The Seattle Seahawks face off against the Cleveland Browns in Seattle with the chance to lock up a playoff spot if they win and the Panthers win. The Seahawks are playing for the playoffs, and the Browns are playing to get answers especially at the QB position. What are the keys to this game?
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1: Who takes control of the run game until Marshawn Lynch is back? No one knows what to expect out of the RB position until Marshawn Lynch is ready to play again. It’s currently between Bryce Brown, Christine Michael and Derrick Coleman.
Cable hinted it would be nice to see two of those three show themselves as reliable. For Christine Michael in particular, this is a huge chance at redemption and proving he deserves another shot in Seattle besides just for the rest of the season. The Seahawks gave up on him, and he has a chance to make them think twice about doing it again.
2: Keep up the excellent pass protection. The offensive line struggled mightily early, but now they have found their own and can hold their own even on plays and routes that take longer to develop.
While the passing game gets a lot of love, a big part of that credit should go to the offensive line finally gelling like the Seahawks hoped they would after replacing Drew Nowak with Patrick Lewis and giving them more time. If the Seahawks continue to protect Wilson, it’s hard to envision the Browns having any hope of beating them.
3: Feed Doug Baldwin. Doug Baldwin has been on an absolute hot streak, who now has 11 touchdowns on the year despite being in a run first offense. Baldwin has never looked better as an NFL player, and Russell Wilson’s trust in the pocket has especially helped Baldwin.
Wilson is more willing to see Doug open and let him get open instead of scrambling out of the pocket making things a toss up for everyone involved. Doug has been one of the most prolific WR’s in the NFL lately and ranks near the top in touchdowns with 11. The Seahawks would be wise to continue to feed him.
4: Attack the Browns hurt secondary. Joe Haden is out for the year and the Browns were struggling regardless. The Browns are struggling as a team, but their secondary is also a target for opposing teams.
With the Seahawks questionable running game until Marshawn gets back and the way Wilson and Baldwin and co are playing, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Seahawks pass to set up the run to start the Browns game.
5: Unleash the defense against Johnny Manziel. While the Seahawks have the potential to get pressure with 4 vs the Browns, that would be letting Johnny off the hook. With an inexperienced QB who can be reckless and is playing the best defense he’s faced as an NFL starter, send the defense at him.
Make Manziel correctly diagnose your defense pre-snap, make him execute vs blitzes properly. There is no reason to sit back and give Johnny a chance to pick your defense apart. Come at him with the pressure until he proves he can consistently hurt you for it.
1: Make an early statement. Too often teams go to Seattle and the game feels over before it’s even really started. A solid opening drive or a solid three and out can do wonders to a team that is a heavy underdog.
If you fall behind 14-0 early, you feel like you need to get away from your game plan or else it’ll get out of hand. You want to avoid receiving a knockout punch before halftime, especially playing the Seahawks in Seattle. Even getting a field goal on the opening drive can do a lot to calm the crowd down.
2: Don’t give the Seahawks any freebies. The Browns are heavy underdogs for a reason. They absolutely cannot afford to be turning the ball over or committing the type of penalties that would extend drives that should have ended in a punt. The Browns are not a good enough team to withstand getting in their own way, especially vs the Seahawks.
3: Isaiah Crowell, Gary Barnidge, and who else? The Browns need a third weapon to help them pull off a major upset in Seattle. Travis Benjamin has elite speed, so he’ll need to win vs the Seahawks secondary deep or have an occasional fly sweep that catches the Seahawks off guard if they are pounding Crowell between the tackles. The Browns need a third weapon to emerge in this game or else the Browns offense will look like most the ones the Seahawks have faced lately.
4: Johnny Manziel, look across the sideline and play like the other small QB. Wilson has been getting the ball out of his hands quickly, correctly reading the opposing defense, setting adjustments for his offensive line and just overall putting his offense in a good position to success. Manziel cannot hold onto the ball long or the Seahawks pass rushers will feast upon him. Get the ball out quick, know what you’re looking at defensively, and be decisive.
5: A little trick-er-ation? The Browns need to generate some explosive plays vs a team that lately doesn’t give too many of them up. The Browns talent wise just can’t compete with the Seahawks. And even in a clean game, the Seahawks can out execute them too.
The Browns need to find some explosive plays whether it’s through reverses, double reverses, a flea flicker, or maybe even a surprise onside kick. When you’re a double digit road underdog, playing well won’t be enough.