The End Of November Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Just wondering, are any other fantasy football owners of Ezekiel Elliott now limping into the playoffs, soon to meet a staggering demise when they’d once looked like world-beaters?

I have him in two (10-team, 2-QB) leagues.  In one league, I drafted him in the middle of the fourth round.  That team is currently in first place; thankfully, I was able to maneuver my team and gather in enough reinforcements to keep things afloat.  If things continue, I see no reason why I shouldn’t compete for a championship (with Elliott returning in Week 16 to give me that final boost over the top).

In my other league, it’s not only a 10-team, 2-QB league, but it’s also a 3-Keeper league with 6 playoff spots (top 2 get BYEs in the first round).  Elliott was to be another team’s keeper, and with the 6-game suspension looming, I pounced on him before the draft, giving up Brandin Cooks in the process.  I figured I’d struggle in the early going, but go on a run towards the end of the season, maybe sneak into the playoffs and roar through to a championship.  That was the plan anyway.

And then the suspension kept getting kicked down the road, and I thought maybe I’d luck out and he’d avoid the suspension altogether!  Or, at the very least, either knock it down a few games, or delay it to the 2018 season.  Instead, the suspension kicked in at almost the worst possible time.

Three weeks ago, in this keeper league, I was in first place, looking like a strong candidate for one of the BYEs.  Three weeks later, I’m on a 3-game losing streak.  This week will be the last one before the playoffs; I could very well lose in the first round, before I even get a chance to put Elliott back into my lineup!

The real kick in the pants is that Dak Prescott has fallen apart; he’s one of my two quarterbacks (alongside Carson Wentz, who is looking like the best QB I’ve ever kept).  You’d think a GOOD quarterback would step up to the occasion; with Elliott down, he’d pick up the slack and keep the Cowboys’ offense moving.  Instead, he’s gotten me less than 1 point in the last two weeks, and is causing me to reconsider his candidacy as one of my three keepers for next year (the other option would be Leonard Fournette, whose first six weeks were Elliott-level outstanding, but whose last six weeks have been sucking my will to live).  I mean, if Dak can’t get it done because everything around him isn’t absolutely perfect (RB suspension, offensive line injuries), then how can he be counted upon for the long haul?

I’d hate to be a Dallas Cowboys fan right now, I’ll tell you that much.  Bring back Tony Romo indeed!

  • Philadelphia (10-1)
  • New England (9-2)
  • Minnesota (9-2)
  • Pittsburgh (9-2)
  • L.A. Rams (8-3)
  • New Orleans (8-3)
  • Carolina (8-3)
  • Atlanta (7-4)

A lot of good teams beat up on a lot of bad teams this past week.  The most impressive win was probably the Vikings over the Lions; they look like the real deal.  The Rams also took down the Saints, which gives them quite the boost.  I’ll be interested to see how the NFC South shakes out.

  • Jacksonville (7-4)
  • Seattle (7-4)
  • L.A. Chargers (5-6)
  • Detroit (6-5)
  • Tennessee (7-4)
  • Baltimore (6-5)
  • Buffalo (6-5)
  • Kansas City (6-5)

The Jags’ amazing defense is going to keep them in every game, which is good.  Their terrible offense is going to give them a chance to lose every game too.  They’re simultaneously the team no one wants to play in the playoffs as well as the team no one really fears all that much.  I think the Chargers are going to steamroll over the competition the rest of the way; look out for them in the Wild Card round.  And what the fuck happened to the Chiefs???

  • Washington (5-6)
  • Dallas (5-6)
  • Oakland (5-6)
  • Cincinnati (5-6)
  • Arizona (5-6)
  • Green Bay (5-6)
  • Tampa Bay (4-7)
  • N.Y. Jets (4-7)

All those 5-6 teams thought they were going to be considerably better heading into the season.  And yet, none of them are really eliminated!  I’d watch out for Oakland and Cincy, as I could see either of them snatching that 6-seed in the AFC.  The loser of the Dallas/Washington game this week is probably finished.  Also, good on the Packers for looking frisky against the Steelers (who notoriously play down to the level of their competition, but still).  If the Packers can steal a couple games before Aaron Rodgers gets back, I’d be concerned if I was the rest of the NFC.

