The Huskies Head Into Their BYE Week With More Questions Than Answers

Mostly on the offensive side of the ball.  Primarily with the quarterback position.

Thanks to playing in Hawaii to kick off the season, the Huskies were blessed with four non-conference games.  Thanks to those four teams being terrible, the Huskies were blessed with four victories.  It had appeared, going into last Saturday’s Stanford game, that the Huskies were finally starting to gel.  The running game was pretty solid.  The defense was rounding into shape after a shaky first couple of games.  And while the passing game had yet to really flourish, if we just played our game and limited turnovers, we had as good a chance as any to beat Stanford on our home field.

So, what did we learn from our first defeat of the season?  Well, we learned that the Huskies have joined the likes of Oregon State, Utah, and Colorado among the winless in conference games.  That’s … less than ideal, even if it’s only the one game.  We learned that Stanford is EXACTLY who we thought they were.  A great defense, a pretty good offensive line, and a quarterback who doesn’t do much more than manage the game with his legs.  Kevin Hogan tied for the team lead in rushing attempts, going 14 for 53 yards and a TD; but he only threw 17/26 for 178 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.

Normally, that’s a pretty pedestrian day from a quarterback playing for an upper echelon program.  But, on Saturday, he out-played Cyler Miles like nobody’s business.

Cyler Miles just isn’t very good.  If Kevin Hogan is a Game Manager, Cyler Miles is a Game Towel Boy.  Yeah, he limits turnovers, but big fucking deal if we can’t move the ball down the field!

The offensive line is getting a lot of flak in this whole thing – and I’m not going to be the one to vociferously defend them – but look at it this way:  if the quarterback is no threat to either challenge the defense deep or make good on his long passing attempts, how would you arrange your players if you’re the defensive coordinator going up against the Huskies?  Wouldn’t you load the box and play man coverage on the receivers to take away the run and the little bubble screens we like to throw?  Wouldn’t you put wave after wave of blitzing pressure on Cyler Miles until he’s able to prove that he can handle it and make you pay?

With Keith Price and some of our receivers who have moved on, the Huskies had a deep threat to keep defenses honest.  That’s why our run game was so effective, with essentially the same exact sub-par offensive line performance.  Yes, Bishop Sankey and Chris Polk were both elite college runners, but there’s no saying that Lavon Coleman can’t also be an elite runner.  He just needs a chance.  And, he won’t get that chance if defenses are overloading the box.

But, here’s the thing:  what do we do?  Quite frankly, this BYE week couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the Huskies.  They can use this extra week of practice time one of two ways:  either groom Lindquist or Williams as your starter the rest of the way, or take advantage of the extra practice by refining Miles’ awareness and handling of the offense.  Figure out which areas he can improve upon and work on helping him improve, while at the same time tweak the offense to fit his skillset.  And, for the love of God, encourage him to pull the ball back on some of these zone reads and take advantage of the defense’s over-pursuit!

And, so help me, if you don’t figure out how to get John Ross a minimum of 10 touches on offense per game, I don’t know what else to do with you.  You’ve got an elite-level NFL talent at your fingertips, USE HIM!  Don’t try to force the ball to Mickens.  It’s absolutely unconscionable that Mickens has 29 offensive touches while Ross only has 12 (I don’t care if Ross missed an entire game with injury).  There’s no excuse for this offense to be this bad, regardless of who is at quarterback.

On the flipside, the defense is pretty great and it’s only getting better.  Granted, we’ve yet to play an elite offense at the FBS level, but I’ve been REALLY impressed with how suffocating we can be at times.  Timing can sure be a bitch when it comes to college football.  We’ve got all this amazing defensive talent that’s going to leave after this season, and we can’t take advantage of it because we don’t have a quarterback who knows what he’s doing.  It’s one thing to look good against the dregs of the conference, but if we’re going to stink against Stanford and Oregon and the like, then we’re no better than we’ve been the last four years.

I’m going to hold off on criticizing the coaching staff too much in this early going.  After all, we don’t really have a full allotment of Coach Pete’s personnel.  For instance, I wonder if he would’ve gone after ANY of the quarterbacks we have on our roster right now (at least the ones that aren’t redshirting).  But, I will say that fake punt was an unmitigated disaster.  Here’s a tip:  if you’re going to fake punt by direct-snapping to Shaq Thompson, then make Shaq Thompson a member of your regular punting unit.  So, you know, his presence doesn’t IMMEDIATELY tip off that it’s going to be a fake.  That’s pretty much bluffing 101 right there:  don’t tip your hand.

If I’m revising my outlook on this team, I’ll tell you this much:  the game on October 11th against Cal is a Must Win.  For starters, the Bears are not very good.  But, it’s a road game, so you can never be too confident.  Following that, we go to Oregon, then come back home for Arizona State (both pretty good teams).  Losing at Cal could see us embark on a 4-game losing streak to fall to 4-4 and desperately needing to scrape together two more wins just to be bowl eligible.

When you start the season 4-0, bowl eligibility should NEVER be a concern.  From head to toe, the Huskies are the better team when compared to the Cal Bears.  If we don’t beat them, then there’s a legit chance that we could theoretically lose any and all the rest of the games on our schedule (okay, probably not Colorado, but now that I said that, just watch what happens on November 1st).

Week 26 Random Mariners Thoughts

If you asked me when I woke up on Friday morning last week, what would be more likely:  the Athletics winning just enough games against the Rangers, or the Mariners losing just enough games against the Angels, I would’ve bet the farm that the Mariners would’ve lost at least ONCE.  But, to their credit, when the chips were the most down they could’ve possibly been, the Mariners fought their way through to a 3-game sweep of the best team in baseball.

Granted, the Angels weren’t exactly trying their hardest once they got home field advantage, but that’s neither here nor there.  The Mariners needed to win out and they needed some help.  And, somehow, the Mariners managed to accomplish the first part of that equation.  It’s just too bad the Rangers were a little too bad.  Still, it WAS interesting.  With Oakland losing on Saturday night, while the Mariners would go on to win in extras, the season was pushed to the brink:  Game 162.  The Mariners needed to win that game – with Felix on the mound – and they needed the A’s to lose.

We learned just before the 6th inning that the game was essentially meaningless.  The A’s shut out the Rangers and our season was over.  But, for 161 games & 5 innings, the Mariners’ season had meaning!  This was truly the best year of baseball we’ve had around here since 2001 (I know the Mariners had winning records in 2002 and 2003, but those teams had their dreams crushed thanks to the A’s being insanely good and there not being a second Wild Card team).

In other news, Felix pitched 5.1 innings of shutout ball to claim the E.R.A. title at 2.14.  He ended his season 15-6 with a lot of really impressive counting and average stats.  Thanks to a scoring change in his last start against Toronto – where he got shelled – a hit was changed to an error (on Felix, I might add) that reduced his E.R.A. by something like 16 points.  Either way, it should give him enough to work with to get the Cy Young award.  So, that’s neat.

In Steven’s Gambling news, before the season started I put $550 on a futures bet.  The odds were -110, so it’s essentially $550 to win $500.  Anyway, the bet was Robinson Cano vs. Adrian Beltre:  who will get more combined hits, home runs, and RBI.  I put my money on Cano, and SAINTS BE PRAISED, it looks like my ship has come in!

  • Cano:  187 hits, 14 HR, 82 RBI; Total = 283
  • Beltre:  178 hits, 19 HR, 77 RBI; Total = 274

So, you know what that means:  I’m going back to Tahoe for the third straight year during the first weekend of March Madness!  BAM!  Thank you Robinson Cano; part of my proceeds will most likely go to getting some sort of Cano jersey.

