The Thanksgiving (No More BYEs) Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Everyone has officially played 10 games.  I think we all know where everyone stands, so let’s get to this.

  • Philadelphia (9-1)
  • New England (8-2)
  • New Orleans (8-2)
  • Minnesota (8-2)
  • Pittsburgh (8-2)
  • L.A. Rams (7-3)
  • Carolina (7-3)
  • Jacksonville (7-3)

I know a lot of people want to put New England right back to the top of the heap, but they’re playing well in a terrible conference.  I still legitimately think Philly is better than them right now, on both sides of the ball.  They might not lose another game the rest of the year!  I like New Orleans over the Vikings and Steelers, because I think they’ve got the full package of offense and defense, and they have a real identity.  The Steelers play down to the level of their opponents too often, and the Vikings are a quarterback controversy just waiting to happen.  Give me the Saints and that world-destroying running game.  Also, I can’t keep the Panthers or Jags out of the Top 8 anymore.  Yeah, the Jags are running The Bort out there, but that defense is legit.

  • Atlanta (6-4)
  • Detroit (6-4)
  • Seattle (6-4)
  • Kansas City (6-4)
  • Washington (4-6)
  • Tennessee (6-4)
  • Dallas (5-5)
  • L.A. Chargers (4-6)

For what it’s worth, I don’t like any of those 6-4 teams, and honestly I think both of the teams that are 4-6 could make more of a run down the stretch.  Watch out for the Chargers; I see them leapfrogging the Cowboys tomorrow afternoon.  Also, I wonder about Detroit and Atlanta; are they ready to make a run?  Or will they step right back down to Earth this week?

  • Baltimore (5-5)
  • Tampa Bay (4-6)
  • N.Y. Jets (4-6)
  • Oakland (4-6)
  • Cincinnati (4-6)
  • Buffalo (5-5)
  • Miami (4-6)
  • Houston (4-6)

I was going to put the Bills about three spots higher, but that franchise is a joke.  I honestly wonder about all of these AFC teams; I feel like they should all be better, but they keep stumbling when you least expect it.  This is going to be a HUGE week for the Bucs; they have to win in Atlanta or their season is effectively over.

  • Denver (3-7)
  • Arizona (4-6)
  • Green Bay (5-5)
  • Indianapolis (3-7)
  • Chicago (3-7)
  • N.Y. Giants (2-8)
  • San Francisco (1-9)
  • Cleveland (0-10)

Oh how the mighty Broncos have fallen.  Also, boy did the Giants pick a stupid game to win; gonna lose a Top 2 draft pick over some bullshit?  This week, we see the start of the Jimmy Garoppolo Era in San Francisco against the Seahawks.  Between the 49ers (whose coaching staff I really like, and whose 2017 draft class looked pretty impressive) and the Rams (whose coaching staff I like even more, and whose team looks like it’s going to be a contender for years to come), it looks like it could be really tough sledding in the NFC West.  Thank God for the lowly Arizona Cardinals.  Who’s going to be the next aging veteran QB they bring in to run Bruce Arians’ system?  My money is on either Alex Smith or Eli Manning, though they’ll be fools if they don’t make a run at Tyrod Taylor this offseason.

The Triumphant Return Of The Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

The early theme through 7 weeks in this NFL season is how there aren’t any elite teams.  While it does feel that way, I also think we could be singing a different tune after another 7 weeks.  Mostly, I just think it’s an overreaction to the fact that the Patriots’ defense stinks, Aaron Rodgers is injured, and a 25 year old Peyton Manning isn’t walking through that door to help carry some unfortunate team into the playoffs.

I mean, Kansas City looks like the clear best team in the AFC right now, and does anyone trust the likes of Alex Smith in a do-or-die playoff game?  He certainly looks better than he ever has before, but can he pull his team back from a 2-score deficit against a competent defense?  I know I have my doubts.

Another theme, more locally focused, is that the vast majority of the NFL-covering public is ignoring the Seattle Seahawks.  Which is pretty understandable.  The Seahawks feel like more or less the same story being told over and over again for the fifth straight year.  The media likes a new, exciting story.  Carson Wentz!  Dak Prescott!  Jacksonville’s defense!  Deshaun Watson!  The Los Angeles Rams!

With the Seahawks, what do you have?  A boringly elite defense (they don’t generate a ton of turnovers or a ton of sacks; they mostly just grind you down and force you to be perfect to slowly bleed them), a shaky offensive line, and a quarterback who – aside from a half season without Jimmy Graham – hasn’t really figured out the whole Pocket Passer thing to the degree that a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers has.  It’s the same thing virtually every season, and while it’s a recipe for success, it’s also just not a sexy story to keep championing.  Ho hum, the Seahawks are a playoff team and a Super Bowl contender, same as they’ve been since 2012.

Ordinarily, I think this would bother me a lot more, mostly because I think a lot of teams get short shrift in the media in lieu of over-coverage of teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Cowboys, Giants, and Jets.  But, I’m actually okay with it.  For starters, the Seahawks haven’t really earned the type of coverage I’m talking about; come back when you’ve beaten a good team in convincing fashion.  Also, I think this is the type of season where the Seahawks could benefit from a lack of a target on their backs.

Yes, the narrative is that there are no elite teams, but is that really true?

I think, before too long, the Seahawks could be the clear best team in the NFL.  Frankly, the defense is already there, waiting for the offense to catch up.  And, make no mistake, we’re all bemoaning the struggles of this offense, but they HAVE made strides as the season has gone along.  More importantly, if they can just clean up a few things (drops, missed throws, protection issues), it’s not hard to see this as a team that scores 30+ points per game.

AND, if they do that, and don’t get destroyed by the injury bug, I think the Seahawks will be your answer to the league’s most elite team.

Of course, it won’t mean anything if the Seahawks fail to get the #1 seed in the NFC, and if the Seahawks falter at some point in the playoffs.  See, that’s another issue with the Seahawks we’ve seen over and over and over again:  they always turn it on in the second half.  Which is great!  That’s when you WANT your team to get hot!  But, they could win the rest of their regular season games by an average of 50-7, and it could still all come crumbling down with one bad matchup in the playoffs.  One crappy half of football in the Divisional Round, and POOF, another season ends without a championship.  Getting the #1 seed reduces the chances of that, as the Seahawks are unquestionably better at home than on the road, particularly in the first halves of games.  At that point, you’re just two wins from the Super Bowl, at which point anything goes.

On to the rankings:

  • Philadelphia (6-1)
  • Kansas City (5-2)
  • Seattle (4-2)
  • New England (5-2)
  • Pittsburgh (5-2)
  • Minnesota (5-2)
  • L.A. Rams (5-2)
  • Houston (3-3)

A lot of this is based on projections.  I do think the Patriots are flawed – especially on defense – but I agree with most prognosticators that they’ll get their issues figured out.  I know I wouldn’t bet against them making the AFC Championship game against either KC or Pittsburgh.  I think the Vikings look tough – particularly on defense – but I’ll never trust their quarterback situation.  I think the Texans are better than their record and could be poised to go on a big second half run.

  • New Orleans (4-2)
  • Dallas (3-3)
  • Washington (3-3)
  • Oakland (3-4)
  • Denver (3-3)
  • Buffalo (4-2)
  • Detroit (3-3)
  • Atlanta (3-3)

These are all good teams, but probably none of them are Super Bowl contenders.  MAYBE the Cowboys if they get Elliott back for the playoffs, and their defense gets its shit somewhat together.  And while the Saints don’t necessarily look for real, I think their defense is still marginally improved, and with that offense, it might be all they need to win a division title.  Also, good move getting rid of AP and working with a better 2-man running back rotation.

  • Tennessee (4-3)
  • L.A. Chargers (3-4)
  • Carolina (4-3)
  • Jacksonville (4-3)
  • Tampa Bay (2-4)
  • Baltimore (3-4)
  • Miami (4-2)
  • N.Y. Jets (3-4)

These are fringe playoff teams who have a ton of flaws.  One, MAYBE two of these teams will go on a roll and crack the playoffs, but for the most part I think they’ll disappoint.  Also, Jacksonville’s defense looks legit, and Fournette looks like a stud, but the offense as a whole leaves a lot to be desired.  And no, I’m not buying Miami as a 4-2 team.

  • Green Bay (4-3)
  • Cincinnati (2-4)
  • Chicago (3-4)
  • N.Y. Giants (1-6)
  • Arizona (3-4)
  • Indianapolis (2-5)
  • San Francisco (0-7)
  • Cleveland (0-7)

I would have Green Bay even lower in the rankings, except I think there’s an outside chance they hang around in a mediocre division/conference just long enough for Aaron Rodgers to return for the last game or two and sneak them into the playoffs.  Can they win 4 games with Brett Hundley?  Cincy looks like a mess.  Trubisky has training wheels attached to his training wheels.  And for some reason everyone is shocked that Cleveland passed over yet another quality rookie quarterback in favor of someone who sucks.

Seahawks Again Look Good In Pre-Season Win Over Chiefs

All praise to the Wu Tang Clan, the Seahawks got out of this one injury-free!

Russell Wilson looks as good as I’ve ever seen him; let’s start there.  I thought he was extra mobile when he had to be, but also quick and accurate when the defense gave him something he could work with.  Another 200 yards and a TD as he led the Seahawks on 5 scoring drives.  Now, obviously, four of those ended with field goals, so there are some things the offense could clean up before they start dropping 50-bombs on fools.

The defense is looking as good as ever too!  Frank Clark is a man among boys; no joke, he could be an NFL Defensive POY candidate if he keeps going on this trajectory.  And, you know, he keeps his nose clean.  The rest of the starters looked on point as well.

