The Seahawks Have A Huge Game Against The Eagles This Sunday Night

Sometimes, football makes no sense.  Sometimes, you can have all the facts and figures and stats and Vegas all screaming in your face that a certain team is going to win.  And sometimes that means something!  New England at home against the Miami Dolphins?  Of course, pick New England, they’re obviously going to win.  And yet, sometimes, your gut is just as good an arbiter of picking football games.

I do this weekly pick ’em contest with my friends where we just pick the winners of all the games (no spreads).  Last night, the Redskins were in Dallas to play the Cowboys, who had been on a 3-game losing streak and just looked GOD FUCKING AWFUL since Ezekiel Elliott was suspended, and some of their offensive linemen got banged up.  Dak Prescott looked totally lost and inept, the running game never got going, and the offense as a whole just looked slow and ordinary.

Whereas the Redskins, sure, they’re as injured as any team in the league, but they’ve been frisky in just about every game!  Hell, they came into Seattle at their MOST decimated and walked away victorious!  They played tough against the best the NFC has to offer – and their schedule has been brutal to boot – so you could say the Redskins are battle tested.

And even though the betting public (the rubes, as it were) loves nothing more than to slap their money down on America’s Team, this line swung heavily to Washington’s favor.  On paper, it seemed like a no brainer.  Even in my pick ’em league, it was heavily on Washington’s side.  And, truth be told, I should’ve been right there with ’em.

But, my gut said Dallas.  Against all rhyme or reason, my gut thought that MAYBE they’d finally figure out how to play without their star running back.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted a 24-point Cowboys blowout, but the gut wants what the gut wants.

This Sunday Night, as noted in the title, the Seahawks host the Eagles.  It’s our final primetime game of the regular season, unless some games get moved around, which seems unlikely.  It’s also about as big a game as the Seahawks have played in quite some time.

The Seahawks are on a 2-game home losing streak, which sounds insane, but there it is.  The Eagles are 10-1 and in first place in the entire NFL; the Seahawks are 7-4 and in seventh place in the NFC.  Depending on where you look, the Eagles are 5-6 point favorites.  In Seattle.  Where the 12’s reside and the dead fish fly.

Some of the reasons why that’s the case include the fact that the Eagles are remarkably healthy up and down their roster; the Seahawks are missing countless starters and stars.  The Eagles have looked steady and dominant in their games; the Seahawks have looked inconsistent and sloppy.  Some will point out that the Eagles have a pretty weak schedule – at least as weak as Seattle’s – but is that true?

The Eagles’ only loss was against the Chiefs, when they were the best team in football for the first month of the season.  They beat the Redskins twice; the Seahawks lost to them at home.  The Eagles killed the 49ers; the Seahawks have struggled to beat them twice.  The Eagles destroyed the Cardinals; the Seahawks scratched and clawed to a close victory.  The Eagles also went on the road and beat the Panthers and Chargers, who are currently two of the hottest teams in the NFL.  What are Seattle’s impressive wins?  A game we almost blew to the Rams in the final seconds?  A shootout at home against the Texans when they still had Deshaun Watson and we still had the entire Legion of Boom?

I’m sorry, but anyone trying to put pen to paper words to website making the argument that these two teams are evenly matched – or CLOSE to evenly matched – is a homer of the highest order.

The Eagles are flat out better in every single phase of the game, period.

They have better, more consistent quarterback play; it doesn’t take Carson Wentz three quarters before he finally gets hot!  He’s hot from the starting gun!  (and I should know, he’s on my keeper league fantasy team).  They have a defense that generates better pressure and flies to the ball.  They’re better in yards allowed per game (6th vs. 8th), points allowed per game (3rd vs. 9th), and rushing yards per game (1st vs. 9th).  The only statistical category they trail the Seahawks is in passing yards per game (10th vs. 17th), but those numbers were largely built on having a healthy Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.  And, don’t forget the Eagles’ rushing offense; third in the league in yards per attempt.  The Seahawks?  23rd.  And, I’m sure it’s dead last when you take quarterback scrambles out of the equation.

The Eagles are better and more disciplined.  So, why do I get the feeling that the Seahawks are going to win this?

I dunno.  My gut!  It’s the only rational excuse!

Oh sure, you can point to the Seahawks being at home, but I just told you how we’re on a 2-game losing streak at home!  You can point to the Seahawks’ record in night games, but they JUST lost on Monday Night Football to the Atlanta Falcons, and the Seahawks have the best all-time record on MNF!  You can point to how it seems like the Seahawks turn it up a notch when the calendar flips to December, but last year they were 2-2, the year before they were 3-1, and in their championship season of 2013 they were 3-2!  They don’t ALWAYS dominate the month of December, and besides that, even if they did, that has no bearing whatsoever on what’s going to happen THIS December.

So, what gives?  Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t know how to spin this in a way that makes it sound logical that the Seahawks should win on Sunday.  I will say that this is a team Russell Wilson SHOULD be able to pass the ball on.  They don’t get a ton of interceptions, and while the pressure should be there, they don’t get home as much as you’d think (especially when you factor in how the Eagles are constantly ahead in the fourth quarter, with opposing teams passing to try to catch up; shouldn’t they be higher than 18th in sacks?).  Also, we’re going into this game with the best offensive line formation we’ve had in YEARS.  Duane Brown-Luke Joeckel-Justin Britt-Ethan Pocic-Germain Ifedi.  We just got through a whole entire game without Wilson taking a sack.  Granted, it was the 49ers, but still.  It feels like the offense has a nice little rhythm, with Wilson leading the charge.  There’s also the chance that Mike Davis comes back.  If that’s the case, you could make an argument that the running game could be slightly improved.

Defensively, Bobby Wagner is playing like a DPOY.  The D-Line should be pumped up for this one.  And, I just wonder if this is an offense that our defense could handle.  Wentz strikes not just me as a Ben Roethlisberger type; someone always looking for the deep shot down field.  He’s not a Philip Rivers type, I’ll tell you that!  Philip Rivers is our G.D. kryptonite.  I just don’t know if Wentz has the patience and awareness to dink and dunk his way down field.

The key is going to be how well we cover their guys.  Zach Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league, and I could see him torching us if we consistently leave K.J. Wright on him.  Alshon Jeffery is past his prime, but he has made his share of plays this year; I could easily see him jumping over Jeremy Lane for a big gainer up the sideline.  They also have a nice collection of running backs who could conceivably carve us up, but I’m less concerned about that.  I really need to see our secondary do its job and allow the front seven a chance to get to Wentz.

My gut also tells me that I need Wentz to have a good game so I can win my fantasy matchup this week and play my way into the better playoff bracket, so OF COURSE the Seahawks are going to eat him alive to the tune of 3 picks and a fumble.  But, that’s neither here nor there.

At this point, I’m even questioning my gut, because it sounds like a lot of other peoples’ guts are telling them something similar.  There’s something in the air, and it’s giving a lot of hunches to a lot of prognosticators out there to make the Seahawks their “upset special”.  When I hear things like that, I start to think about going the other way.  It’s like my gut’s gut is telling me to abandon this line of thinking!

Because I know this Seahawks team!  They have tons of penalties at the worst possible times!  On defense, these penalties prolong drives, turning punts into touchdowns.  On offense, we’re consistently behind the sticks!  Promising drives turning into drivel.  Then, there’s First Quarter Russ, who is consistently off-target and now throws mind-boggling interceptions into good coverage?

To win this game comfortably, the Seahawks will need to play a near-flawless game.  They’ll need to score more touchdowns than field goals, and they’ll need to score these touchdowns starting in the FIRST quarter!  Now, like I said, I know this team, so I know the likelihood of that happening is pretty remote.  It happened against Denver in the Super Bowl, and maybe 2-3 other times in this Pete Carroll run.

What’s MORE likely is that the Seahawks will fall behind early, scramble to catch up, and if they’re going to win, they’re going to have to do it with some late-game heroics.  That’s CERTAINLY more likely to happen than the Seahawks being good from the jump and enjoying a comfortable victory.  But, is it more likely than the Seahawks finding a way to lose it late?  Or, worse, getting blown out at home by the consensus Best Team In Football?

I don’t think it is.

I’ve been waffling back and forth on this one all week (indeed, even since the start of this post!), and I might continue waffling on it up until gametime, but right now, I gotta say I see an Eagles victory.

NO WAIT!  Seahawks.

NO … no, hold on.  Let me think about it some more.

Shit.

