I Don’t Know Why We Should Expect The Seahawks To Win This Weekend

My world is a little upside down right now, when it comes to the Seahawks.  I was pretty sure they were going to lose to the Jags, but they were supposed to lose a 14-9 slugfest (that would, of course, assume Blair Walsh could actually make three fucking field goals, so right there the faulty logic bit me in the ass).  Under no circumstances, however, should Blake Bortles have out-played Russell Wilson in damn near every facet of the game!  And, to a lesser extent, the Seahawks’ defensive line should’ve probably done SOMETHING aside from bend over and take the ol’ dick in the ass, but that’s neither here nor there.

What am I supposed to make of a defense that couldn’t stop The Bort?  Just a matter of flying across the country and playing on the road?  Bullshit!  That shouldn’t matter.  Hangover from the big Philly win?  Bullshit!  With so much on the line, and so many losses already under our belt, they could ill afford to give away yet another game.

Ergo, I have to assume that the Seahawks’ defense just isn’t very good.  I mean, Cleveland held the Jags to 19 points.  The Chargers held them to 20.  The fucking RAMS went to Jacksonville and limited them to 17!  The Jets held them to 20, the Titans held them to 16.  I mean, aside from the Rams and Chargers, we’re not talking about world-beating defenses here.

So, if the Seahawks’ defense isn’t very good, and the Jags were able to rack up 30 points … and if we assume the Rams’ offense is better than Jacksonville’s (which it very much is), I can only believe that the Rams should have no problem whatsoever coming into Seattle and moving the ball at will.

And don’t you DARE give me this 12th Man bullshit.  CenturyLink Field is not what it once was!  We’ve already suffered 2 losses at home.  The Falcons came in here and put up 34, the Texans put up 38; and on the road we have the aforementioned 30 from Jacksonville, and 33 from Tennessee.  That’s 4 teams so far – including two teams when we were pretty much at full strength – who have dropped 30+.  So, no, I’m not gonna buy the It’s Loud In Seattle argument.

You could maybe remind me that we held the Rams to 10 points, but I’ll again remind you of all the injuries we have now, and double down on the fact that the Rams had their fair share of drops in that game.  By all accounts, they should’ve WON that game, if Kupp had held onto the ball in the endzone at the end of the game.  Plus, there was the Earl Thomas forced fumble that hit the pylon.  That game was more fluke than anything else.  On top of that, the Rams have played a bunch more games since then, and have to be more comfortable in their offense.

That doesn’t factor in how great the Rams’ defense is.  They’ve ALWAYS been great against the Seahawks, and this year they’ve got Wade Phillips, the best defensive coordinator in the league.  You can’t tell me that defense isn’t vastly improved over where it was at the beginning of the year.

Again, I’ll reiterate, I just don’t know why we should expect the Seahawks to win this weekend.  From here on out, with all the nothing we’re getting defensively, I think you have to require the Seahawks to score 30+ to win, and I just don’t think they’re capable of doing that, ESPECIALLY against the Rams, and regardless of how money Russell Wilson is playing this year.

I’ll do you one better:  unless we see some serious magic the rest of the way, I can easily envision a scenario where the Seahawks finish the year 8-8.  I’m already calling this Rams game a loss, which will drop us to 8-6.  At that point, we’d need to win out and get help to make the Wild Card, which makes that game in Dallas all-important (because I fully expect them to beat the Raiders this weekend).  Dallas will have Zeke Elliott back, which will make their offense whole again.  And, if we can’t stop the Jags or Rams, I don’t see why we should stop the Cowboys at full strength.  There’s a possible record of 8-7, at which point we’re officially eliminated from the playoffs.  By then, you figure anyone playing through injuries will just go on the IR and call it a season.  And, with nothing left to play for, I’ve heard of crazier things than the Cardinals winning in Seattle (like, for instance, last year on Christmas Eve).

I’m not necessarily guaranteeing an 8-8 record, but I’m also not poo-pooing the idea either.

The Seahawks are broken, and it really feels like the championship window is slamming shut right before our eyes.  I fucking HATE it when the Seahawks’ defense is bad; it literally ruins my whole life.  You know what my vision of Hell is?  All those bad New Orleans Saints teams we’ve seen under Drew Brees.  You know the ones:  where he’s great, throwing for 5,000+ yards and the offense is tops in the league, but the defense is the very fucking worst and they end up anywhere from 7-9 to 8-8.  Bad enough to consistently miss out on the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a draft pick that’s actually worth a fucking damn.

That’s what I see in the Seahawks’ immediate future, as we continue to try to lean on aging veterans on the defensive side of the ball, who can’t help but get injured every fucking year.  Sometimes, it’s the usual suspects, like Kam Chancellor, Jeremy Lane, and to a lesser extent Bobby Wagner; sometimes it’s someone you never expected, like Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, or Richard Sherman, and your season goes down the toilet as a result.  If you keep those guys and ride them out, then yeah, you’ll be pretty good, but your seasons will end disasterously as one by one they get picked off in the annual churn that is NFL injuries; if you dump everyone and start over, then you’ve got to suffer through a rebuild, and there’s no guarantees that the next crop of draft picks will be able to return this defense to its Top 5 form.  Plus, given Pete Carroll’s age and personality, there’s no way in a million years I see them blowing this team up.

What a miserable time to be alive.  Oh sure, Russell Wilson will be in the MVP discussion every year, but the rest of the team will be mediocre so what’s the point?

At least we still get to enjoy fantasy football.  That’s certainly not a huge bundle of agitation and disappointment waiting to happen every fucking year.

A New Arena And The NHL Are On The Way

There’s been a lot of news in this area lately.  For starters, the MOU for the SoDo Arena has expired.  What a shame.  We had so much hope for that arena, that location, and the impending move of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, and piece by piece that dream was destroyed.

There were ultimately a lot of forces at play preventing the SoDo Arena from ever coming to fruition, but if I’m being honest, as much as I want to rail against the NBA, the shady Sacramento city government, the do-nothing Seattle City Council, the Port, the Mariners, and everyone else who fought tooth and nail to torpedo Chris Hansen’s plan, I would argue that just as much blame falls on Chris Hansen’s shoulders.

