The Seahawks, fresh of their much-needed bye week, head to Miami to face a struggling Dolphins team in what I consider a must-win game for Seattle’s playoff aspirations.
At 6-4, the Seahawks need to find a way to get 10 or more victories in what is turning out to be a tight NFC West race to the top with the San Francisco 49ers. If the Seahawks can’t take the division the 10-plus win goal should put them in the playoffs as a wild card team. But to do so Seattle must shake off their horrendous road record and win one or two on the road to finish the year.
For the Dolphins, a rested and hungry Seahawks team is the exact opposite of what they need right now. During their current three-game losing streak, the team has begun to show signs of imploding under positive expectations brought on by some unexpected early season success.
Keys to the game: Russell Wilson
1. Manage the game. The Seahawks may be facing a team with issues but one thing they do well is rush the passer and stuff the run. Miami pass rusher Cameron Wake is going to be an issue for Seattle all day long if Russell Wilson doesn’t get the Seahawks into manageable down and distances with savvy checks at the line of scrimmage. Wilson must diagnose and get the Seahawks into the right play or he’ll be in trouble.
2. Expose Dolphins coverage. Miami Cornerback Nolan Carroll has struggled mightily this season and should be ripe for another beating. Russell Wilson would be smart to find Carroll and target him until he proves it’s not a good idea.
Bottom Line: Wilson doesn’t have to be a beast for the Seahawks to win, he just needs to be careful with the ball and smart with his reads. Football doesn’t have to be hard, just find the matchup to exploit and go after it.
Keys to the game: Seahawks offense
1. Find daylight. The Seahawks are well-rested and that’s a good thing. The Dolphins boast a run defense that prides itself with shutting down the run. That just happens to be what the Seahawks like to do most. Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks offensive line must fire out, and get movement on the Miami defensive front early on or it will have to be the Russell Wilson show.
2. Screen game. The Seahawks have shown that they can utilize the screen game and have success and this game may require it. What they must avoid is relying on the receiver “alley” screen and try to add running back screens in the mix. The last thing the Dolphins want is Marshawn Lynch on the outside with a head of steam.
3. Avoid turnovers. Road game failures usually come down to mental errors and the Seahawks seem to struggle with those away from Seattle. If the Seahawks can play error-free football this Dolphins team may crack under the pressure. Not doing so gives the Dolphins hope.
Keys to the game: Defense
1. Pressure. I’ve been saying for a while that the Seahawks late bye week was going to be rough for the defense. They have been asked to carry this team for the better part of the season and over the past few games the wear and tear had begun to show. This had a direct effect on the amount of pressure they could muster. With the Seahawks injury free and well rested, look for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to dial-up pressure and force Miami’s rookie QB Ryan Tannehill to fold under it.
Easy Pressure Target: Miami RT Jonathan Martin
2. Contain, Contain, Contain. Reggie Bush causes problems for teams because of his ability to bounce inside runs to the outside and beat contain to the corner. Seattle must play to the whistle and wrap and drive this man to the ground. When he bounces, the linebackers must be there to funnel Bush back into the teeth of the defense. If Reggie Bush gets free, he will put up yardage in bunches.
3. Avoid Penalties. Avoiding turnovers is paramount for road teams, but right up there on the list is penalties. When you play a team that struggles on offense like the Dolphins have been, you can’t extend their drives with mental errors. If the Seahawks play tough and clean this game should be decided by the third quarter.
Keys to the game: Special teams
1. Field position. This might be the biggest key for Seattle. If Seahawks stud punter Jon Ryan gets the opportunity to punt, his leg could be the difference in the game. The Dolphins are not designed to march up and down the field and pinning them deep gives the Seahawks offense even more opportunities to put points on the board.
Keys to the game: Coaching staff
1. Preparation. When you have two weeks to study yourself as well as your upcoming opponent the fact is there is no excuse for a poor game plan. Head coach Pete Carroll and staff must develop a plan of attack that exposes the Dolphins many offensive weaknesses.
2. Tempo. For many reasons, the Seahawks rank near the bottom of the league on offense but Darrell Bevell plays a part on game day. Quick play calling means quicker huddles and more time for Russell Wilson to diagnose looks at the line of scrimmage.
3. Be multiple. At this point the NFL knows what the Seahawks are. They are a powerful inside zone running team led by a savvy rookie QB and an elite level defense who specializes in coverage, run stuffing and pressure.
On offense, the coaching staff must not allow players such as DE Cameron Wake and DT Randy Starks to disrupt with their penetration and must do so by varying their play calling. Balance equals unpredictable.
On defense, Gus Bradley must ensure the one big Miami weapon never sees a clear lane to run and pays for attempts to bounce outside with several Seahawks defenders waiting to lay the hit.
Bottom Line: This is a game the Seahawks should win despite their past issues on the road and considering the playoff implications, they’d better.
Prediction: Seahawks 21-13
Very interesting look at how the Seahawks and 49ers have evolved over the season from a scoring standpoint. The chart below show’s the game by game scoring output of each team. The Seahawks seem to be peaking at the right time while the 49ers seem to be trending downward..As a Seahawks fan, I’m hoping these numbers stay just like they are.
In a way, the playoffs have begun for the Seattle Seahawks. All crazy and hopeful scenarios aside (I can’t stand those by the way..Just win) the Seahawks must win out to give themselves a chance. The first huge test and last home game of the year, will be this Saturday against a very polished, and tough 49ers team. Fresh off their destruction of the Steelers, many in the media have begun to notice and overly praise them. I say wait a minute. While their season has been a huge success considering recent years, this team is not a juggernaut, and can be beaten with the right game plan. Also, with return specialist Tedd Ginn hobbled during the Steelers game, out goes the one guy who killed us in week one. That “should” mean this game will probably look alot like week one on many fronts, minus the two returns for scores. Notice to 49er fans: The Seahawks are a much better football team now..
