The Devastatingly-Injured Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Well, as exciting as it sounds, it looks like we’re barrelling towards a New England vs. Whoever Super Bowl.  Hooray.

Somehow, the Patriots not only get saddled with the world’s worst divisional opponents, but they get to represent the lesser of two conferences as well.  Meanwhile, the NFC churns on its own entrails until some poor battered and broken team is unfortunate enough to be force-fed Tom Brady’s cock.  Just once, I’d like to see what it’s like for the Patriots to have to go through what every other team in every other conference has to go through, but that almost certainly will never happen until Brady & Belichick retire, so I guess they get to have the last laugh and we all get to fucking choke on it.

  • Philadelphia (8-1)
  • New England (7-2)
  • L.A. Rams (7-2)
  • New Orleans (7-2)
  • Pittsburgh (7-2)
  • Kansas City (6-3)
  • Carolina (7-3)
  • Minnesota (7-2)

A matchup of Philly and New England could be fun, I suppose.  It sure feels like the rest of the season is a formality and that’s our final destination.  The Eagles have just enough defense, Carson Wentz has taken a huge leap forward, and they’ve got plenty of stars on offense to score in bunches.  I haven’t followed them super closely, but my only question would be:  how does Wentz look when the chips are down and he’s got to bring his team back by a couple scores?  We know what Brady and the Patriots can do, but are the Eagles just a bunch of front-runners?  As for the rest in the top 8, it’s the usual suspects.  I had Carolina take a big leap forward because they legitimately look pretty great.  Shame to see, if I’m being honest.

  • Seattle (6-3)
  • Detroit (5-4)
  • Dallas (5-4)
  • Tennessee (6-3)
  • Jacksonville (6-3)
  • Washington (4-5)
  • Atlanta (5-4)
  • Buffalo (5-4)

It’s amazing how far the drop-off is between these top two groups.  Seattle’s too inconsistent, and has feasted on a shitty schedule.  The Lions suddenly can’t win games with late 4th quarter comebacks anymore (it’s like their previous pace was unsustainable or something!).  It appears the Cowboys are only as good as their offensive line allows.  The Titans are pretty balanced, but unimpressive; the Jags are great on defense, but unimpressive.  And the last three deserve to be in the next grouping down, but I gotta keep going with this bit of having four 8-team groups.

  • Oakland (4-5)
  • N.Y. Jets (4-6)
  • L.A. Chargers (3-6)
  • Baltimore (4-5)
  • Denver (3-6)
  • Miami (4-5)
  • Arizona (4-5)
  • Green Bay (5-4)

It’s getting harder and harder to believe that any of these teams are going to make the leap into the upper half, but unless the Bills right the ship, you gotta figure the final AFC Wild Card team is in this section, and it could literally be any of these teams.  Even the Chargers!  I’m looking at an 8-8 team making the playoffs out of the AFC, so it’s wide open here.  If you’re an NFC team in this section, however, you’re playing for next year.

  • Indianapolis (3-7)
  • Tampa Bay (3-6)
  • Chicago (3-6)
  • Houston (3-6)
  • Cincinnati (3-6)
  • San Francisco (1-9)
  • N.Y. Giants (1-8)
  • Cleveland (0-9)

I’ve never been more certain about a ranking than I am about these 8 teams.  Hoo boy are they terrible!  Don’t feel too bad for the 49ers or Texans though; I’ve already got them pegged for huge turnarounds in 2018.  Next year, Houston makes the playoffs and probably wins their division.  I think for the 49ers, they’ll make the post-season in 2019.  Count the Bucs as dark horses when they ditch this coaching staff.  The Colts, Bengals, and Giants probably need to make wholesale changes.  And the Browns are always and forever gonna Browns.

Seahawks Host The Texans This Weekend

I don’t have a super great handle on how this game is going to go on Sunday.  I’ll say this:  I’m glad we’re home; if this game was being played in Texas, I don’t think we’d stand much of a chance.

Ordinarily, if you told me an okay, .500 team was coming into Seattle with a rookie quarterback, I’d tell you to pack your bags because we’re going to Flavor Country!  That’s a recipe for a slam dunk if I’ve ever seen one!  Except, here’s the deal, Deshaun Watson isn’t an ordinary rookie.  He’s almost certainly the top rookie QB of his class, and maybe one of the best rookie QBs of all time!

To recap his progression, he started the season as the team’s backup to Tom Savage.  Tom Savage played in exactly one half of football, in the first game of the season, against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  In that half of football, the Texans punted 4 times, Savage fumbled twice (one returned for a touchdown), and their final drive ended the half without a score.

Watson struggled in the second half of that unwinnable game, was marginally better in a 13-9 victory over the Bengals on a Thursday night.  And, ever since he’s actually had a full week to prepare for a game, he’s been off-the-charts great.  His first Sunday start was a narrow 36-33 defeat to the defending champion Patriots, where he threw for a career-high 301 yards and 2 TDs.  He followed that up with a 4-TD game against the Titans, and a 5-TD game against the Chiefs.  Last week was only a 3-TD affair in an easy victory over the Browns.  All told, he’s 3-2 on the season, with those two defeats against the two best teams in the AFC:  the Pats & Chiefs.

Now, obviously, it’s not all on him, so I don’t want to make this a post about QB Wins.  I’d say, more than anything, their defense has been a bigger letdown than he has been a pleasant surprise.  I think a lot of us expected the Houston defense to be the biggest strength of this team; I certainly expected a lot more of those 13-9 type games than I have all these shootouts, but it is what it is.

The Texans have the potential to really sling that ball all around the yard.  They also have the potential to unleash the beast, as it were, when it comes to the Seahawks’ offense.

I’m not going to say that New England has anything resembling a formidable home field advantage when it comes to their fans.  A LOTTA frontrunners in those stands, who will get awfully quiet if the Pats get punched in the mouth.  Nevertheless, it’s more than a little intimidating to go up against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and Watson didn’t blink.  This kid has stones, and I don’t think a little Seattle noise is going to make him shrink in this game.  So, if you were counting on going to the game this weekend and expecting him to roll over at your full-throated screams, I’d think again if I were you.

So, yeah, I’d be shocked if Watson came out and stunk up the joint.  But, I’d also be shocked if he totally dominated.  He strikes me as a guy who likes to push the ball up the field, and if he brings that mess in this game, he might be in for a rude awakening.  Teams with quarterbacks who exhibit a great deal of patience tend to give the Seahawks fits.  Teams with quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to check down, who will settle for the underneath route, and most importantly, who are accurate and poised enough to convert those short third downs; THOSE are the teams that beat the Seahawks.  And, judging from my perch as a fantasy owner of Lamar Miller, I’ll tell you this:  Deshaun Watson does NOT settle for the running back checkdown very often.

What he does do is utilize his two excellent wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, who will go up and get a ball with the best of ’em, and who can also burn past you with the best of ’em.  I would expect Richard Sherman won’t be ignored in this one.  Any way you slice it, he’s going up against a top notch receiver, so he could be key in this one.

I’ll also say this:  safety play is going to be paramount.  I have to imagine there will be at least one interception between Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in this game.

What I can’t see is Houston bringing its running game.  Lamar Miller is not to be trusted in MOST circumstances, but I have to imagine he’s going to be pretty well shut down in this game.  Likewise, I wouldn’t expect D’Onta Foreman will have much running room.  If Watson isn’t the Texans’ leading rusher, I’ll be shocked.

Defensively, obviously the big news is how they lost J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the year.  Those are two HUGE hits to their pass rush.  This week, they’re also dealing with injuries in their linebacker corps which should also limit them.  Even with those losses, they still have a lot of firepower, led by Jadeveon Clowney.  We have to keep what’s left of their pass rush – and double team Clowney to keep him off of Wilson’s ass – or it could be a really long day.

I think the Seahawks can manage.  And, if they do, I could see the Seahawks scoring over 30 points in this one.

There are plenty of reasons why the Seahawks could lose, but I still think they should probably win.  Like I said up top, they’re at home, and even if Watson comes in and does okay, it’s still better than the alternative of him being at home.  Assuming we keep them one-dimensional on offense, and shut down their deep passing attack, I would expect a victory in the 34-24 range, with the Seahawks scoring a touchdown late to put the game away.

