1.13.2007

Five reasons I feel good about the Seahawks chances tomorrow

Since I took a couple of months off from posting to the blog, I figure I better get my rear in gear and post at least one more solid analysis of the Seahawks before their season potentially comes to an end tomorrow.

However, I have to say that I actually feel pretty good about the Seahawks' chances against the Bears in Soldier field. Forget about the easy and obvious tangibles commonly cited by those hacks at ESPN -- the potential performance of Sexy Rexy easily is the most overplayed angle in the 2007 playoffs -- I have five more subtle reasons why I think a 9-7 team can go into a 13-3 team's stadium and come away a winner.

Here they are:

5. The collective angst of Chicago Bears nation. If there's any city that knows about professional sports-related angst, it's the city with a baseball team that has never been to the World Series, a football team that had never reached the Super Bowl until last year, and a basketball team that hasn't won a championship in 28 years. However, I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like what's coming out of Chicago these days.

Has there ever been a 13-3 team -- and fan base -- that appears less confident heading into a potential playoff run than this one? Yes, the Bears won four of their last six regular season games, but in hardly inspiring fashion. Their "dominant" defense gave up an average of 26.25 points in its last four games, and their quarterback that seemed a lock for the Pro Bowl -- remember those commercials where Rex Grossman and Muhsin Muhammed promise to vote for each other? -- denegrated into one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL.

Add in the fact that the Bears haven't won their first playoff game since 1995, you've got one nervous football community.

Conversely, the Seahawks are loose as loose can be. They're playing their best football since week three and being told that they don't even deserve to be in this game. They know they've got nothing to lose; just ask Matt Hasselbeck.

4. It's going to be warmer in Chicago than it is in Seattle. When was the last time a team not from Green Bay went to Chicago for a playoff game and the weather actually was better than where it came from? Check out the weather report for Chicago at game time -- it can't hold a candle to flash floods, 70 mph winds, snow and ice. This is a West Coast Offense that has been playing in East Coast weather, and "light wintery mix" that's predicted for kickoff isn't likely to have any more than a negligible effect for the visitors.

3. The offensive line is playing the best it has all season. A lot of comparisons have been made in the mainstream media to the previous game between these two teams, and casual analysts most often cite the presence of Shaun Alexander and Jerramy Stevens as the biggest offensive difference for the Seahawks between then and now. Those analysts are wrong. The biggest difference is that Seattle is starting an offensive line that has produced -- by far -- the team's best results of the season.

The combination of Walter Jones, Rob Sims, Chris Spencer, Chris Gray and Sean Locklear now will be making its fourth start in the past five games, and is much more athletic (and comfortable) than the one that traveled to Chicago in October. Jones is healthier, Spencer is playing his natural position much more effectively now than he played guard earlier in the season, and Sims is a physically powerful presence. Nevermind that before that first Chicago game, Gray and Locklear hadn't practiced all week because of knee injuries.

The result? The Seahawks are putting up their best rushing stats of the season, and giving up fewer sacks. Don't worry too much about those 69 paltry yards against Dallas; the Seahawks have always had trouble running against the Cowboys. The more telling result is the 140 yards Alexander put up against San Diego, the seventh-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. Here's to betting he can get 100 against the Bears.

2. Tommie Harris is wearing sweatpants on the sideline.
Seahawks beat writer Mike Sando went back this past week and watched the first matchup, and came to the conclusion that Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris brought disruptive pressure almost at will up the middle of the Seahawks' offensive line, taking them out of just about everything they wanted to do.

While Seattle almost undoubtedly would have blocked him better the second time around, the fact that he isn't there is the single biggest reason why the Bears defense isn't what it was midway through the season. You just cannot underestimate the impact a defensive lineman has on a game when he's consistently beating your guys up front, especially on a pass rush. Chicago likes to rush just four and drop seven. It gives linebackers such as Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs the freedom to just run around and take people's heads off, both on the run and in pass coverage.

Harris' injury -- and, to a lesser extent, Tank Johnson's legal troubles -- limits the ability of Chicago's defense to do what it wants to do. The effectiveness of that defensive line is the reason why Hasselbeck found such small passing lanes in the first meeting.

1. The Seahawks have the better coach. "Any Given Sunday" is the mantra of the NFL during the regular season, but that flies out the window more often than not in the postseason. In no other sport do the guys pulling the strings have as much influence over the outcome of a game than professional football, and if there's one thing I've learned watching Mike Holmgren and defensive coordinator John Marshall over the past two seasons, it's that they are absolute masters at exploiting weaknesses in their opponents and masking deficiencies in their own units.

Think back. Anybody remember how, last season, Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram went down, and the pass-happy offense morphed into the No. 1 scoring unit in the NFL behind a running back who would become the league's MVP? I do.

Anybody remember how the Seahawks completely shut down Steve Smith in the playoffs last season? Anybody remember how the Seahawks lost three of their top four cornerbacks, yet still figured out a way to beat Dallas? I do.

Anybody remember how a team lost the second-most starter games in the NFL in 2006 and still figured out a way to get into the playoffs? I do!

The bottom line is this: Mike Holmgren has been to three Super Bowls. Lovie Smith has never won a playoff game as a head coach. That's enough of an advantage for me, and the reason the Seahawks will win, 20-17.

So there you have it, Seahawks fans. Fear not -- your team is destined for victory.

Or, at the very least, maybe you won't worry so much heading into the game ...

5 comments:

Travis said...

Let's be honest with ourselves here. The game comes down to two things; the Seahawks' offensive line play and the decision-making of Rex Grossman. If the Hawks win on both of those fronts they win the game. Those five reasons you gave are extremely biased. I'm a huge Seahawks fan (and I love your enthusiasm), but it doesn't take a genius to know that the Hawks will most definitely have to get a few bounces their way...and maybe a muffed chip shot field goal to win this game. They do not have the talent to beat the Bears straight up. If the Bears play a sound football game they win the game. Rarely is this the case but "it's that simple."

Matt Click said...

Well, I'm going to miss the game today, but I'll have to check later tonight to see how we fared. Most everyone I know is saying that the Seahawks are going to get spanked ... but hey, crazier things have happened.

The Nuss said...

So ... does that mean that I'm not justified in feeling good about their chances? Even though they ended up losing in overtime to a team favored by 9 points?

You were right. They clearly did not have as much talent as the Bears, but even with Grossman playing a pretty good game, they were in position to win. Just a few more plays made, and they can win it.

But, that was the story of the season, wasn't it?

Travis said...

Yeah...They didn't have the talent to pull it off. They were given chances, but in the end it didn't happen. I nearly had a heart attack watching this one. It did, however, come down to Grossman and the Hawks' offensive line. Grossman played well, and our offensive line played decent...therefore, a Hawks loss. =(

Katina said...

Well Nuss, although I know close to nothing about what's going on in football, let alone the game today, I heard that the Hawks lost... so I guess you're wrong.

But they tried, I'm sure.

So anyhoo... just thought I'd rub it in your face without justification. :-D Miss ya!!!