Tuesday, SeahawksGab Editor Devon Heinen took an in-depth look at Seattle’s first four matchups of the 2010 season.
After predicting a 2-2 start, Devon turns his attention to Seattle’s next four matchups in part two of the four-part series.
WEEK FIVE: Bye
WEEK SIX: Seahawks at Chicago
(Last year’s record and finish for CHI: 7-9, third place in NFC North)
For fans following the Bears, the 2009 season was like riding a roller coaster.
Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler came to town, breathing life into Chicagoans’ hopes that the days of woeful quarterback play was a thing of the past. Those hopes dwindled after a Week One performance that saw Cutler toss four interceptions compared to one touchdown in a last-minute 21-15 road loss to division rival Green Bay. Over the next 15 games the new starting signal caller teased and tortured fans en route to posting career highs in touchdowns (27) and interceptions (26).
In his second year in the league, running back Matt Forte came crashing down to earth. After totaling over 1,700 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in 2008, he earned 315 yards and four touchdowns less last season while his fumbles increased by five.
The defense took a major hit when starting middle linebacker, and team linchpin, Brian Urlacher was placed on the Injured Reserve list after dislocating a wrist in the season-opening game against the Packers.
The season wasn’t all bad though for the Bears and their fans. A three-game winning streak, including a 10-point come-from-behind victory in Pittsburgh against the defending NFL Champions, in the beginning of the season put the team in the thick of early-season playoff talks.
That was until Chicago went on to win four of the team’s final 12 games.
Looking to make this season’s Bears less of a roller coaster ride and more of a brilliant fireworks display for fans, the team brought in offensive coordinator in Mike Martz, known for vaulting quarterbacks up stat columns and directing offenses that light up the scoreboard.
Martz isn’t the only new face in town. To bolster the other side of the ball, Chicago added Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. In a Carolina Panther uniform last year, Peppers notched 10.5 sacks and matched a career high in forced fumbles with five.
**Result: Chicago beats Seattle**
WEEK SEVEN: Arizona at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for ARI: 10-6, first place in NFC West)
After being the league’s runner-up in 2008, the Cardinals came back by taking the NFC West crown for a second straight season, a dominance they hope to extend into a third year.
The team’s defense largely remains intact from its 2009 form when it ranked sixth in the NFL in sacks and reports out of Cardinals camp are that defensive end Calais Campbell is in line for a big season. In just his second year in the league, Campbell was tied for the team lead in sacks with seven.
Where Arizona will have the most visible difference is on offense. Kurt Warner retired after throwing 26 touchdowns and over 3,700 yards. One of Warner’s favorite targets, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, now wears a Baltimore Ravens uniform. With Warner and Boldin gone, Arizona will turn to fifth-year quarterback Matt Leinart and wideouts Steve Breaston and Early Doucet to help shoulder the offensive load with Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and second-year running back Chris Wells.
**Result: Arizona beats Seattle**
WEEK EIGHT: Seahawks at Oakland
(Last year’s record and finish for OAK: 5-11, third place in AFC West)
With JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye and J.P. Losman quarterbacking the Oakland Raiders, wins, let alone points, were hard to come by last season.
After going 5-11, the team rid itself of what it thought was going to be its quarterback of the future in Russell and traded for former Washington Redskin Jason Campbell. With Campbell under center, Oakland has a mobile quarterback that can not only air the football deep – something Oakland owner Al Davis loves his teams to do – but can also utilize the tight end, which happens to be a position of strength for the Raiders.
The team’s defense doesn’t look to be much improved from a year ago when it ranked 26th overall. Allowing an average of 23.7 points per game, the unit faltered the most when trying to stop the run. The Raiders were 29th in the NFL against it.
**Result: Seattle beats Oakland**
WEEK NINE: New York Giants at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for NYG: 8-8, third place in NFC East)
After storming out of the gate and placing themselves atop the NFC East with five consecutive wins, the New York Giants fell hard, losing eight of their final 11 games.
Wide receiver Steve Smith played a large role in the team’s early success. Hauling in four of his seven touchdown receptions during the team’s 5-0 start, the Southern California product emerged as the team’s top threat at his position. The fourth-year receiver finished the season with career highs in receptions (107), yards (1,220), average yards per catch (11.4) and touchdowns.
The major contributor to the team’s decline was its defense. In six of the team’s eight losses, the Giants allowed no less than 373 total yards.
Looking to shore up its defensive deficiency, New York focused on the unit by using five of its seven picks in April’s Draft to address areas of need. Headlining the bunch is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul out of South Florida. At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Pierre-Paul wreaked havoc at the collegiate level. Recording six sacks and an interception as a junior for the Bulls, he earned First Team All-American honors from Pro Football Weekly and was a First Team All-Big East selection by coaches, Rivals.com, Sporting News and ESPN.com
**Result: Seattle beats New York**
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