Tag Archives: New York Jets

Review: Panthers 31, Seahawks 24

17 Jan
Jonathan Stewart

Photo Credit: NFL.com

There is no doubt the Seattle Seahawks showed a tremendous amount of heart on Sunday. Unfortunately at the end of the day the deficit was too big and time was too little. The 2015 campaign comes to a close as the Carolina Panthers defeat the Seahawks 31-24, eliminating Seattle and advancing to next week’s NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals. The NFC will be represented in the Super Bowl by a team other than the Seahawks for the first time since 2012. For this preview I will break the game down into two huge chunks, the frustrating disaster that was the first half, and the incredible comeback which fueled the second half. Here are my final thoughts of the 2015 season.

The First Half: The Seahawks spotted the Panthers 31 points going into the halftime break. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and both the Seattle offense and defense were to blame. On the very first play of the game Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart broke through into the Legion of Boom and galloped all the way down to the Seattle 16-yard line, a gain of 59 yards. This set up a Stewart touchdown run 3 plays later giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead only two and a half minutes into the game. On the Seahawks first possession of the game Carolina stole away any momentum the Seahawks were trying to muster and held a tight grasp on it for the rest of the half. On second down Russell Wilson felt immediate pressure and forced a pass to the middle of the field in the direction of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch had yet to turn around and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly intercepted the pass and ran it in for a touchdown. 14-0 Panthers less than three and a half minutes into the game. After a Seahawks punt the Panthers drove down the field and scored again on a Stewart 1-yard touchdown run. 21-0 Panthers. On the first play of Seattle’s next possession Wilson felt rushed again and threw a low pass which was intercepted by Cortland Finnegan. A Carolina field goal made it 24-0 Panthers with 12:37 left in the second quarter. The nightmare continued on Carolina’s next possession. After a Seahawks punt the Panthers drove 54 yards in 9 plays culminating with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen. The Seahawks went into the halftime break down 31-0, their largest deficit in a game since 2010.

I noticed a few things in the first half that drove me crazy, some which we could control and others we really could not. For starters as the score went up I felt like our defense started to play panicked and tried to force their play. What I mean by this is instead of good fundamental tackling we would try to force takeaways by forcing the ball out which at times helped Carolina gain extra yards. Third down defense was also a problem, as Carolina converted 71 percent of their third down chances in the first half. On offense I found quarterback pressures and hurries to be particularly frustrating. One of the best facets of Russell Wilson’s game is his escapability and he did not do a good job of creating plays in the first half. He felt too comfortable in the pocket and trusted his offensive line almost to a fault. I also believe Wilson and the Seahawks offense discounted the speed of the Panthers defense. They absolutely swarmed him and ate him up in the first half, leading to two turnovers and a sack. The field also did not do the Seahawks any favors either. Players were slipping, sliding, and falling down throughout pregame warmups which led to harsh criticism which was discussed on the FOX broadcast in the early part of the game. Marshawn Lynch looked particularly uncomfortable playing on that sloppy surface, especially since the majority of his success running the ball depends on him being able to be shifty and cut sharply on the turf.

The Second Half: My hope was that if the Seahawks could somehow score 21 points in the third quarter to cut the Panthers lead to 10, we could put ourselves in position to potentially make the greatest comeback in NFL playoffs history a reality. For a time it looked like it might be doable. The Seahawks adjusted wonderfully coming out of the halftime break and came out firing. On the first offensive possession of the second half the Seahawks were set up thanks to a 50-yard kick return by Tyler Lockett. A personal foul by Carolina on the kickoff gave the Seahawks an additional 15 yards. On the fourth play of the drive Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown. After forcing the Panthers to punt the Seahawks took their next drive all the way down the field resulting in a touchdown pass to Lockett. Halfway through the third quarter the Seahawks were only 7 points away from my goal. It was 31-14 Carolina. At the pace we were going I thought an epic comeback was a real possibility at this point but after our next drive resulted in a punt it started to feel like it was going to be extremely difficult. The Seahawks got the ball back with 9:34 left in the game and we drove down the field to score a touchdown in 3 minutes and 28 seconds. With just over 6 minutes left in the game, two timeouts, needing two scores, and the Panthers getting the ball again the blueprint was set in terms of what we needed to do; force a Carolina punt, score, recover an onside kick, and score again. Step one was completed after Carolina held the ball for another 3 minutes. The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:49 left and kicked a field goal cutting the deficit to 7 with the clock reading 1:12. Just like last year’s NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks season continuing depended on recovering an onside kick. Steven Hauschka’s onside attempt was a good one but the ball was caught and held on to by Thomas Davis, sealing the victory for the Carolina Panthers.

