Super Bowl 50 – Carolina Panthers Take It, Dang It

 

So we have the Denver Broncos going up against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

For me, it’s about as much fun as trying to pick the lesser of two evils for the Republican Party.

Neither team catches my interest…I’ve had a dislike for the Broncos ever since John Elway became part of the team. I think it comes from how he kept the Cleveland Browns from getting to the Super Bowl a few times back in the 1980’s.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Detroit Lion fan but back then, the Cleveland Browns appealed to me. They were a good, hard-nosed football team with players such as Bernie Kosar, Ernest Byner, Kevin Mack, Clay Matthews and Webster Slaughter.

But John Elway and those Denver Broncos broke the hearts of Cleveland fans everywhere, not once but twice. 1986 Conference Championship when Elway connected with Mark Jackson for a 5-yard TD to tie the game and send it into overtime. Then he drove the Broncos into Browns territory for a game winning 33 yard field goal.

Then, in 1987, Elway engineered “The Drive” killing perhaps the best chance the Cleveland Browns getting into the Super Bowl to face the Washington Redskins. I truly believe the Browns would have put up a tougher battle than the Broncos did…but I was pretty happy when the Skins trounced them 42-10.

As for the Panthers, there are several reasons why I have an intense dislike for them. One is the fact they dispatched my second hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks, from the playoffs this year. Second is Cam Newton.

Look, you can point to all the statistical information you want regarding Cam. You can point to his size and speed and his ability to throw a solid deep ball. I won’t deny that he is a talented and special football player. I just don’t like the way the man plays the game.

His cockiness and attitude toward opposing teams is bush-league and every damn game, I hope that some huge defensive lineman pops him a good one and shuts him up. He is an attention whore and he looks for people to tell him how great he is. I will admit I don’t know the man but all outward appearances show him to garner attention and be a show-off.

I’m sure those in the Cam Newton camp will have their arguments…but do me a favor and save your breath. There will be nothing you can say that will bring me over to your side. Would I feel the same way if he was on the Detroit Lions or the Seattle Seahawks? Hard to say though I would still disapprove of the way he carries himself and how he calls himself “Superman.” The attention should be on his team, not him…and he certainly shouldn’t call himself out for praise.

Sure, there have been other quarterbacks that have done celebrations. Aaron Rodgers does his discount double-check routine, Tom Brady has his screams, Brett Favre, who enjoyed the game as much as anyone, would run down the field with his hand in the air to celebrate with whatever receiver caught the ball. But for the most part, these were spontaneous, not the premeditated celebration that Cam does. I’m sure he sets aside an hour a day to make sure he gets the celebration down pat.

I have always been a fan who disliked the planned celebrations…even as far back as the infamous Billy “White Shoes” Johnson with his weird little dance that he used to perform when he scored a TD. Hated the Washington Redskins “Fun Bunch” planned group celebrations after scoring. Thought the Icky Shuffle was idiotic. And the worst was my own Detroit Lions celebrations to the tune of “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen in the 1980’s.

All of those cases were a collective “look at me and what I did” celebrations. Selfish and self-absorbed. On the other hand, I don’t want to see robots on the field. Celebrations are the best when the person scoring looks for his teammates to high-five or chest bump and spike the football in warrior style conquest that gets the crowd into it as well as the rest of the team. I would say more so than any planned celebration…because it’s genuine.

But Cam will be Cam and I doubt anything I write will change anything. And before anyone accuses me of being racially biased, stop right there. I could give a damn if the man was white, black, green, purple or orange. If he acts like a jerk, looks like a jerk and smells like a jerk, then he’s just a jerk.

OK, enough of traveling down this road.

Who will be the winner of Super Bowl 50? As much as I hate to say it, I believe it will be the Carolina Panthers. They are just too much in a groove right now and I can’t see Peyton Manning getting the protection he will need to have any chance. And I won’t be surprised if Brock Osweiler comes in to relieve Manning.

Statistically, Carolina has the edge being ranked number 11 for 2015 scoring an average of 31.2 points per game over the 16th ranked Broncos coming in at 22.2 points per game. We need to take into consideration that Manning has not played the full season.

