Seattle Seahawks: Early Super Bowl Storylines to Watch vs Patriots

Pete Carroll vs Previous Employers

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was the Patriots’ head coach from 1997 to 1999. His predecessor was/is current Pats’ head coach Bill Belichick.

Gronk Containment

It is probably safe to say teams have a tough time containing New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has 82 catches for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. It’s also safe to say that he’s a matchup nightmare at 6’6 and 265 lbs.

Most teams don’t have the personnel to match up, but the Seahawks do. Kam Chancellor and KJ Wright will be tasked with shutting down one of the best tight ends in the league. Seattle held Denver’s Julius Thomas to four catches on 27 yards during last year’s Super Bowl, so they aren’t exactly inexperienced when it comes to shutting down elite tight ends.

Russell Wilson vs Tom Brady

Russell Wilson has beaten Tom Brady before. In fact, Wilson has made a habit out of beating elite QBs. Not only has he beaten Brady, but he has also gone 2-0 vs both Eli and Peyton Manning as well as Drew Brees. He’s now 3-0 vs Aaron Rodgers. If you had to pick a quarterback to help your team take down a Hall-of-Fame worthy QB, you’re taking Russell Wilson.

Power Running

Marshawn Lynch is far and away the best example of a power running back in today’s NFL. If you were to look up “power running back” in the dictionary, you’re going to get a picture of Beast Mode. Although not to Lynch’s standard, New England has power backs as well in LaGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray. It’s safe to say that power running will dominate the Super Bowl.

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Seattle Seahawks: 5 Important Stats from Panthers vs Cardinals

For the second straight season, the Seattle Seahawks enjoyed a bye to kick off the playoffs. The Hawks were able to sit in the comfort of their own homes and watch the competition slug it out.

Due to seeding, Seattle will host the Carolina Panthers with the winner advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Confidentially in 2014, the Seahawks also played an NFC South opponent (the New Orleans Saints) at home in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Here are five stats to keep in mind when the Panthers make their way to CenturyLink Field this weekend.

  1. 123—rushing yards by Panthers running back and Washington native Jonathan Stewart. Arizona struggled against the run heading into the game. Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore ran for 113 and 144 yards respectively against the Cardinals, but Stewart has been on somewhat of a tear as of late. The Hawks will have to be careful with Stewart.
  2. 198—passing yards by Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. If you take out a 39 yard screen pass to Fozzy Whittaker, the total drops to 159. Of the six QBs the Hawks have faced in the last six games, they’ve held five to under 200 yards passing. The only two to eclipse that mark, Shaun Hill and Ryan Lindley, didn’t have great games. Hill had 243 yards but also threw two picks. Lindley compiled 216 yards and had only one interception, but completed a mere 18 of his 44 passes. Neither Hill nor Lindley threw a touchdown. In fact, the past six QBs the Hawks face threw a cumulative two touchdowns, both from Eagles signal-caller Mark Sanchez. The caveat is that Sanchez threw for only 96 yards. One of his touchdowns came on a drive that started at the Seahawks’ 14 yard line. The other drive started four yards away from midfield at the Philly 46.
  3. 39—most receiving yards by a Carolina receiver. Those 39 yards came on the Whittaker screen, which was the running back’s only catch. No other Panther had five catches, with Kelvin Benjamin coming the closest with four. Benjamin was the only Carolina pass catcher with more than 33 yards when the two teams met earlier in the season. He finished with 94 receiving yards, 51 of which came on one play.
  4. 35—rushing yards by QB Cam Newton. The Carolina signal caller ran for 35 after putting up yardage totals of 51, 63, 83 and 49 in recent weeks. He only had 24 yards on 12 carries against the Hawks earlier in the season, his second worst game in terms of average yards per carry.
  5. Nine—number of different receivers who caught passes against the Cardinals. The Hawks will have to watch out for Newton spreading the ball around in general, but these aren’t Tom Brady’s Patriots. Of the nine, only four caught more than one pass. Of the five with one catch, three (Brenton Bersin, Mike Tolbert and Stewart) combined for a cumulative four yards. Whittaker’s 39 receiving yards came off a screen pass (stop me if you’ve heard that before) and was predominantly thanks to the running back rather than Newton.

The Seahawks take on the Panthers on Saturday, the winner will advance to the NFC Championship Game.

