Tuesday, SeahawksGab Editor Devon Heinen broke down Seattle’s matchups during Week 10 through 13 of the upcoming season after taking an in-depth look at Seattle’s first four matchups and the team’s second set of four during of the 2010 season last week.
After predicting a 5-7 start, Devon turns his attention to the Seahawks’ final four games in his final installment of the four-part series.
WEEK FOURTEEN: Seahawks at San Francisco
(Last year’s record and finish for SF: 8-8, second place in NFC West)
Last year the 49ers had an identity crisis.
While knowing who they were defensively, a blue-collar, smash-mouth unit, it was the team’s offense that changed nearly by the week. The team went through two quarterbacks and multiple philosophies for when it had the ball. From time-to-time, running back Frank Gore was the focal point as San Francisco tried to run the ball down opposing defenses’ throats. Other times, the 49ers took the look of a college team by breaking out the shotgun spread offense.
The main problem with San Francisco was its offensive line. Not being able to hold up against pressure, the 49ers had to abandon the run and drop quarterback Alex Smith back with the shotgun just so the young signal caller could have enough time to get rid of the ball.
The team looks to have fixed its offensive line woes by spending two first-round picks on the position, getting tackle Anthony Davis from Rutgers and guard Mike Iupati.
With an improved offensive line, Smith should have more time to throw to big-play threats Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The bolstered line will also allow the team to run the ball more effectively, which, in turn, will also help the team’s passing game.
Look for San Francisco to be the frontrunner of the division.
**Result: San Francisco beats Seattle**
WEEK FIFTEEN: Atlanta at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for ATL: 9-7, second place in NFC South)
For the past two years Atlanta’s success hinged on its All-Pro running back.
In his first year in a Falcon uniform, coincidentally also his first year as a starter in the league, Michael Turner ripped apart opposing defenses. In ten games during the 2008 season he had runs of 20 yards or more, with two carries going for over 60. Behind his 1,699 yards on the ground and 17 rushing touchdowns, Atlanta was able to turn the corner, improving from 4-12 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008.
Turner’s second year in Atlanta picked up where it left off. That was, until a season-altering injury derailed the 5-foot-10, 244-pound running back. After amassing 720 yards on 4.6 yards per carry and leading the team to a 5-3 start, Turner’s season came to screeching halt when he suffered a high ankle sprain on his final carry in a 28-19 road loss to the Carolina Panthers. The injury would linger for the rest of the season and force Turner to miss five of the team’s final seven games. With Turner a nonfactor for the second half of the season, Atlanta limped to a 9-7 finish.
All reports from Atlanta’s training camp indicate that Turner’s ankle problem is a thing of the past. Also in the history books is a concern over his offseason conditioning, something Turner told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution August 11 he didn’t know how to handle after his first year as a starter in the NFL.
With a healthy Turner in the backfield, third-year quarterback Matt Ryan should have fewer defenses singling him out. Less defensive pressure will allow Ryan time to utilize pass-catching threats Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in what should be a more balanced offense in 2010.
**Result: Atlanta beats Seattle**
WEEK SIXTEEN: Seahawks at Tampa Bay
(Last year’s record and finish for TB: 3-13, fourth place in NFC South)
In 2009 Tampa Bay experienced the bumps and bruises that usually come with going through three starting quarterbacks in a season.
Veteran Byron Leftwich and a second-year Josh Johnson got the team off to a 0-7 start.
With nowhere to go but up, the Buccaneers stripped rookie Josh Freeman of the clipboard and handed him the starting job. The 6-foot-6 Freeman struggled early. Throwing seven touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions in his first six starts, Tampa Bay won just one game.
The main problem with Freeman wasn’t his accuracy; it was his ability to disguise his intentions with the ball. Coming off a no-touchdown, three-interception performance against the Jets in a 26-3 Week 14 loss, members of the Jets’ secondary told the press that the rookie was staring down his receivers and telegraphing his passes.
Despite going on to win two of the Buccaneers’ final three games, the rookie threw five more interceptions.
Freeman is back under center entering year two and a new supporting cast should help his and the team’s development. The team spent two of its first five picks in the 2010 Draft on big-play wideouts in Illinois’ Arrelious Benn and Syracuse’s Mike Williams. While Tampa Bay traded up to grab Benn in the second round, reports out of training camp indicate that its Williams – a fourth-round selection with reported 4.49 40-yard dash speed – that’s made the biggest impact thus far.
**Result: Seattle beats Tampa Bay**
WEEK ONE: St. Louis at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for STL: 1-15, fourth place in NFC West)
The team with 2009’s worst record and the most needs comes into 2010 with important questions that need to be addressed.
How soon will rookie quarterback Sam Bradford run the team’s offense is the biggest question mark. The April Draft’s first overall pick, Bradford was brought to St. Louis to help rebuild the team’s woeful offense, a unit that finished 28th in the league last year in passing yards per game, and return the Rams to their postseason days of yesteryear. The issue though with trotting him out from Day One as the team’s starter is the chance of him getting injured. He missed the majority of his final collegiate season at Oklahoma due to shoulder issues that stemmed from getting hi. What’s to say that won’t happen again in St. Louis behind an offensive line that allowed its quarterbacks to be sacked 44 times?
Injuries decimated the St. Louis roster in 2009 and how the Rams rebound from that is another particularly big issue. The team’s skill positions were impacted dramatically. St. Louis cycled through three quarterbacks, wide out Donnie Avery missed time as well and the Rams saw their only Pro Bowler – running back Steven Jackson – have back surgery.
Whether or not the Rams’ defense will be able to stop opposing offenses is also of concern. Nine games showcased the St. Louis giving up 28 points or more, with six of those contests resulting in final scores of over 30 points for opposing teams.
**Result: Seattle beats St. Louis**
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