Below is the statistical information for the Denver QB vs. Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton:

Denver QB’s: Yards – 4,126, Avg. per Pass – 7.0, Completion % – 60.8%, TD’s – 19, INT – 23, Sack – 39

Newton: Yards – 3,837, Avg. per Pass – 7.8, Completion % – 59.6%, TD’s – 35, INT – 10, Sack – 33

We also need to take into account Newton’s threat to run…he has 10 running TD’s as opposed to 1 between Manning and Osweiler.

Edge: Panthers

Running Game:

Panthers are geared to run the ball first, pass second. They ranked first in the NFL with 32.9 rushing attempts per game, second with 2,282 yards gained, tied for first with 19 scores and ninth with an average of 4.3 yards gained per attempt. They don’t have a 1,000 yard rusher but between Jonathan Stewart leading the way with 989 yards and Cam Newton adding 636 yards, that’s a combined total of 1,625 yards.

Denver came in at the middle of the pack for most of the running stats. 17th with 22.2 rushing attempts per game, 17th with total yards gained, 12th with 13 scores, 11th coming in with 4.2 yards gained per attempt. Broncos failed to have a 1,000 rusher as well but the combination of Ronnie Hillman (863 yards) and C.J. Anderson (720 yards) put up 1,583 yards to go along with 12 TD’s

Edge: Panthers

Receiving:

If Denver is going to have any chance to win this game, this is where I think they can exploit the Panther secondary, provided their defense can hold the Panthers from starting out too quick.

Panthers are ranked 24th in the NFL in receiving, averaging 242.1 yards per game. Much of that is probably due to the fact they had huge leads and were just running out the clock. Panthers have some weapons so the Broncos need to be careful here. Their top receiver is tight end Greg Olson who finished the regular season with 1,104 and 7 TD’s. He is a clock killer and has a knack for getting open on critical 3rd downs and gains 14.3 yards per catch. Next up is Ted Ginn who is having a breakout year with the Panthers. He’s caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 TD’s to go along with his team leading 16.8 yards per catch. The next 3 receivers, Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Furness and Cory Brown have combined for 1,406 yards, 12 TD’s, and an average of just over 14 yards per catch.

Denver came in at 14th in receiving for 2015 with 263.5 yards per game. Leading the way is Demaryius Thomas with 105 catches for 1,304 yards and 6 TD’s to go along with 12.4 yards per catch. Emmanuel Sanders finished with 74 catches, 1,135 yards, 6 TD’s and 14.9 yards per catch. TE Owen Daniels pitched in with 46 catches, 517 yards, 3 TD’s with 11.2 yards per catch average. Vernon Davis, who was brought in to give the Broncos another weapon has virtually disappeared contributing only 20 catches, 201 yards, 0 TD’s and 10.0 yards per catch. If he can return to the player he was while with San Francisco, he could be a game changer for the Broncs.

Edge: Broncos

Defense:

Where ultimately I think the game will be decided.

Carolina has a pretty stout defense with a strong secondary though they will be playing with second string players at corner opposite Pro-Bowler Josh Norman. In addition to Norman, Panthers have several dangerous players the Broncos will need to account for such as Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Curt Coleman as well as Kawann Short who led the Panthers defense with 11 sacks in 2015.   Because of that rush, Panther ranked first in interceptions with 24 including 4 pick-sixes.

Panthers are going to go after Manning, and why wouldn’t you? He has a 4.8 40 yard time but that was way the hell back early on in his career. I’d be surprised if his 40 yard time isn’t somewhere in the lower sixes with him being 39 years old. He still has a quick release but he really isn’t a threat to go deep anymore. If there is a real advantage here it’s that Manning is so good at reading defenses and making adjustments. He will outthink the defense and get the ball out as fast as he can. He doesn’t take many sacks. In the 58 regular season games he has played for the Broncos, he was sacked a mere 72 times which breaks out to be about 1.24 times a game. The one area that has been an issue of late is his interception rate. From 2012 to 2014, he was intercepted 36 times over 48 games, less than once per game. In the 10 games he has appeared this season, he was intercepted 17 times in 10 games, a rate of 1.7 times. And some of the passes he’s thrown look dreadful. Look for the Panther D-line to get their hands up if they can’t get to him. They will need to force Manning to go deep where his passes will tend to lose velocity and be easy pickings for the Panther secondary.

Denver ranked first in team defense, the first time any Denver Bronco team accomplished that in their 55 year history. They limited offenses to an average of 283.1 yards per game, sacked the QB 52 times leading the league in both categories for 2015 and forced 22 fumbles, recovering 13 of them.

