I’m Not So Sure About This Year’s Apple Cup

I normally throw up a Seahawks preview on Fridays, but they’re playing the 49ers, we’re apparently NOT going to see the start of the Jimmy Garoppolo Era, and so I couldn’t care any less.  Therefore, I’m gonna take a look at tomorrow’s Apple Cup.

So, this game is a pretty big deal!  In the Pac-12 South, USC has predictably run away with it and has secured its spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  In the Pac-12 North, there are currently three teams with 2 conference losses:  Stanford, Washington, and Washington State.  Stanford, at 7-2, is finished with conference play, and by virtue of having beaten Washington, has effectively eliminated the Huskies from an opportunity at winning the conference.

The Cougs, however, by virtue of having beaten Stanford, only needs to win the Apple Cup this weekend to secure its spot in the conference title game.

In short:  Huskies win tomorrow, Stanford moves on; Cougars win tomorrow, Cougars move on.

So, yeah, in one sense, the Huskies have nothing to play for.  But, it’s still a football game, it’s the final game a lot of these players (particularly the seniors) will play at home, and while there isn’t much satisfaction to be gleaned from playing spoiler, it would still be pretty funny to dash the hopes of Cougars everywhere.

Ultimately, though, I just don’t know how much I can get up for this one.  First and foremost, we’re just two weeks removed from the Cardinal ruining our season.  In a hypothetical universe where the Huskies are still a 1-loss team, I have to imagine we’d be on the outside looking in on a College Football Playoffs Top 4, but we’d still be right there in the conversation.  Top 7, top 8 at the worst, with various rivalry games and conference championship games left to play.  In this scenario, if the Huskies win the Apple Cup, then beat a very good USC team … you never know.  Anything could happen!

So, like I said, we’re just two weeks removed from Stanford taking all of that excitement away from us … and now if we beat the Cougs we’d be HELPING them to a conference title game appearance.  I mean, FUCK those guys!  If I’m being perfectly honest, I would RATHER have the Cougs in the Pac-12 title game than Stanford.  Shit man, the more I think about how many road games I’ve attended in their crappy fucking stadium – all of them DEVASTATING losses – and the more I think about all the quality offensive linemen they’ve stolen from our backyard because they’re the “Harvard of the West Coast” or whatever bullshit moniker they’re rolling with to try to make their overrated school look better; the more I think about their obnoxious head coach (a deciple of the even MORE obnoxious Jim Harbaugh, I might add), the more I want the Huskies to tank this game tomorrow and let the Cougs stroll to a Pac-12 North championship.

It’s tough.  A real catch-22.  Because it’s not like I can just put my allegiances aside for three hours!  The upside of a Husky defeat is we get to screw Stanford, who screwed us first, so it’s the perfect revenge.  The upside of a Husky victory is, what?  Continued dominance over our in-state little brother school?  I get to lord our superiority over my Cougar friends?  Where’s the fun in that?  That’s more of a Stanford thing to do, anyway!  I’d be becoming everything I hate!

Plus, I mean, come on, we’re the Washington Huskies, IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING we’re better than the Cougs!  We don’t need to win one measly little Apple Cup in a meaningless season to prove that!  On the flipside, if they were to beat us, just imagine how much they’ll get to crow about it.  They’ll get all big for their britches, and it’ll be all the sweeter when we smack their asses down next year.

As for my prediction, I will say that while I would prefer to be in their position (having something to play for), I do like that the pressure is all on the Cougs.  They’re on the road, where they’ve been significantly worse this season, and they’ve got to beat a still-very-good Husky team to get to where they want to go.  But, honestly, beyond the psychological and home-field advantages, I think the edge is all in Wazzu’s favor.

Wazzu has the better quarterback; Jake Browning has not only not progressed this year, he’s actually RE-gressed.  While Luke Falk has been benched a couple times, I would argue that adversity has made him a better, sharper player.  Jake Browning, after winning the job as a true Freshman, has never had ANYONE nipping at his heels to steal his job, which makes me really wonder if he’s grown complacent.  I think Falk will be on his game from the get-go.  He’s a Senior, he’s played everywhere, and I don’t think this environment will be too big for him.

Wazzu, I would argue, also has the better defense, which is really saying something.  The Cougs have been pretty remarkable on defense since Mike Leach took over, which is not something I ever would’ve expected.  I remember his Texas Tech days where both teams would score 30+ points pretty regularly.  At Washington State, his defenses have been pretty stout … with the exception of when playing in the Apple Cup.  To wit:

  • 2012 – Huskies scored 28
  • 2013 – Huskies scored 27
  • 2014 – Huskies scored 31
  • 2015 – Huskies scored 45
  • 2016 – Huskies scored 45

But, something tells me this year’s Huskies won’t be putting up points in bunches like in years past.  Browning, as I noted, has regressed.  The offensive line isn’t the strength we all expected it to be.  None of the receivers outside of Dante Pettis have shown up to play this year.  And, if the Huskies can’t get their running game going, it will be a LONG day.  The Cougs also have one of the best D-Linemen in all of college football, probably the only other interior player to rival Vita Vea in sheer strength and explosiveness.  The Huskies, by contrast, are supremely banged up on defense – particularly in the secondary – and have given up 30 points in back-to-back weeks to the likes of Stanford and Utah (not exactly the most overwhelming offenses in the Pac-12).  Things are trending downward for this unit, and I just don’t trust them against a passing attack like Wazzu’s, who feast on quick throws.  I can see the Cougs converting a ton of third/fourth downs (just like Stanford and Utah) and tiring out this Husky unit.

Sure, the Huskies have the edge in Special Teams, and probably the run game, but I think it’s easy enough to neutralize both.  Kick away from Pettis; kick it out of bounds if you have to!  Done.  Line up Hercules Mata’afa on the interior of the D-Line and let him go to town on our over-matched guards; that should settle Myles Gaskin’s hash pretty good.

In short, do I think the Huskies can make it 5 Apple Cups in a row?  No.  I know Vegas loves the Huskies, and I know the analytics love the Huskies, but I just don’t see it.  If you sat me down in a sportsbook right now, pointed a gun to my head, and told me to bet my family’s farm, I’d put the deed on the Cougs and I wouldn’t even ask for points.

So, good news Dawg fans!  As I’m frequently wrong in my gut-assessments, this should be a no-brainer Husky victory!  All I know is, I’ve watched a lot of football in my day, and I know when one team is clearly better than the other.  I think, this time, the Cougs are just plain better, and they have plenty of talent (on top of motivation) to win this game pretty handily.

Come Saturday evening, I’ll either be happy because the Huskies won, or I’ll be happy because Stanford can go fuck itself.  This is shaping up to be a nice little day!

Should The Seahawks Stop Punting On Backup Quarterback Already?

There was some Tweet saying that John Schneider was at Texas Tech’s Pro Day, ostensibly to look at their quarterback who’s coming out in this year’s draft (but, I would think, more likely to look at other players).  With the Seahawks, there’s been a lot of non-stories being spread around (more per capita than the average team, if I have anything to say about it), between Beastmode forcing a trade to the Raiders, and the Seahawks supposedly soliciting offers to trade away Richard Sherman; it’s all a bunch of media-created nonsense to generate clicks, pageviews, and hours of sports radio content.

YOU PEOPLE ARE SHAMELESS HUMPS!

Anyway, now there’s that Tweet, and it makes it sound like the Seahawks are in the market for selecting a quarterback high in the draft, with the intended effect of Seahawks fans speculating on Russell Wilson’s future with the team.

Obviously, the Seahawks aren’t getting rid of Russell Wilson, so let’s just put that to bed right now.  It’s probably like I said above, there’s probably some low-rated draft prospect on Texas Tech the Seahawks are getting a closer look at, nothing more.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder:  SHOULD the Seahawks look to fill their backup quarterback role with someone other than an undrafted rookie who recently was involved in a drunken driving collision and an arrest?  Even if Trevone Boykin was a model citizen, does it make sense to run him out there again as our #2?

2016 should’ve opened up PLENTY of eyes in that Seahawks organization with all that went down.  Specifically, the quality of the offensive line, and the byproduct of Russell Wilson being hobbled for more than half the season.  Hey, fancy that, the kid’s actually human!  (sort of)  Russell Wilson has ankles rolled up on and knees bending the wrong way just like the rest of us!  (that made more sense in my head)  I’m not saying he’s going to be the next Ben Roethlisberger, who’s injured every year without fail, but I will say a couple things:

  1. After 4 full seasons where Wilson never missed even a practice rep, he had something of a year from hell and we got to see what this offense looks like with him at 50% or worse; so just imagine what it would look like with him totally sidelined.
  2. When you start sustaining injuries like that to your knees and ankles, you don’t see your foot speed increase over time.  You tend to get a lot slower as you age; that shit adds up!  At some point, Wilson’s legs will be as worthless as Peyton Manning’s, and at that time, will he still be as effective a leader of this offense?

