The Seahawks Should Steamroll The Eagles Tonight

I wanted to start this off saying that I’m weirdly confident in the Seahawks going to Philly and kicking some ass, but I don’t even think it’s that weird! The Eagles are fucking terrible. Carson Wentz is so bad (HOW BAD IS HE?) that I had the option of starting him in fantasy football this week – against a Seahawks defense that has given up more passing yards than anyone else in NFL history to this point in the season – and I ended up getting cold feet, benching him for Kirk Cousins of all people! Carson Wentz is so bad (HOW BAD IS HE?) that he just signed a huge $128 million contract last year, and the Eagles are already talking about giving (as well as ACTUALLY giving) rookie Jalen Hurts practice reps with the first team offense this week. Hurts, of course, couldn’t prevent Tua from stealing his job at Alabama, so it’s tough to say what his professional career is going to be (I would bet probably not great), but this is a pretty serious indictment of how far Wentz has fallen in not even one full season’s worth of sucking.

How the mighty have fallen, when it comes to the Eagles, though. Remember it was as recent as the 2017 season when they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and everyone was predicting that they’d be the new dynasty in the NFC. Since then, it’s been a couple of 9-7 finishes and early playoff exits, as well as whatever this abomination has been in 2020 (are they REALLY going to blow the NFC East to the 4-7 Giants or the 4-7 Washington Football Team?!).

This is a really perplexing team in that regard, because so many of the same pieces are still in place. Obviously, injuries play a significant role in their struggles the last two seasons, but at what point do you stop blaming injuries and start blaming the fact that they haven’t filled in the back of their roster with improved talent? Then, you look at the coaching staff and you wonder how this is (minus Frank Reich) the same group that out-coached the greatest coach of all time in Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl? They can’t seem to figure ANYTHING out, not even how to win the absolute worst division in NFL history!

The thing is, there’s talent there. The defensive line has some guys, anchored by Fletcher Cox in the middle; Brandon Graham has 7 sacks, Derek Barnett has 4.5, Josh Sweat has 4. They can get after it! I don’t know if the secondary terrifies you, but Darius Slay was a lockdown corner for the Lions and presumably hasn’t fallen off too far. Offensively, they’ve got some great weapons at running back in Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Dallas Goedert is a quality tight end (as is Zach Ertz when he’s healthy). It even appears they’ve FINALLY managed to develop a good receiver in Travis Fulgham. The point being: they shouldn’t be THIS inept! And yet, here we are.

I think you have to point to the offensive line woes as the primary culprit. I still contend that Wentz wasn’t that bad a season ago (and last year, the talent level really was pretty bad, especially at receiver). But, this is two years in a row where injuries along the offensive line have made his life miserable, and it’s starting to get in Wentz’s head. He’s making some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen from a quarterback, and that falls on his utter lack of confidence that he won’t get destroyed behind that O-Line. You see this happen (though, usually the guys are a little on the older side; it’s a little shocking to see it with someone who’s 27 years old and in the prime of what was once a great career), and when it does, it’s hard to recover from. He could turn it around next year, if they bolster his blockers up front, but I don’t envision much in the way of improvement in 2020.

And certainly not this week. I think this is a great place to start in on the Seahawks, because we’ve seen significant improvement out of our pass rush in the last few weeks. Indeed, in the three games Carlos Dunlap has played in, the Seahawks have had 13 sacks; in the first seven games of the season we had only 12! We went from being at or very near the bottom of the entire league, to tied for 13th (with, again, a game to play tonight to rise up the rankings). You can downplay Dunlap’s importance in that turnaround all you want, but he has 3.5 sacks in 3 games, which is already good for second-most on the team (behind Jamal Adams’ 5.5). He’s not only getting it done by himself (which is more than we could say for Clowney last year, forget the goose egg he’s giving the Titans this year), but he’s freeing up those around him to succeed at getting to opposing quarterbacks as well. Jarran Reed looks like a new man! L.J. Collier (at least, when he’s rushing from a defensive tackle spot) looks ALMOST like a guy who can play in this league (which is a far cry from where he was in his rookie season). If the Seahawks don’t win along the defensive line tonight, I will be legitimately shocked, because this is the first time all year I can say WITH CONFIDENCE that we have the upper hand at this position group.

The Mini-BYE comes at the perfect time, of course. I would say the Seahawks have had good BYE placement this season. We had one after going 5-0 (when we had a lot of injuries to recover from), and now at the 10-game mark I think we’re finally going to see most of guys back and playing again. The only serious blow is losing Brandon Shell for this one. Given how much time we’ve had off since our last game, I’m hoping we’re just being extra careful. If there’s one spot I’m worried about, it’s that one, and whoever is coming off the edge to abuse Cedric Ogbuehi.

But, that’s really it. Chris Carson is back! Carlos Hyde is still here! Ethan Pocic should return to snap the ball, which moves Damien Lewis back to his natural right guard spot, and all is otherwise right with the world when it comes to the O-Line (save the aforementioned RT spot). If the Seahawks don’t score the easiest 31 points you’ve ever seen, then I dunno, some freaky shit must be going on.

I mean, I hate to pull this card out, but the Seahawks have the NFL’s highest winning percentage on Monday Night Football. That might be a coincidence, or a fluke, but who cares?! We get it done on the NFL’s second-brightest stage (I think it’s safe to say Sunday Night Football has well supplanted MNF as the game of the week). The Seahawks are favored by 6.5 points and I don’t think even that line is high enough. I think this game will end up being a total laugher by the end.

And if it isn’t, then the Seahawks will have some ‘splaining to do …

Can The Seahawks Maintain Their Hot Start?

This Seahawks team sure looks more special than I expected. I feel like we’re one more win away from a guaranteed 5-0 start; we just have to get over this Dallas Cowboys hurdle.

While the Seahawks appear special, that’s not the same thing as them being dominant. The defense is still just as much of a liability as it’s been the last couple seasons, worsened by the season-ending injuries to Marquise Blair and Bruce Irvin. The Irvin injury feels like a real crusher. He obviously hasn’t had a ton of sacks or anything through the first two games, but he provided plenty of value along that defensive line in many ways, from run stuffing, to at least getting pressure on the quarterback from time to time. You just knew he was going to have some real blow-up games at some point, coming up big in key moments, so it’s almost a tragedy to see him go.

By comparison, the Blair injury doesn’t seem as bad because we have lots of guys behind him who are able to step up. But, we’ll never know! How could we? Maybe Blair has All Pro-level talent, and that’s been taken from us. The Alternate Universe Seahawks are probably enjoying all that he has to offer, but I don’t live in that universe, so nuts to that!

I just don’t see a lot of great options – either on this team, or in the free agent market – to replace someone like Irvin. It’s going to be a severe downgrade any way you slice it. Maybe one of the young linebackers currently on the team can provide better speed at that SAM spot, but you probably lose some of the power and definitely lose the pass rushing ability (on a team that, obviously, struggles at that aspect as it is).

On the plus side, maybe this is an opportunity for Shaquem Griffin to make an impact! I hope so; I think he has just what this team needs.

Anyway, getting back, yeah, this defense IS a liability. But, we’ve seen shaky defenses propped up by elite offenses before, and this offense is 100% elite right now! It’s right up there with Kansas City and Baltimore (though, obviously they have an edge with superior defenses). We’ve also seen shaky defenses get better as seasons progress. As the weather cools and passing games cool right along with it, it becomes more important to stop the run as we get into December and January, which is when this team could really come together.

The Seahawks have also been challenged by some pretty strong offenses through two weeks; Atlanta’s passing game looks as good as anyone’s, and New England will continue to play well as long as Cam is healthy and Belichick is breathing. Dallas, this week, is a continuation of that: Top 5 passer, lots of weapons to throw to, and probably the best running back still healthy at the moment. As far as our non-divisional schedule is concerned, this is our most difficult remaining game outside of the Buffalo contest in early November. So, when I say if we can get through this one with a W, 5-0 is VERY much on the table, as we go to Miami the following week, before hosting the hapless Vikings after that (in primetime, no less).