Denver’s defensive coordinator Wade Phillips put together a masterful plan forcing Brady to throw 56 times while limiting the Patriots rushing total to just 44 yards. And you know you are doing well when the leading rusher is Brady with 13 yards. The only rushing TD was by Steven Jackson from 1 yard out late in the first quarter.

Granted, Brady threw for 310 yards and 1 score but he was also intercepted twice, sacked 4 times and the Bronco defense harassed him all day. Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski 8 times for 144 yards and the one score but the rest of the 4 receivers collectively caught 19 passes for 166 yards and no TD’s.

Cam Newton presents a whole set of other issues for the Bronco defense. Granted he’s no Tom Brady when it comes to passing but he also has tools that Brady doesn’t have such as being mobile, huge (Newton is listed 6-5, 245 lbs. and has run a 4.59 40 yard dash time) and very difficult to bring down. He won’t be a sitting duck back there and if he gets flushed from the pocket, he has no issues becoming a rusher. He gained 636 yards to go along with 10 TD’s. When the Panthers get close to the goal or in need of a first down on third and short situations, Ron Rivera has no problem calling Cam’s number to get what’s needed.

Edge – Even

My heart wants the Bronco’s to beat the snot out of Carolina. But logic dictates to me that the Panthers have just too much for Denver to overcome.

Carolina Panthers 31, Denver Broncos 17.

Seahawks Season Ends With Loss to Panthers 31-24

We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time….Vince Lombardi.

I use the quote by the great Vince Lombardi because it is the perfect metaphor for the game they played against the Carolina Panthers…they just ran out of time.

This game was an example of how the season went.  Giving up 31 points in the first half seemed like a very deep hole to dig out of but the resiliency of this team showed they just don’t give up.

But there is a reason why the Carolina Panthers are a 15-1 team.  They took care of business early on with Washington native Jonathon Stewart ripping off a 75 yard run on the first play of the game to set up the first Carolina touchdown.

The defense came up big on the very next series when Luke Kuechly picked off an ill-advised Russell Wilson pass and ran it in for a pick six to go up 14-0 barley four minutes played.

And the Panthers continued to pour it on, scoring 17 more points in the second quarter.

But the Seahawks regrouped in the second half.  The defense came up huge by shutting out the Panthers in the second half and allowing the offense to crawl it’s way out of the deep hole they dug for themselves.

Some great individual efforts and the one effort I want to point out is the one by Jermaine Kearse.  His play in the second half was stellar, catching two clutch touchdowns and making great catch after great catch to finish with 11 catches for 110 yards to go along with the 2 scores.

Another is rookie Tyler Lockett.  His TD catch was clutch and his receiving technique on a crucial third down situation was nothing short of amazing.  Seahawks have found a treasure in this kid.  He had only 3 catches for 75 yards but his 50 yard return to open the second half was a spark the Hawks desperately needed.

Marshawn Lynch was a non-factor in this game and I don’t feel he will be back in a Seahawk uniform next season.  I admire his running style and they way he fights for every yard he can get.  But he is at point in his career where he is starting to break down.

About the only way he comes back to the Hawks is a re-structured contract and a reduced role with the offense.  It appears to me that Thomas Rawls has the inside track to be the featured running back.

While I admire Pete Carroll’s mantra to run first, I also have to admire his adaptability to open up the passing game and put the team on the shoulders of Russell Wilson who showed the rest of the NFL that he is capable of carrying the team when needed.

Wilson showed remarkable leadership skills this game as well as the second-half of the season.  His decision making became sublime in his historic second half run.  At one point, over a 5-game stretch, he had 19 touchdowns with zero interceptions, something that no quarterback in the history of the game ever accomplished.  And there have been some great quarterbacks over the past 96 years the NFL has been in existence.

As always at the end of a season, there will be some hard choices to make.  With the Seahawks it will be with the following players:

Marshawn Lynch – No one can dispute when the Seahawks made the trade for the mercurial running back in 2010 that it was going to be Lynch to be the face of the Seahawks.  Lynch came through time after time, putting the Hawks on the playoff map with his seismic Beast Quake run against the New Orleans Saints later that same year.  But next year will be Lynch’s 10th year in the NFL and will be 30 years old.  Just coming off his first ever surgery and is one of the highest paid players in the NFL.  It may come down to a business decision to release Lynch to free up salary cap for younger players.  If Lynch decides to retire, Seattle should throw him the biggest freaking party it can…but it would be a coin toss if he showed up for it.

