We’ll See How Bad The Seahawks Can Be This Week

Y’all know me (still the same O.G.), I’m here rooting for the Seahawks to lose. I want to be rid of Geno Smith, I want a high draft pick next year, and I want that high draft pick to be devoted to an elite franchise quarterback, so we can get right back to winning Super Bowls. So, I want the Seahawks to lose this Sunday against the Falcons. I’m predisposed to believe we can and will lose to the Falcons.

Ergo, it takes a lot to lead me to believe the Seahawks will probably prevail.

I think the Falcons are bad. I think they’re bad in a similar way to the Seahawks being bad – they have a clear placeholder quarterback (Mariota) just playing out the string before they lose enough games to give their rookie a shot – and I also believe that rookie is by no means the “future”, but rather a future backup. I think the Falcons are going to use their high draft pick next year to ALSO try and draft an elite franchise QB.

The difference between how bad the Falcons are and how bad the Seahawks are comes down to the talent around those two placeholders. I think the Seahawks have some sneaky-good talent on the roster, whereas I think the Falcons are completely bereft. They have a rookie wide receiver who might be elite, but has yet to prove anything. And, they have a tight end who they adamantly refuse to throw the ball to. That’s pretty much it for the offense, other than Cordarrelle Patterson (who I’m firing up in a couple of leagues, fully expecting to disappoint me at every turn). And, I’m assuming, the defense is similarly a joke.

When you tack on how the Seahawks are at home in this one, I think we’ll win fairly comfortably. I think our offense will have no trouble breaking that streak of scoreless quarters (at six and counting), and our defense will be just good enough to allow us to prevail in a one-score game (perhaps with the Falcons scoring late to bring it to within one score). Give me 27-24, Seahawks.

More specifically, I think this one comes down to the running game for the Seahawks. Even though I do expect Geno to have a pretty good game from a fantasy perspective, I think we’re going to rededicate ourselves to running the ball on offense, and stopping the run on defense. Make Mariota beat us with his arm. He’ll get a few shots in, but ultimately I don’t think he has what it takes.

How confident am I? Not very. There’s another way this game plays out. The 0-2 Falcons lost by a point at home to the Saints (who allegedly have a very good defense), and they came roaring back on the road against the Rams, pulling a 28-3 game in the second half all the way to 31-27. That’s not chopped liver!

So there’s very much a world where Mariota has all the time in the world to throw, they get lots of chunk plays on the ground, and they funnel Geno Smith into these useless checkdowns that go nowhere. And while I’m more than 50% sure that the Seahawks prevail in this one, I will say that the odds of a Falcons blowout victory are significantly higher than the odds of a Seahawks blowout victory.

Make no mistake, the Seahawks should win this game. We’re talking about two evenly-matched teams with the Seahawks having home field. So, if we lose, I think that’s pretty damning. The Falcons have gone closer to a full rebuild than the Seahawks, so by all rights they should be worse. If they’re not, then I think that will speak volumes for our chances to getting a high draft pick next year.

Looking ahead, I don’t see that game in Detroit as anything we can reasonably win. We follow that up with a game in New Orleans; both feel like safe losses, based on what I’ve seen through two weeks. Looking further ahead, the home game against the Giants doesn’t feel so automatic anymore; they’ve really stepped up in their 2-0 start. And even looking WAY ahead at the likes of the Panthers and Jets should be concerning. If we don’t beat the Falcons, and look bad in the process, I’ll legitimately wonder if there’s another victory on our schedule.

So, no pressure or anything.

We should be fucking dead, my friend. What happened here was a miracle and I want you to fucking acknowledge it!

I’m simply amazed at the capacity for this team to amaze me.

Playoff MVPs ...

Playoff MVPs …

I don’t know if what we witnessed yesterday was a football game, or some bizarre form of torture porn; all I know is I’m glad it’s over and point me in the direction of the nearest bathroom, because I do believe I’ve soiled myself.

The weather was stupid cold, which as we all know causes freaky shit to happen.  For the vast majority of that game, said “freaky shit” came in the form of every God damn Rams game we’ve ever seen in the last four years:  Seahawks struggling on offense, Seahawks unable to get pressure on defense (because everything is a run or a quick pass), Seahawks getting absolutely none of the breaks (whether it comes to penalties or turnovers).  And, like Every God Damn Rams Game Ever, you knew even though the Seahawks were down, there’d be a comeback.  Although, I have to admit, when the Vikings kicked that third field goal to make it a 2-score game (9-0), most of me didn’t have much hope for the Seahawks, needing to drive twice in the same quarter.

Then, somehow, it finally started to click.  The play of the game (non-field goal edition) just happened to be an errant snap from Patrick Lewis, where Russell Wilson turned chicken shit into a 35-yard completion to Tyler Lockett and a first & goal situation.  And, I shit you not, I was woken from a dead sleep yesterday morning before the game by a vision of a botched shotgun snap resulting in a Wilson sack, so stop trying to tell me “all my visions come true” because sometimes they’re a little off (Pobody’s Nerfect).  A touchdown to the vital and spry Doug Baldwin made the game 9-7, and a forced fumble of Adrian Peterson helped make the game 10-9 on the very next drive.