Not because he wasn’t a better politician, not because he donated money against the Sacramento arena plan (drawing the NBA’s ire), and not because he couldn’t attract enough local money (particularly when Steve Ballmer dropped out to buy the Clippers).  I blame Chris Hansen because, as crazy as this sounds, he never went far enough.  He never went above and beyond.  He kept trying to pinch pennies when – if he really wanted to get the job done – he should’ve over-paid.

I sound like an asshole for saying that, and I get it:  Chris Hansen is a saint.  He tried to almost single-handedly bring the NBA back to Seattle!  Not because he could make a buck on it, but out of the goodness of his heart.  He was not only going to pay for the arena himself, but he was going to plow a bunch of millions of dollars into improving the city around him, with the Lander overpass and the money earmarked to improving Seattle Center.  Hell, he even cobbled together a last-ditch plan to renovate Key Arena while at the same time building his SoDo Arena!

But, that’s just it.  It seems like it was ALL last ditch efforts.  His initial plan wasn’t to make the SoDo Arena 100% privately funded; that only came about when he was met with push-back and the probability of the city going in another direction with the Oak View Group.  Initially, Hansen was asking for tax breaks or whatever.  Then, when the Kings were up for auction, he put up his bid – which was ultimately met by the bid of the current owners – and the NBA sided with the group looking to keep the team in Sacramento.  It wasn’t until after the NBA made its decision did Hansen opt to tack on an extra $100 or $150 million.  Had he gone above and beyond from his opening bid – essentially making the Maloof brothers an offer they couldn’t refuse, and that couldn’t be met by any other gaggle of billionaires – we would have the Sonics back in Seattle right now.

Ultimately, Chris Hansen was willing to do the most and pay the most; he would always have the final word that went above and beyond what anyone else was willing to offer.  But, it was always too late.  It was always after agreements had been made by other parties.  Had he come correct, from the get-go, things would be very different right now.

It might be smart business – don’t start out with your final offer, have some bullets left in the chamber that you can offer to sweeten the deal – but that’s assuming you’re dealing with other businessmen, and not politicians.  If you’re dealing with businessmen, then yeah, of course they’ll accept the very best deal.  Why wouldn’t they?  With politicians, they’ve got other interests they have to take into consideration.  It’s not right; it’s not necessarily the way I would prefer the world works, but that’s life.

So, instead of having the NBA back and a sweet arena right next door to Safeco Field, we’re getting a renovated Seattle Center arena and the NHL.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Sodo Arena over the Seattle Center arena, but I feel less strongly about it than I once did.  Most of that has to do with the fact that I no longer live in South Lake Union, only a mile from Key Arena.  So, you know, I don’t have to deal with the bullshit traffic anymore.  And, if I’m being honest, it’s not like I’m going to attend all that many games in person.  I go to less than 10 Mariners games a year, and most of the time those are just excuses to socialize with my friends.  If you go to a sporting event in an arena, you’re pretty much there just to watch the game.  If you’re at Safeco, you can wander around, hang out in the beer garden, chit chat with your friends at your seats; it’s much more casual.  If I go to a hockey game at Seattle Center, I’ll probably just walk from my work on a Friday, or catch a bus or a Lyft or something.  I CERTAINLY won’t drive, or look to park there, because that would be insane.

Parking and traffic aside, whatever man, I don’t care.  Just build the fucking thing and get me a fucking professional winter sport.

As such, a new MOU was signed this month.  And, the NHL has already set in motion a process that should one day put a team in Seattle.

October 2020 is the estimated completion date.  But, considering they have to dig down to open the thing up – because the stupid roof is a historical landmark for some reason – I highly doubt this thing is going to finish on time.  Nevertheless, here we go!  The next few years should be fun!

Assuming, of course, the whole thing doesn’t get derailed by lawsuits, or the politicians getting cold feet.  Have I told you how much I hate this city?  Seattle sucks SO HARD.

I will say this, though:  I’m looking forward to professional hockey.  I’m not the biggest hockey fan in the world right now, but my brother is, and I’ve socked back a few beers and watched some games with him on TV, so I kinda sorta get the gist.  Assuming everything works out, and Seattle gets a team, you better believe I’m getting in on the ground floor!  I plan on familiarizing myself with the ins and outs and whathaveyous:  the rules, the history of the game, all of it.  I am BUYING in, big time!  And not just because I need more sports to write about on my blog between the end of football season and the start of baseball season.

I like hockey!  I don’t love it; as I said, I’m not a super fan or anything.  But, I feel like that’s because I’ve never had a team.  The closest team to me is in Vancouver BC, but that might as well be in Timbuktu.  When the shit do I ever go to Canada?  I’m pretty sure the last two times I’ve been to Vancouver, it was for Pearl Jam concerts.  It’s a pain in the ass just getting to Seattle, or Lynnwood, or God-foresaken Mill Creek; the rest of that stretch, up through Bellingham and on into Canada is the slog of all slogs.

And considering it’s not like the Canucks are featured on local television, I’d have to wait to see them on Hockey Night In Canada.

With a team in Seattle, with the games on Root Sports or whatever, being able to watch them on a regular basis, I feel like I could really get into the sport.  And, if they ever get good enough, who knows?  Maybe I’ll like them just as much as I did the Sonics!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still hoping we get the NBA back someday, but hockey is more than a good-enough substitute.

Not Quite There Yet: The Huskies Lost To Gonzaga

Win or lose, I was going to write about this game this week, as it’s the last premiere matchup for the Huskies before conference play.

The Huskies got stomped by Gonzaga 97-70, and I stopped watching before halftime.  To my untrained eye, no one really stood out in a positive way, particularly on the defensive end, as the Zags did pretty much whatever they wanted.  I was particularly disappointed in Washington’s foul situation, as it had looked like – entering this game – that we’d cleaned up a lot of that ticky-tack bullshit.  It’s a good reminder, though, of where the Huskies actually stand, among the elites of college basketball.

Also, not for nothing, but Kansas apparently followed up their Wake-Up Call defeat to the Huskies by losing at home to the Arizona State Sun Devils.  So, I guess the Jayhawks suck (they fell from #2 to #13), which is a collosal bummer (either that, or the Pac-12 is insanely good, in which case that also probably doesn’t bode well for UW).

