The Bitterly-Disappointing Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

I have absolutely nothing to say up here, so let’s jump right into the rankings.

  • Philadelphia (8-1)
  • New England (6-2)
  • Pittsburgh (6-2)
  • L.A. Rams (6-2)
  • New Orleans (6-2)
  • Dallas (5-3)
  • Kansas City (6-3)
  • Minnesota (6-2)

A lot of shuffling of teams who were on a BYE this week.  While the Rams may or may not be the real deal, they have almost the exact same schedule as the Seahawks, and they’re playing a helluva lot better.  Dallas is certainly taking charge, though again, we’ll see if Elliott gets re-re-re-re-re-suspended, and what that means for their consistency.  The Vikings feel pretty good to me, but no where near a Super Bowl-calibre team.

  • Seattle (5-3)
  • Detroit (4-4)
  • Washington (4-4)
  • Carolina (6-3)
  • Buffalo (5-3)
  • Tennessee (5-3)
  • Jacksonville (5-3)
  • Oakland (4-5)

I can’t rank the Seahawks behind the Redskins; WE’RE BETTER THAN THEM!  They didn’t beat the Seahawks, the Seahawks beat the Seahawks (and they tend to do that a lot).  Detroit could be poised to go on a nice little second-half run, if they can take down the Vikings a second time.  I’m not so much a believer in Carolina because I’m not so much a believer in Cam Newton.  Starting to really come around on that Jacksonville defense though.  Don’t let me down, Oakland.  I feel like putting the Raiders in the top half is a stretch, and more leap of faith than anything else.

  • Atlanta (4-4)
  • N.Y. Jets (4-5)
  • L.A. Chargers (3-5)
  • Baltimore (4-5)
  • Denver (3-5)
  • Miami (4-4)
  • Arizona (4-4)
  • Indianapolis (3-6)

These are the teams that are boring as fuck to watch.  So, yay to this week’s Seattle/Arizona Thursday Night game, I guess.  Part of me wishes the Colts would just fire their coaching staff already.  I feel like Chuck Pagano would be better served in an organization that knew what the fuck it was doing.  Like the Steelers, or the Packers or something.  I mean, almost any other coach with that Colts team is probably winless right now.

  • Chicago (3-5)
  • Houston (3-5)
  • Tampa Bay (2-6)
  • Cincinnati (3-5)
  • Green Bay (4-4)
  • N.Y. Giants (1-7)
  • San Francisco (0-9)
  • Cleveland (0-8)

Lotta teams no one expected to be in this group (Houston, Tampa, Cincy, Green Bay, Giants).  The 49ers are secretly turning into my worst nightmare:  a young, talented team, tanking this year, though they just traded for a potential franchise QB, and they’re almost guaranteed to get another Top 5 draft pick in 2018.  They are going to be SCARY in 2-3 years (maybe as early as NEXT year)!  Cleveland is the opposite of that.  Though, let’s be real, they probably dodged a huge bullet in not pulling off that A.J. McCarron deal.  If that guy isn’t a dud, then my name isn’t Steven A. Taylor.

If Terrell Davis Is A Hall Of Famer, Why Not Shaun Alexander? Marshawn Lynch?

I was going to get to this earlier in the week, but work happened.  And, I didn’t want to half-ass this one.  And since there weren’t any other things I COULD half-ass, you get the 2-day gap in posts.

So, apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever, the name Jamal Lewis popped into my brain, and I got it into my head that he had a crazy amount of rushing yards for a running back to NOT be in the NFL Hall of Fame.  As it turns out, he’s currently only 24th on the list, with 10,607 yards, and there are PLENTY of backs with 10,000+ yards who aren’t in the Hall and quite frankly don’t belong there.  As I look at Jamal’s numbers now, even though he’s one of a VERY small few to have a 2,000-yard season, it’s not a total shocker to see him not in there yet.  He does have seven 1,000 yard seasons in total, but only the one Pro Bowl/All Pro year.  I’ll let some Ravens fan make the case for Jamal Lewis; this is a Seattle-centric blog for Christ’s sake.  I’m here to talk about Shaun Alexander, and yeah, Marshawn Lynch, relative to the recently-inducted Terrell Davis.

So, when I looked at the list of the running backs with the most yards in NFL history – to check and see where Jamal Lewis stood – I went ahead and dug around to see where Terrell Davis landed.  Knowing nothing, aside from the fact that his career was relatively short compared to most running backs you consider to be Hall of Famers, I figured going in that he was sub-10,000 yards.  But, I figured he’d be in the 9,000 range.

NO!  Not even!  Try 7,607!

He’s 55th all time.  The only other Hall of Famers in his range or lower are the REAL old timers.  Like, before the Super Bowl was a thing.  Like, before the AFL and the NFL merged into a single league.

Now, for what it’s worth, I do think Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame.  But, you know, I’m more of an Eye Test guy.  When I say the name Terrell Davis, I think, “Yeah, that guy was one of the all-time greats.”  But, when you see 7,607 staring you back in the face, it’s enough to give you pause.  It gave me pause anyway!

I’ve always maintained that Shaun Alexander was and is a fringe Hall of Famer, but ultimately if you twisted my arm, I’d say probably not.  But, with 7,607 here to consider, I mean, come on!

Shaun Alexander finished with 9,453 yards (Lynch with a little less, so I’ll get to him later in the post).  If you discount his 4 games with the Redskins in the final year of his career, he spent 8 full seasons in Seattle.  Davis did what he did in 7 seasons in Denver, so the career lengths are comparable.  Alexander finished with exactly 100 rushing touchdowns and another 12 receiving TDs; Davis finished with 60 rushing and 5 receiving.  Alexander averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, Davis at 4.6, so not a HUGE difference there.  And, if you go by Approximate Value per Pro Football Reference (the higher the number the better), Alexander finished with a 79, Davis with a 78.

I mean, when you put it all down there like that, and you factor in the extra 1,846 career rushing yards and the extra 47 combined touchdowns, how is Shaun Alexander not even in the conversation and Terrell Davis is already in?

Politics aside – because I will say this:  it IS a popularity contest, no matter what you hear from anyone; if the voters don’t like you (*cough* Terrell Owens *cough*), you’re screwed – it’s kind of insane.  But, one thing we were told is that Terrell Davis’ induction is a referendum on the production he had in his Peak Years.  I think, going forward, for a lot of these players on offense – as the numbers skyrocket, as rules changes make the game more high scoring – unless you have just insane career totals, you’re going to need to build your case in your Peak Years, when you were at your very best.  How many Peak Years did you have, and how dominant were you in those years?

