Seahawks Throttle Jets Before Well-Deserved BYE Week

The lasting image I’ve taken away from this game – the first thing that’ll come to mind as the season goes on and I’m reminded of the week we went to New Jersey to play the Jets – isn’t Russell Wilson’s heroism, or Jimmy Graham’s demolition of everything in his path, or even the fact that we flew across the country and dominated in a 10am west coast start time that would’ve been unheard of 10 years or even 5 years ago.  While those are all great storylines that I’ll gladly talk about below, the really fascinating part of this game was the Brandon Marshall vs. Richard Sherman matchup, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fearlessness in trying to exploit it.

Richard Sherman doesn’t follow the other team’s #1 receiver every game.  Part of that is many teams don’t have a TRUE #1 receiver worthy of all the attention, part of that is our scheme is so sound and our other cornerbacks are pretty good in their own rights.  So, when Sherm does the unusual, like he did on Sunday, it’s noteworthy.  Hell, it’s appointment television!  And, this matchup didn’t disappoint.

Brandon Marshall IS a true #1 receiver.  He is, indeed, probably one of the top five most gifted and dominant receivers in all of football.  People don’t usually throw his name into the mix as much as they should because he’s 32 years old, he’s bounced around to now his fourth team in a tumultuous career, and he’s rarely – if ever – had a really elite quarterback throwing him the ball.  But, I’ll tell you this much, he’s had eight 1,000+ yard receiving seasons (including at least one with four different teams, which I believe is an NFL record), and he’s had 6 seasons with 100+ receptions.  This is a bona fide NFL Hall of Fame talent, and maybe a first ballot guy at that.

I mean, just look at the list of quarterbacks he’s made look like Pro Bowlers:

  • Jay Cutler
  • Kyle Orton
  • Chad Henne
  • Matt Moore
  • Jay Cutler again
  • Josh McCown
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick

If that isn’t a who’s who of utter crap, I don’t know what to tell you!

So, when I caught on to what Richard Sherman was trying to do, that game took on another level of intrigue.  Now, it didn’t hurt that Eric Decker was out with injury.  While Decker isn’t in Marshall’s league, he’s still a quality, veteran receiver and a consummate #2 guy who will do his share of the damage if the opposing team focuses too much on Marshall.  I wonder, with a fully healthy Decker, if Sherm still would’ve followed Marshall, or if we would’ve played it straight.

Either way, he did follow Marshall around, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.  There’s no doubt in my mind – with the way Fitzpatrick was already trying to pick on Sherm, because we left him out there on an island (so to speak) – that had we stuck with our regular defense, Marshall would’ve lined up against Shead probably 80% of the game, and he would’ve destroyed us for 200+ yards and maybe a couple more touchdowns.  And, believe me, I like Shead!  I just think there’s another class of cornerback above Shead (a class that Richard Sherman is in), and it takes a guy IN that class to try to shut down a quality receiver like Marshall.

I mean, hell, as it was, with Sherm on him all day, Marshall STILL caught 4 balls for 89 yards and the first receiving touchdown this defense has given up this season!  You’re telling me those numbers wouldn’t EASILY be doubled with Shead guarding him predominantly throughout the game?  Unless we would’ve shaded our safeties to his side on the reg, which isn’t really the way we like to play defense.

Anyway, it looked like it was going to pay off for the Jets.  Marshall got the lion’s share of his catches and yards in the first half – including the touchdown right before halftime that looked very un-Sherm, as he was unable to get his head turned around to look for the ball – but after a VERY bullshit pass interference call on Sherm in the second half, Fitz was caught with his hand in the cookie jar one too many times, and Sherm cut it off at the wrist with the first of two interceptions for him on the day.  EASILY the most satisfying interception I’ve seen him catch, probably since the 2013 game at Houston, as it came immediately after the bullshit flag.

In the end, the Sherman vs. Marshall matchup went about as well as you’d expect.  Marshall got his licks in early – because you’re not going to COMPLETELY eliminate a guy of his calibre – but ultimately Sherman won the day, and not just because the Seahawks came away with a victory.  Yes, Marshall had 4 receptions, but he was targeted 12 times.  Yes, Marshall got the TD, but Sherm got 2 INTs.  Yes, the Jets were able to exploit that matchup a little bit in the first half, but Sherman put Marshall on lock in the second half, and that was all she wrote.

Honestly, more than anything, I was shocked Fitzpatrick kept trying to go that way!  I understand the rationale – in the NFL, you love to go to a 1 on 1 matchup with a hall of fame receiver all day every day – but it just seems like eventually you’re going to get snakebitten.  I kept thinking that throughout the first half:  one of these times, Sherm is going to get his, and it’s going to be glorious.  It also makes sense in the fact that they really didn’t really have anyone else to throw to.  Decker was out.  Quincy Enunwa is a nice story as a second year possession receiver, but he’s not even at Decker’s level, let alone Marshall’s.  Behind him, there’s no one.  The Jets haven’t even completed a pass to a tight end in over a year!  Other than Enunwa, they had the two running backs to throw to.  While Bilal Powell had a nice game, and a couple of catches for first downs, that’s essentially playing right into our hands if they do that all day.  So, really, Fitzpatrick had no choice but to go to Marshall as if he was being guarded by Just Another Guy!  Nevertheless, it doesn’t make him look like any smarter of a person (Harvard education or not), but them’s the breaks in the National Football League.

***

Moving on to other things, Russell Wilson looked phenomenal.  Again, he was hampered by injuries, but I gotta think his ankle – if it’s not back to normal yet – will be fine by our next game in a couple weeks.  And, wearing the brace on his knee, while it slowed him a little bit – and most certainly took away a lot of our zone read plays – still allowed him to move around a little bit when he needed to.  I don’t think we’re going to see Wilson go full Tarkenton for a few more weeks yet (maybe in the second half of the season), but he’s upright, he’s mobile enough, and he’s making enough plays in the pocket to re-introduce the narrative of him taking that next step to Elite status (regardless of what many national pundits think; which, do they even bother watching ANY tape before crafting their hot taeks?).

Wilson completed 23 of 32 passes for 309 yards and 3 TDs.  8 of those 23 completions were of 15 yards or more.  He was, for the most part, on time, and dropping dimes into windows only our receivers could get to.

One of those receivers taking the bulk of the yards in this one was Jimmy Graham, who caught 6 more balls for 113 yards, which puts him on a 2-week run (since we opened him up to the full playbook and the full allotment of offensive plays) of 12 receptions for 213 yards and a touchdown.  He came up particularly huge in yesterday’s game, given the fact that Baldwin was held to just 4 catches for 54 yards.

As usual, Wilson did his thing when it comes to spreading the ball around.  8 different players caught at least one pass, including Tanner McEvoy’s first-ever reception (a WIDE open 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter), and C.J. Spiller’s first-ever Seahawks reception for a touchdown (after having just been signed earlier this week off the streets).

The offensive line did its job against a remarkable defensive line.  It wasn’t able to open up as many rushing lanes as you’d like, but that’s to be expected.  What was awesome was how much time it afforded Russell Wilson to pass the ball.  Sure, there were some pressures, and a couple sacks, but this O-Line isn’t ever going to be perfect.  As long as it can limit the damage as it’s been doing for the most part this season, and (even bigger) avoid excessive penalties that put us behind the chains, we’ll be just fine with this much-maligned group.

Germain Ifedi got his first start in replacing J’Marcus Webb, and had some good times and some bad times, but I have no doubt in my mind that he was better than what we would’ve gotten with Webb against that group.  Furthermore, going forward, we’re in MUCH better hands with Ifedi, as long as we can keep him off the trainer’s table.  We have this week off, which is a godsend to everyone with nagging injuries, but even better:  we face a much more reasonable slate of D-Lines going forward.  In the Nothing Special department, we face:  Atlanta, Arizona, New Orleans, Buffalo, New England, Philly, and Tampa in the next seven games.  The rest of the way, depending on injuries, we only have to be concerned about the D-Lines of Carolina, Los Angeles, and maybe Green Bay, and that’s it!  So, grey skies are gonna clear up, folks.

Great games by Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas (who got his first pick of the season), K.J. Wright, and our D-Line as usual.  We ended up with 4 sacks on the day, a bunch of QB hits, and we held them to 58 yards rushing on the day.  If it weren’t for a crazy play involving the quarterback being strip-sacked, fumbling the ball about 10 yards forward, where a receiver picked it up and ran it into the endzone while everyone else on the field thought it was an incomplete pass, our points-against number would look a lot better than it does.  With that, and those two garbage time TDs by the 49ers last week, that’s a good 22 points we’re going to have to make up if we want to hold onto our championship belt of fewest points allowed in a season!

This one was fun.  Now, let’s all rest up and get ready to put the whuppin’ on the Falcons in two weeks.

Are The Seahawks Building The Right Way?

The 2013 Seahawks were something of a unicorn, the likes of which come around maybe once in a generation.  The sheer volume of talent, the number of superstars on their first contracts, the way we were able to stockpile depth on top of depth; the 2013 Seahawks could’ve had an outbreak of smallpox and still come away with enough talent to do some real playoff damage.

Since then, we’ve seen 9 guys get paid, with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner next on the list.  While there was certainly a challenge in getting the talent level to where it was and where it currently is, the REAL challenge begins now:  how do we keep producing a winner when we’re forced to pay our top tier quarterback like a top tier quarterback?

It’s going to happen.  Maybe this year, maybe next year, maybe the year after that, but EVENTUALLY, we’re going to give Wilson the contract he deserves.  And, with Wagner possibly commanding upwards of $10 million per season on average, we have a good idea of who the Haves are in reference to the Have Nots on this team.  In essence, we know how this team is being built.

It obviously starts with the quarterback.  Elsewhere, we’ve got a large chunk of money going to Marshawn Lynch for as long as he wants to remain a Seahawk.  Jimmy Graham – while he won’t cost us a cent in dead money if we cut him – still counts an average of $9 million per year against our cap in base salary.  The other major expense is Russell Okung on the final year of his deal.  One would think if you’re going to pay ANYONE on the offensive line, it would be your Pro Bowl left tackle.  But, with the way this team is constructed, Okung might be too rich for our blood.

For, you see, the defense is really taking the lion’s share of the cap space.  Richard Sherman is our top cap hit until Wilson signs.  Avril, Bennett, and Thomas all make bank; Chancellor and Wright are more reasonable chunks of money.  And, Mebane is on the final year that sees him making $5.5 million.  When Wagner ultimately gets his, it’s going to mean a lot of changes in 2016 and beyond.

For starters, you have to imagine Bruce Irvin is gone after 2015.  The Seahawks can ill afford to make the same mistake they made under Holmgren, by overpaying for all three linebacker spots.  Wagner’s a stud, obviously you lock him down for the long haul.  But, as far as I’m concerned, you can go replacement level on the other two linebacker spots and get by just fine.  Wright is a luxury who’s not killing us in the cap, but he also might want to watch his back in a year or two, especially if the injury bug strikes again.

To be honest, though, I don’t really have a problem with any of the high-contract guys we’ve got right now.  I like pouring money into the secondary and pass rush.  I like the idea of replacement guys along the interior of the line, while continuing to develop younger guys on the outside.  And on offense, as you can see from the last three years, if you have a truly mobile quarterback who’s also accurate and looking more to throw the ball than tuck & run, you can get by while skimping on the offensive line.  What the Cowboys are doing with their O-Line is great and everything, but it tends to all fall apart once the injury bug hits (which it inevitably always does).  I’d rather do what the Seahawks do:  find value late in the draft, and cheap among free agents, then train them at multiple positions so you have a contingency when guys get hurt.