It’s hard to figure out where the Cowboys are as a team. I think it’s pretty clear they’re the best team in the NFC East right now, but is that saying much? All the other teams in that division are bumbling along pretty pitifully. Is this a situation where Dallas might win a playoff spot with an 8-8 record? I feel like they’re a play here or a play there from either being 0-2 or 2-0. They almost came back to beat the Rams in Week 1 (a bogus OPI penalty on Michael Gallup was particularly galling). But, at the same time, they really SHOULD have lost to the Falcons last week (if anyone on Atlanta’s Special Teams was smart enough to fall on a spinning football during an onside kick before it went the necessary 10 yards for the kicking team to recover), so it’s tough to say how good or bad Dallas is. I believe the Rams are a top tier football team, and while Atlanta probably isn’t so great, their offense is explosive enough to give any defense fits.

Based on what I’ve seen, I know enough to be wary of these Cowboys. Given how balanced and talented they are on offense, they should have no trouble moving the football (made even easier, obviously, by the lack of fans in the stands) against our nothing defense. At the same time, nothing about Dallas’ defense scares me if I’m the Seahawks offense. I think this one is destined to be another high-scoring shootout.

The same keys find their way into any pre-game analysis when you’re talking about the difference between winning and losing. 3rd/4th down conversions, TD/FG percentage, penalties, run/pass ratio & efficiency. But, I think this is going to boil down to turnovers. It seems like these two offenses are so similar, that they should be able to move the ball at will and do whatever they want. Therefore, critical turnovers could play a huge part in determining the outcome of this game.

You could see that in the Pats game as well. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but the Patriots converted a Pick-Six, while the Seahawks dropped a chance at returning the favor. Had the Seahawks played a clean game from a turnover perspective, we would’ve witnessed another double-digit victory. I think there’s a CHANCE for that to happen here, but it’s going to require the Seahawks not shooting themselves in the foot.

With the way our offense is rolling, the only team that can beat the Seahawks IS the Seahawks.

Right now, all the MVP hype in the world is on Russell Wilson’s jock, and for good reason. He’s been nearly-flawless. Of course, the MVP through two weeks has rarely been the MVP at the end of the season. For the Seahawks to continue to be special, they’re going to need him to keep this up, especially against the very best teams on our schedule (like Dallas). There will be opportunities for the Seahawks defense to shine; bad teams are coming! But, I don’t believe Dallas is among them, and it’s going to take everything we’ve got to keep the good times going.

Ezekiel Elliott has always destroyed us, even when our defenses were great. While this is good for my fantasy team, it’s bad for the Seahawks. But, in spite of that, I think I’m more afraid of Dak Prescott and this passing game. Imagine how tough New England was, only if they had more than one good receiver. Dallas is rolling three deep! They’re fast, they’re big, and they can make plays anywhere on the field. Amari Cooper is always a tough matchup for us, but I’m watching out for CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. With the way our secondary has given up big plays down field through two games (likely having a lot to do with our complete and utter lack of a pass rush), I see no reason for that not to continue. We’re still working in new guys (Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar, most notably), and now we’re getting over the loss of Marquise Blair (who factored heavily in our defensive scheme this season); this is not the best time to try to take on this Dallas passing attack.

The ace up our sleeve in this one might be the Cowboys’ head coach, Mike McCarthy. His teams tend to make some baffling decisions on offense, which could conceivably work in our favor. Then again, his Green Bay Packers teams in recent years have had their way with us, and those teams weren’t nearly as stacked as these Cowboys are.

I nevertheless expect a narrow Seahawks victory in this one. I won’t rule out a blowout one way or the other, though, because while I do believe the Seahawks are the superior team, we’re a mediocre Russell Wilson performance away from losing by double digits (or being so far out of it that a garbage-time score still leaves us woefully behind with no time left in the game). I won’t go so far as to say I know this offense has a few duds in it, but I will say I haven’t TOTALLY bought into the sea change we’ve seen through two weeks. I keep expecting the other shoe to drop. I hope I’m wrong!

It would be nice to see a shocking level of competence out of this defense, though. Two weeks should be enough time for this staff to coach up some guys and figure out what tweaks they need to make. We were close to getting – on a number of occasions – Cam Newton on his ass last week, and he just barely weaseled his way out of trouble. Dak is sort of a younger version of that, but I would argue he’s easier to get down as he isn’t quite as big and strong. I hope we’re able to learn from those missed sacks and do a better job of wrapping up; at the very least, force the quarterback to throw it away rather than escape for a huge gain.

5-0 is within range. I can taste it! We’re going to need it too, because the rest of the NFC West (sans San Francisco) looks pretty fucking great. Arizona looks a lot better than I expected, and I already expected them to give us fits whenever we match up against them. The Rams, I think, are still the team to beat. But, I bet their fans are saying the same thing about the Seahawks right now.

In the end, it’s going to come down to conference record (and record against common opponents), so this Dallas game is HUGE! It’s the first game that meets both of those criteria; I would love nothing more than to get this leg-up (or, at the very least, keep up with the Rams’ leg, since they already beat the Cowboys in Week 1).

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.

How High Can These Seahawks Fly?

The big questions heading into week two are: was Week 1 an aberration, or a sign of things to come? And, if it’s a sign of things to come, how good can this Seahawks team really be?

All you can really do – heading into a new season – is review any roster changes and see how they might fit with what you’ve seen from that team in the past. Generally, you would compare this team to what it was in 2019, but we have ten years’ worth of Seahawks teams to look at with respect to Pete Carroll, eight of those years with Russell Wilson. Knowing what we know, having seen what we’ve seen, it was sensible to expect more of the same: a balanced offense, relying on the defense to keep it close, and hope our All Pro quarterback can pull it out in the fourth quarter. For a team that’s only missed the playoffs twice under Pete Carroll – and only once with Russell Wilson at quarterback – clearly “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” comes into account.

That’s why last week was such a shock – a welcome shock, don’t get me wrong – because it was SO unexpected. Part of me saw them throwing on that first drive and thought, “Well, they’re just doing this to shut the fans up; they’ll get back to a run-heavy approach on the next drive.” But, the passes kept coming, and coming, and coming, and before we knew what hit us, the Seahawks turned into the 2019 Chiefs!

You’ll recall that’s a team that won the Super Bowl. So, in answer to the second big question listed at the top: that’s how good this team can be. With Russell Wilson playing out of his mind, with this offense putting up that many points every week, it doesn’t really matter what the defense does; as long as it’s not dead-last in all of football, this team will win 12+ games, the NFC West, and could very well advance to the Super Bowl if things go right in the playoffs.

BUT, remember that caveat: if Week 1 was a sign of things to come, and not just a one-time treat.

I’m going to stick with my cautiously-optimistic stance for a bit here (instead of full-blown elation), for two reasons. For starters, Pete Carroll was already quoted this week complaining about how few carries the running backs had against Atlanta. 16 carries split between the three of them. Chris Carson is still one of the best running backs in football – as evidenced by his two receiving touchdowns – but he only had six carries! That’s not good enough. In a game we won by double-digits, it’s weird that we didn’t have more of a running game presence in the fourth quarter. So, I would expect Carroll will get his way as early as this week in pounding the rock more than we did last week.

The other cause for concern is our opponent: the New England Patriots. Their defense is crafted much like ours, in that their biggest strength is in the secondary. While I don’t expect the Seahawks to completely revert back to their 2019 form, it would make sense to neutralize things a little bit by hitting the Pats where they’re weakest: defending the run.

That isn’t to say the Pats are bad at defending the run; I can’t say with any certainty one way or the other. Against the Dolphins last week, they held them to 87 yards and a 3.2 yards per carry average; however, the Dolphins’ top two rushers combined for 62 of those yards on 14 carries, for a 4.4 yard average. The Dolphins were playing from behind for most of the game, so they didn’t have the luxury of working that part of their offense in more.

It’ll be REALLY interesting to see what how the Patriots gameplan the Seahawks’ offense. Bill Belichick famously creates a new scheme every week, based on his opponent, to take away whatever it is they do best. Now, he’s a smart man, and he surely knows Russell Wilson is what this team does best, so I don’t expect him to neglect defending the pass in any way. But, will he see this Seahawks team through the lens of what happened last week, or the previous ten years?