That led us to the part of the game where I’m glad I muted Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, because if I had to listen to them blather on about all the 4th quarter collapses the Seahawks have had this year, I would no longer be the owner of a Toshiba flat-screen TV, because that Toshiba flat-screen TV would be lying broken and discarded on top of someone’s vehicle outside of my balcony five stories below.  Good God, I know not everyone watching is a hardcore Seahawks fan, and they have to paint the complete picture, but suck an unhealthy amount of dicks, you guys!

It’s true, though.  The Seahawks HAVE blown a ton of games this year.  Feels like five by my count.  When you get all the way to the fourth quarter before the Seahawks score a point, and then they manage to somehow get 10 points and take a lead, it leaves you wondering, “HOW IN THE FUCK IS THERE STILL 8 MINUTES LEFT IN THIS GAME RIGHT NOW???”  And yet, we forced the 3 & Out, and I’m foolishly thinking, “All right!  Maybe we can score again and lock this shit down!”

We followed up their 3 & Out with one of our own, and then somehow managed to force a punt AGAIN, very close to the 2 minute warning.  All we had to do was get a God damn first down and this game would be ours!  And, even if we failed, their offense wasn’t going anywhere against our defense, when our defense finally had a chance to pin its ears back and attack the quarterback!  We got this!

Sure as shit, we didn’t “got this”.  On 2nd & 10, the Vikings were bailed out on a pathetic pass interference call on Kam Chancellor (seriously, their guy ran straight into Kam; how is that Kam’s fault???), before parlaying that into another long gain by their tight end (the pass just getting beyond the outstretched arms of Kam, who I thought had an underwhelming return, even though he forced the fumble on All Day).  That put the Vikings SQUARE into field goal position (especially when you consider their kicker was lights out all day, hitting from longs of 43 & 47 yards).  Three straight runs after that bled all of our time outs, and all but 26 seconds of game clock, putting them at the 9 yard line.  A chip shot, by every measure, even in 0-degree weather.  He was on the left hash mark, 27 yards away from glory …

And he hooked it left.

Richard Sherman, coming off of the right side, nearly blocked one of his previous kicks, so maybe that was on Blair Walsh’s mind?  Also, the laces were in, but that didn’t prevent him from making a previous kick.  He just flat out blew it, whatever the reason, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

What is it about the Seahawks and breaking the minds, bodies, and spirits of teams and fans in the NFC North?

Like I said at the top, I don’t know what you can say about this team anymore.  We seem to be harvesting multiple generations’ worth of karma in these last few years.  It’s not even like being “clutch”, though there have been some clutch plays.  This team’s overall playoff performance – dating back to 2012 – would look MUCH different if it weren’t for some downright lucky things.  Like the missed chipshot yesterday, or the onside kick against Green Bay last year, or even Colin Kaepernick’s insane decision to throw on Richard Sherman two years ago.

I’ll tell you what, though.  I said it last week and I’ll say it again:  the Seahawks ARE the better team.  When you run into cold weather and dominating, physical defenses, shit tends to happen.  Once again, our offense wasn’t good enough.  Russell Wilson wasn’t good enough, for most of the day.  You don’t have to get rid of the bubble screen altogether, but the bubble screen to Doug Baldwin needs to be ripped out of the playbook and set on fire.  Also, in obvious rushing situations (3rd & 1), what are you doing going with a standard, under-center run formation, when the zone read has been killing them all day?  Shit like this is going to bite us in the end if we keep making the same mistakes we made in the early part of this season!  So, let’s get it on!

And, Jesus Christ, can we get our play calls in faster?

And will someone teach Jon Ryan to run AWAY from contact instead of right at it?

Happy for the win, though.  As the better of the two teams, we’re sure to see a good, competitive couple of games next weekend out of the NFC.  If the Vikings had advanced, I guarantee 10 out of 10 times they’d go into Arizona and get their asses kicked.  So, don’t feel too bad Vikings fans, your would-be glory would’ve been short lived anyway.

Players of the game, I’ve got a few:

Richard Sherman played like a boss all day, coming up huge with his 6 solo tackles, while getting dinged on a bogus illegal contact penalty.

Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, and K.J. Wright all came up huge.

Still gotta give props to Kam Chancellor for the rip on A.D.

Michael Bennett might have been the best player on the field today as he sliced his way through their line time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time again.

Kudos to Avril, Mebane, Rubin, and the rest of those guys too, holding Peterson to only 45 yards on 23 carries (not too much of an improvement, tbh, on his 8 carries for 18 yards earlier this season).

Offensive line, I thought, was a mixed bag.  A few really glaring errors, but for the most part gave Wilson enough time, and opened up enough holes in the running game to keep them honest.  Mostly positive day, really, against a really tough front seven.

Christine Michael finished with 70 yards on 21 carries, probably as good as one could expect against that defense.

