Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

NFL Week 12: Hawks vs NY Giants

New York Giants: 7-3
2005 Away Record: 1-2 (Note: they do have a second "road" win, which came at home against the Saints. I'm not counting it.)


Offense:

Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck (2357 yds, 12 TDs, 7 INTs) vs Eli Manning (2320 yds, 18 TDs, 9 INTs)
These are two very similar clubs. Just take a look at these numbers. Sure, Eli Manning has a few more touchdowns, but we also have this touchdown machine named Shaun Alexander. That probably has taken a few away from Hasselbeck. Frankly, that means we can run the ball in the red zone, which New York has had some problems doing, especially on the road. Eli is about a year ahead of where I thought he would be in his growth curve. He is generally making solid decisions, cutting down on his mistakes. Still, he is still struggling on the road, having issues with hostile environments. Even in San Francisco it took a luck play at the end of the first half for him to find a comfort zone. His performance will dictate this game. Hasselbeck is due for another huge performance, having taken a back seat the past few weeks, even against St Louis. It is in games like this where Matt seems to step up his game a few notches, and if we quit telling him to force deep balls to anyone not named Darrell Jackson we will have fewer three-and-outs. Simply because of the road struggles of Manning I've going to be a homer here. Advantage: Seattle

Running Back: Shaun Alexander (1229 yds, 19 TDs) vs Tiki Barber (967 yds, 6 TDs)
This is a tale of two running backs who have drastically cut down on their fumbling issues. Shaun has fumbled twice and we have recovered both. Barber has fumbled once and it was lost. Both hope to continue that trend on Sunday. Tiki continues to impress me. His small frame belies the type of punishment he can absorb. His playmaking ability (he also has 285 receiving yards) has made him one of the top backs in the NFL. Yet with all his strengths no one not named LaDainian Tomlinson can touch Shaun Alexander this year. I would say that Shaun had his first game where he wasn't able to put the opposing team away on the ground, but since Holmgren for some reason decided to throw it 30 yards down the field on every play I have to cut him some slack. Shaun continues to bust big runs, continues to block well, and continues to simply get the ball in the end zone. I'm curious if we might not unveil some screen passes, which have really been taken out of our arsenal this year to get Alexander out in space. The Giants have an athletic and aggressive defensive line and screens could be a good way of taking advantage of that. Advantage: Seattle

Receivers: Seattle (230 receiving yards/game) vs New York (220 receiving yards/game)
Man, do we miss Darrell Jackson now. We really need his ability to create space down the field and open up holes in the zone for Engram to sit down in. We are just getting killed at times, especially with our inability to throw deep. While I do sound a little doomsday-ish, since we still have the #1 rated offense in the league, it is starting to wear on me. Engram is finally back and healthy, which does make a big difference. We need Joe Jurevicius to be in the game and catching balls. We definitely need Jerramy Stevens to show up and exploit the number of men stacked to stop Shaun. New York has a legitimate franchise receiver in Plaxico Burress, who has taken his promotion from second tier status in Pittsburgh extremely well. Amani Toomer is an off-on type player, but if both are cranking this is a dangerous squad. Of course, perhaps the most dangerous player is Jeremy Shockey, who will present a huge matchup problem with our rookie linebackers. Advantage: New York

Offensive Line: Seattle (160 rushing yards/game, 16 sacks) vs New York (125 rushing yards/game, 19 sacks)
Our offensive rushing stats get more impressive each game. Maurice Morris is averaging almost 6 yards a carry, for crying out loud. These are seriously Madden numbers at this stage, and it is what separates playoff teams from pretenders. The Giants can get rushing droughts and often depend on Tiki breaking a couple 30+ yarders each time out to pad their stats. Their pass protection is drastically improved over a year ago, which does coincide with Manning being able to get the ball out quickly. Our sack total, after jumping up quickly the first few weeks, has stagnated since, yet another reason why this offensive line continues to dominate the opposition. They will have quite the matchup this week, especially on the outside. Sean Locklear has managed some tough defensive ends this year well, including Leonard Little. If he can take Michael Strahan down, we will be thrilled. Advantage: Seattle

