Tag Archives: NFC Playoffs

Review: Seahawks 38, Vikings 7

6 Dec
vikings review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Seahawks 31, Panthers 17

11 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

In a game that was closer than it maybe should have been in the first half, the Seahawks came out in the second half and proved they had more fire power than their opposition. The Seahawks defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-17 on Saturday night, advancing to their second straight NFC Championship Game next Sunday right here in Seattle. For the Panthers, their season is now over. In a big time game many Seahawks players stepped up in a big way. Here are my thoughts on Saturday’s win.

Russell Wilson’s Best Game of the Year: Russell Wilson’s passer rating sums up the Seahawks offensive success in a nutshell. Wilson went 15/22 for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns Saturday night, on his way to a 149.2 passer rating; his best since posting a 127.3 passer rating week 5 against Washington. This win also marks the sixth time in the past 8 games that Wilson did not throw an interception. What may be even more impressive is that the Seahawks did not rely on Wilson’s feet to extend drives. His patience in the pocket and willingness to take shots down the field paid dividends in this game and the Carolina secondary had a difficult time stopping the Seahawks passing game, not necessarily because of the coverage they played but because Wilson was so pinpoint accurate hitting his receivers. With the Seahawks facing another young secondary next week I would expect Wilson and the Seahawks offense to formulate a similar game plan for the NFC Championship.

Kearse Makes Significant Impact: The distribution of Russell Wilson’s passes was about as even as you could get, but wide receiver Jermaine Kearse played the most significant role in the passing game. Kearse led all Seahawks receivers with 129 receiving yards and a touchdown on 3 catches, the biggest of which coming on his one-armed touchdown grab for 63 yards with 4:54 remaining in the second quarter. As great as Kearse’s performance was on Saturday, we must look ahead to the role he must play next week now that we know Paul Richardson is out for the season with a torn ACL. Although Kearse is a starter and it would be expected that Ricardo Lockette will see more playing time next week, I would fully expect him to be Russell Wilson’s primary target next week, especially on deep passes.

The Power of the Turkey Leg: In the fourth quarter I went down to the concourse and bought myself a “Bam Bam Kam turkey leg,” one of the new food items introduced for this year’s playoff run. I got the turkey leg, went back to my seat, started eating it, and within 5 minutes Kam Chancellor picked off a Cam Newton pass and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. The score gave the Seahawks a 31-10 lead and any hope Carolina had of coming back was gone. Chancellor played as good of a game as I have ever seen him play, and he made a positive impact in multiple areas. In addition to the interception and touchdown, Chancellor co-led all Seattle defenders in tackles with 11 and recorded a pass defensed. What may have been more impressive however was his flawless perfection timing Carolina’s snap count and jumping over the line of scrimmage to try to block back-to-back field goal attempts at the end of the first half, even though both were negated by penalties. I may have to invest in another turkey leg next week, as I feel it could be Chancellor’s good luck charm in these playoffs.

Turnover Battle: If it wasn’t for an overturned Earl Thomas interception, the Seahawks would have gone to the locker room at halftime up 3-0 in the turnover battle, and arguably could have had broken the game wide open instead of leading by just 4 points. By game’s end, the Seahawks had their third turnover, and ended the game +3 in turnover differential. The Seahawks turned these three turnovers into 14 of their 31 points.

Thoughts on Carolina: The biggest area I thought the Panthers would struggle in this week was handling the crowd noise. Overall, I was impressed with quarterback Cam Newton’s ability to handle the noise but his decision making in the passing game was questionable. Nevertheless I see potential for Newton to improve in the offseason and be much better next season. The Panthers need to get back to playing more consistent defense next season. With as sloppy as the NFC South was in 2014, I believe that 9 wins could win that division in 2015. At this point I believe that the Carolina Panthers should be the favorites next season to win their 3rd straight division title.