Kansas City, you would think, with Alex Smith at the helm, would be the ideal offense to beat the Seahawks with dinks and dunks, but Alex Smith is no Philip Rivers.  Not as crisp, not as accurate.  Not for nothing, but he also had players dropping balls left and right, so I don’t know how I feel about that.  Can intimidation from an elite group of hitters cause guys to muff catches?  Actually, now that I say it …

The O-Line looked good.  Not perfect, but passable.  The running game was strong; I thought both Carson and Lacy were terrific!  McKissic also looked awesome against the reserves.  I still think we should find a way to keep him, for his utility if nothing else.

Props to Kearse and Graham for their huge catches in this one.  The WR group couldn’t get into the endzone until the backups were in the game, but I thought they contributed in a big way.

Also, David Bass absolutely needs to make this football team.

Finally, 4/4 for Blair Walsh.  You do you, son.

That’s about it.  It’s pre-season for the players, and it’s pre-season for your trusty neighborhood blogger as well.

What I’ll Be Watching In The Seahawks/Kansas City Game Tonight

Obviously, first and foremost, I’m gonna need no more demoralizing, soul-crushing injuries.  Okay?  This is obviously the big tune up before the regular season, where the starters play into the third quarter, and I just don’t fucking need the hassle.

With that obvious caveat out of the way, let’s talk about some shit.

I think we’re all pretty interested in the goings on of the offensive line, am I right?  In a vacuum, I think we’d like to see these guys take care of business, but this game features a pretty big test.  These aren’t your 2012 Chiefs; this front seven is for real.  Particularly off the edge, which means the spotlights are going to be shining pretty bright on Ifedi and Odhiambo.

No one is questioning Ifedi’s run blocking ability, but the dude needs to take a big step forward in his footwork and his balance in pass protection.  Too often he’s slow and too often he’s caught lunging at defenders, allowing them to swim right past him.  I don’t know how much Justin Houston or Dee Ford will play, but those guys are animals and I could see them giving us fits.

Pretty much everyone is questioning everything about Odhiambo’s game.  This guy is a virtual unknown when it comes to game action, and what little we have seen hasn’t been all that impressive.  I’m curious to see how he looks after a week as the starting left tackle, getting the lion’s share of the reps, and going into this game with the mindset of a starter.  I think it could be easy to get overwhelmed when you’re dumped into the fire in the middle of a game after the first team guy gets injured.  I mean, let’s face it, if Odhiambo was gearing up to play left tackle heading into last week, I’m sure he was preparing to go up against second and third teamers towards the end of the game.  I doubt he was going to be considered for action with Russell Wilson and Co. still in the game.

I have a very low bar for Odhiambo to clear here:

  1. Don’t get Russell hurt.
  2. Just be better than George Fant was in 2016.

See, I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  I’m not even saying, “Don’t let Russell get hit,” although that would be nice.  I’m just saying don’t let him get HURT.  If that means playing well, then obviously I’d take it.  If that means praying to your lord and savior, then do what you gotta do, but if we leave this game with Russell in any way shape or form at a reduced capacity, I’m going to be very upset.  And you don’t want to see me when I’m very upset (a lot of crying and ice cream eating).

Ultimately, I don’t even think 2016 George Fant was the worst starting left tackle I’ve ever seen (I might save that distinction for Brad Sowell, or some of the turds who took over for Walter Jones in the immediate aftermath of his career-ending knee injuries), but he was pretty bad.  What he had going for him was inexperience, in that once he gained a little experience, you had to figure you’d see some dividends paid.  Odhiambo at least has a pretty good amount of college experience.  He also has a year in the Seahawks’ system.  He’s not a rookie anymore, even though this is his first year starting.  He got out of 2016 healthy, should’ve put the work in in the weight room over the offseason, and ostensibly should be in the best shape of his life.  The fact that I haven’t read any stories like that is certainly cause for concern (that maybe he DIDN’T, in fact, put in the work in the weight room, and ISN’T in the best shape of his life), but I would have to think he’s at least somewhat stronger than he was as a rookie.

So, it’s all out there for him.  Just be better than 2016 Fant.  That SHOULD be good enough to get the job done, from a winning football team perspective.

With all the focus on the tackles, I’m going to just take for granted that the interior of the line will be fine.  No injury setbacks for Joeckel, Britt won’t dive at any other teammates’ legs, and the battle of Glowinski vs. Aboushi will finally be settled.  And maybe, just maybe, Ethan Pocic will force this team’s hand to start him as a rookie (though, based on his shaky performance last week, that seems unlikely).

It’s really kind of a bummer that we’ve got to face the Chiefs this week, as they figure to have a Top 10 defense this season.  Not that I don’t appreciate a good challenge heading into the regular season, but I also don’t like my players getting beaten up in a meaningless game.

Take, for instance, the running game.  I have no idea what’s going on with these running backs, but from what I’ve gleaned it sounds like both Rawls AND Prosise will be out for this game.  For those keeping track, Rawls played in the first game, got injured, and is still out; Prosise hasn’t even done that much.  I mean, at this point, it’s pretty silly to consider the running back position anything but a collosal letdown.  With roster spots at such a premium on this team, how can you afford to keep both of these guys when they can’t stay healthy for more than a game or two at a time?

Are we really going to drop perfectly good backs in Alex Collins and Mike Davis – workhorse types who bring a lot of different skills to the table, who also DON’T get injured every fucking week – just to keep around dynamic glass figurines in Prosise and Rawls?  I mean, yeah, I LOVE what those two can do with the football in their hands.  I think they’re both very special talents who could be Pro Bowlers in an alternate universe where they weren’t as soft as tissue paper.  But, we’re stuck in this stupid reality, and in this stupid reality Prosise and Rawls can’t be trusted.  Ipso facto, I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I think the team should cut them both so we can move on with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of wondering if those guys are going to come back next week or not.

Since that’ll never happen in a million years, I’ll be curious to see what Lacy and Carson can do.  Chris Carson might not be the most talented back on this roster right now, but I’m still putting it out there that I think he’ll be this team’s feature back in 2018.  I don’t even think that’s very hot of a take, to be honest!  I don’t think Lacy is all that good.  Sure, he’s a battering ram, and it’ll be fun to watch him wear defenses down in games where we’re leading comfortably in the fourth quarter, but Lacy isn’t talented enough to be a feature back.  I think he’ll struggle for the most part this year and he’ll find his way onto a different roster in 2018.  At that point, it’ll come down to Carson (who I figure will play quite a bit this year, with all the injuries & ineffectiveness ahead of him on the depth chart) vs. the dainty flowers that are Rawls and Prosise.  No contest.  Carson in 2018!

As for the rest of the offense, I’d like to see Jimmy Graham get zero snaps this week.  I’d like to see Doug Baldwin get very limited snaps (but, I’d also like to see him make Marcus Peters look foolish just once, because I like seeing Doug beat the best this league has to offer).  I’d like to see Kasen Williams get a TON of snaps with the first team offense, in hopes of building more of a rapport with Russell.  I’d also like to see J.D. McKissic get some play with the first unit.  See if he can play that Prosise role we keep talking about.  With his return ability (in spite of his muff last week), I’m really rooting for McKissic to crack the 53-man roster.

Defensively, I’m always drawn to the younger guys.  Naz Jones, first and foremost; I’d like to see him continue to build off of his first two games, which were both brilliant.  I’d like to see him get a lot of play next to Jarran Reed in the base defense, and I’d like to see both of those guys get some play in passing situations to see what they have to offer in pass rush up the middle.

Obviously, I’ll be watching Shaq Griffin.  He was picked on a lot last week, and I have to figure we’ll see more of the same again this week.  Of course, this is Alex Smith we’re talking about, so I have to wonder how much he’s actually going to throw to his wide receivers, but I have to believe it’s higher than zero times.  I can pretty much guarantee he won’t throw on Sherman though, so whatever poor sap the Chiefs line up on his side is going to have a quiet, boring day.

I’d also like to see some of our younger safeties get in there against KC’s first unit.  Kam and Earl don’t need to play 2.5 quarters; they’re good.  I’d be happy as a clam if they didn’t play a minute of this game.  On top of that, I’d like to see more of the free agent vets we’ve brought in:  Bradley McDougald and Tramaine Brock.  They need run with the first unit to better understand our system, and for the coaches to determine what they can do for this team.

I also find the battle for the last couple spots on the D-Line pretty fascinating.  Cassius Marsh is going into the final year of his rookie deal, and normally he’s been a beast in the pre-season.  But, he’s also normally been going against backups.  I’d like to see Marsh get more extensive play in the first half (again, guys like Avril and Bennett really don’t need to play 2.5 quarters; they good), and I’d like to see him really step up and earn a spot on this team.  Not just because he’s a good special teamer, but because he’s a weapon we can use in our pass rush package in games that matter!  Also, guys like David Bass, Marcus Smith, and Rodney Coe are probably all fighting for one roster spot.  They more they can do, at more positions along the line, the better their chances of making this team and contributing this season.

Finally, I want more of that shit-talking, fired up Blair Walsh shoving 50-yard field goals down opposing throats (but I’ll settle for him quietly going about his business, as long as he keeps making his kicks).

Big test in this one.  Honestly, this should be one of the best matchups of the entire pre-season, based on the quality of these two teams.  Both Seattle and Kansas City figure to be fighting for spots in their respective conference championship games, and quite frankly both of these teams COULD meet in the Super Bowl if everything breaks right.  I expect a hard-fought, tight battle of defenses through all four quarters, with infrequent bouts of offensive competence.

So, can you imagine how exciting it would be if the Seahawks go out there and kick their teeth in?

Seahawks/Chiefs Preseason Game 1 Takeaways

The usual caveats:  don’t take the pre-season too seriously.  That means:  don’t overreact to Russell Wilson’s lone-drive intercepton.

With that out of the way … how about that ending, huh?!  In what was a truly boring, nondescript affair, the final few minutes were pure fun.  I would say I hope every game is exactly like that this year, but I don’t think my heart could take it.

Things started off pretty blah, with the Chiefs getting a big runback on the opening kickoff.  With the facemask penalty, it didn’t take much for them to lead off the scoring with a touchdown.  Alex Smith hit on a pretty pass to the goalline in that drive, as the defense was just okay, but again:  first pre-season game.

