Tag Archives: Thom Brennaman

Browns/Seahawks Preview

19 Dec
browns preview 2015

Photo Credit: seattlepi.com

Matchup: Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Cleveland Browns are one of three NFL teams I have never seen play live. After Sunday that number decreases to two. On Sunday the Browns visit Seattle for the first time since 2003 when they take on the Seahawks. Talk about a tale of two teams. The Seahawks are soaring, sitting at 8-5 on the season and are currently on a 4-game winning streak. The Browns on the other hand are 3-10 and are one of a small handful of teams vying for the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The all-time series between these teams is 11-6 in favor of the Seahawks. This record includes the seasons prior to the Browns being reborn as an expansion franchise in 1999. Our last meeting with Cleveland in 2011 remains one of the hardest Seahawks games I have ever watched. With Charlie Whitehurst making only his third career start at quarterback, the Seahawks were inept at moving the ball on offense. Amazingly Cleveland was not much better yet they edged the Seahawks by a score of 6-3. Here is what I will be watching for in this week’s game.

Of course the number one question everyone has been asking the past few days is “who is going to start at running back?” There are more questions that still need to be answered however. What kind of split will our offense have in regards to running vs. passing? Will Russell Wilson take more initiative trying to move the ball on the ground? Are we going to abandon the run altogether? I am going to try my best to answer these questions right now. I would not be surprised to see Fred Jackson start at running back and see the majority of the work especially since the Seahawks released DuJuan Harris earlier this week. Christine Michael, who was cut by the Seahawks and spent limited time with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins this season, was re-signed on Wednesday. Bryce Brown was also re-signed after a cup of coffee with the team earlier in the year but has a limited understanding of our playbook. Both Michael and Brown have had issues fumbling the ball over the course of their careers so they may be on an equally short leash. As far as our offensive balance goes I think we will stick to establishing the run early on. If the running back, whoever it may be, struggles to move the ball efficiently I think we could see Russell Wilson throwing way more than we are accustomed to. Read option is a possibility but Cleveland is an opponent that can be beat without having to use read option a lot. I think the threat of read-option keepers by Wilson are best kept hidden until January. The only way the Seahawks would abandon the run entirely is if we are trailing late in the game when we would be forced to throw the ball.

Let’s talk about the Cleveland Browns offense. This is a squad that ranks in bottom three rushing units in all of football but are ranked 11th in passing yards per game, mainly because they trail in all their games and are forced to throw the ball. After gaining the starting job then losing it due to off-the-field troubles, the Browns will once again start second year quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel has focused on making more conservative passes and his completion percentages of 73.3 and 67.7 percent the past two weeks respectively speak towards this notion. Because of this he does not throw many interceptions (3 total this season). Travis Benjamin is Cleveland’s bang-or-bust weapon down the field and he leads all Browns receivers in targets the past two weeks with 18.  My focus will be on the Browns most consistent receiver. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cleveland Browns is tight end Gary Barnidge. Barnidge signed a lucrative three-year contract extension last week and he is well deserving of it. Barnidge is no doubt a game changer and has been one of the lone bright spots on a porous Browns team. He leads the team with 901 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Barnidge will see his share of receptions this week and given the Seahawks struggles with tight ends there is potential for him to have yet another big day on Sunday.

The Browns defense ranks near the bottom of the league in yards allowed per game but they feature some talented players. Their defensive line is led by defensive end Desmond Bryant but keep an eye on rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton who will have a big impact in shutting down the Seahawks running game. Veteran linebackers Paul Kruger and Karlos Dansby lead the second level of the defense. The secondary is a unit that has big play potential but they have been unable to stay healthy as a unit. Cornerback Joe Haden is on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season after suffering a concussion in week 8. Justin Gilbert, the 8th overall pick by the Browns a season ago, has become irrelevant and if you asked Browns fans they might tell you he is not even worth a roster spot. With former Packer Tramon Williams leading the defense with 9 passes defensed and third on the team in tackles with 47, it will be up to left corner Charles Gaines to have a big game because it is likely Russell Wilson will test him often.

