The End Is Near Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

I pre-wrote a whole thing about how the Patriots are depressingly the best team in the AFC, and a breakdown of all the teams who might keep them out of the Super Bowl (because, Jesus Christ, could we all use a Super Bowl free from the Patriots).  Then, they went and looked like dogshit against the Dolphins last night, and it didn’t seem very timely, so we’ll move on.

For the record, I still think the Patriots deserve the top spot in the rankings, as they were due – just like every other team who’s lost recently – to drop a game before the playoffs.  I’m more than convinced they’ll take down the Steelers this week, so yeah.  On to the rankings:

  • New England (10-3)
  • Carolina (9-4)
  • Minnesota (10-3)
  • New Orleans (9-4)
  • Pittsburgh (11-2)
  • Jacksonville (9-4)
  • Philadelphia (11-2)
  • L.A. Rams (9-4)

In spite of my questioning of Cam Newton, I was very impressed by what they were able to do against the Vikings this weekend.  Giving up nearly 40 points to the Ravens?  Now you know why I have so little respect for the Steelers.  Philly gets dropped bigtime as they face a Nick Foles future.

  • L.A. Chargers (7-6)
  • Atlanta (8-5)
  • Seattle (8-5)
  • Baltimore (7-6)
  • Green Bay (7-6)
  • Detroit (7-6)
  • Dallas (7-6)
  • Tennessee (8-5)

Look for the Chargers to jump into the Top 8 next week.  Green Bay continues to climb the ladder as Brett Hundley continues to find a way to beat crappy teams.  Dallas is in an interesting position, particularly if they can win one more and get Zeke back.  Look for the Titans to fall out of this grouping as they continue to look terrible.

  • Kansas City (7-6)
  • Buffalo (7-6)
  • Miami (6-7)
  • Arizona (6-7)
  • Oakland (6-7)
  • N.Y. Jets (5-8)
  • Washington (5-8)
  • Cincinnati (5-8)

Everyone is all hyped up on the blizzard bowl between the Bills and Colts, but I feel like if I had to watch the whole affair, it would’ve been torture.  I saw the overtime period, and that was exactly the right amount.  It’s crazy how the Cards keep hanging around, even though they’re still definitely out of the playoff hunt.  Ugly loss for the Bengals to end their playoff hopes.

  • San Francisco (3-10)
  • Denver (4-9)
  • Chicago (4-9)
  • Tampa Bay (4-9)
  • Houston (4-9)
  • Indianapolis (3-10)
  • N.Y. Giants (2-11)
  • Cleveland (0-13)

Exciting times for the 49ers, as they get to not only enjoy a quality draft pick, but a ton of hype heading into next year, as they’ll certainly be the darlings of the dark horse circuit in pre-season predictions.  The Bears stole one with their defense, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did it again before the year is out.  Tough, hard-luck loss for the Colts, who probably would’ve won that game if there wasn’t 90 feet of snow.  Boy, that Giants offense is brutal, Eli or no Eli.  REALLY tough, hard-luck loss for the Browns, who might reverse run the table.  Josh Gordon looks good though!

The Home Stretch Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Allow me to slide into your Decembers.

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

I’m not gonna drop the Eagles down further just because they lost a tough road game they were probably due to lose.  I still think they’re pretty great, and pretty complete, and could beat the Vikings and everyone else below them on a neutral field.  That having been said, the turnaround for the Pats after the first month of the season is astonishing.  Their defense really looked dead in the water; they were grasping for Cassius Marsh straws for crying out loud!  Also, it’s time to stop taking the Steelers so seriously; they’ve looked bad against too many bad teams – 10-2 record be damned – so they’re knocked down a peg.  Not for nothing, but there are too many talented NFC teams; I’m not sure I shouldn’t have the Panthers above the Steelers to boot!  Finally, my money is on the Jags beating the Seahawks this week, hence their Top 8 status.

  • Atlanta (7-5)
  • Seattle (8-4)
  • L.A. Chargers (6-6)
  • Baltimore (7-5)
  • Tennessee (8-4)
  • Detroit (6-6)
  • Dallas (6-6)
  • Green Bay (6-6)

I’ll start to change my tune about the Seahawks if they decide they want to beat a team they probably shouldn’t beat.  Until then, I still have the Falcons ahead of them.  Gotta like that Baltimore defense.  Can’t quite write off the Cowboys just yet.  And, I’m making Green Bay my huge gainer, because I think it’s pretty obvious that they’re going to keep beating enough bad teams to give Aaron Rodgers a chance to come back and sneak them into the playoffs.  It’s so obvious it makes me want to puke.

  • Buffalo (6-6)
  • Kansas City (6-6)
  • Oakland (6-6)
  • N.Y. Jets (5-7)
  • Washington (5-7)
  • Cincinnati (5-7)
  • Arizona (5-7)
  • Miami (5-7)

You want a gambling Lock of the Week?  Take the OVER on the Kansas City/Oakland game.  I don’t care what it is, no number is too high!  Those two defenses are the worst I’ve ever seen!  This year.  Well, over the last couple months anyway.  Hold on, the over/under is only 47.5?!?!  Dude, jump on that NOW!  Also, while I’m looking at it, take the UNDER in the New Orleans/Atlanta game.  Thursday Night, no way it goes over 53.5.  Finally, I’d take a look at some of these home dogs, like Carolina +3 over Minnesota, Cleveland +3.5 over Green Bay, Arizona +3 over Tennessee, and the Giants +5 over the Cowboys.

