Tag Archives: Tony Corrente

Seahawks/Panthers Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

16 Jan
panthers divisional preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 10:05am

We meet again. For the second consecutive season the Seahawks will take on the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional playoffs. This time around however the tables have been turned. The Panthers enter this game after a 15-1 regular season, an NFC South division title, and earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. With their win last week the Seahawks advanced to the NFC Divisional round for the fourth straight season but instead of hosting like they did last season they have to travel across the country to take on the Panthers this January. The Seahawks won games against the Panthers in Charlotte in three consecutive seasons from 2012-2014. In their 2015 meeting in Seattle earlier this season however the Panthers bested the Seahawks 27-23. This will be an extremely difficult matchup for the Seahawks but I believe we match up well with what the Panthers will put onto the field. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Marshawn Lynch mystery drags on for at least one more week. The star running back has practiced all week and proclaimed to ESPN that he is “ready to go” but it will come down to a game-time decision if Lynch actually suits up and plays. If Lynch cannot go it will be Christine Michael who starts at running back once again. For the rest of the Seattle offense, much improvement needs to be shown in order to compete with the Panthers on the scoreboard. Quarterback Russell Wilson must improve on his accuracy because there is little doubt the fantastic play of the Minnesota defense last week rattled him. Limiting turnovers will also be a big key in the way this game plays out. Carolina leads the league in turnovers with 39, which are 10 more than any other team. They also lead the league in turnover differential with a mark of +20. The Seahawks offense will need to take the majority of their drives deep into Carolina territory in order to stay in this game.

Many people may not realize this but the Seahawks defense will play this game with a couple of big-name players who did not play against Carolina back in week 6. Back in October K.J Wright moved from outside to inside linebacker in place of Bobby Wagner who missed the game with an injury. This week Wagner will be back starting at middle linebacker and will be a tackling machine in the middle of the field. In 3 career games against the Panthers, Wagner has averaged 7.3 tackles per game and has also sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton once. In addition to Wagner, Jeremy Lane will start at cornerback. Cary Williams, who is no longer on the team, started at cornerback against the Panthers earlier this season. Lane’s primary job will be to cover Panthers wide receivers Philly Brown and Devin Funchess. Last week the Seahawks only forced one turnover. If the Seahawks defense can force at least two turnovers in the game we will be in decent shape.

The Carolina Panthers offense is one of the very best in the National Football League. Quarterback Cam Newton is considered to be a most valuable player candidate this season. All year long Newton has had fantastic on-field chemistry with tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is Newton’s number one target and his numbers correlate to this notion. 26 percent of Newton’s passes were completed to Olsen this season. That percentage translates to 77 catches for 1,104 yards (both team highs) and 7 touchdowns. Olsen’s second best game of the season came against the Seahawks back in October. There is much more to the Carolina offense however and there are two other players whose presences cannot go unnoticed. My X-Factor Players to Watch for the Panthers are Pro Bowl running backs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. I put my X-Factor spotlight on these two guys not because of their production on the ground, but the role they can play in the Carolina passing game. Stewart and Tolbert have combined for 253 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns this season. After watching film I see the possibility of Newton targeting these backs on screen passes and wheel routes/rollout passes inside the redzone.

Each level of the Carolina defense features incredible talent. Four Panthers defenders have been named to the Pro Bowl. The middle of the field will be a risky place for Russell Wilson to throw into as the Panthers are led by veteran linebackers and tackling machines Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Cornerback Josh Norman has had a meteoric rise to being one of the best cornerbacks in the league. His 4 interceptions and team-leading 18 passes defensed defend this reputation. The matchup that may have the most say in the Panthers season continuing on to the NFC Championship Game will be defensive tackle Kawann Short against the Seahawks offensive line. Short recorded 11 sacks this season and is considered one of the best pass rushers in football. Short is averaging one sack in each of his last 5 games and he was also able to bring Russell Wilson down in the backfield twice earlier this year. In short (no pun intended), this Panthers defense is scary good and it will take a monster effort to take them down.

