For the fashion-istas out there: The Seahawks are in all gray today under their blue helmets.
We will be chatting live from here in the press box at Bank of America Stadium to Seahawks fans around the world beginning at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time here on the blog.
The Seahawks' inactives for today are not a surprise -- all injured players, including four starters, plus usually inactive extra tackle Andrew McDonald: Punt and kickoff returner Bryan Walters (concussion), corrnerback Byron Maxwell (strained calf), linebacker Bobby Wagner (turf toe), center Max Unger (sprained foot), tight end Zach Miller (ankle surgery), defensive tackle Jordan Hill (sprained ankle).
Wide receiver Phil Bates is active for the first time this season. Seattle signed him yesterday off its practice squad while I was flying here, and placed fullback Derrick Coleman on season-ending injured reserve because of his broken foot.
The injuries mean Doug Baldwin likely back to return kickoffs, which he has done on and off the last three seasons, and rookie Paul Richardson likely on punt returners. Tharold Simon gets his second consecutive start at right cornerback for Maxwell, in Simon's second NFL game. He needs to play with more poise than he showed while getting two major penalties and narrowly avoiding a third last week at St. Louis. Usual tailback Robert Turbin is going to be the fullback again, for the 25 percent or so of offensive snaps the Seahawks usually use a fullback. K.J. Wright starts again at middle linebacker for Wagner, who is still in a leg cast and is going to be out a while; he's here with the team seeing a specialist about his foot ligament. Stephen Schilling makes his third consecutive and third career start at center. Luke Willson (met his dad last night who is here from their native Ontario, Canada) starts at tight end again after missing last week with a groin injury.
As expected both Panthers starting guards inactive. That means the Seahawks' pass rush, with just seven sacks in six games after 20 at this time last season, will try to get well against a Carolina offensive line that will start four undrafted free agents around Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil. That pass rush is the key to Seattle's quest to improving to 4-3 and reversing all the negativity of the last two weeks.
Here are the ways the Seahawks can make it a beautiful day against the Carolina Panthers, and pleasant, five-plus-hour flight home tonight:
“Get home” on the road: Pete Carroll says he has made changes to remake a pass rush that has 4 sacks in 5 games. That could mean more blitzing from linebackers and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Whoever gets into the backfield needs to get home on the quarterback – without letting dynamic Cam Newton get around him.
Help Chancellor: Whenever Newton needs a play he looks to tight end Greg Olsen (41 catches, five TDs in seven games). This game’s other Kam, Chancellor, is playing through pain in both ankles and a hip, and while doing so has had trouble staying with featured tight ends this season. Seattle has allowed eight touchdowns receiving by tight ends in six games.
Keep Wilson unleashed: The Seahawks will be without five starters plus kickoff and punt returner Bryan Walters because of injury. But Russell Wilson will be in there. Wilson – and thus Seattle’s offense – has been best when its do-it-all quarterback has been running to throw and running to run, even as he took some of his hardest hits of the season last week at St. Louis. Him doing more of that today could pay off hugely against a Carolina defense that has allowed 37 or more points in four of its last five games.
The pick: Seahawks, 31-21. If this team wants to have any chance to repeat, it needs to start a run now, with home games against Oakland and the New York Giants to follow.
--Here is my game advance story from this morning's News Tribune, with coach Pete Carroll addressing all the noise from national and even international outlets about the Seahawks' locker room and attitudes.
This morning, two more national reports from Chris Mortensen of ESPN and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network described the Seahawks basically getting tired of Marshawn Lynch's act and how the running back is unlikely to be with the team after this season. I've heard those rumblings around the franchise for months, but nothing verifiable or on the record. Let's just say he's not the company's man of the decade while he marches to his own (ear-splitting rap) beat in that locker room (missing the team's trip to the White House this spring, etc.) but for now he remains an important key to the Seahawks rebounding this season. The offense remains based on his power running to set up Wilson's play-action passing and scramble runs later in games, and Wilson needs Lynch's running to keep from getting annihilated by opponents' rushing through a porous offensive line. I expect offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to try and establish Lynch early today, as he tried with inconsistent results last week at St. Louis.
Wilson offered some advice on Wednesday to all the hub-bub.
"Ignore the noise."
Carroll said he's talked to the team about this scrutiny being standard fare for a defending Super Bowl champion, especially one that has started 3-3.
“Without a question, we have, we’ve talked about that for a long time. And really we’re not surprised by whatever the perspective is that comes our way.” Carroll said before the trip here that was far less eventful than the team’s to St. Louis last weekend. “People are trying to figure stuff out in all ways, whether we’re winning every game or not. That just comes along with it.
“We have hopefully embraced that in a sense and we’re not surprised by it. It’s not as comfortable sometimes when the topics come up. The media can come up with whatever they want to in terms of asking questions and challenging. And they’re going to scrutinize us highly. We expect that.”
But can they play through that today?
--Columnist Dave Boling traveled with me yesterday and wrote he expects the Seahawks to rise up above all these distractions today.
We're about to find out if he is correct.