  • Tampa Bay (4-8)
  • Houston (4-8)
  • San Francisco (2-10)
  • Denver (3-9)
  • Indianapolis (3-9)
  • Chicago (3-9)
  • N.Y. Giants (2-10)
  • Cleveland (0-12)

I like that Jimmy Garoppolo kid, I tell you what.  Those 49ers are doing some fine things down there in Santa Clara!  Good for the Giants to ditch that head coach and GM; bad on ownership to listen to them and bench Eli in the first place.  Can the Browns do the unthinkable and finish 0-16?  Honestly, their best chance to win is probably this week, as they host the Rodgers-less Packers.  If they blow that opportunity, their home finale is next week against the Ravens; that feels like a pretty easy loss.  Their next-best chance to win is at Chicago the following week, but the Bears’ defense is pretty good, particularly at home.  Then, in Week 17, they go to Pittsburgh, who at that point might be locked into the 2-seed and playing for nothing.  Even still, hard not to like the Steelers’ reserves over the Browns’ starters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

The Seahawks Play The Giants This Weekend

Before the season, this game looked a little scary.  The Giants were pegged to contend for the NFC East, Eli Manning had a bunch of cool weapons on offense to throw to, and a defense that looked remarkable in 2016 had a year’s worth of experience and an off-season of moves to better itself.  Then, the Giants started out 0-5, and all of a sudden this game looked like one of the easier matchups on the Seahawks’ schedule.  THEN, the Giants went into Denver as something like 13-point underdogs last Sunday night and somehow managed to not just win, but DOMINATE the Broncos 23-10.

And now this game is scary again?

I’ll admit, I didn’t watch a lick of that Giants/Broncos game.  Like most everyone in America, I expected the Broncos to win easily.  I don’t know if I necessarily expected a blowout, or even a cover of the point spread, but I did think we’d be in for a boring, grind-it-out game where the Broncos would win comfortably by 7-10 points or so (with still a reasonable chance of it being a blowout victory).  It feels impressive that the Giants were able to run for 148 yards and a 4.6 yards per carry average against a quality defense like the Broncos.  It feels even more impressive that the Giants were able to win at all, considering Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall were out and are officially lost for the season, but, you know, last week was a crazy fucking week.  A lot of underdogs won outright.  Hell, this SEASON has been fucking crazy with the underdogs; it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before!

But, I digress.  The question remains:  are the Giants good or not?  Obviously, with 5 losses in their first 6 weeks, and all their injury issues at wide receiver, it feels impossible for them to make the playoffs.  I’m sure they’ll give it the good ol’ college try, but I can’t see them finishing any worse than 8-2 over the next 10 games and still making the post-season.  With the Eagles at 5-1, that probably puts the division out of reach, so they’d have to hope for a Wild Card berth at 9-7 in that scenario, which isn’t impossible, but again, I don’t know if I see 8 more wins on their schedule.

The Giants lost on the road to the Cowboys and Eagles, which feels reasonable.  Those are a couple of good teams.  They lost at home to the Lions, which isn’t out of the question, as you’re talking about a playoff team from a year ago (largely the same as they were), and a team looking to compete for the NFC North.  But, then you tack on a road loss to the Bucs (who look bad) and a home loss to the Chargers (who look worse) and I gotta tell you:  I think the Giants are NOT good.

In which case, this should be a win for the Seahawks, right?  I’m not saying it’ll be easy.  They’ve still got a quality defensive line that should give us fits (as they all do).  But, I mean, where are they getting their points from this Sunday?  Their best and healthiest offensive weapon is rookie tight end Evan Engram, who legitimately looks like he could be one of the better players at his position.  Second year wideout Sterling Shepard should be returning from an ankle injury, so there’s another.  But, I mean, come on.  I know we like to joke around about the Seahawks’ defense sucking against tight ends, but we’ve actually been vastly improved this year!  It looks like Kam Chancellor has taken more of an active role in guarding them one-on-one, and he’s shutting them down pretty good.  Instead of being the worst in the league, the Seahawks are right in the middle of the road, which is fine.  That sort of improvement is something you can take to the bank.  Engram will get his looks, but I hardly think he’ll be a dominant force like we’ve seen from other tight ends in years past.

As for Shepard, he looks okay, but he hasn’t made that leap to elite status (not with ODB hogging all the glory to date), and it’s questionable that he ever will.  He looks fine.  If Richard Sherman were to follow him all over the field, I have no question whatsoever that he’d be locked down, but something tells me that’s not the gameplan.  But, either way, Shaq Griffin has looked better and better every week, and I think he’d be fine against Shepard.

Which leaves their running game.  I know the Seahawks have gotten gashed this season, but that was by the likes of DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, and Carlos Hyde.  Those are some of the most talented and productive running backs in the league this season!  That having been said, this defense used to eat even the very best running backs for breakfast, so getting gashed at all is of great concern.  But, Orleans Darkwa?  Wayne Gallman?  Shane Vereen?  I’m supposed to be quaking in my boots over this triad of suck?

Even when the Giants had all the receivers in the world, they weren’t able to run the ball effectively.  It’s only last week – when they had no one to throw to – where they put all their effort into the running game (and Denver mysteriously didn’t load up to stop it).  That one will puzzle me to my last breath, but I guess you could say that since the Giants over the last 2-3 years haven’t put any sort of running game whatsoever on tape, the Broncos just weren’t expecting it and had no evidence on how it could theoretically be stopped?

Well, it’s a good thing the Seahawks were on BYE last week, because they had nothing else going on last Sunday and were able to watch every minute of that game.

It’s also good, because I think you’re going to see incremental improvement in the Seahawks’ run defense over the next few weeks.  There’s been a lot of turnover on the D-Line.  Tony McDaniel is gone.  Ahtyba Rubin is gone.  Those guys were instrumental in stuffing the run the last couple seasons.  Jarran Reed is getting more playing time.  Naz Jones is a rookie.  And Sheldon Richardson is new to our system.  As they get more experience in practice and games, with gap assignments and whatnot, I expect this unit to gel and return to its run-stopping roots.

