I was asked to contribute something small to the New York Time's blog and it ate up my afternoon, so in the effort to get this out at a good hour, here's the ultra hasty version of Matchupalooza.
Floyd Womack versus Justin Tuck
Floyd Womack sucks. In 14 active games, but one started, Womack allowed 2 sacks in 2007. The logical choice with Sean Locklear returning would be to move good pass blocker but ehh run blocker Ray Willis inside to right guard. But even after the stomach staple (ahem), Mike Holmgren's appetite for Pork Chop rivals Homer Simpson.
That's a problem, because Justin Tuck has a peekaboo inside move that cauterizes wounds and parts the Red Sea. Tuck is going to live in the hog house, and when Pork Chop inevitably misses his assignment or is simply overmatched by Tuck's speed and power, one of the game's great pass rushers is going to get a free release right into Matt Hasselbeck's grill.
Beating Tuck will be a team effort, and if ever there were a time for Chris Spencer to show his first round chops, Sunday is it. Getting a second man cheating right, anticipating inside movement or blitzers, and trusting Mike Wahle and Walter Jones to thrive against New York's lesser right defensive line, will do wonders to prevent untouched stunts and Womack bacon bits.
This matchup isn't about winning outright, but preventing another right guard deflowering like one-armed Rob Sims suffered against Marcus Stroud. It's barely winnable, eminently losable and so damn important my liver quivers at the possible ramifications.
Deon Grant and Brian Russell versus Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw
Nothing fancy, safeties Grant and Russell must maintain contain against cutback lanes. Seattle's linebacker corps needs an aggressive search and flow style to be at its best, but that only works when Seattle's safeties can be counted on to hold down their assignment and prevent disaster when all those blockers pulling one way are defied by a little navy blue speedball running the other. Safeties holding outside contain, not making a bonehead glory move towards the ball carries, and ferchristsakes accomplishing the tackle is all Seattle needs to stymie New York's rushing attack. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Seattle must put as much onus for the Giant's offense on Eli Manning as possible. Smother the rushing attack, force long down and distances and put Tom Coughlin into pass mode is the best method for a Seattle victory.
John Carlson versus James Butler (Not Kenny Phillips)
Whatever you expect out of Bobby Engram, halve it. Whatever you expect out of Deion Branch, abandon it. If those two can work as effective decoys, it'll make my day. If either contributes, effin' whoopee.
Like the three weeks that preceded this Super Bowl preview (wha?), Seattle's air attack runs through John Carlson. The man who wrote "A Grecian Urn" with his route running is already a top ten total contributions tight end. His DYAR is 59, fourth in the NFL. Arr, he be a fine tight end, the yarest ball catchin' tight end thar be. And his competition this week is either real good or real damn bad. In 2007 and 2006, New York was woefully awful against tight ends, 29th and 31st in the NFL. Perhaps they were woefully unprepared to face a tight end. Practice be Shockey's hair frostin' time. Because this season the team has leapt to 7th in the NFL. Rookie free safety Kenny Phillips might have something to say about that, but he's not New York's starter.
James Butler starts at strong safety and plays it a bit like a fourth linebacker. He's not Boulware bad in coverage, but he is the type to be mesmerized by Carlson's route running, obey Carlson's feet, break left on a subliminal stutter step and watch helplessly off camera as the ball falls for the first. Keeping Butler around and Philips in sparingly starts with an effective run game. From there, Carlson must continue his trend defying hot start as a rookie. Seattle needs Carlson, it can only wishcast performances from Engram and Branch.