By the by, did anyone catch that game on Saturday?  It was at the same time the perfect representation of a Seattle Mariners game, and also a crazy departure.  1 for 11 with runners in scoring position?  Check.  Multiple instances with the runner stranded on third base with less than two outs?  Check.  Lineup struggling against a left-handed starter, with the only damage being done by left-handed bats (because platooning is for suckers and our right-handed bats suck dick)?  Check.

And yet, there it was, only the second time the Mariners have had a walk-off win this entire season.  The first one, if memory serves, was that day game against Houston back in April where both the Mariners and Kyle Seager broke out of their funks to salvage an ultimately successful season.

There will be a lot to discuss about the 2014 Mariners in the coming weeks, as there will be about the 2015 Mariners and beyond.  We’re wearing our rose-colored glasses now because the season is just over and we came SO close.  And Felix was able to redeem himself yesterday and probably won himself the Cy Young (while getting an emotional standing ovation as he was pulled from the game one out into the sixth inning).  I’ll save the snark and the attitude for another day.

On this day (and probably on a few other days), I’ll celebrate the 2014 Mariners for what they were:  87-75, sixteen games better than they were in 2013.  They were interesting until the bitter end; though “interesting” can be both good and bad.  Still, they were better than I could have possibly hoped for.

I’ll just close with this.  A lot of media types on Twitter like to make fun of the crazed baseball fan who lives and dies with every pitch.  Granted, there are a good number of wackos out there.  But, NOW do you see why the Mariners drive us all crazy on a regular basis?  NOW do you see why everyone flips out on Twitter when the Mariners blow yet another amazing gem of a Felix start?  That shit adds up!  You say we’re nuts for melting down on Twitter when the Mariners blow a game in April; well, ARE WE?  If we’re so nuts, then riddle me this:  how many games behind the A’s for the second Wild Card are we?  That would be one game.  1.

That’s a 2-0 loss to the Angels at home in April.  That’s another 2-0 loss to the A’s in the second game of a doubleheader in May.  That’s a 1-0 loss to the Rangers in June where Felix went 8.1 innings of 4-hit ball and didn’t give up the run until the ninth inning.  Or how about a 1-0 loss to Hector Noesi and the White Sox in July?  I could go on and on.  These are the games that drive us the craziest, and if any one of these games had gone a little differently, the Mariners would still be playing baseball right now.

So, maybe cut us fans a little slack, huh?  Let us vent our feelings the only way we know how:  through crazed diatribes on Twitter to anyone who will listen.

Before the season started, I thought everything would have to break right for the Mariners to make the playoffs.  Indeed, when it comes to the pitching – especially the bullpen – everything DID break right.  Felix was Cy Young quality, Iwakuma bounced back to normal after losing a month, Chris Young might be Comeback Player of the Year, Roenis Elias successfully made the jump from AA and stuck with the big league club the whole way.  In spite of last week’s games in Houston and Toronto, the pitching carried this club.

But, when it comes to the hitting, a lot of shit went wrong, and we still managed to get pretty damn close.  Corey Hart was a huge bust.  Smoak was his usual self.  Brad Miller was a disaster for half the year.  Michael Saunders couldn’t stay healthy.  None of our center fielders or designated hitters could … hit.  Zunino was boom or bust at the plate, with his sub-.200 batting average.  All of our mid-season trade targets ended up hurting us more than helping.  The only things that went right were Cano having an as-expected season, Seager taking the next step to being an All Star, and Ackley busting out to show us why he was the top-rated hitting prospect in his draft class for half a year.  With an honorable mention for LoMo being a streaky first baseman who actually manages to have some hot streaks once in a while.

If certain young hitters mature, and if we’re able to bring in a couple bats to round out the lineup at DH and in the outfield, the 2015 Mariners could legitimately contend for a division title!  How exciting is that?

It All Comes Down To This

I anticipate on Monday I’ll be writing about The Season That Was, or some other In Memoriam-type post on the 2014 Seattle Mariners.  Truth be told, as I said before, I’ve already checked out of this season.  The odds are too long and we’re playing too shitty for a comeback to be likely.

But, it’s Friday, and so I’ll try to not end this week – where the rains have returned and are sucking my will to live – on a total downer of a note.

The odds are long, but they’re not impossible.  The Mariners have three games at home against the Angels.  The A’s play three more in Texas.  The Royals have three more against the White Sox in Chicago.  The Mariners are currently 2 games behind Oakland and 3 games behind Kansas City.  So, it’s pretty simple.

The Mariners need to:

  • Win 2 of 3 and have Oakland lose the remainder of their games (which would force a 1-game playoff before the 1-game Wild Card playoff)
  • Win 3 of 3 and have Oakland lose 2 of 3 (which would also force a 1-game playoff)
  • Win 3 of 3 and have Oakland lose out (which would give the Mariners the 2nd Wild Card outright)
  • Win 3 of 3 and have the Royals lose out (which would force a 1-game playoff with the Royals)

I don’t want to get into what happens if there’s a 3-way tie, because it’s too complicated and stupid and it’s never going to happen.  Whatever the case, just know that the Mariners would host any of those 1-game playoffs because we’ve got better season records against the Royals and A’s.

So, how confident am I in the Seattle Mariners?  Well, given their recent pitching performances (Taijuan Walker notwithstanding), not very.  The Mariners are going to throw Iwakuma, Paxton, and Felix in that order this weekend.  If you’d asked me about a month ago about our chances, I’d say – with those three studs going – we DEFINITELY have a better than 1% chance of forcing a 1-game playoff to get to the next 1-game playoff.

But, at this point, I’m willing to guarantee a loss in that Kuma game, because he has been fucking awful over the last few weeks.  He doesn’t throw nearly hard enough to be pitching up in the zone like he’s been doing.  And, when he gets up there in the zone, his pitches have zero movement; you might as well just place the ball on a tee for them to hit off of.

Assuming the Mariners lose tonight, all that would need to happen is the A’s winning down in Texas.  I’d rather be blissfully ignorant of their pitching matchup, because I’m sure whatever it is will be too depressing to handle right now.

On the one hand:  yeah, the Mariners were in contention all the way to the very last weekend.  On the other hand, it could all be over tonight, if things play out like they should.

I thought I was trying to NOT end this week on a downer of a note!

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 3

What’s this?  Another reminder to vote for me in the Western Washington Sports Blog competition?  This is absolutely too much!

Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll plan out my posts for the next couple weeks.  I try to get one post per day, Monday thru Friday, and I like a little routine in my life.  Lately, with football season starting, it’s been:

  • Monday – Seahawks recap
  • Tuesday – Huskies recap
  • Wednesday – Mariners recap
  • Thursday – NFL Power Rankings
  • Friday – Seahawks preview

It’s a good system.  Covers all my bases and sets myself up to not have to think too hard about what’s going on.  But, when we get into BYE weeks, there are gaps to fill.  And, with these power rankings, I always like to have an intro topic to talk about.  Maybe something that’s not worthy of its own post, but still something I find interesting.

Anyway, for today, in my little “note to self” in the section where I have my idea for this post’s intro, I wrote:

Is Anything Wrong With The Seahawks’ Defense?

And then below it, I wrote:

Probably not.

This is what I have to work with for today.  If this doesn’t interest you, I encourage you to skip ahead to the rankings.  Spoiler Alert:  I still like the Seahawks a lot.

So, IS there anything wrong with the Seahawks’ defense?  Again, probably not.  It’s early in the season, so a lot of this is more “gut feeling” than anything tangible.  Also, if you’re in the Excuse-Making game, it’s easy to argue that the Seahawks have faced three of the better offenses – and in particular three of the better quarterbacks – in all of football.  Totally valid.