It was a gritty, heartwarming effort. The Seahawks were dead to rights and the resolve this team showed shows exactly why we are able to be competitive in any game we play. No deficit is too big for this team and we came one score shy of tying or perhaps even winning the game. Hindsight is 20/20, but if the Seahawks would have been able to kick a field goal in the first half (either Hausckha’s miss at the end of the first half or deciding to kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 5 late in the first half) and if Wilson would not have thrown one of his two interceptions there is a real possibility we are talking about a Seahawks victory instead. At the end of the day, turnovers may have been the primary culprit, which is what I was wary of in my game preview.

Thoughts on Carolina: This is a defense-driven football team and they are extremely good. With today’s performance I now am questioning whether or not the Seahawks have the best defense in the league. If not, that title definitely belongs to the Panthers. They will host the Cardinals next week and if they play exactly like how they did today, it will be the Carolina Panthers representing the NFC in Super Bowl 50. I look forward to playing the Panthers next season, arguably the best opponent we will play at CenturyLink Field in 2016.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will pick 25th, 26th, or 27th in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The pick better be used on the best offensive lineman available… The 2016 schedule will be released in April but here are our opponents next season. Home games at CenturyLink Field: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins. On the road: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New York Jets… 37 days until the start of the NFL Scouting Combine and 102 days until the NFL Draft.

Thank you guys once again for logging on and reading this season. It always means a lot to me that you read and care about what I write. On to 2016. Go Seahawks!

#10for10 Game #7: Holmgren’s Swan Song (Seahawks vs. Jets, 2008 Season)

1 Oct

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The 2008 season was a year full of lowlights. After winning the NFC West the previous 4 years, 2008 was supposed to be the year we get back and contend for a Super Bowl title, to send retiring head coach Mike Holmgren out on top. Instead, it seemed as though the horrible draft picks and transactions general manager Tim Ruskell had made during his tenure had finally caught up to us. After starting the season 2-5, the Seahawks lost their next 6 games. After a win in week 15 over the St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks came home for their home finale against the New York Jets with a 3-11 record. To some the regular season home finale was going to be just another game, marking the end of a miserable season. To many more it was the opportunity to say thank you and farewell to Coach Holmgren after 10 wonderful seasons. To me however, there was another element to what made this game so special; the elements.

The date of this game was December 21st, 2008 and it fell right in the middle of a two-plus weeklong snow storm which blanketed all of Western Washington. With several inches of snow already on the ground and 5 more inches of snow predicted to fall on game day, it had the makings of a classic game reserved for Green Bay, Philadelphia, or another East Coast city. It was going to be a challenge for me and my friend Dylan to even make it, but no blizzard was going to prevent me from missing a Seahawks home game.

We lived a 5-minute drive away from each other; myself in the hills east of I-405, Dylan along Lake Washington west of the freeway. On this day however, it took us almost a half an hour to meet up, as Dylan’s parents were going to pick us up and drive us into downtown Bellevue to catch one of the very few busses heading into downtown. Once we got to the bus stop I swear we waited for almost an hour for the 550 bus to get there. We eventually hopped on and smoothly made our way over I-90 and into downtown Seattle. The bus dropped us off on the corner of 5th Avenue and King Street and we started the trek through the International District to Qwest Field. After crossing 4th Avenue and the sky bridge over the King Street Station train tracks, we walked down the steps and were instantly in an ice rink, as the parking lot had been frozen over and covered in day-old snow. In the middle of the parking lot there was a snow pile about 10 feet high where people were jumping into it and making snow angels.

A 10 foot high snow pile accompanied a completely frozen over stadium parking lot.

A 10 foot high snow pile accompanied a completely frozen over stadium parking lot.

I had never seen that much snow in Seattle before, much less in a pile like that. Once inside the stadium we headed up to our seats. Looking around the inside of the stadium, I noticed that snow was still present in many uncovered sections, especially in the corners of the upper deck. On the sides of the Hawks Nest in the north end zone, some seats were covered completely with snow, forcing the ticket holders of those seats to sit on snowbanks for the duration of the game. I had seen that happen at games on the East Coast but I never imagined that could happen in Seattle. When it was all said and done, I imagine only about 55,000 of the 68,000 seats were occupied. It was definitely the smallest crowd for a Seahawks home game in the history of the stadium but it was completely reasonable to believe the remainder physically could not get into downtown Seattle because of all the snow.

The view from my seats on December 21st, 2008. Snow blanketed the field and snow piles bordered the turf.

The view from my seats on December 21st, 2008. Snow blanketed the field and snow piles bordered the turf.

