How Long Will It Take The Seahawks To Find Their Franchise Quarterback?

19 of the 32 NFL head coaches were hired in 2020 or later. That gives you some idea of the kind of turnover we’re talking about in the league. It also gives you a little bit of an idea of how many well-run franchises are out there. The teams with head coaches hired since 2020 by and large haven’t been very good. There are exceptions, of course; Tampa and New Orleans had legit guys either retire or take a year off. But, for the most part, when you think of the worst-run franchises in the NFL – the Giants, Jets, Texans, Jags, Bears, Lions, Commanders, Browns – and even the mediocre franchises – Panthers, Cowboys, Falcons, Dolphins, Eagles, Vikings, Raiders, Chargers – they’re all on this list.

I would say the best-run orgs with new head coaches are the Broncos, Saints, and Bucs. The Broncos just made a huge move to bring in Russell Wilson. The Saints are on year two of trying to replace Drew Brees. And we’re well aware of the Bucs and how they’ve done with Tom Brady.

It’s no coincidence that to win in the NFL – and therefore to be considered a well-run organization – you need a quality quarterback. But, even that doesn’t guarantee anything. Do we think the Bengals are a well-run organization? Of course not. But, they lucked into Joe Burrow, who seems to be a generational talent. Do we think the Cardinals are well-run? No way! But, they’re saddled with Kyler Murray through a second contract, and we’ll get to watch them fail to make a Super Bowl for many years to come. The Titans and Colts have won a lot of games in recent years, but I don’t think either franchise is super thrilled with their quarterback situations.

What I’m trying to get at here is the Chicken/Egg question: are well-run organizations more prone to finding quality franchise quarterbacks? Or, is it the quality franchise quarterback that makes an organization appear to be well-run?

What makes it tricky is the fact that head coaches don’t usually get opportunities to stick around through multiple quarterback changes. Either the coach finds his quarterback, and they make a pact to run it back for a long time, or the coach is brought in after the quarterback is already in place – maybe having underachieved during a prior head coach – and they make a pact to run it back for a long time. But, very rarely – especially in today’s game – do you bring in a coach, and he sticks around beyond the one main guy.

Bill Belichick, obviously, went from Drew Bledsoe to Tom Brady to Mac Jones (we’ll see on how good Jones ends up being). If Mac Jones pans out, I think that speaks very highly of Belichick and the organization as a whole being an environment that’s able to foster quarterback development. But, he’s also the greatest head coach of all time, so what are we talking about here? He’s a one of one. If anyone can do something like that, it’s him.

The Steelers will be an excellent case study, because Mike Tomlin is the second-longest tenured head coach in football, and as a whole they are considered to be probably a top five organization. They’re moving on from Ben Roethlisberger for the first time since Tomlin has been there. If they can turn Kenny Pickett into a star – especially when he wasn’t graded out super-high in this poor overall draft class for quarterbacks – then that’s another notch in the belt of Organization being more important than simply finding a fluke of a quarterback in the lottery that is the NFL Draft.

The Ravens succeeded pretty well in transitioning from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson (and even Tyler Huntley balled out in limited duty); the fact that they’ve won as much as they have speaks volumes. The Chiefs obviously hit the aforementioned lottery with Patrick Mahomes, but would he be the consensus #1 quarterback alive without Andy Reid’s system? The Rams certainly took it to another level when they brought Matthew Stafford into the fold, but they were winning at a tremendous clip with Jared Goff of all people. The 49ers have been pretty injury-prone under Shanahan, but he’s definitely built up a solid overall roster, and if Trey Lance hits, I think that’s another feather in his cap.

Clearly, this is all preamble before I talk about the Seahawks. I would put the Seahawks up there – at least in the top 10, if not the top 5 – in well-run organizations. But, maybe that’s mistaken. Maybe that’s the homer in me. After all, we’re talking about the VAST majority of our success coming in years where Russell Wilson was the starting quarterback. Clearly, we fared a lot better when we had a bomb-ass team around him – a bomb-ass team built through Pete Carroll and this organization – but even when the team around him faltered, Russell Wilson kept things afloat, almost by himself.

Before Russell Wilson, it was two years of rebuilding, with mediocre quarterback play (though, to be fair, I don’t know if even Russ could’ve won with the collection of “talent” we had in 2010 and 2011). Now, in 2022, it’ll be just the third season without Wilson at the helm for Pete Carroll & Co.

One thing’s for sure: I don’t believe our next franchise quarterback is on the roster at the moment. Geno Smith is a mediocre quarterback at best, Drew Lock might be even worse, and Jacob Eason seems to be destined for the XFL or USFL or working at a car dealership. Best case scenario, 2022 will be a rebuilding year akin to 2011. If everything goes right and we’re able to build up the roster around the quarterback position, maybe we luck into that franchise guy in 2023 and beyond.

Assuming we don’t trade for Jimmy G – who I would not place in that franchise quarterback bucket, especially since now we’re talking about not one but two teams who’ve given up on him – then we’re talking about 2023 at the earliest. But, even if we’re bad this year – which most people agree that we’ll be in the bottom 10, and maybe bottom 5 – that’s no guarantee that the guy we draft next year will be The Next Russell Wilson, or The Next Fill-In-The-Blank.

Think about all of those teams who’ve hired a new head coach since 2020. You don’t think they tried repeatedly to draft their franchise guy? For some of those organizations, that’s all they ever do! The Bears are STILL trying to find The Next Sid Luckman!

But, I also believe there’s something to the notion that better teams – with a solid foundation in place, both in coaching, as well as personnel – are better able to find those franchise guys, just as they’re better able to win with perhaps sub-par guys (see: the Titans). We’ll find out how true that is with the Seahawks, when they presumably draft a quarterback next year in one of the first three rounds (almost certainly in the first round, but you never know). I think that’ll give us a pretty good sense of what we’re dealing with here. There’s a good contingent of Pete Carroll haters out there – or, at least, Pete Carroll doubters – and I think they’re all of the same mind, that this team needs a breath of fresh air before we go out and find the next quarterback. I disagree. I want Pete Carroll here during these uncertain times. Why? Because he led us out of the wilderness during the LAST period of uncertainty.

Growing up, the Seahawks went from being a relatively well-run organization – through at least the early portion of the Chuck Knox era – to without question the worst-run organization. We were a laughingstock in the late 80s and early 90s. Really, it wasn’t until we hired Mike Holmgren before things turned around. He built us into winners. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, just as I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pete Carroll was able to do what he did in the last decade. Winners find a way to win. They attract other winners.

Obviously, it’s fair to question whether or not the game has passed Carroll by. I think that’s the argument for a lot of the doubters. We’ll see. I think he’ll get through this year no matter what our record is. Then, I think he’ll get 2023 to see if we can turn things around and start looking competitive again. If we fade in 2023, then I highly doubt he’ll have 2024 or beyond to do anything.

The next two years will say a lot about the question of Organization vs. Quarterback. Can we find and develop the next franchise guy? Can we win with just an okay guy? If not, then there’s no way this doesn’t get blown up by 2024. And if THAT comes to fruition, then who the fuck knows how long it’ll take to find our next franchise quarterback? We could be talking decades!

2024, not so coincidentally, will also likely coincide with the Seahawks potentially being sold to a new ownership group. That’s something else to keep in mind. Maybe that’s a reason to keep Carroll an extra year or two, to make the transition. But, all that uncertainty might make a clean break ideal for all parties, especially if the Seahawks are bottom-dwellers over the next couple seasons.

Culture Is Everything In The NFL

Buyer beware, because I can already tell this is going to be a long, rambling mess. Buckle up!

I’m on record as being in favor of the Seahawks retaining Pete Carroll, even if it’s at the expense of Russell Wilson demanding a trade out of Seattle. Yes, I’ll acknowledge the obvious: it’s really fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL who’s capable of leading you to a championship.