The Seahawks Aren’t Going To Be Major Players In Free Agency

I feel like this is something that shouldn’t be up for debate.  And yet, for some reason, the same stupid questions keep popping up on Twitter, being handled with savage aplomb by the beat writers who somehow manage to maintain some semblance of sanity in this brave new world we live in where everyone has a voice (hi!) and gets to shout it to the masses whenever they fucking want.

People see the Seahawks have $20+ million in available salary cap room and think, “Oh boy!  Shopping spree!”  Why, with that amount of money, with some creative bookkeeping, you could easily fill a couple spots on the O-Line, with enough room left over for Adrian Peterson, Alshon Jeffery, and a couple dominant pass rushers!

Forget about the fact that that’s insane, and very much NOT enough money to do all those things, but as usual people fail to see the bigger picture.  Yes, unlike in years past, the Seahawks do have some money to throw around.  But, as usual, compared to the rest of the NFL, the Seahawks are relative paupers.  At the moment (before the flurry of deals set to go down in the coming days), the Seahawks rank 22nd out of 32 teams in the NFL in available cap space.  The Cleveland Browns, for instance, rank 1st, and have over $100 million!  8 teams in the NFL have DOUBLE what the Seahawks have in available cap space!

And, speaking of big picture, this is the NFL.  Where the risk of injury is at its highest among the professional sports, and where the contracts aren’t fully guaranteed.  In the life of an NFL player, you gotta get yours while the getting’s good, because any snap or even any practice rep could be your last.

As such, the best free agents are going to chase the highest dollars.  And the majority of the league has stacks on stacks on stacks more money than the Seahawks.  So, you know, don’t expect the Seahawks to land some whale in the first hours of free agency.

Also, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have more than a single hole to fill.  If we were just one player away from a guaranteed Super Bowl run, then yeah, spend the bulk of that $20+ million on the best guy and call it a day!  No, see, there are a number of holes to fill, along the O-Line, along the D-Line, and especially throughout the depth of our roster.  In other words, we’ve gotta make that $20+ million last, and spread that shit around to as many guys as we can.

So, with that in mind, can we PLEASE take a reasoned, somewhat educated look at potential Seahawks targets?

I mean, I won’t, but maybe the rest of you can.  The NFL free agency rumor mill couldn’t interest me less.  Which is why Twitter is perfect for this sort of thing.  Oh, the Seahawks may or may not be interested in Jamaal Charles?  Put it in a Tweet!  But, I can’t sit here and respond to every possible player we’re supposedly tied to in conversation!  Even if I am tantalized by the notion of a healthy Charles just destroying defenses this season.  Who has the time?  The news changes so frequently, I can’t keep up.

In the end, there has to be a modestly-priced offensive tackle out there that the Seahawks will get around to signing.  I could see us going after a veteran running back, but I really doubt it if the guy is coming off of major injury (considering the rash of injuries we’ve sustained to Rawls and Prosise).  I’m sure there’s a solid D-tackle out there we’ll bring in.  But, again, while these positions are priorities, they’re also something that can be knocked out later in the process.  The NFL draft isn’t until the last weekend in April.  There’s PLENTY of time for the Seahawks to make smart, sensible moves.

Should The Seahawks Undervalue Offensive Linemen?

It’s something I brought up in yesterday’s post, that got to gnawing at me a little bit today.  Value over quality.  Instead of keeping your offensive line intact for a long period of time – by handing out contract extensions once their rookie deals lapse – just reloading with fresh, young rookies and hoping for the best.

Is that the best way to go?

Obviously, this gets back to the realm of Can’t Pay Everybody.  Would you rather have quality linemen at most or all of the offensive line spots?  Or, would you rather have a franchise quarterback, All Pros/Pro Bowlers at Safety, Cornerback, Linebacker, Defensive End, and so on?  Something’s gotta give, and the Seahawks have decided that something is the O-Line, the running back position, the interior defensive line, and to a lesser extent the wide receivers.

Well, to figure out the right way to build a roster, it’s kind of simple, actually.  Just factor in that position at a Pro Bowl level and compare it to a “replacement level” player.

If you start at quarterback, it’s clear as day.  Look around the league, at the teams making the playoffs every year.  The best teams generally have a top-level quarterback.  The mediocre teams and the bad teams are generally employing (or are forced to use, due to injuries) replacement level quarterbacks.  Nobodies.  The Brian Hoyers of the world.

Going down the line, what’s the difference between Earl Thomas and Brian Russell?  Pretty huge difference there, right?  What’s the difference between Ricahrd Sherman and Kelly Jennings?  Again, pretty huge.  Bobby Wagner vs. David Hawthorne?  Michael Bennett vs. Grant Wistrom?  I could go on and on, just comparing quality Seahawks on the roster now vs. mediocre ex-Seahawks who brought this franchise to its knees with their bumbling.

Now, what’s the difference between Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls?  I know we’re talking about a REALLY small sample size, but as a rookie the Seahawks were able to find a player in Rawls who averaged 5.6 yards per attempt.  This wasn’t just a third down back hitting on some big runs; this is a guy who got significant action, in a starting role, before that ankle injury cut short his season.

What’s the difference between Doug Baldwin and someone like Alshon Jeffery (random example, I know).  Jeffery is considered to be a significant upgrade in talent – a true #1 receiver who’s able to win a lot of jump balls and really be a force on offense.  But, their career yards per catch are within a yard of one another, and Jeffery never had a season where he caught 14 touchdowns like Baldwin did last year, under a relatively modest salary.  A guy like Jeffery on the open market would command top dollar; a guy like Baldwin might still be had for a bargain, considering his overall production value.  Should the Seahawks break the bank on a guy like Jeffery, or should they extend a guy like Baldwin for a modest sum and get just as good production, if not better in certain areas?

If I may slide around to the point of the post:  what’s the difference between Russell Okung and Garry Gilliam?  I have no idea.  Based on his play at right tackle last year, you could argue Gilliam is a big dropoff.  But, the left side is his more natural side, and he’s had a whole offseason to bulk up and work on technique, so you’d hope there will be some improvement gained by health and experience alone.  If Gilliam can be a league-average left tackle, that’s not so much of a drop-off from Okung.

If you compare the rest of our offensive line to, say, the Cowboys (who are touted as doing it “the right way”, by investing heavily at all spots along the offensive line), what is the drop-off?  Well, let’s look at the 2015 regular season.

  • In rushing, the Seahawks were third in the league, with 2,268 yards; Dallas was ninth with 1,890.
  • In pass protection, the Seahawks gave up 46 sacks, good for 6th-worst in the NFL; Dallas gave up 33, tied for 11th-best.
  • In QB hits, it’s even worse.  The Seahawks gave up 114 hits, 3rd-worst in the NFL; Dallas gave up only 67, 5th-best.

So, yeah, the pass protection half of the O-Line’s duties is pretty dire.  If we’re unable to get those numbers way down to at least league average, it’s only a matter of time before Russell Wilson gets injured and we lose a season to backup quarterback play.  But, it is only half the battle, as the Seahawks play it pretty close to 50/50 in the run/pass department.  We’re getting good run production, which is a big help, compared to teams throwing the ball 2/3 of the time and increasing the risk to their quarterbacks that way.

The thing that everyone talks about regarding offensive line play is continuity.  You need your linemen to be healthy, and you ideally want them playing together for a long time.  It’s why a Seahawks line as bad as it was in Week 1 last year can improve the way it did, to where it WAS a league-average unit by Week 17.  Those same five guys, for the most part, played together every week, and experienced a bump in productivity as a result.  Imagine what that would look like if you could have the same line playing together over the course of YEARS!

Well, you don’t have to think too hard, because you can look at those O-Lines we had in Seattle during Holmgren’s peak years.  Doesn’t hurt that those lines had a hall of famer in Walter Jones, but they were also veterans who had played together a bunch (until it was unceremoniously broken up in the Poison Pill fiasco).

The key to the whole thing is just getting a league average unit.  If the Seahawks can do that by paying guys peanuts, I believe it’s entirely worth their while.  Because you can get by with league average offensive line play; whereas you can’t get by with league average quarterbacks, or league average secondaries, or a league average pass rush.

Yeah, continuity is great, and pumping a lot of resources into the O-Line is fantastic if you can afford it.  But, no team is immune from the injury bug.  And just one or two injuries to key offensive linemen can completely dismantle the whole thing, leaving you not only over-paying for a position that’s on the IR, but stuck with replacement players anyway who are thrust into starting spots they’re not ready for.

In my book, with the right coaching, some smart drafting, and a little luck, you can skimp on the O-Line – like you can at running back, defensive tackle, and so on – and still get good-enough value to make your team a championship contender.

I’m not worried about the Seahawks’ O-Line.  Then again, I haven’t seen them play, so check back with me again in August.

