Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seahawks-Bears Preview

The Seattle Seahawks, led by Matt Hasselbeck, look to keep their Cinderella story alive in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. However, he has a daunting take ahead of him. Although the Bears have allowed the 13th most passing yards per game in the NFL this year, they have allowed the 2nd fewest rushing yards per game, and Hasselbeck really needs help from his running game.

Marshawn Lynch will try to build off a decent performance from earlier this year.

In Lynch’s first game as a Seahawk, he took 17 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown. He’ll have to be better than that on Sunday if Seattle wants to advance. The offensive line is the key here to get Lynch is running lanes. If they can open up the passing game for Hasselbeck, he could be in for a big day, as the Bears secondary is relatively soft. But this is all a big if. Julius Peppers needs to be kept out of the pocket and Lance Briggs should be lurking around the corners too. With Brian Urlacher waiting in the wings in the middle, Hasselbeck may still be in for a tough day and is going to need to rely a lot on big play wideout Mike Williams. Basically, everything has to go right for the Seahawks offense. It should be cold and windy in Chicago, and Hasselbeck will need to get used to the weather quickly. This may be his last game as a Seahawk, so expect him to leave everything on the field.

I am still not a buyer of the Chicago Bears being an elite team. The defense is solid, but can let up lots of points at times. The offensive line has let Jay Cutler get annihilated all year. And the running game hasn’t been anything special. Cutler should have his way with the Seattle secondary but looking at the way they played last week, it may be harder than usual. Earl Thomas has really stepped up to become a playmaker and Lofa Tatupa is leading this defense with a lot of emotion. However, in order for Cutler to even throw the ball, he needs to stay on his feet. The Seahawks got to him last time and expect Raheem Brock to have another big game. But Cutler has a cannon as an arm and should produce gaudy numbers. Cutler is far too inconsistent to lead his team to a Super Bowl berth, but I think he’s more than good enough to beat the Seahawks. With Chester Taylor being a non factor this whole year, Matt Forte is really going to have to run the ball well to take some pressure over Cutler. Look for Cutler to connect with Johnny Knox several times, but also don’t be surprised if you see a few interceptions.

The thing that these teams have most in common is their great return games. Both Devin Hester and Leon Washington are dangerous on returns and lightning fast when they touch the ball. It’s going to come down to who has a better special teams coverage. Expect a lot of good returns in this game to set up field position for the two teams. I see Hester returning several punts into Seahawks territory and Robbie Gould may want to consider kicking the ball out of bounds at times, because Washington should do his fair share of damage.

Although this one looks like it should be a shootout, I feel that both defenses will come out strong and keep this one close and relatively low scoring. Expect at least two interceptions from both quarterbacks, and don’t be surprised if Forte coughs out a fumble. In the end, Cutler should have a pretty solid game and throw for three scores. Hasselbeck will be just not as good, and that should prove to be the difference. Sure, the Seahawks definitely have a shot of advancing and maybe even playing another game at Qwest Field. But since they won’t be there Sunday, I really can’t imagine them pulling this one out. It’s going to be very tough at Soldier Field and the Bears should be heading to the NFC championship game.

Prediction: Chicago 24, Seattle 17

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