That isn’t to say that I think Houston is a particularly good football team. I kind of have them in my top 10 by default, but I don’t think they’re all that amazing. They’re okay. They definitely clean up against some of the softer teams on their schedule. Their quarterback is decent, but unless you’re totally bereft of talent at that position, you’re not sitting there wishing Matt Schaub is your guy. Some of their guys on defense are truly elite and put a legitimate scare into me. But, from top to bottom, if you put this game on a neutral field, I think the Seahawks win pretty easily. And I think if it’s in Seattle, the Seahawks walk all over them like the Baby Huey that they are.
But, this game isn’t on a neutral field, nor is it being played in Seattle. We have to go to THEIR stadium, at an unfamiliar time of day, and deal with their crowd’s bullshit for three hours.
I think the whole “target on the back” argument is kind of overblown. In the grand scheme of things, the BIGGEST target that all the other NFL teams are gearing up for this season is on the backs of the Ravens and the 49ers, because they were the champions of their respective conferences. I know the Seahawks are ranked #1 in just about every respectable power rankings this season, but I’d be hard-pressed to call us Public Enemy #1 in the NFL just because the experts love us.
Nevertheless, the fans sure as shit pay attention to all of that. And if we go in there and lay an egg, I can hear the “Over-rated!” chants now.
It’s hard to win on the road. Period. I still can’t understand why that is. The travel? The crowd noise at inopportune times? The unfamiliar surroundings? Some combination of everything? Everyone likes to downplay the “home field advantage” and in betting circles, you’d be correct. I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but I think the home team only wins, like, 60 percent of the time? It’s not that high, that’s all I know. And yet, when you get to the end of the season and you look at the standings, you’ll see just about every team in the NFL has a better home record than a road record.
The primary question here is: how good of a road team are the Seattle Seahawks? We don’t have a lot of info to go on. They’ve absolutely dominated at home their last two games. Their only road game was a week 1 squeaker in Carolina. To win that game, we had no running game, and we had to rely on a long-bomb touchdown and a fumble recovery on defense to seal the deal. It’s not a lot of data to go on, and the data that’s there is pretty unencouraging.
The thing is, while there aren’t any easy road games, because by definition, road games aren’t easy; nevertheless, seemingly every opponent is a difficult matchup! There aren’t any Jaguars-esque opponents we get to face on the road (though, truth be told, the Giants are getting there). Houston WILL be a struggle. But, there are a couple of things we need to keep in mind.
First, we’re better than everyone else. Even if we lose on Sunday, that won’t mean that the Texans are better than us. It’ll just mean that either we had a bad game, or they got lucky there at the end. Of course, just because you’re the best team, that doesn’t mean you’re destined to win every game. You’ve still got to go out there and make plays and catch some breaks. But, just the fact that we’re better than them should give us reason for comfort.
Second – and the primary reason WHY we’re better than everyone else – we have the best defense in football. Even Houston’s defense – which admittedly is pretty fantastic – doesn’t compare. The main difference between the Carolina game and this game is that we’re healthier now along the line. That could be everything in this game where it’s not going to take a Herculean effort to bring down a scrambling quarterback. And we’re STILL not at full strength! Not until Bruce Irvin returns next week and we can REALLY put some pressure on the opposing quarterback.
But, forget the line for a second. Even if we get zero pressure on the quarterback, we’re still an amazing unit out there, thanks to our back-seven. Our linebackers and secondary should have no problem shutting them down and keeping them out of the end zone. As long as we can keep their running game in check, we should be fine.
On offense, I don’t know what to expect. Probably that we will start off slow, as we always do. Russell Wilson will over-throw some receivers, we’ll abandon the run for a quarter, and this’ll be an ugly, low-scoring slug-fest through the first half. At some point, we’re going to have to figure out how to start fast on the road and force the other team into playing catch-up for a change. I don’t know if this will be the day, though.
I’m still picking the Seahawks to win, but I fear this will be a grind-it-out type of game. Unless we can generate some turnovers or take advantage of our special teams advantage. Then, it could be a fun little Sunday morning.