This week could be a huge week for the 12’s. Johnny Manziel has never played at CenturyLink Field and I have a strange feeling in my gut that he is the most likely quarterback to fail miserably at handling our crowd noise in recent years. I have never made a prediction as to how many false starts the opposing team will have but I strongly believe the Browns will have at least 5 false start penalties on Sunday, which would be the most of any opposing team in 2015.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will go all college navy at home. No surprise there. The Browns redesigned their uniforms over the offseason and they now have three different jersey, pant, and sock colors (white, brown, and orange). This week they will go with a clean look: White jerseys, white pants, and brown socks… For the second straight week Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, and Tony Siragusa are on the FOX broadcast. I hope fans sitting close to the field give Siragusa a hard time about the whole “Russell Williams” incident last week. He’ll be sure to say his name right this week. Wouldn’t be surprised if he brings it up on the broadcast either… Gene Steratore is the referee… I’m taking a friend of mine to the game who I went to school with but currently lives in San Francisco. He is driving home and is currently on the road as we speak. Hopefully he’s not too tired for a full day down at the stadium tomorrow… 1:05pm start this week so for those attending make sure you make it into the stadium a little earlier than normal… My goal was to have my Christmas shopping done and my presents wrapped by the time this game rolled around. Mission accomplished.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are numerous scenarios that involve the Seahawks clinching a playoff spot this week. The easiest of which I will discuss here. With the Rams win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win AND a loss by either the New York Giants or Washington Redskins. With a win Seattle will also maintain the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks fall to the #6 seed if they lose and the Minnesota Vikings win. The Arizona Cardinals clinch the NFC West with a win over Philadelphia Sunday night or if the Seahawks lose. Here are the games to keep track of. Teams to note are bolded.

Carolina (13-0) at New York Giants (6-7)

Buffalo (6-7) at Washington (6-7)

Chicago (5-8) at Minnesota (8-5)

Arizona (11-2) at Philadelphia (6-7)

Prediction: This game is going to get ugly fast. Russell Wilson will throw 4 touchdown passes and Christine Michael will also run for a touchdown. The Browns only score will come in garbage time when Johnny Manziel hits Travis Benjamin for a touchdown. The Seahawks will clinch a playoff spot by the end of the day and we will head into the Christmas week with a 9-5 record.

Seahawks 38, Browns 7

Seahawks/Ravens Preview

12 Dec
ravens preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens

Site: M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, Maryland)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Before the regular season started I picked the Baltimore Ravens to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50. With this game originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football many people including me thought this game could shape the postseason picture for both teams. As it turns out only the Seahawks are vying for playoff position heading into this week. Seattle heads to Baltimore for the first time since 2003 to take on the Ravens. After a 38-7 thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings last week the Seahawks are 7-5 and are in prime position to make a serious push for the #5 seed in the NFC. The Ravens however struggled out of the gate and never recovered. Poor play and a wide array of injuries to key players have put the Ravens at 4-8 on the season. The all-time series between these teams is tied 2-2 with Seattle taking the last two meetings. These two teams last met in Seattle in 2011 where the Seahawks upset the Ravens 22-17. Here is what I will be watching out for in this game.

The main offensive key for the Seahawks this week is to remain consistent in order to carry over the success from last week. In the games we have won in recent weeks the running game led by Thomas Rawls has been superb. The Seahawks will likely establish the run again but it is only a matter of time before Rawls has an off game. Could this week could be that game? Baltimore ranks 10th in run defense allowing only 97.5 rushing yards per game. This may be a game where Russell Wilson has to do more through the air to score points instead of relying on Rawls for big pickups. With the emergence of wide receiver Doug Baldwin as Wilson’s go-to target over the past two weeks it would not surprise me to see Baldwin receive extra coverage from the Ravens secondary. This should open up looks for our other receivers. With the Ravens only allowing 39 yards receiving to tight ends per game look for Jermaine Kearse to make a significant impact in the passing game.

This could be a fairly easy day for the Seattle defense. We will not be facing regular Ravens starters Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, and Steve Smith. There are two keys to victory on defense I will be focusing on. The first will be to put pressure on whichever Ravens quarterback starts. I believe the slightest bit of pressure will throw either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen off and he could be more prone to forcing the ball and throwing bad passes. The second key is to make sure we tackle well and do not give up yards after contact. With a backup quarterback comes the very high probability of them throwing a lot of high percentage passes. High percentage passes means the ball carrier or receiver will have space to make big plays potentially happen. Look for linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to make a huge impact in the middle of the field.