  • Miami (4-7)
  • Houston (4-7)
  • Denver (3-8)
  • Indianapolis (3-8)
  • Chicago (3-8)
  • N.Y. Giants (2-9)
  • San Francisco (1-10)
  • Cleveland (0-11)

I give you:  the least fun teams to watch on TV and/or root for.

The Seahawks Played A Fourth Pre-Season Game and I Drafted A Fantasy Football Team

What do you want from me?  It was a meaningless fourth pre-season game where most of the starters didn’t even play a single snap.  The Seahawks beat the Raiders 17-13 thanks to a final TD-drive by Austin Davis in the fourth quarter against scrubs.  The backup quarterback controversy is in full effect, and I couldn’t care less.

On top of that, I didn’t even get to see the vast majority of it, because my primary fantasy football league held its draft at the same time.  So, instead of pouring over the stats from the game, and speculating on who will get cut and who might get traded (Kearse, Lane, Collins?), I’m going to tell you about my fantasy football draft.

I know no one gives a shit about anyone else’s fantasy football team but their own, but this is my blog and I’ll rosterbate if I want to!

For starters, you should know that it’s a 2-keeper league that’s set up to expand to a 3-keeper league in 2018.  Meaning, we have to keep 2 players from last year’s roster, with the knowledge going into this draft that we’ll have to keep 3 players next year.

Next up, you should know that it’s a 10-team league, head-to-head, with a 6-team playoff system (top 2 teams get first round BYEs).  The bottom four teams play in a Consolation Bracket whereupon the winner of said bracket gets to draft first overall, and the rest of the draft order goes backwards from there.  Since I lost in the championship of the Consolation Bracket, I drafted second overall.

As you might surmise, my 2016 team wasn’t very good.  I spent the entire year obsessing over the simple fact of just getting two quality keepers on my team, because my 2015 team was just as bad.  It’s been a vicious cycle of mediocrity for many years now.  Instead of investing in my future, by drafting the likes of Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson in their rookie seasons, I’ve been forging my own path full of veterans with disasterous results.  So, last year, I said, “NO MORE!”  And yet, somehow the best I could muster was keeping Carson Wentz and Brandin Cooks.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Wentz.  I mostly like him because people in the know, scouts and whatnot, keep telling me he’s going to be one of the good ones.  I read stories about how he’s a football junkie and is working out all the time and so on and so forth and it gives me hope that maybe in a year or two he’ll be Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson, and that I’ll have gotten in on the ground floor of a keeper I can enjoy for many years to come!

As for Cooks, he was the best of the rest on my roster last year.  I like him a lot too, especially because he was traded to New England, and hearing stories about him and Brady hitting it off on the practice field gave me cause to jump for joy.

But, you know, it’s not like we’re talking about Aaron Rodgers and LeVeon Bell here.  These aren’t superstars, and there are very valid concerns about them producing in the future.

Also, you should know about our league:  it’s a 2-QB system.  Gameday rosters look like this:  QB, QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, RB/WR/TE Flex, K, DEF, with 5 bench spots.  It’s a PPR league (1 point per reception), with any and all TDs worth 6 points, and it heavily skews in favor of the quarterback (unlike standard leagues, where top RBs are king, in our league, if you don’t have two good QBs, you might as well fucking kill yourself).  So, in that sense, it’s like the real NFL, except we doubled up on QBs per team because it’s only a 10-team league and it’s insane to have viable starting QBs on the waiver wire during BYE weeks.

So, that sets the stage.  Long story short:  my keepers are kinda sucky, I’m drafting #2 overall, and I need to be in a position to keep 3 guys next year.

Now, a little wrinkle!  I worked out a pre-draft trade with the guy who kept Ezekiel Elliott!  What with his 6-game suspension looming to start the season, and my friend ostensibly holding out hope for a championship this year, he accepted a straight-up swap of Cooks for Elliott.  With Julian Edelman going on IR in subsequent days, it looked like he was going to get a lot more value out of the deal.  However, with it appearing like Elliott might shake this whole suspension thing (from 6 games to 0, thanks to the NFL’s bungling), I might have the steal of the draft on my hands!

Of course, going forward, I have to worry about Elliott’s character concerns, while Cooks is by all accounts a model citizen on a championship team, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, instead of Wentz & Cooks, it’s Wentz & Elliott.  I can work with that!

