I'd hate to be unoriginal and ask you if you are ready for some football. (However, the last time someone said something original about Monday Night Football, Hank Williams became like a Nazi or something?)
Tonight is a big night for the Seahawks, their chance to show on a national stage what made them a popular sleeper pick for the 2012 season. I told Danny before week one that I would hate to have to face the public if we lost to the Cardinals. Expectations from fans were that this would be an easy win because Arizona is "bad" and we are "good." That they were playing "Inanimate Carbon Rod" at left tackle, so we'd sack John Skelton fifty gabillion times.
What happened instead was that Seattle lost a heart-breaker that felt like we should have won, but regardless of Russell Wilson's 19 incompletions in the final :30 seconds, the Hawks just didn't do enough to beat a team we felt they should beat. If week 1 was on the "awful gut feeling" end of the spectrum, like you had stopped at Dick's for a ten-pack of burgers to eat your sorrows away, then week 2 was like an internal cleanse that pushed out a John Wayne-sized lump of pain.
Not only did Seattle have one of the most convincing wins of the week, taking out a Cowboys team that was riding high by a score of 27-7, but those Cardinals turned out to not be too bad. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon shows that Arizona is 3-0 with wins over New England, Philadelphia and us. Dallas is 2-1 with wins over the Giants and Tampa Bay, but not us. If the season was 2.5 games long, we'd be looking pretty good right now! But a 2.5-game long season would be as ridiculous as using refs grabbed from the lower-levels of college football.
The point is that the Seahawks might be good. As in, they might be better than most would assume. They also might not be, but hey that's a big part of what this game will prove. The Packers are presumably one of the top teams in the league, with probably the best quarterback. He's got two of the top receivers in the league, and the guys beyond those two aren't bad either. Physically, Jermichael Finley is also one of the top tight ends in the NFL.
I wanted to say that it's the best passing offense that Seattle will face all year, but then I see the Patriots on the schedule and I can't say that with 100% certainty that it is.
The Packers defense isn't going to get a lot of attention, but a unit with Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Charles Woodson, B.J. Raji, Tramon Williams, etc., isn't one to be ignored. They were 15-1 for a reason last year and the defense intercepted 31 passes.
We've found that the Seahawks first two games weren't against shabby opponents, and they came away 1-1. I want to cliche that this is "a test" for Seattle, but what game is not a test? Some tests are SATs and some are Highlight's "Find the difference" puzzles. The only difference between them is that I do good on Highlight's puzzles.
Here are a few players that I either expect to, hope to, or need to step up tonight. Then tell me who you think is going to be the next national craze, Gangnam Style.
Needs To Step Up: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, LeRoy Hill
The main strength of the Packers offense is Aaron Rodgers, but specifically it's Rodgers ability to make quick, decisive, intermediate throws and then let his elite open-field receivers do the rest. Rodgers only had five deep targets in week 1 and five in week 2 (over 15 yards) and of those only two were caught.
Under 15 yards against the 49ers, Rodgers was 28-for-37 for 226 yards. His two deep completions did cover 77 yards, though. It's more important to contain his high percentage of short completions though and that's why we absolutely need big games from this unit.
Wright steps up more and more each game but this is the biggest challenge of Wagner's young career. He needs to have a big game as a tackler, on reading Rodgers, and leading the middle of the defense.
Hope To Step Up: Russell Wilson
Who else? Wilson got some of the most media attention during the preseason and now all eyes are on him, well, at least all eyes left over after they get done drooling on Rodgers.
Alex Smith ran an efficient offense against the Packers in week 1, going 20-of-26 for 211 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT and was sacked four times. Then Jay Cutler went 11-of-27 for 126 yards, 1 TD and 4 INT and was sacked seven times.
The Bears defense did enough to keep Chicago in the game but it didn't matter because Cutler was anything but "smokin'."
Through two games, Wilson has shown us some of the good and some of the bad and we can live with the bad as long as it's not detrimental, which it rarely has been. I don't expect him to make a beautiful 50-yard bomb to Sidney Rice on every play (I do expect Sidney Rice to explode on every play like he was made by the Acme company) but I do expect him to run a good offense out there. Feel free to do something close to what Smith did, completing a high percentage of intermediate passes that keeps the chains moving.
This is year one for you, Russ. Don't be scared at all to let Marshawn Lynch be the unquestioned leader of the offense. He's the absolute best thing we've got on that side of the ball and what I'd like to see from you is no turnovers, chains moving, good decisions. Even if it means taking a sack, even if it means sometimes scrambling the hell out of the pocket when Matthews has blown up the line.
Connected to this is that I would love to see a receiver, any receiver, step the hell up. I've seen Golden Tate do things on a national stage, why not him. Rice, you're the most talented receiver that I've seen come around Seattle in a long time and I'd love to actually see that consistently.
So far, no Hawks have done anything to quell our concerns that the unit lacked talent. Tonight's the night we'd love to see you step up.
Expect To Step Up: Lynch, Leon Washington, the Secondary
These are the best things we've had going through two games, so why not? This defense is right on the edge of elite and it starts with pressure on the line that's been multiplied by excellent coverage. Greg Jennings is expected to play, but what Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman give us is an advantage to cover them man to man and leave others free to patrol that "middle area" I was talking about.
I don't expect Earl Thomas to allow big plays, by sheer force of will and talent. I expect Kam Chancellor to put a hurt on a few people. All of that is what's going to hopefully allow Bruce Irvin to get in the backfield and pressure Rodgers, if there is a God.
The Packers do not, repeat DO NOT, run the football so taking Cedric Benson out of this game is inconsequential. Our great run D is a good thing but it's not that important right now because an average run D could hold the Packers to 75 yards. I guess the biggest advantage there is that if Green Bay takes a lead in the second half, they won't be able to run the clock down by running the football. Maybe we can force a turnover or two in that regard.
Washington has proven to be the X-factor that I keep sleeping on. Honestly, how many games has this guy officially won for us in his time here? Literally... he's phenomenal. He has done it on his own before. Taking an upset means that perhaps we return a kick for a TD, a punt, anything out of the ordinary.
Beast Mode is also going to be imperative to taking some pressure off of Wilson and winning time of possession against a really good offense. That means that the line has to step up and do their part, something we haven't seen enough of. This line is versatile, but they're not consistent enough. No more penalties. No more blown assignments. I don't expect 2005 production, but I expect more than this based on the amount of high draft picks we spent on you.
And hey, all it takes is for all of this to come together and them Packers are going to get tossed quicker than a salmon at Pike Place. /cuts to footage at Pike Place Market.
Now, are you adequately ready for a game of American football? (Oh no, I did it anyway :( )