There are differences between run of the mill franchise quarterbacks, and those who can take you all the way. Andy Dalton was a franchise quarterback for many years; he led the Bengals to the playoffs a number of times. But, he was never going to win them a title. Not without a remarkable level of talent around him, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I would lump guys like Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford into that camp, even though Flacco won it all, Ryan very nearly won it all, and Stafford very well might win it all this season. Flacco rode an elite defense and a red-hot playoff streak to a title; Ryan had the biggest Super Bowl choke job in NFL history; and Stafford has a crazy fantasy roster around him helping prop up his damaged throwing hand and shaky decision-making.

The point is, none of those guys are on the level of Russell Wilson. And I would still pick Pete Carroll over him, even though odds are Carroll’s time in the NFL will come to an end first. Because I would argue it’s just as hard – if not harder – to find a quality head coach in the NFL to build the kind of winning culture you need to succeed for many years.

Head coaching in the NFL is a neverending revolving door. Really, you can extend that to all the major professional sports.

The Seahawks have been lucky in that regard. We’ve had three Grade-A culture builders in our relatively short tenure in the NFL. Chuck Knox was the first, and arguably one of the most underrated; if he was blessed with a proper ownership group, there’s no telling where he could’ve taken this franchise. Even still, from 1983-1991, he led the Seahawks to the second-best winning percentage in franchise history (minimum of 10 games), even better than Mike Holmgren (who everyone points to as the first great culture builder in Seahawks history). Holmgren, obviously, helped build and lead the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Then, we’ve got Pete Carroll, hands down the best of the bunch. Those three guys comprise 31 of the Seahawks’ 46 seasons of existence; we’ve been spoiled with great culture builders!

You’ll notice, though, of the 15 other years, we had a total of 5 separate head coaches. And that’s common throughout the NFL. I couldn’t tell you what the average is, but it feels right to say guys get approximately 3 years to prove if they’re winners or not. When you consider it’s predominantly the worst organizations who are doing most of the hiring of new coaches – you don’t see the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots, or Seahawks hiring and firing guys all willy-nilly all the time – it’s doubly hard to turn things around. You really have to catch lightning in a bottle with the right quarterback, the right roster construction, the right scheme, and the right salary cap situation to see those kinds of quick results. All just to prolong your tenure an extra few years! But, as you’ll frequently see, even guys who’ve won it all don’t get a free pass forever. One or two bad years and suddenly you’re washed up. This leads to going the complete opposite direction with who you hire next: a stern disciplinarian might give way to a “players’ coach”, a defensive guru might give way to an offensive mastermind, etc.

Now, take a step back and look at the Mariners, for instance. Lou Piniella was our greatest and longest tenured manager in franchise history; he was out following the 2002 season. Scott Servais is already the second-best and second-longest tenured manager in Mariners’ history at only 6 seasons. Of the Mariners’ 45 years in existence, Piniella and Servais have managed for 16 seasons; of the remaining 29 seasons, the M’s have had 18 official managers (interim or otherwise). That’s insane. Merely taking into account the 13 seasons between Piniella and Servais, we had 8 managers. When you think of the worst-run, most-dysfunctional North American professional sports franchises, you think of – among many others – the team with the longest playoff drought: the Seattle Mariners. Is it any surprise that we would have 8 managers in 13 seasons, until finally stabilizing things under Servais and Dipoto? I’m not saying either of them are perfect, but unless things go totally FUBAR, they should be the ones to lead us back into the post-season (even if an extra playoff spot will help necessitate it). I’d say it’s looking good – with the talent we have at all levels of the organization – that they’ve done a good job of both finding the right talent and turning the culture into a winning one. They still have to go and do it, of course. But, that’s how hard it can be. That’s how long it can take. The Mariners were one of the best baseball organizations from the mid-90s through the early 2000’s; then they were one of the worst for almost two full decades. That has everything to do with the culture we let fall apart with the loss of Lou Piniella and Pat Gillick; finding their replacements has been exceedingly difficult.

Now, take a look around the rest of the NFL. The longest tenured head coaches are Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid. All are guys at the top of their profession, who regularly take their teams into the playoffs and have won at least one championship. But, aside from Belichick, they’ve all weathered some down periods. Down periods that lesser organizations might’ve fired them over. Of course, they’re still employed because those down periods aren’t very long, nor are they very bad, but still. Head coaches have been fired for a lot less, because their organizatons lack the fortitude to ride out the rough patches.

Every coach aside from those top five have been hired in 2017 or later. Not coincidentally, I would argue those head coaches are one or two bad years away from also joining the unemployment line, even though they’re coaches who’ve led their teams to conference championship games and Super Bowls.

Not all of them, of course. I think there’s a valid point that a great head coach needs a great quarterback, but I would also say the reverse is true: a great quarterback needs a great head coach. Granted, great quarterbacks have been propping up good-to-mediocre head coaches since time immemorial, but a great QB by himself is only going to take you so far. How many titles has Aaron Rodgers won in his Hall of Fame career? How about Drew Brees? On down the line.

I would argue great quarterbacks are helped along and nurtured to their fullest potential by the elite head coaches who’ve built a culture in which they can thrive. It’s when they try to bash heads with the head coach and the culture where things go sideways. And organizations – fearing reprisal from the fanbase – will almost always side with the elite QB over the elite head coach.

For those who wanted to put the issue to bed after one Tom Brady championship in Tampa Bay, just look at what Belichick has done in that same time: he had a down year with Cam Newton at the helm, then he turned right around and made it back to the playoffs with a rookie QB. Now, it looks like the Patriots are set up for another decade of success, while Brady just went and retired. THAT is what an elite coach – with an elite culture – can do for an organization.

Meanwhile, look at the Dolphins. They just fired Brian Flores after back-to-back winning seasons. His first season with the team was arguably his best, in spite of a 5-11 finish. The ownership and GM did everything to strip that team of all its talent; yet, Flores managed to win 5 of his last 9 games with a nothing roster.

Now, he can’t get hired anywhere, even though I think he’s proven to be an effective and winning head coach with a great culture. The reason why the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs in 2021 has everything to do with being saddled with a sub-par quarterback. And yet, Flores still managed to coach them to a winning record! He’s suing the NFL and I think he has a point; the Giants knew who they wanted to hire well before they “interviewed” Flores for the job. Flores was only cursorily considered for the job because he’s a person of color, and therefore fits the requirement under the Rooney Rule.

Look at David Culley of the Houston Texans. He – another person of color – replaced Bill O’Brien, someone who gutted the organization in his desperation to cling to his job. O’Brien, not for nothing, was a mediocre coach and culture builder, responsible for some of the worst and most lopsidedly terrible trades I’ve ever seen. How he kept his job for as long as he did is baffling. Culley only won 4 games this year and was fired after one season on the job. A season, mind you, where the Texans – much like the Dolphins in 2019 – gutted the roster to try to tank for the top draft pick. The fact that they won any games at all is a testament to the job Culley did.

These are just two examples of dysfunctional organizations; I haven’t even mentioned the Washington Football Team, which seems to embarrass itself on a monthly basis with its variety of scandals. Or the Jaguars, who churn through terrible head coaches like cheap sticks of gum. Or the Lions or Bears or Cowboys or Raiders or Jets, who have done nothing but underachieve for years and years and years. They continue to fuck up on the regular, with zero accountability from the top.

Is that what you want for the Seahawks?

Most franchises pay a lot of lip service to diversity and doing the right thing; very few actually back that up in their hiring practices and the way they construct their organizations. The Seahawks aren’t perfect; no team is. But the Seahawks do it better than most.

I don’t worry about the Seahawks paying lip service to hiring their next defensive coordinator. Because they have the culture in place, and a proven track record of hiring based on their scheme and the qualifications of the coach, regardless of race. If the Seahawks hire a white guy, I’ll at least be satisfied with the fact that they searched far and wide for the best person for the job. If the Seahawks hire a person of color, ditto.

