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Rams/Seahawks Preview

28 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After losing to the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Seattle Seahawks have a third and final chance to clinch the NFC West division title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs this week against the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 12-3 after last week’s loss and the Rams enter Seattle having won 4 of their last 6 games. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 19-12 and have won the last two games including a 14-9 win in week 8 in St. Louis on Monday Night Football. It is also noteworthy to point out that the Rams currently have an 8-game losing streak in Seattle. Their last win at CenturyLink Field came on January 8th, 2005 in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. This week’s game has become the biggest game of the season and I expect and anticipate a playoff-type atmosphere on Sunday. This is what will be in the way and what the Seahawks must do to be the 2013 NFC West champions.

Forget about how well the defense played. Forget about the bad calls that went against us. The primary reason why we were unable to win and clinch last week was the inept play by the Seahawks offense. Protecting quarterback Russell Wilson is by far the most important thing the Seahawks must do in order to be successful this week. J.R. Sweezy has been practicing this week and it is logical to believe he will be back starting at right guard, adding stability to a position that was a brutal weakness last week with Michael Bowie filling in. As important as the running game will be with Marshawn Lynch this week, it is the Seahawks passing game that will need to step up to move the ball in chunks, extend drives, and get into scoring range on a more consistent basis. Last week Arizona forced 7 Seahawks three-and-outs, which was a significant factor in Arizona being able to control the clock and tire our defense out. If the Seahawks offensive line does a sub-par job protecting Wilson, look for the Seahawks to utilize a screen pass package that could feature Golden Tate on bubble screens and Marshawn Lynch on conventional screens out of the backfield.

The Seahawks defense has not allowed more than 20 points in a game since before the bye week. This week, in an effort to improve exposed aspects of our defensive game plan last week, it is imperative that the Seahawks must be able to stop Rams running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has been on a tear as of late, running for 133 yards and 104 yards in the last two weeks respectively. Stacy also ran for his season high 134 rushing yards against the Seahawks back in October. Although St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens has been playing decent football since starting quarterback Sam Bradford got hurt that does not diminish the fact that Clemens will have to play in front of a revved up 12th Man that will be at full roar on Sunday hoping to boost the Seahawks into the division title. The Seahawks have intercepted 9 passes in their last two games and putting pressure on Clemens could significantly up that number this week. This is why Stacy becomes such a viable weapon for St. Louis and by eliminating Stacy’s production and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw will give the Seahawks a tremendous advantage this week. Look for the Seahawks pass rush to also make an impact on the left side of the Rams offensive line, as starting left tackle Jake Long is out for the season. Rodger Saffold will start in place of Long this week.

The last time these two teams played, the St. Louis Rams defense did a surprisingly incredible job of shutting down a Seahawks offense that had been rolling in their previous few games. It was this game that the Seahawks were unfortunately introduced to defensive end Robert Quinn. Quinn is currently the NFL leader in sacks with 18, racking up 5 sacks in his last two games, thus he comes into Seattle very hot. The way the Rams control this game is to make life miserable for Russell Wilson. And the way Seattle blocked against Arizona will not cut it this week as the Rams pass rush may be one of the league’s best right now. The Rams like to use pressure early and they will use packages that include Quinn, defensive end Chris Long, defensive end William Hayes, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Quinn will be the primary focus of the Seahawks offensive line and it would not surprise me to see Quinn line up at defensive tackle to try to penetrate the soft spots in the Seahawks offensive line. Double teaming Robert Quinn will be necessary at times but being able to harness the rest of the Rams pass rushers will make it easier for the Seahawks to take care of Quinn.

On offense for the Rams there will be a gigantic emphasis on the running game because St. Louis averages less than 200 passing yards per game this season. If the running game cannot pick up steam, quarterback Kellen Clemens will be forced to throw. Much like how I think Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense can effectively run screen passes this week, I think the same goes for the Rams. Kellen Clemens does not want to throw into the Legion of Boom and being able to play conservatively in the passing game could benefit the Rams offense overall. Using screen passes could be the best way to move the ball through the air this week and my X-Factor player to watch this week is a man who has suddenly become Clemens’s most popular target; wide receiver Stedman Bailey. Bailey is a rookie wide receiver from West Virginia and was taken two rounds after his college teammate Tavon Austin was also taken by St. Louis. With a season-ending injury to Austin, Bailey has seen significant playing time and has seen an increasing number of targets over the past 4 weeks. Last week Bailey led all Rams receivers in targets with 5, catching 3 of them for 44 yards. Bailey is short yet quick and I consider him a possible Doug Baldwin/Golden Tate hybrid. Using Bailey in the quick passing game is what I will look for this week while the Rams are on offense. If the Rams decide to throw bubble screens, expect Bailey to be the top target on the outside.

Like I previously stated earlier in this post, after last week’s loss the sense of urgency this week has blossomed from easy comfort to overblown panic. To all of the fans, especially those attending this week’s game, I remind you that we still control our own destiny but the Seahawks need us to do our part now more than ever. The 12th Man needs to enter CenturyLink Field on Sunday with the belief that this is a playoff game. I expect an extremely loud atmosphere (even for a Sunday afternoon game) that will make St. Louis struggle as badly as San Francisco and New Orleans did in primetime atmospheres. Plain and simple, this is a playoff game. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare during pregame and cheer and yell like it is a playoff game.