Random Thoughts: At the start of the playoffs I assumed since the Seahawks would have to play three straight road games to get to the Super Bowl, that we would be wearing white throughout January. Instead the Panthers have elected to wear white jerseys and white pants this week. This means the Seahawks will wear college navy jerseys. The Seahawks will pair these jerseys with wolf grey pants. The Seahawks won in this combination in Carolina in both 2012 and 2013… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX’s only broadcast of Divisional weekend… The referee this week is Tony Corrente… Nothing and I mean NOTHING would make me happier than to see all the Seahawks players “dab” on the sideline and take a group photo if we win. For those not familiar these are the hijinks the Panthers have participated in all season long at the end of their games and it would be a tremendous troll job if the Seahawks came away victorious and stuck up the proverbial middle finger in this way. If this happens look for Michael Bennett and perhaps Richard Sherman to lead the way… Brunch n’ ball for the final time this season. I’m glad this is the final 10am game of the season… Speaking of 10am starts, a random thought unrelated to this game. I am thrilled the Rams have relocated to Los Angeles. We know better than any other city what greed and corruption happens behind the scenes when it comes to franchise relocation (SuperSonics, duh) and from this perspective it is sad to see the Rams leave St. Louis. The reason I am thrilled however is because it benefits the Seahawks. Instead of traveling to the middle of the country each season we will now fly to Southern California. This eliminates one 10am kickoff each season and the Seahawks never have to play at the Edward Jones Dome again. The Seahawks went 7-7 in St. Louis dating back to 2002. Instead these road games against the Rams will be played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the next three seasons which is a stadium not known for having an intimidating home field advantage. It is still a little weird to see “Los Angeles Rams” in print. It will take a little while to get used to.

Prediction: The Seahawks have lost 6 straight Divisional playoff games played on the road. Although I hope I am wrong I believe that streak continues on Sunday. The first half will be an entertaining defensive battle with Carolina taking a 13-10 lead into halftime. In the second half however the Panthers defense will shut the Seahawks offense down. Carolina will score a touchdown (with a missed extra point), and two field goals on their first three possessions of the second half. The Seahawks will have opportunities to claw back into the game but Russell Wilson will throw two interceptions and the Carolina defense will also force a fumble near the end of the third quarter. The Seahawks season will end and the Panthers will move on and host the Arizona Cardinals in next week’s NFC Championship Game.

Panthers 25, Seahawks 13

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Lions/Seahawks Preview

4 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

For the second time this season and the first time at home, the Seahawks welcome the primetime lights to CenturyLink Field. This week the Seahawks welcome ESPN Monday Night Football to the Emerald City for our week 4 matchup against the Detroit Lions. After our win last week the Seahawks are 1-2. The Detroit Lions won 11 games a year ago but have gotten off to a very rocky start in 2015. They have stumbled out to a 0-3 record and coming out to Seattle will be no easy task. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Detroit 7-5 but in their last meeting in 2012 the Lions got the best of the Seahawks, beating us 28-24 at Ford Field. The Seahawks are also 8-0 in regular season primetime games at CenturyLink Field under Pete Carroll, winning those games by an average of 18.5 points. Here are my points of emphasis going into this week’s game.

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is battling a hamstring injury and reports earlier in the week indicate he has a 50/50 chance of playing. As great as it would be to see him active this week, I believe we can win without him. If he is inactive it will be important for quarterback Russell Wilson to get everyone involved. Giving Detroit a taste of their own medicine may be the best way to go about attacking their defense, making them play nickel and even dime coverage. Doug Baldwin could be a major beneficiary in the short passing game this week and I think we are well off using both Jermaine Kearse and Jimmy Graham in the intermediate and deep passing game on the outside. I believe getting off to a fast start and early lead will go a very long way in preserving a Seahawks victory. Detroit’s offense becomes very predictable if their opponent takes an early lead. Detroit hung tight in two of their first three games; week 1 in San Diego, and last week at home against Denver. In those two games combined, the Lions ran a very even balance of plays on first down, throwing on 55 percent of their first down opportunities. In their second game of the season, a 26-16 loss in which they were never really in the game, the Lions threw the ball on first down 90 percent of the time. An early lead for Seattle will likely force the Lions to completely abandon the run.