After the Wilson interception, it was time to take a look at the reserves.  Christine Michael got the start at running back, and looked amazing.  Indeed, probably the best I’ve ever seen him play.  He may be making good on his 2nd round status right before our eyes.  If health holds up between him and Rawls, I think the running game is in GREAT hands.

All the running backs after Michael didn’t really make an impression, though.  Indeed, there really wasn’t a lot to like about ANY of the offensive reserves.

Trevone Boykin looked like an undrafted rookie, leaving me and my brother lamenting the loss of B.J. Daniels.  Daniels would be, hands down, the best #2 QB on this roster right now.  With as bad as Boykin looked, I was hoping for better out of Heaps, but he too looked very much the undrafted rookie.  I looked forward to him getting an extended look, though, to see if he could turn it around, but to my initial dismay, they brought Boykin back into the game in the 4th quarter.  After a 3 & Out on his first drive back, though, Boykin showed why the team likes him so much.  He threw a nice fade pass for 26 yards up the right sideline, then later he scrambled for 15 yards on 3rd & Long to put us in field goal range to bring the game back to within a touchdown.  After the defense sort of did its job, with a little over a minute to go, Boykin threw a nice seam pass for 18 yards, a 32 yard pass to Tanner McEvoy to get into Kansas City territory, and with time running out, a 37-yard quasi-Hail Mary to McEvoy again, against 1 on 1 coverage for the touchdown (a 2-point rushing conversion sealed the win).

In a pressure-packed situation, Boykin showed touch on the deep ball, he showed toughness, he showed his elusiveness, and he showed great poise in not letting the game get the better of him.  All in all, a helluva way to recover from a mostly rocky start (even if it was against third stringers).

There’s a lot to like about this McEvoy kid.  The converted quarterback is 6’6, with good hands, a big body, and is someone who makes excellent use of that big body with his positioning and his high-pointing of the ball.  I don’t know if he’ll make the team, but I also don’t know if we’ll be able to sneak him onto the practice squad.  It would be a boon if we could, but I think the NFL is going to like his size and someone will snap him up.

I didn’t see much to hate about the starting O-Line, but again, they didn’t play all that much.  I saw a TON to hate about the reserves, though, as our backup QBs were under near-constant pressure the rest of the way.  Some of that, obviously, was on the QBs holding the ball too long, but a lot of it was simply giving defenders free runs at our backfield.

That’s pretty much it for the offense.  A lot of those back-end-of-the-roster wide receivers didn’t help their causes by dropping balls.  More good news for McEvoy, I suppose.

On the defensive side of the ball, I thought the run defense was pretty spotty.  Seemed like Kansas City could’ve done whatever they wanted on the ground, but they have a ton of QBs they want to look at; pretty much the only reason why the game was as close as it was, if you ask me.  They probably should’ve been leading by 20 late in the 4th quarter, if they’d taken a run-heavy approach.

I liked what Cassius Marsh brought to the table, both in pass rush and run defense.  He was all over the field, doing his thing.  So was Frank Clark, but again, I always like what these guys do in the pre-season.  Carry it over into September and beyond and we’ll talk.

Everyone is talking about Tyvis Powell, and for good reason.  An interception and a lot of excellent special teams plays; he’s almost a lock to make the team.

That’s pretty much it for the defense too.  Not a lot of sparkle, particularly from the pass rush, which is disappointing and a little scary.

Steven Hauschka was the MVP of this game by a million miles, with three field goals of 49 yards or more.

And now it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for!

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

I … uh, see, the thing is, I was drinking.  So, I didn’t get a good look at whoever was doing the long snapping Nolan Frese, I guess.  But, I didn’t notice any errant snaps, so good job, Frese!

I’m a good blogger-type person.

Why Russell Wilson Is One Of The Four Best Quarterbacks In The NFL Right Now

This post is going to be COMPLETELY subjective and COMPLETELY drenched in my homerizzm, but I don’t care.

I think Russell Wilson is pretty great at football.  If you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably agree.  I also think we’re just scratching the surface of Russell Wilson’s greatness.  Based on the second half of his 2015 season, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably also agree.

Why do I think Russell Wilson is one of the four best quarterbacks in the NFL?  It’s quite simple:  I can’t think of more than three quarterbacks in the league for whom I’d be willing to trade our franchise guy.  For the sake of this exercise, I should point out that I’m including age and experience in this thing, but I’m not really all that focused on the size of the contract or anything like that.  This is a simple one-for-one swap:  would I rather have Russell Wilson for however many remaining years of his career (probably well over 10 more years, if everything goes well health-wise), or would I rather have Player X?  It’s not as simple as:  you have one year, who is your starting quarterback?  It’s also not as simple as:  who had the best 2015 season?  This is, going forward, who would you be willing to have start for your team in place of Russell Wilson?

Also, for the sake of argument, let’s forget about all the growing pains of bringing in a new guy, having him learn the system, having him build a rapport with the players, and so on.  Let’s just assume, whoever you trade for, will know our system and will get along with the players as well as Wilson has.

To fulfill the “experience” and “quality” requirements, I chopped off over half of the league’s starters from last year.  None of the 2016 rookies interest me whatsoever when compared to Wilson.  Guys like Bortles, Mariota, and Winston are all very interesting, but they’re obviously not at the level of quality or experience that Wilson has.  Tyrod Taylor is another interesting name, but I’m going to need more than 14 games started before I can take you seriously as a Wilson replacement.  Osweiler is yet another interesting name, who’s had many years backing up a hall of famer, but only in 2015 was given the opportunity to start real, regular season games.  Carr, with the Raiders, is the last of the young’uns I left off of my list.  He looks every part the gunslinger that team has desperately needed for ages, but I just can’t quite put trust in any belief that his ceiling is higher than Wilson’s until I’ve seen it first.

The next group of candidates have the experience, but are lacking in the quality department, and have been left off for what I feel are obvious reasons.  Foles, Kaepernick/Gabbert, Cutler, Stafford, Bradford, Alex Smith, Dalton, Flacco, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, and anyone else I didn’t list above, who deserve to remain nameless because they suck.  I may get blowback on guys like Dalton, Stafford, and maybe even Cutler, but those guys have showed me absolutely nothing outside of a season here and there.  They can’t consistently stay out of their own way and they tend to shit the bed when it matters most.  To be honest, Joe Flacco is probably my favorite of this bunch; I think he’d fit in quite well with what the Seahawks like to do on offense (run the ball, play action deep passes), but there’s no way in hell I’m trading Wilson for him.

That brings me to the realistic candidates.  Quarterbacks who have the ability to play at an elite level, but for various reasons I’d rather not give up Wilson for them.  Let’s start with Tom Brady, because that’s obviously the name everyone puts at or near the top of any list of the world’s best quarterbacks.  Yes, obviously, if I had one season and I wanted to win a championship, I’d consider trading Wilson for Brady.  But, Brady is going to be 39 years old this August.  While he’s still playing at an elite level this deep into his career, how many more years can you reasonably expect him to squeeze out, let alone at that aforementioned elite level?  Two?  MAYBE three?  Remember, at age 37, Peyton Manning had the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of the game.  Two seasons later, it looks like he’s played his last down.  I’m not trading upwards of a decade or more of Russell Wilson for 1-2 more quality Brady years, sorry-not-sorry (people still say that, right?).

Same story for Brees.  He’s got a lot of mileage and I’m not wasting a guy in his prime for a guy who will be out of the league soon.

Next up, I’m going to lump in guys like Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Of all the quarterbacks playing today, Roethlisberger might be playing at the highest level (doesn’t hurt he’s got the weapons he’s got).  But, all three of these guys are injury risks, which makes them older – in an NFL sense – than their actual ages.  All are quality passers, but I just don’t think I’d ever trade Wilson for them.

Then, there’s Eli.  He’s started every single game for the Giants since the start of the 2005 season; no injury concerns there.  He’s going into his age 35 season, so you figure if things continue to go as well as they have, he’s probably got another good 5 years or so.  I just don’t think, as a quarterback, he’s as good as Wilson (and that’s not even taking into account my opinion that Wilson will only get better as these next few years go on).  Matt Ryan is another guy who’s been pretty durable, and when he’s got a good team around him, he’s shown he’s a franchise guy.  But, like Eli, I don’t think Ryan is nearly the calibre of passer as Wilson.  I mean, let’s face it, Wilson has done a lot of good with what’s been a pretty poor pass-protection unit.  Ryan falls apart at the first instance of pressure!  No thank you.

Philip Rivers is the last guy in this section, and he’s one I honestly sort of agonized over.  He’s been on some pretty terrible and injury-riddled teams of late.  One wonders what he’d be able to do on a legitimately great team like the Seahawks.  He can go out and win you a shoot-out if need be.  He can slow it down and play the high-percentage, short passing game.  He’s not that mobile, but he’s lightning-quick in his decision-making.  My only knock against him is that he tends to be a little too reckless with the football.  Not as bad as Cutler, or some of these other guys lower on the list, but it’s still a concern.  He’ll also be 35 years old by season’s end this year, so there’s fewer seasons to look forward to with him, compared to Wilson.

Of the players I feel are of equal or greater value to Wilson, I can count only three.

Andrew Luck is a guy I think, when it’s all said and done, will be a Hall of Famer.  He needs to learn to get hit less on his scrambles, but it would also help if he had a better offensive line (Indy’s line makes Seattle’s look like the Hogs from the 80s).  I still see a long and fruitful career for Luck; don’t forget, he’s largely been carrying that team with not a lot of talent around him.  Imagine what he’d do on a stacked Seahawks team!  Right now, I’d probably rank Wilson ahead of Luck, but I wouldn’t be totally devastated if they were swapped straight up.