Before 2016, we didn’t have to worry about this shit, because we had Tarvaris Jackson and we all agreed that he was the kind of quality backup this team needed in the event where Wilson might go down.  But, he was always coming back on 1-year deals (when the rest of the league turned its collective backs to him), and the Seahawks really needed something more permanent in its backup.  Someone who could grow with Wilson, build value in the pre-season, and maybe generate draft picks in trade should he turn into a Jimmy Garoppolo-type.  More than anything, we need someone comfortable in our system and someone with actual NFL talent, for when disaster does strike (and believe you me, it will strike, eventually).

Trevone Boykin is almost certainly not that guy.  At no point would I have ever felt comfortable with him leading this team last year, and I highly doubt he’s going to make some magical jump between Year 1 and Year 2.  He’s a third stringer at best, and should probably be nothing more than camp fodder before he gives up the ghost and signs with the CFL.  And I’m NOT saying that just because he got arrested recently (though, that certainly doesn’t help).  It’s like what Joe Thomas was saying about Colin Kaepernick:  NFL teams don’t want any sort of distraction coming from their backup quarterbacks (and, make no mistake, Kaepernick IS a backup quarterback).

Speaking of, there’s been a lot of chatter among Seahawks fans saying they desperately want the team to sign Kaep to be Wilson’s backup.  I dunno.  I guess I understand the argument – Wilson is a mobile quarterback; Kaepernick’s mobility is as good as it gets – but they’re really two VERY different players.  As the Seahawks start transitioning towards a precision-passing attack – mostly to compensate for a crappy O-Line, but also to help enhance Wilson’s pocket-passing game – Kaepernick has terrible timing, and a big ol’ wind-up in his throws.  Granted, he throws really fucking hard, but so does Jay Cutler, and I don’t see people clamoring for the Seahawks to sign him!  Maybe, if Wilson got hurt and Kaepernick went in, as long as the Seahawks shifted the offense back to one of a heavy rushing load, with lots and lots of zone read, I’d be okay with it.

Like I said, I dunno.  I’ve been so conditioned to hate the 49ers for so long, it’s hard to flip that script and start liking or wanting a guy like Kaepernick on my team.  There’s also the legitimate concern that he’s been VERY terrible for a while now, but is it a chicken/egg thing?  Like, yeah, he’s been terrible, but so has the entire 49ers organization from the top down.  Is he terrible because everyone around him is terrible?  I mean, it’s really a helluva regression from where he was, at one point considered one of the league’s very best young quarterbacks.  It can’t ALL be due to the league just figuring him out and Jim Harbaugh leaving, can it?

I’ll just say this and let it be done:  I’m ready to move on from Trevone Boykin.  I’m ready for a semi-competent backup, because I truly fear for Russell Wilson’s safety behind this O-Line.  If that means Kaepernick, or that Texas Tech quarterback, or someone else I haven’t mentioned today, I’m all for it.

The Huskies Are 5th, Turn Their Attention To Wazzu As I Turn My Attention To The Big 10

Not surprisingly, with Louisville losing to Houston last week, the Huskies had no one in their way to get to the 5th spot.  And so here we are, the week before the week before.

As always, understand that what I talk about below all hinges upon the Huskies winning on Friday, and then winning again in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  It’s officially down to four teams now in the Pac-12:  the winner of the Apple Cup in the North vs. either Colorado or USC in the South.  Colorado hosts Utah on Saturday; if they win, they’re in.  If they lose, USC is in, because USC has completed their conference schedule (they host Notre Dame this weekend).

As I also predicted, it was more important for Colorado to beat Washington State than the other way around.  Had Wazzu won, they might have jumped into the Top 15, but it would’ve also forced us into a rematch with USC, and right now, I’m all about trying to avoid the Trojans at all costs.  This way, Colorado jumps into the Top 10 (they’re currently 9th, and may get higher if they beat Utah, depending upon how the rest of the Top 10 shakes out this weekend), making a potential showdown between us and them a juicy affair on December 2nd.

Now, obviously, I’m well aware that this could be a Beware What You Wish For situation, as my over-confidence could be devastating if the Buffaloes beat us.  But, I see two teams in Washington and Colorado who have both lost to USC this year, and I can’t help but worry that those Trojans are some sort of juggernaut and we’re just lucky it took them so long to find their quarterback earlier this season.

Anyway, that’s that.  More on the Pac-12 after this weekend.

I’m here to talk about the Big 10, and how it’s VERY possible that we’ll be royally fucked even if we do win out.

Alabama is in the top spot; they play Auburn this weekend, and most certainly they will win that game.  Even if they lose, they’ll still be in the Top 4, and they’ll still get to play Florida in the SEC Championship Game.  The only way Alabama falls out of the Top 4 is if they somehow lose their next two games, but that would be utter chaos and is hardly even worth writing about.  Alabama is going to win the SEC, period.

Clemson is currently in the 4-hole.  They host an okay South Carolina team, are already in the ACC Championship Game, and will go on to play either Virginia Tech (most likely) or North Carolina (less likely).  Clemson only falls out of the Top 4 if they lose one of these games, but I can’t imagine that happening.

That leaves the Big 10, currently hogging the 2-hole and 3-hole (Ohio State & Michigan, respectively).  The Big 10 is also hogging the 6-hole and 7-hole (Wisconsin & Penn State, respectively).  Here’s how crazy the Big 10 is:

Ohio State hosts Michigan this weekend.  If they win, and Penn State beats the hapless Michigan State team, Penn State plays for the Big 10 Championship against either Wisconsin (if they beat Minnesota) or Nebraska (if they beat Iowa and Wisconsin loses).

Now, let’s say all the teams who are SUPPOSED to win actually win.  That means Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all win.  Obviously, that knocks Michigan out of the Top 4.  But, if you think Ohio State is going anywhere, you’re crazy, because they will have only 1 loss, and how are you going to punish a team that’s ranked 2nd in the nation, just because they weren’t involved in their conference’s championship game?

By the same token, if it’s Penn State vs. Wisconsin for the Big 10 title, the winner of that game will only have 2 losses on the year (Penn State lost to Michigan and the sometimes-frisky Pitt; Wisconsin lost to Michigan and Ohio State).  The committee is on record as saying they prefer conference champions over all their other criteria, so how do you keep out a 2-loss conference champ (especially if it’s Penn State, who has a regular season win over Ohio State on their resume)?  Wisconsin has less of a stake in that race, because they lost to Ohio State, but you have to wonder if the committee would choose a 1-loss Pac-12 champ over a 2-loss Big 10 champ?  Really, Wisconsin’s only legitimate win (aside from a hypothetical Big 10 championship win) is over Nebraska, as LSU and Michigan State are both unranked now.

It’s my belief that if Penn State wins the Big 10, the committee will choose both them and Ohio State, meaning it will come down to either Washington or Clemson.  At that point, what do you do?  Clemson would have wins over Louisville, Auburn, and Florida State (currently 11th, 13th, and 14th respectively), but their ACC Championship Game opponent would be pretty weak.  Washington would have wins over either Colorado or USC (currently 9th & 12th, respectively), Utah, Wazzu, and Stanford (22nd, 23rd, & 24th, respectively).  Of course, if both Washington and Colorado win out, Utah and Wazzu would likely fall out of the Top 25 entirely, which would take away at least two of those wins against ranked opponents.

I dunno.  My hunch – if all this came to pass – is that it would be Alabama at 1, Ohio State at 2, Clemson at 3, and Penn State at 4, with Washington at 5 and playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.  Ugh.  After ALL that.

Of course, if you want a simple rooting guide for the weekend, I’ll dumb it down for you:

If Michigan wins, all our troubles are over.  A Michigan win over Ohio State knocks the Buckeyes out of the Top 4.  That also prevents Penn State from playing for the Big 10 championship, because Michigan holds the tiebreaker over them by beating them earlier this year.  That puts Michigan against Wisconsin in the title game, and at that point, I’m secure enough to go out on a limb and say that the loser of that game will be knocked out of the Top 4.

That’s the easiest and clearest path for Washington to make the playoffs:  Michigan needs to beat Ohio State.  That game starts at 9am on Saturday.  Get up early and root root root for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines!  Yeah, I know, I’m sick about it too, but what are you gonna do?