When I take a step back and look at this team objectively, I see a lot of the same faces we had last year, when the Seahawks were the best in football.  The L.O.B., the linebackers, and many of our stars on the D-Line are all back and all still in the primes of their careers.  Some may be dealing with injuries – either concealed or not – but either way you wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off.  And, I’m not saying there IS a huge drop-off.  But, something feels wonky.  That’s all I’ve got.

The run defense is off-the-charts good and way better than I thought it’d be, considering the loss of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.  We’re giving up less than 3 yards per carry, and less than 73 yards per game.  That’s GREAT!  So, you won’t hear me speak ill of the rush defense one iota.

The pass defense is a little more unsettling, as we’re giving up 249 yards per game (up from 172 last year), but again, consider the opponents.  When we get to start factoring in the likes of Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and whoever the Rams, Cardinals, and Raiders end up throwing at us, that 249 figure is sure to go down.

AND, not for nothing, but it’s not like the 2013 defense was perfect!  Indy managed 34 points.  A winless Tampa Bay team ran up a huge first half lead before we started our comeback.  And, shit, even the Cardinals – after Palmer had thrown four interceptions – managed a late-game, game-winning touchdown in CenturyLink to delay our winning of the division by a week.

So, really, what am I getting at?  Nothing, I suppose.  Once we put a little more distance between us and that San Diego contest, my nerves should calm down.  And maybe the next time, when a good team is driving down for a game-tying (or game-winning) score, we can nip that in the bud instead of letting them send the game into overtime (or, heavens forbid, another loss).

One interesting trend I’d like to watch going forward is the number of defensive snaps played by each guy on that side of the ball.  The usual suspects are in the 90% range of percentage of plays played (the entire starting four in the L.O.B., Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright at 87.5%), and the next man on the list is Michael Bennett at 76.4% of the defensive snaps.  I want to say that’s up a good 20-or-so percent compared to last year, when most everyone was in the 50-60% range along the defensive line.  We all sort of expected that when Bennett signed the contract extension (and guys like Bryant and Clemons were let go, freeing up more snaps for our new starters), but it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up as the season goes on (especially considering the BYE week is happening now, followed by 13 straight weeks of football).

Avril’s snaps are up as well, to 67.6%.  Everyone else is down in that 40-50% range that we like to see.  So, for all this talk about teams using the hurry-up offense to keep us from rotating guys in and out, we can rest assured that it’s all mostly just talk.

In the end, it’s going to come down to injuries.  If the defense can stay healthy, it will still be great.  If we start losing guys left and right, then we’re probably in trouble (but, you can say that about anyone).  Having Kam Chancellor playing through ankle issues is a little distressing.  As I said before, I’d rather he get the surgery done now if it means he’d be able to return later this season.  I’d rather have him 100% for a playoff run than have him 75% now and deteriorating by the week.  This thing isn’t going to magically get BETTER on its own without rest or surgery.  Since he’s having neither the rest of the way, don’t be shocked if at some point down the line we end up losing our starting strong safety for the season.  Either due to this issue, or some other issue related to this one because he’s compensating.  Me no like.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – That’s what we call a “sigh of relief”.  Now we get a week off to rest our injured player (singular) before another road game against another tough offense.  Watch out for the Redskins, that’s all I’m saying!  I’m just kidding, I’m not saying anything; and their defense is beyond a joke.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1) – I can’t say that I’m QUITE as convinced as ever that it’ll be a Broncos/Seahawks repeat in the next Super Bowl, but I’m fairly certain the AFC will feature either the Broncos or the Bengals.  Big matchup between those two teams in Cincinnati in week 16.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – So, that’s kinda weird:  the best three teams in football all have BYEs in week 4.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) – They’re not much on defense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field a defense to win the NFC East.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – They’re not much on offense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field an offense to win the NFC East (wait …).
  6. New Orleans Saints (1-2) – To inspire the least bit of confidence in my opinion of this team, they COULD have put up a better effort against a hapless Vikings team.  That’s all I’m saying.
  7. Detroit Lions (2-1) – I’m not gonna lie to you, but I’m gaining more and more confidence in their ability to win the NFC North with every passing week.  Or, at the very least, have a better record than the fucking Packers.
  8. San Diego Chargers (2-1) – The only loss is by 1 point on the road to a very good Cardinals team.  For the record, on Thursday, October 23rd, they play the Broncos for the first time.  I will be watching that game.
  9. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) – I got perverse joy out of that Thursday night dismantling of the Bucs.  Mostly because Matt Ryan is my quarterback in fantasy and before the season started I was THIS close to trading him straight up for Jamaal Charles (it’s a keeper league).
  10. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – They lost two games by one score apiece to two very good teams (Eagles & Broncos).  Their schedule the rest of the way looks about as reasonable as a schedule can be.  If Luck stays healthy, even with their suspect defense, I could see them finishing 13-3.  Mark it down now.
  11. New England Patriots (2-1) – Anyone else less than impressed by the Patriots right now?  A pretty bad loss down in Miami in week 1, and now a pretty ugly win at home against the Raiders.  THIS is supposed to be the team that contends with the Broncos for the Super Bowl?
  12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.  *Takes a deep breath* … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  13. Chicago Bears (2-1) – Big test this week against the Packers.
  14. Green Bay Packers (1-2) – Stunk up the joint in Seattle.  Let the Jets get out to a big lead before mounting a comeback.  Stunk up the joint again in Detroit.  We always wonder about the Packers’ defense, but what’s going on with the offense?
  15. Carolina Panthers (2-1) – I couldn’t possibly fathom what happened in that game against the Steelers, but I’m grateful (my fantasy team was going up against a guy with the Panthers’ defense).  This is going to be a tough team to peg all year, I can already tell.
  16. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – The Ravens play 5 of their 6 divisional games by week 9.  Their schedule the rest of the way looks less-than-ideal; they might not win more than 1 more road game going forward.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Their defense looks pretty good when the opposing offense has no skill position players!
  18. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – A lot of people (myself included) jumped off the Cowboys bandwagon pretty hard after week 1.  Not that the bandwagon was filled with a bunch of people thinking this was a playoff team; but this also isn’t a team that’s going to be held to 4 wins or less.  As long as that offense has its stars, they’ll be able to out-score some of the crummier teams out there.
  19. Washington Redskins (1-2) – KILL ME, I like this team about a million times more with Cousins at quarterback.  RGIII might go down as a Top 5 most disappointing NFL player of all time (not counting the wife beaters, child abusers, dog killers, human killers, and so on).
  20. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – Don’t get too excited, it’s only the Miami Dolphins that they beat.
  21. New York Jets (1-2) – Even in defeat, this team is showing me more fight and vigor than these teams below them in the rankings.
  22. Buffalo Bills (2-1) – Stop trying to talk yourself into the Bills.  It’s not going to happen.
  23. Miami Dolphins (1-2) – Well, after a strong opener against the Patriots, they’ve followed that up with two clunkers.  Suffice it to say, the new offense isn’t clicking like they’d envisioned.
  24. Cleveland Browns (1-2) – They’re bad, but they’re not the worst.  I hope they keep themselves close in all their games so Johnny Football rots on the fucking bench for the rest of his life.
  25. Tennessee Titans (1-2) – Jake Locker has the best job security in the NFL, and it’s not even as a result of him being all that talented!  When your only alternative is Charlie Whitehurst, you’d stick with Matt Cassel himself to avoid having to watch Clipboard Jesus boner his way through a football game.
  26. St. Louis Rams (1-2) – A little birdie told me that the Rams, as a team, only have one sack on the season.  That’s … less than ideal.
  27. New York Giants (1-2) – The Giants are like the Cowboys except without the talented stars on offense.  Which might be the biggest insult I’ve ever written about anyone.
  28. Houston Texans (2-1) – I’ll never understand how Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard ever gets a starting job in the NFL.  It would seem to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be better suited as a career backup, and playing absolutely anyone other than Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be the better option.  But, you know, that’s just me.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) – Hey who knew giving a career backup a starting job following a crazy-insane stretch of just a few good games would blow up in a team’s face?  I certainly didn’t, because I think I picked the Bucs to be a playoff team.  But, I’m an idiot, so that’s to be expected.  One of these years, the Bucs WILL make it back to the playoffs; just not this year.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – This offense is the WORST!  Norv Turner needs to be given the Old Yeller treatment.  How hard is it to simply have Cordarrelle Patterson run a crossing pattern each and every pass play?  It’s pretty obvious that the quarterbacks they have aren’t ready for the down-field passing scheme Norv is famous for, so it’s time to change the scheme to fit the personnel.  NORV!
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-3) – I got nothing.  At least the Raiders have three straight home games (with a BYE week thrown in) to really rest up and enjoy the end of the Bay Area summer.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) – Blake Bortles is your starting quarterback for the rest of the season!  Hope he doesn’t get killed by your offensive line!