Next up, obviously, when you talk about the world’s greatest quarterbacks, you’re talking about Aaron Rodgers.  A-Rod will be 33 years old by season’s end, but who gives a shit?  He’s another Hall of Famer, and another guy who should play into his 40s when all is said and done.  I think, until Wilson really starts to pour it on (i.e. turns the second half of his 2015 season into many multiple FULL seasons in the future), you have to rank A-Rod ahead of him.  Even though I think he’s a collosal douche, I’d trade Wilson for him straight up.

Finally, there’s Cam.  No one wants to hear it, because everyone outside of Carolina hates Cam (and/or spends way too much time defending him when he acts like an immature little crybaby), but the dude is a straight-up baller, and not just with his legs (although, it doesn’t hurt that he’s so good running with the football).  One wonders how his body will handle all the hits long-term, but I think his running ability will last a lot longer than Wilson’s (who I feel will slide into more of a pocket passer role the more he gets comfortable reading pre-snap defenses).  Like Luck, I don’t know if Cam is necessarily BETTER than Wilson, but he’s certainly on par, and he’s young enough, and he’s carried sub-par teams to winning records/playoff appearances for multiple seasons.  From a fan standpoint, I’d probably prefer Luck to Cam, but from strictly a player standpoint, I think I could be talked into taking Cam over Luck.  Talk to me again in a year or two and that statement might look batshit crazier than it already does, but that’s how I feel right now, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate (if it wasn’t already clear) that I think Russell Wilson is great and I don’t necessarily want to trade him for anyone in the league.  But, if I HAD to, I’d only accept A-Rod, Cam, or Luck, in that order.  Anyone else, I feel, would be beneath what Russell Wilson has to offer over the course of the rest of his career in this league.

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

I love doing this post, I don’t care how wrong I am.  Last year, I was pretty far off in a lot of ways.  Detroit winning their division, Green Bay out of the playoffs entirely, New Orleans as the clear-cut second-best team in the NFC (and maybe NFL), Tampa and Atlanta both sneaking in as wild cards (essentially, I was high on everyone in what would be the worst division of all time – the 2014 NFC South – except the actual division winner).  And, of course, I made the mistake of picking a repeat Super Bowl matchup, which is about the dumbest thing you can possibly do.

I did have this little nugget of wisdom heading into the 2014 season, and if you replace all the Denver parts with New England parts, it rings eerily true:

My thing is – and I’ll deny it to my grave if I’m wrong – I have a SERIOUS nagging worry that the Seahawks and Denver will both make it back to the Super Bowl, but it’ll be the Broncos hoisting the Lombardi trophy while we sit and watch, devastated.

Of course, my official pick was a repeat Super Bowl championship, and we all know how that turned out.

So, let’s turn the page to 2015.  Here are my picks, in all their glory:

NFC East

Dallas
NY Giants
Philadelphia
Washington

Seemingly every year, I find the NFC East to be a crapshoot, where the hottest team in December ultimately wins the division.  That USUALLY means the Cowboys are on the outside looking in, but in 2014, they finally put it all together.  For 2015, I don’t see a whole lotta drop-off.  They still have that offensive line, so their running game should be all right, which means their offense should continue to be the strength.  Do just enough on defense, and I think they’ll take it.

Coming into this month, I would’ve had the Giants as my pick.  I like the way they finished last year; and a full season of Eli to ODB should be gangbusters.  But, I hear too much bad stuff about their defense for comfort (then again, that same bad stuff was said about the Cowboys’ defense last year, and they turned out okay).  I have a hard time trying to peg Philly.  I think they could be as good as a top 2 seed in the NFC, or they could be last in their division with 4 wins.  I choose to believe that Sam Bradford will at some point be lost for the year.  I also believe their defense got lucky on a lot of return TDs last year, and DeMarco Murray is another injury waiting to happen.  Ultimately, all the tinkering will have made them worse.  As for Washington, the less said about them, the better (though, I do believe with their new GM – Scot McCloughan – they have a chance to turn it around in a hurry; so long as Dan Snyder doesn’t fuck things up first).

NFC North

Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

Well, if I’m going to put the stink on anyone, it might as well be the Packers.  I’ve got them as the biggest challenge to the Seahawks making it to a third straight Super Bowl, and right now, in fact, I have them with the edge for that #1 seed (by way of them hosting us in week 2, and by way of their incredibly easy schedule for a first place team).  The loss of Jordy Nelson for the year isn’t great, but with James Jones back in the fold, they should have enough receivers to get through the year just fine.  One of the strongest Packers teams I’ve seen since they went 15-1.

I still like Detroit – indeed, I like them as a Wild Card pick – and think they’ll have no trouble winning 10 games, even with the losses they’ve suffered on defense.  I like Minnesota to take a step forward, as Teddy Bridgewater gets more comfortable as a passer.  And, I like Chicago to be one of the very worst teams in the entire NFC (and therefore, the world).

NFC South

Carolina
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

I still find this division to be pretty pathetic, and I still doubt the winner of this division will have more than 9 wins.  I don’t like Carolina much, but I like the teams I’ve ranked below them even less.  Atlanta is still far from solid on defense, and they’ve got exactly two good players on offense (Matt Ryan & Julio Jones).  That’s it.  In games it wins, I’m sure the Ryan to Jones connection will be on point.  But, good teams will be able to shut that option down, and thereby shutting down the entire offense.  They don’t have a running game at all, Roddy White is very near retirement, and they’re STILL trying to figure out a way to replace Tony Gonzalez (will the mummy Antonio Gates be a free agent anytime soon?).

I’ve got New Orleans in the 3-hole, but I could easily see them as dead last.  Who are Brees’ options?  Are they REALLY going to devote their offense more to the run?  Do they even HAVE a defense?  I could see this year going sour in a hurry.  Tampa actually has some upside, and if their #1 QB gets the hang of this game, they could approach 6-8 wins.

NFC West

Seattle
St. Louis
Arizona
San Francisco

I’ll get to the Seahawks throughout the week in a series of previews, but suffice it to say, with all the turnover, I still feel the Seahawks are one of the best two or three teams in the NFL.  In a little more shocking news, I finally like the Rams to get over the hump and into the playoffs.  I think this is the year their defense puts it all together.  I don’t like Nick Foles a ton, but he is a starting quarterback in this league, and I’d much rather have him than someone like Cutler, Dalton, Fitzpatrick, Bradford, Cousins, Hoyer, and QB Browns.  Furthermore, I don’t think they’ll have to do much at all on offense to win games this year; I foresee a lot of 16-13 wins, as teams struggle to move the ball.  The schedule doesn’t help them out much early (3 of first 5 on the road, with games vs. SEA, vs. PIT, @ AZ, and @ GB), but after their week 6 BYE, they have a stretch where they play 6 of 9 at home, featuring (vs. CLE, vs. SF, @ MIN, vs. CHI, @ BAL, @ CIN, vs. AZ, vs. DET, vs TB).  I see them winning 7 of those games alone, and with a couple of unmentioned road games against the 49ers and Redskins, it’s not impossible to see this as a 10-win team.

I don’t like Arizona at all.  I think they got incredibly lucky in 2014 (which is a ridiculous statement, considering how unlucky they were with injuries, specifically with the quarterback position) and were not as good of a team as their record.  Carson Palmer is back, but I can’t imagine he has much left in the tank.  They’ve lost a bunch of guys on both sides of the line, and they still don’t have a running game at all.  They might get off to a good start early (home games against the Saints, 49ers, and Rams in the first four weeks, with the only road game being at Chicago), but look for the wheels to come off as that stretch is followed by the following (@ DET, @ PIT, vs. BAL, @ CLE, BYE, @ SEA, vs. CIN, @ SF, @ StL).  I could easily see them losing 6 of those games, and that doesn’t factor in a tough stretch of mostly home games to close out the season (vs. MIN, @ PHI, vs. GB, vs. SEA).  With Palmer surely injured by this point, I could see them losing out and having at least 10-11 losses this year.

And with all of that said, I STILL think the 49ers will be worse!  My hope is that they’re terrible, but not so terrible that they get a Top 5 pick.  Is that possible?  Well, considering all their good people are either retired or playing/coaching elsewhere, we might actually be looking at the future #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.  Not quite my worst nightmare, but it’s close.  The only things they have going for them is a Week 10 BYE and they get to host us on a Thursday (#ShortWeek).

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
NY Jets

With Tom Brady embiggened emboldened by the overturning of his 4-game suspension, I fully expect him to lay to waste any defense that comes across his path.  The thing with that is, teams aren’t just going to roll over and die (well, MOST teams; I fully expect the Steelers on Thursday to roll over like the good doggies they are, as I’m playing against my friend in Fantasy Football who’s starting Brady this week).  The Dolphins, Bills, and Jets all have pretty tough defenses.  I don’t expect them to beat the Pats a whole lot, but I’d LIKE to see them knock Brady around, to wipe that smug fucking smirk off his face.  They also face the defenses of Houston, Denver, and Dallas who should all be pretty tough as well.  How they managed to dodge playing the Ravens in the regular season is a crime against NFL scheduling (though, I obviously understand how NFL scheduling works, wouldn’t the hype for that game – which would invariably be played on either a Sunday or Monday night – be deliciously over the top?).

Elsewhere, like the Rams, I think this is the year the Dolphins finally make it over the hump.  Mike Wallace is gone, so that’s addition by subtraction.  I think they have the weapons in both the passing game and the running game to be a consistent force on offense.  With the addition of Suh on defense, that gives their run defense instant credibility, forcing other teams to be one dimensional.  That formula (combined with playing the NFC East and AFC South) should be more than enough to get them to 10 wins and a wild card.  I like Buffalo for approximately 7-8 wins (mostly due to their very-strong defense and lack of a quarterback), and I like the Jets for even less than that (mostly due to their less-strong defense and even BIGGER lack of a quarterback).

