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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t think it is.

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

NO WAIT!  Seahawks.

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

Shit.

My Unhelpful Preview Of Tonight’s Seahawks/Cardinals Game

The Seahawks just have to win.  That’s it!  End of post!  It’s patently ridiculous that the Seahawks are at this point, it’s ridiculous that they lost to the Redskins last week, and frankly it’s ridiculous how they’ve lost all three of those games this season.  We’re a game behind the Rams now – who look like a fucking murderer’s row the way they’re beating some of these teams (although, curiously, they too lost a home game to the Redskins, which just might be one of those teams unaffected by the 3-timezone change) – and if you haven’t seen their schedule, it’s so close to Seattle’s it’s eerie!

Their AFC road games are at the Jags and Titans, as are ours.  Their road NFC East games are at the Cowboys and Giants, as are ours.  They play last year’s 3rd place NFC South team – the Saints – at home; we play last year’s 1st place NFC South team – the Falcons – at home.  They play last year’s 3rd place NFC North team – the Vikings – on the road; we play last year’s 1st place NFC North team – the Packers – on the road.  Literally the only difference is the order in which we play these teams.  Which thus far has hurt the Seahawks, because we had to grapple with Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson when they were still healthy; they avoid Watson, and get to face whatever backup Vikings QB is in the lineup in two weeks.

If I’m being honest, it’s hard to find two more losses on the Rams’ schedule, unless they start suffering significant injuries.  Their toughest games are both at home, against the Saints and Eagles.  Other than that, MAYBE the Vikings’ defense poses some threat, but I’m not really a believer in those guys.  So, either the Seahawks need to win their remaining 8 games – including at home against the Rams to take the season head-to-head tie-breaker – or the Rams need to start dropping some games they should otherwise win.

Also, not for nothing, but going 8-0 is pretty much a prerequisite for getting a first round BYE in the playoffs, which sounds pretty impossible when you’ve got the Falcons and Eagles at home, and the Jags and Cowboys on the road.  You scoff at the Jags, but have you SEEN their defense?  Now imagine those guys going up against this Seattle offense (particularly this Seattle offensive line), and understand the game is in Florida, at 10am Pacific time, and you’ll see why I’m freaking out here.

That’s obviously getting ahead of things by quite a bit.  Taking this second half of the season as one big chunk is insane; we’re going to have to take this one game at a time, just like Russell Wilson always says.  Forget about everything else, the Seahawks just need to go 1-0 tonight.

Of course, they SHOULD go 1-0 tonight, because the Cards are pretty terrible.  But, they also SHOULD have gone 1-0 last week at home against the Redskins, and you saw what happened.  Remember last year, when the Seahawks SHOULD have won down in Arizona, but dicked around all night and ended up with a 6-6 tie?  Remember why that happened?  Remember a certain kicker missing a certain number of field goals to cost this team a win?  Remember how that kicker frequently missed kicks down in Arizona because their field is garbage?  And remember how that kicker is now kicking in Buffalo, and the Seahawks went and signed Blair Walsh for some God-foresaken reason?

That 6-6 football game last year was EASILY the worst game of the entire season, across the entire NFL.  I’m just saying, don’t be shocked if we’re in for something similar tonight.

We all know Arizona is awful.  Their record is 4-4, which sounds insane, until you’ve seen who they beat:  Indy, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, San Francisco again.  So, three of the very worst teams in the league.  They lost to the Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, and Rams.  So, three of the very best teams in the league (and the Lions).  That 4-4 record feels like a lie, but given the discrepancy of their opponents, it’s hard to get a true read on just how bad the Cards really are.  Tonight should be a good litmus test, and it would be, if it weren’t being played on Thursday Night.

[SECTION WHERE I TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH I DESPISE THURSDAY GAMES]

(it’s just easier that way)

No Carson Palmer, no David Johnson; so two of their three best offensive players are gone.  Larry Fitzgerald is still the ageless wonder, and Drew Stanton is still a good fit in Bruce Arians’ offense as a backup quarterback.  He takes care of the ball for the most part, and puts his team in position to win more often than not.  And, he’s got Adrian Peterson to hand the ball off to, who is averaging 4.2 yards per carry since coming over from the Saints.  The key tonight is, obviously, prevent AP from keeping them on schedule and force Stanton to beat you down field.  Even without Earl Thomas, that shouldn’t be a concern for the Seahawks.