The Seattle At Carolina Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

Seattle/Carolina, that’s what’s up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hellacious Seattle Seahawks 2015 Season Preview!

There was supposed to be three full days of previews – befitting the excitement level of going into yet another Championship Season in this current Championship Window – but my dad picked up a cold over Labor Day weekend, which remained dormant in my body until Tuesday afternoon, when it revealed its presence, dragging down my fragile frame in the process.

The subsequent two days were spent in various states of repose, between my couch and my bed, filling my body with a steady diet of bananas and Vitamin C while I filled carefully folded bundles of toilet paper with mucus from my ever-running nose.  I’m still nowhere near 100%, but season previews don’t write themselves!  So, here goes nothing.

As you could probably tell from this post, I’m pretty high on the Seahawks getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it yet again.  In fact, I’m higher on the Seahawks THIS year than I was last year, when we were essentially the same starting units on both sides of the ball less a couple key components.  Where the 2014 Seahawks really bought the farm was in the loss of Golden Tate.  Had we never made the trade for Percy Harvin, and instead focused on giving Tate the deal he deserved, the rest of the receivers on this team would’ve slotted out where they were supposed to be, and we wouldn’t have been throwing a goalline pass to Ricardo Lockette of all people on our final offensive play of the Super Bowl.  But, it’s not fair to lay all the blame on one guy (or lack thereof), when the real culprit of 2014 was a lack of quality depth.

That’s where 2015 comes on to shine.  Harvin and Tate have been replaced by rookie Tyler Lockett.  Turbin and Michael have been replaced by Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls (two steadier and more capable backs).  Willson and Helfet get knocked down to the second & third tight end spots with the trade for Jimmy Graham.  Our pass rush that was – by season’s end – pretty much just Bennett, Avril, and Irvin, gets bolstered with the addition of rookie Frank Clark, and the growth and maturity (and hopefully health) of Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill.

2015 should also offer additional gains out of our already-established stars.  Guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tharold Simon should all see considerable improvements in play as they enter the primes of their careers.  And, while guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are coming off of significant injuries, it’s still fair to expect their very best play, as we would with veterans like Bennett, Avril, Okung, Mebane, Lynch, and Chancellor if/when he ever shows up again.

If you assume everyone will be healthy all year (which, I understand, is ridiculous), then on paper the only real weakness we’re looking at is the offensive line.  You could make an argument for secondary depth being the primary weakness, but as long as the rest of the defense is able to stay on the field, it should more than make up for what’s going on opposite Richard Sherman.  The O-Line is truly the problem area, but I also feel that’s a bit unfair.

For starters, when you compare the O-Line to the other position groups on this team, OF COURSE it’s going to rank dead last!  But, more importantly, I would argue this position group has always been a little bit neglected from a talent perspective, and they’ve made up for it by employing one of the very best O-Line coaches in the league.  AND, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have gone to two straight Super Bowls with two pretty sub-par offensive lines, and it hasn’t prevented us from winning yet.

They tinkered with it in the pre-season and came away with a starting five that’s as good as it’s going to get (since we can’t really afford to bring in quality outside help).  But, that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it’s ever going to be.  We’ve got three guys – Britt at left guard, Nowak at center, Gilliam at right tackle – who are getting their first professional starts at their respective positions.  Will it be a struggle early?  I think, from what we’ve seen of the running game this pre-season:  yeah, it’s going to be a little ugly.  This O-Line is going to struggle against the better D-Lines in the league (which makes it utterly horrific that we have to play the Rams in week 1), but it’s going to look downright competent against the lesser D-Lines.  And, I think these guys have a real chance to mature and gel, to where by season’s end, we’ll be looking at a solid group of guys on an offense that’s humming along with the best of ’em.

When even your weakest point is still good enough to be argued into a strength, you know you’ve got a great team on your hands.  I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that this team has the potential to be better than their 2014 counterparts, with a ceiling being at the 2013 level (which is really saying something, because I’ll always believe the 2013 Seahawks were one of the all time greatest teams in the history of the league).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns.  There are always reasons to worry, especially early in the season.  Will Earl Thomas be back to his usual self?  Will Kam Chancellor ever end this idiotic holdout?  Will Richard Sherman make it through the full season?  Will the offense mesh well with Jimmy Graham, or will they try to force it to him too many times, stalling too many drives?  Will the O-Line be able to open holes for Lynch?  Will Russell Wilson be a better pocket passer?  And, most importantly, in an overall sense:  will the key players and key positions be able to stay healthy?

Health is the ultimate X-Factor.  I say it every year, and ever year it’s no less true.  Poor health can take a championship team and prevent them from even making the playoffs.  It can rear its ugly head at any time – and often at the worst of times – leaving you grasping at straws for a solution.  Did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because of the one goalline play?  Or, did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because our entire fucking secondary was injured, and Cliff Avril had a concussion that reduced our pass rush to nothing, thereby allowing the Patriots back into a game we were controlling?  You can make compelling arguments for either, but the fact remains the same:  if the Seahawks were mostly healthy in that game, it probably doesn’t come down to a goalline pass in the first place.

So, that’s what you’ve gotta do:  pray for health and let the chips fall where they may.  Let this be the last word on health for the rest of this preview.

The first half of this season is fairly tough.  Five of eight on the road, five of eight against 2014 playoff teams, and not very many soft landings.  Let’s run through the schedule to see where we are.

Week 1, at St. Louis, 10am

Honestly, I have my doubts about this one.  I know I probably shouldn’t; I know they’re going through something similar on their offensive line as we are, and I know their starting two running backs are both injured, but I can’t help but look at this game and see our offense struggling.  I see Lynch getting bottled up, I see growing pains with Graham, and I see the Rams doing just enough on offense to kick one more field goal than us.  I’m putting my life savings on this game being within one score either one way or the other, and if you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you the Rams come out on top in this one, 16-13.

Week 2, at Green Bay, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

Bounce back game, and one the Seahawks desperately need (with tie-breakers and whatnot).  I know the Packers will be fired up, and I know their fans will be insane after a day’s worth of tailgating, so it probably won’t be easy coming out of the gate.  After a sluggish first quarter, I expect the Seahawks to move the ball with regularity and defeat the Packers with ease in the second half.  Somewhere along the lines of 31-20.

Week 3, vs. Chicago, 1:25pm

This one should be a walk-over, but I expect the Bears to put up a bit of a fight, as they’ve got some nasty, talented guys in Jeffery and Forte.  But, given that this is Seattle’s home opener, I’d look for the home team to jump out to an early lead and keep it pretty comfortably in the 1-2 score range the rest of the way.  33-27.

Week 4, vs. Detroit, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

The return of Golden Tate!  There’s no way he doesn’t make a big play or two in this game.  But, with Seattle back home for a primetime game, I’m expecting another win for the good guys.  Maybe not quite the blowout we’re used to, but we’re going to scratch it out.  27-24.

Week 5, at Cincinnati, 10am

I’ve been wary of this game from the moment I saw it on our schedule.  Something about road AFC games in the morning, teams we rarely get to go up against, and them having just enough talent to get by.  I’m on record as hating on Andy Dalton pretty hard, but I think he’s going to go into this game with extra focus in not turning the ball over.  Combine that with the fact that this game isn’t in primetime and I think you’ll see Good Andy Dalton on this day.  Plus, their running game is legit, and they’ve got enough talent at receiver to move the ball on us if they want.  I see an upset here, with Cincy taking us down 20-13.

Week 6, vs. Carolina, 1:05pm

Notice we can’t help but beat on Carolina every damn year and no one ever talks about them getting fired up for us like they do about the Packers getting up for us.  Pretty much, Carolina is Seattle’s younger brother, and we can’t help but hold them down, rub our asses in their faces, and fart repeatedly until they call mom to get us to stop.  No change here.  I expect something along the lines of 27-14.

Week 7, at San Francisco, 5:25pm (Thursday Night)

The 49ers are going to be terrible this season and I expect them to look terrible whenever we play them.  Without Gore, I expect their running game to be non-existent.  Without Harbaugh, I expect their offense to be pathetic and their overall output to be among the worst.  There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a cakewalk, in a long line of ugly, unwatchable Thursday Night Football games.  Seahawks 38, 49ers 3.

Week 8, at Dallas, 1:25pm

This game would normally scare the bejesus out of me, and scream “Third Loss Of The Season!”  But, I dunno.  I like the Seahawks with 10 days to prepare.  I like the Seahawks a week before their BYE.  I like the fact that the Cowboys embarrassed us on our home turf last season.  And, quite frankly, I like how Dallas has zero home field advantage to speak of whatsoever.  I predict a huge following by the 12’s, I predict a solid day out of our offense, I predict a return touchdown from someone (probably Lockett) and ultimately I predict a Seahawks victory, to the tune of 24-23.

