Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 5

Have I told you how much I fucking HATE fantasy football?  Because, I can’t stress that enough.  I truly – with the fire of a thousand fucking suns – HATE FANTASY FOOTBALL WITH EVERY FUCKING FIBER OF MY BEING!

Who has the second-most points in the league, yet is 1-3 and in 6th place out of 10 teams right now?  Me.  I’m that poor fucking sap.

Who has the MOST points scored against him in the entire league, by 26.87 points?  Me.  I’m that poor fucking sap.

Who would have beaten EVERY SINGLE TEAM IN THE LEAGUE last week (except for the one I went up against)?  Me.  I’m that poor fucking sap.

Counting the list of players he had going who scored less than 10 points would be easier, but I’ve never been one to take the easy way out.  You can click that Week 4 Preview up above to see what his lineup was like.  He did end up swapping out Breida for Kerryon Johnson, but it hardly mattered.  Goff got him 50+, Hopkins & White got him 30+ each, Stafford & Ertz got him 20+ each.  Korky Butchek won 221.40 to 184.83, and remember I didn’t have a tight end going!  The next-closest team in the league had 179.75 and again, I DIDN’T HAVE A TIGHT END GOING!

I’m getting rammed in the ass like you wouldn’t believe.  This is borderline historic bad luck for a fantasy football team.

Speaking of bad luck, Leonard Fournette looks like he could be out another week or two (or more), but regardless he’s not someone I’m ever going to feel confident starting.  That’s one of my three keepers – one of the building blocks of my team – who is giving me nothing.  I still have Adrian Peterson I can throw in there, but he’s like a million years old, so how many more weeks can I count on him being alive?  He’s already a shaky player as it is, because if the Redskins are ever trailing, they stick Chris Thompson in there and throw it to him 20 times a game.  So, if AP doesn’t get me a TD, then I’m DOA.

Once it became clear that Ryan Fitzpatrick had lost his starting job, I dropped him on Sunday afternoon, and picked up the Carolina defense (who was on a BYE in week 4).  They’re going to host the Giants this week (while my precious Bears are on a BYE), so I opted to take the upside of a defense facing Eli Manning, over the likes of the Jets (hosting Denver), the Broncos (going to New York), the 49ers (hosting the Cards), or the Bengals (hosting Miami).

I’ve also officially given up on Demaryius Thomas, after a pathetic game against a hapless Chiefs defense.  He drops too many balls, Case Keenum isn’t very good, and their offense in general is pretty conservative and run-heavy.  My team is too good to have some bust hogging my FLEX spot.

I somehow got up to the 5th spot in our league’s waiver priority, so I went and put a couple claims out for players.  Calvin Ridley was still out there somehow, so I took a shot at him and I landed him!  I couldn’t tell you why Atlanta’s touchdown leader was still out there on the waiver wire, but he’s mine now!  This is a boon for King Flippy Nips!  Calvin Ridley is the type of guy who comes from out of nowhere to win fantasy teams fantasy championships.  The fact that he was available after 4 weeks of play means that many people in my league dropped the ball.  I mean, let’s face it, if the Falcons haven’t figured out how to give Julio Jones the ball in the endzone by now, they’re not going to magically figure it out.  Teams are still going to double that guy, meaning Ridley is going to continue getting friendly matchups in a prolific offense (on a team with a rotten defense).  As long as Ridley stays healthy, I’m golden.

Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • QB1 – Carson Wentz vs. MIN
  • QB2 – Derek Carr @ LAC
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill vs. JAX
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen @ PHI
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott @ HOU
  • RB2 – Adrian Peterson @ NO
  • TE – Jordan Reed @ NO
  • FLEX – Calvin Ridley @ PIT
  • K – Robbie Gould vs. AZ
  • DEF – Carolina vs. NYG

My bench is:  Andy Dalton, Fournette, Robert Woods, Kenny Golladay, Chicago, Greg Olsen.

I opted for Carr over Dalton because I figure that game will be much more high scoring; Dalton’s hosting Miami who has a surprisingly good defense.  I don’t love Hill’s matchup against the Jags, but he’s just not a guy I’m going to sit (if I did sit him, I’d probably go with Woods in his spot, because there’s no way the Seahawks will shut down the Rams’ offense).  My favorite matchup is probably Ridley against Pittsburgh; this waiver claim should pay immediate dividends.

I’m going up against Koncussion Protocol, which is apparently a play on someone’s name in our league (yet NOT the owner of the team Koncussion Protocol).  He’s in 4th place with a 2-2 record, yet he has 74.96 fewer points than I do.  Nevertheless, he has a nice little squad that could give me fits if they all blow up at once (which seems to be the trend this year).

I would expect Sunday morning tinkering, but here’s who I would perceive to be the best lineup he’s got to throw at me:

  • QB1 – Drew Brees vs. WAS
  • QB2 – Deshaun Watson vs. DAL
  • WR1 – Golden Tate vs. GB
  • WR2 – Tyler Lockett vs. LAR
  • RB1 – Austin Ekeler vs. OAK
  • RB2 – Jay Ajayi vs. MIN
  • TE – Jared Cook @ LAC
  • FLEX – Nelson Agholor vs. MIN
  • K – Mason Crosby @ DET
  • DEF – L.A. Rams @ SEA

His bench consists of:  Cam Newton, Corey Clement, Dion Lewis, Geronimo Allison, and DeSean Jackson (who is on a BYE this week).  It wouldn’t shock me to see one or more of these guys subbed in there.  He is a Packers fan, so Allison is always a possibility.