There are three things the Seahawks defense must do against this potentially powerful Lions offense. First, they must take away the edges, keeping plays in the middle of the field.  Detroit has added a lot of speed both at running back and wide receiver and the majority of their large chunks of yards come outside the numbers. The second thing Seattle must do is a no brainer, successfully cover Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson will line up across from Richard Sherman and even though Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has shied away from throwing the one-on-one jump ball up to Johnson, it may be in our best interest to shadow Johnson with double coverage. It would not surprise me to see defensive coordinator Kris Richard use K.J. Wright to drop back in coverage to help Sherman cover Johnson. The third thing we must do could go a long way in forcing turnovers. Have you ever heard of the phrase “you cannot make chicken salad out of chicken s—t?” After watching film of each of the Lions first three games, this phrase basically sums up Matthew Stafford in a nutshell. His 5 interceptions so far this season are tied for 2nd in the league. If Stafford feels pressure and tries to scramble, the chances of him throwing interceptions are great because instead of smartly throwing the ball away he tries to make something happen. It would be wise to dial up all sorts of pressure packages to try to confuse Detroit’s rather inexperienced offensive line. I cannot emphasize this enough. If we can successfully penetrate the Lions offensive line regularly it will go a long way in winning the turnover battle.

Since Matthew Stafford was drafted in 2009 the Lions have been known to be an extremely pass-heavy offense. Detroit will use packages including 3 or even 4 wide receivers and/or multiple tight ends. On the outside they will use Golden Tate in the quick passing game and tight end Eric Ebron gives them another weapon between the hashes. This year however they have made strides in balancing their offense out. After struggling to stop Bears running back Matt Forte early on last week I have doubts on whether or not the Seahawks will be able to contain the run again on Monday night. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Detroit Lions this week is their rookie running back Ameer Abdullah. Regardless of the fact that running back Joique Bell has already been ruled out this week, there is no question in my mind Bell’s presence is a complete waste of a roster spot. Abdullah is Detroit’s best option at running back. His quickness and ability to bounce runs to the outside make him difficult to stop. His burst at the line of scrimmage is also scary as his speed and size allow him to gain extra yards after contact rather easily. Abdullah is also Detroit’s kick returner so it will be important for Steven Hauschka to kick the ball deep or out of the endzone to eliminate the possibility of Abdullah giving the Lions good starting field position. The best way for the Lions offense to be effective will be to keep the tempo up. If they can keep the Seahawks defense on the field and tire them out the Lions will have a chance to stay in this game.

After three weeks there are still questions regarding the Seattle offensive line. If Detroit wants to make an impact on defense they must be able to put pressure on Russell Wilson. They are fully equipped to do so. Even though they lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency they still have two very talented pass rushing ends in Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah. They also added defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to take Suh’s spot on the interior line. This week may also mark the return of leading tackler DeAndre Levy at outside linebacker. Levy has been out all season with a hip strain. He is a ball hawk who will make plays in coverage. The secondary is led by safety Glover Quin who led the NFL in interceptions in 2014. His two interceptions so far this season also puts him tied for the lead in picks in 2015. Much like forcing Matthew Stafford into turnovers is a key for the Seattle defense, the exact same can be said for the Detroit defense. I believe the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game.

Random Thoughts: Nothing special as far as uniforms go this week. Seattle will go all College Navy and the Lions will wear white tops with silver pants… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN with Lisa Salters reporting from the sidelines… The referee this week will be Tony Corrente… Even though ratings for Monday Night Football have dropped since ESPN took over the broadcast in 2006, MNF is still a very special game to attend. It is the only game of the day and they entire nation is tuned in. This will be the 8th and a half Monday Night Football game I attend live. If you’re wondering what “and a half” means, I could attend only the second half of a Monday Night game against St. Louis in 2011 because I had a final exam to take at the University of Washington. My professor would not let me reschedule so I missed Doug Baldwin block a punt for a touchdown, the only exciting highlight of that game… A pregame lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings before the game will certainly be fun… This week I am taking my friend Josh to the game. He has gone to a game with me every year since 2007. I note his presence because of the games we have attended the past two years. Since the beginning of 2013 the Seahawks have a 19-2 record at home. Our two losses in this span were to Arizona in 2013 and Dallas in 2014. I took Josh to both of those games. He has certainly been Mr. Unlucky over the past couple of years. I’m confident we will turn this run of misfortune around this season!

