This is a big game for many, many reasons. Let me just say the most obvious and biggest reason: I have large amounts of money and pride on the line for this one.
I am more nervous than I once was, but not as nervous as I used to be.
My bets were made in the offseason and after the draft. I was cautiously confident at that point. Then as the Raiders closed the preseason against the Seahawks and the Seahawks seemingly cut half of their roster I was brimming with confidence. After Week Six, I was making plans to leave my northwest home and go into hiding.
Last week returned me to the cautiously confident category. So, after all of that, I am seemingly right back where I started. The betting public seems about in-tune with my confidence as the Raiders are a 1.5 favorite.
I realize that reasons outside of me have to count for something and this matchup has some other areas of importance. The biggest of those? This game signifies the point at which the Raiders have played all the teams from cities starting with "S". A loss here and they are only 2-2 in these games. How many of us sat here and said, "The Raiders need to be over 500 against the S teams if they are going to do anything this year." If they win this one, they guarantee that.
Now onto some reasons of lesser consequence.
This is the Raiders chance to make this season meaningful. This is their chance to create some momentum and this is their chance to finally teeter the totter and get to 500.
It has to happen one of these times right? Well, if it is to happen this week the Raiders are going to have to win the matchups and there are some really interesting ones in this contest. We have strength against weakness, strength against strength and weakness against weakness.
Bird Crap On The Pirate Hat
Seahawks Pass Rush vs Raiders Pass Protection
Surprise, Surprise look what matchup is on the list again. The Seahawks get to the passer in a lot of ways. DE Chris Clemmons leads the way with 5.5 sacks and in second is SS Lawyer Milloy with 3.
Needless to say, they like to blitz and they can do so often, because their run D forces teams into 3rd and longs. On the year the Hawks have 19 sacks and are ranked 11th with a 6.5 percent sack rate. 10.5 of these sacks are from defensive lineman. The Raiders are going to see pressure from different spots and angles.
Red Zone Defense
The Seahawks D has been stout in the redzone this year. Teams are getting TDs just under 35 percent of the time when they get into the redzone. This is the third best percentage in the NFL. The Raiders, while vastly improved since the early stages of the season, can still struggle in the redzone (see SF game). The Raiders are currently 20th in redzone percentage at 48.
Fried Seachicken In The Pirate Belly
Raiders Pass Defense Vs Seahawk Pass Offense
Matt Hasselback is not the QB he once was. He comes into the game with 6 TDs and 6 INTs. His arm seems to lose strength with each throw.
Still, if given time he can do some damage. Fortunately for the Raiders, they should be in a position to limit his time. The Seahawks are 17th with a 6.4 percent sack allowed rate. The Raiders defense is 8th with a 7.6 percent sack rate.
To deal with less than stellar pass protection and a QB with no arm strength the Seahawks utilize a shorter passing attack. Hasselback averages 6.1 yards per pass attempt and they are ranked 29th with 9.7 yards per completion.
The majority of these passes are going to Mike Williams. The last two weeks Williams has 21 receptions--the next is Deon Butler with seven.
This is another great opportunity to have Nnam shadow a WR. Williams isn't going to blow by anyone, but he is using his body well and holding onto the ball. Nnam can match his physical play and throw off the timing.
Raiders Screen Pass Vs Seahawks Defense
I don't have any numbers on this, but Seahawk observers have told me they are struggling against the screen pass. They attribute this to the blitzing and the lack of awareness of the D-lineman. A few well-timed and executed screen passes could change the game.
Lester Hayes And Steve Largent Holding Hands
Seahawks Run D Vs Raiders Run O
This is certainly the most intriguing matchup. The Seahawks run D is currently ranked 6th in run DVOA. Their run D showed its first glimpses of weakness last week against Arizona. Most people attribute this to the loss of blocker eating DT Brandon Mebane. Mebane is expected to practice this week and you can only assume from their that if things go well, he will be playing on Sunday.
On the year, the Hawks are ranked second by allowing only 3.3 yards per carry. The Raiders are averaging 4.7 yards carry, which is good for 6th best in the NFL.
Seahawks Run O Vs Raiders Run D
On one side of the rushing ball we have strength against strength and on the other side we have vomit inducer vs vomit inducer. The Raiders are giving up 5 yards per carry. That would be good for second worst in the NFL. The Seahawks are getting 3.7 yards per carry. This would be good for fifth worst in the NFL.
The Seahawks run game has improved somewhat since they got Marshawn Lynch, but not much. Lynch and Justin (I wish Mike Mitchell got cut) Forsett, are splitting time in the backfield. The speedier Forsett seems to be more of the style of back that the Raiders have left for Michael Huff to miss tackle on his way to the endzone.
Zach Miller Vs John Carlson
The Seahawks are ranked 10th in DVOA against TEs. A solid number, but TEs Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis both had above average days against the Seahawks. With Louis Murphy possibly not playing, Zach Miller is going to need to be active in the passing game.
John Carlson is second in receptions on the Seahawks and the Raiders have had their struggles with TEs. They have a 28th DVOA rating against TEs. If Nnam does shadow Williams, I expect Hasselback will be looking to his TE even more. A special assignment for Mike Mitchell perhaps?
How The Raiders Can Make Me Wealthy And My Friends Embarrassed
I'd feel a lot better if Gradkowski is well enough to play. I really don't think that is going to happen though. I have no confidence in Jason Campbell to perform while being hurried and I don't have much confidence in the Raiders O-line in picking up blitzes.
This means the Raiders will have to find ways to neutralize the pass rush. In a conversation I am having with John Morgan of Field Gulls, I had mentioned that one of the ways for the Raiders to do this would be to establish the run game.
He immediately shot me down and said this would play right into the Seahawks hands as teams that have tried this have wound up in 3rd and longs and then the D can really let loose with the blitzes. He then offered up a better strategy. Here is what he said:
Teams that want to avoid Seattle’s situational pass rush should avoid the customary progression of run to set up the pass and instead pass early as the Broncos did and as the Chargers did in the second half of week three. Kyle Orton and Philip Rivers combined for 21 completions on 31 pass attempts for 271 yards and a touchdown on first down pass attempts. Factor in Brandon Mebane’s sack, and Seattle allowed a discouraging 8.6 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt on first downs. To put that into perspective, in his record breaking 2007, Tom Brady averaged 8.9 ANY/A.
The more I think about the more it makes sense. I don't want the Raiders to abandon the run--I just want them to keep the defense honest. A couple of play actions on 1st down early in this game could go a long way. Another Zach Miller waltz into the endzone would suit me just fine.
The Seahawks like to play SS Lawyer Milloy in the box. This leaves rookie FS Earl Thomas in a Michael Huff type of situation. And while Thomas has made his plays he has also given them up by being out of position. This is something the Raiders will need to exploit.
The Raiders cannot give up any big plays. The Seahawks offense has been struggling in the Redzone, they are ranked 24th in TD percentage, and the Raiders need to make them go through it to score.
If and when they do get there, for the love of Al, tighten up that zone! No more freebies!
The D-line needs to dominate a patchwork Seahawk offensive line. Seymour will likely be doubled all game and Tommy Kelly needs to take advantage of this. The Hawks will likely be without LT Okung and Shaughnessy, Scott, and Houston need to keep Matt uncomfortable in the pocket. And they should all be able to keep blocker off of the LBs.
This is a great opportunity for Rolando McClain to make his impact felt. The DBs need to disrupt the WRs timing with good bump and run coverage. Again, the big thing here is going to be to make the Hawks earn their points. No more defensive brain farts!