Taking A Look At What The Mariners Need To Do To Surpass The Athletics For The Wild Card

Alternate Title:  The Mariners Couldn’t Sweep The Season Series Against The Orioles.

It’s funny how the last two months of losing makes it so we can’t even enjoy the times when the Mariners actually WIN a series.  Yeah, we took 2/3 from the very-good Arizona Diamondbacks, but we dropped that finale!  Yeah, we took 2/3 from the very-bad Baltimore Orioles, but we didn’t sweep their asses!

This is what it’s come to.  We’re in the home stretch of this thing.  One and a half more homestands, and one more long road trip and that’s it.  22 more games.  22 games to gain 5.5 on the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot, and we only play them three more times.

It’s asking a lot, is what I’m getting at.  And losing ANY game from here on out just destroys our chances.

Somehow, in the next 15 games, the M’s need to pick up 2 games on the A’s.  We need to break it down like this, because what’s going to have to happen that final week of the season is we’d need to sweep the A’s in that 3-game series, and then REALLY kick some fucking ass against the Rangers in the final 4.

So, let’s get into the weeds on this, because who gives a fuck about that Orioles series?

Over the next 15 games, the Mariners host the Yankees for 3, have a day off, then host the Padres for 2.  We go to L.A. next week for 4 against the Angels, followed by 3 in Houston.  We have an off-day on the 20th, then 3 more against the Rangers before returning home to face the A’s in that showdown.

The Yankees are obviously pretty great, and they just destroyed us over in the Bronx earlier this season (as well as in Seattle LAST season, when they arguably weren’t as good and we were arguably better than we are right now), but fuck it, the Mariners are just going to have to suck it up and find a way.  That means the hitters need to fucking do their fucking jobs!  We’ve got Paxton, followed by a rejuvinated Felix, followed by an Erasmo Ramirez who looks to have figured some things out over his last few starts.  Need to find a way to win this series, and ideally sweep it.

Then, after plenty of rest, we have a 2-spot against the Padres.  I don’t fucking care how it’s done, but this needs to be a sweep as well.  NO MORE FUCKING AROUND, MARINERS!

The Angels must be in the area of giving up at this point, but I’m sure they’d love nothing more than to ruin our playoff chances.  We need to stomp on their throats.  Again, this is a series we MUST win, and also ideally a sweep.  That takes us to Houston, which is another really good team, but we still need to find a way to win the series.  And, I’m sorry, but if we can’t figure out a way to sweep a trash team like the Rangers, then we don’t fucking deserve to break this post-season curse.

In terms of numbers, you’d like the Mariners to go 13-2 in these games.  That sounds like I’m asking too much, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and it’s not like this is an impossible task!  It just requires guys to stop sucking and start doing their fucking jobs and playing like we’re accustomed to seeing them play!  (of course, a cynic could say we HAVE been seeing them play like we’re accustomed to … Same Ol’ Mariners Losing Baseball).

The A’s also play 15 games between now and the time they come to Seattle (where that half-game comes into play is the A’s get an off-day between Seattle and their final series, down in L.A. against the Angels, which is just a 3-gamer; while we get no off-day and ours is a 4-gamer against the Rangers).  So, any way we can get it, we just need to pick up 2 games on them before a miracle final week.  If we go 8-7 in the next 15, they need to fall apart and go 6-9.  I went with 13-2 because the A’s are really good and they’re not likely to fall apart; 11-4 seems like a reasonable figure for them.

The A’s host Texas this weekend, then they go to Baltimore to kick off a little mini-road trip on Tuesday.  That’s unfortunate, as the A’s should be favored to win all 6 of those games; let’s hope they find a way to lose at least 1.  It gets a little tougher when they go to Tampa to play the Rays, who have been on a real hot streak of late.  We need the Rays to take 2 of those games at the very least.

Then, the A’s return home for 3 against the Angels and 3 against the Twins.  Neither team is very good, but let’s hope the Angels have a little magic up their sleeves in one of those games to get the A’s that 4th loss.

If it goes according to plan – 13-2 for the M’s, 11-4 for the A’s – then we’ll be 91-64 and the A’s will be 95-61 when we meet on September 24th.  At that point, the Mariners would HAVE to sweep, which would make us 94-64 and the A’s 95-64.  From there, we’d control our own destiny:  if we sweep the 4-game set against the Rangers, even if the A’s swept the Angels in their final three, we’d both be 98-64 and have a 1-game play-in game to get to the 1-game Wild Card game against the Yankees.

Of course, for this particular scenario to work, it would require the Mariners to go 20-2 down the stretch, which would PROBABLY be the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen in the history of Major League Baseball.

But, like I said before, it can be any combination of things.  Break it down like this, for the TL;DR crowd:

  1. The Mariners need to pick up just 2 games over the Athletics over the next 15 games
  2. The M’s need to sweep the 3-game series against the A’s in the final week
  3. The M’s need to pick up the final half-game on the A’s over the final weekend (meaning the M’s need to win just 1 more game than the A’s in their respective final series; the M’s play 4, the A’s play 3, so it could be as simple as both teams sweeping)

It’s far from an ideal situation, but it’s managable.  The Mariners just need to go out and fucking do it.

Seattle Seahawks 2018 Preview Part 2: The Bad Stuff

Yesterday, we took a look at the bright side of this season.  If everything breaks right, what COULD happen, including a possible division title and beyond.  Today, we’re going hard negative.

If you played this season 100 times, probably 90 of them will be about the same:  the Seahawks will finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7.  The ceiling, while remote, is a division-winning playoff team (likely requiring the Rams to fall apart completely).  The floor, while also remote, is an 0-16 team pushing for that #1 draft pick in 2019.  How does that happen?  Well, if Russell Wilson has a season-ending injury in the first game of the year, then I’m sorry, but it’s Tank City.  While I don’t expect him to get injured, I’m not completely ruling it out.  Make no mistake, this year – as well as the foreseeable future – it’s going to be all about Mr. Wilson.  We go where he takes us.

A couple teams come to mind as comparable to the Seahawks.  For the purposes of this argument, throw out the New England Patriots.  Our coaching staff isn’t on par and Russell Wilson isn’t Tom Brady.  Not yet, anyway.  No, for this exercise, I’m thinking about the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.

See, most years (in the Aaron Rodgers regime), the Packers boil down to an elite QB, some nice skill guys on offense, and a bunch of trash on defense.  Ditto the Saints under Drew Brees.  You could argue the Saints’ defense has been much more maligned, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of terrible Packers defenses.  And yet, the Packers are always seen as a potential division winner, solely because they have Aaron Rodgers at the helm; yet, the Saints more often than not are seen as a .500-ish ballclub, only being held afloat by the will of Brees.

So, where do these Seahawks fall?  One could make the argument that right now, Russell Wilson is as good as Aaron Rodgers.  He’s certainly just as important to the success of this team as A-Rod is to his.  Yet, me and most everyone else feels this team more closely resembles those mediocre Saints teams we’ve seen for much of the last decade.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a whole helluva lot of difference between Brees, Rodgers, and Wilson, so what gives?

Well, for starters, I think this defense is a lot closer to the bottom of the NFL than it is to the top.  I see a defense without a pass rush.  I see a defense that can’t force any turnovers out of its secondary.  I see a defense that’s just sort of okay at stopping the run.  And, I see a defense that’s tissue paper-thin.  If we start losing too many starters, there will be a tipping point, and we’ll be talking about the 32nd ranked unit in the NFL before too long.

So much has to go right just for this defense to be middle-of-the-road!  If we just talk about health, we’re already talking about a team with an injured K.J. Wright who’s missing at least Week 1, if not more.  Also, not for nothing, but when he was out there this pre-season, Wright wasn’t looking like his usual self; has he started the downside of his career?  There’s Dion Jordan, who’s supposed to be one of our main pass rushing ends; he missed the entire pre-season, has a lot of degenerative issues, and probably shouldn’t be counted on to finish more than 6-8 games this year (forget starts; anyone can start a game and go out after one series; I want to know how many games this guy can FINISH).  Even if Jordan is healthy, do we know if he’s actually good?  Sure, he looks the part, but looks don’t pressure opposing QBs.  Our other main rush end is Frank Clark; are we sure HE’S good?  He’s looked pretty good so far in his career, like a guy about to earn a big contract extension.  But, is he WORTH that kind of money?  Or, is he just going to get that money regardless of whether or not he takes another step in his development?  My main question with Clark is:  does he even WANT to be great?

