This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I’m nervous. That I’m worried about this weekend’s game and the possibility of the Seahawks losing said game. This is the part where I concoct a scenario where the other team could plausibly wrench victory from the jaws of defeat.
Except, this isn’t just an ordinary game preview post where I’m trying to fill a self-imposed word-quota (more than 300, less than 30,000). I can ACTUALLY see a way the Broncos could defeat the Seahawks. The answer, more or less, lies in last week’s game in San Diego.
The Seahawks lost to the Chargers. Why did they lose? Because we faced an All Pro-type quarterback having one of the better games of his career. Because while we mitigated their explosive plays over our heads, we still had a helluva time getting off the field on third down. Because we made mistake after mistake on defense and an old, veteran, Hall of Fame tight end took advantage of our aggressiveness and made us pay.
Well, the Broncos have an All Pro-type quarterback. The Broncos are generally pretty good at converting third downs. And, rather than having an old, veteran, Hall of Fame tight end; they’ve got a young, explosive, potential FUTURE Hall of Fame tight end. On top of a lot of other great players, and a VASTLY improved defense compared to the one we saw in the Super Bowl.
Oh yeah, that. The Broncos also have an entire offseason where they heard nothing but praise about how dominating the Seahawks are. How the Seahawks might be the next dynasty. How the Seahawks’ defense is among the greats like the 60s Vikings, 70s Steelers, the 85 Bears, and the 2000 Ravens. How the Broncos wilted, were afraid, GAVE UP in what was – for the non-Peyton Manning members of the team – the most important game of their lives.
Think about that. This is no longer a rivalry like it was in the 80s and 90s (though, try telling that to John Elway, current GM and Vice President), but just imagine if our situations were reversed. The Seahawks got plastered in the Super Bowl, while everyone in the world thought we were the better team and should have won easily. Imagine all these months, listening to various Broncos players on First Take or Jim Rome or whathaveyou, flapping their gums about how they knew what plays we were going to run. About how our receivers couldn’t handle running crossing patterns in the vicinity of whoever their strong safety is. Wouldn’t you be a little salty? Wouldn’t you expect your local columnists to write ham-fisted articles about how much more improved we are this year? About how tired we are of hearing all their talk?
Yes, we’ll always have the Super Bowl. No one can take that away from us. But, it’s a new season. No sense in living in the past, even if it only happened seven-or-so months ago.
Talent, motivation, health: the Broncos have it all going for them this week. One could argue that the Seahawks have all that going for them too, and on top of that, we’ve got home field advantage.
A little something about that. For starters, I don’t necessarily think the 12th Man has the type of power it once had. There’s no element of surprise anymore. EVERYONE is aware of how loud it is up here in Seattle. It’s been showcased on countless national broadcasts; we’re not catching anyone off guard anymore. No one is taking the noise lightly anymore. They’re preparing for it and overcoming it. Yes, the noise is nice, and I’m sure opposing teams don’t like going on silent counts, but these are professionals we’re talking about. This isn’t some Pee Wee Football League team playing in front of thousands of screaming fans for the first time. PLUS, this is an afternoon game. Even if I’m being overly dismissive of the 12th Man’s effect on a game, everyone HAS to admit that it’s just not the same compared to nationally-televised night games. For one thing, the Twelves haven’t had as much time to get sauced! Take it from someone who could turn Pro in weekend warrioring: those extra 3-4 hours of beer chugging make all the difference between a little snooty intoxication and outright belligerent jack-assery.
In short, you can’t dismiss the home field advantage straight away, but let’s stop building it up to be something it’s not. We have seven more regular season home games; every God damn one of them will be played in the afternoon. After the first series or two, the crowd settles into a predictable routine and the opposing offense settles into a potent weapon capable of knifing through the noise. Once the initial surge is overcome, the home field advantage goes away and it’s all up to the players on the field (if you don’t believe me, go back and look at that Arizona game last season).
As for the players on the field, you know who they are. The Broncos are pretty much the same team on offense as they were last year (swap Decker for Sanders and Moreno for Ball). On defense, their stars are healthy, and their new players are impactful. DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib are the obvious new additions and they are still playing at the peak of their abilities. Factor in Von Miller back to full health, and Terrance Knighton clogging up the middle, and it certainly won’t be as easy to move the ball up and down the field, regardless of our pumped up offensive weapons.
What can I say about this game? Either we’ll find a way to stop them with some regularity on third down, or we won’t. Either the game will be close, or it won’t. Either we’ll win, or we won’t. I’d like to think our defense will look better than it did against San Diego. It won’t be as hot, for starters. Peyton Manning isn’t as mobile as Philip Rivers. We’re a little more familiar with their offensive scheme, since we spent the better part of two weeks prior to the Super Bowl studying their tendencies. And, we HAVE to be a little salty ourselves, considering we gave up a 30-spot for the first time since October of last year when we lost to the Colts.
In closing, I’ll talk about why this game is so important. There are a couple of obvious, conflicting points at play here. On the one hand, if we want to get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, we probably can’t afford to lose more than three games. Losing to the Broncos here would drop us to 1-2 already, with most of a full season left to go (not to mention, we’d be 1-2 going into a BYE week, which means starting in October, it’ll be 13 straight weeks of games with little respite). On the other hand, like the Chargers, the Broncos are in the AFC. If you’re going to lose two games, they might as well be to teams in the opposite conference, as that still leaves all of your key tie-breakers in play (with you in control of your own destiny). I already discussed the following 8-game stretch of cream-puffs on our schedule. Yeah, we could be 1-2 after this Sunday’s contest, but we could also be 9-2 going into our Thanksgiving battle royale with the 49ers.
But, here’s something that only recently occurred to me. If we lose this game, we will have lost two games against good-to-great opponents. And, if Green Bay isn’t necessarily the world-beater we all thought they’d be, then you have to ask: are the Seahawks as good as they were last year (when we managed to beat three good, playoff teams in the regular season)? What does it mean if a team only pounds on the bad teams, but loses heartbreakers to the good ones? I know it’s early for all of this type of talk (and essentially meaningless, considering the NFL doesn’t care about the types of teams you beat like they do in college), but it’s a psychological component that nobody’s talking about.
How do you know you’re good? When you beat other good teams. What do you call a team that has a good record, but hasn’t beaten anyone of note? The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
Are we the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs? Or, are we going to kick Denver’s shit in on Sunday?!
Look, I have us winning this game, but I’m going to tell you right now, it’s ONLY because I’m a huge homer. If I were a fan of literally any other team, I’d be making the Broncos my Upset Special. I still think the Seahawks are more or less going through the motions. I still think there’s a lot of talk going around about how the Seahawks are “taking this week seriously” and putting in the type of practice required to win a big game at home. But, I honestly feel that’s a lot of bullshit and Denver is going to come in here and move the ball around with ease and escape with a comfortable victory. Peyton Manning isn’t the be-all, end-all of quarterbacks, but I’ll tell you this much: I don’t like playing his teams this early in the season. I like playing his teams when it’s cold and the weather is shitty and the pressure of the moment overwhelms his robot brain.
I like playing his teams when the NFL hasn’t spent the entire offseason catering to his every want and need by increasing the emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact in the secondary.
When you factor in the Mariners playing the series of their lives down in Houston – against pitchers who have generally crushed our feeble lineup – I can see this being a REAL bad weekend for the professional teams of Seattle. Somebody hold me; I need a hug.