Week 9 – BYE

Week 10, vs. Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

I’d be shocked if Carson Palmer isn’t injured at this point in the season, but even if he’s managed to stay healthy, I don’t expect the Cards to be as good.  This game feels like a gift from the scheduling gods – at home, after a BYE, on Sunday night?  Are you kidding me?  This has blowout written all over it!  26-9.

Week 11, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

Just played them three games ago, I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome.  Seahawks 30, 49ers 7.

Week 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:25pm

Three home games in a row after a BYE!  That’s what I’m talking about!  This one looks like a difficult matchup.  I like the Steelers’ offense a lot, particuarly their passing game.  I don’t care for their defense, but that hasn’t stopped some fringey defenses from coming in here and making us look bad.  Ultimately, I think this game will be a shootout, and I think it’ll prove to be the most exciting game of the entire season.  And, as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Steelers come in here and steal one.  They have JUST the right mix going for them:  veteran quarterback, difficult to take down or rattle in the pocket, superstar wide receiver, superstar running back.  I just think they’re going to expose us the way no other offense on our schedule will.  Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 30.

Week 13, at Minnesota, 10am

I like Minnesota’s rebuilding plan.  They’ve got a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, with a hungry Adrian Peterson and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a lot of potential.  He might not ever be an MVP of the league, but I think he can lead this team to some winning seasons in his career.  In this game, I like the Seahawks to bounce back on defense and make life difficult for the Vikes.  Seahawks 17, Vikings 6.

Week 14, at Baltimore, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

This might be the most hyped non-divisional, non-playoff game on the horizon.  Two sterling franchises, two stud quarterbacks, two sound defenses.  All the storylines in the world, from Lynch vs. Forsett, to Pete Carroll vs. The Other Harbaugh, to this being a matchup of two of the last three Super Bowl winners.  Both teams should be in great positions in the standings by this point (likely leading their respective divisions) and I think we’ll all be talking about how it’s a real strong probability that this is the eventual Super Bowl matchup in February.  A lot of people will predict a Ravens victory, but I just like the Seahawks too much in primetime.  I see Seattle winning 27-23.

Week 15, vs. Cleveland, 1:05pm

Please, dear lord, give me one chance to see Johnny Football obliterated by the Seahawks in Seattle.  It’s all I ask.  Seattle 28, Cleveland 0.

Week 16, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

No tricks, just hardnose football.  The Seahawks make up for the week 1 defeat as we almost always do this time of year when the Rams come to town.  This game effectively wraps up the division, if not Home Field Advantage, pushing the Seahawks to 12-3 on the season.  20-13, Seahawks.

Week 17, at Arizona, 1:25pm

I don’t expect the Seahawks to need this victory, so I don’t expect many of the starters to play for too long.  As a glorified pre-season game, I see the Seahawks going down to the Cardinals 28-17.

12-4 is pretty tame for a #1 overall seed, but with tie-breakers over the Packers and Cowboys, I think it’s just enough.  What we have to hope for at that point is that we don’t get stuck playing the Rams, or some other difficult defensive team in the playoffs.  As always, I’ll take a battle of offenses over a grudgematch on the defensive side of the ball, as I think our defense is better than most any offense you can put on the field.

Now, all we have to do is play the games.  NBD.

For Whom Might The Seahawks Trade Russell Wilson?

‘Tis the season for rampant speculation on matters we know nothing about!  It’s a glorious time to be alive, what with the Internets and whatnot.

I read this over the weekend from Mike Florio with Pro Football Talk.  It references another option in the Russell Wilson Contract Saga that nobody’s really talking about:  in lieu of signing him, or franchising him, the Seahawks might feel like they need to trade him.

For the record, this is the last thing I want to see happen.  I’m of the school of thought that you do NOT trade your franchise quarterback for anything!  Unless he’s too old and broken down, and even then I’d be pretty sad to see him go.  Nevertheless, I was reading that story and it got me to thinking.  I’m not so much interested in the super-bounty of draft picks, but I am interested in the part where it talks about, “the Seahawks could send Wilson to another team for its starting quarterback.”

So, consider that the premise for this post:  who would the Seahawks realistically get in return for a Russell Wilson?

Before we get started, I agree with Mike Florio in the article:  regardless of what happens, I 100% doubt that the Seahawks are trading Russell Wilson in 2015.  Even if we’re a billion dollars apart in our contract terms, I still think we ride this season out and hope for another ring.  So, what we’re looking at – in this hypothetical world where the endgame is Russell Wilson being traded – is the Seahawks putting one of the franchise tags on him, then sending him away.

So, I’m going to go through all the quarterbacks who are either starting for their teams, or are in some kind of a timeshare/training camp battle because none of them on that particular team are all that good.

Here we have a list of quarterbacks whose teams would never trade them to us:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Joe Flacco
  • Matt Ryan
  • Cam Newton
  • Ryan Tannehill

Rodgers, I feel, is pretty obvious:  he’s the best quarterback in the league and I don’t think Green Bay is in for an over-priced step down.  Luck’s not quite there yet, but he clearly WILL be the best quarterback in the league, and I would wager sooner rather than later.  Joe Flacco is already a Super Bowl-winning quarterback; I don’t see Baltimore giving him up.  You could argue he’s making too much money and looking to shed some salary, but remember in this scenario:  Russell Wilson is looking to be the highest-paid quarterback in the history of the game.  I think Ryan, Newton, and Tannehill are too young, and they’ve just gotten paid.  Plus, I don’t think those teams could afford to take the cap hit that Wilson’s going to bring (especially Miami, what with Ndamukong Suh making all the money he’s making).

Next up, quarterbacks whose teams ALMOST CERTAINLY won’t trade them:

  • Tom Brady
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Tony Romo
  • Eli Manning
  • Matthew Stafford

With Brady and Roethlisberger, I just think they’re too tied to their respective teams and cities.  But, those organizations have been known to be ruthless with their veterans, so if they felt like either one might be slipping, and they had a chance to get a young stud QB in return, they MIGHT pounce on him.  I’d put Romo and Manning in the same boat (too tied to their teams & cities), just on a lesser scale because they’re not as good.  Stafford’s interesting because I think he’s right on the edge of being good and being overrated.  Seemingly every year I have a different opinion about him.  Ultimately, I think Detroit feels he’s good enough to get the job done, and likely wouldn’t trade him away for a guy like Wilson.

The Division Rivals:

  • Carson Palmer
  • Nick Foles
  • Colin Kaepernick

The overarching theme of this section is:  under no circumstances do you EVER trade your franchise quarterback to a team in your division.  Putting that aside, I think all three of these teams would trade their starters for Russell Wilson in a heartbeat.  Carson Palmer is obviously too old and too injury prone to be counted upon.  Nick Foles is interesting, but ultimately not worth facing Wilson twice a year (especially with their offensive line and defense overall, I think the Rams would be a total dynasty with Wilson at the helm).  And honestly, Colin Kaepernick might be the best fit in the league for our offense – given his scrambling ability.  I think if you reined him in, forcing him to be a little more conservative with his throws, he wouldn’t be much of a step down at all compared to Wilson.  Hell, under Harbaugh he went to three straight NFC Championship Games; I think he’d do okay here as well.

The Young Ones:

  • E.J. Manuel
  • Geno Smith
  • Johnny Manziel
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Jameis Winston
  • Ryan Mallett/Tom Savage
  • Blake Bortles
  • Marcus Mariota
  • Derek Carr

Manuel, Smith, and Manziel are just too bad.  No way the Seahawks take them in return.  I think the Seahawks would think long and hard about Bridgewater and Winston, but if Bridgewater makes steady improvement in 2015, I don’t think the Vikings will want to get rid of him (and if he takes a step back, I don’t think the Seahawks would want him).  The Bucs are just too committed to Winston as part of their rebuild, so I don’t think he’d work out in this scenario.  Mallett and Savage are a couple of unknowns, but ultimately I don’t think they’ll be all that great as starters.  I feel like Bortles and Mariota are a couple of future backups being thrust into roles they’re not good enough for.  I think the Seahawks might take Carr in a heartbeat, but I don’t think the Raiders will give up on him (for the record, I’m pretty high on Carr and think he’s going to have a great second year).

Too Over-The-Hill:

  • Peyton Manning
  • Matt Cassel
  • Josh McCown

Pretty much says it all, if you ask me.  Manning is signed through 2016, but you have to wonder if he’s even going to be around.  He almost opted to retire THIS year.  After getting banged around in Gary Kubiak’s offense (where I FULLY expect to see Manning seriously injured at some point), I’m almost convinced he’ll be done.  Either way, I don’t think you can throw Russell Wilson away on a guy who’s going to be 40 next year, who MIGHT have 1-2 years at the most left in his career.  Cassel and McCown aren’t even worth the words.