It seems to me like this entire defense is being held together by Bobby Wagner and duct tape.  While he’s one of the best middle linebackers in the league, he can’t do literally everything.  It might be different if we had one more year of Earl Thomas in his prime, but that ain’t happening.  We’ve seen countless times how this team looks without Earl and Kam in the defensive backfield; now we start an entire era of football without those guys!  It’s not going to be pretty!

I’m curious to see the impact of potentially having Earl Thomas back for one more year.  He’s certainly a game-changer for this secondary, as the significant improvement of ET over TT could be a 2-3 game improvement in overall wins.  But, will his heart be in it?  Will the team still find a way to trade him midway through the season?  And, maybe most importantly, will he be able to stay healthy?  Without a training camp or a pre-season, how many times have we seen guys return from holdouts only to immediately twist an ankle or tweak a hammy or something?  I’ll believe he’s The Real Earl Thomas when I see it.

We’re all hanging our hats on Pete Carroll being a defensive-minded football coach whose specialty is the secondary, while we clap our hands and blindly say into the shadows, “We’ll be fine.”  But, will we?  Why?  Because Shaquill Griffin looked better than expected as a rookie?  How many career interceptions does he have?  One.  He has one.  Sure, he’s a fine cover corner, but he can’t cover literally everyone, and he’s not what anyone would call a “lockdown” corner, so he’s going to give up a good number of catches and yards.  He feels a lot closer to Marcus Trufant than Richard Sherman, and that’s a problem, because he’s supposed to be far and away the best corner on this team, which means the drop-off is significant.  Justin Coleman, almost certainly, is the actual best cornerback on this roster, and he’ll do well in his role covering slot receivers, but those guys don’t play every single down.  We have some schlub playing opposite Griffin who will almost certainly be the bane of our existence as early as the very first game of the season.

I think the defense is going to be very, very bad.  What’s worse, I’m afraid we won’t see the type of improvement over the course of this season to give us any hope for the future.  The L.O.B. is dead.  And it’s never coming back.

As I wrote about yesterday, the season hinges on the offense, and the offense hinges on Russell Wilson, so getting back to my point at the top, can he single-handedly carry this beached whale of a team into the playoffs?

I’m gonna guess probably not.  I do think he’s closer to Drew Brees than Aaron Rodgers (as I think this defense is closer to the very worst Saints defenses than it is to the Packers).  I also think the challenges presented within our division, within our conference, and with the schedule we’ve been saddled with, all conspire against us doing a damn thing in 2018.

The Rams are flat out better than the Seahawks, end of story.  You can question their long-term viability.  You can look at all the superstars they acquired the past couple seasons and think an implosion is on the horizon.  Indeed, even if the chemistry is top notch, they won’t be able to pay everyone forever, so EVENTUALLY things will break apart.  But, not in 2018.  In 2018, they’re going to be one of the 2 or 3 best teams in the entire NFL (hell, maybe THE best team).  Barring a multitude of injuries to the Rams, there’s no way we beat them in either game we play against them.

The 49ers are at least as good as the Seahawks, with a MUCH higher upside in the near future.  The 49ers could be a playoff team as early as THIS year, if Jimmy G continues to shred defenses like he did last year.  I have my doubts; I’m not nearly as high on them as some people – who have them as their dark horse darlings – but they’ll still be tough.  I can’t guarantee 2 wins against them; I can’t even guarantee 1!

Then, there’s the Cards.  They seem like they’ll be pretty bad.  But, that’s no guarantee that they’ll necessarily be bad against the Seahawks!  Sam Bradford is usually pretty careful with the ball; as long as he’s healthy, that’s a viable offense that should have zero trouble moving the ball against our defense.  And, they have just enough veterans on the defensive side of the ball to get stops and make our lives miserable.  The Seahawks probably SHOULD beat the Cardinals twice, but would it shock you to see us slip in either of these games?  Shit, at our very best, we still managed to lose to Jeff Fisher’s Rams more times than I care to count!

We catch the Broncos on the road; they have savvy vets all over the place.  We catch the Bears on a potential upswing (their defense looks like it could give us fits in week 2).  We play the Cowboys with their awesome rushing attack.  We have to go all the way to London for some stupid reason; who knows how that Raiders game turns out?  We go to Detroit who has an offense that should shred us no problem.  We host the Chargers, whose quarterback ALWAYS shreds even the very best versions of our defense.  We host the Packers on a short week, they’re expected to compete for a Super Bowl.  We go to Carolina, that feels like a demoralizing loss waiting to happen.  We host the Vikings on Monday night; they’re also expected to compete for a Super Bowl.  And, we host the Chiefs, who are always good and solidly coached under Andy Reid.

I’ve spent the entirety of this pre-season being pretty impressed by our starting units on both sides of the ball.  I think both our offense and defense have looked better than I anticipated (while our depth is non-existent).  My thought process all along has been that maybe the Seahawks can hang around, but once injuries mount, we’ll be toast.  But, the more I look at the schedule, at the crop of QBs we have to go up against, and everything else, I can present an easy argument on why the Seahawks might lose each and every one of those games!  Yet, the only argument in our favor is Russell Wilson.  Russell Is Magic, but he’s not THAT much magic!

I’m still of the belief that the O-Line will be much better than people think, but they’re still not going to be perfect.  They’re probably not even going to rank in the top 10!  When compared to past Seahawks O-Lines under Tom Cable, they’ll look like world-beaters, but that’s not saying much.  The point is, they should open up some holes to run through, and they should give Russell Wilson plenty of time to throw.

But, do we trust Wilson to always do the right thing?

I believe the Seahawks will be behind in a lot of games.  That’s going to put more of the burden on Wilson to pull our asses out of the fire.  He’s pretty great, but he still makes a good number of mistakes, trying to prolong plays, keep drives alive.  He’s always looking down field for the big play, and as a result misses a lot of positive plays around the line of scrimmage.  He takes too many sacks, and he puts a lot of balls in harm’s way.  I mean, we saw the Seahawks behind in a lot of games back when the defense was good; why was that?  A lot of times because Wilson turned the ball over or otherwise couldn’t get the fucking offense moving in the first quarter.  How much of that was on the O-Line vs. on Wilson himself?

Well, I guess we’ll find out this year.  Because the O-Line WILL be better.  And, when it is, if we still find Wilson making similar mistakes, then we have to admit that he’s not the be-all, end-all.  He’s good enough to take even the worst teams to an 8-8 record, but he’s not good enough to single-handedly get us into the playoffs.  He’s like almost every other quarterback in the league (particularly every other quarterback who doesn’t spend his entire career in the AFC Least); he needs help.  And the Seahawks don’t have enough help around him to get this team to where it wants to go.

The Seahawks won’t make the playoffs this year.  I know I predicted the Seahawks to go 9-7 in my season picks, but if I were you I’d bet the family farm on under 9 wins.  I’d even be inclined to take under 8 wins.

Seattle Seahawks 2018 Preview Part 1: The Good Stuff

There’s a pretty wide range of possible outcomes for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, maybe more than we all think.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about all the ways this season might be sunk, but for now let’s look on the bright side.  I’m on record as believing this is around a .500 football team; on more than one occasion I’ve pegged them as being anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7.  On the high end, that’s a wild card team; while the floor is being on the outside looking in with a disappointing mid-round draft pick.

But, can this team be even better than 9-7?  Can the Seahawks actually compete for a division title and maybe even make some noise in the playoffs?

Well, there’s a lot of “if’s” involved in that scenario.  I think the Seahawks would have to get extremely lucky and have a tremendous record in 1-score games (kind of like how the Mariners have a tremendous record in 1-run games).  Stuff that’s unsustainable long-term, but can certainly run in a team’s favor over the course of an anomalous season.