Like I previously mentioned the Baltimore Ravens have one of the more depleted offenses in the league. On the offensive side of the ball running back Javorius “Buck” Allen will have to have a big game to take the pressure off of either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen in the passing game. If Baltimore has any shot to win this week it will come on the shoulders of an extremely impressive defensive performance. Similarly to the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple weeks ago, the Ravens have lost dynamic leaders on the defensive side of the ball over the past few years. Future hall of famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone. All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs is also injured and out for the season. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil leads all Ravens defenders in sacks with 6 but my focus will be on the second level of their defense. There are two guys I will have my eye on in particular and they are both responsible for defending the middle of the field. My X-Factor Players to Watch are inside linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley. Smith is in his 12th NFL season and is on pace for the best statistical season of his career. Mosley is in his second season after being drafted in the first round by the Ravens last season. These two guys have combined for 174 tackles so far this season which is good for nearly one quarter of the Ravens total tackles. They can also get to the quarterback and drop into coverage. They each have 3 sacks this season while Mosley has dropped back to record 5 passes defensed. Watch out for how these two players attack Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, Luke Willson, and all the Seahawks receivers on short crossing routs to the middle of the field.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants. No word on what color jerseys the Ravens will wear but there is this stat: The Ravens have only worn their black alternate jerseys once this season. With three home games remaining including this week and one more eligible opportunity to wear their alternates, there is a 33 percent chance the Ravens will sport black in this game… Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis have the call for FOX with Tony Siragusa commentating from the sidelines. Many complain about other announcers such as Joe Buck and Chris Myers but I think Seahawks fans will be really annoyed with the broadcast this week. Why? Siragusa is a former Raven who could have a biased loyalty towards the home team. If you watch this game and get frustrated because the commentators are not giving the Seahawks proper credit this is probably why… Walt Coleman is the referee for this week’s game… It looks like it will be another abnormally warm week weather wise. The game-time temperature is slated to be in the low to mid 60’s and cloudy. It’s funny because that is pretty much the same weather the Seahawks had in Washington D.C. for a game in early OCTOBER last season… Quite frankly I am glad this game got flexed out of Sunday Night Football and the reason I am glad is because of the players. A primetime game on the east coast starts at 8:30pm which means the game won’t end until close to midnight. After meeting with the media, driving to the airport, and a cross-country flight, the Seahawks likely would not land back in Seattle until about 5:00am pacific time. This would make for an epically cruel and tiring Monday. Having the game start at 10:00am pushes that itinerary back. Now the Seahawks will likely land back in Seattle around the same time Sunday Night Football ends, which is about an 8 hour difference… Fantasy playoffs start this week and I made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Shoutout to my starting lineup: Aaron Rodgers, Amari Cooper, Marvin Jones, Jonathan Stewart, T.J. Yeldon, Thomas Rawls, Gary Barnidge, Graham Gano, and the Carolina Panthers defense.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With a win the Seahawks take control of the #5 seed in the NFC. If the Seahawks lose they will still hold the #6 seed if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also lose. The Seahawks fall out of the playoff picture if they lose and the Buccaneers win. Here are other games this week with playoff significance. Teams to note are bolded.

New Orleans (4-8) at Tampa Bay (6-6)

Atlanta (6-6) at Carolina (12-0)

Prediction: This game will not be as close as the score indicates. Both Husky receivers Jermaine Kearse and Kevin Smith will catch touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, Smith’s being the first of his career. Thomas Rawls will also gallop for a 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Ravens will score two garbage time touchdowns but the Seahawks will have the game wrapped up. The Seahawks will head home 8-5 with two straight home games on deck in the middle of the holiday season.

Seahawks 30, Ravens 17

Cowboys/Seahawks Preview

11 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

Who would have thought that going into week 6 the Dallas Cowboys would be 4-1? All of a sudden this week’s game has way more meaning than I originally thought it would. On Sunday afternoon the Dallas Cowboys come to Seattle to face the Seattle Seahawks. At 4-1 the Cowboys are tied for first place in the NFC East while the Seahawks sit at 3-1 and are tied for first place in the NFC West. Dallas leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-6 but in their last meeting in September 2012 Seattle handled the Cowboys easily, winning 27-7 with Russell Wilson earning his first NFL victory. Two seasons, 30 victories, and one Vince Lombardi trophy later, Wilson will attempt to tame Dallas once again. Here is what I am looking for in this week’s game.

