Tag Archives: Walter Thurmond

Review: Seahawks 23, Giants 0

15 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Don’t get me the least bit wrong, I LOVE the outcome of Sunday’s game, but this 20-burger with cheese should have been at least a 40-burger with cheese (if you’re confused try to look it up). The Seahawks defeated the New York Giants 23-0 on Sunday in a game that featured an unstoppable Seattle defensive unit, a shaky yet functioning offensive unit, and perhaps a preview of the Seahawks getting their feet wet in the stadium that may house the biggest game in Seahawks history on February 2nd. The Seahawks are now 12-2 and are one win away from clinching the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants fall to 5-9 on the season and nothing was improved on their side except for their slot in next year’s draft. There is so much good to go over in this game (with a little “just okay” to go over as well) but let me start with the obvious.

Defense Plays Best Game of the Season: In general let’s not ignore this undeniable fact; the Seattle Seahawks defense played their best all-around game of the season. But honestly, how can you not when you shut out your opponent? The Seahawks held the Giants to 181 total yards and New York did not have an offensive play in Seahawks territory until the fourth quarter. The run defense looked particularly dominant, holding Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis to 25 total rushing yards. The pressure the Seahawks front seven put on Giants quarterback Eli Manning started early with a sack by Bobby Wagner and did not let up, even when the Giants were able to get small drives going. Two interceptions by Richard Sherman and an interception by Earl Thomas are examples of what I preached in my Giants game preview. If the defense could force New York into mistakes the Seahawks offense would control the game. That is exactly what happened. Constant pressure on Manning forced him into bad throws which resulted in interceptions. Sherman and Thomas played a great game but it was one other Seahawks defender that really opened my eyes.

Brandon Who? Walter Who?: There is a very special feeling fans get when they see a backup player get his chance, make an immediate impact, and display his “star-of-the-future” potential. Byron Maxwell played the best all-around game of his young career on Sunday, recording 3 passes defensed and also intercepting 2 passes. In three starts in place of the injured Brandon Browner and the suspended Walter Thurmond, Maxwell now has 3 interceptions and 8 passes defensed. Maxwell’s play is making it incredibly difficult for the Seahawks defensive coaches to justify replacing him once Thurmond returns from his suspension. With Maxwell playing well on the outside, that also helps cornerback Jeremy Lane, who can focus strictly on playing nickel cornerback instead of having to switch between different positions in different packages if Maxwell was struggling to hold down the second cornerback spot. Although Maxwell is taking over a starting spot, regardless of who is the second starter when Browner and Thurmond come back, the Seahawks will have a proven idea of just how deep they are in the secondary for the playoffs.

Pass Rush Forces Mistakes: Eli Manning threw a career high 5 interceptions this week and it was due in large part to the effectiveness of the Seahawks pass rush. The Seahawks recorded 4 sacks of Manning and additional pressure forced bad passes which ultimately stopped drives. Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett stuck out in my mind this week, as both had phenomenal performances. Wagner and Bennett combined for 14 tackles and 2 sacks. Over the past few road games the Seahawks pass rush seemed to be lacking. The last time the Seahawks defense recorded at least 4 sacks in a road game was back in week 7 at Arizona and the 4 sacks Seattle had against the Giants this week is the second highest total on the road this season. This was the game that the 12th Man knew the Seahawks had in them. The focus now will be to carry this defensive momentum into two dominant performances to end the regular season.

Offensive Line Must Improve: As joyous as it was to watch the Seahawks dismantle the Giants there was one gigantic concern that stopped the hearts of me and my friends during this game. Russell Wilson gets hit too much. Even when Russell does not get hit, more often than not he is scrambling trying to make a play because he has to. Wilson was sacked 4 times on Sunday which is definitely too many in my opinion. Many of Wilson’s short to intermediate throws also came out of the pocket. This has been a problem throughout the season and things must change in order to keep Wilson clean and limit the chances of him getting hurt. Because the Seahawks are winning and the offense has been productive throughout the season many fans tend to ignore any potential problems within the team but I see an issue on the right side of the offensive line that needs to be corrected. Second year right guard J.R. Sweezy seems to be having a hard time pass blocking and Breno Giacomini is quite hit-or-miss in pass protection. I would be interested to see an offensive line combo that puts Paul McQuistan at left guard, moving James Carpenter to right guard to replace Sweezy. Like I said at the beginning of this review, the Seahawks should have been able to put up at least 40 points in this game and the main reason why it was a closer score I believe can be ultimately traced back to the spotty play of the Seahawks offensive line.

Moving Forward, Turn Field Goals into Touchdowns: There were several third down and short opportunities that were squandered this week, leading to field goals instead of touchdowns. Kicker Steven Hauschka ranks 6th among all NFL kickers in field goals made and he has connected on a career high 7 field goals in the 20-29 yard range this season; kicks where the drive stalls inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. The Seahawks need to do a better job of punching the ball in the endzone in these short yardage situations. Marshawn Lynch was stopped on a goal line run today on a drive that resulted in a Lynch touchdown a couple of plays later, however the ineffectiveness of getting the ball into the endzone from just outside the goal line makes me question the blocking schemes drawn up in the red zone. Simply put, the Seahawks need to prove to me that they can score a touchdown in positions where anything but a touchdown is a complete disappointment. Being able to finish off drives with 7 points instead of 3 will help greatly later on in the game.

