In all honesty this is a game that makes me nervous. The Dolphins, who at one point looked like a wildcard contender, have imploded down the stretch and now it is very clear who the better team in this game is. Not only should Seattle win but they really need to with New Orleans and Tampa Bay breathing down their necks and the 49ers showing no signs of slowing down. However, they do have a very lengthy trip to Miami and the Dolphins have shown the ability to stop the run this year and limiting Lynch is paramount to limiting the Seahawks. Perhaps it’s typical paranoia but I don’t see this being easy. Let’s take a look at some of tomorrow’s big matchups.
Matchup #1: Max Unger vs. Paul Solai
Unger is one of the most underrated, under appreciated players on the Seahawks. Although there are no gaudy numbers to point to when evaluating a center like Unger I’m sure his teammates would tell you how crucial he is to the Seahawks success on offense. On Sunday he faces one of the biggest men in the NFL. At 6-4 355 Solai does not lack for size or strength. As one might imagine he is not much of a pass rusher but that’s just not his job. Solai’s job is to clog up the middle and it’s a job he tends to do well. If the Seahawks plan to establish the run they cannot let that happen. It will fall to Unger to open up the lanes in the middle that have been essential to so many Beast Mode highlight reel runs. I tend not to bet against him.
Matchup #2: Richard Sherman vs. Brian Hartline
There really aren’t any Dolphins skill players that strike fear into the hearts of opponents but Hartline has been the most productive. Hartline has already amassed 790 yards this year with a more than respectable 14.9 yards per catch. He has exploded for a couple of big games but has struggled to find pay-dirt with only one TD this year. Despite his yards per reception average, Hartline lacks the straight line speed to be a significant deep threat. He may get some catches in this game but I don’t see him stacking up against the man that many are calling the best shutdown corner in the league. Sherman has been an absolute monster this year and I think he erases Hartline in this game to continue his string of dominance. After all he didn’t seem to have much trouble with Megatron…
Matchup # 3: K.J Wright vs. Anthony Fasano
This is not so much a crucial strategic matchup as me just wanting to see K.J Wright on the field again. Wright is a linebacker with rare athleticism and savvy who has excellent coverage skills. His range on the field is noticeable and he has a tackle factor of 1.33 meaning he makes 133% of the tackles you would expect for a player at his position. It’s comforting to think we have 4/3 of a linebacker out there swallowing up opposing running backs and tight ends. His opponent, Fasano, is not a field-stretching threat down the seam but he has been effective in the red zone with 3 touchdown catches this year and 21 TDs over the last 5 years. Not an absolute stud but definitely a man worth watching. I’m guess K.J stays vigilant out there.
I truly hope my nervousness about this game proves unjustified but I’ve also developed a fairly solid fan instinct over the years. There are no easy wins in the NFL but I’m OK with it being hard. I’d take an ugly win any day of the week, especially on the road.
Lastly for any fellow Canadians/Chris Berman-esque CFL fans in the audience: I’d like to end with a shout out to my hometown Toronto Argonauts for making the 100th Grey Cup, played tomorrow after a 9-9 season (yeah we play 18 games up here) and magical playoff run.