Terrell Davis was drafted in 1995.  He had a pretty good rookie year, but his very best years were 1996-1998.  From 1999-2001, he played in a grand total of 17 games and was out of football after that.  So, really, we’re talking about a 3-year span, but since he ended up in the top 10 in rushing in his rookie year, we’ll include that to give him a 4-year Peak.

  • In 1995, he ran for 1,117 yards and 7 TDs, good for 9th in yards and outside the top 10 in TDs.
  • In 1996, he ran for 1,538 yards and 13 TDs, good for 2nd in yards (behind Barry Sanders) and tied for 3rd in TDs with Ricky Watters, behind Curtis Martin’s 14 and Terry Allen’s 21.
  • In 1997, he ran for 1,750 yards and 15 TDs, good for 2nd in yards (behind Barry Sanders’ 2,000 yard season) and tied for 1st in TDs with Karim Abdul-Jabbar.
  • In 1998, he ran for 2,008 yards and 21 TDs, good for 1st in yards and TDs.

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl and first team All Pro three times, 1996-1998.  He won the NFL’s MVP award in 1998.  He led the Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, winning the Super Bowl MVP the first time and ceding it to John Elway the second time.  He was placed on the 2nd team All-1990s team to boot.

So, that’s the resume, more or less.  How does that compare to Shaun Alexander’s Peak Years?  Well, he didn’t start as a rookie in 2000, which was understandable at the time – we still had a prime Ricky Watters giving us his all – but will likely go down as the reason why Alexander ultimately doesn’t make the Hall.  If he were to hang another 1,000 yard season on his career totals, with another 10 or so TDs, I don’t see how you could keep him out.  Regardless, I’m giving Alexander a total of 5 Peak Years, from 2001-2005.  He topped 1,000 yards each year and had no less than 14 rushing TDs in each of those years!  To wit:

  • In 2001, he ran for 1,318 yards and 14 TDs, good for 6th in yards and 1st in TDs.
  • In 2002, he ran for 1,175 yards and 16 TDs, outside the top 10 in yards, but tied for 2nd with Ricky Williams in TDs (behind Priest Holmes).
  • In 2003, he ran for 1,435 yards and 14 TDs, good for 8th in yards and tied for 3rd in TDs with Clinton Portis & the aforementioned Jamal Lewis, behind Ahman Green and Priest Holmes again.
  • In 2004, he ran for 1,696 yards and 16 TDs, good for 2nd (by ONE YARD behind Curtis Martin) in yards and 2nd in TDs behind LaDainian Tomlinson.
  • In 2005, he ran for 1,880 yards and 27 TDs, good for 1st in yards and tying a then-NFL record for TDs in a season (to be broken by LDT the very next year with 28, who holds it to this day).

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl three times (2003-2005), made first team All Pro one time, in 2005.  He won the NFL’s MVP award in 2005.  He led the Seahawks to just one Super Bowl appearance in the 2005 season (he likely would’ve been the Super Bowl MVP had the refs not screwed us over, but that’s neither here nor there).  And, he was placed on the 2nd team All-2000s team.

I guess, what you have to ask yourself is, what do you take more stock in?  Shaun Alexander had a longer Peak, and arguably a better one.  I mean, those touchdown totals are INSANE for a 5-year run!  Terrell Davis didn’t set or tie any single-season marks!  So, do you rank that higher, or do you rank Davis’ Super Bowl success higher?

You gotta admit, it’s a helluva story.  Terrell Davis helps the long-suffering John Elway get his only two Super Bowl titles as he rides off into the sunset.  While Shaun Alexander led an okay Seahawks reign in the mid-2000s, that only got to the lone Super Bowl, and lost it in frustrating fashion.

You might sit here and argue that Shaun Alexander had a couple of Hall of Famers in Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson to run behind, but Terrell Davis had a very good O-Line in his own right.  On top of that, let’s face it, the zone blocking scheme Denver was running back then was relatively new, and the NFL hadn’t really adapted to defending it.  Which is why you saw so many Denver running backs in those days plucked from the bottom of the draft and making huge impacts.  I’d put all of that as a wash, or even a little in Davis’ favor.

Where I think Shaun Alexander might have some trouble is that he spent most of his career in LDT’s shadow.  Sure, there were good running backs playing when Terrell Davis had his reign, but I don’t think there were as many as when Shaun Alexander was doing his thing.  The running back position as a whole really exploded in the early-to-mid 2000s.  I mean, shit, with Davis’ induction, now we’re talking about Priest Fucking Holmes having an argument to be included!  The guy only had 3 good years and was injured the rest of the time for fuck’s sake!

It’s a shame, too, because Shaun Alexander came up in the era where Fantasy Football really exploded.  If that has any effect whatsoever, then you have to remember that Shaun Alexander was ALWAYS a top 2 pick in any fantasy draft, with LDT.  The game of football, at its purest, is about scoring touchdowns and preventing the other team from scoring touchdowns.  There weren’t many running backs in the history of the league who had a nose for scoring touchdowns the way Shaun Alexander did.  In fact, looking at the leaderboard, Alexander is tied for 7th with Marshall Faulk for his 100 touchdowns.  He only falls to 13th in combined rushing & receiving TDs as well.  Davis is 48th & 120th respectively.

I dunno!  Maybe I’m a homer.  Or, maybe I’m a fucking purist and Shaun Alexander deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame!

Now, regarding Marshawn Lynch, I think he has an even-tougher road to hoe than Alexander in a lot of ways.  He has 6 seasons where he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, his first two with Buffalo and his first four full years with Seattle.  He racked up a career total of 9,112 yards (37th all time) and 74 rushing touchdowns (24th all time), with another 9 receiving TDs.  I won’t discount his first two years in Buffalo, but I’d have to say his Peak Years were the first four full ones with Seattle, so let’s run them down now:

  • In 2011, he ran for 1,204 yards and 12 TDs, good for 7th in yards and tied for 3rd in TDs with AP and Ray Rice, behind Cam Newton and Shady McCoy.
  • In 2012, he ran for 1,590 yards and 11 TDs, good for 3rd in yards and tied for 5th in TDs with Doug Martin and Trent Richardson.
  • In 2013, he ran for 1,257 yards and 12 TDs, good for 6th in yards and tied for 1st in TDs with Jamaal Charles.
  • In 2014, he ran for 1,306 yards and 13 TDs, good for 4th in yards and tied for 1st in TDs with DeMarco Murray.