Before the game the Seahawks ran out of the tunnel and they had Coach Holmgren run out of the tunnel last as fireworks shot off all around, something usually reserved only for the starting offensive or defensive unit. Mike’s wife Kathy raised the 12th Man Flag to thundering cheers. Because of the snow, the game did not feature many notable plays but it was very close, exciting game throughout. The Seahawks took a 7-3 lead in the second quarter and did not look back. The dagger was a Brett Favre pass which was picked off by Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson. Wilson went to the area behind the south endzone and celebrated his interception by flinging snow up into the air, snow that bordered the entire field. Although it was only the 4th (and final) win of our 2008 season, the mood inside the stadium felt like we had just clinched a playoff berth. After the game Coach Holmgren, the winningest coach in Seahawks history, did a victory lap around the stadium saluting the fans and thanking them for 10 seasons during which he led the Seahawks to 5 division championships, one conference championship, and one Super Bowl appearance.

After the game posed the challenge of us getting back home to Bellevue. With the sun having already gone down and the snow starting to fall once again, we hiked to the bus stop 5 blocks north of the stadium and waited as several cars tried to drive through the difficult terrain. We even helped a couple of stuck cars trying to drive up the streets by pushing them up the hill. After waiting almost ANOTHER hour we finally got on the bus and headed back to the Eastside, making it home for only the end of Sunday Night Football.

It has not snowed at a Seahawks home game since this day, but I am hoping that the snow graces the Clink with its presence once again sometime real soon.

2015 NFL Draft: Five Good Fits

29 Apr

Over the past 2 months I have scouted over 300 incoming rookies and analyzed hours upon hours of their game film dating back to the NFL Scouting Combine back in February. I have narrowed these players to a short list of about 35 players I would love to see the Seahawks draft this weekend. Of the players on my board, there is a shorter list of 5 players I believe would be perfect fits Darrell Bevell’s offense or Kris Richard’s defense. I would be over-the-moon ecstatic to see the Seahawks select any of the following players on either Friday or Saturday.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Laken Tominson, Offensive Guard, Duke

There is no question that the Seahawks are desperate for offensive line depth, especially after the trade of center Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints and losing guard James Carpenter to the New York Jets in free agency. Laken Tomlinson from Duke would be a perfect fit in the middle of the line. Tomlinson is a fantastic run blocker and an excellent pass blocker, especially down field on screen passes. He is a tough player who bullies his opponents. Offensive linemen usually do not get mentioned on the television broadcast of their games but Tomlinson’s name was brought up positively several times on each game of his I watched. I do not think he would come into camp as the definite starter at left guard, but I believe an open competition between him and Alvin Bailey could put Tomlinson in a fantastic position to win the job.

Projected Round: 3

Photo Credit: imgkid.com

Photo Credit: imgkid.com

Danielle Hunter, Defensive End, LSU

Explosive pass rushers can oftentimes be very hard to find after the first round. I believe that LSU’s Danielle Hunter is the best “second day” pass rusher available and could very much still be on the board when the Seahawks pick at #63 overall. Hunter is extremely fast off the line of scrimmage and he does not have any problems getting past his initial blocker. He does a great job of collapsing the pocket even if he himself cannot get to the quarterback. He has a relentless motor that I believe will not keep John Schneider wary of his on-field effort. Hunter is arguably the best defensive lineman I watched film on and could be a steal for the Seahawks at the end of the second round.

Projected Round: 3

Photo Credit: zimbio.com

Photo Credit: zimbio.com

Kenny Bell, Wide Receiver, Nebraska

In a talent-rich wide receiver class, Kenny Bell from Nebraska stood out to me. He is Nebraska’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards and was a team captain in 2014. He was widely regarded as Nebraska’s most respected player during his time there which I believe would blend tremendously with the leadership the Seahawks possess, especially with Russell Wilson as his potential quarterback. On the field he possesses many traits that would put him right in the middle of the wide receiver rotation in 2015. Bell is 6’1 which would buck the trend of shorter receivers on our roster. Bell can line all over but could best be used on the outside as either a flanker or split end. Bell runs his routes with great timing and adjusts his routes extremely well to put himself in the best position to make the catch. He also has great hands and is nearly immune to dropping passes. That’s not to say he doesn’t drop a pass every once in a blue moon because he does. Bell’s most impressive on-field trait perhaps is his breakaway speed on vertical routes, which would give Wilson a very dependable and trustworthy weapon when throwing deep.

Projected Round: 5

Photo Credit: bluegoldsports.com

Photo Credit: bluegoldsports.com

Ben Heeney, Middle Linebacker, Kansas

To me, Heeney is a poor man’s Luke Kuechly. He carries many similar traits on the field to that of Kuechly but his projection as a day three pick goes to show there may be a bit of uncertainly. I like him and selecting him could provide a solid player to compete with Brock Coyle and Heath Farwell for the backup middle linebacker job. Heeney does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes but he can be a bit hesitant committing where to go when the quarterback drops back to pass. He is a solid fundamental tackler and always seems to go low to wrap up the ball carrier. His biggest weakness is that he is not a bully, and his tenacity comes into question. Nevertheless I believe he would be a solid player to take a flyer on in the later rounds of the draft.