The Seahawks offense has been built around two concepts: running the ball and completing deep passes. Last week, the Seahawks completed exactly one deep pass (the 4th down touchdown to D.K. Metcalf), and as I mentioned, hardly ran the ball at all. Most of these were short-to-intermediate routes, which is completely counter to everything we’ve ever done before. Pete Carroll prides himself on his offenses taking care of the football. Running, and throwing deep balls to guys in one-on-one situations, are the safest things you can do. As long as your running back isn’t a fumbler, with a guy like Wilson chucking it, you feel like you have a minimal risk of turning it over on a bomb (either your guy gets it, or it’s incomplete; even in the rare instances where it’s picked, that’s still sort of like a punt in the field position game). The odds of turning it over increase when you throw it a lot, and throw it in those short-to-intermediate routes (where there are lots of different defenders running around, some in areas you wouldn’t expect them to be).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks are going to totally revert to what they’ve always done, but I do think it will be difficult to run that same gameplan out there for a second week in a row and have the same level of success. I think the running game will have to be incorporated more, for the simple reason that I don’t think the Patriots’ coverage will be as soft as the Falcons’ coverage was last week. If their corners start bullying our receivers at the line of scrimmage, or if the Pats play significantly more zone – while their D-Line does everything it can to keep Wilson in the pocket – I think that’ll open us up to switch to running plays at the line of scrimmage. It won’t be the coaching staff asserting their dominance, it’ll be Wilson doing the smart thing and checking to what the defense is giving us.

It has never made sense to continually pound the running back into 8-man boxes. I think what we saw against the Falcons had to do with exactly that: giving our quarterback the freedom to make smart decisions on the fly.

I actually like the Seahawks in this one. It’s a night game, for one, and you know how we always show up for those. While the home-field advantage won’t be there – with no fans in the stands – I would argue that hasn’t been as effective in recent years, as most teams have adapted to playing on a silent count. I just think we’re better than them at this point.

Now, that isn’t to say I believe we’ll blow out the Pats (though, I’m not throwing that concept out of bed either). I kind of see this as a normal Seattle/Carolina matchup, only with a better coaching staff. Cam Newton is the star of that offense (an offense that is pretty bereft of talent, even by Cam Newton standards); he’ll be the man we need to beat. The Patriots have built an offense that features his skillset (meaning: lots of designed quarterback runs) that might end up being even better than some of those elite offenses he ran with the Panthers (having him on a one-year deal makes this more palatable, as if you run him into the ground or get him injured, it’s no long-term risk to your franchise). With Julian Edelman being the only guy that scares you from that receiving corps, it’s never been more The Cam Newton Show than it will be this year. And, for as savvy as Edelman is, I think our cornerbacks won’t have trouble keeping up with him, for the most part.

It’s almost like the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams with this game in mind in particular. As we all saw, Adams was all over the place last week, frequently up at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, and also frequently diving into the backfield to chase after the quarterback or running back. He was often successful, and more importantly, he punished anyone that he ended up hitting. My biggest concern in this game isn’t the pass rush; it’s the run defense. The Falcons, when they did run the ball, were pretty successful, including a number of chunk runs through considerable holes created by their otherwise so-so offensive line. It’s been YEARS since the Patriots have had an alpha dog at running back; they usually have three or four guys they like to work in there throughout every game. So, it doesn’t really matter who they hand it to, if their O-Line is able to do to our run defense what the Falcons were able to do, they’re going to have an easy time moving the ball down the field (made even easier by the fact that Cam Newton, when healthy, is in the top two among rushing quarterbacks with Lamar Jackson).

That’s where Jamal Adams comes in. Cam is an elite runner; we need an elite defender to shadow him. Bobby Wagner has traditionally been that man for us, and he’ll certainly play a significant role in following Cam around and keeping him in check. But, as we saw last year, Bobby can’t do everything by himself. Having Adams right there with him should be the difference-maker in keeping this Patriots offense from blowing up.

I’ll also be very interested in seeing what Bruce Irvin and L.J. Collier can do in setting the edge on either side of the line. Keeping Cam contained as a scrambler is just as important as stopping him on those designed runs. Irvin didn’t seem to do a whole lot last week, but as the game went on I thought he did a good job of setting that edge (of course, where is the statue that is Matt Ryan going to run to?); he’s going to be vital in this one, and I think he has what it takes to step up in a big way.

I’m a little over 50% convinced the Seahawks win in a close game. I also think there’s a reasonable chance we prevail by double-digits again (in which case, go ahead and lump us in with the Ravens and Chiefs as the best teams in football, because it’ll be Go Time, my friends!). The only way we lose is the same way most elite offenses like ours end up losing: by keeping them on the sidelines. If the Patriots convert an insanely-high percentage of 3rd/4th downs and dominate Time of Possession, they could steal a close one late in the game. There’s an infinitesimal chance the Pats blow us out, so small as to not even be worth thinking about.

I am SOOOOOO excited for this game! Even more than I was last week, and that had all the juice of being the first game of football I’ve seen since the Super Bowl (not counting the Thursday Night game, of course). I think we’re all holding our breath and crossing our fingers and rubbing our lucky rabbit’s feet that this offense will come out slinging it just like we did last week (and, not only that, but producing a similar type of production from a points perspective). All of our collective worst nightmare is if we continue to throw the ball and it fails; we endure multiple 3 & Outs and turnovers in the process. Because then, you seriously have to wonder about the coaching staff abandoning it and going back to what worked before.

Our enjoyment of football is on the line, people! On the biggest stage, against history’s best-ever football coach, and the team that has far-and-away won the most football games over the last two decades! If we succeed here, the rest of 2020 shapes up as one of the most fun football seasons we’ve ever seen. If we fail, the cost will be enormous.

I know I sound like those lying politicians who say this election is the most important in history (how can they ALL be the most important?), but I’ve never been so on edge for a Week 2 football game in my life. I’m 1-0 in both of my fantasy football leagues, yet all I can think about is the actual football team I follow? You KNOW this is a big one!

You Know, We Don’t Really NEED Athletes To Say ANYTHING

A lot of people are wondering what sports are going to look like as we come out of this COVID-19 epidemic, and just generally in the years/decades to come.

The Match II was a popular thing that happened recently. If you don’t know what that is, it was this round of golf played by Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson; their partners, respectively, were Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They apparently raised a lot of money for … people who were affected by the virus, I guess. Obviously, with social distancing and all that, it was a golf match with no fans, no caddies, and a limited number of crew people around to broadcast the whole thing. To compensate for this, all four players were mic’d up and wearing earpieces, so they could chat with the announcers and any other celebs who called in and wanted to chat. It was very charming and a fun way to spend an otherwise sportsless afternoon.

I was listening to the Brock & Salk podcast after The Match II, and they interviewed one of the announcers, who talked about the experience, and it was his opinion that this could be a wave of the future, not just for golf but for all major sports. The XFL dabbled in a lot of live, on-field interviews where their sideline reporters had to run around and find players who just did something exciting to ask them about it in real-time (as opposed to after the game, which is what would happen under normal circumstances). I’ve probably talked about that before, but really, WHO IS THIS FOR?! I would argue, only people IN the media enjoy this shit.

Do you know why The Match II was such a rousing success, with respect to the live interactions between media & athletes? Because you had four of the biggest, most famous, most articulate athletes in modern sports history. Tiger and Phil and Peyton and Tom? OF COURSE they’re going to be engaging and interesting to interact with!

Do you know what the VAST MAJORITY of athletes sound like on a regular basis? Dumb as rocks. Boring as dirt. Bland cliche machines who have been programmed over their entire lives in how to “game” the media. Saying something while never really saying anything. It is, by and large, BRUTAL to listen to an athlete being interviewed, whether it’s in the moment or after they’ve had hours and hours to craft a pre-packaged response.

I mean, as you can see from Drew Brees’ recent comments – before he walked them back, of course – you can give an athlete YEARS to come up with an opinion, and he’ll still sound like he has no idea what he’s talking about!

The wave of the future, I’m sad to say, is headed in the direction of more media interactions with players, and it’s going to be to all of our detriment. I dunno, unless I’m just an old man now; that’s possible too. Maybe to keep the younger generations engaged in sports, you need to offer this horseshit to continue to grow and prosper your sport. I would guess that’s probably closer to reality, since there’s so much money involved in this enterprise, it’s not like they haven’t done TONS of market research on the topic.

