Huskies Are Back On The Map With A Drubbing Of Stanford

The largest crowd in Husky stadium history since the renovation got to witness something special last night.  Millions of people across the country watching on ESPN got to witness something they haven’t seen in 25 years.

We’ve had some mildly impressive wins in recent years.  A 5-win Husky team in 2009 upsetting #3 USC with their backup QB, a Thursday-night blackout win at home against UCLA in 2010 (with Jake Locker playing with broken ribs) to help kickstart our run back to bowl game relevancy, a couple of defensive home victories against top 10 teams in 2012, even last year’s road victory against USC as a nice bookend to Sark’s head coaching career.

But, those were all deeply flawed Husky teams.  Those were all Husky teams who’d lose to the REALLY great teams.  Those were Husky teams who, in the biggest games, would find one way or another to shit the bed.  Fumbles, penalties, missed tackles, inability to get off the field on third down.  Most times, against the very best, it wouldn’t even be close.

There I’d be, getting my panties in a wad, getting all excited about that week’s showdown against Oregon or Stanford or whoever the fuck was going to be the stepping stone to bigger and better things – IF ONLY WE COULD GET OVER THE HUMP – and then there I’d be, not even an hour into the game, standing there in the stands, voice already hoarse from screaming, brown-out drunk from the 10 hours of tailgating, rain dumping on my pocho-less body, asking myself why.  Why do I keep showing up for these games, getting way too excited, when I should know better?  These are the Huskies.  They don’t beat a Top 10 Stanford team!

They sure as shit don’t dominate them like they did last night!

Last night was … a treasure.  If this were a Sark-run Husky team, for starters they would’ve made it one of those inane blackout games that almost never achieve their intended effect.  Secondly, we’d be all in a lather at the opening kickoff, and by the end of the first quarter, we’d be a group of quiet, sullen chumps snookered into yet another lie.  But, this ISN’T a Sark-run Husky team doing just enough to win 7 games and make an inferior bowl game; this is Chris Petersen’s team, and he’s got higher ambitions.

He’s also got a team, in 2016, that’s really fucking good!

Last night, we were in a lather.  Oh boy, were we in a lather!  And with every big Husky play, with every big Husky sack, with every big Husky stop on 3rd/4th down, the crowd grew louder and more confident.  6-0, 13-0, 16-0, 23-0, 30-0 just after halftime.  The more time that passed, the more our lead grew, the stronger we got.  We all got to share in the experience of kicking the asses of one of the teams that’s tormented us the most.

God, it was glorious!  Christian McCaffrey was held in check, unable to run free like he does in most of his other games; we probably held him to what will be his worst game of the season!  Think about that!  We’ll get to say we saw the Heisman Trophy winner at his most bottled up!  Hell, we might have done just enough to prevent him from GETTING that trophy!  Some voters might think, “Well, so-and-so didn’t have a crappy game like McCaffrey had up in Washington,” and we’ll never know.

Jake Browning was his usual effective, efficient self (210 yards & 3 touchdowns).  John Ross got another touchdown, as did Dante Pettis.  Myles Gaskin had 100 yards rushing and 2 TDs, Lavon Coleman broke a 25 yard TD run late in the game to rub salt in the wounds.  All told, as a team, we had over 200 yards rushing while holding Stanford as a team to 29.

We bullied the bullies.  We clogged up their all-world offensive line (always the best of the best prospects they ever draw down in Stanford) with our massive and overpowering defensive linemen.  We punished their backfield with 8 sacks and 10 tackles for loss, while our own offensive line (long the source of frustration for Husky fans, as our best Washington state high school linemen keep getting poached by the likes of the Cardinal) had a relatively clean game of 0 sacks and only 1 tackle for loss.  We did to them what they always do to us, and for that reason a 44-6 football game has never been more satisfying.

I don’t need to tell you what this means.  For starters, we’re entrenched as a Top 10 team going forward.  We got to open the eyes of a national audience plagued by East Coast Bias.  Last night, we were the only game in town!  The only game in the whole damn country!  They turned their televisions on last night to see an entertaining game against two Top 10 teams they don’t normally get to see.  What they ended up seeing was the dawning of a new age!  A Washington team – celebrating our 1991 championship team during commercial breaks – looking to return to prominence.  They saw we belong.  While our record to this point could’ve been in question based on the level of competition we played, there’s no doubt about the impressiveness of our dominance over Stanford.  That team is legit, and we CRUSHED them!

Not only are we entrenched as a Top 10 team, but we’re on the map for the College Football Playoff if we win out.  But, at the very least, we’re in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North, which puts us in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 Championship Game, and ultimately a shot at getting back to the Rose Bowl.

Now, we just have to beat the piss out of Oregon next week.

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

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

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

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

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

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

NFC East

Dallas
NY Giants
Philadelphia
Washington

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

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

NFC North

Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

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

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

NFC South

Carolina
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

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

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

NFC West

Seattle
St. Louis
Arizona
San Francisco

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

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

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

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
NY Jets

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

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

AFC North

Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland

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

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

AFC South

Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville
Tennessee

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

AFC West

Kansas City
Denver
San Diego
Oakland

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

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

NFC Playoffs

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

AFC Playoffs

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

Wild Card Round

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

Divisional Round

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

Championship Round

Seattle over Dallas
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Indianapolis

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Blew All Of Our Minds; Traded Max Unger For Jimmy Graham*

* – plus gave up a 1st round draft pick for a 4th round draft pick

Not gonna lie to you, it was going to take a lot for me to be interested in these offseason moves the Seahawks were making.  Anthony McCoy re-signed?  Will Blackmon brought back?  Cary Williams as our Byron Maxwell replacement?  Marshawn Lynch extended?  Yeah, that’s all fine, but it’s not moving the needle of my own personal interest.

I thought FOR SURE there wouldn’t be any big splashes this offseason.  You know, aside from extending our own guys (Lynch, Wagner, Wilson, etc.).  I watched as Suh signed with Miami, Julius Thomas went to Jacksonville.  Hell, even the Jets managed to bring in Brandon Marshall for a song!  The Eagles were making their moves, the Colts look to be making their moves, the 49ers are falling apart, the Cardinals are making middling deals, the bottom-feeders with all the money will throw it around like it’s raining titties in their faces.  And meanwhile, the Seahawks would bide their time, collect as many compensatory draft picks as possible, and rummage through the scraps when all was said and done.  It wouldn’t be flashy, it wouldn’t even be all that pretty, but we’d cross our fingers, hold our breath, and hope for the best.

And then yesterday happened.  There was, like, a 1-2 hour window where everything on Twitter was a clusterfuck of adventure.  You know what everyone was talking about before noon yesterday?  How there’s going to be a Zoolander 2; DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER THAT NOW???  Then, look at what happened after noon:

  • Patrick Willis officially announces his retirement
  • The Bills & Browns going after Charles Clay
  • Various reports of the Saints shopping players, including Jimmy Graham
  • Speculation on where Reggie Bush might end up
  • Then, Jay Glazer brings the hammer down with Seahawks talking about Jimmy Graham with Saints
  • Then, almost immediately after, the deal is all but official
  • Then, almost immediately after that, Haloti Ngata goes to Detroit
  • Then, the Rams trade Bradford to Eagles for Foles (and picks traded also)
  • Then, the Pats let Browner walk
  • Then, Denver signs Owen Daniels
  • The Raiders sign Malcolm Smith
  • Frank Gore & Andre Johnson visit Colts

And, that doesn’t even get into Jake Locker RETIRING.  And everything else that happened afterward.  Just, absolutely, INsane.

My first coherent thought was:  there are no half measures with the Seahawks.  They’re not making blockbuster trades for scrubs.  It’s hard to ask for much more – talentwise – than Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham (I know these aren’t the only trades we’ve made, but these are the trades that cost us the most).  On paper, there’s not much to dislike about Jimmy Graham.  He’s been in the league five years and in four of those years he’s caught over 80 balls, at least 9 touchdowns, and over 800 yards.  And that’s on a Saints team with some really talented pass catchers through the years.

But, you know, it’s not even really about ALL of that.  We didn’t trade for a guy who’s going to catch 100 balls or 1,000 yards per season.  Just like we didn’t trade for that guy when we brought in Harvin.  Bottom line:  what we did was secure a dominant force in the red zone.  And he doesn’t even need to necessarily be who he’s been!  Granted, if we line him out wide, and he’s guarded one-on-one by a cornerback, we’re probably going to exploit that matchup more often than not.  But, just having him out there is going to draw the lion’s share of the red zone coverage (and in ways it never would have been with Harvin in the fold).

Speed is nice and everything, but it doesn’t make up for size when you’re down inside the 20.

