The Approximately-Midseason Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Slowly but surely, we’re narrowing in on something approaching a consensus of who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s in the middle (spoiler alert:  a lot of teams are in the middle).  Let’s get going:

  • Philadelphia (7-1)
  • Kansas City (6-2)
  • Seattle (5-2)
  • New England (6-2)
  • Pittsburgh (6-2)
  • Minnesota (6-2)
  • L.A. Rams (5-2)
  • New Orleans (5-2)

The only change to my Elite Eight was swapping out Houston for New Orleans.  I hate to admit it, but the Saints look pretty okay!  All they’ve ever needed is quasi-competence on defense, and it appears they have it.  In an underwhelming NFC South, that should be all that’s required to run away with it.  Also, an impressive Monday Night win to get the Chiefs back on track.  Of course, I’m higher on the Seahawks than most, and they just got a living, breathing left tackle, so WATCH OUT AMERICA!  Like the rest of you, I can’t wait for the Philly/Seattle game on Sunday Night in December.  NBC is SO lucky they got that one.

  • Dallas (4-3)
  • Houston (3-4)
  • Buffalo (5-2)
  • Atlanta (4-3)
  • Detroit (3-4)
  • Washington (3-4)
  • Carolina (5-3)
  • L.A. Chargers (3-5)

I’ll be curious to see how the Cowboys handle not having Ezekiel Elliott (assuming his suspension sticks).  I still like the Texans an awful lot and think they’re poised to rip off a bunch of wins in a row.  Can’t deny Buffalo’s grit and determination; too bad it’ll all be for naught.  A rebuilding program CLEARLY in the market for a new quarterback (even though they already have a good one in Tyrod Taylor) doesn’t need a meaningless playoff appearance.  I’ve hated the hiring of Sark in Atlanta from day 1, and from the looks of things the rest of the fanbase is right there with me.  I also sort of think the Panthers are frauds and will finish right around .500.  Finally, I think the Chargers have been ridiculously unlucky with a pretty difficult schedule, and are better than their record indicates.

  • Oakland (3-5)
  • Denver (3-4)
  • Tennessee (4-3)
  • Jacksonville (4-3)
  • Baltimore (4-4)
  • N.Y. Jets (3-5)
  • Tampa Bay (2-5)
  • Green Bay (4-3)

The eight most disappointing teams in the NFL?  I know I was pretty high on Oakland and Tennessee.  A lot of other people were pretty high on Denver and Baltimore.  We all got suckered in by Hard Knocks with the Bucs.  You’re a fool if you didn’t like Green Bay heading into the season; who could’ve seen A-Rod suffering another collarbone injury?  And the Jets are disappointing for the wrong reasons:  winning ANY games when they should be tanking for the draft.  The Jags are in a similar boat, but their defense looks like it’ll be legit for years to come.

  • Cincinnati (3-4)
  • N.Y. Giants (1-6)
  • Miami (4-3)
  • Arizona (3-4)
  • Chicago (3-5)
  • Indianapolis (2-6)
  • San Francisco (0-8)
  • Cleveland (0-8)

I’ve never been a huge Dalton fan, but how did the rest of the Bengals get so mediocre?  I could see, with the pressure totally off, the Giants at least playing better football, even if their schedule dictates they’ll likely be drafting in the Top 5 next year.  The Dolphins are a bunch of total frauds.  The Cards are fucked without Palmer and better hope their defense carries them in a big way.  The Bears have a dominant defense, but are getting nothing from their rookie QB.  The Colts are a huge mess.  As are the 49ers and Browns, but why do I get the feeling the 49ers are more capable of bouncing back next year (particularly with newcomer Jimmy Garoppolo)?

Predicting The 2016 NFL Season

Still my favorite post of the year!  Still don’t care how wrong I am!  Still got love for the streets, repping 253!  Still not loving police!  And so on and so forth …

Last year, I had the Seahawks over the Colts in the Super Bowl.  I got something like 2 division winners right, and maybe only half of the playoff participants.  And I had some MIND-BOGGLING picks, like the Rams & Lions & Dolphins in the Wild Card, and the Chiefs over the Broncos and Ravens over the Bengals as division winners.  In short, it was all bad; so let’s try to do better.  As usual, I’ll refrain from predicting actual records, and just list the teams in order of where they’ll finish in the standings in their respective divisions.

NFC East

NY Giants

I got the Redskins on a big ol’ come-up!  Mostly because I think Scot McCloughan is a roster genius and has turned around every franchise he’s put his hands on.  Their offense improved greatly over the course of the 2015 season and should play well going forward as long as Cousins stays healthy.  I think they’ll find just enough on defense to stay in games.  And, I think the Cowboys and ESPECIALLY the Eagles will be pretty bad this year.  Gods and clods in this division, as I have the Giants taking the next step and returning to the playoffs as a wild card.  I figure 9-7 should be good enough in this NFC to nab a 6th seed.

NFC North

Green Bay

You hate to put all your hopes on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, but that’s essentially what I’m doing with the Vikings this year.  Granted, I don’t think he’s great, but I think he is good at limiting mistakes and playing within the flow of the offense.  With the team around him, I think he’s worth an extra 1-2 wins over his counterparts (in this case, Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford).  I just think Hill is doomed to get hurt at some point, and Bradford has the misfortune of not having practiced with the team all offseason.  Both guys are clear steps down compared to Bridgewater, which I think relegates this team to 7 or 8 wins at most.  That puts Green Bay in the driver’s seat by default, and a real contender for the top two spots in the NFC.  I like Detroit to play good offense and poor defense, and I like Chicago to play good defense and poor offense.

