Tag Archives: NFL Kickoff 2014

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

17 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (2) Green Bay Packers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 12:05pm

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach, the Seahawks were one divisional playoff win over the Chicago Bears away from hosting the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately we fell short but now four seasons later the Seahawks now have that matchup set. The Seahawks and Packers meet in Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon. The winner will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. The loser goes home. Green Bay leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-7. The Packers have had Seattle’s number in the playoffs but the Seahawks have had the better luck as of late, winning the past two games including a 36-16 win over Green Bay earlier this season for NFL Kickoff 2014. This is what I believe must happen for the Seahawks to successfully defend their NFC Championship and advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

In their first meeting back in September running back Marshawn Lynch torched the Packers defense for 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. This week could be more of the same. The Seahawks will once again attempt to establish the running game with Lynch in an effort to control the clock and the tempo of the game. A successful day running the ball I believe will lead to a Seahawks victory. In the passing game the Seahawks could benefit due to the fact that our number one weapon in our first meeting this season, Percy Harvin, is no longer on the team. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as tight end Luke Willson combined for 5 catches for 23 yards back in week one. Given that these three guys were not primary features in our offensive game plan in that game, I believe this adds a wrinkle in our offense this week that the Packers have not seen. Quarterback Russell Wilson was willing to throw down the seam to Kearse and Willson against Carolina last week and I believe both could be primed for big games yet again this week.

The very first play of the 2013 NFC Championship Game was a Russell Wilson fumble recovered by the San Francisco 49ers. That play ultimately resulted with 3 San Francisco points. Three Colin Kaepernick turnovers in the second half ultimately doomed the 49ers. See where I am going here? The Seahawks number one priority in this championship game must be to protect the ball. I am fully confident that the Legion of Boom can force Green Bay turnovers so it is imperative that Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch among others hold onto the ball to prevent extra offensive opportunities for the Packers. We will not win if our offense turns the ball over multiple times because Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of extra opportunities, especially short yardage opportunities. The Seahawks did not turn the ball over last week and we won by two scores. Another clean game and the Seahawks could be cruising to Arizona.

The number one storyline on the offensive side of the ball for the Green Bay Packers is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers played last week with a strained and possibly slight torn left calf, an injury that limited his mobility but not necessarily his ability to make plays. Immediately following last week’s game Rodgers came out and said that his calf was not feeling as good as in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game. It is likely that Rodgers’s mobility will once again be a question mark this week. The best way to rattle the ailing likely league MVP is to send pressure from all directions, whether this results in sacks or forces Rodgers to retreat from the pocket. Rodgers has been sacked 11 times by the Seahawks in his last two games in Seattle. Bruce Irvin and O’Brien Schofield are the two guys I expect to see on the field a lot this week. I will consider it a success if Irvin and Schofield can quickly penetrate the Packers offensive line and get to Rodgers at least one time each. If Green Bay struggles to protect Rodgers early on, it could be a very long game and the threat of Rodgers injuring his leg worse will absolutely increase.

With the majority of the attention on the Packers offense, the fact that Green Bay ranks 10th in the league in pass defense has flown under the radar. Four members of the Packers secondary rank among the six best tacklers on the team. Only one of those guys has recorded double-digit passes defensed, and that is why cornerback Tramon Williams is my X-Factor player to watch for the Packers this week. Williams has recorded 61 tackles this season with 13 passes defensed. Williams is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. I expect to see Williams line up across from Jermaine Kearse for most of the game but do not expect to see him also go up again Ricardo Lockette and Kevin Norwood in dime packages.

Normally this last point would be worthy of a note in “Random Thoughts” but given the circumstances I feel that this is important to point out on itself. Seahawks fans are not used to early starts. In fact, this is the first time since CenturyLink Field opened that the Seahawks have hosted a game that starts at noon. To everyone attending Sunday’s game, BE IN YOUR SEATS AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO KICKOFF. When we go live to the nation on FOX at noon, I want to see 68,000 people all in their seats waving their rally towels as the Seahawks get ready to be introduced. Please plan accordingly.