The thing about culture is it has to be about what’s best for the organization, what’s best for everyone involved. It can’t be all about one man’s ego trip. That’s where you see pitfalls throughout professional sports. The ego of the owner, the ego of the general manager, the ego of the head coach, the ego of the quarterback (or that team’s best player, whoever it may be). Once it becomes about one man’s quest to be the best, all is lost. That person is the cancer, and that person is who needs to go. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done, the higher they are on the organizational chart.

Seahawks Death Week: Pathetic Offense Is Fucking Pathetic

I don’t know why this should’ve been a surprise to anyone. The Seahawks’ offense has SUCKED for more than half a season! No one gives one single flying fuck that this team set a franchise record for points scored in a season; when you’ve done most of that against the very worst defenses, and look totally inept against anyone with a pulse, then you’ve done nothing impressive whatsoever.

I’m always baffled when I hear Brian Schottenheimer is up for various head coaching opportunities. Why?! Because he rode Russell Wilson’s coattails to a divisional title? Fat lot of good that did for us. What looked like an impressive offensive turnaround early this season proved to ultimately be a one-trick pony.

Turns out the Seahawks were great at moving the football and scoring points when no one expected them to throw very often. Then, when defenses made just the SLIGHTEST adjustment, we couldn’t figure out any way to counter, other than turn back into a pumpkin and return to a stagnant, do-nothing offense that runs the ball continually into a brick wall, while taking futile shots down field.

I don’t care how good the Rams’ defense is. We’ve faced great defenses in years past. Hell, we used to go up against a GENERATIONAL defense in practice for a bunch of years (during the L.O.B. era), and yet – with Darrell Bevell at the helm, mind you – we still managed to do SOMETHING on offense against these types of teams!

On Saturday, we did nothing. We managed to put up 13 points for most of the game, until a meaningless touchdown when we were down by 17 late in the fourth quarter. How the hell do you suck THIS HARD on offense with Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Chris Carson?!

HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE A FUCKING GAMEPLAN?!

Either make D.K. Metcalf a focal point and scheme ways to get him open and take shots down field on 50/50 balls, or fucking use all the other weapons at your disposal and make him a fucking decoy. But, this in-between shit where you try to spread the ball around is NOT FUCKING WORKING!

WHY DOES JACOB FUCKING HOLLISTER HAVE THE SECOND-MOST TARGETS ON THE TEAM?! Are you FUCKING kidding me?! You know how many catches and yards he had on his five targets? Try 0 for fucking 0. Meanwhile, Tyler Lockett – the guy we SHOULD have fucking targeted – had only 4 balls thrown his way. That guy catches everything that comes near him, and yet we’re treating him like he’s worse than a third string fucking tight end.

WHERE THE FUCK WAS GREG OLSEN?! Where’s this old fucking man who we just HAD TO HAVE to the tune of fucking $7 million? Not even a target. I mean, are we sure the front office knows what the fuck it’s doing? Seems to me you wouldn’t have to make so many panic trades for quality veterans if you stopped wasting your fucking money on over-the-hill has-beens.

And finally, WHAT THE FUCK with this offensive line?! Are they ALL 90 years old with bad knees?! This was supposed to be the game where we got back to basics and gave our quarterback a chance to make some plays. Brandon Shell had SO MANY WEEKS to get healthy! Yet, he looked like the worst fucking player on the field, getting beaten repeatedly. Ethan Pocic was a fucking DISASTER! Mike Iupati better fucking retire before he has to live the rest of his life in a fucking wheelchair, because he CANNOT stay on the field. And, if you’re hoping for too many more good years out of Duane Brown, I’d think again. I think he’s toast as soon as 2021, and if we don’t have a replacement lined up soon, we’re going to be in for a rude awakening the likes of which we haven’t seen since Walter Jones’ final season.

Arguably, the worst part of this game wasn’t the offense at all. As I said up top, that should’ve been expected with what we’ve seen over the last two-plus months. No, the worst part is my worst nightmares came to fruition. We couldn’t stop the Rams’ running game. Jarran Reed wasn’t healthy (and apparently mostly played on passing downs?), and we had no one who could slow down Cam Akers (28 carries, 131 yards and a TD). The Rams’ backup quarterback did, indeed, get the start, but was knocked out of the game after a vicious blow to the helmet on a designed run, which meant we had a benched Jared Goff and his busted hand for most of this one. And we STILL couldn’t stop their run! True to form, the Rams wanted nothing to do with Goff trying to win it for them, and somehow we obliged their ‘fraidy-cat offensive scheme by giving up huge chunks of yards on almost every run (Goff had 155 passing yards on 9/19 passing). It was completely absurd.

Yet, even with how miserable that was, if the offense could’ve done ANYTHING, we might’ve prevailed. Aaron Donald – the best football player alive – even had to exit the game early in the second half with a likely rib injury, and we STILL couldn’t stop their front four!

And, don’t even get me started on how bad Russell Wilson has been for most of this season. Shove that MVP trophy out of your mind, because you are NOT worthy. I don’t know why we don’t put more emphasis on check-downs, but against defenses like this – especially in the middle of the game, after you’ve already punted multiple times – you have to take what they give you! Look at, again, literally every game from the L.O.B. era! What did opposing teams do? They dinked and dunked! Why are we smashing our fucking faces against a brick wall trying to take nothing but deep shots down the field!

Russell Wilson: YOU ARE NOT PATRICK FUCKING MAHOMES!

THIS ISN’T THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS OFFENSE! ANDY REID ISN’T WALKING THROUGH THAT FUCKING DOOR! STOP IT WITH THIS SHIT AND FIND AN OFFENSE THAT FUCKING WORKS!

I’m so fucking angry and revolted by this fucking franchise, that if you thought there was going to be any silver lining posts during Seahawks Death Week, think a-fucking-gain. The Seahawks are in fucking shambles. There are over-paid wastes of space on this team, there are some difficult cuts that NEED to be made, there are free agents we need to try to retain, and OH BY THE FUCKING WAY, the salary cap is going to be reduced considerably thanks to a fucking pandemic that the American government severely bungled.

So, you know, we have that to look forward to. If you thought 2021 was going to be better than 2020, you’re a fucking royal idiot. It’s only going to get worse and worse, every fucking year, until by the grace of fucking God we’ll all be fucking dead.

Fuck the Rams and fuck you too.

Every Time The Seahawks Play The Patriots, It’s The Best Game Of The Year; Last Night Was No Exception

That game was so good, I don’t even know where to start, so let’s just run through everything in order of appearance, because there’s too much to discuss to have any other format for this post.

Is Greg Olsen The Most Washed-Up 35 Year Old Tight End Inexplicably Earning $7 million On A Team With No Pass Rush?

Boy did he have a bad game in this one. How do you feel about 0 catches on 1 target? Furthermore, how do you feel about that lone target coming on the first drive of the game, being a perfect throw that bounced off of his hands and into the open arms of Devin McCourty for a Pick-Six? I kept waiting for Olsen’s redemption moment that, unfortunately, never came (unless it was some impactful block that I missed because who pays attention to THAT stuff?). I get the feeling that we’re destined for a super-mediocre season out of Olsen where the saving grace is that he catches 7 touchdowns, or one for every million dollars he’s earning. Nope, couldn’t have put that money to better use on the defensive line; NO SIR!

Seahawks Rushing Attack Quietly Good

It’s hard to say if Russell Wilson “cooked” in this one; the numbers were split pretty evenly: 28 passing attempts, 30 rushes (to be fair, those five Wilson runs were scrambles that would’ve been passing attempts had things looked differently on those plays). I mean, if you want to point to the ideal Pete Carroll type of offensive game, you’re looking at it. He doesn’t care where the touchdowns come from (all five were Wilson throws, which is pretty fancy cooking any way you sauté it), he just wants the running backs at least AS involved in moving the football as the quarterback. As a team, the Seahawks ran for 154 yards (a robust 5.1 yards per carry), with Carson leading the way (as it should be), 17 for 72. Don’t discount the effectiveness of Wilson’s 5 carries for 39 yards; he’s not just saving these attempts for the fourth quarter like in seasons past. He’s busting them out early enough to force defenses to account for him on potential zone-read plays later on (Travis Homer was the recipient of a few quality runs in this mold, ending up with 3 carries for 21 yards). Since the Patriots’ run defense isn’t that great, it was nevertheless good to see that the offense didn’t forcefeed us an All Wilson All The Time type of game.