Random Thoughts: This week’s game theme is fan appreciation and the Seahawks will be giving away tons of prizes throughout the game. I haven’t won anything on fan appreciation day since 2008… Last season the Seahawks chose 60 season ticket holders randomly to be on the field for player introductions. If they are doing it again this year I didn’t get picked. Oh well… The Seahawks will wear all blue this week and the Rams will likely wear white jerseys and white pants… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will broadcast their final Seahawks game of the season this week on FOX… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee. Triplette’s crew has been rather controversial this year. In a Sunday night game between the Giants and the Redskins a few weeks ago, Triplette’s crew incorrectly told Redskins coach Mike Shanahan that they moved the chains for a first down but they really had not gained enough yards for a first down. The Redskins could not convert and the Giants won the game… This week I am taking my sister to a Seahawks game for the first time since her birthday in 2008. This is also the first time I’ve taken a family member other than my Dad to a game since then. She recently turned 21 so I will be able to show her what a normal gameday is like when I take my friends. Pregame at the Hawks Nest Bar starts at 9am… Shortly after the afternoon slate of games the NFL usually releases the schedule for both Wild-Card weekend and Divisional weekend. The Seahawks will likely know what day and what time they play their first playoff game by 5pm Sunday night. Congratulations to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas for being named to this year’s Pro Bowl and congratulations to Russell Okung, Golden Tate, and Steven Hauschka for being named Pro Bowl alternates. However, hopefully they trade their trip to Hawaii for a trip to New York to play in the Super Bowl instead.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As we enter the final week of the regular season there are 3 scenarios that could determine the Seahawks road to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Scenario #1: A Seahawks win clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #2: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers loss to Arizona clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #3: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers win over Arizona clinches the NFC West for San Francisco; the Seahawks would be the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

The NFC North and NFC East division titles will be decided by win-or-go-home games that will determine who will be the #3 and #4 seeds.

The Carolina Panthers can clinch the NFC South and the #2 seed with a win over Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Tampa Bay. New Orleans wins the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss.

Here are this week’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3)

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11)

San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5)

Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7)

Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5)

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7)

Prediction: This game will feature shades of our first game against St. Louis and last week’s game against Arizona. The Seahawks offense will struggle to get going and the Rams will have the lead at halftime. A couple of big gains in the passing game and a touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch from just outside the goal line will give the Seahawks a late lead. The defense will play a consistent game throughout the day and they will step up when we need them to the most. The Rams will need to put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes to win the game but Richard Sherman will pick off Kellen Clemens, giving the Seahawks the win, the NFC West title, and home field advantage.

Seahawks 21, Rams 16

Check back for my Rams/Seahawks review as well as a brief outlook on the start of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday night. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Hawks!

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Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

21 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

At the beginning of the season a lot of casual fans probably would have overlooked this week’s game on the whole. However this week’s matchup has turned into a very important game for both the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks enter this week at 12-2 and a win would clinch both the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals come to Seattle a rather surprising 9-5 and a win would keep them alive in the NFC wild-card hunt. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-14 but Seattle has had Arizona’s number of late. In their last meeting the Seahawks defeated Arizona 34-22 back in week 7, however note that the last time they played in Seattle was last December when the Seahawks won 58-0 in the most lopsided win in team history. It is very important for the Seahawks to not get ahead of themselves this week because if we struggle the Cardinals are definitely capable of gaining and maintaining a lead. This is what I will be looking for from both the Seahawks and the Cardinals this week.

After shutting out the New York Giants last week, it will be important for the Seahawks defense to keep their momentum rolling this week. After dominating the Cardinals back in week 7 it may be understandable for Seahawks fans to think that we will be able to shut them down again on defense this week. What you may not realize is the offensive roll the Cardinals have been on since our last meeting. In the 7 games since our last meeting with Arizona, the Cardinals offense has averaged 30 points per game. This week my primary defensive focus is on the Legion of Boom and if they can keep up their dynamite production after intercepting 5 passes last week. Richard Sherman will line up against Larry Fitzgerald and Byron Maxwell will battle both Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I will be interested to see how often Carson Palmer decides to throw downfield given that he has been the most efficient throwing slants and out routes in the short to intermediate passing game, and since he fully understands the potential danger of throwing into our secondary.

Running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin as well as controlling the game clock will be the most important thing for the Seahawks offense to do this week. The Seahawks were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock last week in a winning effort. This week I would like to see the Seahawks run the ball more on third down instead of having Russell Wilson look for a receiver and take the risk of losing yards or even getting hurt, something that I discussed briefly in my Giants game review. Although he has been running the ball well, Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball 20 times or more in a single game once in his last four games. This week, even against a ferocious and talented defense like Arizona has, I think it is in the best interest of our offense to feed the beast and let him run at least 25 times this week, using Robert Turbin for a handful of carries as well. If the running game struggles early I believe we will see creative packages and different play calling from Darrell Bevell in order to catch the Cardinals off guard. In short, the running game needs to be the Seahawks primary focus on offense but do not be surprised to see Russell Wilson be willing to run and throw if the Cardinals shut Lynch down.

Over the second half of the season the Arizona Cardinals have developed one of the league’s most improved offenses. Quarterback Carson Palmer has averaged 307 yards passing in his last 5 games to his array of wide receivers including perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, as well as the younger, potential-filled talent of Michael Floyd. Over the years, regardless of who their quarterback has been, the Cardinals have continued to be a predominant passing team but the newfound effective running game has helped keep Arizona winning week after week as of late. Last week the Cardinals ran for 145 yards on the Tennessee Titans and they have implemented a running back rotation that is continuing to work due to head coach Bruce Arians’ faith in establishing and continuing to run the ball. My X-Factor player to watch for Arizona this week is one of their two running backs, Andre Ellington. Ellington sees roughly half the number of carries that starter Rashard Mendenhall sees but his statistical averages make him a player the Seahawks front 7 must focus on. Technically as a backup, Ellington has averaged 56 rushing yards over the past three weeks including 71 rushing yards on 10 carries last week. Although these numbers do not scream “feature back,” the truth to Ellington’s effectiveness shows in the yards per carry category, where he averages 5.6 yards per carry over the past three weeks (7.1 yards per carry last week). Eliminating Ellington and the running game as a whole will force Palmer to throw which, in my opinion, is high risk/high reward when you think about the talent he has to throw to and the defense he is throwing into.