Doug Baldwin with the SICK 1-handed catch to get a first down, also led the team with 5 catches, 42 yards, and our lone touchdown.

Good on Lockett to get open on that scramble play.  Good on Kearse for being Wilson’s security blanket after dropping the first pass thrown his way on the day.

Finally, good on the special teams for not letting Cordarrelle Patterson, their kick returner, do any damage.  I have to admit, that was a gnawing fear, as I kept hoping the team would start squibbing on those kickoffs, since it was clear Hauschka wasn’t going to have the leg to force any touchbacks.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 5

I can’t say that I’m all that wild and crazy about the defense this year.  How about you?

We’ve played Green Bay, at San Diego, Denver, and at Washington.  By my accounts, that’s two great teams, one good team, and one bad team.  To those teams, we’ve given up 20.75 points per game.  That’s up from 14.44 points per game last year, when we led the league.  So, what gives?

Maybe it’s nothing.  After all, with last year’s team, it wasn’t all 43-8 beatdowns.  There were a lot of tense moments!  The Houston, Tampa, and St. Louis games come immediately to mind.  This last one against the Redskins reminds me almost exactly of last year’s home game against the Titans.  Probably should’ve been a huge blowout, but Seahawks mistakes kept it close and made more than a few people uncomfortable.

So, what can we look at?  Well, for starters, let’s look at 4th quarter scoring.  We’re giving up, on average, 8 points per game in the 4th quarter.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s usually the difference between a comfortable blowout and a closer, 1-score game.

Let’s also look at third down conversions.  The Seahawks are allowing teams to convert 25/57, or around 44% of the time.  You probably want that percentage somewhere in the mid-30s.  That’ll help explain a lot of these longer drives.  The more plays run, the more time they burn, the more time our defense is on the field, the more opportunities for mistakes.

Now, look at turnovers.  We’ve got a total of three.  Two interceptions (Maxwell & Chancellor) and one fumble recovery (Wright).  How do we explain this?  Well, the Seahawks have been unlucky in the fact that there have been 5 other fumbles that we DIDN’T recover.  But, what about the interceptions?  Where has the L.O.B. been in all of this?

Surely, teams aren’t testing Richard Sherman as much as they did last year (which in and of itself was a mystery to me).  I’m sure they’re being somewhat more cautious, knowing what we all know about the studs in our secondary.  You could argue that the pass rush has been down compared to last year.  We’ve only got 6 sacks in 4 games.  We’ve got 18 hits on the quarterback, which makes it look a LITTLE better.  I don’t know what the count is on hurries, but it doesn’t feel to me like we’ve taken a huge step back in this department.

If you want my opinion, I think teams have just gotten smarter.  I think they watched all the tape on us that they could from last year, they figured out what our defense does well and where it struggles.  I think they’re throwing a lot of quicker passes to avoid the pass rush, and I think they’re taking smart chances down the field when they have their opportunities.  Don’t throw a fade to Richard Sherman’s side.  At best, he’ll just tip the ball away for an incompletion (at worst, we’re taking it back to the house).  Instead, work some double-moves.  Force our DBs to switch and make decisions on the fly.  Yes, we have the most intelligent and well-studied secondary in football, but they’re not going to be perfect.  Every once in a while, they’ll take a bad angle, or leave someone uncovered.  And, if you’ve got a Desean Jackson running the route, or a Peyton Manning throwing the ball, you’re going to get beat once in a while.

Part of it is, yeah, shit happens.  It IS a small, 4-game sample size.  The Seahawks ARE 3-1, so let’s not start jumping off of buildings.  We’ve still got plenty of games against teams that match up well against us.  The Raiders, Giants, and Cowboys should all be pushovers.  If we really ratchet up the firestorm in these next few weeks, all of these numbers will normalize.  We’ll get our turnovers back up to par, we’ll hold teams down at the end of games, and we’ll get off the field on third down more regularly.

But, the other part of it is:  we’ve got to adjust.  The rest of the league has – I don’t want to say “figured us out”, but they’ve certainly changed their schemes against us.  I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily working, but it’s a lot better than what they managed against us last year.  So, we’ve got to counter.  We’ve got to figure out what they’re doing that’s working and shut that down.

While, at the same time, keeping what works for us.  Namely, the run defense.  If this thing is real, then we’ve got a real ace up our sleeves.  All Dallas does now is run the ball!  The Panthers, Giants, and Chiefs are all in the run-first mold.  We can take advantage of all of these teams if we’re able to shut down their running games; none of those quarterbacks should put the fear of God into you.  And, as for all the NFC West teams?  Well, I’m going to withhold judgment on the Rams until I see more out of Austin Davis, but the 49ers and Cardinals can’t get out of their own way at the quarterback position.  If we shut their running games down, they’re powerless against us!

