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Patriots/Seahawks Preview (Super Bowl XLIX)

29 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: New England Patriots (AFC Champion) vs. Seattle Seahawks (NFC Champion)

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

After the miraculous sequence of events in the NFC Championship Game, the question must be asked; are the 2014 Seattle Seahawks a team of destiny? A win this week will absolutely answer that question with a resounding ‘yes.’ The two-time defending NFC Champion Seahawks face off against the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. With a win, it will mark the 9th time in NFL history a team has repeated as world champions and the first since the 2003-2004 Patriots. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 8-8. Their last meeting has re-emerged in the media in recent days as preparation for Super Bowl XLIX continues. In that October 2012 meeting, Seattle erased a 13 point fourth quarter deficit and came back to beat the Patriots 24-23. That game arguably launched the future success of this entire team, as the Seahawks have posted a 38-11 record since. This game is perhaps more well known for the postgame episode between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in which Brady told Sherman and Earl Thomas to see his after the game (when New England won). The Seahawks instead walked off the field victorious and shortly after the game Sherman posted a picture of him loud-mouthing Brady postgame with the caption “You Mad Bro.” A lot has changed since that rainy fall day two seasons ago. Here is what I will be looking for in Super Bowl XLIX.

Russell Wilson: Last week the Seahawks offense shied away from the read-option until late in the game, which is when our offense had the most success. In regards to the read-option I have the same mindset this week that I did before Super Bowl XLVIII. This is the last game of the season and regardless if we win or lose we are going home no matter what. Why not completely open up the playbook and let Russell Wilson run free? Wilson has rushed for over 50 yards in six games this season. The Seahawks are 4-2 in those games, losing the two games by a combined 6 points. The Seahawks have not played a game this season where Russell Wilson keeping the ball is a top offensive priority so I do not expect the Seahawks to use a lot of read-option in the first part of this game. If the Seahawks get off to a slow start it would not surprise me to see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell call more read-option plays rather than be patient to see if we can work out our potential offensive problems.

Offensive Matchup to Watch: RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Patriots DT Vince Wilfork. In reality the matchup I really want to see is Beast Mode against the entire New England defensive line but of all Patriots defenders I think Wilfork could give Lynch the hardest time. Wilfork leads all Patriots interior linemen in tackles with 47 on the season and his ability to penetrate the offensive line is uncanny. He may not show up in the stat sheet regularly but his ability to overpower the offensive guard forces the opponents running game to the outside. Lynch thrives off of being able to run through the middle of the field and gain yards after contact. Running to the outside could be the most effective strategy for the Seahawks to pick up yards on the ground. Wilfork could be the reason why we see the Seahawks use both Lynch and Russell Wilson in the running game on the outside.

Defensive Matchup to Watch: SS Kam Chancellor vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. The only Seattle defender that could possibly cover New England tight end Rob Gronkowski one-on-one is Chancellor. I believe the possibility of Chancellor delivering one of his signature “Bam Bam” hits to Gronkowski would be worth the price of admission. I want to see two things out of the Seahawks defense this week. The first is an expanded “big nickel” package. With Gronkowski mostly playing in the slot, I want to see Chancellor line up at nickel corner instead of Jeremy Lane or Tharold Simon and for the Seahawks to bring reserve safety DeShawn Shead on as an extra safety playing in Chancellor’s normal spot. This would give the Seahawks a 4-2-5 defensive look which will allow the Seahawks to rush four defensive linemen while also adding an extra blanket of coverage on Gronkowski. The second thing I want to see is something that we have struggled to do in the playoffs; put pressure on the quarterback. Tom Brady is a pure pocket passer who does not tend to scramble. The Seahawks need to use the likes of O’Brien Schofield, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith in interior blitz packages to overwhelm Brady. If the Seahawks can sack Brady three times and hold Gronkowski to limited catches the Seahawks will have put themselves in a great position to win this game.