Random Thoughts: I love primetime football and I am really glad that the fog and mist made it seem darker right before kickoff… The streamers were once again a huge success but since Marshawn Lynch didn’t score a touchdown the Skittles I brought were used as a snack instead of a celebratory prop… Back to the Bam Bam Kam turkey leg for a quick second, it was $10 but there was probably only $7 worth of turkey on it. It was not like a Disneyland turkey leg which tastes more like corned beef. This turkey leg was clearly turkey but it was surprisingly flavorful. I would recommend it but to a big guy like me it is more of a snack instead of a meal… The rally towels looked amazing and more people waved them than at the NFC Championship Game last season. I hope they stick around for next week’s game… I hate that next week’s game starts at noon. That start time is unusual for all Seahawks fans since the earliest a game can start in Seattle in the regular season is 1:05pm. I have been to 2 Seahawks games in other cities that start at noon so I personally should be good to go. It will be interesting however to get to the bars around 8am, which will by far be the earliest time for me this season.

Next week’s matchup has been set. The Seahawks will host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field next Sunday. Check back Saturday for my preview of that game. Go Seahawks!

Panthers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

9 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (4) Carolina Panthers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:15pm

I love the city of Seattle in the month of January. Everyone has a pep in their step in preparation for the NFL Playoffs. After an eventful Wild-Card weekend we know which of the surviving teams gets the opportunity to play at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Divisional playoffs. That team is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers take on the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks Saturday night. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. The loser goes home. Last week the Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their first playoff game after entering the postseason with a losing record. Including that win last week over the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers enter this game 8-8-1. The Seahawks are 12-4 and are looking to make it back to their second straight NFC title game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Carolina 6-2. Their last meeting came earlier this season when the Seahawks beat the Panthers 13-9 in Charlotte. The Seahawks went on to win 8 of their next 9 games. The Seahawks are also 3-0 all-time against Carolina at CenturyLink Field, including a 34-14 win over the Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith led Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game. There are a lot of storylines to take note of this week. Here is what I will be looking for.

In last season’s divisional playoff game against New Orleans, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. His effectiveness in the running game allowed the Seahawks to control the tempo of the game and there was never any significant threat of the Saints taking the game over. The same must happen this week. Seattle’s ability to run the ball is crucial this week since they are facing a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since October 30th (Week 9). If Lynch himself can run for at least 80 yards it will lead me to believe that we can control the clock and control the game. If the Panthers do a solid job stopping the Seahawks running game my number one guy to watch in the passing game is wide receiver Doug Baldwin. In three career games against Carolina he has 189 receiving yards and in his last two games against the Panthers, Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. In addition to playing on the outside look for Baldwin to spend a lot of time in the slot this week, as quick throws and routes down the seam could be effective.

Just like how the running game is priority number one on offense, stopping the Panthers running game is priority number one on defense. This will be difficult, as Carolina will use feature back Jonathan Stewart and the threat of quarterback Cam Newton scrambling gives the Seahawks an additional element to focus on. The Seahawks have faced Carolina each of the last three seasons. In each of those games I thought there was a serious threat of Newton running wild if the going got tough for the Panthers offense. In each of those games Newton rushed for only 42, 38, and 24 yards respectively. In a playoff situation I think now is as good a time for the Panthers to let Newton run wild if the Seahawks play great defense. Newton’s build and strength will make it difficult to wrap him up and get him to the ground. If there is a player you must keep a close eye on when Carolina has the ball, it is Cam Newton.

Over the past few weeks the Carolina Panthers defense has been playing similarly to how they played all of last season, suffocating. If could be a difficult challenge for the Seahawks to get their offense going as the Panthers sport two tackling machines at the linebacker position in Thomas Davis and pro-bowler Luke Kuechly. Davis and Kuechly have combined for 253 total tackles so far this season, by far the best of any tandem in the NFL. The Panthers do come into this game a bit banged up however, as it was announced Wednesday that starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured foot. Lotulelei will not play for the rest of the season. As important as Carolina’s front seven is for the Seahawks to be aware of, I will be keeping a close eye on the play of the Panthers secondary. One of Carolina’s starting cornerbacks was inactive when these two teams met back in October so I have decided to put my X-Factor player to watch spotlight on that player, cornerback Bené Benwikere. Benwikere, a 5th round rookie from San Jose State, is a physically small player who has shown he can play big in his limited playing time this season. Benwikere has recorded 24 tackles in 11 games and has also picked off one pass and forced one fumble. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will both likely line up across from Benwikere throughout the game and since he did not play in the first meeting, I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson throw in his direction multiple times in the first half.