I don’t want to list out everyone else’s keepers, so hopefully you’ll glean from context who was kept (lots of QBs, most of the tip-top skill-position players).  Going into the first two picks, I surmised the best two players available (for our particular league and no one else’s) were LeVeon Bell and Dak Prescott (the guy who had Bell last year opted to keep his stud QBs; he was obviously league champion).  I was pretty sure the #1 pick overall was going to take a QB, and I was pretty sure that QB was going to be Dak.  But, the day of the draft, he texted me that he was going with Marcus Mariota, another young, up-and-coming fantasy points hog.

That left me with the choice of Bell or Dak.  Understanding that there really weren’t any other young stud QBs left in the draft, only veterans and injury risks (Roethlisberger, Rivers, Stafford, Eli, Palmer, Cutler, and so on and so forth), I went with Dak.  I think he’s a superstar in the making and I’m not buying for one second this notion of a sophomore slump.  His TD/INT ratio this year might not be as crazy as last year, but I think we’ll see a spike in his overall TDs and yards thrown to MORE than make up for the regression.

As we snaked our way through the next round and a half, it dawned upon me that a lot of those veteran/injury risk QBs I listed above were flying off the board, to my shock and awe.  My hope, heading into this draft, was to get Dak and wrap around at pick 19 and snag Roethlisberger.  That way, I could bench Wentz and save him for when Roethlisberger ultimately gets injured (and hope that by that time Wentz would have asserted himself as a full-fledged fantasy starter in this league).  No such luck.  In fact, as the draft would shake out, I was completely and totally unable to pick up a backup QB.

At the tail end of the second round, after it was clear I wouldn’t get my rock of a backup QB, I was hoping to land Dez Bryant and have the Dallas Cowboys trifecta, but he was snagged 3 picks before me.  Michael Thomas, from New Orleans, fell WAY farther than I would’ve thought (I’m VERY high on Thomas this year and going forward), but was taken 2 picks before me.  There were a lot of options left, but I went with Leonard Fournette, in the hopes that he’ll become Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 (minus the domestic abuse charges).  The fact that he plays for the Jags scares me, as does the fact that he’s a rookie with a terrible QB in front of him, so much so that I might not even start him in Week 1 (such is my mania).  But, the instant he gets me a 20-point game for my bench, he’ll be locked into my starting lineup going forward.

I wrapped around and took Gronk in the third round.  A sure thing from a fantasy persepctive, and one of the very biggest question-marks from an injury perspective.  Either way, there weren’t a lot of good receivers left, so I took Best Player Available.

At this point, my team is Wentz, Dak, Elliott, Fournette, and Gronk.  Still no actual wide receivers.

By the time the draft got back to me, a lot more good receivers went off the board, so in keeping with my Best Player Available strategy, I took Carlos Hyde, RB of the 49ers.  I think he’s going to have a monster year as the best offensive weapon on that team.  Wrapping around, still without an amazing receiver option, I took Lamar Miller of the Texans.  So, now I’ve got 2 QBs, 4 RBs, 0 WRs, and 1 TE.

At my next pick, I knew I had to take a receiver, regardless of what was left out there.  For me, it came down to Emmanuel Sanders of DEN and Jamison Crowder of WAS.  Thankfully, the decision was made for me by the guy drafting right before me as he took Sanders.  Crowder it was.  Wrapping around, I was sure I was going to take Stefon Diggs of the Vikings, and ultimately this might be the pick I end up regretting the most.  See, with Yahoo’s rankings (yeah, we play on Yahoo, sue us), I saw an opportunity for another young, up-and-coming running back in Derrick Henry (the way the rankings were set, I doubt he would’ve been there for me nearly 20 picks later).  I had him all last year, and all last year he was decidedly behind DeMarco Murray on the depth chart.  I waited ALL YEAR for Murray to get hurt, and not only did he stay healthy, but he was in the top 3 of all backs in rushing attempts!  And this was in spite of the fact that whenever Henry did get the ball, he looked really fucking good (and, of course, he was a high draft pick for the Titans last year).

So, I’m rolling the dice on Year 2 of Derrick Henry.  If Murray gets injured, I’ve got a Top 5 running back to throw onto the pile (or use as trade bait for a stud receiver).  But, if Murray plays like he did last year, then I’ll have missed out on Diggs, or any number of receivers selected after him.  Roster status:  2 QBs, 5 RBs, 1 WR, 1 TE.