The Dallas Cowboys sport the NFL’s leading rusher, running back DeMarco Murray. Murray’s 134 yards per game average is the best in the league and the first priority of the Seahawks defense will be to stop him. Look for Kevin Williams and Jordan Hill to have an expanded role along the Seahawks defensive line this week along with starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. It will be on these three guys to plug holes to limit Murray’s production. It will be crucial to stop Murray on first and second downs to force quarterback Tony Romo to throw. Romo has had a history of making bad throws and turning the ball over in Seattle so it will be crucial for the Seahawks pass rushers to put extra pressure on to force Romo into mistakes. If the defense can do both of these things the Seahawks will be in excellent shape.

Going into this season many believed that the 2014 Dallas Cowboys defense could statistically be one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Although they have not played terribly (yet), the Cowboys still rank in the bottom half in both pass defense and run defense. Dallas has given up an average of 122 rushing yards per game and if the Seahawks are successful running the ball much like they were last week this could be an easy win. On offense this week I believe the Seahawks will be victorious if Marshawn Lynch tops the 100 yard rushing plateau. Also keep an eye on Seattle’s use of the read option this week. Russell Wilson ran 14 read option plays against Washington last week and I think we will see more of it against a Cowboys team that has not faced a duel-threat quarterback since week 1 (Colin Kaepernick). I could see the Seahawks running between 5-10 read option plays. On these plays if Russell Wilson can run for 40-50 yards I believe we will be unbeatable. Expect to see Percy Harvin used just like he was last week, with expanded playing time lined up in the backfield.

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys on the offensive side of the ball everyone looks at DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant as the motor that makes the offense work. With the Seahawks primarily focusing on stopping Murray and with Richard Sherman likely covering Bryant, it would not surprise me to see Tony Romo throw to his other targets. Enter my “boom or bust” X-Factor player to watch, wide receiver Terrance Williams. I say Williams is “boom or bust” because he has been rather inconsistent on the stat line this season. On good days Williams can be dynamic, much like he has been the past two weeks when he caught a combined 8 passes for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the first three weeks of the season however, Williams struggled, catching only 8 passes for a combined 102 yards, a 34 yards per game average. With Williams likely matched up against Byron Maxwell for the majority of this game, it would not be surprising to see Romo throw in Williams’s direction to try to pick on Maxwell.

There is one pattern that I must address with the Dallas Cowboys coming to town this week. The Cowboys have played two meaningful games in Seattle since I became a season ticket holder in 2006. In both of these games the Cowboys have made at least one blunder on special teams. Everyone remembers the Tony Romo botched snap in the 2006 playoffs but many fans may not remember what happened the last time Dallas came to town. In our 2012 matchup Dallas kick returner Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff right into the arms of Earl Thomas. The Seahawks cashed in 7 plays later with a Steven Hauschka field goal. On the next Dallas possession, Bruce Irvin blocked a Chris Jones punt and Jeron Johnson returned it for a Seahawks touchdown. The Cowboys special teams have a rich history of struggling at CenturyLink Field so it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks can score any points on special teams this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy blue this week with the Cowboys wearing their traditional white jerseys and metallic silver/blue pants… Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week. Brennaman will be paired with Aikman for the next three weeks while Joe Buck calls the National League Championship Series and World Series for FOX. Even though Brennaman will do the play-by-play, this will still be FOX’s “America’s Game of the Week” broadcasted to the majority of the country… Bill Leavy is this week’s referee. Now that the Seahawks have won a Super Bowl it wouldn’t surprise me if Leavy’s Seattle limitations have been lifted. For those of you who don’t know this will be only the third time Leavy has officiated a Seahawks game in Seattle since Super Bowl XL… This week we will have an extra 20 minutes before kickoff as the game starts at 1:25pm. Everyone be in their seats ready to go by kickoff!… October is breast cancer awareness month in the NFL and this week the giveaway is pink ribbon pins. I am also excited to show off my pink Strideline socks for the second time this season… I think I’m only going to bring the leftover streamers I didn’t use at the Broncos game. Don’t feel like going to buy more. I’ll have to stock back up fully for the Raiders game… If the Seahawks win this week we will be 4-1, the same record we had through our first 5 games last season.

Prediction: A lot of people think the Cowboys can come into Seattle and make this a close game but I think otherwise. I think the Seahawks are primed for a decisive win. Marshawn Lynch will score two touchdowns and Michael Bennett will recover a Tony Romo fumble and take it to the house. The Seahawks will win this game to get to 4-1 and we will get ready for a huge test next week, our first division rivalry game of the season against St. Louis.