The Seahawks Released The Kraken (Is That Still A Thing?) All Over The Patriots

I’d handed the keys to the Monday post on this site to the Huskies this season, but the less remembered or said about the game on Saturday, the better.  I’ll get to Husky football later in the week, when I’m better able to handle such rejection.  In the meantime, I’ll kick things off on a much more pleasant note:  a weekend-salvaging victory for the city of Seattle that took place in New England.

I didn’t really give the Seahawks much of a chance to win this game, along with most of the football-watching public, for all the usual reasons:  we were coming off of a short week, they were coming off of a BYE; we were flying across the country, they’d only left the greater northeastern portion of the country one time after week 1; we’re dealing with injuries at many key positions, they’ve enjoyed relative good health for the most part.  And, let’s face it, you never feel comfortable going up against a coach like Bill Belichick, but you ESPECIALLY never feel comfortable when he’s got two weeks to prepare for you.  They’re the best team in the AFC and one of the best teams in all of football, and as such, you not only had the vast majority of America predicting a Patriots victory, but a blowout victory to boot!

To my very minimal credit, I told you that line was too high.  As I mentioned, the Seahawks have only lost twice by more than 7 points since the start of the 2012 season; WE. DON’T. GET. BLOWN. OUT.  If you were smart with your money, you would’ve written that down, pinned it to your shirt, and at the very least bet the Seahawks to cover.  If you would’ve been truly ballsy and bet the Seahawks on the money line, I heard it got as high as +290, which is an absurdly tempting bet when you’re talking about a team like the Seahawks.  Even if I didn’t think they’d win outright, +290 is too good not to at least throw a hundo on!

The Seahawks had a couple things going for them that made all the difference in the world.  First, we got Kam Chancellor back for the first time since we had our BYE week; and second, we finally came to terms with the fact that Christine Michael isn’t a starting-calibre running back in this league.  Well, maybe that’s not fair, but he’s certainly not starting-calibre in this system that we run under Tom Cable.  He might very well thrive under a different scheme, but we’ll never realize that with him in a Seahawks uniform.

The difference between Michael and C.J. Prosise is drastic!  I never really picked up on it until I finally got an extended look at Prosise – like most of the rest of the world – in last night’s game.  Prosise seems to know where the plays are supposed to go.  He seems to hit the appropriate hole more often than not.  When he gets the ball in his hands, I’m not sitting there worried about him running himself into a 3-yard loss.  Michael has a lot of talent in open space, and it often feels like he’s THIIIIIIS close to breaking one for 60+ yards.  But, more often than not, he misses his opportunity to get a decent gain by trying for the home run.

Prosise also avoids a couple of annoying Christine Michael traits that have been driving me crazy this whole year:  1) he doesn’t slip and fall with no one near him, and 2) he doesn’t try to avoid contact by running out of bounds.  The slip & fall thing I just don’t get.  Either Michael isn’t wearing the proper cleats, or he’s literally a fucking character on the old Scooby Doo cartoons whose legs are running faster than the rest of his body.  But, again, last night he found himself on the turf before a defender was anywhere near him, and that shit just needs to stop!  As for the avoiding contact thing, I don’t get that either.  I mean, Marshawn Lynch was JUST HERE last year!  Michael’s been working under Lynch since he came into the league in 2013!  How does NONE of Lynch’s toughness rub off on him?  Has he not been paying attention to how the rest of the team reacts and feeds off of our running backs when they seek out contact instead of running away from it?  Let’s face it, that’s not who we are.  We don’t run away from anything; we get after it!  (unless you play quarterback, and then you do the sensible fucking thing, because we don’t need you missing games).

It’s cool to have last night sort of be the coming out party for a guy like Prosise.  I scoffed quite a bit when – after we drafted him – a few people who were familiar with him in college broached the idea that he could be an every-down type of back.  I still think that’s a little far-fetched, mostly because I have serious doubts about his ability to stay healthy in ANY role, let alone one as a feature running back in this system.  But, I think it’s very reasonable to point out that the Seahawks have added a valuable weapon to our offensive arsenal.  When you think about the Seahawks on offense, you rightly start with Wilson, Graham, and Baldwin; then, if you’re feeling generous, you tack on Tyler Lockett, Thomas Rawls when he’s healthy, and Jermaine Kearse as a bigger, possession-type receiver who’s also capable of going down field and making a big play.  Well, I think you very much have to throw Prosise’s name into that mix, and a lot higher on the list than you might’ve thought coming into the year.  Just imagine what this offense will look like when Rawls comes back in a week or two.

There were a lot of huge plays in this game.  Baldwin’s three touchdowns were all impressive, there was a pretty dime to Lockett early on to jumpstart things, and I seem to remember at least one really important conversion to Jimmy Graham to keep a drive alive (was it at the end of the first half, maybe?).  But, do you want to know what my favorite play was in that game last night?  I should really say “plays”, because the Seahawks went to this well more than once, to almost universal positive results; and, quite frankly, it was something I don’t remember the Seahawks running all that much to this point in the season.  It’s that play where the Seahawks allow the opposing rusher to run free at the quarterback off the edge, and as he runs past a running back (mostly Prosise) who spills out into an open flat, Wilson lobs the ball over the rusher to the wide open running back for an easy gainer.  The Patriots defended that play correctly only once all game, but the Seahawks gashed ’em repeatedly, as they kept forgetting to have a backup defender peel out on the running back.  These weren’t just checkdowns, either.  This was something they likely saw on tape as a way to beat this defense, and it almost always worked for either first downs or big yards.  And, the thing about it is, it’s easy to defend, so I’m sure other teams will take note and try to take that away from us, but you know what happens then?  It re-opens the middle of the field for Jimmy Graham to take over.  WE GOT YOU ASSHOLES COMING AND GOING!!!

And, make no mistake, New England’s #1 gameplan was to Stop Jimmy Graham.  To their credit, they did the job.  Graham only had 48 yards on 4 receptions and no TDs.  You know what you’re going to get with a team like New England:  they’re going to take away what you do best, and you’ve got to find other ways to beat them.  To Russell Wilson’s credit, he didn’t try to force the issue by targeting Graham unnecessarily (if anything, he probably targeted Kearse too much, especially in the early going, but it’s not necessarily his fault that Kearse’s stone hands have returned).

Russell Wilson really played a fantastic game.  He was far from perfect – he missed repeatedly on the goalline when we were trying to turn some of those field goals into touchdowns, often overthrowing guys too far to the outside in what looked like an effort to be extra-cautious and not have his routes jumped – but even in a game where he left some throws on the field, he showed he was the best offensive player in that game.  Oh yes!  Even better than Mr. Tom Brady himself!  To be fair, Brady had a pretty good game in his own right, but his interception was VERY uncharacteristic, and he was held without a TD pass (which really screwed over a lot of fantasy teams like mine, I’m sure).  I actually thought he was going to beat us on yet another quarterback sneak, as that play might be the most deadly play in football.  But, he went up against a very talented and very fired up defense, who got the better of him in the end.

This game as a whole was reminiscent of the Super Bowl these two teams played, and not just because NBC made no bones about bringing up that game, and that fateful pass, what felt like every 30 seconds (as was expected going in).  Tom Brady, for the most part, took what the defense gave him, as he did two years ago, and it was successful throughout the game, until the final drive.  It was entertaining as all get-out, to be sure!  Seven lead changes in that game, just hours after another game (Cowboys at Steelers) had seven lead changes of its own (leading to pundits and NFL lackeys to hyperbolically dub yesterday The Day That Saved The NFL).  But, there was one key difference in last night’s game that swung it to the Seahawks:  health, particularly on defense.

See, New England’s defense is garbage, and I didn’t really have any fears about moving the ball on them.  When we started off the game settling for field goals, I was a little nervous.  You can’t be an underdog, on the road, trading field goals for touchdowns against a player like Tom Brady.  So, while I was fairly confident in the Seahawks scoring points in this one, my main concern was:  could we score ENOUGH?  In other words, how big of a hole would our defense dig us into?