Patriots X-Factor Player(s) to Watch: All the talk this week in regards to the New England running game is how the Seahawks are going to be able to corral running back LeGarrette Blount. What’s to say Blount is even the feature back on Sunday? The Patriots have several weapons on the ground at their disposal and that is where I put my X-Factor spotlight for Super Bowl XLIX; on running backs Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been known to be very hot-and-cold when it comes to which personnel to use. Gray, Vereen, and Bolden have combined for 842 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. I believe Vereen would give the Seahawks the most trouble out of these three as he plays the most versatile game. Blount, Gray, and Bolden are all physical runners that I believe the Seahawks defense would have an easier time containing. For as good of a game Blount had in the AFC Championship Game I believe there is a good possibility we will not see Blount as the primary running back and instead we could see one of New England’s three other backs.

Comparisons to the 2013 Broncos: Many of my friends have asked me how the 2014 Patriots compare to the 2013 Broncos whom we beat in last year’s Super Bowl. Here is my quick take on this subject. On offense no team is going to be much better than last year’s Broncos, who set records left and right. Historically, the 2013 Denver Broncos are the best offensive unit in NFL history so this year’s Patriots are obviously not as good as the offense we faced last year. I do believe however that this year’s Patriots defense is better than last year’s Broncos defense, which is why this Super Bowl will be a tougher game for the Seahawks to win. Last year the Broncos allowed an average of 24.9 points per game while the 2014 Patriots are only allowing an average of 19.5 points per game. Since New England has the better defense, I have to say that I believe that overall the 2014 Patriots are a better team as a whole than the 2013 Broncos.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are the designated home team in this year’s Super Bowl so we will be wearing our navy blue home jerseys this week. We will likely wear our navy pants and I would be stunned if we wear white or wolf grey pants. The Patriots will wear their white jerseys and navy blue pants; the first time they have worn that combination in a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXXIX… Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya have the call for NBC this week. NBC will broadcast 5 hours of pregame coverage starting at 10am Sunday morning… Bill Vinovich is the referee for Super Bowl XLIX, his first. Vinovich officiated one Seahawks game in 2014; our 24-14 win over Philadelphia in December… For the first time ever the Seahawks are playing in a Super Bowl in a warm climate. I cannot wait to get my sunburn on down in Phoenix this weekend. It will be nice to escape the 50 degree weather and the rain for a few days and be able to walk down the street in a t-shirt and shorts in the evening… Two words to describe the price of ticket prices for this year’s Super Bowl: holy cow. If you don’t have an idea, go check StubHub right now… I am staying two miles away from University of Phoenix Stadium so I will likely just walk to the game on Sunday. That will be a nice change from taking two trains to and from New Jersey last year and getting back to Manhattan after 2am… I hope the weather does not cooperate on Sunday. Bad weather would force stadium officials to close the stadium’s roof. The current plan is for the roof to stay open for the game but inclement weather would force them to keep the roof closed. That would be a significant advantage for the Seahawks. I would like the building to be as loud as possible… Last season in New York the 12th Man made a lot of noise at MetLife Stadium. It makes me wonder how the 12’s will travel this year since the Super Bowl is being played closer to home. Phoenix is significantly closer to Seattle than the New England area so I would not be surprised to see the overwhelming majority to be Seahawks fans. I think more Seahawks fans will be at this game than last year’s game… With a win the Seahawks would become the 13th NFL franchise to win multiple Super Bowls. The teams we would tie with 2 championships would be the Broncos, Dolphins, Colts, and Ravens… Last year in New York I met/got pictures with no celebrities which was a disappointment. This year I have to see and meet celebrities. I would honestly settle for just one picture with someone famous… I do not think we can start “dynasty” talk if we win this game just yet, but knocking off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls would be unbelievable.

Prediction: The game balls will be properly inflated.