Russell Okung – Okung is considered one of the top left tackles in the game.  Issue I have with him is that we’ve never gotten a full season from him.  He was the Hawks first pick in the 2010 draft and landed a six year contract worth $48 million dollars with more than $29 million of it guaranteed.  Now that he’s up for free agency, he is going to command an even higher salary.  My opinion, while Okung is a good left tackle and I would hate to disrupt that line, Hawks need to part ways with Okung and find another left tackle in the draft, perhaps Jack Conklin out of Michigan State or Jerald Hawkins of LSU.  Okung is going to be way to expensive for the Hawks to keep.

J.R. Sweezy – This is a guy I think we need to keep.  He brings solidity to the right guard spot and is an good run blocker.  He is at the end of a 4-year, $2.1 million dollar contract.  If the Hawks can keep him with a 3-year at about a $5 million dollar contract, it will be less disruption on the offensive line which took a while to come around in 2015.

Jermaine Kearse – Over the last two years, Kearse has come up with some very clutch catches.  All of us can remember the acrobatic catch he made in the 2014 Super Bowl against the Patriots.  And this game, coming up huge with his performance against the Panthers.  Hawks need to keep him so the receiving corps of Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Luke Wilson and yes, Jimmy Graham are kept intact for the 2016 season.

Brandon Mebane – An absolute monster in the middle but may have to be a causality  of the business.  Gotta love the effort he puts out every game and how effective he is bottling up the middle against the run.  As much as I’d love to keep him, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to do so.

So here is to yet another great season the Hawks gave us and here is to hoping they continue to finds ways to keep finding players to maintain the level of excellence all Seahawk fans come to expect.

And while I applaud the Carolina Panthers season and their ability to survive the game against the Hawks, I will be rooting for the Arizona Cardinals next week…and if the Cards can get past them, I will be rooting for them against the AFC team they face in the Super Bowl.  Love to see one of the classiest players in the game, Larry Fitzgerald, get a Super Bowl ring.

GO HAWKS!

NFC Divisional Prediction: Seahawks-27, Panthers-24

Cool Seahawk Logo

A lot of my articles are based on a feeling, which is why sometimes I wait to make any predictions until the last minute.  Much of those feelings are based on statistical research and I’ve done my fair share on this game.

Truth of the matter is, I’m not sure who is going to win this game.  My gut tells me the Seahawks are going to prevail only because time and time again, they have proven they can rise up in critical games and win.

The Panthers have played a wonderful regular season, putting together a 15-1 season isn’t anything to sneeze at.  And they have played some good teams, including beating the Hawks in Week 5, coming from behind at Century Link with Cam Newton directing two 80-yard touchdown drives in the 4th quarter after the Hawks and gotten the lead.

But the team the Panthers played then is vastly different from the team they will play on Sunday.  The Seattle offense, led by Russell Wilson, put together an historic second half.  Just in points scored, the Seahawks averaged 11.12 more points in the final eight games of the season over the first eight games.

The defense, while admittedly blowing several leads in the 4th quarter of games, played statistically even over the entire season.  First eight games they allowed 17.50 points per game while in the second half, they allowed 17.13.

The Panthers did better on both sides of the ball in the second half as well.  Offense scored an average of 28.5 points per game in the first half as compared to 34 points per game in the second.  Defense allowed 20.63 points per game in the first half and 17.88 in the second.

These two teams are similarly built, with a run first, kill the clock and force turnovers mentality.

I give the edge to the Seahawks for two reasons:  QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawk defensive front four.

I don’t want this to be a comparison between Wilson and Panther’s QB Cam Newton.  While their personalities and physical traits are polar opposites, their roles with their respective teams are eerily similar.  Use the run to grind down opposing defenses and to set up explosive pass plays.

It’s going to come down how well Seattle’s defensive line can contain Newton and how well Russell Wilson can sustain drives and put touchdowns on the board.

It will be a close game, coming down to Steven Hauschka field goal with no time remaining.

Hawks prevail, 27-24.

GO HAWKS!