Projected Round: 6

Photo Credit: Rant Sports

Photo Credit: Rant Sports

Clayton Geathers, Safety, Central Florida

In a rather underwhelming class of safeties, I wound up getting really excited while watching tape of Central Florida’s Clayton Geathers. I believe Geathers is the closest thing to Kam Chancellor this draft has to offer. Geathers is a punisher who is not afraid to lay a big hit on a receiver going over the middle. He plays tight coverage and does a great job in pass coverage but at times he can be overeager. One play really stood out to me, an interception he made last season against the University of Houston. Geathers jumping in front of the pass, picking it off, and running it back to the house for a touchdown was almost a spitting image of Chancellor’s pick-six in the playoffs against Carolina. I believe he would fit extremely well in the Legion of Boom. He is absolutely my favorite defensive player available and would be an absolute steal in the last round of the draft. I project him as a 7th rounder but it honestly would not surprise me one bit to see him selected in round 5 or even as early as round 4 if a team is as in love with him as I am.

Projected Round: 7

Thoughts on the Jimmy Graham Trade

10 Mar
The Seahawks acquired TE Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints Tuesday (Photo Credit: neworleanssaints.com)

The Seahawks acquired TE Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints Tuesday (Photo Credit: Michael Hebert, neworleanssaints.com)

Today’s sequence of events proves two things; that anything is possible, and that head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider will go to any great length to improve this roster. The Seahawks were not expected to swim around the possibility of adding a big name when the new league year and free agency began on Tuesday, but they certainly made a big splash. The Seahawks traded center Max Unger and their 2015 1st round draft pick (#31 overall) to the New Orleans Saints for tight end Jimmy Graham and the Saints 4th round draft pick (#109 overall). With this one move numerous points have come to the surface that I believe must be discussed. Here are my thoughts on today’s trade.

Adding Graham: There is no question that Jimmy Graham instantly becomes the best receiver on the Seahawks roster. Graham is a three-time pro bowler and 2013 All-Pro who is a matchup nightmare for any opposing defense. For 5 years we have watched Graham and Saints quarterback Drew Brees connect for 54 total touchdowns. Only the tandem of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski had more touchdowns in this span.

What I am not so hot on is the Seahawks inheriting Graham’s $9 million salary for 2015, making him the second highest paid offensive player on the roster. With Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Marshawn Lynch having already signed lucrative deals with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner also due to cash in soon, I believe that this move may make sense only in the short term. After this upcoming season things could get very interesting. And complicated.

Graham will certainly see his fair share of targets and his presence in red zone will certainly improve the 20th ranked red zone offense last season. I believe the Seahawks need to add another weapon on the outside but adding Graham is certainly a good start to making our offense more explosive vertically.

Losing Unger: I am honestly more concerned about the ramifications that come with trading Max Unger. With Unger going to New Orleans the Seahawks are not only losing a pro bowl offensive lineman, but they are thinning out a position group that I believe could not afford to get any thinner. As of now Seattle’s starting center is Patrick Lewis. Add in the departure of James Carpenter to the New York Jets and the Seahawks currently have Alvin Bailey plugged in as our starting left guard. In regards to trading Unger I believe this means one of three things. Either:

  1. The Seahawks are comfortable going into 2015 with Patrick Lewis as our starting center (The Seahawks proved they could win without Unger at the end of last season, going 6-0 in the final 6 regular season games, all of which Unger was injured).
  2. John Schneider has his eyes on a free agent center that he may look to bring in to replace Unger. (Jonathan Goodwin and Chris Myers are the best available veteran free agent centers according to ESPN).
  3. Schneider has fallen in love with a center in the 2015 draft who he believes could still be on the board when the Seahawks make their first pick (#62 overall).

Time will tell but at this point I cannot simply say one team won this trade and the other lost. Both teams are giving up a significant player but are receiving a significant player in return. If the Seahawks use Graham just like he was used in New Orleans, it is going to be awfully difficult to stop our offense in 2015.

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

20 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

The Seattle Seahawks have the opportunity this week to prove one of head coach Pete Carroll’s most well-known mantras right; it’s  not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Arizona Cardinals have been the top dogs in the NFC West all season long and the Seahawks have the chance to knock them off their throne and take full control of the division. In front of a nationally televised audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football the Seahawks will take on the Arizona Cardinals in what some people are calling the biggest regular season game in Cardinals history. Arizona is 11-3 and Seattle is 10-4. A Seahawks win would give both teams an 11-4 record with Seattle taking the division lead based on the head-to-head tiebreaker they would have over Arizona. A Cardinals win clinches the NFC West and home-field advantage for themselves. This is without a doubt the biggest game of the season and many of the matchups definitely favor the Seahawks. In a game that should be filled with dominant defense, this game will likely be won and lost and the hands of the offenses, which is where I put my primary focus for both teams this week. Here is what must happen on Sunday for the Seahawks to take over first place in the NFC West.