The flipside of all of this is:  we lose Max Unger and we lose our first round draft pick.  Again.  Did you know Bruce Irvin was our most recent first round draft pick?  That was in 2012 for Christ’s sake!

Now, to be fair, trading for Jimmy Graham – as opposed to signing Julius Thomas for a comparable amount of money – means we retain a likely 3rd round draft pick in 2016 (a compensatory pick for losing Byron Maxwell in free agency).  So, in fairness, yes we lose the #31 overall pick this year, but we gain an extra 4th rounder from the Saints, AND we preserve our 3rd rounder next year.  So, that mitigates things a bit.

But, I dunno, I guess it’s just annoying.  There’s value in drafting in the first round, even if it is in the low 30s.  Maybe we do like we did last year and trade it back to gain a 2nd & a 4th.  Maybe we flip it for a first rounder next year!  Or, shit, maybe we keep that pick and draft a guy who starts for us immediately!  Maybe it’s not an all-world tight end or wide receiver, but I bet that hypothetical player would’ve been someone good!

All I’m saying is – when this blows up in our faces – you’re going to be reading many a blog post about how the Seahawks could’ve drafted So-And-So if they kept their first rounder.  Happens ALL THE TIME.

I’m less upset about losing Unger, because let’s face it, that guy is breaking down like nobody’s business.  When he’s healthy, he’s as good as it gets – especially in the run game – but each year he’s getting more and more dinged up.  We blew through four centers last year!  And, I know it wasn’t always pretty, but we managed.  The reason we struggled for so long wasn’t just because Unger was out.

I’ve been saying all along that the Seahawks need to draft a Center Of The Future this year, and that was when I still factored Unger in as our starter!  You have to think that guy’s out of football within two years; better to unload him now and save a bit of money with all that we’re taking on with Graham’s contract.

My concern about Jimmy Graham – outside of everything that we gave up – is twofold.  The first reason is more abstract:  the Seahawks traded away a first round draft pick for a receiver (and make no mistake, Graham is more wide receiver than tight end); teams that trade away first rounders for receivers almost ALWAYS see that shit blow up in their faces.  The Seahawks don’t have to look any further than Deion Branch and Percy Harvin.  Shit, everyone creamed in their pants over Harvin, and look at how that ended!

Now, the good thing about this one is that Graham doesn’t appear to be quite the hothead or mental case that Harvin was and is.  While there might be some hurt fee-fees after some of the jawing the Seahawks defense did with him a couple years ago, I doubt that’s going to single-handedly dismantle the locker room chemistry like Harvin managed.  That’s the kind of lightning you DON’T want to see strike twice!  That’s, like, actual lightning striking you twice.

My more concrete fear is the softness of Jimmy Graham.  He’s the same delicate little flower that would disappear for weeks at a time, while padding his stats against the bottom-feeders of the league.  Now, like I said before, I don’t necessarily need him to take over the entire offense between the 20’s.  But, I’m going to need a manly man in that endzone when we’re trying to convert drives into touchdowns!

Luckily, he only has to face the Seahawks’ defense in practice and not in games.  But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  you put a body on Graham and he’s going to crumple!

Now, factor that in with the fact that he’s a bigger, taller gentleman.  6’7, 265.  These guys tend to break down on a football field.  He’s already not all that fast, but he’s going to slow down to Antonio Gates levels in a hurry.  That might not mean a whole lot on the goalline, but he also can’t be TOTALLY anonymous between the 20s either.  2015 will be his sixth year in the NFL.  I feel pretty safe to say that it’s going to be the last year of his “prime” and it’s all downhill starting in 2016.

Meaning?  We better not lose him for a season like we fucking did with Harvin.  Because, if he goes down with a hip or an ACL or some damn season-ending thing, I don’t think there’s any recovery.  And, not only that, but we blew yet another first round pick, while all of our core gets another year older.

A lot is riding on this deal working out.  MUCH more than with the Harvin trade.  At the time, you could argue that Harvin was the cherry on top of an already championship-level sundae.  This time, we’re talking about the difference between maintaining a championship level vs. falling back to the pack.

Cards on the table:  before the Graham trade, the Seahawks were well on their way to being just another playoff team.  You could’ve argued that the Packers, Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals, and even the Giants were making waves in the NFC.  We were no longer the clear leaders of the pack; we were just part of that pack.

Now?  Now, I think this is a move you can safely say makes the rest of the NFC cringe a little bit.  The Seahawks WERE a team without much talent in the receiving game.  We were going to have to hit the draft hard and hope someone popped, but more likely, it would’ve meant a receiver popping in the next year or two.  Jimmy Graham is an influx of elite-level talent that makes us much more balanced on offense.  He bumps Baldwin, Kearse, and everyone else down a level, back down where they belong.

Sure, we’re stuck now replacing 40% of our offensive line, but I would argue that we needed to do that anyway.  Letting James Carpenter sign elsewhere is a boon.  He’s always getting dinged up, and now we get another compensatory pick for him.  Getting rid of Unger helps mitigate some of the cost we’re taking on, plus it throws a little more urgency in our search for his replacement.  A search – I’ve argued before – needed to happen regardless.

Overall, I feel much more at ease than I did before this all went down.  Yes, there’s risk.  Yes, there’s ALWAYS risk, in anything you do.  But, in the short term, it brings a lot of things into focus.  The Seahawks can be a little more choosy in their drafting and in their signing of low-level free agents.  One MAJOR hole has been filled.  Doesn’t mean you stop building, or thinking about the future.  But, at least this way, if the Seahawks run across a top-level player in the second round who isn’t necessarily our most-pressing need, we can still pick him up and bolster our roster.

Now, if we can just encase Jimmy Graham in carbonite until September, I’ll be much more at ease.

YOUR Washington Huskies Shit The Bed In The Cactus Bowl

I don’t know what to say.  I was as confident as you can be going into this game – going so far as making Washington my top choice in this year’s college bowls pool – and I was rewarded with the hottest mess imaginable.

One of my themes on the year has been:  we’re wasting all this great defensive talent with this mediocre offense.  That’s no less true now, and guys like Shelton, Kikaha, and Thompson will all be greatly missed.  But, for what it’s worth, what did those guys or anyone else do on defense last night?  I mean, what’s the deal?  We’re talking about no less than three All Americans on the same side of the ball; yet a team like Oklahoma State is able to shred us at will?  It’s not like those three guys are surrounded by total scrubs; this defense should be better than it is!

A lot of people are calling for the head of the offensive coordinator, but you know what?  This coaching staff failed across the board this year.  Part of the blame should rightly be placed on a difficult transition from one coaching staff to another; I’m willing to concede that.  But, I’ll tell you what:  I’m not giving this coaching staff FOREVER.  In fact, I’m less inclined to give this staff a long leash compared to Sark and his crew when they took over in 2009.  Because the expectations are higher right now, and quite frankly, the cupboards aren’t NEARLY as bare as they were six years ago.

Should Coach Pete and Co. get some time to have their guys mature and see what they can do?  Of course.  But, in the meantime, we shouldn’t be THIS FUCKING BAD with the players brought in by the former regime, because these are still some good players.

One of those players is absolutely not Cyler Miles.  He’s awful.  He needs to go.  This coaching staff can regain a lot of credibility in my mind by benching him and going with literally anyone else.  If Coach Pete wants to start a redshirt freshman next year and go through a zillion growing pains with a future possible star?  BE MY GUEST!  But, if I have to endure another year of Noodle-Arm Miles, just because he’s the most experienced, I’m going to flip the fuck out.

I mean, WHAT HAPPENED?  Washington is supposed to be a school that’s capable of attracting quality quarterbacks!  Even in our leanest times post-Tui and pre-Locker, we had quarterbacks who could do SOMETHING well.  They either had strong arms, or they were able to run fast.  Ol’ Noodle-Arm can’t do EITHER!

The Washington Huskies easily had the worst starting quarterback in the entire state of Washington, and that’s including Wazzu’s backup-turned-starter AND Eastern’s capable signal caller.  Hell, I’m thinking even the Bellevue high school kid’s got some tools Ol’ Noodle-Arm will never DREAM of having.

There really couldn’t be a grosser taste in my mouth after this season.  The only thing I have to possibly look forward to next year is the fact that we never have to see this starting offensive line group ever again.  But, really, no.  I’m NOT looking forward to next season.  At all.  Maybe if they bench Ol’ Noodle-Arm, but I doubt they’re even capable of doing that.  Zero expectations of anything good.  So, who knows?  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I dunno.

I can’t even sit here and expect to make a bowl game next year.  6-6 seems to be our highest upside, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Huskies at the bottom of the conference.

I’ll leave you with this:  the combined record of the seven FBS teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  26-60.  And this:  the combined conference record of the four Pac-12 teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  7-29.