Seattle Seahawks Win By A Hawk feather – Panthers up Next

What just happenend

I’m pretty sure that 95% of Seattle Seahawks fans was asking the same thing Archer was kicker Blair Walsh lined up for a 27 yard field goal, shorter than an extra point, and missed. It was a pretty sure thing seeing how Walsh had made 3 previous field goals of 22, 43 & 47 yards.

The snap was good, the hold was good and Blair Walsh, who had made 87.2% of his kicks this year, pulled it left. About the only thing that was “bad” about the kick was the laces of the football were facing Walsh when the attempt was made. This can cause some kicks to be erratic and might have played a part in it but Walsh wasn’t having any part of it.

He placed the blame solely on his shoulders. Teammates consoled him as he broke down. You can’t tell me that NFL is all business. This loss hurt the Vikings deep. Hopefully, they can take a page from the Seahawks and grow stronger from it.

Ah yes, the Seahawks, surviving the 3rd-coldest playoff game in playoff history. While I will give the defense their due, they played a fantastic game, the offense survived on individual efforts.

That’s not to say the Seahawk offense had totally fallen apart, that’s not the case at all. The offensive line run blocked well enough to allow Christine Michael to rush for 70 yards. But for the most part, it was individual efforts by Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.

The first I point to is in the 3rd quarter. Hawks were at their own 20 yard line with a 3rd and ten. Wilson, out of the shotgun, drifted back in the pocket and threw high. Doug Baldwin, with a Viking on his back, came up with perhaps the best catch I have seen since the days of Steve Largent.

Baldwin went up, with his right hand extended and somewhat behind his head and brought the ball in. First down Seahawks!

The next play came from Wilson and rookie Tyler Lockett (who has not played like a rookie at all) in the fourth quarter. Seahawks had put together a decent drive and had 1st and ten at the Viking 40 yard line. Wilson, in the shotgun, was not prepared for the snap and it sailed over his left shoulder. Wilson chased it back in Seattle territory, picking it up at around the 47 yard line. He secured the ball, saw that no one was around him, scrambled to his right and found Lockett at the Viking 29-yard line.

It would have been a great play right there to pick up the first down but Lockett, with some veteran savvy, turned and ran to the left side of the field and turned up until he was driven out at around the 6 yard line. First and goal, Seahawks!

On second and goal, Wilson found Baldwin on the right of the end zone to put 7 on the board for the Hawks. Later, Steven Hauschka with 8:09 left in the game connected on a 46-yard field goal which turned out to be the game winner.

The Minnesota Vikings have nothing to be ashamed of on this game. They did all the right things to limit the Seahawk offense being on the field. They put pressure on Wilson and the cold, frigid air did the rest on his passes having them seemingly float in the air.

The Viking offense did its part as well, holding the ball for long stretches and building a 9-0 lead that in the game conditions seemed insurmountable to the Seahawks.

But then there are special players that seemingly find just the right time to create magic. Cue Baldwin, Wilson and Lockett.

There are some questions I have on some of the decisions that Pete Carroll made early in the game. For instance in the first quarter, the Hawks have the ball on the Viking 30 yard line with a 4th and 13. Instead of electing to attempt a 40-yard field goal, well within Hauschka’s range, they elected to go for it and completed a 7-yard pass to Fred Jackson.

Then, in the second quarter, Seahawks had gotten the ball to the Vikings 34 yard line and elected to punt instead of having Hauschka attempt a 44-yard field goal.

Hawks again had the ball on the Vikings 38 yard line and went with a punt instead of a 48 yard field goal with 1:15 left in the first half.

I know the conditions were brutal but I feel they left points on the field. Blair Walsh proved that a ball could be kicked from as far out as 47 yards and I think Hauschka as a better leg than Walsh.

As for heading to Carolina, the Seahawks are going to need a much better played game than what they showed against the Vikings. There is a reason that the Panthers went 14-1 during the season. However, Seahawk fans can take solace that the Hawks played them very tough in Week 6 and had the lead in the 4th quarter playing them at home.

Seahawks match up well with the Panthers and I suspect this will be a slugfest. Which it should be since this is for the NFC Division and the right to move on to the NFC Championship game.

Historically, the Seahawks have played well at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Since 2000, they are 3-2 there and the Hawks have an overall record of 7-3 against the Panthers. Over the last 4 games played in Charlotte, Seahawks are 3-1 and the score differential is only 4 points between these two teams.