This last point cannot be overlooked. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has never played a game at CenturyLink Field. Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played in the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Seattle, came out this week stating there is no way to prepare for just how loud the 12th Man is. It had been reported earlier in the week that the Panthers were having serious difficulties handling artificial simulated crowd noise during practice; a serious red flag. Over the past few years we have seen what kind of problems “Clink rookies” have had communicating in the huddle once they get lined up. Colin Kaepernick immediately comes to mind as his 49ers failed terribly at handling the noise in his first game in Seattle in 2012. This week the 12’s need to give everything they have to make life a living hell for Newton. I believe Newton has no idea what he is in for and it will be a harsh reality once kickoff rolls around Saturday night. The Panthers used no huddle for 22 plays last week against Arizona and they will likely use a similar dose of no huddle this week. To the 12th Man, stay loud all game long, even between plays. Our voices could be the difference between advancing to the NFC Championship Game and not.

Random Thoughts: The Panthers will wear all-white with the Seahawks wearing all-blue this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. This is not a surprise given the potential ratings of the other NFC Divisional game (Dallas at Green Bay). It makes sense that FOX would send their number one crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to Lambeau for that game instead… The referee this week is Terry McAulay. McAulay officiated the Seahawks divisional round game last season and Super Bowl XLVIII… Saturday is going to be a very long day but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love primetime football. This is going to be a very special game… The giveaway this week is “We Are 12” rally towels. I love it. Towels should be the giveaway for all playoff games and I am glad to see the Seahawks are fixing their mistake from last season (they gave away 12th Man flags vs. the Saints)… Even though this is an evening kickoff it is the playoffs, and it should be expected that everyone be in their seats by the time pregame ceremonies start. I want to see a full stadium waving their towels as the Seahawks run out of the tunnel… I believe that there is an incredibly strong possibility that former Mariners pitcher and 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson will raise the 12th Man flag this week. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet… One of my favorite postseason traditions is when the Seahawks play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” with a video encouraging fans to get loud as the television broadcast is coming back from a TV timeout. If they bring this back on Saturday night I am going to get super super pumped… This week marks the return of the Skittles in section 340. To everyone possibly sitting below me this is your warning to watch out. Streamers will also be making a re-appearance in these playoffs. Let’s make this playoff run a full on raging party in the stands… One win away from the NFC Championship and two victories away from Super Bowl XLIX. It’s on the tips of our fingers.

Prediction: The Panthers and Seahawks will keep this game close until the closing minutes of the first half. With the Seahawks holding a 7-3 lead, Richard Sherman will intercept a Cam Newton pass and Marshawn Lynch will score a touchdown with under one minute remaining in the half, giving the Seahawks a 14-3 halftime lead. The Seahawks will carry that momentum into the second half as they will take the opening kickoff and drive the length of the field, culminating in a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, giving the Seahawks a 21-3 lead. Beast Mode will add one more score in garbage time and the Seahawks will cruise to the NFC Championship to face the Green Bay Packers.

Seahawks 28, Panthers 10

Due to a belated birthday celebration for myself with all of my friends after the game I will not have my game review published until Sunday night most likely. By then we will know who we will face in the NFC Championship Game should we win on Saturday. Check back Sunday night for my take on Saturday’s game. Go Seahawks!

Commentary: Who Will it Be?

