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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Are Never Not Gonna Be Injured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I’m Dreading This Seahawks/Jaguars Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicting The 2017 NFL Season

It’s that time again!  Check out some predictions from past seasons:

Since I don’t do a good-enough job of noting this ahead of time, let’s take a brief look back at my 2016 predictions and see where I went wrong.

In the NFC, I had the NFC seeded in the following order (top 4 teams are division winners):

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. New York

In reality, they were seeded as follows:

  1. Dallas
  2. Atlanta
  3. Seattle
  4. Green Bay
  5. New York
  6. Detroit

So, I had two division winners correct, and three playoff teams out of six.  Not bad.  My best call was nailing the Giants for a Wild Card berth; my worst call was predicting the Falcons would finish fourth in the NFC South (not far behind:  predicting the Cowboys would finish third in the East).

In the AFC, I was considerably better, nailing the division winners (although, not quite in the correct order) and 5/6 playoff teams:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I wanted so desperately for the Bills to make it back to the playoffs, I was blinded by how terrible they are as a franchise!  In reality, the playoffs looked like this:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Houston
  5. Oakland
  6. Miami

Best call here was nailing the top two seeds in order, and the top 5 (just flip-flopping the Texans and Steelers).  Worst call:  Dolphins finishing fourth in the East (behind the Jets???  Come on, man!), followed by the Jags finishing second in the South (I was drinking the Bort Kool Aid, for sure).

I ended up with a Seattle over Kansas City Super Bowl, because I’m a homer.  I also had a Seattle over Indianapolis Super Bowl the year before, and a Seattle over Denver rematch in 2014.  I will give myself some credit for correctly predicting the Seattle over Denver Super Bowl in 2013, as well as (I shit you not) a Baltimore over San Francisco Super Bowl in 2012.

So, it’s time to get back on the horse!  Without further ado, here are my divisional predictions:

NFC East

New York
Dallas
Washington
Philadelphia

There’s got to be some regression with the Cowboys.  Not a lot, but I think just enough.  Of course, I’m saying that knowing full well I’ve staked my fantasy football future on the arm of Dak Prescott, but I’ve got some real issues with that defense, and I just don’t think their offense can be as perfect as they were last year (particularly the running game, since I’m rolling with Ezekiel Elliott in two different leagues.  I like Washington, but I don’t care for their defense, and I question whether their passing game can be as potent as it’s been.  Obviously, I expect Kirk Cousins to play well, but he’s got a lot of new pieces around him.  The Eagles strike me as a few more years away.  The Giants just feel like the most complete team on both sides of the ball, so I’m rolling with them.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

Is there really any point in picking against the Packers?  They’re like the Patriots of the NFC; they’re always good, and they’re always surrounded by crappy division-mates.  I think the Vikings and Lions could go either way; I think they’re both about .500 teams.  I like the Vikings’ defense just a little bit more than I like Detroit’s offense.  I also think a second season with Sam Bradford should help them move the ball a little more.  I think the Bears will be a mess and, more importantly, I think that’s the best thing for them, as they’ll need to surround their new rookie QB with a lot of talent going forward.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
Atlanta
New Orleans

I almost picked the Bucs, but I dunno.  I just don’t see it.  I think they’re a year away still; they strike me as fairly immature.  Honestly, I don’t feel strongly about ANY of these teams, but having Carolina bounce back is the least-ridiculous thing I can imagine right now.  I do still think the Bucs will make a Wild Card spot though, I’m just not so sure they’ll have enough to overtake the Panthers.  I think the Falcons will be about a .500 team as they remain hungover from that devastating Super Bowl loss.  And, I just don’t think the Saints are very good, and they probably need to think about blowing that situation up at some point.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

The last couple years, I’ve been seduced by blind homerism when it comes to the Seahawks.  Nevertheless, they’ve still managed to win at least 10 games and make the playoffs both years.  So, I’m not TOTALLY crazy.  This year, however, I believe to be the year we get back our #1 seed and our home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  I still like Arizona to kick up a little fuss, but they’re about a .500 team too.  I think the 49ers will be better than people expect, though they’re probably still a 6-7 win team.  I think the Rams will be much WORSE than people expect, and I’m pretty sure people are already expecting them to be pretty bad.

Here’s a prediction for free:  I think the Seahawks will go 2-0 against the Rams; WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT???