2014:  total disaster for the Washington Huskies.

Injured Huskies Come Away With A Victory In Colorado

This season has been a bit of a bummer in a lot of ways.  There’s a lot of talent on this team, but some of it is raw and some of it is leaving after this year.  The quarterback position has been hampered by injury, ineffectiveness, suspension, and quite frankly, learning a new offensive system.  This was always going to be Cyler Miles’ first year as a starter for the Huskies, but it also coincided with a new coaching staff, along with all the off-season uncertainty regarding his involvement in that post-Super Bowl brouhaha.  As such, he has struggled.  With that, so has the entire team.

A more-experienced quarterback probably leads us to a victory in that Stanford game.  Someone like Keith Price CERTAINLY leads us to victory against Arizona State.  As it stands, we’re only 6-3, and only 2-3 in the conference.  There’s good and there’s bad; straddling that line betwixt them, we have the 2014 Washington Huskies.

The 2014 Washington Huskies come out flat against the winless (in conference) Colorado Buffaloes.  They let arguably the worst team in the Pac-12 hold a 10-point lead deep into the first half, and a 6-point lead in the third quarter.  They also find a way to turn it on at the end, scoring 21-unanswered, by sheer force of the discrepancy in talent.

Shaq Thompson has less than half the carries of Lavon Coleman, and yet has only 82 fewer rushing yards on the year.  Really, he’s had two starts and some sporadic carries here and there prior, yet he has proven to be far and away the best running back on this team.  But, he’s so much more than that!  He’s our overarching best playmaker on this team.  Defensively, he can play all over.  He’s got four touchdowns just on fumble and interception returns!  He’s going to go down as the greatest talent that’s ever worn a Husky uniform and it might not even be close.  If you’ve ever wondered why recruiting matters in college athletics:  it’s 5-star recruits like Shaq that give you your answer.  Ever wonder why the same teams are at the top of the heap in College Football every year?  Because whereas the Huskies have one 5-star athlete, Alabama has a team FULL of them.

With our running backs starting to get healthy, I find it really interesting that the Huskies are looking to keep Shaq in the mix.  Why not?  Let’s face it, the offense needs all the help it can get.  We’re by no means perfect on the defensive side of the ball, but I think we can manage okay.  But, offensively?  We’re sort of a trainwreck without Shaq on the field.

Right now, Cyler Miles has no reason to feel comfortable out there.  The offensive line has been a decade-long work in progress (with only the names on the backs of the jerseys changing).  John Ross has been hampered by injury for most of the season.  And, quite frankly, the receivers we’ve got out there just don’t compare to some of the guys we’ve lost to graduation in recent seasons.

Which is why we NEED Shaq on offense, as an outlet if nothing else.  Let HIM be the focus of the offense instead of Miles.  Let defenses try to game plan around him instead of shutting down our passing game.  With some of the pressure off, I think Cyler Miles can be serviceable going forward.  He might not be the long term answer, but for right now he’s still the best we’ve got.

Also, I’ll be interested to see the continuing maturation of Dante Pettis, my new favorite Husky.  It’s nice to have that punt return game not only on lockdown, but as a legit strength of this team.  He was finally able to return one for a touchdown last week, for the first time in over a decade for the Dawgs, and I would expect that to be the first of many.  On offense, he also caught his first TD, on a nifty 28-yard reception down the sideline.  I’ll certainly look forward to him getting more involved on offense.  Whenever John Ross is able to get healthy, with Pettis and Mickens getting some serious minutes, we’ll have the kind of weapons all over the field that could make our offense quite formidable.

This week, we host the Bruins.  The Huskies haven’t beaten the Bruins since 2010 (the infamous Jake Locker Broken Ribs game that kickstarted a 4-game winning streak to finish the season, culminating with a Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska).  Overall, the Huskies have lost 8 of the last 10 games we’ve played against the Bruins (it might extend beyond that, but I only opted to look as far back as 2002).  Currently, the Bruins are in the Top 25 and still in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

I’d be fine if we didn’t do anything else this season, if it meant we beat the Bruins and knock them out of contention.  There are precious few teams I hate more than UCLA (indeed, I can probably count them on one finger), so nothing would give me more pleasure.

Also, not for nothing, but the 2014 Huskies don’t have a Signature Win yet.  Even the most inept Sark teams always had a signature win!

  • 2013 – 69-27 road victory against Oregon State, where we ran the ball for a million yards
  • 2012 – 17-13 win at home against a Top 10 Stanford team
  • 2011 – 31-14 road victory against a tough Utah team (admittedly, this is stretching it a bit with the definition of “signature win”)
  • 2010 – 32-31 road victory against a Top 20 USC team
  • 2009 – 16-13 home victory against #3 USC, one season removed from the Huskies finishing 0-12

If we can’t beat UCLA this week, what are we looking at for our Signature Win of 2014?  A dominating road victory against a Cal team that MIGHT finish its season at 6-6?  I’m not gonna lie to you, that’s not going to make for a very satisfying season.

Looking ahead, the Huskies do go on the road to play a highly-ranked Arizona team, but I’m not so sure we’re going to be very competitive in that one.  Following that, we’ve got games against bottom-feeding Oregon State and Washington State.

So, really, if you’re looking at this thing realistically, a home victory against the Bruins is our only shot at a Signature Win.  No fucking around this week!  I want to shove it right in their faces!

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 5

I can’t say that I’m all that wild and crazy about the defense this year.  How about you?

We’ve played Green Bay, at San Diego, Denver, and at Washington.  By my accounts, that’s two great teams, one good team, and one bad team.  To those teams, we’ve given up 20.75 points per game.  That’s up from 14.44 points per game last year, when we led the league.  So, what gives?

Maybe it’s nothing.  After all, with last year’s team, it wasn’t all 43-8 beatdowns.  There were a lot of tense moments!  The Houston, Tampa, and St. Louis games come immediately to mind.  This last one against the Redskins reminds me almost exactly of last year’s home game against the Titans.  Probably should’ve been a huge blowout, but Seahawks mistakes kept it close and made more than a few people uncomfortable.

So, what can we look at?  Well, for starters, let’s look at 4th quarter scoring.  We’re giving up, on average, 8 points per game in the 4th quarter.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s usually the difference between a comfortable blowout and a closer, 1-score game.

Let’s also look at third down conversions.  The Seahawks are allowing teams to convert 25/57, or around 44% of the time.  You probably want that percentage somewhere in the mid-30s.  That’ll help explain a lot of these longer drives.  The more plays run, the more time they burn, the more time our defense is on the field, the more opportunities for mistakes.

Now, look at turnovers.  We’ve got a total of three.  Two interceptions (Maxwell & Chancellor) and one fumble recovery (Wright).  How do we explain this?  Well, the Seahawks have been unlucky in the fact that there have been 5 other fumbles that we DIDN’T recover.  But, what about the interceptions?  Where has the L.O.B. been in all of this?

Surely, teams aren’t testing Richard Sherman as much as they did last year (which in and of itself was a mystery to me).  I’m sure they’re being somewhat more cautious, knowing what we all know about the studs in our secondary.  You could argue that the pass rush has been down compared to last year.  We’ve only got 6 sacks in 4 games.  We’ve got 18 hits on the quarterback, which makes it look a LITTLE better.  I don’t know what the count is on hurries, but it doesn’t feel to me like we’ve taken a huge step back in this department.

If you want my opinion, I think teams have just gotten smarter.  I think they watched all the tape on us that they could from last year, they figured out what our defense does well and where it struggles.  I think they’re throwing a lot of quicker passes to avoid the pass rush, and I think they’re taking smart chances down the field when they have their opportunities.  Don’t throw a fade to Richard Sherman’s side.  At best, he’ll just tip the ball away for an incompletion (at worst, we’re taking it back to the house).  Instead, work some double-moves.  Force our DBs to switch and make decisions on the fly.  Yes, we have the most intelligent and well-studied secondary in football, but they’re not going to be perfect.  Every once in a while, they’ll take a bad angle, or leave someone uncovered.  And, if you’ve got a Desean Jackson running the route, or a Peyton Manning throwing the ball, you’re going to get beat once in a while.

Part of it is, yeah, shit happens.  It IS a small, 4-game sample size.  The Seahawks ARE 3-1, so let’s not start jumping off of buildings.  We’ve still got plenty of games against teams that match up well against us.  The Raiders, Giants, and Cowboys should all be pushovers.  If we really ratchet up the firestorm in these next few weeks, all of these numbers will normalize.  We’ll get our turnovers back up to par, we’ll hold teams down at the end of games, and we’ll get off the field on third down more regularly.