Let’s take a look at one of the biggest surprises for the NFC West Champion 49ers this year ( I may have thrown up a bit typing that). Former 1st overall pick QB Alex Smith. Smith’s resurgence, is not so much a product of more wow plays, but a very carefull and calculated game plan from new head coach Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers are one of the few teams in the NFL with a Run-Pass ratio of 54%-46%.. That’s a big reason for his improvement. He’s also had the training wheels put back on so to speak, and the 49ers attack has become death by hammer (running game), and a thousand pin pricks (smart, quick passing game). If you make a mistake they will capitalize, but they never, i repeat never, force much of anything. This type of game plan takes serious patience from the coaching staff, and has put them in a great position heading into the playoffs.
Alex Smith’s numbers are solid.. 2752 Yards Passing, 16 TDs, 5 interceptions, with a passer rating of 91.1. But let’s look deeper. His passing percentage is very impressive in the intermediate and short areas of the field. Let’s compare them to Tarvaris Jackson and I think you’ll see a couple of things.
1. For all of the talk about Alex Smith finally showing why the 49ers drafted him, take a look at Tarvaris Jackson’s numbers and you will see why I think the Seahawks could be fine if they don’t get the QBOTF in next year’s draft. The run heavy approach does not require a Peyton Manning type at the QB position. Just a smart, and accurate QB that limits mistakes and put’s his team in position (playcalls, hots, and line protection adjustments) to win every week.
2. From 20 yards and in you are looking at two QBs who are hitting 67% and 65% percent of thier passes respectfully. But as I’ve stated, the 49ers aren’t winning because of Alex Smith’s arm. They are winning running the ball and playing incredibly impressive defense.
The 49ers formula at work:
The 49ers have allowed only 4 teams to score 20 points all year (NFC East: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, NFC West Cardinals).
*NOTE: They are just 2-2 in those games.
The 49ers Defense has not given up a single touchdown on the ground.. not one. We will see if that stat survives through Saturday.
The 49ers are +21 on takeaway/giveaway margin.
The 49ers run a hefty 54% of the time, and look to control the clock.
Where the Seahawks can take advantage of the 49ers:
The 49ers are awful on 3rd down, ranking near the bottom of the NFL at 29%. The Seahawks must not allow the 49ers to improve on this number.
The 49ers Defense is ranked 21st for passing yards allowed per game (240). While I don’t anticipate a ton of throws for QB Tarvaris Jackson, I do think the Seahawks can utilize the passing game if RB Marshawn Lynch and the running game struggle early. However, they should avoid CB Carlos Rodgers. He has not allowed a 100 yard receiver since week 10, and that happened to be the only time he has all year. He is giving up an average of 45.9 yards a game and shares the team high in interceptions (Safety Dashon Goldson) with six. Instead the Seahawks need to go after CB Tarell Brown. Brown is not an awful CB, but on this stellar defense, he’s the guy i would target on key downs. He only has 2 interceptions, and 7 pass deflections all year, plus per profootballfocus.com, QB’s have a rating of 85.7 when targeting him. Not a huge advantage, but the best choice of cornerback targets Tarvaris Jackson has in the 49ers base defense.
The Seahawks Offense need to focus on attacking the Center-Guard holes on zone runs. The graphic below illustrates why:
Even though the 49ers are really tough against the run, the 49ers softest spot is inside so the Seahawks must focus their attention there. The matchups off the left and right tackle positions (DE Justin Smith and Ray McDonald) are going to be too tough to attack consistently.
Center Max Unger and right guard Robbert Gallery need to win their one on one matchups all day to give the Seahawks running game a chance. If the Seahawks can establish something inside, I anticipate the 49ers will counter by moving their DE’s (Justin Smith, Ray McDonald) to 5i techs (5 technique with and inside shade) to start attacking the B gap aggressively. This could lead to some nice wham blocks with a back side TE or G similar to the runs we saw vs the Eagles. While the alignments are obviously different, similar blocking angles can be attained. RB Marshawn Lynch has a great chance to be the first running back to break into the endzone vs this 49ers defense..I say he does it.!
The Seahawks defense needs to take away the middle of the field: The 49ers love to utilize the middle of the field in thier quick passing game (primarily the intermediate and shallow depths). WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis are the biggest weapons for Alex Smith in thes areas.
The Seahawks can punish the 49ers here like week one with continued great safety play (Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor), and the bruising style of emerging corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. Thier ability to disrupt patterns, and muscle recievers down the field have severely frustrated opposing offenses the last several weeks. In particular, the 6-4 Brandon Browner has started to make Pete Carroll look like a genious with 12 pass defensed, 6 interceptions, and 3 interception returns for TDs. Not to be outdone, 6-3 Richard Sherman has locked down opposing recievers to the tune of 3 interceptions, 8 pass defensed, and a 63.9 rating for QB’s when he’s targeted.
Improve the run defense and stop RB Frank Gore: There is a very simple solution to stopping a team like the 49ers (on paper at least): Stop the run, and force the so-so QB to be the hero. Easier said than done, and it’s only happened 3 times this year.The last time the Seahawks faced the 49ers, RB Frank Gore couldn’t get anything going (22 Carries, 59 yds). I have a feeling the Seahawks can recreate this effort if we can get back to the stellar interior defensive line play we had prior to the bye week.
It’s very interesting to see that during the first five games, opposing runners found almost nothing in the A gap..Nothing. Also, Due to former Seahawk LB Aaron Curry’s awful play, DE Chris Clemons had a difficult time handling the run, and this exposure led to hefty yardage per game totals. Enter rookie LB KJ Wright and you can see how dramatically the numbers have shifted. All that would be great if the interior lineman were playing on the same level, but they are not. What was once a strength, has now become the Seahawks biggest weakness in the run defense.