I don’t see a low scoring game here however. Panthers led the NFL during the regular season scoring 31.2 points per game and the Hawks were in the Top 5, averaging 26.4. Defenses were close as well. Hawks allowed a league leading 17.3 points per game while the Panthers held opponents to 19.2 points per game.

It will be decided on who has the ball last I think. Perhaps 27-24 Seahawks on a Hauschka 50-yard field goal?

We’re just gonna have to wait and see, won’t we?

I’ll be writing a prediction of the Hawks/Panthers game later this week.

Stay tuned!

GO HAWKS!

Seahawks vs. Vikings – No Lynch? No Problem, Hawks Win 24-13

Hawks Vikings

I woke up this morning and grabbed the Seattle Times off the front porch, made coffee and amid the headlines about the Seattle Mariners retiring Ken Griffey Jr.’s number, my eyes drifted toward a small blurb about Marshawn Lynch not playing in tomorrow’s playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.

To be honest, I don’t think this will be a determent to the Seahawks.  Yes, it would have been nice to have Beast Mode behind Russell Wilson, with all of his playoff experience and his ability to rise to the occasion when needed.

But consider just how well the Seahawks have played (except for the Rams game) over the second half of the season without him and Jimmy Graham.  All they did was set franchise records for most yards in a season (6,058) and for the fourth time in team history, finished among the top four in total offense in the NFL.

The Seahawks have ridden Lynch to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.   And while I appreciate the talent and drive that Lynch has on the field, I think the true identity of this team has come out in Russell Wilson.

Wilson went nuts in the second half of 2015.  Much of that came after the bye when the team made adjustments to the passing game in getting the ball out quicker from Wilson.  The result of that, Wilson was sacked only 15 times in the second half after getting dropped 33 times in the first.

Benefitting from Wilson’s excellent second half has been Doug Baldwin who has really come into his own, setting team record for most receiving TD’s in a season (14) and achieving 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career.

Let’s not forget about Tyler Lockett who was drafted to upgrade the return game.  Not only has he done that but he also finished with 51 catches for 664 yards and six TD’s.  The Seahawks may have found the deep threat they have been seeking in this kid.  He has the talent to become one of the best receivers in the game.

Jermaine Kearse also has had a solid season with 49 catches for 685 yards and 5 TD’s.  But he also does the little things that allows other players to shine.  On crossing routes, he often frees up the other receiver in ways that he doesn’t get flagged for picking the defender.  He blocks well and has made some of the most clutch catches to keep drives alive.

The combined stats for the trio of Baldwin, Locket and Kearse is 178 catches for 2,418 yards and 25 TD’s.  I’m pretty sure that any team in the NFL would love that production from their wide receiving corps.

And it’s not like the rushing game was tossed out the window after Lynch went down and later when Thomas Rawls got injured.  In stepped cast-off Christine Michael and Bryce Brown along with Fred Jackson who has been good as a third down back.  And let’s not forget fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu who get the calls to either block on short yardage situations or leak out pass the defensive line to gain critical yardage in screen pass situations.

No Jimmy Graham or Luke Willson?  In steps Cooper Helfet and Chase Hoffman, both of whom had some clutch catches in the Arizona game.

So we don’t have Lynch…that’s OK, we have everyone else that will keep it going until Lynch is ready to play.

Let’s not forget that defense which for the fourth year in a row finished in the top five in the NFL.  They were second in total defense, giving up 291.8 yards a game, second in passing defense, allowing 210.2 yards per game and first in the NFL against the run, allowing a mere 81.5 yards per game.

The key to this game will be the same as it was when the Hawks beat the Vikings 38-7 in week 13.  Mitigate yards gained by Adrian Peterson and dare QB Teddy Bridgewater to beat them with his arm.

And all Bridgewater has to do is throw into the teeth of the Legion of Boom of Richard Sherman, Deshawn Shead, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.  That is if he has enough time avoiding the rush of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane and Bruce Irvin.

The weather isn’t going to factor into this game.  It will affect both teams the same.  What it will boil down to is overall talent between the two teams.  And while the Vikings defense is ranked 13th overall, the way the Seahawks offense has been clicking, they will wear them down with the run game and the short passing game.

I’m not afraid of the Vikings offense which finished 29th overall in 2015.  While they are ranked 4th in rushing (I mean come on, it is Adrian Peterson) they are ranked 31st in passing and 31st in receiving.