Too Terrible:

  • Sam Bradford/Mark Sanchez/Matt Barkley/Tim Tebow
  • RGIII/Kirk Cousins
  • Jay Cutler
  • Brian Hoyer

Speaking of “aren’t even worth the words,” we have the poo-poo platter that the Eagles have in camp this year.  It should go without saying, but Bradford is TOO DAMN INJURY PRONE.  The rest of those guys are the total beans and the Eagles are going to be lucky to win five games this year.  RGIII is also too injury prone, plus he’s a terrible leader who doesn’t follow directions, plus he’s just a bad all around quarterback.  Cousins is Just Another Guy, same as Hoyer.  Jay Cutler seems enticing, but that’s just because of that cannon he’s got for an arm.  Squint a little more closely and you’ll see he’s easily the second coming of Jeff George (not a compliment).

The Definite Possibilities:

  • Drew Brees
  • Philip Rivers
  • Alex Smith
  • Andy Dalton

I know Brees and Rivers feel like those guys up top who are too tied in with their teams and cities (Brees especially).  But, I have my reasons for having these guys down here.  For starters, I think New Orleans is in full on rebuild mode.  Brees isn’t getting any younger, and the Saints are probably five years away from being a championship-type team again.  They MIGHT decide to give Brees a chance to win a title elsewhere.  And, considering we’ve already done that deal for Jimmy Graham, it honestly might be the most perfect fit we could hope for.  On the downside, Brees will be 37 years old next year, and it’ll be the last year of his current deal.  At best, you hope he’s got three more elite years left after 2015, but realistically it might be closer to one or two.  A trade for Brees gives us the best “Win Now” option.  When you consider Pete Carroll’s on the short contract (by design, as he might opt to retire or move to another team), Brees might be the next best thing to just keeping Russell Wilson forever.

Philip Rivers will only be 34 in 2016, so you gotta like your chances with him longer term.  Honestly though, this probably doesn’t work because 2015 is the final year of his deal, and I don’t know if they can franchise tag him or not.  The other variable is whether or not the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles.  Will Rivers want to stay?  If not, maybe they work out a sign & trade with the Seahawks.  The downside to that is, I’ve read reports that should Los Angeles get two teams – which seems to be the way this is going – there’s the possibility of the Chargers moving to the NFC West.  And, as I said above, you do NOT trade Wilson to a team in your own division – even a team that might one day move to your division.

Alex Smith might be the best type of guy we can hope for.  He’ll be 32 next year, and 2018 is the final year of his deal.  He’s not making all that much money – which would allow us to spread the wealth to other positions.  He’s the consummate Game Manager:  doesn’t make mistakes, is decently mobile, is comfortable playing in a run-first offense.  The downside is, obviously, his downfield throwing.  We wouldn’t get those chunk plays that we like to get.  But, with weapons like Jimmy Graham around him, and with the emergence of some of our younger receivers, I think he’d be good enough to get the job done.  He sort of reminds me of a Brad Johnson type.  Brad Johnson won a title with the Bucs, why couldn’t Alex Smith do that with the Seahawks?

Andy Dalton is the guy I most fear the Seahawks pursuing.  He’ll be 28 years old next year, and his deal runs through the 2020 season.  He too isn’t making any serious kind of money (his biggest cap hit is in the final year, and it’s only $17.7 million).  By 2020, that’s going to be peanuts!  He’s shown a propensity to hit on the deep ball, but that’s with the likes of A.J. Green.  More importantly is Dalton’s shoddy decision-making and his inflated sense of self-worth.  He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s better than he really is, which is going to make it difficult when he can’t make all the throws he needs to make.  As it is, he’s had more career meltdown games than you like to see; what’s he going to be like in three years when he’s that much older and beaten down?  Furthermore, playing behind our offensive line, how’s he going to handle the near-constant pressure?  I think Dalton is a guy the Bengals would gladly unload for the chance to sign Wilson (yes, even with how stingy their ownership is; I think they’d feel like Wilson would be worth it).  And, I think, if the Seahawks didn’t get blown away by any other deal they saw, they’d pull the trigger on a Dalton-centric trade.  I just hope like hell this never comes to fruition.

Seahawks Death Week: A Look Ahead

Yesterday, I got into the broad strokes of what the future of the Seahawks looks like:  good, potentially great, for many years to come.  So, what’s in store for 2015 specifically?

Well, for starters, let’s take a look at the schedule.  While the 2015 schedule hasn’t officially been released, we still know which teams we’ll be playing by virtue of it’s always the same rotation.  We get the teams in our division twice apiece, the NFC North, the AFC North, Dallas, and Carolina.  And, for reasons unknown, we also know who we’ll end up playing at home and who we’ll end up playing on the road.  To wit:

Home

  • San Francisco
  • Arizona
  • St. Louis
  • Chicago
  • Detroit
  • Cleveland
  • Pittsburgh
  • Carolina

Away

  • San Francisco
  • Arizona
  • St. Louis
  • Green Bay
  • Minnesota
  • Cincinnati
  • Baltimore
  • Dallas

For starters, I’m kind of fucking annoyed by the difficulty of our road schedule.  I’d MUCH rather go to Carolina than Dallas.  I’d also MUCH rather go to Cleveland and Pittsburgh than Cincy & Baltimore.  And, I’ll tell you this much, I’m not so foolish as to expect every time we play Green Bay, we get to play them in Seattle, but I’m not looking forward to playing them on the road either.  That’s a TOUGH road slate, with the only dud I see being Minnesota (and who knows if they’ll be better in year two under Teddy Bridgewater).  Meanwhile, I’ll give you three home duds right now with Cleveland, Chicago, and Carolina.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume another 7-1 home record in 2015, with our lone defeat probably being the Lions.  The question here is:  can we get to 5-3 on the road?  Not knowing what our division will look like, I definitely think it’s possible.  I’d REALLY like to believe we won’t be fooled by the bullshit the Rams try to pull every time we go there.  I don’t have much faith in the 49ers being a serious threat now that Jim Harbaugh is gone.  And, I still have the same reservations about Carson Palmer that I had going into last year, only this time he’s a year older and coming off of yet ANOTHER knee injury.  There are three winnable games right there, and we haven’t even gotten into how not-scary it is to play in Cincinnati, and how games in Dallas tend to draw a large road contingent.

It’s a potentially tough schedule, no doubt about it, but these teams on paper right now will look a lot different on the field when we play them.  What I will say is, there appears to be a large number of potential 10am starts in our future.  Unless we’re graced with a full slate of road primetime games like we were in 2014, I’m looking at the games against St. Louis, GB, Min, Cin, Bal, and possibly Dallas being early starts.  Fortunately for us, you gotta figure those contests against GB and Dallas are pretty tantalizing for primetime schedulers.  And, it wouldn’t shock me to see either Cincy or Baltimore being a Monday Night game, as both of them figure to be safe bets to be good this season.

On the field, you gotta think the Seahawks will be pretty great, but obviously a lot of it depends on what happens with the draft and in free agency.  In 2014, the offense was a true liability – whereas in 2013, the offense was pretty underrated and solid throughout.  The passing game struggled, our red zone offense failed too many times to convert long drives into touchdowns, and in general we could stand to improve on third downs.  That’s tough, because overall our third down conversion percentage looks pretty solid, but that’s taking into account the games where we absolutely dominated on third down.  But, there were games where we just disappeared, and lost accordingly because of too many 3 & Outs and too many stalled drives at midfield.  We’re a conservative offense in our play-calling and we’re a conservative offense in our decisions to go for it on 4th down.  When you put those two together, you have to be damn near perfect in the opportunities you have to pass the ball.  Drops, and otherwise poor performances out of our receivers held this team back too many times.  An infusion of talent is a must.

Defensively, it’s going to be a struggle to lead the league in fewest points allowed for a fourth straight year.  Losing Byron Maxwell is going to have a crippling effect, and if we can’t cover that up by improving our pass rush back to its 2013 peak, we’re GOING to give up more points and more yards than we’re used to.  Going into 2014, I thought our defense was going to slide a bit, but I thought our offense was ready to take a step forward and start compensating a little more.  It turned out the defense was on point for the most part and still carried this team like it has since 2012.  Going into 2015, I KNOW our defense is going to slide a bit, and I’m concerned our offense won’t improve enough to match and keep us at a championship level.  This Percy Harvin fiasco is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?