1 Jan
From L-R: Panthers QB Cam Newton, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Lions WR Calvin Johnson

From L-R: Panthers QB Cam Newton, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Lions WR Calvin Johnson

The Seahawks and the 12th Man will not know until late Sunday afternoon who we will play in our NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 10th. One of three teams will be traveling to Seattle for that playoff game. If the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions this Sunday, the winner of Saturday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers will play the Seahawks. If Detroit beats Dallas, the Lions will play the Seahawks on January 10th. Here is a brief breakdown of all three potential opponents including who I personally would like to play, and who I think the Seahawks will probably face in their first playoff game.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their division and enter the playoffs with a losing record. Unlike the 2010 Seahawks who went into their Wild-Card playoff game double digit underdogs to the New Orleans Saints, the 7-8-1 Panthers are 5.5 point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals this week. The Panthers are the team I believe the Seahawks will face next Saturday night. Carolina has won 4 straight games and getting to play at home against a backup quarterback gives them an advantage. With a win, the Panthers will record their first playoff win since defeating the Chicago Bears in the 2005 NFC Divisional playoffs.

The Pros: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is the only quarterback of the Seahawks potential opposing quarterbacks to have never played at CenturyLink Field. The fact that he would be playing in front of a playoff revved 12th Man makes the idea of the Seahawks advancing to the NFC Championship Game highly likely. The Seahawks are 3-0 against Carolina all-time at CenturyLink Field.

The Cons: I do not know how Bears fans felt when they hosted the 2010 Seahawks in the NFC Divisional playoffs but I would be a little worried that the 12’s would not treat this game like a true playoff game because of the Panthers record. The fact of the matter is that the Panthers were good enough to get into the playoffs. It shouldn’t matter what their regular season record says. At the end of the day, it’s still win or go home.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are making their first playoff appearance since 2009 but they are stumbling into the playoffs, having lost their last two regular season games with Ryan Lindley at quarterback. I think it is possible that if they can beat Carolina this week, Drew Stanton will be back as the starting quarterback by the time they would play Seattle. The Seahawks have beaten both Stanton and Lindley this season. Stanton played the game in Seattle and went 14/26 for 149 yards and one interception. The Cardinals defense is arguably the best of these three potential opponents and could give the Seahawks the closest game.

The Pros: Now that Jim Harbaugh has left the NFC West, the coach the Seahawks should now love to hate the most is Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Arians has stated that he believes the Cardinals can with the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton, but that was when the Cardinals controlled the division by 3 games over the Seahawks. Things have fallen on hard times in Arizona since and it would be awesome to beat this team and the likely NFL coach of the year for a third time this season. This is likely the beginning of an intense rivalry with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cons: This may be the future of our division rivalries but it simply does not have as “hateful” of a feel that playing the San Francisco 49ers three times last year had. I think we would beat Arizona in this playoff game handedly, possibly making the later parts of the game kind of boring.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have not played in Seattle since 2009. They have a talented defense that is capable of stopping Marshawn Lynch. The Lions boast the most explosive offense of any of these three teams and would provide the best and most exciting challenge for the Seahawks defense and the Legion of Boom. I for one would love to see Richard Sherman go up against Calvin Johnson, and to see the return of former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. This is the matchup that I would most like to see.

The Pros: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has played in Seattle before but that was when the Seahawks were not very good. He has only played in one playoff game and he lost. The playoff inexperience of the Lions could give the Seahawks a significant leg up in this matchup.

The Cons: None.

Review: Seahawks 20, Rams 6

28 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After a rough start, the Seahawks took control and never looked back. The Seahawks scored 20 unanswered points and defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-6 on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks finish the season 12-4 and are the 2014 NFC West champions. The road to Super Bowl XLIX is now guaranteed to go through CenturyLink Field. Before we look ahead two weeks from now to our NFC Divisional playoff matchup, here are some brief thoughts about what I took out of this week’s game.

First Half Turnover Differential: After the first 30 minutes of the game the Rams led the turnover differential 2-0. St. Louis took a 6-0 lead into the half. If this game does not prove the importance of turnover differential I do not have a better example. A Russell Wilson interception and a Marshawn Lynch fumble gave St. Louis short fields to work with which ultimately resulted in 6 points. This game was completely controlled by the Rams through the first half. Two questionable calls on fourth down by the Seahawks contributed to St. Louis’s control of the first half. Rams quarterback Shaun Hill did not play anything like how he played the previous two weeks, playing conservative football which was effective in moving the ball into scoring range. Although the Seattle defense held St. Louis to 6 points in the first half and although the fans in attendance felt fully confident in the Seahawks chances of coming back, the first Seattle shutout offensive through the first half since 2011 showed how taking care of the ball can make the difference between controlling the game and trailing to an inferior opponent.