So what’s the focus going to be?  On Peterson, put at least two spies on him and try to create turnovers.  Peterson has fumbled 7 times this year, losing 3 of them.

I’d put Bobby Wagner on him first and second down and have Bruce Irvin cover him on third down if he comes out of the backfield.  Wagner is a sure tackler and Irvin has the speed to stay with Peterson and isn’t bad in coverage.

That is if Peterson can get past the road block of Brandon Mebane or Aythyba Rubin up the middle or if he can get around the corner and avoid Bennett and Avril.

Looking forward to this game as the Seahawks will beat the Vikings 23-13.

GO HAWKS!

12th man flag

 

Seattle Seahawks Must Play Championship Football vs. Cardinals

Seahawk Shining

I know the headline is an obvious statement but it needs to be said.

When the Seahawks enter the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday to face the Arizona Cardinals, it has to be as though they are playing in the Super Bowl.

We as fans, need to stop worrying about the offensive line and what the defense gives up.  Nothing we can do about it anyway.  But if there was ever a time this city needs to rise above any doubt about the Seahawks, now is the time.

The 12’s are what’s gonna get this team the lift they need to make their 3rd straight Super Bowl appearance.

I know, the shoddy showing they had against the Rams makes it difficult.  But this team has always had a rough time against the Rams, which has a very good defense and now looks like they have a marquee running back in Todd Gurley.

We also know that the Seahawks, at least over the last few years, rarely lay an egg two weeks in a row.

They march into Phoenix to face a Cardinal team that is the number one offensive team in the NFL.  The Hawks have some solace in the fact when they played them in Week 10 and were down 22-7 at the half, they came back against this team to take a 29-25 lead early in the fourth quarter.

It is my belief the reason why the Hawks lost this game is because the defense was gassed.  They played their hearts out to hold down the offensive juggernaut known as the Cardinals until 1:48 left in the game when Andre Ellington ripped off a 48-yard touchdown run that sealed the game.

Despite the loss, the Seahawks went on a record setting 5-game stretch to vault themselves into playoff contention, beating the 49’s and Steelers at home, Vikings and Ravens on the road and then dismantling the Browns at home before self-destructing against the Rams last week.

Right now, the Seahawks are the Number 6 seed going into the playoffs.  That points to heading to hallowed ground, facing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.  Perhaps not the best scenario but not the worst either.  Seahawks and Packers have had games filled with controversy and while going 4-6 against them over the past 10 games, the point differential between the two teams is 12 points over that span.

Another possible opponent would be the Minnesota Vikings of which the Hawks have a 6-4 record over the past 10 games.  The last game played between these two teams was the Week 13 38-7 blowout in Minnesota.   They focused on stopping Adrian Peterson and dared Teddy Bridgewater to beat them.  The result was holding Peterson to 18 yards on eight carries and the only reason the Hawks didn’t shut the Vikings out was the 101-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Peterson in the third quarter.

The third possible playoff opponent would be the Washington DC based team.  They have a 4-6 record against them over the last 10 games but have beaten them twice at FedEx Field in Landover, including a 24-14 playoff victory in 2013.

Regardless of who the Seahawks play in the opening round, the Seahawks cannot take this game against the Cardinals lightly.  Pete Carroll has stated in the press they are looking at this game as a championship game and won’t be holding anything back.

Hawks are going to have to rely on Christine Michael, Bryce Brown and Fred Jackson to get the running game going as well as QB Russell Wilson using his legs to keep the Cardinal defense honest.

The offensive line will need to get back to the caliber of play during that 5 game stretch and allow Wilson the time he needs to connect with receivers Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Cooper Helfet, Tyler Lockett and perhaps Anthony McCoy.

The defense will need to get through the Arizona O-Line and make Carson Palmer uncomfortable.  Sacks would be good but I am looking for the Hawks front four to get him off his spot and force him into making bad decisions which would play into the heart of the Seattle D, the Legion of Boom.

It’s going to be a good game and I don’t see Bruce Arians pulling any of his starters to save them for the playoffs…unless the Seahawks put the game out of reach by the 4th quarter.  As much as I would love that scenario, I don’t see it happening.

But I do see a Hawks victory, 38-35 with Steven Hauschka kicking the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock.

GO HAWKS!