Beyond that, while I wouldn’t normally be crazy about making the running back one of your biggest cap hits, Marshawn Lynch isn’t just any running back.  When he leaves, I think the Seahawks would be better served going with a committee of young, cheap backs.  But, as long as Lynch is around, you pay that man until he can’t carry this offense on his back anymore.  Separately, I think too much is made of having elite, #1-type receivers.  If you go back the last 10 years and look at all the Super Bowl winners, who are the truly elite receivers on those teams?  I would argue even with the Packers, Colts, and Saints when they won, it was more about their Hall of Fame quarterbacks than it was about any of the receivers they were throwing to (would the likes of Marvin Harrison, Jordy Nelson, or Marques Colston be as great as we think they are if Kyle Orton was throwing to them?).  The bottom line is:  if your quarterback is good enough, he should be able to make the receivers around him better than they are.  I think Russell Wilson is that type of guy.  Hell, he’s helped make the careers of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Ricardo Lockette, and he almost single-handedly made Chris Matthews the MVP of the Super Bowl had we ended up winning!

***

So, what should the Seahawks do going forward?

Well, I don’t have as great of a grasp on the cap as others, so I’ll stick with the broad strokes.  For starters, pay Russell Wilson his money.  I want quarterback locked down for the duration.  Keep paying Marshawn Lynch as long as he’s in his prime, then make the tough cut if it looks like he’s done.  Same thing goes for Jimmy Graham; keep him until he breaks down.  Of the entire veteran wide receiver group, I think Doug Baldwin is the only indispensable one, but at the same time I need him to want to be here on modest contracts.  I can’t justify paying Baldwin anywhere near Calvin Johnson money, so if he’s looking to get the type of touches someone requires to show he’s worth #1 receiver money, then he better sign on with the Packers or some other pass-wacky team.  But, Baldwin’s leadership and rapport with Wilson is something you just can’t quantify on the stat sheet.  If he’s willing, keep him around and keep bringing in undrafted receivers for him to mold in his own image.

Or, keep drafting guys like Tyler Lockett, because I think he’s going to be the stud of studs.

Along the O-Line, as long as Tom Cable is here, I think you try to skimp as much as you can.  ((as a quick aside, I really think they need to keep Cable here long term, even if it means guaranteeing him the head coaching job when Pete Carroll eventually retires or moves on)).  I’m not against Okung coming back, but his deal better be incentive-based, because he’s ALWAYS missing games!  At this point, I’d almost rather the team extend Sweezy with Okung’s future money, because I think when it’s all said and done, Sweezy will be one of the better right guards we’ve ever had.  As far as tight end goes, I don’t mind giving your top dog a good-sized contract – if he truly is a top dog.  After that, I think you can skimp on your 2nd & 3rd tight ends and get by just fine.

Defensively, if you can hack it, give at least two pass rushers good-sized contracts.  Michael Bennett is as good as it gets.  Cliff Avril is a solid number 2.  What’s interesting here is what Bruce Irvin does in his contract year.  I wonder if he’s going to ball-out in hopes of getting a big-money deal.  Part of me hopes he does, even though I’m already on record as saying this team can’t afford to pay all three linebackers.  See, there’s an outside chance that if the team wants to extend Irvin, they’d have to get rid of Avril – who can be cut without any serious penalty if they drop him within the first few days of the offseason.  I’m of the opinion that as long as Irvin really wants it, he can be one of the greats, and his prime is still a few years away yet.  We’ve only seen Irvin in years 1-3; I could see his best years being years 5-8 (again, if he really wants to be great; I think it’s all mental with him at this point, because he’s got the physical gifts).  Let’s face it, Avril will be 30 next year; will his skillset age all that well?  I’m willing to go out on a limb and say Irvin will be vastly more valuable in the next four years.

For the interior, I think the Seahawks need to make a better effort in drafting Mebane’s replacement next year.  I don’t mind bringing in veterans on smallish deals to plug & play, and I don’t mind these young projects we’ve got at tackle.  But, I think we really need to go after a young stud in the draft very soon to keep our run-stuffing continuity going.

At linebacker, play it out.  Wagner deserves to be here for the rest of his career.  Wright should never break the bank.  Irvin’s spot should be filled by a younger player (especially if Irvin moves back to LEO end should he be extended).

In the secondary, do what you’ve been doing.  The L.O.B. is Earl, Kam, and Sherm.  Plug that opposite cornerback spot with a modestly-priced veteran or a toolsy draft choice.  Let the coaching staff do what it’s been brought here to do and mold young players into starters.

And finally, whatever you do, don’t skimp on your special team specialists.  Everyone thinks punter is a great way to shave off some cap space, until you land on an inexperienced guy who keeps giving away huge chunks of field position.  Same goes for kicker:  Oh, just bring in anybody, it’s fine!  Yeah, and then you lose a few heartbreakers because your kicker can’t handle the pressure, then you’re bringing in guys mid-season to compete, and ultimately it costs you come playoff time.  I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Thinking About Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch & Pete Carroll

Maybe it’s the time of year, time to reflect.  Maybe it’s because I’m off work and listening to a lot of sports radio.  While the Pro Bowl in and of itself isn’t interesting, the idea of rewarding players and the idea of seasonal awards sort of catches me from time to time.

It’s the end of the football season, pretty much, and you’re going to hear people talking about Who Should Be The MVP?  Who Should Be The Coach Of The Year?  And so on and so forth.  Within those discussions, you’re going to hear a lot of names.  But, outside of Seattle, you’re not going to hear the names Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, or Pete Carroll.  I’m not saying they should or should not necessarily be the front-runners of those particular awards, but shouldn’t they be in the discussion?  You’re talking about a team coming off of a Super Bowl victory, that’s also a team favored right now to repeat as champs.  And yet, its two best players, and its head coach will be nowhere to be seen when it comes to the most important regular season awards in the NFL this year.

Isn’t that kind of sick and wrong and gross?  Homer or not, I mean come on!

And the arguments are pretty simple.  For Russell and Marshawn, they get discounted because the defense is so good.  Yeah, these are good players, but where would this team be if the defense was only half as good?  The same knock goes against Pete Carroll.  Except this time, it’s the TEAM that’s too good.  While other coaches are doing more with less, Pete Carroll is doing more with more.  It’s not Pete Carroll’s fault that the team is so good (except, it sort of is, since he works hand in hand with John Schneider, but that’s neither here nor there), but what exactly is he having to overcome?

And before you come at me with the laundry list of injured Seahawks we’ve had throughout the year, yeah, I know.  I’m just telling you what they’re likely thinking on a national perspective.  They see Arizona making the playoffs, currently with 11 wins, with an outside shot at the #1 seed; and they see this team having lost their top two quarterbacks and a bunch of amazing defenders, having to leap hurdle after hurdle to get where they’ve gotten.  Or, they see the Dallas Cowboys getting the monkey off their backs, finally winning a division and getting ready to host a playoff game; they see a team they ranked near the bottom of the NFC East rankings before the season started, writing them off before a single game had been played.  Defying expectations.

Except, the problem with that is, it’s the media’s fault those expectations were so low to begin with.  Not only that, but it’s kinda Jason Garrett’s fault as well.  If he didn’t suck so much dick as a head coach for all these years, underachieving with supposedly-good teams, the Cowboys wouldn’t be in the position they’re in now:  being pretty great when everyone thought they were junk.

Pete Carroll just wins games.  He wins games with a roster he helped build.  And, he had to do it under the biggest microscope the city of Seattle had ever seen.

Think about it:  think about all the stories written about this team in the first couple months of the season.  All the negative stories.  Think about the tumult with Percy Harvin.  Think about how the media worked to drive a wedge between Lynch and the organization.  Every other article about him was about how he was unhappy.  About how he wanted to leave after the season.  About how the team was sick of his antics.  And, if they weren’t writing all of these negative articles, then they were tattling to the league about how Lynch wouldn’t do interviews.  Again, I’m talking about national media guys, but that’s the type of stuff you get when you win a Super Bowl and you’ve got a lot of interesting personalities on one team.

And Pete Carroll had to wade through ALL of that shit; not to mention all the noise about how it’s hard to come back and play well after winning the Super Bowl!  The talk, the rumors, the negative stories (whether true or manufactured), combined with the fact that the Seahawks lost 4 of their first 10 games.  Yeah, team chemistry is pretty fucking easy to manage when you’re winning games hand over fist.  But, when you’ve lost nearly as many games as you’ve won just past the halfway point of the season, you’ve REALLY got to work to keep the team on the same page and to keep them believing that this season isn’t totally lost.

What has Pete Carroll done?  All of that and then some.  He’s kept this team on track through a litany of injuries and alleged in-fighting, then righted the ship and shot this season into overdrive as the Seahawks look to make it six straight wins to steal the top seed in the NFC.

In a year where the target has been on our backs, and as big as a planet, Pete Carroll molded a champion into an even more formidable champion.  Yet, where’s the recognition?

***

Marshawn Lynch is a different animal.  I’m not so sure he really deserves to be in that discussion of the NFL’s MVP award.  But, you could certainly argue he’s the most important player on the Seattle Seahawks.  Making him the most important player on the best team in the National Football League.

Lynch has 1,577 total yards from scrimmage, with 16 total touchdowns.  He accounts for nearly 27% of our total yards this year, which is pretty fucking impressive.  The offense runs through him, and many would argue the offense doesn’t run WITHOUT him.  I wonder, but thankfully, I’ll never have to know (at least, for this season).

There was an interesting discussion on the radio today, about whether or not Russell Wilson is the same quarterback without Marshawn Lynch.  Is he still as effective?  There were a couple of good points, the first being that Lynch is an elite running back.  He’s in the top two or three in the NFL right now, which is saying something, even in this day and age of the devalued running back position.  Teams have to gameplan around Lynch.  They don’t necessarily have to gameplan as much if we’re talking about Turbin or Michael.  For as good as we think they might be, they’ve never had to carry the load full time.  It’s quite possible that two players who are awesome in short spurts become less effective the more times they touch the football.

The second point they made is even better:  Marshawn Lynch never goes down on first contact.  Think about THAT.  You can’t just assign one defender to roam around worrying about Lynch.  You have to run multiple guys at him to get him down.  It’s truly a team effort when you face the Seahawks, and if you’re not disciplined as a team (or, if you go about making too many Business Decisions), then Lynch is going to make you pay (mostly by running THROUGH you).

Knowing that you really have to key in on Lynch when he’s on the field, it opens up so much more for Russell Wilson.  Yes, part of the problem is the fact that other teams don’t really respect our passing attack, so they’re more likely to load the box or otherwise leave their corners on islands.  But, with Lynch still drawing the lion’s share of the attention, Wilson is able to run off of zone reads as well as simply scramble around until he’s able to find an open receiver.  And that’s saying nothing of all the pressure Lynch takes off of his shoulders simply by running the ball or being a quality outlet when Wilson needs to check down in the passing game.

Coming into this year, I was all set in my thinking:  we’d have Marshawn Lynch one more year, but we’d consistently work in Christine Michael, and after this year we’d let Lynch go and move on to our next franchise running back.  Now, through no fault of Michael’s, my thinking is seriously twisted up.  Like many other Seahawks fans, I can’t imagine this team doing anything without Beastmode.  More importantly, I don’t WANT to imagine it!

We’ve got Lynch signed through next year and I couldn’t be happier.  At the same time, I wouldn’t even be mad if they brought him back for an extra two years AFTER that!  Get the extension done in the offseason.  Give Lynch a nice little bonus for his so-far-under-the-radar-it’s-off-the-radar MVP performance, and ride this thing out until the bitter end.  If we get through Turbin’s and Michael’s rookie contracts without either of them being named the team’s starting running back, it’ll be a huge success.  I never would’ve thought that coming into the 2014 season.  I would’ve considered it an abject failure.  I mean, after all, why draft a running back in the second round (who may still have first round talent) if you’re not going to take advantage of him while his cost is still reasonable?