Seahawks 27, Cowboys 13

Check back late Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

13 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

It’s time to hit the road for the first time in 2014. After demolishing the Green Bay Packers in week 1, the Seahawks now hit the road to take on the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 1-0 and are coming off a long break following their 36-16 win over a week ago. The Chargers however are in the opposite boat, losing last week to the Arizona Cardinals 18-17 and this will be a short week for San Diego as they played on Monday night. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with San Diego 26-23. Their last meeting came in 2010 when Seattle edged the Chargers 27-20 at CenturyLink Field thanks in large part to two Leon Washington kickoff return touchdowns and two Earl Thomas interceptions. Since this is an early season road game it will be very important for the Seahawks to come out strong and show that they are the better team early on in the game. This is what I will be looking for in this week’s game.

Under Russell Wilson the Seahawks have a 1-1 record in opponent home openers. In these two games the Seahawks have averaged only 14 points per game. On offense this week I believe it is imperative for the Seahawks to put early points on the board in order to silence the crowd. As always this begins with being able to run effectively with Marshawn Lynch but also keep an eye out for Percy Harvin and Russell Wilson to have a bigger impact in the running game. I believe that if the Seahawks use Wilson on the ground more this week we will be able to move the ball in huge chunks. San Diego gave up 109 rushing yards last week and 29 of them came from Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, one of the most immobile quarterbacks in the league. Read option and designed quarterback runs this week I think could give the Seahawks a great chance of exchanging potential field goals for touchdowns.

The adjective that best sums up the play of the San Diego Chargers offense last week: terrible. Against a solid Arizona defense the Chargers were only able to score 17 points, only 3 of which coming in the first half. There has been a lot of talk about Richard Sherman not seeing any action last week but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has come out and said he will likely test Sherman this week. After looking at the film of the Chargers game last week however, I think if the Seahawks pass rush can put constant pressure on Rivers this game will be over fast. On the Chargers final drive last week with the Cardinals sending 4, 5, and even 6 guys on blitzes, Rivers tried to make quick short throws that were either batted down at the line of scrimmage or were just flat out terrible throws. My defensive focus this week is on Bruce Irvin, O’Brien Schofield, and K.J. Wright. These three linebackers will rush the passer from the second level of the defense along with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett along the defensive line. Given that the Chargers offense is most effective passing the ball, adding additional pressure on non-passing downs could give the Seahawks many opportunities to force bad decisions by Rivers, hopefully resulting in turnovers.

As dangerous as the San Diego Chargers offense can be, I am interested to see how their young and talented defense plays with the home crowd behind their backs against the best offense they will likely face this season. The Chargers defense recorded 58 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and 2 sacks last week and this week they face a challenge in game planning as they will have their hands full with Russell Wilson, especially right after playing a pocket passer such as Carson Palmer. I believe the best way to attempt to bully the Seahawks offense is to get to take advantage of matchups along the offensive line. Offensive tackle Justin Britt is the man on the Seahawks offensive line I am most concerned about in this respect. The man who will likely line up across from Britt this week is my X-Factor player to watch, defensive end Kendall Reyes. Reyes had a quiet night last week, recording one tackle. Even though Reyes’ stat line was not impressive, it must be noted that his 5 sacks in 2013 was second among all San Diego defenders, making him a concern for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to deal with. In order to overwhelm Britt, I would not be surprised if Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano uses Reyes and right side linebackers Jarrett Johnson and Manti Te’o in blitz packages to dial up extra pressure to try to collapse the right side of the pocket. This would force Russell Wilson to make throws against his body.