Probably an unfair fear on my part.  I mean, I’ve been watching this team and following it pretty closely for a while now.  Years and years and years now.  All I needed to do was go back, reflect on that Super Bowl, and think about how that team differed from this one.  What was the main reason (aside from not handing it off to a certain running back at a certain goalline) the Seahawks lost that game?  A game that, if you’ll recall, we had been leading by two scores going into the fourth quarter.  Why did we blow such a lead?  Because of injuries in our secondary.  Jeremy Lane literally died in the first quarter when he intercepted Brady.  LITERALLY DIED!  Richard Sherman, I’m pretty sure, lost an arm.  He got a bionic one in the offseason though, so he’s fine now.  Kam and Earl contracted leukemia for that game, then cured it organically afterwards through their sheer badassery.  I may be misremembering things here a bit, but rest assured, the entirety of our secondary was dealing with pretty savage injuries in that game, and it reflected in our play on defense when we were trying to hold a lead against a surging Patriots offense led by the eventual MVP.

Last night, not only were our guys healthy, but Kam was making his first appearance in over a month.  And look, I like Kelcie McCray, you like Kelcie McCray, but this defense just isn’t the same with him back there.  Bam Bam is the heart & soul of this defense and this team, but don’t forget he’s also a REALLY fucking good football player!  REALLY good.  Like, I don’t know what this team looks like without Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas, and I hope I never have to know, but from what I’ve seen out of this team without Kam Chancellor back there, I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t the best player on this defense.  Not even joking.  He’s that good.  He’s that much of a difference maker out there.  There’s no other player on this defense like him, and quite frankly, there’s no other player in this LEAGUE like him.

Lots of teams (I’m really just thinking about the Falcons here, with their drafting of Keanu Neal in the first round this year; though, I’m sure every other team feels the same way) are trying to get a Kam Chancellor of their own.  But, there’s a big difference between drafting an over-sized safety who hits hard.  Granted, Kam is that, but he’s also so much more!  He’s technically sound, he’s just as good against the run as he is against the pass, he helps ensure everyone is lined up correctly and that everyone in the secondary knows their assignments, he’s instinctive, he picks up on things and acts upon them that don’t necessarily have to be said to those around him, and he’s probably the only guy in this league who can body up on Rob Gronkowski and not just hold his own, but absolutely make him his bitch.  Yeah, I should say that every team wants to have their very own Kam Chancellor, but the dude is one of a kind, and he’s ours, and you can’t God damn have him!

Which is why I’m always so flabbergasted whenever I see 12’s out there trashing him.  They write to the beat writers on Twitter, asking about trading him for draft picks or cutting him after the season’s over.  ARE YOU INSANE?  Do you just not watch the games when he’s in there?  Do you not see the difference between when he’s in there and when he’s not?  I know the hold-out left a bad taste in our mouths as fans last year, and yeah, he’s been knicked up a little bit the last couple seasons.  He plays football, it’s a violent sport, let’s try to have some understanding here.

I’ll just spell it out so everyone understands my position:  the Seahawks should not, under any circumstances, be looking to rid themselves of Kam Chancellor, now, in the offseason, or ever.  In reality, they need to keep him for the life of his contract, and when the time is right, they need to be looking to see how they can extend him and ensure he retires as a Seahawk.  Kam Chancellor is as important to this team’s ongoing success as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, and yes, even Russell Wilson.  If you’re looking to get rid of Kam, you’re doing it wrong as a fan.

As this post has gone WAY beyond the realm of decency in its word count, let’s get to the kudos now before it’s too late.

  • That hit by Earl Thomas on Gronk that knocked the wind out of him (and knocked him out of the game for a while), was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen.  How he caved in his chest like that on the slow-mo replay is painful just to watch.
  • My favorite play on defense goes to Kam for stripping the ball from Edelman’s hands.  I fucking hate that guy, so any time he fucks up (which led to a TD on Seattle’s subsequent drive) it’s really entertaining in my book.
  • Again, can’t say enough about Prosise.  He led the team in rushing with 66 yards on 17 carries, AND receiving with 87 yards on 7 catches.  He won’t be as featured when Rawls gets back up to speed, but like I said before, that’s quite a weapon to have out of the backfield.  Pencil us in for points on every 2-minute drill when Prosise is in the game.
  • Can’t say the same for Alex Collins, who fumbled on his only carry.  You hate to give up on draft picks too early, particularly when they were so vital in college, but he has a real Spencer Ware vibe for me.  Like a guy who’s destined to be cut next year, who will be picked up by Kansas City to be an every-down player.
  • Frank Clark had a great game, including a 1-handed sack where he grabbed a fistful of Brady jersey and yanked him to the ground while still engaged with the block from the left tackle.  Outstanding!
  • The interior of the line – Reed, McDaniel, Siliga, Rubin, and newcomer Damontre Moore – all had outstanding games!  Granted, LeGarrette Blount ran for three TDs, but those guys combined for 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, as well as held the Pats to under 3 yards per carry, and were critical in stopping them at the goalline at the end of the game.
  • Finally, big ups to Tyler Lockett in the return game.  He ran his only kickoff back 32 yards, and was a big reason why they kicked the ball out of bounds on another, as they were trying to avoid him getting the ball at all costs.

Is It Possible For The Seahawks To Beat The Patriots This Weekend?

As is custom, when the schedules are released, we as fans tend to pour over them like they’re ancient sacred scrolls.  I usually like to take a look at how many primetime games the Seahawks have, followed by any 10am starts, and then I just cruise around for a while looking for anomalies.  3-game road trips, extended homestands, whether the first half or the second half looks tougher on paper.  Then, I’ll bitch about where we have our BYE week for an hour and a half and then go about my day.

I think when most of us saw 2016’s schedule, our eyes were immediately drawn to the matchup you see this weekend.  Seattle at New England, Sunday night, 5:30pm.  There are other big games on the slate, there are DEFINITELY more important games, against divisional opponents and major conference rivals.  But, Seattle at New England is special.  Obviously, because it’s the first time we’ve played one another since the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named, but beyond that, you’re talking about the two premiere franchises in the NFL.  The Patriots have been good forever; the Seahawks have been dominant since 2012.  Lots of teams have waxed and waned since 2012.  Most every team, from Denver, to Green Bay, to Carolina, to Pittsburgh, to Baltimore, to Indianapolis to Arizona to the entire NFC East have had up and down seasons in that short span.  Only the Seahawks and Patriots have won at least 1 game in the playoffs every year since 2012.  Any well-run franchise can make the playoffs on a down year, in a down division, but it takes consistent greatness to not only do that, but have some success in the post-season.  Obviously, the Patriots have been doing that for a lot longer than the Seahawks, but they’re the team to aspire to be.  The Seahawks have been the closest thing to a dynasty since these Patriots.  Hence, the two best-run franchises in the NFL.

Regardless of how good you thought the Seahawks would be, when these schedules were released, you probably did what a lot of us do:  you went game by game and ticked off the wins and losses.  And, I’ll bet dollars to donuts, if you’re not some deluded homer, but you ACTUALLY gave this game serious, objective consideration, you probably ticked this game off as a loss for the Seahawks.  Maybe I’m wrong!  Maybe more people have more faith in this team than I realize; or maybe I’ve just become snowblind from all the sugary praise Tom Brady and the Patriots receive from every nook and cranny of this planet.  But, I know what I’ve read from other people, and my hunch is that a lot of people thought the Seahawks would lose this game before the season even started.

And, now that we’re flippin’ 8 games in – at the exact midpoint of our season – in spite of the fact that we’re currently in the 2-seed in the NFC and a VERY respectable 5-2-1, I feel like people are giving the Seahawks even less of a chance than they were before, when hopes were at their highest and we weren’t yet constantly bombarded with injury updates from our favorite, most important players.  Certainly, Vegas gives us no shot; we’re 7.5-point underdogs, which is kinda crazy if you think about it.  If the Seahawks lose on Sunday by more than 7 points, it will only be the third time that’s happened since the start of the 2012 season.  Think about THAT!  I’m as skeptical as anyone that the Seahawks will find a way to pull this out, but if I’m a betting man, and I’m putting my money on this game, I’m ABSOLUTELY putting my money on the Seahawks to cover this spread, and there wouldn’t be a worry in my pretty little head!  Shit, if this line holds, part of me wouldn’t mind flying direct to the nearest sportsbook and putting my life’s savings on black the Seahawks to cover; easiest got-damn $77 I’ve ever made!