Thoughts on the Giants: The New York Giants are a team that may be close to a light rebuild. Their core group of talent is getting older and it is apparent that they need to re-make the offense in order to take pressure off of Eli Manning in both the passing game and the running game. I would not be surprised to see the Giants use their first couple of draft picks next year on offensive linemen because that is where I believe the Giants were the weakest on Sunday. Getting veterans healthy and adding solid, young talent could put the Giants in the running for a typical 8 or 9 win season in 2014, which may or may not put them in a position to make the playoffs.

Random Thoughts: I am sick of stupid penalties. 8 penalties for 50 yards on Sunday and many of them were procedure fouls, aka the simplest, most fundamental aspects of football. This needs to change. It is amazing that we can be the 2nd most penalized team in the league, yet we are good enough to be 12-2. If we had played cleaner football throughout the season, it may not be overly impossible to think we could be 14-0 right now… Bill Leavy didn’t screw us over this week. Thanks Bill! However, I refuse to fully forgive you for Super Bowl XL until we finally win a championship… I watched the game down at my friend Jake’s house and it was a really fun time with all of my best friends… Didn’t get to watch RedZone so we flipped between Kansas City/Oakland and Green Bay/Dallas in the afternoon, while also being able to sneak in a quick catnap… 6 month old Bud Light still tastes fine. I don’t see a problem with drinking old beer as long as it doesn’t taste bad. There’s no problem with that right?… The Seahawks were wearing white jerseys and blue pants this week so my prediction was correct… With two home games left I think it is impossible to lose out on the division but honestly I am looking a bit ahead to the St. Louis game week 17 because if we win and wrap everything up next week against Arizona, I think we will treat the Rams game like a preseason game by resting all of our important starters. My point: Our 14 (15 if you count a win next week over the Cardinals) game home winning streak could be in jeopardy. That would be devastating.

The Seahawks will now come home for the final two games of the regular season. Next week we host the Arizona Cardinals. Check back on Saturday for my preview of next week’s game. Enjoy this win everybody. Go Seahawks!

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Review: 49ers 19, Seahawks 17

9 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Although the NFC West championship and home field advantage is still all but certain, if for any reason we completely fall apart and miss out on either of these two scenarios this is the game the Seahawks and their fans will look back on as the turning point in the season. The Seahawks 7 game losing streak has come to an end and our quest for the division title must wait at least one more week as the Seahawks fell to the San Francisco 49ers 19-17 on Sunday. The Seahawks fall to 11-2 and now lead the 9-4 49ers by 2 games in the NFC West. There are a lot of frustrating moments that may have ultimately changed the outcome of the game. This is what I saw.

2nd Half Defense Does its Part: Over the past couple of seasons the Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the league when it comes to halftime adjustments and improvements. The defense stepped up and shut down the 49ers offense in the second half, holding them to only 3 points (for the sake of this section, forget those points were the ultimate difference in the game). The defensive pressure on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was cranked up as Clinton McDonald and Chris Clemons each recorded a crucial sack on third down plays in the fourth quarter. Byron Maxwell once again stepped up in place of Walter Thurmond, recording 5 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and an interception. Overall the Seahawks defense only allowed 19 points to a solid 49ers offense which should be enough in order to win. Unfortunately the Seahawks failed to get any momentum going on offense to parallel the effort of the defense.

2nd Half Offense Fails to Show: When I went to Houston back in September the Seahawks were down by 17 points at halftime. Although I was surprised and disappointed I never gave up hope that the Seahawks could comeback because prior to that game they had proven that they could come back facing a deficit of at least 20 points. The Seahawks trailed the 49ers by 2 points at halftime and my overall feeling was that Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson would make the necessary adjustments for the offense to comeback, take the lead, and potentially blow this game wide open. That never happened. The Seahawks only scored 3 points of their own in the second half and missed opportunities denied Seattle the chance to extend drives and perhaps put points on the board. Marshawn Lynch only ran for 72 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and it felt as though the Seahawks number one priority this week was to move the ball through the air even though Russell Wilson only threw the ball 25 times for 199 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. I give lots of credit to the San Francisco secondary, especially cornerback Tramaine Brock and safety Eric Reid for their impressive blanket coverage on all Seahawks receivers. As the game went along the belief remained that the Seahawks would make a run at taking control of the game because I knew they could but as the minutes ticked off the clock the worse our chances became and by the time we got the ball back for our final drive it was too little too late and the clock had struck midnight.