Washington has three more non-conference tune-ups against inferior opponents, so rolling into conference play with 10 wins is still on the table.  It would give us one more victory than we had all of last season, which is impressive in its own right.

So, let’s take care of business and I’ll get back to writing about this team in the New Year!

The End Is Near Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

I pre-wrote a whole thing about how the Patriots are depressingly the best team in the AFC, and a breakdown of all the teams who might keep them out of the Super Bowl (because, Jesus Christ, could we all use a Super Bowl free from the Patriots).  Then, they went and looked like dogshit against the Dolphins last night, and it didn’t seem very timely, so we’ll move on.

For the record, I still think the Patriots deserve the top spot in the rankings, as they were due – just like every other team who’s lost recently – to drop a game before the playoffs.  I’m more than convinced they’ll take down the Steelers this week, so yeah.  On to the rankings:

  • New England (10-3)
  • Carolina (9-4)
  • Minnesota (10-3)
  • New Orleans (9-4)
  • Pittsburgh (11-2)
  • Jacksonville (9-4)
  • Philadelphia (11-2)
  • L.A. Rams (9-4)

In spite of my questioning of Cam Newton, I was very impressed by what they were able to do against the Vikings this weekend.  Giving up nearly 40 points to the Ravens?  Now you know why I have so little respect for the Steelers.  Philly gets dropped bigtime as they face a Nick Foles future.

  • L.A. Chargers (7-6)
  • Atlanta (8-5)
  • Seattle (8-5)
  • Baltimore (7-6)
  • Green Bay (7-6)
  • Detroit (7-6)
  • Dallas (7-6)
  • Tennessee (8-5)

Look for the Chargers to jump into the Top 8 next week.  Green Bay continues to climb the ladder as Brett Hundley continues to find a way to beat crappy teams.  Dallas is in an interesting position, particularly if they can win one more and get Zeke back.  Look for the Titans to fall out of this grouping as they continue to look terrible.

  • Kansas City (7-6)
  • Buffalo (7-6)
  • Miami (6-7)
  • Arizona (6-7)
  • Oakland (6-7)
  • N.Y. Jets (5-8)
  • Washington (5-8)
  • Cincinnati (5-8)

Everyone is all hyped up on the blizzard bowl between the Bills and Colts, but I feel like if I had to watch the whole affair, it would’ve been torture.  I saw the overtime period, and that was exactly the right amount.  It’s crazy how the Cards keep hanging around, even though they’re still definitely out of the playoff hunt.  Ugly loss for the Bengals to end their playoff hopes.

  • San Francisco (3-10)
  • Denver (4-9)
  • Chicago (4-9)
  • Tampa Bay (4-9)
  • Houston (4-9)
  • Indianapolis (3-10)
  • N.Y. Giants (2-11)
  • Cleveland (0-13)

Exciting times for the 49ers, as they get to not only enjoy a quality draft pick, but a ton of hype heading into next year, as they’ll certainly be the darlings of the dark horse circuit in pre-season predictions.  The Bears stole one with their defense, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did it again before the year is out.  Tough, hard-luck loss for the Colts, who probably would’ve won that game if there wasn’t 90 feet of snow.  Boy, that Giants offense is brutal, Eli or no Eli.  REALLY tough, hard-luck loss for the Browns, who might reverse run the table.  Josh Gordon looks good though!

The Seahawks Are Never Not Gonna Be Injured

Old teams have injury problems.  Not every old player gets injured, but the more old people you have on your team, the odds of a bunch of them getting injured skyrockets.  The Seahawks are old.  Oh sure, the back-end of the roster is super young, which brings down the average age of the team, but the stars on the Seahawks are all getting up there.  So, it’s time to stop thinking of 2016 and 2017 as fluke years, and start thinking of this as the norm.  We’re never going to keep this team fully healthy, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can think about turning over this roster for real.

Guys like Bradley McDougald, Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin, Byron Maxwell, and take your pick from our running back group, these are all Band Aids.  Fine for small cuts and scrapes, but useless when limbs start getting amputated.

Russell Wilson is great, one of the best players in the league, so you can never really count yourself out of any game.  But, he’s not good enough to overcome losses to Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Cliff Avril.  Yesterday was just another example of that.

That being said, I don’t know if I can put all of this loss on the injuries to Wagner and Wright.  Was it Wilhoite & Garvin’s fault that the D-Line accounted for 0 sacks and just 1 QB hit?  Was it Wilhoite & Garvin’s fault that Byron Maxwell kept getting beat by The Bort throwing deep down the sideline on him?  Now, it might’ve been their fault that Leonard Fournette was able to convert a 3rd & 11 when you needed a stop to get the ball back, but like usual, this loss was a total team effort.

It didn’t help anyone but my fantasy team (who has the Jags’ defense) that Russell Wilson kept throwing deep bombs into double coverage or really good single coverage for picks. It didn’t help that Jimmy Graham wasn’t able to catch a single ball.  It didn’t help that we saw more damaging play from Germain Ifedi with his penalties and his more penalties.  It didn’t help when Blair Walsh missed yet another make-able fucking field goal.  It didn’t help when the defense – as I mentioned before – laid a total fucking egg.

And yet, there we were, on the comeback trail, late in the second half.  Three plays and two touchdowns across two fourth quarter drives to pull to within 6 points.  Plenty of time on the clock, and more importantly, all the time outs at our disposal.  The defense got a stop!  And we had the ball, with a chance to take the lead.  Throw to Baldwin for 9 yards, out of bounds, and that’s as far as we got.

Didn’t help that the fucking refs missed an obvious fucking holding penalty, as the defender got beat and took Paul Richardson to the ground, but that’s the theme of the day, isn’t it?  The Seahawks didn’t get much help from anyone.  And that’s why they lost.

And then, at the end, when the Jags were in Victory Formation, out came the pissy-pants, with Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Co. all acting like fucking assholes.  At this point, I don’t care if it was in retaliation to whatever harmful things the Jags were doing to you; there’s enough of a precedent with you acting like a bunch of Bitch Babies to automatically not take your side.  I don’t feel ashamed to be a Seahawks fan, but you absolutely should feel ashamed for the embarrassing display.  You probably don’t, and that’s okay too, and while I’ll continue to root you on in future games, I’m going to stop defending you and your juvenile actions.