But, the other part of it is:  we’ve got to adjust.  The rest of the league has – I don’t want to say “figured us out”, but they’ve certainly changed their schemes against us.  I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily working, but it’s a lot better than what they managed against us last year.  So, we’ve got to counter.  We’ve got to figure out what they’re doing that’s working and shut that down.

While, at the same time, keeping what works for us.  Namely, the run defense.  If this thing is real, then we’ve got a real ace up our sleeves.  All Dallas does now is run the ball!  The Panthers, Giants, and Chiefs are all in the run-first mold.  We can take advantage of all of these teams if we’re able to shut down their running games; none of those quarterbacks should put the fear of God into you.  And, as for all the NFC West teams?  Well, I’m going to withhold judgment on the Rams until I see more out of Austin Davis, but the 49ers and Cardinals can’t get out of their own way at the quarterback position.  If we shut their running games down, they’re powerless against us!

So, I’ll be interested to see how the Seahawks do over the next month.  Will the defense be an ongoing concern?  I sure hope not.  I think we all sort of planned on the offense being improved (and maybe picking up some slack), but I enjoy this team much more when we’re stomping other teams into the ground on defense.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (3-1) – Never a doubt.
  2. Denver Broncos (3-1) – Ditto.
  3. San Diego Chargers (4-1) – The Chargers are for real.  If that defense proves it’s worthy of a top 10 ranking, watch out.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – They were doomed from the start.  A pissed off Patriots team at home, during primetime for the second straight week?  That had rout written all over it.
  5. Detroit Lions (3-2) – Now that they’ve got a kicker, prepare for a nice run on wins.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) – Must be nice playing in the worst division in football three years running.
  7. San Francisco 49ers (3-2) – Not the easiest next two games leading into their BYE as they go to St. Louis on Monday night, followed by going to Denver on Sunday night.  Prepare yourself to watch A LOT of 49ers football the next two weeks.  Probably more 49ers football than you ever cared to see.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) – They better figure out how to get Shady McCoy going if they ever want to seriously contend this year.
  9. New Orleans Saints (2-3) – It took overtime at home to beat the Bucs?  I don’t know what I’m doing keeping this team in the top 10.
  10. Green Bay Packers (3-2) – Are you smelling an upset this week down in Miami?  Because, I kinda sorta am.  These Packers are going DOWN!
  11. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – Good, not great.
  12. Dallas Cowboys (4-1) – Ditto.
  13. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) – Look, I was flying back from Anaheim on Sunday, so I didn’t see a lot of football, all right?  Justin Forsett got me some solid points in Fantasy while Lamar Miller was on BYE though, so that’s cool.
  14. New England Patriots (3-2) – Imagine that:  you take the bubble wrap off of Gronk and your offense is actually able to move the football.  WEIRD!
  15. Arizona Cardinals (3-1) – Perfect no more, and now they’ve lost their best defender for at least a few weeks.
  16. New York Giants (3-2) – With a bullet!
  17. Atlanta Falcons (2-3) – Good GOD is this team shitty on the road!  They catch the Bears at home, though, so bank on them being 3-3 this time next week.
  18. Chicago Bears (2-3) – You heard me.
  19. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) – It’s like, every week the Steelers find a new way to troll football fans!
  20. Carolina Panthers (3-2) – Starting to really regret not drafting their tight end this year.
  21. Houston Texans (3-2) – How about that J.J. Watt, huh?  He’s like a million times better than that J.J. Watt commercial, I’ll tell you that much.
  22. Miami Dolphins (2-2) – This is the week where the Dolphins get you to believe they’re worthy of being in the playoffs.  It won’t last long.
  23. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – I like this Browns team!  Mostly because Hoyer is keeping Johnny Football on the sidelines.
  24. Washington Redskins (2-3) – That’s some great defense you got there in D.C.
  25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) – This team is going to start stealing wins it shouldn’t have.  Mark it this week, my upset special:  Tampa over Baltimore.
  26. Buffalo Bills (3-2) – What is it with the Bills and beating NFC North teams on the road this year?
  27. New York Jets (1-4) – The Chargers’ defense got me a shutout last week in a losing effort in fantasy.  Thank you, Jets!
  28. Minnesota Vikings (2-3) – Well, if you can’t figure out how to get Cordarrelle Patterson the football, then I’m afraid he’s not long for my fantasy team.
  29. St. Louis Rams (1-3) – Wouldn’t it be nice if they went out and beat up on the 49ers this week?  I promise if you do, I’ll put you in the Top 25!
  30. Tennessee Titans (1-4) – Is Jake Locker the next Marques Tuiasosopo?  The guy who might be great, but we’ll never know because he’s always injured?  Hey guys, welcome to Steve Emtman’s world.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) – I’m beginning to think this isn’t the fringe-playoff team I’d once predicted them to be.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-4) – Not only do they lose a home game to playing in fucking London, but they gotta spend their BYE week getting over jetlag.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 3

What’s this?  Another reminder to vote for me in the Western Washington Sports Blog competition?  This is absolutely too much!

Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll plan out my posts for the next couple weeks.  I try to get one post per day, Monday thru Friday, and I like a little routine in my life.  Lately, with football season starting, it’s been:

  • Monday – Seahawks recap
  • Tuesday – Huskies recap
  • Wednesday – Mariners recap
  • Thursday – NFL Power Rankings
  • Friday – Seahawks preview

It’s a good system.  Covers all my bases and sets myself up to not have to think too hard about what’s going on.  But, when we get into BYE weeks, there are gaps to fill.  And, with these power rankings, I always like to have an intro topic to talk about.  Maybe something that’s not worthy of its own post, but still something I find interesting.

Anyway, for today, in my little “note to self” in the section where I have my idea for this post’s intro, I wrote:

Is Anything Wrong With The Seahawks’ Defense?

And then below it, I wrote:

Probably not.

This is what I have to work with for today.  If this doesn’t interest you, I encourage you to skip ahead to the rankings.  Spoiler Alert:  I still like the Seahawks a lot.

So, IS there anything wrong with the Seahawks’ defense?  Again, probably not.  It’s early in the season, so a lot of this is more “gut feeling” than anything tangible.  Also, if you’re in the Excuse-Making game, it’s easy to argue that the Seahawks have faced three of the better offenses – and in particular three of the better quarterbacks – in all of football.  Totally valid.

When I take a step back and look at this team objectively, I see a lot of the same faces we had last year, when the Seahawks were the best in football.  The L.O.B., the linebackers, and many of our stars on the D-Line are all back and all still in the primes of their careers.  Some may be dealing with injuries – either concealed or not – but either way you wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off.  And, I’m not saying there IS a huge drop-off.  But, something feels wonky.  That’s all I’ve got.

The run defense is off-the-charts good and way better than I thought it’d be, considering the loss of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.  We’re giving up less than 3 yards per carry, and less than 73 yards per game.  That’s GREAT!  So, you won’t hear me speak ill of the rush defense one iota.

The pass defense is a little more unsettling, as we’re giving up 249 yards per game (up from 172 last year), but again, consider the opponents.  When we get to start factoring in the likes of Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and whoever the Rams, Cardinals, and Raiders end up throwing at us, that 249 figure is sure to go down.

AND, not for nothing, but it’s not like the 2013 defense was perfect!  Indy managed 34 points.  A winless Tampa Bay team ran up a huge first half lead before we started our comeback.  And, shit, even the Cardinals – after Palmer had thrown four interceptions – managed a late-game, game-winning touchdown in CenturyLink to delay our winning of the division by a week.

So, really, what am I getting at?  Nothing, I suppose.  Once we put a little more distance between us and that San Diego contest, my nerves should calm down.  And maybe the next time, when a good team is driving down for a game-tying (or game-winning) score, we can nip that in the bud instead of letting them send the game into overtime (or, heavens forbid, another loss).

One interesting trend I’d like to watch going forward is the number of defensive snaps played by each guy on that side of the ball.  The usual suspects are in the 90% range of percentage of plays played (the entire starting four in the L.O.B., Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright at 87.5%), and the next man on the list is Michael Bennett at 76.4% of the defensive snaps.  I want to say that’s up a good 20-or-so percent compared to last year, when most everyone was in the 50-60% range along the defensive line.  We all sort of expected that when Bennett signed the contract extension (and guys like Bryant and Clemons were let go, freeing up more snaps for our new starters), but it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up as the season goes on (especially considering the BYE week is happening now, followed by 13 straight weeks of football).

Avril’s snaps are up as well, to 67.6%.  Everyone else is down in that 40-50% range that we like to see.  So, for all this talk about teams using the hurry-up offense to keep us from rotating guys in and out, we can rest assured that it’s all mostly just talk.