I’ve noticed lately that both DTs Brandan Mebane and Alan Branch are slow getting off the ball, playing high, and are getting turned in the hole more often than ever before. This is coachable, and must be corrected if the Seahawks want to win this matchup.
Players to watch on offense for Seattle: RB Marshawn Lynch, LT Paul McQuistan, RT Breno Giacomini, FB Michael Robinson, QB Tarvaris Jackson, and WR Golden Tate
Players to watch on Offense for San Francisco: LT Joe Staley, LG Mike Iupati, RB Frank Gore, WR Michael Crabtree, TE Vernon Davis, and QB ALex Smith.
Players to watch on Defense for Seattle: DT Alan Branch, DT Brandan Mebane, MLB David Hawthorne, SS Kam Chancellor, FS Earl Thomas, and CB Brandon Browner
Players to watch on Defense for San Francisco: LB Aldon Smith, DE Justin Smith, DE Ray McDonald, DT Isaac Sopoaga, CB Carlos Rodgers, and FS Dashon Goldson
Final Match up thoughts: This is the biggest game of the year, and it’s not even close. The Seahawks entire season has come down to beating tough divisional rivals two weeks in a row and the 49ers just happen to be one of the best teams in the entire NFL. However, I believe that the Seahawks are peaking at the right time, and that momentum could be enough to overcome the odds.
Make no mistake, the NFC West has made great strides (excluding the Rams) in the second half of the season, and this game will be tougher than 49er fans want to admit. This is a total 50/50 game in my opinion and no one would have said that earlier in the year.
Prediction: Seahawks: 21, 49ers: 19 GO SEAHAWKS!!
A Seahawks Monday Night Football is upon us, and it’s a great matchup for a team who still has a chance, albeit a very small one, to sneak into the playoffs. The Rams on the other hand…um, well the only “playoff” they can compete for is the one for the worst record in the league, and right now they are losing that match up to the Colts.
I’ve stated several times before how much I still hate the Rams despite the fact that the Seahawks have completely dominated them lately (12 of the last 13, and 6 straight in Seattle). I still can’t get Tory Holt and Marshall Faulk’s irritating and disrespectful comments out of my head from early on in the Holmgren era. I never will.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy in-game broadcast NFC West bashing, a little Seahawks bashing, and hopefully a ton of skittles to shove down their throat!
IR: LT Russell Okung, RG John Moffitt, RT James Carpenter, WR Sidney Rice
15 members on IR, QB Sam Bradford will try to play with severely sprained ankle, and DT Robins may miss game with back injury.
Key matchups to watch when the Seahawks have the ball:
DE Chris Long and DE James Hall vs LT Paul McQuiston and RT Breno Giacomini: This is the only matchup that scares me. This is a huge mismatch, and it may just be the one that keeps the heavily overmatched Rams in the game. TE Zach Miller has done a great job in the blocking game all year, and his services will be needed again. I’m predicting the Seahawks go to their heavy (2TE) sets for the majority of the game if the Rams ends can create pressure. If, and that’s a big IF, Paul McQuiston and Breno Giacomini can hold up, we should roll easily in this one.
The Seahawks running game vs The Rams rush defense: The Seahawks have been on a tear posting 5 straight 100 yard efforts, and will need that kind of effort in order to crush any hopes of a struggling Rams team. The fact that the Rams have the worst run defense in the league should mean that Beastmode will be in full effect on national TV, but not so fast. How the Seahawks handle the transition from Russell Okung at left tackle to Paul McQuiston, and Lemuel Jeanpierre starting his first game at the RG position will be key to a victory tonight. Offensive line coach Tom Cable has done a great job of molding our line, but I’m not sure how rabbits are left in that hat of his. That said, I really can’t think of a better opponent to get some important training snaps against, than this current Rams defense.
Prediction: The extra time between games has given Tom Cable enough time to prepare the new line. The running game will be the number one offensive weapon to protect Tarvaris from the Rams Defensive ends. Look for 15-20 passes again from Tarvaris Jackson. The 100 yard streak continues… Get your Skittles ready!!
Key matchup to watch when the Rams have the ball
CB Richard Sherman vs Wr Brandon Lloyd
“Wr Brandon Lloyd has been a huge addition to the Rams offense. Since the trade he is the Rams # 1 option in the passing game and has surpassed all Rams receivers in targeted passes.”
I wrote that a couple of weeks ago and it remains true today. WR Brandon Lloyd is the Rams only passing target that demands extra attention. This will be another opportunity for the CB Richard Sherman, and CB Brandon Browner to show improvement. During the last meeting, Brandon Lloyd was held to 5 catches (67 yds, 1 TD) on 14 targeted passes. For the most part, Seahawks did a good job of keeping him quiet, and I anticipate the same for tonight.
* NOTE: There is still a huge question mark on the Rams QB situation for tonight. Sam Bradford is going to be a game time decision but If he can’t go look for the Rams to insert QB Kellen Clemens, freshly signed to the Rams after being cut from the Houston Texans. Sam Bradford has been awful this year, so the drop off might not be dramatic .
Final Matchup Thoughts:
Look for a ton of three and outs early from both teams. The Seahawks should focus on getting some push and continuity from their offensive line and this might mean the special teams, particularly Jon Ryan and the punt coverage units will get a lot of early snaps. In my opinion, this will be temporary. Barring unforeseen issues, the Seahawks will pound the Rams with time of possession, and a brutal running attack until the seas begin to part and the game is put out of reach.
Caution: This game feels like the Cleveland game to me. A very winnable game, against a struggling team. The only huge difference is the Rams do not play defense like the Browns do, and Charlie Whitehurst isn’t starting. I say we atone for the failure in Cleveland.
Prediction: Seahawks 24- Rams 13 (Predicted MVP: The Seahawks offensive line)
Silver lining: The media will be forced to talk about a Seattle win, because the alternative, is well….. The Rams.