Random Thoughts: The Packers will wear their classic white jersey/yellow pants combo this week. The Seahawks in all-blue per usual… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines… This will be the first time the Seahawks host the earlier conference championship game. Both of Seattle’s previous trips to the NFC Championship Game kicked off at 3:30pm… Tony Corrente is the referee this week. Corrente previously officiated the Seahawks win over San Francisco on Thanksgiving… This is going to be one of the earliest wake-up calls for a Seahawks home game I have ever had. Definitely planning on being downtown with a drink in hand by 8am… As previously mentioned, the giveaway this week once again is rally towels… The National Anthem will be sung by 2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee… The Seahawks announced Friday that the halftime show will be Seattle band Alice in Chains. That will be pretty cool but in my opinion not as cool as Macklemore last year… I would love to see former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren raise the 12th Man flag this week, especially since it would come against his other former team, the Packers. I doubt it will happen but I would love to see it happen. There has been a lot of talk about letting Paul Allen raise the flag again. I personally think we should let somebody else do it. It would become super predictable for potential future NFC title games if Mr. Allen gets to raise the flag for every single one. My dark horse candidate to raise the flag is Randy Johnson… In the 24 or so hours following this game should we win, will be the shopping spree loading up on Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX merchandise… Why does this game feel like no big deal? Have we become spoiled? Is it because we are not playing the arch-rival 49ers again? Something just feels a little more relaxed about this year’s NFC Championship Game. My guess is that all changes once we all get down to CenturyLink Field.

Prediction: This game will be an instant classic and will see-saw until the very end. The Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal with the Packers adding a field goal of their own. A Seahawks second quarter touchdown pass to Luke Willson will give them a 10-3 lead with Green Bay tying the game just before halftime. There will be two more instances in the second half where the game gets tied up; 17-17 and 24-24 respectively. The Seahawks will take the clock down to the wire and Steven Hauschka will kick the biggest field goal in Seahawks history; a 42-yard field goal as time expires to send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX.

Seahawks 27, Packers 24

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my NFC Championship review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Seahawks!

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Review: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

4 Sep
Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

What a way to start our title defense! In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers in decisive fashion on Thursday night by a final score of 36-16. The Seahawks start their 2014 season 1-0 while the Packers start their third straight season 0-1. Although the Seahawks won in dominating fashion I believe there is still a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, I believe we confirmed to any and every doubter that we are still a force capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions. Here are the positives and negatives I took from Thursday’s game.

Every Weapon Will Be Used: One of the reasons why the Seahawks have the potential to be so dangerous this season is that quarterback Russell Wilson will use every weapon in his arsenal. That was evident on Thursday night when he hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter and fullback Derrick Coleman for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There are probably few people who thought either Lockette or Coleman would have a touchdown in this game let alone both of them. Meanwhile Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, two receivers who see more playing time than Lockette, combined for 4 catches and only 22 yards. The Seahawks are not afraid to use every single offensive skill position player at any time during the game. This makes the Seahawks a very scary team to game plan around and try to prepare for moving forward.

Lynch Has Not Missed a Step: On the drive home from the game, Dave “Softy” Mahler, Dick Fain, and Hugh Millen of Sports Radio 950 KJR agreed that they thought Marshawn Lynch looked “like a guy playing for a contract” and that he has not slowed down at all. I agree completely. Lynch was the most effective player on offense this week rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch, like always, ran like a man on a mission and if there was any rumblings of a potential running back by committee if Lynch were to struggle, he quickly squashed them. Barring injury, Lynch will continue to be the feature back in this offense and from my perspective our running game has picked up right where it left off at the end of the 2013 season.

Pass Rush Can Improve: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and O’Brien Schofield all recorded sacks on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week. Although the Seahawks pass rush looked effective, there is much room for improvement. The reason I say this is because of the Green Bay offensive line. With two players making their CenturyLink Field debut and right tackle Bryan Bulaga leaving the game with a sprained knee in the first half, I thought the Seahawks would be able to take advantage with a revved up 12th Man behind them to sack Rodgers in a similar fashion to the 8 sacks we recorded against the Packers two seasons ago. One of my main focuses going into this game was the interior pass rush and in this game the grand majority of the Seahawks defensive pressure came on the outside. I would like to see an improvement next week along the inside of the defensive line, using a 3rd down package with Bennett as well as young defensive tackle talent like Jordan Hill.

