Tag Archives: Phil Simms

Steelers/Seahawks Preview

28 Nov

 

steelers preview 2015

The Seahawks host the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since Super Bowl XL. Screenshot from Youtube.com

Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

On February 5th, 2006 the Seahawks played in their very first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XL in Detroit. We were the NFC champions and we faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In what felt to be a Steelers home game, the Seahawks lost their first chance to win the Lombardi Trophy. Steelers 21, Seahawks 10. The game will forever be remembered for several questionable officiating gaffs which many Seahawks fans still believe may have cost us a championship. Ever since the 12’s have had a justified hatred of the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday, 3,585 days later, comes the home game Seahawks fans have been waiting for ever since. The 6-4 Steelers make their first trip to CenturyLink Field since Super Bowl XL to take on the 5-5 Seattle Seahawks. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-8 including 21-0 and 24-0 Steelers shutouts in our last two meetings in 2007 and 2011 respectively. The last time the Seahawks scored on the Steelers was Jerramy Stevens’s touchdown in Super Bowl XL. This game could have significant playoff implications for both teams. This is what I will be watching for.

If there is one thing I am always looking for from the Seahawks offense it is consistency. Running back Marshawn Lynch will not play again this week so Thomas Rawls will see the majority of the carries for the second straight week. Unlike San Francisco which sports the 27th ranked run defense in the league, Pittsburgh comes into this week’s game as the 5th best run defense. Rawls may have a difficult time getting going and I certainly do not expect him to put up the record-breaking numbers of a week ago. Note however that Rawls leads the league in yards per carry with an average of 6 YPC. If Rawls can run for at least 80 yards I believe the Seahawks will be in good shape. You cannot count on Rawls alone to carry the offense. I want to see the same type of good decision making from quarterback Russell Wilson that made our passing game wildly effective last week. In our 5 wins this season Wilson has thrown only 3 interceptions. Pittsburgh is good at forcing turnovers. So far this season the Steelers have 18 takeaways including a +5 giveaway/takeaway ratio which is tied for 6th best in the league. The Seahawks can and will win this game if Wilson takes care of the ball.

During last week’s win cornerback Cary Williams was benched in favor of DeShawn Shead, who made 4 tackles and forced two fumbles. With Jeremy Lane activated from the physically unable to perform list, I believe we will see change at Williams’s spot against the Steelers. Head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday that there would be an open competition for the right cornerback job during practice this week. If Williams starts expect him to be on a short leash with Shead and Lane sharing playing time if Williams struggles. If Williams does not start altogether I expect Shead to get the nod since it is likely the Seahawks would like to ease Lane into the defensive game plan. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger averages 315 passing yards per game so the Legion of Boom will surely be tested this week. In addition, opposing quarterbacks have a 120.6 passer rating when throwing towards Cary Williams. Being able to cover deep passes will be huge, as Pittsburgh likes to throw deep. As a skilled veteran, it would be no surprise at all to see Roethlisberger test Williams, Shead, or Lane early and often.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is a unit that has changed quite a bit over the years. The one constant is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be playing in his first career game at CenturyLink Field. My focus for the Steelers offense is how well they handle the crowd noise as well as Roethlisberger’s pass protection. The Steelers will start two offensive linemen who did not start the season with the first group. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will have a big test in front of him as he will line up across from Cliff Avril, who has been on fire as of late. Center Cody Wallace is a 6-year veteran who has been playing in place of Maurkice Pouncey all season. If the Seahawks can put pressure on Roethlisberger it will take away the most effective facet of his game, stepping up and throwing the deep ball. Wide receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton will all make a major impact this week if Roethlisberger has time to go through his progressions. Look for Big Ben to throw several deep passes on Sunday.

The Steelers have lost many big names on the defensive side of the ball since the last time these two teams played. Gone are the days of Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu and the Steelers have replaced these names and more with great talent. Veterans James Harrison and William Gay have made a big impact this season, combining for 60 tackles. Rookie Bud Dupree leads all Steelers defenders in sacks with 4. I will be focused on the guy who statistically has had the best season of any defensive player. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Steelers this week is inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons has locked down the middle of the field for Pittsburgh since 2007 and although he is a seasoned veteran his numbers are very impressive. Timmons leads the team in tackles with 73. He can also rush the passer which could make for a long day for Seahawks linemen Justin Britt and Patrick Lewis. Timmons can also drop back into coverage. He has recorded 6 passes defensed and one interception. If Russell Wilson decides to throw short or intermediate passes expect Timmons to be in on the play.

Random Thoughts: All navy once again for the Seahawks uniform wise. The Steelers will wear white jerseys and yellow pants… This is the national game of the week on CBS and the entire country except for the San Francisco Bay Area will be able to see this game on local television. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines… The referee will be Walt Anderson… The gameday giveaway is flags which will be distributed to the first 44,000 fans… Don’t fall asleep again this year Alan. I don’t want to see a repeat of what happened last year… I am expecting to be disappointed in regards to the number of Pittsburgh fans in attendance. Steelers fans probably travel the best of any NFL franchise… To those attending please be smart when engaging with opposing fans. I know it may be difficult to holster any trash talk towards Steelers fans given our bad blood towards their franchise… I am kind of surprised there hasn’t been any news this week bringing up Super Bowl XL and specifically what kind of ovation the Steelers will likely receive upon running out of the tunnel… I have been waiting years to have the opportunity to boo this team. I will certainly savor every second.