So, I mean, if we stop the Giants’ running game, what do they have left?  Eli Manning?  Please.  He should be lunch meat, with or without Cliff Avril.

Speaking of which, that’s a really sad case right there.  Avril was knocked out of the Indianapolis game a few weeks back with a neck/spine issue (he was seen, right after the hit, shaking his arm as if he’d lost all feeling, which is pretty terrifying for him).  Ever since, he’s apparently been seen by every doctor on the planet, and it’s looking more and more like he’s headed for surgery and the Injured Reserve.  At which point, he’d be eligible to return in mid-to-late December.  But, given the nature of the injury, and the uncertainty around the surgical procedure, it’s possible he misses the rest of the year entirely.

It’s also possible he’s played his final game in the NFL, which is the biggest bummer of all.

It’s a serious blow to this defense, but not one that’s impossible to overcome.  It means stripping away some of our depth at a position of strength, which is always a bad thing.  It also means more of a role for Frank Clark.  It remains to be seen how that will change things.  Will more Frank Clark allow him an opportunity to step up and become a star in this league?  If so, that’s fantastic.  But, does a little Frank Clark go a long way, and will we see a decline in his production on a per-snap average due to overuse?

Avril is a stalwart.  He’s a pro.  You can always count on him.  He’s also still right there in the prime of his career, as pass-rushing defensive ends tend to age pretty well in this league compared to other positions.  Clark is still young, still learning, still growing.  I don’t believe he’s yet reached his full potential.  Here’s to hoping this accelerates his development and he becomes one of the greats in this league by season’s end.

As for the Seahawks’ offense, your guess is as good as mine.  That second half against the Colts feels more and more like an anomaly against a really bad team.  Say what you want about the Giants as a whole, but that defense isn’t bad.  I think they’re every bit as capable of making our lives miserable as the Rams, 49ers, and Packers.  In which case, I guess we’re in for another slow Russell Wilson start, another shitty performance by the running game, with the only signs of life coming in the final two minutes of each half.

Can we win this one 14-9?  With that Giants offense, I’d be furious if they reached double digits in points, so I’ll go out on a limb and say yes.  But, while a 14-9 victory is still a victory, and you’ll take them however you can get them, it’s still not something that inspires hope.

A good Seahawks team would come out and blow the doors off, winning 44-3 or some damn thing.  But, I can’t imagine a scenario where we don’t get more of the same.  For the same fucking reasons.

Only now, we’re down our second-best offensive lineman in Luke Joeckel (who used his BYE week to have a cleanup surgery on his knee, and will be out for a month or so).  In his place, we’re looking at a combo of Mark Glowinski (the starter at LG last season) and rookie Ethan Pocic (whose natural position is center, and who doesn’t really have much college experience on the left side of the line).  For the record, I expect Glowinski to get the start and the lion’s share of the snaps.  I also expect him to struggle, and within a week or two I expect Pocic to take over that job until Joeckel returns.  Hopefully I’m proven wrong.  Hopefully Glowinski takes his recent demotion from the RG spot to heart and returns like a rabid pitbull.  But, I just don’t think he has the talent to be a starter in this league.  Doesn’t mean he can’t have a long and pointless career as a backup (or move on to another team in the future and have great success, because he’s just not cut out for Tom Cable’s zone blocking scheme).

At running back, I think we’re all hoping for Thomas Rawls to take the bull by the horns, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a steady stream of handoffs to Eddie Lacy.  For what it’s worth, I still like Lacy and I think he fits this offense pretty well.  I think he’s a volume-dependant running back though, and I just don’t know if this offense, with this O-Line, has what it takes to give him the volume of carries he needs to succeed.

Here’s to hoping Russell Wilson gets some time to throw, though, because I think some serious gains can be had in the passing game.  The Giants are TERRIBLE against opposing tight ends, so you’d think Jimmy Graham would have a field day.  And, if they sell out to stop him, then it should open up opportunities for Baldwin, Richardson, and Lockett.  Again, though, Russell needs time to throw.  We’ll see.

All these games are important, but this one really feels big.  The Giants are still banged up, we’re coming off of a BYE, yeah it’s on the road across the country, but it’s a late afternoon game and we’ve had a lot of success playing in this stadium.  It’s also a conference game, which becomes vitally important for playoff seeding.  And, not for nothing, but the Rams went on the road and beat the Jags last week, regaining sole possession of first place in the NFC West.  They play Arizona in London this Sunday and could very well be 5-2 when the weekend is over.  We need to win just to keep pace with the Rams!  Who could’ve ever predicted saying that sentence before the season started?

Having Seen The Seahawks Play, Should We Revise Our Expectations?

In my preview & prediction post ahead of the Seahawks’ week 1 game in Green Bay, I had us going 13-3.  One of those wins I had pegged for us was that very game against the Packers, which obviously didn’t go according to plan.  So, is 13-3 totally off the table?  Are a lot of other things off the table as well?  Let’s dive in real quick.

If the Seahawks lose this week against the 49ers, we’ve got bigger problems than just losing out on the #1 seed in the NFC.  I can’t imagine a world where that happens, so let’s take for granted that the Seahawks will be 1-1 after this weekend.

I’m still concerned about the Titans, but decidedly less so than I was before week 1.  The Raiders were able to move the ball at will against them, both through the air and on the ground.  I don’t see a ton of difficult pass-rushers or interior D-linemen on their roster.  I think if the Seahawks can keep their rushing attack in check, we can force Mariota into enough errors on third down to prevail.  I had the Seahawks 2-1 after three games in my preview, and I think that’s still on the table.

I think the Colts look much worse than advertised, and that Sunday Night game has no business being anything other than a laugher.

Then, there’s that road game against the Rams.  Aaron Donald is predictably back in the fold, and I can’t see any way he doesn’t lay waste to our pathetic offensive line.  The only question being – 5 weeks into the regular season – will our O-Line have improved enough over the first month to at least keep Wilson upright?  Our only hope is that they will have gelled JUST enough to keep the pigs at bay.