I have held the belief that the Arizona defense is one of the most underrated units in the league for a long time and they are maintaining and building on their quiet production leading into this week’s game. Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one ranked rushing defense in the league. As important as it is for the Seahawks to get Marshawn Lynch going early, the Cardinals are going to do everything they can to force Russell Wilson to throw. The Cardinals have a dynamic mix of pass rushers and tacklers loaded in their front 7. In the running game I look for leading tackler Karlos Dansby and linebacker Daryl Washington to make it hard for Marshawn Lynch to break through the first level of the defense and to fight for yards after contact. Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals in sacks with 11.5 and along with Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, life will be made tough for Russell Wilson in the passing game, especially on passing downs. The Cardinals like to send maximum pressure using these three pass rushers and it could be even tougher for the Seahawks if the Cardinals are leading, or if the score is close late in the game. Something that also cannot go unnoticed is how the Cardinals try to force turnovers. The Cardinals average almost one forced fumble per game and John Abraham has forced 4 fumbles on his own this season. Due to the multiple ways Abraham can disrupt an opposing offense, it will be crucial (and perhaps necessary) to double team him along the outside. I recommend looking at how James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini do controlling Abraham on the line this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-blue once again at home this week. I’m curious if the Cardinals will wear red pants this week, something they only do on rare occasions especially on the road… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Scott Green will be the referee this week… I am taking my friend Josh to this weekend’s game and he is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan first, Seahawks fan second. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football so we will probably head to a bar after the game for him to watch the Eagles game. It will be interesting to see which jersey he wears on Sunday… It’s funny that Josh is an Eagles fan because this will be the 4th time he goes to the annual Cardinals/Seahawks game with me and we have gone to one game per year together for 7 years… Hopefully the Seahawks Pro Shop will have division champions gear for sale following the game if we win. I would love to be one of the first ones to get their hands on a division champions t-shirt and hat… This is the first Seahawks afternoon home game in 5 weeks. I’m going to have to get down to the bars early again this week… The Seahawks are giving out “#LOUDER” cheer cards this week to the first 20,000 fans. I don’t understand why they can’t make enough for everyone. All it is basically is a piece of stock paper… Remember, kickoff is at 1:05 not 1:25. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare if you are going to the game… I am hoping that the before the game, either before team introductions or before kickoff, they announce to the 12th Man what is at stake in terms of winning the division and clinching home field advantage with a win. I distinctly remember them doing that before we played the Cardinals in December 2007 and we won the game and the division.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win. Regardless of whether we win or lose, Seattle can also clinch the division and home field advantage with a 49ers loss on Monday Night Football. Here are this week’s games that can affect the NFC playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11)

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7)

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1)

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4)

Prediction: The Cardinals and Seahawks will combine for 5 interceptions and 7 sacks. Although the game will include strong defensive play there is no way you can doubt the Seahawks at home. Russell Wilson will throw for three touchdowns and the Seahawks will clinch the 2013 NFC West title and will make sure that the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Seattle.

Seahawks 30, Cardinals 10

Check back for my Cardinals/Seahawks review late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!

Vikings/Seahawks Preview

16 Nov
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After the Seahawks 33-10 win last week over the Atlanta Falcons, they come home this week for one more game before their late bye week. This week also begins a stretch where the Seahawks play 4 out of their last 6 regular season games at home. They start this stretch against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks continue their best start in franchise history as they enter this week’s game with a 9-1 record. Minnesota has not had similar fortune. After going 10-6 and making the playoffs last season, the Vikings enter this game at 2-7 and are in last place in the NFC North. Having said this, the Vikings are coming off of a win last Thursday night as they defeated the Washington Redskins 34-27. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Minnesota 7-5. Their last meeting came last November. After allowing 80 rushing yards and a touchdown to running back Adrian Peterson on Minnesota’s first offensive drive of the game, the Seahawks buckled down and beat the Vikings 30-20. Two weeks ago many including myself thought the Seahawks would easily beat Tampa Bay at home but barely squeaked by with a win. The Seahawks cannot overlook the Vikings like they overlooked the Buccaneers. Here is what needs to happen for the Seahawks to get to 10-1 on the season.

As always I start with the Seahawks offense and the biggest key for Russell Wilson and the rest of the offense this week is to carry their offensive momentum from last week’s game into this week’s game. On paper that should not be a problem. The Seahawks will have Russell Okung, Max Unger, and Breno Giacomini back this week starting on the offensive line. This is great news for Marshawn Lynch. If you think he was productive the last few weeks with a makeshift offensive line, just imagine how productive he will be going forward with our starting line back. This is also great news for Wilson, as the pass protection should improve greatly, giving him more time in the pocket to make throws down the field. It also helps that the Vikings pass defense ranks 5th worst in the NFL, allowing an average of 286 passing yards per game. I think it may take a little bit of time for Wilson to get re-acclimated to his starting offensive line, thus you may see him panic and make quick throws to his receivers early on. If pass protection is strong early, Wilson will settle down fast and be able to confidently stand in the pocket to make throws as the game goes on.

At the other skill positions the primary storyline this week is the return and Seahawks debut of wide receiver Percy Harvin. According to the NFL Network, Harvin is expected to start this week. As exciting as it is to have Harvin back in the lineup, he has not played in a live game for a full calendar year and he must get back to game speed and it may take some time to do so. Harvin will play but I do not expect to see the kind of jaw dropping performance this week that Seahawks fans knew they were getting when we acquired him. I do not expect Harvin to return kicks and he may be on a limited snap count this week. In my opinion I expect to see Harvin on the field between 12 to 15 plays and I would be satisfied to see him catch between 40-55 yards worth of passes. Adding Harvin could also benefit the passing game by using him as a decoy. Golden Tate has put together a solid string of performances over the past couple of weeks and Jermaine Kearse has proven to be Russell Wilson’s go-to guy deep down the field. The different ways Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell use our wide receivers create different options for how to play Harvin both on the outside and in the slot. In short, Percy Harvin will make an impact in our offense this week, the question is what kind and how big of an impact.

The number one key for the Seattle defense this week is to prove that last week’s 64 rushing yards allowed to the Atlanta Falcons was not a “fluke” performance. The run defense will face their biggest challenge this week and it will be essential to shut Adrian Peterson down and force Minnesota to throw. Mistakes could be made by the Vikings if the Seahawks can effectively take away the running game, and the Legion of Boom should be on high alert for passes dangerously thrown into coverage. Speaking of the Legion of Boom, I am curious to see Walter Thurmond start in place of the injured Brandon Browner. If there is one position group that can afford to lose a starter it is cornerback. Thurmond started for Browner in the Seahawks first two games of the season and had 5 tackles and 2 passes defensed in that span. With Thurmond starting and Jeremy Lane nursing an injured hip, Byron Maxwell might be forced to play nickel corner this week. If this is the case, expect the Vikings to have three or more receivers on the field more often to try to take advantage of our defensive formations.