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

What We Learned from the Seahawks 50-17 Win Besides the Fact that Buffalo is Also Pitiful

It’s really not a joke. The Seahawks aren’t pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone who seems to miss their games (i.e. everyone who lives outside of the great state of Washington.) Yes, Buffalo is a bad team, and Arizona was/is too, but you can’t ignore 50-plus points in consecutive games.

  • The Record Book just won’t go away. Russell Wilson continues to take records and break them as if he was eating a sandwich for lunch. After strong play last week, Wilson now holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game for the Seahawks. Something he did in the first half with three rushing scores. No Seahawks QB has ever rushed for that many touchdowns in an entire game.
  • Read Option. The Seahawks continually used the “Read Option” to their advantage on Sunday. On the play, Wilson receives the snap with Marshawn Lynch to his right in the backfield. If it looks better for Wilson to run it himself, then he fakes the handoff to Lynch and goes behind Lynch with the ball. If the play looks like the team would get more out of it if Lynch ran it, then Wilson simply hands off the ball. The point of the play is that the QB makes the split-second decision on what would work best. Hence it being called the “Read Option.” The Seahawks used this play to continually rip off huge gains versus a porous Bills’ defense.
  • Passing Dan Marino. Last week I told you with one more touchdown Russell Wilson would pass Dan Marino in terms of number of passing touchdowns in a rookie season. With his TD pass to Zach Miller, Wilson moved his total to 21, passing Marino’s 20.
  • Win and You’re In. The Seahawks can clinch at least a wild card berth with a win on Sunday against San Francisco. The Seahawks would clinch the number two seed in the playoffs, and receive the first round bye that comes with it, if they beat the Niners and Rams to close out the year. And, if the 49ers lose both of their remaining games, and if Green Bay loses one of its last two games. Plus, they would get home field advantage at home in the divisional round (they’re 6-0 at the Clink this year.)
  •  50-50. The Seahawks are now one of three teams in NFL history to score at least 50 points in two straight games. This feat hasn’t been accomplished since the 50’s. This is fantastic for a team who was 28th in the league in total offense last year. Other quarterbacks who have yet to accomplish this or haven’t: Tom Brady (very surprising,) Peyton Manning (equally surprising,) Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, John Elway ( I think you see my point.)
  • Winning. The Seahawks now have tied their highest win total since 2006, the year before they went to the Super Bowl. That team was 9-7.

Super Bowl Worthy? I posed this question last week, and now it should be a given. The Seahawks are Super Bowl worthy. Finally.

Who is the Greatest Number 12 in Sports History?

In honor of 12 day, who is the greatest athlete to wear number 12 on their jersey?

Is it John Stockton? Tom Brady? Maybe Terry Bradshaw?

 

Or you could go with the wild card in the Seahawks’ 12th man.

What do you think?

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading

The Peyton Manning-To-Seattle Proposition

I’m probably not the first to write about this, nor will I be the last, because to put it plainly, Peyton Manning is a free agent. PEYTON FREAKING MANNING IS A FREE AGENT.

As noted, everyone is writing about this. From teams who need a quarterback like the New York Jets or Arizona Cardinals, or teams who don’t and would like to see him as a backup so their team doesn’t have to play against him (cough New England cough).

Maybe this is a pipe dream at best, and Peyton Manning might be considering only AFC teams or whatever the case may be. But the underlying theme here is that he would be a good fit in Seattle.

For that matter any of the NFC West teams with Manning probably jump to division favorites. (With the exception of maybe St. Louis, sorry Rams fans.) That being said, it would seem like the NFC West would make sense in the fact that Peyton could probably win right away, where as in a place like Miami, there could be issues with facing Tom Brady as well as the Jets defense a combined four times a year.

But Seattle looks like the best fit, at least from my position. The Seahawks have some promising bullet points for Manning to consider:

  • One, the Seahawks have a running game that Peyton didn’t have recently in Indianapolis. (Not that Peyton Manning needs a running game to lean on. He’s Peyton FREAKING Manning.)
  • Two, the Seahawks defense is a piece (read pass rusher) away from being a top-10 and/or elite defense.
  • Three, and this may surprise people, but the weapons are there in Seattle. The receiving core is an underrated one. Sydney Rice thrived with Brett Favre and even Tavaris Jackson before he was hit with injuries. Think of the potential with Peyton throwing to him. Doug Baldwin was quietly one of the better rookie receivers in the league last season. Zach Miller will look to be more of a pass catching threat after spending bulks of playing time helping the pass protection area. Mike Williams also thrived with a good QB (read Matt Hasselbeck) and could regain that form if Peyton comes to Seattle. John Carlson will be back from injury if the team chooses to re-sign him (they should look into it.) Leon Washington is a game changer, plain and simple.
  • Four, the offensive line. The Seahawks have a really good young offensive line. The whole line, with the exception of Robert Gallery, has less than four years of experience in the league. While that may be a downside to some, it’s a plus here. The Hawks line is going to be good for a long time. The other key to the QB’s protection here is that the O-Line is surprisingly deep. Breno Giocamini, Paul McQuistain and Lemuel Jeanpierre provided and still provide Pete Carroll with invaluable depth up front.
  • Lastly, win now. The Seahawks, despite the 7­-9 mark, are going to compete. The aforementioned defense is there. So is the running game. So are the receivers. Look, San Francisco isn’t going to go 13-3 again. (If they do, jokes on me.)  Things are going to be more level this year. Even more so than last year. Now obviously Peyton Manning makes just about every team a winner, but to have a team that’s on the cusp of being a very good team, and add one of the best QBs ever. It makes for a very nice dilemma to have.

By process of elimination to get to Seattle, here are places where Peyton isn’t a good fit:

  • Miami- Lack of established running game could make for iffy situation. Then again he succeeded in Indy.
  • New York Jets- Media circus and uncertainty with team might be disastrous. Also lack of weapons and locker room questions.
  • Washington- Redskins don’t have much in the offensive weapons department outside of Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Chris Cooley. Also an equally tough division to play in.
  • Arizona- Larry Fitzgerald and a closed arena. There are the only draws in Zona. Good luck selling it outside of that.

So there you have it, Seattle and Peyton Manning, makes a lot of sense.

NFL Championship Round Preview and Picks

Tebow Mania has been put to sleep for the offseason. The Texans came within a touchdown of beating a good Ravens team with their third string QB. The Saints lost to the 49ers in a whirlwind last couple minutes. And oh yeah, the defending champs got shellacked by the New York Giants.

Enough of last week, it’s now that great time of year when everyone looks an idiot for picking the two best teams to be in the Super Bowl, and as it ends up both are out by the divisional round.

And as the field shrinks by the week we still have the possibility to have the most boring Super Bowl in recent history, where more people tune in for the commercials than the actual game. Yes that’s right, we could still have a “Harbaugh Bowl”. Wouldn’t that be terrible? A dismal offense (San Francisco) against one that is OK (Baltimore), also a lot of big hits and a defensive showdown with probably a couple broken arms along the way (maybe I’m over exaggerating).

Or we could have the two better offenses (New England and New York) duke it out 2008 style.

This is probably starting to sound a bit like a Super Bowl preview. It’s not. The two teams aren’t determined yet. And frankly that’s why we play the game.

NFC

Alex Smith is a game manager. Just thought I’d get that into everyone’s head who doesn’t believe it. This isn’t a guy who racks up big numbers some games that are offset by bad games. Overall this makes his numbers “mediocre”, but his team gets it done, hence the “game manger” tag. This guy is not that (if that made any sense whatsoever), he’s a QB who isn’t relied on a ton by his team. This team relies on Frank Gore and because of Gore, the play action. San Francisco probably has and had the worst wide receiver core (remember Vernon Davis is a tight end) of any playoff team and maybe one of the worst in the league. Michael Crabtree is the only wide out who is going to make opposing coaches lose sleep. And that’s more of a wake-up-for-five-minutes-to-get-a-glass-of-water kind of lost sleep. And no one can stress the importance of their defense… yadda yadda yadda. If they struggle against Eli Manning it might be a long day for San Fran fans (corny, I know).

Prediction: New York Giants 24 San Francisco 49ers 20

AFC

Ray Rice needs the ball. Ray Rice needs to gash the Patriots front seven so Joe Flacco can thrash the Patriots porous defensive secondary. If Ray Rice can’t get it going and Flacco struggles. Ehh. Tom Brady will have some problems with Baltimore’s D early, but eventually will probably have his way with them as he does with all defenses.  Baltimore needs to slow down Gronk, Wes Welker and all of Brady’s other weapons in order to have a shot at winning. They also need to score points. 20 against New England probably isn’t going to cut it (if it does, joke’s on me).  If Joe Flacco can exploit the Pats’ D then the Ravens will have a very good chance to win this game. In the end, I think Flacco will respond to the criticism and have a good day. It probably won’t be enough to slow down Tom Brady and the Pats.

Prediction:  New England Patriots 35 Baltimore Ravens 17