In the end, it’s going to come down to injuries.  If the defense can stay healthy, it will still be great.  If we start losing guys left and right, then we’re probably in trouble (but, you can say that about anyone).  Having Kam Chancellor playing through ankle issues is a little distressing.  As I said before, I’d rather he get the surgery done now if it means he’d be able to return later this season.  I’d rather have him 100% for a playoff run than have him 75% now and deteriorating by the week.  This thing isn’t going to magically get BETTER on its own without rest or surgery.  Since he’s having neither the rest of the way, don’t be shocked if at some point down the line we end up losing our starting strong safety for the season.  Either due to this issue, or some other issue related to this one because he’s compensating.  Me no like.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – That’s what we call a “sigh of relief”.  Now we get a week off to rest our injured player (singular) before another road game against another tough offense.  Watch out for the Redskins, that’s all I’m saying!  I’m just kidding, I’m not saying anything; and their defense is beyond a joke.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1) – I can’t say that I’m QUITE as convinced as ever that it’ll be a Broncos/Seahawks repeat in the next Super Bowl, but I’m fairly certain the AFC will feature either the Broncos or the Bengals.  Big matchup between those two teams in Cincinnati in week 16.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – So, that’s kinda weird:  the best three teams in football all have BYEs in week 4.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) – They’re not much on defense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field a defense to win the NFC East.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – They’re not much on offense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field an offense to win the NFC East (wait …).
  6. New Orleans Saints (1-2) – To inspire the least bit of confidence in my opinion of this team, they COULD have put up a better effort against a hapless Vikings team.  That’s all I’m saying.
  7. Detroit Lions (2-1) – I’m not gonna lie to you, but I’m gaining more and more confidence in their ability to win the NFC North with every passing week.  Or, at the very least, have a better record than the fucking Packers.
  8. San Diego Chargers (2-1) – The only loss is by 1 point on the road to a very good Cardinals team.  For the record, on Thursday, October 23rd, they play the Broncos for the first time.  I will be watching that game.
  9. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) – I got perverse joy out of that Thursday night dismantling of the Bucs.  Mostly because Matt Ryan is my quarterback in fantasy and before the season started I was THIS close to trading him straight up for Jamaal Charles (it’s a keeper league).
  10. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – They lost two games by one score apiece to two very good teams (Eagles & Broncos).  Their schedule the rest of the way looks about as reasonable as a schedule can be.  If Luck stays healthy, even with their suspect defense, I could see them finishing 13-3.  Mark it down now.
  11. New England Patriots (2-1) – Anyone else less than impressed by the Patriots right now?  A pretty bad loss down in Miami in week 1, and now a pretty ugly win at home against the Raiders.  THIS is supposed to be the team that contends with the Broncos for the Super Bowl?
  12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.  *Takes a deep breath* … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  13. Chicago Bears (2-1) – Big test this week against the Packers.
  14. Green Bay Packers (1-2) – Stunk up the joint in Seattle.  Let the Jets get out to a big lead before mounting a comeback.  Stunk up the joint again in Detroit.  We always wonder about the Packers’ defense, but what’s going on with the offense?
  15. Carolina Panthers (2-1) – I couldn’t possibly fathom what happened in that game against the Steelers, but I’m grateful (my fantasy team was going up against a guy with the Panthers’ defense).  This is going to be a tough team to peg all year, I can already tell.
  16. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – The Ravens play 5 of their 6 divisional games by week 9.  Their schedule the rest of the way looks less-than-ideal; they might not win more than 1 more road game going forward.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Their defense looks pretty good when the opposing offense has no skill position players!
  18. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – A lot of people (myself included) jumped off the Cowboys bandwagon pretty hard after week 1.  Not that the bandwagon was filled with a bunch of people thinking this was a playoff team; but this also isn’t a team that’s going to be held to 4 wins or less.  As long as that offense has its stars, they’ll be able to out-score some of the crummier teams out there.
  19. Washington Redskins (1-2) – KILL ME, I like this team about a million times more with Cousins at quarterback.  RGIII might go down as a Top 5 most disappointing NFL player of all time (not counting the wife beaters, child abusers, dog killers, human killers, and so on).
  20. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – Don’t get too excited, it’s only the Miami Dolphins that they beat.
  21. New York Jets (1-2) – Even in defeat, this team is showing me more fight and vigor than these teams below them in the rankings.
  22. Buffalo Bills (2-1) – Stop trying to talk yourself into the Bills.  It’s not going to happen.
  23. Miami Dolphins (1-2) – Well, after a strong opener against the Patriots, they’ve followed that up with two clunkers.  Suffice it to say, the new offense isn’t clicking like they’d envisioned.
  24. Cleveland Browns (1-2) – They’re bad, but they’re not the worst.  I hope they keep themselves close in all their games so Johnny Football rots on the fucking bench for the rest of his life.
  25. Tennessee Titans (1-2) – Jake Locker has the best job security in the NFL, and it’s not even as a result of him being all that talented!  When your only alternative is Charlie Whitehurst, you’d stick with Matt Cassel himself to avoid having to watch Clipboard Jesus boner his way through a football game.
  26. St. Louis Rams (1-2) – A little birdie told me that the Rams, as a team, only have one sack on the season.  That’s … less than ideal.
  27. New York Giants (1-2) – The Giants are like the Cowboys except without the talented stars on offense.  Which might be the biggest insult I’ve ever written about anyone.
  28. Houston Texans (2-1) – I’ll never understand how Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard ever gets a starting job in the NFL.  It would seem to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be better suited as a career backup, and playing absolutely anyone other than Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be the better option.  But, you know, that’s just me.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) – Hey who knew giving a career backup a starting job following a crazy-insane stretch of just a few good games would blow up in a team’s face?  I certainly didn’t, because I think I picked the Bucs to be a playoff team.  But, I’m an idiot, so that’s to be expected.  One of these years, the Bucs WILL make it back to the playoffs; just not this year.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – This offense is the WORST!  Norv Turner needs to be given the Old Yeller treatment.  How hard is it to simply have Cordarrelle Patterson run a crossing pattern each and every pass play?  It’s pretty obvious that the quarterbacks they have aren’t ready for the down-field passing scheme Norv is famous for, so it’s time to change the scheme to fit the personnel.  NORV!
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-3) – I got nothing.  At least the Raiders have three straight home games (with a BYE week thrown in) to really rest up and enjoy the end of the Bay Area summer.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) – Blake Bortles is your starting quarterback for the rest of the season!  Hope he doesn’t get killed by your offensive line!

Predicting The 2014 NFL Season

This was me last year.  I like doing these posts because I’m an idiot.  So, without further ado, here’s how I think the NFL season is going to go down.

(How’s that for an intro to get your juices flowing?)

NFC East

Philadelphia
NY Giants
Dallas
Washington

I tend to have a pretty good idea of where things stand – or, at least, where I THINK things will stand – by this point in the pre-season.  But, I’m more befuddled this year than probably any other year.  I start to REALLY second-guess myself when I start predicting repeat division champions, because that’s generally what all the national pundits go with and the national pundits are fucking morons.

That having been said, you might see a lot of repeaters out of me this year.  Since I can’t predict where injuries are going to fall, I have to look at straight up talent.  And Philly has it all over the rest of the teams in the East.  For the record, all four of these teams have just the worst defenses, but I think the Eagles have it a hair above the others.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see something of a bounce-back year out of the Giants and Eli Manning to perhaps get to 9 wins.  Dallas will score a lot and they’ll give up a lot, and Tony Romo will be Tony Romo.  Something in the 7-win range is in order.  RGIII is looking at a new coaching staff and probably some more growing pains.  If you’re a Redskins fan, you probably hate to see your young quarterback suffer coaching instability this early into his career.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay healthier this year, but also take a step back as they try to turn him into a pocket passer.  Watch out for a potential QB controversy here as well.

NFC North

Detroit
Green Bay
Chicago
Minnesota

Gotta take a chance in your predictions somewhere.  I thought Detroit was poised to crack the playoffs last year, but ultimately their coaching staff was comprised of nothing but fuckups.  Your team reflects that.  This year, they’ve got a calming influnece in Jim Caldwell.  I didn’t like him as much trying to follow Tony Dungy in Indy, but I like him here taking over a hyper-talented offense.  That team should be averaging 30 points per game; how they improve their rushing attack will dictate how efficiently they’re able to score.  And the defense HAS talented pieces.  I think Caldwell’s staff will be able to get the most out of this unit, and I think the Lions will push through to take the division with 10 or 11 wins.