Tyler Lockett Is There Whenever You Need Him

On any other team, or if Lockett were like a traditional wide receiver diva, he would command 15 targets per game and be among the league leaders in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He’s THAT good! He’s ALWAYS open, even when he’s got guys draped all over him! In this one, he ended up with a sensible 7 catches (on 8 targets) for 67 yards and a touchdown (in the drive immediately following the Pick Six, to tie the game at 7-7), but it seemed like all of his catches were big (either to convert a first down, or to get us out of a huge hole after a holding penalty or a sack or something). One of the ways the Seahawks have been very effective so far this year has been in how the offense has dug itself out of holes. Even though holding penalties are down leaguewide, the Seahawks are still right up there among the worst offenders as an offensive line. But, for the most part (not every time, obviously; this offense isn’t perfect in spite of Russell Wilson signing a pact with the devil) it’s not an automatic punt whenever we find ourselves in 1st & 20, or 2nd & 15. Tyler Lockett has a lot to do with this. Most teams would take more advantage and throw it to him too much; but Wilson knows it’s best to save those moments for when they matter most, because Lockett will always be there to pull this team out of the fire.

Quandre Diggs (tsk tsk tsk)

Yesterday was as bad a day across the NFL when it comes to injuries that I’ve ever seen. Not just the number of guys who went down, but the number of high-impact players who were out for the rest of their respective games, who will end up missing a number of weeks, and/or who will be out for the remainder of the season! I’ll discuss more of that in my fantasy column later in the week, but it was rough. As it turns out, you can’t go from 0 to 60 at the drop of a hat – with no pre-season ramp-up – and not expect to see this as a reality! You may ask, “Why didn’t we see all of this in the first week?” Well, my thoughts are that everyone got beat up pretty good, and since no one was in real game shape, everyone needed more than the 6-7 days they were given for their bodies to recover. Since everyone was heading into yesterday without sufficient recovery time, all their bodies were more susceptible to the types of injuries we were seeing. You can dismiss the pre-season all you want, but going from playing a quarter, to a half, to into the third quarter, and then scaling it back to almost-nothing in the fourth game sure seems to be a better way to ramp up everyone’s bodies for the pounding they take on a weekly basis than what we had this season.

Anyway, what does that have to do with Quandre Diggs? On the Patriots’ first offensive drive of the game, he was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver (on a 4th down play, that ultimately put New England in a position to go up 14-7). No one was injured on the play, though it was a good call by the league. Seahawks fans were complaining on Twitter, asking what Diggs was supposed to do with it being such a bang-bang play; well, he’s not supposed to lazily ram into a guy while fully erect, with his helmet smashing into the other guy’s helmet! If Diggs was using proper technique, he would’ve bent his body at the waist, gotten his head out of the way, and led with one of his shoulders … you know, like we’ve been preaching around here for the better part of the last decade! This is simple, people; Diggs had plenty of time to put his body into proper position. He was just lazy on that play, didn’t feel like bending down, and he was properly ejected as a result.

How this gets back to injuries is that, of course, Marquise Blair – our Big Nickel defensive back extraordinaire last week – went in to replace Diggs at safety after that (flip-flopping with Lano Hill whenever we were in a Nickel Defense), and also of course, ended up with a serious knee injury. It will either cost him a few weeks or the rest of the season, which is just a crusher. I still have faith in this secondary to lead the way; we have lots of guys behind Blair who will step up and be good. But, Blair sure looked like he was turning into something really special. It’s only his second season in the league, so there’s time for him to bounce back and become great. But, it’s a shame when someone this early in his development has a setback this potentially-significant.

Newsflash: Cam Newton Is A Great Rusher

His numbers weren’t quite as sparkling as his 15 rushes for 75 yards against the Dolphins last week, but 11 rushes for 47 yards is nothing to sneeze at. He tacked on two goalline touchdowns in that total and looked ALMOST unstoppable (foreshadowing, you know you want it). I was really impressed with the variety of different rushes the Pats used at the goalline; they will be tough to defend down there. Don’t let them get inside of the 10 yard line if you have hopes of holding them to field goals! It won’t work out most of the time.

Great Punting Tho

With the Seahawks down 14-7 and driving, I was legitimately starting to worry about our ability to stop New England’s offense. Had we fallen too far behind, it would’ve been super tough to come back with Cam pulling plays out of his ass all night. That’s why I was so discouraged we took a minor sack on third down at the New England 42 yard line. 4th & 5 isn’t all that different from the fourth down we converted last week (with the bomb to D.K.). The way we were otherwise moving the ball at will, that seemed like a pretty easy one to convert. I’m not saying the ends justify the means, but we did win the game, so I won’t complain too much. But, had we lost, this is a moment I would’ve pointed to as one of the reasons why.

Nevertheless, we had a GREAT game from Michael Dickson! No one cares about punting, of course, but he showed why he was an All Pro as a rookie two years ago. He averaged an even 50 yards per punt (with a long of 63), and all four of them ended up inside the 20 yard line (including one that died inside the two yard line all by itself, like he’d chipped it with a pitching wedge or something). That is an impact that doesn’t show up directly on the scoreboard, but it nevertheless affects the game in countless hidden ways.

Seahawks Run Defense Also Quietly Good

I know I was up there praising Cam Newton a minute ago, but this is a true statement! The Patriots as a team ran the ball 25 times for 67 yards (2.7 yards per), and the non-Cam runners were a terrible 14 carries for 20 yards (1.4 yards per). That was legitimately shocking to me. I thought for sure the Pats would Ground & Pound it up our bums, but clearly the emphasis for this defense was to stop the run at all costs (which, as it turned out, meant giving up a lot of passing yardage, as we’ll get to later).

D.K. Is Living In The Future, So The Present Is His Past

His presence is a present, kiss my ass! Stephon Gilmore was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. I don’t know if he’s the best cornerback in football, but he’s up there. There were rumblings coming into this one that he would lock onto D.K. Metcalf and shut him down (while the rest of the Pats’ defense did whatever it could to stop everyone else). I never expected Russell Wilson to back down and avoid Metcalf entirely, but it wouldn’t have shocked me if we saw a quiet game out of him nevertheless.

Instead, his game was so loud it damn near made up for there being no fans in attendance!

He had four catches for a team-high 92 yards, including a 54-yard bomb that he caught over Gilmore (who was all over him, and indeed had an arm in Metcalf’s bread basket as he caught it), who was swatted away like a gnat en route to the endzone. It was incredible! Gilmore was indeed on Metcalf most of the game, which ultimately led to a near-brawl on the Seahawks sideline as Metcalf manhandled Gilmore on a block, who took offense to being dismissed accordingly. I didn’t see much between the two after that; Gilmore sat out for a play, and I think it was more of a Defend-Metcalf-By-Committee situation after that. Get used to reading about that, because every week Metcalf is inching closer to being the best in the game.

Why Not Some Words On The Kicking Game?

That D.K. touchdown tied it at 14-14, but New England marched right down the field again. Our defense stopped them at the Seattle 33 yard line, which resulted in the Pats missing a 51-yard field goal. In a game they lost by five points – which (spoiler alert!) ended with them at the goalline – that’s a pretty significant miss.

As I believe there was last year, there’s an early-season epidemic in the kicking game leaguewide. I don’t have the numbers, but they’re out there; it’s being discussed by people with more patience than me. Anyway, Jason Myers was a perfect 5/5 on extra points in this one, and considering how those are no longer automatic, it’s nice to see our guy isn’t making our lives miserable.