I just have a tough time envisioning a scenario where we bring in a defensive back who’s able to match Maxwell’s level of play.  I honestly don’t think Tharold Simon is up to the task of improving himself.  I don’t think Jeremy Lane is going to be healthy enough to step into the lineup on Day 1.  And, I don’t think there will be a rookie available to us who’s able to step in and play on Day 1.  The hope is, whatever rookie we do end up with, is able to survive some growing pains and turn into a Maxwell-type by the end of the season.  Good luck with that.

Same deal with improving the pass rush.  Even if we draft someone, I don’t think this person will be able to step in and be a force immediately.  Not where we’re drafting.  And, I don’t think there’s a free agent out there for us who will make the huge impact we need right away, as Ndamukong Suh is simply out of our price range.  That likely means we’ll be picking from the scraps of the free agent wasteland, and hoping for the best.  I’m less than encouraged by this scenario.

While I have faith that this team can maintain its level of dominance to get to 12 wins, take the division, and contend for a first round BYE, part of me realizes that the writing is on the wall.  Injuries happen to everyone.  Guys not panning out happen to everyone.  Our depth is seriously strained at this point, and now I’m reading about how Earl Thomas and Jeremy Lane might not be available in the pre-season, which says nothing about Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Marshawn Lynch’s availability.

This can all fall apart in a hurry.  While I don’t THINK that’ll happen (or, at least, I keep telling myself I don’t think that’ll happen), you never know.  Here’s hoping Russell Wilson has some more magic in that old silk hat he found.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 16

What with Christmas being tomorrow and everything, this is gonna be the last regular post of the week.  So, let’s cram in everything that needs to be crammed!

The Seahawks host the Rams this week.  Obviously, you’re all aware that if the Seahawks win, they’ve got the #1 seed in the NFC (barring a tie between Detroit & Green Bay).  If the Seahawks somehow lose, things get a little complicated.

Arizona plays at San Francisco.  Obviously, the 49ers are a bit of a trainwreck right now, and theirs is NO home field advantage, but on the flipside the Cards are starting a rookie at quarterback a week after Lindley showed them a vision of their first round playoff exit with him at the helm.  If both Seattle and Arizona lose, you’re looking at a situation where Seattle falls to the 3-seed and plays the 6-seed (which would be Arizona if Detroit wins, or it would be Detroit if Green Bay wins).

The Cowboys are looking to go 8-0 this week as they travel to Washington to play the Redskins.  While it’s POSSIBLE that the Cowboys opt to rest most of their stars this week (anticipating Seattle will have no trouble beating the Rams), I have to imagine they play at least a half, and rack up a big-enough lead to hold it down.  If the Cowboys somehow lose (which seems even less likely than the Seahawks losing to the Rams), that sets up Seattle to re-take at least a top 2 seed, regardless of what happens in the Packers/Lions game.

This is all prelude to the fact that there’s no way the Seahawks are losing to the Rams.  Yeah, we’re talking about a team that beat us earlier in the year, but that was based on a lie.  A bunch of freak shit they won’t get away with again.  They legitimately looked pretty terrifying when they shut out the Raiders and Redskins in back to back weeks, but again, we’re talking about the Raiders and Redskins.  They proceeded to lay a turd on Thursday Night Football when they hosted the Cards two weeks ago; then, they let the Giants throw the ball all over the field last week.

The Rams have officially given up on the season.  Their offense is even worse than what the Cards are throwing out there, and their defense is nothing special.  I foresee no reason why they should pose a challenge when they’re just trying to get out of this week healthy and ready to ramp up for the upcoming offseason.  The Seahawks are at home, everything is clicking on both sides of the ball, there’s a revenge factor for our week 7 defeat in St. Louis, and there’s the obvious pot of gold at the end of the rainbow:  a number 1 seed in the playoffs.

This is a point that’s been made by others, and it’s very true (as well as something I hadn’t thought about before):  the Seahawks haven’t had a BYE week since week 4.  We’re talking 13 consecutive weeks of football without a real break.  If ANYONE needs this first round BYE, it’s the Seahawks.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks have a lot of heat on them this week.  That dominating victory over the Cardinals has put us in the forefront of everyone’s minds when it comes to Super Bowl contenders (right up there with the Patriots in the AFC).  We call this, “Getting Hot At The Right Time” and it sort of freaks me out a little bit.  I’m of the opinion that the Seahawks are good enough to transcend any sort of jinx or weird mind juju.  But, last year, we’re looking at a team that – in a way – backed into the playoffs as a number 1 seed.  The 2013 Seahawks were 2-2 in the final month of the season; no one would say THAT team Got Hot At The Right Time.  The 2012 Ravens lost four of their last five regular season games before getting hot in the playoffs.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season as long as you make the post-season.  The priority is:  Getting Hot In The Playoffs.  That’s it.  Win 3-4 games and you’re the champs.  And, as long as we finish off this hot regular season run, we’ll only have to win two more home games before we go back to Arizona for the Super Bowl.  I like those odds.

As far as the competition, it’s pretty much set in the NFC.  If everything goes according to plan – as far as I can see – we’re looking at the seeding thusly:

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Dallas
  4. Atlanta/Carolina (my money’s on the Falcons)
  5. Arizona
  6. Detroit

Which puts the first round of the playoffs like this:

  • Detroit at Dallas
  • Arizona at Atlanta/Carolina

Seattle would play the lower-seeded winner of those two games.  So, if Detroit beats Dallas, we’re automatically going to face the Lions in the second round.  I need for this to not happen, because I absolutely do not want to face Detroit.  If Dallas wins that game, then we play the winner of the Arizona game (which, honestly, at this point would be a coin flip).

I don’t fear Arizona even a little bit.  Of the NFC South teams, I’d probably rather play the Falcons, as they strike me as a less-physical team than the Panthers.  We can shut down their passing game, and their run game is nothing.  Carolina is a little more stout on defense (but, again, not so much that we couldn’t move the football), but their offense is the walking dead.

The moral of this story is:  PLEASE COWBOYS, BEAT THE LIONS!  Whoever we get out of that 4/5-seed game will be the ultimate in pushovers!

Following that, we’d play the winner of Green Bay and Dallas.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  give me the Packers all day every day.  The Cowboys are balanced and can beat you in a number of ways.  The Packers are Aaron Rodgers.  We can get to him, we can rough up his receivers, and we can take them down with little-to-no trouble.

I’ll talk more about the AFC next week, but at this point I’m looking at a three-team race between the Patriots, Broncos, and a dark horse candidate in the Steelers.  Man, wouldn’t it be something?

***

  1. Dallas Cowboys (11-4) – Look, these jinxes take some time.  I’m playing the Long Con here!  They could still lose to the Redskins next week!
  2. Seattle Seahawks (11-4) – We know where the Seahawks REALLY stand, but they need to win one more to clinch.
  3. New England Patriots (12-3) – Frankly, I don’t know why I had the Pats ranked behind the Broncos for so long, considering they beat them earlier this year.  I do see this as a flawed team and I welcome the opportunity to beat them in the Super Bowl.
  4. Denver Broncos (11-4) – Losing to the Bengals?  In a night game?  Hey, Peyton Manning, GREAT JOB choosing a cold-weather city to play in in the twilight of your career!  That won’t totally bite you in the ass every year.
  5. Detroit Lions (11-4) – Yeah, the Lions will probably go into Green Bay and lose next week, but if I’m being honest, I fear the Lions more than anyone else in the NFC (sorry Cowboys).  That defensive line is vicious!  And, while their offense isn’t playing particularly well, it feels like a sleeping giant situation:  only a matter of time before they explode for 40.
  6. Green Bay Packers (11-4) – I may regret this later, but I don’t fear their defense, and we’ve proven we can handle their offense.  Can’t wait to play them in the NFC Championship Game.
  7. San Diego Chargers (9-6) – Best team in the Wild Card round by far, if Rivers can stay upright.  I just like this Chargers team, don’t ask me why.
  8. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – Look children, it’s a falling star, make a wish.
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) – I can’t wait until they go into Denver to beat a struggling, overrated Broncos team, followed by shocking the world in New England to provide us with the Super Bowl XL rematch we’ve all been waiting for (you know you’ve been thinking about it; I’ve got the guts to SAY IT!).
  10. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1) – With the monkey off their backs in primetime, maybe they can finally make it out of the first round of the playoffs!
  11. Baltimore Ravens (9-6) – Yeah, I got nothing.  You fucking blew it, Ravens.
  12. Arizona Cardinals (11-4) – This offense is terrible.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. Miami Dolphins (8-7) – I, for one, would be happy to have Philbin back.  You can’t keep jerking Tannehill around with a new offensive coordinator every year or he’s NEVER going to develop into a viable starting quarterback.
  2. Houston Texans (8-7) – I can’t believe they still have an outside shot at making the playoffs, but it would make me pretty happy to see them get in.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) – Got some Sanchez catching up with you here.
  4. Buffalo Bills (8-7) – Well, it was fun while it lasted.  Thanks for beating Green Bay for us.
  5. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) – Since beating the Seahawks to go to 7-3, the Chiefs have lost four of five.  That’s what you get when you play the Seahawks!  We will crush you one way or another!
  6. San Francisco 49ers (7-8) – So long, Harbaugh!  One more week!
  7. St. Louis Rams (6-9) – Falling apart at the right time.
  8. Cleveland Browns (7-8) – And Johnny JamBoogie is injured.  This guy is a crap.
  9. Minnesota Vikings (6-9) – Okay.
  10. Atlanta Falcons (6-9) – One game for all the marbles.
  11. Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) – No way the Panthers should be rooting to make the playoffs; they need high draft picks.
  12. New Orleans Saints (6-9) – Ha!
  13. Chicago Bears (5-10) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  14. New York Giants (6-9) – This is where I draw the line.
  15. Washington Redskins (4-11) – No more.
  16. New York Jets (3-12) – That’s all.
  17. Oakland Raiders (3-12) – Nothing.
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) – That’s it.
  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13) – Now that’s how you fight for the top draft pick!
  20. Tennessee Titans (2-13) – You are one pathetic loser!