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl five times (2008, 2011-2014) and the first team All Pro once, in 2012.  No MVPs, but he led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one, and should have won them both.  He was also stripped of a Super Bowl MVP award opportunity by not being handed the ball at the 1-yard line against the Patriots, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, obviously, the numbers aren’t really there for Lynch, compared to Alexander.  But, as I said before, it’s always so much more than just numbers.  Now, I’m not sure Beastmode is going to win many popularity contests, with the way he shunned the media in his later years – particularly in those two Super Bowl seasons – but I also feel like time will heal those wounds somewhat.  I guess it just depends on how many Hall of Fame voters were also those media people who were all bent out of shape about his antics.  I could see that going either way, but it’s hard to see that as a deal-breaker.

What’s very much in Beastmode’s favor is the fact that he was a motherfucking BEAST!  He had, without question, the greatest run in the history of the NFL, PERIOD!  And, if you search for a reel of highlights, I mean, he’s amazing.  For me, he’s on a short-list with guys like Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Jim Brown and maybe that’s it, of guys I just love to watch run with the football.  Guys who could do ANYTHING with the football!  With that mystique behind him?  Compared to Shaun Alexander, who has this reputation for being a bit soft (which I don’t think is totally fair, but it’s out there), I dunno.  I think that pulls Marshawn Lynch up even with Alexander, when you factor in total numbers plus the popularity contest element.

Then, take a look at playoff numbers.  Because I think this is obviously where Terrell Davis got over the hump, with the two Super Bowls and all that.  Davis is 6th all time in playoff yards with 1,140.  Each of the top 7 guys on this list (and 8 of the top 9) are in the Hall of Fame.  Ready for a shocker?  Marshawn Lynch is 8th on this list (and hence the only one of the top 9 not in the Hall) with 937 yards.  That, I think, is going to be a huge feather in his cap, if and when Lynch ever gets his day in the sun.

So, where do you look next?  I’ll tell you:  the era.  Shaun Alexander played in the last era of the great running backs.  Once he hung ’em up, and teams started realizing you could find quality running backs later in the draft, and pair them in these shared backfields teams have gone to, to mitigate injury risk and running back paydays, you just don’t see as many workhorses as you used to.  In that sense, Marshawn Lynch has a leg up, because he was a rare breed in that regard.  A workhorse and right up there at the top for his 4-year Peak run with Adrian Peterson and that’s about it.

At this point, once we start passing by the Hall of Famers in the first decade of the 2000s and get into the 2010s, you have to shift your expectations for what a Hall of Fame running back looks like.  You can’t just STOP putting running backs in the Hall of Fame, because their numbers aren’t like the video game numbers of the 1990s and early 2000s!

So, I could see a legitimate situation where Shaun Alexander never gets in (which would be a crime) and Marshawn Lynch does get in (which would be well-deserved).

I just hope the media guy who advocates for those two puts up a good fight, because I now think both are VERY deserving, especially if Terrell Davis is already in there.

Seahawks Beat Panthers, Lost Earl Thomas

This fucking stinks.  Is it possible to put Kam, Bobby, Avril & Bennett in bubble wrap for the rest of the regular season and just take our chances with still making the playoffs and the 2-seed?

WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS?!?!?!

WHY CAN’T WE JUST HAVE OUR FULL TEAM FULLY HEALTHY AT ALL TIMES?!?!?!

Or, shit, how about fully fucking healthy for one fucking game?

The Seahawks beat the shitty Panthers 40-7.  Those 7 points weren’t even legitimate because the guy’s knee was down when he was short of the endzone, but they obviously didn’t have a proper angle to overturn it.  Cam Newton was suspended for the first series of the game for not wearing a tie while the team travelled to Seattle, which turned out to just be the first play of the game, which was an interception thrown by Derek Anderson that led to us scoring a field goal.

Russell Wilson had a pretty good game, 277 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.  Thomas Rawls had an explosive game with 106 yards on 15 carries and 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett had a 75-yard run for a touchdown, as well as 63 yards receiving on 5 catches.  Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse all had over 60 yards receiving apiece, with Graham catching another TD.

The defense didn’t get a ton of pressure on Cam Newton when he finally entered the game, but they played sound fundamentally, and they were able to strip a fumble from Jonathan Stewart.  Newton was just off-target most of the day – aside from a pretty bomb to Ted Ginn for that phantom TD – and his receivers were harassed by our secondary for most of the day.  Wagner, Kam, Wright all stood out, as well as the return of Mike Morgan who really made his presence felt with that interception at the top of the game.  I also thought Shead had a solid all-around game as well.

But, what does it matter?  Earl collided with Kam, resulting in Earl breaking his leg.  It means he’s out for the year, which is just fucking great.  Steven Terrell came in and played all right in his place, though the Panthers were able to complete that 55-yard bomb to Ginn on the first play after Earl left the game, which is pretty ominous.

The Seahawks are 8-3-1, for now owners of the NFC’s #2 seed, with Dallas firmly entrenched at the top with an 11-1 record, and Detroit on our heels at 8-4.  Catching Dallas is a non-starter, but holding down the fort at #2 is well within our capabilities, particularly when you figure Detroit’s and Atlanta’s schedules the rest of the way are pretty difficult.

The one cool thing about having a tie on your record is you don’t have to obsess over tie-breaker scenarios like most of these other teams.  I can just shut my brain off and let the overall win/loss record do all the work.

I dunno, I’m sad about what’s gone down.  I’m sad about losing Earl.  And, quite frankly, I’m a little terrified that we have to go into Green Bay next Sunday where it’ll probably be snowing and Aaron Rodgers will probably be licking his chops at the thought of looking Steven Terrell off of a receiver running deep down the middle.

I’m also deeply concerned about this team’s depth.  No one wants Steven Terrell in there starting over Earl, but you REALLY don’t want to see who’s 3rd or 4th in line if Terrell goes down!  Particularly when you figure Kam Chancellor is pretty injury-prone in his own right.

Best not to think about that.  Better to wonder what the fuck Dallas did to deserve such amazing luck with injuries in their own right.  Hell, the one guy who DID get injured – Tony Romo – only opened the door for their next franchise quarterback to lead them to the best record in all of football!  FUCK ME GOD JUST KILL ME NOW I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD!!!

The Seahawks Will Have Real Problems If They Don’t Beat The Panthers This Weekend

I was pretty, I dunno, laid back I guess, in my analysis of last week’s game.  While we’re all used to the Seahawks going on these terrific runs to close out their seasons under Pete Carroll (particularly with Russell Wilson behind center), it seems like every year they have at least one slip up.  A game they lose in November or December – en route to a solid playoff run – that they really should’ve won, but for whatever reason didn’t.