Why Aren’t The Seahawks In The Super Bowl?

If you read that title like I’m four years old, it makes the bulk of this post very different.  For some kids around that age, you seriously got to wonder:  why aren’t they letting my team play this weekend?  I DON’T GET IT!!!  *throws tantrum, runs away screaming and slamming doors*

It does kinda suck, though.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I really got used to spending these weeks leading up to the Super Bowl reading all about how great my team is.  And writing about how great my team is.  And just generally basking in the glow that is being a participant in the biggest annual spectacle in the entire world (even if it’s just from a fan’s perspective).  You get to look back at the season that was, while at the same time knowing there’s still one game left to play that will determine whether or not your team is the best.  You get to look forward to the game itself, breaking it down piece by piece, trying to get a handle on whether or not your team will come out victorious.

Two years of that.  Two straight years of being one of the last teams to play a meaningful game of football.  But, this year, we’re heading into Super Bowl week on the outside looking in.

And, not for nothing, but it absolutely sickens me to my core.  I try not to think about this, because it WILL drive me absolutely bonkers, but come on:  the Seahawks would KILL this Broncos team, almost as badly as we killed them two years ago!  Fucking A, is the AFC a weak-ass bullshit conference!  You think Peyton Manning’s noodle arm is going to pick us apart?  If he couldn’t do it at his peak two years ago, what makes you think he could do it now when he’s about a week away from announcing his retirement?  And their defense?  Pardon me if I don’t crap myself with terror!  No doubt, over two weeks of prep, we’d find a way to get the job done.

ARGH!  ARGH I SAY!  If the Seahawks could have only showed up in the first half of that Carolina game, we would have gone on to Arizona – who we would’ve handled easily, especially considering Carson Palmer’s messed-up thumb – and we’d be looking at a third straight Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened since those early-70s Dolphins teams those early-90s Bills teams!

Gotta stop.  Gotta put that agony away and focus on the reality of the world we’re living in.  One where Cam Newton is less than a week away from having as many Super Bowl victories as Russell Wilson (and, odds are, infinitely more Super Bowl MVP awards).  Get ready for the Panthers to be our foil for the next decade, because it’s looking like them and the Seahawks will be the teams to beat in the NFC for this generation.

A question hit me over the weekend, that I thought I’d workshop here:  why didn’t we make the Super Bowl?  Answer:  because we lost in the playoffs.  But, why did we lose?

As has been the case since the Seahawks went on this run, and managed to win a world championship, I like to look at our place in history (as it’s happening).  The hope of hopes being that this team would be a dynasty, like so many great teams throughout NFL history.  The talent is there on the field, the talent is there in the coaching staff, the climate is right for a team to pick up where the Patriots are inevitably going to leave off.  Could THIS Seahawks team be ranked among the all time great dynasties?

Well, you’re going to need multiple Super Bowl titles for starters, something we’re still working on.  The worry, of course, is that we’ve somehow missed the boat.  Plenty of dynasties have had an off-year in the midst of their dynastic run; it’s entirely possible that the Seahawks return to form, seal up the NFC in 2016, and go on to take down a second Super Bowl victory against whatever bullshit gets squeezed out of the AFC’s butthole.

I guess, the question I’m looking to answer is:  was 2015 a temporary dip?  Some flaw that can be easily rectified before returning this team to its dominant glory days?  OR, has a team like the Panthers officially done enough to surpass us?  Are the Seahawks still on the cutting edge of the NFL?  Or, are we just another member of The Pack, looking up at the greatness that is whatever the hell they’re doing in Carolina?

That’s probably a little drastic, but it’s something my insecure brain lands on when confronted with two weeks of pre-Super Bowl build up and no Seahawks talk whatsoever.  We like to sit here in our Pacific Northwest bubble and celebrate the huge leap forward in Russell Wilson’s development, but it should be pretty scary to look over there and see the huge leap forward in Cam Newton’s development.  It’s hard to see in the numbers themselves; his year-to-year progression is a little wacky, and you could argue that Cam Newton is what he is and is what he has been all along.  He’s going to hover around 60% completions, around 4,000 passing yards, but he had a monster jump in passing TDs, as well as a career-low in interceptions.  Top that off with his usual bananas production in the running game, and you’ve got someone who will be a force for the rest of his career.  Even as his legs start to wear down (whenever that may be), he’s proven to be adept-enough in the pocket to lead his team to victories.  Oh, and let’s not forget, this year he probably had the fewest weapons in the passing game of any year in his career!  He lost his #1 receiver before the season even started, then went on to have probably the best year he’ll ever have!  Think about THAT!  Think about what that team would look like if they ever managed to draft an elite receiver like DeAndre Hopkins.  Or signed a receiver like Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason.  I may not like Cam Newton, but I respect the shit out of his game.

Is it Carolina, and not Seattle, who is the real dynasty of this decade?

God, perish the thought, but now it’s out there.  And, once they dismantle the Broncos just like we did a couple years ago, it’s going to be all anyone talks about this offseason.  So, have fun with that.

Ups & downs, strikes and gutters, these things happen.  I still believe the Seahawks are right there.  My biggest lament, and probably the main reason why we might not be the next New England Patriots, is that we don’t play in an insufferably weak division like the AFC East.  The Pats have had their run of things, in large part, because they don’t have to worry about being a Wild Card team, or going out on the road in the first round of the playoffs.  The Pats, with Brady and Belichick, will never know the struggle of going into the playoffs as a 6-seed and having to win out on the road against three caged tigers.  Usually, their schedule is easy-enough that they get to walk blindfolded into a top 2 seed, then they play some upstart, then they grapple with whatever team Peyton Manning is on (and, starting next year, I doubt they’ll even have Manning’s carcass to kick around anymore).  The Seahawks, on the other hand, have always had a Top 2-calibre team within their own division, a bevy of stout defenses to tangle with, and at least one other Top-2 calibre team somewhere else in the NFC to get past.  Next year looks to be no different, as long as Carson Palmer can remain upright.

So, the question is:  will Carolina continue to have the pathetically easy road a la New England?  Or, will their division mates finally start pulling their own weight?

You gotta like what Jameis Winston did in his rookie year.  Tampa could be frisky, if they ever get their shit together.  New Orleans probably has seen its best days; with Drew Brees aging out of the league any year now, they probably won’t be able to rebuild the roster around him before he retires (with the probability that they, in fact, end up trading Brees and go Full Rebuild from scratch).  Atlanta is the real enigma.  We all think that Dan Quinn is the real deal, but it’s just as likely that he’s not, especially if they don’t figure out how to make that defense better (and if they don’t provide Matt Ryan with the weapons on offense he so clearly needs).

It’s entirely possible that Carolina will dominate that division next season just as they did this one.  But, like the Seahawks, they’ll have to tangle with the NFC West next year (on the road to face the Rams and Seahawks, hosting the 49ers and Cards).  And, cherry on top, they play the most difficult division in the AFC next year in the AFC West (on the road in Denver & Oakland; hosting San Diego & Kansas City).  Odds are, even if they do as well in their own division as they did in 2015, they won’t come close to 15 regular season wins.

God, I seriously can’t wait for the 2016 NFL season to start.  August can’t come soon enough.

Time To Kick It Into Higher Gear, Seahawks

I don’t know much about cars; do you really kick gears?

The Seahawks did a great and impressive thing last week:  they stepped toe to toe with one of the better offenses in the league, and they came out on top.  When you look at the probable major players for the NFC playoffs, you’re going to have to overcome some impressive offenses:  Arizona, Green Bay, and Carolina (even though nobody thinks of them as having an impressive offense, go really look at the numbers they’re putting up this year with essentially no one but Cam).  It’s going to be vital in some of these potential playoff matchups (if, indeed, that’s where the Seahawks end up) to have our offense clicking to match theirs.

On the flipside, we have this week’s matchup against the Vikings.  They DON’T have an impressive offense.  In fact, it’s pretty feeble.  It’s Adrian Peterson and A LOT of game managing out of their quarterback.  But, their defense is rock solid in just about every aspect.  When you look at teams like the Vikings, Arizona and Carolina again, and to a lesser extent the Falcons, you’re going to see some good defenses in the playoffs as well.  Getting our guys going against these stout fronts will make all the difference in getting back to a third Super Bowl in three years.