Defensively, the Cards aren’t very good.  27th in points per game, 23rd in yards per game.  They’re 24th in passing yards per game at 249.3, and 11th in rushing yards per game at 100.5.  Since the Seahawks can’t run the ball anyway, tonight would be a poor night to try to shoehorn that into our offense.  Just throw it on them!  Throw away from Patrick Peterson and take what’s given to you!  I expect Jimmy Graham to have a big one here, so expect him to colossally disappoint.

I’ll say this:  they don’t have Calais Campbell anymore, which is the best news I’ve heard all year (the downside is that he’s currently tearing shit up on the Jags, who we play in December).  I’m not saying it’ll be smooth sailing against that front seven, but any time you can avoid CC destroying the interior of your O-Line, it’s a leg up for the good guys.

Take care of business, Seahawks.  Or so help me God.

Seahawks Barely Get By Deshaun Watson & The Texans

This was a game you’ll love if you’re a fan of numbers.  Specifically offensive numbers, as we had oodles.  Russell Wilson:  452 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 30 rushing yards.  Deshaun Watson:  402 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 67 rushing yards.  DeAndre Hopkins:  11 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD.  Will Fuller:  5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett:  6 catches, 121 yards.  Paul Richardson:  6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs.  Jimmy Graham:  4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs.  Hell, even Lamar Miller had 54 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, and 2 combined TDs.  Offense.  For.  Days.

But, it was pretty slim pickin’s as far as defense is concerned.  Earl Thomas came back with a pick-six after giving up a long opening-drive touchdown bomb.  Richard Sherman had a couple interceptions after being challenged with impunity all game.  Jadeveon Clowney was a beast, both in pass rush and particularly in the run game.  The Seahawks had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, including big games for Bennett, Clark, Wright, and Wagner.  Even Dwight Freeney got in on the action with half a sack.

All of those things were great, but you don’t come out of a 41-38 game and heap praise on the defense.  And, I gotta tell ya, while it was a refreshing change of pace to see the Seahawks go out there and sling the ball up and down the field, I think I still prefer it when our defense is the best group on the field.  There’s something about both teams scoring on 13 possessions out of 26 (not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) that’s a little overwhelming.

What I did like was the fact that no team was ever up by more than 7 points.  That’s pretty rare, considering how much scoring took place.  I mean, the Over damn near hit before halftime!  When there’s a game like this, it usually involves the Seahawks looking like crap for the first half, then scrambling to come back by multiple scores to win by some miracle at the end.  This one was just a slugfest; two insane offenses throwing haymakers back and forth.

In a game like this, you can take it one of two ways:  you can breathe a sigh of relief and live with your heads in the clouds over how the offense moved the ball.  Just throw out the books and appreciate this one for what it was:  probably the most exciting game (from start to finish) in the NFL this season (perhaps narrowly edging that Chiefs/Raiders Thursday Night game a couple weeks back, but I don’t want to succumb to recency bias).  Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t help but see some of the warts.

I’m willing to more or less overlook the L.O.B.’s lack of dominance in this one, because let’s face it:  they’ve pulled this offense’s ass out of the fire on PLENTY of occasions.  Every once in a while, they deserve to have a bad game and somehow the team still finds a way to win.

I thought, for the most part, the run defense looked pretty good, aside from some key breakdowns in contain when it comes to Deshaun Watson.  I mean, where was the spy?  Isn’t this game tailor-made for Bobby Wagner to have eyes on Watson all game?  What you absolutely can’t have happen is the line getting sucked over to one side, with 20 yards of open field for Watson to punish us.

More than anything, you can say the Seahawks’ defense – while mediocre as a whole – made just enough big plays when it mattered most.  The aforementioned Earl Thomas interception returned for a touchdown.  The Sherman interception that led directly to a field goal that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24.  The sacks and D-Line pressure that led to the Texans’ five punts on the day.  And, the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, and the Texans up 38-34, the Seahawks were driving.  Russell Wilson just scrambled for 21 yards that had me literally exclaim, “Wow, how did he do that?!”  He stepped up in the pocket and ran through a nexus of three Texans who all converged on a single spot, and instead of getting his block knocked off, he somehow caused all three of them to hit one another as he scampered to the 20 yard line.  At that point, it was without question that the Seahawks would re-take the lead, and the only question that would remain would be:  did we leave the Texans too much time on the clock?  Except, instead, Wilson treated everyone to his single worst throw of the game, an out-route that was easily picked off, as if he had intended to throw it to the defender.