Last year, we lost at home to the Rams.  The year before, it was a road game in Kansas City.  The year before that, it was that crazy home loss to the Cards where Carson Palmer threw four picks and still managed to lead them to a late win.  The year before that, in Wilson’s rookie season, it was that loss in Miami against a pretty mediocre Dolphins team.

So, again, I wouldn’t take too much stock in their loss to Tampa last week.  On the road, across the country, a foe we don’t play very much, with injuries on both sides of the ball.

However, if we lose THIS week … we’ve got issues.

This week, we’re at home, on Sunday Night Football, against a team we’re VERY familiar with, who has had to fly across the country and stay out in San Jose for the week instead of going back and forth twice in two weeks.  And, whereas the Seahawks are getting their guys back – Bennett, Earl, Shead, and Britt have all practiced this week, so as long as they hold up through Saturday, they should play – the Panthers are the ones dealing with major injuries on both sides of the ball.  They’ve lost multiple O-linemen for the year, Luke Kuechly is dealing with another pretty severe concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin has been limited (though he figures to give it a go with a bum shoulder).  The Panthers are also, not for nothing, mired in a post-Super Bowl hangover season where they find themselves 4-7 and in last place in their division.

Make no mistake, as long as they’ve got Cam Newton, they’re more than capable of going on a run to close out the season, but it just feels like this team is dealing with more than simple injury woes.  There’s a fundamental flaw with this team that’s going to keep them out of the playoffs.  MAYBE it’s simply the loss of Josh Norman!  They are giving up 275 yards per game through the air, compared to 234 last year.  I mean, that’s pretty steep.  I know if I were a Panthers fan, I’d be ripping their GM on a weekly basis.

Here’s the thing, though:  being familiar with a team – because you play them so much – isn’t necessarily a good thing.  With all things being equal, it usually leads to a game being relatively close and exciting.  But, if they terrorize our offensive line like they’ve been known to do in recent years, we could be in for another LONG day.

We’ll see how it goes.  I tend to believe the Seahawks – by getting everyone back healthy – will go out and crush the Panthers this weekend.  If we don’t, though, then you have to wonder what that means for the rest of our season.

Next week, we go to Green Bay, another team we’re VERY familiar with, and another supposedly great team having a bad season.  If we can’t beat the Panthers this weekend, what hope do we have of beating the Packers next weekend?  Then, we’re home for the Rams and Cardinals.  I don’t need to tell you about the Rams; and as for the Cards, they’d be the third team in four weeks who went to the playoffs last year and appear to be dead this year.

I mean, this is SUPPOSED to be among the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL!  And yet, every team (except the 49ers in Week 17) terrifies the living dickens out of me!

Except, not really.  I’m of the belief that the Seahawks should win out, because they’re clearly the most talented of the remaining teams on their schedule.  What I’m REALLY afraid of is the Seahawks themselves.  More often than not, if the Seahawks lose, it’s because they beat themselves.  Too many penalties, too many sacks and QB pressures allowed, getting too cute with roster construction (particularly along the O-Line), getting too cute with the play-calling, holding onto the ball too long, taking too long to settle down on defense (or, conversely, giving up too many big plays late), not getting off the field on third downs on defense, not converting third downs on offense.  These are all things that are within OUR control, and when we lose games, it’s because there’s a major breakdown in one or more of these areas.

The Seahawks just need to go out, play Seahawks football, stop losing so many key players to injury, and get the fucking job done.  Cat feesh?

Part 2: Why The Seahawks Will Win The Super Bowl This Year

We got into the Glass Half Empty side of things yesterday.  Today, it’s all about Glass Half Full.

I’ll start here where I started yesterday:  the offensive line.  In this run of dominance the last four years, the Seahawks have never really had a world-beating O-Line.  Sure, Okung was a nice player and a talented first rounder, but he also often found himself injured and being replaced by the likes of Alvin Bailey.  Has that stopped us from winning ballgames or running the ball among the best teams in the league?  Absolutely not!  We’ve gotten by with the likes of James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, and Patrick Lewis – all fine players in their own rights, but ultimately all replacement level players who made their money on the back of this team’s success.

People like to denigrate Russell Wilson, saying he’s just a “system quarterback”, and that had he been put into the wrong situation, he’d be another nobody right now.  Well, by the same token, this is a “system” offensive line, behind Tom Cable’s vision for what this unit should do and do well:  run the football.  It’s always going to struggle somewhat in pass protection – it has the last four years anyway – but like I said before, that hasn’t stopped us yet.

Because we DO have Russell Wilson!  And while he might want to thank his lucky stars the Cleveland Browns didn’t draft him, I think he’s pretty great, and fully capable of making up this O-Line’s shortcomings.  Will he be perfect?  No.  He’ll occasionally run himself into some sacks.  He’ll hold onto the ball too long when he should’ve just thrown it away.  But, he’s also going to do some truly amazing things that only he can do.  And, in the end, that’s going to be more than good enough to make up for the O-Line.

I like our ability to run the ball.  I like the continuity of our receiving corps.  And while I don’t necessarily think Russell Wilson is going to double his second half of last year and turn it into a full season this year, I think he’ll certainly take another step in his progression and by season’s end have had his best year ever.  I don’t know if the offense is going to be the dominant Seahawks unit over the defense, but I think we’ll have put up the most points in franchise history when all is said and done.

I also don’t know if the defense will be able to make it 5 straight years with the fewest points allowed, but if not, they’ll still be close to the top.  I just think, at this point, you know what to expect from this defense.  With everyone here, happy, and healthy to start the season, I think that puts us in the driver’s seat compared to last year, where we had so many issues.  Just having the vets around, practicing, playing, is going to be great for our younger guys.  The kids won’t have to play right away, they can soak in more of the system, more of the game plans, so by the time they ARE pressed into duty, because of injuries or whatever, they’ll be that much better than if they had to start right away and be thrown into the fire prematurely.

Finally, I like what the schedule has to offer.  Let’s break it down, week by week:

Miami, to kick things off on Sunday.  I think this game starts off a little too close for comfort in the first half, but ultimately I think the Seahawks start to blow it out in the second half for a double-digit victory.

At Los Angeles, for their regular season home opener.  By all rights, I’d be a fool to lock this one down as a win.  The Rams, particularly under Jeff Fisher, have had our number in ways I’m not even comfortable thinking about.  With this being their first game back in L.A., with upwards of 90,000 fans in a rabid froth, it won’t be easy.  I think this game is a slog, but I also think the Rams are remarkably worse than they’ve ever been, and I think we take this by a field goal to start 2-0.