Prediction: Expect a nerve-racking back-and-forth game. The Seahawks will have a 23-21 lead with 5 minutes left to play. Ben Roethlisberger will lead a Steelers drive deep into Seahawks territory but will have to settle for a Chris Boswell field goal. With the Steelers leading 24-23 the Seahawks will have one last opportunity to drive into field goal range to win the game. Two big gains by Thomas Rawls and a huge completion from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett will put Seattle inside the Pittsburgh 35-yard line. Steven Hauschka will knock through a game winning 50-yard field goal with only seconds remaining. The Seahawks will improve to 6-5 and will lock down their first winning record of the season.

Seahawks 26, Steelers 24

Advertisements

Seahawks/49ers Preview

21 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, California)

Kickoff: 5:25pm

For the second time in as many years the Seahawks head to Silicon Valley for primetime football. The Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers face off under the Thursday Night spotlight at Levi’s Stadium. After another heartbreaking loss last week the Seahawks sit at a very underwhelming 2-4. After one of the worst offseasons in NFL history, the 49ers have also jumped out of the gate slowly as they too sit at 2-4. San Francisco however enters this week’s game coming off a win over the Baltimore Ravens last week. The Seahawks lead the all-time series against the 49ers 18-15 including a 17-7 victory in their last meeting last season. This is must-win for the Seahawks since they cannot afford to lose any more ground in the division race. Here is what I’ll be watching for.

While I was busy putting offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on blast in my game review, I completely failed to mention that there has been a change along the Seahawks offensive line. Patrick Lewis got the start at center in place of Drew Nowak and although I saw improvement in interior blocking and pass protection last week, the play of the unit as a whole continues to be an issue. Lewis got hurt in last week’s game so Nowak will likely be back in the starting lineup this week with the newly re-signed Lemuel Jeanpierre as his back up. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked four more times against Carolina. Although the San Francisco defense has lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, they have managed to record 9 sacks so far this season, over half of them coming from their linebackers. This week it will be necessary for Jimmy Graham, Will Tukuafu, and Marshawn Lynch to block in order to help give Wilson time to make throws. The primary keys to a successful day on offense mirror what I said about Carolina’s offense a week ago. If Marshawn Lynch can run effectively he will take immense pressure off the passing game. Also, if Wilson uses misdirection regularly it will create space to make big plays. Although Seattle has not used read option much at all so far this season, do not be surprised to see it make an appearance in this game, especially if we are trailing in the second half.

With the shaky play in the third level of our defense in recent weeks, the best way to attack the 49ers offense on Thursday is to force quarterback Colin Kaepernick into short and intermediate throws only. If the Seahawks cannot put consistent pressure on Kaepernick that may actually be a good thing, as he has thrown the ball well deep down the field when forced to scramble outside the pocket, including a long touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith last week. Smith will line up across from Cary Williams, the matchup that will garner the most attention from me outside the numbers. I think the presence of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will be the most important aspect of our defensive game plan. Although we played a solid game with Kevin Pierre-Louis in place of Wagner against Carolina, it will help greatly to have Wagner back to lock down the middle of the field.

No team may have lost more over one offseason than the San Francisco 49ers did over this past offseason, especially on the defensive side of the football. It is hard to believe that only two defensive starters from the 49ers 2012 NFC Championship team, linebackers Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman, remain on the roster. Over the course of the last 10 months the 49ers released outside linebacker Aldon Smith after a series of run-ins with the law. They also lost nose tackle Justin Smith and middle linebacker Patrick Willis to retirement. To make matters even worse the man they drafted last season to be the heir apparent to Willis, Chris Borland, also retired due to future health concerns. The loss of Borland was particularly unfortunate because he was a tackling machine in place of the injured Willis a season ago.

This season San Francisco has allowed an average of just about 27 points per game, a number that greatly correlates to the 49ers record thus far. The 49ers linebacker corps will have my full attention as they sport the two leading tacklers on the team in Bowman and Michael Wilhoite. However given the below-average pass protection Russell Wilson has received this season my 49ers X-Factor spotlight goes to the man most effective at getting to the quarterback. My X-Factor Player to Watch this week is outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. Lynch has recorded 3 sacks this season; a third of San Francisco’s total and all three coming at Levi’s Stadium. Lynch is also coming off his most productive day in coverage, recording a season high 5 tackles and one pass defensed this past Sunday. Keep an eye on how left tackle Russell Okung handles Lynch on the outside.

