it seems like they overstep their job description and take things way too seriously. Alcohol enforcement was turning away fans that wanted to be a part of the postgame show crowd and were calling in Seattle police officers to kick out fans who were doing absolutely nothing wrong. Please stick to what your job entails, AE; kicking out the unruly fans that are interrupting the fan experience and making fools out of themselves… I got a thumbs up directly from Ray Lewis. That was pretty cool… It feels so good to be 11-1. It only makes next week’s trip to San Francisco that much more exciting.

This week will be a busy week on the blog. It is our second hate week of the season as the Seahawks now focus on the San Francisco 49ers. Check back midweek for a special commentary piece highlighting our upcoming game against the 49ers. My game preview of Sunday’s Seahawks/49ers game will be up early Saturday morning. Go Seahawks!

Saints/Seahawks Preview

1 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:40pm

The Seahawks kick off the final five games of the 2013 regular season this week on Monday Night Football as they host the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks are 10-1 and currently hold a one game lead on the top seed in the NFC playoff race. Enter the 9-2 Saints, who are the ones that trail the Seahawks in the NFC standings. The winner of this game will have the edge for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 6-6. Their last meeting came in a 2010 NFC Wild-Card playoff game when the 7-9 Seahawks upset New Orleans 41-36. Of course the iconic moment of this game was Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard “Beast Quake” touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that essentially cemented the Seahawks with the victory. There is a lot on this line this week and a nationally televised audience will witness one of the more highly anticipated games of the second half of the season. Here is what I will be looking for out of both the Seahawks and Saints in this game.

I start with the Seahawks defense because we will be without a key starter in the secondary. Cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy thus he will not play this week. Byron Maxwell will start and Jeremy Lane will also see playing time opposite of Richard Sherman. The main key on defense this week is to play smart and to not give up big, game-altering plays. Facing an elite quarterback such as Drew Brees, it will be likely that the Saints offense will try to stretch the field and with younger players filling in in the secondary, the chances of coverage’s being blown could be greater than if Thurmond or Brandon Browner were playing. In order to prevent Brees from having time to make deep throws our pass rush needs to have one of their best games of the season. The Saints offensive line ranks 5th in the NFL in sacks allowed so it will be necessary to send various blitz packages to confuse New Orleans and to force Brees into sacks and bad decisions. I have full confidence in Lane and Maxwell to step up and play well but their matchups this week are not favorable, especially after having a long break following the bye week.

After scoring 41 points against Minnesota two weeks ago, the Seahawks offense is primed to breakout starting on Monday night. It all starts with the running game. If the Seahawks can get Marshawn Lynch going early, control the ball, and control the clock, the Seahawks will be well on their way to a victory. The problem is that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is one of the best coaches in the game and he will certainly be orchestrating a gameplan that will put a focus on stopping the Seahawks running game. It will be very important for the Seahawks offensive line to protect Russell Wilson so he can utilize all of the weapons around him, especially since wide receiver Percy Harvin will not play due to a hip injury. Golden Tate will be Wilson’s go-to guy this week and Jermaine Kearse could also make a big impact this week. Keep your eye out for those two playmakers to get the ball in their hands often this week.

The New Orleans Saints boast one of the league’s most dominant offensive units. They are good because of a two-headed monster; the interchangeable and underrated running game featuring running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, and the powerful passing game led by quarterback Drew Brees. Brees is 353 yards away from becoming the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 this season. The Saints passing game ranks second in the league overall and it will be the primary emphasis for the Seahawks defense this week. After studying the Saints on film I took away an interesting statistic. In the “first 15” (the first 15 plays previously scripted for an offense to run) the Saints threw the ball at nearly a 2:1 ratio, more than any other team the Seahawks have played so far this season. Drew Brees is known for picking apart the weaknesses of opposing defenses and he does an excellent job doing so, which is why I believe he will try to throw to wide receiver Kenny Stills often this week since Stills will line up opposite of either Byron Maxwell or Jeremy Lane. There is also a big matchup to watch in the middle of the field, literally. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is Brees’ favorite receiver and it takes multiple players to bring Graham down. Look for Kam Chancellor to shadow Graham on passing plays, as Chancellor is the biggest defender in the third level of the Seahawks defense.