Did Thomas Lose His Job?: Before I go any further, no I am not talking about his free safety job. I am talking solely about his spot as the Seahawks punt returner. Forget that Richard Sherman may have been blocked into him, Earl Thomas muffed a first quarter punt which was recovered by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and eventually led to a touchdown to give Green Bay a 7-3 lead. The punt that Thomas muffed should definitely have been signaled for a fair catch but Thomas tried to make something out of what clearly looked to be nothing. Thomas returned one more punt for a 3-yard return later in the game. I no doubt believe that Thomas can make special plays happen on special teams but he simply needs to be smarter about the way he goes about handling his punt return duties. One more mistake by Thomas on special teams and I believe will see the next man up at punt returner, who happens to be Richard Sherman.

Where Are You Sherm?: It is going to be very difficult for Richard Sherman to hold the title of “best shutdown corner in the game” from a statistical perspective if teams continue to avoid him, much like what the Green Bay Packers did on Thursday night. Sherman was not targeted once against the Packers, which created opportunities for Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane to take advantage of. Maxwell had 5 tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception on Thursday night while Lane recorded 4 tackles of his own in the nickel slot. This could be a common occurrence especially early in the season. Maxwell will be tested often and if he plays shutdown football, opposing defenses may have no choice but to throw in Sherman’s direction as well. Sherman’s chances will depend on the play of the rest of the receivers. Although he played well against the Packers, if Maxwell struggles he will be picked on constantly and it will be extremely difficult for Richard Sherman to see passes thrown his way.

Thoughts on Green Bay: Take away the fact that the Green Bay Packers had to come into the NFL’s most hostile environment on opening night to play the defending world champions in front of a 12th Man that may have been louder than I have ever heard. This Packers team has an offense that will be able to effectively move the ball and they gained solid defensive momentum early in the game when they held a short lead. The running game must improve however. Running back Eddie Lacy only ran for 34 yards on Thursday night and not being able to run the ball effectively could extremely limit the Packers offense, relying on Aaron Rodgers more than they would like. With a banged up offensive line this may be difficult but as long as Rodgers can stay healthy, I believe this team is still better than the Bears, Lions, and Vikings. This team is still my favorite to win the NFC North.

Random Thoughts: John Parry was the referee this week. I apologize I could not figure out the referee before the game for the second consecutive week. Parry and his crew went into Thursday’s game known for throwing the most defensive holding penalties during the preseason, which some believed could have hurt the Seahawks. The Seahawks were flagged 4 times throughout the game and none of them were for defensive holding… The Westlake Center Buffalo Wild Wings has by far the best service of any “B-Dubs” I’ve been to. Maybe it was because we were one of the first parties seated for the day and the restaurant was mostly empty. Nevertheless, great service and great food too… The atmosphere at the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill never disappoints, especially before a primetime game. It was awesome in that building before the game… The pregame ceremony and celebration did not disappoint. There was one thing about pregame that I really liked and one thing that I really did not like. I liked how the Seahawks told everybody with tickets to be in their seats by 5pm for the pregame celebration but the pregame ceremonies did not start until NBC went live at 5:30. Smart thinking Seahawks. The thing I found slightly disappointing what that they unveiled the banner simultaneous to the team running out of the tunnel. I wish they would have waited until right before the game started to drop the banner… That may have been the most fun I’ve had at a Seahawks game ever. The crowd was so merry and confident. It was a truly special night all around.

The Seahawks take an extended break before getting to work on the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy this weekend’s games everyone. Go Hawks!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!

Review: Raiders 41, Seahawks 31

28 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks took their first offensive possession 80 yards in 1:45 to quickly take a 7-0 lead. What followed was a combination of poor defense, bad penalties, and overall terrible fundamental football. The Seahawks fell 41-31 to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night concluding their preseason with a 2-2 record. Before we turn the page to the regular season and our week 1 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, let’s take one final look back at Thursday’s loss.

Thoughts on the “Starting” Defense: My hope was to see the entire Seahawks starting defense play the first defensive series of the game. Every projected starter was on the field except Bruce Irvin and Michael Bennett, and it was my expectation that the defense could easily halt what I believed to be a shaky-at-best Raiders starting offense. I was left surprised and disappointed. Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr led a 12 play, 68 yard drive culminating in a Latavius Murray touchdown run, tying the game at 7-7. Following this series the Legion of Boom exited the game and with select members of the starting unit still on the field later in the first quarter, they could not prevent a 36-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Denarius Moore on the next Oakland offensive play from scrimmage. The starting defense played with no visible motivation to stop the opposing offense. They played as if they just wanted the drive to end as quickly as possible so they could end their night without getting injured. I think that Green Bay may have been the overpowering thought on their minds instead of stopping the Oakland offense. As disappointing as this first part of the game was, I am fully confident the starters will shake this off and be ready for the Packers next week.