Penalties Doom Seahawks: While watching Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN in my hotel room prior to leaving for Candlestick Park, one analyst boldly predicted that this week’s Seahawks/49ers game would break an NFL record for most number of penalties in a single game. It sure felt like he was right but the calls that went against the Seahawks came at the worst times. Instead of extending drives, penalties backed the Seahawks so far back that the drives predictably stalled and the Seahawks were forced to punt, trading potential points for goose-eggs and a change of possession. In a nutshell, I strongly believe that the 49ers did not beat the Seahawks but that the Seahawks beat the Seahawks. Two Marshawn Lynch first down runs were called back for holding, a long completion to Golden Tate was called back for offensive pass interference because Tate pushed off of his defender, and on a 4th and 5 while in punt formation it appeared that a 49er defender jumped offside, which caused the Seahawks to point towards the other side of the line of scrimmage. Instead of a 5-yard offsides penalty and an automatic first down, it was ruled a false start and the Seahawks backed up 5 yards. In total, the Seahawks committed 9 penalties for 85 yards. About half of those penalty yards came on long, potential game altering plays.

The Gamble and the Two Plays that Changed the Game: After the Seahawks took a 17-16 lead the 49ers got the ball back with 6:20 left in the game. The Seahawks had two timeouts to work with and with the way the defense had been playing, I felt that it was entirely possible that we could force a quick drive and get the ball back to attempt to pad our lead. Instead, the 49ers gave the ball to running back Frank Gore who galloped 51 yards on the fourth play of the drive and all of a sudden the 49ers went from having the ball in their own territory to having the ball in the red zone, well within field goal range. After Kendall Hunter ran for one yard on the next play coach Carroll decided to take our second timeout and it was clear how he was going to play the end of the game; use both timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the 49ers with enough time to allow them to kick a field goal and for us to go down the field into field goal range for Steven Hauschka to win the game. Carroll used the Seahawks final timeout after a 2-yard run by Gore and all the Seahawks needed to do was stop San Francisco to set up a 49ers field goal with 2:00 left. Instead Carroll’s gamble backfired and the Seahawks allowed the second most important play of the game; a first down scramble by Kaepernick to give San Francisco a fresh set of downs and the ability to run the clock down under a minute, kick a field goal, and leave the Seahawks virtually no time to go down the field and score. If I was Pete Carroll I would have waited to use our timeouts after the two minute warning which would have given us about one extra minute of game clock. I do not blame Carroll for the decision he made because he had trust in a unit that had not given up any points in the second half up until this point in the game. Unfortunately it nipped the Seahawks in the bud.

49ers Played Like They Wanted it More: On Saturday night, Mitch Levy of Sports Radio 950 KJR tweeted that the attitudes and body language of 49ers players in interviews leading up to this week’s game showed a team that was uptight; so uptight that, as Levy stated “you can’t get a blade of grass up their asses.” San Francisco sure did not play like that at all. The 49ers came out firing with full confidence and I got the sense that they did a remarkable job preparing for what the Seahawks were going to throw at them on both sides of the ball.  They fed off the energy of their home crowd and scoring 16 points in the first half alone gave their defense extreme confidence to shut the Seahawks offense down. The 49ers did not play as an uptight team, but as a team that had a “we have nothing to lose” mentality when in reality this was a game they definitely needed to win to continue to control their own destiny in the NFC wild-card race.

Injury Analysis: Linebacker K.J. Wright broke a bone in his foot on Sunday and there is an estimated recovery time of at least six weeks. If that is the case, Wright could make it back in time to play in Super Bowl XLVIII should the Seahawks make it. Wright however remains hopeful that he will be healthy enough to return in time for the start of the playoffs, as was portrayed on his Twitter shortly after Sunday’s game. Max Unger and Jeron Johnson also exited the game this week and both did not return. Unger is dealing with a strained pectoral muscle and Johnson pulled a hamstring. To my knowledge their statuses for next week against the New York Giants is unknown. Losing Wright, a starter on defense, hurts but Malcolm Smith stepped in for Wright and did a good job. Unger is the man I would be the most worried about. Unger is the anchor of the offensive line and if the Seahawks are going to be without him for any length of time, we may see shades of the Seahawks teams that struggled against St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

Thoughts on San Francisco: The 49ers looked like a team that could make the playoffs as a wild-card and make a run deep into the playoffs, assuming of course that they do not run into Seattle along that road. The defense played a really good football game and if Frank Gore is feeling it he is extremely hard to stop. The addition of Michael Crabtree back into the lineup also adds firing power to the cannon of Colin Kaepernick. If the 49ers have to come to Seattle in the playoffs they will most likely lose but I would not be surprised to see the 49ers make it to at least the divisional round if not the NFC Championship Game if they are able to play like they did on Sunday.

Random Thoughts: All of my random thoughts will come in an in-depth feature post on my entire weekend trip to San Francisco. I hope to have that post published by mid-week. Stay tuned!