So, I’ll be interested to see how the Seahawks do over the next month.  Will the defense be an ongoing concern?  I sure hope not.  I think we all sort of planned on the offense being improved (and maybe picking up some slack), but I enjoy this team much more when we’re stomping other teams into the ground on defense.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (3-1) – Never a doubt.
  2. Denver Broncos (3-1) – Ditto.
  3. San Diego Chargers (4-1) – The Chargers are for real.  If that defense proves it’s worthy of a top 10 ranking, watch out.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – They were doomed from the start.  A pissed off Patriots team at home, during primetime for the second straight week?  That had rout written all over it.
  5. Detroit Lions (3-2) – Now that they’ve got a kicker, prepare for a nice run on wins.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) – Must be nice playing in the worst division in football three years running.
  7. San Francisco 49ers (3-2) – Not the easiest next two games leading into their BYE as they go to St. Louis on Monday night, followed by going to Denver on Sunday night.  Prepare yourself to watch A LOT of 49ers football the next two weeks.  Probably more 49ers football than you ever cared to see.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) – They better figure out how to get Shady McCoy going if they ever want to seriously contend this year.
  9. New Orleans Saints (2-3) – It took overtime at home to beat the Bucs?  I don’t know what I’m doing keeping this team in the top 10.
  10. Green Bay Packers (3-2) – Are you smelling an upset this week down in Miami?  Because, I kinda sorta am.  These Packers are going DOWN!
  11. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – Good, not great.
  12. Dallas Cowboys (4-1) – Ditto.
  13. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) – Look, I was flying back from Anaheim on Sunday, so I didn’t see a lot of football, all right?  Justin Forsett got me some solid points in Fantasy while Lamar Miller was on BYE though, so that’s cool.
  14. New England Patriots (3-2) – Imagine that:  you take the bubble wrap off of Gronk and your offense is actually able to move the football.  WEIRD!
  15. Arizona Cardinals (3-1) – Perfect no more, and now they’ve lost their best defender for at least a few weeks.
  16. New York Giants (3-2) – With a bullet!
  17. Atlanta Falcons (2-3) – Good GOD is this team shitty on the road!  They catch the Bears at home, though, so bank on them being 3-3 this time next week.
  18. Chicago Bears (2-3) – You heard me.
  19. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) – It’s like, every week the Steelers find a new way to troll football fans!
  20. Carolina Panthers (3-2) – Starting to really regret not drafting their tight end this year.
  21. Houston Texans (3-2) – How about that J.J. Watt, huh?  He’s like a million times better than that J.J. Watt commercial, I’ll tell you that much.
  22. Miami Dolphins (2-2) – This is the week where the Dolphins get you to believe they’re worthy of being in the playoffs.  It won’t last long.
  23. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – I like this Browns team!  Mostly because Hoyer is keeping Johnny Football on the sidelines.
  24. Washington Redskins (2-3) – That’s some great defense you got there in D.C.
  25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) – This team is going to start stealing wins it shouldn’t have.  Mark it this week, my upset special:  Tampa over Baltimore.
  26. Buffalo Bills (3-2) – What is it with the Bills and beating NFC North teams on the road this year?
  27. New York Jets (1-4) – The Chargers’ defense got me a shutout last week in a losing effort in fantasy.  Thank you, Jets!
  28. Minnesota Vikings (2-3) – Well, if you can’t figure out how to get Cordarrelle Patterson the football, then I’m afraid he’s not long for my fantasy team.
  29. St. Louis Rams (1-3) – Wouldn’t it be nice if they went out and beat up on the 49ers this week?  I promise if you do, I’ll put you in the Top 25!
  30. Tennessee Titans (1-4) – Is Jake Locker the next Marques Tuiasosopo?  The guy who might be great, but we’ll never know because he’s always injured?  Hey guys, welcome to Steve Emtman’s world.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) – I’m beginning to think this isn’t the fringe-playoff team I’d once predicted them to be.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-4) – Not only do they lose a home game to playing in fucking London, but they gotta spend their BYE week getting over jetlag.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 3

What’s this?  Another reminder to vote for me in the Western Washington Sports Blog competition?  This is absolutely too much!

Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll plan out my posts for the next couple weeks.  I try to get one post per day, Monday thru Friday, and I like a little routine in my life.  Lately, with football season starting, it’s been:

  • Monday – Seahawks recap
  • Tuesday – Huskies recap
  • Wednesday – Mariners recap
  • Thursday – NFL Power Rankings
  • Friday – Seahawks preview

It’s a good system.  Covers all my bases and sets myself up to not have to think too hard about what’s going on.  But, when we get into BYE weeks, there are gaps to fill.  And, with these power rankings, I always like to have an intro topic to talk about.  Maybe something that’s not worthy of its own post, but still something I find interesting.

Anyway, for today, in my little “note to self” in the section where I have my idea for this post’s intro, I wrote:

Is Anything Wrong With The Seahawks’ Defense?

And then below it, I wrote:

Probably not.

This is what I have to work with for today.  If this doesn’t interest you, I encourage you to skip ahead to the rankings.  Spoiler Alert:  I still like the Seahawks a lot.

So, IS there anything wrong with the Seahawks’ defense?  Again, probably not.  It’s early in the season, so a lot of this is more “gut feeling” than anything tangible.  Also, if you’re in the Excuse-Making game, it’s easy to argue that the Seahawks have faced three of the better offenses – and in particular three of the better quarterbacks – in all of football.  Totally valid.