But, I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere, so fuck Vegas.  Let’s talk about the game and how the Seahawks can pull one out of their asses.

Now, I’ll admit, it doesn’t look good.  The O-Line hasn’t progressed at all, the running game is worse than I’ve ever seen it (maybe literally of all time, maybe since I was a little boy watching this team; this might be worse than even the Julius Jones years!), Russell Wilson is moving better, but isn’t all the way back yet, the defense has been savagely over-worked, hindering our ability to stop the run and get off the field on third down, and oh yeah, while Kam Chancellor looks like he’ll be back, Michael Bennett is still out.  It’s already tough to get a pass rush going on Tom Brady, because he’s so quick and decisive with the football; now we’re trying to do it without our very best pass rusher, the one guy who can slip through the line and make the other team’s guard/tackle look like a statue.

So, I ask again, is it even possible for the Seahawks to beat this team?

I gotta tell you, it looks grim.  The Pats are coming off a BYE to boot, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this game.  I don’t know about you, but I shudder at the thought of Bill Belichick having an extra week to expose our team.  I would think our talent will be enough to force a couple punts here and there, but we should probably gear up for the Pats to hit the endzone at a minimum of 3 times.  My guess is probably in the 4-5 range.  This team can score quick, so I think they’ll have no problem getting into the 30’s in this one.  And that’s with the Seahawks defense playing assignment-perfect football.

What’s going to have to happen here is a good ol’ fashioned shootout.  We were done a solid by the Pats trading away Jamie Collins a couple weeks back, as well as Chandler Jones before the season.  Obviously, it’s not a prerequisite for the other team to have dominant players to be able to get pressure on our quarterback, but it can’t be a bad thing to have those guys playing for other teams this weekend.

While I think the Seahawks might try to buck trends and get a running game going (likely without Christine Michael for the most part), I just don’t think this unit is good enough yet.  As such, I’d look for this one to be on Russell Wilson’s shoulders.

Now, fortunately, he’s looking about as good as he’s looked all year.  Buffalo was a nice warm-up game for us, and for him, but he’s going to have to go above and beyond.  I’m talking a 400-yard passing day, I’m talking about 4 TD passes, and I’m talking about a gut-churning finish like we’re all used to seeing by now.  I have a feeling this game will start out sour early, and it’s going to require a furious comeback in the second half, but in the end I think the Patriots have just enough flaws on defense – and the Seahawks just enough talent on offense – to shock the world and steal a game they have no business winning.

Either that, or the offense will never get going and we’ll lose by 20.  Sunday night has the real possibility of being horrible and embarrassing for us!  WINTER IS COMING, EVERYONE!!!  WE’RE ALL FUCKING DOOMED!!!

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.

Beware The Divisional Round Game

The NFL has a bit of a flawed playoff system, owing primarily to the fact that each conference has 4 divisions.  Dating back to when this system started, there’s always a division winner who is marginally to drastically worse than at least one if not both Wild Card teams.  These are teams that just have zero shot whatsoever of winning the Super Bowl, who get the privilege of hosting playoff games; it’s insanity!  Every once in a while, you’ll see the inferior home team pull it out (the 2010 Seahawks & the 2014 Panthers come immediately to mind), but you knew those teams would lose the very next week!  And, lo and behold, so it was.

For the most part, the better teams win in the Wild Card round, and often that can mean the road teams (like this past weekend, when all four road teams moved on).  The Divisional Round is the great equalizer, though.  You’ve got the four plucky Wild Card hopefuls trying to ply their trade against the top four teams in the league (record-wise).  And what happens?  The home teams win about 75% of the time.  They’ve got home field, they’ve got the week of rest (while the Wild Card teams have been beating themselves senseless in the freezing cold), and in most cases, they’re simply the BETTER football teams.  There’s usually a reason why you win your division and grab one of the top two seeds in a conference:  because you’re really fucking good!

I’d say in the AFC, the home teams ARE the better teams (not so scared of PIttsburgh when Roethlisberger is playing on a bum wing; but talk to me again in a week if he shows up healthy as a horse and wills his team to the championship game).  I don’t know why I ever thought it would be a good idea to go to Tahoe to do some sports gambling in the middle of the regular season:  we should all go to the nearest sports book RIGHT NOW and put all our money on Denver and New England to win big.  Hell, throw Arizona into the mix as well, because I don’t think Green Bay has a chance to even keep it close.  We’d all be RICH, I guarantee it!

This Seattle/Carolina game, however, might be the lone outlier on the weekend.

From a pure matchup standpoint, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a football game since the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers a couple years ago.  This game will not only be the best, most exciting, most entertaining game of the weekend, I think it has a better than good chance of being the best, most exciting, most entertaining game of the entire playoffs.  I think I said it here last week and I’ll say it again:  the winner of this game is winning it all.  Seattle @ Carolina IS the Super Bowl for the 2015 season, mark it.

There are a bunch of reasons to be nervous about this game, from a Seahawks perspective, and I don’t even plan on talking about the in-game matchups today.  We’re going on the road for a third straight week, against a third straight REALLY TOUGH defense.  We’re flying all the way across the country, as far as possible given the NFC playoff field, and we’re once again saddled with the early game on Sunday.  We’re coming off of one of the hardest hitting, most brutal games since the fucking Ice Bowl, only to fly all the way back to Seattle from Minnesota, only to fly all the way back out again across the country a few days later.  Meanwhile, they’ve had a week off to rest and get healthy.  They had one of the easiest roads to a 15-1 record I’ve ever seen, but you know what?  They took care of business, they got their one loss out of the way, they locked up home field, and they looked like they’ve been having the most fun of any team in the history of the NFL.  They’re big, physical, and rested; and they’re talented, confident, and hungry.  I wouldn’t be surprised by any stretch of the imagination if this was the end of the line for the Seahawks.

I could see the Seahawks coming out flat and tired, making a bunch of mistakes, struggling to convert third downs.  I could see the defense not laying a finger on Cam Newton as he methodically drives down the field for multiple scores.  If I’m being totally honest, I could see the last three years finally catching up with the Seahawks – all the long playoff runs, all the pressure of being the best – with them laying their first real egg of the Russell Wilson era.  You gotta admit, the Seahawks have been living a charmed fucking life since 2013.  It’s HARD to be this good for this long.  Even Belichick’s Patriots had some Divisional Round exits on their record.

Part of this, of course, is the tried and true Reverse Jinx, but part of it is also trying to lessen the blow of a very real possibility.  Carolina is a good football team.  Winning on the road is difficult, even against bad football teams.  If the Seahawks had an emotional let-down (as they did a little bit after last year’s NFC Championship Game Miracle, though no one wants to talk about that), I wouldn’t blame them at all.

Here’s what’s giving me hope, though.  We forget, because the last two years have seen the top seeds in each conference make the Super Bowl, but that isn’t always the case.  In 2012, we had the 4-seeded Ravens against the 2-seeded 49ers.  I mean, yeah, Baltimore had a home game in the Wild Card round, but they beat the 1-seeded Broncos and the 2-seeded Patriots in back-to-back weeks!  Don’t tell me it can’t be done!

In 2011, we had the 4-seeded Giants, at 9-7, mow through the up & coming Falcons at home, then the 15-1 Packers in the Divisional Round (red faced Coughlin, anyone?), before upsetting the 2-seeded 49ers in that game where that guy muffed all those punts, before winning it all against one of the best-ever Patriots teams.

In 2010, we had the 6-seeded Packers, at 10-6 (sound familiar?), win on the road against a probably-inferior Eagles team (one of Andy Reid’s last years there), before nailing top-seeded Atlanta (NFC South winner) and taking care of business in a grudge match against divisional rival, and 2nd-seeded Chicago (propelling them into the Super Bowl where they beat a very good Steelers team, in one of the better and more unheralded Super Bowls of the last 20 years).  Why couldn’t that be us?