Week 25 Random Mariners Thoughts

I’m really pimping the shit out of this contest this week.  So, vote for me!  I’ll be your best friend!  (or your worst enemy …)

At this time last week (so, Wednesday morning then), I said the Mariners can’t afford any more dry spells.  They proceeded to go out and lose that night to Anaheim (eventually giving them the division title when Oakland later lost).  Indeed, in the last seven games, the Mariners have gone 2-5.  They now sit at 83-74, and a full three games behind both Oakland and Kansas City for the final Wild Card spot.  With five games to play.

And, on top of all of that, we just got crushed in Felix’s start last night.  If there was ANY hope for this team, it rested on Felix’s shoulders, and God bless him, it just wasn’t meant to be.

That’s got to be a rough feeling.  Felix hasn’t wanted anything more than taking this team to the playoffs.  And, when he has a real opportunity to help this team reach that goal (or at least keep us in the running), he lays an egg.

Normally, I feel really pissed off when the Mariners blow a high-leverage game like this.  But, when it’s Felix giving up 8 runs in 4.2 innings, I mostly just feel sad.  Of course, he’s not alone in this week from Hell, but he’s supposed to be better than the rest.  Pobody’s nerfect and all that.  It was just a bad time for a bad performance.  But, you can say that about all of our pitching this week.

  • 9/23 – Felix:  4.2 innings, 8 runs in a 10-2 defeat
  • 9/22 – Paxton:  2.2 innings, 9 runs in a 14-4 defeat
  • 9/21 – Iwakuma:  4.1 innings, 4 runs in an 8-3 defeat
  • 9/20 – Young:  3 innings, 7 runs in a 10-1 defeat

As you can see, the starting has been horrific.  Of course, the bullpen hasn’t been any great shakes either.  And, what meltdown would be complete if we didn’t discuss the lack of run support?  IT’S ALL THERE!  In one neat bundle, you’re seeing the absolute worst that the Mariners can possibly look.  All the regression from the pitching side of things came upon us like a tidal wave, while the hitting remained anemic.

And just like that, in four short days, against two teams who will miss the playoffs this year, the Mariners have been all but mathematically guaranteed to miss the playoffs as well.

This was supposed to be our triumphant road trip.  We were supposed to tear through the A.L. Wild Card race and get to the point where we wouldn’t even NEED Felix to make his start on the final day of the regular season.  Now, we’re looking at that day as nothing more than a celebration of a great pitcher, in hopes that he’s still got the inside track to win the Cy Young award.  It’s all so depressingly funereal.

And to think, I was secretly planning on buying tickets to the entire home series if it looked like we’d be playing for something more.  Now, unless we win out, and top it off with either Kansas City or Oakland having one of the all time great collapses, the final weekend of the season will come and go like it didn’t even happen.

I sound like a broken record, but it’s true:  it’s been REALLY hard to watch this team over the last two weeks.  Watching them throw away this rare and precious opportunity has had me covering my eyes more than a few times.  In that respect, I’m almost glad it’s over.  I can handle cringe comedies in small doses, but cringe tragedies are just too much for me to bear.

So, About That Husky Game …

Look, the Huskies are 4-0 and that’s pretty much all that matters.  If we’re looking at the extreme bright side of things, then I can say that the Huskies are three more wins away from being bowl-eligible.  That’s the Cal game, the Colorado game, and the Oregon State game.  Bing, bang, boom, 7-6.

Of course, I don’t think very many of us would be too thrilled with 7-6.  Not with the surefire NFL players we’ve got on both sides of the ball right now.

But, if we keep getting these inconsistent performances like we’ve gotten for the most part in the first four games, we may have to temper our expectations and start looking on the bright side more than we’d like.

What can you say about this game last Saturday?  Georgia State is not a team that should be able to fly all the way out here and not just hang with us for a half, but clearly out-play us for a half!  They were up 14-0 after two quarters!  We struggled to run the ball.  Then, we mysteriously stopped running the ball.  And you can forget about any sort of passing game.  If we’re not throwing one of those annoying WR screen passes that don’t work unless John Ross is catching them, then we’re running these long-developing patterns that don’t work because our offensive line can’t keep guys off our quarterback!  Or, our quarterback gets a case of the happy feet, but either way, the passing attack is flawed.

How about simpler stuff?  Some slants, some crossing patterns, some 10-yard comebackers.  This isn’t rocket science.  Cyler Miles obviously isn’t comfortable back there.  This was only, what, his fourth career start at this level?  How about some quick drops and some quick passing?  How about some quick passing that isn’t a long lateral down the line of scrimmage?  That shit’s eventually going to get pick-sixed in a big moment, so I’d like to move away from that if at all possible.

Anyway, as I was saying, it was 14-0 at halftime, and the fans were restless.  I, for one, don’t blame the fans for booing.  I’m not saying you should boo every single time the team does something bad, but when your team is down 14-0 at halftime against a team they should CLEARLY dominate, then I think it’s God damn appropriate for you to boo.  Maybe don’t boo if you’re down 14-0 to a team like Oregon or something.  But, Georgia State?  Come on, man!

So, what happened in the second half?  Oh, not much.  The Huskies just ripped off 45 unanswered points to win the game 45-14 (and very nearly cover the 34.5 point spread in the process).

I’ll tell you what happened:  Dante Pettis happened!  The Freshman phenom and punt returner extraordinaire!  Four returns for 98 yards; I REALLY thought we were going to break that long drought and bring back a punt to the house.  Eventually – and very soon, I might add – he WILL bring one all the way back, and it’s going to be glorious.

We got some short fields, and finally we were able to impose our will in the run game.  The Huskies ended up rushing for 182 yards, which isn’t a crazy amount, but remember with Pettis we had a lot of short fields in play.  No one really took the reins and ran away with it, but it was a nice little team effort after a gnarly first half.  Shoutout to Jeff Lindquist who got in the game a few times and ran some QB keepers.  He ended up with 3 carries for 35 yards and a couple touchdowns on the ground.  That’s a nice little weapon to have, considering Cyler Miles doesn’t appear to be anxious to expose his body to unnecessary hits in the running game.  Over the course of the season, we could be looking at a nice two-headed hydra at quarterback that may prove to give opposing defenses fits.

Overall, I thought the defense acquitted itself well.  That’s two games in a row after that Eastern Washington debacle, and three good performances out of four overall.  With Stanford coming up this weekend, we’re going to need every ounce this defense can give us.

It’s understandable that you’d doubt this team going into this Saturday’s game against the 16th-ranked team in the nation.  The Huskies have yet to really play a complete game.  The offense outside of John Ross has been pretty underwhelming, and with him fighting an injury, this could be a scary proposition.  Stanford has a REALLY good defense, and it wouldn’t be totally shocking if they came in here and shut us out.