(which, I mean, let’s not rule this out.  You know as well as I do that Russell Wilson is a wizard.  He just is.  He’s magic, and we’re all fortunate to be graced with his presence.  So, hear me out on this:  what if he could see into the future, realize we were in the process of scoring too quickly, and had we done so, Deshaun Watson would be the one everyone is lauding for his last-minute game-winning efforts?  I submit this as my argument that he MEANT to throw that interception, knowing we’d get the ball back, and ultimately score with too little time left on the clock for the Texans to do anything about it)

But, I digress.  Getting back to the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

The Texans took over with just under three minutes left in the game.  They ran the ball for 4 yards on first down, the Seahawks opted to save their time out.  They ran the ball for 8 yards on second down, and we hit the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs.  After the break, the Texans ran again for 1 yard, time out.  THEN, we get to the play of the game:  second down, hand off to Miller again, this time for 5 yards.  But, if you look at it, the Texans had that thing blocked to go for double-digit yards or more.  Things just opened up like you wouldn’t believe, and if it weren’t for Michael Bennett diving in there and slapping at his foot to get him to fall down, the Texans would’ve ended the game right there.  Go back and look at it!  If you can find it, that is, because like I said, hardly anyone is talking about it, and yet the only reason the Seahawks had a chance at the end is because Michael Bennett saved the day.

Now, I’ll also say I agree with the majority of America today:  Bill O’Brien should’ve put the ball in Watson’s hands on at least the third down play.  I can see it both ways:  with the run, you take away Seattle’s final time out, and as I just discussed, there’s a decent chance of converting a 3rd & 4 with the way things were going as recently as that very drive.  But, on the other hand, Watson was a juggernaut yesterday.  You could’ve run with him, you could’ve had him drop back and pass, you could’ve done a run-pass option, you could’ve done one of those fucking plays where he fakes it to three other guys before hitting a fourth option (that our defense somehow could NOT figure out, at any point in this game).  Instead, in hindsight, it feels pretty weak to just run it back up the middle again for the fifth straight play.  The Seahawks stopped it for a 2-yard gain and the rest was history.

I suppose more of my consternation with this game comes from the fact that the Seahawks’ run game was abysmal.  I mean, just the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived through full seasons of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett!

Part of this absolutely has to do with Chris Carson going down with injury, because God fucking dammit would he come in handy right about now!  Why do all of our best running backs have to be fucking injured all the God damn time?  Him and Prosise this year, Rawls and Prosise last year, Rawls the year before.  I mean, shit!

Part of this has to do with Eddie Lacy, because he’s effectively useless.  I’d been willing to give him time to grow with this offense up until this game, because he’s a volume rusher, and gets better the more you feed him (ironically enough).  But, 6 carries for 0 yards?  No.  No thank you.  Go home, eat your China food, and waste some other team’s time.  You’ll never for ONE SECOND get me to believe the guys on the active roster are better than Mike Davis, who is LANGUISHING on the practice squad right now.

Which gets me to my next gripe:  Darrell Bevell.  Not Darrell Bevell the play-caller, mind you.  I know that’s what everyone gets on him about, but again, I thought he called a pretty great game, all things considered.  He gave the running game everything he had, but it clearly wasn’t working and he gave it up for the most part in the second half.  What I’ve got a problem with is Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator.  And, by that I mean, the way he designs his offense, and how he uses the players he’s got.

It took him FUCKING FOREVER before he put Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline this season.  Why is that?  Because he doesn’t want to tip off his play-calling.  It’s why he lines Graham up inside on run plays, when Graham is the worst blocking tight end in the universe.  You can’t just have Graham out there on passing plays, because then defenses will expect that.  SO FUCKING WHAT?  Here’s a newsflash, you fucking moron:  what you’re doing now – by “out-thinking” the defense – ISN’T FUCKING WORKING!  Rushing plays with Graham on the field get blown up CONSTANTLY!

Same goes for Thomas Rawls, out there on third downs.  Why would you do this when you’ve got a talent like J.D. McKissic?  Oh, because if McKissic is out there, the defense will know you’re passing?  WHO CARES?  It beats throwing to a fucking stone-hands, who drops carefully-lobbed balls in the endzone!