In addition to “Weekend in San Francisco 2013” post in the middle of this week, make sure to check back on Saturday as I preview next week’s matchup with the New York Giants. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 34, Saints 7

3 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

If there is anyone who doubts the ability for the Seattle Seahawks to win at home, especially against the better teams in the National Football League, I would like to meet them. Under the Monday Night spotlight, the Seahawks routed the New Orleans Saints 34-7. With the win, the Seahawks go to 11-1 on the season, have clinched a playoff berth, maintain their 3 game lead on San Francisco in the NFC West, and the Seahawks now have a 2 game lead on the Saints and the Carolina Panthers for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. There is so much to get to after this game so let me jump right into my thoughts.

Seahawks Defense Forces Brees into Worst Performance Since 2006: Thanks to the pass rush pressure of the Seahawks front 7 and outstanding coverage by the Legion of Boom, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was only able to complete 23 of his 38 attempted passes for 147 total yards, including one touchdown. Brees’s yardage total marks the lowest number of yards he has thrown for since December 24th, 2006 when the Saints played the New York Giants. Although the Seahawks only forced one sack of Brees, the pressure was present throughout the game, frequently collapsing the pocket. Brees never got comfortable behind center and the noise certainly did not help. Brees was effective throwing to tight end Jimmy Graham who had 3 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, however Brees tried to explore all of his options throughout the game and receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills simply could not get separation from the Seattle secondary. Perhaps New Orleans would have been more effective by throwing in Graham’s direction more often but as each drive happened and the more points the Seahawks scored it was going to be impossible for Brees to focus on one receiver and expect the Saints to get back into the ballgame.

Next Man Up: It was an all-around incredible performance from the Seahawks defense on Monday night but the play of cornerback Byron Maxwell should calm everyone who was worried about a back-up cornerback facing an explosive offensive unit like New Orleans has. Maxwell stepped in for Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond and held his ground, making 2 tackles and recording 2 passes defensed; one of which was nearly intercepted. Without both Browner and Thurmond in the lineup, the Seahawks are 5-0 dating back to last year when backup cornerbacks start in their place. Maxwell gave me no reason to think he cannot do the job and hold down the fort until Thurmond comes back in week 17. The depth of our roster especially at cornerback is proving to be an asset that is continuing to pay off. Next week against San Francisco will be a challenge for Maxwell, especially on the road. Maxwell certainly earned the faith, trust, and respect of the 12th Man on Monday night.

Avril, Bennett Make Play of the Game: New Orleans had no chance of winning this game after what happened on a 3rd & 5 with just under 7:00 left in the first quarter. Defensive end Cliff Avril rushed around Saints right tackle Zach Strief and stripped the ball away from Drew Brees. The ball was caught by Michael Bennett and ran back 20 yards for a “fat guy” touchdown and a 10-0 Seahawks lead. Although this play only made it a two-score game, the feeling inside CenturyLink Field was that the 12th Man was in no way going to let New Orleans get back into this game. Plays such as this one give the fans something to scream about and once the stadium exploded and the Saints immediately got the ball back I knew what was coming; the kind of noise that gives an opposing offense zero chance of being effective moving forward. This was the number one game altering play of the night. The Seahawks outscored New Orleans 24-7 after that play and that 10 point deficit following the Bennett touchdown was the closest the Saints trailed the Seahawks all game.

Meet Our MVP Candidate: During the ESPN postgame show the 12th Man let out chants of “Russell Wilson, MVP” and it got me thinking, could Wilson actually be a legitimate MVP candidate after a performance like he had on Monday night (22/30, 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, 139.6 passer rating)? Wilson now ranks 3rd among eligible quarterbacks in overall quarterback rating, and his 22 touchdowns versus 6 interceptions is one of the best ratios in the league. On the field imagine how the Seahawks would do if Tarvaris Jackson was our starting quarterback instead of Wilson. When you take significant (and I cannot stress the word ‘significant’ enough) players out of the equation is sets back your entire team dramatically. Taking Wilson away from the Seahawks is becoming more and more parallel to taking Peyton Manning out of Denver and Aaron Rodgers out of Green Bay (as Packers fans are currently learning). If he keeps up his dynamic production for the rest of the season, I would consider Russell Wilson a serious candidate for the 2013 NFL MVP award.

Thoughts on New Orleans: Take away the primetime factor and the home field advantage out of Monday’s game and I think the Saints would have had a better chance of staying with the Seahawks. No team would have much of a chance in an environment like what the Seahawks hosted on Monday Night. The Saints are a very good team and I could definitely see a rematch next month. Right now however the Saints need to be more and more worried about losing the NFC South to the Carolina Panthers. The Saints have the capability of getting to the NFC Championship Game and perhaps even the Super Bowl, but if they have to pay Seattle another visit in the coming weeks I expect their goal of a Super Bowl championship to evaporate.

Let Me Be Bold: The Seahawks are now 6-0 at home this season and have beaten both San Francisco and New Orleans in primetime settings. I now expect the Seahawks to earn home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs and if that is the case, I believe the Seattle Seahawks will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. All worries about a possible home game letdown at some point this season have transformed into a solid, unmistakable truth: NO, and I mean NO team can come into our house against this team and win. If you thought the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field was crazy for this game, just imagine what it will be like here in the playoffs. From where I’m sitting, if you are a Seahawks fan I would definitely be comfortable making your reservations for New York City immediately.

