This is the last opportunity for Shaun Alexander to score his 100th career regular-season touchdown at home. When the season started, it certainly seemed like a no-brainer that Alexander would reach the mark. Now, with a mere three touchdowns through 14 games, you have to wonder if it is going to happen, especially against Baltimore’s run defense, ranked second in the NFL. If Alexander gets it, he will become only the eighth running back to score 100 touchdowns, along with Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, LaDainian Tomlinson, Walter Payton, Jim Brown, John Riggins and Marshall Faulk. Alexander is currently tied with Barry Sanders. That is pretty elite company. Mike Holmgren said this week that if the opportunity presents itself, he would call a play for Shaun to score so he could celebrate in front of the home crowd. After the type of year he has had, it would be nice to see him be able to reach the plateau at home.
In reality, this game does not mean a great deal for either team. The third seed is at stake, but either way the Seahawks are going on the road in the second round to face either Dallas or Green Bay. They are facing a Ravens team that is decimated by injuries, and Ray Lewis is not supposed to play this game. If rookie Troy Smith happens to get knocked out of the game, the Ravens’ offense will be run by their version of Derek Devine, a cat named Cullin Finnerty who was signed off the practice squad this week.
The pass rush, keeping pace with the New York Giants for the league lead in sacks, was shut out last week against Carolina. Darryl Tapp has not had a sack in four weeks, and is not likely to on Sunday given he is facing Jonathan Ogden, who is 6-9, 345 pounds. That means that Patrick Kerney, Julian Peterson, Brandon Mebane or Lofa Tatupu are going to have to get into the backfield to fluster Smith, who has scrambling capabilities.
Matt Hasselbeck needs two touchdowns to reach a single-season career high. He has 25 on the year.
Bobby Engram needs three catches to set a single-season career high, which could come one week after he had 1,000 yards receiving for the first time.
I look for Deion Branch to have a big game. The Ravens are going with two backup cornerbacks, and Branch has had a really good week of practice. He has to feel somewhat frustrated that he was supposed to be the go-to guy for Matt Hasselbeck and that instead has become Engram.
Speaking of Hasselbeck, it is not very often that he strings together back-to-back poor performances. He had one last week against Carolina — though to be fair that was somewhat wind-induced and somewhat dropsies induced. In any case, he could also have a good day against a depleted secondary.
More than anything, I think Mike Holmgren wants to get them back on track, give the home fans a nice sendoff before the playoffs begin, and get a positive feeling back among the players. I think they are all still shocked that they actually lost to the Panthers and it is something for which they want to atone.