Oh you wanted a game prediction! Okay here it goes…

This will absolutely NOT be a 43-8 shellacking like last season however that doesn’t mean the Seahawks will lose this time around. The Seahawks defense will hold the Patriots offense to under 300 total yards and Tom Brady will fail to throw for a touchdown for the first time in his Super Bowl career. Marshawn Lynch will run for 85 yards and a touchdown while Russell Wilson throws a touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. Lynch will win Super Bowl MVP and the Seahawks will head back to Seattle with their second Lombardi Trophy in as many seasons.

Seahawks 23, Patriots 13

I will be back from Arizona Tuesday night. Check back late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning for my Super Bowl XLIX review. Enjoy the game everyone and to those lucky enough to attend, enjoy this moment because you do not know when this opportunity will present itself again. Go Seahawks!

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49ers/Seahawks Preview

14 Sep

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Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

Back on April 18th, the National Football League released its full slate of games for the 2013 season. What I like to do when the schedule comes out is go week by week and reveal game by game. As the games were revealed in week 2, both the 49ers and the Seahawks had not been scheduled. Then I got to Sunday Night Football. The Seahawks pull the first of two games against San Francisco here in week 2 in a crucial early season divisional battle. With the Falcons favored over the Rams in one of Sunday’s early games, the Seahawks could be playing for a sole possession of first place in the division, and a one game lead over the 49ers. The Seahawks are coming off a 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco is also coming off a victory; a 34-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. There is a lot to be mentioned so let’s get down to it.

Even with the 12th Man behind the defense, it is crucial that the Seahawks be as healthy as possible to add to our powerful home field advantage. Cliff Avril has been practicing with the first-team unit this week and his presence should bolster a Seahawks pass rush that only sacked Cam Newton once last week. Avril will take O’Brien Schofield’s place as our starting “Leo” defensive end. On third down, Avril, Schofield, and Benson Mayowa will be featured in our blitz package. I am both nervous and excited about our pass rush. Being at home with the crowd noise will help but we need to jump off the ball better than last week. I don’t expect to see many sacks this week but I do expect us to have more than one. In the secondary, Brandon Browner has been nursing a pulled hamstring and is questionable again this week. My prediction is that Browner will miss his second straight game and Walter Thurmond will start once again this week. Like last week I am fully confident in Thurmond to do his job well. Our run defense will also be a focus of mine. The Seahawks defense held San Francisco running back Frank Gore to a mere 28 yards rushing last season and Gore has not ran for more than 100 yards against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field since 2006. In the 6 games against the 49ers at home dating back to 2007, where Gore has ran for less than 100 yards, the Seahawks have a record of 4-2. If our run defense shows improvement from last week and can stuff Gore at the line of scrimmage and eliminate yards after contact, we will force third downs and will have a better chance to force San Francisco to punt.

The million dollar question on offense this week is this: which receiver will be the leading receiver and/or the star of the game? Last week Jermaine Kearse caught the game winning touchdown pass and Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks in receiving yards. This week at home I think we are going to try to profoundly display our most explosive receiver. Not Percy Harvin obviously, but Golden Tate. Last week Tate lined up for two plays in the backfield; the spot that Harvin will most likely line up in when healthy. I think the Seahawks will open up the playbook this week to highlight Tate among our other offensive weapons. Russell Wilson will considerably more read-option plays then last week and there will be some sort of trickery at some point on Sunday Night. A lot of experts think that the 49ers will win this game because of their explosive offense and stout defense able to stuff a “weak” and “rusty” Seahawks offense. Sunday Night is our night to show the country that we just had a bad game offensively last week. I am not expecting the productivity of last season’s game, but don’t be surprised if our offense bounces back similarly to how we played Dallas in our home opener last season after struggling week one in Arizona.