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
New York

Tank-a-palooza is in full effect with the Jets, as I fully expect them to win no more than 1-2 games.  I like Buffalo only a little bit more, to be honest, as they’ve gotten rid of a lot of talent, and still don’t seem too keen on Tyrod Taylor being the guy going forward (I hope they let him loose at some point, so he can go to a team that deserves him).  I still like Miami to come up second in the division with Jay Cutler at the helm, but I still only see them as around a .500 team.  New England should run away with this thing with 13-14 wins.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

This could be an interesting little division.  I think the Ravens are a year or two away from returning to the playoffs.  I like a lot of the moves Cleveland is making (though, surely, they’ll face growing pains with their rookie QB).  I like a lot of the moves the Bengals have made this past offseason as well, though I think they’ll fall JUST short of the playoffs (likely on a tiebreaker).  I think the Steelers take this one with 11 wins.

AFC South

Tennessee
Houston
Indianapolis
Jacksonville

I think now, FINALLY, the Titans will have their year.  I also think they have the highest variance of any of the teams in this conference.  They could go 13-3, or 9-7, or anywhere in between, and I wouldn’t be shocked.  I went ahead and pencilled them in at 10-6, tied with the Texans, and both teams cracking the playoffs.  I think both the Colts and Jags will be terrible, netting between 2-4 wins each.

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I really wanted to put Oakland here, and this might be my biggest regret, as I’ve kind of been hyping them all off-season.  But, the Chiefs are just more of a complete team.  I think their defense is certainly better than the Raiders’, which could be their ultimate downfall.  I still like the Raiders to make the playoffs, but they might be a year away from grabbing one of the top two seeds.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. New York
  4. Carolina
  5. Tampa Bay
  6. Dallas

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Tennessee
  5. Oakland
  6. Houston

I’d absolutely love to see a playoffs with these teams involved.  Let’s look at the playoff predictions:

Wild Card Round

Dallas over New York
Carolina over Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh over Houston
Oakland over Tennessee

Divisional Round

Seattle over Dallas
Carolina over Green Bay
New England over Pittsburgh
Oakland over Kansas City

Championship Round

Seattle over Carolina
Oakland over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Oakland

OH SNAP!  Are you ready for this???  The Seahawks can only win Super Bowls against their old AFC West foes!  The storylines are pretty amazing, though, starting with Beastmode vs. his old team.  Michael Crabtree vs. Richard Sherman.  Ken Norton Jr. & Bruce Irvin vs. their old team.  Then, there was all that crap from Derek Carr about running it on the 1 yard line.  And, of course, there’s the 1983 season and how the Raiders prevented the Seahawks from making their first Super Bowl during that miracle playoff run.

You’re going to see a lot of people predicting the Seahawks vs. Patriots Part II, including Peter King in his MMQB column; but how many people will predict the Seahawks/Raiders?  Maybe just me.

Is it because I’m stupid?  Probably.  But, wouldn’t that be fun?

Predicting The 2016 NFL Season

Still my favorite post of the year!  Still don’t care how wrong I am!  Still got love for the streets, repping 253!  Still not loving police!  And so on and so forth …

Last year, I had the Seahawks over the Colts in the Super Bowl.  I got something like 2 division winners right, and maybe only half of the playoff participants.  And I had some MIND-BOGGLING picks, like the Rams & Lions & Dolphins in the Wild Card, and the Chiefs over the Broncos and Ravens over the Bengals as division winners.  In short, it was all bad; so let’s try to do better.  As usual, I’ll refrain from predicting actual records, and just list the teams in order of where they’ll finish in the standings in their respective divisions.

NFC East

Washington
NY Giants
Dallas
Philadelphia

I got the Redskins on a big ol’ come-up!  Mostly because I think Scot McCloughan is a roster genius and has turned around every franchise he’s put his hands on.  Their offense improved greatly over the course of the 2015 season and should play well going forward as long as Cousins stays healthy.  I think they’ll find just enough on defense to stay in games.  And, I think the Cowboys and ESPECIALLY the Eagles will be pretty bad this year.  Gods and clods in this division, as I have the Giants taking the next step and returning to the playoffs as a wild card.  I figure 9-7 should be good enough in this NFC to nab a 6th seed.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