After the BYE, it’s a road game against the Giants.  I can no longer, with good conscience, consider this game a win for the Seahawks.  Not with the way their D-Line balls out.  I can’t guarantee a loss either, because with Eli Manning, there’s always a chance.  So, I’ll say this:  the Seahawks will lose one of the two games between the Rams and Giants, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it’s the Rams game we doof once again.

I still like our chances at home against both the Texans and Redskins.  I can’t see a rookie QB coming into CenturyLink Field and withstanding our pressure.  It might be a lot uglier than we’d like, but even a 6-3 victory is still a victory.  As for the Redskins, their defense is hot garbage, and all the Kirk Cousins in the world won’t be able to save them.

So, after 8 games, I have the Seahawks at 6-2, with an outside chance at 5-3 if they lose to both the Giants and Rams.

Kicking off the second half is that Thursday Night game against the Cards.  Carson Palmer still looks bad.  D.J. will miss this game with injury.  The rest of their offensive weapons are pretty suspect outside of the Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.  They also don’t have Calais Campbell in the middle.  I want to call this game a coin flip, but I have to believe we’ll still prevail.

Monday Night against Atlanta becomes a real concern.  I’ll say this:  I’m glad the Seahawks are home for this one.  I could see this one being a huge score-fest, but their D-Line doesn’t totally petrify me.  Close Seahawks victory.

Again, I can’t imagine a world where we lose to the 49ers this year.

Suddenly the Philly game becomes a serious concern.  Their defense is legit.  Unless injuries start to take hold on that side of the ball, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see the Seahawks muff this one.

I would also express some concern about the Jags game.  They’ve poured tons of resources into their defense (what are YOU doing here, Calais Campbell?!).  And, while I know they’ve got massive issues at the quarterback position, I could see them remain dedicated to the run, slow the game to a crawl, and if they make a couple plays here and there on defense, it could be one of those 14-6 games like we saw in Tampa last season.  I’m calling it right now:  the Seahawks WILL lose to either the Eagles or Jags, but definitely not both.

At home against the Rams, I’m marginally confident.  Let’s move on.

On the road against Dallas, again, I think we have to question some things.  While the Cowboys don’t terrify you on defense, I think they’re just good enough on offense to keep moving the chains.  By then, they should have their Ezekiel Elliott situation settled one way or the other (either he’ll play out the entirety of 2017, or he will have already had his suspension completed), and I’m a big Dak believer.  I’m notching this one in the L column just to be safe.

Finally, home against the Cards, with them having nothing to play for, is a recipe for success if I’ve ever heard one.

That puts us at 12-4, or maybe 11-5.  That most certainly keeps us out of the #1 seed and might even dump us into Wild Card weekend.  Losing games to Packers, Giants, and Cowboys could be just the tie-breakers to torpedo this season once again.

It’s not enough to just win the games you’re SUPPOSED to win.  You need to steal some wins against legit contenders!  4-0 against the AFC is about as useless as it gets when you lose 4-5 games against the NFC.  So, I hope I’m wrong, and the Seahawks still figure out a way to get to 13 wins.  Otherwise, it’ll all be as pointless as it was in 2016.

My Big Fat Seahawks Preview 2017

It’s insane at work right now, so I’m looking for little pockets of time to write this out and get it done on time before the weekend.  If it feels disjointed, just blame the scapegoat du jour.

I’ve already written a couple of preview-ish things on the 2017 Seahawks.  Back in April, when the schedule came out, I took a preliminary stab at predicting the outcomes.  Now that we’re just days away from the start of the season, I’ll update that with the power of new information!  Then, back in July, I took a look at the roster as we were barrelling toward Training Camp.  I don’t know how much my opinion has changed – from either of those two earlier posts – so if I harp on the same points, forgive me, but I just don’t have the time to re-read all of my blatherings.

I will say this:  whereas before I was cautiously optimistic – believing if everything broke right, it wasn’t hard to imagine this team back in the Super Bowl – now I’m a rock-hard, veiny, throbbing erection of populist Seahawks swaggeration!  I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2013!  Except, to be honest, I’ll have to walk that back a bit and say I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2014.  I mean, look, that 2013 team was CRAZY deep and CRAZY talented, up and down the roster.  On top of that, the 2013 team actually had a competent offensive line, whereas this year’s team is still very much in doubt (in spite of recent improved pre-season play, which I’ll get to in a bit).  Frankly, I was still pretty stoked on the Seahawks heading into 2014, and indeed pegged them for a repeat championship, which they had in their grasp one yard from fruition, but it wasn’t as solid a feeling as 2013.

This year is the same, in my mind.  The talent is there, no question.  In fact, in some areas, the talent is vastly improved (at least on paper).  And, the depth is in some ways back to where it was in 2013.  But, the last few years of creeping failure is clouding my enthusiasm JUST enough to have this nagging creature of doubt in the corner of my mind-grapes.  I’m doing my damnedest to give that guy the finger though, because I want to be ALL IN on the ground floor with this Seahawks team.

TL;DR:  WE’RE BACK, BABY!!!

Let’s just take this position by position, to show you how strong this team is, and to show the world how foolish it is to doubt us.

Quarterback – Top 5 in the entire league, fully healthy, in great running shape (the better to compensate for a questionable-to-say-the-least offensive line).

Running Backs – A deep stable of runners of all stars and stripes!  Lacy, the power back.  Prosise, the speed/pass-catching back.  Rawls, the good mix of both.  McKissic, the Prosise insurance.  Carson, the overall back & everyone else insurance.  If you can’t have Marshawn Lynch in his prime, then the next best thing is to stockpile 5 guys who add up to 1 Beastmode.