The San Francisco 49ers come into town with an offense that played exceptionally well last week and a defense that is still incredibly talented but gave up 28 points at home. The big question coming into the 2013 season for San Francisco was who would step up to be the playmakers at wide receiver after Michael Crabtree was lost to an Achilles injury. Last Sunday the answer may have been found in Anquan Boldin. Boldin was traded to the 49ers from Baltimore during the offseason and made an immediate impact last week, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. If the Legion of Boom can shut Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis down, the 49ers may be low on options at wide receiver. Kyle Williams could be the X-Factor and is my offensive man to watch of the 49ers this week. Williams caught 3 passes for 36 yards last week and was the leading receiver when you take out Boldin’s numbers and Davis’s numbers. If the Seahawks are effective in containing these two guys, Colin Kaepernick could have more of an impact than head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman originally intended him to. Kaepernick will run more than he did last week and he may be forced to in order to keep drives alive.

The Seahawks always try to test new players. When the 49ers lost safety Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay during free agency, they used their first round draft pick this past year on Eric Reid from LSU. With Reid still learning the ways of playing in an NFL defense, this could be the 49ers main weakness this week. Russell Wilson may try to go deep down the middle to test Reid and if the Seahawks are successful, they will keep trying to stretch the field to pick on Reid. In regards to the 49ers front 7, there is one huge difference between who played last year and who will play this year. Nose tackle Justin Smith is healthy after missing last year’s week 16 matchup with a triceps tear and his absence was absolutely noticeable in the running game. The Seahawks ran for 176 yards. With Smith back it will be harder for the Seahawks to run the ball this week. The Linebacker corps is still the strongest unit of the San Francisco defense. Russell Wilson must be aware of the personnel on the other side of the ball because Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith will make the Seahawks pay if they can get into a groove.

One underlying note this week is to keep an eye out on chippy play and personal foul penalties. These two teams hate each other so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some players getting in each other’s faces to try to draw a late flag.

One final note, as I broke back in July the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “loudest crowd road at a sports stadium” this week. The first official attempt will be on the 49ers first offensive play of the game. If you are reading this and will be in attendance on Sunday Night, do NOT forget to yell, clap, whistle, etc. As loud as it is at a Seahawks game, not everybody screams when the Seahawks are on defense. If we can get close to 100 percent vocal participation from the 12th Man, I think we have an excellent chance to break this record.

Random Thoughts: Is it really supposed to rain on Sunday Night??? I have never been to a home opener with rain in the forecast. If it does rain though consider us to have an advantage. We played the 49ers in the rain last year and they struggled holding onto the ball… The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week… John Parry is the referee this week… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC… I’m taking my buddy Alan this week. This is the second time he has been to a 49ers/Seahawks game with me. The first time was Monday Night Football in 2007… Praying to God alcohol enforcement doesn’t come up and ruin my Seahawks/49ers gameday again this season… On a similar note, undercover Seattle police officers are going to be in 49ers apparel this week. I guess I’ll just stick to booing. I don’t want to risk getting myself in serious trouble… With a 5:30 kickoff, it is still up in the air how we are going to spend our time before the game. Probably bouncing around the bars and checking out a tailgate or two… I’ve noticed ticket prices for this game are dropping on the secondary markets. Sellers are starting to realize their initial asking prices were too unreasonable for people. If you don’t have tickets but want to go to the game, I would suggest checking StubHub or NFL ticket exchange right now (49ers fans, ignore that)… I hope the Seahawks give away towels this week. It’s primetime. Towels would look awesome during pregame.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will throw for another 300+ yards this week along with two touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch will not break 100 yards rushing but will score his first touchdown of the season. Colin Kaepernick will get off to a fast start but the Seahawks defense will figure out how to slow him down later on in the game. The Seahawks will win their 9th straight home game, take sole possession of first place in the NFC West, and get ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 2-0 record.

Seahawks 30, 49ers 20

It will be a long night after the game, but check back on Monday for my 49ers/Seahawks game review. Whether watching on TV or you are lucky enough to be in attendance, enjoy the game everybody! Go Hawks!