AFC North

Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland

The Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, then suffered an immediate setback thanks to the Joe Flacco contract.  They shed older players, reloaded through the draft, and now they’re back once again, ready to contend for more championships.  You know I love me some Seahawks front office, but I have only the utmost respect for the Ravens’.  And, not to get off on a tangent here, but I like the Ravens’ front office even more than the Patriots’.  Yeah, the Pats may have been more successful over the last decade and a half, but they’ve also been cheating throughout, and most importantly, they’ve EASILY had the lowest level of divisional competition by a fucking thousand miles.  If you swapped the Ravens and Patriots (so the Ravens were in the AFC LEast and the Pats were in the AFC North), I can make a pretty easy argument for the Ravens being the last great dynasty in the NFL, and the Pats still being pretty good, but nowhere near 6 Super Bowl appearances in 15 years.

Like the Giants, if you’d asked me to rank the divisions a month ago, I probably would’ve put Pittsburgh on top.  Again, you gotta like the way their offense played down the stretch.  But, that defense is clearly rebuilding, and they’re unlikely to remain as lucky with injuries as they were in 2014 (their center is already out for at least half the year, being put on the IR-designated to return).  If I had to predict the 2016 division champions, I’d probably tell you the Steelers will finally be ready.  But, as it stands now, I think they win no more than 9-10 games, and I think that’s still not good enough to crack the Wild Card.  I like Cincy to fall below .500 for the first time since Andy Dalton came into the league.  I also think Andy Dalton’s stranglehold on the starting QB job is in jeopardy and he starts losing some snaps to A.J. McCarron (Wave of the Future!).  Finally, I think Cleveland is a mess and that’s the end of that analysis.

AFC South

Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville
Tennessee

Indy is quickly taking over the reign of Worst Divisional Opponents In The NFL from New England, which is pretty easy to do when you’re good and the rest of the teams in your division don’t have any quarterbacks.  I think Hoyer and that Texans defense will be good enough to get to around 8 wins.  I think Jacksonville will make some strides towards .500 this year, but I don’t believe in Bortles as far as I can throw him; he’ll be another bust.  And the Titans are too young to do much of anything.  Mariota being Jake Locker 2.0 is probably their worst nightmare.

AFC West

Kansas City
Denver
San Diego
Oakland

I think we’re reaching the end of the line for Peyton Manning.  I like them to sneak into a wild card spot, but I’m not even really high on that, to be honest.  This is sort of a hedge pick; if Manning stays healthy, and the defense keeps up their end of the bargain, the Broncos could be divisional winners.  If Manning gets hurt, I think they could fall as far as last place in the division.  So, I decided to meet in the middle – maybe Manning misses a bunch of games in the middle of the season and they get him back for a hot stretch run in December.  Either way, I feel pretty good about the Chiefs grabbing control of the division.  Most people blame Alex Smith for their offensive woes last year; I blame their sub-pedestrian receivers (led by the corpse of Dwayne Bowe).  With a REAL number one receiver in Jeremy Maclin, I think this offense hums along like those old Andy Reid Philly teams.  And, considering their defense is pretty fearsome, I wouldn’t be shocked if this team won 12 games and a BYE in the first round of the playoffs.

I could see the Chargers sneaking past the Broncos for that final wild card spot, but I dunno.  The Chargers seem to be a team that always has all the promise in the world, but ultimately falters to a .500 finish.  I’m going to say their defense isn’t up to the charge (!), their running game isn’t where it needs to be, and Rivers doesn’t quite have the receiving weapons to get the job done.  As for the Raiders, it all hinges on Derek Carr.  That’s a scary proposition.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Dallas
  4. Carolina
  5. St. Louis
  6. Detroit

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Kansas City
  4. Baltimore
  5. Denver
  6. Miami

Wild Card Round

Dallas over Detroit
St. Louis over Carolina
Kansas City over Miami
Baltimore over Denver

Divisional Round

Seattle over St. Louis
Dallas over Green Bay
New England over Baltimore
Indianapolis over Kansas City

Championship Round

Seattle over Dallas
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Indianapolis

In 2012, the Colts – with rookie Andrew Luck – won 11 games, made the playoffs, and lost in the first round to the Ravens.  In 2013, the Colts won 11 games again, made the playoffs again, beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, and lost to the Patriots in the Divisional round.  In 2014, the Colts won 11 games one more time, made the playoffs, beat the Bengals in the Wild Card round, beat the Broncos in the Divisional round, and lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.  My point being:  the Colts have gotten better every single year under Andrew Luck.  Their first year was just seeing what they had – and what they had was the next Peyton Manning.  The next year was seeing if the first year wasn’t a fluke.  Last year was taking that next step towards being elite.  THIS year is where they put it all together.

They’ve got Andre Johnson to go with T.Y. Hilton, which is a vast improvement over Reggie Wayne towards the end of his career.  They’ve got the steady presence of Frank Gore who’s been nothing if not healthy and is dying for a chance to win a ring.  And, FINALLY, I think they’ve made real strides to toughen up that defense.  I think this is the year they finally get over the hump of the Patriots running the ball down their throats.  I think they’ve got the complete package – even an elite shutdown corner in Vontae Davis (if he can stay healthy) – and I think this is the year they make their reemergence into the Super Bowl.

And, with all that being said, I think they’re going to get beat by the Seahawks.  You could argue that the first 10 games of the 2014 season saw the Seahawks wrapped up in a long term Super Bowl Hangover.  I think there’s no such hangover this year.  Everyone has their eyes on that prize and they’re going to do anything and everything to make people forget about The Play Call That Shall Not Be Named.

I have no such doubts about this year like I did going into last year.  I’m not QUITE as confident as I was going into the 2013 season (where I knew as soon as the 2012 playoffs ended that we’d be the team to beat), but that team was as complete as can be on both sides of the ball.  This team is almost there, but I worry about a few growing pains early.  If we beat the Rams and Packers in the first two weeks, all doubt will be washed away going forward.

The course for a Seahawks Dynasty is still very much on track.

For Whom Might The Seahawks Trade Russell Wilson?

‘Tis the season for rampant speculation on matters we know nothing about!  It’s a glorious time to be alive, what with the Internets and whatnot.

I read this over the weekend from Mike Florio with Pro Football Talk.  It references another option in the Russell Wilson Contract Saga that nobody’s really talking about:  in lieu of signing him, or franchising him, the Seahawks might feel like they need to trade him.

For the record, this is the last thing I want to see happen.  I’m of the school of thought that you do NOT trade your franchise quarterback for anything!  Unless he’s too old and broken down, and even then I’d be pretty sad to see him go.  Nevertheless, I was reading that story and it got me to thinking.  I’m not so much interested in the super-bounty of draft picks, but I am interested in the part where it talks about, “the Seahawks could send Wilson to another team for its starting quarterback.”

So, consider that the premise for this post:  who would the Seahawks realistically get in return for a Russell Wilson?

Before we get started, I agree with Mike Florio in the article:  regardless of what happens, I 100% doubt that the Seahawks are trading Russell Wilson in 2015.  Even if we’re a billion dollars apart in our contract terms, I still think we ride this season out and hope for another ring.  So, what we’re looking at – in this hypothetical world where the endgame is Russell Wilson being traded – is the Seahawks putting one of the franchise tags on him, then sending him away.

So, I’m going to go through all the quarterbacks who are either starting for their teams, or are in some kind of a timeshare/training camp battle because none of them on that particular team are all that good.

Here we have a list of quarterbacks whose teams would never trade them to us:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Joe Flacco
  • Matt Ryan
  • Cam Newton
  • Ryan Tannehill

Rodgers, I feel, is pretty obvious:  he’s the best quarterback in the league and I don’t think Green Bay is in for an over-priced step down.  Luck’s not quite there yet, but he clearly WILL be the best quarterback in the league, and I would wager sooner rather than later.  Joe Flacco is already a Super Bowl-winning quarterback; I don’t see Baltimore giving him up.  You could argue he’s making too much money and looking to shed some salary, but remember in this scenario:  Russell Wilson is looking to be the highest-paid quarterback in the history of the game.  I think Ryan, Newton, and Tannehill are too young, and they’ve just gotten paid.  Plus, I don’t think those teams could afford to take the cap hit that Wilson’s going to bring (especially Miami, what with Ndamukong Suh making all the money he’s making).

Next up, quarterbacks whose teams ALMOST CERTAINLY won’t trade them:

  • Tom Brady
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Tony Romo
  • Eli Manning
  • Matthew Stafford

With Brady and Roethlisberger, I just think they’re too tied to their respective teams and cities.  But, those organizations have been known to be ruthless with their veterans, so if they felt like either one might be slipping, and they had a chance to get a young stud QB in return, they MIGHT pounce on him.  I’d put Romo and Manning in the same boat (too tied to their teams & cities), just on a lesser scale because they’re not as good.  Stafford’s interesting because I think he’s right on the edge of being good and being overrated.  Seemingly every year I have a different opinion about him.  Ultimately, I think Detroit feels he’s good enough to get the job done, and likely wouldn’t trade him away for a guy like Wilson.

The Division Rivals:

  • Carson Palmer
  • Nick Foles
  • Colin Kaepernick

The overarching theme of this section is:  under no circumstances do you EVER trade your franchise quarterback to a team in your division.  Putting that aside, I think all three of these teams would trade their starters for Russell Wilson in a heartbeat.  Carson Palmer is obviously too old and too injury prone to be counted upon.  Nick Foles is interesting, but ultimately not worth facing Wilson twice a year (especially with their offensive line and defense overall, I think the Rams would be a total dynasty with Wilson at the helm).  And honestly, Colin Kaepernick might be the best fit in the league for our offense – given his scrambling ability.  I think if you reined him in, forcing him to be a little more conservative with his throws, he wouldn’t be much of a step down at all compared to Wilson.  Hell, under Harbaugh he went to three straight NFC Championship Games; I think he’d do okay here as well.