Wide Receivers – A Top 10 guy in Baldwin.  A burner in Lockett.  Another burner with outstanding ball skills in P-Rich.  A tall red zone threat in McEvoy.  And a rookie project in Darboh.  Not as deep without Kearse in the fold, but if you throw in McKissic and Prosise, you’ve got a lot of versatility in the passing game.

Tight Ends – A Top 3 guy in Graham.  Another tall receiving threat in Willson.  And a young blocking tight end with a good pedigree in Vannett.

Defensive Line – Off-the-charts talent all over the place.  Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are proven studs.  Sheldon Richardson is the pass-rushing interior force we’ve been looking for since Cortez Kennedy retired.  Frank Clark is an up-and-coming dominant force who should look to take a giant step into the spotlight this season.  Jones and Reed are young interior talents with a lot to prove.  Smith and Bass are young ends with a lot to prove.  This could go down as the best D-Line we’ve ever had in Seattle, and yes even better than that 2013 unit that laid waste to the entire league.

Linebackers – More off-the-charts talent in guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; guys who can cover all over the place, who are dominant against the run, and who can rush the passer on occasion.  Depth here is vastly improved over the last couple seasons, with proven vets in Wilhoite & Garvin.  Injuries should not be as much of an issue as they would’ve been in years past.

Secondary – The L.O.B. is still here and still as good as ever.  Earl, Kam, and Sherm comprise the best threesome of any secondary in the NFL.  Jeremy Lane is a solid all-around corner, with emphasis on nickel.  Shaq Griffin is the only question mark, but he’s got a good pedigree and should get plenty of safety help in the early going.

Special Teams – Blair Walsh looks like he’s starting to get back on track, but will have to prove it when the games matter.  Either way, he shouldn’t be as bad as Hauschka was last year, particularly on extra points.  Jon Ryan is still going to keep opposing offenses pinned back inside their 20 more often than not, and overall control the return game with his quality punts.  The return game is bolstered with McKissic as insurance for Lockett, should the team opt to bring him back slowly, or otherwise take some of the duties off his plate.  And, coverage units look a lot better with Neiko Thorpe, D.J. Alexander, and our rookie secondary guys.

The only real area of uncertainty is, obviously, the offensive line.  Everywhere else, the Seahawks have elite, top-shelf talent and depth.  So, let’s dig into this.

An argument can easily be made that past seasons’ O-Line groups were made to look better than they actually were because Marshawn Lynch was so money, and I’m hard pressed to go against that line of thinking.  Can any of the runners we have now live up to that and make this group of guys look better than they are?  I think, maybe, in small doses, Lacy can be that type of runner who limits negative rushes and falls forward for impressive gains.  I also think, in between injuries, Rawls can certainly be a Baby Beastmode with his style, but the question with him is how long will those healthy stints last?  Prosise has the speed to get around the edge and through holes before they close, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy too.

Indeed, even in the pass-protection portion of the O-Line game, the major concern is health:  can they keep Russell Wilson from getting injured?  Obviously, Wilson can help out his own cause by getting the ball out quickly and eluding pressure before it’s right on top of him; but they’re going to have to drastically reduce the amount of free runners at the quarterback if this thing is going to work.

In a lot of ways, injuries are a matter of luck, and the Seahawks were pretty fucking unlucky last year.  Not 2017 Mariners unlucky, but not too far off either.  What are the odds that Wilson will spend the entire season hobbled again?  In a vacuum, I’d have to say not very good; but with this line I think you have to consider it a coin flip at best.  Luck is one thing, but there are things a team can do to limit the amount of bad luck that comes your way.  Getting improved O-Line play is one of them.

For what it’s worth, I do think this line will be better than last year’s, and I think it’ll be better right from the start.  This is key, as there are a lot of important games early in the season, and we can’t afford to slog through 10 weeks of growing pains before we go on our annual year-end hot streak.

I think Odhiambo, with a year under his belt, will be better than Brad Sowell and 2016 George Fant.  Since Fant, last year, was about as bad as you can get, I’d say that’s a huge upgrade (and Odhiambo doesn’t even have to be GOOD to achieve this level of improvement!).  Now, obviously losing 2017 Fant to injury is about as devastating as it can get, because he really did look like he was going to take a huge step forward in his development, but I’ll take baby steps at this point over what we had last year.

Luke Joeckel looks like a solid upgrade over Glowinski at left guard.  Paired with Britt at center, I think that side of the line will be just fine.

Glowinski slides over to right guard, which appears to be his better side.  He’s been playing somewhat evenly with free agent Oday Aboushi, so it’s good to know at least the right guard spot should be adequate (and probably a step above 2016 Ifedi).

My biggest concern is 2017 Ifedi, having moved back to right tackle (where he played in college and was projected to play in the NFL).  I’ve seen this movie before, but usually it’s a right tackle who gets moved to one of the guard spots, and not the other way around.  The consensus being:  tackle is a harder position to play than guard (which is a harder position to play than center … hi Justin Britt!).  So, the rationale ends up as:  if Ifedi was pretty terrible at right guard last year, what hope is there for him as a right tackle?  Indeed, I don’t have a good answer for you there.  Again, I suppose I’ll bring up the experience angle.  The leap from rookie to second year player, particularly along the O-Line, is pretty pronounced.  You gotta figure he’s at the very least more comfortable in his assignments.  And, at his size, you’ve gotta give him the power advantage over what should be smaller defensive end/linebacker types going up against him (whereas when he was a guard, he was going up against mammoth D-tackles).  His limitations are obviously in the speed game, where his footwork comes into play.  I have very few concerns about Ifedi the run blocker, but I have a SHITLOAD of concerns about him in pass protection, as I think some of the better pass rushers can rope-a-dope the shit out of him.  We’ll see I guess.