But, if you’re going to get this type of play out of Marshawn Lynch, you’ve got to keep him around for as long as it lasts.  It would probably be irresponsible to give him a 4-year deal like Wright or Avril, but a 2-year deal with modest base salaries and a nice chunk bonus (and not back-loaded, so both of those years are achievable) would certainly be in order.

Let’s prove the world wrong.  Let’s show everyone that Lynch CAN be happy here for the duration of his NFL career.

***

Getting back to Russell Wilson, do you ever wonder what he’s going to be like when Lynch leaves?  Or, shit, when Pete Carroll leaves for that matter!  The next running back isn’t likely to be an MVP type of back, just because those guys are so rare as it is.  What happens to Wilson when the offense is TRULY on his shoulders?  Like all of these other great quarterbacks he’s trying to be compared to?

For starters, CAN Russell Wilson carry a team by himself?  I’m inclined to think he can.  Now, we all know the arguments against Wilson being elite, and they all boil down to some variation on the Game Manager theme.  He doesn’t make mistakes, he scrambles around for extra yards, and he comes up with just enough big plays down field to keep defenses honest.  If you had a Game Manager Spectrum, he’d be at the absolute top-end of all quarterbacks.

There are LOTS of guys out there who are or were game managers.  But, how many of them take care of the ball the way he does?  Wilson has been in the league three years.  In all three years, he will have thrown for over 3,000 yards, over 20 TDs, and 10 or fewer INTs.  He’s also averaging over 600 yards rushing with nearly 4 TDs rushing, with only 3 fumbles per year.  No matter how much you like Kyle Orton, or Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Carson Palmer, or Jay Cutler, or Alex Smith, or Eli Manning, they’re not doing for you what Russell Wilson does.

What does Russell Wilson need to do to get into that MVP discussion?  Well, he probably has to throw for 4,000 and 30 TDs or more.  That seems to be a baseline for a quarterback to start getting recognized.  If he simply does what he’s been doing these first three seasons, the Seahawks would have to probably run the table in the regular season and even THEN, there better not be an overwhelming statistical season out of the likes of Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Can Wilson be that guy?  Can he throw for 4,000 and 30?  I suppose anything’s possible, but even then, you’re talking about a severely weakened Seahawks team.  See, he doesn’t have those numbers right now because the Seahawks don’t NEED him to throw that much.  But, if he’s doing that, then that means our defense is probably lacking, and we’re having to throw our way back into football games.  A 4,000/30 season out of Wilson probably equates to a 9-7 or 10-6 regular season record.  And, it probably means more turnovers in the process.

There’s always that give and take.  As a fan, of course I want to see the Seahawks be dominating, so I don’t care if Russell Wilson EVER reaches those MVP type numbers.  But, then again, maybe the national consensus should rethink what it means to be an MVP.

The Baltimore Ravens had one of the greatest defenses of all time in the year 2000.  But, that wasn’t just a 1-year blip.  They had LOTS of good defenses in the 2000s.  But, you didn’t see them win lots of Super Bowls; why is that?  Because, it’s pretty fucking hard to be as dominating as they were in 2000 for multiple seasons.  But, beyond that, it’s because they never really had an elite quarterback.

The 2013 Seahawks also had one of the greatest defenses of all time.  Consistently, throughout the year (as opposed to 2012 & 2014, when there have been significant breakdowns that have seen our record suffer as a result).  If we’d only had Tarvaris Jackson last year, I can envision a scenario where the 2013 Seahawks still win a Super Bowl a la the 2000 Ravens with Trent Dilfer.  BUT, I don’t see any subsequent championships in our future if we (in this hypothetical scenario) have to stick with Tarvaris Jackson (or some reasonable facsimile) for the duration of our defense being at this still very high level.  You get what I’m saying?

I’m saying if the Ravens of the 2000s had Russell Wilson at the helm, THEY might have been the dynasty instead of the Patriots.  Did I just blow your mind?

It goes hand in hand.  Yes, the Seahawks have an elite defense.  Yes, we’re on a run of defensive football (starting in 2012, going forward as long as I can see) where the Seahawks are going to be great for a while.  But, they wouldn’t be anything without Russell Wilson.  Just like the Ravens, for the most part, weren’t much until they got Joe Flacco (who isn’t any great shakes, but he’s more than just a game manager; just like Wilson is more than just a game manager).

The main problem with most quarterbacks is something I’ve said time and time again:  they THINK they can do everything, so they try to DO everything.  They think they can thread the needle on every throw when they don’t necessarily have to.  They think they’ve got the arm strength to slam a football into a tiny opening that isn’t really there once they’ve let the ball go.  As a result, a lot of these so-called great quarterbacks find themselves hurting their teams as much – if not more – than they’re helping.  Yeah, Jay Cutler has one of the strongest arms in football.  But, he’s got the brain of a child who’s always gotten his way since he emerged from his mother with that silver spoon en tow.

Drew Brees, there’s another one.  He’s a great quarterback, don’t get me wrong.  Hall of Famer and all of that.  But, like Brett Favre and a lot of other guys, Brees makes some baffling decisions when you wonder just what in the Hell he was thinking.  Maybe it’s because of the defense.  Maybe these quarterbacks think they have to be super-perfect because they know they’ve got to compensate for a struggling defense (and Wilson doesn’t have that problem, so he can be a little more cautious).  Maybe for those teams, a punt is a defeat and not a chance to live another day like it is with the Seahawks.  I dunno.

What I do know is you’re not that awesome just because you throw for 4 TDs a game if you’re also throwing 3 interceptions while doing it.

I’m just thankful that for at least these last few years, as a Seahawks fan, I’ve had it all.  Superstars come and go, but rarely do so many converge in the same place at the same time.  Unlike prior Seattle sports teams, this one is taking full advantage.  Here’s to another Super Bowl run; let’s get the job done on Sunday.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 10

The storyline for the week has been something along the lines of:  Marshawn Lynch isn’t likely to be back next season, but the Seahawks would be foolish to let him go.

This talk, quite frankly, is defeatist.  EVENTUALLY, at some point, the Seahawks are going to have to find a way to move on from Marshawn Lynch.  He’s not going to play forever.  And he’s NOT going to be here through the life of Russell Wilson’s career.  So, really, what are we talking about?  Delaying the inevitable?

I’m not saying it’s going to be peaches and cream if and when Marshawn Lynch is let go, but it’s not like we’re stuck with chopped liver in his absence.  Granted, there isn’t a running back on this team right now quite like Beastmode.  But, that’s a little unfair, because there isn’t a running back on this PLANET quite like Beastmode.  Are you kidding me?  His toughness, his ability to break tackles, his skill as a pass catcher, his durability to play every down if we needed him to, there is NOT anyone like him.  Anywhere.

But, there’s a distinction there.  I didn’t say Marshawn Lynch is the “best” running back in the league.  Just that there’s no one else like him.  And that’s true.  Marshawn Lynch is, indeed, the best running back on the Seahawks, but I’m not so sure I’d go as far as to say he’s the best in the NFL.  He’s in the discussion, I guess, but what does it all boil down to when you’re talking about running backs?

Yards.  Yards and touchdowns.  Right now, Lynch is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, but he’s tops in the NFL in rushing touchdowns after his 4-TD game last week.  Those are great figures, and this team is better for having him.  But, is it fair to say this team would be sunk without him?

Robert Turbin is probably best suited as a backup running back.  I can’t see him breaking any records as a starter.  But, among backups, I’d rate him near the top.  He COULD start in this league and, I think, be pretty effective.  He’s got the tools, he runs hard, he can catch the ball, he blocks well.  He’s a clear step down from Beastmode, but who isn’t?

Then, there’s Christine Michael.  The Great Running Back Hope.  Our second round draft pick in 2013.  At the moment, he’s a big unknown.  He hasn’t played a whole lot because of speculative issues with his blocking or having his head screwed on straight or whatever.  Really, he hasn’t been playing because there’s a Top 5 Running Back In The NFL ahead of him, plus a quality backup with more experience also ahead of him.  Teams don’t tend to run with 3-headed hydras in their backfield unless they’re one of those unfortunate teams who simply DON’T have a true #1 running back.

What we think we know about Michael is that he’s got game-breaking speed and toughness.  The sky is the limit with this kid, but first he needs to get playing time outside of the preseason so he can let us know where he’s at.  I happen to think he could be something special with the ball in his hands.  But, again, what do I know?

I don’t have a problem with how we’ve used the running backs this year.  Lynch is getting his periodic rest, the backups are getting some work in, and quite frankly the Seahawks have one of the best running back units in the NFL.  I wouldn’t even have a problem with the Seahawks honoring Lynch’s deal and bringing him back for 2015.  He is, after all, one of my favorite players on this team, and I’d love to watch him do what he does for another year.

But, we do need to be thinking about the future as well.  If the front office feels that it’s time to move in a different direction after this season.  Or, if Beastmode wants out, to try to get a big deal on the open market, I’m not going to be too sad.  I just want things to end amicably, so I can look back on Marshawn Lynch with the fond memories his tenure here in Seattle deserves.  That means not keeping him here too long, past his prime, where we only grow to resent him as he makes millions of dollars he doesn’t deserve.  Likewise, that also doesn’t mean keeping him here against his will, on a 2015 contract that isn’t indicative of his true value to this team.  If 2014 has to be the last year he’s here, I’m not going to throw a fit.  The Seahawks will find a way to move on, I promise.  There are two quality backs here, plus a whole draft to pick up a third.

Getting even 75% of Marshawn Lynch going forward should still be pretty damn good.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (7-2) – I’d like to point out that my fantasy team is 2-0 this year against Peyton Manning, but Honky Hoedown is dreading the inevitable third showdown in the playoffs.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (8-1) – This is about the time I’d set Arizona way down the list on the ol’ Power Rankings, but they’ve continued to win games even without Carson Palmer, so fuck that.
  3. Detroit Lions (7-2) – You don’t want to face this team in the playoffs.
  4. New England Patriots (7-2) – Words cannot describe how excited I am for this Patriots/Colts game this week.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Colts are at home, they’ve got a great quarterback who’s prone to making mistakes from time to time.  But, he’s also prone to overcoming those mistakes.  Again, should be a great, GREAT game.
  6. Green Bay Packers (6-3) – No doubt about it, the Packers are better than the Bears.
  7. Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) – Good defense, great running game, solid quarterback.  This team is legit and it’ll be impressive if the Seahawks beat them this week.
  8. Seattle Seahawks (6-3) – Going to have to play mistake-free football, or as close to mistake-free as it gets.
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) – So, the Steelers only have two numbers retired after Mean Joe Greene last week?  What number do they have reserved for their Fans to wear, then?
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (7-2) – I’m going to need to see an extended period of greatness with Sanchez behind center before I’m willing to move them up.  And, if it happens, then I’ve gott ask:  what is it about Chip Kelly’s offense that turns even the biggest piles of crap into winners?
  11. Dallas Cowboys (7-3) – Talk to me in December when you’re NOT blowing games you should win.
  12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) – The last straw for Cincy’s defense in fantasy was laying a huge turd against the Browns.
  13. San Francisco 49ers (5-4) – Drew Brees saved your season.  How do you feel about that?
  14. Miami Dolphins (5-4) – That’s a tough team with a hard-luck loss against an elite Lions team.  Miami is on the rise, no doubt about it.
  15. San Diego Chargers (5-4) – On the fall, we have the Chargers.  Probably too late to turn it around.
  16. New Orleans Saints (4-5) – It’s never too late when you play in the pathetic NFC South!  I can’t believe I thought this would be the best division in football before the season.
  17. Baltimore Ravens (6-4) – Even though they’ve got a decent record, I don’t see the Ravens as a playoff team.
  18. Cleveland Browns (6-3) – See:  what I said about the Ravens.
  19. Carolina Panthers (3-6-1) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  20. Houston Texans (4-5) – On the plus side, I didn’t see J.J. Watt’s commercial all weekend, and neither did you.
  21. Chicago Bears (3-6) – How many Bears fans would go back in time, trade Cutler to the Bucs for a couple draft picks, and retain Josh McCown for pennies on the dollar?  Is it more than 50%?  75%?
  22. Buffalo Bills (5-4) – Kyle Orton isn’t the solution you were looking for.
  23. New York Giants (3-6) – You are one pathetic loser!
  24. St. Louis Rams (3-6) – It’s never going to happen with Jeff Fisher & the Rams, there I said it.
  25. Atlanta Falcons (3-6) – The question remains:  do I keep Matt Ryan in my fantasy league?  It’s a QB-centric league, which means it’s closer to real life (quarterbacks are the most important players on the football field, so why shouldn’t they be the most important players in fantasy football?).  I have to believe that Matt Ryan is going to get improved offensive line play next year.  But, what I need to know is:  is Matt Ryan an elite quarterback?  On that, I’m not so sure.
  26. Minnesota Vikings (4-5) – Wouldn’t it be weird if Adrian Peterson returned and led the Vikings to a Wild Card?  I’ve gotten so used to an Adrian Peterson-free league.
  27. Washington Redskins (3-6) – Better with RGIII, I guess.
  28. New York Jets (2-8) – Better with Vick, I guess.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) – Better with McCown, not so much.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-7) – A-yup.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) – Woof.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-9) – Yiminy.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 8