I come from the school that says, “Put my best 11 guys up against your best 11 guys and let the chips fall where they may.”  Because, more often than not during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, the Seahawks have had the most talent in the NFL.  That’s just a fact.  And, you know what?  It used to be enough for this team.  The Seahawks used to be a team (albeit, with Beastmode in the backfield, which obviously has to account for a lot) that would run the ball when the opposing team had 8-9 guys in the box, and we’d STILL get a productive gain on the play!  Because our 11 guys were better than their 11 guys, and we’d make them pay for their inferiority.

But, nowadays?  The Seahawks have lost their sack.  They’re trying to get cute, which leads to throws to Rawls, runs towards Graham’s side, long bombs to McEvoy, and fullbacks streaking free up the middle for 66-yard gains.  Which, obviously, when it works – like the throw to Madden, and the 53-yard bomb to McEvoy – you look like a genius.  But, more often than not, those plays haven’t been working this season, and you just look like an asshole who’s trying to get a head coaching job somewhere else.  Which, GREAT, DO IT, GET OUT OF HERE!  But, of course, the NFL sees right through that, so we’ll be stuck with Bevell here for as long as Pete Carroll remains head coach.  It’s our burden, but one I’m willing to live with.  Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it.

Thankfully, the receivers were there to pick up the slack.  Doug Baldwin was mostly quiet, which is shocking.  But, we had 100-yard games from Lockett and Richardson, who both had a bevy of long bombs they went up and snagged.  P-Rich in particular looks like the Golden Tate we’ve been lacking since we let him walk to Detroit.  See, the Seahawks don’t necessarily need a guy who’s 6’5; we just need a guy like Richardson who’s 6’0, but can jump like a freak of nature.  Thankfully, he’s been able to stay healthy, because he sure looks like a stud this season.

Let’s finish with some quick hitters.

The Seahawks took over their final drive on their own 20 yard line, and Russell Wilson immediately uncorked a dagger.  Honestly, I don’t know how Ifedi got away without a holding flag, and I’ll admit, I half-expected another flag on P-Rich for offensive-PI (replays showed that to be a clean catch, but I’ve seen flags for less contact than that).

I hope Earl Thomas’ hamstring injury isn’t too serious.  At the same time, I was relieved that Steven Terrell wasn’t back there to get torched in the game’s closing moments.

I thought the Special Teams got short shrift for having a pretty great game.  The Texans didn’t get much of anything on their returns, Jon Ryan made some clutch punts off of some poor snaps, and Blair Walsh was a silent assassin.  He made his two field goals (both pretty short range), and all 5 of his extra points, which ended up being huge, particularly the last two that gave us 3-point leads, as a Houston field goal in response would’ve only tied the game instead of given them the lead.  The NFL’s objective with the longer extra points was to make them more exciting, and while I hate them with a passion and wish like Hell that they’d move them back to the 2-yard line, I have to admit they’re maddeningly interesting, particularly in games like this.

Finally, I’d like to shout out the offensive line.  Not so much for the running game, in which their blocking was predictably awful; but in pass protection, they were okay!

I know, the narrative now and forever is that the pass-protection was, is, and always will be dreadful.  But, I mean, if it was really THE WORST as everyone (particularly the national media) claims it to be, could Wilson have thrown for a franchise-record 452 yards?  Obviously, while it wasn’t the best, and a stick figure quarterback like Jay Cutler or Eli Manning would be lunch meat behind this kind of line, it was Good Enough.  Hawkblogger’s Sunday night tweets go into it in a lot of detail, so check out his Twitter.  Essentially, the Seahawks were middle-of-the-road, from a leaguewide perspective, when it comes to pass protection, and God bless ’em, that’s all Russell Wilson needs!  Hell, that’s all any of us have been clamoring for since Wilson busted out onto the scene!  We don’t need a Top 5 unit to put up a ton of points, just give us a Top 15-20 unit and watch us go to work!  And, yesterday, the O-Line (again, from strictly a pass-protection perspective), played like just that.  They gave Wilson time to throw, and when they didn’t, they at least opened up lanes for him to scramble around until he could find someone down field.  That’s our game!