When I take a step back and look at this team objectively, I see a lot of the same faces we had last year, when the Seahawks were the best in football.  The L.O.B., the linebackers, and many of our stars on the D-Line are all back and all still in the primes of their careers.  Some may be dealing with injuries – either concealed or not – but either way you wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off.  And, I’m not saying there IS a huge drop-off.  But, something feels wonky.  That’s all I’ve got.

The run defense is off-the-charts good and way better than I thought it’d be, considering the loss of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.  We’re giving up less than 3 yards per carry, and less than 73 yards per game.  That’s GREAT!  So, you won’t hear me speak ill of the rush defense one iota.

The pass defense is a little more unsettling, as we’re giving up 249 yards per game (up from 172 last year), but again, consider the opponents.  When we get to start factoring in the likes of Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and whoever the Rams, Cardinals, and Raiders end up throwing at us, that 249 figure is sure to go down.

AND, not for nothing, but it’s not like the 2013 defense was perfect!  Indy managed 34 points.  A winless Tampa Bay team ran up a huge first half lead before we started our comeback.  And, shit, even the Cardinals – after Palmer had thrown four interceptions – managed a late-game, game-winning touchdown in CenturyLink to delay our winning of the division by a week.

So, really, what am I getting at?  Nothing, I suppose.  Once we put a little more distance between us and that San Diego contest, my nerves should calm down.  And maybe the next time, when a good team is driving down for a game-tying (or game-winning) score, we can nip that in the bud instead of letting them send the game into overtime (or, heavens forbid, another loss).

One interesting trend I’d like to watch going forward is the number of defensive snaps played by each guy on that side of the ball.  The usual suspects are in the 90% range of percentage of plays played (the entire starting four in the L.O.B., Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright at 87.5%), and the next man on the list is Michael Bennett at 76.4% of the defensive snaps.  I want to say that’s up a good 20-or-so percent compared to last year, when most everyone was in the 50-60% range along the defensive line.  We all sort of expected that when Bennett signed the contract extension (and guys like Bryant and Clemons were let go, freeing up more snaps for our new starters), but it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up as the season goes on (especially considering the BYE week is happening now, followed by 13 straight weeks of football).

Avril’s snaps are up as well, to 67.6%.  Everyone else is down in that 40-50% range that we like to see.  So, for all this talk about teams using the hurry-up offense to keep us from rotating guys in and out, we can rest assured that it’s all mostly just talk.