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 15

So, the question on everyone’s minds right now is:  Is the Seahawks/49ers rivalry dead?

It’s an interesting question to ponder.  For starters, you have to find an appropriate definition of a “rivalry”.  At this point, with all the bad blood that’s been figuratively spilled, in comments sections and message boards, in the blocking of friends and family on various social media sites, in the verbal altercations and maybe even physical altercations between drunken fans, I don’t think we’re ever fixing this relationship:  Seahawks fans and 49ers fans are going to forever hate one another.  Or, at least for the foreseeable (and considerable) future.

Some people seem to think a rivalry requires that both teams are good at the same time.  Both teams, fighting for the same goal that only one team can ultimately have.  Granted, that makes for a GOOD rivalry, but you don’t stop being rivals when one team is awesome and the other is on a downward spiral.  Indeed, it’s in these spots where a rivalry truly gains a foothold.

Think about the rivalry between the Huskies and Cougars.  No one is sitting there calling these two schools, or these two football programs, equals.  They haven’t both been good at the same time in quite a while.  And, I don’t think they’ve ever really both been simultaneously good for an extended period of time (say, five years or more).  At least, I don’t remember that being the case in the last 30 years or so.

But, you know what games stand out almost as much as the de facto playoff appearances between two successful rival teams?  Those games where the underdog knocks the great team out of contention for something great.

I mean, look at it this way:  the Huskies lead the all time series against the Cougars by a record of 69-32-6.  CLEARLY, the Huskies are the superior team in this rivalry, but just because the Cougs are so inept, it doesn’t make it any less of a rivalry.  Take the 1982 season, for example.  The Cougs finished 2-4-1 in conference play.  But, they beat the previously 1-loss Huskies in the Apple Cup, knocking us out of the Rose Bowl and a possible Top 5 finish.  THOSE are the games I’m talking about.

Yeah, 49ers fans hate the Seahawks for keeping them out of the Super Bowl last year.  That loss in the NFC Championship Game was a devastating blow.  But, imagine if the 49ers had beaten the Seahawks this past Sunday.  The 49ers, a team going nowhere, coming into Seattle and scurrying away with a hard-fought victory, costing us a chance at the division title and a first round BYE in the playoffs (while also making our path to simply securing a playoff spot that much more difficult).  Isn’t that just as bad?  Knowing you SHOULD have beaten a bitter rival, but they still find a way to win anyway?

Unless you’ve got a natural geographic rival (like Seattle and Portland, for instance), it’s a little difficult to manufacture a rivalry.  The Seahawks moved back to the NFC West in 2002.  From that point through the 2011 season, the Seahawks didn’t really have a rival.  Yeah, San Francisco is the closest city to us in NFL terms.  They’re in our division and everything.  But, when we started playing them regularly in 2002, they were total shit, and we were a team on the rise.  The NFC West in general was pretty hit-or-miss, but if I had to say someone was our main rival, I would’ve put that on the Rams, who were just playing out their run as the Greatest Show On Turf when we came into the picture.  By the time we went on our run of NFC West championships (from 2004 thru 2007), we really didn’t have a rival.  There was some bad blood for the Steelers, maybe a little for the Packers and Bears, but nothing like we’ve had since 2012 with the 49ers.

It takes a few good years of sustained success that we enjoyed to manufacture a rivalry with the likes of a team like the 49ers.  In their heyday of the 80s and 90s, you’d say the 49ers’ main rivals were the nationally great teams:  the Giants, the Redskins, the Cowboys, the Bears.  Now, with the divisions realigned, the Seahawks are it.  And, even if the 49ers lose Harbaugh, and even if Kaepernick never finds his groove again, and even if their defense ages into obscurity, and even if the 49ers are terrible for the next ten consecutive years, we’ll still always have this run from 2012-2014 as our rivalry’s heyday.  And, going forward, should the Seahawks continue to be successful, there will still be a rivalry.  Maybe the 49ers go 1-9 against us in the next ten meetings.  But, that lone defeat will still sting like a thousand defeats, because that bad blood will always be there.

What I’m more looking forward to is being like those 49ers of the 80s and 90s.  Being like what the Patriots have been for the last decade plus.  Yeah, the Pats have the Jets and Dolphins and Bills, who they’ve been playing twice a year for decades.  But, since Tom Brady took over, aside from a couple great Rex Ryan teams, the Pats have more or less demolished their division en route to a long string of division titles and first round BYEs in the AFC.  If you had to name New England’s top rival in that span, it wouldn’t be anyone in their division, it would be the Indianapolis Colts, followed by the Denver Broncos.  Essentially, wherever Peyton Manning called home.

THAT’S what I want.  Yeah, it’s nice having that blood feud with the 49ers.  And it’s fun to hate on the Cardinals and Rams to a lesser extent.  But, I want us going after the big guns of the NFC.  I want our big rivalry to be with the Packers, or the Saints when they’re good, or any of the NFC East teams if they can get their shit together for an extended run of brilliance.

In my mind, the Seahawks should find simply winning their division to be a little blasé.  It should just be a given.  The Patriots don’t go into their seasons thinking, “I hope we win our division this year!”  They go in EXPECTING to win their division, while thinking, “I hope we represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year!”

That’s what I want.  That’s the kind of rivalry I hope to see.  The kind of rivalry that transcends geography.  The kind of rivalry where you only face your opponent once per regular season, and that’s because you’re both winning your respective divisions every year.  I want the kind of rivalry where Grantland documents each of the games between their respective teams based on how well each quarterback plays.

We thought we might have had that between the Seahawks and 49ers, but that’s looking less and less likely.  Jim Harbaugh is douchebagging his way out of a job, and Colin Kaepernick is mediocre-ing his way into being a professional backup.  The 49ers’ flame burned bright and quick, and the status of this particular rivalry is in question going forward.  The Seahawks have three straight wins, and have won 5 of the last 6.  There are more Seahawks blowouts than there are simple, close 49ers victories in the Wilson/Kaepernick Era.  We’ll see what happens from here, but it strikes me that the 49ers are about a year away from a total rebuild, while the Seahawks are moving on to bigger and better things.

The Seahawks Dynasty is still in play.  And, at that point, the NFL world will be so sick of us, we’ll be EVERYONE’S rivals.