What’s frustrating is when there’s a guy in his face on the third step of his 3-step drop.  I’m sure the Texans’ defensive numbers will show a lot of good pressures on Wilson, but those are the types of pressures we can all live with.  And, in the end, it all added up to Wilson’s best day as a pro.

Of course, we’ll never REALLY know how much of that was due to his wizardry, but that’s the beauty of magic:  it’s more fun when you DON’T know the magician’s secrets.

Seahawks Host The Texans This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Triumphant Return Of The Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

The early theme through 7 weeks in this NFL season is how there aren’t any elite teams.  While it does feel that way, I also think we could be singing a different tune after another 7 weeks.  Mostly, I just think it’s an overreaction to the fact that the Patriots’ defense stinks, Aaron Rodgers is injured, and a 25 year old Peyton Manning isn’t walking through that door to help carry some unfortunate team into the playoffs.

I mean, Kansas City looks like the clear best team in the AFC right now, and does anyone trust the likes of Alex Smith in a do-or-die playoff game?  He certainly looks better than he ever has before, but can he pull his team back from a 2-score deficit against a competent defense?  I know I have my doubts.

Another theme, more locally focused, is that the vast majority of the NFL-covering public is ignoring the Seattle Seahawks.  Which is pretty understandable.  The Seahawks feel like more or less the same story being told over and over again for the fifth straight year.  The media likes a new, exciting story.  Carson Wentz!  Dak Prescott!  Jacksonville’s defense!  Deshaun Watson!  The Los Angeles Rams!

With the Seahawks, what do you have?  A boringly elite defense (they don’t generate a ton of turnovers or a ton of sacks; they mostly just grind you down and force you to be perfect to slowly bleed them), a shaky offensive line, and a quarterback who – aside from a half season without Jimmy Graham – hasn’t really figured out the whole Pocket Passer thing to the degree that a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers has.  It’s the same thing virtually every season, and while it’s a recipe for success, it’s also just not a sexy story to keep championing.  Ho hum, the Seahawks are a playoff team and a Super Bowl contender, same as they’ve been since 2012.

Ordinarily, I think this would bother me a lot more, mostly because I think a lot of teams get short shrift in the media in lieu of over-coverage of teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Cowboys, Giants, and Jets.  But, I’m actually okay with it.  For starters, the Seahawks haven’t really earned the type of coverage I’m talking about; come back when you’ve beaten a good team in convincing fashion.  Also, I think this is the type of season where the Seahawks could benefit from a lack of a target on their backs.

Yes, the narrative is that there are no elite teams, but is that really true?

I think, before too long, the Seahawks could be the clear best team in the NFL.  Frankly, the defense is already there, waiting for the offense to catch up.  And, make no mistake, we’re all bemoaning the struggles of this offense, but they HAVE made strides as the season has gone along.  More importantly, if they can just clean up a few things (drops, missed throws, protection issues), it’s not hard to see this as a team that scores 30+ points per game.

AND, if they do that, and don’t get destroyed by the injury bug, I think the Seahawks will be your answer to the league’s most elite team.

Of course, it won’t mean anything if the Seahawks fail to get the #1 seed in the NFC, and if the Seahawks falter at some point in the playoffs.  See, that’s another issue with the Seahawks we’ve seen over and over and over again:  they always turn it on in the second half.  Which is great!  That’s when you WANT your team to get hot!  But, they could win the rest of their regular season games by an average of 50-7, and it could still all come crumbling down with one bad matchup in the playoffs.  One crappy half of football in the Divisional Round, and POOF, another season ends without a championship.  Getting the #1 seed reduces the chances of that, as the Seahawks are unquestionably better at home than on the road, particularly in the first halves of games.  At that point, you’re just two wins from the Super Bowl, at which point anything goes.

On to the rankings:

  • Philadelphia (6-1)
  • Kansas City (5-2)
  • Seattle (4-2)
  • New England (5-2)
  • Pittsburgh (5-2)
  • Minnesota (5-2)
  • L.A. Rams (5-2)
  • Houston (3-3)

A lot of this is based on projections.  I do think the Patriots are flawed – especially on defense – but I agree with most prognosticators that they’ll get their issues figured out.  I know I wouldn’t bet against them making the AFC Championship game against either KC or Pittsburgh.  I think the Vikings look tough – particularly on defense – but I’ll never trust their quarterback situation.  I think the Texans are better than their record and could be poised to go on a big second half run.