Random Thoughts: I took my friend Dylan to the game and we started the day by having lunch at Chuck’s Hole-In-The-Wall Barbeque on James Street downtown which was a long overdue first for me. In my opinion it is the only place around town that challenges Dixie’s in Bellevue for my favorite BBQ restaurant. I highly recommend the brisket with spicy BBQ sauce… Got to the bar at 12:30 and all the tables were full by 1. That was pretty amazing. Good thing we got one of the three booths… It’s really fun to walk across the street to the stadium as the sun is setting. It really gets me excited for the primetime feel of a Seahawks game… The defense was introduced this week and although Byron Maxwell started in place of Brandon Browner, the Legion of Boom was still announced to the crowd as a group… Ed Hochuli deserves to be the referee for Super Bowl XLVIII. He did an incredible job explaining calls and very few penalties were inaccurately enforced… I should clarify, he did an incredible job explaining calls except for when he got too into detail when he said at one point while explaining a call “we didn’t let the team [run a play] because we were stretching our balls.” [Insert joke here]… Pizza is to damn expensive in sports stadiums… There were very few Saints fans in attendance this week. That was a pleasant sight to see… After the game we made our way down to the lower level for the postgame show and it was packed. It is amazing to wonder what a game would look like down that close. In the upper deck the players look like ants sometimes and on the lower level not only is the game closer, but the stadium feels incredibly big. I can only imagine what the 12th Man sounds like from the lower level… Let me say this, I appreciate the job that alcohol enforcement does on a game-by-game basis but sometimes it seems like they overstep their job description and take things way too seriously. Alcohol enforcement was turning away fans that wanted to be a part of the postgame show crowd and were calling in Seattle police officers to kick out fans who were doing absolutely nothing wrong. Please stick to what your job entails, AE; kicking out the unruly fans that are interrupting the fan experience and making fools out of themselves… I got a thumbs up directly from Ray Lewis. That was pretty cool… It feels so good to be 11-1. It only makes next week’s trip to San Francisco that much more exciting.

This week will be a busy week on the blog. It is our second hate week of the season as the Seahawks now focus on the San Francisco 49ers. Check back midweek for a special commentary piece highlighting our upcoming game against the 49ers. My game preview of Sunday’s Seahawks/49ers game will be up early Saturday morning. Go Seahawks!

Saints/Seahawks Preview

1 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:40pm

The Seahawks kick off the final five games of the 2013 regular season this week on Monday Night Football as they host the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks are 10-1 and currently hold a one game lead on the top seed in the NFC playoff race. Enter the 9-2 Saints, who are the ones that trail the Seahawks in the NFC standings. The winner of this game will have the edge for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 6-6. Their last meeting came in a 2010 NFC Wild-Card playoff game when the 7-9 Seahawks upset New Orleans 41-36. Of course the iconic moment of this game was Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard “Beast Quake” touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that essentially cemented the Seahawks with the victory. There is a lot on this line this week and a nationally televised audience will witness one of the more highly anticipated games of the second half of the season. Here is what I will be looking for out of both the Seahawks and Saints in this game.

I start with the Seahawks defense because we will be without a key starter in the secondary. Cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy thus he will not play this week. Byron Maxwell will start and Jeremy Lane will also see playing time opposite of Richard Sherman. The main key on defense this week is to play smart and to not give up big, game-altering plays. Facing an elite quarterback such as Drew Brees, it will be likely that the Saints offense will try to stretch the field and with younger players filling in in the secondary, the chances of coverage’s being blown could be greater than if Thurmond or Brandon Browner were playing. In order to prevent Brees from having time to make deep throws our pass rush needs to have one of their best games of the season. The Saints offensive line ranks 5th in the NFL in sacks allowed so it will be necessary to send various blitz packages to confuse New Orleans and to force Brees into sacks and bad decisions. I have full confidence in Lane and Maxwell to step up and play well but their matchups this week are not favorable, especially after having a long break following the bye week.

After scoring 41 points against Minnesota two weeks ago, the Seahawks offense is primed to breakout starting on Monday night. It all starts with the running game. If the Seahawks can get Marshawn Lynch going early, control the ball, and control the clock, the Seahawks will be well on their way to a victory. The problem is that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is one of the best coaches in the game and he will certainly be orchestrating a gameplan that will put a focus on stopping the Seahawks running game. It will be very important for the Seahawks offensive line to protect Russell Wilson so he can utilize all of the weapons around him, especially since wide receiver Percy Harvin will not play due to a hip injury. Golden Tate will be Wilson’s go-to guy this week and Jermaine Kearse could also make a big impact this week. Keep your eye out for those two playmakers to get the ball in their hands often this week.