The Young Ones:

  • E.J. Manuel
  • Geno Smith
  • Johnny Manziel
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Jameis Winston
  • Ryan Mallett/Tom Savage
  • Blake Bortles
  • Marcus Mariota
  • Derek Carr

Manuel, Smith, and Manziel are just too bad.  No way the Seahawks take them in return.  I think the Seahawks would think long and hard about Bridgewater and Winston, but if Bridgewater makes steady improvement in 2015, I don’t think the Vikings will want to get rid of him (and if he takes a step back, I don’t think the Seahawks would want him).  The Bucs are just too committed to Winston as part of their rebuild, so I don’t think he’d work out in this scenario.  Mallett and Savage are a couple of unknowns, but ultimately I don’t think they’ll be all that great as starters.  I feel like Bortles and Mariota are a couple of future backups being thrust into roles they’re not good enough for.  I think the Seahawks might take Carr in a heartbeat, but I don’t think the Raiders will give up on him (for the record, I’m pretty high on Carr and think he’s going to have a great second year).

Too Over-The-Hill:

  • Peyton Manning
  • Matt Cassel
  • Josh McCown

Pretty much says it all, if you ask me.  Manning is signed through 2016, but you have to wonder if he’s even going to be around.  He almost opted to retire THIS year.  After getting banged around in Gary Kubiak’s offense (where I FULLY expect to see Manning seriously injured at some point), I’m almost convinced he’ll be done.  Either way, I don’t think you can throw Russell Wilson away on a guy who’s going to be 40 next year, who MIGHT have 1-2 years at the most left in his career.  Cassel and McCown aren’t even worth the words.

Too Terrible:

  • Sam Bradford/Mark Sanchez/Matt Barkley/Tim Tebow
  • RGIII/Kirk Cousins
  • Jay Cutler
  • Brian Hoyer

Speaking of “aren’t even worth the words,” we have the poo-poo platter that the Eagles have in camp this year.  It should go without saying, but Bradford is TOO DAMN INJURY PRONE.  The rest of those guys are the total beans and the Eagles are going to be lucky to win five games this year.  RGIII is also too injury prone, plus he’s a terrible leader who doesn’t follow directions, plus he’s just a bad all around quarterback.  Cousins is Just Another Guy, same as Hoyer.  Jay Cutler seems enticing, but that’s just because of that cannon he’s got for an arm.  Squint a little more closely and you’ll see he’s easily the second coming of Jeff George (not a compliment).

The Definite Possibilities:

  • Drew Brees
  • Philip Rivers
  • Alex Smith
  • Andy Dalton

I know Brees and Rivers feel like those guys up top who are too tied in with their teams and cities (Brees especially).  But, I have my reasons for having these guys down here.  For starters, I think New Orleans is in full on rebuild mode.  Brees isn’t getting any younger, and the Saints are probably five years away from being a championship-type team again.  They MIGHT decide to give Brees a chance to win a title elsewhere.  And, considering we’ve already done that deal for Jimmy Graham, it honestly might be the most perfect fit we could hope for.  On the downside, Brees will be 37 years old next year, and it’ll be the last year of his current deal.  At best, you hope he’s got three more elite years left after 2015, but realistically it might be closer to one or two.  A trade for Brees gives us the best “Win Now” option.  When you consider Pete Carroll’s on the short contract (by design, as he might opt to retire or move to another team), Brees might be the next best thing to just keeping Russell Wilson forever.

Philip Rivers will only be 34 in 2016, so you gotta like your chances with him longer term.  Honestly though, this probably doesn’t work because 2015 is the final year of his deal, and I don’t know if they can franchise tag him or not.  The other variable is whether or not the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles.  Will Rivers want to stay?  If not, maybe they work out a sign & trade with the Seahawks.  The downside to that is, I’ve read reports that should Los Angeles get two teams – which seems to be the way this is going – there’s the possibility of the Chargers moving to the NFC West.  And, as I said above, you do NOT trade Wilson to a team in your own division – even a team that might one day move to your division.

Alex Smith might be the best type of guy we can hope for.  He’ll be 32 next year, and 2018 is the final year of his deal.  He’s not making all that much money – which would allow us to spread the wealth to other positions.  He’s the consummate Game Manager:  doesn’t make mistakes, is decently mobile, is comfortable playing in a run-first offense.  The downside is, obviously, his downfield throwing.  We wouldn’t get those chunk plays that we like to get.  But, with weapons like Jimmy Graham around him, and with the emergence of some of our younger receivers, I think he’d be good enough to get the job done.  He sort of reminds me of a Brad Johnson type.  Brad Johnson won a title with the Bucs, why couldn’t Alex Smith do that with the Seahawks?

Andy Dalton is the guy I most fear the Seahawks pursuing.  He’ll be 28 years old next year, and his deal runs through the 2020 season.  He too isn’t making any serious kind of money (his biggest cap hit is in the final year, and it’s only $17.7 million).  By 2020, that’s going to be peanuts!  He’s shown a propensity to hit on the deep ball, but that’s with the likes of A.J. Green.  More importantly is Dalton’s shoddy decision-making and his inflated sense of self-worth.  He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s better than he really is, which is going to make it difficult when he can’t make all the throws he needs to make.  As it is, he’s had more career meltdown games than you like to see; what’s he going to be like in three years when he’s that much older and beaten down?  Furthermore, playing behind our offensive line, how’s he going to handle the near-constant pressure?  I think Dalton is a guy the Bengals would gladly unload for the chance to sign Wilson (yes, even with how stingy their ownership is; I think they’d feel like Wilson would be worth it).  And, I think, if the Seahawks didn’t get blown away by any other deal they saw, they’d pull the trigger on a Dalton-centric trade.  I just hope like hell this never comes to fruition.

Thinking About Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch & Pete Carroll

Maybe it’s the time of year, time to reflect.  Maybe it’s because I’m off work and listening to a lot of sports radio.  While the Pro Bowl in and of itself isn’t interesting, the idea of rewarding players and the idea of seasonal awards sort of catches me from time to time.

It’s the end of the football season, pretty much, and you’re going to hear people talking about Who Should Be The MVP?  Who Should Be The Coach Of The Year?  And so on and so forth.  Within those discussions, you’re going to hear a lot of names.  But, outside of Seattle, you’re not going to hear the names Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, or Pete Carroll.  I’m not saying they should or should not necessarily be the front-runners of those particular awards, but shouldn’t they be in the discussion?  You’re talking about a team coming off of a Super Bowl victory, that’s also a team favored right now to repeat as champs.  And yet, its two best players, and its head coach will be nowhere to be seen when it comes to the most important regular season awards in the NFL this year.

Isn’t that kind of sick and wrong and gross?  Homer or not, I mean come on!

And the arguments are pretty simple.  For Russell and Marshawn, they get discounted because the defense is so good.  Yeah, these are good players, but where would this team be if the defense was only half as good?  The same knock goes against Pete Carroll.  Except this time, it’s the TEAM that’s too good.  While other coaches are doing more with less, Pete Carroll is doing more with more.  It’s not Pete Carroll’s fault that the team is so good (except, it sort of is, since he works hand in hand with John Schneider, but that’s neither here nor there), but what exactly is he having to overcome?

And before you come at me with the laundry list of injured Seahawks we’ve had throughout the year, yeah, I know.  I’m just telling you what they’re likely thinking on a national perspective.  They see Arizona making the playoffs, currently with 11 wins, with an outside shot at the #1 seed; and they see this team having lost their top two quarterbacks and a bunch of amazing defenders, having to leap hurdle after hurdle to get where they’ve gotten.  Or, they see the Dallas Cowboys getting the monkey off their backs, finally winning a division and getting ready to host a playoff game; they see a team they ranked near the bottom of the NFC East rankings before the season started, writing them off before a single game had been played.  Defying expectations.

Except, the problem with that is, it’s the media’s fault those expectations were so low to begin with.  Not only that, but it’s kinda Jason Garrett’s fault as well.  If he didn’t suck so much dick as a head coach for all these years, underachieving with supposedly-good teams, the Cowboys wouldn’t be in the position they’re in now:  being pretty great when everyone thought they were junk.

Pete Carroll just wins games.  He wins games with a roster he helped build.  And, he had to do it under the biggest microscope the city of Seattle had ever seen.

Think about it:  think about all the stories written about this team in the first couple months of the season.  All the negative stories.  Think about the tumult with Percy Harvin.  Think about how the media worked to drive a wedge between Lynch and the organization.  Every other article about him was about how he was unhappy.  About how he wanted to leave after the season.  About how the team was sick of his antics.  And, if they weren’t writing all of these negative articles, then they were tattling to the league about how Lynch wouldn’t do interviews.  Again, I’m talking about national media guys, but that’s the type of stuff you get when you win a Super Bowl and you’ve got a lot of interesting personalities on one team.

And Pete Carroll had to wade through ALL of that shit; not to mention all the noise about how it’s hard to come back and play well after winning the Super Bowl!  The talk, the rumors, the negative stories (whether true or manufactured), combined with the fact that the Seahawks lost 4 of their first 10 games.  Yeah, team chemistry is pretty fucking easy to manage when you’re winning games hand over fist.  But, when you’ve lost nearly as many games as you’ve won just past the halfway point of the season, you’ve REALLY got to work to keep the team on the same page and to keep them believing that this season isn’t totally lost.

What has Pete Carroll done?  All of that and then some.  He’s kept this team on track through a litany of injuries and alleged in-fighting, then righted the ship and shot this season into overdrive as the Seahawks look to make it six straight wins to steal the top seed in the NFC.

In a year where the target has been on our backs, and as big as a planet, Pete Carroll molded a champion into an even more formidable champion.  Yet, where’s the recognition?

***

Marshawn Lynch is a different animal.  I’m not so sure he really deserves to be in that discussion of the NFL’s MVP award.  But, you could certainly argue he’s the most important player on the Seattle Seahawks.  Making him the most important player on the best team in the National Football League.