Prediction: I said the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game. The Seahawks will intercept Matthew Stafford three times which will lead to three separate scores. The Seahawks will finally play a satisfying first half and by halftime the game will have already been won. Russell Wilson will throw two touchdowns and Fred Jackson will also run one in from the redzone. The Seahawks will get to 2-2 and get ready for Cincinnati in week 5.

Seahawks 27, Lions 13

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

28 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 5:00pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 23, Chargers 21

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

17 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 12:05pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 27, Packers 24

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

Seahawks/49ers Preview

26 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

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

Kickoff: 5:30pm

For the fourth time in team history and the first time since 2008, the 12th Man is rewarded with the ultimate Thanksgiving trifecta; family, food, and Seahawks football. This week the Seahawks travel to the Silicon Valley to play the San Francisco 49ers in the third game of the NFL Thanksgiving tripleheader. This will be the first time the Seahawks play at the 49ers new home, Levi’s Stadium and they hope that a change of scenery in the Bay Area will bring us good luck. The Seahawks have lost 5 straight road games against the 49ers. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 16-15 and their last meeting has gone down as one of the greatest games in Seahawks history. To refresh your memory Seattle beat San Francisco 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, culminating in “The Tip;” Richard Sherman’s tipped pass intended for Michael Crabtree which was intercepted by Malcolm Smith which sealed the win for Seattle and sent the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII and an eventual world championship. Many people thought that the Seahawks and 49ers would be fighting for the NFC West title once again this season but right now this matchup will likely determine who has a leg up on securing just a wild-card playoff berth. The winner will also keep their chances of winning the division alive while the loser will be at a huge disadvantage for the rest of the season. Here is what I will be looking for on Thursday.

Just like last week I believe that the Seahawks may struggle to move the ball and score points. With Max Unger out another week and James Carpenter’s status at left guard up in the air the Seahawks offensive line may struggle once again to protect quarterback Russell Wilson, especially since we are playing on the road against a quality San Francisco pass defense. This week the Seahawks may need to get creative to move the ball. A heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch will be necessary and I would like to see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell let Wilson run in a similar manner which parallels how they used him in the running game against Arizona last week. In the passing game I will have my eyes on Jermaine Kearse. I believe that Wilson may try to open things up on the outside and Kearse may be his primary read due to Kearse’s height advantage on San Francisco cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver.

I have full confidence that the Seahawks defense can stop 49ers running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. There are two main things our defense needs to do this week. The first is to spread out, putting pressure on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the pocket but not allowing him to scramble to pick up big chunks of yards. The best way to do this may be to dial up more nickel and dime plays and send slot corner Jeremy Lane among over members of the secondary on blitzes. We haven’t see a lot of this so far in the season if at all, so to throw something at the San Francisco offense they have not seen on film may confuse them, giving us an advantage. The second thing the Seahawks defense needs to do is protect the middle of the field on possible intermediate and long third down conversion attempts. We were unable to get a sample of this last week with Drew Stanton at quarterback and after watching film we may see Kaepernick try to throw short passes near the first down marker unless we can put ample pressure on him to force bad throws. The Seahawks have struggled on stopping third down conversions on the road throughout the season.

One other thing I want to see this week is on special teams. I want to see solid coverage on kickoffs to not allow the 49ers to start their offensive drives with great field position. Last week the Seahawks started a lot of their drives with great field position and it may have made the difference between us kicking 4 field goals and having to punt. We cannot let the 49ers have a short field to work with because they will take advantage by moving the ball just enough to score some kind of points much like we were able to do on Sunday. Fundamental tackling will be more important and more of a focus this week than any other week.