Well, we’re just about at the midway point of the season for most teams.  Either you’ve played 8 games, or you’ve been one of the unlucky teams to have an early BYE.  Time to take a look at the playoff picture and see where we stand.

In the AFC, Denver and New England are running away with the top 2 seeds.  Denver is up 2 games on San Diego in the loss column, with an edge in the tie-breaker after having beaten them last week.  Cincy and Indy round out the division leaders (with Baltimore hot on the Bengals’ heels, and no one hot on the Colts’).  The Chargers and Bills currently round out the Wild Card teams, but raise your hand if you believe the Bills have what it takes to last the full season.

I thought so.

Baltimore, Pittsburgh, KC, Miami, and Cleveland all have three losses to go with Buffalo and San Diego, so really the AFC Wild Card spots are wide open.  Should be fun.

On to the NFC (because who gives a damn about what happens in the AFC; the Broncos are going to charge through to the Super Bowl anyway).

Arizona:  6-1, Detroit:  6-2, Dallas:  6-2, Philly:  5-2.  Those are your best teams, in order (you’ve also got to throw the NFC South winner in there as the 4th seed, hosting a playoff game; Carolina currently has the tie-breaker edge on that race by their tie game).

From a Seahawks perspective, there are three things on our minds:  will we make the playoffs at all, will we win our division, and will we get a top 2 seed?

Right now, we’re tied for second with San Francisco at 4-3.  Both teams are two games behind the Cards.  The 49ers already lost one game to the Cards; the Seahawks play them twice.  The Seahawks also play the 49ers twice, so you know right away which four games are the most important four games of the season.

The Seahawks are 0-1 in the division.  Frisco is 1-1 and Zona is 1-0.  The Seahawks currently hold their destiny in their hands, so it’s all about winning those four games.

From a conference perspective, the Seahawks are 3-2 in the NFC.  Dallas is 4-2 (that loss to the Redskins really helped the Seahawks), Philly is 3-2 and we play them later in the year, Detroit is 5-1 and has a REALLY good shot at one of the top two seeds.  And, of course, Arizona is 4-0 (interestingly, the Packers are 3-3 in conference, and we have the tiebreaker over them, so if Detroit keeps rolling, things won’t look too good for the Pack).

At some point, you’d think the other shoe will drop with the Cards, but I dunno.  They could keep rolling and sticking it to me every step of the way.  The Seahawks just need to figure out ways to keep winning.  The teeth of the schedule starts on November 16th and it looks like this:

  • @ Kansas City
  • vs. Arizona
  • @ San Francisco
  • @ Philadelphia
  • vs. San Francisco
  • @ Arizona

There might not be a more difficult 6-game stretch in all of football this year.

Whatever happens, if I’m sitting there lamenting that Rams defeat at the end of the season, I’m going to be VERY depressed.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (6-1) – They look like the most unstoppable killing machine we’ve ever seen right now.  But, just wait until December when the weather gets cold and Peyton Manning turns back into a pumpkin.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (6-1) – Look, I just can’t deny it anymore.  This team is very, very good; and I am very, very bad at power rankings.  THERE, ARE YOU HAPPY???
  3. Detroit Lions (6-2) – They’ve had the same talent for the last couple years, but are only now starting to put it together (unless they fall apart like they always do).  So, you can’t tell me the coaching staff isn’t having SOME sort of positive influence.
  4. San Diego Chargers (5-3) – If you’re like me and you believe that Buffalo is kind of a joke, then the Chargers have really only beaten one good team (the Seahawks).  Don’t get me wrong, I still like the Chargers, and I still think they’re going to be a playoff team, but if they don’t win down in Miami this week, they’re going to be tumbling down my rankings.
  5. New England Patriots (6-2) – This team has a MASSIVELY tough schedule over the next six games:  Den, @Ind, Det, @GB, @SD, Mia.  I hope they brought enough offense to share with the rest of the class, because they’re going to need it.
  6. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) – Totally let me down last week by blowing that game against the Cards.
  7. Dallas Cowboys (6-2) – That Monday night game hurt the Cowboys in more ways than one, but my favorite way was how embarrassing it was to Jerry Jones.
  8. Indianapolis Colts (5-3) – The Colts will be cruising along, and then all of a sudden, they have one of these games where they lose and you can’t figure out why.  That Steelers game was a prime example.
  9. Green Bay Packers (5-3) – They get their BYE week smack dab in the middle of the season, which is ideal.  Then, they have only three road games remaining.  Detroit better watch out.
  10. San Francisco 49ers (4-3) – Not for nothing, but aside from two games against the Seahawks in a three-week period, the 49ers have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way.
  11. Baltimore Ravens (5-3) – Well, it’s like I said last week, the Ravens are behind the 8-ball now when it comes to their division.  2-2 record, with both losses coming to the Bengals.  It won’t be the easiest road the rest of the way.
  12. Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) – Seems to me all you need to do is stop their running game and force Alex Smith to beat you, right?  Am I the first person in the world to think of that?
  13. Seattle Seahawks (4-3) – There’s a trust that’s been broken, Seahawks.  You’ve played shitty football, so here you remain outside of the top 10.  I’m going to need to see some real ass-whompings in the next two games against the Raiders and Giants before I feel comfortable around you again.
  14. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1) – Why are they still ranked behind the Ravens?  Because they suck in big games.  I don’t care how good they are, you can’t get shut out by the Colts; that sour taste won’t quickly leave my mouth.
  15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) – I mean, shit, the Steelers dropped five dimes on the Colts!  It can’t be THAT hard to score on them.  My sour taste with the Steelers comes in the form of that loss to Cleveland a few weeks ago.
  16. Miami Dolphins (4-3) – This game against the Chargers this week is HUGE.  It’s got all the tie-breaker potential in the world.  Loser of this game might be eliminated from the playoffs, the way the AFC is looking.  Think about it:  the Dolphins aren’t catching the Patriots, just like the Chargers aren’t catching the Broncos.  That leaves both up for two Wild Card spots, with teams like Kansas City, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh all lurking (not to mention Buffalo and Houston with outside shots).
  17. Carolina Panthers (3-4-1) – Considering all that they’ve lost, it’s pretty impressive they’re as good as they are.
  18. New York Giants (3-4) – If they’re not 8-8 by season’s end, I’ll eat my hat.  They’re the consummate Good Bad Team.  So, they’ll beat all the teams below them, and lose to all the teams better than them.  They do nothing well, but pretty much everything adequate.
  19. Houston Texans (4-4) – They’re like the AFC’s version of the New York Giants.
  20. New Orleans Saints (3-4) – This would be a good time for the Saints to go on a little winning streak, considering they play the 49ers in a couple weeks.
  21. Chicago Bears (3-5) – Mike Singletary and Mike Ditka must be rolling over in their graves at how terrible this defense is.
  22. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – Get the fuck out of here!  You’re telling me this team is 3-1 with Kyle Orton at the helm?  Don’t even think about being a good team that I’m forced to pick on a weekly basis!
  23. Cleveland Browns (4-3) – Five of their final eight games are on the road, so watch out for that.
  24. St. Louis Rams (2-5) – We lost to a team that got trounced by the Chiefs a week later.  If I shake my head any harder, it’s going to fall off.
  25. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) – Remember when injuries killed this team’s 2013 season?  Well, consider this the Hangover Part 2 of Atlanta Falcons seasons.
  26. Washington Redskins (3-5) – In all honesty, that Monday night game was as feel-good of a story for Colt McCoy as it gets.  It’ll probably be his last hurrah, but what a way to go.
  27. Minnesota Vikings (3-5) – They’re in the softer part of their schedule right now.  Even if they don’t rack up a ton of wins, it would be good to get Bridgewater some confidence through the end of the season and on into next year.
  28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) – It must be tough to be a long-time Bucs fan, dating back to the team’s inception.  Aside from that Super Bowl season, it’s been a lot of dreck like this.
  29. New York Jets (1-7) – The bottom of this league is REALLY bad right now.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-6) – If these teams didn’t play one another …
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) – I’d wager they might not win a game …
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-7) – The rest of the way.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 4

This week’s intro is called:  “Taking A Revised Look At The Seahawks’ 2014 Schedule”

Every year, I do a preview/prediction post where I take a look at the Seahawks’ schedule and try to predict the winners and losers.  This year, I went and predicted a record of 14-2, where I guessed the Seahawks would lose at San Francisco and at home against the Rams in Week 17 when we’re resting all of our starters.  As you can discern, I’m already way off base, as the Seahawks’ first loss was at San Diego in week 2 (when, in all fairness, I did predict a fairly close, high-scoring game; and I even got San Diego’s score right on the nose with 30 points!).

Anyway, we’re now four full weeks into this thing, and while it’s impossible to know how everything is going to play out this early into the season, four weeks is enough to give us something of an idea of how it’s all going to shake out.

Next week, we play the Redskins on Monday night.  I WAS a little concerned about things with Kirk Cousins taking over, but his performance on Thursday night brought that dream back down to Earth.  I don’t think he’ll be as bad as he was against the Giants, but he’s still not all that good.  They have talent, but I don’t think the Seahawks will have much trouble shutting down their offense.  And their defense is THE WORST, so even if they do manage to put up some points, they won’t put up enough.

One trend I’m noticing out of this season is the sheer volume of high-scoring offenses we’re facing on a regular basis.  For one reason or another, it’s reasonable to at least somewhat fear the following:  GB, SD, Den, Was, Dal, and Phi.  Obviously, six isn’t a high percentage, but out of the gates we’ve got the first five games against these high-scoring teams.  Dallas is no different.  Though, Dallas still has the iffy quarterback play, so I don’t see this game being much of a contest.  I stand behind my prediction of this being a comfortable win.