There are two things I am looking for out of the Seahawks offense on Sunday. First is we need to get off to a fast start by scoring early points. Two of the top defenses in the league will be featured in this game and points may be at a premium all night long. The best way to do this is to try to establish the run with Marshawn Lynch. If Seattle is unsuccessful running the ball, the best option in the passing game may be to use all sorts of quick passes, screens and slants in particular. In his last 3 games against the Cardinals, quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 14 times. The Seahawks cannot afford to move backwards via sacks in this game. If the Cardinals front-seven does a good job penetrating the Seattle offensive line early on, my hope is to see Wilson use his legs more than usual to pick up yards and use quick passes to take the pressure off of himself.

If the Arizona Cardinals have any chance to win this game it will be up to their defense to play their best game of the season. I say this because of the potential anemic play of the Cardinals offense. Arizona will start third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley on Sunday, who in 7 career games has not thrown a touchdown pass. This week I analyzed all of Lindley’s game film including 6 games from the 2012 season and the quarter and a half he played last week in St. Louis in place of Drew Stanton. Here are my thoughts on Ryan Lindley:

There a lot of negatives that I take out of Ryan Lindley’s game. He is a very inconsistent player who struggles doing the most fundamental aspects of the quarterback position. Lindley’s most glaring weakness is that he stares down his receivers, almost as if he predetermines which receiver he is going to throw to. Lindley also struggles reading the rest of the field, oftentimes unknowingly throwing into double or even triple coverage. This could mean big things for the Legion of Boom, as they thrive on reading the quarterback’s eyes to get in position to make a play. Lindley is a traditional pocket passer and he cannot throw on the run to save his life. He is very inaccurate outside of the pocket and even struggles mightily at times hitting receivers in stride from inside the pocket. If Lindley is going to have any success moving the ball the Cardinals will have to throw similarly to how I think the Seahawks should approach the passing game; with short passes and screens. In 7 games, Lindley is 2/27 on passes that travel 15 or more yards in the air (7.4% completion percentage on deep throws). There are two things the Seahawks defense can do that I think can shut Lindley down. If the Seahawks stack the box with 7, 8, or even 9 defenders and send heavy blitzes, Lindley will be flustered easily and may make horrible throws. This is the approach Rex Ryan’s Jets took in a game against Lindley in 2012 and he finished with a 32% completion percentage, 72 passing yards, and one interception. The Cardinals only scored 6 points in that game. The other thing the Seahawks can do is play press coverage on the outside all game long. If the defense plays zone, you are basically giving Arizona free yards and Lindley can take advantage on quick out routes and curls on the outside. Press coverage would eliminate the cushion Lindley would have to make throws to his receivers.

I am curious to know how short Ryan Lindley’s leash is. If he struggles early will Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians pull the plug and replace him with rookie Logan Thomas? Arians stated early this week that they will implement a package of plays for Thomas but he did not go into details. If the Cardinals start ice cold on offense I think it is possible Arians will try to pull several tricks out of his hat, including using cornerback Patrick Peterson in wildcat formations. With Peterson already a dominating defender, the threat of his speed making an impact on the offensive side of the ball makes him my X-Factor player to watch for the Cardinals this week. I would not be surprised to see Peterson play both ways on Sunday and I do not think it is crazy to think he will see an expanded role on offense to get the running game going.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys on Sunday but it is unclear once again what color pants we will wear. I personally hope we wear blue pants… It is my opinion that the Cardinals will ditch their traditional red jerseys for this game and will instead wear their black alternate jerseys. They usually wear black twice per year (as NFL uniform rules permit) but they have only worn them once in 2014. With this being their last home game, I would not be surprised at all to see Arizona wear black jerseys and white pants this week… Al Michaels will provide the play-by-play and Cris Collinsworth will provide commentary for NBC this week. Michele Tafoya will report from the sidelines… This is the first Sunday Night Football game the Seahawks will play on the road since playing at Tampa Bay in 2008. (This season’s game on Thanksgiving does not count towards this stat)… Walt Anderson is the referee this week… Sunday is going to be a long and tense day leading up to kickoff. I don’t think I’ll be nervous, but I’ll just want the game to start already… Last December the Seahawks played the Giants at MetLife Stadium with the hopes that they would make a return trip for the Super Bowl in the coming weeks. The Same goes this week. You can’t tell me it won’t be discussed among the players and staff that the goal is to get back here [to Arizona] next month for Super Bowl XLIX… I was considering going down to Arizona for this week’s game over the summer. I should have made the investment. My hope was to have all of my Christmas shopping done and all my presents wrapped so I could head down to the valley of the sun and spend a nice relaxing weekend in the warm weather, down by the pool with a drink in hand, and watch the Seahawks play. Looking forward to doing all that is we make it to the Super Bowl!… It will be interesting to see what kind of home-field advantage the Cardinals have this week. Last season the 12th Man invaded University of Phoenix Stadium and made it their own. My hope is that the same thing happens this week. Are we going to see the biggest regular season game in Cardinals history and not have their own fans show up in full force and in full throat? Look at the second deck of the stadium, particularly the corners of the second deck and we’ll have the answer to that question.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: Things are getting simpler. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals, we clinch a playoff spot, we take control of the NFC West, and we take control of the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. We would then  be able to clinch the division with a win at home next week. If the Cardinals win, they clinch the division and home-field advantage and the Seahawks can finish no better than the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Philadelphia (9-5) at Washington (3-11)