NFC South

Tampa Bay
New Orleans

This feels remarkably easy, but Carolina is simply the most complete team in the division, period.  I think the Bucs take a big step forward this year – especially on offense – and I think they contend for that 6th seed, but I think they ultimately fall short on tie-breakers.  I don’t expect much out of Atlanta’s offense again this year, and I think their defense is considerably worse.  I think the Saints do enough on offense to win some games they should lose, but ultimately they need to do too much on defense to be competitive this year.  Maybe 2017.

NFC West

San Francisco
Los Angeles

This is the homer coming out in me.  By all rights, the Cardinals should repeat as division champs – they’re just as good as they were last year, if not better in certain areas, AND they have the easier schedule, by dodging Tom Brady and playing the Vikings instead of the Packers – but I just think the Seahawks are hungrier.  I also think the Seahawks are going to get off to a really hot start this year.  Combine that with the fact that Palmer is due for another devastating injury (with the outside chance that his psyche never recovers from that playoff dismantling by the Panthers last year), and let’s just say I’m hedging my bets by having the Cards make the wild card at something like 10-6.

Not for nothing, but I also think the Rams take a HUGE step back this year.  I think the 49ers shock some people – as they have the most negative hype I’ve seen in recent memory – and I think the Rams do so poorly that they have no choice but to fire Jeff Fisher and company (in spite of his recent contract extension).  I just think they can’t afford to waste Goff’s prime on a nothing coaching staff and will look to shake things up by bringing in the hottest offensive coordinator on the market this upcoming offseason (whoever that may be).

AFC East

New England
NY Jets

Keep picking the Pats until the end of time!  You want a shocker (and the clubhouse leader for the pick I’m likeliest to get wrong)?  I got Buffalo FINALLY breaking their streak as the team with the longest playoff drought!  I like Tyrod Taylor a lot, I like a desperate Rex Ryan, and I like how nobody’s giving this team a shot.  I think 9-7 (with tiebreakers) does it.  I don’t think Fitzpatrick has another year like 2015 in him, and he proves why paying guys like him $12 million per year is a fool’s errand.  I think Tannehill improves with Adam Gase as his head coach, but I don’t think it’s enough, as this team is pretty weak and unimpressive in most areas outside of the D-Line.

AFC North


I like Roethlisberger to stay mostly healthy and put up huge numbers again.  I like the defense to do just enough, but the offense to ultimately carry them.  I think Andy Dalton takes a step back without Hue Jackson holding his hand.  I think Baltimore improves, but only to the 7 or 8-win range.  And, I think Cleveland gets another Top 5 draft pick to throw onto the pile.  Ultimately, I think the Bengals fall short of making the playoffs, with potential coaching casualties following.

AFC South


I think Brock Osweiler is a VAST improvement over all the QBs Houston had on their roster last year, and with the talent around him (particularly Lamar Miller’s breakout year), and that defense behind him, is enough to get them to 10 or 11 wins.  The key for Osweiler is to limit turnovers.  If he can do that (the way Hoyer & Co. could not), the sky is the limit for this team.  I like Jacksonville to take a big step forward and really contend for a wild card spot, but I think they’re probably another year away.  I’m also concerned about Bortles regressing, but I’ll avoid that conversation for now, as I’m counting on him in Fantasy to lead me to glory this year and beyond.  I think Indy is a trainwreck, and no amount of Andrew Luck will be able to carry this team to the playoffs, in what is a vastly improved division.  I think the Titans give the Colts a run for their money, but ultimately fall just short (because the Titans have garbage coaching, and no weapons on offense outside of TE).

AFC West

Kansas City
San Diego

I like the Chiefs for 12 wins and one of the top 2 seeds.  I like Oakland to be the team to make the jump into the other Wild Card spot.  I like Denver for about 8 wins (never thought their defense alone would be enough to carry them back into the post-season).  And, I like the Chargers to be playing in a city outside of San Diego in 2017.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. NY Giants

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I like the Seahawks because I’m a homer, and I like the Packers over the other three teams because I think they have the most favorable schedule (AFC South & NFC East are the divisions they have to play, while catching Seattle, Houston, Indy, and the Giants at home, and playing garbage Atlanta thanks to their 2nd place divisional schedule).

I like New England because they’re New England.  I like the Chiefs because I think they’re balanced and poised to take that next step.

Wild Card Round

Washington over NY Giants
Carolina over Arizona
Houston over Buffalo
Oakland over Pittsburgh

Divisional Round

Seattle over Carolina
Green Bay over Washington
New England over Oakland
Kansas City over Houston

Championship Round

Seattle over Green Bay
Kansas City over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Kansas City

What can I say?  I like me some Seahawks, and I like me some Super Bowls against AFC West opponents!

Why Russell Wilson Is One Of The Four Best Quarterbacks In The NFL Right Now

This post is going to be COMPLETELY subjective and COMPLETELY drenched in my homerizzm, but I don’t care.

I think Russell Wilson is pretty great at football.  If you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably agree.  I also think we’re just scratching the surface of Russell Wilson’s greatness.  Based on the second half of his 2015 season, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably also agree.

Why do I think Russell Wilson is one of the four best quarterbacks in the NFL?  It’s quite simple:  I can’t think of more than three quarterbacks in the league for whom I’d be willing to trade our franchise guy.  For the sake of this exercise, I should point out that I’m including age and experience in this thing, but I’m not really all that focused on the size of the contract or anything like that.  This is a simple one-for-one swap:  would I rather have Russell Wilson for however many remaining years of his career (probably well over 10 more years, if everything goes well health-wise), or would I rather have Player X?  It’s not as simple as:  you have one year, who is your starting quarterback?  It’s also not as simple as:  who had the best 2015 season?  This is, going forward, who would you be willing to have start for your team in place of Russell Wilson?