Overall, as I said, I have hopes that instead of being the 32nd-rated offensive line, the Seahawks can jump up to the 25th-best.  Even that modest increase could prove to take this offense to as-yet-unseen heights of efficiency and scoring prowess.

Things to watch this season on offense will be:

  • 3rd down efficiency
  • Red zone efficiency
  • Yards per rush

In 2016, it seemed like the Seahawks were more prone to mistakes (penalties, missed blocking assignments) on third down, which is just a ball-buster.  No one is expecting the Seahawks to cut out the penalties entirely (indeed, some of their very best teams were among the most penalized in the league), but they’ve got to do a better job of not holding on long rushing plays, not getting called for offensive PI on pick plays, and not setting themselves back with third & long nonsense.

For the red zone, it’s simple:  find a way to get Jimmy Graham the ball.  Full stop.  He was the man in New Orleans and he had 9 or more TDs in all but one season there.  That needs to happen again, here, this season (and I’m not just saying that because he’s on one of my fantasy teams, but I’m also not NOT just saying that either, I think).

And, look for the Seahawks to get back to their rushing roots.  Beastmode may be gone, but the running backs we have now are more than capable of picking up that slack.  I’d also like to see a moderate return to the zone read, with Wilson pulling the ball back on occasion to keep defenses honest.  Also, not for nothing, but I’d like to see Wilson do this EARLY in games, to put that in other teams’ minds from the get-go.

On defense, watch for:

  • Turnovers
  • Late-game heroics
  • Quarterback pressure, hurries, hits, sacks

To get back to where we were in 2013, we’re going to have to force turnovers.  That goes hand-in-hand with pressuring the quarterback into bad decisions, as well as knocking the ball from his hand for fumbles.  That also goes hand-in-hand with the late game heroics, as we need to prevent those breakdowns we’ve seen in 2015 & 2016, and instead force turnovers to slam the door on those close games.  It’s a team game, and nowhere is that more apparent than the symbiotic relationship that is an NFL defense.

As for this year’s record, I’ll go through the schedule again, briefly.

  • Week 1 – I like the Seahawks to go into Green Bay and shock the world.  It’ll be our official announcement to the rest of the league that the Seahawks are here, they’re for real, and they’re going to stomp all over the lot of you!
  • Week 2 – A comfortable home victory against the young, rebuilding 49ers team.  Maybe not as dominant as we’d like, as they do have some young and talented pieces (particularly on defense), but a win is a win.
  • Week 3 – The Seahawks under Pete Carroll always seem to lose one road game to an AFC opponent that we’re all pretty unfamiliar with (except for last year, randomly, although we almost blew one at home against the Dolphins in week 1).  I think the Titans are really good and I could see the combination of their dominant rushing attack, and efficient passing game (particularly in the red zone) to just nip us for our first loss of the season
  • Week 4 – I like the Seahawks to get back on track at home, in primetime, against a weak Indy team.  With or without Luck, I like the Seahawks to roll.
  • Week 5 – No more losing to the Rams!  Jeff Fisher is dead, and with him so is the Rams’ proclivity of beating us for no good God damned reason.
  • Week 6 – BYE
  • Week 7 – I’m not particularly afraid of the Giants’ running game.  While they’ve got some good receivers, I think we can hold them in check and put enough pressure on Eli into forcing some mistakes.  Their defense is legit, but I like the Seahawks to do just enough in this one and win a close game by 3 in overtime.
  • Week 8 – The Texans come to town and will be sent packing.  I could see this one as a battle of defenses, with the Seahawks pulling away late.  Something in the realm of 16-3 or 16-6.
  • Week 9 – The Redskins come to town and they feel like just the sort of team who should be held in check by us.  Force Kirk Cousins into the worst game of his season, eliminate all threat of a rushing attack, and really take it to their porous defense.
  • Week 10 – Thursday Night in Arizona.  By this time, I wonder if Carson Palmer will even be playing.  Either way, he showed his age in 2016, and I can’t imagine he’ll be in for a fountain of youth situation this year.  No Calais Campbell, no monster in the middle to defend.  I think this is another game where the 12’s will make themselves heard on the road, and the Seahawks take the game comfortably in the fourth quarter.
  • Week 11 – Monday Night in Seattle against the Falcons.  I know the Seahawks took them out in the regular season last year, and I know we’ll be coming off of a Thursday game (and thus have all this extra time to prepare), but I can’t help but be concerned about this one.  I think it’ll be exciting and I think it’ll be close, but I could also see the Falcons just having our number and being able to score in bunches.  Rare home Monday Night loss for the Seahawks here.
  • Week 12 – At San Francisco, again, I think they should be relative push-overs.
  • Week 13 – Home night game against Philly.  I don’t see enough out of their offense to hold a candle to our defense.  Another comfortable, boring win at home at night.
  • Week 14 – I could see the Seahawks getting off to a sloppy start on the road, in a 10am start, in Jacksonville.  But, by the second quarter, the tide should turn and the Seahawks should take this one running away.
  • Week 15 – I SAID NO MORE LOSING TO THE RAMS!!!
  • Week 16 – Here we go!  Christmas Eve in Dallas!  In what could very well be a matchup that decides the NFC’s #1 seed!  I can’t imagine the odds of the Seahawks sweeping the NFC East are very good, but I dunno.  I just got a feeling that the Seahawks are going to sweep this road slate of impossible NFC teams (Packers, Giants, Cowboys).  This one could be another barnburner, with a late turnover keying the Seahawks to victory.
  • Week 17 – At 13-2 headed into the final week, I think the Seahawks rest a lot of guys after a quarter or two and drop the season finale, with the #1 seed all wrapped up.

13-3 is my official prediction.  The Seahawks cruise through the playoffs into the Super Bowl where they await the darlings of the NFL:  the Oakland Raiders.  Everything about that game gets my loins all a-tizzy.  Also, the idea of sticking it to the Raiders brings me tremendous joy.