The thing I can’t tell is: who’s pushing for this? Is it the leagues? Do they like it when their players put their feet in their own mouths? Is any publicity good publicity, as they say? Or, are the players pushing for this, in an attempt to grow their individual brands and introduce new market streams during and after their athletic careers? I’m sure both could be true, I suppose. But, I just keep coming back to the sports media complex trying to create a market for something where there’s really no demand for it!

Athletes saying dumb shit can generate countless clicks and views and scoops and editorials for days on end! You’ve got the dumb shit they say, you’ve got the immediate backlash, you’ve got follow-up stories from other sports people commenting on it, you’ve got talking heads voicing their VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, you’ve got sports radio hosts being handed hours upon hours of content to regurgitate. Then, you’ve got the same athlete apologizing for the dumb shit they said, the immediate backlash to that, the continued follow-up stories, the ever-growing VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, and another full day’s worth of sports radio fodder … until some other athlete says something else dumb and the Baby Huey that is our collective sports media consciousness proceeds to waddle over to the next outrage where he plops his ass down to obsess over the next round of nonsense.

You don’t get ANY of that without constant media/athlete interactions. And, sure, you have to wade through an endless stream of cliches and rote, banal responses. But, once you unearth that little nugget of gold, you’re on easy street for at least another week.

Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. This isn’t a “Stick To Sports” rant. This is a “Stick To What You’re Good At” rant.

When LeBron James or Richard Sherman or Michael Bennett or Gregg Popovich or any number of intelligent, thoughtful people give an opinion on an issue of the day, I’m more than happy to listen. Or, even if it’s just X’s & O’s talk! Deshaun Watson gives some of the best postgame interviews about certain critical plays that happened during his games! Even Bill Belichick, when he wants to be, can be engaging and insightful on a bevy of different topics.

But, I would argue these people are the exceptions, and you REALLY have to suffer through a lot of mindlessness in the meantime. Not EVERYONE needs to make their voices heard. Sometimes, it’s okay just to shut the fuck up and let the adults have a fucking conversation. If you’ve got nothing interesting or worthwhile to say, then maybe just do us all a favor and keep quiet. You’ll save us a lot of wasted time, and you’ll potentially save yourself a lot of agony by not having to scramble to make up for some faux pas that got out in some interview you didn’t prepare for and didn’t think would come to light to a worldwide audience.

Again, I’m mostly talking to Drew Brees here, but this goes for a lot of you!

The 2020 Seahawks Have A Schedule

This has always been one of my favorite posts to write – along with its companion that usually takes place sometime in August where I go through and predict game-by-game how many the Seahawks will win – but this year is obviously exactly the same as every other year. I can’t think of one single, solitary difference between 2020 and any other year of my life; YAWN Y’ALL!!!

Normally, we’d be a month into yet another losing Mariners campaign, so when the NFL releases its schedule, I’m always RABID for ANYTHING other than baseball to talk about! But, since the M’s are still technically undefeated and we’re all sitting around sportsless, tugging at our peckers, trying to find ways to entertain ourselves throughout the days spent locked in our homes, I’m finding it difficult to get it up for the big schedule reveal. Maybe by writing it out here, inspiration will strike:

  • Week 1 – @ Atlanta, 10am
  • Week 2 – New England, Sunday Night Football
  • Week 3 – Dallas, 1:25pm
  • Week 4 – @ Miami, 10am
  • Week 5 – Minnesota, Sunday Night Football
  • Week 6 – BYE
  • Week 7 – @ Arizona, 1:05pm
  • Week 8 – San Francisco, 1:25pm
  • Week 9 – @ Buffalo, 10am
  • Week 10 – @ L.A. Rams, 1:25pm
  • Week 11 – Arizona, Thursday Night Football
  • Week 12 – @ Philadelphia, Monday Night Football
  • Week 13 – N.Y. Giants, 1:05pm
  • Week 14 – N.Y. Jets, 1:05pm
  • Week 15 – @ Washington, 10am
  • Week 16 – L.A. Rams, 1:05pm
  • Week 17 – @ San Francisco, 1:25pm

There is, apparently, a lot of flexibility built into the schedule, in case the season has to start later than expected. So, I don’t know if there’s much point in bitching about how it’s set up. A week 6 BYE doesn’t strike me as especially egregious – it could always be worse – but I’ll make the same point I make every year: they should make every team either have the SAME week off, or spread it out over a 2-week period (so you can have NFL games on TV every week, but still make it as fair as possible). The NFL never listens to me, in spite of my tireless letter-writing campaign (I really MUST remember to buy stamps this year so I can mail them out), so we’re stuck with the format we’ve got.

It’s cool that we’ve got our two Sunday Night games so early in the season, as those likely can’t be flexed out; but again, with the virus butchering our lives, who knows if this schedule will be the one that ultimately gets played out? I could make that point about everything I talk about today, so let’s just say for the sake of argument this is how it’s going to be. In that case, GREAT! Because I really don’t anticipate the Patriots will be worth much of a damn this year, so catching them early in the season bodes well for us beating them (conceivably, Belichick could have them playing better by season’s end, at which point you probably won’t want to see them in December).

The Seahawks have four 10am starts, and five cross-country trips altogether, which is a little brutal (we’ll be putting in the most mileage travelled this year by a pretty fair margin). I think we actually lucked out in knocking one of them out of the way in Week 1; the team as a whole should be as rested as can be, so I wouldn’t expect it to be as much of a hindrance as it would in any other week. Also, one of those cross-country trips is a Monday Night game a week after our Thursday Night game, so considering how well we usually play on MNF, I consider that a victory in and of itself.

I’m not as high on the Dolphins as some people, but I do think it’s better to face them early as well, when Tua is still pretty green. Dallas and Minnesota both look tough this year, so I don’t know if it’ll matter much WHEN we play them, but getting both at home is nice.

The toughest stretch will be coming out of the BYE, through our MNF game in Philly, where we play 4 out of 6 on the road, including the Bills and Rams in consecutive weeks. Not only that, but we play the Cardinals twice within a month, the second time on a short week after those back-to-back road games.

The season closes relatively cupcakey though, with 3 of our last 5 at home. Both New York teams, as well as the Redskins, all look like they’ll be bad again this year, so that’s nice. It’s not all easy, though, as we play the Rams and 49ers the last two weeks, who are tough regardless of where the games are being held.

All told, if things break right, I could squint and see a 12-4 season. More likely, it’ll be something like 10-6 and another Wild Card appearance.

Honestly, I’m more annoyed by our pre-season schedule; both road games are in the Central time zone! At Houston (week 2) and at Minnesota (week 4)? That last one really grinds my gears, because not only do we play the Vikings again in the regular season (and yeah, I know, our starters likely won’t play in the meaningless one), but we also have to follow that up with a trip to Atlanta the very next week. What the hell, NFL?!

Did you believe it? Did you think I was actually mad? I’m sorry, I tried to raise a fuss, but it’s Friday and, well, you know.

Seahawks Death Week: The 2019 Seahawks Were Too Pure For This World

I’m still sort of catatonic and it’s going to be at least another day before I actually WANT to talk about the Seahawks, but here I am, ever the trooper. Honestly, I want to say about an hour or so after the game ended – after reading all the post-mortem tweets and finishing the last two episodes of Letterkenny just to unwind and try to laugh again – I was EXHAUSTED. I could barely keep my eyes open. The game, as usual (and as expected), was so intense and nerve-wracking, then it was over and I was so upset and ready to burn the whole fucking thing to ashes, I really expected to be wired and obsessing over it into the midnight hour. But, I was in bed not only at a reasonable hour, but probably 60-90 minutes before I really NEEDED to go to sleep. I wouldn’t say I’m wide-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning – I kept dreaming of being chased by giant rabbit monsters – but I guess I could always be less refreshed, so I’ll take it.

I was really trying, you guys. I was reverse-jinxing my ASS off these last couple weeks and I hope it was appreciated! I feel like my efforts alone got the Seahawks past the Eagles and if I’m not immortalized in this season’s Wikipedia page, then there’s a great injustice in the world. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to get us through the Divisional Round.