Finally, the big thing about this week’s game is that this is the last really good team we’re going to face until the playoffs (if you think like I do, that the Cards will be resting the bulk of their starters for the bulk of that game in week 17, as they’ll have the 2-seed wrapped up by then).  I see this as the true litmus test of the second half of this season.  To date, until defeating the Steelers, the Seahawks had lost every game against every quality opponent they faced.  They’re now 1-4 in those games, with – as I mentioned – one final test to go.  If these are the same Seahawks we watched struggle to a 4-5 start, then I would put all my money down on the Seahawks LOSING this weekend in another heartbreaker.  BUT, if they’ve somehow turned a corner (like they did towards the end of 2014 and 2012), then the Vikings will be just another mediocre opponent we’ll have no trouble defeating by 7-10 points.

The formula couldn’t be simpler:  stop Adrian Peterson and you stop the Vikings.  At that point, it’s just a matter of getting to 17-20 points to give yourself enough of a cushion to withstand any late-game heroics.  Do I think the Seahawks are capable of doing that?  Mmm, I think anything’s possible.

As I mentioned in my review of the Steelers game, I like our defense to make a big leap forward in the coming weeks.  I like Shead as our other starting corner.  I like getting Lane back and him having a full game under his belt.  I think we’re JUST starting to get our groove back as a whole, defensively.  But, I think it’s highly probable that we’re not giving Teddy Bridgewater enough credit for limiting mistakes and getting the ball into the hands of playmakers.  The Vikings have a good, young receiver (Stefon Diggs) and a quality, underrated tight end (Kyle Rudolph), and I think they’ll be able to move the ball through the air just enough.  I also think it’s impossible to stop Adrian Peterson for a full 60 minutes.  We’ve got a very good run defense, but then again, is it good because of the long line of stiffs we’ve been playing against?  Take a look:

  1. The Rams, pre-Gurley (Benjamin Cunningham led with 45 yards on 16 carries)
  2. The Packers, featuring Fat Eddie Lacy (James Starks actually led with 95 yards on 20 carries)
  3. The Bears, featuring Jimmy Clausen & no Alshon Jeffery (Forte, with 74 yards on 20 carries)
  4. The Lions, ’nuff said (Ameer Abdullah with 33 yards on 13 carries)
  5. The Bengals, featuring Disappointing Jeremy Hill, and playing from way behind (Giovani Bernard with 80 yards on 15 carries)
  6. The Panthers, first solid rushing team (Jonathan Stewart with 78 yards on 20 carries)
  7. The 49ers, ’nuff said (Carlos Hyde with 40 yards on 11 carries)
  8. The Cowboys, no Romo (Darren McFadden with 64 yards on 20 carries)
  9. The Cardinals, decent rushing team (Chris Johnson with 58 yards on 25 carries)
  10. The 49ers again, this time no Hyde (Shaun Draughn with 37 yards on 12 carries)
  11. The Steelers, primarily a passing team (DeAngelo Williams with 29 yards on 8 carries)

I mean, really, LOOK at that list!  Carolina ran the ball well, aside from J-Stew.  Starks had a solid game.  Bernard burned us pretty good at times.  But, NONE of those guys are even close to what a healthy A.P. can do.  Are we SURE the Seahawks’ run defense is that good?  We’ll find out this weekend.  If it isn’t as good as we thought, we’ll be in big trouble.

Lose this game and it’s not necessarily the end of the world.  Drops us to 6-6, with three easy games (at an injury-riddled Baltimore Ravens; home vs. Cleveland; home vs. the Rams – who we always beat at home) and another potentially-easy game against the Cards.  10-6 would still be possible with a loss this weekend.

But, a loss also leads to shifting expectations.  I don’t think we’d have any business believing that this is a championship team.  If we can’t beat the Vikings, what would make us believe that we’d beat a try-hard Cardinals team, or a still-good Packers team, or a flawless Panthers team?  We’d be making the playoffs just for the sake of being there, and we’d probably get bounced in the first round by the winner of the NFC North.  Especially if that team is the Packers and we have to go back to Green Bay again, this time in the bitter cold.

A victory in Minnesota this weekend, however, puts a total re-set on the season.  It would mean the Seahawks ARE legit, and they HAVE flipped the switch at the exact right time.  At that point, I’d expect the Seahawks to win out, nab that 5-seed, and go into the winner of the NFC East and DESTROY them with ease.  My excitement level for the final four weeks will be off the charts.

As a closing aside, the last few years we’ve been talking about the great dynasties of past decades.  The Vikings of the 60s, the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s, the Cowboys of the 90s, the Patriots of the 00s; but, one “dynasty” I’ve always had a soft spot for is the Buffalo Bills of the early 90s.  Yeah yeah, I know, they lost four straight Super Bowls, and from a historical perspective, they’re laughingstocks.  But, do you know how IMPOSSIBLE it is for a team to go to four straight Super Bowls?  The Dolphins went to three in the early 70s (winning two), everyone else it’s two in a row or less.  Just getting to four straight Super Bowls, even winning none of them (though, coming to within a missed field goal of winning that first one) is an all time miracle of professional football.  That’s being consistently good enough to be dominant year after year, while at the same time catching fire in the playoffs.  And the Bills weren’t beating up on a down conference, either!  They had Marino’s Dolphins, Esiason’s Bengals, Moon’s Oilers, Schottenheimer’s Chiefs, and Elway’s Broncos to contend with year-in and year-out.  Some of the greatest players and coaches of all time coached in this era, and still the Bills went to back-to-back-to-back-to-back Super Bowls.  Unreal!

I’m not making an argument that I’d trade places with those teams or anything, but I like the idea of the Seahawks making a serious run at going to four straight.  Well, this would be year three.  In years 1 and 2, the Seahawks were division winners and top seeds in their conference.  In years 1 and 2 for Buffalo during their run, the Bills were division winners and top seeds in their conference.  In year 3 for the Bills, they had some struggles and finished second in their division.  But, they nabbed the top Wild Card slot, won a crazy playoff game where they came back from being down by 32 points (still the greatest comeback of all time), and scratched and clawed their way back to their third Super Bowl (knocking off the #1 seed in the Divisional Round, then beating their divisional rival in the Championship Game).

This year’s Seahawks team looks like it’s headed for a Wild Card spot.  We already had our huge “comeback game” against the Packers last year, but who’s to say we don’t win some crazy Wild Card game this year, face the Panthers in the Divisional Round, and then have to go down to Arizona for the NFC Championship Game?

For what it’s worth, that fourth Bills team easily won its division and reclaimed their #1 seed in the playoffs.  So, we have that to look forward to, if my prophecy comes to fruition (except, no more getting beat in the Super Bowl, thx).

Taking A Mid-Season Look At The Seahawks, Part 1

You gotta love these Week 9 bye weeks.  We’re a full … half-season in, then we get to reflect for two weeks before the mad scramble to the finish, as teams scratch and claw to climb over one another for one of their respective conference’s rare, precious six playoff spots.

I don’t mean to get off on a tangent this early, but how fucked up is it that all four division winners are guaranteed not only a playoff spot, but a home playoff game?  Where was this type of thinking back in 2010?  Surely, nowhere even remotely in my homer brain, but that’s neither here nor there.  Someone is going to win that motherfucking AFC South with a God damn 6-10 record and it’s patently ludicrous!  And don’t think for a minute you deserve any praise, you NFC East you!

But, as they say, I digress.  Whoa-oh, we’re halfway there, so let’s take a look back at the Seahawks, the good and the bad.

The Good

Beating up on the 49ers was probably the highlight, because how many more chances are we going to have to really stick it to Colin Kaepernick?  Hell, is it even appropriate to ENJOY sticking it to Kaepernick anymore?  I feel like most people just feel sorry for him because the 49ers stink, their head coach is a dunce, and their ownership & front office makes their head coach look like Vince Lombardi!  Kaepernick and the 49ers were supposed to be our main rivals for the next decade, and now they’re being washed away like so many thousands of gallons of sewage out into the oceans.

Getting an extra bye week so early in the season was another highlight, I suppose.  Oh, wait, nevermind.  That was the week we faced off against the Chicago Bears!  Without Jay Cutler, without Alshon Jeffery, but still with a gutless loser of a head coach who didn’t even try to pose a threat.  Getting a shutout to pad our defensive stats was a nice touch.

Drilling down to the player level, I’d say the co-MVPs are easily Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.  Cop-out, I know; I suppose if you put a gun to my head, I’d make MVP 1-A Avril and MVP 1-B Bennett, if only because Avril hasn’t irritated the shit out of me with countless offsides and personal foul penalties.  These guys have been our rocks.  They never take a game off, and rarely – if ever – take a play off.  They’re at the tops of their games, and our defense would be a shell of its former self without them.