In the end, it’s going to come down to injuries.  If the defense can stay healthy, it will still be great.  If we start losing guys left and right, then we’re probably in trouble (but, you can say that about anyone).  Having Kam Chancellor playing through ankle issues is a little distressing.  As I said before, I’d rather he get the surgery done now if it means he’d be able to return later this season.  I’d rather have him 100% for a playoff run than have him 75% now and deteriorating by the week.  This thing isn’t going to magically get BETTER on its own without rest or surgery.  Since he’s having neither the rest of the way, don’t be shocked if at some point down the line we end up losing our starting strong safety for the season.  Either due to this issue, or some other issue related to this one because he’s compensating.  Me no like.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – That’s what we call a “sigh of relief”.  Now we get a week off to rest our injured player (singular) before another road game against another tough offense.  Watch out for the Redskins, that’s all I’m saying!  I’m just kidding, I’m not saying anything; and their defense is beyond a joke.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1) – I can’t say that I’m QUITE as convinced as ever that it’ll be a Broncos/Seahawks repeat in the next Super Bowl, but I’m fairly certain the AFC will feature either the Broncos or the Bengals.  Big matchup between those two teams in Cincinnati in week 16.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – So, that’s kinda weird:  the best three teams in football all have BYEs in week 4.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) – They’re not much on defense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field a defense to win the NFC East.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – They’re not much on offense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field an offense to win the NFC East (wait …).
  6. New Orleans Saints (1-2) – To inspire the least bit of confidence in my opinion of this team, they COULD have put up a better effort against a hapless Vikings team.  That’s all I’m saying.
  7. Detroit Lions (2-1) – I’m not gonna lie to you, but I’m gaining more and more confidence in their ability to win the NFC North with every passing week.  Or, at the very least, have a better record than the fucking Packers.
  8. San Diego Chargers (2-1) – The only loss is by 1 point on the road to a very good Cardinals team.  For the record, on Thursday, October 23rd, they play the Broncos for the first time.  I will be watching that game.
  9. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) – I got perverse joy out of that Thursday night dismantling of the Bucs.  Mostly because Matt Ryan is my quarterback in fantasy and before the season started I was THIS close to trading him straight up for Jamaal Charles (it’s a keeper league).
  10. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – They lost two games by one score apiece to two very good teams (Eagles & Broncos).  Their schedule the rest of the way looks about as reasonable as a schedule can be.  If Luck stays healthy, even with their suspect defense, I could see them finishing 13-3.  Mark it down now.
  11. New England Patriots (2-1) – Anyone else less than impressed by the Patriots right now?  A pretty bad loss down in Miami in week 1, and now a pretty ugly win at home against the Raiders.  THIS is supposed to be the team that contends with the Broncos for the Super Bowl?
  12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.  *Takes a deep breath* … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  13. Chicago Bears (2-1) – Big test this week against the Packers.
  14. Green Bay Packers (1-2) – Stunk up the joint in Seattle.  Let the Jets get out to a big lead before mounting a comeback.  Stunk up the joint again in Detroit.  We always wonder about the Packers’ defense, but what’s going on with the offense?
  15. Carolina Panthers (2-1) – I couldn’t possibly fathom what happened in that game against the Steelers, but I’m grateful (my fantasy team was going up against a guy with the Panthers’ defense).  This is going to be a tough team to peg all year, I can already tell.
  16. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – The Ravens play 5 of their 6 divisional games by week 9.  Their schedule the rest of the way looks less-than-ideal; they might not win more than 1 more road game going forward.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Their defense looks pretty good when the opposing offense has no skill position players!
  18. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – A lot of people (myself included) jumped off the Cowboys bandwagon pretty hard after week 1.  Not that the bandwagon was filled with a bunch of people thinking this was a playoff team; but this also isn’t a team that’s going to be held to 4 wins or less.  As long as that offense has its stars, they’ll be able to out-score some of the crummier teams out there.
  19. Washington Redskins (1-2) – KILL ME, I like this team about a million times more with Cousins at quarterback.  RGIII might go down as a Top 5 most disappointing NFL player of all time (not counting the wife beaters, child abusers, dog killers, human killers, and so on).
  20. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – Don’t get too excited, it’s only the Miami Dolphins that they beat.
  21. New York Jets (1-2) – Even in defeat, this team is showing me more fight and vigor than these teams below them in the rankings.
  22. Buffalo Bills (2-1) – Stop trying to talk yourself into the Bills.  It’s not going to happen.
  23. Miami Dolphins (1-2) – Well, after a strong opener against the Patriots, they’ve followed that up with two clunkers.  Suffice it to say, the new offense isn’t clicking like they’d envisioned.
  24. Cleveland Browns (1-2) – They’re bad, but they’re not the worst.  I hope they keep themselves close in all their games so Johnny Football rots on the fucking bench for the rest of his life.
  25. Tennessee Titans (1-2) – Jake Locker has the best job security in the NFL, and it’s not even as a result of him being all that talented!  When your only alternative is Charlie Whitehurst, you’d stick with Matt Cassel himself to avoid having to watch Clipboard Jesus boner his way through a football game.
  26. St. Louis Rams (1-2) – A little birdie told me that the Rams, as a team, only have one sack on the season.  That’s … less than ideal.
  27. New York Giants (1-2) – The Giants are like the Cowboys except without the talented stars on offense.  Which might be the biggest insult I’ve ever written about anyone.
  28. Houston Texans (2-1) – I’ll never understand how Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard ever gets a starting job in the NFL.  It would seem to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be better suited as a career backup, and playing absolutely anyone other than Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be the better option.  But, you know, that’s just me.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) – Hey who knew giving a career backup a starting job following a crazy-insane stretch of just a few good games would blow up in a team’s face?  I certainly didn’t, because I think I picked the Bucs to be a playoff team.  But, I’m an idiot, so that’s to be expected.  One of these years, the Bucs WILL make it back to the playoffs; just not this year.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – This offense is the WORST!  Norv Turner needs to be given the Old Yeller treatment.  How hard is it to simply have Cordarrelle Patterson run a crossing pattern each and every pass play?  It’s pretty obvious that the quarterbacks they have aren’t ready for the down-field passing scheme Norv is famous for, so it’s time to change the scheme to fit the personnel.  NORV!
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-3) – I got nothing.  At least the Raiders have three straight home games (with a BYE week thrown in) to really rest up and enjoy the end of the Bay Area summer.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) – Blake Bortles is your starting quarterback for the rest of the season!  Hope he doesn’t get killed by your offensive line!

Always Never A Doubt In My Mind

At one point in this game, Russell Wilson had scrambled his way into an opening-play fumble (recovered by the 49ers), LaMichael James had muffed a punt (recovered by the 49ers), and Colin Kaepernick had the ball stripped on a sack (recovered by a 49ers lineman, ran for 6 yards).  That final piece of lunacy saved a touchdown drive and gave the 49ers a 17-10 lead, and it left Seahawks fans wondering if the football gods were EVER going to smile down upon us.

Ask anyone who knows anything, and they’ll tell you that going 0 for 3 on fumble recoveries is pretty fucking rare.  A fumble is generally a 50/50 proposition, and if the Seahawks went down because of this stat, you’d call it one of the unluckiest breaks in football.  Of course, one game is pretty much as small of a sample size as you could get; nevertheless, I couldn’t help but believe that this streak couldn’t continue FOREVER.  There would HAVE to be fumbles forthcoming that would bounce our way.