So, yeah, the Seahawks lost.  They now sit 7th in the NFC, because the Falcons and Panthers both won.  At the start of the game, we were talking about possibly running the table and maybe sneaking into the 2-seed; now we’ll just take what we can get.  Fortunately, the Rams also lost, so next week’s game is going to have a lot to say as far as the NFC West is concerned.  I could see the Seahawks winning that game.  But, I could also see the Seahawks losing either of the next two, against the Cowboys or Cardinals, to fuck up their shot.

Except, this year, I don’t think a Wild Card spot will be our consolation.  I think the NFC West is going to have exactly one representative, and I think it’ll be the Rams.  Maybe it’s for the best.  All the better to get a jumpstart on the big rebuild.

The Mariners Traded For Dee Gordon

I don’t have a good space for this post, as the next day I anticipate having an opening will be next Thursday, which would make this beyond stale.  So, instead, I’m doubling up on a Friday.

The Mariners acquired Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins!  In return, the Marlins get three minor leaguers.  If you thought, like I did, that the Mariners traded away all their minor leaguers, you’d be wrong.  Indeed, considering Gordon’s talent level, I’m shocked the Marlins were able to find three guys they liked from our farm system, but that’s neither here nor there.

It looks like the Marlins are in salary dump mode, which isn’t something new.  Dee Gordon is set to earn $37 million over the next three years, with 2021 being an option year ($14 million if he stays, $1 million if we buy him out; the option vests automatically if he has 600 plate appearances in 2020, or 1,200 across 2019-2020).

If you don’t know who Dee Gordon is, he was a starting second baseman for the Marlins, who happened to play at an All Star level in 2014 & 2015.  He also won a Gold Glove in 2015, as well as a Silver Slugger award and had the National League batting title.  He had a down season in 2016, thanks to an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs (which is cause for concern, because I’m sure the next offense is way worse than 80 games), but he bounced back in a big way in 2017.

The hitting talent is there.  He doesn’t have much in the way of power, but in his last three full seasons he’s had over 20 doubles per year.  He’s also going to sprinkle in a good number of triples, because the dude is fast.  He’s one of the fastest players in the Major Leagues.  In his last three full seasons, he’s averaged over 60 stolen bases per year!  He’s going to get caught from time to time, but still, that’s insane.  He could probably stand to walk more, but if he hits the way he’s capable of hitting, on-base percentage shouldn’t be an issue.

The biggest issue, of course, is what I mentioned earlier:  he’s a second baseman!  Robinson Cano, is also, a second baseman.  Dee Gordon also has experience as a short stop.  But, Jean Segura is our short stop.  He just signed an extension in the middle of last season!  Cano and Segura aren’t going anywhere.  Ipso facto, the Mariners are making Dee Gordon convert to center field.  Where he’s never played an inning of Major League ball.

And he’s got about 4 months to get it down.

Not that I have a choice in the matter, but I’m okay with the whole thing.  My biggest concern is how well he does in his defensive conversion.  I’ve seen plenty of players get shuffled around to other positions while at the Major League level, and it rarely has gone well.  Usually, we’re talking about going from DH to first base, or catcher to first base, or first base to second base to outfield, or third base to corner outfield, and so on and so forth.  The defense gets worse, and the hitting also suffers.  If anything, it takes about a year to get acclimated, if they get acclimated at all!  So, I wouldn’t say I’m on the bandwagon just yet.

I do like the idea, though.  I mean, the guy is super fast, why WOULDN’T he at least be passable in center field?  It’ll probably take some time before he gets to be elite, but that should come with experience.  In the early going, how about he just makes the routine plays?  Between that, and his elite bat at the top of the lineup, I’ll take it.

Speaking of that lineup, here’s a possibility:

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ben Gamel (LF)

That’s pretty aces, from top to bottom.  Now, whether we still have Ben Gamel when the season starts, I guess we’ll see.  It’s probably a good sign that he’s featured in some of the promotional give-aways this season, but I guess they could always stop production on those.

Can’t have a trade without giving away some pieces.  The Mariners gave away Chris Torres (a low level minor league short stop prospect with a lot of upside), Nick Neidert (probably the top pitching prospect in the M’s system who projects as a mid-rotation starter with low velocity but good command and change-up), and Robert Dugger (a relief pitching prospect).  I don’t know if any of these guys will turn into anything, but that’s the risk, isn’t it?  You’ll probably see Neidert in a Major League uniform sooner rather than later (maybe even as early as this season, considering the tank job the Marlins are pulling), and if he becomes a quality starting pitcher, that one could sting.

To lessen that sting, the Mariners also got $1 million in International Slot Money.  Shohei Ohtani is a Japanese player who is both a quality starter and a quality hitter.  He has narrowed down his field of prospective teams to seven, one of which includes the Mariners.  Due to his very young age, he’s not entitled to the usual Free Agent money you’d see thrown around for posted Japanese players.  But, he’s determined to come to America, and right now is trying to figure out where he fits best.  The Mariners now have somewhere in the area of $3.5 million to offer him – which is the most among the seven remaining teams, by a small margin – but this was never really about money for Ohtani.  Although, I’m sure the Mariners are thinking that if all things are equal in that regard, it’ll come down to where Seattle ranks among his potential destinations.  The Mariners have a lot to offer, and many consider us to be the leaders of the pack, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up.  Easier that way.

Lots more moves to go this off-season.  One very important move could be coming in a matter of days.

UPDATE:  And the move has been made.  Shohei Ohtani to the Anaheim Angels.  Between them and the Astros, maybe think about cancelling Mariners baseball for the next 3-5 years.

Why I’m Dreading This Seahawks/Jaguars Game

There’s a lot riding on this game.  Frankly, there’s a lot riding on ALL of the remaining games on the schedule, thanks to a couple of bumbling home losses to the Redskins and Falcons.  The Seahawks are a game back of the Rams, and if they want to hold out any hope of winning the division – or even a remote hope of getting a top 2 seed, which is highly unlikely, but still – they almost certainly need to run the table.  Winning out at home is a must, and is very do-able (so long as the Seahawks don’t lose any more key starters to injury), and that road game against the Cowboys doesn’t look nearly as imposing as it did before the season.  But, here, this week, against the Jags, is where I’m most afraid.