San Francisco in week three.  Absolute pushovers from top to bottom.  Nothing about this team scares me.  I think we beat them by three touchdowns.

At New York, to play the Jets before our BYE week.  A lot of people have this down as a loss for the Seahawks.  I can see why.  You’ve got a cross-country trip and a 10am start.  You’ve got a team with an excellent defense, some strong weapons on offense, a savvy veteran quarterback, and one of the better up & coming head coaches in the NFL.  But, at the same time, I think you’ve got a team that doesn’t match up with us very well.  Sure, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but we’ve got one of the top secondaries in the league.  I think we easily shut down their passing attack, and just as easily shut down their mediocre rushing attack.  This game will depend on how well the Seahawks can move the football.  The Jets’ D-Line is ferocious, so it’ll be tough sledding for our O-Line.  They’ve also got Revis, but I think we have what it takes to beat him.  If he clamps down on Doug Baldwin, I think Tyler Lockett has a big game.  I also think the Seahawks take advantage of Kearse’s size in this one and he leads the team in receptions.  I also think our tight ends will be a huge factor, as Jimmy Graham should have played his way back into the #1 role.  It’ll be a dogfight, but I’m seeing something like 17-13, with the Seahawks on top.

Atlanta at home, after the BYE.  I just don’t think the Falcons are very good.  At all.  Matt Ryan has been a mistake-prone mess ever since Tony Gonzalez – his security blanket – retired, and ever since Roddy White’s aging body turned him into a nobody.  Sure, he’s still got Julio Jones – making Jones one of the most valuable receivers in the game, for fantasy purposes – but we’ve got Richard Sherman.  Beyond that, good fucking luck.  I think the Seahawks steamroll in this one by a good 2-3 touchdowns.

The next two weeks are at Arizona and at New Orleans.  The Arizona game is a Sunday Night game, the Saints game is a 10am start.  I think the Seahawks go 1-1 in this set of games, but I’m not going to commit to which game they win and which one they lose.  What does that mean?  Well, USUALLY it means I think the Seahawks will win the game they’re supposed to lose, and lose the game they’re supposed to win.  It’s probably idiotic, but even at Arizona’s best, we’ve been able to handle them pretty savagely on their home turf.  Combined with the fact that we’ll be out for revenge after they embarrassed us on Sunday Night in 2015, and the opinion that I secretly hold – which is that the Cards are due for some regression in 2016 – and I could see the Seahawks walking all over the Cards and solidifying our hold on first place in the division.  As for the Saints game, I’ve seen this one play out too many times before.  It reminds me of the Chargers game in 2014, the Lions game of 2012, and ESPECIALLY the Colts game of 2013.  They have a dominant offense, with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will put up 30+ points against us.  Meanwhile, we’ll probably make one too many mistakes on offense – against a shitty, but improved Saints defense – and gag it away at the end.  Saints 35-27, to put our record at 6-1.

Buffalo on Monday Night to close out the first half of our schedule.  This one should be another home walk-over.  We’ll be jacked up for a home Monday Night game, and the Bills – who have no experience in our environment – won’t know what to do with themselves.  7-1 to close out the first half.

At New England on Sunday Night to kick off the second half.  I try to run this game through any number of scenarios, and I just can’t find a way the Seahawks win, short of Tom Brady being injured.  Another cross-country trip.  All the hype from it being a Super Bowl XLIX rematch.  And, let’s face it, if any team is going to put into use the main strategy of beating the Seahawks – dink & dunk, then try the seams on double moves with their taller receivers – it’s the Patriots.  On the plus side, I think the Pats’ defense is much worse than two years ago.  So, if the Seahawks DO win this game, it’s almost certainly going to require this game being a shootout like last year’s Steelers game.  But, I don’t see that happening.  Patriots by a single score.

Home for Philly and another walkover.  You’ve got a team starting a rookie quarterback, but more than that, you’ve got a team clearly playing for next year.  They’re stocking up on draft picks and kicking out all the old players on the roster, compiled by Chip Kelly.  I don’t see this one being particularly close either.

At Tampa in yet another cross-country flight.  We really got hosed by playing the AFC East and NFC South (which are all pretty much in the East anyway).  This game strikes me as one of those traditional slow starters for the Seahawks.  I think we have to overcome a double-digit deficit, and perhaps have to win this one in overtime, just like the last time we played the Bucs, back in 2013 (except that game was in Seattle).  Ultimately, I think we have just enough to pull this nailbiter out.

Home for Carolina in another Sunday Night game.  If both teams are at full strength, we could be looking at the best game of the regular season.  I just love how these teams match up.  I also wonder how healthy Cam Newton will be, considering all the hits he took in last night’s game.  Will his recklessness in taking hits finally catch up to him?  I kinda, sorta have a feeling this game will come down to who’s actually playing, and for whatever reason I have a feeling Cam will be out for this game.  Either way, I like our chances at home, on Sunday Night, trying to rectify the disaster that was our 2015 season against the Panthers (going 0-2 in two games).  It’ll be a nailbiter, but Seahawks win.

At Green Bay in December.  I think this is another one of those games we’re supposed to lose, but in fact we turn the tables and steal one.  Is it weird for the Packers and their fans to hate Seattle more than teams in their own division?  Well, when we keep ruining their playoff hopes, I guess it’s not!

Home for the Rams and Cardinals the next two weeks.  I think we go 1-1 here too, and while I’m not yet ready to commit, I will say that I feel it’s more likely we beat the Rams and lose to the Cards.  I still think this is the year the Rams go 6-10 or 5-11 and Jeff Fisher gets fired.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Finally, at San Francisco to close it out.  If we’re playing for anything, I think we win easily.  If we’ve somehow got the #1 seed wrapped up, I think we let the kids get the majority of the snaps and probably lose it in the end.  Let’s just say we win and call it a day.

13-3, number one seed in the NFC, and an inside track for another Super Bowl.  This year, we get back to it, and this year we win the whole fuckin’ thing.  Mark it.

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.

Why Aren’t The Seahawks In The Super Bowl?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seattle At Carolina Preview

When you take them one game at a time, it doesn’t feel so ominous.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Minnesota.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Carolina.  And, in a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Arizona OR a game in Green Bay.  But, jeez, when you line them all up in a row, knowing you have to do all this in back-to-back-to-back weeks, it starts to feel REALLY daunting.  Even though it’s just a series of three coin flips, one week apart, it’s just knowing that you have to win all three that sort of drives me batty.