  • New Orleans (4-2)
  • Dallas (3-3)
  • Washington (3-3)
  • Oakland (3-4)
  • Denver (3-3)
  • Buffalo (4-2)
  • Detroit (3-3)
  • Atlanta (3-3)

These are all good teams, but probably none of them are Super Bowl contenders.  MAYBE the Cowboys if they get Elliott back for the playoffs, and their defense gets its shit somewhat together.  And while the Saints don’t necessarily look for real, I think their defense is still marginally improved, and with that offense, it might be all they need to win a division title.  Also, good move getting rid of AP and working with a better 2-man running back rotation.

  • Tennessee (4-3)
  • L.A. Chargers (3-4)
  • Carolina (4-3)
  • Jacksonville (4-3)
  • Tampa Bay (2-4)
  • Baltimore (3-4)
  • Miami (4-2)
  • N.Y. Jets (3-4)

These are fringe playoff teams who have a ton of flaws.  One, MAYBE two of these teams will go on a roll and crack the playoffs, but for the most part I think they’ll disappoint.  Also, Jacksonville’s defense looks legit, and Fournette looks like a stud, but the offense as a whole leaves a lot to be desired.  And no, I’m not buying Miami as a 4-2 team.

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

I would have Green Bay even lower in the rankings, except I think there’s an outside chance they hang around in a mediocre division/conference just long enough for Aaron Rodgers to return for the last game or two and sneak them into the playoffs.  Can they win 4 games with Brett Hundley?  Cincy looks like a mess.  Trubisky has training wheels attached to his training wheels.  And for some reason everyone is shocked that Cleveland passed over yet another quality rookie quarterback in favor of someone who sucks.

Seahawks Handle Inept Giants

I feel like we could say this every week, but I’m gonna say it again:  it should’ve been MUCH easier than that.

The Seahawks went into New Jersey and beat the Giants by a score of 24-7.  That sounds like a quality, sound win, right?  17 points easily covered the spread.  Pretty hard to complain about a 3-score victory.  And yet, here we are.

For starters, I should point out that I have no beef with the defense.  They were what we thought they were.  I said in my preview on Friday that the Giants had no business scoring more than 9 points in this game, and lo and behold look at what we got.  On top of that, the 7 they DID score came off of a fumble recovery; they had to go all of 17 yards to get their lone score.  Someone said something to this effect on Twitter yesterday:  the offense gave up 3 points and the defense only gave up 4 points.  That’s the appropriate way to look at this.  You could argue the Seahawks should’ve shut them out, which would’ve been the second consecutive time they shut out the Giants on the road (last time:  23-0 back in 2013).

Eli Manning was held to 134 yards, on 19/39.  The running game was held to 46 yards on 17 carries for a 2.7 average.  The Giants were 2/12 on third down and 0/1 on fourth down; not counting turnovers or end of half, the Giants were held to a 3 & Out on four possessions.  Really, the only guy who had a good day on offense was their tight end, Evan Engram, who caught 6 for 60 with a TD.  On the one hand, that’s kind of annoying that it was their tight end who had all the success, but he really was their ONLY weapon on offense (Sterling Shepard was a pre-game scratch).  Also, the Seahawks were shadowing him with Bradley McDougald most of the time, which overall was pretty successful.  I mean, Engram had 6 catches, but he was targeted 12 times.

The Giants couldn’t do a damn thing, bottom line.  And if the Seahawks’ offense didn’t repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot, they would’ve been buried early in this one.  This was the type of smothering defense we haven’t seen from the Seahawks in quite some time.  Harkening back to the good ol’ days of 2013!

But, holy hell, that offense.  I guess their solution to the running game woes was to repeatedly run the fly-sweep to Tyler Lockett for minimal gains.  It might’ve been effective had the Seahawks ever, I dunno, showed that look in the past.  Maybe faked it to him on occasion, to at least put that play on tape, so that when we finally hand it to him it’s actually surprising instead of totally telegraphed?  I dunno.  That was actually my only problem with the play calling, shockingly enough.  I mean, I don’t know what more you want from Darrell Bevell.  He’s calling runs, and either they’re getting stuffed, or Wilson is checking out of them.  He’s even isolating Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline with more regularity!  It’s not his fault that Wilson can’t throw a fade for some reason, or that Graham fucking drops everything in sight.