The New Orleans Saints boast one of the league’s most dominant offensive units. They are good because of a two-headed monster; the interchangeable and underrated running game featuring running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, and the powerful passing game led by quarterback Drew Brees. Brees is 353 yards away from becoming the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 this season. The Saints passing game ranks second in the league overall and it will be the primary emphasis for the Seahawks defense this week. After studying the Saints on film I took away an interesting statistic. In the “first 15” (the first 15 plays previously scripted for an offense to run) the Saints threw the ball at nearly a 2:1 ratio, more than any other team the Seahawks have played so far this season. Drew Brees is known for picking apart the weaknesses of opposing defenses and he does an excellent job doing so, which is why I believe he will try to throw to wide receiver Kenny Stills often this week since Stills will line up opposite of either Byron Maxwell or Jeremy Lane. There is also a big matchup to watch in the middle of the field, literally. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is Brees’ favorite receiver and it takes multiple players to bring Graham down. Look for Kam Chancellor to shadow Graham on passing plays, as Chancellor is the biggest defender in the third level of the Seahawks defense.

The Saints dominant offense has been around for a long time but it is the Saints defense that has helped turn the team into an elite power. The Saints defense ranks in the top half of the league in both passing yards allowed (3rd) and rushing yards allowed (15th). When looking at the Saints defensive stat sheet there is one column that worries me greatly this week: the Saints do an incredible job of rushing the passer. The intimidating pass rush threat could force Russell Wilson into bad throws this week. Wilson must know where cornerback Keenan Lewis is lined up on the field, as Lewis leads New Orleans defenders in interceptions with 3. In regards to the Saints pass rush, 14 different players have recorded sacks this season and 7 of those players have recorded 2.5 sacks or more. Cameron Jordan leads all Saints defenders in sacks with 9.5 but my X-Factor player to watch this week is linebacker Junior Galette. Galette has 6 sacks so far on the season and has forced one fumble. Galette is New Orleans’s Bruce Irvin; a pass rush specialist who sees most of his playing time in third down situations. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can move the ball effectively in early down situations Galette could become a non-factor much like how he was against Atlanta last Thursday night.

There are two other added elements to keep your eye on this week. The first of which is the weather. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the mid to low 30’s and the last forecast I saw calls for a 40 percent chance of snow showers. The last time the Seahawks played a primetime game in the snow was in 2006 and the Seahawks were able to run for 235 yards in that game against the Green Bay Packers. Although it is unlikely, if snow becomes a factor this week I give the edge to the Seahawks, as the Saints do a better job stopping the pass than the run. The other thing to keep an eye on this week is the noise factor. I always emphasize that the 12th Man seems to have a bigger impact in primetime games and this week the intensity inside CenturyLink Field will definitely be higher. To make matters better, the 12th Man will be attempting to regain their status as the world’s loudest fans as they try to once again break the Guinness World Record for “loudest roar at a sports stadium” as was announced earlier in the week. Bad weather and noise could be the ultimate recipe for the Saints to struggle so the Seahawks must take advantage of these circumstances.

Random Thoughts: The blue jersey/blue pants combination will be seen once again this week. I expect the Saints to wear black pants with their white jerseys… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN this week… It would be cool to try to get a picture with the ESPN pregame crew consisting of Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer, Steve Young, and Ray Lewis. I tried to get a picture with Bob Costas back in 2011 when Sunday Night Football came to town but I failed… Expect to see an iconic Seattle sports figure raise the 12th Man Flag. It has become customary for a well-known Seattle icon to raise the flag before bigger games… Ray Dalton will sing the national anthem before the game. I guess he’s taking a break from the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis world tour… One of the coolest things to see at a primetime Seahawks game is when the video board says “ESPN, can you hear us?” If you’re going to the game on Monday night you should know what to do when you see this… The giveaway this week is roller banners that say “LOUDER” along with a Seahawks beanie. Can I get a rally towel one time Seahawks?!?! I guess they are saving towels for our home playoff games… Ed Hochuli is the referee this week. In my opinion Hochuli is one of the best referees in the NFL. He does a really good job of explaining his calls… I wonder if the weather will prevent Hochuli from showing off his trademark muscles. We’ll see… It’s going to be a long pregame on Monday before the game. Good thing we’ll be down there before traffic really gets bad… I love late season primetime games because it is dark by the time kickoff rolls around… I love the cold weather, also… I’m sure a lot of memories of the last time we played the Saints are going to run through my brain on Monday. It is hard to rank that game but that playoff game is no doubt in my top 3 of sporting events I’ve ever been to.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold a one game lead on New Orleans for the number one seed in the NFC playoffs and we hold a 3 game lead on San Francisco and Arizona for first place in the NFC West. If either Arizona or San Francisco loses on Sunday, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Here are the matchups to keep an eye on this week that could affect the NFC playoff race. Teams to note are bolded.