Included in that, the defense is going to have to be much better than expected.  That’s going to involve our best guys staying healthy all year (Wagner, Shaquill Griffin, Frank Clark), that’s going to involve some other guys stepping into more prominent roles and really breaking out compared to their career stats (guys like Dion Jordan, Naz Jones, Bradley McDougald, and Jarran Reed), and it’s going to require a lot of luck.  Fumble luck, the defense holding teams to a high percentage of field goals over TDs compared to the rest of the league, and maybe even some good fortune on third downs compared to what we’ve seen so far this pre-season.  A lot of that is hard to predict.  I can sit here and look at past numbers and project that this defense as it’s currently constructed (without the help of Earl Thomas for most of the regular season) is going to be pretty mediocre.  But, all the variables I’ve talked about go a long way towards projecting actual wins and losses.  If the Seahawks are good against the teams they’re supposed to beat, and win more of those 50/50 matchups than they lose, I could certainly see this as a wild card team (if I squint really hard, maybe even a division winner … if the team somehow finds a way to beat the Rams at least once).

Just know that a lot has to break right for this team to be taken seriously.  Wild Card teams take care of business against teams inferior to them (the Bears, the Cardinals, the Cowboys at home, the Raiders in London) and they have to do pretty well against other potential Wild Card teams (the Broncos, the 49ers, the Lions, the Panthers, the Chiefs).  Divisional champs not only have to do well in those games (which comprises 11 of our 16 games), but they have to win about half of the games against other potential division champs (the Rams, the Packers, the Vikings, the Chargers).  The good thing about this time of year is that we really don’t know how difficult this schedule is going to be.  Some of the teams projected to be elite will fall on their faces, either due to injuries or because they’re over-rated.  Likewise, some of the potential bad teams will be a lot better than projected, due to luck or being under-rated.  You’d like the Seahawks to be perfect against the bad teams (5-0), really good against the Wild Card teams (4-2), and win around half of the games against the good teams (2-3 or 3-2).  That’s the mark of a division champ.  Thankfully, it looks like the early part of the schedule is pretty reasonable, so even though the Seahawks start with a lot of road games, if they come out on fire, it could set things up nicely down the line.

So, let’s talk about what’s right about this team; it starts with the offense.

Make no mistake, the offense MUST carry the load.  Fortunately, I think that’s well within our grasp.

If the offensive line stays healthy, I’m just gonna say it:  we will be GOOD.  I think the left side of the line will be rock solid, I think Fluker is a great addition to the team, and I think Ifedi will make great strides towards not being the very worst in all of football.  The bar for him to clear appears to be Breno Giacomini.  I think a lot of Seahawks fans remember him fondly, as he was the right tackle of the last really good O-Line on this team.  Well, if you REALLY think about it, he wasn’t super amazing.  He was just okay.  He made a lot of boneheaded plays – including a lot of personal foul penalties – that would set this team back.  But, since the team liked to run Marshawn Lynch behind him an awful lot – and we had success doing it – Giacomini sort of gets a pass.  Well, I believe Ifedi can be as good or better than Giacomini.  If he is, and the rest of the line holds, we could be looking at the best offense of the Russell Wilson era.

Speaking of, Wilson had one of the more prolific fantasy football seasons last year, as he basically WAS the offense for the Seahawks.  Now that we have a competent O-Line, and a running game that should carry its share of the load, there might be cause for concern that Wilson’s fantasy numbers will taper off.  I’m here to tell you:  rest assured, he’ll be fine.  If the defense is as shaky as I expect it to be, then I anticipate the Seahawks will be behind in its share of games and will therefore need a lot of second half scoring to come back.  On top of which, with a unified play-calling situation, I fully expect that we won’t get off to so many slow starts.  Ergo, I think the Seahawks will be scoring early AND often, and Russell Wilson’s numbers will surge accordingly.

I think Chris Carson is a 1,000-yard back, with conservatively 8 rushing TDs, though I could easily see him get into the double-digits.  It shouldn’t take people long to realize they were asleep at the switch in ignoring this guy in fantasy drafts, and if he’s somehow out on waivers in your league, I’d snap him up in a hurry.

Behind Carson, as I’ve said before, I think this is the deepest running back room we’ve seen in Seattle in quite some time.  Mike Davis is a man.  Rashaad Penny will be available as a change of pace.  Prosise will be around whenever he’s not nicked up.  And, McKissic should be back after Week 8 to provide a nice boost.

Moreover, this team is BUILT to feature the run.  The tight end room is strong, with Vannett and Dissly getting the bulk of the snaps, though Darrell Daniels is a good third guy to have until Ed Dickson comes off the PUP.

As teams gear up to stop our run game again, that should open things up in play-action, which is Wilson’s specialty.  It’s so huge, for both the deep AND intermittent passing range.  We’ve got Lockett and Jaron Brown who are solid deep threats (as well as Baldwin and maybe even David Moore on occasion).  While Baldwin’s knee injury is concerning, the fact that he’s giving it a go and feels he can manage it is encouraging.  I would expect him to miss quite a bit of practice time, but he’s got a good rapport with Wilson and is one of the best receivers in football, so if anyone can succeed with this thing, it’s a super tough guy like Baldwin.  And, on top of Baldwin and Lockett, we’ve got Brandon Marshall in the red zone who should make some noise.

If you asked me to craft the perfect receiving situation for the Seahawks, this is it.  No-nonsense football players; not a diva in the group.  The closest thing would be Marshall, but he’s on a veteran 1-year prove-it deal and is really in no position to be disrupting things in the slightest.  He’s also – much like our Offensive Coordinator – playing with the best quarterback he’s ever had, so he should have plenty of opportunities to make plays.  The fact that he’s produced everywhere he’s been (while healthy) gives me great encouragement.  And, even if he gets hurt, we have enough behind him to pick up the slack.

The only concern I have about this group is probably execution on 3rd down.  There will be plenty of down-field chunk plays to get into scoring position, but you’re still talking about a team that plays loose and sloppy with the penalties.  That’s not going away under Pete Carroll; it’s just not.  So, we’re going to see this offense “behind schedule” more than the national average, which means doing well on 3rd down is a high priority.  If this team fails in that regard – or if it really hasn’t gotten over its early-game struggles we all bemoaned under Bevell – then we could see this team fall behind in a lot of games, and not have enough in the tank to overcome those deficits.

Bottom line:  the offense needs to be Top 5 for this team to be really good.  And it has to start in Game 1; we can’t sustain any more growing pains with this side of the ball, because the defense won’t be there to pick up the slack.

The most fun part of this team could be its Special Teams.  It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this unit decide 2-3 games this year.  That’s including, obviously, our All Pro punter shifting field position.  That’s figuring we’ll be in a lot of close games, which means a field goal here and there could make all the difference (not to mention those all-important extra-long extra points).  And, who knows?  Maybe our returners play a bigger role in affecting these games, either with TDs scored or with long returns that put our offense in prime real estate.  I think there’s a lot to like about all facets of the Special Teams, but also a lot of opportunities for luck to play a heavy role.  A field goal kicker making an insane percentage of kicks; our blockers on these returns not getting called for holds or blocks in the back every fucking time.  It’s all going to play a huge role in how many games this team wins this year.

While it’s ultimately hard to see this team seriously contending for a Super Bowl (as I’ll get into tomorrow), this should nevertheless be a fun team to watch.  We should see plenty of offense and plenty of young guys stepping into prominent roles on defense.  If it all breaks right, we could be talking about one of the true sleepers in the league this year:  a team that no one is expecting anything from, who comes out of nowhere to take the league by storm.  While not probable, it IS possible, and that’s all you can ask for this time of year.

Predicting The 2018 NFL Season

So, I did that dumb thing where you print out the whole season schedule and predict every single game.  It’s incomprehensibly stupid and a total waste of time – because obviously I’m not going to predict anywhere CLOSE to all the games correct – but it actually kind of worked out I think!  We’ll see.  The records I came up with look like they could hypothetically be accurate – I don’t have anyone going 16-0 or 0-16, for instance – and I’m going to assume all the totals add up to whatever the number of regular season NFL games is supposed to be.