Hill, Irvin Change the Game: The Seahawks evened up the turnover battle in the fourth quarter with two huge plays. Jordan Hill intercepted a Shaun Hill pass which looked to be a busted play and throw into the ground with 14:51 left in the game. That play led to a Marshawn Lynch touchdown and a 13-6 Seahawks lead. The play of the game was made by defense end Bruce Irvin. Irvin intercepted a Shaun Hill pass two series later which he returned for a touchdown, giving the Seahawks a controlling and deciding 20-6 lead. The Seahawks have allowed only three touchdowns in their past 6 games and after the pick-six by Irvin it was all but assured the Seahawks would win this game. The Seahawks defense has been playing at a level that I have never seen. With the playoffs coming through CenturyLink Field, I would be shocked if this defensive play does not continue.

12th Man Heats up in Second Half: Two weeks ago against the San Francisco 49ers, I noted on my Facebook that the 12th Man treated the first half of that game like it did not mean anything. This week however, the 12’s brought the noise nonstop throughout the game. I was thoroughly impressed with the fans in attendance this week. They knew what was on the line and especially once the Seahawks took the lead the 12’s made sure the Rams had no shot getting back into this game. With the playoffs on the horizon, I expect nothing less than deafening decibels this January.

Random Thoughts: Maybe I should stop adding commentary about the opposing team’s uniforms. The Rams went with the white jersey/navy pant combo instead of the all-white look this week. That is the second straight week I have been wrong about our opponent’s uniforms. It didn’t help their chances though… The fish and chips at the Pyramid Alehouse do not disappoint at all. Add a Pyramid hefeweizen to the meal? Flawless. A very underrated way to spend time before the game and something I enjoy doing once per season… One of the few places I enjoy drinking Mac n’ Jacks is Safeco Field, which is where I went after lunch. I recommend “The Pen” for any group who cannot get into a neighboring bar (if you have kids for example)… Two groups of people around me got ejected this week; a guy in an Aaron Rodgers Packers jersey two rows behind me, and a guy who sits one row in front of and two seats across from me. The Packers fan fell and almost knocked me over, and he made one of the girls in the row directly behind me cry. The Seahawks fan in the row in front of me was throwing peanuts at fans coming up the aisle at halftime. Idiots… This is about to be a very exciting January.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks have clinched the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. Seattle will host the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, or Detroit Lions in the NFC Divisional Playoffs on Saturday, January 10th at 5:15pm.

Check back later this week as I provide commentary on these three potential opponents and shed light on who I would most like to face in two weeks. Go Seahawks!

Rams/Seahawks Preview

27 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is a case of déjà vu for the Seahawks this week. Once again we end our regular season at home against the St. Louis Rams and once again a Seahawks win will clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks are 11-4, winners of their last 5 games. The Rams are 6-9, last place in the NFC West, and are looking to avoid their first double-digit loss season since 2011. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 20-13. St. Louis’s win over the Seahawks back in October is the only divisional blemish on the Seahawks record. This week the Seahawks and the 12th Man want to ensure the road to Super Bowl XLIX goes through CenturyLink Field. This is what must happen for the Seahawks to avoid an epic upset that could cost us the #1 seed.

Overall, I believe both the Seahawks offense and defense ae plenty capable of getting the job done this week. The only way I see Seattle losing is if we beat ourselves which is a big reason as to why we lost to the Rams earlier this season. There are three things we need to avoid doing in order to come away victorious. The first thing the Seahawks must do is not to commit penalties in excessive fashion. Last week penalties were a huge problem especially in the first half. The Seahawks are averaging 8.5 penalties per game and there have only been two games this season where Seattle’s opponent commits more penalties than the Seahawks themselves. If the Seahawks can hold their number of penalties to under their season average we will be in tremendous shape. Specifically, the Seahawks must show they have fixed their problem with procedure penalties. Seattle committed two false starts and two offsides penalties last week. Zero is my target number this week. Anything greater than zero is a failure in my eyes.