There is no secret to how the Minnesota Vikings offense works; give the ball to Adrian Peterson and let him run wild. With the Vikings quarterback situation up in arms (Christian Ponder is expected to start Sunday with Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel as backups) the only way I think the Vikings can win this game is for Peterson to carry the team on his back, putting up a couple hundred rushing yards and scoring multiple touchdowns.  Peterson deserves the bulk of the offensive workload no question about it but there is another guy on Minnesota’s offense that deserves to be my X-Factor player to watch this week. After the Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks over the offseason, they needed to plug that hole and try to replace Harvin’s production. Minnesota used one of their three first round picks to try to do so. My X-Factor player to watch for the Vikings this week is rookie wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson is a height/weight/speed player who caught my eye leading up to this year’s draft. Although raw, I thought Patterson would be a good fit in Seattle and although he does not have the prettiest of stats so far this season, the potential is there to confirm my personal pre-draft thoughts. Patterson’s most productive game as a receiver came week 3 against Cleveland when he caught 2 passes for 49 yards. Patterson has not caught more than 3 passes in a game so far this season but the Vikings have done a better job getting him involved in the offense, which was evident last week against Washington when he caught his first career touchdown pass. It will be necessary for the Seahawks to play a solid game on special teams because Patterson is not afraid to return kickoffs deep out of the endzone. Patterson has returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns this season. Peterson and Patterson will be responsible for the majority of Minnesota’s offensive production this week. Shutting both of them down will go a long way in preserving a Seahawks victory.

Random Thoughts: A preview of the Vikings defense does not warrant its own paragraph so I will place them here in random thoughts this week. The Vikings defense has struggled as a unit throughout the course of this season but keep an eye on veteran defensive end Jared Allen and linebacker Chad Greenway. Both have put up good numbers to lead this subpar group this season… Blue jerseys and blue pants once again for the Seahawks this week. The Vikings will most likely wear purple pants with their white jerseys… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Jerome Boger is the referee this week. Don’t be surprised if Boger frustrates you at some point during the game. He does not do nearly as good of a job explaining his calls than other referees. In my opinion he is one of the worst referees in the NFL overall… For those attending this game remember that it is a 1:25 kickoff this week. I like having that extra 20 minutes to get to my seats… Gates will open 3 hours before the rest of our home games this season. Hopefully that chops down waiting time when I go in about an hour before kickoff… This week’s game theme is military appreciation. A full-sized American flag will be unraveled during the national anthem along with a Purple Heart ceremony during halftime. Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall will raise the 12th Man Flag this week. It is tradition that a notable local veteran raises the flag on military appreciation day… I will definitely be scoreboard watching throughout the game. Although I don’t want to see either team win, I would rather see New Orleans win than San Francisco. We’ve got to take care of the division first before we can start to think about home field advantage in the playoffs… I am taking a buddy of mine who is a Chicago Bears fan primarily and a Seahawks fan on the side. We’ll have to make sure the Ravens/Bears game is on at the bar during the morning slate of games for his enjoyment. As always let’s take care of the Vikings early and stay healthy!

Prediction: The Seahawks will take care of business this week and although we will not dominate like we did against the Falcons, they won’t have us biting our nails in nervously like they had us doing against Tampa Bay two weeks ago. Russell Wilson will throw for 300+ yards and Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will each have a touchdown catch. Marshawn Lynch will run for at least 85 yards and a touchdown as well. Adrian Peterson will put up two touchdowns on the ground but it won’t nearly be enough as Seattle will win and head into the bye week 10-1.

Seahawks 33, Vikings 17

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: Going into this week the Seahawks have a 2 ½ game lead on the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC West. They also lead the New Orleans Saints by 1 ½ games for the number one seed in the NFC Playoffs. Here are this week’s games that could impact the NFC Playoff race overall. Teams to note are bolded.

Minnesota (2-7) at Seattle (9-1)

San Francisco (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2)

Detroit (6-3) at Pittsburgh (3-6)

Baltimore (4-5) at Chicago (5-4)

Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (5-5)

New England (7-2) at Carolina (6-3)

Be sure to check back late Sunday night/early Monday morning for my review of our game against the Minnesota Vikings. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!

Buccaneers/Seahawks Preview

2 Nov
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Seahawks return home to start the second half of the season as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon. After escaping St. Louis with a win the Seahawks currently hold a 7-1 record and have a one game lead on the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC West. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stumble into Seattle with more than 99 problems, if you know what I mean. The Buccaneers are 0-7, the seat head coach Greg Schiano is sitting on is white-hot, and on the field the Buccaneers have looked more like the Tampa Bay “Yuckaneers” of the 1970’s, 1980’s, and early 1990’s. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Tampa Bay 7-4. In their last meeting in 2009, a terrible 2-win Buccaneers team came into Seattle and crushed the unraveling Seahawks 24-7. Once again the Seahawks are heavily favored and practically no one is giving Tampa Bay a chance to win this game. Remember though most people also gave the St. Louis Rams no chance of winning last week and they were one yard away from winning. Here is what the Seahawks must do to avoid a colossal upset and what to know about the Buccaneers.

 It’s obvious that a big key on offense this week is to better pass-protect quarterback Russell Wilson so I will spare my obvious analysis of this point. With the loss of Sidney Rice for the rest of the season to a torn ACL and the absence of Percy Harvin for at least one more week, the Seahawks will have to search for a new way to move the ball through the air this week. This will be that much more important because Tampa Bay allows only 95 rushing yards per game; 7th best in the NFL. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will be our primary receivers and Jermaine Kearse will have a more prominent role in the offense against Tampa Bay. Kearse could have a big impact because of his height. Although Tate can be a play-maker on the outside the Seahawks need a guy with great vertical range who can jump up and get passes. Baldwin will ideally be used out of the slot meaning Kearse will line up opposite Tate for the majority of the snaps he sees. I do not expect recently activated wide receiver Ricardo Lockette to see much playing time at all, if any. If the Buccaneers can do a good job of staying with their receivers down the field, Wilson and the Seahawks offense will be forced to use screen passes to move the ball through the air. Look for Zach Miller and Luke Willson to potentially make a big impact in the short passing game.