Do I think that’s going to happen?  No, but like I said, I wouldn’t be shocked.

However, I really think people are underestimating this Husky defense after that Eastern game.  They’re not going to be perfect each and every drive, but they have enough talent at all levels – secondary, linebacker, and especially along the line - to keep us in any ballgame.  And, let’s not forget, Stanford isn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard themselves.  Their offense isn’t so great!  Yeah, they ran up the score against Army and UC Davis, but their defense really had a lot to do about that, considering they were able to shut out both teams.  Against USC, at home, Stanford was held to 10 points.  Now, they’re supposed to come into Husky stadium and ram the ball down our throats?  I don’t think so.

I think our defense is more than capable of keeping this game close.  I think eventually our offense will generate just enough big plays to make it interesting.  If we have John Ross back and healthy, I think we’ll even pull out a win somehow!  You heard it here first:  21-20, Huskies upset big bad Stanford.

Squeaker: Seahawks Pick Their Jaws Up Off The Floor Long Enough To Beat The Broncos In Overtime

How about that Jon Ryan, huh?  I know that’s probably not where you want to start after a game like this, but you could really make an argument that he was the most important player on the field yesterday.  Take a look at it like this:  against the better offenses in the league, the Seahawks tend to play a Bend/Don’t Break style of defense.  Give up nothing deep, and as a compromise, the Seahawks will give the opportunity for completions underneath.  To be fair, the Seahawks are certainly one of the very BEST Bend/Don’t Break defenses in football, but they’re still going to give up some yards every now and again.  So, to pin them deep, to flip the field position battle every time our offense failed and we were forced to punt, was just what the doctor ordered in a game this tight.  Denver starting inside the 10 yard line vs. starting around their own 30 is all the difference between forcing Denver to punt vs. forcing them to kick a field goal.

I dunno.  I just think if you’re EVER going to lavish praise upon a punter, it might as well be after a game like that.  I mean, shit, did you see that free kick after the safety?  Have you ever SEEN one of those kicks travel all the way to the opposing goalline?  Usually in those situations, the other team ends up with the ball around the 30 or 40 yard line!

So, yesterday, I was pretty surly.  Long story short:  the vast majority of my fantasy players had played in the morning and not a God damn one of them got me any touchdowns.  I was staring down the barrel of an embarrassing defeat and what’s worse was I was losing because I followed some very bad advice by the so-called fantasy experts out there (seriously, Joique Bell can eat all the dicks until Reggie Bush gets injured).  Anyway, going into the Seahawks game, I really needed a pick-me-up, and for the most part I got one.  That was quite the enjoyable football game!  Got a little scary at the end – had some flashbacks to the Seahawks’ defense of 2012 (where we were mostly great, but had a few too many late-game breakdowns that let other teams beat us) – but the good guys won and that’s all that matters.

Before I go any further, let me just say this about Phil Simms.  I was reading Twitter during commercial breaks, and catching a few text messages from friends, and the general consensus is that overall Phil Simms sucks as a broadcaster and in particular he sucks because he was overly-favoring the Denver Broncos.  I want to be there with you guys, I really do, but here’s the thing:  I don’t have the energy to hate any more sports announcers.  I’m kinda all wrapped up in this whole Dave Sims Is The Worst thing, and then I ended up spending yesterday morning listening to Ronde Barber stammer his way through the Saints/Vikings football game alongside Chris Myers for three straight hours.  When you tack on Joey Harrington and the vast majority of announcers on the Pac-12 Network, I just don’t have what it takes to lump in Phil Simms.

Is he ideal?  No.  But, they can’t all be Cris Collinsworth or Gus Johnson or Kevin Calabro.  I’m sorry.  If you’re like me, you’ve been listening to Phil Simms talk about football for about 20 years now.  I don’t look to him for smart insights.  I’ve gotten used to his down-home, folksy charm.  And for crying out loud he wasn’t rooting for the Broncos, he was rooting for a good, exciting football game.  Considering the Seahawks grabbed control of the contest from the get-go, of course he’s going to talk about what the Broncos have to do to get back in the ballgame!

But, enough about that.

There was more than punting and poor announcers in this contest.  There was getting the best of Peyton Manning yet again!  There was holding their running game to almost nothing.  There was Emmanuel Sanders getting nearly 27 points for my bench in fantasy.  There was Aqib Talib nearly picking off a pass, then getting beat for a 39-yard touchdown to Ricardo Lockette, then later deflecting a ball that would lead to a pick by someone else and eventually a Broncos touchdown.

This game had it all.  Or, at least, it had it most.  Lots of good things to build upon, lots of bad things to work out.

The offense looked a lot more balanced.  Denver’s got a pretty stout run defense up the middle, so it was nice to see those fake fly-sweeps work to our advantage with Beastmode.  Oftentimes, I see the sweep coming and when it’s a fake, I wonder what would have been had we given it to a sprinting Percy Harvin instead.  These are especially lamentable when the defense isn’t prepared to put a body on our receiver and they end up clogging up the run straight ahead.  But, it looks like the word is out on these plays, as teams are concentrating more on Harvin, thus giving us a chance to gash.

One play I particularly like is when Harvin runs across the formation pre-snap, then Wilson fakes the swing pass, turns around, and throws a swing pass to the opposite side (to Lynch, mostly).  These misdirection plays are fantastic and I’d like to see them more often when we get down into the red zone.

Aside from that Lockette reception, there wasn’t a whole lot available with the deep pass in this game.  That’s a shame, and also a real testament to Denver’s dedication in shoring up their secondary.  I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but my gut feeling is that the Seahawks haven’t been able to take advantage of the deep pass as much through the first three games of this season.  Which leads me to wonder:  are we running these play-action passes with less regularity?  Are defenses playing us differently, knowing how we get off on making secondaries look silly?  Or, is this some sort of commentary on our wideouts and their inability to get open on deeper routes (or our quarterback’s inability to look off an opposing safety?).  I tend to believe it’s how other teams are scheming us, to which I reply:  do so at your own peril.  Because, let’s face it, you’re playing right into our hands when you do that.  We WANT to run the ball a ton!  So, by you playing deep and giving us less-populated fronts on which to run against, we’ll just continue running for 5 yards per play and methodically wear you out.

Defensively, we were much better than we were against the Chargers.  Denver only converted 6 of 16 third downs, which I will take every single time against an offense that potent.  Of course, a couple of those plays were curious draw plays on third & long, which led many to wonder if they were just giving up on those drives.

Overall, the run defense has been FANTASTIC this season!  Yesterday, the Broncos really made it their mission to pound it on the ground, and they were taken to task accordingly.  20 rushes for 36 yards, which is just God awful.

We saw a little bit of the good pass defense (2013) and the not-so-good pass defense (2012) in yesterday’s game, when the fourth quarter came around.  In 2012, we generally found ways to lose games like these, as teams like Detroit, Miami, and Atlanta in the playoffs ultimately drove on us late in ballgames to secure victories.  In 2013, we mostly found ways to win those types of games.  Even if teams would drive on us late, we made just enough big plays to hold them off.  Well, yesterday the Broncos had a chance to score a go-ahead touchdown, but Manning was picked off by Chancellor, who ran it all the way back to field goal range for the Seahawks.  We ran them out of time outs and knocked the clock all the way down to just under a minute, while taking an 8-point lead that looked practically insurmountable given the circumstances.  And yet, we all know what happened:  Manning drove them down 80 yards on 6 plays (on the back of two big passes on similar routes down the sideline) in 41 seconds to tie the game.