The second thing the Seahawks must do is not commit turnovers; something they have done an excellent job controlling the past few weeks. During our five game winning streak the Seahawks have turned the ball over only three times. The Seahawks have also averaged only one turnover per game at home this season. Ball security has been a huge strength of this team down the stretch and the Seahawks will absolutely secure a victory if they can continue to not turn the ball over.

The third thing, which is the broadest yet the most important thing that must happen, is to avoid major injuries. With the playoffs coming up, the worst thing that can happen is for the Seahawks to lose important pieces of the starting lineup especially on defense. The Seahawks have played as complete of football since the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and the re-emergence of strong safety Kam Chancellor. We are ready to make an impact in January. The only thing that could threaten our hopes of making a deep playoff push is injuries.

After watching the St. Louis Rams drop back-to-back games the previous two weeks I am reminded of our matchup against the Arizona Cardinals last week. I say that because of the temporary leader of the Rams offense, quarterback Shaun Hill. After a lackluster game against Arizona two weeks ago, Hill bounced back with a 75% completion percentage and threw for 290 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and an interception in a losing effort last week against the New York Giants. This tells me one thing; Hill is a very inconsistent quarterback where even his best effort is not enough to win. Like Arizona last week, if the Rams have any chance at winning this game it will have to come at the hands of their defense and special teams. The Rams sport a very talented defense with recognizable names at all three levels but my focus this week is on a player who does not get constant recognition. My X-Factor player to watch for the Rams this week is safety T.J. McDonald. Not many Rams defenders do multiple things really well but McDonald does a very good job getting to the ball carrier to make tackles and also does a good job tracking the ball in the passing game. McDonald ranks third among all Rams in tackles with 98 on the season. McDonald also gets to the quarterback when safety blitzes are dialed up, recording two sacks this season. In the secondary McDonald has seven passes defensed and one interception. I do not expect the Seahawks to air the ball out consistently this week so I expect McDonald’s biggest impact to be getting to the ball carrier. If McDonald can force a Seattle turnover it is possible that St. Louis can keep this game close.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks in all blue, Rams most likely in all white this week… Gus Johnson and Charles Davis have the call for FOX this week. This is the first and only NFL game Johnson and Davis call this season, as they normally are FOX’s number one broadcasting crew for college football. For those of you unfamiliar with Gus Johnson’s broadcast style you are either going to be wildly entertained or wildly annoyed. His nickname is “screamin’ Gus” for a reason. Just type his name in on YouTube and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I would love to hear a Gus Johnson call of a long Marshawn Lynch touchdown this week… We have played the Rams at home in week 17 four out of the past five seasons. Hey NFL, how about we switch the schedule up next year… Going to switch it up before the game. Pyramid Alehouse for lunch and perhaps a beer at Safeco Field before heading into the stadium. Looking forward to Pyramid’s fish and chips… The Seahawks are giving away “We Are 12” t-shirts at the gates this week. I hope they look cool. We’ll see if the Seahawks encourage the fans to wear the shirts or to use the shirts to wave like towels… The postseason schedule will likely be announced at halftime of Sunday Night Football between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. As excited as I am for the Seahawks game, I am almost more excited to see when and at what time the Seahawks will play their first playoff game. I am hoping we get to play on the Sunday of divisional weekend instead of Saturday like last year… Barring an epic collapse my hope is to be down at the Seahawks Pro Shop after the game getting my Seahawks 2014 NFC West champions gear just like last year!

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: A Seahawks win gives us the NFC West title and virtually guarantees we clinch the #1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The only way the Seahawks do not earn the #1 seed with a win is if the Lions/Packers game ends in a tie. If the Seahawks lose and the Cardinals lose, the Seahawks will still win the NFC West but could earn the #1, #2, or #3 seed depending on what Detroit, Green Bay, and Dallas do on Sunday. A Seahawks loss and a Cardinals win would give Arizona the NFC West title and the Seahawks will be the #5 seed. Here are Sunday’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Dallas (11-4) at Washington (4-11)

Arizona (11-4) at San Francisco (7-8)

Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4): The winner of DET/GB wins the NFC North and clinches the #2 seed in the NFC. The loser clinches the #6 seed in the NFC.

Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9): The winner of CAR/ATL wins the NFC South and clinches the #4 seed in the NFC

Prediction: The Seahawks know what is at stake and they will not let anything prevent them from winning this game. Marshawn Lynch will score a pair of touchdowns and Russell Wilson will also throw for a pair of touchdowns. For the second straight week the Seahawks will not allow a touchdown and the Seahawks will coast into the playoffs as the 2014 NFC West champions. Seattle will wrap up the #1 seed in the NFC and will take a week off before getting ready to play either Atlanta, Arizona, or Detroit in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

Seahawks 31, Rams 6

Check back late Sunday night as I review our regular season finale against the Rams. I will also take a first look ahead to the NFL Playoffs and who I believe the Seahawks will face in their first playoff game. Enjoy the game and Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 6

21 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

When the 2014 regular season schedule came out last April there were rumblings that the NFL was afraid to schedule the Seahawks in primetime at home because we were constantly blowing our opponents out under the lights. They said nothing about blowing out our opponents on the road. In our fourth primetime game of the season, the Seahawks ripped first place away from the Arizona Cardinals, winning in dominating fashion 35-6. The Seahawks scored more points tonight than our defense has allowed in our last 5 games combined. The red-hot Seahawks improve to 11-4 on the season while the Cardinals fall to 11-4 and to second place in the NFC West by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker. With a win at home against the St. Louis Rams next week, Seattle will lock up its second straight NFC West title while also ensuring the road to Super Bowl XLIX travels through CenturyLink Field. Here is what I took out of tonight’s win.

Seahawks Break Yardage Mark: The Arizona Cardinals defense entered Sunday’s game allowing an average of 350 yards per game. The Seahawks were 21 passing yards away from equaling that average. The Seahawks broke a franchise record on Sunday night with 596 yards of offense. If there were any questions or doubts as to if our offense could get going, I believe they were all answered after this performance. The key to our offensive success is that we stuck to what worked. Quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, and tight end Luke Willson were the playmakers of the game, combining for nearly 76 percent of our offensive production. Tonight’s game gets me very excited about the upcoming weeks. I am reminded back to 2012 when the Seahawks combined for 150 points in a 3 week span at the peak of the season. I want to see the same kind of point production next week but Sunday’s performance has me dreaming of an identical January to last season.

Defense Plays as Expected: The Seahawks defense made Ryan Lindley look like, well, Ryan Lindley (more on him later). For the third time in the last five games, the Seahawks did not allow an opposing touchdown, holding Arizona to only 6 points. The Seahawks recorded 4 sacks, one of which coming from former Cardinal O’Brien Schofield, and Richard Sherman intercepted a deep Lindley pass to put the bow on top of the present. The Seahawks took the Cardinals rushing attack out of the game early forcing Lindley to throw all night long which greatly worked to our advantage. Stepfan Taylor led all Arizona running backs with 19 rushing yards on 11 carries. This stat may put this of defensive dominance in perspective better than any other numbers I have seen: The Seahawks offense scored 35 points in this game. The Seahawks defense has allowed a total of 33 points in their last 5 games combined. In my opinion our defense is playing better during this 5-game winning streak then they played all throughout last season. With the path to the Super Bowl hopefully heading through Seattle, there is no reason for me to believe this defensive dominance will stop any time soon.

Lindley Plays as Expected: In my Cardinals preview I broke down my analysis of Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley after watching all of his previous NFL game film. I saw nothing in Sunday’s game that showed improvement in his performance from his first seven games. Lindley finished this game 18/44 (41% completion percentage) for 216 yards and one interception. Many of his throws did not hit his receivers in stride and although he completed one deep pass, many of his deeps throws were underthrown, as if he underestimated the speed of his receivers, especially John Brown and Jaron Brown. If I were an Arizona Cardinals fan I would be extremely worried about these next few weeks. It may be necessary to rush Drew Stanton back from his injury because the Cardinals will be in big trouble if Lindley has to start next week or even into the playoffs.