After the Dallas game, we’ve got two road, 10am starts, against the Rams and Panthers.  The Rams aren’t a good team, period.  Injuries have killed them, obviously.  But, beyond that, they’re just not gelling as a team.  Their defense isn’t anywhere near as good as they should be.  And, their offense isn’t stepping up and improving as they should.  Even without Sam Bradford, on paper, the Rams should be a .500 team with a bullet.  We should be fearing the Rams as a divisional contender for years to come; but they keep spinning their tires.  Is it the coaching staff?  That’s quite possible.  Jeff Fisher isn’t some coaching god.  He’s just another guy, like Shanahan and Andy Reid and all these other coaches who go from one good situation to a bad situation.  He caught fire in a bottle once, but he’s not good enough to capture it twice.  The Rams are toast and should not be feared.

Until I saw the Panthers’ defense get crushed in the last two weeks – against the likes of the Steelers and Ravens – I considered that game to be a legitimate threat.  But now?  Even if they somehow shut down our run game, we shouldn’t have much trouble shredding them through the air.  And, as for their offense?  Ye Gods!  As expected, Cam Newton doesn’t have any weapons around him.  At worst, it’ll be another low-scoring affair just like the last two times we’ve played this team.  But, I’m starting to get the feeling that this will be yet another comfortable win.

We follow that stretch with two home games against the Raiders and Giants.  Is it possible that these teams are even WORSE than expected?  I don’t see how, but that’s exactly what’s happening.  The Raiders certainly aren’t getting the return on investment with all the veterans they signed.  As for the Giants, they’re a fucking zoo (I don’t care they beat the Texans and Redskins the last two weeks).  The offense will be crushed, and the defense will be decimated.  If the Seahawks are flying high and still mostly healthy, I expect us to beat the Giants by 50.  Anything less will be a mild disappointment.

We play the Chiefs on the road.  I wasn’t expecting much out of them originally, but after watching them dismantle the Patriots on Monday night, I think I short-changed them a little bit.  That defense, while wounded and missing some pieces from last year, is still pretty strong.  Plus, they’ll be at home, in the loudest stadium in the world, so that’s fun.  I still don’t think they’re making the playoffs, but they’re just as good as any other AFC Wild Card team in contention for that 6-seed.

We wrap up our 8-game stretch of Teams The Seahawks Should Beat with a home contest against the Cards.  Right now, the Cards are 3-0 and look to be the first REALLY tough defense we will face.  I have to believe that teams will have figured them out by the time we play them in week 12, so they absolutely should not still be leading in this division.  With this being a home game – and with the Seahawks still pretty salty about losing at home to them last year – I fully expect us to complete this 8-game stretch with another victory.  But, it’s probably going to be a lot tougher than I would’ve thought.

On the flipside, the Thanksgiving game in Santa Clara looks a lot EASIER than it did before the season.  I don’t know what happened to the 49ers, but they look like they’re going down in flames.  The defense looks average-at-best, and the offense is spinning their wheels (even with added firepower in the passing and running games).  To put it this way, I’m no longer guaranteeing that this game is a Seahawks loss.  How does that make you feel?

I am a little more concerned with the Eagles game, though.  Before the season, I predicted a high-scoring game where we still manage to win comfortably.  At the moment, this is a real coinflip for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I would still rather play a team with an offense-first mentality (and a shitty defense) over the alternative of a crappy offense and an overly-stout D.  But, there are a couple factors at play that really scare the bejesus out of me.  First and foremost, is this going to be a game where the weather is freaky?  Like, are we going to run into a huge snow storm or something?  The game against the Chargers had super-high temperatures that really affected our defense.  Will super-crappy Philly weather do us in the same way?  The other thing is:  we haven’t faced this particular team in a while (similar to the Chargers).  Thankfully, with the Thanksgiving game, we’ll have a few extra days to watch tape and prepare.  But, that doesn’t compare to actual game experience.  Since they’re so foreign to us, will they come out of the gate and blow us out of the water?  That’s a legitimate concern we should all be prepared for.  If I weren’t such a homer, I’d put this game in the loss column right now.

Our season closes out with three games against the division.  The 49ers at home, which we should win.  Then, on the road in Arizona.  I could see that one being a loss too!  If their defense holds up and they catch some breaks on offense, who knows?  At least the weather should be relatively mild for the time of year.  Finally, we come back to play the Rams.  If it’s a game we NEED to win to get home field, then I expect us to win.  If it’s not, and we rest all of our starters after a few series, then probably mark that one a loss.

14-2 is still in play, but after four weeks, if I were a betting man, I think I’d hedge my bet and lock us down for 12-4 or 13-3.  Giddyup.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – So, Zach Miller will be out a few weeks.  That sucks harder than it sounds.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1) – I kinda figured the Broncos would be tested by the Chargers, but if the Chiefs turn out to be decent, it might not be the easiest road for the best team in the AFC.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – Anyone want to tell me why we have six teams with BYEs last week, but only the Dolphins & Raiders this week?  Hey NFL, how about a little consistency!  No one likes the BYE weeks!  How about just doing 6 teams a week for five weeks and 2 teams that last week?
  4. Detroit Lions (3-1) – It finally looks like the defense is rounding into form.  This could be a dangerous team.
  5. San Diego Chargers (3-1) – I picked up their defense in fantasy – because Cincy was on a BYE – and they got me a nice chunk of change.  With some of the cupcakes they’ve got on the schedule, it looks like I’m going to keep them around for a while.
  6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) – Nick Foles isn’t God.  If you cut him, he will bleed!  And every once in a while, he’s going to have a shitbird of a game.
  7. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – I’m pretty happy they took the 49ers down a peg, but the Cardinals will cease to be perfect starting this week.
  8. Indianapolis Colts (2-2) – 0-2?  BFD.  This is where the sucky division and cheesy overall schedule comes into play.
  9. San Francisco 49ers (2-2) – I know people were recommending that we root for the 49ers over the Eagles, but how was that game any different than the Saints/49ers game last year?  Sure as shit, we needed the Saints to win that game for us to take the division title and the #1 overall seed.  I don’t think the Eagles are #1-seed material, and it SURE would have been nice to see the 49ers fall to 1-3 and REALLY fall into a tailspin.
  10. New Orleans Saints (1-3) – It’s getting harder and harder to continue to believe in this team.  Yeah, they’ve only played one home game, but that wasn’t the most impressive victory in the world.  And, if they can’t win on the road, is this still a team I should worry about?
  11. Green Bay Packers (2-2) – The defenses they face start to get easier as the season goes along.  But, I still don’t think they’re on the same level as the Lions.
  12. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) – Way to bounce back, Chiefs!  I had low expectations coming into the year, and your first two games only reinforced that opinion.  Seriously, how did you lose a game at home against the Titans when you just pulled off that type of performance against the Patriots?
  13. Dallas Cowboys (3-1) – OH BOY, the Cowboys are 3-1!  Looks like we better start taking them seriously and projecting them into the playoffs!  Except, who do they play in December again?  @ Chicago, @ Philly, vs. Indy, @ Washington.  Hmm.  CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE TONY ROMO MELTDOWN IS COOKING???
  14. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) – I said it about the Saints and I’ll say it here:  if you can’t win on the road, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time.  You think you’re going to play a home game EVER in the playoffs?  Think again.
  15. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – Pretty good record now, but check back in with me after they’ve played their next four of five games on the road.
  16. New England Patriots (2-2) – They haven’t had the most difficult schedule, yet even in their victories they haven’t looked good on offense.  Who knew that the O-Line would be important?  Oh, that’s right, anyone who knows anything about football knew that the O-Line would be important.  It’s like Bill Belichick goes into every season asking himself, “How can I make Tom Brady’s life a living hell THIS year?”  No receivers, no offensive line, a tight end who can only play once every five plays; let’s try that and see if he blows his brains out.
  17. Chicago Bears (2-2) – See, Chicago, that was a test.  That was a test and you failed.  At home, if you want to be a contender, you’ve got to BEAT Green Bay.
  18. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – These God damned Steelers are the 8-8est team I’ve ever seen in my life!
  19. Carolina Panthers (2-2) – In their first two games – both victories – the Panthers’ defense was rock solid and they looked like they could hang with the Panthers of 2013.  In their last two games – both losses – they’ve given up 35+ points per game and have caused fantasy football owners to pull their hair out.  So, what’s it going to be, Panthers?
  20. New York Giants (2-2) – Well, they’re not good enough to beat the good teams, but they should be just okay enough to beat the crappy ones.  Which means, of course, that they have as good a chance as anyone to win the NFC East (zing!).
  21. Houston Texans (3-1) – Sorry, still not buying it.  You can beat all the Redskins, Raiders, and Bills that you want, but you’re still not a good team.  And, quite frankly, there aren’t enough shitty teams on your schedule to prop up this sinking ship!  Mark it down now, they’re losing 4 of their next 5 and will go into their BYE with a record of 4-5.
  22. Miami Dolphins (2-2) – Miami coaches, just do me this favor:  feed your running backs and take the ball out of Tannehill’s hands.
  23. Washington Redskins (2-2) – On the one hand, boy does Cousins look like a dumpster fire waiting to happen.  But, on the other hand, never trust a Thursday night performance – good or bad.
  24. New York Jets (1-3) – You know, if this team has even a halfway decent record by season’s end, it’ll be really impressive.  They’ve got a pretty tough schedule considering they’re in the AFC Least.
  25. Buffalo Bills (2-2) – Not gonna lie to you, giving Kyle Orton the starting job is the first step in everyone from the GM on down getting their asses shitcanned.
  26. Minnesota Vikings (2-2) – I don’t know if I’m ready to live in a world where Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback of his class.
  27. Cleveland Browns (1-2) – You got me, I don’t have anything on the Browns.
  28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) – Better with Glennon?  Probably.  A good team with Glennon?  Absolutely not.
  29. St. Louis Rams (1-2) – So, who’s their starting quarterback again?  I’m serious, I have no idea.
  30. Tennessee Titans (1-3) – This is why you pay Charlie Whitehurst the big bucks.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) – So, here’s the deal.  The Jags play Pittsburgh, @ Tennessee, Cleveland, Miami, @ Cincinnati, and Dallas before their BYE week.  Any of those first four games are totally games you could win if you’re the Jags.  If they don’t win any, I think you’re well within your rights to fire the whole coaching staff and start over after the BYE.  This is where you realize whether you’ve got something you can work with or not.  Is Gus Bradley the real deal?  He’s going to have to prove it in the next four games.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-4) – So, when the Raiders needed to use a backup quarterback, their first choice was Matt McGloin?  No wonder their coach got fired this week!

The Key To Roster Building In The NFL

I’ll preface this by saying:  you can’t do anything without a quarterback.  That’s obvious.  Everyone knows it, so there’s really not even much point in bringing it up, except if you don’t bring it up, then wise-asses will come on here and tell me I forgot about the quarterback position.

There are all kinds of different types of quarterbacks that can win you a championship, as evidenced by the last decade or so of NFL champions.  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady are going to go down as all-time greats.  Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger likely won’t.  Doesn’t mean they’re BAD; just means that no one is going to put them in their Top 10 All Time Greatest Quarterbacks list.

For the record, my picks:

  1. Joe Montana
  2. Tom Brady
  3. John Elway
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Dan Marino
  6. Steve Young
  7. Johnny Unitas
  8. Brett Favre
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Warren Moon

But, that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the quarterback is crucial.  It’s too early to say where Russell Wilson will fall on that list, but I’d venture to say we’d still be ringless if he had to carry a team with an underperforming defense last season.

And that’s what the elite quarterback will afford you.  The elites – like Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Brees, etc. – can cover up for just a so-so defense.  Of course, the fact that all of those quarterbacks only have one championship apiece will tell you that a quarterback can’t do it by himself (and, truth be told, the years their respective teams won it all, their defenses weren’t that bad).