Check out some predictions from past seasons:

I’ll take just a QUICK look back at how I did in 2017 to get that out of the way.  See my division winners on the left (my predicted playoff seeding in parentheses) and the actual division winners on the right (with the actual playoff seeding in parentheses):

  • Seattle (1) – Los Angeles (3)
  • Green Bay (2) – Minnesota (2)
  • New York (3) – Philadelphia (1)
  • Carolina (4) – New Orleans (4)
  • New England (1) – New England (1)
  • Kansas City (2) – Kansas City (4)
  • Pittsburgh (3) – Pittsburgh (2)
  • Tennessee (4) – Jacksonville (3)

Wildcards:

  • Tampa Bay (5) – Carolina (5)
  • Dallas (6) – Atlanta (6)
  • Oakland (5) – Tennessee (5)
  • Houston (6) – Buffalo (6)

So, as you can see, I fucked up the NFC entirely (only predicting Carolina to make the playoffs, but I had them as a division winner and they only were a wildcard), but I picked 3/4 AFC division winners and 4/6 of the AFC playoff teams.  I’ve had better years though (obviously, since last year I predicted a Super Bowl of Seattle over Oakland).

Let’s just wipe that from our memory banks, if we can, and move on to this year.

NFC East

  • Philadelphia:  9-7
  • Dallas:  8-8
  • Washington:  8-8
  • New York:  5-11

I still like Philly a lot, and may have under-shot their record here, but I can’t help but see some regression out of this team.  I do think their second half will be a lot better than their first half, and I think the rest of their division is pretty mediocre, so it shouldn’t be a stretch for them to repeat as NFC East champs.  I think the Cowboys have a relatively easy schedule, which accounts for their 8 wins.  I actually believe the Redskins will be better than the Cowboys, but for whatever reason I see an uneven season out of them (winning some games they should lose, but also losing some games they should win).  I don’t like the Giants whatsoever and I think Eli is finished.

NFC North

  • Green Bay:  13-3
  • Minnesota:  10-6
  • Detroit:  9-7
  • Chicago:  4-12

I’ll say it right now:  I’m guaranteeing a full healthy season out of Aaron Rodgers.  He just signed a huge extension, so obviously he can’t be too disgruntled with that team.  I think he’ll be on the warpath this year and really carry that team to new heights.  I still like the Vikings a lot, but I think there’s some regression there (as well as some growing pains with a new QB in Cousins) and I just think there will be an adjustment period for them (I could also see the Vikings getting hit hard by the injury bug).  I like Detroit okay – and their new coaching staff has to be an improvement over last year’s – but they’re probably a year or two away from really competing for the division again.  I have a lot of doubts about the Bears and don’t really think this quarterback is going to hit big.

NFC South

  • Atlanta:  11-5
  • Carolina:  10-6
  • New Orleans:  9-7
  • Tampa Bay:  2-14

The big thing here is I believe the Falcons’ defense will take a big step forward this season.  I don’t trust Sark as an offensive coordinator and I never will, but I don’t think this offense is going to have to be as elite to rack up a bunch of wins.  I think the Panthers are just solid all the way around, and they’ve got a relatively easy schedule as it is.  I think the Saints take a little bit of a step back as I wonder if the offense will be as good with all the changes in the skill players.  I could also see the Saints getting a lot of guys injured.  I think the Bucs are going to compete for the #1 overall draft pick next year.

NFC West

  • Los Angeles:  12-4
  • San Francisco:  9-7
  • Seattle:  9-7
  • Arizona:  3-13

I think this is the year for the Rams.  I think they put it all together and go to the Super Bowl.  I think the Seahawks and 49ers will be about the same, but the 49ers will have the edge based on conference wins.  I actually – upon further review – have the Seahawks going 5-1 before the BYE, before going on a 5-game losing streak, then finishing the season on a 4-1 streak (don’t know what that’s about).  I think Arizona will be terrible.

AFC East

  • New England:  12-4
  • Miami:  7-9
  • New York:  5-11
  • Buffalo:  2-14

What a surprise!  The Patriots roll to an easy divisional title because the AFC East is the worst fucking division in all of football!  Of the poo-poo platter that is the rest of this division, I think with Tannehill back, the Dolphins will win the most games of the bunch (but still not enough to make the playoffs or even go .500).  I think the Jets will struggle with a rookie QB at the helm.  And, I think the Bills will compete with the Bucs for that #1 overall draft pick.  TANKING AT ITS FINEST IN THE AFC EAST!

AFC North

  • Pittsburgh:  13-3
  • Cincinnati:  9-7
  • Baltimore:  7-9
  • Cleveland:  4-12

A lot of gods & clods in the AFC this year.  I think the Steelers dominate a pretty easy schedule.  I think Cincy is better than expected (but falls just short of the playoffs).  I think the Ravens will be okay.  And I think too many people are buying the Hard Knocks hype; stay away from the Browns this year and thank me later (they’ll be better when they fire Hue Jackson).

AFC South

  • Jacksonville:  13-3
  • Houston:  11-5
  • Tennessee:  7-9
  • Indianapolis:  4-12

This division is going to be FUN!  Here, I love me some Jags; I think they play the Rams in one of the most entertaining Super Bowls of all time.  I’m also on the Houston bandwagon, but I think they fall just short of a division title.  I don’t like the Titans to repeat as a playoff team; and I think Andrew Luck will win them a few games single-handedly, but the Colts overall will be pretty bad.

AFC West

  • Los Angeles:  12-4
  • Kansas City:  9-7
  • Denver:  6-10
  • Oakland:  4-12

It’s probably bad that I’m drinking the Kool Aid on L.A., Houston, Pittsburgh, AND Jacksonville, but here we are.  I think the Chargers finally put it all together and the city of Los Angeles enjoys the best professional football in the country.  I don’t see the Chiefs as the powerhouse that other teams do – they’ll also have some growing pains with a new QB in Mahomes – but I think they’ll get better as the season goes along and sneak into the playoffs.  I just don’t buy the Broncos, and I think Jon Gruden will be a terrible hire for the Raiders.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Green Bay
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Atlanta
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Minnesota
  6. Carolina

AFC Playoffs

  1. Jacksonville
  2. Pittsburgh
  3. New England
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Houston
  6. Kansas City

Wild Card Round

  • Atlanta over Carolina
  • Philadelphia over Minnesota
  • New England over Kansas City
  • Los Angeles over Houston

Divisional Round

  • Los Angeles over Atlanta
  • Green Bay over Philadelphia
  • Jacksonville over Los Angeles
  • New England over Pittsburgh

Championship Round

  • Los Angeles over Green Bay
  • Jacksonville over New England

Super Bowl

  • Jacksonville over Los Angeles

Now that I look at it, it looks silly to have the Steelers over the Pats in the regular season (betting against the Patriots getting that first round bye is always a bad move), but I can’t go back and change it!

I have 5/8 division winners repeating and 9/12 playoff teams returning, which also feels like a few too many.  We’ll see, I guess.  I haven’t felt this strongly about a Super Bowl matchup since Seahawks/Broncos; I would bet a lot of money it’s these two teams.

Jesus Christ, Mariners. Just … Jesus Christ

The Mariners followed up their first series win in forever down in Arizona with a 2-game set against the last place Padres.  The Mariners got swept.

Down 5.5 games to the A’s with a 4-game series in Oakland, it was Do Or Die Weekend.  If the M’s had won all 4, maybe I could allow myself to start getting excited again.  Winning 3 of 4 was absolutely necessary.  Anything less than that was a tie for Worst Case Scenario, because it means without a doubt no playoffs for the Mariners.

Well, the M’s and A’s split, so that’s it.  We’re still 5.5 games behind the A’s (8 games behind the Astros for the division) with 25 games to go.  Close, but no cigar, once again.

I’m not recapping all the games, because who cares?  It’s over, football season is starting, so it’s time to stop giving so much of a shit about the Mariners.  It was a good run, but we’re not a good team.  You can only hold off the run differential beast for so long before it catches up with you.

I’m planning on treating this September like I treat every September for the Mariners:  watch occasionally, root like hell for Felix to do good, maybe go to a couple more games for shits n’ giggs and call it a season.