Random Thoughts: This week is “White Hot Sunday” in San Diego. The Chargers wear white for their first home game of the season while encouraging all fans in attendance to wear white as well. The Chargers will wear white jerseys and white pants, forcing the Seahawks to wear their navy jerseys this week. Expect the Seahawks to wear either white or grey pants this week. If I were a betting man, I would say the Seahawks will wear grey pants. If you are lucky enough to be on the road and attending this week’s game remember to WEAR NAVY… I have the feeling that there will be a strong contingent of Seahawks fans in San Diego this week. It is an easy trip to make and the Chargers have had a history of difficulty selling out their home games. Could we see more Seahawks navy than Chargers white in the stands this week? I think it is more of a possibility than you might think… Thom Brennaman and David Diehl have the call for FOX this week… Pete Morelli is this week’s referee. Coincidentally, Morelli also officiated the Seahawks matchup with the Chargers in the preseason last month… This week is a 1:05pm start not a 1:25pm start. Not that it matters too much since it is a road game but this will be the first of only two 1:05pm kickoffs this season. The rest of our afternoon starts will be 1:25pm… RedZone in the morning and the Seahawks in the afternoon this week. I enjoyed watching 8 hours of only RedZone last week not having to worry about the Seahawks… Qualcomm Stadium is a dump. Plain and simple. Other than the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Qualcomm Stadium is the worst active NFL Stadium. Even though I went there to see the Mariners play two baseball games there in 2003, the difference in stadium experience between seeing a baseball game and seeing a football game is probably microscopic. Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated and theMMQB.com even called Qualcomm “an insult to dumps everywhere” in a well-written 2013 piece outlining the troubles with the stadium and the battle between the Chargers and the city of San Diego to build a new stadium. It is a good read that I definitely recommend… If the Seahawks beat the Chargers it will be the second consecutive season that the Seahawks start 2-0.

Prediction: The Seahawks and Chargers will both get off to a slow start offensively but the Seahawks will settle down in the second quarter. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Steven Hauschka will kick his 3rd field goal right before halftime. The Seahawks will take a 16-7 lead into the second half and while Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers back to within one score, Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns to put the game out of reach for good. The Seahawks will go to 2-0 with a big game against the Denver Broncos at home on-deck next week.

Seahawks 30, Chargers 17

Check back Sunday night for my review of this game. Enjoy the game people and go Hawks!

Seahawks/Falcons Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

12 Jan

Image

Matchup: (5) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks enjoyed their first helping of playoff football by knocking off the Washington Redskins last week. Now it’s time to head back to the buffet for more. The Seahawks head to Atlanta to take on the NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons in an NFC Divisional playoff. This is the first meeting between these two teams in the playoffs. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Falcons 8-5 but have lost three straight. Their last meeting was in week 4 of last season. The Falcons got out to a 24-7 halftime lead but a strong second half charge put the Seahawks in a position to come back and win. They could not however, falling to the Falcons 30-28. This is also Seattle’s first trip back to the Georgia Dome since week 17 of the 2007 season. There is lots to talk about this week so let’s get to it.

After the Seahawks beat Washington last week I immediately turned my attention to the team statistics of the Atlanta Falcons. The stat that caught my eye was their team rushing defense. The Falcons are ranked 21st in the National Football League in rushing yards allowed per game. That number is 123 yards per game. With Marshawn Lynch attracting lots of attention by the Falcons this week combined with the running threat of quarterback Russell Wilson, I think the Seahawks will have many prime opportunities to move the ball effectively and put up points. My key in the running game is getting off to a fast start and moving the ball while at the same time keeping the Atlanta defense on their feet and keeping their crowd silent. I will monitor Marshawn Lynch’s yards quarter by quarter while also taking a look at how well the zone-read option works early. It will be big for Atlanta if they can sniff out the zone-read and limit that dimension of our offense. I think if Lynch averages 25-30 yards per quarter and Wilson can run for a couple first downs per quarter the Seahawks offense will put many points on the board. The Falcons are also ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing yards given up and that will be a factor as long as Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over but the running game is the x-factor for the Seahawks effectiveness this week.

All of the talk in the national media this week has been the matchups on the outside. The Falcons boast arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league with Roddy White and Julio Jones. Across the line of scrimmage the Seahawks boast arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. The wide receivers are very talented and have the capabilities to make plays. The cornerbacks are also fully capable of taking those big plays away. The thing to be watching for is potential penalties on Sherman and Browner. Depending on whom the referees are on the outside, they will either keep their flags in their pockets, allowing Sherman and Browner to be extra physical or if they look like they are making too much contact, they will be called for penalties. This fortunately or unfortunately will decide how effective both units are. The Seahawks may be in trouble if the cornerbacks are being called for holding or illegal contact especially early in the game.

With the season-ending injuries to defensive end Chris Clemons and kicker Steven Hauschka, the Seahawks have added two new players. The more recognized new face is Hauschka’s replacement; kicker Ryan Longwell. Longwell, 38, has spent the previous 15 seasons split with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Longwell is a Puyallup native and beat out a handful of kickers including former Arizona Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers and rookie Carson Wiggs for the job. Longwell has a stronger leg than Hauschka but has not kicked all season. I trust Longwell to make moderate field goals (21-45 yards) but field goals from 46+ yards are a mystery to me. The other new Seahawk is defensive end Patrick Chukwurah. Chukwurah has been absent from the NFL for four years. He has spent the last few years in the United Football League and led the league in sacks the past two seasons. He last played in the NFL in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but did not record any statistics. Although Bruce Irvin will start and take a lot of snaps, I expect Chukwurah to see between 10-20 plays this week in place of Irvin. Longwell will wear number 7 and Chukwurah will wear number 97 for those wondering.