Last week, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks would advance.  Of course, the game ended up being a lot closer (and a lot closer to DISASTER) than I anticipated, but the better team did win and move on.  This week, as I’ve said repeatedly, feels like the Super Bowl.  I still think the Seahawks are the better football team, but they’ve got SO MUCH going against them.  At this point, fair or unfair, right or wrong, it’s going to depend on which Seahawks team shows up.  Will it be the team that struggled to find consistency in the first half of the season (and in recent games against the Rams & Vikings)?  Or, will it be the team running like a top, who has taken care of business against some pretty good opponents?

As a Seahawks fan in recent years, we’ve come to expect certain things.  We expect our defense to clamp down like a bear trap.  We expect varying levels of success out of our offense, with steady improvement as the game goes along.  This year has flipped the script a little bit.  The defense – while still tops in points allowed – isn’t quite what it has been in recent years.  It shows flashes, and sometimes pulls off entire games where it looks as dominant as ever.  But, other times, the game starts to get away from them.  Breakdowns happen.  Where once it was the Seahawks making their furious comebacks late in games, now it’s the other teams taking it to us.

I don’t know how you get more frustrating than that first Carolina game this year.  Let’s take a look back, blow by blow.

  • We traded punts on the first three drives of the game
  • On Carolina’s second possession, deep in their own territory, Cam Newton threw a pick to Earl Thomas at the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks ran four plays & had to settle for a field goal
  • On the next possession, Carolina ate up the rest of the first quarter, marching 80 yards with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • On the next possession, Seattle marched right back to score a TD, re-taking the lead 10-7, which is how the half ended after trading more punts
  • Carolina got the ball to start the 2nd half, went 3 & Out
  • On the next possession, Seattle scored a TD on two explosive pass plays to make it a 2-score game
  • Again, deep in their territory, Cam Newton threw a pick, returned to the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks went 3 & Out and settled for a long field goal to go up 20-7
  • On the next possession, Carolina marched 80 yards AGAIN, with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • The teams traded punts, then the Seahawks drove for a FG to again make it a 2-score game, 23-14
  • The teams again traded punts, then the Panthers engineered their third 80-yard TD drive, mostly on the arm of Cam Newton, to make it a 1-score game
  • On the next possession, the Seahawks went 4 & Out – marred by penalties & sacks, while only managing to take off less than 90 seconds of game clock
  • In a little under 2 minutes, the Panthers completed their comeback with their FOURTH 80-yard TD drive of the day, with Greg Olsen catching the go-ahead score on a broken coverage in the secondary

It was a good sign to see the team move the ball relatively effectively, as well as the defense forcing Cam Newton into two interceptions on the day.  But, the offense was a miserable 4/14 on third down (29% conversion), 1/3 in the red zone, and failed to convert either of those turnovers into touchdowns.  On top of that, I’m sorry, but that was a mind-boggling performance by the defense.  On Carolina’s four 80-yard TD drives, they ran 42 of their 72 overall plays, while taking up 18:23 of their 32:12 time of possession.  And, as I said, for the most part it was a healthy mix of run & pass, running for 135 yards and throwing for another 248 in total on the day.  We’re talking about a defense who – all year – only gave up 6.6 yards per pass attempt; Cam Newton managed 7.5.  And a defense who – all year – only gave up 3.6 yards per carry; Carolina managed 4.1.

Now, obviously, the Seahawks were missing some dawgs.  Bobby Wagner, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lane, Marcus Burley, all sat out with injury.  And, of course, the notorious Cary Williams (who has been, without fail, the biggest fucking scapegoat I’ve EVER seen) still held his starting job at that time, and was getting picked on throughout.  Nevertheless, if I’m a member of the Seahawks defense, going into Carolina this weekend, I’m out for blood.  Our Week 6 performance was absolutely unacceptable.

For all the factors going against the Seahawks this weekend, there’s one positive in all this:  the revenge factor.  Coming into the 2015 season, the Seahawks had made Carolina our bitches time and time again.  Close, hard fought games, sure.  But, we always found a way to pull it out, and I’m sure that had to have driven them CRAZY.  It all came to a head in last year’s playoffs, where the Panthers came in and played pretty well for a team with a losing record.  But, we owned that fourth quarter, and pulled away when it mattered.  So, when they came back to Seattle in Week 6 with an undefeated record, against a somewhat reeling Seahawks team still trying to find its footing, they were not only prepared for the onslaught of the fans and the hugeness of the game, but they powered through and made us look silly in the fourth quarter, when that’s OUR time.  That’s when WE make YOU look silly!

So, now, here we are.  Underdogs in a playoff game for the first time since probably 2012.  Going into Big, Bad Carolina, the 15-1 juggernaut who couldn’t have had an easier path to the #1 seed.  The last taste we have in our mouths being that Week 6 embarrassment.  You’re telling me we don’t have a reason to be up for this game, outside of the obvious (this being the playoffs, win or go home, and all that)?  I think the Seahawks want to show Carolina – and the rest of the world – who the REAL top dawgs are.  We may have stumbled at times this year, but we’re STILL the champs.  And January is when we come to play our best!

***

Can I just step back for a second and say how much fun I think this all is?  On the one hand, yeah, it’s the playoffs and it’s nerve wracking as all get-out.  The further you advance, the more intense it becomes.  And LOSING in the playoffs?  I don’t know what’s worse.  For a good week or two or three or fifty (as is the case when you lose a Super Bowl like the Seahawks did last year), I just couldn’t feel any lower as a fan.  Depressed and angry and jealous and confused and depressed some more.  There are SO MANY drawbacks to being a sports fan, I sometimes wonder why it’s all worth it.

But, then we get to a week like this.  Seahawks at Panthers.  THIS is what being a fan is all about.  Remember how jacked up we all got when the Seahawks would face the Jim Harbaugh 49ers?  This feels just like that.  Maybe Ron Rivera isn’t as loathesome as The Douchebag (I actually respect the hell out of the guy, if I’m being honest); but I’m starting to come around on hating Cam Newton.  I don’t know if anyone can be as revolting as Colin Kaepernick kissing his own bicep after a touchdown, but Cam Newton and all his dabbing is a REAL close second in my book.  If I’m being perfectly honest, I do think a lot of the hate, in general, from non-Carolina fans throughout the country, is at least somewhat racially motivated.  I mean, when Tom Brady runs around like a maniac during his touchdown celebrations, mostly people just talk about how he’s a competitor and a fiery guy; but when Cam Newton does his thing, he’s a preening cunt.  I’m not going to be that guy who’s out here calling everyone a racist, but I think subliminally, there’s a little something to it.