Washington Lost To Auburn In The Stupidest Way Possible

Look, to try to recount every single way the Washington Huskies shot themselves in the foot would be an exercise in futility.  A Browning fumble here, a mind-boggling interception there, a missed field goal, a missed targeting penalty that falls on both the refs on the field and the replay review board … I mean, my blood is boiling the more I think about this shit.

The losers of these types of games always say this, but I’ll say it anyway:  THE BETTER TEAM LOST!  Auburn didn’t deserve that win.  But, I guess neither did Washington.

It’s not JUST Jake Browning’s fault, but boy does he carry his fair share of the burden.  The thing is, he didn’t totally shit the bed.  He threw for 296 yards and a 9.3 yard average.  I’d argue the play-calling did him little favors, and he compounded those by making things a million times worse.  I mean, if you’re throwing the ball away, THROW IT OUT OF FUCKING BOUNDS!  You’re a 4th year starter; that’s a mistake a true Freshman makes!  Also, if you’re going to run a fucking option play near the goalline, PITCH THE FUCKING BALL ON TIME!  Once again, it smacks of Browning trying to do too much; trying to shed this label of him not showing up in big games.  Just play within the offense and let your teammates make plays, THAT’S where Browning is elite.  We don’t need him to be Russell Wilson, we just need him to be Alex Smith and manage the fucking game.

Also, man, how soft was that defense?  They tightened up in the second half with some adjustments, but Auburn was still able to move the ball at will pretty much all game.  No turnovers, only 2 sacks, minimal pressure on the quarterback, and our vaunted secondary was picked apart!  Auburn’s mediocre quarterback was able to throw for 273 yards on 26/36 passing (and obviously a bevy of missed tackles were the shitty icing on top).

Just a fucking disaster from the get-go.  Obviously, it’s never good when your starting left tackle is hurt, but there should be enough depth on this team to compensate.  This was more about execution and I put as much of the blame on the coaching staff for not getting these players ready in time.  You had all off-season!  These looked like lost, scared little kids through most of the first half, and that’s on Coach Pete.

The shitty thing is that I don’t know how good Auburn really is.  They didn’t look particularly elite to me; I could easily see them losing 3-4 games this year.  We most likely lost to an inferior team in what was truly a home game for them, and losing that game will do us much more harm than the good of the fact that they’re on our schedule in the first place.

What I’m clinging to – because it feels wrong to abandon all hope on the season after 1 game – is that the Huskies are still a great team.  So great, in fact, that I have no doubt we can run the table if we catch a few breaks here and there.  Honestly, after some of the shit that’s gone down the last couple years, we DESERVE some breaks to go our fucking way!  I thought the passing game in general really stepped up in this one; we might not see a better defense the rest of the regular season.  So, that means we should be able to move the ball with regularity.

As predicted, this game came down to the Husky run game, and as I warned, if we ran for less than 150 yards as a team, we’d lose the game.  We ran for 102 on 33 carries.  Really, 8 of those carries were on the QB scrambling, so throw those away.  Our actual running backs had 24 carries for 111, which still isn’t great, but it’s a fine average.  Even though our pass game was getting big chunk plays, I thought we went away from the run too much.  I also thought the team should’ve used Salvon Ahmed more, as his quick burst as a change-of-pace to Gaskin was able to gash them pretty regularly.

So, yeah, SHITTY start to the season.  Got to put it behind us and get on with the rest of it.  There are a ton of games left in the college football season and when it comes time to decide the bowl/playoff teams, no one is really going to remember a whole lot about this Washington/Auburn game.  If I’m wrong and the Tigers are great, then the Huskies can hang their hats on playing them close; if I’m right and they’re mediocre, then whatever, it’s only one road loss in a tough environment against a pre-season top 10 team.  The Huskies have to take care of business the rest of the way, so let’s go to work.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: The All-Important Draft

See the first post in this series for what I’m talking about here.

Well, we did it.  I drafted my team and, if I do say so myself, I think I did a pretty good job!  Of course, I always say so myself, because why wouldn’t I?  I brought in these players, I must like them to some extent!  Because they’ve yet to disappoint me.

It’s all downhill from here.

As I talked about last time, my 3 keepers are Wentz, Fournette, and Elliott.  Since I had my RBs set, I didn’t have to focus on them too much in the early going.  So, after the first three rounds took care of the keepers, I went to work bolstering my WR unit.

I picked 8th, in every round.  I won’t list out every single pick, but I’ll at least show you the first round, to give you an idea of the players we had available:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Saquon Barkley
  3. Melvin Gordon
  4. Cam Newton
  5. Keenan Allen
  6. Davante Adams
  7. Matthew Stafford

So, those were the guys taken right before me.  Both of the top QBs that were left out there, the top 3 RBs, and my two favorite WRs.  I was bound and determined to get a receiver; the available ones were:  A.J. Green, Mike Evans, Gronk (technically a TE, but still), T.Y. Hilton, and Tyreek Hill.  I went with Hill.  I like Mahomes a lot, I like that offense, I think Hill is a stud in the prime of his career who will be the focal point of that passing game (as opposed to the tight end-centric offense run under Alex Smith), and I just believe he has the highest upside to really blow out some games.

I should point out that all of those other receivers I listed off were taken by the time I drafted again.  I still wanted to go WR – to knock that position out of the way – even though I desperately needed a second QB (and, one might argue, a FIRST QB, since who knows when Wentz will be ready).  Adam Thielen was sitting there and he felt like an obvious pick, so I took him (the other WRs were Amari Cooper, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, and Doug Baldwin; I think I made clearly the best choice).

By my next pick, all of those receivers were gone, as well as the next two best tight ends (Kelce and Ertz), so I went into the QB well.  No more QBs were taken after Cam & Stafford, so I had my pick of the shit-filled kitty litter.  I went with Derek Carr, upside over recent success.  I think he’ll be a transformed player under Jon Gruden and even if the Raiders are a terrible team, I think they’ll be behind in a lot of games and throwing the ball a ton.  Plus, they don’t really have a defined #1 RB (a respectable committee led by Beastmode), so I think this could be great for me.  The other QBs available were Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Blake “The Bort” Bortles, Dak Prescott, and Case Keenum.  Ben is obviously better, but I can’t trust him to play a full season.  I might regret not taking Alex Smith though.

When it came back to me, in Round 7, Demaryius Thomas was still sitting there at the top of the Yahoo rankings.  I needed a flex guy, and honestly the value I was getting for Denver’s #1 receiver was too good to pass up.  I might’ve gotten the steal of the draft, or he might be the bust that everyone is expecting.  We’ll see, I’ll take my chances.  By taking him, though, I missed out on Chris Carson, his teammate Emmanuel Sanders, Jacksonville’s defense, the Rams’ defense, Allen Robinson, and Corey Davis, among others.

In Round 8, I took the best tight end available (who was also among the best overall players available), Greg Olsen.  My plan going into the draft was to wait until one of the last three rounds to take a tight end (as well as a defense and a kicker), but Olsen is elite, and the drop-off in tight ends was significant (plus, like I said, he was one of the top players remaining).  I missed out on Marquise Goodwin, Mark Ingram, and Minnesota’s defense, among others.

Next, I started filling my bench, with Robert Woods leading the way.  At this point, I still haven’t grabbed a third RB, and that might be my undoing if I have injuries to my top two guys.  A run on RBs went right after I took Woods, with guys like Lynch, Peyton Barber, Rex Burkhead, Chris Thompson, Dion Lewis, and Carlos Hyde all going off the board.

In Round 10, I went back to QB, because it’s always smart to have a competent third (in case of injuries, BYEs, or if Derek Carr really does suck), so I bought low on Andy Dalton.  In Round 10 of a 2-QB league, I think I got really good value on this one too.  Plus, I think everyone is severely underrating him this year, and I like him to bounce back in a big way.  I passed on Jameis Winson, because I can’t have his 3-game suspension hanging over my head if I don’t know Wentz’s status those weeks and I didn’t want to have to roster 4 QBs.  I also passed on guys like Mitch Trubisky, Mayfield & Darnold, Ryan Tannehill, and Eli Manning, which I’m okay with.