Also, for the sake of argument, let’s forget about all the growing pains of bringing in a new guy, having him learn the system, having him build a rapport with the players, and so on.  Let’s just assume, whoever you trade for, will know our system and will get along with the players as well as Wilson has.

To fulfill the “experience” and “quality” requirements, I chopped off over half of the league’s starters from last year.  None of the 2016 rookies interest me whatsoever when compared to Wilson.  Guys like Bortles, Mariota, and Winston are all very interesting, but they’re obviously not at the level of quality or experience that Wilson has.  Tyrod Taylor is another interesting name, but I’m going to need more than 14 games started before I can take you seriously as a Wilson replacement.  Osweiler is yet another interesting name, who’s had many years backing up a hall of famer, but only in 2015 was given the opportunity to start real, regular season games.  Carr, with the Raiders, is the last of the young’uns I left off of my list.  He looks every part the gunslinger that team has desperately needed for ages, but I just can’t quite put trust in any belief that his ceiling is higher than Wilson’s until I’ve seen it first.

The next group of candidates have the experience, but are lacking in the quality department, and have been left off for what I feel are obvious reasons.  Foles, Kaepernick/Gabbert, Cutler, Stafford, Bradford, Alex Smith, Dalton, Flacco, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, and anyone else I didn’t list above, who deserve to remain nameless because they suck.  I may get blowback on guys like Dalton, Stafford, and maybe even Cutler, but those guys have showed me absolutely nothing outside of a season here and there.  They can’t consistently stay out of their own way and they tend to shit the bed when it matters most.  To be honest, Joe Flacco is probably my favorite of this bunch; I think he’d fit in quite well with what the Seahawks like to do on offense (run the ball, play action deep passes), but there’s no way in hell I’m trading Wilson for him.

That brings me to the realistic candidates.  Quarterbacks who have the ability to play at an elite level, but for various reasons I’d rather not give up Wilson for them.  Let’s start with Tom Brady, because that’s obviously the name everyone puts at or near the top of any list of the world’s best quarterbacks.  Yes, obviously, if I had one season and I wanted to win a championship, I’d consider trading Wilson for Brady.  But, Brady is going to be 39 years old this August.  While he’s still playing at an elite level this deep into his career, how many more years can you reasonably expect him to squeeze out, let alone at that aforementioned elite level?  Two?  MAYBE three?  Remember, at age 37, Peyton Manning had the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of the game.  Two seasons later, it looks like he’s played his last down.  I’m not trading upwards of a decade or more of Russell Wilson for 1-2 more quality Brady years, sorry-not-sorry (people still say that, right?).

Same story for Brees.  He’s got a lot of mileage and I’m not wasting a guy in his prime for a guy who will be out of the league soon.

Next up, I’m going to lump in guys like Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Of all the quarterbacks playing today, Roethlisberger might be playing at the highest level (doesn’t hurt he’s got the weapons he’s got).  But, all three of these guys are injury risks, which makes them older – in an NFL sense – than their actual ages.  All are quality passers, but I just don’t think I’d ever trade Wilson for them.

Then, there’s Eli.  He’s started every single game for the Giants since the start of the 2005 season; no injury concerns there.  He’s going into his age 35 season, so you figure if things continue to go as well as they have, he’s probably got another good 5 years or so.  I just don’t think, as a quarterback, he’s as good as Wilson (and that’s not even taking into account my opinion that Wilson will only get better as these next few years go on).  Matt Ryan is another guy who’s been pretty durable, and when he’s got a good team around him, he’s shown he’s a franchise guy.  But, like Eli, I don’t think Ryan is nearly the calibre of passer as Wilson.  I mean, let’s face it, Wilson has done a lot of good with what’s been a pretty poor pass-protection unit.  Ryan falls apart at the first instance of pressure!  No thank you.

Philip Rivers is the last guy in this section, and he’s one I honestly sort of agonized over.  He’s been on some pretty terrible and injury-riddled teams of late.  One wonders what he’d be able to do on a legitimately great team like the Seahawks.  He can go out and win you a shoot-out if need be.  He can slow it down and play the high-percentage, short passing game.  He’s not that mobile, but he’s lightning-quick in his decision-making.  My only knock against him is that he tends to be a little too reckless with the football.  Not as bad as Cutler, or some of these other guys lower on the list, but it’s still a concern.  He’ll also be 35 years old by season’s end this year, so there’s fewer seasons to look forward to with him, compared to Wilson.

Of the players I feel are of equal or greater value to Wilson, I can count only three.

Andrew Luck is a guy I think, when it’s all said and done, will be a Hall of Famer.  He needs to learn to get hit less on his scrambles, but it would also help if he had a better offensive line (Indy’s line makes Seattle’s look like the Hogs from the 80s).  I still see a long and fruitful career for Luck; don’t forget, he’s largely been carrying that team with not a lot of talent around him.  Imagine what he’d do on a stacked Seahawks team!  Right now, I’d probably rank Wilson ahead of Luck, but I wouldn’t be totally devastated if they were swapped straight up.

Next up, obviously, when you talk about the world’s greatest quarterbacks, you’re talking about Aaron Rodgers.  A-Rod will be 33 years old by season’s end, but who gives a shit?  He’s another Hall of Famer, and another guy who should play into his 40s when all is said and done.  I think, until Wilson really starts to pour it on (i.e. turns the second half of his 2015 season into many multiple FULL seasons in the future), you have to rank A-Rod ahead of him.  Even though I think he’s a collosal douche, I’d trade Wilson for him straight up.