The Saints dominant offense has been around for a long time but it is the Saints defense that has helped turn the team into an elite power. The Saints defense ranks in the top half of the league in both passing yards allowed (3rd) and rushing yards allowed (15th). When looking at the Saints defensive stat sheet there is one column that worries me greatly this week: the Saints do an incredible job of rushing the passer. The intimidating pass rush threat could force Russell Wilson into bad throws this week. Wilson must know where cornerback Keenan Lewis is lined up on the field, as Lewis leads New Orleans defenders in interceptions with 3. In regards to the Saints pass rush, 14 different players have recorded sacks this season and 7 of those players have recorded 2.5 sacks or more. Cameron Jordan leads all Saints defenders in sacks with 9.5 but my X-Factor player to watch this week is linebacker Junior Galette. Galette has 6 sacks so far on the season and has forced one fumble. Galette is New Orleans’s Bruce Irvin; a pass rush specialist who sees most of his playing time in third down situations. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can move the ball effectively in early down situations Galette could become a non-factor much like how he was against Atlanta last Thursday night.

There are two other added elements to keep your eye on this week. The first of which is the weather. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the mid to low 30’s and the last forecast I saw calls for a 40 percent chance of snow showers. The last time the Seahawks played a primetime game in the snow was in 2006 and the Seahawks were able to run for 235 yards in that game against the Green Bay Packers. Although it is unlikely, if snow becomes a factor this week I give the edge to the Seahawks, as the Saints do a better job stopping the pass than the run. The other thing to keep an eye on this week is the noise factor. I always emphasize that the 12th Man seems to have a bigger impact in primetime games and this week the intensity inside CenturyLink Field will definitely be higher. To make matters better, the 12th Man will be attempting to regain their status as the world’s loudest fans as they try to once again break the Guinness World Record for “loudest roar at a sports stadium” as was announced earlier in the week. Bad weather and noise could be the ultimate recipe for the Saints to struggle so the Seahawks must take advantage of these circumstances.

Random Thoughts: The blue jersey/blue pants combination will be seen once again this week. I expect the Saints to wear black pants with their white jerseys… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN this week… It would be cool to try to get a picture with the ESPN pregame crew consisting of Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer, Steve Young, and Ray Lewis. I tried to get a picture with Bob Costas back in 2011 when Sunday Night Football came to town but I failed… Expect to see an iconic Seattle sports figure raise the 12th Man Flag. It has become customary for a well-known Seattle icon to raise the flag before bigger games… Ray Dalton will sing the national anthem before the game. I guess he’s taking a break from the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis world tour… One of the coolest things to see at a primetime Seahawks game is when the video board says “ESPN, can you hear us?” If you’re going to the game on Monday night you should know what to do when you see this… The giveaway this week is roller banners that say “LOUDER” along with a Seahawks beanie. Can I get a rally towel one time Seahawks?!?! I guess they are saving towels for our home playoff games… Ed Hochuli is the referee this week. In my opinion Hochuli is one of the best referees in the NFL. He does a really good job of explaining his calls… I wonder if the weather will prevent Hochuli from showing off his trademark muscles. We’ll see… It’s going to be a long pregame on Monday before the game. Good thing we’ll be down there before traffic really gets bad… I love late season primetime games because it is dark by the time kickoff rolls around… I love the cold weather, also… I’m sure a lot of memories of the last time we played the Saints are going to run through my brain on Monday. It is hard to rank that game but that playoff game is no doubt in my top 3 of sporting events I’ve ever been to.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold a one game lead on New Orleans for the number one seed in the NFC playoffs and we hold a 3 game lead on San Francisco and Arizona for first place in the NFC West. If either Arizona or San Francisco loses on Sunday, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Here are the matchups to keep an eye on this week that could affect the NFC playoff race. Teams to note are bolded.

Tampa Bay (3-8) at Carolina (8-3)

Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1)

Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5)

St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4)

Prediction: The way I see it, if a 7-9 Seahawks team can beat Drew Brees and the Saints, a 10-1, Super Bowl contending Seahawks team can surely beat Drew Brees and the Saints. With the Saints in town and a healthy, rested Seahawks offense a lot of people may think this game will be an offensive shootout much like what happened in the playoffs three years ago. I do not believe this game will be as high scoring and both defenses will make their presence known. The Seahawks will make one or two bigger plays than New Orleans this week and that will lift Seattle to victory. Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate will score touchdowns for Seattle and linebacker K.J. Wright will intercept a Drew Brees pass in the fourth quarter that will seal the win. The Seahawks will go to 11-1 and will all but officially clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Seahawks 27, Saints 17

Following Monday night’s game will start a very busy week on the blog. Check back Tuesday morning for a review of our game against the Saints. Enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!