Lynch has 1,577 total yards from scrimmage, with 16 total touchdowns.  He accounts for nearly 27% of our total yards this year, which is pretty fucking impressive.  The offense runs through him, and many would argue the offense doesn’t run WITHOUT him.  I wonder, but thankfully, I’ll never have to know (at least, for this season).

There was an interesting discussion on the radio today, about whether or not Russell Wilson is the same quarterback without Marshawn Lynch.  Is he still as effective?  There were a couple of good points, the first being that Lynch is an elite running back.  He’s in the top two or three in the NFL right now, which is saying something, even in this day and age of the devalued running back position.  Teams have to gameplan around Lynch.  They don’t necessarily have to gameplan as much if we’re talking about Turbin or Michael.  For as good as we think they might be, they’ve never had to carry the load full time.  It’s quite possible that two players who are awesome in short spurts become less effective the more times they touch the football.

The second point they made is even better:  Marshawn Lynch never goes down on first contact.  Think about THAT.  You can’t just assign one defender to roam around worrying about Lynch.  You have to run multiple guys at him to get him down.  It’s truly a team effort when you face the Seahawks, and if you’re not disciplined as a team (or, if you go about making too many Business Decisions), then Lynch is going to make you pay (mostly by running THROUGH you).

Knowing that you really have to key in on Lynch when he’s on the field, it opens up so much more for Russell Wilson.  Yes, part of the problem is the fact that other teams don’t really respect our passing attack, so they’re more likely to load the box or otherwise leave their corners on islands.  But, with Lynch still drawing the lion’s share of the attention, Wilson is able to run off of zone reads as well as simply scramble around until he’s able to find an open receiver.  And that’s saying nothing of all the pressure Lynch takes off of his shoulders simply by running the ball or being a quality outlet when Wilson needs to check down in the passing game.

Coming into this year, I was all set in my thinking:  we’d have Marshawn Lynch one more year, but we’d consistently work in Christine Michael, and after this year we’d let Lynch go and move on to our next franchise running back.  Now, through no fault of Michael’s, my thinking is seriously twisted up.  Like many other Seahawks fans, I can’t imagine this team doing anything without Beastmode.  More importantly, I don’t WANT to imagine it!

We’ve got Lynch signed through next year and I couldn’t be happier.  At the same time, I wouldn’t even be mad if they brought him back for an extra two years AFTER that!  Get the extension done in the offseason.  Give Lynch a nice little bonus for his so-far-under-the-radar-it’s-off-the-radar MVP performance, and ride this thing out until the bitter end.  If we get through Turbin’s and Michael’s rookie contracts without either of them being named the team’s starting running back, it’ll be a huge success.  I never would’ve thought that coming into the 2014 season.  I would’ve considered it an abject failure.  I mean, after all, why draft a running back in the second round (who may still have first round talent) if you’re not going to take advantage of him while his cost is still reasonable?

But, if you’re going to get this type of play out of Marshawn Lynch, you’ve got to keep him around for as long as it lasts.  It would probably be irresponsible to give him a 4-year deal like Wright or Avril, but a 2-year deal with modest base salaries and a nice chunk bonus (and not back-loaded, so both of those years are achievable) would certainly be in order.

Let’s prove the world wrong.  Let’s show everyone that Lynch CAN be happy here for the duration of his NFL career.

***

Getting back to Russell Wilson, do you ever wonder what he’s going to be like when Lynch leaves?  Or, shit, when Pete Carroll leaves for that matter!  The next running back isn’t likely to be an MVP type of back, just because those guys are so rare as it is.  What happens to Wilson when the offense is TRULY on his shoulders?  Like all of these other great quarterbacks he’s trying to be compared to?

For starters, CAN Russell Wilson carry a team by himself?  I’m inclined to think he can.  Now, we all know the arguments against Wilson being elite, and they all boil down to some variation on the Game Manager theme.  He doesn’t make mistakes, he scrambles around for extra yards, and he comes up with just enough big plays down field to keep defenses honest.  If you had a Game Manager Spectrum, he’d be at the absolute top-end of all quarterbacks.

There are LOTS of guys out there who are or were game managers.  But, how many of them take care of the ball the way he does?  Wilson has been in the league three years.  In all three years, he will have thrown for over 3,000 yards, over 20 TDs, and 10 or fewer INTs.  He’s also averaging over 600 yards rushing with nearly 4 TDs rushing, with only 3 fumbles per year.  No matter how much you like Kyle Orton, or Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Carson Palmer, or Jay Cutler, or Alex Smith, or Eli Manning, they’re not doing for you what Russell Wilson does.

What does Russell Wilson need to do to get into that MVP discussion?  Well, he probably has to throw for 4,000 and 30 TDs or more.  That seems to be a baseline for a quarterback to start getting recognized.  If he simply does what he’s been doing these first three seasons, the Seahawks would have to probably run the table in the regular season and even THEN, there better not be an overwhelming statistical season out of the likes of Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Can Wilson be that guy?  Can he throw for 4,000 and 30?  I suppose anything’s possible, but even then, you’re talking about a severely weakened Seahawks team.  See, he doesn’t have those numbers right now because the Seahawks don’t NEED him to throw that much.  But, if he’s doing that, then that means our defense is probably lacking, and we’re having to throw our way back into football games.  A 4,000/30 season out of Wilson probably equates to a 9-7 or 10-6 regular season record.  And, it probably means more turnovers in the process.

There’s always that give and take.  As a fan, of course I want to see the Seahawks be dominating, so I don’t care if Russell Wilson EVER reaches those MVP type numbers.  But, then again, maybe the national consensus should rethink what it means to be an MVP.

The Baltimore Ravens had one of the greatest defenses of all time in the year 2000.  But, that wasn’t just a 1-year blip.  They had LOTS of good defenses in the 2000s.  But, you didn’t see them win lots of Super Bowls; why is that?  Because, it’s pretty fucking hard to be as dominating as they were in 2000 for multiple seasons.  But, beyond that, it’s because they never really had an elite quarterback.

The 2013 Seahawks also had one of the greatest defenses of all time.  Consistently, throughout the year (as opposed to 2012 & 2014, when there have been significant breakdowns that have seen our record suffer as a result).  If we’d only had Tarvaris Jackson last year, I can envision a scenario where the 2013 Seahawks still win a Super Bowl a la the 2000 Ravens with Trent Dilfer.  BUT, I don’t see any subsequent championships in our future if we (in this hypothetical scenario) have to stick with Tarvaris Jackson (or some reasonable facsimile) for the duration of our defense being at this still very high level.  You get what I’m saying?

I’m saying if the Ravens of the 2000s had Russell Wilson at the helm, THEY might have been the dynasty instead of the Patriots.  Did I just blow your mind?

It goes hand in hand.  Yes, the Seahawks have an elite defense.  Yes, we’re on a run of defensive football (starting in 2012, going forward as long as I can see) where the Seahawks are going to be great for a while.  But, they wouldn’t be anything without Russell Wilson.  Just like the Ravens, for the most part, weren’t much until they got Joe Flacco (who isn’t any great shakes, but he’s more than just a game manager; just like Wilson is more than just a game manager).

The main problem with most quarterbacks is something I’ve said time and time again:  they THINK they can do everything, so they try to DO everything.  They think they can thread the needle on every throw when they don’t necessarily have to.  They think they’ve got the arm strength to slam a football into a tiny opening that isn’t really there once they’ve let the ball go.  As a result, a lot of these so-called great quarterbacks find themselves hurting their teams as much – if not more – than they’re helping.  Yeah, Jay Cutler has one of the strongest arms in football.  But, he’s got the brain of a child who’s always gotten his way since he emerged from his mother with that silver spoon en tow.

Drew Brees, there’s another one.  He’s a great quarterback, don’t get me wrong.  Hall of Famer and all of that.  But, like Brett Favre and a lot of other guys, Brees makes some baffling decisions when you wonder just what in the Hell he was thinking.  Maybe it’s because of the defense.  Maybe these quarterbacks think they have to be super-perfect because they know they’ve got to compensate for a struggling defense (and Wilson doesn’t have that problem, so he can be a little more cautious).  Maybe for those teams, a punt is a defeat and not a chance to live another day like it is with the Seahawks.  I dunno.

What I do know is you’re not that awesome just because you throw for 4 TDs a game if you’re also throwing 3 interceptions while doing it.

I’m just thankful that for at least these last few years, as a Seahawks fan, I’ve had it all.  Superstars come and go, but rarely do so many converge in the same place at the same time.  Unlike prior Seattle sports teams, this one is taking full advantage.  Here’s to another Super Bowl run; let’s get the job done on Sunday.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 13

We got a game coming up this Sunday against the Eagles that looms large.  I get the feeling that it looms larger than people give it credit for.

At this time last year, the Seahawks were 11-1.  We had just come off the most impressive drubbing of the Saints on Monday night, a week removed from our BYE.  The season was a smashing success and we were officially a win or two away from locking up everything.

At the same time last year, the Eagles were 7-5.  They were in the middle of an impressive run, where they finished the season on a 7-1 streak to take the NFC East with a 10-6 record.  Nick Foles had officially supplanted Mike Vick as the quarterback on the team and was looking like a real winner.  The Eagles scored 24 or more points in each of their final eight games, as Chip Kelly’s high voltage offense was humming along.

When the playoffs came around, the Seahawks were enjoying the #1 seed they’d worked so hard to get, while the Eagles hosted the Saints in the Wild Card round.  The Eagles had a lead late, but the Saints were able to move into field goal range and kick the game winner as time expired.

All Seahawks fans know what happened from there:  we hosted the Saints and beat them pretty soundly.  Which, in turn, saw us hosting the 49ers before thumping the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  What all Seahawks fans might not be aware of is that the Eagles and their fans wanted us bad.  Last year, the Eagles featured the best offense in the NFC by yards and the second best offense in the NFC by points scored.  They were a threat.  To be fair, the Saints were also a threat, but the Eagles were a different threat.  They were a threat the Seahawks hadn’t seen before.  Not in that incarnation.  Not with that style of play.