Backups “On the Bubble” Fail to Step Up: The play of the entire team was bad on the whole but select players who are fighting for the last roster spots did not improve their stock on Thursday night. I am singling out two players in particular; wide receiver Bryan Walters and cornerback Phillip Adams. Let’s start with Walters. The biggest mistake Walters made against the Raiders was fumbling a kickoff following a decent return, a fumble that was recovered by the Raiders. This mishap seemed to overshadow the rest of Walters’s night on special teams, as he returned 5 kicks total for 137 yards, an average return of 27.4 yards. He also led the Seahawks in receiving with 3 catches, 47 yards, and one touchdown. The unfortunate part of Walters’s night was that his fumble happened so early in the game that it made the rest of his night seem underachieving.

Much like with Bryan Walters, Phillip Adams also had a negative play overshadow the rest of his performance. Adams was the man Denarius Moore beat with ease on a double move on his first quarter touchdown catch. Adams looked hardly like a shutdown corner and looked to be light-years away from the talent of even Byron Maxwell. Adams led all defensive players with 6 tackles and he also added a pass defensed. In the box score, both of these players looked to have great nights but when you dive into the film, both of these players looked below average and in my opinion their job security could now be in serious jeopardy.

Penalties a Gigantic Problem: The Seahawks were flagged 12 times for 95 yards. Several of these penalties were stupid mental errors that should never happen. 25 percent of the Seahawks penalties were offside fouls on kickoffs, a penalty that the Seahawks were not penalized for once last season. This was a very frustrating game to watch as many of these penalties negated plays that would have picked up first downs and extended drives for the Seahawks offense. In the preseason the Seahawks averaged just under 10 penalties per game, and racked up an average of 83.5 penalty yards per game. After seeing a decrease in penalties from week 1 to week 3 of the preseason, the Seahawks penalties spiked dramatically in week 4 and I am now worried how clean of a game we will play next week. Penalties should be a primary focus in practice this week with the regular season on deck.

Road Worries?: The Seahawks went 0-2 on the road this preseason. I know it is the preseason but is it still too early to wonder if this team will struggle mightily on the road like they have in years past? Last season the Seahawks went 5-3 on the road, ending a streak of 7 straight seasons with a sub .500 record away from home. The way it is looking thus far the Seahawks could be in for a rude awakening when we hit the road in the regular season. I am confident but I am starting to wonder if last season’s performance on the road was simply an outlier on a history of struggles playing away from the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.

A Silver Lining: Among all of the frustration there is still a crystal clear silver lining. Russell Wilson moved the ball with ease to start the game and that is what we have to look forward to for the rest of the season. Do you think we would have struggled like we did if Russell Wilson played longer? With Russell Wilson in command of the starting offense, I believe we have very little to worry about. Thursday was just a preseason game. Let’s see what this offense and this team can do once the regular season starts.

Thoughts on Oakland: The play of Derek Carr left me very impressed and I am wondering if it will be Carr not Matt Schaub who gets the nod as the Raiders week 1 starting quarterback. Carr showed incredible awareness, made smart reads, and completed passes on the money. The future may be bright in Oakland with Carr at the helm. The Raiders defense looked putrid to start but settled down and played a decent game overall. The Raiders look to be better than the 4-12 team that took the field last year. Having said this, at this point I still believe this team is incredibly raw and they are looking at anywhere between 5 and 7 wins in 2014.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the Super Bowl XLVIII uniform combo; white jerseys and blue pants. My prediction was correct! The Raiders went with their classic black jersey/silver pants combination… Ed Hochuli was the referee this week and it was evident that he was still in preseason form. Hochuli made several mistakes announcing his calls ranging from pointing in the wrong direction after penalties to even calling the Raiders the “Los Angeles Raiders” at the coin flip. Hochuli was visibly frustrated with himself after realizing his third mistake, cussing himself out after turning off his microphone… The announced attendance at O.co Coliseum was 50,831 which greatly exceeded my expectations. I thought the Raiders would draw considerably lower for it being the last preseason game. The majority of the crowd also stayed through the end of the game which surprised me… Good thing we didn’t agree to a $5 bet before the game Josh.