You hate to put all your hopes on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, but that’s essentially what I’m doing with the Vikings this year.  Granted, I don’t think he’s great, but I think he is good at limiting mistakes and playing within the flow of the offense.  With the team around him, I think he’s worth an extra 1-2 wins over his counterparts (in this case, Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford).  I just think Hill is doomed to get hurt at some point, and Bradford has the misfortune of not having practiced with the team all offseason.  Both guys are clear steps down compared to Bridgewater, which I think relegates this team to 7 or 8 wins at most.  That puts Green Bay in the driver’s seat by default, and a real contender for the top two spots in the NFC.  I like Detroit to play good offense and poor defense, and I like Chicago to play good defense and poor offense.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
New Orleans
Atlanta

This feels remarkably easy, but Carolina is simply the most complete team in the division, period.  I think the Bucs take a big step forward this year – especially on offense – and I think they contend for that 6th seed, but I think they ultimately fall short on tie-breakers.  I don’t expect much out of Atlanta’s offense again this year, and I think their defense is considerably worse.  I think the Saints do enough on offense to win some games they should lose, but ultimately they need to do too much on defense to be competitive this year.  Maybe 2017.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

This is the homer coming out in me.  By all rights, the Cardinals should repeat as division champs – they’re just as good as they were last year, if not better in certain areas, AND they have the easier schedule, by dodging Tom Brady and playing the Vikings instead of the Packers – but I just think the Seahawks are hungrier.  I also think the Seahawks are going to get off to a really hot start this year.  Combine that with the fact that Palmer is due for another devastating injury (with the outside chance that his psyche never recovers from that playoff dismantling by the Panthers last year), and let’s just say I’m hedging my bets by having the Cards make the wild card at something like 10-6.

Not for nothing, but I also think the Rams take a HUGE step back this year.  I think the 49ers shock some people – as they have the most negative hype I’ve seen in recent memory – and I think the Rams do so poorly that they have no choice but to fire Jeff Fisher and company (in spite of his recent contract extension).  I just think they can’t afford to waste Goff’s prime on a nothing coaching staff and will look to shake things up by bringing in the hottest offensive coordinator on the market this upcoming offseason (whoever that may be).

AFC East

New England
Buffalo
NY Jets
Miami

Keep picking the Pats until the end of time!  You want a shocker (and the clubhouse leader for the pick I’m likeliest to get wrong)?  I got Buffalo FINALLY breaking their streak as the team with the longest playoff drought!  I like Tyrod Taylor a lot, I like a desperate Rex Ryan, and I like how nobody’s giving this team a shot.  I think 9-7 (with tiebreakers) does it.  I don’t think Fitzpatrick has another year like 2015 in him, and he proves why paying guys like him $12 million per year is a fool’s errand.  I think Tannehill improves with Adam Gase as his head coach, but I don’t think it’s enough, as this team is pretty weak and unimpressive in most areas outside of the D-Line.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

I like Roethlisberger to stay mostly healthy and put up huge numbers again.  I like the defense to do just enough, but the offense to ultimately carry them.  I think Andy Dalton takes a step back without Hue Jackson holding his hand.  I think Baltimore improves, but only to the 7 or 8-win range.  And, I think Cleveland gets another Top 5 draft pick to throw onto the pile.  Ultimately, I think the Bengals fall short of making the playoffs, with potential coaching casualties following.

AFC South

Houston
Jacksonville
Indianapolis
Tennessee

I think Brock Osweiler is a VAST improvement over all the QBs Houston had on their roster last year, and with the talent around him (particularly Lamar Miller’s breakout year), and that defense behind him, is enough to get them to 10 or 11 wins.  The key for Osweiler is to limit turnovers.  If he can do that (the way Hoyer & Co. could not), the sky is the limit for this team.  I like Jacksonville to take a big step forward and really contend for a wild card spot, but I think they’re probably another year away.  I’m also concerned about Bortles regressing, but I’ll avoid that conversation for now, as I’m counting on him in Fantasy to lead me to glory this year and beyond.  I think Indy is a trainwreck, and no amount of Andrew Luck will be able to carry this team to the playoffs, in what is a vastly improved division.  I think the Titans give the Colts a run for their money, but ultimately fall just short (because the Titans have garbage coaching, and no weapons on offense outside of TE).