Finally, there’s Cam.  No one wants to hear it, because everyone outside of Carolina hates Cam (and/or spends way too much time defending him when he acts like an immature little crybaby), but the dude is a straight-up baller, and not just with his legs (although, it doesn’t hurt that he’s so good running with the football).  One wonders how his body will handle all the hits long-term, but I think his running ability will last a lot longer than Wilson’s (who I feel will slide into more of a pocket passer role the more he gets comfortable reading pre-snap defenses).  Like Luck, I don’t know if Cam is necessarily BETTER than Wilson, but he’s certainly on par, and he’s young enough, and he’s carried sub-par teams to winning records/playoff appearances for multiple seasons.  From a fan standpoint, I’d probably prefer Luck to Cam, but from strictly a player standpoint, I think I could be talked into taking Cam over Luck.  Talk to me again in a year or two and that statement might look batshit crazier than it already does, but that’s how I feel right now, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate (if it wasn’t already clear) that I think Russell Wilson is great and I don’t necessarily want to trade him for anyone in the league.  But, if I HAD to, I’d only accept A-Rod, Cam, or Luck, in that order.  Anyone else, I feel, would be beneath what Russell Wilson has to offer over the course of the rest of his career in this league.

Are We Sure The Seahawks Are Good?

To borrow the oft-used question from the Bill Simmons podcast.

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer this year; indeed, I’m usually much more chipper during the holiday season.  But, I guess that’s why it’s my favorite time of year:  you’re surrounded by countless reasons to be happy – the lights, the music, the buying of presents, the receiving of presents – and yet there’s an undercurrent of overwhelming misery.  Thinking back on the year that was, thinking about our own mortality, getting dumped on with rain, being forced to spend time with one’s extended family.  The older you get, and the more loved ones you lose, the more you reflect back on how great things used to be decades ago, when you were a child and your only care in the world was making it to Christmas Break and going crazy for a week of no-school/new-presents mania.

Such is life as a Seahawks fan right now.  There are SO MANY reasons to be happy – we’re playing better than we have since around this time last year, we just clinched our fourth consecutive playoff berth (and fifth in the 6-year run of Pete Carroll), we’re in a great position to possibly lock down the 5th seed and maybe even get a chance to rest some players in Week 17 – but it’s not too hard to take a step back and reflect upon what’s not so great.  Last week, I was moaning about the loss of Thomas Rawls, which was a brutal blow to this team’s depth and my fantasy team’s chances of going anywhere in the playoffs; this week, we’re coming off of another blowout victory of a terrible team – a 30-13 rout of the Browns in front of the hometown 12’s – and I can’t help coming away somewhat underwhelmed.

I know it feels like I’m grasping at straws, looking for any and every reason to be down, or worried, or whatever.  But, I think there’s a real red flag about this team that’s getting glossed over as we beat up on the dregs of NFL society.  I’m sure happier, more secure individuals would dismiss me as a hopeless neurotic.  On the one hand, you can look at the last three games – dominant victories over the injury-riddled Vikings, Ravens, and Browns – and see three bumbling saps; or, you can look at those games as the superior Seahawks doing what they’re supposed to do to inferior competition.  I get that.  I’m sure I’ve even said it before:  I’ve seen these very same Seahawks do worse against worse teams.  A win is still a win, and it’s still difficult to win in the NFL, even if you’re facing teams who are playing for relatively little.  I know it’s hard to lump the Vikings in there with the Ravens and Browns, considering the Vikings are as close to locked into the playoffs as they get, but let’s be realistic here:  the Vikings are not going to do a damn thing in the playoffs.  From this point forward, with the playoffs a formality, I’m looking at our chances to win the Super Bowl.  And, from that standpoint, you might as well lump the Vikings in with everyone else on the outside looking in, because they just don’t have what it takes this year.

The 2015 Seahawks have played exactly six teams that are legitimate playoff contenders:  the Packers, Bengals, Panthers, Cardinals, Steelers, and Vikings.  The 2015 Seahawks are 2-4 in those games.  Aside from the Vikings, I wouldn’t rule out any of those teams as true championship contenders (unless Andy Dalton’s thumb never heals, then you can probably rule out the Bengals).  For as crappy as the Packers have looked in recent weeks, they still have Aaron Rodgers.  For as wimpy as their schedule has been, the Panthers are still undefeated and have beaten both championship contenders they’ve played (including that game in Seattle we won’t discuss further).  And I don’t know anyone who’d be happy to face the offenses of the Cards, Steelers, or Bengals with a healthy Dalton in the playoffs.

The point is, when we get to the playoffs, there really won’t be any more easy games, and the shit can hit the fan at any time.  The one ray of hope you can point to is at least the Seahawks have been competitive in all their games, and have still held a lead at some point in the fourth quarter in all their games.  Indeed, one shouldn’t go into any of these do-or-die affairs expecting the Seahawks to lose.  But, there’s enough reasons to worry that the Seahawks might struggle, and get snakebitten in the end.

The Seahawks are 2-4 in one-score games this year.  And, even if you factor in the loss to the Packers by 10 points, you can point to a certain amount of bad luck that’s (hopefully) bound to turn around going forward.  Injuries should always be a concern this time of year, but even if you project these Seahawks to be there for us come January (with a possible return of Marshawn Lynch), there’s reason for doubt.

The secondary just isn’t as dominant as it once was.  In years past, these Browns and Ravens teams wouldn’t have been able to move the ball nearly as effectively through the air.  When you look at teams like the Packers, Panthers, and Cardinals, these are teams that can sling it with the best of ’em (and that’s not even factoring in whoever comes out of the AFC, which is riddled with quality quarterback play).

I would also argue that the Seahawks have yet to find that steady third pass rushing option behind Avril & Bennett.  In 2013, we were blessed with the reasonable contract of Chris Clemons coming from that LEO position.  This year, I dunno.  I’m probably way off base and the in-depth stats show Bruce Irvin is that guy and then some, but to my untrained eye he still strikes me as a guy who’s a force to be reckoned with one week, and then disappears for games at a time.  Maybe his hurries and QB hits and whatnot are up to snuff, but it’s not really something that’s standing out.  To be a championship team, and cover for a weakened secondary, we’re going to need that third guy to stand out.  Maybe it’ll be Irvin, maybe it’ll be some combination of him, Clark, and/or a blitzing linebacker.  But, we’ve got to make life miserable for the likes of A-Rod, Palmer, and Newton if we expect to go on the road and beat those guys.