Honorable mentions have to start with K.J. Wright, who is clearly having his greatest season and is proving without a shadow of a doubt how invaluable he is to this defense.  You hear about the “glue guy” and K.J. Wright is that guy.  In a season where we’ve seen fewer explosive plays out of our high-priced middle linebacker, it’s comforting to know that Wright is always … right there to pick up the slack and keep this defense humming.

Our next honorable mention (and believe me, I’m going in descending order) goes to Tyler Lockett.  The rookie showed tremendous promise in the pre-season, and he’s delivered in the regular season.  His reputation is already as such that teams are avoiding him at all costs, as he’s already returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.  With a 25.4 yards per return average, he’s already 9th among qualified kickoff returners.  AND, he’s already 4th in catches and receiving yards for our struggling offense.  Not too shabby for a player who is sure to only get better as he gains more experience.

Next up, I think you have to like what Jimmy Graham has brought to the table, even if some fans and media people will never be satisfied until he’s replicated his numbers in New Orleans.  I still have a bone to pick with how he’s used around the goalline, but I think in general, Graham has acclimated himself quite well for a player new to the offense.  He’s got a nice little rapport going with Russell Wilson, that I’m sure will only improve as the season continues.  He leads the team in receptions and yards; what more do you expect?  Any beef you have with Jimmy Graham, you actually have with the coaching staff and specifically the offensive coordinator.  But, Jimmy Graham the player has done all he’s been asked to do, and that’s all I can ask from him.

Finally, I’m giving joint kudos to the running backs.  I know Lynch hasn’t had his greatest season, but he’s been dealing with some nagging injury issues, as well as this horrendous offensive line.  You can only make so much chicken salad out of the “holes” they’re opening up for him.  Granted, the line has been much improved in the run game in recent weeks, so that’s going to be less of an excuse going forward.  But, when Lynch has been healthy, he’s looked just as good and strong and quick as ever.  And, what can you say about Thomas Rawls?  Believe it or not, he leads the team in rushing yards (376 to Lynch’s 375) with 34 fewer attempts.  Obviously, the bulk of that came in two games:  garbage time against the Bears for 104 yards, and the entire Bengals game for 169 yards.  Either way, Rawls looks good.  A lot better than Turbin and Michael, in fact.  Is he our running back of the future?  That’s tough to say, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

Tomorrow, we’ll get to The Bad.

The Seahawks Shut Out The Bears

It was a drubbin’, but it wasn’t THAT much of a drubbin’.  I mean, shit man, it was only 6-0 at halftime!  The first four drives totalled all of 37 yards, and the only reason we got that first field goal is because we stole that gimmicky St. Louis Rams fake-out punt return.  It wasn’t until – of course – the 2-minute warning, when we FINALLY got the ball moving down the field.  We got all the way down inside the 10-yard line, but unfortunately couldn’t punch it in on three straight throws.  For the record, I didn’t mind the play-calling on this particular end-of-half series.  Two of the three plays involved 1-on-1 matchups where we had a significant size advantage (Jimmy Graham and Chris Matthews).  On the first, the defender just made a great play; on the second, Wilson rushed the throw because we snapped the ball with 5 seconds left on the clock and still wanted to preserve the field goal try.

So, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the first half.

All you need to know about the Chicago Bears yesterday was that Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery were out, replaced by Jimmy Clausen and Some Guy.  The Bears had 10 possessions and punted the ball 10 times.  Even when one MIGHT make the argument that the Bears were within striking distance of making a comeback, while at the same time having the ball at or near midfield, they abjectly refused to go for it on 4th & short.

To call the Bears’ offense vanilla is to malign the most boring flavor of ice cream there is.  The Bears weren’t vanilla on offense yesterday, they were rice cakes on offense.  They were packing peanuts.  They were plain Cream of Wheat with unsalted soda crackers on the side.  Which helped to make this game probably the most boring of the three blowout afternoon contests yesterday.

Which was GREAT for me and my fantasy team, going up against someone who had the Seahawks as their defense.  No turnovers?  No defensive touchdowns and only one return touchdown?  Only two sacks?  Yeah, that Chicago offense was ALL RIGHT!

But, if I’m a Bears fan, I’d be absolutely furious.  John Fox gave up on that game before it even started.  He didn’t even try to score any POINTS, let alone win the game!  He was perfectly happy running the ball for minimal yardage, and dinking & dunking in the passing game, with no inkling whatsoever to try to convert many of the 4th & shorts they were presented all day.  I mean, why not just forfeit?  Could’ve saved you a flight.  It would’ve been less ugly than what we saw out there yesterday.

For what it’s worth, the Seahawks were much more impressive in the second half.  Tyler Lockett kicked things off right after halftime with a kickoff return for a touchdown, the longest in franchise history at 105 yards.  So, that’s something!

Thomas Rawls ran for 104 yards in extensive duty while the ailing Marshawn Lynch gave it a good try, but ultimately couldn’t make it through the game.

Jimmy Graham found the endzone again for the second time in three games, grabbing 7 balls for 83 yards.  Jermaine Kearse had a solid afternoon, with 6 catches for 76 yards.  Russell Wilson had a tidy game, going 20 for 30, with 235 yards and a 101.4 passer rating.

No one really stood out on defense; it was more of an all-around solid team effort.  They also probably didn’t stand out because I was distracted for most of the game while I was playing with my new iPhone 6s.  That thumb print scanner is dope as fuck.

Remember when the Huskies beat up on Sacramento State and all I could talk about was how there was nothing much to learn about a game like that.  Same deal here.  The bigger test is coming next Monday night, when Detroit comes to town.  Looking forward to it.

The Hellacious Seattle Seahawks 2015 Season Preview!

There was supposed to be three full days of previews – befitting the excitement level of going into yet another Championship Season in this current Championship Window – but my dad picked up a cold over Labor Day weekend, which remained dormant in my body until Tuesday afternoon, when it revealed its presence, dragging down my fragile frame in the process.

The subsequent two days were spent in various states of repose, between my couch and my bed, filling my body with a steady diet of bananas and Vitamin C while I filled carefully folded bundles of toilet paper with mucus from my ever-running nose.  I’m still nowhere near 100%, but season previews don’t write themselves!  So, here goes nothing.

As you could probably tell from this post, I’m pretty high on the Seahawks getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it yet again.  In fact, I’m higher on the Seahawks THIS year than I was last year, when we were essentially the same starting units on both sides of the ball less a couple key components.  Where the 2014 Seahawks really bought the farm was in the loss of Golden Tate.  Had we never made the trade for Percy Harvin, and instead focused on giving Tate the deal he deserved, the rest of the receivers on this team would’ve slotted out where they were supposed to be, and we wouldn’t have been throwing a goalline pass to Ricardo Lockette of all people on our final offensive play of the Super Bowl.  But, it’s not fair to lay all the blame on one guy (or lack thereof), when the real culprit of 2014 was a lack of quality depth.

That’s where 2015 comes on to shine.  Harvin and Tate have been replaced by rookie Tyler Lockett.  Turbin and Michael have been replaced by Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls (two steadier and more capable backs).  Willson and Helfet get knocked down to the second & third tight end spots with the trade for Jimmy Graham.  Our pass rush that was – by season’s end – pretty much just Bennett, Avril, and Irvin, gets bolstered with the addition of rookie Frank Clark, and the growth and maturity (and hopefully health) of Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill.

2015 should also offer additional gains out of our already-established stars.  Guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tharold Simon should all see considerable improvements in play as they enter the primes of their careers.  And, while guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are coming off of significant injuries, it’s still fair to expect their very best play, as we would with veterans like Bennett, Avril, Okung, Mebane, Lynch, and Chancellor if/when he ever shows up again.

If you assume everyone will be healthy all year (which, I understand, is ridiculous), then on paper the only real weakness we’re looking at is the offensive line.  You could make an argument for secondary depth being the primary weakness, but as long as the rest of the defense is able to stay on the field, it should more than make up for what’s going on opposite Richard Sherman.  The O-Line is truly the problem area, but I also feel that’s a bit unfair.

For starters, when you compare the O-Line to the other position groups on this team, OF COURSE it’s going to rank dead last!  But, more importantly, I would argue this position group has always been a little bit neglected from a talent perspective, and they’ve made up for it by employing one of the very best O-Line coaches in the league.  AND, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have gone to two straight Super Bowls with two pretty sub-par offensive lines, and it hasn’t prevented us from winning yet.