Detroit (10-4) at Chicago (5-9)

Green Bay (10-4) at Tampa Bay (2-12)

Indianapolis (10-4) at Dallas (10-4)

Prediction: I was talking to one of my friends earlier this week about what it will take to give the Seahawks a win in this game. We agreed on two things; the first team to score 14 points wins and/or if the Seahawks return an interception for a touchdown at any point in this game we will win. Although I do not predict a pick-six, I do believe the Seahawks will intercept two Ryan Lindley passes and the Seahawks defense will allow less than 175 yards of offense to the Arizona Cardinals. Even though Arizona will do a good job shutting down and stalling Seattle’s offensive drives, Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and three Steven Hauschka field goals later in the game will preserve the victory for the Seahawks. We will take first place in the NFC West and will be in prime position to clinch the division next week.

Seahawks 16, Cardinals 8

Check back late Sunday night or early Monday morning for my review of this game. Thanks for reading and enjoy this game everyone. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Eagles Preview

6 Dec
Photo Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Photo Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles

Site: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

If you look at each of the Seahawks final four games, you may think this week’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles may be the toughest. It very well may be. The Seahawks start the final quarter of the regular season on Sunday when they face off against the Eagles in a rare east coast late-afternoon game. The Seahawks are 8-4 after a convincing win over the San Francisco 49ers last Thursday. Seattle is currently second in the NFC West and is one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the division lead. The Eagles are currently leading the NFC East at 9-3 and are coming off a big win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Philadelphia leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 7-6. Their last meeting came in 2011 when Seattle defeated the Vince Young-led Eagles 31-14. The Seahawks have played two games against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field and beat them both times by a combined score of 70-24. This week the Seahawks will face a style of offense that they have not even come close to seeing by any other team in the NFL. This is what I will be looking for this week.

The Seahawks have not scored more than 20 points in a victory in four weeks when they put up 38 on the New York Giants. Even though our defense has been playing dominant football the past couple of weeks the Seahawks offense needs to finish their drives this week. Settling for field goals may not be good enough to combat the point barrage the Eagles have put on other opponents. This week I will be focused on what the Seahawks offense does on third down opportunities particularly within field goal range. It is these plays that will determine if the Seahawks put 3 points on the board or 7 points on the board. Even though Seattle will be facing the 12th best run defense in the league, it is my opinion that on third down the Seahawks should stick with giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch or Robert Turbin. The Seahawks running game could ultimately dictate the outcome of this game. If we can take advantage of our opportunities, run the clock to allow our defense to rest, and exchange field goals for touchdowns, we will be very difficult to beat.

Never before have I put the word stamina and the Seahawks defense together in the same sentence. However this week the stamina and speed of our defense is crucial to being able to stop the Philadelphia offense. On average the Eagles run a play every 22.9 seconds, by far the fastest rate of any team in the league. If Philadelphia has success in moving the ball and putting points on the board it will be extremely difficult for our defense to stay rested later on in the game. It is crucial for the defense to set their tone early on. The formula to success is nothing new, stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. The Seahawks defensive line will have my attention this week more than any other group. If Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett can get to Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez and simply hurry him the chances of us having opportunities to force turnovers are huge. Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, and Jordan Hill will have their hands full with an Eagles offensive line that has helped plow the way for the 6th best running game in the league. The Seahawks have allowed 64 rushing yards in each of their last two games. I estimate that a successful day on Sunday will see the Seahawks allowing between 80-90 combined rushing yards.