I still think Green Bay will be good, but they’ve got a brutal schedule.  They start 4 of 6 on the road, including games at Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, and Miami.  They also have to go to New Orleans and Tampa, while catching New England, Atlanta, Carolina, and Philly at home.  Like I said:  BRUTAL.  Chicago still stinks on defense and shouldn’t be anything to worry about.  Jay Cutler is still Jay Cutler and he’ll continue taking stupid chances that will be picked off in big situations (Tony Romo-lite, as it were).  Minnesota will be a bottom-feeder.

NFC South

New Orleans
Atlanta
Tampa Bay
Carolina

You’re going to see a minimum of two playoff teams in this division, but I’ve got a feeling (and I’m staking my reputation on it) that we’ll see three.  I think New Orleans is – with Seattle – among the best two teams in the conference (and maybe in all of football).  Their offense is still amazing, but their defense REALLY impressed me last year, and only figures to get better as players gel and exceed expectations under their second year with Rob Ryan.  It’ll be neck-and-neck with the Saints and Seahawks for the top two seeds, but ultimately the Saints will win a minimum of 12 games and hang onto that second seed.

Elsewhere, with Atlanta healthy, they’re sure to rebound.  Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback and they’ve got one of the best wide receiver duos in the league with Julio Jones and Roddy White (still effective after all these years).  What you have to hope for, if we’re all being honest, is that Steven Jackson doesn’t get in the way.  He’s done.  He’s old and slow and useless.  MAYBE if they used him (when he gets healthy again) exclusively as a goalline back, he might be somewhat decent.  But, they’ve got to turn that running game over to the younger backs we’ve watched on Hard Knocks this year.  Defensively, they can’t help but improve just by having healthy bodies on the field.  Really, they have to do just enough to make other teams work for their points and let their offense get a lead.  The secondary is young and went through their growing pains last year; I would expect a good step forward out of them in 2014.

Tampa is my third playoff team.  Lovie Smith is a pro’s pro at head coach.  Josh McCown is a great pickup for them.  He should prove for that team what Alex Smith was for KC:  a steady influence that will manage the offense, keep mistakes to a minimum, and let the players around him be the stars.  Defensively, Tampa is stout.  Young and fast and hungry.  With Lovie’s defensive-mindedness, we should be looking at a Top 10 unit, with the upside of a Top 5.

As for Carolina, I just don’t see a repeat of 2013 in their immediate future.  As it was, they had practically no weapons on offense, and then they lost their top two receivers to free agency (well, Steve Smith was released, but still).  Their horrendous cap situation has destroyed this team, leaving no one around Cam Newton to pick up the slack.  He may be elite, but he can’t literally do EVERYTHING.  The defense lost some pieces too, which should contribute to their free fall in 2014.  If they get knocked around by the injury bug, you’re looking at a 4-win team.  At best, I think they’re only a 6- or 7-win team.

NFC West

Seattle
San Francisco
St. Louis
Arizona

I’ll get into this more on Thursday when I come out with my big prediction post, but I think the Seahawks – with this vastly improved offense and still-great defense – will get to 14 or 15 wins.  San Francisco’s defense is getting KILLED by injuries and suspensions.  Without that unit being a Top 5 (or even Top 10) unit, I think the offense will struggle as it’s tasked with carrying the load.  My guess:  8-9 wins and on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Elsewhere, I think the Rams are young enough and talented enough at certain spots to overcome the loss of Sam Bradford and look decent.  Maybe they struggle early, but I could see this team coming together and stringing some quality games out towards the end of the season.  Arizona is facing a similar situation with injuries and suspensions to their key defensive starters; they’ll take a step back in that area.  And, I still don’t buy that the coaches will give Ellington the superstar role he deserves.  With the atrocious Carson Palmer at the helm, I wouldn’t expect his health for anywhere near 16 games; and even when he IS healthy, I expect him to continue to be far below average.  That’s a 3-4 win team if I’ve ever seen one.

AFC East

New England
Miami
NY Jets
Buffalo

Tom Brady continues to be the man.  I don’t necessarily care for their receivers, but if Gronk can return to anywhere near his form two years ago, they’ll manage.  The running game is always a question mark for this team, but I think they’ll get by with their committee approach.  I like Miami’s potential on offense, as they bring in a new coordinator who worked with Philly last year.  Up-tempo, lots of short passes for Tannehill, and an improved running game should be just what the doctor ordered.  I REALLY wanted to pick them as a Wild Card team, but I think they’ll just miss out.  Still, we could be looking at a 9- or 10-win team, giving them hope for the future.  The Jets still should be good on defense, but I don’t think they’ll have enough on offense to win late in games.  Buffalo kind of looks like a trainwreck right now.

AFC North

Cincinnati
Pittsburgh
Baltimore
Cleveland

The AFC is where you’re going to see a lot of the repeat predictions out of me.  Cincinnati is a nice, well-rounded team.  Andy Dalton will probably never make the jump to elite status, and will thus struggle to win games in the playoffs.  But, in the regular season, against some of the lesser teams in the AFC, with the talent around him, he’ll continue to put up good-enough numbers to stay employed.  Defensively, I like them a lot.  Again, nothing flashy, but just all-around solid.  I’d expect a lot of 24-10 games out of this team in 2014.

Pittsburgh was an 8-8 team last year and they were old and injury-riddled throughout.  Their offensive line should improve just by staying healthy, if they can manage it.  Roethlisberger may be on the downside of his career, but he’s got enough in the tank for a couple/few more runs at the playoffs.  Antonio Brown is a stud, and if their running backs manage to bounce back from their weed-smoking infraction late in the pre-season, we could be looking at a very solid team.  How the Steelers will fare depends entirely on working in younger players on defense around the veteran starters they retained.  I think it’ll be just enough to snag a 6-seed.

Baltimore still looks to be reeling from that insane contract they gave Flacco.  Their running game sucks, and if they continue to lean on their wacky pass-first mentality, it figures to be a long season for them again.  Joe Flacco had that great Super Bowl run a couple years ago, but he’s not an elite quarterback.  Torrey Smith tantalizes in fantasy, but ultimately falls short of expectations.  Defensively, I’m not convinced they’ll be in the top half in the league.  And, as for Cleveland, you’re looking at one of the worst teams in football.  They’ll be drafting high again; so Browns fans better hope they have the general manager in place – with all of their draft capital – to rebuild smartly.

AFC South

Indianapolis
Jacksonville
Tennessee
Houston

Has anyone led a more charmed life than Colts fans over the last couple decades?  They have maybe the best quarterback of all time for the bulk of his career – culminating in two Super Bowl appearances and one title – then he gets injured for one year, they win the #1 pick, and they have the great fortune to draft Andrew Luck:  another guy who may end up as one of the best of all time.  AND, to top it all off, just as Luck comes into the league, the rest of their division totally falls apart, giving him every opportunity to win this division for the foreseeable future.  It’s Indy and everybody else in the AFC South.

I like Jacksonville to continue to improve under Gus Bradley.  Blake Bortles will contend with Derek Carr of the Raiders for best QB in his draft class.  Hopefully, they can bring him along slowly and give him a soft landing somewhere around mid-season.  I can easily see this team scratch its way to 8 wins.  I don’t think Locker will ever be able to stay healthy and prove what he’s capable of.  Even if he does play the bulk of their games, this just isn’t a good team.  They have an upside of probably 7 wins.  Houston will fight with Cleveland, Buffalo, and the Raiders for that top draft pick in next year’s draft.

AFC West

Denver
San Diego
Kansas City
Oakland

Manning has another year in him.  Their defense is vastly improved.  They shouldn’t miss Decker too much with Sanders in the fold.  The running game will always be secondary as long as Manning is behind the center.  This is a Top 2 team in the AFC.  San Diego should look even better than last year’s team that snuck into the playoffs.  They’ll still be a Wild Card team, but I like them to be one of the better Wild Card teams in football and give either Cincy or Indy a run for their money in that 4/5 playoff game.  Kansas City lost pieces in the defense and they still don’t have an elite receiver.  They’ll go as far as Jamaal Charles takes them, and I really wonder about his health.  The Raiders will start to be interesting as soon as they bench Schaub’s ass and put Carr into the starting role be much more exciting with Carr as a starter.  Carr may not light the league on fire the way he did against the Seahawks in that final pre-season game, but he’ll look plenty good and keep them in some ballgames.  Still, you hate to see one of the worst teams also as one of the oldest.  I could see injuries take this team down for the count early.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. New Orleans
  3. Detroit
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Atlanta
  6. Tampa Bay

AFC Playoffs

  1. Denver
  2. New England
  3. Indianapolis
  4. Cincinnati
  5. San Diego
  6. Pittsburgh

Wild Card Round

Detroit over Tampa Bay
Atlanta over Philadelphia
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
San Diego over Cincinnati

Divisional Round

Seattle over Atlanta
New Orleans over Detroit
Indianapolis over New England
Denver over San Diego

Championship Round

Seattle over New Orleans
Denver over Indianapolis

Super Bowl

Seattle over Denver

Predicting a repeat of the previous year’s Super Bowl matchup is about as hokey as it gets, I know.  But, one thing I won’t do is predict something different just because the odds are so far against a repeat matchup.  Seattle and Denver are, by far, the best two teams in football again this year.  And, it’s not like it’s an impossible feat – Dallas and Buffalo had a couple repeat Super Bowl matchups in the early 90s.