On defense, the game we must play this week is “confuse the rookie.” The quarterback of the Buccaneers is rookie 3rd round pick Mike Glennon, the man who replaced Russell Wilson at North Carolina State after Wilson transferred to Wisconsin. Glennon took over for Josh Freeman who was traded to the Minnesota Vikings earlier this season. One of the biggest confidence boosters from my perspective is the thought of a rookie quarterback coming into CenturyLink Field to play his first game here. With our defense and the crowd noise, first timers playing Seattle tend to struggle more than in their previous games. Look for the Seahawks to blitz more than they did last week. Heavy blitzes resulted in 7 sacks of Carson Palmer two weeks ago but Kellen Clemens was only sacked 3 times last week. Dialing up extra blitz packages this week and sending a wide array of pass-rushers on different plays will result in an increase in sack production and may confuse Glennon to make bad decisions. Forcing turnovers could be the determining factor in the outcome of this game. If the Seahawks can strip the ball and force interceptions, we will win this game no doubt about it (as long, of course, as the offense can turn those turnovers into points).

With a rookie quarterback in Mike Glennon, a back-up running back in Mike James, and a coach that is on the verge of completely losing the locker room, I believe that the Buccaneers offense is a complete mess coming into this game. The Buccaneers average only 14 points per game. It will be terribly difficult to score points on Seattle this week, especially since the Seahawks have not allowed a touchdown for two weeks. The only way Tampa Bay has a realistic chance of winning this game will be because of a dominant performance by their defense. On paper the Buccaneers have lots of talent on defense. Linebacker Lavonte David leads Tampa Bay in tackles and sacks while defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has recorded two sacks of his own. Before the season started it was highlighted that this game would feature the two best cornerbacks in the league as Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis would share the same field in this game. Sherman has maintained his title as one of the best cornerbacks in the league but Revis has slipped slightly. Revis leads all Tampa Bay defenders in passes defensed with 6 but he has only recorded one interception. My X-Factor player to watch for Tampa Bay this week is linebacker Mason Foster. Foster, from the University of Washington, Has done a little of everything on defense this year, making him a player that definitely warrants an offenses undivided attention on every play. Foster is 4th in tackles on Tampa Bay’s defense with 42, he has recorded 2 sacks and he can also drop back into coverage, which was highlighted in week 2 when he intercepted a pass and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.

Random Thoughts: Blue jerseys and blue pants for the Seahawks this week. The Buccaneers will most likely wear their unique (or weird looking depending on who you talk to) bronze colored pants with their white jerseys… Kenny Albert and Daryl “Moose” Johnston have the call for FOX this week with Tony Siragusa reporting from the sidelines. Is it possible that because the Seahawks have such an impressive record we have been rewarded by no longer being subjected to play-by-play and commentary from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan?! Hopefully so since they have only broadcasted two of our games this year, the last one coming in week 4… Mike Carey is the referee this week. Carey is my favorite referee in the league although his crew has made some questionable calls against the Seahawks the past couple of years. The reason why I like Carey so much is his intense pointing when announcing penalties and the way he rolls his hands when he states what down it will be following said penalties… To everyone attending this week’s game remember it is a 1:05 start NOT a 1:25 start. Like I always say that 20 minute span makes all the difference. I recommend you make sure you are at your seats by 12:50 at the latest; at least 15 minutes early… For the first time this season I will not have an issue with the warmth and the weather. No doubt a sweatshirt, jeans, and perhaps a knit hat will be necessary this week to keep warm… Hawks Nest Bar and Grill pregame. Be there… The Seahawks will be honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Seahawks; the first Seahawks team to make the playoffs. That season the Seahawks went 12-4 and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game. If it turns out to be a halftime ceremony it will surely be one to remember. Let’s get out of this game healthy and with a win to get to 8-1. Come on boys!

Prediction: The Seahawks offense will improve from last week but will not handle the Buccaneers like most people think they should (think the Cardinals game last December). There will be a lot of field goals in this game, which is good for me since Steven Hauschka is my fantasy football kicker. The Seahawks defense will play a very good game sacking Mike Glennon 5 times and recording 2 interceptions; one from Richard Sherman and one by K.J. Wright. The Seahawks will get to 8-1 with a big road test against the Atlanta Falcons looming next week.

Seahawks 26, Buccaneers 3

Look for my review of the Buccaneers/Seahawks game late Sunday night or in the wee hours of Monday morning. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Hawks!

Review: Colts 34, Seahawks 28

6 Oct
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Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

In the 93 year history of the National Football League only four teams have had an undefeated regular season. Hopefully that is something to remember as we disappointed Seahawks fans saw our team lose for the first time this season on Sunday. Seattle’s 34-28 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts drops the Seahawks to 4-1 on the season and we hold a one game lead on the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. There was some good, some bad, and a bit of frustration mixed into this week’s game. Here is what I saw.

First Half Offense Shows Improvement: The first 12:15 of the game could not have gone any better for the Seahawks. After getting on the board with a field goal, the Seahawks drove 64 yards on 8 plays capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate. After forcing another Indianapolis three-and-out, Jermaine Kearse blocked Pat McAfee’s punt which resulted in a safety as the officials ruled that Jeron Johnson did not have complete control of the recovered blocked kick in the endzone. Instead of a touchdown and a 17-0 lead, the Seahawks had to settle for the safety and a 12-0 lead. Add in a Jermaine Kearse touchdown in the second quarter and the Seahawks scored 19 points in the first half; 13 more points than in the first half’s of their first two road games combined. I think that the fast start will pay dividends going forward as it shows that we are capable of getting out to an early lead and taking the initial momentum of the game.