They tinkered with it in the pre-season and came away with a starting five that’s as good as it’s going to get (since we can’t really afford to bring in quality outside help).  But, that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it’s ever going to be.  We’ve got three guys – Britt at left guard, Nowak at center, Gilliam at right tackle – who are getting their first professional starts at their respective positions.  Will it be a struggle early?  I think, from what we’ve seen of the running game this pre-season:  yeah, it’s going to be a little ugly.  This O-Line is going to struggle against the better D-Lines in the league (which makes it utterly horrific that we have to play the Rams in week 1), but it’s going to look downright competent against the lesser D-Lines.  And, I think these guys have a real chance to mature and gel, to where by season’s end, we’ll be looking at a solid group of guys on an offense that’s humming along with the best of ’em.

When even your weakest point is still good enough to be argued into a strength, you know you’ve got a great team on your hands.  I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that this team has the potential to be better than their 2014 counterparts, with a ceiling being at the 2013 level (which is really saying something, because I’ll always believe the 2013 Seahawks were one of the all time greatest teams in the history of the league).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns.  There are always reasons to worry, especially early in the season.  Will Earl Thomas be back to his usual self?  Will Kam Chancellor ever end this idiotic holdout?  Will Richard Sherman make it through the full season?  Will the offense mesh well with Jimmy Graham, or will they try to force it to him too many times, stalling too many drives?  Will the O-Line be able to open holes for Lynch?  Will Russell Wilson be a better pocket passer?  And, most importantly, in an overall sense:  will the key players and key positions be able to stay healthy?

Health is the ultimate X-Factor.  I say it every year, and ever year it’s no less true.  Poor health can take a championship team and prevent them from even making the playoffs.  It can rear its ugly head at any time – and often at the worst of times – leaving you grasping at straws for a solution.  Did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because of the one goalline play?  Or, did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because our entire fucking secondary was injured, and Cliff Avril had a concussion that reduced our pass rush to nothing, thereby allowing the Patriots back into a game we were controlling?  You can make compelling arguments for either, but the fact remains the same:  if the Seahawks were mostly healthy in that game, it probably doesn’t come down to a goalline pass in the first place.

So, that’s what you’ve gotta do:  pray for health and let the chips fall where they may.  Let this be the last word on health for the rest of this preview.

The first half of this season is fairly tough.  Five of eight on the road, five of eight against 2014 playoff teams, and not very many soft landings.  Let’s run through the schedule to see where we are.

Week 1, at St. Louis, 10am

Honestly, I have my doubts about this one.  I know I probably shouldn’t; I know they’re going through something similar on their offensive line as we are, and I know their starting two running backs are both injured, but I can’t help but look at this game and see our offense struggling.  I see Lynch getting bottled up, I see growing pains with Graham, and I see the Rams doing just enough on offense to kick one more field goal than us.  I’m putting my life savings on this game being within one score either one way or the other, and if you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you the Rams come out on top in this one, 16-13.

Week 2, at Green Bay, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

Bounce back game, and one the Seahawks desperately need (with tie-breakers and whatnot).  I know the Packers will be fired up, and I know their fans will be insane after a day’s worth of tailgating, so it probably won’t be easy coming out of the gate.  After a sluggish first quarter, I expect the Seahawks to move the ball with regularity and defeat the Packers with ease in the second half.  Somewhere along the lines of 31-20.

Week 3, vs. Chicago, 1:25pm

This one should be a walk-over, but I expect the Bears to put up a bit of a fight, as they’ve got some nasty, talented guys in Jeffery and Forte.  But, given that this is Seattle’s home opener, I’d look for the home team to jump out to an early lead and keep it pretty comfortably in the 1-2 score range the rest of the way.  33-27.

Week 4, vs. Detroit, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

The return of Golden Tate!  There’s no way he doesn’t make a big play or two in this game.  But, with Seattle back home for a primetime game, I’m expecting another win for the good guys.  Maybe not quite the blowout we’re used to, but we’re going to scratch it out.  27-24.

Week 5, at Cincinnati, 10am

I’ve been wary of this game from the moment I saw it on our schedule.  Something about road AFC games in the morning, teams we rarely get to go up against, and them having just enough talent to get by.  I’m on record as hating on Andy Dalton pretty hard, but I think he’s going to go into this game with extra focus in not turning the ball over.  Combine that with the fact that this game isn’t in primetime and I think you’ll see Good Andy Dalton on this day.  Plus, their running game is legit, and they’ve got enough talent at receiver to move the ball on us if they want.  I see an upset here, with Cincy taking us down 20-13.

Week 6, vs. Carolina, 1:05pm

Notice we can’t help but beat on Carolina every damn year and no one ever talks about them getting fired up for us like they do about the Packers getting up for us.  Pretty much, Carolina is Seattle’s younger brother, and we can’t help but hold them down, rub our asses in their faces, and fart repeatedly until they call mom to get us to stop.  No change here.  I expect something along the lines of 27-14.

Week 7, at San Francisco, 5:25pm (Thursday Night)

The 49ers are going to be terrible this season and I expect them to look terrible whenever we play them.  Without Gore, I expect their running game to be non-existent.  Without Harbaugh, I expect their offense to be pathetic and their overall output to be among the worst.  There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a cakewalk, in a long line of ugly, unwatchable Thursday Night Football games.  Seahawks 38, 49ers 3.

Week 8, at Dallas, 1:25pm

This game would normally scare the bejesus out of me, and scream “Third Loss Of The Season!”  But, I dunno.  I like the Seahawks with 10 days to prepare.  I like the Seahawks a week before their BYE.  I like the fact that the Cowboys embarrassed us on our home turf last season.  And, quite frankly, I like how Dallas has zero home field advantage to speak of whatsoever.  I predict a huge following by the 12’s, I predict a solid day out of our offense, I predict a return touchdown from someone (probably Lockett) and ultimately I predict a Seahawks victory, to the tune of 24-23.

Week 9 – BYE

Week 10, vs. Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

I’d be shocked if Carson Palmer isn’t injured at this point in the season, but even if he’s managed to stay healthy, I don’t expect the Cards to be as good.  This game feels like a gift from the scheduling gods – at home, after a BYE, on Sunday night?  Are you kidding me?  This has blowout written all over it!  26-9.

Week 11, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

Just played them three games ago, I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome.  Seahawks 30, 49ers 7.

Week 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:25pm

Three home games in a row after a BYE!  That’s what I’m talking about!  This one looks like a difficult matchup.  I like the Steelers’ offense a lot, particuarly their passing game.  I don’t care for their defense, but that hasn’t stopped some fringey defenses from coming in here and making us look bad.  Ultimately, I think this game will be a shootout, and I think it’ll prove to be the most exciting game of the entire season.  And, as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Steelers come in here and steal one.  They have JUST the right mix going for them:  veteran quarterback, difficult to take down or rattle in the pocket, superstar wide receiver, superstar running back.  I just think they’re going to expose us the way no other offense on our schedule will.  Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 30.

Week 13, at Minnesota, 10am

I like Minnesota’s rebuilding plan.  They’ve got a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, with a hungry Adrian Peterson and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a lot of potential.  He might not ever be an MVP of the league, but I think he can lead this team to some winning seasons in his career.  In this game, I like the Seahawks to bounce back on defense and make life difficult for the Vikes.  Seahawks 17, Vikings 6.

Week 14, at Baltimore, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

This might be the most hyped non-divisional, non-playoff game on the horizon.  Two sterling franchises, two stud quarterbacks, two sound defenses.  All the storylines in the world, from Lynch vs. Forsett, to Pete Carroll vs. The Other Harbaugh, to this being a matchup of two of the last three Super Bowl winners.  Both teams should be in great positions in the standings by this point (likely leading their respective divisions) and I think we’ll all be talking about how it’s a real strong probability that this is the eventual Super Bowl matchup in February.  A lot of people will predict a Ravens victory, but I just like the Seahawks too much in primetime.  I see Seattle winning 27-23.

Week 15, vs. Cleveland, 1:05pm

Please, dear lord, give me one chance to see Johnny Football obliterated by the Seahawks in Seattle.  It’s all I ask.  Seattle 28, Cleveland 0.

Week 16, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

No tricks, just hardnose football.  The Seahawks make up for the week 1 defeat as we almost always do this time of year when the Rams come to town.  This game effectively wraps up the division, if not Home Field Advantage, pushing the Seahawks to 12-3 on the season.  20-13, Seahawks.

Week 17, at Arizona, 1:25pm

I don’t expect the Seahawks to need this victory, so I don’t expect many of the starters to play for too long.  As a glorified pre-season game, I see the Seahawks going down to the Cardinals 28-17.

12-4 is pretty tame for a #1 overall seed, but with tie-breakers over the Packers and Cowboys, I think it’s just enough.  What we have to hope for at that point is that we don’t get stuck playing the Rams, or some other difficult defensive team in the playoffs.  As always, I’ll take a battle of offenses over a grudgematch on the defensive side of the ball, as I think our defense is better than most any offense you can put on the field.