The preseason is over. Thank the Lord. The Seahawks now have until 1pm Saturday to make the necessary moves to trim our active roster down to 53 players. I will hop back on with reaction to our roster moves this weekend. Also we are one week away from NFL Kickoff 2014. Look for my preview of our game against Green Bay next Wednesday. Thanks for reading and as always, Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 34, Bears 6

23 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

The Seahawks took the field Friday night against the Chicago Bears and looked as if they just picked up right where they left off last week against San Diego. The Seahawks, led in large part by their powerful starting offense, beat the Bears 34-6 improving their record to 2-1 on the preseason. The Seahawks conclude the home portion of the preseason defeating their opponents by a combined score of 75-20 and after the game Head Coach Pete Carroll made it be known that the Seahawks “are as ready as I can get them.” With the first round of roster cuts coming up next, let’s take a look at the positives I took from this game.

Wilson is Ready for the Regular Season: With quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm, the Seahawks got off to a red-hot start and by the time Wilson exited the game in the third quarter the Seahawks had built a very comfortable 31-0 lead. After a strong performance last week, Wilson outdid himself this week going 15/20 for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wilson added 23 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well. Throughout the first half Wilson stayed poised as he kept plays alive and made accurate throws. The offensive line also did a very nice job keeping Wilson upright as he was only sacked once and for the most part, Wilson was able to stand in the pocket comfortably. Russell Wilson looked to already be in mid-season form and his play over the past two weeks has gotten me even more excited about the potential effectiveness of our offense all season long.

Lynch is Ready for the Regular Season: Marshawn Lynch played for only one series on Friday night but he too showed that he is ready for week 1. Lynch capped off a 7 play, 61 yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run giving the Seahawks an early 7-0 lead. If you were to pick one player that does not necessarily need to play in the preseason, it is Lynch. However, seeing him carry the ball reaffirms my confidence as a fan that Lynch is ready for the regular season and does not need to be out on the field and risk getting hurt. He has perfected his craft and although it is nice to see him get some carries to perhaps shake the rust off, it is not at all necessary for him to play.

Thomas Returning Punts? It Will Probably Happen: During mini-camp when Coach Carroll said that Earl Thomas was going to get the first opportunity to return punts, many fans scoffed at the idea; they didn’t want to see our All-Pro free safety get hurt in situations where the opponent is running full speed trying to take your head off. Three weeks into the preseason and it is looking more and more like Thomas will be our punt returner when the Seahawks play the Packers in two weeks. Thomas’s play on special teams Friday night greatly boosted his chances at getting the return job. Thomas returned two punts, one of which a 59-yard return in the closing minutes of the first half. Earl Thomas has the explosiveness that no other candidate for the punt return job has and I believe this one punt return against the Bears has earned him the job once the regular season starts. Having Thomas return punts is high risk/high reward in my eyes. The risk is the aforementioned risk of injury. The reward is explosive runs for large gains and great field position; something that will make it much easier for Russell Wilson to lead touchdown drives.

Jackson vs. Pryor (Round 3): This competition should be over. In my opinion, one play on Friday night completely took Terrelle Pryor’s name out of contention to be Russell Wilson’s backup. With 5:06 remaining in the game, a Bears defender went unblocked on a blitz and Pryor threw up a duck that was easily intercepted by Bears cornerback C.J. Wilson. It was a terrible decision by Pryor to throw and that kind of decision making gives Tarvaris Jackson a significant leg up on Pryor to win the backup quarterback job. Coach Carroll constantly preaches that it is “all about the ball” and Pryor seemed to be inept in that moment. He could have taken the sack or throw the ball out of bounds for intentional grounding and the Seahawks would have been penalized but kept possession of the ball. Instead the ball was intercepted and the Bears took over on offense. It is now a question of whether Pryor will stay on as our 3rd quarterback or will he be cut before the regular season starts. He will have one last chance next week to prove he is worthy of a roster spot. If I were Pryor however, I would seriously be questioning my job security after a performance like the one he had against Chicago.