My thing is – and I’ll deny it to my grave if I’m wrong – I have a SERIOUS nagging worry that the Seahawks and Denver will both make it back to the Super Bowl, but it’ll be the Broncos hoisting the Lombardi trophy while we sit and watch, devastated.  Again, that’s not what I THINK will happen, but it’ll always be in the back of my mind until Peyton Manning breaks an ankle around midseason and completely blows up this predictions post.

For the record, I’m two for my last two in predicting Super Bowl matchups and Super Bowl winners.  I had Baltimore over San Francisco, and I had Seattle over Denver.  I’m on a pretty good run here, so let’s see if I can keep it going.

Reviewing The Wild Card Weekend

So, the Seahawks get to face the Saints.  I’ll have my take on why we’ll beat them later in the week.  For now, let’s take a look back at the weekend that was.

Indianapolis defeats Kansas City 45-44

There was a great article on Grantland last week about the woes of the Kansas City sports fan.  People like to anoint Cleveland as the most tortured sports city, even though they’ve actually won championships in football (granted, in the 40s and 50s), and their baseball franchise has actually PLAYED in the World Series and won a title.  But, whatever, it’s Cleveland, so you might as well let them win SOMETHING, even if it is as dubious a title as this.

Kansas City certainly belongs in the discussion, especially recently.  They haven’t won an NFL playoff game since January of 1994, with Joe Montana at the helm.  And, as of this weekend, the saga continues.

To gag away a 28-point lead (the second-largest deficit overcome in NFL Playoff history, behind the Bills/Oilers game in January of 1993, with a 32-point halftime deficit) early in the third quarter is incomprehensible.  With the way the Colts were playing, with Andrew Luck having a terrible first half & change, I couldn’t envision a scenario where the Colts made their way back into the game after being down 38-10.

And yet, doesn’t it make sense?  Andrew Luck, the golden child, pulls a miracle out of his ass thanks to an amazing game out of T.Y. Hilton and some of the worst defense I’ve ever seen out of the Chiefs.

You gotta wonder now:  Is this as good as it gets for the Chiefs under this regime?  It looks like they’re going to stick with Alex Smith for the duration, which, I guess, isn’t the worst thing in the world.  The only thing is:  he’s never going to get any better; it’s only going to go downhill.  Alex Smith rarely costs you a game, but when the going gets tough, he also rarely goes out and wins you a game either.  That defense was pretty rock solid through most of the 2013 season, but depth was a real issue when people started getting injured.  They likely don’t have the weapons they need on offense to really be elite (outside of the running game, of course), Dwayne Bowe is no longer a #1 receiver, which makes Alex Smith’s job that much tougher.

Going forward, in upcoming seasons, there are a bunch of teams in the AFC whose situations you have to like more than the Chiefs.  I think they’re just going to be a run-of-the-mill playoff team going forward.  They’ll get there – they may even get a win in the playoffs eventually (whenever Peyton Manning falls off the cliff and the Chiefs take over that division for a season) – but I highly doubt they’ll ever get to the Super Bowl or win one with their current roster set-up.

As for Indy, the sky is the limit as they move on.  Great offense almost always trumps great defense.  I won’t count them out of any game against the Patriots, that’s for damn sure.

Finally, as for me, I missed this pick (just barely), leaving me 0-1 to start the weekend.

San Diego Defeats Cincinnati 27-10

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks selected James ‘Pancakes’ Carpenter in the first round, at pick #25.  We were coming off of Matt Hasselbeck’s final season in Seattle – a shocking 7-9 division title and playoff victory against the Saints – and everyone knew one thing about this team:  we needed to draft a “quarterback of the future”.

Prior to 2010, we traded for Charlie Whitehurst, but after one season that proved to be a bust.  We made our peace with Hasselbeck leaving and were left with a questionmark going into 2011.  We would eventually pick up Tarvaris Jackson, who was but another stopgap for this team.  The 2011 draft:  THAT’S where we were going to find our quarterback.

Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder all came off the board before the Seahawks could pick.  That 2010 playoff run really screwed us in the long run, because picking so low in the draft (for a team that wasn’t very good to begin with) didn’t leave us with many options.  Of course, Gabbert and Ponder are the apocalypse, and Locker has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career.  Really, we dodged a bullet in a way by having the 25th pick.

Of course, we ended up dodging an even BIGGER bullet by taking Carpenter instead of Andy Dalton – who fell to Cincinnati in round 2, at pick #35.

Andy Dalton does JUST enough good things to keep him employed as a starting quarterback in this league.  But, he does JUST enough horrible things to ensure that his teams will never see the light of day in a Super Bowl.  Sunday’s game was no different, as he made two horrible throws for interceptions and also lost a fumble.  People like to clown on Tony Romo, but I would choose him in a HEARTBEAT over Andy Dalton.  Tony Romo has greatness about him, but he’s just kind of a fuck-up sometimes.  Dalton does nothing great, yet plays like he does, and that’s what gets him into trouble.  He thinks he can make all the throws, but he can’t.  His career to date has been a never-ending series of long bombs to A.J. Green … and that’s it.  If he didn’t have A.J. Green, he would be no better than the Kyle Ortons or Matt Cassels of the world.

San Diego, meanwhile, gets to go back and play Denver – a team they’ve beaten IN Denver this season.  I still like Denver in that game, but when Philip Rivers gets going, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in football.  That game could be REALLY fun to watch next week.

And, of course, since I picked Cincy, that makes me 0-2 for the weekend thus far.

New Orleans Defeats Philadelphia 26-24

Saturday night was movie night, which meant that I missed the tail end of the Colts/Chiefs game and all of the Saints/Eagles game.  By all accounts, this was an entertaining one, and the better team ultimately came away victorious.

My mantra when picking playoff games is to pick the better team, regardless of whether they’re home or away.  New Orleans is just flat-out better than Philadelphia.  So, bringing up arguments about how the Saints have never won on the road in the playoffs is just stupid; you didn’t think that was going to go on forever, did you?

Philly is good.  Nick Foles really surprised and impressed me this season.  But, they’re just not there yet.  They’ve got the weapons on offense to go pretty far in this league (making an already-stacked NFC that much more formidable), but until they get some talent infused into that defense, I don’t like them to be much more than the NFC’s answer to what Kansas City or Cincinnati are in the AFC.

I think it’s cute that New Orleans thinks they have a chance against Seattle this week.  One would think:  you stunk up the joint earlier this year, why would you expect that to change now?  They seem to think, however, that since they’ve played in this environment before, they’re going to be “used to it” now.  Yeah, right.

In 2010, the Saints came in here for a playoff game and, sure, it was pretty loud and rowdy (that Beastmode run really electrified the crowd anyway), but no one really expected us to do anything in the playoffs that year.  I would argue that – Beastquake aside – the fans were more hard core in this year’s Monday Night Football game against the Saints.  Because this is a team with expectations.  And, that was a game that weighed heavily on the NFC #1 seeding.

But, the game on Saturday?  You’re going to see a level of 12th Man Mania that you’ve never seen before – not even in the Carolina NFC Championship game in 2005/2006.  It’s only a shame the game isn’t on at night, to give the fans a chance to REALLY get liquored up.

Drew Brees, you’re going to want to pack some extra strength headache medicine this weekend.  Our fans aren’t only going to try to inconvenience your offense, but we’re actively going to try to make your ears bleed.

Also, this game put me on the board with a win, making me 1-2 on the weekend.

San Francisco Defeats Green Bay 23-20

You gotta give Green Bay a lot of credit:  they’ve been beaten repeatedly by the 49ers in recent years, and yet they’ve done absolutely nothing to rectify the most glaring issue about their team:  the defense.

Predictably, Colin Kaepernick ran and threw all over the Packers on Sunday, because that’s what he does.  Green Bay puts up shitty pressure on the quarterback, ultimately never touching the man.  But, they also run themselves completely out of the play, so Kaepernick has these GIGANTIC running lanes with which to gash the defense.  Here’s a thought:  let Kaepernick defeat you with his arm.  Yeah yeah, I know, in the regular season he did just that, but what are the odds he’s going to throw for over 400 yards again?  Especially in sub-freezing weather conditions, on the road, on a shitty field?