If I’m a betting man, and we could do last year over with the same exact circumstances, only with the Eagles replacing the Saints in the NFC Divisional round (which is actually impossible, because the Eagles were the 3-seed, meaning we would’ve faced the 49ers in that round, followed by the winner of the hypothetical Panthers/Eagles game in the NFC Championship game; but just go with me on this one), I’d wager that the Seahawks would’ve won just the same.

But, it’s that unknown that’s always given me pause.  With the Saints, you had to figure the game would’ve been different than it was the first time, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind:  we were going to beat them into submission once again.  We had the horses to stop Jimmy Graham, and after that everything would slot into place quite nicely (as it did).  The weather was a variable I didn’t foresee, but how could you, you know?

As it stands, I’m glad everything worked out, and I wouldn’t trade 2013 for anything in the world.  Nevertheless, now it’s 2014, and we’ve got the Eagles coming up this Sunday as our opponent.  Nick Foles is out, but Mark Sanchez has looked fine in his place.  Indeed, theirs is an offense that’s not as quarterback-reliant as most others.  You can get by with a subpar signal caller.  2014 Nick Foles hasn’t looked nearly as good as 2013 Nick Foles, leading us all to wonder whether he’s truly an elite quarterback, or just a good player in an elite system (and that was before the injury that’s kept him out for the better part of the last five games).

This system, by the way, is mind blowing.  Yes, every team has a system, and the term “system quarterback” is very dismissive.  Aaron Rodgers is a “system quarterback”, but he’s also a fucking manimal.  Mark Sanchez has proven without a shadow of a doubt that he’s a massive tool.  You could’ve put Rodgers on the Jets way back when and he’d still be leading them to the playoffs on the reg.  You couldn’t put Sanchez in Green Bay unless you wanted to be the first general manager to be lynched.

I still can’t fully wrap my head around how the Eagles have been this successful, almost from the get go.  Right now, the Eagles are 9-3, in first place in the NFC East, and while they currently hold the 3-seed, they’re tied for the best record in the NFC.  True, both the Cardinals and the Packers have tiebreakers over them thanks to head-to-head matchups with each.  But, it’s not impossible to envision a scenario where they leap one or both of those team by season’s end.  After the Seahawks, they get Dallas at home, followed by the Redskins & Giants on the road.  If they win out and get a little help, you never know.

If the Seahawks are able to win this game, not only does it send a clear message to the rest of the NFL that we’re BACK in a big way, but it helps our chances in getting one of the top seeds in the NFC playoffs.

A Seahawks win means both us and the Eagles would be 9-4.  At that point, we just need the Eagles to maintain their division lead over the Cowboys (because the ‘Boys hold a tiebreaker over us by way of beating us earlier this year) and we’ll have it.  All the Eagles would have to do is either beat Dallas next week (which they should do), or just have the same record as them at season’s end (because their superior divisional record would give them a tie-breaker in the event Dallas is able to even up that head-to-head record).

At that point, if the Seahawks win the NFC West, and the Eagles win the East, and both teams have the same record, we’re guaranteed to have a Top 2 seed.  From there, we’d still need help from the Packers to take over the number 1 overall seed; their schedule is as easy as pie the rest of the way (vs. Atlanta, at Buffalo, at Tampa, vs. Detroit).  IF we can somehow achieve a tie with Green Bay, we’d overtake them in the rankings, based on our head-to-head win to start the season.  But, that’s a long way off (and would require the Seahawks winning out, followed by the Lions not only beating the Packers in week 17, but having something to actually play for, which might not be the case if they continue winning as well).

A lot of variables going forward, but this game on Sunday will go a long way toward determining things.  A Seahawks victory doesn’t guarantee anything, as we still have three tough (but winnable) games within our division.  But, a Seahawks loss almost certainly guarantees that we won’t have a first round BYE in the playoffs (and it might go a long way in sealing our fate as to whether or not we win our division at all).

As I said up top:  this one looms large.  I know everyone is giddy about beating the 49ers on the road on Thanksgiving.  And, I know everyone is even giddier about beating the 49ers again NEXT week and almost certainly knocking them out of the playoff hunt.  But, let’s not overlook the one that’s right in front of us.  Never has the phrase “championship opportunity” been more appropriate for a regular season game.  Never has “going 1-0 every week” been a better motto to have.  Can’t look past the Eagles.  Gotta have the eyes on that prize.

I’ve softened on my stance that the Seahawks NEED to have a #1 seed to get back to the Super Bowl, but do you REALLY want to go back to Philly in January?  Do you REALLY want to face the Packers on the road?  Does it sound like a good time to you to face both of those teams on the road, in back to back weeks, where I can all but guarantee that at least one of those games will be snowbound?

No, the Seahawks don’t NEED to be the top seed, but it sure as shit helps.  To get there, this game is just as important as the others.  Maybe the most important.

***

  1. Green Bay Packers (9-3) – The curse of the #1 team CONTINUES; I’m a living, breathing jinx!
  2. Denver Broncos (9-3) – Yeah, but do you really think they’re going to have the stones to dedicate themselves to running the ball from here on out?
  3. New England Patriots (9-3) – Pretty tough loss, but raise your hand if you expected the Patriots to help the Seahawks out by beating an impressive NFC foe.  I’m not saying they lost on purpose, but I’m also saying I remember back in 2012 when the Seahawks were surging at season’s end and the Patriots could’ve handed us the division and a Top 2 seed by beating the 49ers.
  4. Indianapolis Colts (8-4) – Look, from here on out, if Andrew Luck is going to explode for a million yards and touchdowns, I’m going to need the vast majority of both to go to T.Y. Hilton, otherwise my first place (regular season) fantasy football team is doomed.
  5. Detroit Lions (8-4) – They’re solidly better than all the crap teams, but I doubt they have what it takes when push comes to shove.
  6. San Diego Chargers (8-4) – I seem to remember writing this team off after their 3-game losing streak.  They followed that up with a 3-game winning streak and an absolutely crucial victory in Baltimore.
  7. Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) – This Eagles game will be the last big test for the Seahawks.  If we can find a way to win, I’ll officially believe that we’re “back”.  If we narrowly lose, that’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world, though it’ll mean we have to play on Wild Card Weekend.  If we get blown out, I’ll officially be petrified of the playoffs this year.
  8. Seattle Seahawks (8-4) – I’m at the point now where I’m secure enough in my knowledge of the NFC West to know that the Seahawks are the best team in the division.  I’m pretty confident that we’ll win out our last three games (home vs. SF, at AZ, home vs. St. Louis).  But, the question remains:  will that be enough?  Arizona lost in Atlanta, and that’s great.  That helps tremendously, in fact!  But, if the Seahawks lose in Philly, we’re going to need the Cards to drop another game.  They play at home vs. KC, at St. Louis, and at Frisco in their other remaining games.  We’ll see.
  9. Arizona Cardinals (9-3) – To be fair, the Cards on offense look awful, so that’s encouraging.
  10. Dallas Cowboys (8-4) – It’s December now, but the Cowboys got an early start on their collapse over Thanksgiving.
  11. Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1) – So, they almost lost to the Bucs?  How is that possible?
  12. Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) – At some point, you need to adjust your offensive scheme against the likes of the Broncos and Chargers, right?  Why not let Alex Smith loose and throw it 40 times?  You might be pleasantly surprised, or you might lose horribly like you’d do anyway because you’re just not better than those teams.
  13. Baltimore Ravens (8-4) – Luckily for Ravens fans, none of the teams in the AFC North – even though they all have winning records – are all that terrifying.
  14. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) – See:  the Pittsburgh Steelers as one of those non-terrifying teams.
  15. San Francisco 49ers (7-5) – I could still see them finishing 10-6 and pulling out a Wild Card spot, if indeed the Cards are ready for the full collapse.
  16. Miami Dolphins (7-5) – Woof, what a dog of a game against the Jets!  Shakiest good team I’ve seen in a long time.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. St. Louis Rams (5-7) – The Rams are the consummate “They Scare The Shit Out Of Me NEXT Year” team, but then every time the next year rolls around, they shit the bed, so whatever.
  2. Houston Texans (6-6) – That was quite the mashing of the Titans on Sunday.
  3. Buffalo Bills (7-5) – I know we’re all happy about the Bills being relevant again, but they’ve got three road games to go, two of them at Denver & at New England (with a home game against Green Bay for good measure).  This isn’t your year, Bills fans.
  4. Atlanta Falcons (5-7) – Big riser in my rankings thanks to beating the Cardinals!  Good on ya.
  5. New Orleans Saints (5-7) – Remarkably easy schedule the rest of the way.  It’ll all boil down to their showdown at home against Atlanta in Week 16, but it’s still possible they finish 9-7 and everyone calms down a bit about the whole NFC South thing.
  6. Cleveland Browns (7-5) – Your record is good, but you’re not going to the playoffs.  Might as well start Johnny JamBoogie and see what he’s got for you in the last month.
  7. Chicago Bears (5-7) – I’m beyond the point of caring about the Bears.
  8. Minnesota Vikings (5-7) – Same goes for the Vikings.
  9. Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  10. New York Giants (3-9) – You are one pathetic loser!
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) – Mike Evans could be a fantasy stud, but we’ll never know about it, because they’ve got the world’s shittiest set of quarterbacks.
  12. Washington Redskins (3-9) – See, if your team is terrible for long enough, no one will care what nickname you call your team!
  13. New York Jets (2-10) – Hard to say you didn’t see a game like this coming.  What’s the best way to mitigate the damage of Geno Smith?  Don’t let Geno Smith throw the football.  Like, at all.
  14. Tennessee Titans (2-10) – Yeah, I dunno.
  15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) – Probably not a good thing to win too many more games the rest of the way.
  16. Oakland Raiders (1-11) – Just when I thought it was safe to pull the Raiders away from their last-place standing, they go and get shut out by the Rams, 52-0.