The Georgia Dome may be a louder stadium to play in than FedExField was last week but the fan base may not be as tough to face as last week. There were over 5,000 tickets still available for Sunday’s game according to ESPN and the NFL. Combine that with the recent playoff woes of the Atlanta Falcons, I get the gist from the Atlanta media that it feels like there is not as much excitement over Falcons football as should be expected. I think the environment will be loud but manageable. If the Seahawks can get off to a fast start, the crowd will not matter. This is the first time I can remember that the field conditions and weather will not play a factor for a road playoff game. I think this gives us a hidden advantage that many other people would overlook. Nevertheless we are traveling across the country, playing the number one seed in the conference, and playing in a dome. Warning Seahawks fans, it should be normal to be cautiously optimistic and/or a little bit worried this week in regards to the environment.

It’s time for me to throw some numbers out there! This might make the 12th Man feel better about what to expect on Sunday. The Falcons went 7-1 at home in 2012. Their only loss was in week 17 to Tampa Bay when they had already clinched home-field advantage and played their second stringers for most of the game. The Falcons either trailed or held a one-score lead at halftime in 5 of their 8 games this season. Of their 7 victories, 5 of them ended as one-score wins. The scary thing though was that their 10-point win over New Orleans and their 34-0 shutout of the New York Giants occurred in the second half of the season. Of their 5 one-score margin of victory wins, they went into the half either tied or trailing three times. Based on these numbers the conclusions I have drawn are that the Falcons have shown they could get off to a slow start but have improved in the first half of games as the season has progressed. The Seahawks are the best defense the Falcons have faced all year and they have not played a team that qualified for the playoffs since playing the Redskins in week 5. This game could definitely be close at halftime and that is exactly what I expect to happen.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are going to wear white jerseys again this week. I don’t think you can mess up a winning combination, thus I hope the Seahawks wear white pants again… The referee this week is Walt Coleman. We will see if his all-star crew (the NFL puts together the best referees into different “all-star” crews for the playoffs) will be calling a tight game for Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner this week… The Seahawks only won one 10am kickoff game this season. Not going to lie this worries me a little bit… Don’t sleep on Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez will most likely see a lot of Kam Chancellor in the middle this week and he has the best hands of any tight end in the league. Last week a lot of short passes caught the Seahawks defense off guard early and if Matt Ryan can connect with Gonzalez he can make some catches he is hard to bring down. He will definitely be a challenge that cannot go unnoticed… Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick have the call for FOX this week with Laura Okmin and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines. It should be a good broadcast because I am a fan of Brennaman and Billick does a good job offering his very educated commentary… I’m having another group of friends over to my house Sunday morning for the game. Hopefully more show up than last week but it will be tough to beat since we had a good number of people over last week… It feels like it’s about time to get over this divisional playoff hump. We have been stopped in this round our last three trips to the playoffs. It feels like it should be time to break the barn door down and get back to the NFC Championship game.

Prediction: This kills me but like I always try to preach, I try to be a realist. Although the Seahawks have the best defense the Falcons have faced all season I just feel that Atlanta’s offense is too powerful for us to handle. I think since there has been expanded speculation in the media this week about the way the refs will call the game along the outside, the game will be called tight and the Seahawks will suffer. Those penalties will come at the most inopportune times and will keep Atlanta drives alive and unfortunately translate into points. The better overall team will unfortunately not win this game as mistakes and one more turnover than the home team will doom us. The game will be close but those penalties and mistakes will cost us a trip to the NFC title game. DO NOT get me wrong, I hope to God that I am completely wrong and hopefully we will advance to either San Francisco or Green Bay to play for the NFC Championship but unfortunately I think there is a slightly better chance that we will come up short.

Falcons 35, Seahawks 31

Win or lose, check back hopefully Sunday night (It might be published in the early morning hours on Monday) for my review of Sunday’s game. Hopefully I will have at least one more preview to write for next weekend also. Enjoy the game everybody. I’M IN! Go Hawks!