Random Thoughts: No word yet on the Seahawks uniform combination but do we have 5 road games remaining. We will don college navy for one of those games (Dallas). With two opportunities to wear wolf grey still available to us, that means there is a 50/50 chance we wear wolf grey in San Francisco. It’s basic math, people. The 49ers have elected not to wear their new all-black alternate uniform for this game. Instead they will wear their traditional look of red jerseys and gold pants… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call on the NFL Network/CBS simulcast with Tracy Wolfson covering the sidelines… The referee this week is Walt Anderson… Thursday will be an incredibly hectic and exciting day. I’m looking at a 4am wakeup call followed by a 7am flight to San Francisco which gets me into the Bay Area around 9 or 9:30am. Then comes a 4-hour window before the parking lots open at Levi’s Stadium. Tailgate will begin shortly after 1:30 then the game at 5:30. Then back to San Francisco after the game for the rest of the weekend… Should have waited to pull the trigger on tickets on Stubhub. I can’t believe prices have dropped as much as they have since the season started… I’ll be satisfied with at least two visits to In-N-Out Burger over the next 4 days… I love flying into SFO. The airport runway setup right off of the bay is unlike any other city I have flown into… Here is my history of being heckled at 49ers home games. In 2011 one drunken 49ers fan tried to sit on my lap and as he walked away he screamed “SEATTLE SEAHAWKS GINGER FRO” in reference to my incredibly long red hair. In 2012 I posed for a picture during a timeout and someone sitting above me in my section screamed “ginger on three! One, two, three!” In 2013 after posing for a picture a 49ers fan sitting a few rows above me threw a sandwich in my direction. It hit a 49ers fan sitting about 4 rows below me and he looked back and made eye contact with me. Because I was wearing Seahawks paraphernalia, he assumed I was the one responsible for the sandwich being thrown. He probably wanted to get security involved but the people around me seemingly convinced him I was not to blame. Granted all these incidents happened at Candlestick Park, but I have heard (and seen on Deadspin) that the Candlestick crowds make the drive down to Santa Clara every week. Hopefully the people around us are nice. I hope my friends and I are not the subjects of harassment. As long as we stay in our own lane and root for the Seahawks only, we should be fine.

Prediction: Due to the incredible sense of urgency after back-to-back devastating losses, I believe the Seahawks will come out with a vengeance. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Russell Wilson will both throw a touchdown and run one in from inside the redzone. The Seahawks defense will play an air-tight game, allowing only one 49ers touchdown. The Seahawks will come home 3-4 and will have an extra couple days off before we get started on the Dallas Cowboys.

Seahawks 27, 49ers 13

Programming Note: I will be leaving my computer in Seattle so I will not be able to post my game review until I get home. Look for my 49ers review either late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Bears/Seahawks Preview

26 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After getting off to a turbulent start on the road in back-to-back weeks the Seahawks finally make their triumphant return home. The 2015 Seahawks home opener will take place Sunday afternoon as we take on the Chicago Bears. The Seahawks may be 0-2 but they are in much better shape than the 0-2 Bears. Chicago was dismantled at home last week, losing 48-23 to the Arizona Cardinals. Seattle leads the all-time series with the Bears 10-6. Our last meeting with Chicago came in December 2012. The Seahawks drove down the field 97 yards to take a late fourth quarter lead, then won the game in overtime after taking the opening series down the field for a touchdown. That win propelled the Seahawks to 4 straight wins to close the 2012 season with an 11-5 record. The winds of change have blown tremendously over the past week as both the Bears and Seahawks will look considerably different than they would have if they played each other last week. This I was I will be watching for in week 3.

This week my hope is that we can get the running game back to normal. Marshawn Lunch has struggled out of the gate but this week’s matchup could give him a perfect opportunity to get back on track. The Chicago defense has allowed an average of 124 rushing yards through their first two games and they have yet to face a talent across the line of scrimmage as dominant as Lynch. In my opinion the Seahawks will be making a big mistake if they decide to throw the ball on first down. Be sure to keep track of the number of times we rush on early downs because it would not surprise me to see Lynch get between 25 to 30 carries. In the passing game the Seahawks must take advantage of the height differential between our receivers and Chicago’s secondary, in particular cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller is the Bears number one cornerback so he will likely be drawn to Doug Baldwin. Both of Chicago’s safeties are only 6 feet tall so it may be wise to run tight end Jimmy Graham down the middle of the field to go up against Antrel Rolle and Adrian Amos. Seattle will be in magnificent shape if we can put up between 350 and 375 total yards of offense.

My main focus on defense is glaringly obvious; the return of strong safety Kam Chancellor. Our defense has not played its style of football yet this year, as we have allowed an average of 30.5 points per game. Chancellor’s return hopefully brings the “boom” back to the Legion. This is the perfect week for Chancellor to come back as the defense faces the 19th best passing offense in the league. Head coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday that Chancellor is in incredible shape and it is his hope that he will be ready to play on Sunday. It would not surprise me to see DeShawn Shead start over Chancellor but Kam may see some playing time. With Chancellor back and possibly up to game speed there should be little to no worry in regards to the Seahawks being able to maintain a lead. Plain and simple, with Kam Chancellor back so is my complete confidence that our defense can play shutdown football.