Offensively, there’s a lot to like right now.  Russell Wilson is continuing to play out of his mind, Doug Baldwin has made it his mission to take ALL the touchdowns, and Tyler Lockett is that big play threat we haven’t had since Golden Tate signed with Detroit (and when you factor in his superior speed, I’d argue that Lockett might be even better than Tate).  The running game chugged on apace with the return of Christine Michael taking the lion’s share of the committee’s carries yesterday (84 yards on a 5.3 yard per carry average).  Still, when you look at the playoff teams, you’re going to see a vast improvement in the quality of defensive play.  Their pass rushes will be more fierce, their pass coverage will be more stingy, and their run defense should tighten up.  The number to watch is third down conversions.  The Seahawks have been converting third downs at an impossible pace the last five weeks (something like 60+% I think).  If the defense does indeed struggle with the improved quality of opponents, we’re going to need our offense to keep rocking and rolling.  That means Russell Wilson needs to keep being Russell Wilson, and our offensive line needs to continue its improved play.

In the end, you never relish having to go on the road in the playoffs.  But, if you’re stuck, the way we are, then it’s nice being that Team No One Wants To Play.  I mean, in Carolina they have to be on cloud nine right now with the way their team has banded together and laid waste to their opposition.  But, how much of a kick in the dick is it going to be when their first-ever season as the #1 seed in the NFC sees them playing the Seahawks in the divisional round?  The top two seeds right now are those Panthers and Cardinals, but if you’re looking at quality of opponent, it’s almost like playing the Seahawks in the divisional round is akin to playing another top 2 team; whereas the Cardinals will get to host a very-flawed Packers team that I would put firmly in that second tier of opponents, to borrow a thought from Mike Pettine.

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings, The Third

We’re hitting the home stretch, with four weeks to go.  Playoff scenarios are taking shape, we’re weeding out the contenders from the pretenders, the dregs are tanking accordingly.  So, let’s get right to it with the top 8:

  • Denver:  10-2, last quarter:  #4, first quarter:  #4
  • Cincinnati:  10-2, #2, #3
  • New England:  10-2, #1, #1
  • Arizona:  10-2, #3, #7
  • Carolina:  12-0, #5, #11
  • Seattle:  7-5, #9, #6
  • Pittsburgh:  7-5, #10, #19

I’m sorry, but until Andy Dalton wins a big game at night, I can’t have him as the quarterback of my #1 team.  Considering they go to Denver in Week 16, that should be decided in spectacular fashion.  As for Denver, their defense is legit tops in the league.  They toppled the former #1, so they get to be #1.  The Patriots are just too banged up at too many spots.  Won’t keep them out of the playoffs – and it won’t prevent them from making a lot of noise in the playoffs since they should get a bunch of injured guys back by then – but for now they drop to third.  As for the NFC, I still like Zona over Carolina.  Fuck, Panthers, beat AH good team besides a struggling (at the time) Seahawks and an overrated Packers team.  I can’t WAIT to play the Panthers again in the playoffs, we’re going to destroy them like we usually do!  Pittsburgh rounds out the top 8 as long as Roethlisberger stays healthy.

  • Kansas City:  7-5, #19, #14
  • Minnesota:  8-4, #7, #13
  • Buffalo:  6-6, #14, #10
  • New York Jets:  7-5, #12, #8
  • Tampa Bay:  6-6, #29, #32
  • Indianapolis:  6-6, #15, #20
  • Washington:  5-7, #20, #16
  • New York Giants:  5-7, #13, #9

Quite the turnaround for the Chiefs to crack the Top 10.  I knew they weren’t as bad as their record indicated when they started out so shitty (they had the WORST schedule you could imagine), which probably means we shouldn’t have a ton of confidence in them now.  Can they beat a good team?  That’s the question we’ll be looking to answer as they make a Wild Card spot.  The Vikings are definitely better than what we saw last week against the Seahawks, but they’re also a fringe-quality team who will go nowhere in the post-season.  The Bills when healthy are pretty scary.  The Jets get knocked down for blowing that game against the Bills.  The Bucs make the BIGGEST leap, with Winston’s improved play.  Indy keeps plugging along in one of the worst divisions in football.  I’d really like the Redskins to NOT win the NFC East, so I don’t have to worry about one of the Seahawks tearing an ACL on their shitty field.  The Giants should be dominating that NFC East, but can’t seem to get out of their own way.

  • Chicago:  5-7, #22, #27
  • Oakland:  5-7, #11, #17
  • Houston:  6-6, #30, #29
  • Philadelphia:  5-7, #18, #25
  • Jacksonville:  4-8, #32, #30
  • Atlanta:  6-6, #17, #5
  • St. Louis:  4-8, #8, #12
  • Detroit:  4-8, #28, #21

Any of these teams could beat or lose to any of these teams on any given Sunday.  The Rams are the biggest fallers of the group, having gone 0-4 the last month.  Jacksonville, Houston, and Detroit won some games and improved their standing.  Jacksonville exclusively for that high-powered offense; Houston exclusively for their defense’s return to dominance.  Atlanta is trending WAY downward thanks to Matt Ryan and only Matt Ryan.  That’s all I’ve got for this group of trash.