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I like the Chiefs for 12 wins and one of the top 2 seeds.  I like Oakland to be the team to make the jump into the other Wild Card spot.  I like Denver for about 8 wins (never thought their defense alone would be enough to carry them back into the post-season).  And, I like the Chargers to be playing in a city outside of San Diego in 2017.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. NY Giants

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I like the Seahawks because I’m a homer, and I like the Packers over the other three teams because I think they have the most favorable schedule (AFC South & NFC East are the divisions they have to play, while catching Seattle, Houston, Indy, and the Giants at home, and playing garbage Atlanta thanks to their 2nd place divisional schedule).

I like New England because they’re New England.  I like the Chiefs because I think they’re balanced and poised to take that next step.

Wild Card Round

Washington over NY Giants
Carolina over Arizona
Houston over Buffalo
Oakland over Pittsburgh

Divisional Round

Seattle over Carolina
Green Bay over Washington
New England over Oakland
Kansas City over Houston

Championship Round

Seattle over Green Bay
Kansas City over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Kansas City

What can I say?  I like me some Seahawks, and I like me some Super Bowls against AFC West opponents!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings, Part Deux

A lotta movers and shakers in these rankings over the last 5 weeks!  And, a lotta stayers and stillers in these rankings, particularly at the very top and bottom.  We just finished week 9, so every team has played at least 8 games, and as such is either at or has surpassed the midpoint of the season.  As we head into Week 10, it’s a big, pivotal moment, both for the playoff hopefuls and the bottom-feeders looking to snag that #1 overall draft pick.

It’s also a big week for myself and a few buddies of mine.  We have a 3-year run of Tahoe trips for the first weekend of March Madness that should and hopefully will continue for the duration of our lives, until there is only one (last man standing has to move to Tahoe permanently, and gamble away his 401K in all of our honors … I haven’t discussed this with the rest of the fellas yet, but I’m sure they’ll be on board).  Well, this year, a few of us have opted to shoe-horn in a second Tahoe trip during the NFL season.  Why?  Because none of us know squat about betting on college basketball (the March trip is more a reason to get together and drink our brains out and lose large quantities of money … or hopefully shuffle money through the casinos and come home pretty close to even), but we DO have a pretty good handle on the NFL (or, at least we THINK we do).  As such, we opted for Week 10 to fly back down there.  Leave Friday in the evening, spend all day Saturday watching college football, drinking, and putting the finishing touches on all of our NFL bets, and then spend all day Sunday crying out in anguish as each and every one of our parlays goes down the toilet because Green Bay can’t cover a GOD DAMN SPREAD!

Pardon me.  I’m just trying to harden myself for the worst possible scenario.

Anyway, like I’ve said all along, if we lose big in the afternoon, we’ll just put all of our remaining cash on the Seahawks to beat the shit out of the Cardinals.  TALLY-HO!

  • New England:  8-0, last quarter’s rank: #1
  • Cincinnati:  8-0, #3
  • Arizona:  6-2, #7
  • Denver:  7-1, #4
  • Carolina:  8-0, #11
  • Green Bay:  6-2, #2
  • Minnesota:  6-2, #13
  • St. Louis:  4-4, #12

No question who the top two teams are.  I don’t know how you can’t be on board with Cincy’s legitimacy at this point; Andy Dalton has taken it up another notch, they’re loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and they’ve beaten enough good teams in tough situations (at Oakland and at Pittsburgh particularly) to eliminate any doubt.  Arizona gets a bump up to #3 simply because I feel if they were to play any of the teams below them on a neutral field, they’d most likely win.  Denver has flaws (particularly with a noodle-armed little so-and-so), Carolina gets a little disrespect here because Cam Newton is careless with the football and that offense is bound to be exposed by a quality defense, and Green Bay’s receivers have been exposed as guys who can’t get open with great regularity (not to mention their defense is who we thought they were).  Minnesota and St. Louis take the big leaps for having outstanding defenses and running games, with suspect quarterback play.  Those teams will make the playoffs IF their quarterbacks can eliminate mistakes.  We’ll see if they’ve got what it takes.