Three seasons ago the San Francisco 49ers had the best defense in the league; a defense that did not allow a rushing touchdown through their first 15 games of the 2011 season. It was a defense that no team wanted to face. In the three years since, a lot of talent has come and gone but the 49ers still sport enough talent on defense to be one of the better units in the NFL. Aldon Smith continues to be one of the scariest pass rushers in football and defensive lineman Ray McDonald and linebacker Ahmad Brooks add veteran stability to the front seven. This week however I put a focus on the young, emerging talent of the 49ers defense. My X-Factor player to watch this week for San Francisco is rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland. Borland, from the University of Wisconsin, was a player that I wanted to see the Seahawks select in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft. With a season-ending injury to perennial all-pro Patrick Willis, Borland has gotten his opportunity to start and has made the most of it, compiling 71 tackles, a pair of interceptions, and an NFC defensive player of the week honor two weeks ago. In the 5 games since Willis’s injury, Borland has averaged almost 13 tackles per game. Borland is a ball hawk who will be in on almost every play especially in the running game. His awareness and ability to understand how a play is going to develop makes him a very scary weapon for the 49ers. Do not be surprised to hear Borland’s name on the television broadcast several times on Thursday night.

Random Thoughts: Earlier this week I tweeted to the Seahawks if this would be a #WolfGreyThanksgiving. I did not hear back and as of now it is unclear whether the Seahawks will wear white or wolf grey jerseys this week. With 3 more road games and one more opportunity to wear wolf grey, that gives us a 33 percent chance of wearing our alternates this week. The 49ers will wear their traditional look of red jerseys and gold pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC with Michele Tafoya reporting from the sidelines… I have no confirmation but I am hearing there is a strong possibility the referee for this week’s game is Tony Corrente… It’s disappointing that the Seahawks don’t get the chance to host this game. It would have been an incredible experience to move our family’s Thanksgiving dinner up to the early afternoon (or me skip it altogether), head down to the stadium and go to a game on a day where the entire country practically shuts down. That is the nice thing about the third Thanksgiving game the NFL added back in 2006. It gives other teams and cities other than Detroit and Dallas the opportunity to host a game on Thanksgiving. Hopefully one year in the not-so-distant future CenturyLink Field and the Seahawks get to host a game on Thanksgiving… Here are a couple of random Thanksgiving thoughts for the week. When it comes to turkey, dark meat is superior to white meat. Dark meat is moist and more flavorful. It is a shame that the majority of any given turkey is white meat and dark meat comes at a premium. Anybody who disagrees and has a valid argument as to why can comment or find me on Twitter @EricHansman… Stove Top is also my stuffing of choice. I know that is a topic of argument that I know I will not win… The good news and the bad news: The good news is that after this game we will have 10 days off to get ready for Philadelphia. The bad news is that we play this game, our biggest rival with a lot at stake on 4 days rest. If we can somehow come away with this win I believe our chances of making the playoffs exponentially skyrocket.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: We are now at the point in the season where fans need to be aware of the Seahawks playoff chances and the playoff chances of the teams around us. It is finally time for me to fire up my weekly playoff outlook!

The Seahawks currently sit 2 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The winner of this game will gain a half game on Arizona while the loser will fall to 2 ½ games behind the Cardinals and will likely be competing for a wild-card playoff spot for the duration of the regular season. In my eyes, 2 of the other 4 NFC divisions will come down to two teams each. One of those teams will win the division while the other will be in the fight for a wild-card berth. Including Seattle and San Francisco, that means I believe 4 teams will be fighting for 2 wild-card spots. Here are this week’s games that have NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

THURSDAY

Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4)

Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3)

SUNDAY

Arizona (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7)

New England (9-2) at Green Bay (8-3)

Prediction: Prepare to have your hearts broken 12th Man. The Seahawks will field a punt deep in their own territory with 3:30 left in the game holding a 13-6 lead. On first down Russell Wilson will roll to the right and throw a pass that is tipped up into the air. The pass will fall incomplete. Marshawn Lynch will take the second down handoff for a gain of 4 yards and San Francisco will call their final timeout. Wilson’s third down pass attempt will be batted down at the line of scrimmage. Instead of possibly getting the clock down to the two-minute warning, the Seahawks will punt and the 49ers will have roughly 3:00 to go 75 yards. A long Colin Kaepernick scramble deep into Seahawks territory will get the ball into the redzone and Kaepernick will scramble one more time for a touchdown with 25 seconds left to play. The Seahawks will lose yet another game thanks to the terrible play calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and the team will head back to Seattle 7-5. I hope I am wrong.

49ers 14, Seahawks 13

Check back late Thursday night or early Friday morning for my game review. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!

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!