As far as skill positions go, the Chicago Bears enter this week somewhat in disarray. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Marquess Wilson are all listed on the week 3 injury report but my focus will be squarely on quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen will start in place of Jay Cutler who injured his hamstring last week. With the exception of his rookie year in 2010, Clausen is a career backup who has seen limited snaps in the regular season. Clausen does however have experience playing in front of the 12’s at CenturyLink Field. He led a terrible Carolina Panthers team into town in December of 2010 and the Seahawks defeated them 31-14. In that game Clausen went 18/34 for 169 yards and one interception. This week could not have been a more unlucky draw for Clausen and the Bears offense. They will be going up against a fired up Seahawks defense. The mediocre Chicago offensive line has allowed two sacks in each of their first two games and the pressure will be on to keep Clausen clean on Sunday. Pro Bowler Kyle Long will have my eye in particular. Long made only his second career start at right tackle last week and he will be lined up there again against the Seahawks. I would not be surprised to see the Seahawks get to the quarterback at least three times. I believe it could be a very long day for Clausen this week.

The talk along the Seahawks offensive line so far this season has been the terrible play of center Drew Nowak. The best chance the Bears have at making an impact on defense is to attack the middle of Seattle’s offensive line and it all starts along the defensive line, specifically at nose tackle. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Bears is the man that will go directly against Nowak, rookie defensive tackle Eddie Goldman. Goldman has been thrusted into a starting role after the suspension of starting nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff during the preseason. Goldman was selected in the second round of this past year’s draft but has made little impact on the field thus far. In his first two games he has combined for only 3 tackles. Upon watching Bears film Goldman seems to struggle penetrating the line of scrimmage. He does a decent job working his assignment but does not do anything overly special to be a game changer. If he has great success against the Seahawks offensive line, Nowak in particular, it may be time for the Seahawks to seriously consider a personnel change.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all navy this week just like they always do at home. The Bears will wear white jerseys and navy blue pants… This week the Seahawks are the national afternoon game which will be seen by the majority of the country. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for CBS. Due to cross-flexing this game is on CBS instead of FOX, who would normally have the broadcast rights to this all-NFC matchup. Due to a weakened slate of games on CBS this week the NFL decided to cross-flex it to appeal to a wider audience… This week’s referee is Carl Cheffers… I HATE the week 3 home opener. Since I became a season ticket holder our home opener has been scheduled in week 3 twice. In both of those years the Seahawks entered the game 0-2… How’s this for symmetry. This game will take place on September 27th. Flashback 6 years to the 2009 season. The Seahawks hosted the Chicago Bears in week 3 of the season on September 27th but unfortunately lost 25-19. That game also marks the only time the Seahawks wore these little beauties:

Photo Credit: Mynorthwest.com

Photo Credit: Mynorthwest.com

As cool as they were at the time, well, let’s just say I’m glad we’ve done a Nike overhaul since… Hawks Nest before the game for the first time this season. See ya’ll there.

Prediction: After the immense frustration of weeks prior, the Seahawks will make sure this is an absolute bloodbath. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns, Tyler Lockett will return a punt for a touchdown, and Russell Wilson will throw touchdown passes to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks will get their season back on the right track with a huge blowout victory.

Seahawks 38, Bears 10

Review: Seahawks 16, Chargers 15

29 Aug
Photo Credit: KOMO 4 News- Seattle

Photo Credit: KOMO 4 News- Seattle

It was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but the Seahawks finally got into the preseason win column. The Seahawks resiliency showed as they pulled out a 16-15 victory over the San Diego Chargers on the leg of Steven Hauschka. The Seahawks may have won, but it has been 30 days since training camp opened and there are still areas on both sides of the ball that concern me. For now however, here are my thoughts following our first win since last year’s NFC Championship Game.

Offense Starts Slow, But Picks Up When It Needs To: If I were to give the Seahawks starting offense a letter grade for their performance this week, I would give them a C. Russell Wilson finished the day 7/15 for 56 yards but once again was unable to lead a touchdown drive. If you take away Tyler Lockett’s punt return touchdown (I’ll discuss this below), the Seahawks put up only 6 points in 6 drives under Wilson’s command. If I could highlight one of our drives it would be our 5th of the game just before the end of the first half. With only 47 seconds remaining in the half, Wilson led a no-huddle drive 40 yards in 5 plays to set up a 40-yard field goal by Hauschka. This drive makes me feel better about our offense going forward but to be honest it is Wilson himself who may need to improve the most. Although the offensive line play was average at best, Wilson made several erratic throws. He overthrew Jimmy Graham twice and missed on a floater into the endzone intended for Jermaine Kearse. If he plays next week against Oakland, Wilson will likely only play the first series of the game. If he does not play at all his final line for the preseason looks like this: 12 drives, 12 points (4 field goals), 0 touchdowns. This has me very worried.