Now, all we have to do is play the games.  NBD.

Seahawks Pound Bears, Are More Than Ready For Regular Season To Start

It was always going to be a matter of time before the offense surpassed the defense in ability.  Attrition and regression were/are bound to happen as contracts skyrocket for our stars.  And besides, the 2013 defense was one of the greatest of all time; doesn’t seem likely that we could keep up that output for very long.

Nevertheless, if you’d asked me even a month ago, I would’ve told you that the defense would still be in near-peak performance and easily outpacing the offense.  While the defense should still be pretty great, I’m ready to go out on a limb right now and say that the offense is going to be the talk of the NFL in 2014.  And what’s better, we won’t have to change our philosophy to do it.

I said it on Twitter earlier today:  this offense will surely be the most efficient in the NFL.  Exactly HOW efficient remains to be seen, but if they play to their abilities, it could mean the best offense in the league.  Russell Wilson’s grasp of the scheme, and of the NFL as a whole, will certainly see this unit reach heights unseen in franchise history.

There are simply too many weapons.  Marshawn Lynch is still one of the best running backs in the NFL.  Robert Turbin is running harder than I’ve ever seen and will surely be a mini-Lynch when all is said and done.  Christine Michael, if used, has the type of speed and power to be right there on that elite level.  In between the tackles, bouncing outside, catching passes, the running backs on this team as a whole are the best in the NFL.

Percy Harvin is the x-factor and the #1 receiver we all thought we were getting when we brought in Sidney Rice.  He may not be one of those 6-foot-plus monsters that the Bears have in Jeffery or Marshall, but he’s every bit one of the top five wide receivers in the NFL.  On top of that, Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin are sure-handed play-makers who are bound to benefit greatly from Harvin’s presence.  This isn’t even taking into account Paul Richardson – who I suspect won’t make a huge impact as a rookie – who could still be used as a deep threat and/or a decoy to open up plays underneath.

Our tight ends just have to be solid.  No one is expecting Jimmy Graham-level performance out of either of them, but they’ll still be quality role players who will also benefit from Harvin and the other receivers creating huge gaps in the zone.

All that stands in our way is the offensive line.  It’s reasonable to expect some trouble, with a rookie in Britt and certain nagging injury woes among the veterans.  But, if we can patch this together without losing too many guys for too long, we should be just fine.

Britt’s maturation process will be key, and from the first three pre-season games, so far so good.  He’ll have growing pains in both pass protection and run blocking, but he should get better as the season goes along.  Besides that, with Wilson’s scrambling ability, it should mitigate his deficiencies.  On top of that, J.R. Sweezy looks like a true beast at right guard.  Within a couple years, we could be looking at a Pro Bowler out of someone people saw as a great liability going into this offseason (remember all those people calling for the Seahawks to invest heavily into the guard position?  They won’t be looking too smart before too long).

More than anything, I’m concerned about Okung, Carpenter, and Unger, and solely for injury reasons.  Both Okung and Unger returned for the Bears game for the first time this pre-season.  I can’t speak to how Unger fared, but Okung definitely looked a step slow.  I hope it’s rust and not something more serious (like:  he’s not fully healthy from offseason surgery).  If these three can play out the full season, you’ll be looking at one of the better O-Lines in the league.  If that happens, HOO BOY.

It’s not shocking that the Bears posed little threat to our gameplan in that all-important third pre-season game.  They don’t have the best defense as it is.  But, considering THIS was the game where everyone goes at it a little bit harder, it was more than a little encouraging to see the Seahawks absolutely control things from all aspects.

Not all the defenses we play will be on the level of the 49ers or Cardinals or Rams.  In those games, I don’t necessarily expect the Seahawks to be putting up 30+ points per game.  But, unlike in seasons past, I don’t necessarily think the Seahawks are automatically going to be kept under 20 either.  You’re going to see touchdown-efficiency go way up – especially in the red zone – and that’s going to make life a nightmare for opposing offenses as they try to throw their way into coming back against us.

Can the 2014 Seahawks be even better than the 2013 Seahawks?  Absolutely.  It’s going to take the defense being on par or only a little bit worse than last year, while the offense takes a huge leap forward.  I fully expect that to happen.  And, with news of the Rams losing Sam Bradford for the season, our path has been made all the easier.

I know it’s only pre-season and all, but I think this Bears game was an accurate bit of foreshadowing for what we’ll see in the regular season.  Sub-par defenses are going to be exploited to the tune of skyrocketing point totals.  And, even the great defenses aren’t going to know what hit them when they go up against us.

You think you know what you’re going to get when you play the Seahawks’ offense.  Russell Wilson scrambling around, a pretty even ratio of run to pass, and just enough plays to get us over the hump.  You expect things to be tight in most games, with the Seahawks able to find a way to get the job done in the fourth quarter.  You THINK that this type of strategy is unsustainable, as teams with great records in one-score games tend to regress back toward .500 in those games.

But, here’s what you don’t expect:  the Seahawks being involved in far FEWER one-score games.  Because they’re going to be running up the score in the first and second quarters to the point that it’ll all be downhill in the second halves of games.

At times in 2013, you could say the Seahawks were just sort of scraping by and getting lucky.  The Panthers game, the Texans game, the first Rams game for SURE.  Yes, the defense was top-notch.  And yes, the 2013 Seahawks were the youngest champions ever.  That team sort of reminds me of the first Cowboys team in the 90s that won the title.  They finally got over the hump in the playoffs and did their business in the Super Bowl.  After that, the Cowboys were an even bigger juggernaut than anyone could have imagined.

THAT’S what I’m seeing out of these 2014 Seahawks.  You’re going to see a lot of cakewalk games that should have been close.  A lot of wins that maybe would’ve been losses in 2012 or 2013.  Indeed, if I’m being honest, this looks to me like a 14-2 or 15-1 team.  Yes, the schedule looks scary now, but we all know the schedule never pans out as it’s set up on paper.  Other teams WILL regress.  But the Seahawks?  They’re a snowball rolling down the mountain, picking up steam.

No, actually, these Seahawks are an avalanche.  An unstoppable sheet of ice and snow, plowing over everything in its path.  And the rest of the NFL?  They’re the poor skiers and snowboarders who are about to be swallowed up whole.

Always Never A Doubt In My Mind

At one point in this game, Russell Wilson had scrambled his way into an opening-play fumble (recovered by the 49ers), LaMichael James had muffed a punt (recovered by the 49ers), and Colin Kaepernick had the ball stripped on a sack (recovered by a 49ers lineman, ran for 6 yards).  That final piece of lunacy saved a touchdown drive and gave the 49ers a 17-10 lead, and it left Seahawks fans wondering if the football gods were EVER going to smile down upon us.

Ask anyone who knows anything, and they’ll tell you that going 0 for 3 on fumble recoveries is pretty fucking rare.  A fumble is generally a 50/50 proposition, and if the Seahawks went down because of this stat, you’d call it one of the unluckiest breaks in football.  Of course, one game is pretty much as small of a sample size as you could get; nevertheless, I couldn’t help but believe that this streak couldn’t continue FOREVER.  There would HAVE to be fumbles forthcoming that would bounce our way.

Sure enough, from that point in the third quarter where the 49ers went back up by a touchdown, the Seahawks caught all the breaks.  Colin Kaepernick was strip-sacked by Avril (recovered by Michael Bennett).  A fumble by Jermaine Kearse at the goalline that was recovered by Marshawn Lynch at the 1.  And, on the very next play, a Russell Wilson/Marshawn Lynch fumbled exchange on 4th & Goal from the 1 yard line (recovered by Michael Robinson, which doesn’t sound so great, because we failed to score the touchdown or even keep the 49ers pinned back inside the one yard line, but if you look at it again, you’ll see a ton of 49ers players around that football, with a clear opportunity to return that thing for a 99-yard touchdown).  Kaepernick was intercepted by Kam (which wasn’t a lucky break, per se, but it was a turnover).  Another Russell Wilson fumble on a busted play (recovered by Wilson, resulting in an offensive pass interference penalty).  And finally, the game-ending interception on the tip from Sherman to Malcolm Smith.

To be honest with you, I don’t know how to feel about a game that hinged so deeply upon luck.  There’s the obvious turnover issues I described above, there were referee issues (some iffy penalties, some iffier non-calls, and that fumble recovery that couldn’t be reviewed, which ended up not really mattering anyway), there were injury issues (I don’t know if we’ll ever know the impact of the 49ers losing their best offensive guard and their best linebacker in Iupati and Bowman respectively), and there was the play of the game.