I don’t need to tell you that the Jags have the best defense in the league.  Their secondary is second to none, and their D-Line is as ferocious as any in football.  They lead the league in fewest total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total points allowed.  By a pretty considerable margin, I might add!  They lead the league in sacks, are tied for second in interceptions, are tied for fourth in forced fumbles, and tied for first in fumble recoveries, as well as lead the league in turnovers returned for touchdowns.

In other words, they lead all of football in just about every important defensive statistic.  Where they’re middle-of-the-road is in rush defense, which just so happens to be the area of the Seahawks offense where they struggle the most.  Yay.

I’ll say this, apropos of nothing:  the Seahawks picked the worst possible week to have their most significant victory of the season.  Coming off a game where they thoroughly destroyed the best team in football, you just know the Seahawks will have spent this week sniffing their own farts and reading their own press clippings, to the detriment of the on-field product this Sunday.  Sure, the Jacksonville defense will have something to say about it, but when the Seahawks’ offense comes out flat and we’re all mashing our respective Twitter keyboards in frustration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The problem is, a loss like the one I’m predicting this Sunday is often seen as a “wake-up call” for a good team.  Better to get that unexpected defeat out of the way now, before the playoffs, when that type of performance will end your season.  But, here’s the thing:  the Seahawks don’t NEED any more wake-up calls!  They’ve had 4 already this year!  The next wake-up call will send us hurtling to a Wild Card spot, and the wake-up call after that will keep us out of the playoffs entirely.  WE’RE AWAKE!  And, if you don’t see this Jaguars team for what it is – a real, legitimate threat to your 2017 season – then you might as well go the fuck back to bed.

To spin it another way, though, it’s not like all hope is lost.  The Seahawks CAN win this game, but they have to tread lightly.  The Rams and Cardinals both put 27 on them; the Titans earlier this season put up 37.  The Jags’ defense isn’t infallible.  But, I don’t think we can afford a slow start and a big 2-score early deficit.

Thankfully, the Jacksonville offense is absolutely nothing to write home about.  Led by Blake “The Bort” Bortles, we’re talking about a 4-year pro who is just the worst, most bustiest bust who is somehow still starting for an NFL team and not a car dealership’s sales team.  They’ve effectively chopped his balls off this season, which is absolutely the correct call, in making this a run-first, run-second, and run-third offense.  The beneficiary of that move is rookie Leonard Fournette, who started his career absolutely on fire, in looking like Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 through six weeks.  But, then an ankle injury and a suspension set him back.  Over his last four games, he’s averaged only 2.94 yards per carry, with just the 1 rushing touchdown (after 6 in the first 6 weeks).  He’s coming into a game against the Seahawks, who are 7th in the league in rush defense.  So, it’s appropriate to believe we should be able to hold their ground game in check.

And, if we can do that, we should have no trouble whatsoever in holding The Bort in check, L.O.B. or no L.O.B.

So, ultimately, the question is:  can the offense go out there and do its job?

That doesn’t necessarily mean we need Mike Davis to rip off 100+ yards, or Russell Wilson to go out there and continue his MVP pace.  I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  How about:

  • Can Russell Wilson avoid turnovers?
  • Can the O-Line avoid free rushers at the quarterback?
  • Can our receivers and running backs hold onto the football?
  • Can we all limit our penalties?

The way to lose this game is to cough up the ball and put our defense on its heels with short fields.  I don’t expect the Jags to score a bunch of touchdowns or have a bunch of lengthy, ball-control drives.  But, they might have one or two.  So, I wouldn’t expect to hold them to single-digits (if we do, our odds of winning this game goes up tenfold).  But, if we give them those short fields, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Jags to score 20+ points, in which case it’s going to be VERY difficult for the Seahawks to win this game.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to look very good on third down.  Likewise, I don’t expect to see a lot of big plays out of our offense.  It’s not hopeless, but it’s going to mean taking advantage of our limited opportunities.  Touchdowns instead of field goals.  Hitting long field goals instead of punting, or worse.

If the Seahawks are going to win this one, it’s going to have to be in that 20-17 range, and it’s likely going to require a last-minute drive for go-ahead points.  There is a universe where I can imagine that happening.

But, there are also plenty of other universes out there, where I see the Seahawks losing 15-9, or 16-6, or 10-9, or 11-8, or 23-12.  In those games, I see Russell Wilson getting sacked 6 times and suffering a safety.  I see a couple fumbles and a pick.  I see the Jags moving the ball at will early in the game and the defense needing to adjust on the fly.  I see Fournette – against all rational thought – having a monster game and making the likes of Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner look foolish on his cutbacks.  And, I see that Jags defense dancing on our grave.

Look, I want to be there with you guys.  I want to BELIEVE!  I want to cast off the shackles of this Haterade I’ve been drinking and sail the Good Ship 12 into the Harbor of Positivity, but as a Seattle sports fan, I’ve been beaten to a pulp over the years.  Granted, a lot of that was from the Mariners, who continually get my hopes up, only to pull the rug out from under me, but the Seahawks of the last couple seasons have played their part.

I will say this, if you allow me to put on the rose-colored glasses:

The offensive line is as good as it’s been since 2013/2014.  That’s not hyperbole.  With Duane Brown healthy and getting healthier by the week, we’ve already seen the dividends being paid.  With Luke Joeckel healthy and getting healthier by the week, the left side of that line is terrific!  With Ethan Pocic taking over for the revolving door of Mark Glowinski/Oday Aboushi, the right guard spot is no longer a total bust.  And, as he continues to get more comfortable at the right tackle spot, I no longer find myself cursing the name Germain Ifedi on a play-by-play basis.

In short:  the offensive line IS good.  I’ll say it!  Come at me, brothers and sisters!

It’s going to take a while before they get the credit they’re due, but I’m charging through as conductor of this bandwagon, and there’s plenty of room if you want to come along for the ride!

I’ll also say this:  the depth on this team is what we thought it was.  Heading into the year, after bemoaning our fate vis-a-vis the O-Line, the depth on this team was all I could talk about.  When our 2016 season was so thoroughly derailed by the loss of Earl Thomas, and the thinning of our D-Line, 2017 is going a long way towards subsiding those concerns.