  • Seattle:  4-4, #6
  • Pittsburgh:  5-4, #19
  • Oakland:  4-4, #17
  • New York Jets:  5-3, #8
  • New York Giants:  5-4, #9
  • Buffalo:  4-4, #10
  • Indianapolis:  4-5, #20
  • New Orleans:  4-5, #22

Seattle gets bumped out of the Top 8 for blowing two more huge leads against the Bengals and Panthers, and for looking like respectable garbage in Dallas.  Time for them to shit or get off the pot; if they lose to the Cards, it’s going to be a grim finish.  Pittsburgh can’t seem to keep their quarterback or running backs on the field, but it looks like Ben Roethlisberger won’t be out for too long (if the Seahawks could avoid him in three weeks, that’d be amazing).  Oakland feels like they deserve to be higher, because their offense is a lot of fun.  But, their defense kinda stinks and the only quality win they have on their schedule is a home game against the Jets, where Geno Smith played the majority of the game.  Speaking of the Jets, still like their defense, but they’ve got holes.  If Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t stay healthy, it’s all over for them.  The Giants’ only quality win (if you can call it that) is a road win in Buffalo; plus their defense allowed 52 against Drew Brees a couple weeks ago.  Those Bills look pretty great when they play bad teams and Tyrod Taylor’s healthy; otherwise they look pretty mediocre.  Indy spent the whole season getting smashed by better teams until an impressive home win against the Broncos; Andrew Luck started looking like his old self again.  With a BYE week this week, his health should only continue to improve that’s just one less game the team will see him miss as he has a fucking LACERATED KIDNEY.  With a VERY soft schedule going forward, Indy’s playoff chances seem all but assured Indy’s playoff chances rest on Matt Hasselbeck’s very capable 40 year old hands.  The Saints are all offense and no defense.  As such, probably count them out of the playoffs (but they make for some very entertaining games nevertheless).

  • Atlanta:  6-3, #5
  • Philadelphia:  4-4, #25
  • Kansas City:  3-5, #14
  • Washington:  3-5, #16
  • Miami:  3-5, #24
  • Chicago:  3-5, #27
  • San Francisco:  3-6, #26
  • Dallas:  2-6, #23

Atlanta is your biggest dropper, as they’ve laid nothing but turds since the first quarter.  Good for the Seahawks (if we’re stuck rooting for a Wild Card), but bad for their playoff chances.  The best team the Falcons beat all year was the Giants; and they’ve lost two straight against the Bucs & 49ers with Blaine Gabbert.  So … that’s where they are.  The Eagles have a quarterback who can’t challenge you deep, so they’re pretty easy to stop (and ugly to watch); their best win was against the Jets.  The Chiefs had a brutal early schedule, and failed to take full advantage of the gooey middle.  Doesn’t get a whole lot easier the rest of the way; look for the Chiefs to finish right around .500.  Washington is a garbage team and it always surprises me when they ever win.  Miami got their head coach fired, then beat a couple duds, then got demolished on the road in New England and Buffalo.  They’re not going anywhere.  The Bears have looked a little spry lately, but their only impressive win was at home against the Raiders.  The 49ers have given up on Colin Kaepernick, and therefore their season.  Dallas is still waiting for Romo to return in week 11; they’ve gotten exactly zero help from their backup quarterbacks since he’s been gone.

  • Baltimore:  2-6, #18
  • San Diego:  2-7, #15
  • Cleveland:  2-7, #28
  • Detroit:  1-7, #21
  • Tampa Bay:  3-5, #32
  • Houston:  3-5, #29
  • Tennessee:  2-6, #31
  • Jacksonville:  2-6, #30

Baltimore’s defense is terrible and their best wide receiver is out for the year.  On the plus side, they have smart management and will make quality use of their Top 10 draft pick.  The Chargers’ defense is even worse, and their whole team is banged up.  The Browns are just bad, and don’t realize they should probably take the rest of the season to see what they have in Johnny Manziel.  The Lions are even worse somehow and will be cleaning house at season’s end.  The Bucs look a little better, but still lack a quality win, and their defense will always hold them back.  The Texans have as much of a right to be ranked #32 as anyone with their level of quarterback play this year.  Just when Brian Hoyer starts to suck me back in, he crushes all hope in south Texas.  The Titans just won a shootout against the Saints to get out of the bottom spot, but maybe that’s not such a huge feat given the crap quality of the Saints’ defense?  Also, the Titans got their head coach fired.  Finally, I’m putting the Jags back down in a familiar spot where they belong, as the worst team in the league.  I’d have to say it’s unfair, as the Bort has looked better this year, and they’ve been within one score in all but two games (Patriots and Panthers).  But, then again, no one ever said I was smart at this football thing.

Why am I going to Tahoe again?

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings

Because I got tired of doing this thing every week.