Seahawks, time for your national close up…Are you ready?
This is going to be the strangest matchup on the schedule in my opinion. There’s the whole Pete Carroll Vince Young thing, the Jason Babin Twitter rant, and the smack talk from the Eagles players on how they will “Blow them out”. For me, I see an Eagles team that I assumed would be a 11-5 or better team. They currently sit tied with the Seahawks at 4-7, and are quickly coming apart at the seams. From the DeSean Jackson drama, to the investment in Mike Vick as the long-term QB, nothing is working out for the free agent magnet Eagles. Contrast the dysfunctional Eagles with a Seahawks team who has performed exactly like I predicted they would. Up and down they go, each week I watch expecting the worse, and hoping for the best. This young team is talented, but undisciplined and the 4-7 record fits them at this point in Pete Carroll’s tenure.
Seahawks: WR Sidney Rice (IR), RG John Moffit (IR), RT James Carpenter (IR)
Eagles: QB Mike Vick, Wr Jeremy Maclin
Who to watch when the Eagles have the ball:
Wr DeSean Jackson vs Seahawks pass coverage.
People seem to forget that the Eagles have a pretty good receiving corps even without Jeremy Maclin. Jason Avant, and Riley Cooper have had success this year, and TE Brent Celek will make it tough to stack coverage on DeSean Jackson. With our size at corner, this is a bit of a nightmare matchup for Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman (if he plays). DeSean Jackson is so fast, and agile that we may see double moves, crossers, and turn out routes to attempt to get the bigger corners in trouble. With the Seahawks season long issues in the penalty department, this is a sound strategy. This could be a long day for the secondary.
Advantage: DeSean Jackson
RB LeSean McCoy vs the Seahawks front 7:
The Seahawks have been stellar in the run game for the majority of the year. I don’t think DT Alan Branch gets the credit he deserves for this production. DE Red Bryant get’s a lot of love, and rightfully so, but with Branch out last week, the Seahawks allowed a no name RB from Washington to run wild. Additionally, McCoy is currently averaging a ridiculous 8.7 YPC on runs off left tackle. This means that Chris Clemons will be a huge factor here. How he holds up will be something to watch for.
TE Brent Celek vs Seahawks LB’s in coverage
This is a matchup that concerns me. Brent Celek has been a favorite target (63 Targeted passes this year) and the Seahawks have proven game after game, they can’t match up with pass catching TEs. With McCoy, and Eagles QB Vince Young working play action, boot, and waggle games, It may be very difficult to contain Celek unless the Seahawks run defense is STOUT.
Advantage: TE Brent Celek
Who to watch when the Seahawks have the ball:
QB Tarvaris Jackson vs CBs Asante Samual & Nnamdi Asomugha.
In my humble opinion, Tarvaris Jackson should not be playing anymore this season. The pectoral injury is clearly reached the point that he’s not effective, and can’t throw accurately past 10 yards. This concerns me greatly considering the skill the Eagles have at the corner position. With Sidney Rice’s placement on season ending IR, that’s just one less target for a weak-armed QB to throw to. Mentioning the 38 degree temp at kick off seems like piling on but it is what it is. The Seahawks better establish themselves on the ground or Jon Ryan will be punting on 80% of the Seahawks possession.
Advantage: Asante Samual & Nnamdi Asomugha
The Seahawks running game vs Eagles front 7.
Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks run game has been on a bit of a tear the last four games with a 4.3 YPC average, and three games over 100 yards. That is a great sign, and I think that trend continues against the Eagles defensive front. The Eagles started out the year with their DE’s in what is being called a “Wide 9” alignment. This basically means that both DE’s are lined up a full gap to the outside shoulder of the Offensive tackle.
This gives them a much better rushing angle and it makes it very difficult for slow-of-foot tackles to get into position to stop the pass rush. However, it leaves the Eagles very vulnerable with gaping holes for off tackle and guard runs. I don’t anticipate them staying in this alignment once Marshawn Lynch starts to get it going, but I will predict it burns them at least once for a big gain.
Fun Fact: The Seahawks offensive line averages 6.6, and 314 lbs, while the Eagles defensive front is a smaller 6.2 , 285. The Eagles are very light at the DE position (Cole, Babin) and the Seahawks should run early, often, and consistently.
Advantage: The Seahawks running game
Seahawks Offensive line pass protection vs Eagles Pass rush
DEs Trent Cole, and Jason Babin would normally be a big problem in the passing game. Thing is, I doubt we pass more than 20-25 times, so their impact should be greatly minimized. With Tarvaris Jackson’s injury, The Seahawks would be wise run a lot and keep their passing attack focused on throws that Tarvaris Jackson can make without too much pain. This will mean Zach Miller, and Doug Baldwin should be the go to guys tonight.
Advantage: Draw (by default)
Final thoughts: On paper this should be an easy win for the Eagles. But on paper, the Eagles should have at least 8-10 wins by now. The Eagles remind me of the Daniel Snyder Redskins a while back that would stock pile big name free agents and do absolutely nothing. In Philadelphia, the Eagles fans are calling for the head of Andy Reid on a stake, Eagles players have lacked the work ethic to do great things, and DC Juan Castillo is still trying to figure out what the heck a defensive coordinator is supposed to do.
At Century Link, in front of the 12th Man, I think the Seahawks will be ready for their close up. Just don’t expect the media coverage to discuss anything other than the Eagles failures after it’s all said and done.
Prediction: 17-13 Seahawks
I hate the Rams.. No really I do. It’s bugged me that both teams have been down on their luck the past few years because this rivalry used to be really good. This could be a very interesting game for many reasons. None of those reasons more important than the vast amount of injuries both teams will have to deal with. I haven’t confirmed this (writing this article at 10,000 ft on a Southwest flight to Denver) but the Rams probably have the worst possible injury situation I have seen in several years. This has led to a very disappointing and lost season for a team many thought would compete for the NFC West title.