Lane Shines: The defensive player of the game this week was without a doubt cornerback Jeremy Lane. Lane led all Seahawks defenders with 6 tackles including 3 passes defensed and a 41-yard interception return that cost the Bears a goal-to-go scoring opportunity. On one of his passes defensed he showed outstanding vertical ability, out jumping the receiver and nearly picking off his second pass of the game. Lane and fellow cornerback Tharold Simon have been battling to be the primary nickel corner and Lane has taken big step in securing that job. After an average first half of the preseason, Lane’s performance against the Bears fully re-assures my confidence that if Richard Sherman or Byron Maxell were to get hurt, the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom will be in good hands.

Thoughts on Chicago: I have one point to make in regards to the Chicago Bears. If Jay Cutler gets hurt, the Bears are screwed. With Cutler in the game on Friday night the Bears passed the ball 79% of the time. This will be a heavy passing offense and if Cutler goes down the Bears will have no choice but to have either Jordan Palmer or Jimmy Clausen lead this dominantly passing offensive unit. When completely healthy I believe this offense is good enough to stay competitive and win games. If any of the Bears skill position weapons (Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery) go down, the Bears will be a very vulnerable team.

Random Thoughts: I got the uniform combinations right once again. Navy/navy for the Seahawks, white/navy for the Bears… CenturyLink Field had two banners ready to be unveiled this week but they held off on both once again. All three of our 2013 banners will be unveiled before we play the Packers… Nice to see the majority of the crowd booed referee Bill Leavy at the beginning of the game, re-affirming that the majority of Seahawks fans have not put Super Bowl XL entirely behind them… The Seahawks are selling beer in souvenir cups that look like a total rip off. The cups look like they hold anywhere from 8-10 ounces of beer. In other words, they seem tiny. They cost the normal beer price though… Elysian Fields before the game once again this week. I Actually got to have a couple of beers. It was a fun and festive atmosphere, even more so than last week… If you are around downtown Seattle I highly recommend Chuck’s Hole-in-the-Wall BBQ on James Street. I made a second appearance there for lunch on Friday and the brisket/pulled pork/chicken combo platter did not disappoint… Not as many Bears fans in attendance as I thought there were going to be so that was nice… I understand the NFL bag policy but the fact that I could not bring in a sweatshirt I had bought earlier in the day which was in a white plastic bag is kind of ridiculous. It’s just a sweatshirt and it’s just a bag… If you walk through Pioneer Square you can see light post banners advertising NFL Kickoff 2014. I simply cannot wait for a week from Thursday. It is going to be a rocking party all day long!

The Seahawks have until 1pm Tuesday to cut their roster from 90 players to 75 players. Check back later this weekend for a new post as I predict which 15 players will not be on the team when we play Oakland next week. Thanks for reading. Go Hawks!

Chargers/Seahawks Preview

14 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: San Diego Chargers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

The Seahawks will play their first home game since winning Super Bowl XLVIII Friday night as they host the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 0-1 in the preseason and are coming off a 21-16 loss last week at Denver. The Chargers on the other hand got off to a strong preseason start last week, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 27-7. Like last week’s game against Denver, this will be the first of two meetings between the Seahawks and Chargers this season; these two teams will meet in San Diego week 2. This week’s game is simply a building block. I am looking for Seattle to improve areas where they struggled greatly last week. Here are my areas to focus on this week.

This week I want to see the Seahawks move the ball more effectively on offense. There are several parts to making this happen. First, I want to see better play from the offensive line. Last week the Seahawks started only one offensive lineman who started in 2013, J.R. Sweezy. Russell Okung, James Carpenter, and Max Unger all returned to practice this week however it is yet to be seen if these three will see any playing time Friday night. The backup linemen also did not help in the running game last week, as quarterback Terrelle Pryor had to rely on his own feet to pick up yards. Secondly, I want to Robert Turbin to take a firm hold of the backup running back job. Last week Turbin had almost the same number of carries as yards. 5 rushing yards on 4 carries is absolutely not making the most of your opportunity and I think another poor showing by Turbin could open the door for Christine Michael to jump up the depth chart. I feel that Turbin is due for a breakout preseason performance but if he fails to show his worth for the second straight week, we could be entering the second half of the preseason wondering if Robert Turbin is even worthy of making the 53-man roster.