  • Miami:  5-7, #21, #24
  • New Orleans:  4-8, #16, #22
  • San Francisco:  4-8, #23, #26
  • San Diego:  3-9, #26, #15
  • Tennessee:  3-9, #31, #31
  • Dallas:  4-8, #24, #23
  • Baltimore:  4-8, #25, #18
  • Cleveland:  2-10, #27, #28

Feels weird not having Jacksonville in the bottom spot, but I think Cleveland is as worthy as anyone.  They stink, their only good quarterback is out for the year, and they’re in full-on tank mode (just so they can waste yet another high draft pick on a loser).  Baltimore’s injury woes have finally extended to the quarterback position, as Flacco is missing the first games of his career.  Baltimore will do SO MUCH MORE with their draft pick at 5 or 6 than Cleveland will do with the top pick, mark it.  I think the Saints’ defense is the worst I’ve ever seen.  That’s all I’ve got.  Enjoy restocking the front office you blew up, Miami!

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings, Part Deux

A lotta movers and shakers in these rankings over the last 5 weeks!  And, a lotta stayers and stillers in these rankings, particularly at the very top and bottom.  We just finished week 9, so every team has played at least 8 games, and as such is either at or has surpassed the midpoint of the season.  As we head into Week 10, it’s a big, pivotal moment, both for the playoff hopefuls and the bottom-feeders looking to snag that #1 overall draft pick.

It’s also a big week for myself and a few buddies of mine.  We have a 3-year run of Tahoe trips for the first weekend of March Madness that should and hopefully will continue for the duration of our lives, until there is only one (last man standing has to move to Tahoe permanently, and gamble away his 401K in all of our honors … I haven’t discussed this with the rest of the fellas yet, but I’m sure they’ll be on board).  Well, this year, a few of us have opted to shoe-horn in a second Tahoe trip during the NFL season.  Why?  Because none of us know squat about betting on college basketball (the March trip is more a reason to get together and drink our brains out and lose large quantities of money … or hopefully shuffle money through the casinos and come home pretty close to even), but we DO have a pretty good handle on the NFL (or, at least we THINK we do).  As such, we opted for Week 10 to fly back down there.  Leave Friday in the evening, spend all day Saturday watching college football, drinking, and putting the finishing touches on all of our NFL bets, and then spend all day Sunday crying out in anguish as each and every one of our parlays goes down the toilet because Green Bay can’t cover a GOD DAMN SPREAD!

Pardon me.  I’m just trying to harden myself for the worst possible scenario.

Anyway, like I’ve said all along, if we lose big in the afternoon, we’ll just put all of our remaining cash on the Seahawks to beat the shit out of the Cardinals.  TALLY-HO!

  • New England:  8-0, last quarter’s rank: #1
  • Cincinnati:  8-0, #3
  • Arizona:  6-2, #7
  • Denver:  7-1, #4
  • Carolina:  8-0, #11
  • Green Bay:  6-2, #2
  • Minnesota:  6-2, #13
  • St. Louis:  4-4, #12

No question who the top two teams are.  I don’t know how you can’t be on board with Cincy’s legitimacy at this point; Andy Dalton has taken it up another notch, they’re loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and they’ve beaten enough good teams in tough situations (at Oakland and at Pittsburgh particularly) to eliminate any doubt.  Arizona gets a bump up to #3 simply because I feel if they were to play any of the teams below them on a neutral field, they’d most likely win.  Denver has flaws (particularly with a noodle-armed little so-and-so), Carolina gets a little disrespect here because Cam Newton is careless with the football and that offense is bound to be exposed by a quality defense, and Green Bay’s receivers have been exposed as guys who can’t get open with great regularity (not to mention their defense is who we thought they were).  Minnesota and St. Louis take the big leaps for having outstanding defenses and running games, with suspect quarterback play.  Those teams will make the playoffs IF their quarterbacks can eliminate mistakes.  We’ll see if they’ve got what it takes.

  • Seattle:  4-4, #6
  • Pittsburgh:  5-4, #19
  • Oakland:  4-4, #17
  • New York Jets:  5-3, #8
  • New York Giants:  5-4, #9
  • Buffalo:  4-4, #10
  • Indianapolis:  4-5, #20
  • New Orleans:  4-5, #22

Seattle gets bumped out of the Top 8 for blowing two more huge leads against the Bengals and Panthers, and for looking like respectable garbage in Dallas.  Time for them to shit or get off the pot; if they lose to the Cards, it’s going to be a grim finish.  Pittsburgh can’t seem to keep their quarterback or running backs on the field, but it looks like Ben Roethlisberger won’t be out for too long (if the Seahawks could avoid him in three weeks, that’d be amazing).  Oakland feels like they deserve to be higher, because their offense is a lot of fun.  But, their defense kinda stinks and the only quality win they have on their schedule is a home game against the Jets, where Geno Smith played the majority of the game.  Speaking of the Jets, still like their defense, but they’ve got holes.  If Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t stay healthy, it’s all over for them.  The Giants’ only quality win (if you can call it that) is a road win in Buffalo; plus their defense allowed 52 against Drew Brees a couple weeks ago.  Those Bills look pretty great when they play bad teams and Tyrod Taylor’s healthy; otherwise they look pretty mediocre.  Indy spent the whole season getting smashed by better teams until an impressive home win against the Broncos; Andrew Luck started looking like his old self again.  With a BYE week this week, his health should only continue to improve that’s just one less game the team will see him miss as he has a fucking LACERATED KIDNEY.  With a VERY soft schedule going forward, Indy’s playoff chances seem all but assured Indy’s playoff chances rest on Matt Hasselbeck’s very capable 40 year old hands.  The Saints are all offense and no defense.  As such, probably count them out of the playoffs (but they make for some very entertaining games nevertheless).

