My Happy Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review

I told you I’d shoot, but you didn’t believe me.  Why didn’t you believe me …

I’m gonna breeze through this, because there really wasn’t a lot to like about yesterday’s game.  First and foremost, yes, it’s a win.  A win isn’t a loss (or a God damn tie for that matter).  The Seahawks are now 1-1 and in a 3-way tie for first in the NFC West.  More importantly, the Seahawks are 1-0 in the division.  MOST importantly, the rest of that division is who we thought they were.

Arizona got ripped on the road in week one to the Lions, then BARELY beat the Colts in overtime yesterday.  Of course, through two weeks they’re 1-1, with both games on the road; 8 of their remaining 14 games are at home.  But, any way you slice it, it’s not an easy schedule for the Cards, who at best look like an 8-8 team.

The Rams looked like world-beaters in week one against the Colts, but the Colts (without Andrew Luck) are one of the three worst teams in the NFL with the Jets and probably the Browns.  Even WITH Andrew Luck, they’re probably still one of the 5-6 worst teams in the NFL, but that’s neither here nor there.  The Redskins came into Los Angeles and came away with a 7-point victory yesterday, which should start to quiet those calls for the Rams winning the division.  Even worse for the Rams, both of their first two games were at home, and their schedule doesn’t look remarkably easier than Arizona’s.

But, let’s dig into this one.  The key to this game was simply the 49ers being terrible.  They’ll most likely land another Top 5 pick in next year’s draft and we’ll get to see their group nab a bunch more great college players.  But, make no mistake, the Seahawks wouldn’t have won this game if anyone better than Brian Hoyer was at the helm.

I’d like to start with some of the cool things the Seahawks did on offense, but it would be criminal to not kick it off with the D.  The 49ers were held to only 11 first downs, on 2 of 12 third down conversions.  They ran just 48 plays, compared to our 79; and were held to only 248 yards, most of that on the ground.  Hoyer was a dreadful 15/27 for 99 yards passing, a 3.7 yard per attempt average, with an interception to Bobby Wagner.

I thought Earl was all over the place, both in the backfield and around the line of scrimmage.  I thought Lane showed up really well on his side of the field, greatly overshadowing Shaq Griffin, whose only contribution I noted was a horrendous block in the back penalty on special teams.  I thought Richard Sherman was a warrior, playing on an injury that would keep most other cornerbacks out of the lineup.  And, aside from some breakdowns against the run, I thought the D-Line looked great in pass rush.  Michael Bennett particularly had a great game, as did Sheldon Richardson (whose contributions, again, won’t always show up on the stat sheet).  Time and time again, this defense carries this team, and yesterday was absolutely no exception.

Most importantly, I thought this defense harkened back to 2013, like we all expected it to last week.  Obviously, a defense is going to be more successful at home, when the crowd is deafening and opposing offenses can’t check out of bad plays as much, but the last couple years this Seahawks defense hasn’t looked as elite at home.  Teams have come in here and moved the ball pretty good.  I won’t say “at will”, but they’ve been able to move the ball WAY more than they could in 2012-2014.  Even suspect offenses.  But, not yesterday.  There was no way the 49ers were going to win that game, and it had everything to do with the defense.  Part of me can’t wait for when a great offense comes in here and struggles (but the other part of me remembers what this Seahawks offense has been able to do, and I get less and less excited).

Offensively, it was the Chris Carson show.  93 yards on 20 carries, he led the way.  Most importantly, when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, Carson picked up the load.  On the final two drives (the TD drive to take the lead, and the clock-killing drive to end the game), Carson ran for 58 yards on 7 carries, including five straight runs on that final drive to bring the game to kneel downs.  I’ve said all along that I think he’s destined to be our starting running back heading into 2018, and this only leads me to believe that it’ll happen sooner than I thought.

Very interesting, particularly on a day where Eddie Lacy was left inactive, and on a day where Thomas Rawls came back from injury and looked pretty feeble, netting 4 yards on 5 carries.  With Prosise as a clear-cut third down/2-minute back, there’s a wide open lane for Chris Carson to run through to grab hold of the starting job.  He just needs to hit it and blow past the competition.

This game also saw the return of Russell Wilson:  Run Machine.  His 12 carries were the most he’s had in a single game since the 14 he had back in 2014 against the Giants.  34 yards doesn’t sound like anything special, but a number of those runs went for first downs, including two on the touchdown drive alone!  There were definite spots where he could’ve just handed the ball off on the zone read and didn’t, and I like that a whole bunch.  The 49ers weren’t sound defensively on their quarterback contain and Wilson made them pay.  That’s going to be big as this offense continues to try to find consistency.

Finally, that throw.  The offense has been much maligned – and rightfully so – for going seven quarters without a touchdown.  It seems to seize up inside the 10 yard line and find ways to settle for field goals instead of punching the ball over the goalline.  When all appeared lost, down 9-6, on 3rd down from the 9 yard line, the pocket collapsed around him and it looked like we’d be settling for a tie.  It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve seen some of that good ol’ Russell Wilson magic, but it reappeared yesterday.  He ducked under two defenders – who somehow managed to run past our O-Line, only to run into one another – scrambled up into the pocket and threw a laser to Paul Richardson at the side of the endzone for the go-ahead score.  Everything about that was ESSENTIAL to how this team won football games in 2012-2014.

Also, shoutout to P-Rich for catching the game winning TD with a broken/dislocated finger.  STUD!

I’ll leave it at that, because I want to believe things are headed on the right track, but I just can’t figure out a way this team succeeds next week in Tennessee.  I’m just glad we got the first win of the season and we can all quickly move on.

My Angry Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review

There’s a lot to dig into with this game, so I’m gonna split it up into two posts.  Look for My Happy Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review a little later.  Spoiler Alert:  it should be a lot shorter than this one.

The Seahawks played like dogshit yesterday.  There’s no other way to describe it.  Even when the offense was going good, there’d be a drop, or a breakdown in protection, or a lack of pocket awareness by Russell Wilson, or a baffling string of play calls, and all that good would be derailed.  And yeah, the defense held Brian Hoyer to 99 yards passing, but they gave up a whopping 124 yards rushing to Carlos Hyde, on only 15 carries!  On the day, the 49ers rushed for an average of 8.4 yards per carry!  If you put even a SEMI-competent quarterback on that team, the Seahawks would’ve lost handily.

Let me repeat that:  the Seahawks – AT HOME – nearly lost to the 49ers, a team coming off of a 2-14 season, with a new coaching staff, a rookie GM straight out of the broadcast booth, and a backup quarterback masquerading as a starting quarterback until they can draft somebody better in 2018.  Now, granted, I like Kyle Shanahan a lot.  I think he completely transformed the Falcons into a dominant force last season, and I think he’s got a lot of great things in store as a head coach.  I also like what they were able to do with their draft this year, and could see John Lynch really working out if they can manage to find their quarterback of the future (either via the draft, or via signing Kirk Cousins to a megadeal).  But, come on!  At this point, the 49ers shouldn’t pose a threat!  They CERTAINLY shouldn’t find themselves ahead 9-6 in the fourth quarter in the driving rain of Seattle, Washington!

Look, there was never a point where I was looking forward to this game last week.  It’s almost one of those proverbial “no-win” situations.  If you kill the 49ers, then great, you’ve killed the 49ers and it’s a boring game.  If you LOSE to the 49ers, then that’s it, the season’s over and we can all kill ourselves.  But … this?  Scratching and clawing to a 12-9 victory at home?  That’s almost as bad as a loss.  Now, obviously, it’s not worse.  A win is still a win and they all count the same, regardless of how pretty they are, but with the win everyone gets to gloss over the fact that the Seahawks looked terrible and in no way look like a viable playoff team going forward.

You know what I thought of when I was watching this team?  The Houston Texans.  The Texans are notorious for their 9-10 win seasons where – by virtue of the terrible division they reside in – they frequently make the playoffs as a 4-seed, before getting bounced in the first round whenever they don’t play the Bengals.  Yeah, it’s cool having an awesome defense, and it’s cool to call yourselves “Division Winners”, but how cool is it to lose every time you play a quality team?

And that’s the bottom line here.  The last two years, against the Best of the Best, the Seahawks have a record of 4-7.  When you go back to our two Super Bowl years, sure the Seahawks would drop a clunker every now and then, but they also seemed to get up for the big ones!  If they’re going to spend all their time just beating up on the bad teams and losing the games that really matter, they might as well call themselves the Mariners and get it over with!

But, if they keep playing offense the way they have through two weeks, I don’t think “beating up on the bad teams” is even on the table.

I’m going to start with Jimmy Graham, because this guy is the fucking worst.  Oh yes, I’ve found my new whipping boy!

Look, we all knew Graham was soft.  He was a big puffy cloud of cotton candy in New Orleans, and he didn’t suddenly get hard because he joined the Seahawks.  We KNEW this!  We knew this when we played against him:  if you hit Jimmy Graham in the mouth, he will become a non-factor for the rest of the game.  I don’t mean that literally, of course, but if I had all the time in the world, I’d love to do a deep dive into his career and watch all of his video.  What are his numbers when he takes a huge hit in the first quarter of a game?  Because it seems just from watching him that he shrivels up like a dick in the Arctic Ocean.  Gutless.  Weak.  A punk.  And probably worst of all:  a frontrunner.  When things come easy to him, when defenses play off-coverage, when he’s able to nab a few balls and get into the flow of the offense, Jimmy Graham will pile on the catches and yards and really look like a dominant force.  But, when the chips are down and you need a big catch in the fourth quarter of a game, where is he?  Nowhere to be fucking found.

And I’m not buying this argument that the Seahawks don’t use him right.  Fuck that.  If you’re a tight end, you have to do ALL the things tight ends do.  If you want to be a wide receiver, then tell your team that ahead of time.  But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t know a lot of teams that want a slow wide receiver on the outside with bad hands.  Sure, it’s fine when you throw fades to him in the red zone, when he can contort his body and only has to contend with one defender.  But, that’s not realistic.  He NEEDS to be able to make catches in the middle, in traffic, absorb the hits, and most importantly COME DOWN WITH THE FUCKING FOOTBALL!

The Seahawks use him just fine.  They throw to him probably MORE than he deserves.  And what has HE done to deserve the benefit of the doubt?  There’s got to be a give and take here.  Quite frankly, I no longer think it’s a coincidence that this team looked VASTLY improved in the second half of 2015 when he was OUT of the lineup.  You know what, throw all your bullshit stats at me; I’ll throw “Scoreboard” back at you.  How has this offense looked throughout 2016 and through the first two games this year?  How did this offense look in those few games in 2014 when they tried to revolve the offense around Percy Harvin.  Prima donnas don’t fucking WORK in this offense!  At this point, I’d take 8 Jermaine Kearses over an offense that tries to make Jimmy Fucking Graham its centerpiece.

So, what do you do?  I mean, you can’t cut him, but I think you can demote the shit out of him.  I think you can make Luke Willson the starter.  I think you can keep Graham on the bench outside of clear-cut passing situations.  I don’t need him fumbling blocks and being a waste of space on all running plays.  On any straight hand off to the running back, it’s already 10 vs. 11 because the quarterback is a non-factor; but, with Graham on the field, it’s like 9 vs. 11, and that’s why this team time and time again fails to move the ball on the ground.  I agree, you CAN’T call Jimmy Graham your starting tight end, but only play him in passing situations; so stop starting him.

And, when he’s out there in passing downs, keep throwing him into heavy coverage.  Either he’ll adapt to the harder hits and start catching these fucking passes, or he’ll get himself injured, and you can just cut him and move on.  Yes, I’m ACTIVELY rooting for Jimmy Graham to get injured; better him than someone who can actually help this team win fucking football games!

I would suggest trading him, but that doesn’t seem very realistic either.  Part of me thinks putting him in the AFC would be ideal (my fantasy team would appreciate it if he joined the Patriots, who very much should be trying to trade for him at this point, what with their receiver situation and Gronk’s injury history), but from a strict football standpoint, I think it’d be better for the Seahawks to send him to an NFC rival.  Stick him on the Packers, let them start to depend upon him, and then beat the shit out of him in the playoffs and leave them scrambling to find answers for when he inevitably no-shows.  It’s how we kept beating the Saints; I don’t see why it wouldn’t work again!

And, again, as with Percy Harvin costing us a chance to extend Golden Tate, I wonder if having Jimmy Graham around cost us a chance to keep Jermaine Kearse around for one more year.  I won’t overreact to his 2-TD day with the Jets yesterday, but I will say that I’d straight up trade Graham for Kearse right now.  Regardless, having Kearse around would’ve been nice considering Tanner McEvoy dropped everything thrown in his direction, including a surefire touchdown that would’ve changed the complexion of the entire game.  Between him, Prosise, and the rest, guys were dropping balls left and right!  Prosise particularly, as Russell led him with a pass that would’ve taken him straight into the endzone on our opening drive.  He also dropped a potential third down conversion later in the game that was a crusher.

It really made Russell Wilson’s day look so much worse.  I’m not going to sit here and say he played great – he definitely had his share of poor throws and poor decisions – but it could’ve been a decent, forgettable performance had he not been greeted by so many drops.  Also, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s still running for his fucking life back there, even when the protection is kinda okay.

But, for the most part, it wasn’t okay.  It’s never GOING to be okay.  Mark Glowinski is a disaster, and he needs to not be starting for this team anymore.  I know Oday Aboushi is just a veteran on a 1-year deal, but I refuse to believe he’s worse.  I think the Seahawks see a guy they drafted, a guy under club control for a bit longer, and they want to shoot for continuity over simply just playing the five best linemen, and I get that to a point.  I think we’re in a no-win situation with Luke Joeckel, because if he turns it around and somehow plays well, he’s going to command a mint on the open market.  If he’s terrible, then he’s likely going to find himself back on the street next offseason, playing for another 1-year prove-it deal (only this time as a clear backup).  Either way, it doesn’t seem likely that he’s a longterm solution for the Seattle Seahawks at left guard.  So, to play two of these types of guys – with Aboushi at right guard – and risk losing both to free agency next year if they both play well, is a lot to handle.

But, I mean, how much more of THIS can we withstand?  Sure, there are a couple of underwhelming defensive fronts the next two weeks with the Titans and Colts, but then it’s right back to getting your ass kicked against the likes of the Rams, Giants, Texans, Cardinals, Falcons, 49ers, Eagles, Jags, Rams again, and the Cardinals again.  That’s 10 of your remaining 14 games against really good defensive fronts that should certainly give this Seattle O-Line fits.  RARE is the game we can look forward to this team being in control of the line of scrimmage.  And, I’m sure, even against those terrible fronts, we’ll still struggle, because of course we will.  No name assholes will make mincemeat out of us, and Russell Wilson will have the bumps and bruises to prove it.

And holy shit, what was THAT on defense?  That’s two years in a row where Carlos Hyde has come into our building and come away with a 100-yard game!  We’re supposed to be this elite defense at stopping the run, and we can’t stop a just-sort-of-okay running back?  He almost single-handedly cost us the game with his explosive plays!  They couldn’t do SHIT aside from his long-distance runs!

But, you know, pobody’s nerfect.  The defense has been outstanding these first two weeks, only to be repeatedly let down by this offense.  Really, since 2012, we’ve been sitting around and daydreaming about a time where the offense finally takes over.  We thought, maybe in 2014, the script would flip.  Then, after that dominant run to close out the 2015 season, we thought YES!  2016 is the year!  And here we are, now in 2017, and this offense is more inept than it’s ever been.  The defense is STILL carrying this team.  And somehow, we’re not greeted with weekly rantings by disgruntled stars on that side of the ball.

You know how I know that pre-season Seth Wickersham article is 100% accurate?  Particularly the parts that talk about the defense being upset with this offense costing the Seahawks ballgames?  Because I’m sitting here watching this team fall all over itself in the running game, and in the red zone, and everywhere else, and I know for a fact I’d be going ballistic if I was a member of this elite defense and I knew every single game was on our shoulders.  We all wanted to dismiss Wickersham – myself included – but this is a real problem, and if we blow another shot at a championship with all these stars in the prime of their careers, I think we’re going to see all the bad vibes start to snowball.

The Seahawks Played A Fourth Pre-Season Game and I Drafted A Fantasy Football Team

What do you want from me?  It was a meaningless fourth pre-season game where most of the starters didn’t even play a single snap.  The Seahawks beat the Raiders 17-13 thanks to a final TD-drive by Austin Davis in the fourth quarter against scrubs.  The backup quarterback controversy is in full effect, and I couldn’t care less.

On top of that, I didn’t even get to see the vast majority of it, because my primary fantasy football league held its draft at the same time.  So, instead of pouring over the stats from the game, and speculating on who will get cut and who might get traded (Kearse, Lane, Collins?), I’m going to tell you about my fantasy football draft.

I know no one gives a shit about anyone else’s fantasy football team but their own, but this is my blog and I’ll rosterbate if I want to!

For starters, you should know that it’s a 2-keeper league that’s set up to expand to a 3-keeper league in 2018.  Meaning, we have to keep 2 players from last year’s roster, with the knowledge going into this draft that we’ll have to keep 3 players next year.

Next up, you should know that it’s a 10-team league, head-to-head, with a 6-team playoff system (top 2 teams get first round BYEs).  The bottom four teams play in a Consolation Bracket whereupon the winner of said bracket gets to draft first overall, and the rest of the draft order goes backwards from there.  Since I lost in the championship of the Consolation Bracket, I drafted second overall.

As you might surmise, my 2016 team wasn’t very good.  I spent the entire year obsessing over the simple fact of just getting two quality keepers on my team, because my 2015 team was just as bad.  It’s been a vicious cycle of mediocrity for many years now.  Instead of investing in my future, by drafting the likes of Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson in their rookie seasons, I’ve been forging my own path full of veterans with disasterous results.  So, last year, I said, “NO MORE!”  And yet, somehow the best I could muster was keeping Carson Wentz and Brandin Cooks.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Wentz.  I mostly like him because people in the know, scouts and whatnot, keep telling me he’s going to be one of the good ones.  I read stories about how he’s a football junkie and is working out all the time and so on and so forth and it gives me hope that maybe in a year or two he’ll be Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson, and that I’ll have gotten in on the ground floor of a keeper I can enjoy for many years to come!

As for Cooks, he was the best of the rest on my roster last year.  I like him a lot too, especially because he was traded to New England, and hearing stories about him and Brady hitting it off on the practice field gave me cause to jump for joy.

But, you know, it’s not like we’re talking about Aaron Rodgers and LeVeon Bell here.  These aren’t superstars, and there are very valid concerns about them producing in the future.

Also, you should know about our league:  it’s a 2-QB system.  Gameday rosters look like this:  QB, QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, RB/WR/TE Flex, K, DEF, with 5 bench spots.  It’s a PPR league (1 point per reception), with any and all TDs worth 6 points, and it heavily skews in favor of the quarterback (unlike standard leagues, where top RBs are king, in our league, if you don’t have two good QBs, you might as well fucking kill yourself).  So, in that sense, it’s like the real NFL, except we doubled up on QBs per team because it’s only a 10-team league and it’s insane to have viable starting QBs on the waiver wire during BYE weeks.

So, that sets the stage.  Long story short:  my keepers are kinda sucky, I’m drafting #2 overall, and I need to be in a position to keep 3 guys next year.

Now, a little wrinkle!  I worked out a pre-draft trade with the guy who kept Ezekiel Elliott!  What with his 6-game suspension looming to start the season, and my friend ostensibly holding out hope for a championship this year, he accepted a straight-up swap of Cooks for Elliott.  With Julian Edelman going on IR in subsequent days, it looked like he was going to get a lot more value out of the deal.  However, with it appearing like Elliott might shake this whole suspension thing (from 6 games to 0, thanks to the NFL’s bungling), I might have the steal of the draft on my hands!

Of course, going forward, I have to worry about Elliott’s character concerns, while Cooks is by all accounts a model citizen on a championship team, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, instead of Wentz & Cooks, it’s Wentz & Elliott.  I can work with that!

I don’t want to list out everyone else’s keepers, so hopefully you’ll glean from context who was kept (lots of QBs, most of the tip-top skill-position players).  Going into the first two picks, I surmised the best two players available (for our particular league and no one else’s) were LeVeon Bell and Dak Prescott (the guy who had Bell last year opted to keep his stud QBs; he was obviously league champion).  I was pretty sure the #1 pick overall was going to take a QB, and I was pretty sure that QB was going to be Dak.  But, the day of the draft, he texted me that he was going with Marcus Mariota, another young, up-and-coming fantasy points hog.

That left me with the choice of Bell or Dak.  Understanding that there really weren’t any other young stud QBs left in the draft, only veterans and injury risks (Roethlisberger, Rivers, Stafford, Eli, Palmer, Cutler, and so on and so forth), I went with Dak.  I think he’s a superstar in the making and I’m not buying for one second this notion of a sophomore slump.  His TD/INT ratio this year might not be as crazy as last year, but I think we’ll see a spike in his overall TDs and yards thrown to MORE than make up for the regression.

As we snaked our way through the next round and a half, it dawned upon me that a lot of those veteran/injury risk QBs I listed above were flying off the board, to my shock and awe.  My hope, heading into this draft, was to get Dak and wrap around at pick 19 and snag Roethlisberger.  That way, I could bench Wentz and save him for when Roethlisberger ultimately gets injured (and hope that by that time Wentz would have asserted himself as a full-fledged fantasy starter in this league).  No such luck.  In fact, as the draft would shake out, I was completely and totally unable to pick up a backup QB.

At the tail end of the second round, after it was clear I wouldn’t get my rock of a backup QB, I was hoping to land Dez Bryant and have the Dallas Cowboys trifecta, but he was snagged 3 picks before me.  Michael Thomas, from New Orleans, fell WAY farther than I would’ve thought (I’m VERY high on Thomas this year and going forward), but was taken 2 picks before me.  There were a lot of options left, but I went with Leonard Fournette, in the hopes that he’ll become Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 (minus the domestic abuse charges).  The fact that he plays for the Jags scares me, as does the fact that he’s a rookie with a terrible QB in front of him, so much so that I might not even start him in Week 1 (such is my mania).  But, the instant he gets me a 20-point game for my bench, he’ll be locked into my starting lineup going forward.

I wrapped around and took Gronk in the third round.  A sure thing from a fantasy persepctive, and one of the very biggest question-marks from an injury perspective.  Either way, there weren’t a lot of good receivers left, so I took Best Player Available.

At this point, my team is Wentz, Dak, Elliott, Fournette, and Gronk.  Still no actual wide receivers.

By the time the draft got back to me, a lot more good receivers went off the board, so in keeping with my Best Player Available strategy, I took Carlos Hyde, RB of the 49ers.  I think he’s going to have a monster year as the best offensive weapon on that team.  Wrapping around, still without an amazing receiver option, I took Lamar Miller of the Texans.  So, now I’ve got 2 QBs, 4 RBs, 0 WRs, and 1 TE.

At my next pick, I knew I had to take a receiver, regardless of what was left out there.  For me, it came down to Emmanuel Sanders of DEN and Jamison Crowder of WAS.  Thankfully, the decision was made for me by the guy drafting right before me as he took Sanders.  Crowder it was.  Wrapping around, I was sure I was going to take Stefon Diggs of the Vikings, and ultimately this might be the pick I end up regretting the most.  See, with Yahoo’s rankings (yeah, we play on Yahoo, sue us), I saw an opportunity for another young, up-and-coming running back in Derrick Henry (the way the rankings were set, I doubt he would’ve been there for me nearly 20 picks later).  I had him all last year, and all last year he was decidedly behind DeMarco Murray on the depth chart.  I waited ALL YEAR for Murray to get hurt, and not only did he stay healthy, but he was in the top 3 of all backs in rushing attempts!  And this was in spite of the fact that whenever Henry did get the ball, he looked really fucking good (and, of course, he was a high draft pick for the Titans last year).

So, I’m rolling the dice on Year 2 of Derrick Henry.  If Murray gets injured, I’ve got a Top 5 running back to throw onto the pile (or use as trade bait for a stud receiver).  But, if Murray plays like he did last year, then I’ll have missed out on Diggs, or any number of receivers selected after him.  Roster status:  2 QBs, 5 RBs, 1 WR, 1 TE.

With my next two picks, I went receiver happy to compensate.  Unfortunately, by this time, the cupboards were pretty bare.  One of my new lines of thinking on receivers is:  taking the best ones from bad teams.  There are a couple of Browns receivers I really like, the Chargers guys are interesting, but I went with Pierre Garcon of the 49ers.  Yeah, he’s getting up there, but have you SEEN their depth chart?  And, I know, Brian Hoyer is their QB, but he’s still going to complete SOME passes, and he’s going to have to throw them to SOMEONE.  Garcon is most likely to get the lion’s share of the targets and touches that don’t go to Carlos Hyde (yes, I know, having not one but two 49ers on my team is just asking for trouble).  If he stays healthy, he could be a nice little steal for me.  Then, I wrapped around and picked up Willie Snead.  I’ve always liked him as a #2 option in New Orleans, but he seems to have REALLY fallen out of favor this pre-season (at least, according to reports), as the Saints have Michael Thomas as their clear #1, and the newly-signed Ted Ginn as a guy competing for #2 reps.  I dunno, I’ve always thought Sneed had good ball skills in the red zone, so I went with him over Ginn (secretly hoping I could snag Ginn the next time the draft got back to me, where I could keep the best one and waive the loser, but it wasn’t to be).

At that point, I had 2 QBs, 5 RBs, 3 WRs, and 1 TE.  I could officially field a full offense plus a flex spot, plus have enough RBs left over to compensate for a possible Elliott suspension.  I had to go get a Defense the next time up, because all the best ones were flying off the board.

I wanted Houston’s defense really bad, but he went 5 spots ahead of me, so I settled on Minnesota’s D.  We’ll see.  On the wrap-around, I picked up Eric Decker of the Titans.  He’s a touchdown machine, but he’s older and coming off injury, so it wouldn’t shock me if he isn’t long for my team.

Heading into the last two picks of the draft, a few Kickers had already been taken, but Stephen Gostkowski was still there for me so I somehow have New England’s kicker free of charge.  With my final pick, I took Rishard Matthews (a guy my friend wanted, but he accidentally took Jordan Matthews instead, a few picks before me).  I think Rishard is awfully underrated as a guy who had a pretty solid season for the Titans last year.  Neither he, nor Decker, figure to start for me out of the gate.  But, I’ll monitor both of them and keep the guy who’s more reliable.

Final Roster looks like this:

  • QB – Dak Prescott
  • QB – Carson Wentz
  • RB – Ezekiel Elliott
  • RB – Carlos Hyde
  • WR – Jamison Crowder
  • WR – Pierre Garcon
  • TE – Rob Gronkowski
  • Flex – (RB) Lamar Miller
  • K – Stephen Gostkowski
  • DEF – Minnesota

With my bench looking like this:

  • RB – Leonard Fournette
  • RB – Derrick Henry
  • WR – Willie Sneed
  • WR – Eric Decker
  • WR – Rishard Matthews

Look, I don’t love it, all right!  I’m not boasting here!  I love my running back situation, of course, but I have far-and-away the worst set of wide receivers in the entire league.  I’ve got a top-flight kicker, a good-enough defense, and the best tight end in the game (when healthy).  As for my quarterbacks, they’re young.  One was great last year (Dak), one got a lot of experience and took his lumps (Wentz).  The picking’s are pretty slim on the waiver wire, as far as QBs are concerned.  Most of the rookies are there, alongside a few of the very worst starters this league has to offer.  So, if Wentz can’t get it going early, I might be stuck with a Hoyer or a Kizer.

On the plus side, I think regardless of what happens, I should have 3 viable keepers heading into 2018, and that’s all I can really ask for.  If Wentz pans out, I’ll keep my two QBs and Elliott.  If Wentz doesn’t look good, or if Fournette really busts out, I might go with Dak and the two RBs.

Here goes nothing.

For Strictly Fantasy Purposes, I Hate Matt Ryan

Simply put, I’ve been involved with a 2-QB league for the better part of my adult life.  In Matt Ryan’s first few years, he was always a great guy to have in the mix, because even though they were more run-focused in his early days, he still threw enough TDs to keep you in the black, while avoiding turnovers to ensure his floor was high.  Paired with a really dominating QB, Matt Ryan of the first three years of his career was a nice little complement.

Then, as Matt Ryan made the jump to perennial 4,000-yard passer, people in my league caught on, and would draft him before I had the chance.  Once we made the switch to being a 2-keeper league, I made it my mission to get Matt Ryan back in the fold once and for all.  As it just so happened, that coincided with his atrocious 2015 season, when he threw only 21 TDs to counter a whopping 16 INTs.  Yeah, throwing for a ton of yards is great and everything, but if you’re making the sorts of bone-headed mistakes he was making last year, it’s absolutely impossible to field any sort of consistent fantasy team (unless you’re looking for “consistently fucking terrible”).

Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback, regardless of what his numbers look like this year, and regardless of how he was able to go into Denver last week and defeat the Broncos with their awesome defense.  Matt Ryan is an average quarterback with 1 elite wide receiver in Julio Jones.  How does a guy like Ryan throw for 500 yards in a game?  When he has a guy like Julio catching 300 of those yards (going up against a secondary in Carolina that might be the worst in football).  I guarantee if you put Kirk Cousins or Ryan Fitzpatrick or even Brian Fucking Hoyer on this team with a healthy Julio Jones, they’d all look just as competent.

And yet, for some reason, all anyone can talk about heading into this game is Matt Ryan, his improvement over last season, and how he’s giving the Falcons more than a decent chance of winning in Seattle.

You think YOU can get SOUP???  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Matt Ryan isn’t an elite quarterback because elite quarterbacks make the players around them better.  No one said a God damn thing about the Seahawks’ receivers until Doug Baldwin caught 14 TDs last year, yet the Seahawks and Russell Wilson have been pretty great since 2012!  Why is that?  Because regardless of who you put on the field with Wilson, he’s going to make it work and grind it out for a win.

Take away Julio Jones and you know what you’ve got in Matt Ryan?  Yet another Joe Flacco.  Flacco needs elite talent around him to be successful.  Ever since the Ravens opted to skimp on receivers, tight ends, and running backs, Flacco has been mediocre at best and a disaster the rest of the time.

What has Matt Ryan been like the last few years?  Well, for starters, Julio hasn’t always been healthy, and when he’s slowed down by injury, forget it.  The Falcons are pathetic without Julio.  But, they were also trying to get by with a broken down Roddy White, no running game, and a poo-poo platter of crap as their #3 receivers and tight ends.  Tony Gonzalez has been out of the game for a while, and that might have been the biggest set-back to Matt Ryan’s career!

So, don’t tell me Matt Ryan has turned a corner.  Everyone wants to talk about how the Seahawks have faced the easiest schedule through 4 games when it comes to opposing offenses; well, aside from the Broncos, who have the Falcons played?  Tampa, Oakland, New Orleans, and Carolina.  Those are four bullshit defenses who couldn’t stop anyone!  And, of the five games, Ryan’s worst was easily last week’s against the Broncos, when he was held under 100 in passer rating.

I would also argue Denver’s defense MIGHT not be as great as we anticipated coming into the season.  I’ll give Atlanta credit for exposing some things (like how you can pass all day on their linebackers, if you have top-notch, pass-catching running backs).  But, I’m going to go ahead and say this right now:  Denver’s defense is no where NEAR as complete as ours, at all levels.  They might be as good as us in the secondary, but check the game last week:  Atlanta’s top two running backs caught a combined 167 of Matt Ryan’s 267 passing yards.  That means Julio Jones and the Gang were held to 100 yards receiving COMBINED.

I’ll go out on a limb and say their receivers will have a slightly better day on Sunday than they did last week, but their running backs won’t do shit!  Unless you’re in the mood for a lot of check-downs, then by all means, tout the Falcons’ passing attack.

But, you’re looking at the Seahawks coming off of a BYE, with everyone healthy, at home in the pouring rain, against a domed Falcons team.  I’ll take this matchup all day every day, please and thank you.

Also, tell me, how are the Falcons on defense going to stop us?  Desmond Trufant is only one man, the last time I checked.  Even if you put him on Doug Baldwin, I still expect Baldwin to get his.  But, how are they going to guard Jimmy Graham?  Who will account for Tyler Lockett?  And, for the love of all that is holy, can ANYONE stop Christine Michael?

We’ve got weapons, plural.  They’ve got Julio.  If there’s any justice in this world, Richard Sherman will shadow him all day, giving us another fascinating matchup like we had with the Jets and Brandon Marshall two weeks ago.

I’d expect this game to be exciting, but mostly if you’re a Seahawks fan.  I’d expect people will be having a lot of third and fourth thoughts about how good the Falcons really are when this one’s finished.

Predicting The 2016 NFL Season

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

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

NFC East

Washington
NY Giants
Dallas
Philadelphia

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

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

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

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
New Orleans
Atlanta

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

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

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

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

AFC East

New England
Buffalo
NY Jets
Miami

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

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

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

AFC South

Houston
Jacksonville
Indianapolis
Tennessee

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

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

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

NFC Playoffs

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

AFC Playoffs

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

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

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

Wild Card Round

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

Divisional Round

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

Championship Round

Seattle over Green Bay
Kansas City over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Kansas City

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

Should The Seahawks Undervalue Offensive Linemen?

It’s something I brought up in yesterday’s post, that got to gnawing at me a little bit today.  Value over quality.  Instead of keeping your offensive line intact for a long period of time – by handing out contract extensions once their rookie deals lapse – just reloading with fresh, young rookies and hoping for the best.

Is that the best way to go?

Obviously, this gets back to the realm of Can’t Pay Everybody.  Would you rather have quality linemen at most or all of the offensive line spots?  Or, would you rather have a franchise quarterback, All Pros/Pro Bowlers at Safety, Cornerback, Linebacker, Defensive End, and so on?  Something’s gotta give, and the Seahawks have decided that something is the O-Line, the running back position, the interior defensive line, and to a lesser extent the wide receivers.

Well, to figure out the right way to build a roster, it’s kind of simple, actually.  Just factor in that position at a Pro Bowl level and compare it to a “replacement level” player.

If you start at quarterback, it’s clear as day.  Look around the league, at the teams making the playoffs every year.  The best teams generally have a top-level quarterback.  The mediocre teams and the bad teams are generally employing (or are forced to use, due to injuries) replacement level quarterbacks.  Nobodies.  The Brian Hoyers of the world.

Going down the line, what’s the difference between Earl Thomas and Brian Russell?  Pretty huge difference there, right?  What’s the difference between Ricahrd Sherman and Kelly Jennings?  Again, pretty huge.  Bobby Wagner vs. David Hawthorne?  Michael Bennett vs. Grant Wistrom?  I could go on and on, just comparing quality Seahawks on the roster now vs. mediocre ex-Seahawks who brought this franchise to its knees with their bumbling.

Now, what’s the difference between Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls?  I know we’re talking about a REALLY small sample size, but as a rookie the Seahawks were able to find a player in Rawls who averaged 5.6 yards per attempt.  This wasn’t just a third down back hitting on some big runs; this is a guy who got significant action, in a starting role, before that ankle injury cut short his season.

What’s the difference between Doug Baldwin and someone like Alshon Jeffery (random example, I know).  Jeffery is considered to be a significant upgrade in talent – a true #1 receiver who’s able to win a lot of jump balls and really be a force on offense.  But, their career yards per catch are within a yard of one another, and Jeffery never had a season where he caught 14 touchdowns like Baldwin did last year, under a relatively modest salary.  A guy like Jeffery on the open market would command top dollar; a guy like Baldwin might still be had for a bargain, considering his overall production value.  Should the Seahawks break the bank on a guy like Jeffery, or should they extend a guy like Baldwin for a modest sum and get just as good production, if not better in certain areas?

If I may slide around to the point of the post:  what’s the difference between Russell Okung and Garry Gilliam?  I have no idea.  Based on his play at right tackle last year, you could argue Gilliam is a big dropoff.  But, the left side is his more natural side, and he’s had a whole offseason to bulk up and work on technique, so you’d hope there will be some improvement gained by health and experience alone.  If Gilliam can be a league-average left tackle, that’s not so much of a drop-off from Okung.

If you compare the rest of our offensive line to, say, the Cowboys (who are touted as doing it “the right way”, by investing heavily at all spots along the offensive line), what is the drop-off?  Well, let’s look at the 2015 regular season.

  • In rushing, the Seahawks were third in the league, with 2,268 yards; Dallas was ninth with 1,890.
  • In pass protection, the Seahawks gave up 46 sacks, good for 6th-worst in the NFL; Dallas gave up 33, tied for 11th-best.
  • In QB hits, it’s even worse.  The Seahawks gave up 114 hits, 3rd-worst in the NFL; Dallas gave up only 67, 5th-best.

So, yeah, the pass protection half of the O-Line’s duties is pretty dire.  If we’re unable to get those numbers way down to at least league average, it’s only a matter of time before Russell Wilson gets injured and we lose a season to backup quarterback play.  But, it is only half the battle, as the Seahawks play it pretty close to 50/50 in the run/pass department.  We’re getting good run production, which is a big help, compared to teams throwing the ball 2/3 of the time and increasing the risk to their quarterbacks that way.

The thing that everyone talks about regarding offensive line play is continuity.  You need your linemen to be healthy, and you ideally want them playing together for a long time.  It’s why a Seahawks line as bad as it was in Week 1 last year can improve the way it did, to where it WAS a league-average unit by Week 17.  Those same five guys, for the most part, played together every week, and experienced a bump in productivity as a result.  Imagine what that would look like if you could have the same line playing together over the course of YEARS!

Well, you don’t have to think too hard, because you can look at those O-Lines we had in Seattle during Holmgren’s peak years.  Doesn’t hurt that those lines had a hall of famer in Walter Jones, but they were also veterans who had played together a bunch (until it was unceremoniously broken up in the Poison Pill fiasco).

The key to the whole thing is just getting a league average unit.  If the Seahawks can do that by paying guys peanuts, I believe it’s entirely worth their while.  Because you can get by with league average offensive line play; whereas you can’t get by with league average quarterbacks, or league average secondaries, or a league average pass rush.

Yeah, continuity is great, and pumping a lot of resources into the O-Line is fantastic if you can afford it.  But, no team is immune from the injury bug.  And just one or two injuries to key offensive linemen can completely dismantle the whole thing, leaving you not only over-paying for a position that’s on the IR, but stuck with replacement players anyway who are thrust into starting spots they’re not ready for.

In my book, with the right coaching, some smart drafting, and a little luck, you can skimp on the O-Line – like you can at running back, defensive tackle, and so on – and still get good-enough value to make your team a championship contender.

I’m not worried about the Seahawks’ O-Line.  Then again, I haven’t seen them play, so check back with me again in August.

What The Seahawks Should Do At Backup Quarterback

Recent news indicates that Tarvaris Jackson is likely to test the free agent waters this year, in hopes of getting into a situation that either pays him more money and/or gives him a chance to compete for a starting job/puts him behind a quarterback who might be a little more injury-prone than Russell Wilson.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what Tarvar has been doing in recent offseasons.  This story makes it sound like he’s been settling for being Seattle’s backup because it’s comfortable and familiar.  My guess is that Seattle has indeed been giving him the best possible deal, as I can’t imagine the market is too hard-up for a guy who’s proven he’s a backup in this league and nothing more.

Granted, he’s one of the better backups across the league, but a backup he remains.

Still, if you’re Tarvar, you’re looking around at some of these teams in 2015 – struggles in Dallas, Philly, St. Louis, Frisco, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Houston – and you’ve got to be thinking that you’re better than the backups for those teams who were forced into action (Dallas and Baltimore, particularly) and in other cases, better than who they’re running out as starters (Cleveland, Houston, St. Louis and the rest).  So, yeah, it makes sense – if you want to give it a go as a real live NFL quarterback (and not just a seat-warmer on the bench) – to put yourself out there as a veteran alternative for some of these teams who don’t land their Quarterback of the Future in the NFL Draft or free agency.  At the very least, he’d be likelier to see the field playing behind someone a little less durable than Russell Wilson (boy, am I putting the whammy on our boy with this sentiment).

So, what we’re talking about is, for the first time in years, looking for a non-Tarvar backup.

All else being equal, I’d like to have Tarvar back again.  That’s going to mean many multiple teams pass him over for other alternatives, leaving him with a pretty bruised ego, but so be it.  If, however, for the sake of argument we’re talking about a Tarvar-less future, then there are two obvious routes you can take:  bring in a veteran, or draft/sign a rookie.

Seattle’s in a wonderful position in this regard, because we have Russell Wilson.  He’s a solid, franchise quarterback, still in the early-prime of his career.  We don’t necessarily NEED to bring in another starting candidate to push him.  Which means, obviously, backup quarterback is a position that you can save some money on (which is important, considering how much money Wilson is taking in).  Therefore, you won’t see the Seahawks using a high draft pick, and you won’t see them blowing out the bank on free agents like Cousins, Fitzpatrick, Osweiler, or Bradford (who will all be looking for opportunities to start somewhere anyway).

That puts us in the range of a low-round draft pick (maybe 5th or lower), an undrafted rookie, or one of the other veteran options out there on the market.

In looking at those veteran options … woof!  What a bunch of dogs!  When you think of a backup quarterback in our kind of situation (i.e. someone who is a clear backup and has no chance to be this team’s starter when all players are healthy), your BEST CASE scenario is a guy who will fill in for a few weeks and somehow manage to keep the team in/around .500.  A guy like Seneca Wallace back in the day is a perfect example of this.  We were lucky to have drafted him to play behind Hasselbeck, so he was cheap for many years.  If we can somehow do that again, that’s probably the most realistic ideal situation.  Looking at veteran options, someone like … Matt Hasselbeck last year with Indy.  He was able to fill in for a few games and led them to some quality wins!  Then, as the season dragged on, as Luck was unable to return and the games piled up, Hasselbeck was less and less effective.  Old guys getting hit a lot tend to break down, shocking I know.

This post by Field Gulls has a nice little list of free agent quarterbacks.  If you remove Tarvar (for the sake of argument), and you remove the four starting candidates (Bradford, Cousins, Fitzpatrick, and Osweiler), you’re left with the crap of the crap (obviously, it’s still really early in the offseason, and a lot of cuts/trades are out there to be made; this post won’t include guys likely to be released/already under contract).  Among guys with significant starting experience, you’re talking about:

  • Cassel
  • Clausen
  • Gradkowski
  • RGIII
  • Hasselbeck
  • Henne
  • Lindley
  • McCown
  • McCoy
  • Moore
  • Schaub
  • Stanton
  • Vick
  • Weeden
  • Whitehurst
  • Yates

Cassel is old and grossly over-valued.  I have zero confidence in his abilities to guide a team to a .500 record in the absence of this team’s starter (see:  his stint in Dallas last year).  Clausen is horrible; Gradkowski hasn’t had significant starting experience in half a decade; Lindley & Stanton are who we think they are; Vick is as done as done can be; the best thing Whitehurst has ever done is somehow trick Jewel into going out with him (aside from tricking multiple teams into giving him multiple millions of dollars, including the Seahawks, and now this is making me even more upset); and Yates apparently only has value to the Houston Texans, so that’s a stay-away in my book.

Of the guys I didn’t list in that paragraph, Hasselbeck is obviously the most interesting.  Who knows if he’s even in the market to continue his career after the thrashing he took in Luck’s absence last year?  Odds are, since Wilson does a better job of avoiding contact, he probably doesn’t suffer the same lacerated spleen or whatever the hell it was that Luck had.  Then again, if you’re Hasselbeck, would you ever expect a tough hoss like Luck to get injured in the first place?

RGIII might be another someone looking to compete for a starting job.  In fact, I’m almost sure of it, so I don’t know why I kept him here.  Obviously, I worry about injuries with him.  I also worry about his mindset.  By all accounts, he was a quality teammate last year and didn’t cause any trouble in the lockerroom.  But, for a guy drafted as high as he was, who still has a lot of the skills that made him so highly sought after (minus the legs, obviously), he’d make an ideal backup candidate.  BUT, maybe not for the Seahawks.  I just have my doubts as to his willingness to come in and be the clear #2.

If I’m being honest, I don’t totally hate the idea of Chad Henne as this team’s backup.  When he first got a crack to be a team’s starter, it was in Miami in 2009 & 2010.  Those weren’t great teams, but they were sort of middle-of-the-road, .500-ish teams, and he led them to .500-ish records accordingly.  His career started to go down the shitter when he went to Jacksonville, playing on some truly horrendous teams.  On the right team (i.e. on THIS team, the Seahawks), I think Henne could be a .500-ish quarterback again.  He’s going to complete upwards of 57-60% of his passes, and if you instruct him to refrain from taking too many chances, you might be able to coax his interception percentage down to reasonable levels.  He is getting on in age, though, so he’s probably not all that mobile, which obviously is going to be an issue for most of these veterans we’re looking at.

Luke McCown had 1 start in 2015, and played brilliantly in a losing effort.  Against Carolina, he completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards and a pick.  Before that, he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so I don’t know what you’d expect here.  That one start for New Orleans really skews his career numbers, but he could be an interesting buy-low candidate with some semblance of upside as a backup.

Colt McCoy might honestly be the best of the bunch.  Drafted by Cleveland, I tend to discount whatever anyone does in Cleveland, as they’ve been a trainwreck ever since the NFL let them back into the league (and for many years before they went to Baltimore to boot).  In 2014, McCoy had a string of games with the Redskins that showed everyone why he was thought of so highly coming out of college, as well as why he’s now exclusively a backup.  He had two and a half really good games (including an impressive Monday night victory over the eventual division champion Cowboys), and a couple of real stinkers (albeit, I believe that last game he was injured and had to leave the game early).  He’s definitely not going to blow anyone away or win any shootouts, but I think he could manage a game effectively well.  What more can you ask for?

Matt Moore has been backing up Tannehill these last few years, and honestly I don’t know how he can stand it.  Moore, in his starting efforts early in his career, was the epitome of a .500 quarterback.  Hovering around 59% completions, with slightly more touchdowns than interceptions.  He strikes me as another semi-ideal candidate.  Like Henne, he’s getting on in years, so I don’t know how mobile he is, and he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so that’s tough.  Maybe he’s like another Whitehurst, who loves being a backup and living in a tropical climate!  If that’s the case, I wonder if Seattle is the right spot for him.

Matt Schaub scares me.  A lot like Vick, I think he’s done.  A lot like Cassel, I think he’s over-valued.  He strikes me as a guy who, personality-wise, wouldn’t fit in on a team with this many alpha dogs.

Brandon Weeden is probably the last interesting name on the list.  He’s young enough to where you don’t totally worry about his durability (even though, let’s be honest, he’s like a tree back there in the pocket).  And, in spite of his Cleveland roots, I think it’s probably set in by this point that he’s going to be a career backup.  Last year was interesting for him, as he was the next man up after Romo went down for Dallas.  He proved to be underwhelming at best, leading to the Cowboys to over-pay for Matt Cassel (who managed to play even worse).  Weeden landed in Houston, where he ran circles around Cassel in his two appearances (though, he ended up relinquishing the job to Brian Hoyer for the playoffs, so make of that what you will).

So, in conclusion, I’ll rank my favorite options for the Seahawks’ backup quarterback:

  1. Talk Tarvaris Jackson into returning for another year
  2. Colt McCoy
  3. Matt Hasselbeck
  4. Rookie QB (either low round pick, undrafted free agent, or guy already on a futures contract)
  5. Brandon Weeden
  6. Henne/Moore (tie)
  7. Luke McCown
  8. Fuck it, give the job to Jon Ryan (also, make sure to re-sign Jon Ryan)
  9. No one/all Wildcat all the time
  10. Schaub
  11. Cassel
  12. Fan (open tryouts every week for a local Seahawks fan)

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings, Part Deux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why am I going to Tahoe again?

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings

Because I got tired of doing this thing every week.

It’s pretty hard to know who will win in any given game, but the objective here is to review what teams have done in an attempt to predict what they’ll do in the future.  Oh what a difference a week makes!  This time last week, I had the Arizona Cardinals in my Top 3, looking pretty unstoppable.  Then, this past Sunday, they lost at home to the Rams (who somehow managed to lose to the Redskins and the Steelers in a game where Ben Roethlisberger got injured and Mike Vick had to play meaningful snaps late in the game), and suddenly the once-perfect Cardinals look far more vulnerable, and are ranked accordingly.

I’m going to try to do a better job of taking a look at who a team has beaten, as well as my own gut feelings, to give more of a well-rounded view of where things stand.  Let’s take a look at the Top 8.  Teams listed in single parentheses () are those who that team beat; teams listed in double parentheses (()) are those who that team lost to.

  • New England:  3-0, (Pit, Buf, Jax)
  • Green Bay:  4-0, (Chi, Sea, KC, SF)
  • Cincinnati:  4-0, (Oak, SD, Bal, KC)
  • Denver:  4-0, (Bal, KC, Det, Min)
  • Atlanta:  4-0, (Phi, NYG, Dal, Hou)
  • Seattle:  2-2, (Chi, Det), ((St.L, GB))
  • Arizona:  3-1, (NO, Chi, SF), ((St.L))
  • New York Jets:  3-1, (Cle, Ind, Mia), ((Phi))

I don’t know if there’s necessarily a good reason to have the Patriots listed ahead of the Packers, this would be more my gut feeling.  The Pats have looked like absolute world-beaters, so they get my top spot.  I like Cincy over Denver based on strength of schedule, though I’m sure they’ll end up losing to the Broncos when they go out on the road in late December.  Enjoy it while it lasts, Cincy!  It only seems fair to have Atlanta in the Top 5, though really, who have they beaten?  Listing Seattle at 6 just SCREAMS “me being a homer”, especially when you consider the teams we beat (at home) have a combined 1 victory.  I still have some respect for the Lions (they’ve had a brutal schedule so far), and to be quite honest, the Cards get knocked down a peg for losing at home to the Rams, so suck it.  The Jets cap off our top 8 almost exclusively because their defense is top notch, and their quarterbacking play isn’t so horrendous.  A lot to like out there.

  • New York Giants:  2-2, (WA, Buf), ((Dal, Atl))
  • Buffalo:  2-2, (Ind, Mia), ((NE, NYG))
  • Carolina:  4-0, (Jax, Hou, NO, TB)
  • St. Louis:  2-2, (Sea, AZ), ((WA, Pit))
  • Minnesota:  2-2, (Det, SD), ((SF, Den))
  • Kansas City:  1-3, (Hou), ((Den, GB, Cin))
  • San Diego:  2-2, (Det, Cle), ((Cin, Min))
  • Washington:  2-2, (St.L, Phi), ((Mia, NYG))

Back-to-back heartbreaking losses to the Cowboys and Falcons were followed by back-to-back really strong wins against the Redskins and Bills.  The Giants are a team who are a couple of unlucky breaks away from 4-0, and the division they’re in is kind of a mess right now.  The Bills might be this year’s enigma team of the AFC (like the Rams in the NFC), or they might have just pounded on a couple of bad teams in Indy and Miami.  Their defense isn’t quite as dominant as we anticipated, but on the flipside their schedule going forward is pretty weak, so if they can continue beating up on bad teams, they might have 7-8 more wins to throw onto the pile.  Carolina couldn’t be more properly rated, outside of the Top 10.  This is a paper tiger 4-0 record if I’ve ever seen one.  They played against three shitty QBs (Bortles, Mallett, Luke McCown) followed by a rookie in Winston.  Their schedule gets remarkably more difficult in the games ahead.  As for the Rams, what can you say?  They’re 2-0 in the division right now and at this pace should end the season 6-10.

I’m having a tough time getting a proper read on the Vikings.  The 49ers are pretty solid on D and the Broncos are probably the best defense in the league.  I still like the talent on this team, but they’re far from perfect.  The Chiefs have had a pretty rough go from the schedule gods early on, with losses to three of the best four teams in the league.  As things get easier, I’d expect the 1-3 record to turn around in a hurry.  The Chargers lost a couple games on the road, to far-away lands of Cincinnati and Minnesota.  I’m not ready to bury them yet, but they better prove they can win a few on the road before I declare them ready for the playoffs.  And don’t look now, but the Redskins are better than we thought!  I’ll throw out that stinker of a Thursday night game, because all of those games on Thursday nights are stinkers.  They’ve played okay defense and gotten just enough out of their quarterback.

  • Oakland:  2-2, (Bal, Cle), ((Cin, Chi))
  • Baltimore:  1-3, (Pit), ((Den, Oak, Cin))
  • Pittsburgh:  2-2, (SF, St.L), ((NE, Bal))
  • Indianapolis:  2-2, (Ten, Jax), ((Buf, NYJ))
  • Detroit:  0-4, ((SD, Min, Den, Sea))
  • New Orleans:  1-3, (Dal), ((AZ, TB, Car))
  • Dallas:  2-2, (NYG, Phi), ((Atl, NO))
  • Miami:  1-3, (WA), ((Jax, Buf, NYJ))

There are going to be lots of ups & downs with a team like the Raiders, hence why they lost to the Bears over the weekend.  Just be glad there are any ups at all.  Baltimore’s yet another team that got hit over the head with the Difficult Early Schedule stick.  It’s promising they were able to pull out a tough one against the Steelers, but at the same time, it’s probably better to temper expectations with that team, given their difficulties on defense and atrocious wide receiver corps.  Pittsburgh is a team I like to do great things this year, but I’ll like them a lot more when Roethlisberger gets healthy.  Indy is a complete trainwreck right now, having managed two wins over two of the worst teams in the league.  I’d say it’s time to temper expectations there too, but have you SEEN their division?

The Lions had a rough early schedule, especially having to play three of their first four on the road.  But, they’re rewarded with 6 of their next 8 games at home.  If they’re going to do ANYTHING after this winless start, they better go on a huge run at home.  The Saints are closer to the Ain’ts than I’ve seen in quite some time, and I don’t think there’s much helping this team.  They might steal a few wins against some crappy teams, but this isn’t much more than a 4- or 5-win team.  The Cowboys will go up this list in a hurry if/when they get Romo and Dez back and start winning some games.  Miami has no one to blame but themselves, as their early schedule hasn’t been all that difficult.  I know I’d hate to lose a home game to London (where there were considerably more Jets fans than “home” team Dolphins fans), but that ugly loss on the road in Jacksonville really sealed Joe Philbin’s fate.

  • Philadelphia:  1-3, (NYJ), ((Atl, Dal, WA))
  • San Francisco:  1-3, (Min), ((Pit, AZ, GB))
  • Chicago:  1-3, (Oak), ((GB, AZ, Sea))
  • Cleveland:  1-3, (Ten), ((NYJ, Oak, SD))
  • Houston:  1-3, (TB), ((KC, Car, Atl))
  • Jacksonville:  1-3, (Mia), ((Car, NE, Ind))
  • Tennessee:  1-2, (TB), ((Cle, Ind))
  • Tampa Bay:  1-3, (NO), ((Ten, Hou, Car))

The Eagles are a disaster; HOW did they beat the Jets???  The 49ers’ offense is a joke and Kaepernick is well on his way to finishing his career as a mediocre backup.  The Bears need Cutler just to look somewhat respectable, and they’re killing any shot they had at the #1 overall draft pick by playing him (who thought I’d ever say that?).  The Browns look somewhat spry, but ultimately should go nowhere.  The Texans look the opposite of spry.  They probably have to play Mallett, just to see what they have in him (as we all know what Hoyer is capable of), but they’ll never win with him and would honestly be better off giving Hoyer a go and seeing if he’s enough to get them over the hump that is Indy’s floating carcass.  The Jags are the Jags, and that’s all they’ll ever be.  The Titans looked great in week 1, until we all realized they beat up on the NFL’s Junior Varsity squad.  The Bucs should be pretty awesome in a few years, if they can keep piling up on #1 overall draft picks.

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

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

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

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

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

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

NFC East

Dallas
NY Giants
Philadelphia
Washington

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

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

NFC North

Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

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

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

NFC South

Carolina
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

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

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

NFC West

Seattle
St. Louis
Arizona
San Francisco

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

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

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

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
NY Jets

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

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

AFC North

Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland

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

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

AFC South

Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville
Tennessee

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

AFC West

Kansas City
Denver
San Diego
Oakland

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

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

NFC Playoffs

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

AFC Playoffs

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

Wild Card Round

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

Divisional Round

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

Championship Round

Seattle over Dallas
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Indianapolis

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

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

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

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

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