Next up, Adrian Peterson was still there, so I grabbed him.  I don’t know if that’s going to work out for me, but he’s a #1 RB in the 11th round, so beggars can’t be choosers.  The other RBs available were all backups or in time-shares (Latavius Murray, Sony Michel, James Conner, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, and Marlon Mack, among others).  If worse comes to worse and I need an RB off waivers, I’m sure I can find someone, so I’m not too worried about it.  If best comes to best, then in AP I have a 1,000-yard rusher on a good offense.  (I will say that I’m disappointed that Will Fuller V was taken 2 picks after this; I think he’s a stud).

In Round 12, Jordan Reed was still there, so I grabbed him.  Yep, the guy who was going to wait and take whatever TE was left over in the final rounds … ended up drafting TWO of them.  But, when healthy, Reed is a Top 3 TE.  And now he has Alex Smith throwing to him, the ultimate in TE-friendly QBs.  Plus, Greg Olsen is getting up there, so it’s nice to have some TE insurance.

In the lucky 13th round, I grabbed Kenny Stills.  All the podcasts I was listening to in the week leading up to the draft cited this guy as a potential break-out player.  Tannehill apparently loves him, he’s a target monster, and with Landry out of the picture, he should be the team’s #1.  I am CRUSHING this draft with all the value I’m getting!

In the final two rounds, I finally had to go grab a defense and a kicker.  I drafted Baltimore’s defense in the 14th, and ‘Frisco’s Robbie Gould in the 15th.  Whatever.

Yahoo’s stupid grading system put me in the middle of the pack with a B grade.  It hated my Derek Carr pick (about 6 rounds too early according to ADP?), but it loves my Thielen pick, as well as my RB keepers.  My team is the 2nd oldest in the league, which might be troubling; then again, my tendency is to draft a lot of young guys and where has it gotten me?  Nowhere near the championship trophy, that’s for damn sure.

So, we’ll see how it goes.  My schedule is one of the toughest in the league, so that’s fucking great.  Then again, why should I trust Yahoo’s grading?

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Final Pre-Season Game 2018

If this WAS a “Winners & Losers” post, I’d probably have to say that the Oakland Raiders were the “winners” and the Seattle Seahawks were the “losers”.  Is that how it works?  Am I doing this right?

A meaningless end to a meaningless pre-season took place last night.  The Seahawks did indeed lose to the Raiders, 30-19.  EJ Manuel carved up our defense like a freshly roasted turkey.  Some guy named Keon Hatcher (who I can only assume will be jobless by the end of this sentence) caught 8 balls for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns.  None of the starters really played, except for Ifedi I guess, who I think maybe tweaked an ankle or something?  I dunno, he should be fine though.  On with the premise!

What I’m Geeked Out About After Four Meaningless Pre-Season Games

I guess what I’m most geeked out about is that Russell Wilson didn’t play a single snap.  Chris Carson had just two carries.  By and large, our most important starters played either no snaps or very few snaps.  Can’t ask for anything more out of a fourth pre-season game.

I’m geeked out about never having to see Austin Davis ever again!  While he did have a pretty nifty 81-yard TD pass to Damore’ea Stringfellow, that was pretty much it, as he continuously failed to drive this team against a pretty fucking mediocre Raiders defense (also missing most of its regular starters).  Davis did end up throwing for 194 yards while playing the entire first half, so maybe that’ll be good enough to sucker some other team into picking him up.

If I had to pick a couple things that I’m actually geeked out about, I’d start with the offensive line.  There were mistakes aplenty early (a couple back-to-back holding penalties took Isaiah Battle out of the game for a while), but even though we put mostly reserves out there, I thought they showed some real improvement over what we saw in the first three weeks.  We ended up running for 131 yards on 26 carries (with Mike Davis running 9 times for 45 yards and a TD; he’s a good little slashing runner, I gotta say).

The other thing is I thought Shaquem Griffin looked really good.  He played a lot of snaps last night – as he prepares to start in Denver in Week 1 in place of the injured K.J. Wright – and he was just a Tasmanian Devil of destruction!  Stuffing guys in holes, preventing open-field runners from getting first downs; he led the team with 8 tackles and he certainly could’ve had more than that if he played the entire game.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way)

Stringfellow obviously had a strong game, with 2 catches, 90 yards, and a TD.  I don’t think it was enough to get him a job on the 53-man roster, but I’m willing to bet the team would have him back on the Practice Squad.  However, given the way he’s played, it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see another team snap him up for their 53-man.  I’m sure the Broncos could always use another receiver …

I thought Alex McGough had an okay game and continues to make progress.  He had the actual pass of the game though.  I know that 81-yarder from Davis was impressive and all, but really he just hit a receiver in stride, and just over the outstretched arms of a lone defender.  McGough, on the other hand, was running for his life to the right, and chucked it on a dime 52 yards down field to Malik Turner for what appeared to be a go-ahead TD.  Unfortunately, Turner had to awkwardly position himself to catch the ball and get into the endzone, and in the process failed to get his second foot in bounds, but GOD DAMN was that an impressive throw!

Let’s Talk About Competitions

I want to get this in here now, while I’m talking about the backup QBs.  While I think it’s more than reasonable to bring in Brett Hundley – who has been around a while, who has starting experience (in a playoff atmosphere, I might add, as the Packers were hunting down a wild card spot to the bitter end last year), and who has a game that somewhat resembles Russell Wilson’s – I do like the makeup of McGough an awful lot, and I think he’s someone who will develop into a viable backup quarterback one day (and, who knows, if things break right, maybe even a starter somewhere).

That having been said, McGough ain’t there yet.  He’s still VERY raw and has a lot of seasoning to accrue.  I still hope like the dickens that the Seahawks can sneak him onto the practice squad.

As for that right tackle competition, I think Ifedi was able to hold down his job.  Sounded like Fant was flip-flopping back and forth from right to left tackle, so that tells me he’s going to be this team’s backup at both positions (hell, they even had Joey Hunt playing right tackle late in the game, to give someone else a chance to play center).

I don’t know about the wide receivers, as really Stringfellow was the only one who stood out, and I don’t think he’s done enough this pre-season to warrant keeping on the 53-man roster.  This feels like a position group the team has already made up its mind on.

Finally, as for the cornerback spot opposite Shaquill Griffin … your guess is as good as mine.  Looks like an endless black hole of misery to me, but what do I know?

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Bad Way)

Uhh, let’s see.  Janikowski missing TWO extra points!

Michael Dickson punted a ball INTO THE ENDZONE!

The defense (regardless of whether or not the starters played) let EJ Fucking Manuel throw for 255 yards (on 18/22 passing) with a rating of 154.5!

The utter lack of turnovers once again!

The terrible decisions to return some of those kickoffs out of the endzone!

The PENALTIES!

I could go on and on.  This was a sloppy, miserable game, befitting of a 4th pre-season game.  Why the NFL still has 4 of these every year, I’ll never know.

I’ll say this:  the depth is a joke on this team.  It’s going to be LEAN TIMES if a lot of important Seahawks get injured this year.  But, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?  It’s not like this team has seen players dropping like a fucking leprosy patient loses limbs for the last three years or so.

Oh.

Wait.

Washington Huskies Football Preview 2018 Extravaganza Bonanza Tony Danza!

Big year for the Huskies.  That’s an understatement to say the least, but even that doesn’t cover the sheer magnitude of the 2018 season for this team.

Two years ago, the Huskies were up 7-0 in a playoff game down in Atlanta against Alabama, 3 and a half quarters away from one of the biggest upsets of the century.  Last year, with most guys back, the expectations were just as high, and it was undeniably a disappointment.  A late season loss down in Stanford cost us a shot at the Pac-12 championship, but the real culprit was a mind-boggling 13-7 loss to Arizona State (who ended their season losing in the Sun Bowl and firing their coaching staff).  The Huskies were still granted a slot in the Fiesta Bowl, but weren’t all that competitive against a really good Penn State team, ultimately losing by 7 as their late comeback attempt fell short.

This year, somehow, some way, most guys are back again!  We’ve got a 4th-year starter at both QB and RB.  Our defense is loaded (particularly in the secondary), our offensive line projects to be one of the best in the conference, and while this is the second year in a row we have to replace our #1 receiver, the room as a whole looks improved over what it was a season ago.  The Pac-12 overall doesn’t look too strong, our non-conference schedule has some non-cupcakes in it; it’s all laid out there for the taking.