It’s pretty hard to know who will win in any given game, but the objective here is to review what teams have done in an attempt to predict what they’ll do in the future.  Oh what a difference a week makes!  This time last week, I had the Arizona Cardinals in my Top 3, looking pretty unstoppable.  Then, this past Sunday, they lost at home to the Rams (who somehow managed to lose to the Redskins and the Steelers in a game where Ben Roethlisberger got injured and Mike Vick had to play meaningful snaps late in the game), and suddenly the once-perfect Cardinals look far more vulnerable, and are ranked accordingly.

I’m going to try to do a better job of taking a look at who a team has beaten, as well as my own gut feelings, to give more of a well-rounded view of where things stand.  Let’s take a look at the Top 8.  Teams listed in single parentheses () are those who that team beat; teams listed in double parentheses (()) are those who that team lost to.

  • New England:  3-0, (Pit, Buf, Jax)
  • Green Bay:  4-0, (Chi, Sea, KC, SF)
  • Cincinnati:  4-0, (Oak, SD, Bal, KC)
  • Denver:  4-0, (Bal, KC, Det, Min)
  • Atlanta:  4-0, (Phi, NYG, Dal, Hou)
  • Seattle:  2-2, (Chi, Det), ((St.L, GB))
  • Arizona:  3-1, (NO, Chi, SF), ((St.L))
  • New York Jets:  3-1, (Cle, Ind, Mia), ((Phi))

I don’t know if there’s necessarily a good reason to have the Patriots listed ahead of the Packers, this would be more my gut feeling.  The Pats have looked like absolute world-beaters, so they get my top spot.  I like Cincy over Denver based on strength of schedule, though I’m sure they’ll end up losing to the Broncos when they go out on the road in late December.  Enjoy it while it lasts, Cincy!  It only seems fair to have Atlanta in the Top 5, though really, who have they beaten?  Listing Seattle at 6 just SCREAMS “me being a homer”, especially when you consider the teams we beat (at home) have a combined 1 victory.  I still have some respect for the Lions (they’ve had a brutal schedule so far), and to be quite honest, the Cards get knocked down a peg for losing at home to the Rams, so suck it.  The Jets cap off our top 8 almost exclusively because their defense is top notch, and their quarterbacking play isn’t so horrendous.  A lot to like out there.

  • New York Giants:  2-2, (WA, Buf), ((Dal, Atl))
  • Buffalo:  2-2, (Ind, Mia), ((NE, NYG))
  • Carolina:  4-0, (Jax, Hou, NO, TB)
  • St. Louis:  2-2, (Sea, AZ), ((WA, Pit))
  • Minnesota:  2-2, (Det, SD), ((SF, Den))
  • Kansas City:  1-3, (Hou), ((Den, GB, Cin))
  • San Diego:  2-2, (Det, Cle), ((Cin, Min))
  • Washington:  2-2, (St.L, Phi), ((Mia, NYG))

Back-to-back heartbreaking losses to the Cowboys and Falcons were followed by back-to-back really strong wins against the Redskins and Bills.  The Giants are a team who are a couple of unlucky breaks away from 4-0, and the division they’re in is kind of a mess right now.  The Bills might be this year’s enigma team of the AFC (like the Rams in the NFC), or they might have just pounded on a couple of bad teams in Indy and Miami.  Their defense isn’t quite as dominant as we anticipated, but on the flipside their schedule going forward is pretty weak, so if they can continue beating up on bad teams, they might have 7-8 more wins to throw onto the pile.  Carolina couldn’t be more properly rated, outside of the Top 10.  This is a paper tiger 4-0 record if I’ve ever seen one.  They played against three shitty QBs (Bortles, Mallett, Luke McCown) followed by a rookie in Winston.  Their schedule gets remarkably more difficult in the games ahead.  As for the Rams, what can you say?  They’re 2-0 in the division right now and at this pace should end the season 6-10.

I’m having a tough time getting a proper read on the Vikings.  The 49ers are pretty solid on D and the Broncos are probably the best defense in the league.  I still like the talent on this team, but they’re far from perfect.  The Chiefs have had a pretty rough go from the schedule gods early on, with losses to three of the best four teams in the league.  As things get easier, I’d expect the 1-3 record to turn around in a hurry.  The Chargers lost a couple games on the road, to far-away lands of Cincinnati and Minnesota.  I’m not ready to bury them yet, but they better prove they can win a few on the road before I declare them ready for the playoffs.  And don’t look now, but the Redskins are better than we thought!  I’ll throw out that stinker of a Thursday night game, because all of those games on Thursday nights are stinkers.  They’ve played okay defense and gotten just enough out of their quarterback.