This week is round two of the Tarvaris Jackson/Terrelle Pryor battle to see who will be Russell Wilson’s backup come September. Jackson will likely see action in the second and third quarters with Pryor coming in to finish the game. This week I want to see the offense finish strong, meaning I want to see drastic improvement from Pryor. Last week Jackson took what I believe to be a significant lead over Pryor in the race to be the backup quarterback and a strong performance by Pryor against San Diego will put him back into the conversation, after he took himself out of it last week. With Russell Wilson likely playing into the second quarter, I believe Jackson will see minimal work with Pryor playing the majority of the second half. My honest hope is that the Seahawks are either in a close game or trailing late in the game in order to give Pryor a true pressure packed situation to cut his teeth on, much like last week.

On defense this week there is one overlying thing I want to see. This will be the first time many of our backup defenders get to play alongside the 12th Man. I want to see these players along with the rest of the defense feeding off the energy of the crowd. Last week in Denver the Broncos defense fed off their crowd all game long and it seemed to make a noticeable difference in the way they played. The starters will play the majority of the first quarter, possibly even into the second quarter before handing it over to the young backups. My goal is for the Seahawks second half defense to give up a maximum of 10 points. If Seattle can hold them to single digit points, we will likely walk off the field victorious and it will have me breathing a sigh of relief that our backups are better than what they showed last week.

The San Diego Chargers surprised many people last year, compiling a 9-7 record and making it to the AFC Divisional playoffs. A big reason why they were so successful was the resurrection of quarterback Philip Rivers and the addition of wide receiver Keenan Allen. Despite their offensive success last season, San Diego has maintained all of their skill position players from last season. Wide receivers Allen, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal are likely to make the team but the race for the last couple wide receiver spots is up for grabs to a plethora of players. My X-Factor Player to Watch for San Diego this week is one of those backup receivers, Dontrelle Inman. Inman is currently listed as one of the Chargers third-string receivers but he made the most of his opportunities last week. Against Dallas, Inman caught 3 passes for 107 yards including a 70-yard touchdown grab. Inman is sure to see his share of playing time against the Seahawks and it will likely be up to cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon to stop him.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all blue this week. The Chargers will likely wear white jerseys with navy pants… Pete Morelli is the referee this week… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call once again on Q13 FOX this week… The preseason bores a lot of people but I honestly LOVE the first preseason home game. I get to be back in my seat for the first time in 7 months and it gives me the opportunity to catch up with everyone I sit around… I am wondering how and when the Seahawks will unveil their 2013 banners. It is obvious that we will unveil our 2013 world championship banner before the Packers game, but will we reveal the other two banners (NFC West champions, NFC Champions) in the two preseason games leading up to NFL Kickoff 2014? If so, the Seahawks will likely raise the 2013 NFC West championship banner this week. If not, we will probably raise all 3 before we play Green Bay… I am on antibiotics for the next week-plus so I am obligated not to prefunk both of our home preseason games. I’ll have to figure out a different fun pregame plan… I am glad the weather is going to cooperate this week. The worst thing is to have to bring a sweatshirt to a game being played in a warm weather month… I think this is the first time in the 9 years I’ve been a season ticket holder that we are playing a preseason home game on a Friday night. It will be nice to attend then have the rest of the weekend free.

Prediction: I think that the Seahawks will start the game on defense and force a Philip Rivers interception. Russell Wilson will lead two scoring drives in the first quarter and the Seahawks will have a solid lead after the first quarter. San Diego will tie the game in the third quarter but the Seahawks will take control of the game late, as Terrelle Pryor will scamper for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Seahawks will go to 1-1 on the preseason and will get ready to host the Chicago Bears next week in the “dress rehearsal” preseason game.

Seahawks 20, Chargers 13

Check back early Saturday morning for my Chargers game review. Enjoy the game and for those of you attending, have fun. Go Hawks!

Seahawks 2014 Primetime Outlook

22 Apr
Image

Photo Credit: cbssports.com

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

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

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

Tier Two: Games I think could be scheduled in primetime

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

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

TIER ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIER TWO

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

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

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

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

TIER THREE

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

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

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

TIER FOUR

Raiders at Seahawks, Seahawks at Rams

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

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