Truth be told, I think the result would’ve been exactly the same had we played the 49ers on Saturday. Just a hunch, obviously there’s no way to know for sure, but I actually liked our chances a lot more had we somehow managed to beat the Packers and gotten to face them next week. Not for nothing, but the ideal scenario – winning the division, securing that 3-seed – still figures to have been the best path to success this playoff season. In that case, we would’ve beaten the Vikings at home (no doubt in my mind; Kirk Cousins is a fraud), gone on the road to play the Saints (who have proven they’re not unbeatable at home; plus it’s a climate-controlled dome over the freezing cold of Lambeau Field), and then either hosting the 49ers for the NFC Championship Game or going on the road to play the Packers after they’ve been tenderized by Frisco. The Super Bowl isn’t a mortal lock in that alternate universe, but I have to believe it beats our stupid reality.

The bottom line is: these Seahawks just weren’t good enough. We’ve overachieved all season, and this result is probably our absolute ceiling: going on the road in the Divisional Round, fighting back against an underwhelming 13-3 Packers team, and losing a 1-score game.

I mean, I hate to keep harping on it, but we were +7 in point differential in the regular season. Including our two playoff games, we’re +10 over 18 games; it’s almost a miracle we got THIS far. Play this season in a million different simulations, and I’m not sure there are too many examples of better outcomes than what we saw this year.

In my darkest hour, when I reflect back on this season, I’ll always wonder what could’ve been if we’d hired a babysitter for Josh Gordon …

We don’t really need to dwell too hard on the first half; it went about as expected. If gambling were legalized, you know what I would’ve done? I would’ve bet our poor, mistreated Taylor Family Farm on the Packers in the first half. What was it, -2 points? THAT was the easiest money of the weekend. With they way they always get off to hot starts – and the way we always trip over our own dicks – how do you not make that bet?

We went down 7 early, punted on our first two possessions, and then pulled it to 7-3 on a very unsatisfying drive that started at our own 42 yard line. Those would be our only points of the half, as we missed our other field goal attempt; meanwhile the Packers dominated the second quarter to go up 21-3. If it’s a Divisional Round matchup and the Seahawks are on the road, we’re DEFINITELY going to shit the bed for the first 30 minutes of the game, that’s just a given.

Then, the big climb out of the gutter. Touchdown to Lynch out of the break, 21-10. The Packers came right back down the field – embarrassingly easy, which was the name of the game – to make it 28-10, but to our credit we got right back to work with a long drive to make it 28-17. Then, we forced the first of two punts of the half, and things felt like they were turning. On our first drive of the fourth quarter, we drove all the way down again to score on another Lynch goalline plunge to make it 28-23; getting sacked on a corner blitz on the 2-point try felt like a pretty large tell that things were about to get shitty again.

BUT! We forced yet another punt, and now it REALLY looked like this game was going to be memorable. At that point, the Packers’ defense was spent. Our offense was humming, we were letting Russell cook – as the kids like to say – and right off the bat he hit Lockett for an easy 14-yard gain.

Then, arguably the play of the game. He had Malik Turner wide open on the Green Bay side of the 50-yard line. He hit him in the gut with the ball. And Turner dropped it. You know who wouldn’t have dropped it? Josh Gordon, but that’s neither here nor there. Okay, that was only first down, not a huge deal, right? We came back to hit Hollister for five yards to make 3rd & Manageable at our own 42 yard line. It sounds like MAYBE we considered making that 4-down territory, but we’ll never know for sure because for some reason, whatever play we called left Hollister trying to block one of the best pass rushers on Green Bay, who easily beat him for a 6-yard sack (with Ifedi standing there with nothing to do but fondle his own choad, I guess, instead of helping the overmatched receiving tight end against a linebacker who had at least 50 pounds of muscle on him).

At 4th & 11 at our own 36 yard line, punting was the right choice, in my mind. We had all three time outs (somehow, none were wasted), plus the 2-minute warning. If our defense could’ve forced just one more punt, the game could’ve been ours.

But, we let them convert a 3rd & 8 and a 3rd & 9 to salt away the game. And, here’s where I start calling out some guys, because it’s time.

Lano Hill was on the field, and I want to say he was involved in getting beaten on both of those third downs. He’s the fucking WORST. I saw Marquise Blair was inactive with an injury in practice this week, and that might legitimately be the reason why we lost this game. Words can’t describe how terrible Lano Hill is, and I can’t believe we’re stuck with him for one more season.

Let’s see, who else? AHH! Tre Flowers sure did suck! That guy couldn’t cover (my old, dead granny? the broad side of a barn? a cold?) Rock in a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors where his opponent had both hands genetically fused into the shapes of fists! (nailed it). He really doesn’t look like he’s made any progress between Year 1 and Year 2; frankly he looks the same as he did in his very first game. At no point whatsoever did I trust him against Davante Adams yesterday, nor any other receiver they opted to slot to his side. He was a total disaster in this game, and he’s eating a pretty significant slice of the “Reasons Why The Seahawks Lost To The Packers” Pie.

Also, I don’t know who I should blame for this, but not adjusting your scheme to put your best cornerback (Shaquill Griffin) on the other team’s best receiver (Adams) when it’s pretty apparent they’ve only got the one good one … I mean, it’s appalling! 8 catches for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns. You can’t allow that, while also allowing Jimmy Graham to do what he did, while also allowing them to get decent yardage on the ground, while also allowing them to go 9/14 on third downs.

(also, I know it’s annoying that Graham made all those big catches and ended our season, but he still sucks and they could’ve paid literally any tight end to do the exact same thing; instead they’re taking on a $12.67 million cap hit in 2019 for a stiff, slow, soft bum to do those things, so good for them I suppose)

I know Pete Carroll probably makes that call, but I agree with Field Gulls here, you’ve GOT to find someone who is halfway competent to run this defense. All Ken Norton has shown in his time here is that he’s decent at developing linebackers. As a former linebacker … WHAT A STRETCH!

For shits n’ giggs, here’s a rudimentary look at how Norton’s units have fared since he’s been a Defensive Cordinator. He was a DC for Oakland from 2015-2017, then in Seattle the last two seasons. So, we’ll look at those defenses the year before he arrived, as well as the years he was in charge (in bold and underlined):

  • Raiders 2014: 32nd in points, 21st in yards, 16th in passing yards, 22nd in rushing yards
  • 2015: 22nd in points, 22nd in yards, 26th in passing, 13th in rushing
  • 2016: 20th in points, 26th in yards, 24th in passing, 23rd in rushing
  • 2017: 20th in points, 23rd in yards, 26th in passing, 12th in rushing
  • Seahawks 2017: 13th in points, 11th in yards, 6th in passing yards, 19th in rushing yards
  • 2018: 11th in points, 16th in yards, 17th in passing, 13th in rushing
  • 2019: 22nd in points, 26th in yards, 27th in passing, 22nd in rushing

I’ll let smarter people than me dig into the analytics, but those are numbers everyone can understand, and they’re NOT GREAT BOB! I’m stepping on the toes of some later posts this week, but Ken Norton has done nothing to warrant keeping his job in Seattle.

Getting back to this game, I’ll gladly shit on Malik Turner a second time. He belongs in the XFL posthaste. He’s just a guy. Jaron Brown is just a guy. Every receiver not named Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf are JAGs and this is a spot – with how frequently the Seahawks are in 3-wide receiver sets – the team could use an upgrade (again, lament the loss of poor Josh Gordon).

Everyone’s talking about the total absence of turnovers in recent weeks, so I guess I’ll mention that here. But, I always treat those as fluke occurrences; if you’re counting on your team to generate turnovers, then you’re bound to be disappointed in games like these. The Packers take good care of the ball. They’re well coached. And, they have one of the best quarterbacks of all time who has NEVER really turned the ball over much. Expecting Aaron Rodgers to throw picks is a better definition of insanity than the old cliche everone trots out on a daily basis nowadays.

I’m more disturbed by the lack of a pass rush, which is something far more in our control. I know it’s dumb to send the house against quarterbacks like A-Rod, but also leaving him in a pocket for 10 seconds to scan the field three or four times is also a bad recipe. Of course, that was our concern from the very beginning of the season, so I’ll say again: Thanks Ziggy Ansah, for NOTHING! That’s not totally fair, since he got hurt last week, but he also brought nothing to the table the entire season, so fuck him.

Anyway, 2 sacks for 8 yards (and, really, not too many pressures beyond that, ESPECIALLY on that final drive to run out the clock) won’t get it done against the Packers. You’ve got to get A-Rod on his ass early and often and have him running from ghosts by the 4th quarter.