A year ago, the thought of losing Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, AND Cliff Avril would’ve brought about a rash of suicides among the 12’s.  Yet, aside from some tough times against the Falcons, we’ve largely looked okay.  Getting Byron Maxwell back, and watching him play his ass off like he never left, could prove to be the luckiest move of the year.  Having Shaq Griffin grow into a bona fide starter, signing Bradley McDougald as Kam-insurance, Jeremy Lane failing his physical with the Texans, snatching Justin Coleman from the cornerback-starved Patriots (at the time, anyway; they’ve since improved their secondary play as guys got healthier), all of these events – along with the impending return of DeShawn Shead (fingers crossed!) – has helped this secondary not miss much of a beat, and could be critical going forward, as we look to face the likes of the Rams, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles in the playoffs.

Then, there’s the depth along the D-Line.  Sheldon Richardson coming over via trade, Frank Clark taking that next step, Naz Jones coming alive as a rookie, Jarran Reed becoming an every-down monster in the middle, the Dion Jordan flier actually turning into a useful rotation piece, the return of Quinton Jefferson, the production we’ve gotten out of the likes of Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith, on top of the fact that Michael Bennett is an ageless wonder who still thrives on playing just about every single defensive snap against all rational thought.  We’re not only super deep in this all-important area of the football field, but we’re also improving as the season goes along and these guys learn one another’s strengths and tendencies.

Finally, I’ll say this:  Russell Wilson has arrived.  Yes, he’s been great since he came into the league in 2012.  Yes, we would never have reached the heights we reached in 2013 & 2014 without him, and he’s carried this team on his back (particularly late in 2015 when Lynch and Graham were lost with injury).  But, he’s putting it all together now, in 2017, with the running game being what it is and this team NEEDING him to be The Man.  It’s what the all-time greats do, they pick their games up when their teams need them.  This is the difference between Pro Bowl quarterback, All Pro quarterback, and Hall of Fame quarterback.  Russell Wilson is playing like a Hall of Famer in his prime.  All he needs now to make that Hall of Fame a reality is time.  Continue playing like he’s playing for the next 5-8 years, and slowly fade into his 40s, and he’ll be a lock for the golden jacket.

If anybody can lead this team across the country, against a young, hungry defense, and come away victorious, it’s Russell Wilson.  In Russ We Trust.  Time to go out and take care of business.

The Huskies Went On The Road And Beat #2 Kansas

This.  Was.  Incredible.

If this game happened in Hec Ed, you would’ve seen 5,000-some-odd people storming the court, but it feels so much bigger because it took place in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, so not only was this a road game, but it was a road game where they could manage to cram in MORE Jayhawks fans than if they’d played the game on campus.  And to not only win, but win COMFORTABLY, by a score of 74-65, I just don’t have the brain capacity to comprehend this.

This is the biggest win since dot dot dot:

Well, last year, the Huskies won all of 9 games (they’ve already won 7 this year, but shhh, don’t tell anyone), and they lost handily to every ranked opponent they played.

The year before, we had an NIT team, and the only ranked team we beat was a #25-ranked UCLA squad who wasn’t even good enough to crack the NIT.

The year before that, we were nothing, and somehow beat a #13-ranked Utah team at home (who would go on to the Sweet 16).  We also beat a #15-ranked Oklahoma team on a neutral floor that would also go on to the Sweet 16 and a #13-ranked San Diego State team at home that would go on to the Round of 32.  How that Husky team did nothing whatsoever in conference play is a testament to underachieving.

I could keep going, but the point is it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Huskies win a game that huge.  I don’t remember them EVER winning against such a highly ranked team on the road; the last time they beat a Top 2 team was in 2004 when they hosted the #1-ranked Stanford Cardinal at the end of the season.

Obviously, we don’t know where Kansas will end up this season, but they’re definitely well-regarded at the moment (they were undefeated heading into the game, with wins over Kentucky and Syracuse), they’re a perennial powerhouse school in college basketball, and barring a total collapse or a rash of injuries, they should be a lock to play in the NCAA Tournament come March.  Are they REALLY a Top 10 team?  Time will tell.  But, right now they’re ranked #2 in the nation, and the Huskies handled them like I’ve never seen!

It was a thing of beauty.  For starters, that defense.  They essentially locked down the perimeter, did a good job staying with the big man down low, and dared the guy in the middle – a Junior guard by the name of Lagerald Vick – to single-handedly win the game on the offensive end.  True to form, he finished with 28 points, 7 assists, and 5 boards, but he was only 12/23 from the floor, and the next-highest scorer only had 10 points.  When you consider this is a Kansas team that lives for the 3-point shot, and has a couple of quality post players, Coach Hop came up with a stroke of genius in shutting them down.  Let’s just hope more teams don’t take this strategy; it would be really cool if Kansas finished the season in the Top 10, so at the very least we can hang our hat on this game being very important.

As impressed as I was about the Husky defense (and it shouldn’t be glossed over; these guys have bought in, and the zone defense really suits this team like a glove!  I think my favorite thing I’ve seen out of this team, from a defensive perspective, is a drastic reduction in ticky-tack fouls.  Sure, the zone will get beaten from time to time, but you don’t really see the Huskies compounding that by giving the opposing team an And One opportunity as often as you’d see under Romar.  I think that’s huge; not getting into early and frequent foul trouble.  I mean, let’s face it, most college players – particularly the One & Done types – don’t want to play defense.  That’s not what gets you into The League.  That’s where the zone comes in.  Sure, there are tons of zone-busting plays out there; it’s not a cure-all.  But, for one, to beat the zone you have to shoot well, and if you have an off night, you can lose to just about anyone deploying it.  Secondly, more often than not it’ll at least keep you in the game, so if YOU shoot well, you can still overcome the other team busting your zone.  It may not be as macho or whatever as playing man-to-man, but as we’ve seen under the last few years with Romar, if you don’t have the drive, the ability, and the mindset to be a good defender, then you’re essentially useless when you play man-to-man.  Also, don’t get me started on that abomination where they’d switch on every single pick play; what the shit was that???), I think I was even more impressed by the Husky offense!