I know he ended up redeeming himself, sort of, with 3 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown, but a lot of that (particularly the score) came when the game was decided.  When shit was on the line?  That’s when he couldn’t get out of his own way.  He dropped a perfect pass in the endzone (one of two goalline targets on that drive alone, so don’t tell me the Seahawks aren’t looking out for Jimmy Graham), then later dropped another perfect pass when he was wide open near the sideline with nothing but green ahead of him for at least 30 yards.  I’d like to say that this was just an anomaly, but he’s been dropping passes regularly all season.  Sure, things worked out this time, but as long as he’s healthy and wearing a Seahawks uniform, he’s going to command a certain percentage of the targets, and his fumble-fingers are going to cost us an important game.  I can see it now!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, when we gag away a winnable game.

Then, of course, there’s our own running game struggles.  Sure, we eclipsed 100 yards, but it took 31 carries to do it, with 5 different runners (including Lockett and Wilson).  No one looked good.  Rawls had his usual burst, but he also, quite frankly, runs like an idiot.  He’s always going WAY too fast and lacks any semblance of patience.  On a screen pass, he had a nice 16-yard gain, but if he’d just allowed his blockers to run ahead of him and do their job, he could’ve gone for twice that amount!  And that’s aside from his usual slip & falls when he tries to hit the hole like a fucking Tasmanian Devil.  Just, you know, take half a beat, collect yourself, then explode through the hole!  You don’t have to go 100 miles per hour all the fucking time!  I mean, honestly, between that and his constant parade of nagging injuries, I’m more annoyed at that than I am his fumble which led to New York’s only score.  That’s just sort of a fluke, but the rest of it is who he is, and it’s fucking difficult to watch.

Unfortunately, Eddie Lacy was Eddie Lacy.  He is who he is, 11 carries for 34 yards.

Russell Wilson finished with probably his best game of the season (27/39, 334 yards, 3 TDs), but he also left a number of plays on the field.  As I noted before, he over-threw Graham on a goalline fade (when he really should’ve just lazered it in there, as Graham had his defender walled off; but then again, he probably just would’ve dropped it like he did the next throw his way, so whatever).  He had Doug Baldwin wide open for a long bomb and over-threw him by about 10 yards.  And, I want to say he had something similar going to Lockett where he over-threw him.  Again, all of these mistakes prevented the Seahawks from really pouring it on.  I mean, 50 points wasn’t out of the question yesterday, had things gone according to plan.

But, the offense as a whole looks a lot better than it did early in the season.  The Seahawks generated 425 yards.  They converted 6/13 on third down (0/1 on fourth).  They held the ball for over 35 minutes.  The offensive line pass protected pretty well (I want to say the sack was on Wilson for holding the ball too long and not stepping up into the pocket; ditto the intentional grounding), though they could still be better in their run blocking (I’m hearing good things about Pocic, who got a lot of play at left guard, though he was out-snapped by Glowinski 48-34).

Doug Baldwin had an epic game (9 catches for 92 yards and a TD).  Paul Richardson had a couple big catches (2 for 61 and a TD).  Beyond that, Wilson did a good job spreading the ball around.

Again, as I say seemingly every week, all that matters is the W.  The Seahawks are 4-2, a half game behind the Rams (who will be on a BYE this week), and are still in a good position for the playoffs and possibly competing for a top seed.

What I will say is, they can’t keep playing like this on offense.  They need to cash in on their scoring opportunities.  It’s one thing to dominate the likes of the Giants and Colts, but aside from a close win over the Rams, who have they beaten?  They lost to the Packers, and they lost to the Titans (which looks more grotesque with each passing week, as the Titans’ offense continues to struggle against the rest of the league).  Yes, I want the Seahawks to win against everyone, but I don’t give a shit about these games they’re SUPPOSED to win.  The whole point is to win a championship, which means the Seahawks need to start showing up against teams destined to make the post-season!

I’ll be very interested in how they look at home next Sunday against the Texans.  Deshaun Watson looks like the real deal, he’s got tons of weapons on offense, and even though they’ve been hit by the injury bug on defense, they still have enough talent left over to make our lives miserable.  Win THAT game by 17 points and I’ll be impressed.

Also, not for nothing, but the delicate ecosystem that is the Seahawks’ defense sure as shit needs to stay healthy if this team is going to go anywhere.  Thankfully, they look back to their elite form, just in time.