Thoughts on the Zone-Blocking Scheme: One of the things I always look for is for the Seahawks to be effective in the running game. Today the Seahawks seemingly looked unstoppable on the ground. I don’t want to take anything away from Marshawn Lynch because he gained over half of his yards after initial contact but the fact the Seahawks had two 100 yard rushers (Lynch and Russell Wilson) shows how the zone-blocking scheme implemented by offensive line coach Tom Cable is supposed to work at its best. Even without Pro Bowlers Russell Okung and Max Unger as well as starting right tackle Breno Giacomini, it is a telling sign that the talent along the offensive line is not the most important thing when it comes to running the ball with the zone-blocking scheme in place. Could you imagine if our 2005 offensive line (Jones, Hutchinson, Tobeck, Gray, Locklear) was blocking for Marshawn Lynch in the zone-blocking scheme now? Lynch may be a 2,000+ yard rusher with that unit. As our offensive line continues to get healthier, I think Marshawn Lynch’s production will only increase and both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael could also see improved statistics if they see playing time.

Defense Struggles: After forcing three straight three-and-outs to open the game, I thought the Seahawks were going to run away with this game. Unfortunately there were three quarters and change left to play at this point. The Colts were 7/12 on third down on Sunday and Andrew Luck was very effective in picking apart the Seahawks defense on short passes later on in the game. After doing a decent job of stuffing Trent Richardson in the first half, the Seahawks were unable to stop Richardson for little or no gain when it mattered the most. Richardson’s longest run of the game was only 16 yards but his short yardage runs on first down made it easier for the Colts to convert over half of their third down attempts. I was very disappointed in the tackling this week, especially in the open field. This was never more evident than on T.Y. Hilton’s 73-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter when Earl Thomas overran Hilton, allowing Hilton to cut and walk in for the touchdown. Overall, our offense is what kept us in the game until the very end. I’m not taking anything away from Indianapolis, as they have dynamic playmakers on offense that are capable of scoring points, but allowing 31 points is unacceptable for this group. After allowing only 10 points in their first two games, the Seahawks have allowed 17, 20, and 31 points in each of their last three games respectively. Fixing fundamental problems on defense should be a focus in practice this week. With a home game on deck, this is a prime opportunity for the Seattle defense to get back to the way they were playing in their first couple of games.

Thoughts on Indianapolis: At the start of each season my friends and I like to predict the playoff field, seedings, and playoff matchups leading up to us predicting a Super Bowl champion. I predicted that the Colts would win the AFC South over the Houston Texans and this game proved why they belong at the top of their division. The Colts have very impressive talent on offense and what I believe to be an underrated defensive unit. Andrew Luck really impressed me against the Seahawks. The poise he showed rivals the current elite quarterbacks in the NFL and it will not be long before we mention Luck’s name with the likes of Rodgers, Brees, and Peyton Manning. The Colts are going to be good for a while and if they play like they did against the Seahawks, I would not be surprised to see them make a push for a division championship along with a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs this season.

Thoughts on the Officiating: I understand that there is no changing what the final outcome was today but I do believe that there were multiple calls that went against Seattle today that could have changed the outcome of the game. The calls I question were a pass interference call on Brandon Browner on third down and long, a pass interference call on Richard Sherman where receiver Reggie Wayne simply slipped and fell down on his own, and a pass interference non-call on our final drive (where the Indianapolis defender had his arm wrapped around the waist of receiver Sidney Rice) which would have given the Seahawks a fresh set of downs and would have gotten us closer to the endzone. Two of these calls occurred along the Colts sideline with the players and coaches signaling the officials to convince them to throw a flag and it seemed to work. Last week I mentioned the role the crowd can play in determining whether or not a flag is thrown and I feel like that may have cost us today. At the end of the day, the loss stands and the Seahawks will move forward and try to get better to make sure these situations do not come to fruition in future games.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks wore white jerseys and white pants just like I said they would in my game preview. It wasn’t so bright inside the stadium however because the roof was closed… As much as I enjoyed getting a break from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan on the FOX broadcast maybe they are our good luck charms. We are 2-0 so far this season when Myers and Ryan have the call… John Lynch didn’t really seem to have a lot of good things to say about either offense this week. Not surprising though since he was a defensive player who was taught to hate the opponent’s offense… I understand and appreciate the gesture of having pink penalty flags in honor of breast cancer awareness month but they are kind of an eyesore and also very confusing. Since the players towels are also pink there was confusion in this game as to whether or not a penalty flag was thrown or not. I say go back to the yellow flags for next week’s games… The Seahawks do not have another 10am kickoff until week 10 when we play Atlanta… The most encouraging thing I saw online after this loss was from Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times. He stated that in the long run this game will not have any serious effect on the Seahawks playoff chances and that “the feeling was that Seattle needed to win one of two games at Houston and Indianapolis, and that’s what the Seahawks did.” My hope was that the Seahawks needed to be at least 3-2 after their first 5 games to stay in good shape in the division race. The fact that they are 4-1 is a huge plus and most Seahawks fans would accept that record in a heartbeat. Arguably the toughest road stretch of the season is over and in our next 4 games we have two against sub-.500 teams and two at home. That is something to think about moving forward. Don’t panic yet, 12th Man.

Check back on Saturday as I preview our week 6 game against the Tennessee Titans. Thanks for reading. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Colts Preview

5 Oct

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts

Site: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks won 3 regular season road games all of last season. This week they have a chance to match that number and it is only week 5. The Seahawks head to Indianapolis to take on the AFC South leading Colts. The Seahawks are 4-0 and are looking to extend their best start in franchise history. The Colts are 3-1 and are coming off a dominating 37-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Seahawks are 4-6 all-time against the Colts. Their last meeting came in 2009 in Indianapolis when the Seneca Wallace-led Seahawks lost to Peyton Manning’s Colts 34-17. Here are the keys I believe the Seahawks need to focus on in order to escape Indianapolis with a win.

One of the big things that propelled the Seahawks to a victory last week was the improved pass rush in the second half and overtime. This week the Seahawks have a 4-headed pass rushing monster that could give the Colts trouble. Bruce Irvin is back from serving his 4-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. The Colts offense will have to prepare for Irvin along with Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and a healthy Michael Bennett. Back during training camp and the preseason I pondered about the creative blitz packages Dan Quinn could draw up using all four of our primary pass rushers. This is the first week Quinn will have a chance to implement a gameplan that uses all of these guys. I will be keeping an eye on Indianapolis’s third down efficiency because these four guys will make the biggest impact on third down. I would not be surprised to see more blitzes called on first and second down this week to try to confuse the Colts offense and get to quarterback Andrew Luck early and often.