A Quiet End Of Half

After all that had happened to this point, it was crazy the Seahawks were in a position to take the lead heading into halftime. Following the missed field goal, we had excellent field position. But, we couldn’t get out of our own way in spite of numerous opportunities. Greg Olsen had a false start to add to his negative ledger. Wilson threw an insane forward pass when he was a good five yards beyond the line of scrimmage (and penalized accordingly). Then, we somehow got bailed out on 3rd & 19 with a defensive holding penalty. With a first down at midfield, hopes were restored, but another penalty and a sack pretty much torpedoed that drive; the only good thing we did was chew up all the clock (and punt it inside the two yard line), so the Pats had no chance to do anything.

Jamal Adams Showed Up!

I read somewhere that all of Adams’ stats happened in the second half of this game. 10 tackles (one for loss), a sack, and two hits on the quarterback. It wasn’t all DPOY roses and sunshine, though, as he gave up a number of big gains through the air (presumably playing more free safety than we would’ve liked, with Diggs ejected). His sack was huge, as he dove at Cam’s ankles to trip him up; if he’d missed, Cam definitely would’ve converted it for a first down. There were, however, at least a couple times where he had Cam dead to rights in the backfield, but Cam eluded him, which was frustrating as all get-out. Mixed bag sort of day, but this team doesn’t win this game without Jamal Adams.

More David Moore!

David Moore had a pretty underwhelming 2019, which had a lot of fans down on his prospects going forward. He seemed like Just A Guy, made more infuriating by how often Wilson tried to force it to him last year. Well, in this game, Moore showed why this team is so high on him! He ended up with 3 catches for 48 yards, but one of them went for an insane touchdown (that had a less-than 7% probability of being completed, per some weird stat I don’t understand) at the front-left corner of the endzone, to give the Seahawks a 21-17 lead early in the second half. How he managed to keep both feet in bounds while coming down with the football, I have no idea, but it was truly miraculous!

Quinton Dunbar, Hello!

Through the first half of this game, you would’ve been justified in wondering whether or not Dunbar is actually a good football player. As it stands, we might have to question whether or not he’s a good fit for this team, but I’m going to give it a few more weeks before I make any definitive statements. Anyway, he very nearly had a pick-six of his own earlier in this one, before finally succeeding in jumping an out route and picking off Cam Newton following the David Moore touchdown. It was a welcome sight! It’s been a few years since the Seahawks have had a cornerback who’s capable of generating interceptions; now, if only Dunbar can stop getting faked out on comebackers.

A Freddie Swain Sighting In The Wild

If you never expected rookie wide receiver Freddie Swain to make any sort of impact this year, don’t worry, I was right there with you! I didn’t even think he’d make the team! If anything, I thought this was a year for John Ursua to assert himself, but he seems to be on his way out of the organization (currently on the Practice Squad). Swain, however, might be a legitimate baller. He only had 1 reception for 21 yards, but he made the most of it, catching a crosser and taking it to the house for a 28-17 lead late in the third. He looked fast and crisp in his route running, everything we need out of a #4 receiver right now!

Let Cam Cook!

Cam Newton was great all game, but he really came alive in the fourth quarter. He finished with 397 yards passing and 1 TD (to go along with his rushing yards and two rushing TDs). So, taken with Atlanta’s crazy passing day last week, the Seahawks’ secondary has given up approximately 900,000 passing yards in two games, which is, you know …

It’s hard to blame the secondary too much, because he was really zipping those balls into some tight windows! For the most part, our defensive backs were in good spots to make plays, but Cam was pretty perfect.

Of course, he had all damn day to throw the ball! Oh my God, was the pass rush ever atrocious in this one! When we blitzed, it was either picked up, or Cam was able to side-step a guy and run for a first down; when we rushed four, they did nothing; when we rushed three, Cam was able to give his nails a manicure, read a magazine, wait for his hair to dry, and gab with the gals about all sorts of juicy gossip while his receivers took their sweet time getting open. It was unbelievable! I’ve never in my life seen a Seahawks pass rush this inept; it’s incredibly infuriating!

Anyway, New England took almost no time at all to make it 28-23; the only thing our defense did right on that drive was stop the 2-point conversion. The touchdown itself, though, was mighty nifty. See, every other time the Patriots got down close to the goalline, Cam lined up in shotgun, took the snap, held the ball for a second or two until a lane opened up, and ran right through it for a score. Well, this time, he did the same thing, but faked a run and threw to some fullback I’d never heard of for the score. If that continues to happen, New England will be truly unstoppable down around the endzone.

More Wilson Magic

The teams improbably traded punts on the subsequent two possessions – more due to questionable play-calling for both teams than anything the defenses managed to do – but with nine minutes left in the game, you knew the Seahawks needed to add more points. Thankfully, we have Russell Wilson (and you don’t).

The Seahawks methodically marched down the field, and on 2nd & 5 from the New England 18, he dropped a beautiful pass into Chris Carson’s arms for a 35-23 lead, with four and a half minutes to go that felt pretty insurmountable.

Superman

But, again, Cam Newton is Superman. In just over two minutes, he took New England 75 yards and, once again, plunged over the goalline to make the game 35-30. There were thoughts that the Pats might onside kick it after that; given what the Seahawks’ offense was able to do all night, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But, they had all of their time outs, so it made sense to kick it deep.

There was some iffy decisionmaking on the ensuing Seahawks possession. For starters, Chris Carson took a handoff and looked like he had a bead on a 10-yard gain. But, his momentum was about to take him out of bounds and he slid instead, to keep the clock moving. The only problem with that was: you always take the first down. Besides that, we snapped it with 2:09 left in the game; the two-minute warning was coming regardless. While I like the thought, it was just a little misguided and almost cost us.

On 2nd & 4, we handed off to Carson again, who tried to find a hole, but could only muster three yards. I didn’t LOVE the play call there; I would’ve preferred to give Wilson two cracks at throwing for a first down. But, I get it. You force New England to use a time out there, and you make it 3rd & 1, which SHOULD be easily converted every time.

The fanbase might’ve stormed CenturyLink Field and revolted had we handed off to Carson there and he was stuffed, so I was happy to see Wilson with the ball in his hands. I was MORTIFIED, however, to see Wilson chuck it deep, overthrowing Lockett by a few yards (it looked like he was moderately interfered with, but no ref worth his salt was ever going to flag that play). I don’t know what Wilson was thinking, because he had Carson wide open on a check down; he also could’ve simply run it a couple yards and kept the clock moving. Instead, it saved the Pats a time out and probably set-back the Let Russ Cook movement; any time he fails, I keep thinking the coaching staff is going to revert, so let’s not fail again for a while!

Kryptonite

New England started on their own 19 yard line after the Seahawks punt, with just under two minutes in the game and two time outs remaining. In less than a minute, the Pats were on Seattle’s side of the 50. We were able to keep most plays in front of us, and tackled guys in bounds to keep the clock moving. But, with 36 seconds remaining, Cam hit Julian Edelman for 18 yards down to the Seattle 13.

Bafflingly, New England didn’t use its last time out, so the clock ticked down to 12 seconds following an incompletion. Cam then hit a pass down to the 1 yard line with three seconds remaining, forcing New England to use their final time out. They had one play to win it! Everyone on the planet knew it was going to be a Cam Newton run; their goalline offense had been perfect to that point in the game (and probably the season, though I didn’t watch their game against Miami last week).

True to form, Cam took the ball and looked for a hole to his left. But, L.J. Collier had the play of the game, blowing it up and getting to Cam’s legs. Between him and Lano Hill on the outside, undercutting the blocking running back to force Cam inside, they really saved the day, as Cam took a 1-yard loss on the play. Game over, Seahawks win 35-30.