I’ve seen Husky teams in the recent past hang in there against superior competition.  For a quarter, or a half, and once in a blue moon all the way to the last 4-5 minutes of the game!  But, inevitably, the Huskies – ever since Isaiah Thomas went to the Pros – lacked that one guy who could make a big shot in crunch time.  Last night, the Huskies didn’t really need anyone to play that role, but that’s only because the entire team stayed composed and made shots the whole game!

Things were a little dicey early, as Kansas jumped out to a 10-5 lead, and I wondered if we could stay within the 22-point spread.  But, as I just said, guys kept making shots and by halftime, the Huskies had worked their way to a 2-point lead, 36-34.

That lead ballooned to 52-44 early in the second half before Kansas went on a nice little run to pull the game to 53-52, with just under 10 minutes left in the game.  That was a real gut check time, as you could hear the crowd start to get into it, and it looked like the better team would finally take over.

Instead, not even three minutes later, the Husky lead was back to 10, 64-54, and it was just a matter of trading buckets to the finish line.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some daggers thrown in there.  That David Crisp three-ball with just over two minutes to go in the game felt like a real back-breaker, to put the Huskies up by 14.  With a good-shooting team like Kansas, you feel like no lead is safe.  Sure, they hit a couple garbage-time threes in the final minute, but they finished the game 5/20 from beyond the arc, and more importantly, were only 4/8 from the free throw line.  No three balls AND no free throws?  I’ll take that every single game!

Getting back, though, the Huskies shot 48.3% from the floor, and 42.9% from long range.  We also got to the line 15 times (only hitting 7).  Hell, we even out-rebounded them!

There wasn’t one star, or one guy carrying the entire team, which is what the Huskies are going to need to do if they want to keep this thing going.  Matisse Thybulle led the way with 19 points (hitting 5/8 from downtown), 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.  Jaylen Nowell had 17 points; Noah Dickerson had 13 points, 14 boards, and 5 assists.  David Crisp chipped in 10 points and 7 assists; Sam Timmins had 8 points and 3 boards in 18 minutes; and forward Hameir Wright came off the bench for 27 minutes, scoring 5 to go along with 6 boards and 3 blocks.

I just couldn’t be happier or more proud of this team.  The young guys are producing, the holdovers are buying in, and you can already see some steady improvement from where we were just one month ago when the season started.  Remember, the media predicted Washington would finish 10th in the conference!  Ahead of only Cal (who looks like a disaster) and Wazzu (who got off to a hot start, before losing their last two, including a 27-point drubbing to Idaho last night).  If the Huskies can continue to play this type of Team ball, who knows where we’ll end up?

I know this, a win on the road against #2 Kansas would look MIGHTY good on a team’s resume, if – for instance – that team happened to be on the bubble.

I’ll be the first to admit, I had zero expectations for that game last night, or this season in general.  The only reason I had the game on at all was to see just how close – or how far away – this team was compared to the best in the nation.  Now that they’ve won, and won handily, my interest has definitely perked up.  If they can go on the road to win in Kansas, what’s stopping this team from coming back home on Sunday and taking down #12 Gonzaga?

I’m not ready to predict a win just yet – after all, the Zags just lost to Villanova and are sure to be pretty salty about it – but before the game last night, there was NO QUESTION the Huskies would lose both of these games.  After the game last night, it’s not off the table that we might win both and find ourselves in the Top 25 next week.

Think about THAT!  Wouldn’t that be something?

I texted it to my friends last night, and I plan on keeping my promise:  every year, we go to the Reno/Tahoe area for the first weekend of March Madness to gamble on sports and drink our livers black for three straight days; the first thing I’m going to do when I land and get checked in is I’m going to place $100 on the Huskies against whoever they’re playing in the Tournament.  Because we’re fucking going!  That’s all there is to it!

The Huskies Are Going To The Fiesta Bowl!

There was a bit of extra good news this weekend, as a lot of things broke right for the Huskies as they watched other teams play for conference titles.  Stanford predictably lost to USC, because they suck and didn’t actually belong there in the first place because they’re clearly the third-best team in the Pac-12 and you won’t convince me otherwise.  TCU also got their asses kicked by Oklahoma, which knocked them down a peg or three.  There was concern that with TCU being so close to the Cotton Bowl, the Huskies would lose their spot to them, but it turns out the Cotton Bowl wanted nothing to do with either of those teams, as they have a really cool matchup of USC vs. Ohio State.

Which left the Fiesta Bowl, who has a tremendous matchup in its own right:  the Washington Huskies vs. Penn State.

I’ll get into the matchup a little bit more the week of the game, which is on Saturday, December 30th at 1pm (day drinking, ho!).  But, I’ll say for right now that I’m super excited that the Huskies got into one of the Big 6 bowl games, and I’m super excited for the opportunity to finish in the Top 10 in the country for back-to-back seasons (the first time since 1990/1991).

The Final Four ended up being:

  1. Clemson
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Georgia
  4. Alabama

Which, I think is appropriate.  Only a school like Alabama could render a school like Ohio State with the status of Little Brother.  Honestly, this is the best possible outcome for what REALLY needs to happen, which is an 8-team playoff, involving all five Power Conference champions, plus 3 at-large teams.  Of course, if Washington was in Ohio State’s shoes, I’d be livid beyond belief, but the Huskies had no business being in the playoffs this year, so I’m fine with it.  There are enough Ohio State fans out there – and enough outraged Big 10 fans in general – that hopefully this will lead to substantial change in the system.

It’s absurd how college football can get so many things right, but they always struggle when it comes to crowning a legitimate national champion.  I don’t get how this is so hard.

Getting back to the final four, I’ll just say this:  if you throw out schedules and just closed your eyes and imagined the four best teams in college football, those would be the four teams I’d choose.  Alabama is better than Ohio State.  And, frankly, I agree with the committee, you can’t lose by 31 points to a 7-5 Iowa team and expect to be ranked ahead of an Alabama team that only lost to a very good Auburn team.  I get it that most teams have a bad game; hell, the Huskies lost to fucking Arizona State (which I still can’t wrap my brain around), but we still held it to within a score!  31 points!  Get out of here!