I have no doubt about one thing in this game:  had Kam not brought that interception all the way down, allowing us to eventually hit that field goal to go up by eight, we would’ve lost this game.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument, when the Seahawks were up 17-12, that instead of the INT, Denver scored a touchdown there, with something like 2 minutes left to go:  I have very little faith that we would’ve been able to generate a drive in that short of time to either tie the game or take the lead.  Not with the way we were playing offense in that second half.

Overtime was the biggest blessing (aside from winning that coin toss in overtime, of course).  With a fresh quarter in which to work with, the Seahawks were able to methodically drive the length of the field to score.  80 yards in just under 6 minutes.  See, in this scenario, we could take our time.  We were still deprived of anything deep, which meant that Russell Wilson was able to take advantage of all those keepers he turned down through the first four quarters.  There were LOTS of opportunities where Wilson handed off to Lynch instead of pulling the ball back for moderate gains on the outside.  Obviously, I’m not going to bash him for this, because I want him to remain healthy and I want him to improve as a pocket passer.  But, when push comes to shove, it’s nice to know that he’s got his running ability in his back pocket.  We NEEDED to score a touchdown in overtime, because no one wanted to see Denver’s offense back on the field.  It was Russell Wilson’s grit and determination that made this victory possible.

Just when you think you’ve got the Seahawks figured out and bottled up, we find another way to get the job done.

Aside from the obvious stars – Jon Ryan, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch – I’d like to give it up to the receivers for getting the job done against a tough secondary.  Kearse, Baldwin, Harvin, Walters, and Lockette had a bigger collective impact on this game than their individual numbers may indicate.

I thought Maxwell was overall pretty solid, even though he’s absolutely getting picked on each and every game.  It’s hard to ask a cornerback to be perfect when teams are actively avoiding the other side of the field and going after you on a near-constant basis.  Shout out to Marcus Burley as well for doing a great job in the nickel corner spot.  I find it’s no coincidence that Denver was able to start moving the ball easier once he was knocked out by a little friendly fire.  Secondary depth is a little iffy at the moment, but when we’re able to get Jeremy Lane back, all should be awesome in the stretch run (here’s to hoping Lane is available by the time we play the Eagles in week 14, if not sooner).

I noticed Cassius Marsh got some quality reps in the first half and made a great impact.  He’s going to be really good for us if he manages to stay healthy.  Mebane was his usual rock-solid self as well.

Now we go into our BYE week.  Because fuck you NFL schedule-makers.  Then, we have to go play the Redskins on their abysmal field in two weeks.  Oh joy, I’m sure none of our guys will get injured in that game!

The Seahawks Have A Very Important Game Against The Broncos This Weekend

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I’m nervous.  That I’m worried about this weekend’s game and the possibility of the Seahawks losing said game.  This is the part where I concoct a scenario where the other team could plausibly wrench victory from the jaws of defeat.

Except, this isn’t just an ordinary game preview post where I’m trying to fill a self-imposed word-quota (more than 300, less than 30,000).  I can ACTUALLY see a way the Broncos could defeat the Seahawks.  The answer, more or less, lies in last week’s game in San Diego.

The Seahawks lost to the Chargers.  Why did they lose?  Because we faced an All Pro-type quarterback having one of the better games of his career.  Because while we mitigated their explosive plays over our heads, we still had a helluva time getting off the field on third down.  Because we made mistake after mistake on defense and an old, veteran, Hall of Fame tight end took advantage of our aggressiveness and made us pay.

Well, the Broncos have an All Pro-type quarterback.  The Broncos are generally pretty good at converting third downs.  And, rather than having an old, veteran, Hall of Fame tight end; they’ve got a young, explosive, potential FUTURE Hall of Fame tight end.  On top of a lot of other great players, and a VASTLY improved defense compared to the one we saw in the Super Bowl.

Oh yeah, that.  The Broncos also have an entire offseason where they heard nothing but praise about how dominating the Seahawks are.  How the Seahawks might be the next dynasty.  How the Seahawks’ defense is among the greats like the 60s Vikings, 70s Steelers, the 85 Bears, and the 2000 Ravens.  How the Broncos wilted, were afraid, GAVE UP in what was - for the non-Peyton Manning members of the team – the most important game of their lives.

Think about that.  This is no longer a rivalry like it was in the 80s and 90s (though, try telling that to John Elway, current GM and Vice President), but just imagine if our situations were reversed.  The Seahawks got plastered in the Super Bowl, while everyone in the world thought we were the better team and should have won easily.  Imagine all these months, listening to various Broncos players on First Take or Jim Rome or whathaveyou, flapping their gums about how they knew what plays we were going to run.  About how our receivers couldn’t handle running crossing patterns in the vicinity of whoever their strong safety is.  Wouldn’t you be a little salty?  Wouldn’t you expect your local columnists to write ham-fisted articles about how much more improved we are this year?  About how tired we are of hearing all their talk?

Yes, we’ll always have the Super Bowl.  No one can take that away from us.  But, it’s a new season.  No sense in living in the past, even if it only happened seven-or-so months ago.

Talent, motivation, health:  the Broncos have it all going for them this week.  One could argue that the Seahawks have all that going for them too, and on top of that, we’ve got home field advantage.

A little something about that.  For starters, I don’t necessarily think the 12th Man has the type of power it once had.  There’s no element of surprise anymore.  EVERYONE is aware of how loud it is up here in Seattle.  It’s been showcased on countless national broadcasts; we’re not catching anyone off guard anymore.  No one is taking the noise lightly anymore.  They’re preparing for it and overcoming it.  Yes, the noise is nice, and I’m sure opposing teams don’t like going on silent counts, but these are professionals we’re talking about.  This isn’t some Pee Wee Football League team playing in front of thousands of screaming fans for the first time.  PLUS, this is an afternoon game.  Even if I’m being overly dismissive of the 12th Man’s effect on a game, everyone HAS to admit that it’s just not the same compared to nationally-televised night games.  For one thing, the Twelves haven’t had as much time to get sauced!  Take it from someone who could turn Pro in weekend warrioring:  those extra 3-4 hours of beer chugging make all the difference between a little snooty intoxication and outright belligerent jack-assery.

In short, you can’t dismiss the home field advantage straight away, but let’s stop building it up to be something it’s not.  We have seven more regular season home games; every God damn one of them will be played in the afternoon.  After the first series or two, the crowd settles into a predictable routine and the opposing offense settles into a potent weapon capable of knifing through the noise.  Once the initial surge is overcome, the home field advantage goes away and it’s all up to the players on the field (if you don’t believe me, go back and look at that Arizona game last season).

As for the players on the field, you know who they are.  The Broncos are pretty much the same team on offense as they were last year (swap Decker for Sanders and Moreno for Ball).  On defense, their stars are healthy, and their new players are impactful.  DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib are the obvious new additions and they are still playing at the peak of their abilities.  Factor in Von Miller back to full health, and Terrance Knighton clogging up the middle, and it certainly won’t be as easy to move the ball up and down the field, regardless of our pumped up offensive weapons.

What can I say about this game?  Either we’ll find a way to stop them with some regularity on third down, or we won’t.  Either the game will be close, or it won’t.  Either we’ll win, or we won’t.  I’d like to think our defense will look better than it did against San Diego.  It won’t be as hot, for starters.  Peyton Manning isn’t as mobile as Philip Rivers.  We’re a little more familiar with their offensive scheme, since we spent the better part of two weeks prior to the Super Bowl studying their tendencies.  And, we HAVE to be a little salty ourselves, considering we gave up a 30-spot for the first time since October of last year when we lost to the Colts.

