Chiefs Season Preview: Week #7 Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks were the only team forced to switch conferences when the NFL decided to expand the league to 32 teams in 2002. As a result, the Kansas City Chiefs only get the chance to face their former AFC West rival once every four years.

The Seahawks lost 19-7 in their last visit to Arrowhead Stadium. But that was in 2001, and the Seahawks are now a much better football team.

Coming off the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, Seattle has established themselves as one of the league's most stable franchises.

They've been to the playoffs each of the last three seasons, and you've got to believe that the Chiefs might be a bit jealous that they don't have the luxury of playing in the weak NFC West.

Regardless, both teams should be ready to rekindle a once-competitive rivalry that has been pretty evenly matched over the years.

OFFENSE

The Seahawks are led on offense by league MVP Shaun Alexander. Alexander led the NFL with 1,880 rushing yards, set the single-season touchdown record and was held under 100 rushing yards just five times last year.

In the final week of the 2005 season, Alexander scored his 28th touchdown, giving him one more than Priest Holmes' 27. But the Chiefs won't be concerned about records when they line up against Alexander, because they'll be more worried about keeping the elusive runner in check.

If the Chiefs hope to contain Alexander, they'll have to make sure that they wrap up and finish off tackles. Once Alexander gets into the second level of defenders, he's usually as good as gone. A terrific cutback runner, Alexander has the ability to make people miss. The Chiefs will have to get extraordinary play from their linebackers, particularly from middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell.

When the Seahawks are at their best, they have defenses stuffing eight men in the box, attempting to slow Alexander. When that happens, it creates mismatches on the outside for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his talented receivers.

Hasselbeck had the highest quarterback rating in the NFC last year (98.2) and threw for 3,459 yards and 24 touchdowns. He was the only full-time starter to throw fewer than 10 interceptions, throwing just nine on the year.

One of the biggest question marks surrounding Hasselbeck heading into the 2005 season was his leadership ability. Hasselbeck's attitude and sometimes arrogant demeanor had a tendency to rub people the wrong way. But after leading his team to a 13-3 record, Seattle's first playoff wins since 1984 and a Super Bowl appearance, he's most likely put all that behind him.

Hasselbeck loves to spread the ball around the field. The Seahawks have a deep receiving corps that played extremely well last year.

Bobby Engram caught 67 passes for 778 yards while Darrell Jackson caught 38 passes for 482 yards in an injury-shortened season. He missed 10 games between weeks 5 and 17, but was able to make a solid contribution in the playoffs. He had 9 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in Seattle's first playoff game.

Seattle signed former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson this off-season, and he could easily challenge for the second receiver position.

DEFENSE

This is a unit that will have plenty of question marks.

How will the Seahawks' adjust to life without defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, who is no longer with the team due to health reasons? Rhodes brought life to a defensive unit that ranked near the bottom of the league when he took over as defensive coordinator in 2003.

Rhodes succeeded in meshing together a team with young personnel. Last year, the Seahawks finished seventh in points allowed, as they held opponents to 14 points or less eight times.

It will be interesting to see what approach new defensive coordinator John Marshall brings to the table. Will he try to change the defensive philosophy or will he stick with the same plan that got Seattle to the Super Bowl?

The strength of the Seattle defense is the front four, where defensive end Grant Wistrom is a leader. Wistrom lacks flashy numbers, but he's disciplined within the scheme and is rarely caught out of position.

One of Seattle's top priorities this off-season was to sign defensive tackle Rocky Bernard. He's a powerful player that requires a double-team, and that gives defensive end Bryce Fisher plenty of opportunities. Fisher recorded nine sacks in 2005.

The Seahawks are also expecting big things out of former University of Texas defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs. At 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, Tubbs is explosive off the line of scrimmage and can create havoc in the opposing team's backfield.

Chiefs' center Casey Weigmann is going to have a difficult time with Bernard and Tubbs, and he'll need all the help he can get from guards Brian Waters and Will Shields.

Linebacker Julian Peterson, who signed a free-agent contract with the Seahawks in the off-season, will play against Chiefs' tight end Tony Gonzalez for the first time since 2002. Peterson is famous for holding Gonzalez to one catch for six yards, arguably the worst performance of the tight end's nine-year career.

Look for the Chiefs to attack a Seattle secondary that allowed 222 passing yards per game, which was among the worst in the NFC last season. The Seahawks lost veteran cornerback Andre Dyson to free agency and will turn to a pair of Kelly's to compete for the second spot on the depth chart. Kelly Herndon and first-round draft choice Kelly Jennings (from Miami, Fla.) should have one of the more interesting battles in training camp.

BOTTOM LINE

This should be one of the more entertaining games of the season. When you break down these two teams, they are extremely similar.

Both teams have great offenses led by All-Pro quarterbacks and running backs; both teams have serviceable, not-so-flashy wide receivers; both teams have young, improving defenses; both teams have question marks in the secondary.

It should be a classic, and the edge has to go to the Chiefs, simply because they'll have the advantage of playing at home.

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