No, that's not really Russell Wilson outside Arrowhead Stadium here in Kansas City two hours before the Seahawks kick it off against the Chiefs. As a Twitter follower noted, Wilson's not that short.
It's 19 degrees here, but the one-to-three inches of snow predicted for yesterday never happened. There's only a dusting.
No surprises with the Seahawks' inactive players today: S Steven Terrell, DB Marcus Burley, LB Brock Coyle, LB Bobby Wagner, T Andrew McDonald, G James Carpenter, TE RaShaun Allen.
As expected, Kam Chancellor is active and will start in his first game in three weeks. He had been out with a groin injury and is still playing with bone spurs in his ankles. The thumping strong safety will be a big key for Seattle today against the Chiefs' running game and short passing game.
With Coyle, the undrafted rookie who had started the previous two games, out with his gluteus muscle injury usual outside linebacker K.J. Wright will start in the middle for the third time this season. This week, Wright said Kansas City's running with Jamaal Charles and short throwing to tight ends are the biggest challenge Seattle has faced on defense this season.
Bruce Irvin will again be the strongside outside linebacker. Malcolm Smith, back today from a groin injury that had him out two games, and emerging rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis will alternate at weakside linebacker. Look for Pierre-Louis, the fourth-round draft choice from Boston College, to get his most extensive play of his career so far in base defense instead of just nickel packages today.
It hasn't been above 34 here since Tuesday, but the field was covered until 45 minutes ago. It looks good. The Seahawks are running around on it in what appear to be spikes, though Wilson has non-spiked shoes on standby in case he finds the grass frozen. It doesn't appear to be -- though from way up here who knows?(!)
As you can (maybe) see from the field-goal specialists way down there, the Seahawks are in white jerseys and blue pants today.
Here are my game keys for the Seahawks today, the first of a six-game gauntlet that will determine their season:
Find a new rock up the middle: The Seahawks are facing their most rugged rushing offense yet this season without injured run stuffer Brandon Mebane at defensive tackle and Bobby Wagner at middle linebacker. If you see 94 in white (Kevin Williams) taking up blockers half as well as Mebane did and 50 in white (K.J. Wright) standing stout in running lanes behind Williams, the Seahawks could slow Jamaal Charles and make the Chiefs do what they don’t want to: rely on Alex Smith’s passing.
Keep being beastly: For all the noise about how much Russell Wilson is struggling throwing the ball, the key for Seattle’s offense today is continuing to hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch to set up Wilson’s read-option game. The Chiefs have the league’s top-ranked pass defense and its top pass rusher (Justin Houston). So this is the wrong day to focus on getting Wilson fully on track passing the ball.
Can Moeaki block? Pete Carroll says newly signed former Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki will be featured today. He’s known for his pass catching, but what the pass game really needs to someone to help rookie right tackle Justin Britt block Houston off the offense’s right edge. Fill-in tight ends Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet don’t have blocking bents, either. But it’s likely some Seahawk – perhaps even new, 285-pound fullback Will Tukuafu -- is going to have to pitch in against Houston.
The pick: Chiefs, 20-17. Saw this in August as toughest road test this season. After 10 starters have been out and on a perhaps frozen field, it’s extra tough. Will take Seattle’s best game to win.
--Here is our TNT game preview story, focusing on Wilson's good vibe he's had all week amid all the Puget Sound's fretting over his recently slumping passing.
--Columnist Dave Boling compares this Seahawks defense to last season's, and it's behind. He also points out how the special teams, with injury fill-ins playing there for the first time instead of the usual veterans, have gone from best in the league to worst statistically.
Yet here they are today in Kansas City, 6-3 and with -- as Pete Carroll says -- "everything in front of us."
Join Dave and I from the press box high above Arrowhead from the live game chat with Seahawks fans everywhere beginning at about 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time here on the blog, blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks
Enjoy your game day.