***

It wasn’t a total disaster of a game though, so I’ll finish with some bright spots.

I won’t give the Marshawn Lynch Experience a letter grade in his return to the Seahawks; he gets special treatment of the pass/fail variety. And, in that sense, it’s an easy Pass for Beastmode. He had 2 TDs in this one on 26 yards rushing. It was tough sledding, as I feared it might. I’ve said this too many times to count: the Seahawks tend to get owned by really elite interior linemen, and Kenny Clark’s return was the difference in this one. He clogged up the middle and there was just nowhere for our guy to run. I like the idea of giving Lynch more carries and essentially making him the starter in this one over Homer – and he certainly made SOME chicken salad out of the chicken shit blocking we were giving him – but I don’t know if anyone on our roster or out in the free agent scrap heap could’ve done any better.

That’s 4 more touchdowns to throw on the Marshawn Lynch career pile, including 3 more in the playoffs, to help bolster his Hall of Fame chances. I really hope he makes it someday.

Ever since Shaquem Griffin started getting some run at defensive end in passing situations, I’ve been waiting for him to get his first sack in a huge situation, so it’s fitting it came in our last game of the season, in the fourth quarter, which ended up forcing the Packers to punt. What a fucking cool moment, with his brother getting there at nearly the same time, allowing them to celebrate together! Ruined, of course, by Malik Turner and our offense’s inability to capitalize. But, that’s something big to build on heading into the 2020 season.

Russell Wilson, of course, had a fine game. He wasn’t given a lot of help, but once again he accounted for an insanely high percentage of this offense’s output. 341 of our 387 yards came from Wilson’s arm or legs (not counting sack yardage).

One guy who showed up in a huge way was Tyler Lockett: 9 for 136 and a touchdown. As expected, with D.K. being the story last week, he had a relatively quiet game, as the Packers put a lot of resources his way. But, thankfully Lockett was up to the task, as he was getting open all over the field.

Before I forget, I can’t tell you how impressed I was with Duane Brown. He wasn’t perfect, but he was definitely needed, and rushing back from surgery to start in this game was super-human. Unfortunately, Mike Iupati couldn’t make the same miracle recovery, and he was seriously missed in the middle. Without him – and with Jamarco Jones leaving early with a head injury – there was absolutely nothing we could do with the aforementioned Kenny Clark.

Defensively, I dunno. Our front seven did pretty well, given the circumstances. We held down their rushing, and got better as the game went along in that regard. Clowney was a warrior. Bobby Wagner had some big stops. But, we didn’t get much from our safeties, and in the end we just couldn’t make the stops when it mattered most. The Packers were 3/3 in the red zone, all for touchdowns, and you just can’t do that against this team and expect to win. You have to make one of those a field goal! And, I don’t know what the fuck happened on that 40-yard TD to Adams, but 1-on-1 coverage with Flowers as the primary was inexcusable. He should’ve been double-teamed all day, and ultimately that call comes from the top.

Terrible defensive scheme by Pete Carroll. You were ultimately the reason why we lost this game. Of course, you’re also the reason why we ended up making the playoffs in the first place, and got this far with a team that probably should’ve been 9-7 or 8-8, so good job I guess?

They can’t all be Bill Belichick.

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.

A Flip Of A Coin Decided The Seahawks Vs. Bucs Game

I mean, let’s be real here. The Seahawks’ defense wasn’t going to stop anything the Bucs threw at them. If they’d won the overtime coin flip, they would’ve marched right down the field and scored a touchdown, and we’d all be bitching and moaning about how Russell Wilson never got a chance to touch the ball in overtime. There’d be the side that just wants to watch good QBs get a chance to be clutch in the extra period, and there’d be the other side that would (correctly) argue that a defense should be able to keep the other team out of the endzone for a chance to deserve a possession in this scenario.

Funny how I haven’t heard too many arguments from the national media lamenting the fact that Jameis Winston never got a chance to touch the ball in overtime. Because that guy’s trash, but much like Matt Schaub the week before, we made him look like a flippin’ genius!

Winston threw for 335 yards and 2 TDs and it could’ve been even better, had that receiver not run himself out of bounds in the back of the endzone in the second half. I don’t know how he managed to do that, but it was a gift to the Seahawks and I’ll cherish it always. To be fair, Winston did have a Dave Krieg Special with his fumble (where he went to throw it, but the ball squirted backwards out of his hand), and should’ve had a pick in the endzone in the first half, but it weirdly bounced into a different receiver’s outstretched arms for a touchdown. I was waiting all day for a truly terrible decision, but it never came. Winston played well. But, he also didn’t really need to work all that hard, because his receivers were open all day.

Mike Evans should have games like this every week; I don’t understand why he isn’t the most dominant player in the NFL. I was on him (for fantasy purposes) since his rookie season; he’s truly great. In this one, he caught 12 balls for 180 yards and a touchdown. We just couldn’t cover him. Even the one time Shaquill Griffin made a seemingly great play on a ball towards his side, Evans just snatched it away and ran down field like Griffin wasn’t even there! Evans is a total stud who deserves a better quarterback like nobody’s business.

Yet, you could argue (especially since the Seahawks ended up winning) that Evans was outplayed by Tyler Lockett, who caught 13 for 152 and 2 TDs. This game went almost exactly as I predicted, with both passing attacks just FEASTING on some trash secondaries. Over 51.5 points was the easiest bet on the board all day, and I hope Vegas took a beating over that one. I don’t know who was in charge there, but that dude should be fired.

***

Anyway, for as happy as I was about Lockett, I think this was a really important turning point for D.K. Metcalf. His numbers weren’t as eye-popping (6 for 123 and a TD is nothing to sneeze at, though), but this is more of a Smell Test game for him, and he passed with flying colors. For starters, that crosser he took 53 yards to the house was a thing of beauty; it was – dare I say it – Julio Jones-esque!

But, even better was his catch in overtime. 3rd & 6 from the Tampa 35 yard line. We were clearly NOT in field goal range (more on that in a bit) and everything about this screamed 4-Down Territory. I don’t think you throw a deep back-shoulder fade like this without knowing that you’re DEFINITELY going for it on fourth down. We might never know the answer, but it didn’t matter, because Metcalf made a phenomenal play on the ball and managed to land in bounds to pretty much seal the victory. This came on the same day where he got pushed out of bounds without getting his second foot down to kill a drive and you couldn’t help thinking that was a rookie mistake in a rookie season chock full of rookie mistakes.

This was easily Metcalf’s best game as a pro, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. For starters, it came in the same week the Seahawks claimed Josh Gordon, who from a talent perspective feels like an older version of Metcalf (I’ll do a full write-up on the Gordon deal later this week). But, while Metcalf has always been featured pretty heavily as this team’s #2 receiver, it’s been very spotty. Heading into this one, he’d only caught 23 of his 45 targets, and you had to wonder if the pre-draft haters were at least a little on the nose with him. Granted, a lot of the balls thrown to him are 50/50 balls with a guy all over him, but he’s 6’4, 229 pounds, that’s what he’s here for is to catch the majority of those deep 1-on-1 passes. Well, I’ll be interested to see how the rest of his season shakes out from here, because that catch in overtime was the biggest of his career to date. Regardless, the more times he comes up big in big moments, the better it should prove to be for his career in Seattle. I thought there was a better-than-decent chance that D.K. Metcalf could turn into a superstar when the Seahawks drafted him (his size, his raw talent, the fact that he dropped so far in the draft and the resultant chip on his shoulder, and the nature of this offense being one very suited for his skillset), and given his season to date (29 catches, 525 yards, 5 touchdowns) I think we’re well on our way. Paired with Lockett, we could be talking about two of the very best receivers in all of football in a couple years.

***

All those words and we haven’t talked about the other breakout player from this one: Jacob Hollister! What an absolutely fascinating career he’s had to date. He was originally a quarterback in high school, and was Oregon’s 5A player of the year. He was set to go to college in Nevada, but ended up transferring both schools and his position to tight end.

He went undrafted, but signed on with the Patriots as a rookie in 2017 and played the full season as the team’s third tight end. Feels like the perfect situation, right? He was injured for much of 2018 and had to be placed on IR. But, you had to figure, with Gronk retiring after last season, this would’ve been his time to move up the depth chart.

Instead, the Patriots traded him to the Seahawks for a 2020 7th round pick, which at this point looks like the steal of the century. Bill Belichick doesn’t get fleeced like this! He’s the one doing the fleecing!

Yet, Seahawks fans had to wonder heading into this season, as Hollister found himself on the Practice Squad, behind the likes of Will Dissly, Nick Vannett, George Fant, Luke Willson, and eventually Ed Dickson when he returns from IR. I’m honestly – first – surprised that Hollister even qualified for the Practice Squad (I don’t totally understand the rules there, and quite frankly I don’t WANT to understand). Secondly, I’m surprised he wasn’t picked up by another team (you would’ve figured many teams – but particularly Miami or Detroit, who have head coaches familiar with him – would’ve been more than willing to bring in a former Patriots tight end, with their pedigree at finding talent at the position). Maybe he was about to be claimed, because the Seahawks promoted him just ahead of the Cleveland game, which was fortuitous with Dissly getting injured on that very day.

The Seahawks have been undermanned at tight end ever since, as we’ve waited for Ed Dickson to return to game shape (he should be back in the next week or two), with only two true tight ends on the roster in Willson and Hollister (with Fant as the proverbial blocking tight end, who has actually had to fill in more at the regular offensive line spots with injuries to Duane Brown in recent weeks). Willson is a known commodity, but Hollister has been a fascinating player to watch develop over the last few weeks. He didn’t do a whole lot in his first couple of games against Baltimore and Atlanta (combining for 5 receptions and 38 yards), but he exploded in this one with 4 catches, 37 yards, and 2 touchdowns (including the game-winner in overtime). You had to feel great for him as he was hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates during the celebration.

I guess the knock on him is his blocking? I dunno. Anyone’s better than Jimmy Graham, I suppose, so maybe that’s why it hasn’t bugged me too much. Anyway, with Hollister, Willson, and Dickson when he returns, tight end should be a cool position of strength for this team at just the right time. I’m glad the Seahawks didn’t panic and make a deal at the deadline for an O.J. Howard or something, because we wouldn’t have had this great moment.

***

It feels criminal I’ve gone this long without talking about our MVP. Russell Wilson threw for 378 yards (8.8 yards per attempt) and 5 touchdowns against 0 interceptions. That brings his season numbers through 9 games to 2,505 yards, 22 passing touchdowns, and only 1 interception. It’s now just a two-man race between Wilson and Lamar Jackson for the MVP Award, and I think it’ll be neck-and-neck between the two the rest of the way, assuming both teams keep winning and looking impressive on offense.

Wilson generally had all day to throw, which deserves some kudos for the O-Line. They also did their best in the run game (against the best run defense in football) in helping us go 22 for 145 on the ground (including Carson’s 105 yards, much of which came on his manly-man 59 yard run).

You take the good with the bad though, and Carson had two more fumbles in this game (one of which luckily went out of bounds on that 59 yard scamper). He’ll be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2020, and there’s already rumblings that he might hold out or otherwise demand an extension. But, with all of his fumbling issues (on top of his prior injury history), I just don’t see how you can trust him with a big-money contract. Maybe if he plays out his deal, has another big year, and finds a way to fix his fumbling problem, you could consider it. But, right now, I think he’s costing himself millions of dollars every time he puts the ball on the turf, and a smart team would just let him walk and continue to plow resources into the position through the draft.

***

I’ve said all I can say about the offense, so let’s talk about the defense.

That’s 34 points and 418 total yards. The Bucs were 7/15 on 3rd/4th downs. The Seahawks got a couple sacks, which was a couple more than they usually get, and the Bucs only averaged 3.8 yards per carry (“only”). But, I just don’t know. There really isn’t a way to fix this. Our pass rush just gets locked up on every damn passing play. We try to counter by doing stunts, but that just leaves gaping holes for the quarterback to run through for huge gains. We blitz, it gets picked up; we rush four, huge pocket for the QB; we rush three, the other team has all fucking day to throw the ball.

The Bucs were always well-suited to make this one a game though. Elite passing offense, a head coach in Bruce Arians who knows our team very well and has had a lot of success with his Cardinals coming into Seattle and prevailing. And that defensive line – even without Gerald McCoy – is a fucking monster. I always believed in Vita Vea since his days at the University of Washington, but boy is he a load! Husky defensive tackles don’t always pan out in the NFL, but he looks like the best of the bunch so far!

As I said before, I just don’t know, though, when it comes to the Seahawks’ defense. K.J. Wright looks seriously slow and old. The Seahawks need to start working Cody Barton into the scheme more. And, while Bobby Wagner finally got his second sack of the season, he also had one of the dumbest roughing the passer penalties I’ve ever seen. He always likes to get an unnecessary shove in there well after the ball leaves a QB’s hand, and it’s always dumb on his part (regardless of how weak the shove might’ve been; it’s 2019, figure it the fuck out already, the refs are going to protect the quarterback). That one was on third down, which turned a would-be field goal attempt into an eventual touchdown, which was at least a 4-point swing, if not a 7-pointer (had he missed the field goal, which was a distinct possibility).

***

Oh yeah, can’t leave this post without saying something about Jason Myers.

He’s awful.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what you do about it. At least a third of the NFL has issues at the kicker position. It seems like more than ever teams are shuttling kickers in and out every week. But, not every team made the big investment this past offseason like the Seahawks did. Jason Myers is here to stay, at least through his year if not through next year as well. And, again, unless there’s some college kicker who deserves to be selected in the draft, there really isn’t a lot the Seahawks can do. Stephen Hauschka isn’t walking through that door.

Jason Myers just has to get better. He needs to flush this game as soon as humanly possible and get to work on improving his accuracy. The Seahawks are too conservative at the ends of halves to not have a kicker who’s able to make a 40-yarder.

I knew as soon as the Seahawks got into Tampa territory at the end of regulation that they needed to AT LEAST move the ball another 10 yards. Why settle for a 40-yarder when you have the best quarterback in the game going up against one of the worst secondaries in the game? We still had a time out left! Chuck it down inside the red zone and let’s make this automatic! Especially on a day where Myers had struggled so savagely.

Luckily, again, the Seahawks won that overtime coin flip. Because if we hadn’t, this post would’ve been MUCH different.

Russell Wilson Will Be The NFL MVP For The 2019 Season

SCORCHING MOLTEN LAVA TAKE ALERT! This is one of those things where if I’m right, I’ll be crowing like a jackass for the rest of my life. And, if I’m wrong, then it’ll never be spoken of again.

Remember the time I predicted the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl before the season started?

Remember the time before that when I predicted the Ravens would beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl just 1 week into the regular season?

I’ll leave it to the rest of you to find all the times I’ve been wrong, and go out on a limb to say I’m the greatest sports mind of our generation.

I don’t often do a lot of prognosticating on the NFL’s MVP award – or ANY MVP award, really – because I kind of don’t care about it. The only time a Seahawk has won was in 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 13-3 regular season. I argued this at the time and maintain it to this day: the most important player to the Seahawks’ success that year was actually Matt Hasselbeck (we NEVER would’ve gotten anywhere without him), but since he didn’t have insanely gaudy stats (3,459 yards, 65.5% completions, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) he didn’t stand a chance.

Which brings me right back to this year and begs the question: if gaudy stats are a precursor, WHY IN THE HOLY HELL WOULD I PREDICT RUSSELL WILSON FOR THIS AWARD?

Look, it’s not the most thought-out opinion I’ve ever had. 99% of everything I say on here I pull straight from my gut, which has been notoriously inconsistent over the years. But, I’ll try to make an argument and you take it with however much salt you want.

Last year, Wilson had a pretty impressive season: 3,448 yards, 65.6% completions, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 110.9 passer rating. Of course, that was nothing compared to Patrick Mahomes’ season (the actual MVP): 5,097 yards, 66.0% completions, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, and 113.8 rating. Every step of the way (except for INTs) he was better than Wilson.

Well, the first part of my argument is that I believe Mahomes takes a step back in his second full year as a starter. I think he’ll come down to Earth and be more in the middle of the pack. He’ll almost certainly throw for over 4,000 yards, but I don’t think he’ll approach 50 TDs again, and I think his INTs will increase. I would also argue that whenever someone wins as thoroughly as he has, there’s inevitably a backlash among voters, who are constantly looking to give the award to someone different. If you don’t believe that to be true, then please explain to me why LeBron James has zero MVP awards since the 2012/2013 season, in spite of the fact that until this year, he carried his teams to every single NBA Championship series in that span. Also, while you’re at it, tell me why Bill Belichick hasn’t won since 2010 and yet Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have both won twice in that span.

So, if you bet Mahomes at +400, you’re throwing your money away. Which brings me to the current betting odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes +400
  • Drew Brees +700
  • Aaron Rodgers +800
  • Andrew Luck +800
  • Tom Brady +1000
  • Baker Mayfield +1400
  • Russell Wilson +1600
  • Carson Wentz +1900
  • Philip Rivers +2200
  • Deshaun Watson +2500

That’s just the top 10. Some things stand out. All of those guys are quarterbacks (the most important players in the game) and all of those guys are projected to be in the playoffs (or at least contending for the playoffs). While being a quarterback isn’t a MUST, it’s certainly the safest bet. For a non-quarterback to win it, he has to do something REALLY special. Like Shaun Alexander’s touchdown totals. The last non-quarterback to win it was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 8 yards of the all-time rushing yards record in a single season. The time before that, it was LaDainian Tomlinson the year after Alexander, when he ran for 1,815 yards and broke Alexander’s rushing touchdown record with 28.

If I were going to pick a non-QB in 2019, I’d lean towards Saquon Barkley (at +4000), but the Giants are so bad that he would literally have to break every single rushing record for it to happen.

Anyway, as you can see, Wilson is firmly in the Top 10 (shamefully behind Baker Mayfield, which is just a crime against humanity at this point), so Vegas likes his chances. With his new contract extension, Wilson’s name is in the zeitgeist. And, at this junction in his career, I believe there are enough fervent Wilson believers out there to really help make his case and keep his name alive.

Now, he can’t do it alone. It’s going to require the Seahawks to get back to the playoffs. It’ll probably even require the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which I believe this team is capable of. Ideally, the Seahawks will be a top 1 or 2 seed and have a BYE in the playoffs. Something like 12-4 could accomplish this, if everything breaks right. The Rams, you figure, are in for a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints and Bears figure to be our biggest obstacles, as I believe the NFC East will feast upon itself to keep their records down.

Playing well in marquee games is also a must. The Seahawks have five primetime games scheduled, including three in a row late in the season, right in that window where we separate the men from the boys in races like these. Wilson has traditionally stepped up big in these games, so I don’t see that as being an issue either.

With the team playing well, and with his reputation intact, that just leaves his biggest hurdle: his numbers.

Wilson has thrown for over 4,000 yards only twice in his career (though he was 17 yards away in 2017 from making it three times), and last year he was obviously limited by the offense’s design. Part of that was a backlash against the losses in our first two weeks, when the coaching staff had to re-set everything. But, ultimately this team was so successful running the ball that there wasn’t always a serious need to get things done through the air. While the plan heading into the season will be more of the same run-centric style, it wouldn’t totally shock me to see our effectiveness on the ground weaken (much in the same way that I see Mahomes’ numbers taking a dive). Opposing defenses will game plan better. And, I figure injuries will play a more significant role (Carson played in 14 games; I could see that dropping as he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay healthy for the duration) with both the running backs and the O-Line. There’s no Mike Davis, who was a solid contributor, and I seriously question whether Penny will be up to the task if he’s thrust into the #1 role. There should be just enough of a dip in the running game to add a few hundred more yards to Wilson’s passing total.

On top of that, Wilson’s rushing yards are going to continue to go down with every year. He’s a quarterback, and an elite one at that. Elite quarterbacks throw the ball or hand it off, period. He’s heading into his 8th season, which puts him squarely in his prime. He’s had a Hall of Fame trajectory to this point in his career, and I don’t know a whole lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who haven’t won an MVP award. With that in mind, it sort of feels like it’s his destiny to win this award at least once. If we get to the end of the season, and no one has really stood out with awe-inspiring numbers at any position, maybe the voters will look around, see Wilson sitting there with 0 career MVPs, and figure he’s due. People have voted for things based on dumber logic before (say hello to every politician who ever seemed like a guy you’d want to have a beer with).

Getting back to the numbers, though, Wilson’s best chance seems to be with his touchdowns. While he was a far cry from Mahomes’ 50 last year, Wilson was still tied for third with 35. In 2017, he led the league with 34. In 2015, he came in sixth also with 34. I could easily see that number jump up into the 40’s, which should put him well within range. More than that, he’s usually very careful with the ball. Last year he tied a career low with only 7 INTs. I feel with his ability, he can shave that down even further. If he has an insane TD:INT ratio of something like 40:3, that’s the sort of stat that could push him over the top.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the Most VALUABLE Player, then who has had more value to his team than Russell Wilson in his career to date? The knock against him has always been that he’s had an elite defense (except for last year) or an elite running game (except for a few years there post-Beastmode). Well, I’ve already argued that I don’t believe the running game will be as exceptional as it was in 2018, and as for the defense, it was already middle-of-the-road last year; this year, I think middle-of-the-road will be this unit’s CEILING. I think the defense could be truly terrible this year. We’ll likely rank in the bottom third or bottom quarter in the league in sacks and turnovers.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 43 sacks, 13 of which belonged to Frank Clark. 43 put us 11th in football; 30 would’ve been tied for 30th. Ziggy Ansah figures to mitigate some of that, but I highly doubt he’s going to get us all the way there. In fact, I don’t think he’ll even get us halfway there (yes, I’m putting Ansah’s over/under of sacks at 6.5, and I’ll bet the under). With no one else coming in to help account for the loss of Clark’s production (both in sacks, and in the help he provided someone like Jarran Reed, who saw his numbers skyrocket playing with Clark on the outside next to him). If Reed is our only pass-rushing threat (assuming Ansah misses multiple games, or plays through injury and is ineffective as a result), he can be easily neutralized, sending the D-Line tumbling towards the bottom of the league.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 12 interceptions, 5 of which belonged to Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, and Frank Clark. 12 put us tied for 18th in football; 7 would’ve been tied for 29th. Bradley McDougald had 3 of his own last year, but he’s also an injury waiting to happen. Of our younger core in the defensive backfield, Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Tre Flowers all combined for 3 total INTs (Hill and Flowers combining for 0). Who did we add to this group? A couple of rookies, and presumably whatever veterans we bring into Training Camp later this summer. There just isn’t a lot of turnover production in this unit. With the D-Line unable to get pressure, that puts more of the onus on the secondary, which is not NEARLY as talented as the Legion of Boom in its prime.

Now, of course, the Seahawks tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries in 2018, but as we all know, that’s largely based on the luck of the bouncing ball. We did tie for third in forced fumbles, which you’d hope would translate, but again our leader in that category – Frank Clark – is gone.

My point with all of this is to further indicate that I think the Seahawks’ defense will be bad. Our only hope is that we hold teams to an inordinate amount of field goals. But, my expectation is, for the Seahawks to win a lot of games, we’re going to rely exclusively on our offense. That means Russell Wilson will have to do considerably more than he had to do in 2018.

All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like a strong argument, and I get that. All I can say is, with this being the second season with a new offensive coordinator, you have to figure Brian Schottenheimer has had a full year to work with this team, and a second full off-season to tinker with his scheme. While it’ll be foolish to expect the running game to take a complete back seat, I think his ability to adjust in games will improve. With the defense putting us into more passing situations – based on game score alone – I think it’ll open things up for Wilson to really shine like he’s never quite shone before.

Wilson has had spurts. The back-half of his 2015 was as brilliant as it gets; if he had a full season of that, he’d be a hands-down winner of the MVP. I also thought 2018 was his best year yet, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. If we keep the efficiency (or even improve upon it slightly), increase touchdowns, decrease turnovers, and boost up those yards, there won’t be any other excuses to keep him from his due. ESPECIALLY when you consider Baldwin retired, and Lockett is his only quality veteran receiver heading into this season. Voters won’t have the L.O.B. to fall back on, nor will they have as dominant of a running game. They’ll have 8 full years’ worth of elite game play, with 2019 as a coronation of sorts.

In a muddled year of MVP candidates, Wilson will win it in a close voting battle. Mark my words (unless I’m wrong, then forget this ever happened).