Sure enough, from that point in the third quarter where the 49ers went back up by a touchdown, the Seahawks caught all the breaks.  Colin Kaepernick was strip-sacked by Avril (recovered by Michael Bennett).  A fumble by Jermaine Kearse at the goalline that was recovered by Marshawn Lynch at the 1.  And, on the very next play, a Russell Wilson/Marshawn Lynch fumbled exchange on 4th & Goal from the 1 yard line (recovered by Michael Robinson, which doesn’t sound so great, because we failed to score the touchdown or even keep the 49ers pinned back inside the one yard line, but if you look at it again, you’ll see a ton of 49ers players around that football, with a clear opportunity to return that thing for a 99-yard touchdown).  Kaepernick was intercepted by Kam (which wasn’t a lucky break, per se, but it was a turnover).  Another Russell Wilson fumble on a busted play (recovered by Wilson, resulting in an offensive pass interference penalty).  And finally, the game-ending interception on the tip from Sherman to Malcolm Smith.

To be honest with you, I don’t know how to feel about a game that hinged so deeply upon luck.  There’s the obvious turnover issues I described above, there were referee issues (some iffy penalties, some iffier non-calls, and that fumble recovery that couldn’t be reviewed, which ended up not really mattering anyway), there were injury issues (I don’t know if we’ll ever know the impact of the 49ers losing their best offensive guard and their best linebacker in Iupati and Bowman respectively), and there was the play of the game.

To set it up, the Seahawks pulled to within 17-13 on a Hauschka field goal.  We forced a 3 & out thanks to the refs missing what probably should have been roughing the punter.  We got the ball at our own 38 yard line, and we drove to the San Francisco 34 yard line, with 2nd down and 6 coming up.  Russell Wilson was called for a clear Intentional Grounding, which put us back to the 50 yard line, for a 3rd down and 22 to go.  This is the nightmare scenario, but to our credit, we called something reasonable.  A nice little pass to Zach Miller out on the flat, who rumbled for 15 yards to the San Francisco 35 yard line.  At this point, it was 4th and 7.  Maybe within the range of Hauschka, but not really something you feel comfortable about in this situation.  It was the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks very nearly decided to kick it, but ultimately burned a timeout.  Had we lost this game because we were short on timeouts, I’m sure everyone would have pointed to this situation.  As it stood, that timeout was probably the smartest decision we made all game.

We put the offense back out on the field to pick up the seven yards.  Russell Wilson nailed the hard count, which got the 49ers to go offsides.  To their credit, the refs didn’t whistle the play dead (for the record, in a similiar situation this season, the refs blew the play dead and cost us an opportunity to make a huge play).  All the receivers broke off of their intended routes and ran for the endzone.  Wilson made the perfect throw, and Jermaine Kearse came down with an amazing catch.

How does luck come into it?  Well, if that throw is offline, or if the 49ers defender makes a better play on the ball, and it falls incomplete, then we’re looking at 4th and 2 from the 30 yard line.  At that point, I don’t think there’s any question that the Seahawks go for the field goal, to pull within 17-16.  And who KNOWS how the game turns from there!  What if Hauschka misses the 47 yarder?  Of course, he would go on later to make a 47 yarder, but Hauschka was on record – after the game – as saying that he really didn’t want to kick that field goal when it was going to be a 52 yarder.  What if, in his shaken state, Hauschka pulls that one?  Then, the 49ers would get great field position, and most importantly, we’d get no points.  Even if we assume he would make it, that still would have left us down a point with a quarter left to go.  That touchdown was the difference between the 49ers ultimately needing a touchdown to win the game vs. needing a field goal to win the game.  If that’s the case, I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re sitting here today lamenting the fact that the 49ers are playing for the championship.

Just a wild, crazy game.  Here are some other observations:

Russell Wilson was REALLY driving me crazy in that first half.  I understand that you’ve got to take the good with the bad with a guy like Wilson, and it really COULD be worse.  I’m not sitting here wishing that we had some gunslinger like Tony Romo who would ultimately cost us more in big games than he’d help us.  But, it really looked like Wilson was playing tentative yesterday.  Holding the ball too long, looking to scramble out of the pocket (which couldn’t have been worse, because more often than not – with our linemen pushing their ends outside and around the pocket in a circle – he was just running himself INTO pressure) when he should have just stepped up and made a throw (especially when he’s got Golden Tate streaking downfield with single-coverage).

Of course, Wilson ended up having enough in him to lead us to victory, so it’s not like I can complain too hard.  And, if he leads us to a Super Bowl victory, it’s going to be hard for me to EVER badmouth the man again.

Good God, do we need someone better to spy Colin Kaepernick on the run!  It struck me that Bruce Irvin probably would have been perfect, but it didn’t look like we used him all that much in this game.  He seriously whiffed on one play, where he bit on the play fake and let Kaep run around him for a huge gain; but, if Irvin’s sole job was to simply follow the quarterback wherever he went, I think Irvin’s speed could have neutralized him.