Want to see some more weird similarities?  Those 2010 Packers were a good team, with a good quarterback, who caught some tough breaks.  10-6 record, same as Seattle this year.  In 5 of those 6 defeats, Green Bay had a LEAD in the 4th quarter, only to have it taken away late, same as Seattle this year.  Three of their defeats were to eventual division winners (just like us), and they also had a couple of mind-boggling defeats to some real pieces of shit (Detroit & Washington had combined 12-20 records, or pretty much the St. Louis Rams).  And yet, they were a good, veteran team.  They got hot at the right time.  And, they plowed through the NFC playoffs battle-tested and ready to kick some fuckin’ ass in the Super Bowl.

Why not us?

History is probably against us, so long as you don’t just pick & choose which examples you want to point to like I’m doing here.  But, they play the games on fields instead of computers for a reason.  Anything can happen, up to and including winning it all as the 6th seed in a conference.  The Seahawks have shown resiliance, toughness, and at times they’ve been lucky as all get-out.  On a neutral field, under neutral conditions (i.e. no BYE week for the other team), I wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  The Seahawks ARE the better team.  But, as I’ve said before and I’ll say again, the best team doesn’t always win.  In this case, with one arm tied behind our backs, we go into Carolina the underdog in every meaning of the word.  Will we have the fortitude to get past this biggest of hurdles?

If so, it looks a lot better for us in the NFC Championship Game, I promise you.  There, it’s more of a 50/50 proposition as to whether the home team wins or not.

I just don’t want these playoffs to end without my team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, if for no other reason than to get last year’s taste out of our mouths.

The Seahawks Are One Of The Best Franchises In Football

When you think of the best teams – and the best-run organizations – in the NFL, you think of New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay; but Seattle doesn’t immediately come to mind.  If you’re in my age range (mid-30s), you probably still have the moniker of “America’s Team” seared into your consciousness when you think of the Dallas Cowboys.  You’d also probably liken the 49ers, Giants, and various others among the greats.  But the Seahawks?  Nah.  Tucked all the way up here?  Out of the limelight, what with East Coast Bias and whatnot, the Seahawks are middle-of-the-road at best.

Living with this team in the 1990s, “middle-of-the-road” was something to aspire to!  An 8-8 season was considered a success!  But, I think it’s time to come around a little bit.  I did some research (i.e. wasted a bunch of time working on a spreadsheet), and it turns out the Seahawks have been pretty damn great; not just recently, but dating back the last 13 seasons.

I know, it’s a VERY arbitrary starting point.  But, this is a Seattle-centric blog, and the 2003 season is quite significant for this franchise.

Mike Holmgren’s first season with the Seahawks was 1999; he’s generally credited (and rightfully so) with turning around this moribund franchise.  All the old-timers can cling to the mid-80s glory of the Seahawks, but let’s face it, by the time Holmgren was brought on, this team was a laughingstock, or at the very least a non-entity.  This little slice of nothingness up in the Pacific Northwest you didn’t really have an opinion about if you didn’t have to play us regularly (and even then, even teams within our own division had MUCH bigger rivalries with teams other than the Seahawks).  Even though Holmgren led the Seahawks to a division title and a playoff appearance in his first year, I’m reluctant to include that year, or the subsequent three seasons, as he was still mired with a lot of the previous regime’s players.

In 2003, though, everything started to come together.  Matt Hasselbeck was a proven, quality quarterback.  And, the rest of the team was talented enough to push us into perennial division-winner status, as we ripped off five straight NFC West titles.  The Holmgren era, by and large, gets short shrift when compared to the Pete Carroll era, for good reason.  These Seahawks teams, since 2012, have been VASTLY superior, and have had much more success than those Holmgren teams (especially in the playoffs, where it counts more).  But, if you lump these two eras together, you get a good look at what a quality franchise really looks like.

You’ll notice a theme when you look at the great franchises:  they tend to be defined by the head coaches.  The Holmgren Era, the Carroll Era, and so on.  But, really, what we’re talking about is quarterback eras.  The Hasselbeck Era, the Wilson Era.  As you can see from a lot of the crappy teams, quarterbacking is everything in the NFL.  Teams are lucky if they get ONE franchise quarterback in a generation; the Seahawks have had two, and that’s the biggest reason why the Seahawks have been among the greatest teams over the last 13 years.  It’s also why the Seahawks will continue to be great, as long as Russell Wilson sticks around.

From 2003 through 2015, the Seahawks have been the sixth-most successful franchise in the NFL, behind New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and Denver.  In that Google Spreadsheet I linked to, the left side divides the teams by division; the right side is listed by way of regular season record.  This is some PHENOMENAL company the Seahawks are keeping!  And, when you go down the list, you can see why these teams have had the success they’ve had.  Tom Brady & Bill Belichick; Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck (Indy hitting the lottery twice with those #1 overall picks); Ben Roethlisberger; a seamless transition from Favre to Rodgers.  The only semi-outlier is Denver, who has been blessed in recent seasons by the signing of Manning, and had some other playoff years with Jake Plummer of all people; but, the one thing I would point to is organizational stability.  They had Mike Shanahan for a bunch of those years, and John Elway has been a force as an executive since he took over.

I don’t really have a point beyond touting that the Seahawks are pretty great.  I often come across as a bit of a Debbie Downer, as a result of my sports upbringing and having all success ripped away from me as a fan.  I just think it’s time to appreciate how good this team has been for the majority of my adult life.  When you take it in across the big picture, the Seahawks are fucking awesome, and it’s about time the rest of the nation recognized.

With news of Ken Griffey Jr. being inducted into the Hall of Fame (with a record-setting percentage of votes), it’s given Mariners fans yet another opportunity to reflect on our mid-90s success.  You look at those teams and smile, especially given how bereft we’ve been of baseball prowess in recent years.  You can also look at those teams – with two hall of famers (Griffey and Randy), a should-be hall of famer in Edgar, and another should-be hall of famer in Sweet Lou – and smack yourself as hard as you can on the forehead:  HOW DID WE NOT WIN A WORLD SERIES WITH THOSE GUYS???

But, that’s baseball.  Really, that’s just sports.  Success is fleeting, championships are fucking hard, and the world is a meaningless flat circle.

With the thought of those Mariners teams in your mind, now think of these Seahawks.  From the Holmgren Era, we had a hall of famer in Walter Jones, who anchored one of the best O-Lines in recorded history.  From the Carroll Era, we’re looking at how many possible/probable hall of famers?  Let’s list them off:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Richard Sherman
  • Russell Wilson
  • Marshawn Lynch?
  • Bobby Wagner?
  • Kam Chancellor?
  • Doug Baldwin???

It’s getting a little lean down there at the bottom; I don’t know if any of those last three guys have a legitimate shot at the HOF (they’d probably have to have REALLY extended careers, which I don’t think is necessarily in the cards with the way big hitters like Wagner and Kam play the game; and I just don’t think Baldwin will have the raw receptions/yards numbers compared to other receivers – it’s just hard as a receiver in general in this pass-wacky day and age to crack the hall), but just having three Hall of Famers on your squad is remarkable in its own right (for what it’s worth, I do think all three of Earl, Richard, and Russell will end up making it, assuming their careers aren’t cut short in a hail of concussions).

We’re really fortunate, is what I’m getting at, to be fans of the Seahawks right now.  That’s not to say I’m satisfied, or ready to settle for what we’ve got.  As a fan, you always want more; it’s the nature of the beast.  But, as we head into Wild Card weekend, it’s cool to look back and reflect upon all the greatness we’ve seen.  Here’s to another 13 remarkable years!

Why I’m Freaking The Fudge Out About Super Bowl XLIX

I have this vague sense of feeling pretty at ease before last year’s Super Bowl.  The overwhelming majority of people had Denver winning the game pretty handily, everyone was sleeping on our defense, and quite frankly, everyone totally dismissed our offense’s ability to get the job done.  In that game, I just had this feeling that it would be less about our defense against their offense and more about our offense against their defense.