***

  1. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) – The jinx of the #1 spot is real!  Let the Cowboys be next to feel its sting!  Uhh, I mean, YEAH, the Cowboys are the best team in the NFL!  This is a thing I truly believe!  7-0 record on the road and whatnot!
  2. Seattle Seahawks (10-4) – Mid-season swoons be damned, the Seahawks are back and better than ever!  But, they’re never EVER setting foot in my top spot.  Not as long as that jinx is hanging around.
  3. Denver Broncos (11-3) – I don’t really know what to say.  Their offense doesn’t look great right now, but they’re finding ways to win.  Defense is rock solid, so I guess that helps.
  4. New England Patriots (11-3) – I don’t know who I fear more between the Broncos and Patriots, I’m just glad the Seahawks only have to face one or the other in the Super Bowl.
  5. Green Bay Packers (10-4) – I never thought it was possible, but the BILLS of all teams gave us the opportunity to grab hold of the #1 seed.  God bless them, every one.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (10-4) – Why they struggled so much against the Texans is the exact reason why they’re not a Super Bowl team.
  7. Detroit Lions (10-4) – Same goes for the Lions, with their struggles against the Vikings.
  8. Arizona Cardinals (11-3) – Another win in the books, another quarterback down for the count.  Meet the team EVERYONE wants to face in the playoffs (non NFC South edition).
  9. San Diego Chargers (8-6) – A pretty good team who’s just getting eaten alive by their schedule.
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) – What is this, the 8th week in a row where the team that’s played the Seahawks has lost the next week?  That’s kinda ridiculous, isn’t it?
  11. Baltimore Ravens (9-5) – Ravens gonna cakewalk backwards into the playoffs this year.  Face Houston’s third string QB next week, then Johnny JamBoogie and the hapless Browns in the final week.
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) – Steelers got a nice path to the playoffs.  Could knock out the Chiefs next week and the Bengals the week after.  Both games in Pittsburgh, so you gotta like that if you’re a Steelers fan.  Especially considering how you just trounced the Bengals two weeks ago.
  13. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) – They’re technically the division leader now by a half game, but stick a fork in ’em.  Home against the Broncos, then at the Steelers.  That’s got 0-2 written all over it.  Thanks for playing 2014 NFL football!
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) – The Chiefs missed out on the playoffs when they lost at Oakland last month.  They finish at Pittsburgh and vs. San Diego.  No way they’re able to put up points with the Steelers.
  15. Buffalo Bills (8-6) – You know what, Bills?  I don’t really believe in you, but you beat the Packers for us, so you get to hang out in the Winner’s Bracket for a week.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Sorry, Dolphins.  Teams who play their head coaches out of jobs don’t get to be ranked among the winners (plus, you know, it helps if you have a winning record and everything).
  2. San Francisco 49ers (7-7) – Knocked ’em out of the playoffs.  Got their douchebag head coach fired.  Finally convinced them Colin Kaepernick isn’t a starting quarterback in this league.  What a great weekend!
  3. St. Louis Rams (6-8) – Another year of being moderately scary, another year with a record not over .500.
  4. Houston Texans (7-7) – Well, it was a fun ride while it lasted.  Now, go find yourselves a quarterback.
  5. Cleveland Browns (7-7) – Seriously, Johnny JamBoogie, your money sign with the hands is idiotic when you haven’t done a fucking thing in this league.
  6. Minnesota Vikings (6-8) – Honestly, this team is better than I could have expected, given their best player was lost for the year and they’re breaking in a rookie quarterback.
  7. New Orleans Saints (6-8) – I can’t wait for the Saints to host the Cardinals in the first round, followed by the Saints beating the Cardinals’ third string quarterback, followed by the Saints coming BACK to Seattle in the Divisional Round so we can crush them once again!
  8. Atlanta Falcons (5-9) – I just honestly don’t know what to say about this NFC South.  Was the NFC West in 2010 THIS bad?  I’m asking for real; I can’t tell because I’m too close to the situation.
  9. Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) – They host Cleveland and go to Atlanta.  If Cam Newton comes back, you never know.
  10. Chicago Bears (5-9) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  11. New York Giants (5-9) – Yeah, whatever.
  12. Washington Redskins (3-11) – Total shitshow.
  13. New York Jets (3-11) – Way to screw yourselves out of the #1 pick.
  14. Oakland Raiders (2-12) – Okay.
  15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – Uh huh.
  16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) – Fucking irritating team.  WHY ARE YOU STILL PLAYING MCCOWN???
  17. Tennessee Titans (2-12) – You are one pathetic loser!

The Seahawks Have A Job To Do

Well, the Rams really could’ve done us a solid last night.  But, instead they decided to shit the bed, smear the shit all around trying to half-assedly clean it up, then covered it with the comforter to try to hide the fact that they shit the bed.  But you know, and I know, and the Rams know, that the room still smells like shit and it’s only a matter of time before the maid comes in and discovers what the Rams have done, but by then we’ll be on a plane back home and …

I forget where I was going with this.  Let me back up.

The Cardinals just beat the hapless Rams last night.  In St. Louis.  Bumping them up to 11 wins and for all intents and purposes comfortably IN the playoffs in some capacity.  And now they get 10 days to prepare for us to come to town, but that’s a post for another week.

Right now, we’ve got some business to take care of.  Some trash to take outside.  Some lawn to fertilize.  The 49ers are in town this weekend, reeling from back-to-back losses to the Seahawks on Thanksgiving, and the Raiders last week.  They’re 7-6 and, I believe, will be eliminated from the playoffs with one final death blow.

The 49ers aren’t a good team.  I don’t need to tell YOU that, but I will, because it’s so much fun.  It’s so much fun to watch Jim Harbaugh struggle.  To watch his house of cards tumble all around him.  Yes, these 49ers lost to the lowly Raiders.  Yes, they were held to 3 points by a resurgent Seahawks defense.  But, keep going back, you’ll notice a delightful trend.  Like a hard-fought 4-point victory at home against RGIII and the Redskins (the since-benched RGIII, that is).  Like another hard-fought 6-point victory against the Giants.  Like an overtime win against the ridiculous Saints.  Like a 3-point loss at home to the Rams.  It goes on and on.  Their most-impressive wins are either Week 1 at Dallas, or Week 4 at home against the Eagles.  And, I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s not September anymore.

Remember at the start of the season when we looked at these three games specifically – at Frisco, at Philly, back home vs. Frisco – as the most difficult games of the year?  And then, when we lumped the Cardinals into the mix, grudgingly accepting them as a threat even while keeping our doubts about us, marking this 5-game stretch as not only critical, but possibly lethal to our chances?  AND LOOK AT US NOW!  We are in a VERY solid position to go 5-0 in this stretch, as long as we can stay healthy and continue T’ing C of B.

Just two weeks ago, the Seahawks held the 49ers to 3 points in their home stadium.  What has changed?  Nothing has changed.  In fact, the Seahawks are looking HEALTHIER than they were two weeks ago, as there’s a 50/50 chance Max Unger returns this week.  He’s been practicing, after all, so we’ll see.

In that last game, we held them to 164 yards and 4/11 on third down.  We took the time of possession by a good ten minutes and, in spite of giving them an 85-yard edge in penalties, we still dominated them in every facet of the game.

Now … the game is being played here.  In Seattle.  Where the 49ers have not only struggled in recent years, but they’ve been laughed off the face of the fucking Earth.  Usually it’s blowouts.  Obviously, in the NFC Championship Game last year, instead of a blowout, we were able to treat them to a heartbreaking, demoralizing finish.  Either way, the 49ers haven’t had success here in the Russell Wilson Era.  So, what makes you think they’re going to have success this weekend?  When they’re in the middle of their worst stretch of play since Jim Harbaugh was hired, while at the same time our defense is back to its 2013 level?

Am I the only one who thinks this is a no-brainer?  Obviously, I’m not, because Vegas has pushed the spread on this game to over 10 points, the last time I checked.  It’s the most the Seahawks have ever been favored over the 49ers since Pete Carroll has come to town.

I’m pretty comfortable in saying the Seahawks are going to win comfortably.  The only way I can see them keeping it close is if we’re sloppy with the football, giving it away and whatnot.  If our offense is struggling the way the Rams struggled to move the football last night, then maybe I could see the 49ers hanging around.  But, we’re not employing Shaun Hill and the Loser Brigade.  We’ve got Russell “Always Finds A Way” Wilson.  Even if we struggle in the red zone again, we should be able to put up enough field goals to make this a laugher, with the way our defense has been rolling.

The 49ers are the least of my concerns.  They’re a beached whale gasping its dying breaths.  Colin Kaepernick has regressed to the point where he can’t get out of his own way and stop turning the ball over on ill-conceived throws.  Michael Crabtree is so far below mediocre, you could pull a man off the street and get blanket coverage.  Frank Gore is on his way out of the league.  The offensive line is a mess.  Their linebackers are all backups on any other team.  They have a little shred of respectability in their run defense, and some marginal talent in their secondary.  But, my money is on the Seahawks having their way with them.

It’s going to be a great day on Sunday.  We’ll close the book on the 2014 San Francisco 49ers.  We’ll be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Jim Harbaugh’s reign with that team.  And, we might be looking at one of the last days of Colin Kaepernick:  Franchise Quarterback.  If he doesn’t get out of the tailspin he’s been in, you could be looking at a career-backup for some other team.

I wonder how he’d feel about playing behind Russell Wilson for pennies on the dollar …