The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl LII Champions!

Okay, that’s all for now.  Let’s get this season in gear!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Roster looks like this:

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

With my bench looking like this:

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

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

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

Here goes nothing.

Taking A Pre-Training Camp Look At The 2017 Seahawks Roster

Going into the 2013 season, I was as high on the Seahawks as I’ve ever been.  Indeed, there have been a number of years where I’ve predicted a Seahawks championship, but I’ve never been as certain as I was before that fateful season.

This year, on the other hand, I dunno.  You’ve got a lot of the same players, which should inspire confidence that – at the very least – this Seahawks team will give us another playoff appearance and probably another division title.  But, there are also question marks up and down the roster, where there weren’t any going into 2013.  Even the positions of strength are causes for concern, as we’ve discovered in the last few years that injuries can hit anywhere, at anytime, for any reason.

Let’s just start at the Safety position, for instance.  The Seahawks feature two of the very best in the game of football today in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.  No sweat, right?  On a scale from 1-10, you write in a 10 for Most Confident and you call it a day!  Except, Earl is coming off of a horrendous injury and might not have his usual impact (particularly early in the season).  Is it appropriate to expect Earl to be as dominant as he’s always been?  Or will the injury – and subsequent rehab eating into his regular workout routine – mean we get just 75% of Earl or less?  And, quite frankly, there’s an honest concern that both of these guys will get re-injured at some point.  Both are another year older, and Kam has proven to be pretty injury prone over the last few seasons.  When they’re healthy, they’re the best in the game; but all I’m going to be doing whenever they’re on the field is worrying about their next injury.

And, honestly, this is the same issue we can run out there for a lot of position groups.  Cornerback?  Check.  Wide receiver?  Check.  Running backs?  Bigtime check.  So, as it was last year, the issue is going to come down to depth.  Because while the Seahawks have one of the most talented rosters in the league, they’ve also been the most snakebitten of late.

On paper, it’s really a tremendous group.  If you could sit here and promise me 100% health out of all of our starters, I’d tell you that I have the utmost confidence in this team making a deep run in the playoffs, up to and including a Super Bowl victory.  Very briefly, let’s scan the starters:

Russell Wilson, in spite of last season’s quasi-regression, is still a Top 10 quarterback in this league, and probably closer to Top 5 than a lot of people are willing to admit.  When he’s healthy, he’s as dangerous as they come.  At running back, we may not have Beastmode, but a healthy Thomas Rawls has proven to be wildly effective.  Eddie Lacy is a nice, big back who will get the tough yards and wear down defenses late.  And C.J. Prosise is as unique a talent at the running back position as there is in the league.  At wide receiver, Doug Baldwin is as good as they get.  Lockett is a speedster with great hands.  P-Rich really came on strong in the playoffs last season and has a lot of talent at making the difficult catches.  And Kearse is a fine #3 or #4 possession receiver with good blocking abilities.  Tight end might be our strongest position on offense, with the combo of Graham and Willson making life difficult for opposing defenses.  I won’t go crazy about the O-Line, but there are a lot of returning pieces who should improve by virtue of ending the 2016 season healthy, bulking up, and having that experience in their back pockets.  You have to like a lot about the D-Line, that killed it in run blocking, and has a lot of great pass rushers.  Avril & Bennett obviously anchor that line and are great in all facets of the game.  Rubin and Reed are solid run stuffers.  Frank Clark is coming on like gangbusters.  Malik McDowell has all the talent in the world at pass rushing from the tackle spot.  You can mix and match those guys in all sorts of different formations and should come off in a good spot.  At linebacker, we return Bobby Wagner – the team’s MVP of a season ago – and K.J. Wright, two of the league’s best.  When we’re not in nickel, you’re looking at any number of talented free agent signees to play that SAM spot and play it well.  At corner, we return Sherm and Lane; Sherm is still his wonderful self, and Lane is still good enough.  Shead will hopefully be back at some point to add to this team’s depth, and in the meantime a number of rookies will vie for that nickel corner spot (or the opposite outside spot, thus pushing Lane inside), including 3rd rounder Shaquill Griffin.  Tack on the aforementioned safeties, and I’m telling you, that’s a starting roster that can hang with the best of ’em, including the vaunted New England Patriots.

I don’t think anyone is questioning that, necessarily, but from a national perspective it’s a lot like that famous Eminem chorus:  motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre.

The NFL is very much a What Have You Done For Me Lately league, particularly with the fickle media.  If you scan around at some of the Power Rankings, NFL.com has the Seahawks ranked 10th (behind the likes of the Bucs, Chiefs, and Giants).  I mean, what do those teams have that the Seahawks don’t?  Last I checked, Tampa has a very young QB who has yet to prove he’s a winner at this level, the Chiefs are staring down the barrel of a quarterback controversy after trading up to pick one in the first round, and the Giants still employ Eli Manning.  ESPN.com has the Seahawks up at 6th, which feels a little more reasonable, but still behind the likes of the Steelers and Falcons.  The Steelers have a lot of fantasy football talent on the offensive side of the ball, but they’ve yet to really prove they’re ready to make the leap and challenge for the AFC Championship; and I think the Falcons are in for a rude awakening when they kick off this season with the COLLOSAL downgrade at offensive coordinator (Sark, stepping in for Kyle Shanahan).  Peter King, in all his infinite wisdom, has the Seahawks at 9th, behind the Chiefs again, as well as the Titans (in his Top 5!).