All I know is, if he was my team’s franchise quarterback (and I knew nothing of what it’s like to have Russell Wilson), I’m sure I’d love Cam Newton to death.  But, he’s not on my team, and he plays on one of my team’s biggest rivals, so I’m starting to hate him just a little bit more.  It’s only healthy.

What’s fun about the Seahawks/Panthers matchup is that it IS a rivalry now.  We’ve played them at least once every year since Russell Wilson came into the league.  Five times overall.  The Seahawks won the first four matchups (including last season in the Divisional Round), and through that point, while the games were all close and highly competitive, it was a little bit like the Big Brother holding the little brother at arm’s length while he stands there flailing his fists wildly to no avail.  Our defense was the embodiment of “Stop Hitting Yourself!” when it came to forcing Cam Newton into untimely mistakes (untimely for the Panthers, anyway).  Then, the Panthers came into Seattle in Week 6 and totally pantsed us, and NOW it’s a true rivalry.  They stole our mojo, in the home of the 12’s, and rode that mojo to the best record in all of football.  Now, it’s on, and it couldn’t be more exciting.

***

If you’re a football fan, and you don’t necessarily have a hog in this race, I don’t see how you can look at the four games this weekend and NOT be looking forward to the Seahawks/Panthers matchup the most.  Kansas City/New England?  There’s a slim chance that game is competitive, but my money is on the team with the better quarterback.  I think the odds of that game being a blowout are VASTLY greater than of the game being interesting in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.  Green Bay/Arizona?  No way.  The Cards are going to CRUSH them into dust!  That might be the most boring game of the weekend.  Pittsburgh/Denver is the only game that might even approach the quality of our game, but there are a lot of reasons to think that might be an ugly affair.  Can Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball more than 10 yards in the air?  Does Peyton Manning have any juice left?  We could be looking at a matchup of the noodliest arms in the history of the league!  With Denver’s defense on a mission, if Ben doesn’t have it, I could see this being a rout in the Broncos’ favor.

Seattle/Carolina, that’s what’s up.

We’re talking about two teams who are as healthy as they could possibly be at this point in the season (not counting players on IR, of course; and assuming Marshawn Lynch is able to give it a go).  We’re talking about the MVP of the league (Cam) against the hottest quarterback in the league the last half of the season (Wilson, 25 TDs, 2 INTs in the last 8 games, including last week).  We’re talking about the #1 scoring offense (Carolina) against the #1 scoring defense (Seattle).  The #2 rush offense (Carolina) against the #1 rush defense (Seattle).  A rematch of last year’s remarkable Divisional playoff game, only this time played in the other team’s stadium.

And, when you flip it around, it’s still pretty damn close.  Seattle was the #4 scoring offense; Carolina was the #6 scoring defense.  Seattle was the #3 rushing offense; Carolina was the #4 rushing defense.  Seattle’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Wilson, Lynch, Baldwin, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, LOB); Carolina’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Newton, Stewart, Olsen, Kuechly, Davis, Short, Norman).  Our strengths are their strengths; this should prove to be a massively entertaining ordeal.

The great equalizer in all this, oddly enough, will be Seattle’s offensive line.  In that Week 6 game, Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times, but harassed all day.  The Panthers had 7 QB hits and another 6 tackles for loss.  Russell Okung also had a pretty costly holding penalty that negated a big run by Lynch, helping lead to that drive stalling.  Over the majority of the second half of the season, as Russell Wilson’s performance has improved, so has the offensive line’s.  Everyone returned for last week’s game, and no new injuries cropped up.  On top of that, Luke Willson is returning, who should provide a boost over the other tight ends on the roster when it comes to blocking.

If the Seahawks’ offensive line plays to the best of its abilities, the Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble improving upon their third down conversion rate, moving the football, and scoring touchdowns over field goals (when compared to our Week 6 contest).  When the Seahawks are clicking, as they’ve been known to do from time to time, there’s no team in the game that can stop them.

But, when the Seahawks make mistakes.  When they let the pressure overwhelm them, when they allow lots of hurries and sacks, when they get penalized at inopportune times, then the game gets all mucked up, and before you know it, there we are at the end of the game sweating out another nailbiter.

As far as weather is concerned, we’re looking at the low-to-mid 40s come kickoff.  Says there’s a 20% chance of rain, but overall looks pretty reasonable.  Nothing too much to be concerned with there.

The thing I can’t help but shake is the comparison to the 2012 playoffs.  That was our first year with Russell Wilson, but we still blew it in the first half, and ultimately blew it at the game’s end.  Getting over THIS hump feels like the more difficult challenge than the hump that would await (likely in Arizona); just like getting over the hump in Atlanta in 2012 proved to be more difficult than it would have been to beat the 49ers that year.  Losing in the Divisional Round is pretty bad in its own right, because it leaves you with so many more What If’s.  Mainly:  what if we’d won and gotten a chance to play in the NFC Championship Game?

We can’t lose this one.  And, I don’t THINK we will, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was last week.  What everyone is banking on is that the Seahawks are battle tested.  7 of our 16 regular season games were against playoff teams; we were 3-4 in those games.  The Panthers, by contrast, only faced off against 4 playoff teams in their 16 regular season games; they went 4-0 in those games.  Obviously, the most impressive win was against Seattle IN Seattle.  Two of those games were against Houston and Washington (both at home), who were two of the shakiest divisional winners of all time.  The other was also at home, against a struggling and injury-plagued Packers team.  Their schedule, to be quite honest, deserves all the ridicule it gets.  But, to be fair, they did get the job done, and beat the teams they were supposed to beat.

And, as we all know, anything can happen in a 1-game sample.

So close, and yet still so far away.  This is the week where the Seahawks can prove whether they truly earned the title of Team Nobody Wants To Play in this year’s playoffs, or if they’ll just be another in a long line of cautionary tales, about the struggles that good teams can face when they don’t get one of the top two seeds and home field advantage.

I’ve got Seahawks 33, Panthers 27, but like I said before, I’m not confident at all.

Beware The Divisional Round Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why not us?

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

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

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

Are We Sure The Seahawks Are Good?

To borrow the oft-used question from the Bill Simmons podcast.