The more talent you have around your quarterback, the less perfect your quarterback has to be (hence why Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger both have two championships each).  But, the NFL has a salary cap, and teams have got to find a way to fit 53 players into that cap (plus a little extra to make up for injuries and such).  So, HOW you build around your quarterback is just about as important as the quarterback itself.

There isn’t exactly one specific way to run your team, but I’ll tell you this much:  you’re not going to get very far without a good defense.  That means one of two things:  elite pass rush, or elite secondary (or, ideally both).  Without really delving deep into things, I think it’s pretty safe to say that at least half of NFL teams are pretty happy with their quarterbacks.  I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that at least half of the teams have a guy under center capable of winning it all (assuming everything breaks right and they have a good team around them).  So, you figure that at least half the time, your defense is going to face a pretty good quarterback.

Now, if you’re going to build a defense to combat all those pretty good-to-great quarterbacks, you’ve got to have one of the two aforementioned qualities:  an elite pass rush or an elite secondary.  It’s all about disrupting the quarterback’s timing and forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do.  If you’ve got the pass rush, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw early; if you’ve got the secondary, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw late (and hopefully give your adequate pass rush enough time to get home).  So, it would stand to reason that if you’re building your roster to win a championship, you’re going to focus the bulk of your defensive salary cap on edge rushers and/or the secondary.

What you DON’T want to do is start pumping a bunch of money down into your linebackers and interior linemen.  Unless that interior lineman is in the Cortez Kennedy/Warren Sapp mold, you’re probably overpaying.  You can find wide-bodies just about anywhere, on the cheap, no problem.  Ditto linebackers.  People will point to some of the quality guys like Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly, and I will admit that those dudes are pretty awesome at what they do.  But, you know who else is pretty awesome?  Bobby Wagner.  He’s a second round pick making a fraction of what those guys are making and will make.  Bobby Wagner isn’t heralded in the least, but he’s still awesome.  And, I would venture that you can find a TON of Bobby Wagners in the draft, which will save you money in the long run over massive extensions for the Kuechlys of the world.

Take a look at the Seahawks.  We’ve pumped some serious money into Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, and soon we’ll devote a whole bunch more into Richard Sherman.  Pass rush & secondary.  Where are we finding savings?  How about three linebackers (Wagner, Wright, Smith) all drafted in the 2nd round or later, all still on rookie deals.  Now, the Seahawks MIGHT extend one or more of those guys when the time comes, but I bet they’ll be mid-range contracts that don’t kill our cap for years to come.

We’re also saving money on our interior line.  Brandon Mebane has a $5 million APY, and that leads the team on interior line spending.  Tony McDaniel is on a short-term, on-the-cheap deal, and the rest of our interior guys are on rookie contracts.

Of course, the Seahawks could always use a little more pass rush security.  Maybe Cliff Avril gets extended beyond this year.  Maybe we hit on someone in the draft.  Maybe we pick up another team’s cast-off.  Or, maybe we just try to hold the fort and steal another team’s outgoing free agent next year.

The point is:  pass rush & secondary = big money players.  Linebackers & interior linemen = savings.

On offense, the Seahawks have proven that a run-first model isn’t entirely out-dated.  Nevertheless, their spending in this area kinda sorta is.

Marshawn Lynch has the fourth-highest average per-year salary on the team (behind Harvin, Thomas, and Okung).  His contact runs out after the 2015 season.  Nobody really expects Lynch to see the final year of that deal as it’s currently configured, because nobody really expects Lynch to continue playing at the high level he’s been at the last three or four years.  Plus, there’s the whole issue with Russell Wilson getting his money after the 2014 season (when the team can negotiate an extension and finally pay him what he’s really worth).

As you can see from all the free agent deals for running backs this off-season, they’re not getting the kind of money they used to get even 10 years ago.  It sounds crazy when you think of someone like Chris Johnson, who can only get a 2-year deal; he was once the best runner in football and he’s NOT THAT OLD.  Same goes for these other guys.  What kind of a deal would Ben Tate have gotten even five years ago?  Now, he’s playing for peanuts, as is MJD, Darren McFadden, and every other running back who hits free agency.

Why is that?  Because teams are reluctant to go with the one-back system and instead opt for a By-Committee approach.  Because injuries are a son of a bitch.  And because all too often, a no-name guy from the back-end of the draft will enter the mix in the NFL and be just as good, if not better, than these over-paid mama’s boys (Trent Richardson) who somehow still get drafted high.

All of this tells me one thing:  you’re foolish if you’re pumping too much money into the running back position.

The Seahawks have the luxury of paying Marshawn Lynch a high salary because they’re paying next-to-nothing for Russell Wilson (and the quarterback position at large).  But, when Wilson’s commanding around $20 million per season, you’ve got to find ways to cut corners somewhere.  I would wager the Seahawks will pull some of that money out of the running back position (which is a shame, because everyone loves Marshawn Lynch with a passion).

It’ll be difficult, for the Seahawks more than others, because we DO rely on the run so much to make our offense go.  The run sets up the play-action pass.  The run keeps defenses honest.  The run also reduces the risk of turnovers, because if we’re successfully running the ball, then we’re not throwing as much.  If we’re not throwing as much, then we’re not throwing as many interceptions.  Bing, bang, boom.  So, the Seahawks can’t throw just any ol’ scrub in the backfield and expect to succeed.

To do what I advocate, you have to draft wisely and you have to draft often.  Finding value in a guy like Christine Michael (if he does, indeed, turn out to be the elite runner we all expect) will set us up for a good long while.  Yet, even if we were saddled with only Robert Turbin and whoever else via draft, I’d be content.

Because as long as you put value and talent into your offensive line, it really shouldn’t matter who you have at running back.

Under my system – which incidentally is the one the Seahawks have been using – you’ve got to have a great left tackle.  Russell Okung fits that mold.  He’s not quite Walter Jones, but then again, who is?  You SHOULD be able to cut corners a little bit on the guard spots, as long as you’ve got a great center.  The Seahawks have Max Unger, who is pretty terrific.  I’d like to see a breakdown of the best centers and how often they’re involved in lengthy playoff runs, because I think they’re WAY more important than most people give them credit for.

Under almost no circumstances should you be paying elite money to a guard.  Unless you know you’re getting someone like Hutch in his prime.  At which point, you should probably find a value center and make due with a so-so right tackle.  Obviously, you can’t pay everyone, but you should probably have at least two guys who are worthy of high-paying contracts.

If you’re a bad team, get that left tackle with a high draft pick.  There is ALWAYS an elite left tackle coming out in the draft.  So, if you have a high draft pick, make that guy your first priority.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderful coach like Tom Cable, so try to get yourselves one of those.

The model isn’t perfect, obviously.  The Seahawks had two great linemen and a bunch of injuries last year and really struggled to protect the quarterback.  That’s where your QB comes into play.  You can put a crappy QB behind an elite O-Line and make some hay.  You probably won’t win many championships, but you can consistently make the playoffs.  The worse your O-Line is, though, the better your quarterback must be.  Russell Wilson probably isn’t an elite QB just yet, but he was good enough to make up for all the injuries and inconsistencies we suffered last year.

And, of course, that leads us to the passing game.  You can run the football all you want, but unless you can throw the ball when it counts, you’re not going to go all the way.  Ask Adrian Peterson about that, I’m sure he’s got some stories to tell.

Like I said at the top, you need the quarterback, but it helps if he has talent to throw to.

Some quarterbacks – like Brees, Peyton Manning, etc. – will turn any receiver into a 1,000 yard threat.  Others – I’m looking at you Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, etc. – need their receivers to elevate their games.

Andy Dalton would be a poor man’s Kyle Orton if he didn’t have A.J. Green.  Kaepernick was God-awful last year without Crabtree!  And Jay Cutler’s a fucking mess WITH guys like Brandon Marshall, but just imagine how terrible he’d be without him.

Now, say what you will about our receivers, but I think they’ve been pretty great.  And, until Percy Harvin came along, they’ve been relatively cheap as well.

Again, a great quarterback will make up for a lot of deficiencies.  I have no doubt that someone like Russell Wilson makes someone like Jermaine Kearse a better football player.  It’s tough to say what Kearse’s ceiling would be in an offense that passes as much as New Orleans or Green Bay, but I bet it would be higher than you’d think if you had someone like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees throwing the ball around 35 times a game.

Our offense doesn’t need to over-spend at the wide receiver position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  If you can get someone like Percy Harvin, you probably should do it.  If you draft someone and he turns out to be the next Calvin Johnson, then you should probably do whatever it takes to keep him.

This can be a little tricky, because if your #1 receiver is making top quarterback money, AND if you happen to have one of those top quarterbacks, then you can get into a situation like they’ve got down in Detroit.  The Lions should probably worry about pumping their resources into an offensive line, or a secondary, to round out their team (and not, for instance, over-pay for someone like Golden Tate, but you didn’t hear that from me).

There are talented receivers out there in the draft and among the undrafted free agents, but you gotta be smart about it.  I would more than be in favor of an A-B-C salary structure for your top three receivers.  Your A-player gets the lion’s share, your B-player gets a healthy mid-level contract, and your C-player is probably a rookie or a young guy on a cheap deal.

In short, on offense, you’re going to want to pump a lot of money into the quarterback and the offensive line.  Stay away from overpaying running backs and tight ends (unless you’ve got one like Jimmy Graham that plays more like a wide receiver anyway).  And, just be smart about paying your receivers.  If you’re only going to throw 20-25 times per game, maybe don’t throw all your eggs into the receiver basket.  But, don’t leave the cupboard completely barren either.

The point of all of this is to say that the Seahawks are doing it the right way.  If you root for another team, and they happen to be struggling, then follow the money.  Where are their big-money contracts going?  Would they be better off putting that money elsewhere?  Are they making the same mistakes over and over?  Then, you might be a redneck Mariners fan, and get out of my brain.

Comparing The 2005 Seahawks To The 2013 Seahawks

Last week, we more or less giddily looked forward to the “Big Game” on February 2nd.  This week, I’ve decided to take a step back and review the last time the Seahawks were in a position to give all of our lives meaning.

The 2005 Seahawks didn’t come out of nowhere, per se, but they also didn’t look like a team that would be bound for the Super Bowl.  In 2003, the Seahawks finished second in the NFC West (to the Rams), and lost in the Wild Card round to Green Bay (take the ball, score, all of that nonsense you wish you could forget).  In 2004, the Seahawks won the NFC West, but lost again in the Wild Card round, this time to the Rams (who, sadly, managed to beat us three times that season).

Suffice it to say, these Seahawks were starting to remind everyone of the early George Karl Sonics teams (good enough to win divisions and make the playoffs, but ALWAYS with the first round exits).  In a way, 2005 was a make-or-break year for Mike Holmgren.  Obviously, he had already lost his General Managing duties by this point, but if there was another underperforming finish to this season, you had to wonder how hot his seat would’ve been.  2005 was his seventh season in Seattle.  He had made the playoffs three times in those seven years, and each time he lost in the first round.

So, it was more than a little disconcerting to see us go into Jacksonville – where we expected to be the better team, given the Jags’ questions at quarterback – and lose to kick off the season.  Granted, those Jags would end up 12-4, but we had no idea they’d be that good going in.  The Seahawks bounced back with a couple of home wins over a couple of mediocre teams (Falcons & Cardinals), before losing on the road once again (this time to the Redskins).