I’m less than thrilled at the very legitimate prospects of a Georgia vs. Alabama championship game, because the SEC and all their fans are already insufferable enough.  Now, we’ve got to hear them crow about how we should all just make the SEC champion the national champion and do away with bowl games altogether.

Of course, the flipside of that is Clemson going for a third straight appearance in the National Championship game.  As it is, we’re already confronted with the rubber match of their series against Alabama (Bama won it all in 2015, Clemson won it all in 2016) in the Sugar Bowl.  So, regardless of who wins that one, we’re still faced with more of the same.

And, as for Oklahoma, I’m sorry, but their quarterback is a douche, their defense is a joke, and you couldn’t pay me to root for a team from that state after they stole our basketball team.

In other words, I guess go Georgia?  It might be the lesser of three evils, but I also can’t help but be annoyed that they stole our Twitter hashtag #GodAwgs.

I would argue that the most entertaining non-playoff games will indeed be the Cotton and Fiesta bowls.  I like that we’ve got the Big 10/Pac-12 rivalry going.  I like that the Cotton Bowl features the two snubbed conference champions (so I would hope they’re both bitter and inspired to kick some ass).  And, I like that the Fiesta Bowl features a couple of 10-win teams who were locked out of their conference championship games.  I could see a team like Ohio State being disappointed and passionless; but I think Penn State and Washington will be pretty fired up.  For one, there was a very good chance Washington would’ve been relegated to the Alamo Bowl, so this has to be a thrill (and a fine consolation for a team with playoff aspirations of their own heading into the season).  And, on the Penn State side, I bet they’re still pretty sore about the fact that Washington took their place in the playoffs last year (even though Washington totally deserved its playoff spot and were a pretty worthy foe for an impossibly good Alabama team).  This game won’t necessarily decide who was more deserving LAST year, but it’s still as compelling of a matchup as you’ll find this bowl season.

And, of course, you can’t discount the fact that the Pac-12 conference benefits from having two teams in these six major bowl games.  Here’s the breakdown, by conference:

  • SEC – 3 teams (Georgia, Alabama, Auburn)
  • Big 10 – 3 teams (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin)
  • Pac-12 – 2 teams (USC, Washington)
  • ACC – 2 teams (Clemson, Miami)
  • AAC – 1 team (Central Florida)
  • Big-12 – 1 team (Oklahoma)

In the end, it’s everything I could’ve asked for.  And, where did Stanford end up?  Why, in the Alamo Bowl, of course!  With nearby TCU ready and waiting to kick some nerd ass!

The Home Stretch Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Allow me to slide into your Decembers.

  • New England (10-2)
  • Philadelphia (10-2)
  • Minnesota (10-2)
  • L.A. Rams (9-3)
  • New Orleans (9-3)
  • Pittsburgh (10-2)
  • Carolina (8-4)
  • Jacksonville (8-4)

I’m not gonna drop the Eagles down further just because they lost a tough road game they were probably due to lose.  I still think they’re pretty great, and pretty complete, and could beat the Vikings and everyone else below them on a neutral field.  That having been said, the turnaround for the Pats after the first month of the season is astonishing.  Their defense really looked dead in the water; they were grasping for Cassius Marsh straws for crying out loud!  Also, it’s time to stop taking the Steelers so seriously; they’ve looked bad against too many bad teams – 10-2 record be damned – so they’re knocked down a peg.  Not for nothing, but there are too many talented NFC teams; I’m not sure I shouldn’t have the Panthers above the Steelers to boot!  Finally, my money is on the Jags beating the Seahawks this week, hence their Top 8 status.

  • Atlanta (7-5)
  • Seattle (8-4)
  • L.A. Chargers (6-6)
  • Baltimore (7-5)
  • Tennessee (8-4)
  • Detroit (6-6)
  • Dallas (6-6)
  • Green Bay (6-6)

I’ll start to change my tune about the Seahawks if they decide they want to beat a team they probably shouldn’t beat.  Until then, I still have the Falcons ahead of them.  Gotta like that Baltimore defense.  Can’t quite write off the Cowboys just yet.  And, I’m making Green Bay my huge gainer, because I think it’s pretty obvious that they’re going to keep beating enough bad teams to give Aaron Rodgers a chance to come back and sneak them into the playoffs.  It’s so obvious it makes me want to puke.

  • Buffalo (6-6)
  • Kansas City (6-6)
  • Oakland (6-6)
  • N.Y. Jets (5-7)
  • Washington (5-7)
  • Cincinnati (5-7)
  • Arizona (5-7)
  • Miami (5-7)

You want a gambling Lock of the Week?  Take the OVER on the Kansas City/Oakland game.  I don’t care what it is, no number is too high!  Those two defenses are the worst I’ve ever seen!  This year.  Well, over the last couple months anyway.  Hold on, the over/under is only 47.5?!?!  Dude, jump on that NOW!  Also, while I’m looking at it, take the UNDER in the New Orleans/Atlanta game.  Thursday Night, no way it goes over 53.5.  Finally, I’d take a look at some of these home dogs, like Carolina +3 over Minnesota, Cleveland +3.5 over Green Bay, Arizona +3 over Tennessee, and the Giants +5 over the Cowboys.

  • Tampa Bay (4-8)
  • Houston (4-8)
  • San Francisco (2-10)
  • Denver (3-9)
  • Indianapolis (3-9)
  • Chicago (3-9)
  • N.Y. Giants (2-10)
  • Cleveland (0-12)

I like that Jimmy Garoppolo kid, I tell you what.  Those 49ers are doing some fine things down there in Santa Clara!  Good for the Giants to ditch that head coach and GM; bad on ownership to listen to them and bench Eli in the first place.  Can the Browns do the unthinkable and finish 0-16?  Honestly, their best chance to win is probably this week, as they host the Rodgers-less Packers.  If they blow that opportunity, their home finale is next week against the Ravens; that feels like a pretty easy loss.  Their next-best chance to win is at Chicago the following week, but the Bears’ defense is pretty good, particularly at home.  Then, in Week 17, they go to Pittsburgh, who at that point might be locked into the 2-seed and playing for nothing.  Even still, hard not to like the Steelers’ reserves over the Browns’ starters.