Defense:
D-Line: Seattle (103 rushing yards/game, 34 sacks) vs New York (90 rushing yards/game, 23 sacks)
A few thoughts about the New York Giants defensive line statistics above. Last week the San Francisco 49ers, owner of one of the worst records in the game, had 21 sacks. New York, with Michael Strahan (7.5 sacks) and Osi Umenyiora (8.0 sacks), can generate nothing up the middle. This is a problem against Seattle, because this week's "Walter Jones Invisibility Award" goes to Umenyiora. Good luck seeing him make any plays whatsoever. Second thought about the rushing yards allowed. That's pretty impressive... until you look at who they've played. I see only three teams who can actually run the ball. San Diego and Tomlinson ran for 195 yards against the Giants. They corralled Clinton Portis in that Wellington Mara game. Finally, Denver and their vaunted rushing attack (Mike Anderson) went for 120 yards. This tells me that a good offensive line can definitely push the ball up the gut on the Giants. For Seattle, Rocky Bernard (7.5 sacks) is one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. With Marcus Tubbs finally back and healthy we will have as good a rotation of defensive tackles as there are in the league. Shout out to David Terrill for Colin's sake on that one. We let San Francisco and their third string back move the ball down the field in the second half. That was poor. Can't let that happen again. When it comes to rushing the passer, Bryce Fisher and Grant Wistrom will have to step it up. Our defense hasn't allowed a 100 yard rusher this year. Time to keep that trend alive. Advantage: Seattle

Linebackers: Our linebackers looked like rookies last week, consistently playing out of position, especially on running plays. Personally, I just don't feel that they got up for the game well. Jaime Sharper probably won't be back for this game, so we will again rely on our youth. As I wrote above, Jeremy Shockey presents a huge challenge for them. Leroy Hill has the speed to stay with him, but does he have the smarts? We would prefer to use him as a blitzer. Hill's speed will also be crucial in covering Tiki Barber out of the backfield. Lofa Tatupu will be a critical player in stopping the run, if the tackles are able to take up the blockers he will. The Giants love Antonio Pierce (84 tackles). No player is within 15 tackles of the premier middle linebacker. If we can bottle him up, the other linebackers could have issues stopping the run or in covering short and intermediate routes. Advantage: Push

Secondary: Seattle (213 receiving yards/game, 9 INTs) vs New York (237 receiving yards/game, 12 INTs)
Look, New York doesn't have a great secondary. Their corners are too small to press our receivers, which means that New York won't be able to play "Dallas" defense against Shaun. Their safeties are fairly mediocre. Still, after how abysmal our secondary played last week there is absolutely no way I'm giving us an advantage. Kelley Herndon is just getting the tar beaten out of him on a weekly basis, and Marcus Trufant makes about two extremely bone headed decisions each game. We need them to step it up against the tall physical wideouts that the Giants have to offer. Will they? We hope yes. If it's last week, no. Advantage: New York

Special teams: I could punt better than Tom Rouen. Advantage: New York

Prediction: These are two very equal teams. Here's a statistic for you. The Giants have scored 281 points and allowed 184. We have scored 272 and allowed 187. That's pretty darn similar. Both teams need this game badly. The Giants need to prove that they can win on the road against a team not named San Francisco and can keep pace in the NFC East. The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and have the easiest route to home field advantage in the playoffs, regardless of national attention finally being given to them. Seriously people, they have the best record in the NFC. Could you please look at them? This is absurd. Anyways, back to the contest. Whoever is able to corral the other team's offense wins this one hands down. I wouldn't bet against Seattle, hungry after not playing to their potential last week. Those are dangerous teams to play. The Giants couldn't put away a bad Philly team at home last week. Hawks will take this one... by 10.

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