When you see the weapons that head coach Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have on offense it is no wonder why they are sitting on top of their division with a 9-3 record. They have an explosive backfield featuring running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles and the 5th best passing game in the league including wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and rookie Jordan Matthews. However since the collarbone injury to starting quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles have had to rely on backup quarterback Mark Sanchez to lead this team for the rest of the season. In Sanchez’s 4 starts since the injury to Foles, the Eagles have gone 3-1 with Sanchez throwing for 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. In those 3 wins the Philadelphia defense and special teams have done a tremendous job in forcing turnovers and even scoring points. In those victories the Eagles forced 11 turnovers, recorded one interception return for a touchdown, and added a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown. In a nutshell, the Eagles have put Sanchez in a position to not have to do a whole lot on his own to win games. The possibility of him having to do more work than normal to win this game makes Mark Sanchez my X-Factor player to watch for Philadelphia. This week more than any other week I believe that Sanchez will have to do considerably more through the air to win this game and thus far he has not proven enough for me to believe that he is a completely different Mark Sanchez than the one that butt-fumbled his way out of New York. It would not surprise me to see Sanchez manage the game similarly to how Alex Smith played the Seahawks last month to prevent turnovers. If Sanchez looks rattled early on, regardless of Seattle’s success rushing the passer, the Seahawks will be in a great position to take control of this game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks cannot wear wolf grey for the rest of the season since NFL rules only allow teams to wear their “alternate” jerseys twice per season. The Seahawks will wear white jerseys in Philadelphia this week. Pant color TBD however personally I hope we wear white pants… The Eagles will wear their midnight green jerseys with white pants… This game is FOX’s “America’s Game of the Week.” Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call with Erin Andrews reporting from the sidelines… Bill Vinovich is the referee this week. Vinovich also officiated the Seahawks week 3 win over the Denver Broncos… I think Philadelphia is the only city I would not go see the Seahawks play in. I have heard bad things about their fans in general, but then again the same could have been said about Raiders fans and I had a wonderful experience going to a game in Oakland wearing Seahawks stuff (even though it wasn’t a Seahawks game)… I love the 1:25pm start for a game being played on the east coast. The last time the Seahawks played a late afternoon road game in the eastern time zone after daylight savings time going into effect was two seasons ago when the Seahawks beat the Buffalo Bills in Toronto… I have remained more confident going into this week’s game than I was going into last week’s game in San Francisco… If the Seahawks win this game, I believe we will win out, putting us at 12-4.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With Seattle’s win and Arizona’s loss last week the Seahawks now sit one game back of the Cardinals for the NFC West lead. With one more game against the Cardinals left, the Seahawks now control their own destiny within the division; running the table gives us the division title. Should the Seahawks win this week, if the Cardinals also win the Seahawks will remain in the wild-card chase for at least one more week. A Seahawks win and a Cardinals loss will put Seattle in the #2 seed. A Seattle win, an Arizona loss, and a Green Bay loss on Monday night, and the Seahawks will have a hold on the #1 seed and home-field advantage with 3 weeks of the regular season left to play. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Tampa Bay (2-10) at Detroit (8-4)

Kansas City (7-5) at Arizona (9-3)

San Francisco (7-5) at Oakland (1-11)

Atlanta (5-7) at Green Bay (9-3)

Prediction: This will be a classic back-and-forth football game. The Eagles will start the scoring with a short LeSean McCoy touchdown run. The Seahawks will come right back with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7. Philadelphia will add a field goal at the end of the first half and the Eagles will take a 10-7 lead into halftime. The Seahawks will come out red hot in the second half, scoring 10 third quarter points and Seattle will take a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter. After Philadelphia ties the game at 17-17 thanks to a Jeremy Maclin touchdown reception, the Seahawks will take control of the game for good on both sides of the ball. In the final 10 minutes, the Seahawks defense will force three Philadelphia drives to stall and with 5 minutes left to play, Russell Wilson will find Luke Willson in the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. The Seahawks will get a huge win and with Arizona’s loss to Kansas City, the Seahawks will be the leaders of the NFC West by the time Sunday Night Football kicks off.

Seahawks 24, Eagles 17

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my review of this week’s game. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Panthers Preview

25 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 10:00am

For the third straight season, the Seahawks travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. After two straight losses the Seahawks currently sit at 3-3, 3rd in the NFC West. After winning the NFC South a season ago the Panthers currently sit atop the division once again this season. Following their loss to the Green Bay Packers last week, Carolina sports a 3-3-1 record. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Panthers 5-2. Their last meeting came on opening day last season when the Seahawks went into Bank of America Stadium and squeaked out a 12-7 victory to get their 2013 season started on the right foot. With this week’s game coming on the road and the Seahawks looking at a possible 3-4 record, I am calling this week’s game a must-win. Here is what I will be looking for out of both the Seahawks and Panthers this week.