Tampa Bay (3-8) at Carolina (8-3)

Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1)

Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5)

St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4)

Prediction: The way I see it, if a 7-9 Seahawks team can beat Drew Brees and the Saints, a 10-1, Super Bowl contending Seahawks team can surely beat Drew Brees and the Saints. With the Saints in town and a healthy, rested Seahawks offense a lot of people may think this game will be an offensive shootout much like what happened in the playoffs three years ago. I do not believe this game will be as high scoring and both defenses will make their presence known. The Seahawks will make one or two bigger plays than New Orleans this week and that will lift Seattle to victory. Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate will score touchdowns for Seattle and linebacker K.J. Wright will intercept a Drew Brees pass in the fourth quarter that will seal the win. The Seahawks will go to 11-1 and will all but officially clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Seahawks 27, Saints 17

Following Monday night’s game will start a very busy week on the blog. Check back Tuesday morning for a review of our game against the Saints. Enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Commentary: Thurmond, Browner Suspended

26 Nov
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Photo Credit: oregonlive.com

It was announced on Sunday morning that Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond had been suspended 4 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. A little over 24 hours later the NFL announced that Brandon Browner had been suspended for one year for violating the same policy. Both are reportedly for the use of marijuana. Barring a late appeal, Thurmond will be eligible to return to play in the Seahawks regular season finale against the St. Louis Rams. Browner is an unrestricted free agent after this season and it is highly likely that he has played his last game with the Seahawks.

These suspensions could not come at a worse time. The Seahawks are preparing for arguably their most important game of the season; next Monday night against the New Orleans Saints in what could be for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and the news of these suspensions is creating bad publicity and distractions both locally and across the country. The fact that the Seahawks held a team-only meeting over the offseason to address this problem only adds to the frustration that these two individuals are dumb or naïve enough to make another mistake. I am hoping that the off-the-field publicity and the re-painted image of the Seahawks being a team of cheaters do not affect this locker room. However, when players like Golden Tate come out and call the actions of Thurmond and Browner “selfish” it only feeds the press and could potentially cause a rift within members of the team. I believe we are a stronger unit than that.

On the field the Legion of Boom is up for their biggest challenge of the year, even more so now given these suspensions. Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell will be called upon to hold the fort down until Thurmond comes back, as well as practice squad signee DeShawn Shead and the newly-signed Perrish Cox. Drew Brees and the Saints are definitely not the ideal matchup for this semi-raw unit. The Saints game is now an even bigger challenge and it will be extremely important for the rest of the team to play their best in order for the Seahawks to walk away with a win this week.

Review: Seahawks 41, Vikings 20

17 Nov
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

It took the Seattle Seahawks 16 weeks to get to 10 wins a season ago. The Seahawks clinched their second straight 10-win season on Sunday with a 41-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings; 5 weeks ahead of last season. The Seahawks record-best start extends to 10-1 and the Vikings fall to 2-8 on the season. There is a lot to get excited about from around the league to what the Seahawks and the 12th Man have to look forward to upcoming, but let’s take a look back at some of the high points of Sunday’s win over Minnesota.

Stopping Peterson: Who would have thought that it would be Toby Gerhart, NOT Adrian Peterson, who led the Vikings in rushing yards this week. The Seahawks held the reigning NFL MVP to 65 yards rushing, while in the process proving that last week’s run defense in Atlanta was not a fluke performance. Peterson’s longest run on the day was a 13 yard run midway through the 3rd quarter. There is no question the Seahawks defense emphasized stopping the run during practice this week but even with a week of preparation to hold the most powerful running back in the league to 65 yards is something to be proud of. Like I talked about in my Vikings preview, the only way realistic way the Vikings could win is if Peterson rushed for a couple hundred yards and multiple touchdowns. Holding him out of the endzone made it very easy for the Seahawks to take control of the game as early as they did. On the whole, the Seahawks defense were successful in making Minnesota’s offense one-dimensional and when Christian Ponder was forced to throw, he made the kind of mistakes that he is known for making (see “winning the turnover battle”).

Harvin’s Debut Goes as Expected: In his postgame interviews, Percy Harvin said he recruited his teammates to go up to Head Coach Pete Carroll to convince him to put him in to return kickoffs. Harvin made the most of his single special teams opportunity. With under a minute remaining in the first half, Harvin returned a kickoff 58 yards to set up a 19-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin. Harvin was very explosive and he is incredible at squeezing through blocks. His return got the 12th Man completely fired up and for me personally, it left me pondering what our return game and offense is going to look like in our final 5 regular season games. Harvin’s spark on special teams gives us a huge weapon moving forward but I would not be surprised to see opposing teams either attempt to kick it through the endzone or pooch kick to avoid putting the ball in Harvin’s hands.

As a receiver, Harvin only made one catch for 17 yards but he definitely earned style points. Harvin’s catch was tipped one-handed and hauled in as he was falling to the ground to give the Seahawks a first down, continuing a touchdown drive in the second quarter. I expected to see Harvin play 12-15 plays total but he was on the field for 10 offensive plays in the first half alone. Harvin met my expectations I had of him in today’s game and it will be fun to see him on the field full-time for the rest of the season.