As it turned out, I was off-base, because our defense controlled that game from the coin toss, but I will argue that if Denver ever figured out how to score on us, our offense STILL would’ve made it a comfortable victory.  Either way, with how their defense was banged up, I know I was EXCITED for the game to finally start, and yeah in that excitement there’s some nervous energy because you’ve got a million What Ifs running around your head, but last year was a cake walk of a two weeks compared to this year.

This year, I haven’t been sleeping well, I’m fucking stressed out at work, and while I know what it’s going to take to BEAT this team, a pretty big part of me questions how we’re going to achieve it.

There are a couple big things in play that are giving me pause.  For starters, our defense just flat out isn’t as good as it was a year ago.  In that, I’m looking squarely at our pass rush.  It’s better than it was in 2012, but it can’t hold a flame to 2013.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, we’ve never really locked down that LEO rush spot.  We’ve yet to really replace Chris Clemons and it’s biting us in the ass.  On passing downs, when they flip Avril to the other side and push Michael Bennett to defensive tackle (which worked so amazingly in 2013), we’ve got either Bruce Irvin or O’Brien Schofield coming from that LEO side, and for whatever reason it’s just not cutting it.  This is where, you know, maybe a Cassius Marsh going down for the year hurts you.  Not that it’s all that reasonable to expect total greatness out of a rookie mid-round pick, but he was spry with a high motor and very well could’ve developed right before our eyes if he stayed healthy.  Likewise, with our interior rush next to Bennett.  I’m not gonna lie to you, Bennett can’t do everything.  But, when Jordan Hill came on strong at the end of the season, we were a completely different team.  In those last six games, we dominated the line of scrimmage from our nickel sets, and I would be WAY more confident in our pass rush right now if he was still with us.

This is the thing:  when the Patriots finally fixed their offensive line woes, they had some of the best interior pass protection in the league.  How do you rattle a quarterback like Tom Brady – who isn’t all that mobile – and prevent him from doing what he wants to do?  You pressure him up the middle.  While Brady isn’t going to run your pants off, quarterbacks like him who’ve been around for as long as he has, playing at as high a level as he has, are adept at one thing:  stepping up into the pocket.  Too often of late – since Hill went down and we’ve been unable to replace him – our defensive ends have been pushed out wide, while our tackles get nothing done up front, allowing quarterbacks to step up and make their throws with perfect timing and arm strength.  If you chop off their ability to step up, they’re not going to get as much on their throws and – since they’re not going to scramble for too many first downs – you don’t have to worry about them running toward the sideline for big gains.  Tom Brady will run a little if there’s a clear hole up the middle where he can get a cheap 7-10 yards before sliding down safely.  He’s less inclined to run if he’s got to try to beat a guy to the edge; with the speed on our defense, that’s a fool’s errand anyway.  And, besides all of that, with an interior pass rush, if the tackles try to block our ends out wide, that allows our ends to get a swat at the ball or otherwise hit Brady, when he would have stepped up and avoided it if the interior rush doesn’t get home.

This is what’s keeping me up at night.  Tom Brady, standing in a relatively clean pocket for most of the game, carving us up.  Yeah, our secondary is good, but they’re not robots.  If we give Brady 4-8 seconds to throw, he’s GOING to find a man open at some point.

The other thing that’s keeping me up is simple:  how do we score?

Against Denver, I was pretty solid in my belief that we weren’t going to run for a ton.  Marshawn Lynch wasn’t going to bust out for 150 yards and multiple touchdowns.  But, I figured our receivers were more talented than people gave them credit for, and we’d maybe bust Wilson loose on some runs off the edge with their linebackers and defensive ends injured.

This year, where’s it coming from?  Where are we steadily going to get our offense from?  When you think of Bill Belichick as a game-planner, what do you think of first?  Obviously, egomaniacal cheater.  But, what’s the SECOND thing you think of?  Every game plan is different.  Unlike the Seahawks – who put out their best 11 against your 11, with the same concepts game-in and game-out, and just dare you to beat us – the Patriots tailor a game plan specifically for their opponent that week.  Or, in this case, for the last two weeks.  They’ve had TWO WEEKS to tailor a game plan to stop the one thing we do the best.  What’s that one thing?  Running the ball.  Specifically, running the ball with Marshawn Lynch, but I don’t necessarily think they’re entirely focused on just that one aspect.  I’m pretty sure they’re giving close to equal time to game-planning for Wilson’s scrambling ability and his ability to run off of the zone read.

If the Patriots put the bulk of their efforts in limiting our rushing ability, where are we going to get our yards?  Granted, it’s pretty unlikely that they stop us from running ENTIRELY, but if they hold us to a poor average and stick us with a bunch of 3rd & Longs, I think we’re fucked.

Doug Baldwin on Revis Island.  I don’t think Baldwin will be held without a catch, but honestly, it wouldn’t TOTALLY shock me.  If Baldwin catches five balls in this game, I’ll be beyond impressed.  That puts Kearse, where?  With Browner covering/manhandling him?

This is what I don’t like.  I hate going into a game not knowing where we’re going to get our production.  Usually, I’ve got a pretty good idea.  But, usually, we’re not going up against one of the three or five best cornerbacks in football.  I mean, probably our BEST matchup on offense is Luke Willson against whoever.  First, who wants to pin their hopes on Luke Willson not dropping three balls in this game?  Second, what if they stick Browner on him and neutralize him entirely?  Then, I’ve got to pin my hopes on Moeaki?  Helfet?  What kind of offense is that?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve felt worse going into a football game.

I feel like this is the type of game where their offense plays our defense to a draw, but it’s also the type of game where their defense completely out-plays us and we’re stuck scratching and clawing, trying to pull another miracle out of our asses late in the game.  No WAY lightning strikes twice in back to back weeks!

Either that, or our offense defies expectations, but because we can’t manage any sort of a pass rush, this game weirdly turns into a shootout with one team having the ball with two minutes left, down a score, and it going against us because fuck me I hate my life.

Last year, I wanted to savor every minute of the build-up to the game, so convinced was I that we’d get our first championship.  This year?  God, I almost just want it to be over.  I can’t savor a God damn thing!

One thing I’ve got going for me:  whatever is going on right now certainly beats being the Team of Destiny, going into the game knowing you’re going to win, and then getting knocked on your ass in a heartbreaking defeat of epic proportions.  A Seahawks victory in this game is going to be appreciated fifty times over compared to last year’s gingerly walk in the park.  The only thing is:  will my heart have enough juice to survive it all?

I’ve got more on the matchup coming up tomorrow.  Hopefully, I’ll have some better things to say about the Seahawks’ chances.

The Nonsense Surrounding Super Bowl XLIX

I don’t like calling them “distractions”, because I don’t really think the players give two shits about all the crap people talk about in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.  They may be in awe of the whole experience of just playing in the big game, but all this other stuff?  It’s not going to affect how they prepare, how they practice, and ultimately how they play the game.  Once we hit kickoff on Sunday, all of this will be immediately forgotten.  As it should.

Of course, the biggest, most inescapable story of these last two weeks has been the circus surrounding the New England Patriots and their under-inflated footballs.  I’ve been kind of passively following along with this bemused indifference, but I’m sure if I was a Pats fan I’d be outraged.  You’re telling me that instead of celebrating our great season, everything is going to be boiled down to some bullshit that ultimately didn’t even matter?

Well, you know what?  I’m sorry, but that’s too damn bad.  Because for starters, people STILL won’t let go of the whole Seadderall Seahawks thing, even though like half of those suspensions were for marijuana anyway, and aside from all of that, adderall has about as much impact on a football game as under-inflated balls.  So suck it, Patriots fans.  Eat a dick.  Also, your hands aren’t clean in the whole suspension for banned substances issue.  Just be glad no one gives a shit about Aaron Hernandez anymore, because I’m pretty sure murdering multiple people out-weighs a simple brain stimulant.