With my next two picks, I went receiver happy to compensate.  Unfortunately, by this time, the cupboards were pretty bare.  One of my new lines of thinking on receivers is:  taking the best ones from bad teams.  There are a couple of Browns receivers I really like, the Chargers guys are interesting, but I went with Pierre Garcon of the 49ers.  Yeah, he’s getting up there, but have you SEEN their depth chart?  And, I know, Brian Hoyer is their QB, but he’s still going to complete SOME passes, and he’s going to have to throw them to SOMEONE.  Garcon is most likely to get the lion’s share of the targets and touches that don’t go to Carlos Hyde (yes, I know, having not one but two 49ers on my team is just asking for trouble).  If he stays healthy, he could be a nice little steal for me.  Then, I wrapped around and picked up Willie Snead.  I’ve always liked him as a #2 option in New Orleans, but he seems to have REALLY fallen out of favor this pre-season (at least, according to reports), as the Saints have Michael Thomas as their clear #1, and the newly-signed Ted Ginn as a guy competing for #2 reps.  I dunno, I’ve always thought Sneed had good ball skills in the red zone, so I went with him over Ginn (secretly hoping I could snag Ginn the next time the draft got back to me, where I could keep the best one and waive the loser, but it wasn’t to be).

At that point, I had 2 QBs, 5 RBs, 3 WRs, and 1 TE.  I could officially field a full offense plus a flex spot, plus have enough RBs left over to compensate for a possible Elliott suspension.  I had to go get a Defense the next time up, because all the best ones were flying off the board.

I wanted Houston’s defense really bad, but he went 5 spots ahead of me, so I settled on Minnesota’s D.  We’ll see.  On the wrap-around, I picked up Eric Decker of the Titans.  He’s a touchdown machine, but he’s older and coming off injury, so it wouldn’t shock me if he isn’t long for my team.

Heading into the last two picks of the draft, a few Kickers had already been taken, but Stephen Gostkowski was still there for me so I somehow have New England’s kicker free of charge.  With my final pick, I took Rishard Matthews (a guy my friend wanted, but he accidentally took Jordan Matthews instead, a few picks before me).  I think Rishard is awfully underrated as a guy who had a pretty solid season for the Titans last year.  Neither he, nor Decker, figure to start for me out of the gate.  But, I’ll monitor both of them and keep the guy who’s more reliable.

Final Roster looks like this:

  • QB – Dak Prescott
  • QB – Carson Wentz
  • RB – Ezekiel Elliott
  • RB – Carlos Hyde
  • WR – Jamison Crowder
  • WR – Pierre Garcon
  • TE – Rob Gronkowski
  • Flex – (RB) Lamar Miller
  • K – Stephen Gostkowski
  • DEF – Minnesota

With my bench looking like this:

  • RB – Leonard Fournette
  • RB – Derrick Henry
  • WR – Willie Sneed
  • WR – Eric Decker
  • WR – Rishard Matthews

Look, I don’t love it, all right!  I’m not boasting here!  I love my running back situation, of course, but I have far-and-away the worst set of wide receivers in the entire league.  I’ve got a top-flight kicker, a good-enough defense, and the best tight end in the game (when healthy).  As for my quarterbacks, they’re young.  One was great last year (Dak), one got a lot of experience and took his lumps (Wentz).  The picking’s are pretty slim on the waiver wire, as far as QBs are concerned.  Most of the rookies are there, alongside a few of the very worst starters this league has to offer.  So, if Wentz can’t get it going early, I might be stuck with a Hoyer or a Kizer.

On the plus side, I think regardless of what happens, I should have 3 viable keepers heading into 2018, and that’s all I can really ask for.  If Wentz pans out, I’ll keep my two QBs and Elliott.  If Wentz doesn’t look good, or if Fournette really busts out, I might go with Dak and the two RBs.

Here goes nothing.

Short Week For Me: Seahawks/Saints Preview

Is it unfortunate timing on my part to be going to Disneyland on such an important football weekend as this weekend?  Is it even more unfortunate that whenever I take these trips to California, the Seahawks always seem to inevitably lose to some team they have no business losing to?

Hi, meet the New Orleans Saints:  some team the Seahawks have no business losing to.