That’s, not for nothing, the third time in the last three matchups against the Patriots that the game has come down to a final goalline stand (with the defense prevailing every time, including Super Bowl XLIX). These games are always so ridiculously fun. No one, really, in all of football (except maybe Andy Reid) has ever been able to play chess with Bill Belichick like Pete Carroll. They are so different in their coaching styles, but so damn similar in their preparation and ability to match up with one another during games. We were never going to have Belichick as our head coach; he doesn’t strike me as a West Coast type of guy. But, it’s nice to have the next-best thing. Pete Carroll often gets overlooked around these parts – mostly by fans who grow weary of watching a conservative offense – but it’s really been an honor to have a coach like him, who sets the tone for the entire organization. There’s a reason why this team has been so good for the last decade, and while Russell Wilson deserves a lot of credit, Pete Carroll is ultimately why we’ve had so much fun watching this team over the years.

The Chiefs Blessed Us With This Impending 49ers Hangover Season

I couldn’t help comparing this game to the Seahawks’ championship game against the Broncos a few years ago: awesome offensive team from the AFC West going up against the well-rounded, strong defensive team from the NFC West. When push comes to shove, always bet on the better defense, right?

Well, we learned a couple things. The 49ers defense was nowhere NEAR as loaded as the Seahawks from 2013; and clearly Patrick Mahomes is leaps and bounds more talented than Peyton Manning in his last great season.

I had a legitimately great weekend, all things considered! We flipped the calendar to February – putting Dry January in the rearview mirror – and I got to totally blow it out. Went to see Dusty Slay perform comedy on Friday night, followed that up with a lazy Saturday morning at the diner with my newspaper. Took in Leslie Jones’ Netflix special, then coasted on into the afternoon with bowling on TV and beer pong in our hearts. A Sunday hangover is a small price to pay, especially when my Super Bowl menu consisted of two different pizza establishments – Papa Murphy’s & Round Table – with wings and a fruit platter on the side.

And, as a bonus, the game was pretty good! Certainly a huge step up in entertainment value compared to the snooze that was Patriots/Rams.

Hot take: I thought the halftime show was just okay. Listen man, if you want J-Lo doing gymnastics on a stripper pole and shaking her ass to good music, go rent Hustlers and proceed to spend the next five years thanking me, because that movie is fun as hell. No one will ever top Prince’s halftime show and I can’t believe this is still up for debate.

Getting back to the game, this was GREAT as a Seahawks fan. The next-best thing to actually being there and winning the whole thing is for a rival to be there and completely gag it away in the closing minutes. Instead of the coronation of Kyle Shanahan as the next great head coach, we’ve got Kyle Shanahan: The Guy Who Keeps Blowing 4th Quarter Leads In The Big Game.

On top of that, we’re saved the ignominy of Richard Sherman throwing it in our faces yet again for letting him leave Seattle. We get to slow the roll of George Kittle being Gronk 2.0. And, we hopefully get to look forward to a nice, quiet Super Bowl Hangover season next year for the losing 49ers. Won’t that be fun? Of course, the Rams are still lurking, but no one said it would ever be easy.

My biggest takeaway is this whole Jimmy G plotline. All week, the talk from the 49ers camp is that Jimmy G Isn’t A Burden. Look For Jimmy G To Step Up & Shock A Lot Of Haters. Their confidence in their guy didn’t stop the national pundits from continuing to hammer that point home: Jimmy G Is The 49ers’ Weakest Link, and now those pundits get to feel pretty smart about themselves.

While I wouldn’t say he was having a whale of a game, through three quarters I think he was something like 17/20 passing with only that terrible first half interception as his blemish. He nevertheless didn’t keep the 49ers from taking a 20-10 lead into the 4th quarter.

I’ve consistently struggled with how good he really is. He looked great with the Patriots, particularly when he took over for a suspended Brady in 2016. The last thing I wanted was for them to trade him to the NFC West, so of course that’s exactly what happened, and when the 49ers finally let him take the wheel, he played like a superstar in his first six games there. At least, that was my recollection; his numbers might not be so sterling now that I actually look at ’em. Then, in 2018, he only participated in three games before tearing his ACL.

I was prepared for a somewhat mediocre 2019 out of him, but that’s based on a history of quarterbacks returning from ACL surgery and usually taking a full season before returning to their former glories. In that sense, Jimmy G throttled my expectations. But, the 49ers clearly took a lot of the load off of his shoulders; with that elite running game, it’s easy to see why.

He’s still good. His best days are likely still ahead of him. But, there’s no chance he’ll ever be the best QB in the NFC West as long as Russell Wilson is around. We all wondered how Jimmy G would play if the game was on the line and he needed to drive them down for a score, and we saw all we needed to see. He’ll go on to win a lot of games in his career, but he’ll never be elite. There’s a ceiling for Jimmy G – just as there’s a ceiling for Jared Goff with the Rams – and it’s a lot lower than we thought a couple years ago. This bodes well for the Seahawks to eventually re-take control of this division in the near future. The Rams & 49ers aren’t as imposing as they looked to be, and the Seahawks haven’t gone anywhere. We’ve taken their best punches, and now (God willing) we’ll be ready to respond in 2020.

The scary thing we’ve all got to worry about is: are the Kansas City Chiefs a new Death Star?

I hate going to these extremes, recency bias what it is, but Patrick Mahomes MIGHT BE the greatest quarterback to ever walk the Earth. I know he’s a few more championships away from Tom Brady, so we all have to pretend like he’s still the GOAT, but this was Mahomes’ second year starting in the NFL. He’s aligned with one of the best head coaches in the league, and Andy Reid will only be 62 in a couple months, so he’s got plenty of good years ahead. And he’s in a division with the walking disaster that are the Raiders, an Elway-helmed Broncos team that continuously misfires on their quarterback prospects, and a nothing Chargers team that’s effectively wasted an entire career with a Hall of Fame quarterback in Rivers by never actually putting a team around him. With the Patriots aging into obscurity, it feels like the Chiefs can rip off back-to-back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl appearances as long as Mahomes is healthy. If all they have to do is survive Baltimore, that doesn’t feel like a big ask.

I’m just glad he’s in the AFC. I’ve gone back and forth when I think about how the Seahawks were forced to switch conferences. It’s certainly been a blessing at times when the NFC West has been terrible. But, for the last almost-decade, it’s consistently been among the toughest divisions in football. Nevertheless, I’m glad I don’t have to go up against Mahomes twice a year (plus the playoffs). Let them have their Chargers, they make much better whipping boys.

Seattle Sports Hell’s Gambling Corner: One More Practice Week

Next Saturday, December 14th, I fly out to Las Vegas for a quick weekend trip. We’ll be going to a professional hockey game, we’ll try to hunker down somewhere to watch the UFC fights, and we’ll do a year’s worth of drinking in about two days. Somewhere in there (probably on Sunday) we’ll sit down to watch some wall-to-wall NFL football, in a state where gambling is legalized. So, my buddy and I have been watching the lines every week and making fake practice bets to see how we do.

Last week, I did pretty good! Not perfect, obviously. Maybe just slightly over .500, which is around what I expect to do in actual Vegas, because I seem to be an Even Steven kind of guy (not the TV show though; I’m immature but I’m not THAT young).

I nailed Green Bay -6.5, as the Giants simply stink. I nailed Tampa -1.5, but I whiffed on the over. In fact, I whiffed on literally every single OVER that I mentioned! My 2-team home dog teaser of Denver and Pittsburgh paid off, as did the moneyline parlay! I had the 49ers +5.5, and I totally crushed my Green Bay & Cincinnati tease.

On the flipside, I lost my 3-team teaser, because of course I did. I was right about 2/3! But, that gets you absolutely nothing. I mentioned the KC/Oakland game and how the Raiders might pull one over on ’em; I talked about the struggle that is putting your money on the Dolphins, and not only did they cover +20 but they won outright! The game I didn’t mention whatsoever – Carolina/Washington – was what I thought was the safest bet. Panthers just had to win, at home, against one of the worst teams in football with one of the worst quarterbacks in football. What a damn shame! The logic was sound! I was ALMOST there!