By this point, it was the same boring storyline:  the Seahawks can’t win on the road (and they especially can’t win on the road at 10am Pacific time).  The very next week would, once again, put this theory to the test, as we faced off against our most bitter rival (at the time), the St. Louis Rams.  After they’d beaten us three times the previous year, we knew there was a dragon left to be slain.  Having it on the road, in the morning, made it all the sweeter when we won 37-31.

This kicked off an 11-game winning streak that was only broken in Week 17 when we rested many of our starters (as we’d locked up the #1 seed).

Looking back on it, the NFC was VERY weak in 2005.  The Rams & Packers were both in the midst of down seasons.  The Bears had a great defense, but were led by Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman of all people.  The Seahawks drew the Redskins in the Divisional Round, with the aging Mark Brunell, and easily dispatched them.  That led to an NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.  We made mincemeat of Jake Delhomme (probably the beginning of the end of his career, with three interceptions against only one touchdown) and Steve Smith (at the height of his powers, held to a trivial 5 catches for 33 yards).  These were not teams to fear.

For sure, all the talent was in the AFC in 2005.  The 14-2 Colts were the best team in football.  The 13-3 Broncos were surprisingly effective with Jake Plummer at the helm and the 3rd ranked defense by points scored.  The 10-6 Patriots were still, more or less, the same team that had won three of the last four Super Bowls.  The 11-5 Bengals were a surprising division winner, with Carson Palmer looking to really make his mark on this league.  The 12-4 Jaguars were one of the better 5-seeds in the history of the league to that point (boxed out by the aforementioned 14-2 Colts).  Leaving the 11-5 Steelers, in the 6-seed.

Had things gone according to plan (or according to the 2013 blueprint), the Seahawks would have played Peyton Manning and his Colts in the Super Bowl.  Of course, nothing goes the way you want it to.

The Steelers started out their playoff run by killing Carson Palmer’s career.  He thew one pass for 66 yards.  On his next attempt, he was hit at the knees by a defensive lineman and was out for the game (Palmer would make it back, but he was never as good as he was in 2005).  A promising Bengals team was defeated, with Jon Kitna at the helm.  The Steelers continued their run by going into Indy and playing the top team in the league.  They came away with a 3-point victory.  That led to them going into Denver to play the Broncos (who somehow managed to defeat the Patriots), where they won easily.

To be honest, the run couldn’t have gone more perfectly for the 6-seeded Steelers.  It was a harrowing feat to say the least.  You want to talk about steel sharpening steel?  Compare that run of three straight road games to the charmed life the Seahawks had, with one of the easiest conference regular seasons in recent memory, followed by two home games where we enjoy the best Home Field Advantage in the world.  Pretty much, the Seahawks were flying first class to the Super Bowl, while the Steelers had to survive a death march over steaming hot coals.

In any other year, against any other team, I would have been cheering on the Steelers like nobody’s business.  Instead, I came out of Super Bowl XL with the Steelers as one of my most hated teams of all time

***

I’ll have more on Super Bowl XL tomorrow.  Right now, let’s take a look at those 2005 Seahawks, and how they compare to the 2013 version.

As a general overview, the 2005 Seahawks were (unsurprisingly) quite successful on offense and not so much on defense.  In fact, they led the league in points scored and were second in yards gained.  However, on defense, they weren’t quite the trainwreck I seem to remember.  They were 7th-best in points allowed and 16th in yards given up.  Of course, I would contend their schedule had something to do with that, but the point is, we’re not talking about the 2012 Saints or anything.

The 2005 Seahawks had the MVP of the league in Shaun Alexander.  He scored 27 rushing touchdowns which, at the time, was the NFL record.  It would be beaten by LaDainian Tomlinson the very next season, but it was still an amazing achievement.  Alexander also ran for 1,880 yards, which was a career high for him.  You can say what you want about his running style, but the man got the job done for us and should be appreciated as the greatest running back in Seahawks history.

The 2005 Seahawks were led by Matt Hasselbeck.  He was in his seventh year in the league, fifth year with the Seahawks, and third year as the Seahawks’ unquestioned starter at the quarterback position.  Remember, when he first got here, we were jerking him around with Trent Dilfer on the roster.  As if winning that Super Bowl with the Ravens (and the greatest defense of all time) somehow made Dilfer competent at the quarterback position or something.  Anyway, I made the point at the time (and stand behind it to this day) that the 2005 Seahawks were as good as they were because they had Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.  Shaun Alexander might have been the league’s MVP, but Hasselbeck was the team’s MVP.  Had we played that season with a replacement-level quarterback (or, Seneca Wallace, as he’s formally known), we would have had replacement-level results, no matter how many yards and touchdowns Alexander ran for.

Then again, the heart and soul of the 2005 Seahawks resided along the offensive line.  It was EASILY the best in football and EASILY the best line we’ve ever seen in Seattle.  It also probably rivals some of the best offensive lines in the history of the league, but I’ll leave that argument for people smarter than me to make.  All I know is:  with Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson on the left side of that line, the rest of the offense’s job was made a lot easier.

So, let’s start there.  Let’s make the rest of this post a position-by-position breakdown, starting with the offensive line.  For the record, I’m going to try to pick the player who played the most games at his given position (or, who is known as that team’s “starter”).  The better player is highlighted in blue.

Left Tackle
2005 – Walter Jones
2013 – Russell Okung

Left Guard
2005 – Steve Hutchinson
2013 – James Carpenter / Paul McQuistan

Center
2005 – Robbie Tobeck
2013 – Max Unger

Right Guard
2005 – Chris Gray
2013 – J.R. Sweezy

Right Tackle
2005 – Sean Locklear
2013 – Breno Giacomini

Overall, when you consider the offensive line as a whole, you give the overwhelming nod to the 2005 Seahawks.  The 2013 Seahawks have no one NEAR the calibre of Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson of 2005.  Max Unger gets a marginal nod over Tobeck.  Chris Gray was like 2005’s version of Paul McQuistan (savvy veteran, able to play multiple positions along the line, helps more than he hurts).  I never did like Sean Locklear.

Quarterback
2005 – Matt Hasselbeck
2013 – Russell Wilson

I’m not gonna lie to you, before I looked at the stats, just going off of memory, I REALLY wanted to pick Hasselbeck over Wilson.  I just thought, given the style of offense (West-Coast, heavy on the passing and the completion percentage), the Seahawks would have required more out of Hasselbeck than they do out of Wilson now.  But, look at these numbers!

Hasselbeck:  294/449 (65.5%), 3,459 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 98.2
Wilson:  257/407 (63.1%), 3,357, 26 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 101.2

First of all, I thought Hasselbeck would have attempted WAY more passes than Wilson, but it turned out to only be 42 more passes (or a little over two and a half passes per game).  As it turns out, Wilson was the more efficient quarterback, who still managed to best Hasselbeck in touchdowns thrown.  When you tack on Wilson’s rushing yards, it’s pretty clear who’s the better quarterback.  It’s NOT Year 7 Hasselbeck; it’s Year 2 Wilson.  Soak that in as you daydream about the next dozen years with Wilson at the helm.

Running Back
2005 – Shaun Alexander
2013 – Marshawn Lynch

Listen to me, now.  I know how much you love Beastmode.  Hell, I love myself some Beastmode as much as anybody!  I wouldn’t trade his hard-nosed, rugged running style for anything.  It isn’t even really a question of who would you rather have.  I’m not posing the notion of putting 2005 Alexander with 2013’s offensive line to see who would be the better guy.  Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander WITH 2005’s offensive line is just a better running back than 2013 Lynch with 2013’s line.  I’ll kindly refer you to the numbers:

Alexander:  370 attempts, 1,880 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, 27 touchdowns
Lynch:  301 attempts, 1,257 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns

Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander’s numbers are Looney Tunes!  You just don’t see running backs like this very much anymore.  They’re a dying breed.  Alexander was 28 when he had this season.  Lynch is 27, but considering the pounding his body takes, you’d have to think he’s in a similar boat.  When Alexander hit 30, he fell off the cliff.  I would expect nothing less out of Lynch.

Also, 2005 Alexander had 69 more attempts!  In what is supposed to be a pass-oriented offense.  Now, granted, those Seahawks won a lot of games and leaned on teams late with that rushing attack.  But, the 2013 Seahawks ALSO won a lot of games, but weren’t putting up numbers like this.

It boils down to those 2005 Seahawks being a fast-paced offense vs. the 2013 Seahawks slowing the game down.  Of course you’re going to get better offensive numbers if you’re going to be running so many more plays.

Wide Receiver 1
2005 – Darrell Jackson
2013 – Golden Tate

The numbers don’t bear out that Jackson was the team’s #1 receiver – because he missed a good ten games in the middle of the season before returning for the playoff run – but it’s pretty obvious who the team’s top target was.  Jackson’s early career was mired by drops, but he managed to get his shit together starting in 2005.  And, in that playoff run (where he caught 20 balls for 268 yards in three games – and it would have been more in the Super Bowl had things gone a little differently), Jackson really took a step forward.

Nevertheless, Golden Tate gets the nod.  He draws the lion’s share of the coverage (usually with the other team’s best cover corner), and still managed to catch 64 balls for 898 yards.  What puts Tate over the top is his talent, his versatility, and his ability in the punt return game.

Wide Receiver 2
2005 – Joe Jurevicius
2013 – Sidney Rice / Jermaine Kearse

I resisted the urge to put Doug Baldwin here, mainly because I want to save him so I can compare him to Bobby Engram.  In his stead, I put the duo of Rice & Kearse.  Rice was obviously this team’s #2 receiver when he was healthy, but of course, he went down after 8 games and Kearse picked up some of the slack.  You’ve got to ding Rice for not being reliable with his health.  But, aside from all that, Jurevicius was rock solid in 2005.

He caught 55 balls for 694 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns!  He was the type of big body that Pete Carroll has been spending his entire Seahawks career trying to bring in.

Wide Receiver 3
2005 – Bobby Engram
2013 – Doug Baldwin

Bobby Engram was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin was even a twinkle in the Seahawks’ eye!  Engram was Hasselbeck’s 3rd Down security blanket just as Baldwin is that for Wilson today.  And, when other receivers went down – as they seemingly always did – Engram was able to pick up the slack, just like Baldwin has this year after Rice went down.

I’m giving the nod to Baldwin for a couple reason.  Even though Engram caught 17 more passes, they caught the same exact number of yards:  778.  Doug Baldwin is the more explosive receiver.  He can go downfield and make a big play FAR more regularly than Engram ever could.  While he may play in the slot, Baldwin isn’t just a traditional slot receiver like Engram was.  Baldwin can play all over, yet still be that security blanket on third down who finds the hole in the zone or makes the diving sideline grab.

Tight End
2005 – Jerramy Stevens
2013 – Zach Miller

I probably shouldn’t let my emotions get the better of me, but in this case I can’t help it.  2005 Jerramy Stevens’ numbers absolutely dwarf Zach Miller’s, and if he even REMOTELY lived up to the hype coming into his pro career, Jerramy Stevens would be a beloved individual around these parts.  Instead, he sucked dick, and is beloved in Pittsburgh for handing them the Super Bowl.  So, Zach Miller gets the nod (plus, Miller is actually a true tight end who blocks well and does the whole thing; Stevens was a glorified, overweight wide receiver and not a very good one at that).