The Saints are 2-4, with wins over Carolina and the Chargers, and losses to Kansas City, Atlanta, the Giants and the Raiders.  Are they any good?  Tough to say.  They’re certainly better than they were last year, but it would almost be impossible to NOT be better.  Particularly here, I’m talking about their defense, which went from being among the worst all time, to still pretty bad.  They still give up the most points per game in the league, but they only give up the FOURTH-most yards in the league, compared to second-most of last year.

Their worst trait is their pass defense (3rd-most yards given up in the NFL), but they’re still in the bottom third in rush yards given up as well.  They’re middle-of-the-road in takeaways with 8, but 6 of those are fumble recoveries, which are flukey as hell.  They’re also tied for the 3rd-fewest sacks with 9 on the year.

So, in other words, this defense is literally the exact opposite as the one we saw down in Arizona.  If the Seahawks can’t move the ball at will against this unit, they’ve got deeper problems than just a leaky offensive line.

On the flipside, the Saints get the second-most yards per game (behind Atlanta) and the third-most points per game (behind Atlanta and San Diego).  It’s neither here nor there that the Saints have played some of the least intimidating defenses in football in their six games so far, in the eyeball test they look like the real deal.  Drew Brees is up to his old tricks, and they’ve finally re-loaded their passing game with lethal wide receiver weapons.

Brandin Cooks is an all-around fantastic receiver, who has over-the-top speed.  Willie Snead, when healthy, is a tall, physical possession receiver who – if we’re not careful – will have 12 catches before we even blink.  Rookie Michael Thomas looks like he was cut from the Marques Colston mold.  Then, you’ve got newly-signed tight end Coby Fleener who hasn’t done a TON of damage yet with his new team, but that’s just because he hasn’t played against the Seahawks yet.

Their running game, while maddening from a fantasy perspective, is still good enough to keep you honest.  I like Mark Ingram as a power back, even if he’s criminally under-utilized on the goalline.  Of course, they brought in John Kuhn (from Green Bay) to vulture those TDs.  And the resurgence of Tim Hightower is one of the better NFL stories of the last year.  Top it off with a veteran, stout O-line (led by Max Unger and the return of Jahri Evans, once we cut him before Week 1), and you’ve got all the makings of an offense that should be able to do a helluva lot more than the Cardinals last week.

How do the Seahawks win this game?  Well, it’s not realistic to expect them to replicate what they were able to do last week on defense, so if the Saints come down for some easy early touchdowns, don’t piss your pants.  Granted, they will have to get SOME stops, but this game is all on the offense.  I think we need, minimum, 28 points to win this game.  And, if we can’t do that – if we can’t get out of our own way with penalties and allowing the pressure to get to Wilson too quickly – then stop the season, because I want to get off!

This would be a great game for the offense to try to get the run game going.  Ground and pound early and often, let the run game work for you to open up more opportunistic passing plays.  I hate to go all Member Berries on you, but ‘member the Seahawks’ offense from three years ago?  ‘Member how awesome it was to control the clock and take calculated risks down field through the air?  Let’s do that again.

Biggest Concern This Week: The Receivers

Doug Baldwin is good.  Really, really good.  He’s not what you would consider an elite #1 a la Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, or A.J. Green, but nobody asked him to be.  That’s not his game.  He’s not going to run a bunch of vertical routes, leap over defenders, and make crazy catches in traffic.  He’s also not a burner, a la T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks, or John Brown; he’s not going to blaze past defenders for a bunch of 40-yard bombs.  He works out of the slot, but he’s MORE than your traditional slot guy, a la Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, or Randall Cobb.  He can do it all, he can line up anywhere, and his best attributes are his hands, his smarts, and his route running.  With those three things, Doug Baldwin is just as capable and effective as any of the guys I’ve listed in this paragraph.  He doesn’t need freakish size or speed.  The best comp, in all honesty, is probably Antonio Brown, who I feel is the best wide receiver in the game of football today (although, to be fair, Brown does have superior speed to get to those deep balls).  In a more pass-friendly offense, Doug Baldwin would be a top 5 or at the very least a top 10 receiver in this league.

In Seattle, Doug Baldwin is a #1 who’s not really a #1.  And, this week, he may be looking at his greatest test since the Super Bowl against New England.