In closing, I’ll talk about why this game is so important.  There are a couple of obvious, conflicting points at play here.  On the one hand, if we want to get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, we probably can’t afford to lose more than three games.  Losing to the Broncos here would drop us to 1-2 already, with most of a full season left to go (not to mention, we’d be 1-2 going into a BYE week, which means starting in October, it’ll be 13 straight weeks of games with little respite).  On the other hand, like the Chargers, the Broncos are in the AFC.  If you’re going to lose two games, they might as well be to teams in the opposite conference, as that still leaves all of your key tie-breakers in play (with you in control of your own destiny).  I already discussed the following 8-game stretch of cream-puffs on our schedule.  Yeah, we could be 1-2 after this Sunday’s contest, but we could also be 9-2 going into our Thanksgiving battle royale with the 49ers.

But, here’s something that only recently occurred to me.  If we lose this game, we will have lost two games against good-to-great opponents.  And, if Green Bay isn’t necessarily the world-beater we all thought they’d be, then you have to ask:  are the Seahawks as good as they were last year (when we managed to beat three good, playoff teams in the regular season)?  What does it mean if a team only pounds on the bad teams, but loses heartbreakers to the good ones?  I know it’s early for all of this type of talk (and essentially meaningless, considering the NFL doesn’t care about the types of teams you beat like they do in college), but it’s a psychological component that nobody’s talking about.

How do you know you’re good?  When you beat other good teams.  What do you call a team that has a good record, but hasn’t beaten anyone of note?  The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.

Are we the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs?  Or, are we going to kick Denver’s shit in on Sunday?!

Look, I have us winning this game, but I’m going to tell you right now, it’s ONLY because I’m a huge homer.  If I were a fan of literally any other team, I’d be making the Broncos my Upset Special.  I still think the Seahawks are more or less going through the motions.  I still think there’s a lot of talk going around about how the Seahawks are “taking this week seriously” and putting in the type of practice required to win a big game at home.  But, I honestly feel that’s a lot of bullshit and Denver is going to come in here and move the ball around with ease and escape with a comfortable victory.  Peyton Manning isn’t the be-all, end-all of quarterbacks, but I’ll tell you this much:  I don’t like playing his teams this early in the season.  I like playing his teams when it’s cold and the weather is shitty and the pressure of the moment overwhelms his robot brain.

I like playing his teams when the NFL hasn’t spent the entire offseason catering to his every want and need by increasing the emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact in the secondary.

When you factor in the Mariners playing the series of their lives down in Houston – against pitchers who have generally crushed our feeble lineup – I can see this being a REAL bad weekend for the professional teams of Seattle.  Somebody hold me; I need a hug.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

I’m still firmly in the camp of the Seahawks being the best team in football until some other team (or teams) jump out and prove themselves superior … but I can’t help having these nagging worries.  Doesn’t it feel like something’s a little off about this year’s team?  I read all these quotes and they’re as encouraging as always:

  • About how our stars are working harder than ever before
  • About how guys are in the best shapes of their lives
  • About how everyone is still hungry and that winning a Super Bowl has only made them hungrier

But, I dunno.  This is more of a gut feeling than anything, but it just feels like we’re going through the motions.  Like, everyone’s on auto-pilot until they decide to turn it on and ramp it up.  Which, in most cases, our auto-pilot is better than most other teams’ 100% effort, but it’s still cause for concern.

I just wonder why it looks so BLAH out there.  Is it Super Bowl Hangover?  Is it because we know we’re so very good, we can’t see anyone else as a threat?  Like that smart kid in school who acts out because he’s not challenged?  Or, have we lost our heart?

Golden Tate, Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons all play for other teams.  They were all either released, or it was made very clear to them that we didn’t want them back or need them back.  Those three guys were also three of the biggest personalities on the team.  Tate had a swagger about him that was the perfect complement to Beastmode’s tenacious desire.  He could dish out the shit-talking and he could back it up.  When the offense or special teams needed a big play, Tate’s sheer force of will would make it happen, no matter what it required.

Red Bryant was the leader on defense.  Not the signal-caller – that job belongs to Wagner – but he was the emotional leader for sure.  I can’t count the number of times I’d see him make a big play and then stomp around like a rabid elephant, barking at everyone around him that they were NOT going to run it in his direction!  Everyone looked up to him and voted him defensive captain.  It can’t be easy to lose that, because there’s a void bigger than his 330-pound frame left in his place.

And, by all accounts, Chris Clemons was the resident hard ass.  He’s all business, and he’s in the business of tearing some new assholes out of opposing quarterbacks.  When you look at these three guys, the word that comes to mind is:  intensity.  They had it, and we’ve lost it.  Sure, Earl Thomas brings the fire.  But, even he seems a bit scaled back this year.  I see it a little more in Bobby Wagner, which is nice, but it would be better to see it out of more guys.  I don’t care what anyone says, we need emotional leaders to step up.  When you tack on the loss of Michael Robinson, Sidney Rice, and so on, this could be a major problem for this team going forward.

The main take-away after two games is:  opposing offenses are going to be in no-huddle mode as much as possible, to prevent us from substituting on defense.  Part of me says, “BRING IT ON, BITCH!”  But, part of me also knows that subbing guys in and out regularly is what kept this team fresh, especially along the defensive line.

Now, obviously, not all teams are going to be able to do this, but the good ones will.  We were successful against Green Bay, but we were a trainwreck against San Diego.  Maybe it WAS just the weather and other circumstances that prevented us from playing our best last week, or maybe that’s just how it’s going to go:  the best teams are going to go no-huddle, and sometimes we’ll win, and sometimes we’ll lose.  The bad thing about that is:  if we want the #1 seed again, we can’t afford to lose too many games.  Three is about the limit.  We’ve already lost one, with Denver coming to town in a few days.  If we start the season 1-2, it’s going to require a ton of effort and a lot of luck to get back to 13-3.

I’m not in “Sky Is Falling” mode just yet.  I won’t even be in “Sky Is Falling” mode if we lose to the Broncos this weekend.  I know that our schedule has an 8-game creamy center of easiness that should have us red hot by the time we play the 49ers and Eagles in late November/early December.  I also know that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.  No one ever won a Super Bowl in September.  I’d MUCH rather we play our best football in December and January instead of right now.