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer this year; indeed, I’m usually much more chipper during the holiday season.  But, I guess that’s why it’s my favorite time of year:  you’re surrounded by countless reasons to be happy – the lights, the music, the buying of presents, the receiving of presents – and yet there’s an undercurrent of overwhelming misery.  Thinking back on the year that was, thinking about our own mortality, getting dumped on with rain, being forced to spend time with one’s extended family.  The older you get, and the more loved ones you lose, the more you reflect back on how great things used to be decades ago, when you were a child and your only care in the world was making it to Christmas Break and going crazy for a week of no-school/new-presents mania.

Such is life as a Seahawks fan right now.  There are SO MANY reasons to be happy – we’re playing better than we have since around this time last year, we just clinched our fourth consecutive playoff berth (and fifth in the 6-year run of Pete Carroll), we’re in a great position to possibly lock down the 5th seed and maybe even get a chance to rest some players in Week 17 – but it’s not too hard to take a step back and reflect upon what’s not so great.  Last week, I was moaning about the loss of Thomas Rawls, which was a brutal blow to this team’s depth and my fantasy team’s chances of going anywhere in the playoffs; this week, we’re coming off of another blowout victory of a terrible team – a 30-13 rout of the Browns in front of the hometown 12’s – and I can’t help coming away somewhat underwhelmed.

I know it feels like I’m grasping at straws, looking for any and every reason to be down, or worried, or whatever.  But, I think there’s a real red flag about this team that’s getting glossed over as we beat up on the dregs of NFL society.  I’m sure happier, more secure individuals would dismiss me as a hopeless neurotic.  On the one hand, you can look at the last three games – dominant victories over the injury-riddled Vikings, Ravens, and Browns – and see three bumbling saps; or, you can look at those games as the superior Seahawks doing what they’re supposed to do to inferior competition.  I get that.  I’m sure I’ve even said it before:  I’ve seen these very same Seahawks do worse against worse teams.  A win is still a win, and it’s still difficult to win in the NFL, even if you’re facing teams who are playing for relatively little.  I know it’s hard to lump the Vikings in there with the Ravens and Browns, considering the Vikings are as close to locked into the playoffs as they get, but let’s be realistic here:  the Vikings are not going to do a damn thing in the playoffs.  From this point forward, with the playoffs a formality, I’m looking at our chances to win the Super Bowl.  And, from that standpoint, you might as well lump the Vikings in with everyone else on the outside looking in, because they just don’t have what it takes this year.

The 2015 Seahawks have played exactly six teams that are legitimate playoff contenders:  the Packers, Bengals, Panthers, Cardinals, Steelers, and Vikings.  The 2015 Seahawks are 2-4 in those games.  Aside from the Vikings, I wouldn’t rule out any of those teams as true championship contenders (unless Andy Dalton’s thumb never heals, then you can probably rule out the Bengals).  For as crappy as the Packers have looked in recent weeks, they still have Aaron Rodgers.  For as wimpy as their schedule has been, the Panthers are still undefeated and have beaten both championship contenders they’ve played (including that game in Seattle we won’t discuss further).  And I don’t know anyone who’d be happy to face the offenses of the Cards, Steelers, or Bengals with a healthy Dalton in the playoffs.

The point is, when we get to the playoffs, there really won’t be any more easy games, and the shit can hit the fan at any time.  The one ray of hope you can point to is at least the Seahawks have been competitive in all their games, and have still held a lead at some point in the fourth quarter in all their games.  Indeed, one shouldn’t go into any of these do-or-die affairs expecting the Seahawks to lose.  But, there’s enough reasons to worry that the Seahawks might struggle, and get snakebitten in the end.

The Seahawks are 2-4 in one-score games this year.  And, even if you factor in the loss to the Packers by 10 points, you can point to a certain amount of bad luck that’s (hopefully) bound to turn around going forward.  Injuries should always be a concern this time of year, but even if you project these Seahawks to be there for us come January (with a possible return of Marshawn Lynch), there’s reason for doubt.

The secondary just isn’t as dominant as it once was.  In years past, these Browns and Ravens teams wouldn’t have been able to move the ball nearly as effectively through the air.  When you look at teams like the Packers, Panthers, and Cardinals, these are teams that can sling it with the best of ’em (and that’s not even factoring in whoever comes out of the AFC, which is riddled with quality quarterback play).

I would also argue that the Seahawks have yet to find that steady third pass rushing option behind Avril & Bennett.  In 2013, we were blessed with the reasonable contract of Chris Clemons coming from that LEO position.  This year, I dunno.  I’m probably way off base and the in-depth stats show Bruce Irvin is that guy and then some, but to my untrained eye he still strikes me as a guy who’s a force to be reckoned with one week, and then disappears for games at a time.  Maybe his hurries and QB hits and whatnot are up to snuff, but it’s not really something that’s standing out.  To be a championship team, and cover for a weakened secondary, we’re going to need that third guy to stand out.  Maybe it’ll be Irvin, maybe it’ll be some combination of him, Clark, and/or a blitzing linebacker.  But, we’ve got to make life miserable for the likes of A-Rod, Palmer, and Newton if we expect to go on the road and beat those guys.

Offensively, there’s a lot to like right now.  Russell Wilson is continuing to play out of his mind, Doug Baldwin has made it his mission to take ALL the touchdowns, and Tyler Lockett is that big play threat we haven’t had since Golden Tate signed with Detroit (and when you factor in his superior speed, I’d argue that Lockett might be even better than Tate).  The running game chugged on apace with the return of Christine Michael taking the lion’s share of the committee’s carries yesterday (84 yards on a 5.3 yard per carry average).  Still, when you look at the playoff teams, you’re going to see a vast improvement in the quality of defensive play.  Their pass rushes will be more fierce, their pass coverage will be more stingy, and their run defense should tighten up.  The number to watch is third down conversions.  The Seahawks have been converting third downs at an impossible pace the last five weeks (something like 60+% I think).  If the defense does indeed struggle with the improved quality of opponents, we’re going to need our offense to keep rocking and rolling.  That means Russell Wilson needs to keep being Russell Wilson, and our offensive line needs to continue its improved play.

In the end, you never relish having to go on the road in the playoffs.  But, if you’re stuck, the way we are, then it’s nice being that Team No One Wants To Play.  I mean, in Carolina they have to be on cloud nine right now with the way their team has banded together and laid waste to their opposition.  But, how much of a kick in the dick is it going to be when their first-ever season as the #1 seed in the NFC sees them playing the Seahawks in the divisional round?  The top two seeds right now are those Panthers and Cardinals, but if you’re looking at quality of opponent, it’s almost like playing the Seahawks in the divisional round is akin to playing another top 2 team; whereas the Cardinals will get to host a very-flawed Packers team that I would put firmly in that second tier of opponents, to borrow a thought from Mike Pettine.