I also would’ve lost all my Stay Aways, making them Stay Aways for a very good reason.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s what I’m looking at for this upcoming weekend:

So, here’s the deal, I’m gonna make it REALLY easy on myself. The Ravens are favored by 5.5 at Buffalo. The Ravens are great, plus they still need to keep winning to ensure they secure their #1 overall seed. I think their defense is so good that the Bills will REALLY struggle to move the ball and score points. Obviously, the Bills have a pretty great defense of their own, so I like this one to stay close (possibly), but I 100% like the Ravens to simply win the game. Ergo, I’m throwing the Ravens into a gaggle of 6-point, 2-team teases:

  • Ravens & Green Bay -6.5 over Washington
  • Ravens & Cincinnati +13.5 at Cleveland
  • Ravens & Atlanta +3 over Carolina
  • Ravens & Jets +0.5 over Miami
  • Ravens & Indy +9 at Tampa
  • Ravens & Jacksonville +9 over Chargers
  • Ravens & Vikings -7 over Detroit

After last week’s debacle, I think I’m going to scale way back on the over/under game. The Jags last week were so horrendous that the Bucs game failed to hit the over for the first time in like five weeks. With Tampa hosting Indy, I like both teams to score in this one, and the line is only 46.5 points, so give me the over in that one. The Colts need a victory like nobody’s business, so they should be leaps and bounds better than Tampa.

I like Indy to win outright, so give me some of that. I also like Kansas City to win outright in New England, so give me some of that as well (nothing like the Andy Reid in the regular season against Bill Belichick). Also, for shits n’ giggs, let’s parlay Indy and Kansas City on the moneyline.

Finally, I’m running back another 10-point, 3-team tease. Until today, we were looking at a 3-team +12.5 point home dog tease (as all three home teams were underdogs by 2.5 points), but that Rams/Seahawks line moved all the way to a Pick ‘Em. I’ve said all along I like the Rams in this one. At the VERY least, I like this one to be close. I was going to put money on the Rams on the moneyline, but without the extra juice there’s really no point. So, give me a 3-team tease as follows:

  • Arizona +12.5 vs. Pittsburgh
  • Oakland +12.5 vs. Tennessee
  • Rams +10 vs. Seattle

There’s no way in hell the Rams screw me there. I think Arizona can make a mad dash and maybe backdoor cover it in the 4th quarter. The only one that really worries me is the Raiders, as I think they’re all washed up for 2019 (whereas Tennessee looks really fucking good).

My Irrational Homer Pick is going to be me actually TRYING this time, and not just doing a reverse jinx. Truth be told, either outcome has its positives for the Seahawks (either the Saints lose and our path to the #1 seed gets a little bit easier, or the 49ers lose and our path to the NFC West title gets a little bit easier). The Saints are at home and they’re favored by 2.5 points. I believe that the 49ers are the better team. I believe they can go into New Orleans and come away victorious. I think Drew Brees can look his age at times, and I think the 49ers have just the defense to slow down the high-flying Saints attack. So, give me the 49ers +2.5.

Also, let’s tease this one. Move the line to 49ers +8.5 and move the over/under up to 50. I’ll take the 49ers +8.5 and UNDER 50 points.

As for Steven’s Stay Aways, I can’t get a good read on the Texans vs. Broncos game (gun to my head: Broncos +9), and that’s about it. As I said earlier, I’m avoiding a lot of the over/unders, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d think the Bengals/Browns game goes over 41.5; I kinda like the Panthers/Falcons game to go over 47.5 (both defenses are pretty terrible), and give me Steelers/Cardinals over 43.5.

Actually, fuck it, for real this time: give me Rams/Seahawks over 46.5. That feels like the easiest money of the day.

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.

Beware The Divisional Round Game

The NFL has a bit of a flawed playoff system, owing primarily to the fact that each conference has 4 divisions.  Dating back to when this system started, there’s always a division winner who is marginally to drastically worse than at least one if not both Wild Card teams.  These are teams that just have zero shot whatsoever of winning the Super Bowl, who get the privilege of hosting playoff games; it’s insanity!  Every once in a while, you’ll see the inferior home team pull it out (the 2010 Seahawks & the 2014 Panthers come immediately to mind), but you knew those teams would lose the very next week!  And, lo and behold, so it was.

For the most part, the better teams win in the Wild Card round, and often that can mean the road teams (like this past weekend, when all four road teams moved on).  The Divisional Round is the great equalizer, though.  You’ve got the four plucky Wild Card hopefuls trying to ply their trade against the top four teams in the league (record-wise).  And what happens?  The home teams win about 75% of the time.  They’ve got home field, they’ve got the week of rest (while the Wild Card teams have been beating themselves senseless in the freezing cold), and in most cases, they’re simply the BETTER football teams.  There’s usually a reason why you win your division and grab one of the top two seeds in a conference:  because you’re really fucking good!

I’d say in the AFC, the home teams ARE the better teams (not so scared of PIttsburgh when Roethlisberger is playing on a bum wing; but talk to me again in a week if he shows up healthy as a horse and wills his team to the championship game).  I don’t know why I ever thought it would be a good idea to go to Tahoe to do some sports gambling in the middle of the regular season:  we should all go to the nearest sports book RIGHT NOW and put all our money on Denver and New England to win big.  Hell, throw Arizona into the mix as well, because I don’t think Green Bay has a chance to even keep it close.  We’d all be RICH, I guarantee it!

This Seattle/Carolina game, however, might be the lone outlier on the weekend.

From a pure matchup standpoint, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a football game since the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers a couple years ago.  This game will not only be the best, most exciting, most entertaining game of the weekend, I think it has a better than good chance of being the best, most exciting, most entertaining game of the entire playoffs.  I think I said it here last week and I’ll say it again:  the winner of this game is winning it all.  Seattle @ Carolina IS the Super Bowl for the 2015 season, mark it.

There are a bunch of reasons to be nervous about this game, from a Seahawks perspective, and I don’t even plan on talking about the in-game matchups today.  We’re going on the road for a third straight week, against a third straight REALLY TOUGH defense.  We’re flying all the way across the country, as far as possible given the NFC playoff field, and we’re once again saddled with the early game on Sunday.  We’re coming off of one of the hardest hitting, most brutal games since the fucking Ice Bowl, only to fly all the way back to Seattle from Minnesota, only to fly all the way back out again across the country a few days later.  Meanwhile, they’ve had a week off to rest and get healthy.  They had one of the easiest roads to a 15-1 record I’ve ever seen, but you know what?  They took care of business, they got their one loss out of the way, they locked up home field, and they looked like they’ve been having the most fun of any team in the history of the NFL.  They’re big, physical, and rested; and they’re talented, confident, and hungry.  I wouldn’t be surprised by any stretch of the imagination if this was the end of the line for the Seahawks.

I could see the Seahawks coming out flat and tired, making a bunch of mistakes, struggling to convert third downs.  I could see the defense not laying a finger on Cam Newton as he methodically drives down the field for multiple scores.  If I’m being totally honest, I could see the last three years finally catching up with the Seahawks – all the long playoff runs, all the pressure of being the best – with them laying their first real egg of the Russell Wilson era.  You gotta admit, the Seahawks have been living a charmed fucking life since 2013.  It’s HARD to be this good for this long.  Even Belichick’s Patriots had some Divisional Round exits on their record.

Part of this, of course, is the tried and true Reverse Jinx, but part of it is also trying to lessen the blow of a very real possibility.  Carolina is a good football team.  Winning on the road is difficult, even against bad football teams.  If the Seahawks had an emotional let-down (as they did a little bit after last year’s NFC Championship Game Miracle, though no one wants to talk about that), I wouldn’t blame them at all.