We May Be Witnesses to Something Special: The Seahawks have scored 4 touchdowns so far this preseason. Half of them belong to rookie wide receiver/kick returner/punt returner/speed demon Tyler Lockett. Lockett stole the show once again on Saturday, returning a second quarter punt 67 yards for a touchdown, giving the Seahawks a 7-3 lead. In a way it is unfortunate that Lockett has broken out in the preseason because now opposing teams will have a definite strategy to avoid kicking to him, but what we have seen so far from Lockett is very Devin Hester-esque. What I am curious to know is if tonight’s display gives Lockett the leg up on both the kick AND punt return jobs. It would certainly look like that will be the case. I believe we are in the presence of a very special player and like I tweeted out during the game, it is going to be a very fun season with Tyler Lockett returning kicks.

Defense is Just About Ready: Even without multiple defensive starters, the Seahawks played a very sound game defensively on Saturday. Unlike the starting offense who played into the second half, the starting defense was done after the first half. All in all they only allowed 3 points, a positive sign of potential great things to come once the regular season starts. After our great play in San Diego I am daydreaming about what our defense will look like when everyone is out there together, including Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. One thing we must improve on however is the short passing game and 3rd down defense. The CBS broadcast showed footage of two of our games last season, against San Diego and the Super Bowl against New England. In both games Philip Rivers and Tom Brady respectively picked our defense apart with an array of short passes. The strategy was wildly effective and we lost both of those games. Rivers stuck to the short passing strategy on Saturday night and it worked very well especially on third downs. Although the Chargers were only 44 percent effective on 3rd down with Rivers under center, it felt like that percentage was higher.

The Final Drive: In our first two preseason games backup quarterback R.J. Archer had the opportunity to lead game winning drives on our final possession. He was sacked on the final play in both of those games. Tonight however, Archer proved he could learn from his mistakes. With no timeouts and two minutes to work with, Archer led our final drive 44 yards and Steven Hauschka connected on a 60-yard field goal attempt to give the Seahawks a 16-15 lead with 21 seconds to play. Archer did not do anything fancy. He threw only high percentage passes, including a clutch 22 yarder to Kasen Williams on 4th down. Archer definitely showed his potential on this night.

Random Thoughts: My prediction was correct. College Navy pants for the Seahawks this week… It sounded like there were tons of 12’s down there in San Diego. To all the fans who went down for the game, job well done!… You know how I said I was happy this game was on national television because we weren’t going to be subjected to the local commentators. I redact that statement. Phil Simms really got on my nerves with his mispronunciations and mistakes. Among his mistakes, pronouncing Cassius Marsh’s name as “Cassius March” and calling our defense the “Legion of Doom” twice. You would think a respectable record breaking defense with a nickname that football fans around the country know well would be called by their proper nickname. You don’t see people calling the “Steel Curtain” the “Iron Curtain” or something. Okay rant over… Don’t get me wrong I love Russell Wilson to death but for God sakes man would it kill you to be a little less cliché? His sideline interviews truly are soooo boring. Okay rant over.

What’s Next: The Seahawks have until 1pm Tuesday to cut 15 players to get the roster down to 75 players. As I have done the past few years, I will hop back on the blog tomorrow with my predictions as to who will be the 15 players released by the Seahawks before Tuesday’s deadline.

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

28 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 5:00pm

The third week of the preseason is often tabbed “dress rehearsal week” in the NFL and for the Seahawks there is an awful lot of show that the 12’s need to see. After two disappointing outings, the Seahawks look to show significant improvement this week as they take on the San Diego Chargers. The starting units will likely play the entire first half and a series or more into the third quarter. This will give us the best look of where our team stands before the regular season starts. Here are the areas I will be closely watching this week.

It is my hope that the starting defense, the front seven in particular, can build on their success from last week in Kansas City. The pass rush was very effective in penetrating the line and getting to the backfield. This week I am looking for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to put continuing pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. With Bruce Irvin possibly out this week after suffering a concussion last week, my X-Factor Player to Watch, second year man Kevin Pierre-Louis, may start at outside linebacker this week. Pierre-Louis has backed up both Irvin and K.J. Wright this preseason but it will be interesting to see how he plays. Irvin is best used for rushing the passer while Wright plays in coverage. Pierre-Louis got hurt last year so I have not seen nearly enough tape on him to truly know what his strengths and weaknesses are in the second level. KPL is certainly the one guy on defense this week to have your eye on.

I am looking for two key improvements by the front seven this week. First off, last week we struggled mightily at getting off the field because of penalties. Alex Smith’s one touchdown drive last week benefitted from the Seahawks inability to get off the field. After ranting about the continuing penalty problem I am hopeful that the Seahawks spent a lot of time in practice this past week to correct it. Secondly, third down and short has been a problem so far this preseason. I am looking for big stops, specifically in the running game on third and short. Our defense must be able to stay fresh. Stopping Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, and Branden Oliver in short yardage situations will go a long way towards the Seahawks defense playing a much more consistent game.

This week the secondary will be the closest thing to the Legion of Boom we will see until the regular season starts. Richard Sherman will likely start at corner opposite of Cary Williams. Earl Thomas may start at free safety but it would not be a surprise if he is held out until he is a little bit healthier. Kam Chancellor is the only starter of the Legion on Boom who will not play for sure, as he continues his holdout. I would like to see Rivers test the secondary this week to see where we stand. I thought our defensive backs had a very below-average outing against the Chiefs last week unlike how the defensive line and linebackers showed significant improvement. If the Chargers complete long passes and the cornerbacks and safeties struggle I will be teetering on terrified for the start of the season.