Am I as tired of the issue with the footballs as everyone else?  Of course.  But, it speaks to a larger issue, and that’s how the Patriots are pathological cheaters.  And what’s more:  they’re obviously TERRIBLE at it!  I know there probably aren’t a ton of ways you can cheat in this day and age, what with there being cameras everywhere, and with everyone capable of going on Twitter to rat out virtually anyone doing anything.  But, you’d think with Belichick being this so-called “genius”, he’d figure out a way to cover his tracks better.

Obviously, them spying on the Jets is the bigger of the two scandals, but this thing with the footballs constitutes a trend.  They absolutely deserved to be raked over the coals, even if it had no effect whatsoever in their crushing the Colts last week.  Don’t forget, we’re talking about a team whose only focus is the legacy of their head coach and quarterback.  Sure, they care about winning the championship, but they care for the wrong reasons.  The Seahawks want to win for themselves and their teammates.  The Patriots want to win so they can feel validated.  So the franchise can be considered the most elite.  They’re focused on nothing but the history books, while the Seahawks are living in the now.  That’s not nothing.

The second-biggest story of Super Bowl week is the story that WE’RE all sick and tired of hearing about:  Marshawn Lynch.  Specifically:  Marshawn Lynch Not Speaking To Reporters and Marshawn Lynch Grabbing His Nuts.

Oh, Pats fans are tired of talking about balls?  Join the club.

It’s weird to hate something as much as I hate the NFL, while at the same time love an entity within the NFL as much as I do the Seahawks.  Will the NFL’s bullshit policies stop me from watching the game of football?  Of course not.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop bitching about them endlessly for being hypocrites, evil fuckers, and all around punk bitches.

You know what I want to see?  I want to see the Seahawks – in the waning moments of a triumphant victory this Sunday – collectively gather together and in unison grab their crotches.  You want to penalize us?  You want to fine us?  Fuck you, NFL!  If you’re going to do it to Marshawn, you’re going to do it to everyone!  The whole post-Super Bowl celebration, nothing but crotch grabs.  Count me in.

As far as the whole not talking to the media thing, I’m pretty much over my initial outrage.  Lynch has found a way to circumvent the NFL’s draconian rules, he gets to keep his money, these twisted old fools in the national media get to stick it where the sun don’t shine, and maybe we can all finally get over it and move on.  I mean, seriously, who cares?

One thing that causes me a little more concern are these reports of Marshawn Lynch retiring after the season.  I tend to believe that he WON’T retire, because that just sounds crazy to me.  But, then again, it sounded crazy to me when Barry Sanders retired.  It sounded crazy to me when Ricky Watters couldn’t get a deal anywhere once his contract with the Seahawks ended.  And, it was crazy when Robert Smith of the Vikings had the greatest season of his career and then CALLED it a career.

Look, I’m like 85% confident that Lynch won’t retire.  But, that needle keeps getting pushed a little more towards 50/50 with every new report that comes out.  I mean, it DOES kinda make sense.  The NFL keeps on with their bullshit rules and their bullshit crackdown … I mean seriously, with all the off-the-field trouble the NFL has had to deal with this year, from beating women to beating children to drunken driving to drug and alcohol suspensions, and THIS is their main focus?  Preventing Lynch from grabbing his junk while at the same time forcing him to interact with the media?  THIS is your big stand?

The NFL is pathetic.  And, if they’re not careful, they’re going to push one of the greatest running backs in the game today right out of the league.

The more I watch Lynch and the more I see what he means to this team, the more convinced I am that we’re fucked the day he walks away from us.  Think of how great we have it now, and think of how great we had it with Shaun Alexander.  Now, think of how awful we were with Julius Jones & Co.  Don’t take Beastmode for granted, because believe me, it can be A LOT worse.

A little more under the radar have been some interview comments in recent days.  I’m, like, 100% convinced the media looks for perceived slights against an opponent more than the players of either team.  It’s like everyone says:  if you need bulletin board material at this point in the season, then you don’t deserve to be there in the first place.  But, you gotta write about something, and the Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year.

Something that caught my eye was Jeremy Lane saying something to the effect of, “Gronk isn’t very good.”  Granted, it’s just another comment in a long line of brash, cocky musings from this team, but I dunno.  While I won’t condemn him, I’m more of the school of Let Your Play Do Your Talking.  More than anything, I just don’t like hearing our third-best cornerback calling out probably the very best tight end in the league.  I don’t NEED that!  I don’t want to look back on a game we’ve lost because Gronk exploded for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns.  I have all the confidence in the world that our defense will figure it out and keep his production to a dull roar, but you never know.  I never thought Antonio Gates would have the kind of day he had earlier this season, for instance.

Then, there was that thing with Brandon Browner calling for his teammates to attack Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas because they’ve got a couple bum wings.  For starters, stop it.  Just STOP.  He’s good friends with these guys.  He’s also – not for nothing – not the most eloquent speaker in the world.  I don’t think he literally wants people to hurt his friends.  But, yeah, do you go after those guys a little bit more, knowing they have this weakness about them?  Of course!  If you were a Pats fan, you’d be outraged if they DIDN’T attack these guys!

Finally, out of the hullabaloo that was Media Day yesterday, we got a nice little bit of reciprocity from LeGarrette Blount, who said something to the effect of the Seahawks’ defense isn’t immortal.  They can be beaten.  There we go.  If that’s not on par with what Jeremy Lane said, I don’t know what is.  I happen to agree with the sentiment, mostly.  CAN the Seahawks be beaten?  Of course.  We’re not out there shutting teams out every week; you CAN score on us.  But, it’s tough to know what he really meant by it.  We can be beat?  Yeah, four teams beat us this year alone.  But, what’s the context?

Does Blount think they can run up 30 points on us?  That seems a bit far-fetched.  Over 25?  It’s possible, but not too likely.  In the low 20s seems a bit more in range.  But, I’ll tell you this much:  if the Patriots beat the Seahawks, it will have more to do with how their defense shuts down our offense than their offense being overly dominant.

The difference between what Lane said and what Blount said should be pretty clear.  Lane attacked one guy.  And, Gronk is Gronk, I don’t think it’s going to phase him.  It might lead to Brady targeting him more, to make a point.  But, it’s not going to make Gronk run faster or catch better.  See, but Blount talked about our entire defense.  You don’t think he’s going to have guys barking in his face every time he’s stopped for a 2-yard gain?  And, pity the moments where we stuff him in the backfield; he’ll never hear the end of it.

Anyway, that’s all I can stomach.  We’re in the home stretch now.  Two more days of build up, then we can all get rowdy as fuck on Saturday in anticipation of the big day on Sunday.  Soak it all in.

More Reactions On The Seahawks Winning The NFC Championship Game

In a way, I’m still processing things.  Until I’m fully able to wrap my mind around the single greatest comeback win in Seahawks history (note:  I didn’t say largest, I said “greatest”), it’s going to be hard for me to move on.  In that sense, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.  But it will, probably just as soon as I finish with this post.

Before I begin, I’d like to talk about the doubters a little bit.  I didn’t pick up on it during my initial viewing of the telecast – as it’s not like there were thousands upon thousands of people streaming for the exits with time still left on the clock – but yeah, some people at the game left early.  Probably enough for the players to pick up on it, but not so much that Joe Buck & Co. ever mentioned it.  I don’t necessarily think this is a huge deal, or one that’s going to overwhelmingly taint the perception of the 12th Man among the players or fanbase in the area, but it is something that’s been referenced.  We’re supposed to be the best fans in the world!  Do the best fans in the world leave the game early and miss out on the greatest comeback of all time?

Let me come at this from another angle:  if you’re trying to tell me that you – as a viewer of that game – expected the Seahawks to win, with five minutes left, down by 12, and the Packers having the ball, then you’re either a liar or the most delusional person in the world.  I’m not talking about the players; of course they have to believe in themselves and believe that it’s never over until the clock is at all zeroes.  I’m talking about EVERYONE else.

In speaking for myself, I can honestly say I’d given up hope.  In that sense, I don’t even think I got the full experience of pure joy out of the whole thing.  Because, as it was happening, I kept thinking or saying to myself:  “No way.  No fucking way this is happening!”  Over and over, for the duration of the comeback.  Even when we scored the go-ahead touchdown, all I could think about was how much time was left on the clock and how badly we needed to convert that 2-point conversion.  My brother and father were jumping up and down; I was locked in my seat, unwilling to even remotely celebrate until the whole fucking thing was over.