Cardinals Defense Cannot Hang: For the first 25 minutes of play it looked as though the Cardinals defense could shut down the Seahawks offense and keep this a close game throughout. There are two big things however that the Seahawks defense has that the Arizona defense does not; depth and stamina. Those two things made the difference in the Seahawks being able to pull away late. The Seahawks saw big time performances from several role players on Sunday night. Jordan Hill and David King each recorded sacks while Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead combined for 3 of the Seahawks 9 passes defensed. Lane should have intercepted one of those passes in the endzone, which would have taken 3 of Arizona’s 6 points off of the board. Fundamentals were also absent, especially on Marshawn Lynch’s ridiculous 79-yard touchdown run. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson went for the strip of Lynch on that play instead of trying to make the tackle. Arizona did a very poor job tackling in this game overall and it led to at least 21 of Seattle’s 35 points.

Sunday Negatives: There are two glaring negatives I took from Sunday’s game, one being way more important than the other. The “other” was the performance of kicker Steven Hauschka who missed not one, not two, but three field goals. Those three misses give him six total on the season; Hauschka doubled his missed opportunities in this game alone. I am a firm believer that Hauschka simply had a bad night. There is no need to make any irrational suggestions like replacing him. I am fully confident he will bounce back next week. The other problem is something that has plagued this team all season long. The Seahawks were penalized 11 times for 97 yards on Sunday, the majority of them coming in the first half. Specifically, the number of procedure penalties on Sunday makes me sick to my stomach. The Seahawks had 4 procedure penalties in this game, two of which being back-to-back offsides fouls by defensive lineman Michael Bennett. The ability for the Seahawks to clean up their sloppy, undisciplined play in the second half gives me reason to be optimistic but this is a problem that has proven to not be fully fixed week in and week out. With the most important stretch of the season coming up in the next few weeks, now is the time to fix our penalty problem for good.

Thoughts on Arizona: Not including Sunday’s win, in the last 9 weeks our opponents are 0-9 in their next game after playing the Seahawks. I would be extremely worried if I were an Arizona Cardinals fan. This is the kind of game that could completely break a team. If the Cardinals have any chance to do damage in the playoffs, they must get Drew Stanton back on the field. If Ryan Lindley remains Arizona’s quarterback it is very realistic for me to think the Cardinals could lose to San Francisco next week, wind up as the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs, and be one-and-done after their Wild-Card playoff game.

Random Thoughts: How would I compare “Hold My Dick Part 2” to the original from the 2010 playoffs? I believe the first run was more impressive due to the number of defenders Marshawn Lynch ran over. On Lynch’s run on Sunday, he only shed 3 defenders on his way to the endzone. Given the fact that the first run was also at home and triggered an earthquake, I feel obligated to give it the edge. I do love that this run was longer and it involved a much more noteworthy player on the opposing side in Patrick Peterson. It’s not the best run I’ve ever seen but it is definitely in my top 3 all-time. It is plays and individual efforts like the one Lynch had on Sunday that can lift teams to unprecedented heights. That run may have just spring boarded the Seahawks into another memorable run deep into January… Although it seemed as Cardinals fans were in full force early on, that notion surely died with their short-lived lead. The 12th Man made a significant presence at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night, and after the game the scene around the NBC Sports Network set looked identical to the scene following last season’s Thursday night game in Arizona… The Seahawks are one win away from home field advantage but I am on record stating that the Seahawks are going to make it to Super Bowl XLIX. One more home game to clinch the division and then two more potential home games in the playoffs? In my opinion the NFC has already been won. See you in Arizona in February.

One more huge week is ahead of us before the city of Seattle kicks into playoff mode. Check back next Saturday as I preview the regular season finale; our week 17 matchup against the St. Louis Rams. Go Seahawks!