Seattle: RG John Moffit (IR), RT James Carpenter (IR)
Wr Brandon Lloyd (45 targeted passes, 21 Catches) has been a huge addition to this Rams offense. Since the trade he is the Rams # 1 option in the passing game and has surpassed all Rams receivers in targeted passes. CB Richard Sherman has had a lot of lofty praise thrown his way after his stellar play and will need to continue to shine in order to slow Lloyd down. Brandon Lloyd makes a habit of spectacular catches in clutch situations. His route running and separation ability remind me of Chad OchoCinco in his early Bengals years. What surprises me, is the lack of national attention he receives. Make no mistake, this receiver is a deadly asset to the Rams attack. One of the things that impresses me most about Richard Sherman is his athletic ability. It’s very difficult for a man his size and length to sink and flip is hips like he does. This enables him to stay “belt to belt” with receivers coming out of his initial back pedal. I’m very concerned with Lloyd’s savvy route running here. I have a feeling Rams Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels will be calling for double move routes all day for two reasons: 1. With our defensive scheme, our lack of pressure may give those routes time to develop. 2. Sherman, for all his supreme ability, is still a very young and inexperienced corner.
Advantage: WR Brandon Lloyd
RB Steven Jackson-Oline Vs Seahawks Defensive front
Steven Jackson is a like a sledge hammer with feet. His freakish mixture of size, power, aggression, and quickness make him very effective against smaller defenses. Here’s the thing, the Seahawks aren’t the small, quick, athletic, play with the lead type defense anymore. The Seahawks, under Pete Carroll have collected, large, nasty, and aggressive defenders that aren’t afraid of players like Jackson. Mentality aside, this match up is very intriguing to me. The Rams want to utilize Jackson to keep the pressure off a horrible pass protection issue that has plagued them all year. A balanced approach will keep Sam Bradford upright. The Seahawks are built for this, and with the injuries on the Rams O-Line, I forsee a disappointing outing for Jackson in this one.
Advantage: Seahawks Defensive Front
QB Sam Bradford vs the Seahawks Secondary.
I’m sorry, but Sam Bradford does not impress me at all. Never has. When the measuring stick for the #1 overal pick is simply to just “look like you belong” it’s pretty easy to achieve. The media tried to make a big deal about arbitrary rookie milestones, but I just don’t see the impact game to game.
So far this season Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson has outplayed him. Stats aside (which actually help my case) his game performances have been in a word…underwhelming. Not horrible, not great, just meh. Maybe it’s the new offense under McDaniels, perhaps the protection issues, or maybe it’s Sam Bradford and all of the above. This is why when fans assume that the #1 pick is going to be a lock it baffles me. Do I think he’s a bust? No way, but I have higher expectations for players chosen #1. He’s not elite, nor even close. He’s not a franchise changer like Matt Ryan was for a completely broken Atlanta Falcons team. He’s just another NFL QB and as a Seahawks fan, I’m happy about that.
However, Sam Bradford, despite his flaws, has the ability to hurt you if you give him time (as with most QBs not named Whitehurst). The Rams attack will probably focus on a pass to set up the run approach despite the pass protection issues. The Seahawks deploy a front with one pass rushing DE (Chris Clemons) and a mountainous run stuffing DE (Red Bryant). That approach has led to a very impressive run stopping force, but also limited pressure which leads to extra coverage time for our DBs. When you add in to the mix, the overall youth and inexperience at both Corner positions (Sherman, Browner), we may see an uptick of graded performance for the man I just criticized. Browner, and Sherman: Put your big boy pads on fellas.
Advantage: The Seahawks secondary loses some battles, but wins the war.
Match ups to watch when the Seahawks have the ball.
Rams Defensive Line vs the band new right side of the Seahawks offensive line
This matchup seems scary because of the injuries to our entire right side. I don’t see it that way. If we struggle against the pressure from DE’s Chris Long, and James Hall, I believe it’s scheme and talent, not injuries. I just don’t see the huge drop off with our back ups at this point. That said, RG John Moffit, and RT James Carpenter have had some really nice snaps this year. Series to series you can pick out about one or two and say “wow, there’s some serious potential there”. Problem is (and this is why I feel like the line’s play will remain consistent with previous production) with every nice play, there is five or six that force you to scratch your head. Lucky for the Seahawks, most of those plays have happened backside or Tarvaris Jackson was able to get the ball off prior to the broadcast focusing on the mistake. The addition of RG Paul McQuistan and RT Breno Giacomini may scare some fans, but their experience level may just enable the Seahawks to continue as scheduled. Bottom line: We may not have dominate snaps, but we may not have the same amount of poor snaps either. I can live with that.
There is no question who the leader of the Rams defense is. James Laurinaitis is everything you could want in a MLB. Athletic, powerful, intelligent, and a wrap tackler. The match up here could be fun for fans of the running game. The Seahawks have had some success in the past few weeks getting Marshawn lynch involved in the offense, and he has delivered. I have been critical of Marshawn Lynch’s ability to get a clear “blocking progression picture” when he’s handed the ball. As we witnessed in Buffalo, and the majority of games in Seattle, he will charge full speed into the back of a lineman, dance around, and aggressively fight eleven defenders for an impressive 2 yard loss. This led to a bunch of his run yardage coming on big runs, and not a consistent attack. The past few weeks his vision has increased, and his anticipation of pursuit angles has put him in great position for success.
QB Tarvaris Jackson vs the Rams Secondary.