Lynch Scores 3 Times, Screws My Fantasy Team: Even though I am having a terrible fantasy season, the fact that Marshawn Lynch scored over 24 fantasy points this week did not help me at all. Reality always trumps fantasy however and without Lynch’s performance the Seahawks would have struggled mightily. I would have been out of Skittles by the time Marshawn Lynch was done scoring Sunday. Lynch found the endzone three times and also ran for 54 yards this week. Lynch is currently 2nd among all running backs in rushing yards this season and with a two week break before the end of the regular season Lynch could be primed to make a push for the NFL rushing title. Lynch is currently projected to run for 1,267 yards this season but will most likely need more to claim the rushing title. His motivation towards that feat will directly parallel how we function on offense in the coming weeks.

Winning the Turnover Battle: You know how I said that if you can make Christian Ponder throw the ball mistakes are bound to be made? You saw exactly what I was talking about this week. Ponder threw two interceptions and probably should have thrown a third. After dropping a pass thrown right to him, Bobby Wagner made up for that mistake by picking off Ponder later on in the game. Ponder also threw a pick-six right to cornerback Walter Thurmond; his first interception return touchdown of his career. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 4-0 on Sunday and they scored 20 points as a result of those turnovers. The Seahawks now have a plus-11 turnover margin this season which is tied for 2nd best in the league.

Thoughts on Minnesota: The Minnesota Vikings have talent but they have a serious need to upgrade the quarterback position. I do not believe Christian Ponder has a successful future in Minnesota and with this lame-duck season coming to an end in 6 weeks, I think Josh Freeman should get an opportunity to start to give the Vikings front office and coaching staff a glimpse to see if Freeman has a future in Minnesota next season and beyond. The Vikings defense has potential to be a really good unit but it doesn’t help when the offense turns the ball over and gives us excellent field position. I do not expect a serious bounce-back from the Vikings next season but they will most likely be primed with a top-5 draft pick in 2014 and I think if one of the elite college quarterbacks is available the Vikings may want to consider drafting the potential future quarterback of their franchise.

Random Thoughts: We got to the Hawks Nest Bar at 8:30 in the morning. Almost all of the tables were open when we got there but the place was standing room only by the time 9:45 rolled around… Thanks to the Tacoma guys we met and shared buckets with at the bar this week. One of the guys thinks he is on my flight down to San Francisco in 3 weeks so I’ll have to keep my eye out at the airport. Too bad I don’t really remember what he looks like… No giveaway again this week? C’mon Seahawks… The starting offense was introduced this week and I was hoping to see Percy Harvin get introduced individually. That did not happen though… One of the guys that sit in front of me sold his ticket on NFL Ticket Exchange and some random guy sat in his seat. He did not talk, he did not cheer, and he did not really engage in any celebratory behavior with the rest of us throughout the game. That was pretty odd. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a tourist who wanted to catch a Seahawks game. I find it pretty odd that someone would buy an individual ticket to a Seahawks game and actually attend rather than sell it to a scalper to try to make some pocket cash. Why would you want to go to a Seahawks game by yourself?… Although it’s expensive, Papa John’s makes really good in-stadium pizza… A guy at the top of our section got kicked out by alcohol enforcement. When I went down to the concourse to refill my water bottle I heard him drunkenly slur to a cop “why exactly am I being kicked out of here, sirs?” Couldn’t help but giggle walking back up to my seats… To the guy in the Charlie Whitehurst jersey, you need a hug bro?… I got to see the end of the San Francisco/New Orleans game in the windows of the Seahawks pro shop and the fans huddling around the windows erupted in cheers when Garrett Hartley kicked the game-winning field goal… The picture of Jim Harbaugh screaming a certain colorful four letter word after that game makes me so happy… We went to the Pyramid Alehouse after the game to grab some food and watch the first part of Sunday Night Football. The fish and chips are stellar but two pieces of fish is not enough for a big guy like me. That was slightly disappointing… I get to watch RedZone for the next two weeks without a Seahawks game on Sunday afternoons. Next Sunday with the ESPN playoff machine on my computer, an ice-cold beer in my hand and RedZone on in front of me, you know where to find me… After the bye: the New Orleans Saints in what is sure to be a raucous playoff-type environment at CenturyLink Field on Monday Night Football.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With the win over Minnesota the Seahawks improve to 10-1. The New Orleans Saints defeated the San Francisco 49ers 23-20 on Sunday, meaning the Seahawks currently have a 3 ½ game lead on San Francisco for first place in the NFC West. Here is what the NFC playoffs would like if the playoffs started at this very moment:

#1 Seed (First Round Bye): Seattle Seahawks (10-1)

#2 Seed (First Round Bye): New Orleans Saints (8-2)

#3 Seed: Detroit Lions (6-4)

#4 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)

#5 Seed: Carolina Panthers (6-3, they play on Monday Night Football in week 11)

#6 Seed: San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

 

I will be taking a short break from the blog during the bye week but if anything important happens I will hop back on. If not, check back on Sunday, December 1st as I preview the Seahawks game against the New Orleans Saints. Go Seahawks!

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!