So, if you add it up for both sides, 2005 gets the edge on Offensive Line, Running Back (an extension of the offensive line), and one of the three wide receivers.  2013 wins on Quarterback play, Tight End, and 2/3 of the wide receivers.  If I’m weighting things as I should, it’s pretty neck and neck.  Offensive line is the most important part of any football team, so they factor in pretty heavily.  QB comes next.  And, I figure the receivers and tight end equal out the Shaun Alexander MVP factor.  I’m calling it a wash across the board.  But, you can’t just call it a tie, so let’s go to the numbers:

2005:  452 points, 5,915 yards, 1,020 total plays, 5.8 yards per play, 17 turnovers
2013:  417 points, 5,424 yards, 973 total plays, 5.6 yards per play, 19 turnovers

Look, by the slimmest of margins, I’m giving 2005 the nod over 2013 on offense.  There are pieces there to cobble together the greatest offense of all time (2005 O-Line with 2013’s skill position players), but if you want the truth, I’m going to go with the offense that scored more points.  It’s kind of as simple as that.

***

Let’s hop right into the defenses.

2005 Defensive Line
Bryce Fisher (DE)
Grant Wistrom (DE)
Rocky Bernard (DT)
Marcus Tubbs (DT)
Chuck Darby (DT)

2013 Defensive Line
Red Bryant (DE)
Chris Clemons (DE)
Brandon Mebane (DT)
Cliff Avril (DE)
Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
Tony McDaniel (DT)
Clinton McDonald (DT)

This goes without question.  I mean, LOOK at that rotation!  The 2013 Seahawks can come up with any number of fronts, whereas the 2005 version pretty much ran out the same four guys play-in and play-out.  I would argue that Mebane was just as disruptive up the middle as Tubbs.  Michael Bennett can do just as much as Rocky Bernard on the inside (as far as pass rush is concerned), as well as have the ability to slide outside and rush on the edge.  Grant Wistrom was less of a joke than a nightmare I’m still trying to wake up from.  No contest.  Next song.

2005 Linebackers
Leroy Hill
D.D. Lewis
Lofa Tatupu

2013 Linebackers
K.J. Wright
Malcolm Smith
Bobby Wagner
Bruce Irvin

In 2005, you had Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu as rookies, and therefore at the height of their powers and physicality.  But, Tatupu was never good enough to hold Bobby Wagner’s jock, and the combination of Wright & Smith is WAY more versatile than Leroy Hill ever was.  Hill was great at run-stuffing, and he managed 7.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, but there’s more to linebacker than simply running forward.  You’ve got to run laterally, and backward.  You’ve got to play in coverage, and that’s where the 2013 crew has it all over the 2005 crew.  Which is odd, because those Holmgren defenses were known for their speed.  Here’s the thing:  2013 HAS that speed, but they’ve also got size and versatility.  Again, no contest.  Next song.

2005 Secondary
Marcus Trufant
Kelly Herndon
Michael Boulware
Marquand Manuel
Jordan Babineaux
Ken Hamlin
Etric Pruitt

2013 Secondary
Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell
Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Brandon Browner
Walter Thurmond
Jeremy Lane

I could have stopped after just Richard Sherman – with he alone covering all of the other team’s receivers – and he would have beaten out the 2005 secondary.  I was going to split them up by cornerbacks and safeties, but what’s the point?  It’s laughable how terrible that 2005 secondary was.  Luckily for the 2005 team, they were frequently playing with a lead.  It’s a lot easier to play defense with a lead than it is from behind.

On the whole, it’s not even close.  2013 defense in a landslide.  In fact, I don’t know if there are any guys on that 2005 team would would even PLAY on the 2013 version!  I don’t think anyone turns down a 2005 Rocky Bernard.  And I know 2005 Bryce Fisher had 9.0 sacks, but does he have the ability to stuff the run like Chris Clemons does?  I mean, maybe Fisher cracks the defensive end rotation, but most of those 2005 guys are backups at best on the 2013 team.  I’ll tell you this much:  I’m starting Byron Maxwell over Marcus Trufant every day of the week.

***

In conclusion, the 2013 Seahawks are the better team.  You pit them against the 2005 Seahawks, one game, winner takes all, it’s the 2013 team by a comfortable margin.  2013’s defensive line might struggle to get pressure on the quarterback, and it’s 50/50 whether or not the 2005 team runs the ball well.  But, there’s no way 2005 is throwing all that well against 2013’s secondary.

For the record, nothing would bring me greater joy than to see Kam Chancellor knock the shit out of Jerramy Stevens.  I don’t even mean in any hypothetical matchup between these two teams.  I mean in real life.  Kam Chancellor hunts Jerramy Stevens down, wherever he’s living, and he fucks his shit up.  For real.

Reviewing The Wild Card Weekend

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

Indianapolis defeats Kansas City 45-44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Diego Defeats Cincinnati 27-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Orleans Defeats Philadelphia 26-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco Defeats Green Bay 23-20

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

I hate to go all pervy Andy Rooney on you, but can someone explain to me why NFL cheerleaders get, like, 10 seconds of screen time per game?  Why, in MY day, television producers knew that any lull in the action was just another excuse to give the fans what they want:  tight and firm T&A.

OK, this has already gone off the rails.  I apologize.  Without any further ado, the week 2 rankings:

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-0) – Please say hello to your NFC Champions.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-0) – Please say hello to your AFC Champions.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – This is still a great team against virtually any other team aside from the Seahawks.
  4. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – This offense is a fantasy player’s wet dream.  I have Jordy Nelson and James Jones on my team (in a PPR league) and will be starting them both each and every week until one of them gets injured.
  5. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – They probably should have beaten the Rams by more, but you can’t discount the impact of not having Roddy White in that offense.  Tony Gonzalez owners will attest to this as well.  Also, don’t forget the Rams are pretty good.  Not great, mind you, but pretty good.
  6. Houston Texans (2-0) – The Texans are the flimsiest “elite” team in all of football.  For all the studs on this defense, it’s kind of a joke the way they’re leaving sub-standard teams in these ballgames.  Matt Schaub won’t be able to pull their asses out of the fire each and every week.
  7. New England Patriots (2-0) – Meet the second-flimsiest “elite” team in all of football.  I’m honestly beginning to wonder if they’re going to have enough fire-power to hold off the Dolphins for the division title THIS year.  It’s going to be a swift and brutal fall off the cliff in the coming seasons for this franchise.
  8. New Orleans Saints (2-0) – Absolutely solid win on the road against a very talented Bucs team.  I’ll get to them in a minute, but this is how a professional, well-coached team gets the job done in a close game.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) – Nice win at home last night.  That would’ve been a game the Bungles would have lost.  But these new-look Bengals, why, they’re something else entirely!
  10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) – I had my nagging doubts going into the game against the Cowboys, but the Chiefs proved me wrong as they continue to learn how to win again.  They’re not the most exciting team in the NFL, but we can’t all be the Seattle Seahawks.
  11. Carolina Panthers (0-2) – As soon as they fire Ron Rivera, this team is going to be GANGBUSTERS.  But, seriously, he has the best short-yardage running team in football.  Why isn’t he taking more chances, going for the win instead of trying to avoid the loss?  Whoever snipped Rivera’s balls off of him needs to return them immediately.
  12. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Cleveland Browns, BFD.
  13. Chicago Bears (2-0) – They’ve won a couple of squeakers at home to start the season.  Have you looked at their schedule, by the way?  All of their toughest non-divisional games are at home.  I might have seriously misjudged this team!  Health, of course, will be the ultimate factor, because for a team as talented as they are, they’ve got zero depth if the shit hits the fan.  And I still contend that this defense won’t be as lucky as it is going forward with regards to turnovers and such.  Still.
  14. Washington Redskins (0-2) – OK, let’s not go nuts here.  This team’s best – and only – chance to win is with RGIII in the lineup.  They’ve played two very good offenses and have been thrashed accordingly.  The ‘Skins are going to run into some teams that WON’T generate 600 yards of offense, and when they do, I’d look for their fortunes to change.
  15. Detroit Lions (1-1) – That’s a game you gotta steal if you want to make the playoffs, Lions.  I know Arizona is pretty much on your level, but you gotta be BETTER than that.  Of course, you royally fucked me in Fantasy, as my opponent had Stafford and Johnson, so thanks for that.
  16. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – This team isn’t going to find itself winning consistently until they get rid of the guy calling the plays, because they’re too one-dimensional.  And Tony Romo isn’t Aaron Rodgers, and their team isn’t the Green Bay Packers, so being one-dimensional isn’t going to work.  RUN THE BALL, YOU LIMEY FUCKS!
  17. New York Giants (0-2) – It’s pretty funny how everyone is freaking out about the Giants.  Eli Manning is a disease and this team deserves every misfortune it earns.
  18. Miami Dolphins (2-0) – Bigtime road win against the Colts.  And, not for nothing, but they’ve won two games on the road to start the season.  That can’t help but bode well for this team!  I’m still not convinced that Tannehill and Co. have what it takes to hang with the best, but this upcoming 3-game test before their BYE week will go a long way (vs. Atlanta, @ New Orleans, vs. Baltimore).
  19. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – It’s funny.  Get rid of Norv and all of a sudden Philip Rivers is a fantasy god.  Who knew?  Besides every single fan of the San Diego Chargers, that is.
  20. St. Louis Rams (1-1) – This is the one bad team that you never want to play, because you’re always in for a dogfight.
  21. Arizona Cardinals (1-1) – Was that the faintest whiff of friskiness I smelled out of their running game on Sunday?  If they figure out how to average somewhere around 4 yards per carry, WATCH OUT!
  22. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) – And here begins the regression train.  You can’t win every single close game you assholes!
  23. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) – Running up the score only works if you have the horses on defense to keep the other team under 30 points.  This is going to be a fun and frantic year for Eagles fans.
  24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) – This is the most-talented and least-disciplined team in the NFL.  Their coaching staff should be assassinated.  Forget firing.  Go right to assassination.  Bring in someone good who can get the BEST out of their players.  Being thuggish for the sake of being thuggish doesn’t make you a “tough” football team.  It makes you sloppy and stupid, a la the Oakland Raiders of forever.  The worst part is, by BEING so stupid, the Bucs have to do three times the work just to win these football games.  It’s no wonder they’re 0-2 and sliding fast.
  25. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) – Christian Ponder is THIS close to getting his job taken away.  By Kyle Orton.  Let that sink in for a minute.
  26. Tennessee Titans (1-1) – Someone seriously gave me some bad intel on the nature of the Titans’ defense.  I was told they’d be one of the worst in the league.  As it stands, their defense is the only thing keeping this team in games!  They’re still a tough team to gauge, because their offensive line is so horrendous (and therefore it’s impossible to tell if Jake Locker has what it takes to hack it in the League), but I could see this team rising to Middle Of The Pack status by season’s end with the effort they’re giving week-in and week-out.
  27. Buffalo Bills (1-1) – EJ Manuel is looking more and more, every day, as the real deal.  Color me marginally excited.
  28. New York Jets (1-1) – Rex Ryan can still coach up a defense.  And without the Sanchize blundering his way through another boring game, you never know.
  29. Cleveland Browns (0-2) – I don’t think anyone expected the Browns to beat the Ravens.  But, I surely didn’t expect them to look THAT bad.  Someone firebomb the idiots who touted Weeden as “most improved” after his pre-season.  I’m tired of letting your lunacy seep into my subconscious.
  30. Oakland Raiders (1-1) – Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that win against the Jags was the only time the Raiders win all season.  Hope you enjoyed your Sunday, Oakland!
  31. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) – I didn’t watch a ton of last night’s game, but when I did, the Steelers looked pretty pathetic.  On back-to-back drives, when facing 3rd and 10 (or something like that; long, yet manageable) they chose to run a draw instead of actually, you know TRY FOR THE FIRST DOWN.  They need to figure out what it is they do best and just focus on that.  Unfortunately, running the ball probably isn’t in their wheelhouse.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – They’re bad with Gabbert.  They’re bad without Gabbert.  Can someone tell me who’s running this offense?  Because I’m not gonna lie to you, Gus Bradley’s job depends on this unit improving quickly.