It is no surprise what I want to see out of the Seattle offense this week. In a little over one full half of playing time so far this preseason, the Seahawks starting offense has this to show for it: 6 drives, 6 points, 0 touchdowns. Russell Wilson will lead the offense for this amount of time in this week’s game alone and it is time to settle our nerves about the functionality of this unit. My expectation is two touchdown drives in the first half and three total scoring drives before R.J. Archer takes over in the third quarter. For this to happen everything has to be in sync; the pass protection must be on point, the running game must be able to take pressure off of Wilson, and I would also like to see the playbook opened up a little bit. 17 points is my hope for the Seahawks by the time the reserves take the field in the second half.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks will wear white this week. My prediction for pant color is college navy. San Diego will wear navy blue jerseys and white pants most likely… Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week. When we are good, the Seahawks are good for one nationally televised preseason game. Luckily this year it comes on the road, which means I am not forced to watch a local broadcast production and listen to local commentators. This will probably the best game to watch on television this preseason… Tony Corrente is the referee for this week’s game… Due to the national TV broadcast this game does not start at a traditional local start time. Usually if we played San Diego in the preseason the game would start at 7pm but because CBS is broadcasting the game it starts at 5pm which I really prefer… It is disappointing that this could be the final season of Chargers football as we know it. If you didn’t already know, the Chargers are one of three NFL franchises who are looking to relocate to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. Many believe that San Diego may in fact be the frontrunner to be heading to Tinseltown. The Seahawks and Chargers were rivals in the AFC West for 23 years. The franchise has been in San Diego for over 55 years. It would be a complete shame for San Diego to lose the Chargers but we of all cities know what it takes to keep a professional sports franchise in town. Qualcomm Stadium is a concrete dungeon and without plans for new digs, the Chargers will absolutely be heading to LA. Here is a very interesting stat to note, which goes to show you how fast the economic climate can change in professional sports. The city of San Diego hosted Super Bowl XXXVII 13 years ago. Among other reasons, Super Bowls are awarded to cities that have economically viable stadiums, which was the case with San Diego 13 years ago. The NFL would never let San Diego host a Super Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium today. Seattle’s KeyArena reopened after a “state of the art” remodel in 1995. In the exact same amount of time, 13 years, KeyArena became economically obsolete which was one of the factors why the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. I would love to see the Chargers get something done at the 11th hour in San Diego. The “Los Angeles Chargers” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as the “San Diego Chargers” does.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will lead scoring drives resulting in 10 points in the first half. With Wilson at the helm to start the second half, the Seahawks will drive into field goal range and Steven Hauschka will kick another field goal. The Seahawks defense will have a very solid game and several defensive players fighting for a roster spot will make big plays, making their final audition next Thursday that much tougher for the coaching staff to determine their fates. I predict 3 takeaways by the defense in this game. The Seahawks will finally get into the preseason win column, eeking out a close victory.

Seahawks 23, Chargers 21

Broncos/Seahawks Preview

20 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

This Sunday marks one of the most anticipated matchups at this point in the young 2014 NFL season. For only the 6th time in NFL history the two teams that squared off in the previous year’s Super Bowl meet in the regular season. This time around it is the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks playing host to the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 1-1 and are coming off a 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos are 2-0 and are coming off a win at home over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 38-20 but by now you already know what happened the last time these two teams met in a meaningful game, a 43-8 Seahawks win in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of those previous 5 Super Bowl rematches, the defending champion is 3-2. Here is what I will be focused on from section 340 this week.

I think a lot of Seahawks fans are thinking “if we play the Broncos exactly like how we did in the Super Bowl we should win easily again.” I am adamant that this approach will not work and it not what I expect the Seahawks offense to do this week. In the Super Bowl Russell Wilson only threw for 206 yards and this week I think it is crucial for him to take advantage of the third worst passing defense in the league so far this season. If he is healthy Marshawn Lynch will see his share of opportunities but I believe that Seattle must rely on the passing game to move the ball down the field and score points. If the defense struggles like they did against San Diego more will be required of Wilson to throw the ball to go blow-for-blow with the Broncos offense. Percy Harvin will have a big impact in this game but look for Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to have a significant impact on the outside. The Broncos will start Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at cornerback this week, two players who did not play in the Super Bowl hence they do not have the experience of going up against Seattle’s receivers. Look for Baldwin and Kearse to make a large impact throughout this week’s game.

After being picked apart by Philip Rivers last week, the challenge does not get any easier with Peyton Manning coming into town this week for the Seahawks defense. There are a couple of specific things on the defensive side of the ball I am looking for. First I want the Seahawks enforcers to come out and make a physical statement early in the game. A lot of players in the locker room believe that when strong safety Kam Chancellor hit Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route early on in Super Bowl XLVIII the game was already over; that the Broncos were intimidated and that threw them off their game for the rest of the night. Laying the wood early could do the exact same thing this time around, especially at home. I’m calling on Chancellor and our entire linebacker corps to make hard, clean hits on Denver’s skill position players to take away any momentum the Broncos may have. Secondly I want to see how the Seahawks defense handles a potential no-huddle offense led by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. It would not surprise me the least bit to see Manning try to get to the line of scrimmage fast to try to silence the crowd. If the Broncos offense is successful in the no-huddle, I could see the Seahawks struggling, at least in the early part of the game.