That’s why I don’t begrudge the fans who left the game early.  I feel sorry for them, because they’re going to be kicking themselves for the rest of their lives.  But, I don’t blame them.  Hell, I almost gave up watching.  I was THIS close to being in my car, half-heartedly listening to the conclusion of that game on my radio, driving home to Seattle from Tacoma where I watched the game at my dad’s house.

***

There’s another take-away from this game I’d like to address.  Something I got out of listening to the post-game show on the radio (about 60-90 minutes after the game, when I finally got my wits about me to make the long drive home).  Now, I know, when you listen to the post-game show on the radio station that’s also the “radio partner” of the team in question, you’re going to run into a good amount of homerism.  This is fine.  It’s expected, and quite frankly, sometimes it’s refreshing to hear about and read about nothing but the greatest things about this team.  When you’re feeling good about a big win, sometimes all you want to do is keep those good times going for as long as humanly possible.

Anyway, the issue at hand here is the way a certain segment is treating this outcome.  Like we not only deserved to complete that comeback victory, but that it would be asinine to think – even for a moment – that the Packers maybe should’ve won and maybe let that game slip away.

I know Seattle made the plays when it needed to, but it was Green Bay who gave away that game.

Make no mistake, WE are the lucky ones.  The Seahawks WERE lucky to win that game.  In one sense, the best team won that football game – because I think if you replay that game 99 more times, the Seahawks probably win somewhere in the realm of 85 of those games.  But, in the more concrete sense, the best team DIDN’T win on this given Sunday.  For, the Packers WERE the better team in that game.  And, to suggest otherwise is to give in to your basest homeristic instincts.

You can argue that the Seahawks made the plays when they needed to, and they put themselves in a position to win.  Except for two things:  we needed an onside kick to win it, and I would argue just as importantly, we needed to win that coin toss before overtime.  If Brandon Bostick does what he was supposed to do on that onside kick – which is block Chris Matthews, preventing him from catching the football, allowing the guy with the REAL hands on the Packers to retrieve the kick (Jordy Nelson, who was right behind Bostick, in perfect position to make the play) – we’re not sitting here today, looking forward to the Super Bowl.  One momentary lapse in judgment by a – third string? – tight end.  Or, one hinky bounce of a coin flipping it over to tails-side-up, and we’re looking at a repeat Packers/Patriots Super Bowl.

So, don’t come at me with anything but humble recognition that we’re VERY lucky to be in this position.  And, if you want to go so far as to say it’s a fucking miracle, I won’t stop you.  Because, with that kind of gut-wrenching ending, I gotta wonder if there isn’t some sort of higher power up there with a rooting interest in these Seattle Seahawks.

Oh, that’s right!  This is the type of game that’s not only completely unbelievable and totally implausible, but it will also make a devout non-believer take a step back and question his entire system of beliefs!

You can see why I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this.  I know, I know, it’s just a game and all that.  But, is that not the most amazing, the most fantastic finish you’ve ever seen?  Anyone tasked with creating a piece of sports fiction who came up with the very same events that transpired on Sunday would be denounced as a hack and left to the doldrums of the Internet, tittering away on a blog nobody reads (ahem).

This isn’t something that happens.  Just in general, how many football games have you seen where one team turns the ball over five times, gets the ball back with three minutes to go, down by two touchdowns, with but one time out to their name, and that team comes back to win?  I’ve been watching football since I was six years old or so.  For the better part of 27 years now.  The only other comeback I can remember as vividly is the Buffalo/Houston game where the Bills came back down 32 points in the second half.  In a more general sense, I’ve probably seen similar comebacks – I dunno – ten times or less?  And I don’t even know how similar we’re talking about, because the Seahawks couldn’t do ANYTHING.  Inept isn’t even a strong enough word for our offensive performance for the first 57 minutes of that game.  The Seattle Seahawks’ offense was the United States Congress of football offenses.  I wouldn’t have trusted the Seahawks to even kneel with the football without somehow bungling it up!  So, for that team that we saw to do what it did, on top of securing an onside kick, in the pressure-packed situation of playing for a spot in the Super Bowl … that’s something we’ve never seen and something we might not ever see again.

But, on top of that just not happening, it CERTAINLY doesn’t happen to the Seahawks!  When do we ever get the long end of the stick in these situations?  Before last year, I’d say never.  We’re always the team and the fanbase coping with extreme, intense defeat.  But, not now!  Not with this group of guys.

So, no, I wouldn’t say “miracle” is too strong of a word.

***

I’ve got one more point to talk about and I’ll give it a rest for a while.  There were so many huge, game-turning moments to pick from, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches.  I don’t think there’s really any one moment that tops the others; we needed everything that DID go right to go right to pull off the comeback.  Our defense, early in the game, holding Green Bay to field goals (overall, holding them to five in total).  Their coaching staff, not going for it on 4th & 1 countless times to try to put the dagger in our backs.  The successful fake field goal for a touchdown.  Marshawn Lynch’s punishing running.  The onside kick.  The coin toss.  The successful third down completion to Baldwin.  The overtime touchdown to Kearse to finish it.  Russell Wilson’s ability to turn it on when we needed him the most and his belief in our ability to win it.  ALL OF THAT and many more that I’m forgetting.  But, as I was laying in bed last night, running everything through my head again, I had a weird thought:

What if the play of the game was Russell Wilson’s third interception of the first half?

Allow me to elaborate.

Two minute warning, 3rd & 8 on Green Bay’s 18, Seahawks down 16-0, Russell Wilson throws some sort of fade to Kearse that’s picked off in the endzone.  Let’s say that ball just falls harmlessly incomplete.  What happens next?

It’s possible that Seattle goes for the fake field goal there.  After all, they’d installed it during the week and had planned on using it, as Green Bay rushes hard off the edge to block.  But, what if they kick it instead?  What if the impetus for the fake field goal wasn’t just because the opportunity presented itself, but rather because there was less than five minutes left in the third quarter and we absolutely needed a spark and a touchdown in that situation?  What if, it being under 2 minutes to go in the first half, Seattle just takes the points to have points on the board going into half?

Then, it would’ve been 16-3, and likely nothing much else changes.  We kick off, they get the ball around their 20, we stop them, and go into half down 16-3 instead of 16-0.

That puts us into the second half and I don’t think much – if anything – changes in the play-calling of either team.  I mean, it’s just 3 points.  I think Green Bay still goes run-heavy, and I think we still finally manage to drive back into the Red Zone with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter.

What happens THEN?  Maybe we do the fake field goal anyway.  Maybe instead of it being 16-7 (like it was), we’re looking at 16-10, and it’s a whole new set of variables going forward.  I dunno.

BUT, what if the Seahawks just totally abandon the notion of faking the field goal at this point.  What if we settle for it being a 16-6 game?  After all, that’s not all that different than it being 16-7.  One point.  Still puts us in a position to give up the field goal to put them at 19 points.  Still leaves us an opportunity to go for a late touchdown, except we’d just pull to 19-13.  Still gives us the opportunity to kick an onside kick, and maybe it goes down exactly as it did and we get it back.

That would give us just a hair over two minutes to go get the go-ahead touchdown.

EXCEPT, in this situation, there would be no point in going for 2, as being up 21-19 is pointless.  So, we’d kick the extra point, and then Green Bay would have 1:25 to drive down and kick the game-winning field goal.  Leaving us in the exact same position we were in with the Atlanta game two years ago.  This time, losing 22-20.

I feel like everything I’ve just laid out for you is entirely reasonable and plausible.  And, as such, it leads me to strongly believe that Russell Wilson’s third interception was THE most important play of the game.

Okay, so maybe I’m an idiot.  But, still, I feel like we’ll be studying this game for the next thousand years, picking it apart like some biblical tome, looking for meaning where there really is none.  I HAVE BEEN PROFOUNDLY AFFECTED BY THIS VICTORY AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF!!!

I should just take a page out of Belichick’s book, put it all out of my mind, and recite the mantra:  On To New England.  On To New England.  On To New England.