  • Atlanta:  6-3, #5
  • Philadelphia:  4-4, #25
  • Kansas City:  3-5, #14
  • Washington:  3-5, #16
  • Miami:  3-5, #24
  • Chicago:  3-5, #27
  • San Francisco:  3-6, #26
  • Dallas:  2-6, #23

Atlanta is your biggest dropper, as they’ve laid nothing but turds since the first quarter.  Good for the Seahawks (if we’re stuck rooting for a Wild Card), but bad for their playoff chances.  The best team the Falcons beat all year was the Giants; and they’ve lost two straight against the Bucs & 49ers with Blaine Gabbert.  So … that’s where they are.  The Eagles have a quarterback who can’t challenge you deep, so they’re pretty easy to stop (and ugly to watch); their best win was against the Jets.  The Chiefs had a brutal early schedule, and failed to take full advantage of the gooey middle.  Doesn’t get a whole lot easier the rest of the way; look for the Chiefs to finish right around .500.  Washington is a garbage team and it always surprises me when they ever win.  Miami got their head coach fired, then beat a couple duds, then got demolished on the road in New England and Buffalo.  They’re not going anywhere.  The Bears have looked a little spry lately, but their only impressive win was at home against the Raiders.  The 49ers have given up on Colin Kaepernick, and therefore their season.  Dallas is still waiting for Romo to return in week 11; they’ve gotten exactly zero help from their backup quarterbacks since he’s been gone.

  • Baltimore:  2-6, #18
  • San Diego:  2-7, #15
  • Cleveland:  2-7, #28
  • Detroit:  1-7, #21
  • Tampa Bay:  3-5, #32
  • Houston:  3-5, #29
  • Tennessee:  2-6, #31
  • Jacksonville:  2-6, #30

Baltimore’s defense is terrible and their best wide receiver is out for the year.  On the plus side, they have smart management and will make quality use of their Top 10 draft pick.  The Chargers’ defense is even worse, and their whole team is banged up.  The Browns are just bad, and don’t realize they should probably take the rest of the season to see what they have in Johnny Manziel.  The Lions are even worse somehow and will be cleaning house at season’s end.  The Bucs look a little better, but still lack a quality win, and their defense will always hold them back.  The Texans have as much of a right to be ranked #32 as anyone with their level of quarterback play this year.  Just when Brian Hoyer starts to suck me back in, he crushes all hope in south Texas.  The Titans just won a shootout against the Saints to get out of the bottom spot, but maybe that’s not such a huge feat given the crap quality of the Saints’ defense?  Also, the Titans got their head coach fired.  Finally, I’m putting the Jags back down in a familiar spot where they belong, as the worst team in the league.  I’d have to say it’s unfair, as the Bort has looked better this year, and they’ve been within one score in all but two games (Patriots and Panthers).  But, then again, no one ever said I was smart at this football thing.

Why am I going to Tahoe again?

YOUR Disappointing 2015 Seattle Seahawks

For the record, this season would be so much more easier to digest if the Seahawks had just beaten the Rams.

This team isn’t worthless.  Indeed, there are a lot of really good pieces on the Seahawks.  That’s why they were rated so high coming into the season, that’s why a lot of Vegas odds had them as the favorites to win it all.  But, I don’t much feel like praising the praise-worthy today.  I feel like getting down into the muck and ragging on the guys who aren’t doing their jobs quite as well.

And, I’m going to start with Bruce Irvin.  HOW MANY FUCKING TIMES do I have to watch him go one-on-one against another team’s left tackle, only to watch Irvin get fucking stonewalled every fucking time?  I don’t know where his pass-rushing ranks, compared to others at his position, because I refuse to pay for a subscription to Pro Football Focus, but I know he does a good amount of going after the quarterback, and all he’s gotten for us is 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 tackle for loss.

Remember how high our hopes were for him?  Bruce Irvin is playing on the final year of his contract.  Bruce Irvin bulked up to get stronger, while still preserving his speed.  Bruce Irvin was slighted by the team – who refused to pick up his 2016 Option Year for millions upon millions of dollars – and was supposed to use that to fuel a career-defining season of dominance!  Instead, the Seahawks are looking pretty savvy in not picking up his option!  I know the salary cap probably dictated the bulk of that decision, but if we’re going to continue to get fucking nothing out of this guy, I’d rather pay a lot less to a rookie and get similar (or probably a lot BETTER) production.  It’s been 5 games, Irvin.  It’s time to make an impact.

It’s even more disappointing, because Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril truly ARE having career years.  It may not show up in the sack totals (they have 5.0 sacks combined), but reports indicate they’re the most effective pass-rushing defensive ends in a 4-3 defense.  And, they certainly pass the eye test, as they’re almost constantly in the quarterback’s face the entire game.

Moving along, let’s talk about Richard Sherman.  I’m not going to say he’s been bad, but teams sure don’t seem to be afraid to throw his way this year.  And, teams are certainly completing more passes in his direction.  Hold that thought, because I’m not done with the secondary.

Earl Thomas.  He had a pretty fantastic interception yesterday to prevent a scoring drive and help initiate one for the Seahawks.  But, other than that, I’ve yet to see Earl Thomas take over a game the way we’ve all seen him take over games before.  Is he still favoring that shoulder?  Is he a little more cautious this year, in an attempt to stay healthy?  Again, hold that thought.

Kam Chancellor.  Yeah, it was fun to get you back for the Bears.  Shutting them out was nothing special, but that was a nice soft landing for someone who missed the entire training camp and pre-season.  And, yeah, you punched that ball out of Calvin Johnson’s hands to preserve our victory against the Lions on Monday Night.  But, I’m going to need to see this kind of effort on the road.  What the fuck happened on those two identical touchdown plays to Tyler Eifert?  If he’s not your responsibility, then you need to make sure you’ve got someone to cover him up the field!

Remember when our secondary, the Legion of Boom, would make good quarterbacks look mediocre, and would make mediocre quarterbacks look like they belonged in the CFL?