The defense of the Denver Broncos sports many new faces this year. After the butt-kicking they endured in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made large financial commitments to high-profile free agents to help their defense become more competitive, especially in big games. My X-Factor player to watch this week is one of those new players, defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Ware leads all Broncos defenders in sacks so far this season with 1.5 and after watching film of last week’s game Ware’s presence on the field cannot go unnoticed. Although he is 32 years old, Ware proved in the preseason against the Seahawks that he can still chase down even the most mobile quarterbacks, sacking Russell Wilson once in the first quarter. For the entire Denver pass rushing unit, the key will be to try to contain Wilson inside the pocket. If you let Wilson scramble he will find ways to get away and make throws which will kill the Broncos defense. If the Broncos are going to be successful in putting pressure on the Seahawks offense, much like how San Diego was successful last week, you must stop the run, force third downs, and keep the quarterback in the pocket.

There is one matchup that I rank above all else this week: Peyton Manning versus the 12th Man. As surprising as it may be, this week will be the first time Manning plays a full game at CenturyLink Field. His prior two trips to the Clink include a preseason game last season and a game in December 2005 where Manning played in a preseason capacity. In that game, Manning’s Colts had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Manning only played the first couple of series before turning the game over to backup Jim Sorgi. This will be Manning’s first “true” dose of the 12th Man and I have no idea how he will handle our crowd. Other than Peyton Manning, the last 10 opposing Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are a combined 5-12 playing at CenturyLink Field. The last of these quarterbacks to beat the Seahawks in Seattle was Eli Manning’s New York Giants all the way back in 2010. With the complicated snap counts the Broncos use and the silent counts they will have for this specific game it will be crucial for the 12th Man to be constantly deafening to try to frustrate Manning and confuse the entire Denver offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy jerseys and navy pants while the Broncos will wear white jerseys and white pants this week… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines. This is the Sunday afternoon game of the week and the majority of the country will get to see this game on television. The only major cities that will not see Broncos/Seahawks on CBS are Phoenix, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Miami… Bill Vinovich is this week’s referee… In addition to this being a Super Bowl rematch, this will also be a Super Bowl reunion. I will be taking my friend James to this week’s game. James and I both went to New York for the Super Bowl back in February so we are both excited to see two meaningful Broncos/Seahawks games in two different seasons, but only 7 months apart of each other… I know this sounds crazy but hear me out. What if instead of booing the Broncos when they run out of the tunnel, the 12th Man gives them a roaring cheer? All the Broncos did was be the final team on our way to our first Super Bowl championship. It probably won’t happen but I think that would be an interesting way to maybe throw Denver off guard. Kind of a “thank you for our first Lombardi Trophy, Denver”… Speaking of tunnels, it is rumored that the Seahawks may run out of the tunnel as a team for every game for the rest of the season. I personally do not like this idea because one of the main parts of pregame is to get the 12th Man fired up. The best way the Seahawks do this is by introducing the individual members either the starting offense or defense. Introducing the entire team kind of takes the fun out of all the pregame festivities in my opinion… Looks like it will be a hot one on Sunday with a game time temperature in the mid-80’s. Dress appropriately… With an early bye week this year this week’s game is of even greater importance. It would be terrible start the season 1-2 with 13 straight games ahead of us following the bye week.

Prediction: Although this game will not be as lopsided as the Super Bowl, I am still confident in the Seahawks bouncing back to beat the Broncos this week. Russell Wilson will outgain Peyton Manning through the air and will throw two touchdowns to Jermaine Kearse and one to Zach Miller. The Seahawks will go to 2-1 heading into their early bye.

Seahawks 33, Broncos 24

Check back late Sunday night for by Broncos review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 17, Packers 10

24 Aug

Image

The Seahawks extended their preseason winning streak to a franchise best 8 games Friday night, defeating the Green Bay Packers 17-10 at Lambeau Field. The Seahawks will now head home and prepare for another short week as they get set to take on the Oakland Raiders next Thursday night. Before we move on to next week, let’s take a look back at some good things and bad things from Friday night’s victory.

Finish: The Seahawks did a very nice job moving the ball in the first half of the game but were unsuccessful in finishing drives. With Russell Wilson at the helm, the Seahawks could only score 10 points. Seattle had two drives into the red zone and we were unable to score touchdowns on both of those drives. The nice thing about these long drives was our ability to convert on third down. The Seahawks converted 5 of their 12 third downs on Friday night. As effective as we were on third down and our overall efficiency moving the ball, when the regular season comes around it will be much more difficult to keep drives alive, especially on the road. The Packers have a “middle of the pack” defense and the Seahawks will see much better defenses early on in the regular season. If we can turn field goals into touchdowns, we will be in a much better position to win the games that turn out to be close.