As most of you know, I’m a true believer in the run game setting up the passing game for success. I’m also fully aware of the match up that faces Tarvaris Jackson and this Rams secondary. This could be like taking candy from a baby if we can win up front. The Rams have lost a total of nine DB’s this year to injury. Nine. I’m currently reading Pete Carroll’s “Win Forever”, and while I find his philosophy of “next man up” indearing, I can’t help but think that there’s only so far down in the barrel you can go before you are scraping the goo off the bottom. If I’m wrong, the Rams have the best scouting department and front office in the NFL. WR’s Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, and TE Zach Miller should be able to run their routes and find several openings inside the zone heavy pass defense. With all of the injuries , the Rams drop LB’s into coverage a bunch, and that’s even better news for those that are worried about our line. Tarvaris should be able to shred this secondary, and I believe he will.
Overall Position Group Edge Breakdown:
Final Thoughts: The Seahawks are coming off of an impressive win vs a Raven’s team we may have had no business beating. This isn’t the case with the Rams. If we lose, It’s a focus issue, and not a talent issue. I would not say that about most teams Seattle faces this year, but with the amount of back ups who are filling in for back ups, the Rams are a team fighting with one hand tied behind their back.
Prediction: 17-13 Seahawks
As the landscape of this season becomes harder, and harder to traverse without serious thoughts of negativity here come the Baltimore Ravens. Its times like this I wish we could play the Rams the next eight games in a row. The bright side is that our defense was built to defend the Ravens style of offense. The only problem is our offense may find itself watching from the sidelines the majority of the game, thereby exposing our defense to several more snaps than they can handle.
Scouting Data( Stats from ESPN, NFL.com, ProFootballfocus.com, Footballoutsiders.com):
Matchups to watch when the Ravens have the ball.
DE Chris Clemons vs LT Bryant McKinnie
When McKinnie was released from the Vikings, and signed by the Ravens, it was a huge deal in more ways than one. With him at the Left tackle position, the Ravens have a monstrous LT defending Joe Flacco’s blind side, and a road grader for Ray Rice in the run game. Chris Clemons might be a liability in the run game, but McKinnie has struggled lately against speed rushers so I’m hoping for a draw here.
DT Alan Branch vs RG Marshal Yanda
The Ravens have really been playing well at the Center and Guard positions. RG Marshal Yanda has been a bright spot, and has played very well in every game this year. He has only given up 3 pressures, and 1 sack, and runs behind him are averaging 6.4 YPC. This match up is going to be huge. DT Alan Branch better hold up or MLB David Hawthorne will be dealing with RB Ray Rice hitting the second level at full speed all day.
WR Anquan Bolden vs CB Brandon Browner:
Browner was signed to defend players like Bolden. Bolden’s strengths can be neutralized by Browner’s size, and physicality. Without elite break away speed, Browner should not need constant over the top safety assistance.
NOTE: One thing the Seahawks corners have failed to execute at an acceptable level is their press coverage. Time after time they have allowed a free release into the soft spot between the corner and the safety. This has made safeties play farther back to protect, thereby slowing their ability to come down hard in run support. This must change if the Seahawks want to have a chance in this one.
Matchups to watch when the Seahawks have the ball
DE H. Ngata & OLB T. Suggs Vs LT Russell Okung
Because of the challenges facing James Carpenter on the right side, it’s going to be very difficult to consistently bring extra blockers over to assist Russell Okung. The combo of Ngata and Suggs is a nightmare scenario for the Seahawks. Russell Okung will have to handle several different attacks from DE inside OLB outside rushes to double outside rush schemes. The Ravens love to use their front 3 to occupy blockers allowing very active LBs to penetrate and disrupt. Look for the Seahawks to max protect, or use a double TE approach to try to slow the pass rush down.
S Ed Reed vs QB Tarvaris Jackson
Ed Reed is one of the very best, and most difficult players to game plan for in history. He is so unorthodox in his approach to the safety position its a huge mistake to think he’ll be where his initial steps take him. He’ll drop middle third, half, quarters, and then sprint across the field to pick off a quick throw in the flat to a RB. He’s everywhere, and if Tarvaris Jackson is under pressure, it’s going to make his decision-making critical to any chance of offensive success.
I have a feeling that the Ravens will struggle initially against the 12th Man and a pumped up Seahawks defense. But looking at our offense vs the Ravens defense it’s obvious that barring some craziness, the Seahawks defense will be on the field for the majority of the game. In my opinion, this might be the ugliest offensive game we will see this year. I say that knowing full well how bad Charlie Whitehurst, and co was a couple of weeks back. There is nothing but pure homerism that allows me to think anything other than that our 30th ranked offense will have nothing resembling sustainable success against the # 1 ranked Ravens defense. This will allow RB Ray Rice to eventually break through our stout run defense, exposing CBs Browner and Sherman in one on one coverage once our safeties are forced to creep into the box. I hate to say this (because I’m a firm believer that when you put on the pads you always have a chance) but I just don’t see a way to victory in this one. That is unless the Ravens play down to our level as they did against Arizona and Jacksonville earlier this season.
Score Prediction: 24-9, Ravens
Next 4: Rams, Redskins, Eagles, Rams (I can see 2-3 wins here). See, I can be positive! Go HAWKS!!
The 3-4 2011 Cowboys: A state of the art luxury vehicle being driven by teenagers on prom night. Great until something goes horribly wrong. With that said, I’ll be watching this game with both hands over my face, looking through my fingers like my wife watches horror films. This game has the potential to be very ugly, very fast. It also has the potential to swing our way very quickly due to the inexplicable mistakes the Cowboys are capable of making. It’s this dance on the edge of a razor blade that has me very concerned. The Seahawks have been outscored 72-26 in their last two meetings in Dallas so our offense will need to find a way to nullify OLB Demarcus Ware‘s impact on this game.
Defensive players to watch when the Seahawks are on Defense: DE Chris Clemons, DE Red Bryant, LB Leroy Hill, CB Brandon Browner, CB Richard Sherman
As with many teams in 2011, the Cowboys are a very pass happy bunch. With the weapons they have at the Wr position it’s easy to see why they would be. Let’s take a look at how Tony Romo spreads the ball around to his receiving corps.