  • Oakland:  2-2, (Bal, Cle), ((Cin, Chi))
  • Baltimore:  1-3, (Pit), ((Den, Oak, Cin))
  • Pittsburgh:  2-2, (SF, St.L), ((NE, Bal))
  • Indianapolis:  2-2, (Ten, Jax), ((Buf, NYJ))
  • Detroit:  0-4, ((SD, Min, Den, Sea))
  • New Orleans:  1-3, (Dal), ((AZ, TB, Car))
  • Dallas:  2-2, (NYG, Phi), ((Atl, NO))
  • Miami:  1-3, (WA), ((Jax, Buf, NYJ))

There are going to be lots of ups & downs with a team like the Raiders, hence why they lost to the Bears over the weekend.  Just be glad there are any ups at all.  Baltimore’s yet another team that got hit over the head with the Difficult Early Schedule stick.  It’s promising they were able to pull out a tough one against the Steelers, but at the same time, it’s probably better to temper expectations with that team, given their difficulties on defense and atrocious wide receiver corps.  Pittsburgh is a team I like to do great things this year, but I’ll like them a lot more when Roethlisberger gets healthy.  Indy is a complete trainwreck right now, having managed two wins over two of the worst teams in the league.  I’d say it’s time to temper expectations there too, but have you SEEN their division?

The Lions had a rough early schedule, especially having to play three of their first four on the road.  But, they’re rewarded with 6 of their next 8 games at home.  If they’re going to do ANYTHING after this winless start, they better go on a huge run at home.  The Saints are closer to the Ain’ts than I’ve seen in quite some time, and I don’t think there’s much helping this team.  They might steal a few wins against some crappy teams, but this isn’t much more than a 4- or 5-win team.  The Cowboys will go up this list in a hurry if/when they get Romo and Dez back and start winning some games.  Miami has no one to blame but themselves, as their early schedule hasn’t been all that difficult.  I know I’d hate to lose a home game to London (where there were considerably more Jets fans than “home” team Dolphins fans), but that ugly loss on the road in Jacksonville really sealed Joe Philbin’s fate.

  • Philadelphia:  1-3, (NYJ), ((Atl, Dal, WA))
  • San Francisco:  1-3, (Min), ((Pit, AZ, GB))
  • Chicago:  1-3, (Oak), ((GB, AZ, Sea))
  • Cleveland:  1-3, (Ten), ((NYJ, Oak, SD))
  • Houston:  1-3, (TB), ((KC, Car, Atl))
  • Jacksonville:  1-3, (Mia), ((Car, NE, Ind))
  • Tennessee:  1-2, (TB), ((Cle, Ind))
  • Tampa Bay:  1-3, (NO), ((Ten, Hou, Car))

The Eagles are a disaster; HOW did they beat the Jets???  The 49ers’ offense is a joke and Kaepernick is well on his way to finishing his career as a mediocre backup.  The Bears need Cutler just to look somewhat respectable, and they’re killing any shot they had at the #1 overall draft pick by playing him (who thought I’d ever say that?).  The Browns look somewhat spry, but ultimately should go nowhere.  The Texans look the opposite of spry.  They probably have to play Mallett, just to see what they have in him (as we all know what Hoyer is capable of), but they’ll never win with him and would honestly be better off giving Hoyer a go and seeing if he’s enough to get them over the hump that is Indy’s floating carcass.  The Jags are the Jags, and that’s all they’ll ever be.  The Titans looked great in week 1, until we all realized they beat up on the NFL’s Junior Varsity squad.  The Bucs should be pretty awesome in a few years, if they can keep piling up on #1 overall draft picks.

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

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

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

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

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

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

NFC East

Dallas
NY Giants
Philadelphia
Washington

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

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

NFC North

Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

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

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

NFC South

Carolina
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

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

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

NFC West

Seattle
St. Louis
Arizona
San Francisco

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

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

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

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
NY Jets

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

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

AFC North

Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland

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

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

AFC South

Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville
Tennessee

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

AFC West

Kansas City
Denver
San Diego
Oakland

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

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

NFC Playoffs

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

AFC Playoffs

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

Wild Card Round

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

Divisional Round

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

Championship Round

Seattle over Dallas
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Indianapolis

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

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

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

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

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