If you want my opinion, I think the Top 5 should look something like this:

  1. New England
  2. Green Bay
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle
  5. Dallas

New England was the best team last season, and it looks like they’ve only gotten better with their offseason moves.  Green Bay is as good as they get as long as they have Aaron Rodgers (similarly to the Seahawks, they just need to stay healthy to reach their potential).  I’m in love with everything that Oakland has done this offseason (aside from abandoning their city and moving to Vegas); they remind me a lot of the 2013 Seahawks with how young and talented they are (though, maybe tilt it in the offense’s favor as opposed to the Seahawks’ defense in 2013).  And, you could go either way with Dallas/Seattle in the 4th/5th spot, with Seattle having the edge by virtue of Dallas crumbling in big game after big game.  Let them prove they belong to a higher ranking rather than just handing it to them with their so-so defense and injury-prone receiving corps.

But, as always, it comes down to depth.  Will the Seahawks need it and do they have enough of it?  And, can their remaining healthy starters do enough to compensate for where they’re lacking?

Let’s take quarterback out of the equation because without Russell Wilson, this team doesn’t work.  Trevone Boykin is cool and everything – and I fully expect him to win the backup job again – but he’s not even close.

Can the three-headed hydra of Lacy, Rawls, and Prosise make it through 16 regular season games plus the playoffs?  As much as I want to gnash my teeth about this position group, I think the Seahawks are okay here.  Yeah, Rawls will probably have some nagging injuries that cause him to miss a few games.  Yeah, Prosise will be banged up.  Heck, Lacy might even roll an ankle or something.  But, what are the odds that all three of them go down at once?  Even still, I thought Alex Collins looked okay in spurts in his regular season duty and should be able to fill in okay as an emergency backup.  Beyond that, I mean, I’m not going to sit here and predict another running back apocalypse like last year, so let’s move on.

The wide receiver group looks a lot different if Lockett has trouble and isn’t able to make it back.  I think that pushes Kearse back into the #2 role, which is less than ideal.  Also, while P-Rich was great in the playoffs, he’s yet to do that over the long haul.  Granted, he hasn’t really been given the opportunity, so here’s to hoping he makes the most of it this year.  Beyond those guys, Darboh is a rookie and I fully expect him to be a last resort type.  That leaves Tanner McEvoy and/or Kenny Lawler; both have their strengths, but gametime experience really isn’t one of them.  Continuing with tight end, the starters may be the most talented of any group on offense, but the reserves are the biggest question marks.  Nick Vannett was a draft pick in 2016, but never really played.  Beyond that, we have guys I’ve never heard of before, one of whom will surely win a job in the pre-season.

The one place the Seahawks tried their damnedest to improve depth – in their own Seahawky way, i.e. on the cheap – was along the O-Line.  Fant, Glowinski, Britt, and Ifedi all return, though with some projected shuffling of spots.  Britt is the leader and best of the bunch; Ifedi returns to his more natural right tackle spot (until he proves he can’t handle it and is moved back to guard); Fant is the key to the whole thing, as he needs to prove he’s capable of holding his own at left tackle, so we can slot our main competition into the guard positions (Joeckel vs. Odhiambo on the left; Aboushi vs. Glowinski vs. Pocic on the right).  Let the best men for the job go to town and hope for the best, I suppose.  What I would say is that the Seahawks are probably in a better position for success with this unit than they were at this time a year ago.  We know Britt is a bona fide starter in this league at center.  Fant, Glow, and Ifedi all have a year of starting experience.  Odhiambo has a little bit of experience, but he’s also being put into a better position to succeed by getting his shot on the left side of the line (as opposed to the right, where he struggled in limited action last year).  And Joeckel and Aboushi are a couple of serviceable veterans who by no means allow us to say, “Problem Solved!”, but they provide better depth than we had a year ago.  And, Pocic appears to be a talented, highly rated rookie, who could step in in a pinch, but will probably be better served in sitting and watching for a year to bulk up and learn the system.  If he’s as good as people say he can be, he could be filling in for any number of guys who win a job out of Training Camp.

The Seahawks are strongest along the D-Line, but you still wonder about their ability to get pressure up the middle.  With the emergence of Frank Clark, I think we’ll still see a lot of Michael Bennett sliding inside, but we had that for the most part last season and still didn’t wreak enough havoc to make much of a dent.  As such, it’s really do or die with Malik McDowell, as if he doesn’t make an impression as a rookie, you’re hoping for Quinton Jefferson to do something in his second season in the league, or one of the bigger guys – Reed, or Nazair Jones perhaps – to step up and do something they’ve yet to prove they’re capable of doing.  Also, not for nothing, but with the loss of Tony McDaniel, did the Seahawks sacrifice their run defense for the sake of interior pass rush?  That might not be the worst thing in the world if we only fall from Best In The NFL to something like 7th-best in the NFL.  But, if we take a deep hit, because of injuries or ineffectiveness, other teams’ abilities to run the ball at will could hinder our ability to put in the ol’ NASCAR package and really do damage to opposing quarterbacks.

I absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without the likes of Wagner or Wright, but it won’t be pretty.  As things stand, it’s a huge unknown what these new additions will bring to the table.  I hear good things about Wilhoite and Brown, but that’s just chatter; it means nothing until I can see them in games and see how they mesh with the scheme.

I also absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without our studs in the L.O.B.  Bradley McDougald, Neiko Thorpe, and a whole bunch of rookies and young guys.  Without Shead in the mix, it’s hard to say we’re all that improved depthwise, so here’s to hoping they can just hold their own until he’s good and ready (and here’s to hoping the pass rush is as advertised, as they could REALLY help ease this transition period in the L.O.B.).

I really want to like these guys.  I really want to be confident about this season.  I want to believe that we’re better than we were in 2015 and 2016, that we won’t have those fatal flaws that prevented us from getting past the Divisional Round in the playoffs.  Ultimately, it’s going to come down to getting the job done in the regular season, getting that playoff BYE week, and playing clutch football when it matters most.  To get to that spot, it’s going to come down to a lot of injury luck and certain guys stepping up in a big way over the production (or lack thereof) that we got last year.