As expected the Cowboys use TE Jason Witten, and WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant on 61% of pass attempts. At this point of the season, the main thing that has held the Cowboys offense back has been the up and down play of Tony Romo and the very poor center-QB exchanges with C Phil Costa. LT Doug Free has also struggled this year with pass rushers, and has given up a ton of pressure. Here’s hoping Chris Clemons can take advantage of a great pressure opportunity.
Here’s the how the match ups look across the board:
I foresee big problems for the Seahawks secondary against the talented Cowboys receiving threats. CB’s Sherman and Browner will have to get Safety assistance on the majority of plays making Cowboys TE Witten a huge mismatch underneath against the Seahawks linebackers.
As for the rushing attack, the Cowboys love to run right (45% of the time per profootballfocus.com). This strategy will most definitely change when they face DE Red Bryant. I see the attack shifting to the left side towards DE Chris Clemons who is built for rushing the passer.
Advantage: Cowboys due to their passing prowess. Now obviously this could change drastically if Tony Romo starts to throw picks, but I’m going to assume the Cowboys play a solid game on offense in front of their home crowd.
Offensive players to watch when the Seahawks have the ball: QB Tarvaris Jackson, LT Russell Okung, RT James Carpenter, WR Sidney Rice, WR Mike Williams, RB Marshaun Lynch, and all TE’s in protection schemes.
Defensive players to watch when the Cowboys are on Defense: OLB Demarcus Ware, OLB Anthony Spencer, ILB Sean Lee, CB Mike Jenkins, and FS Abram Elam
The Seahawks have only had two games this year where they have broken out offensively. Against the Falcons and Giants, they showed flashes of what they are capable of when everyone is contributing and executing. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, there has been five other games with little offensive output, bad execution, curious play calling, and very little balance.
The first priority for the Seahawks will be to figure out how to protect Tarvaris Jackson from the scariest outside linebacker in football right now. Demarcus Ware is a certifiable nightmare. RT James Carpenter will either be the hero of this game or the matchup we all talk about post game. So far this season, Ware has been sent at the QB 234 times and has 21 pressures resulting in 12 sacks.
If, and that’s a BIG if, the Seahawks can protect Tarvaris long enough to target receivers, Sidney Rice, Mike WIlliams, and Doug Baldwin should have some success against and up and down secondary. CB Mike Jenkins is coming off a poor showing against the Eagles, and has been allowing a 50% completion rate. Overall 53% of passes at the Cowboys corners have been completed.
If the game can remain close, I really hope the Seahawks involve Leon Washington and Justin Forsett much more in the running game. The equity of the Beast Quake run has worn out in my opinion, and Lynch has begun to show me why he was so easily replaced in Buffalo. He’s an amazing athlete, tough runner, and has a serious passion for the game. Unfortunately he’s incapable of seeing blocking progressions on a regular basis, which leaves him shuffling his feet, and fighting off five defenders in the backfield for incredibly impressive 2 yard runs.
Advantage: Cowboys. I just don’t see any answer for Demarcus Ware on our roster.
I hate that I feel this way, but unless our very one-dimensional offense of late can gain some traction, I feel like this game could be ugly. You can never underestimate the ability of Tony Romo to be the MVP of the Cowboys opposition, but coming off of the beat down to the Eagles, I find it hard to believe that he’ll implode in front of his home crowd.
Dear Seahawks, please prove me wrong and completely make my weekend!
Going into the season, I looked at all the moves the Bengals had made and couldn’t help but shake my head. The Carson Palmer mess, the T.O, and Chad Ochocinco experiment failure, and the new decision to go with youth in on offense didn’t spell success to me…..And that’s exactly why I coached high school football players, and not NFL players. At 4-2, the Bengals are doing just fine.
QB Andy Dalton has has proven the NFL game isn’t too big for him, and the cohesiveness shown with his young receivers has been impressive. But this isn’t the strength of this team. That’s the defense. Wow, who would have thought the Steelers would have to take a backseat to this Bengals defensive squad. What’s even more impressive is the fact that the AFC North boasts 4 of the top five defenses in football. How awesome for the Seahawks that they get to play them this year..ugh.
This is a must win game for the Seahawks. So let’s see how they stack up against the Bengals.
When the Bengals have the Ball:
Cedric Benson is going to be sitting this one out due to a suspension so Benard Scott will get the bulk of the carries. That’s two weeks in a row that the Seahawks will get a back up running back. Will the Bengals follow the Browns winning strategy of Run-Run-Run, and more run? In Seattle, that may be difficult.
Lets take a look at the Bengals running attack (all stats taken from profootballfocus.com, and the NFL Gamebooks)
This focus on the midline could change dramatically without Cedric Benson. I’m anticipating the Bengals using more off tackle runs directed at Chris Clemons. With Red Bryant, Alan Branch, and Brandon Mebane stuffing the run, I don’t anticipate a lot of success in the run game.
The Bengals passing attack is competent but not overly powerful. Andy Dalton is completing 62% of his passes this year, which is extremely impressive considering his rookie status. His knack for ball control is also something of note. His 5 turnovers, are also better than 17 other QBs this year. looking at the the Bengal offense you will see a striking similarity to the last offense the Seahawks just faced. Difference is in the personnel we will be facing. It’s worth noting the trust that Andy Dalton has in his fellow rookie WR AJ Green. This receiving corps could be trouble for our very inexperienced secondary. Losing CB WalterThurmond last week may be a huge issue against this group.
Looking at the Lineman, the name that comes to mind is LT Andrew Whitworth. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he has only allowed 5 pressures, 1 QB hit, and 1 sack all year. That’s incredible play for a Left Tackle who most people have never heard of. Chris Clemons will have his hands full trying to get to the QB.