Marshawn Lynch had another huge game, going for 109 yards on the ground and a touchdown.  This was the first time anyone had run for over 100 yards on the 49ers this year, and for a minute it looked like one of the rare times that the Seahawks would lose a game where Lynch went over 100 yards.  That fumble at the goalline wasn’t even his fault, so I’m glad they didn’t put that on him in the scorebook.

Doug Baldwin, as always, was a revelation.  One of these days, he’s going to get the respect he deserves, but for now, let the doubters keep doubting him.  He’ll just keep making them look stupid.  With 6 catches for 106 yards, it looked like he was going to be the MVP of the game.  He still might be, especially when you consider his 69 yard kickoff return ultimately led to a field goal (and probably should have been a touchdown drive, if our offense wasn’t still sputtering so frustratingly.

Finally, what can you say about a defense that’s the best in the game.  From the first play, where we were placed at a disadvantage thanks to the Wilson fumble, this defense showed up and put in their usual outstanding work.  Bobby Wagner led all tacklers with 15, and Kam Chancellor wasn’t far behind with 11.  Kam also came down with that interception (on just an AWFUL pass by Kaepernick) and had another two passes defended.  Our D-Line wasn’t able to get as much pressure as you’d like, but I thought they played a lot smarter in the second half, not letting Kaepernick just immediately have the edge to run.  Even though we were playing so safe, Bennett and Avril were still able to wreak some havoc.  And the run defense?  Aside from Kaepernick (who got most of his rushing yards on scrambles when a pass play broke down), this part of their game was completely shut down.  Frank Gore finally started looking his age, running for 14 yards on 11 attempts.

I don’t really know what the next-day narrative is going to be today (aside from Everything Richard Sherman, which I will write about tomorrow), but I have the feeling that Colin Kaepernick is going to get a lot of love from the national media.  This is a mistake.

Yes, it’s quite the breathtaking thing to see Colin Kaepernick with the football, running in the open field.  Dodging tacklers, graceful as a gazelle, he’s a weapon unlike any other in the game of football.  If he didn’t have all that, you know what he’d be?  Without the ability to run for dozens upon dozens of yards, Colin Kaepernick would be Jeff George:  a rocket arm attached to a mental midget.

When he’s on, he’s something to behold.  That touchdown pass to Boldin in the back of the endzone from 26 yards out was as good as it gets.  Nevertheless, it was a STUPID decision and the ball was very nearly tipped or picked off entirely.  Then, there’s that aforementioned interception to Kam.  He was standing RIGHT THERE the whole time!  There was no deception out of Kam to bait him; Kaepernick saw him the whole time and still threw the damn pass right to him!  He said he thought he could get it over Kam … but Kam’s 6’3!  There were his two fumbles, which resulted from him trying to do too much with a play (which I can’t really fault him for, unless I feel like jumping down Wilson’s throat every time he does something annoying like that).  And, of course, the game-clinching interception when he challenged Richard Sherman with less than 30 seconds to go in the game.

He said he’d take Michael Crabtree in a 1-on-1 matchup with anyone in the league.  He said he wouldn’t change a thing about his decision-making process.  Did he say this because he’s stupid?  Because he’s arrogant?  Because of his blind hatred of the Seahawks and especially Richard Sherman?  Any way you slice it, it’s foolish thinking from a foolish individual.  Maybe if Crabtree magically transformed into Randy Moss in his prime, I could see it.  But, Crabtree isn’t anything special.  I’d take Doug Baldwin over him any day.  Crabtree is only considered an “elite” receiver by the national media because he was drafted in the first round, plain and simple.  There’s nothing about his game that’s elite.  He’s okay.  Off the top of my head, I can think of 25 wide receivers who are better than him (Baldwin, Tate, Fitzgerald, Dez, Marshall, Jeffery, Megatron, Jordy Nelson, Cobb, Demaryius Thomas, Decker, Welker, Hilton, Garcon, Green, Brown, Cruz, Desean Jackson, Andre Johnson, Keenan Allen, Josh Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, and Jimmy Graham – who is actually a wide receiver, in spite of what they try to label him as in New Orleans).

The point is, he’s not better than Richard Sherman.  And if Kaepernick is too stupid or too stubborn to realize that, then maybe Kaepernick isn’t the guy who’s going to lead you to a championship.  His talent may be good enough to get him past most teams in the league, but his hubris is ultimately going to be his undoing against the best teams in the league.  He thinks that just because he has a strong arm, he can make every throw, and that’s just not the case.  And, if that throw’s not there, no worries, he can just run for any first down he wants.  Except, here’s the thing:  when his team is down and he’s got to mount a comeback, the same shit he gets praised for is what’s going to ultimately cost his team ballgames.

In the end, this was a game about two quarterbacks.  One a little too cautious, one a little too reckless.  Somewhere in the middle, you have the perfect NFL player.  But, ultimately, it’s easier for a cautious quarterback to take a few more chances than it is for a reckless player to settle for the sensible decision.  That’s why the Seahawks won this football game.  That’s why the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and the 49ers are licking their wounds.