  • Nick Foles – 297 yards, 67% completions, 1 TD, 0 INT, 115.8 rating
  • Aaron Rodgers – 249 yards, 76% completions, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 116.9 rating
  • Matthew Stafford – 203 yards, 69% completions, 0 TDs, 0 INT, 83.4 rating
  • Andy Dalton – 331 yards, 68% completions, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 95.9 rating

If you throw out the scrub the Bears had to start due to injuries, the Seahawks are making all of these guys look like MVPs every damn week!  Where are the interceptions?  Where are the passes defended?  Quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton used to have the worst games of their careers against the Seahawks.  Now, it’s like we’ve been figured out.  Either that, or we’ve got a secondary full of guys getting paid a lot of money, and they’re no longer hungry like they were when they were on their first contracts.

YOU CAN’T ONLY BE GOOD AT HOME!  Defense should play well anywhere, not just in front of the 12s.  This team had a 17-point lead in the 4th quarter and gave it all away.  It shouldn’t matter what plays Darrell Bevell calls!  You get mad at him when he runs the ball, but if we spent the entire 4th quarter throwing it and having passes land incomplete, you would’ve killed him for not running out enough clock!  Face it, be mad at Bevell all you want, but he’s not the reason we lost this game.  This team ran for 200 fucking yards!  For once, we can’t even blame the offensive line, because they played a relatively clean game!  AND, we won the turnover battle!  This team SHOULD HAVE won the game, but the defense fucked it all away.

It’s inexcusable that the defense should lose a 17-point lead.  And you can look at certain underperforming members of this defense as a big part of the reason why we’re nowhere near as dominant as we’ve been in recent seasons.

Trouble Brewing In Cincinnati This Weekend

I’ve got some serious doubts about the Seahawks’ chances against the Bengals on Sunday.  I’m less concerned with it being a “short week”, or a 10am start, and more concerned with this game being on the road, and against a really good team.

The Seahawks’ road schedule this year is NOT doing us any favors.  Outside of the division, we go to Green Bay, Cincy, Dallas, Minnesota, and Baltimore.  And, the only reason why the Dallas game looks easy now is because Romo won’t be playing; otherwise, that’d be yet another shitbird to throw on the pile!  Still, if we’re not careful, knowing that we already lost to the Rams and Packers, I could easily see us going 3-5 on the road this year; MAYBE 2-6 if we blow one of those in-between games against the Cowboys or Vikings.  So, while I know the Bengals are in the AFC, and AFC losses don’t count like the other losses, I’d still say this one is pretty important for getting us to our goal of a first round playoff bye.

So, what do we have to look forward to?  Well, Andy Dalton is playing the best football of his life through these first four weeks.  123.0 passer rating, 9 touchdowns against 1 interception (plus a rushing touchdown for good measure), only 2 sacks all damn year!  I’d say he’s living a charmed life, which is pretty fortunate for him, considering many were predicting this would be the year he’d be supplanted as the Bengals’ starter.  On top of that, all of his receivers are healthy, and all of his non-running back receivers are averaging at least 13 yards per reception.  And, speaking of running backs, they’ve got two really good ones.  When you factor in how good their offensive line is, they might have (quarterback aside) the greatest collection of offensive talent in the entire NFL.

Which is fine, when you consider the Seahawks might have the greatest collection of defensive talent in the entire NFL (or, at least the NFC), but our guys won’t be able to shut down their guys on every single drive like we’ve done for the past two weeks.  Which means, our offense is going to have to try to do something against their defense.

The Bengals aren’t super impressive on defense – they’re 19th in yards per game – but they’re 9th in points per game, giving up only 19.3.  Converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns as opposed to field goals will be the most important factor in determining this game’s outcome.  And, of course, a big part of whether the Seahawks will be successful or not depends on how much time Russell Wilson will have to throw.  Considering the Bengals are 6th in the league in sacks with 11 over four games, I’d say we’re in a wee bit o’ trouble.  Carlos Dunlap, a defensive end, leads the team with 3.5 sacks.  Geno Atkins, one of the best defensive tackles in the league, isn’t far behind with 3.0 sacks.  These are the two guys who are going to cause the bulk of the damage, and as such, will probably make our lives a living hell (remember how Aaron Donald and the other Rams D-linemen destroyed us in week 1).

I’m not giving the Seahawks much hope in this one.  We’re going to need the O-line to take a mammoth step forward, and I just don’t think they have it in them right now.  This game just smacks of being like a lot of our recent AFC road games.  We’ll keep it close, sure.  But, in the end, we won’t have the horses and we’ll fall to 2-3.

The Hellacious Seattle Seahawks 2015 Season Preview!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 1, at St. Louis, 10am

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

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

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

Week 3, vs. Chicago, 1:25pm

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

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

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

Week 5, at Cincinnati, 10am

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

Week 6, vs. Carolina, 1:05pm

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

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

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

Week 8, at Dallas, 1:25pm

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

Week 9 – BYE

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

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

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

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

Week 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:25pm

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

Week 13, at Minnesota, 10am

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

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

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

Week 15, vs. Cleveland, 1:05pm

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

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

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

Week 17, at Arizona, 1:25pm

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

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

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

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

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

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

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

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

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

NFC East

NY Giants

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

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

NFC North

Green Bay

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

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

NFC South

New Orleans
Tampa Bay

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

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

NFC West

St. Louis
San Francisco

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

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

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

AFC East

New England
NY Jets

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

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

AFC North


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

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

AFC South


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

AFC West

Kansas City
San Diego

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

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

NFC Playoffs

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

AFC Playoffs

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

Wild Card Round

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

Divisional Round

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

Championship Round

Seattle over Dallas
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Indianapolis

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

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

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

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

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