But, while slow starts aren’t necessarily fatal, they can hurt an awful lot.  For my own peace of mind, I’d be delighted to see the Seahawks stick to taking care of business against these pass-first offenses like they’re supposed to.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Until further notice, this year will resemble 2013 in a lot of ways:  it’s the Seahawks & Broncos in some order at the top, and then everyone else.  No loss to an old AFC West foe – that we will never face again this year – will change that.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-0) – The proof will be in the pudding this weekend as the Broncos travel to Seattle.  They’re 2-0 at home with a couple comfortable 1-score victories.  Let’s see if they can take their show on the road in their toughest matchup of the year.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) – This is as complete a team as it gets, with their feisty defense.  Losing A.J. Green isn’t ideal, so it’ll be interesting to see how they manage until his return.
  4. New Orleans Saints (0-2) – The defense scares me, but it also hasn’t had a chance to get a home game under its belt.  My feeling is that it can’t get much worse, and the offense will start clicking.  Bank on the Saints being one of those rare 0-2 teams to win a division.
  5. New England Patriots (1-1) – Start on the road in 3 of their first 4 and 4 of their first 6 games of the season.  That’s rough.  They’re still good (though, it’s possible Miami is better than we thought).
  6. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – Hahahaha, I can’t believe I gave up on that Bears game and they ended up coming back to win!  What a gift!  49ers still look pretty strong, considering their injuries.  But, if their offense doesn’t take the next step, this team will be doomed.
  7. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – Well, they blew a late lead on the road against what appears to be a better-than-expected Cardinals team.  Then, they gave the Seahawks the business.  This team’s legit.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, and yes, their offense is explosive.  But, it should probably be concerning that they keep starting games so shabbily.
  9. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – Is it possible the Packers are WORSE than expected?  Well, I didn’t expect them to win their division, so maybe they’re just “as expected” in my book.
  10. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – If they can continue to play teams tough, even without Carson Palmer, that doesn’t make me feel good.  Their immediate future is a little rocky with games against the 49ers, Broncos, and Eagles coming up in the next few weeks; I don’t think they stay a Top 10 team for long.
  11. Carolina Panthers (2-0) – I must say, this is a pleasant surprise if you don’t hate the Panthers.  I still have my doubts that they’ll be able to continue winning over the long haul, but they’re clearly not the bottom-feeders I thought originally.
  12. Indianapolis Colts (0-2) – You look at Andrew Luck - if you’re an objective football viewer and not necessarily a fan of either the Colts or the Seahawks – and you think:  yeah, I’d rather have him over Russell Wilson.  I guess he passes the eyeball test or whatever.  But, he’s streaky!  He goes through long periods of sucking before turning it on.  Yes, he’s able to generate breathtaking comebacks in those games where they start so poorly, but you have to ask yourself:  is he part of the problem?  Or, conversely, if you swapped quarterbacks, and Luck got to enjoy all the talent around him that the Seahawks have to offer (along with a coaching staff that preaches ball control and plays a different style of offense than the Colts), would he be better than he is right now, on the Colts?  Would Wilson be remarkably worse if he played in Indy and had a crap defense with no running game and a pass-first mentality?  These are the questions.  I don’t necessarily have the answers, though.
  13. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – I’m still in wait-and-see mode with this team.  They strike me as a team right around .500, but who knows?
  14. Chicago Bears (1-1) – So, they lay an egg at home against the Bills, then they lay another egg on the road in San Francisco before getting hot in the 4th quarter to steal one.  Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m still not buying the Bears as a legitimate playoff team.
  15. Detroit Lions (1-1) – Well, they’ve beat up on a terrible Giants team, then got throttled by a sneaky good Panthers team.  Probably not the start they envisioned, but then again I don’t think the rest of the teams in that division are all that great either.
  16. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – You put a good defense in front of Matt Ryan and he’s going to struggle.  The good news is, they don’t play what I would consider another “good” defense for another nine weeks.  And, by then, who knows where the Panthers will be?
  17. Miami Dolphins (1-1) – No, I don’t think Buffalo is all that good.  I think the Dolphins kicked one they should’ve won.  Their schedule going forward is pretty cheesy, so they SHOULD still be able to parlay that into a good record.  But, watch out for games like we saw last weekend, because they’ll show up again.
  18. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – That’s a bad team right there.  But, they’re in a bad division and their offense is kinda okay.  If they manage to stick with the run game, their offense could even be GREAT.  Or, at least good enough to keep them in enough ballgames to be interesting.
  19. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) – They’re screwed.  They’re even more screwed if Jamaal Charles goes down.
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) – Probably not as bad as that Thursday performance, but still not very good.  Their defensive line is shot, their secondary is less-than-ideal, and their cap situation is a joke.  You’re going to hear the words “Blow Up” when it comes to the Steelers more than a few times this year.  These are the lean times.
  21. Buffalo Bills (2-0) – Well, if any city deserves a pleasant surprise, it’s Buffalo.  I wouldn’t expect it to last though.
  22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) – Lost two home games and two conference games (one in the division).  THAT’S what we call a bad start.  Every year, I get sucked into the Bucs and every year they come out of the gate in a fucking coma.  Now, they play three straight on the road, starting with tonight in Atlanta (followed by Pittsburgh and New Orleans).  Can you say 0-5?
  23. Tennessee Titans (1-1) – They won a game 26-10 and lost a game 26-10.  Those are weird scores to have in a football game, let alone in back-to-back games.  That’s all I have to say about the Titans.
  24. New York Jets (1-1) – I’m even more interested in what the Jets have to offer after almost sticking it to the Packers.  They’re not a good team, don’t get me wrong; but can they be decent?
  25. Cleveland Browns (1-1) – I know the Browns can be decent!  Do they weirdly have the Saints’ number, or is it just me?
  26. Washington Redskins (1-1) – I’m definitely more afraid of the Redskins with Cousins than I am with RGIII.  A lot of unhappy fantasy owners this week.
  27. St. Louis Rams (1-1) – You still have to write off the Rams, right?  Yeah, I think so.  I think so …
  28. Houston Texans (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, but they’ve only played the dregs of the league.  Washington and Oakland?  No thank you.
  29. New York Giants (0-2) – This team is amazingly bad and in need of a total overhaul from top to bottom.  They remind me a lot of the 2008/2009 Seahawks.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-1) – I don’t know how much you can learn about a team that’s faced one of the worst teams (with a ton of injuries) and one of the best teams.  One thing is for certain:  Matt Cassel needs to be out of football.
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-2) – Derek Carr isn’t quite the world-beater I thought he was going to be.  Then again, they’ve faced two pretty solid defenses with the Texans and Jets.  Doesn’t get much easier with the Patriots and Dolphins coming up.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – In a freak occurrence, they took a 17-0 lead against the Eagles.  They have since been outscored 75-10.  Worst team in football, you’ve returned to me!

Week 24 Random Mariners Thoughts

This one’s coming to you a little late this week because it’s football season and I feel a pressing need to be a little more timely with my football coverage than my baseball coverage.

So, the Mariners sure did suck last week.  Lost 2 of 3 to Houston and followed that up with losing 2 of 3 to Oakland.  Going into last night’s game, the Mariners were on a 2-6 streak that somehow still had them in the playoff picture, but didn’t instill a whole lot of confidence in their abilities to follow through on their potential.  Luckily, Oakland and Kansas City both lost last night, while the Mariners brought the apocalypse down in Anaheim to the tune of a 13-2 victory, so we’re officially only 1 game out of the second wild card spot and 2 games out of the first wild card spot.

Here’s the deal.  The Mariners can’t afford ANY more dry spells.  There are 12 games left.  These have to be the best 12 games of our lives!  While we can’t necessarily count on the Royals to fall in the tank these next couple weeks, there is room for optimism.

For instance, tonight, the Royals go up against Chris Sale and the White Sox.  If Sale can just be a buddy for once and destroy them, that’d be awful nice.  Then, the Royals host the Tigers for three games over the weekend.  In that series, Verlander and Scherzer are set to pitch on Saturday and Sunday.  You have to like the Tigers’ chances in those games.  Then, on Monday, the Royals supposedly have to finish out a game against the Indians that was postponed because of rain.  That game – again, supposedly, because I’m still not finding it on their schedule anywhere – is in the 10th inning with the Royals losing by 2 runs.  Why they didn’t just call the game there, I’ll never know.  Anyway, you’d think that would be a loss.  They follow that up with three full games in Cleveland.  The Indians aren’t great, but they’ve got a winning record.  Lastly, the Royals go to Chicago for four against the White Sox to close out the season.  Somehow, they miss Sale in this turn, so that’s a real bummer.  Nevertheless, you won’t find a bigger White Sox fan on the planet that weekend.

As for the A’s, I’m less optimistic that we’ll be able to catch them.  Yes, they lost to the Rangers last night, but I don’t think you can really count on a team like the Rangers playing spoiler for you.  They get two more against them before Philadelphia and their trainwreck comes to town for three.  THEN, there’s three more home games to follow, this time against the Angels.  They’ve got 8 games left of a 9-game homestand before they close out the year with four down in Texas.  9 of their remaining 12 games are against God-awful teams.  It would be a real miracle if the A’s continued to sputter (their series in Seattle notwithstanding) down the stretch.

I’m still not optimistic in the Mariners’ chances of making the playoffs, but yesterday sure was fun.  If we can somehow keep this going through the rest of this road trip, it would make me awfully happy.