Here’s what’s giving me hope, though.  We forget, because the last two years have seen the top seeds in each conference make the Super Bowl, but that isn’t always the case.  In 2012, we had the 4-seeded Ravens against the 2-seeded 49ers.  I mean, yeah, Baltimore had a home game in the Wild Card round, but they beat the 1-seeded Broncos and the 2-seeded Patriots in back-to-back weeks!  Don’t tell me it can’t be done!

In 2011, we had the 4-seeded Giants, at 9-7, mow through the up & coming Falcons at home, then the 15-1 Packers in the Divisional Round (red faced Coughlin, anyone?), before upsetting the 2-seeded 49ers in that game where that guy muffed all those punts, before winning it all against one of the best-ever Patriots teams.

In 2010, we had the 6-seeded Packers, at 10-6 (sound familiar?), win on the road against a probably-inferior Eagles team (one of Andy Reid’s last years there), before nailing top-seeded Atlanta (NFC South winner) and taking care of business in a grudge match against divisional rival, and 2nd-seeded Chicago (propelling them into the Super Bowl where they beat a very good Steelers team, in one of the better and more unheralded Super Bowls of the last 20 years).  Why couldn’t that be us?

Want to see some more weird similarities?  Those 2010 Packers were a good team, with a good quarterback, who caught some tough breaks.  10-6 record, same as Seattle this year.  In 5 of those 6 defeats, Green Bay had a LEAD in the 4th quarter, only to have it taken away late, same as Seattle this year.  Three of their defeats were to eventual division winners (just like us), and they also had a couple of mind-boggling defeats to some real pieces of shit (Detroit & Washington had combined 12-20 records, or pretty much the St. Louis Rams).  And yet, they were a good, veteran team.  They got hot at the right time.  And, they plowed through the NFC playoffs battle-tested and ready to kick some fuckin’ ass in the Super Bowl.

Why not us?

History is probably against us, so long as you don’t just pick & choose which examples you want to point to like I’m doing here.  But, they play the games on fields instead of computers for a reason.  Anything can happen, up to and including winning it all as the 6th seed in a conference.  The Seahawks have shown resiliance, toughness, and at times they’ve been lucky as all get-out.  On a neutral field, under neutral conditions (i.e. no BYE week for the other team), I wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  The Seahawks ARE the better team.  But, as I’ve said before and I’ll say again, the best team doesn’t always win.  In this case, with one arm tied behind our backs, we go into Carolina the underdog in every meaning of the word.  Will we have the fortitude to get past this biggest of hurdles?

If so, it looks a lot better for us in the NFC Championship Game, I promise you.  There, it’s more of a 50/50 proposition as to whether the home team wins or not.

I just don’t want these playoffs to end without my team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, if for no other reason than to get last year’s taste out of our mouths.

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

Dallas
NY Giants
Philadelphia
Washington

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
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

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

Carolina
Atlanta
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

Seattle
St. Louis
Arizona
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
Miami
Buffalo
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

Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland

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

Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville
Tennessee

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
Denver
San Diego
Oakland

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.

Seahawks! Eagles! Sunday Sunday Sunday!

Earlier in the week, I got more into why this game with Philly is important.  Today, I’ll be looking at what we’ve got to do to beat them.

For starters, while Philly is a team you definitely want to take seriously, it’s not a team you necessarily want to mythologize.  Their most impressive victory is probably the week 2 barn burner on Monday night in Indianapolis.  They don’t really have any bad losses on their record (at SF, at AZ, at GB), but aside from that win in Indy and the drubbing they laid down in Dallas on Thanksgiving, I don’t see a lot of meat on their schedule.

They got the AFC South, which aside from the Colts is pretty terrible.  The Redskins and Giants are God-awful.  But, then again, the Seahawks catch their share of dogs as well.  Against common opponents, the Eagles are 5-3 while the Seahawks are 6-2.  Against teams with winning records, the Eagles are 2-3 while the Seahawks are 4-3.  So, there’s a BIT of a discrepancy there, but it’s hardly an overwhelming argument in our favor.  Yeah, the Seahawks have had a slightly tougher schedule, and yeah, the Seahawks are slightly better.  But, all in all, that doesn’t mean a whole lot come Sunday afternoon.

The Eagles have a lot of really good players, a smart head coach, and a dynamic offensive system.  The Seahawks have a lot of really good players, a smart head coach, and a dynamic defense.  SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE and whatnot.

The Eagles are 6th in total rushing yards.  They’re only 12th in yards per attempt (at 4.2), but they’re tied for 5th in attempts.  The Eagles are almost always in a hurry-up mode and are among the league leaders in total plays run.  Their offensive line is impressive, having only given up 18 sacks (5th fewest in football).  Overall, their offense is something to behold.

Then, of course, there’s the Mark Sanchez thing.  He took over in their Week 9 game and has led the team to a 4-1 record.  He’s averaging 280.8 yards in his 4+ games this year, with a 63.4 completion percentage.  You could argue his weakness is what his weakness has been all along:  turnovers.  He’s got 8 TDs and 6 INTs and another 2 fumbles.  You hate to boil a game down to who wins the turnover battle, but it would be a big help.  Of course, it won’t be everything, because their offense is so potent, it could and HAS overcome such troubles.

Aside from the quarterback, the Seahawks will have to watch out for LeSean McCoy.  From a fantasy football perspective, he’s having a down year.  Darren Sproles is cutting into both his touchdowns and his targets in the passing game.  But, he’s still a Top 5 runner in this league and someone to take seriously.  The aforementioned Sproles is another dangerous weapon; we’re all familiar with him from New Orleans last year.  I don’t really remember him gashing us too much, as we’ve got speedy linebackers who are able to neutralize him, but if we put all of our focus on McCoy, Sproles is a guy who could burn us.

At wide receiver, it doesn’t get any easier.  Jeremy Maclin is a straight up stud.  He’s actually my worst nightmare in this game, if I’m being honest.  These speedy receivers tend to give us fits.  On the plus side, Mark Sanchez isn’t Andrew Luck.  By all accounts, Sanchez isn’t a guy who’s going to challenge you deep very often.  However, it only takes one sometimes.  I could see Maclin having a nothing day, or a huge day, and pretty much nothing in between.  Jordan Matthews is a really good-looking rookie, but at 6’3 and without the speed of Maclin, I see him being pretty easily handled.

Defensively, the Eagles are aggressive.  They’re among the league leaders in getting after the quarterback, so it’s going to be important for our O-Line to handle they business.  You can run on the Eagles, and lord knows the Seahawks can run the football, so we could be looking at Marshawn Lynch being a big part of this game.

And, you know what?  Quite frankly, this could be Russell Wilson’s time to really shine.  I could seriously see the Eagles going all out to stop Beastmode, forcing Wilson to scramble around and find open receivers.  If the Eagles are able to put up points on us, I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest to see Wilson throw for over 300 yards with 3 or 4 TDs.

My main concern with this game is getting off to a slow start.  The NFL graced us with an afternoon kickoff, even though it’s being played in the Eastern time zone, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude us from starting slowly.  We haven’t played the Eagles in quite some time.  2011, in fact.  Remember?  When Tarvaris Jackson was quarterback for the Seahawks, Andy Reid was coach of the Eagles, and one Vince Young was starting in place of Mike Vick.

Yeah, suffice it to say, these are a couple of VERY different teams.  I could easily see this as a game where the Seahawks’ offense struggles early, the Seahawks’ defense lets them dink and dunk their way down the field, and we’re unable to hold them to field goals when we need to.  In many ways, I find this game resembling the Atlanta game from the playoffs a couple years ago.  I could see the Eagles getting a 3-touchdown lead on us, with us playing catch-up in the second half.

I know our defense has been playing lights out of late, but the offenses of the Cardinals and 49ers are pretty pathetic.  If nothing else, don’t count on the Eagles being held to 3 points.  Promisingly, their defense isn’t that of the Cardinals and 49ers either, so figure the Seahawks are good for more than 19.

Or, shit, let’s just have the Seahawks keep winning games 19-3 every week for the rest of time.  Sounds good to me.