His 227 yards through the air wasn’t doing much against the Packers.  But, his 98 yards on the ground fucking MURDERED Green Bay.  Way to breathe, no-breath.

So, it’s official, if the Seahawks are going to make the Super Bowl, they’re going to have to go through at least one elite defense, as San Francisco goes on to play Carolina.  My preference is to play the Panthers, because I don’t think they’re as good as the 49ers, and because I look for every opportunity to see disappointment in Jim Harbaugh’s fat, stupid face.  I hope his kids are terrible toy-makers and constantly talk about how much they want to be dentists.

After this game, I’m 2-2 on the playoffs.  Pretty standard, if you ask me.  Later on in the week, I’ll come back with my Divisional Round Predictions.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 10

If you don’t like “If The Season Ended Today” posts, then I encourage you to skip all of this and move straight to the power rankings.  If you don’t like both “If The Season Ended Today” AND power rankings posts, then I apologize for wasting your time.  It might not be a total loss though; there’s a new Jacksonville Jaguars YouTube clip you might enjoy (or might find totally bananas).

For the record, if I were wealthy and didn’t have to work a day job anymore, I would spend all of my time finding YouTube clips for all of the teams in my Power Rankings and it would be the most splendid 14 hours you’ve ever spent reading an Internet post.

Anyway, getting back … if the season ended today, the Seattle Seahawks would have the #1 seed, the New Orleans Saints would have the #2 seed, and the Wild Card Round would look like this:

#6 San Francisco @ #3 Detroit
#5 Carolina @ #4 Dallas

If this, indeed, is the way the playoffs shake out (remember, we have another 7 weeks of football to go, so anything could happen), then I’m putting my money on San Francisco and Carolina winning their respective playoff games.  Which would make the Divisional Round look like this:

#6 San Francisco @ #1 Seattle
#5 Carolina @ #2 New Orleans

How sick would THAT be?  Two divisional games IN the Divisional Round!  For the record, I think the Seahawks and Saints both win these games, leaving us with an NFC Championship Game of New Orleans @ Seattle, with the Seahawks winning the rematch and going to the Super Bowl.

Everything that follows is an assumption that the Seahawks will win the #1 seed and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Here’s the thing, there aren’t many teams I legitimately fear, as a Seahawks fan.  If you ranked the above five other playoff teams, in order from Most Feared to Least Feared, it would look something like this:

  1. Carolina
  2. Detroit
  3. New Orleans
  4. San Francisco
  5. Dallas

The 49ers don’t scare me, whatsoever.  You play that game in Seattle, and you’re talking about a team in the 49ers who don’t have a prayer of moving the football on us.  Yes, they have a good defense, but we’ve proven we can move the ball on their defense pretty well.  Carolina, on the other hand …

We’ve looked pretty shitty against the Panthers the last two years.  Granted, those games were on the road, but they’ve still got a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball.  AND, while they haven’t scored that much against us the last two times we’ve played them, I remember a ton of receiver drops and inopportune fumbles.  If they manage to clean up their act, they could be the second-most dangerous team the Seahawks face.

The first?  Well, let’s do a little tinkering to our playoff roster.

Right now, the teams on the bubble are the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers.  The Eagles are 5-5 and tied with the Cowboys (who currently hold the tie-breaker, but still have a game left to play against the Eagles).  I would be shocked if two teams from the NFC East made the playoffs, so let’s just assume the East gets only one team and leave it at that (besides, you still can’t count out the Giants, even though they’re only 3-6).  The rest of those teams are 5-4, but if the Cardinals find a way to sneak into the playoffs, I’ll eat my hat.

That leaves the Bears and Packers.  The Bears look talented-enough, but is Josh McCown really the guy to hold the fort until Cutler is totally healthy?  They don’t have the easiest schedule in the world, plus they host a week 17 matchup against the Packers that could decide everything.

Which brings me to the Packers, the team I fear the most.  Don’t ask me why.  Just know that the last team I want to see sneak into that 6th seed is the Packers.  It would make me a very happy man for the Bears to just take care of business, but I don’t know if I’m that confident.

If Aaron Rodgers comes back in time for the Thanksgiving game against the Lions, I could see this team going on a run to end all runs.  The Packers will probably lose in New York against the Giants this week, dropping them to 5-5.  After that, they host the Vikings, which could go either way.  If they go 1-1 before Thanksgiving, that puts them at 6-5 with games against Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Pittsburgh.  It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this team finish 10-6, a game behind the Lions, and thus forcing them into the 6th seed Wild Card matchup against … the Lions.

What we’ve got going for us is the fact that the 49ers hold a tie-breaker over the Packers thanks to their week 1 win.  So, the 49ers (or, I guess the Panthers) would have to totally fall apart to let the Packers sneak in there with a 6-seed.

Any way you slice it, though, you’re talking about teams coming into Seattle, so my fear is all relative.  Can we be beaten at home?  I guess anything’s possible.  Will we be beaten at home?  I highly doubt it.

On to the rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (8-1) – Got pretty damn conservative in the second half of that game.  Look for similar tightness when the Broncos get in the playoffs and start playing nothing but good teams.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (9-1) – Big, “complete-game” win in Atlanta.  Granted, it’s Atlanta, but you gotta play the teams you’re scheduled to play.

The Rest:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) – If they find a way to beat the Broncos, you’ll be looking at a Top 3 followed by “The Rest”.
  2. Carolina Panthers (6-3) – This team is fucking TOUGH!
  3. New England Patriots (7-2) –  Well well well, look who goes into Carolina next week.  Suddenly, it’s the Patriots who should be afraid.
  4. New Orleans Saints (7-2) – Yeah, their offense looked pretty good against the Cowboys.  But, just about every offense looks good against the Cowboys.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  What the shit was that?
  6. San Francisco 49ers (6-3) – Well well well, look who lost a game they probably should’ve won.  WEIRD!  It’s not like I totally called that or anything.
  7. Detroit Lions (6-3) – Absolutely huge win in Chicago!  Looks like my pre-season pick of the Lions winning the division isn’t so mind-blowingly dumb.
  8. Chicago Bears (5-4) – What are you doing bringing Cutler back before he’s fully healthy?  You had a good thing going with McCown taking care of the ball and Forte carrying the mail.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) – Not a contender.
  10. Green Bay Packers (5-4) – Well then.  By the time Rodgers comes back, will the Playoffs even be an option?
  11. New York Jets (5-4) – I have no idea about this team.  They play Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami, and Oakland in their next four games.  They could win all four, lose all four, or anything in between and it wouldn’t shock me.
  12. Arizona Cardinals (5-4) – I guess I haven’t paid much attention, but apparently this defense is in the Top 3 or something?  They give up enough points to throw morons like myself off the scent.
  13. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) – Nick Foles!  And they said it couldn’t be done!  They said he couldn’t be great!
  14. Dallas Cowboys (5-5) – As long as Nick Foles stays healthy, the Cowboys miss out on the playoffs.  It’s as simple as that.
  15. San Diego Chargers (4-5) – I don’t know what to make of a world where Philip Rivers doesn’t throw multiple idiotic interceptions per game.
  16. Miami Dolphins (4-5) – I don’t even know what to say right now.
  17. Baltimore Ravens (4-5) – Just good enough to keep things interesting in the AFC North.  Just bad enough to miss out on the playoffs.
  18. Cleveland Browns (4-5) – This is how weird this season is going:  if the Browns win this week, they will have swept the season series against the Bengals – and the Bengals are the favorite to win the division!
  19. New York Giants (3-6) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Oakland Raiders, BFD.
  20. St. Louis Rams (4-6) – Well, I’m going to have to start rating this team higher, if they’re going to look this good.
  21. Houston Texans (2-7) – I guess Keenum can’t do everything.
  22. Atlanta Falcons (2-7) – This ain’t your year.  Pack it in, get a high draft pick, and come back better than ever next year.
  23. Buffalo Bills (3-7) – Young teams will have games like this.  They’ll also have games like the one against Carolina earlier in the year.  You take the good with the bad and hope everyone improves going into next year.
  24. Tennessee Titans (4-5) – Locker can’t stay healthy.  An ex-Husky quarterback who can’t stay healthy in the NFL long enough to make an impact:  where have I seen this before?
  25. Washington Redskins (3-6) – So, I guess we can write off that huge comeback season for the Redskins this year.
  26. Oakland Raiders (3-6) – Wow Raiders.  Just wow.
  27. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6) – The Steelers can’t work their way back into the playoff picture, can they?
  28. Minnesota Vikings (2-7) – Hey, way to go on Thursday night!  Way to make the Seahawks’ strength of schedule just a wee bit better.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) – HEY NOW!!!  No more winless teams!  I knew you could do it!
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.