Michael Shines: Christine Michael put an exclamation point on his case to be the primary backup to Marshawn Lynch on Friday night. Michael got 11 of the running backs 27 carries against the Packers and made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry. Michael’s most impressive runs came on handoffs right up the middle and his quickness is also worth mentioning. Michael’s blockers did such a good job that on a couple of his big first down runs, he was able to run right around the offense line and break into the second and third levels of the defense easily. I am starting to think we will see more of Michael in games this season. He will not be splitting carries evenly with Lynch but I would not be shocked to see Michael get close to ten carries per game. He will see a lot of playing time next week and another impressive performance could earn him the number two running back spot.

Sweezy Needs to Improve: On consecutive plays early on in the game, right guard J.R. Sweezy was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul late hit then penalized 10 yards for holding. Sweezy is still showing signs of a young, raw player with a great amount of potential but someone who is struggling to handle a job that was confirmed to be his earlier in the week when the Seahawks traded John Moffitt to Denver. Sweezy’s primary struggle on Friday night was preventing Green Bay’s interior pass rush. Two of the three sacks of quarterback Russell Wilson occurred within the middle three offensive lineman. From what I saw, Sweezy did a good job run blocking but his pass blocking still needs some work. With one more preseason game before the Seahawks head to Carolina, I think it would be wise to let Sweezy play longer than any other starter on offense against Oakland next week to get as much game experience under his belt as possible. However, it wasn’t just Sweezy who was responsible for drawing penalties against the Packers…

Penalties are Unacceptable: Let me be more specific about this point. Penalties occur in every game. It may be time to panic however, when you are penalized 14 times for 182 yards. When you rack up close to 200 yards in penalties in one game you have a very minimal chance of winning. Most of the Seahawks penalties against the Packers were fixable mistakes. Holding was the primary problem for the Seahawks on offense. A lot of our penalties came later on in the game with our backups in. Offensive lineman Lemuel Jeanpierre had multiple holding penalties and linebacker John Lotulelei also got flagged for a 15-yard personal foul late hit which should have been avoided since the tackle had been made well before Lotulelei jumped into the pile for one last shot. Penalties have been a problem throughout the preseason. In three games the Seahawks have been called for 34 penalties for a total of 354 yards, an average of 118 yards per game. This is the highest average in the NFL this preseason. Making this many mistakes will definitely cost us games in the regular season. Limiting penalties must be the number one priority during practice this week. If the Seahawks do not show improvement against Oakland, we may be in trouble come week one.

The Packers Could Have a Quarterback Battle on Their Hands: Let me be clear that I do not mean Aaron Rodgers is in jeopardy of losing the starting job. I think Vince Young outplayed current backup quarterback Graham Harrell on Friday night and it is Young who I believe deserves the backup quarterback job in Green Bay. Young’s mobility is a big advantage now in an era where the zone-read option and quarterbacks who can run are turning into the brightest stars in the league. Young had a passer rating of 130.7 Friday night while also adding 3 rushes for 39 yards. Young was a more accurate passer than Harrell, failing to complete only one of his 7 passes. The one thing that is apparent to me however is that Young is more eager to run. It does not seem to take much for him to feel the pocket breaking down which is leading to him scrambling somewhat prematurely. The Green Bay brass like Harrell a lot but I think Young is a better fit to backup Aaron Rodgers in the short term.

Projected Roster Cuts: The Seahawks have to cut their roster down from 90 players to 75 players by the end of the weekend. Here are 15 players who I think will get cut during this first wave of roster cuts: Donavon Kemp, Arceto Clark, Bryan Walters, Kyle Nelson, Martin Parker, Dewayne Cherrington, Michael Brooks, Andrei Lintz, Darren Fells, Perez Ashford, Ron Parker, Kyle Knox, Lemuel Jeanpierre, and Jaye Howard.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks were introduced to a chorus of boos but once the game started everybody seemed to forget about why they were booing… Golden Tate got the loudest ovation of boos when he was announced as our punt returner in the first quarter… I counted only 4 mentions of last year’s game during the broadcast. I was pleased with that number. I thought they would mention it at least a dozen times… I am not a fan of Ian Eagle’s play-by-play but I am a fan of Phil Simms’s commentary. Good thing both games on CBS during the regular season are home games… The Seahawks wore white jerseys and grey pants this week. That combo was last seen week 7 of last year in San Francisco… Time to put away the white road jersey for a few weeks. We won’t see that jersey again until week 4 in Houston… The new upper deck at Lambeau looks really nice. I can’t wait to go to Green Bay and see the stadium for myself… Time for another short week. I already cannot wait for next Thursday night when we play Oakland… Good to make it through another week without any significant injuries… My fantasy football draft is Sunday night. I haven’t taken a Seahawk for at least three seasons. Maybe this year that will change.

This week I will publish a reflection piece about the first wave of roster cuts. I’ll give you my take on the decisions that were made and whether I agree with them or not. Also, be sure to check back on Wednesday as I preview next week’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders.