Leaving The Seahawks For Dead

I know the Seahawks aren’t officially eliminated from playoff contention yet, but it’s only a matter of time. The writing has been on the wall since the second week of the season, but when you melt down like the Seahawks melted down yesterday, there’s no coming back. Even if the Seahawks did manage to run the table, what would be the point? To stick it to the Jets? Haven’t they suffered enough?

The Arizona Cardinals went into this game with no DeAndre Hopkins; we knew that well ahead of time. They also went into this game with no Kyler Murray; we heard about this either the night before or the morning of. Colt McCoy got the start, and much like last year – when he came into Seattle as a member of the New York Football Giants and somehow emerged victorious – he once again decimated our season. If you’ll recall, at season’s end we were one game out of the top spot in the NFC; had we beaten the Giants, we would’ve been in a vastly superior position over merely hosting in the wild card round and losing at home to the Rams.

This year, Colt McCoy & Co. dropped us to 3-7. It’s like when Travis Coates shot a rabid Old Yeller out behind the barn, but if Old Yeller was a dick to everyone the entire movie. No one is mourning the death of this Seahawks season; this team hasn’t been fun to watch for years, and this is the LEAST-fun version of all of these mediocre Seahawks teams.

You know whose schtick gets really old and tired when he’s not pulling games out of his ass and carrying the team on his back? Russell Wilson. I’m ready for him to go somewhere else. It’s clear he doesn’t give a shit and doesn’t want to be here.

All the old, dead weight needs to be dropped as well. That means getting rid of Chris Carson, Alex Collins, and Rashaad Penny. Carson is already out for the year with an upcoming neck surgery, and has probably played his final down of football (because the last thing anyone wants to do is take a chance on permanently injuring their neck, especially when they play a position that gets hit as often as running back does). Trash-aad Penny had an opening run of 18 yards, immediately got injured, had a run of 1 yard in the second half, and never returned. He had the highest health grade of all running backs the year he was drafted.

Duane Brown sure looks like he’s done! I’m glad we didn’t bother to extend him. Gabe Jackson sure looks like a waste of money! I saw him fuck up on two critical plays where he couldn’t handle a simple defensive stunt; that’s all I need to see. The center position has been a continuous wasteland ever since we traded away Max Unger. And, the worst player I saw yesterday was Brandon Shell, who got repeatedly abused by Chandler Jones.

It’s hard to get too mad at the defense, as I thought they did their jobs for the most part. But, they couldn’t do anything when it mattered most (7 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks just scored to pull it to within 3 points; Arizona promptly drove 67 yards for a TD, taking 4:45 off the clock) and there are any number of guys who are overpaid and not performing to market rates.

I can’t wait to have most of these veterans out of my life, but there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet.

If we’re talking about doing a full tear-down and rebuild, you can’t ignore the coaching staff and front office. Since I referenced schtick getting old, I might as well talk about Pete Carroll here. Conventional wisdom indicates when you find a franchise quarterback, you do whatever it takes to make him happy and keep him for as long as his prime will last. Between that, and Carroll’s advanced age, it was fair to wonder if he wanted to endure another rebuild. But, at this point, I don’t think he has a choice. And in fact, I think the choice will be made for him as soon as the final game ends and Russell Wilson hands the team his updated list of teams he’ll accept a trade to. So, the next question to ask is: does Pete Carroll want to return? And, if so, will the team decide to keep him?

I’ll save the conversation around whether the team SHOULD bring him back or not for another time. Seeing how this team devolved over the last half decade, I think it’s fair for a lot of Seahawks fans to want a change from the top on down. But, Pete Carroll helped engineer the greatest rebuild in team history a decade ago; part of me is curious to see if he can do it again. Or, rather, what he would do this time around (because it’s unfair to expect him to helm a rebuild as epic as the last one).

The downside of keeping Carroll is we’re almost certainly going to keep the coaching staff around him. That means Ken Norton wouldn’t be going anywhere, even though he’s inept at his job. And, that means Shane Waldron getting another crack at it. A blind chimp should be able to take the talent we have with Russell Wilson at quarterback and average more than 19 points on offense. I think our initial suspicions were correct when we saw the Seahawks hire someone who had – time and time again – been passed over for promotions, by both his own team and the other teams who were looking to poach from the Rams.

Then, there’s John Schneider. He’s a guy who hasn’t had a quality draft since 2012. He’s a guy who has bungled a high percentage of high-profile trades. He’s punted on most first rounds of the draft, and when he hasn’t, he’s still failed spectacularly. I don’t know how you defend the guy anymore. Other teams win a lot, get saddled with lower draft picks, and still manage to find quality players to incorporate into their systems. Other teams don’t go through these endless periods where their fucking offensive line can’t block for shit.

I don’t know. Normally, when things get this bad, I take solace in looking forward to what changes can be made to improve things, but as I’ve mentioned nonstop, there’s nothing to look forward to with this team. The Jets own our first round pick (at this point, it’s the fifth overall pick … sigh). For some reason, we got back the Jets’ fourth rounder, but we traded away our sixth rounder to the Jags for Sidney Jones. We’ve managed to save a little bit of money, but who knows if there’s some panic deal to be made in free agency in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, that money appears to be earmarked to go towards future dead money (with all of the monkeying around with contracts this year, combined with the dead money from shedding this team of its underperforming veterans), but regardless it’s not like this team has problems free agency can solve.

This team needs to bottom out, and that’s what’s so miserable about being in this position: we’re 3-7, we have the fifth-worst record in the entire NFL, and we haven’t even reached rock bottom yet! It’s not like we’re going to magically improve with Russell Wilson gone next year and this team immersed in a full rebuild. Indeed, we’re probably going to contend for the worst overall record in that scenario, so we have another full year of this to look forward to, at least!

This feels like the early 90’s all over again. Buckle up, because it’s going to be a turbulent bandwagon for the foreseeable future.

The Seahawks Vs. Titans Game Could Be High Scoring & Fun!

It’s my understanding that the line for this game has swung wildly in the Seahawks’ direction, from somewhere around -3.5, all the way up to -6 or so. There were clearly some questions about the Seahawks that the betting public at least feels were emphatically answered in that victory over Indianapolis. We didn’t know if the Seahawks were good, to be frank, particularly on offense with a new scheme and play-caller. Now we know – or, at least, we THINK we know – that the Seahawks ARE good. Great even! Maybe even a Super Bowl contender; I don’t think you have to squint quite as hard to see that reality coming to fruition.

At the same time, what can you say about the Titans – based on their opening week loss, at home, to the Cardinals – other than they look like a mess? They gave up 6 sacks (and countless other pressures), they were held to 86 rushing yards (Derrick Henry was held to only 58 yards on 17 carries), Ryan Tannehill’s QBR and passer rating were both pretty poor, and their defense – always expected to be a major weakness for them – gave up 38 points and 416 yards. All of this at home! Against an Arizona team most people have as the fourth best in the NFC West.

Now, it’s possible the Cardinals are MUCH better than we all expected, but regardless I think that game reflects more poorly on the Titans than it does positively on the Cards. Most people had the Titans as a playoff team again in 2021, and likely a division winner to boot. But, they looked like neither in that game, and now they have to fly across the country to Seattle and play in front of a 12th Man that hasn’t seen live football in person in quite some time.

So, yeah, given what we saw out of both of those games, and knowing where this game is being played, I think it’s reasonable for the line to move the way it did. The Seahawks SHOULD be a touchdown favorite. If the Titans are as bad as they looked in Week 1, they might lose by 50!

But, I don’t believe the Titans are as bad as they looked, nor do I think the Seahawks have solved all their problems. I still have questions about this team on both sides of the ball, and I’m going to need more than one quality game to have those concerns quelled.

Also, let’s face it, it’s a completely different matchup. The Titans will have had a week to review the tape, identify where things went wrong, and shore up their weaknesses.

I’ll say this: I don’t have a lot of worries about the Seahawks’ offense this week. The Titans are fundamentally flawed on defense; they won’t be able to fix their issues in one week, and likely won’t be able to fix them all year. What they need is to not be the absolute worst. They need to mitigate big plays, get off the field on a reasonable percentage of third downs, and keep the Seahawks somewhere in the 20’s in points. If they somehow find a way to dominate this Seahawks offense, then I think it’ll be fair to panic a little bit, because there’s no way in hell the Titans should limit the Seahawks to under 20 points; in fact, I would expect a minimum of 24 points, with a very legitimate chance to get into the 40’s.

I do think there’s cause for concern about the Seahawks’ defense. There’s no way the Titans are as bad as they looked against Arizona. For starters, the Seahawks don’t have a game-wrecker like Chandler Jones on their defense. Sorry, but I’ll believe it when I see someone single-handedly get 5 sacks in a game. I also highly doubt Derrick Henry is going to be held in check for two straight weeks; that guy is a fucking tank! Not to say I think we’ll give up 200+ yards or anything, but a 100-yard game is easily within the realm of possibility.

Now, it’s possible the Seahawks – as a group – can generate a similar kind of pass rush, but this is where I believe the Titans can improve from week 1 to week 2. I think they can tweak some things with their protection to mitigate that. I don’t believe the Seahawks will get 6 sacks, but could they do something similar to what they did to Carson Wentz and the Colts? Absolutely. The difference is: we’re not going up against Carson Wentz this week. Ryan Tannehill – say what you will – but he’s been playing at a high level since becoming their starter. He’ll still struggle in the face of pressure, but not as badly as Wentz.

That leads us to their receivers. A.J. Brown is a stud, period. And we’re all familiar with what Julio Jones brings to the table. Even though he’s a veteran and past his prime, it’s early enough in the season where he’s not dealing with so many nagging injuries that continue to slow him down. Plus, he’s coming off of a game where he caught 3 balls for 29 yards, and also got called out by the head coach in the press after the game. He’s a proud guy; I think he’ll be playing his ass off to impress his new team in week 2. Thankfully, they no longer have Jonnu Smith, but who knows how they replaced him? It seems like this is an offense that can effectively utilize a tight end when it wants to. But, who cares, because with that 1-2 punch – only topped by the Seahawks and maybe a small handful of other teams in the league – you really don’t need a whole lot beyond them.

The Seahawks’ secondary didn’t really get tested a whole lot against the Colts, for good reason; name one Colts receiver not named T.Y. Hilton (who is on the IR). The cornerbacks WILL be tested against the Titans, and we’ll have a much better idea just how big of a weakness they are for this defense and this team.

I still expect the Seahawks to win this game, but I’m telling you right now, don’t be shocked if the game is a lot closer than it was at the Colts. In fact, don’t be shocked if this game looks like most every other Seahawks game we’ve seen in the Russell Wilson era! I wouldn’t trust the Seahawks to cover a 6-point spread as far as I can throw them. If anything, I like the over 54 points, but that’s a lot of points, and it also wouldn’t surprise me if both offenses struggled to a stalemate in the first half. I mean, even a 28-24 Seahawks victory is still a loser in that over 54-point total.

Why couldn’t it be 31-24, you ask? Well, I suppose it could, but what if the Seahawks’ defense is just as effective as they were last week, and instead this game ends up 31-14?

My point is, probably stay away from betting this game altogether. Unless you like doing a 6-point tease and have another team you’re really in love with.

This Game Is For The Birds! Seahawks At Cardinals

I think the Cardinals are one of the more interesting teams in the NFL this year. Last Monday Night was really my first time seeing them in 2020; it was pretty eye-opening, but I wish they’d had an opponent that could’ve given them more of a challenge (and not the Dak-less Dallas Cowboys).

The 2019 Cardinals weren’t all that great, but they were breaking in top pick Kyler Murray as well as a new coaching staff. Even though they finished last year 5-10-1, almost everyone had the Cards pegged as a potential Wild Card team this year, figuring Murray and the offense for a significant boost with experience and better consistency. So far, that’s played out about as well as can be expected; they’re 4-2 and tied for second in the NFC West.

But, who have they played? Well, they’ve beaten the Cowboys and Jets – two pretty abysmal teams – as well as Washington and the 49ers to start the season. Meanwhile, they’ve lost to Detroit (kind of mediocre) and Carolina (kind of okay). So, Seattle will be their first real test.

Of course, by the same token, it looks like the Cardinals will be OUR first big test. Our best win is against the Patriots, who have been struggling (in many ways, thanks Corona …) of late. The only difference is: we have the MVP, and didn’t gag away a couple of those games we were supposed to win.

I like our chances in this one, but obviously I’m mighty concerned. Kyler Murray is coming into his own, and he’s one of the best scrambling quarterbacks in all of football. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers alive and will be a tremendous challenge to our secondary that has looked pretty inept this season. Kenyan Drake has his detractors – mostly due to his injury issues and age, which I find ridiculous – but he’s coming off of a game where he just TORCHED the Cowboys (to say nothing of the last time we saw him in late 2019, when he ran it up to the tune of 166 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24 carries), so I’d rank him up there among the bellcow running backs left standing this season. Plus, they’ve got Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, both of whom are outstanding weapons who can both stretch the field and get those tough 3rd down-converting catches in traffic.

That’s a lot of offensive firepower to tangle with. Of the teams we’ve faced so far, I’d put them up there with the Dak-full Cowboys in Week 3 as the best. So, how do you combat that?

Well, I’ll tell you, I’m very nervous about Murray’s legs. I don’t know how often we employ a defensive spy (it doesn’t feel like a lot), but one might come in handy this week. Who to use in that role, though? The thought of Cody Barton trying to ankle tackle him is bringing back bad memories of Isaiah Kacyvenski! This is precisely the reason why we drafted someone like Jordyn Brooks, which makes his injury troubles all the more annoying. It doesn’t look like he’s recovered yet, but even if he has, he hasn’t played in many weeks, so would we trust him to follow around one of the most dynamic players in all of football? Seems risky, to say the least. In reality, it’s going to be a team effort.

Not for nothing, but this is a game where having a bad pass rush might actually be to our advantage. As long as our edge rushers don’t over-commit and run themselves out of the play, we could just clog things up and force Murray to stay in the pocket. Not that he’s a BAD pocket passer, but he’s not yet at a Russell Wilson level, and he’s more prone to make mistakes while he’s in there.

Honestly, the Seahawks need to keep doing what they’ve done the last couple of weeks: Bend/Don’t Break. Murray throws a nice deep ball – again, not on Russell’s wavelength, but good nonetheless – and so we’re going to have to limit deep gains to hopefully zero. Force the Cardinals into longer, 10-, 12-, 15-play drives. I guarantee you Murray won’t be as consistent as Kirk Cousins; he’ll get antsy, he’ll miss some guys, he might even throw a pick or two.

To go along with that, we MUST keep Drake in check. Giving up first down-converting runs to Murray is going to happen once in a while. But, allowing Drake to run for huge chunks of yardage is a huge no-no. The Vikings were able to exploit us in that regard (with Cousins obviously not being NEARLY the threat Murray is with his legs) and that game ended up being a lot closer than it should’ve been. We need to get back on track and force the Cardinals into being one-dimensional.

It would be nice to get Jamal Adams back for this one, but it looks like he’s going to miss another week. Sigh. Look, I get it, we want him 100% from this injury so he isn’t hampered the rest of the way (especially when it matters most: the playoffs), but it’s fucking annoying because we could REALLY use him in this one. His pass rushing, and his speed in general, would solve a lot of our defense’s ills when it comes to containing Murray.

Offensively, the Seahawks need to keep doing what they’ve been doing. It’s hard to say how good Arizona’s defense is, because the Cowboys were SO BAD in the game I saw. If that was the only game you ever saw the Cardinals play, you’d think they are nothing but a bunch of world-beaters. But, that’s obviously not the case, as their two losses would indicate (on top of losing Chandler Jones for the rest of the season).

Hopefully, the Seahawks have done a little self-scouting, as I think the Vikings exposed a lot of flaws with our offensive attack. I mean, opposing defenses should just do what we’re trying to do on defense: sell out to limit the big plays and force the Seahawks to dink and dunk down the field. We have the talent to do that; Russell Wilson is certainly capable of moving the ball in such a fashion. It’s just a matter of execution, and staying patient. Continue to take what the defense gives you, and the big plays will still show up occasionally.

I’m sure the Cardinals are fine along the front seven, but I’m not overly concerned there. Where they’re REALLY strong is in the secondary, led by UW standout Budda Baker, who is an absolute MACHINE! Every time I’m reminded that the Seahawks passed him over in the draft for some lunkhead who never played a down in the NFL, I grow more infuriated with what we all knew at the time was a moronic decision by the front office. Anyway, he was all over the place against Dallas, and I expect him to be just as big of a pain in our asses come Sunday.

One thing we have going for us is we’re coming off of a BYE week. The Seahawks – under Pete Carroll, and with Russell Wilson – are 6-2 after a BYE week. One of those losses? To the Cardinals (in Seattle, on Sunday Night Football); but I wouldn’t be too worried, because unlike that weekend, this time I won’t be in the state of Nevada losing hundreds upon hundreds of dollars (that won’t happen again until the first weekend in December, when the Seahawks play the lowly Giants).

I ultimately believe the Seahawks will (and should) win this game. We weirdly own the Cardinals in Arizona (6-1-1 in the Russell Wilson era, with the lone defeat being his very first game in the NFL). But, if there ever was a game where I wouldn’t be shocked if we blew it, this would be it. The good news is: we’re pretty healthy, with more reinforcements on their way. The bad news is: we’re still missing a few key pieces to the puzzle, and so our perfect record will continue to be in jeopardy as long as they’re out.

Is It Possible For The Seahawks To Beat The Patriots This Weekend?

As is custom, when the schedules are released, we as fans tend to pour over them like they’re ancient sacred scrolls.  I usually like to take a look at how many primetime games the Seahawks have, followed by any 10am starts, and then I just cruise around for a while looking for anomalies.  3-game road trips, extended homestands, whether the first half or the second half looks tougher on paper.  Then, I’ll bitch about where we have our BYE week for an hour and a half and then go about my day.

I think when most of us saw 2016’s schedule, our eyes were immediately drawn to the matchup you see this weekend.  Seattle at New England, Sunday night, 5:30pm.  There are other big games on the slate, there are DEFINITELY more important games, against divisional opponents and major conference rivals.  But, Seattle at New England is special.  Obviously, because it’s the first time we’ve played one another since the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named, but beyond that, you’re talking about the two premiere franchises in the NFL.  The Patriots have been good forever; the Seahawks have been dominant since 2012.  Lots of teams have waxed and waned since 2012.  Most every team, from Denver, to Green Bay, to Carolina, to Pittsburgh, to Baltimore, to Indianapolis to Arizona to the entire NFC East have had up and down seasons in that short span.  Only the Seahawks and Patriots have won at least 1 game in the playoffs every year since 2012.  Any well-run franchise can make the playoffs on a down year, in a down division, but it takes consistent greatness to not only do that, but have some success in the post-season.  Obviously, the Patriots have been doing that for a lot longer than the Seahawks, but they’re the team to aspire to be.  The Seahawks have been the closest thing to a dynasty since these Patriots.  Hence, the two best-run franchises in the NFL.

Regardless of how good you thought the Seahawks would be, when these schedules were released, you probably did what a lot of us do:  you went game by game and ticked off the wins and losses.  And, I’ll bet dollars to donuts, if you’re not some deluded homer, but you ACTUALLY gave this game serious, objective consideration, you probably ticked this game off as a loss for the Seahawks.  Maybe I’m wrong!  Maybe more people have more faith in this team than I realize; or maybe I’ve just become snowblind from all the sugary praise Tom Brady and the Patriots receive from every nook and cranny of this planet.  But, I know what I’ve read from other people, and my hunch is that a lot of people thought the Seahawks would lose this game before the season even started.

And, now that we’re flippin’ 8 games in – at the exact midpoint of our season – in spite of the fact that we’re currently in the 2-seed in the NFC and a VERY respectable 5-2-1, I feel like people are giving the Seahawks even less of a chance than they were before, when hopes were at their highest and we weren’t yet constantly bombarded with injury updates from our favorite, most important players.  Certainly, Vegas gives us no shot; we’re 7.5-point underdogs, which is kinda crazy if you think about it.  If the Seahawks lose on Sunday by more than 7 points, it will only be the third time that’s happened since the start of the 2012 season.  Think about THAT!  I’m as skeptical as anyone that the Seahawks will find a way to pull this out, but if I’m a betting man, and I’m putting my money on this game, I’m ABSOLUTELY putting my money on the Seahawks to cover this spread, and there wouldn’t be a worry in my pretty little head!  Shit, if this line holds, part of me wouldn’t mind flying direct to the nearest sportsbook and putting my life’s savings on black the Seahawks to cover; easiest got-damn $77 I’ve ever made!

But, I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere, so fuck Vegas.  Let’s talk about the game and how the Seahawks can pull one out of their asses.

Now, I’ll admit, it doesn’t look good.  The O-Line hasn’t progressed at all, the running game is worse than I’ve ever seen it (maybe literally of all time, maybe since I was a little boy watching this team; this might be worse than even the Julius Jones years!), Russell Wilson is moving better, but isn’t all the way back yet, the defense has been savagely over-worked, hindering our ability to stop the run and get off the field on third down, and oh yeah, while Kam Chancellor looks like he’ll be back, Michael Bennett is still out.  It’s already tough to get a pass rush going on Tom Brady, because he’s so quick and decisive with the football; now we’re trying to do it without our very best pass rusher, the one guy who can slip through the line and make the other team’s guard/tackle look like a statue.

So, I ask again, is it even possible for the Seahawks to beat this team?

I gotta tell you, it looks grim.  The Pats are coming off a BYE to boot, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this game.  I don’t know about you, but I shudder at the thought of Bill Belichick having an extra week to expose our team.  I would think our talent will be enough to force a couple punts here and there, but we should probably gear up for the Pats to hit the endzone at a minimum of 3 times.  My guess is probably in the 4-5 range.  This team can score quick, so I think they’ll have no problem getting into the 30’s in this one.  And that’s with the Seahawks defense playing assignment-perfect football.

What’s going to have to happen here is a good ol’ fashioned shootout.  We were done a solid by the Pats trading away Jamie Collins a couple weeks back, as well as Chandler Jones before the season.  Obviously, it’s not a prerequisite for the other team to have dominant players to be able to get pressure on our quarterback, but it can’t be a bad thing to have those guys playing for other teams this weekend.

While I think the Seahawks might try to buck trends and get a running game going (likely without Christine Michael for the most part), I just don’t think this unit is good enough yet.  As such, I’d look for this one to be on Russell Wilson’s shoulders.

Now, fortunately, he’s looking about as good as he’s looked all year.  Buffalo was a nice warm-up game for us, and for him, but he’s going to have to go above and beyond.  I’m talking a 400-yard passing day, I’m talking about 4 TD passes, and I’m talking about a gut-churning finish like we’re all used to seeing by now.  I have a feeling this game will start out sour early, and it’s going to require a furious comeback in the second half, but in the end I think the Patriots have just enough flaws on defense – and the Seahawks just enough talent on offense – to shock the world and steal a game they have no business winning.

Either that, or the offense will never get going and we’ll lose by 20.  Sunday night has the real possibility of being horrible and embarrassing for us!  WINTER IS COMING, EVERYONE!!!  WE’RE ALL FUCKING DOOMED!!!

Players To Watch In Super Bowl XLIX

You know who the big dogs are on the Seattle Seahawks.  The top ten, in some order, looks like this:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Earl Thomas
  • Richard Sherman
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Michael Bennett
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Cliff Avril
  • Max Unger

So, I’m not going to sit here and tell you why all these guys are important.  You KNOW why.

This one’s dedicated to the specific Patriots we should probably be concerned with heading into the game next week.  These are the guys everyone will be talking about until this low simmer we’re all on ratchets up to a huge boil.

Let’s start with Tom Brady, because why not?  He’s the only sure-thing Hall of Famer on that team (though, there are some other possibilities, that we’ll get to).  Tom Brady has been one of the best quarterbacks in football pretty much since he took over the starting job with New England in 2001.  His career passer rating is 95.9 – which is outstanding – and he hasn’t even really missed a beat.  In 2014, he had his usual gaudy numbers, adding up to a passer rating of 97.4.  And, with the exception of a few peak years with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady has done all of this with a largely anonymous group of receivers (sound familiar?).

Tom Brady is a quarterback who clearly makes the people around him better.  He has an unquestioned dedication to the game of football and that’s why his teams have always gone to the playoffs and why they’ve had so much success once they’ve gotten there.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the AFC East has largely been one big shitshow the entire time, but that’s neither here nor there.

Unlike Manning, Brady doesn’t run his own offense.  He’s not his own offensive coordinator.  If it’s going to help the team win, Brady is more than willing to defer to the running game, if that’s what it takes.  I guess that’s the difference between being a 6th rounder vs. a #1 overall draft pick.  I guess that’s the difference between being led by one of the most successful and talented head coaches in NFL history (even if he is a big, lousy cheater sometimes) vs. a random smattering of guys who are more than willing to let their star quarterback just do his own thing.

Brady is dangerous in the same way that Russell Wilson is dangerous, in the fact that all they care about is winning, at any cost.  It just so happens that Brady has never REALLY had a dominating running game to defer to.  He’s never had a Marshawn Lynch to lean on.  Early in his career, though, Brady DID have an outstanding defense backing him, which was the real driving force in their three Super Bowl titles.  As Brady emerged from that early period in his career, the talent on defense diminished, so he was required to do more.  And, to his credit, he succeeded in almost every way.  That 2007 squad will go down historically as one of the very best teams of all time.  But, when shit got real, they were nipped by the Giants, and that’s that.

Nowadays, Brady doesn’t have the cannon he once did.  You’re not going to see the jump balls he threw to Randy Moss.  Part of that is the talent around him (Brandon LaFell isn’t anywhere near Randy Moss’s UNIVERSE), but part of that is just Brady getting older.  37 years old.  Over 50,000 yards on that arm.  In that respect, he is like Manning, or a latter-day Marino.  He’s going to hang around in that pocket (when he’s not sneaking for that first down on 3rd- & 4th-&-inches), he’s going to rely on rhythm passing from 0-10 yards in front of him, and he’s going to try to dictate tempo by going hurry-up to keep the defense on its heels and tired.

We saw this last year!  None of this is new!  We were worried about the same damn thing with the Broncos and it ended up being a non-issue!  Tom Brady CAN be affected if you get in his face.  You don’t necessarily want to send wave after wave of blitzers after him, but then again, maybe you do.  I mean, the Jets seem to have the Patriots pretty well figured out, and they’ve been running out a Junior Varsity quarterback out there for the last couple decades!  All Rex Ryan DOES is blitz!  I’m not saying that’s what the Seahawks will do – we tend to be among the least-blitzing teams in the NFL, in spite of our mascot’s name – but in theory, if things start getting hairy, it’s not a bad idea.  Let our corners press, and start throwing five and six guys after him on the reg.

If you let Tom Brady stand there all day, he’s going to pick you apart.  Unlike Manning – who’s so afraid of taking a hit that his internal clock is running on fast-forward at all times – Brady will hang in the pocket as long as necessary.  It’s not what he wants, I’m sure, but if the defense is going to press and bump receivers off of their routes, then we’re going to have to punish Brady accordingly for having the gall to wait it out until they get open.

I don’t necessarily see this as a game where the Patriots are going to try to slug it out with us on the ground.  We’re not the Colts, who are a wet paper bag when it comes to stopping the run.  Of course, we’re not necessarily the Ravens either – who make it a point to go all out in stopping the run.  We are who we are.  We’re going to stop your run the same way we stop everyone else’s run.  So, in that sense, I wouldn’t expect the Pats to completely abandon it the way they did in the second half of that Ravens game, but at the same time, we’re probably going to get a heavy dose of passing regardless.  On the year, Brady threw the ball 36 times per game.  That’s about what I’d expect out of this one as long as it remains close.  If it gets out of hand one way or another, figure to add or subtract about 15 to that total.

Pressure Brady, and everything else should fall into place.  A great way to do that?  Put the lockdown on Gronk.

The Pats have four primary receiving threats.  Here’s what they looked like in the regular season:

  • Rob Gronkowski:  82 catches, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs
  • Julian Edelman:  92 catches, 972 yards, 4 TDs
  • Brandon LaFell:  74 catches, 953 yards, 7 TDs
  • Shane Vereen:  52 catches, 447 yards, 3 TDs

Gronk’s just a beast.  He broke out in his rookie year of 2010 with 10 TDs, then turned into a total monster in 2011 with over 1,300 yards and 17 TDs.  The two subsequent years were marred by injuries and he lost large swaths of playing time.  You had to wonder if he would even be able to return to the game.  At the beginning of this year, it seemed like the team was a little too overly-tentative with him.  He’d be off the field for huge chunks of games and the offense struggled accordingly.  In the first four weeks, he had 13 catches for 147 yards and 3 TDs, while mostly playing around the red zone.

After the Pats got crushed by the Chiefs and fell to 2-2, they had no choice but to let Gronk do his thing.  The Patriots won 7 in a row and 10 of 11 overall to close out the regular season, with Gronk putting up the following numbers in that span:  69 catches, 977 yards, and 9 TDs (with an average of approximately 6 catches, 89 yards, and just under a TD per game).  Absolutely unreal.

As you can tell, Gronk IS the red zone offense for this team.  If I were a gambling man, I’d put a very large chunk of money on Gronk scoring a TD in this game, with a good portion of that on him scoring the FIRST touchdown in the game.  I’m sure you’d hardly win a damn thing on that wager, but what are you gonna do?

Seahawks fans are going to sit here and say, “Well, we’ve dismantled guys like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas; I’m not worried about Gronk!”  That would be a mistake.  Guys like Graham and Thomas are glorified, slow-footed wide receivers.  They’re soft.  Breathe on ’em wrong and they’ll go home crying to mama.  Gronk is built more in the Tony Gonzalez & Antonio Gates mold.  Remember those guys?  Remember how they were able to pick apart our defense for huge catches and scores?  Those guys thrive on contact, as does Gronk.

People are going to talk about the Gronk & Chancellor matchup, and believe you me, I’ll be looking forward to it as much as anyone else.  There’s nothing I’d like to see more than for Bam Bam to knock Gronk on his ass.  But, the underlying theme will be people talking about Kam shadowing Gronk all day, and that’s just not the case.  That’s not how the Seahawks operate.  We’re going to stick a linebacker on him just like most teams.  Since our linebackers – especially K.J. Wright – are better in coverage than most teams, we should be able to prevent Gronk from racking up a ton of yards.

But, it’s in that red zone where I’m worried.  When they opt to run Gronk out wide, with someone like Simon or Maxwell on him.  Good cover guys, sure, but I could see our corners draped all over him like a Snuggie and see him STILL come down with the ball at the goalline.

Don’t dismiss this guy just because he’s annoyingly awesome and you’d LOVE him if he was on the Seahawks.  To keep the Pats in check, we’ve got to keep Gronk in check, and that’s all there is to it.

Edelman is their possession guy.  Their Doug Baldwin, if you will.  On third down, Brady has two targets:  if Gronk is double teamed, or otherwise covered, he’s looking for Edelman in a crossing route or out in the flat.  We HAVE to control this guy.  If the Pats start converting a ton of third downs, it’s likely going to be because Edelman is getting open and squirming his way to the first down marker.

What I expect the Seahawks to do is put Jeremy Lane on him all day.  This more or less worked out okay last week, with Lane doing the heavy lifting on Randall Cobb.  Aside from the touchdown, Cobb was held to 6 catches for 49 yards.  Throw that TD into the mix, and Cobb still only had 7 catches for 62 yards, so it’s not like he was this unstoppable force (I think, too, Lane either fell down or ran into someone on that TD; but, that’s going off of memory and I’m too lazy to go back and watch it again).

Here’s the deal:  Edelman is no Cobb.  Cobb is probably the best slot receiver in the game.  Edelman is good, but he’s really just a poor man’s Welker.  I don’t think the Seahawks are sunk if we leave Lane on him.

What I’d LIKE the Seahawks to do is put Maxwell on him all day.  Maxwell is taller, with longer arms, but he’s still a strong presence as our nickel corner.  If the Seahawks are able to shut down Edelman, and roll coverage to Gronk to minimize his impact, I just don’t see any way the Patriots are able to move the ball consistently.

Brandon LaFell is a real wild card.  His overall numbers this year are MUCH better than I was expecting.  He’s their deep threat, if the Patriots even have a deep threat.  LaFell – while playing for the Panthers the last few years – was never really much of a problem for us.  The types of catches he makes – on fade routes and other types of throws into the corner – are the types of balls we defend the best.  I can’t imagine LaFell gets even a LOOK if he’s lined up on Sherman’s side.  I could, however, see him getting a good chunk of targets if he’s opposite Sherman, and he’s being guarded by the likes of Tharold Simon.

See, there’s a risky game to play if the Seahawks shadow Edelman with Maxwell, and that’s Simon on LaFell.  I like Simon, I think he would win most matchups against someone like LaFell, but I think if he’s out there, he’s GOING to get picked on, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a huge penalty or otherwise a big catch going New England’s way.

So, maybe stick with Maxwell on the outside.  Either way, if we’re assignment-sound, I wouldn’t expect to have too much trouble with their passing game.  It’s just:  can we get off the field?  That’s going to require winning on first & second down, and that’s going to require tight coverage on third down.

As for Shane Vereen, I’m not too concerned.  He’s a poor man’s Darren Sproles, and we’ve been able to handle Sproles pretty well in our matchups with him.  I’d expect someone like Bruce Irvin to be big in this one, especially on early downs.

***

On defense, it starts with Darrelle Revis.  He’s not at his peak like he was with the Jets, but he’s still probably a Top 5 cornerback in this league.  It sounds like last week, they stuck Reggie Wayne on Revis Island and Wayne didn’t have an impact whatsoever.  Sounds pretty scary, until you remember the week before where the Ravens threw for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Don’t forget that Ravens game, because I think it’s really important.  The Ravens were VERY balanced, with 129 yards out of Forsett on the ground, topped off by a pretty good day out of Flacco.  Flacco didn’t shy away from Revis, just like Russell Wilson won’t.  The Ravens got beat because their defense – especially their secondary – can’t hold a flame to ours.  If we can get after the quarterback the way they did (the Ravens didn’t have a ton of sacks, but they hit Brady pretty good), I wouldn’t expect anywhere near the type of offensive success the Pats had in that game.

I expect Revis will follow Doug Baldwin all around the field.  So, look for Baldwin to have a pretty ineffective day.  That’s going to put more pressure on Kearse and the rest of our pass-catchers to pick their games up.  New England isn’t impossible to move the ball on, even with some of their relatively big names on defense.

Brandon Browner obviously comes to mind, but we know what to expect out of him.  He’s likely going to stick to a side – maybe even shadow Kearse all day – and put a hurtin’ on whoever comes near him.  Also, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see Browner slide inside and take on one of our tight ends.  A matchup I like even less than the Revis/Baldwin one is a Browner/Willson matchup.  I think Browner would eat our #1 tight end for lunch.  Hopefully, we get the Willson/Random Linebacker matchup I’ve been looking forward to all week.

Kyle Arrington is another guy to keep an eye on.  He’s another cornerback, and apparently is their speed guy (as he took on T.Y. Hilton last week).  I’d look for Arrington to spend his time looking after Lockette, which has the potential to be a nice little mismatch in our favor, as Lockette is 6’2 and Arrington is only 5’10.

Another big one to watch out for is Chandler Jones.  #95 in your programs, he’s a 6’5 monster of a defensive end.  While he only netted six sacks this year, he did miss some time with injury and has been a terrifying beast in the games I’ve seen.  I don’t recall offhand where he generally lines up, but I seem to have him squaring off against Britt in my mind’s eye.  I wish I knew more about his tendencies.  If he’s as aggressive as I think he is, I think we can take advantage of him in the read-option game.  I’d watch for him to crash hard on the fake to Lynch, with Wilson running right around him for big gains.

If only Percy Harvin wasn’t such a massive jack-hole, I could see the jet-sweep being a HUGE play for us, like it was in last year’s Super Bowl.  Why couldn’t we have just kept him inactive each and every week – and away from the team facility entirely – then busted him out for one game a year?

Next up, watch out for a pair of outside linebackers in Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.  Collins especially, #91.  That guy is a FREAK.  He’ll line up on Okung’s side, and could rush the passer or go out into coverage.  He led the team in tackles and really filled up the stat sheet.  I wouldn’t mind seeing us run right at him, to have him swallowed up in our zone blocking scheme, but I gotta wonder if that’s wise.  If he’s able to shed blocks, we might be looking at a long day running the ball.

That’s because the key to the whole defense is Vince Wilfork.  The mammoth nose tackle whose listed weight is 325, but is probably pushing 360.  The Ravens were successful rushing because they managed to run outside the tackles.  But, that’s not really the Seahawks’ game, as we like taking it right at you.  Max Unger and either James Carpenter or J.R. Sweezy will have their work cut out for them.  Considering Carpenter is the only guy on our line who could POSSIBLY move Wilfork’s wide body out of the way, I would expect Wilfork to shade toward Sweezy’s side of Unger.  If Wilfork’s taking up two blockers, that’s going to hurt our running game, because we depend so much upon Sweezy and other guys getting to the second level.

That’s why, again, I like our chances with the zone read.  If we can break off a 100-yard rushing day out of Russell Wilson, that’s going to start opening up things down the field.

If the Seahawks win this game, Russell Wilson will need to have a game for the ages.  Let’s hope he’s got one more left in him.

Rookie Of The Year Awards Getting Interesting For Seahawks

Two 50+ point games have the Seahawks on everyone’s minds, and not just in Seattle.  The world loves a hot quarterback and they ESPECIALLY love a hot rookie quarterback.

The last nine weeks or so, Russell Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league.  Of course, when you’re picking a ROY, you don’t get to cherry pick your best games, you’ve got to deal with your season as a whole.  And, in spite of a rough first five games, the Russell Wilson Rookie Season has been a remarkable success.

The last time I talked about this, it was about two weeks ago.  At the time, RGIII had a stranglehold on the award, with Wilson and Luck duking it out for #2.  Well, after two weeks, where are we?

Sando has the pertinent numbers for you.  As you can see, thanks to RGIII’s injury situation, Wilson has had a chance to close the gap.  On the one hand, that’s great news!  You can’t win the ROY while missing a quarter of the season!  Especially when that quarter is the final quarter.  On the other hand, what does it say about how good RGIII is that he gave his competition a free week and Wilson’s numbers are STILL somewhat inferior?  Look at the numbers, you can’t argue.  Wilson has more passing touchdowns, but when you look at combined rushing & passing TDs, it’s tied.  Yardage and rating is in RGIII’s favor.  And you can’t argue that Wilson is any more important to his team’s success than RGIII (in spite of the victory in Cleveland with Cousins at the helm; Cleveland does stink, after all).

I do think, however, that Wilson has passed Luck ever-so-slightly.  More Sando numbers here show you how they fared against the same opponents.  Luck has total passing yards on lockdown, but those turnovers have to account for something!  Maybe the Colts wouldn’t have to pass so much – thereby inflating Luck’s numbers – if Luck himself didn’t cough up the ball so much.  Think about it!

Unfortunately, I still think the award is RGIII’s to lose.  Of course, if he continues to miss games, I think that’s exactly what he’ll do.  If Wilson can continue being his near-dominant self, I think he’ll steal enough votes away from the other two to seal the deal.  Beating the 49ers this weekend is a must, though.  It’s the last chance a national audience is going to see one of the Big Three rookie quarterbacks.  Have an awesome game against an elite defense and that’ll be a lasting impression on the minds of voters.

***

As for the Defensive ROY, it certainly hasn’t gotten a lot of pub, but the Seahawks have two amazing candidates.

First, let’s look at some of the “competition”.

Among the D-Linemen drafted high, you’ve got Quinton Coples (4 sacks), Michael Brockers (4 sacks), Melvin Ingram (0.5 sacks), Whitney Mercilus (6 sacks), and Chandler Jones (6 sacks).  Then, you’ve got 15th overall pick Bruce Irvin who has a whopping 8 sacks in a part time role.  I don’t know the status of those other linemen, but I think it’s clear Bruce Irvin has been out-classing the other linemen drafted in the all-important sack catagory.

Truth be told, though, I don’t think any of those linemen make a dent in the race for D-ROY.  Maybe if Irvin can get into double-digits, he’ll be in the top four or five, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Right now, you’re looking at a 3-man race.  Casey Howard, cornerback, Green Bay (46 tackles, 6 INTs, 1 FF, 19 PD), Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Carolina (138 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack, 4 PD), and Bobby Wagner, linebacker, Seattle (121 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 sacks, 4 PD).  I don’t think Kuechly is giving up that tackle crown anytime soon (he’s currently 2nd in the NFL overall, behind only Chad Greenway with 140), and I’m not gonna lie to you, that’s a pretty huge number.  Nearly leading the league as a rookie in tackles carries a lot of weight with me.  Wagner is no slouch, obviously, as he currently stands at 9th in the NFL.  To combat Kuechly’s cachet, you’ve got to fill up the stat sheet in other areas.  Getting those two picks in that Arizona game obviously helps.  Now, if he’s able to double that sack total in the next two games, and maybe get his hands on a couple more balls, I think Wagner could steal the award.

Like Wilson, how Wagner plays in front of the national audience this Sunday will go a long way.  Stuff Frank Gore and strip him of the football:  that’s going to open a lot of eyes that hadn’t yet glanced at this Seahawks defense.

Regardless of who wins, though, just the fact that we’re talking about THREE rookies in the same year up for the same award (on opposite sides of the ball, obvs) is pretty fucking amazing.  I didn’t think there was any way for this front office to top their first two draft classes, but lo and behold, here we are!