August 18 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) in the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
I don’t recall the last time I’ve missed a Monday Night Football Game of any description, especially one involving the Seahawks. I always enjoy when the Seahawks get a chance to gain some recognition from the rest of the football world because said recognition is often denied to them due to geography alone. Perhaps for this reason the Seahawks are extra motivated on Monday Nights as they have a very good record in the national showcase games at 13-8. I’d be more inclined to chalk it up to an irrelevant stat based on a small sample size, but that’s just the kind of guy I am. Tonight the Seahawks face an intimidating challenger in the Green Bay Packers but if they pull off a victory they are sure to turns some heads around the league. The matchups below could be essential if Seattle hopes to pull the upset.
Matchup #1: Max Unger vs. B.J Raji
I have to admit the State Farm commercials with B.J Raji have endeared me to the man but on Sunday he plays the role of hated rival and Max Unger will have his hands full with this 6-2 334lb monster. Raji is one of the rare nose tackles that can not only disrupt the pocket but really get after the quarterback as well. He had 3 sacks last year and an excellent 6.5 in 2011. Raji is shorter, stouter and stronger than Unger who will have to stay low or risk getting blown into the backfield. Unger is a very capable center but this matchup does concern me as Raji can be such a dominating force in the middle. Expect Unger to receive help from his guards on a lot of plays. In fact it occurs to me that this is the sort of game where it would be a nice to slide a bruiser like James Carpenter into the lineup at guard but unfortunately he is a week away at the very least. If Unger he can’t move Raji during the course of this game Lynch’s running between the tackles could be in serious jeopardy.
Matchup #2: Chris Clemons vs. Marshall Newhouse
Full disclosure: I have multiple good friends who are Packers fans. I’m sorry. These things just sort of happen. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I can say that Newhouse is much maligned in the Packer community. Having seen quite a few Packers games I can safely say that the Packers LT is nothing special and leave it at that. If Aaron Rodgers is consistently given time in the pocket he is capable of picking apart even the Seahawks excellent secondary. Stopping this from happening is where Chris Clemons comes in. Although Clemons does have a sack this year he has been fairly quiet and not the disruptive presence we have come to expect. This would be an excellent game for Clemons to get his season really started both in terms of Seattle’s need and his matchup. Add in a little help from the 12th man to give Newhouse trouble getting off the line and you have the recipe for a productive day.
Fun trivia fact about Marshall Newhouse: He was drafted with the compensation pick the Packers got for losing the incomparable Colin Cole to Seattle. I had an irrational and heartbreaking love of Colin Cole due to the fact we share a hometown and his name coming up in my research of this piece just made me sad at his disappointing stint with the Seahawks all over again. Thanks a lot Marshall.
Matchup #3: Bobby Wagner vs. Cedric Benson.
The RB vs. MLB matchup is not a direct matchup in the sense that the players do not line up across from one another but a good MLB will be involved somehow on most running plays. Wagner has the speed to epitomize the term “sideline-to-sideline” and I see him having a monster day hitting Benson. I always enjoy watching power backs but at this stage in his career Benson is just plain slow. He has a career yards per carry of 3.8 and his last two years in Cinncinati that number was 3.5 and 3.9 respectively. I’m not going to read too much into the 3.4 he has posted so far with the Packers except to say that he hasn’t suddenly found new life or a new gear. Wagner has been primarily deployed as a run stopper so far as K.J Wright excels in pass coverage and Leroy Hill has been most likely to rush the passer. Today he will use his 4.45 speed to swallow up Benson at every opportunity. The only thing he has to worry about is making sure he wraps up because Benson still packs a punch and can break tackles and punish defenders. Shutting down the Packers running attack game is far from priority number one in this game but it couldn’t possibly hurt.
This is exactly the sort of game the Seahawks need to win if they want to win a division that seems to be improving by the day. It’s not going to be easy and they will likely need a couple of things to break their way to make it happen but it’s not as impossible as most Packers fans seem to believe. The one on one battles above are just a fraction of the team wide effort, discipline, and execution Seattle is going to need to win tonight on Monday Night Football.