The Panthers are down to one healthy starting cornerback.  He just so happens to be Josh Norman, who is on the final year of his deal while at the same time playing the best football of his career.  He’s a legit Top 5 shutdown corner in the league, and he’s looking at a significant payday once his season ends.  Much like Richard Sherman, Norman generally plays on the outside.  While he CAN follow receivers into the slot, he usually doesn’t.  This is the rationale for why Seahawks fans should be comfortable with the receiving matchups this week; because other than Norman, Carolina is forced into playing a couple guys they “picked up off the streets”.

On the flipside, the Seahawks have been reduced to the following because of injuries:  Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  I might be in the minority here, but I just don’t see why Carolina would choose to play status quo defense when they’ve got a shutdown corner and the Seahawks have one of the hottest receivers in the league.  We’ve seen Richard Sherman follow a receiver all around the field from time to time this year; I’m sure Josh Norman has done the same thing.  If I’m coaching for Carolina, this is the week I’m taking full advantage of all that Josh Norman has to offer.  And, while Doug Baldwin will get SOME catches, I highly doubt he’ll have this huge, impactful game (if, indeed, my theory is correct).

So, where does that leave us?  Well, for starters, I’m not expecting much at all out of our running game this week.  Carolina’s front seven is as good as it gets and should have no problem keeping us in check.  This game is going to hinge on the arm of Russell Wilson, which means it’s going to hinge on the other receivers getting open for him.

I like Jermaine Kearse as much as the next guy.  He runs pretty clean routes in his own right, and for the most part I trust him to catch whatever he gets his hands on.  But, his frequency of making big plays has diminished considerably this year; he’s essentially become a possession receiver in 2015.  Maybe he’s just saving it all up for another chance to be the hero in the NFC Championship Game, but this week would be a really good opportunity for him to break out.

The one person I forgot about when I started this post is Tyler Lockett.  He has, by all measures, had a wildly successful rookie season.  He’s an All Pro returner, and has cemented himself as this team’s third receiver.  He’s had a few big games (three combined touchdowns in the two games against the 49ers, 7 catches for 90 yards in the first Minnesota game, 6 catches for 104 yards and 2 TDs in the Baltimore game), but for the most part has had the kind of season you’d expect from a quality rookie receiver trying to break through on a championship-calibre team (averaging approximately 3 catches for 41.5 yards per game and a TD every third game or so).  We’ve seen Lockett’s over-the-top speed beat some defenders for big plays this year, but where his game is lacking a little bit is his ability to high point a ball and win those deep catches in traffic.  Obviously, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but how many times have we seen Russell Wilson launch a 50/50 jump ball to Lockett, with that ball ultimately falling incomplete?  That’s where you miss a guy like Golden Tate; that’s where you’d ultimately like to draft a guy like DeAndre Hopkins to do that for you.

If the Seahawks are going to be successful against the Panthers this week, Tyler Lockett is going to have to really bust out.  There’s no reason why he shouldn’t get open on the reg against the likes of Cortland Finnegan (who I actually suspect will try to manhandle Kearse throughout the game) or Robert McClain.  I honestly sort of expected him to have more of an impact in the Vikings game last week, but the cold rendered that moot.  THIS WEEK, however, should be the week where he breaks his foot off in their asses.

I suspect, unless injuries arise, we won’t see much out of Kevin Smith or Kasen Williams this week outside of special teams.  I nevertheless maintain my belief that we will see at least ONE huge play out of Kevin Smith that nobody will see coming.  Maybe it’s a deep ball in traffic, maybe it’s a short catch and a lot of YAC.  Something!  Just watch.  As for Williams, I feel the Seahawks are missing a great opportunity there.  Williams DOES have a great ability to high point balls and come down with difficult catches in traffic.  If we’re smart, the Seahawks will include a few sub-packages with Williams, like we did with Chris Matthews in the Super Bowl last year.

This week is also the perfect week to get Luke Willson back.  I can’t even begin to tell you how tired I am of Cooper Helfet being our #1 tight end.  Not that I don’t like Helfet.  I think as a #2 or a #3, Helfet is quite effective.  But, his game is diminished the more he’s forced into the limelight.  I would assume Carolina’s defense is pretty stout against tight ends, what with their monster linebackers, but at least Willson presents a respectable challenge and will have to keep them honest.

I may be off base in this part of the game being my biggest concern – after all, Carolina’s secondary right now is much more palatable than it is at full strength – but it’s going to be imperative that our guys find ways to get open and get open quickly.  Their pass rush is insane, so being on time and staying on schedule is the best way we have of winning this game.