Can the Huskies get back to the playoffs?

More importantly, can the Huskies really contend for a national championship?

Simply being able to ask these questions – and not have it sound ridiculous – makes me so overjoyed I can hardly contain myself.  The Washington Huskies are a powerhouse in the NCAA.  They’re almost certainly the best team in the Pac-12 and probably a Top 10 team in all of college football (currently ranked 6th in both polls).  This is fun.  It’s so much more fun than the alternative (though, at least when the Huskies are terrible, it’s easier to get tickets to games).

So, let’s take a look at the schedule, and try to predict all the games.

  • @ Auburn

It’s a neutral site game, but that site is down in Atlanta, so yeah, this is a road game for the Huskies and a home game for the Tigers.

I’ll say this:  I’m coming around to the idea of having this game played week 1.  I feel like the Huskies need every advantage they can get to steal this game, and having all off-season to prepare is a great start.  Also, wonky things can happen, as there’s no real tape on either of these teams.  That can go both ways though, as you figure this year’s Washington team will resemble last year’s team quite a bit, as far as schemes go.  We can use that to our advantage by pulling out all the stops, and I really hope we do.  Gadget plays, fake punts, you name it!

That having been said, I’m having a hard time seeing the Huskies pull this one out.  Unless Auburn is really overrated, it just feels like too much to go on the road and beat one of the best SEC teams of the season.  I think we can hang with them, I think we can make a good showing for our school and the Pac-12, but in the end I feel like the Huskies will need to run the ball tremendously to win this game, and I can’t envision a scenario where we blast it down their throats.  I think Same Ol’ Jake Browning shows up (you know, the one who’s incapable of winning a big game on his own, without the help of an insane rushing attack), and I think we start out a disappointing 0-1.

  • North Dakota

Easy bounce-back game against a creampuff.  This should be a 38-0 type of game.

  • @ Utah

Woof.  Pretty difficult early schedule for the Dawgs.  I’m hearing nothing but positive things for the Utes this year, so to also play this one on the road – just two weeks after that showdown in Atlanta – is doing us no favors.

I can promise you this:  the Huskies will NOT be 1-2 after three games.  I’m very confident we’ll be 2-1 (with an outside chance at 3-0), so either we lose to Auburn or Utah, but not both.  Given those odds, I’ll mark this down as a win, but I think it’ll be a very close game.

  • Arizona State

Revenge game, against a pushover opponent.  I don’t know WHAT they were thinking hiring Herm Edwards, but that looks like a Hindenburg Disaster waiting to happen.  This should be another home blowout.

  • BYU

Isn’t this fun?  Isn’t it fun to play some quality non-conference opponents?

I don’t have a good handle on what BYU is supposed to be this year, but I always peg them as a pretty big challenge regardless of who they’ve got on roster, since they usually have a pretty veteran group.  As such, I don’t expect this to be a walk-over by any stretch, but I think UW will win comfortably (maybe up over 2 scores by the end).

  • @ UCLA

If you had to ask me who the most over-rated college football programs are in the country, I’d put the Bruins pretty high on that list.  How many times are they rated super high – because they’re an L.A. school – only to greatly disappoint?  I guess you could say the downside here is that Jim Mora is gone, because PEE YOU does that guy suck at coaching.  Not only that, but Chip Kelly is back?!

That actually brought a shiver to my spine a little bit.

While I think it’s great for the conference (if terrible for the Huskies) to have a head coach like Chip Kelly back in the fold, I do think this will be a transition year for the Bruins.  As such, I would expect the Huskies to prevail in this one.  Mark us down for a record of 5-1 at the midway point in the season.

  • @ Oregon

We go from one Chip Kelly school to another.  Oregon is sans Kelly, but otherwise running his program, so I guess if you have to play both of these teams on the road, playing them back-to-back at least affords us the luxury of game-planning for two similar offenses.

The Huskies ended up missing both USC and Arizona, who I believe will be two of the better schools in the conference.  While I like Utah an awful lot, I don’t think they’ll ever get the national respect they’re due.  As such, I could see Washington’s schedule looking A LOT easier in retrospect, if some of these teams don’t pan out.

Oregon is supposed to be good this year.  Quarterback Justin Herbert is supposed to be a stud, and a potential first round NFL draft pick in 2019.  As such, I believe this game will be one of the most important of the season (and not just because Fuck Oregon).  I think this could be a lot like last year’s road game against Stanford, where the winner decides who is going to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

My concern lies not with our secondary – though I don’t think they’ll be perfect – but in our defensive line.  If Herbert has clean pockets, he could potentially pick us apart.  If they’re able to run for a good average, then he’s not going to need to beat us deep.  It’s the same strategy teams have used to move the ball on the Seahawks for so many years:  long sustained drives of dinking and dunking.  In the end, I think the Huskies slip up here; I just hope Oregon has enough losses on their record to let this not be the disaster I’m worried it’ll be.

  • Colorado

After Oregon, the schedule opens up and is a lot easier.  3 of our final 5 are at home, with the road games not looking too dire.  I think Colorado will be bad this year and we’ll take out our frustration on them.

  • @ California

I’m hearing good things out of the Bears, but I think they’re a year or two away from being good again.  While they might put up a fight, I think the Huskies take this one as well.

  • Stanford

They’re ranked #13 in both polls right now, but I don’t think Stanford will be ranked by the time we play them in November.  I think they’re set for a VERY disappointing season and I don’t think this game will be very competitive at all.  Huskies roll.

  • Oregon State

Save our two worst games for last, as the Beavs look like one of the worst teams in the conference.  Easy win for the Dawgs.

  • @ Washington State

If the Beavs aren’t the worst, the Cougs will be.  The Apple Cup is in Pullman this year, but we’ll be bringing it back home to Seattle without any trouble.

***

So, I’ve got the Huskies as a 10-2 team, 8-1 in the Pac-12.  Is 8-1 good enough to win the Pac-12 North?  Well, the way I see it, our only competition is Oregon.  The Ducks miss USC and Colorado.  They host Stanford at the end of September for their first conference matchup; I’ll be rooting HARD for the Cardinal in that one.  They also obviously host the Huskies, which sucks.

The toughest stretch of games for the Ducks (outside of [email protected] Cal-BYE-Washington) will be @ [email protected] Utah (they close out with creampuffs against ASU and OSU).  If the Huskies end up losing to Oregon like I predict, then we’re going to need them to lose at least 2 games against those three teams if we want to represent the Pac-12 North.  I dunno, I have my doubts.  I hope I’m wrong.

If 8-1 is good enough to win the Pac-12 North, I’m going out on a limb to say that Arizona wins the Pac-12 South.  It’s one of those things where you probably would rather see USC – as it looks better beating them, from a national perspective – but I just believe the Wildcats are the better team.  I think we CAN beat them (we certainly SHOULD beat them) so I’ll predict that as a win now.

The question boils down to:  is 11-2, a conference title, a tough-looking non-conference schedule, and wins over Utah, Arizona, Stanford, and BYU enough to get us into a 4-team playoff?

Probably not.  It obviously gets us into a major bowl, but if things go the way I think they’ll go, we won’t be playing for a National Championship in 2018.

So, since the season hasn’t started yet, exactly how huge is this Auburn game?  Are we playing for our playoff lives right out of the gate?

In a way, yes!  I think, from a national perspective, everyone is super down on the Pac-12.  Teams have new coaching staffs in place, the L.A. schools are breaking in new QBs.  There’s a lot of transition right now.  I think the Huskies are deemed to be the best team by far in the Pac-12, and everyone else is at least a tier or two below us.  We’re the great hope!  We’re the ONLY hope!  Outside of someone running the table out of nowhere, the only team that figures to have a shot at the playoffs resides in Seattle.

That having been said, I just can’t EVER see a 2-loss Pac-12 team making the NCAA playoffs (probably not until we expand to 8 teams, anyway).  So, either the Huskies win this game on Saturday – and put ourselves squarely in the driver’s seat for that spot – or we lose that game and have to run the table to get back into the top 4.