Advantage: Bengals. It all depends on the game plan. If the Bengals try to run, we will dominate. I have a feeling the Bengals will air it out. LT Whitworth and DE Clemons will cancel each other out, and pressure will be hard to come by leaving a ton of pressure on our corners
When the Seahawks have the ball.
It remains to be seen who the starting QB will be for Sunday. After the debacle in Cleveland, I would rather have Tarvaris Jackson throwing with his left hand over another Charlie Whitehurst performance like that. Stats do lie, and his stat line didn’t account for countless receivers who ran free but were not targeted. One thing that does help is the probable return of Max Unger. Anyone who is familiar with the zone running scheme will tell you just how important the center is to success. Having him out last week was huge. It also partially explains why the Seahawks were so pass happy in a game they didn’t need to be.
DE Carlos Dunlap will be a huge issue for RT James Carpenter. So far this year he has 6 sacks, and 16 QB pressures. The Seahawks will definitely need to utilize additional players to assist Carpenter in protection. Leaving him on an island, like they have in weeks past, could mean P Jon Ryan may get way too many snaps.
The Seahawks passing game will also be facing some very good corners in Leon Hall and Nate Clements but our size advantage (Mike Williams, Sidney RIce) should not be overlooked. I just hope they are targeted.
The Seahawks will need to run the ball a lot more than they have lately. There are a few bloggers who advocate the opposite, and have the stats to justify the opinion. All that said, with our current situation at QB, the path to success in this game starts with pass-run balance, tempo on offense, and limited negative plays.
For the season, 6 coaching staffs have studied this Bengals defense and have decided to run in the lanes highlighted below. Watching the Bengals on tape, made this strategy seem a little odd, but coaches are targeting DT Domata Peko, and DT Geno Atkins 43% of the time. It remains to be seen if we can add the Seahawks coaching staff to this list.
Advantage: Bengals. The Bengals currently have the 2nd best defense in yards per game, and are ranked 4th in points. That doesn’t bode well for our very inconsistent offense. Tarvaris Jackson may give us a spark if he plays, but I seriously doubt he does.
If there is a game that the 12th Man is needed it’s this one. The Seahawk crowd could swing what should be a Bengal victory into a Seahawks win very easily. The youth movement on the Bengals offense could have an extremely hard time with the silent counts, and audibles in the confines of Century Link.
Paging the 12th Man..
After listening to the sports media, I’m convinced of two things: 1. They have no idea how good of a defense we have. 2. They are giving the Browns more credit than they deserve strictly on the Holmgren factor.
Not that any of that matters to the players, but as a fan it’s just one of many things that irritate me. I think this is a pretty straightforward game as far as what to expect. Both teams have inconsistent offenses, although I think the Seahawks are trending upward, while the opposite is true for the Browns. Finally, both teams have solid defenses. As I said on twitter a few days ago, this should be a defensive game. Assuming both teams play to their potential (never a given) I’ll take our defense over theirs in a heartbeat.
When the Browns have the ball:
The Browns have put a lot of pressure on Colt McCoy this season. The poor run blocking from the interior lineman have made the inside power running of Peyton Hillis a much smaller factor than last year. That hasn’t stopped the Browns from running inside though. 58% of all runs are going behind the center-guard. This strategy will put our beastly D lineman Alan Branch and Brandon Mebane in a position to be huge factors in this game.
Colt McCoy is currently completing only 55% of his passes, and is targeting the short middle of the field on over 43% of his throws. Additionally, 71% of his passes are targeted inside 10 yards. This is an offense full of short quick passes and swing and dump offs to running backs. KJ Wright, Leroy Hill, and David Hawthorne will be busy.
Sacks will be hard to come by in this game. While the Browns have struggled to create running lanes, they have done a good job of keeping McCoy upright long enough to evade and avoid sacks (Only 4 allowed in 2011).
Bottom line: The Browns are a one-dimensional team that lacks players that scare the Seahawks.
Advantage: The Seahawks
When the Seahawks have the Ball:
This could be a very ugly game offensively. The Seahawks will be without their best offensive lineman and line assignment manager in Center Max Unger. Charlie Whitehurst will probably get the start, and actually played well in relief against the Giants, but he will need to avoid mistakes in this one. The Seahawks must stay on schedule and establish some tempo with their offense, or the MVP might just be the punter Jon Ryan.
The Good news is, the Browns do not have one defensive lineman that scares me. Rookie DE Jabaal Sheard started out very hot this year registering 12 QB pressures (stats from ProFootballfocus.com), but hasn’t been a factor in two straight games. Is he due? I guess we’ll find out. The Brown’s like to blitz with the MLB and WLB positions, but after some early success in the season, have found it very difficult to get home.
In coverage, the combo of CB’s Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden may have their hands full with our receiving corps. Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and Mike Williams should be able to create mis-matches in the secondary on every play. But Charlie Whitehurst on the road is a HUGE question mark, and mistakes by him could nullify this advantage.
Outside of the debacle in San Francisco the Seahawks have been solid in punt, and Kickoff return coverage. Not great, but solid. They will need to be on their game against Josh Cribbs (averaging 25 yds per kick return and a 13.2 yd per punt return). Like Devin Hester of the Bears, he is a huge threat to break off a game changing return at any time. The Seahawks could lose another heartbreaker here if they lose focus just once. The fact that he has yet to have a return for a score, worries me that he may just be due. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Leon Washington has not made the impact he did in 2010. I’m not sure if it’s the new kick off rules, or substandard return blocking, but he has been mediocre. I would love to say he’s due, but I haven’t seen too many “almost” runs this year.
Advantage: The Browns
Like I said to begin, I feel like both teams have glaring weaknesses on offense, and will need to rely on their defense and special teams to win the game. I feel like our defense is the much better unit, and I expect that we will use that advantage to get a much-needed road win. 3-3 before our home game against the Bengals sounds awesome to me.