In their three road games this season the Seahawks defense has allowed an average of 25 points per game. With the same core group on the defensive side of the ball over the past 3 seasons the Seahawks have allowed only 19 total points in our road games against the Panthers in 2012 and 2013. This week the Seahawks need to do what they have done in these prior two games; get off the field on third down and do not let Panthers quarterback Cam Newton pick up large chunks of yardage both on the ground and through the air. Last season against Seattle the Panthers were 45% effective on third down. The Rams were 44% effective on third down last week which is unacceptable. If the Seahawks can hold Carolina to under 40% effectiveness on third down we will be able to force changes in possession, giving the ball to our offense to try to score points.

The biggest concern for the Seahawks defense this week will be stopping Cam Newton’s legs as well as his arm. I include his arm because of the comfort opposing quarterbacks have had in the pocket in recent weeks.  The Seahawks have proven that they can shut Newton down on the ground; Newton has averaged 40 rushing yards per game in two games against Seattle. If the Panthers win this game I believe it will be on the arm of Cam Newton. With as shaky as the Seahawks have played in the middle of the field recently, look for Newton to test the Seahawks linebackers on short/intermediate range throws this week. Greg Olsen and Brandon Williams, Carolina’s two tight ends, could be in for big games if Newton has time to make throws. I am calling upon the Seahawks pass rush as well as linebackers K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith to step up. If the linebackers struggle it could once again be a long day for the Seahawks.

Last week the Seahawks fed the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch 18 times for 53 yards. It was not until the second half that the offensive coaching staff got quarterback Russell Wilson involved in the running game. The play in the running game will determine how well the Seahawks offense plays once again this week, but the pocket protection for Wilson must improve so Wilson does not have to run so much. Center Max Unger will likely be inactive once again this week so the Seahawks will start the same line combination they did in St. Louis last week. Until this makeshift line can prove that they can give Wilson a clean pocket consistently, in addition to avoid falling into an early deficit, Wilson may run more early on in the game. This week I believe rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson will have a larger impact after catching 4 passes last week. Richardson could be Wilson’s unsung go-to guy this week, possibly in roles that Percy Harvin held prior to his trade to New York. Also keep an eye on the blocking of fill-in fullback Robert Turbin. Turbin filled in last week at fullback on short notice after starter Derrick Coleman broke his foot during pregame warmups. In my opinion Turbin is built like a fullback and with a week’s worth of practice and preparation under his belt I think Turbin carries the potential to help open up big running lanes for Lynch.

Perhaps above all else, the Seahawks cannot let the off-the-field noise that has come in the days since the Percy Harvin trade get to them on the field. There have been numerous reports over the past week about tension between different players and the potential of a broken locker room. What makes all this talk worse is the fact that we have lost two straight games. To get back on the right track, we need to win this week. A win can help silence the critics and hopefully bring the positive dawn of the post-Harvin era.

Last season the Carolina Panthers defense carried them to a 12-4 record and an NFC South division championship. Even after losing key members of their defensive unit the Panthers still have the talent that is keeping them on top of the division even if their total defense rankings do not highlight it (22nd in passing, 26th in rushing). The Panthers provide a good combination of pass rush (15 total sacks) and secondary play (7 interceptions). Middle Linebacker Luke Kuechly continues to be a dominant tackler, patrolling the middle of the field and being in on almost every play. With the shaky play of the Seahawks offensive line I have decided to focus my attention on the Carolina defense to the pass rush. My X-Factor player to watch for the Panthers this week is defensive end Charles Johnson. Johnson is in his 8th season with the Panthers he has recorded double digit sacks in three different seasons including the past two. So far this season Johnson has recorded 3 sacks, one in each of their last 3 games. Johnson will likely line up across from Seahawks rookie right tackle Justin Britt, who has struggled keeping defenders from penetrating the line on passing downs.

Random Thoughts: No word yet on jersey combination for the Seahawks this week. With 5 road games left and 2 opportunities to wear wolf grey that gives the Seahawks a 40% chance of wearing wolf grey this week… The Panthers will wear black jerseys with silver pants… Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts have the call for CBS this week. That’s right, this week’s Seahawks game has been cross-flexed from FOX to CBS. This will be the first Seahawks road game broadcasted on CBS since 2001, and personally this will be the first time I watch a regular season Seahawks game on CBS since Christmas Eve 2005… Walt Coleman is the referee this week… Second straight 10am kickoff. I really have a love/hate relationship with 10am kickoffs. The only question this week is do I get up earlier to watch Falcons/Lions which kicks off from London at 6:30am… After this week we play 3 of our next 4 games at home. These road stretches where we don’t play at home for 3-plus weeks are miserable… I’m pulling for the Eagles this week. Please, please, please beat the Cardinals for us!

Prediction: The Seahawks running game will finally get going early this week. Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson will combine for 140 yards but unfortunately too many drives will stall or result in field goals. The defense will play a much tighter game overall. The Seahawks will win the turnover battle 2-1 and the Seahawks will pull out a very close victory.

Seahawks 19, Panthers 17

Check back late Sunday night for my review of this game. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!