To set it up, the Seahawks pulled to within 17-13 on a Hauschka field goal.  We forced a 3 & out thanks to the refs missing what probably should have been roughing the punter.  We got the ball at our own 38 yard line, and we drove to the San Francisco 34 yard line, with 2nd down and 6 coming up.  Russell Wilson was called for a clear Intentional Grounding, which put us back to the 50 yard line, for a 3rd down and 22 to go.  This is the nightmare scenario, but to our credit, we called something reasonable.  A nice little pass to Zach Miller out on the flat, who rumbled for 15 yards to the San Francisco 35 yard line.  At this point, it was 4th and 7.  Maybe within the range of Hauschka, but not really something you feel comfortable about in this situation.  It was the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks very nearly decided to kick it, but ultimately burned a timeout.  Had we lost this game because we were short on timeouts, I’m sure everyone would have pointed to this situation.  As it stood, that timeout was probably the smartest decision we made all game.

We put the offense back out on the field to pick up the seven yards.  Russell Wilson nailed the hard count, which got the 49ers to go offsides.  To their credit, the refs didn’t whistle the play dead (for the record, in a similiar situation this season, the refs blew the play dead and cost us an opportunity to make a huge play).  All the receivers broke off of their intended routes and ran for the endzone.  Wilson made the perfect throw, and Jermaine Kearse came down with an amazing catch.

How does luck come into it?  Well, if that throw is offline, or if the 49ers defender makes a better play on the ball, and it falls incomplete, then we’re looking at 4th and 2 from the 30 yard line.  At that point, I don’t think there’s any question that the Seahawks go for the field goal, to pull within 17-16.  And who KNOWS how the game turns from there!  What if Hauschka misses the 47 yarder?  Of course, he would go on later to make a 47 yarder, but Hauschka was on record – after the game – as saying that he really didn’t want to kick that field goal when it was going to be a 52 yarder.  What if, in his shaken state, Hauschka pulls that one?  Then, the 49ers would get great field position, and most importantly, we’d get no points.  Even if we assume he would make it, that still would have left us down a point with a quarter left to go.  That touchdown was the difference between the 49ers ultimately needing a touchdown to win the game vs. needing a field goal to win the game.  If that’s the case, I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re sitting here today lamenting the fact that the 49ers are playing for the championship.

Just a wild, crazy game.  Here are some other observations:

Russell Wilson was REALLY driving me crazy in that first half.  I understand that you’ve got to take the good with the bad with a guy like Wilson, and it really COULD be worse.  I’m not sitting here wishing that we had some gunslinger like Tony Romo who would ultimately cost us more in big games than he’d help us.  But, it really looked like Wilson was playing tentative yesterday.  Holding the ball too long, looking to scramble out of the pocket (which couldn’t have been worse, because more often than not – with our linemen pushing their ends outside and around the pocket in a circle – he was just running himself INTO pressure) when he should have just stepped up and made a throw (especially when he’s got Golden Tate streaking downfield with single-coverage).

Of course, Wilson ended up having enough in him to lead us to victory, so it’s not like I can complain too hard.  And, if he leads us to a Super Bowl victory, it’s going to be hard for me to EVER badmouth the man again.

Good God, do we need someone better to spy Colin Kaepernick on the run!  It struck me that Bruce Irvin probably would have been perfect, but it didn’t look like we used him all that much in this game.  He seriously whiffed on one play, where he bit on the play fake and let Kaep run around him for a huge gain; but, if Irvin’s sole job was to simply follow the quarterback wherever he went, I think Irvin’s speed could have neutralized him.

Marshawn Lynch had another huge game, going for 109 yards on the ground and a touchdown.  This was the first time anyone had run for over 100 yards on the 49ers this year, and for a minute it looked like one of the rare times that the Seahawks would lose a game where Lynch went over 100 yards.  That fumble at the goalline wasn’t even his fault, so I’m glad they didn’t put that on him in the scorebook.

Doug Baldwin, as always, was a revelation.  One of these days, he’s going to get the respect he deserves, but for now, let the doubters keep doubting him.  He’ll just keep making them look stupid.  With 6 catches for 106 yards, it looked like he was going to be the MVP of the game.  He still might be, especially when you consider his 69 yard kickoff return ultimately led to a field goal (and probably should have been a touchdown drive, if our offense wasn’t still sputtering so frustratingly.

Finally, what can you say about a defense that’s the best in the game.  From the first play, where we were placed at a disadvantage thanks to the Wilson fumble, this defense showed up and put in their usual outstanding work.  Bobby Wagner led all tacklers with 15, and Kam Chancellor wasn’t far behind with 11.  Kam also came down with that interception (on just an AWFUL pass by Kaepernick) and had another two passes defended.  Our D-Line wasn’t able to get as much pressure as you’d like, but I thought they played a lot smarter in the second half, not letting Kaepernick just immediately have the edge to run.  Even though we were playing so safe, Bennett and Avril were still able to wreak some havoc.  And the run defense?  Aside from Kaepernick (who got most of his rushing yards on scrambles when a pass play broke down), this part of their game was completely shut down.  Frank Gore finally started looking his age, running for 14 yards on 11 attempts.

I don’t really know what the next-day narrative is going to be today (aside from Everything Richard Sherman, which I will write about tomorrow), but I have the feeling that Colin Kaepernick is going to get a lot of love from the national media.  This is a mistake.

Yes, it’s quite the breathtaking thing to see Colin Kaepernick with the football, running in the open field.  Dodging tacklers, graceful as a gazelle, he’s a weapon unlike any other in the game of football.  If he didn’t have all that, you know what he’d be?  Without the ability to run for dozens upon dozens of yards, Colin Kaepernick would be Jeff George:  a rocket arm attached to a mental midget.

When he’s on, he’s something to behold.  That touchdown pass to Boldin in the back of the endzone from 26 yards out was as good as it gets.  Nevertheless, it was a STUPID decision and the ball was very nearly tipped or picked off entirely.  Then, there’s that aforementioned interception to Kam.  He was standing RIGHT THERE the whole time!  There was no deception out of Kam to bait him; Kaepernick saw him the whole time and still threw the damn pass right to him!  He said he thought he could get it over Kam … but Kam’s 6’3!  There were his two fumbles, which resulted from him trying to do too much with a play (which I can’t really fault him for, unless I feel like jumping down Wilson’s throat every time he does something annoying like that).  And, of course, the game-clinching interception when he challenged Richard Sherman with less than 30 seconds to go in the game.

He said he’d take Michael Crabtree in a 1-on-1 matchup with anyone in the league.  He said he wouldn’t change a thing about his decision-making process.  Did he say this because he’s stupid?  Because he’s arrogant?  Because of his blind hatred of the Seahawks and especially Richard Sherman?  Any way you slice it, it’s foolish thinking from a foolish individual.  Maybe if Crabtree magically transformed into Randy Moss in his prime, I could see it.  But, Crabtree isn’t anything special.  I’d take Doug Baldwin over him any day.  Crabtree is only considered an “elite” receiver by the national media because he was drafted in the first round, plain and simple.  There’s nothing about his game that’s elite.  He’s okay.  Off the top of my head, I can think of 25 wide receivers who are better than him (Baldwin, Tate, Fitzgerald, Dez, Marshall, Jeffery, Megatron, Jordy Nelson, Cobb, Demaryius Thomas, Decker, Welker, Hilton, Garcon, Green, Brown, Cruz, Desean Jackson, Andre Johnson, Keenan Allen, Josh Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, and Jimmy Graham – who is actually a wide receiver, in spite of what they try to label him as in New Orleans).

The point is, he’s not better than Richard Sherman.  And if Kaepernick is too stupid or too stubborn to realize that, then maybe Kaepernick isn’t the guy who’s going to lead you to a championship.  His talent may be good enough to get him past most teams in the league, but his hubris is ultimately going to be his undoing against the best teams in the league.  He thinks that just because he has a strong arm, he can make every throw, and that’s just not the case.  And, if that throw’s not there, no worries, he can just run for any first down he wants.  Except, here’s the thing:  when his team is down and he’s got to mount a comeback, the same shit he gets praised for is what’s going to ultimately cost his team ballgames.

In the end, this was a game about two quarterbacks.  One a little too cautious, one a little too reckless.  Somewhere in the middle, you have the perfect NFL player.  But, ultimately, it’s easier for a cautious quarterback to take a few more chances than it is for a reckless player to settle for the sensible decision.  That’s why the Seahawks won this football game.  That’s why the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and the 49ers are licking their wounds.