If we run the table and go into the post-season with only 1 loss to a quality SEC team on the road, that’s a no-brainer playoff bid.  If we end up with 2 losses, a number of things have to happen.

For starters, we need to beat Stanford AND Oregon.  An ideal scenario where the Huskies have 2 losses and still make the playoffs features us probably losing on the road to a very good Utah team.  Starting 1-2 is never good, but it’s probably something we can overcome if we win out.  Even then, we probably need USC to be the champs in the Pac-12 South and have to beat them in the championship game.  That’s asking a lot.

I’d much rather the Huskies just beat Auburn now, and have a loss they can save for later in the season.  Any way you slice it, I think a 1-loss Husky team that also beats Auburn makes it into the playoffs (even if we somehow get locked out of the Pac-12 championship).

***

This has the feel of a grim assessment of the 2018 Huskies; like I’m writing them off before the season even starts.  I’d just like to say that I STILL think this is an elite college football team.  I’m trying to be realistic is all.

It’s so hard to run the table in college football.  Hell, even teams like Alabama slip up here and there!  Some weeks, things just aren’t going to go your way.  You make too many mistakes on offense, another team’s defense gets lucky with turnovers, the refs call some crazy penalties; you just never know what’s going to happen.

I feel like 10-2 is the sensible prediction for this Husky team.  It’s safe.  Barring a ton of unforeseen injuries to key players, it’s probably unrealistic to expect anything LESS than 10 wins this regular season.  If I’m setting the bar low, just know that this “low” bar is still double-digit wins, which is amazing.

I also feel like the sky is the limit for this team.  Beating Auburn FEELS like a longshot, but isn’t impossible.  We’ll have to execute.  Guys will have to step up and make plays.  But, we’re as healthy as we’re ever going to be, so it’s our best shot against theirs, and I have no problem recognizing this team’s potential.  Jake Browning COULD shock me.  Our running backs are pretty elite; it’s not insane to think they’d be able to run at will.  I fully expect one or two of these receivers to come out of nowhere to blow my mind!  And we’re so fast and strong across the board on defense that there’s no reason to expect we’ll be pushed around in this or any game, SEC or no SEC.

If I had to put a percentage on the Auburn game, I’d say it’s 55% Auburn, 45% Washington.  So, you know, close.  Almost a coin flip.

And, of course, if we win that game, the complexion of this season shifts in an instant.  We have to be seen as the favorites in every other game we’re involved in through the regular season.  While I have to believe we still lose one of these Pac-12 games, I won’t entirely rule out a 12-0 season.  Not entirely.  Some flukey shit will have to happen, but everything about this program is special.  The coaches, the players, everything.

I can’t wait.

My Way-Too-Late Seahawks 53-Man Roster Prediction

What is this, a day before the final pre-season game?  Yeah, let’s go out there on that limb and predict the 53-man roster for the Seahawks.

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

Obviously we all know the starter here.  My gut tells me that the actual backup QB will be Austin Davis, but I’m gonna go with what my eyes have seen.  They’ve seen a guy in Davis who has done absolutely nothing through three pre-season games, while they’ve seen a guy in McGough who has steadily improved every time he’s gone out there.  Now, it hasn’t translated into wins, but that’s neither here nor there.  I think you can waive Davis and he’ll just be sitting out there collecting dust.  With McGough, you can PROBABLY get him onto your practice squad, but that also risks him to other teams’ practice squads as well (particularly if they have less certain QB situations).  I’d rather go with the guy who can be a viable long-term solution to the backup QB spot (with potential to be trade bait if/when we get to his 4th season).

I guess forget all that, because the Seahawks just traded for Hundley.  SOMEONE GOT CAUGHT PRE-WRITING A 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION POST!

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • C.J. Prosise
  • Mike Davis
  • Tre Madden

I just can’t see the team holding onto someone like McKissic who could be out for up to a month.  They could IR him, but that seems like a waste.  I honestly think they just cut him and try to re-sign him when he’s healthy, or at least on the way.  But, with concerns about Penny and Prosise, I find it hard to believe they’re keeping McKissic over Davis, and I find it hard to believe they’re keeping a 6th RB when they have plenty of guys on this team who can return kicks in a pinch (should Lockett go down).  McKissic isn’t someone you HAVE to have, especially considering he’s pretty undersized too and as such will come with his own injury concerns going forward.

Wide Receivers

  • Doug Baldwin
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaron Brown
  • Brandon Marshall
  • David Moore
  • Marcus Johnson

I don’t think Darboh is a guy you have to keep either.  Honestly, I don’t see why you couldn’t sneak him onto the practice squad; what has he ever done in his 1+ years that makes him attractive to other teams?  No loss, in my book, if he does go somewhere else; David Moore will be a better pro, so it’s all good.  I like Johnson’s potential on special teams and as a deep threat should Lockett get injured.  I like Marshall to be that red zone, Jimmy Graham-type target (I also like Marshall to be more effective between the 20’s; I just like Marshall a lot).

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

I think Ed Dickson stays on the PUP.  Part of me wonders if he’ll get cut entirely, but that seems far less likely given his contract.  But, that injury appears to be legit enough to hold him out for 6 more weeks.  Also, I have a feeling the team would much rather go after some other team’s cut tight end, so if Dickson does remain on the PUP, Swoopes is no guarantee.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • George Fant
  • Jordan Roos
  • Isaiah Battle
  • Rees Odhiambo

I think Jamarco Jones goes on IR.  I think Sweezy gets cut because he just can’t get healthy and stay on the field.  I think the team would be fine with Pocic at center if Britt goes down (so there’s no point in keeping Hunt).  And, ultimately I think Ifedi keeps his job as the team’s right tackle to start the season, but it’s no guarantee he starts all 16 games even if he stays healthy.

Defensive Line

  • Frank Clark
  • Rasheem Green
  • Branden Jackson
  • Jacob Martin
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Tom Johnson
  • Jarran Reed
  • Naz Jones
  • Shamar Stephen
  • Poona Ford

For the record, I think it’s a longshot that this team actually keeps Poona Ford, but I like him and I want to see him make this team.  I also think it would speak volumes about this team wanting to actually stop the run like they always say they want to.  And, I think there could be a surprise cut from these 10; someone who has looked really good this pre-season, but maybe for whatever reason the coaches think is expendable (Quinton Jefferson or Shamar Stephen come to mind).  I also think Dion Jordan starts the year on PUP.

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Barkevious Mingo
  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Erik Walden

I’m probably least confident in my prediction of this group, all things considered.  Especially if K.J. Wright’s knee issue is worse than they’re letting on, it might force them to keep an extra linebacker, which would surely take away from the DL group.  D.J. Alexander is obviously a name to watch, as he’s a huge special teams guy.  And, I’d say Austin Calitro has earned an opportunity to be a backup to Bobby.  If any of my picks is NOT likely to make the team, I’d look at Walden (though I think as strictly a pass rusher, the team probably NEEDS him the most, and should look to shift him to that LEO end spot that Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril played).

Cornerbacks

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Justin Coleman
  • Tre Flowers
  • Dontae Johnson
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Byron Maxwell

I am less certain by the day that Byron Maxwell actually makes this team.  Now, that having been said, if you’re okay with anyone missing the entire pre-season and coming in to start day 1, I’d probably be most okay with that person being Maxy, but nevertheless it’s not a good sign.  That having been said, I don’t think anyone on this roster has set himself apart to steal that job from the trusty veteran (Akeem King might be closest, but he’s no sure thing).  I guess a lot of it depends on whether or not the Seahawks keep 5 safeties or only 4.

Safeties

  • Bradley McDougald
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Delano Hill
  • Maurice Alexander

Obviously, Kam goes on IR here, and Earl maintains his holdout well into the regular season.  I just don’t see a whole lot of reason to keep a fifth safety unless he’s a huge special teams guy, and I think you’ve already got Neiko to play that role.  If there is a fifth guy, I guess it’s Mike Tyson, but I don’t see this team bending over backwards to keep him on the roster.  He’s always struck me as just a guy.  He’s certainly not someone you’d have to keep over someone like Maxwell.