A struggle of the Seahawks in the first half last week was the play of the offensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 5 times last week and was pressured in 16 total plays throughout the game. This week, regardless of who starts along the offensive line, Seattle must contain the pass rush of the Colts. We are not going up against the best defensive player in the NFL this week but we are going up against one of the most underrated defensive units in the league. Indianapolis linebacker Robert Mathis has flown under the radar so far this season. He leads the league in sacks with 7.5 on the season. I expect the Seahawks to struggle early in this game if they try to throw the ball. The trend on the road this season seems to be a slow start matched with in-game adjustments to improve on what the opponent throws at them on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks have averaged only 3 points in the first half of their two road games. One way to avoid a slow start this week is to get Marshawn Lynch going in the first half. If you take out a 43-yard run in the first quarter last week, Lynch only rushed for 17 yards and also turned the ball over via fumble in the first half. Effective running by Lynch will wear down the Colts defense and could potentially prevent us from having to come back from a deficit late in the game.

The Seahawks have won the turnover battle in each of their first four games. They have forced over twice as many turnovers (13) as they have turned the ball over themselves (6). This week will be a big challenge in the turnover department as the Seahawks defense faces a Colts offense that has only turned the ball over twice this season. Consider this to be an extension to the point of establishing a consistent pass rush. If the Seahawks defense gives Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a lot of time, he will pick our defense apart much like how Matt Schaub picked apart our defense in the first half last week. If we win the turnover battle this week, I think we will be victorious once again.

The Indianapolis Colts are loaded on both sides of the ball. Andrew Luck has one of the brightest futures of any young quarterback in the National Football League due in large part to his mental capability and his underrated athleticism. Add the talent of veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and powerful running back Trent Richardson, the Colts offense is definitely capable of moving the ball and scoring points. The Seahawks run defense has not given up a touchdown on the road all season so I am confident that they can stuff the run effectively. I am not worried about Richardson and the Indianapolis running game as much as I am worried about their air attack, which was an aspect of the opponent’s offense that was a weakness for the Seahawks last week in Houston. In their two road games so far this season the Seahawks have allowed an average of 225 passing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Colts offense has averaged 231 passing yards in their two home games. Richard Sherman will line up against Wayne this week and I am confident he can hold him to minimal catches and yards. My X-Factor player to watch this week on offense for the Colts is tight end Coby Fleener. With starting tight end Dwayne Allen out for the season with a hip injury, Fleener has emerged as the #1 tight end moving forward. Given his history with Andrew Luck dating back to college at Stanford, Fleener could be a reliable target this week, especially given the potential unwillingness to challenge the Legion of Boom on the outside. Fleener could be primed for many catches this week if he gets open when the Seahawks defense is in zone coverage.

On defense for the Colts, another X-Factor player to watch is linebacker Jerrell Freeman. As I discussed earlier linebacker Robert Mathis has earned a lot of attention for his sack total but Freeman has also made an impact in the opponent’s backfield. Freeman has recorded 3 sacks of his own so far this season and his speed could be a challenge for the Seahawks makeshift offensive line this week. Look for Freeman and Mathis to make an impact on second and third down often this week.

Random Thoughts: This week is the only road game where I know exactly what uniform combination the Seahawks will wear. Per NFL rules, each team is required to notify the league office of which uniform top they will wear for each week of the season by the end of July. Some teams choose to post explicitly what their uniform combinations will be each week but the Seahawks choose not to. However I have learned that before the July deadline, Russell Wilson requested that the Seahawks wear white pants along with their white jerseys against the Colts. Wilson believes that the white/white combo will make it easier for him to see his teammates and the opponent because the way Lucas Oil Stadium is designed, it can be very bright down on the field, thus it is hard to make out who you are throwing to if both teams are wearing similar colored uniforms… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. It will be nice to have a break from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan… Now that I think of it, Seahawks fans will not be exposed to a Myers/Ryan broadcast until at least week 9, as our next three games after this week are on CBS, NFL Network, and ESPN respectively… Ron Winter is the referee this week… You will be able to tell how old and unathletic Winter is. Maybe he is the referee that is retiring at the end of this season… I am having a bunch of people over for the game this week so that will be a lot of fun. I haven’t hosted a “watch party” since the playoffs last year… Go Panthers, go Jaguars, and absolutely go Texans this week!… A win this week means a 5-0 start. I was talking with my friend James earlier this week about the upcoming schedule. I did not want to look too far ahead, as I try to take the same “one game at a time” approach the players and coaches do. However, it gets me excited to think about what could be in store if we beat the Colts and get to 5-0. With Tennessee at home, Arizona, a struggling St. Louis Rams team, and an unraveling Tampa Bay team at home, following this week’s game is there any part of you that thinks the Seahawks could be looking at a 9-0 record like I do?

Prediction: Going into this season I thought that the Seahawks would split their back-to-back road games in Houston and Indianapolis. I did not know which game would be a win and which would be a loss but I was content to accept the possibility of losing one of those two games. However, following last week it has become increasingly difficult to count the Seahawks out of any game regardless of how bleak it may look. I expect the Seahawks to struggle but I believe Russell Wilson will play a better all-around game then he did last week. Big plays by the Legion of Boom will be the difference. Bobby Wagner will force a fumble and Earl Thomas will pick off a deep Andrew Luck pass in the 4th quarter to seal the win and give the Seahawks their first 5-0 record in team history.

Seahawks 26, Colts 24

Check back Sunday night after the game for my review of the Seahawks matchup with the Colts. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. And as always, go Hawks!

Seahawks/Texans Preview

28 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans

Site: Reliant Stadium (Houston, Texas)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks now enter a brutal stretch where 4 of their next 5 games are on the road. This stretch starts Sunday when the Seahawks head to Houston to take on the defending AFC South champion Houston Texans. The Seahawks are 3-0 and are coming off a 45-17 butt-kicking of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans are 2-1 after a 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore last week. This is the third matchup all-time between the Seahawks and the Texans. They have split the two previous matchups. The last time they played was in 2009 when the Seahawks lost in Houston 34-7. That loss to the Texans was the first of 4 straight blowout losses that ultimately cost former head coach Jim Mora his job. We may look back on this game later this season and say this was one of the biggest tests of the season. Here are some things to watch for against the Texans this week.

The biggest key for the Seahawks to be successful on offense this week is to mobilize Russell Wilson. It may be a necessity considering the Seahawks offensive line and the talent Houston displays along the defensive line. All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt already has 3 sacks this season after recording a Texans team record 20.5 sacks last season. His size and strength gives him the ability to overpower the offensive line and get to the quarterback easier than a lot of other defensive players around the league. Having Wilson scramble to make throws could limit Watt’s role in Houston’s defensive game plan significantly. Wilson is the shortest quarterback Watt has ever played against so Wilson will also need to make sure to elevate his passes to prevent Watt from knocking them down. One other way to limit Watt’s impact is to be successful in the running game. The Seahawks have the highest running rate in the NFL so far this season (57% run, 43% pass). Getting Marshawn Lynch going early could benefit the entire offense to chew clock, score points, and rest the defense. If Lynch struggles, I believe Darrell Bevell will change to a more pass-heavy offensive scheme to try to improve the offense.

In my Jaguars review I briefly touched on how the Seahawks used many different receivers and how using all those weapons could come in handy against the Texans. Looking at Houston’s secondary, cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are 5-11 and 5-10, respectively. Due to the undersized Texans secondary I am looking at Sidney Rice and Stephen Williams to make a big impact on the outside this week. Given the height advantage these two receivers have, Rice and Williams have the perfect opportunity to exploit Houston’s cornerbacks and gain large chunks of yards if Russell Wilson is confident enough to throw the ball in their direction. If Wilson is flushed out of the pocket, Doug Baldwin becomes an even bigger impact player. Lining up in the slot, Baldwin leads all Seahawks receivers with 177 receiving yards on the season. Baldwin is very good at improvising if plays are not executed as planned and he has an uncanny ability to get open if Wilson is looking downfield for a receiver while being chased. Keep an eye on these three receivers on Sunday.

On defense this week my focus isn’t really on individual matchups but on certain trends that need to come to fruition in order to be successful. The Seahawks tend to struggle a bit on the road no matter who the opponent is so the following things must happen to prevent our first loss of the season. First, they need to limit the number of penalties. On the road, penalties such as pass interference and personal foul penalties are called more often due to the reaction and influence of the home crowd. The Seahawks need to play clean football and make sure the defense can get off the field and the offense can stay on the field longer. Second, the defense needs to limit big plays. Fortunately for the Seahawks this point may not be as difficult as the common person would think. Starting Texans running back Arian Foster’s longest run of the season is only 16 yards and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ 30-yard catch against San Diego in week one is the longest catch by a Texans starting wide receiver this season. Third and most important, the Seahawks need to get off the field on third downs. In road games dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season (11 total), the opponent has converted 43.8 percent of third down opportunities. In road games dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season which resulted in a loss (6 total), the opponent converted 47.1 percent of third down opportunities. Although the margin between these numbers is small, they are both close to a 50 percent third down conversion rate which is utterly unacceptable. The Seahawks will not win this game if they cannot get off the field on third down. Stopping Foster, Andre Johnson, and running back Ben Tate is necessary in these situations because they are on the field for most of Houston’s third down chances.

In regards to the individual matchups between the Texans offense and the Seahawks defense, Arian Foster will face one of the best run stopping defenses in the NFL. Foster is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry so far this season. Wide receiver Andre Johnson is nursing an injured shin and will be a game-time decision on Sunday. If Johnson is active, he will line up across from Richard Sherman and DeAndre Hopkins will line up across from Brandon Browner. If Johnson is inactive, Sherman will defend Hopkins and Browner will defend the Texans number three receiver Lestar Jean.

When looking at the Houston Texans, most look directly at their defense and J.J. Watt. Although Watt is the most important player on defense for Houston, my Texans X-Factor player to watch this week is outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus, the Texans 2012 first round draft pick, is tied for the third most tackles by a Texans defender so far this season with 13. He also has one sack. Mercilus is the Texans weak-side linebacker meaning he will line up on the right side of the defensive formation and will blitz from Russell Wilson’s blind side. If Paul McQuistan struggles at left tackle this week for the Seahawks, Mercilus could wind up having a big day for the Texans solely from getting to Wilson behind the line of scrimmage.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will most likely wear white jerseys this week. I am not sure about our pant color… The nice thing about the Texans is that they post their uniform combinations for the entire season on their website. That makes it easier to know what we are going to wear opposite of them… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Tony Corrente is the referee this week… I get the sense from a lot of my friends that 10am kickoffs in Seattle are kind of a pain in the ass. In Houston this week the game is a noon kickoff. The game I went to in 2011 in Dallas against the Cowboys was a noon kickoff and it was kind of too bad because I am used to going to Seahawks games here in Seattle at 1pm. It feels like the entire day gets going earlier when you go to a game that starts at noon… My hotel is walking distance from Reliant Stadium, much like my set up last season in Arizona. I’ll be pre-gaming in my hotel room instead of tailgating in the parking lots for the second straight year… On Saturday night a group called “Houston Seahawks” is organizing a 12th Man rally at a Buffalo Wild Wings a couple miles away from our hotel and I’m really excited for it. It will be cool to be in a different city but it will feel like I am right at home… I have seen 6 straight losses on the road. It would be nice to finally break that streak.

Prediction: This game will be close all the way until the end. Unfortunately, I think that J.J. Watt and the Houston defense will succeed in rattling Russell Wilson. The Texans will win the turnover battle 3-1 and it will feel like they will have a commanding lead in the game because of it, even though the game will be close. The Seahawks will get the ball one last time in the final two minutes but the final drive will stall at about midfield. The Seahawks will head home with their first loss of the season and for the 7th straight time, I will sit at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday afternoon disappointed (I hope I am wrong, obviously).

Texans 23, Seahawks 20

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Since I will not be around a computer all weekend I will not be able to post my Texans review until Tuesday afternoon most likely. Enjoy the game everyone! I’ll be sure to bring some 12th Man love to the lone-star state. Go Seahawks!