Obviously, his running backs are a little weak.  But, I could see the Chargers throwing the ball a ton against the Raiders, and the Vikings defense hasn’t been anything special, so if there was ever a week for Ajayi to bust out, this might as well be it.  Lockett is always going to be boom or bust, and he’s on the Seahawks, so you figure his usage is always going to be random.  Tate and Cook stand out as potential stars this week, and Agholor could throw a wrench into things if Wentz decides to feature him heavily in the pass game.  And, obviously, the Rams are going to get a fistful of sacks and probably a few turnovers, so that’s looking scary.

How much worse can it get for my bad luck team?  We’ll find out soon enough.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 4

This thing is a work in progress to say the least, but I think it makes much more sense to put these posts out in the days leading up to my matchup, rather than write half of it ahead of time, and the rest on the Tuesday after.  Also, keeping a set schedule will make things easier on me, so look for this post every Thursday, with the Week 4 results coming up NEXT Thursday.  This will, if nothing else, make it less confusing to read.

Well, the BYE weeks are upon us, and already my team is affected.  I have one healthy tight end – Jordan Reed – and he’s on a BYE this week.  I have a number of bench players I really like – Kenny Golladay, Robert Woods, Adrian Peterson – and given my less-than-stellar quarterback situation, I feel it’s only prudent to keep everyone I’ve got (Wentz, Carr, Dalton, and Fitzpatrick) and play the best two based on matchups; or, at the very least, get someone of value in return, from one of the handful of teams in the league in desperate need of improvement at their own quarterback positions.  Ergo, I’m pretty committed to just not playing a tight end this week.  Because of all the reasons I just listed, plus I don’t think I’ll be one free agent tight end’s worth of points away from winning this week.  Either the rest of my team will pick up the slack, or I’ll lose so bad that the missing 4-10 points won’t even matter.

((for what it’s worth, here’s a smattering of available tight ends:  Benjamin Watson, Eric Ebron, David Njoku, Austin Hooper, Jesse James, Cameron Brate, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and George Kittle.  None of these guys are even REMOTELY focal points of their respective offensive attacks; they’re all touchdown-dependant fliers who are otherwise worthless because they don’t get NEARLY the amount of targets as the wide receivers on their teams do.  They’re all essentially akin to buying a lottery ticket from the gas station, which is essentially akin to setting my money on fire.  I’d rather not risk losing players of actual value and bite the bullet for one week))

The downside is that I’ll be in this same pickle in a week’s time, because the Bears will be on a BYE in Week 5.  I similarly don’t have a backup defense on my bench, and I REALLY don’t want to drop the #1 defense in our league.  But, we’ll get to that next week.  There are always potential injuries to worry about.

Thankfully, I don’t have Jimmy G in this league (though I do have him on another team, and am scrambling accordingly).  But, an unforeseen affect of his injury is that my kicker – Robbie Gould – isn’t as un-waive-able as he once was.  I wanted to pick up Detroit’s kicker, but someone put a claim in for him.  So, it looks like I’ll stick with Gould for now and just hope the 49ers are able to move the ball based on their head coach’s expertise alone.

Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • QB1 – Carson Wentz @ TEN
  • QB2 – Andy Dalton @ ATL
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill @ DEN
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen @ LAR
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott vs. DET
  • RB2 – Leonard Fournette vs. NYJ
  • TE –
  • FLEX – Demaryius Thomas vs. KC
  • K – Robbie Gould @ LAC
  • DEF – Chicago vs. TB

My bench is:  Fitzpatrick, Carr, Peterson, Woods, Golladay, Reed, and Olsen.

I opted for Dalton over Fitzpatrick based on matchups.  I never like the idea of putting a quarterback in there against the defense I’m also playing, and I truly believe Chicago’s defense is a monster and could pop the bubble that is FitzMania.  Everything else is pretty self-explanatory.  I will say this:  I’m one more mediocre performance out of Demaryius Thomas away from benching him for either Woods or Golladay (who have been out-playing him all year and really deserve to be starting on an every-week basis).  Considering the Broncos are playing the Chiefs, I expect this game to be high-scoring.  As such, I expect the Broncos will be throwing the ball a lot.  So, if I was ever going to give somebody one final chance, this is the scenario in which to do it.  If Thomas can’t get me 20+ points in this game, then he’s probably not worth holding onto.

My long climb to fantasy relevancy doesn’t get any easier this week, as I go up against Korky Butchek.  He doesn’t have anyone on BYE this week and is stacked at just about every position:

  • QB1 – Jared Goff vs. MIN
  • QB2 – Matthew Stafford @ DAL
  • WR1 – Antonio Brown vs. BAL
  • WR2 – DeAndre Hopkins @ IND
  • RB1 – Alex Collins @ PIT
  • RB2 – James White vs. MIA
  • TE – Zach Ertz @ TEN
  • FLEX – Matt Breida @ LAC
  • K – Stephen Gostkowski vs. MIA
  • DEF – Seattle @ AZ

He’s also got Mike Williams on his bench, as well as T.J. Yeldon (in case Fournette is held out yet ANOTHER week), just in case he wants to swap out his flex or RB2 at the last minute.

I dunno, I don’t feel great.  Wentz’s favorite target is Ertz, so that right there pretty much wipes out my best player.  I should have a pretty good idea of how my week’s looking before we even get to the Sunday afternoon games.  I have Hill and Thomas going on Monday; while he’s got Brown and Collins going Sunday Night.  Either my guys blow their expected points out of the water (right now, Yahoo has me losing approximately 161 to 149), or I predictably shit the bed and start my season 1-3.  The way my year’s going, both of our teams will somehow underperform, yet I’ll still get my ass waxed.

Seahawks Barely Get By Deshaun Watson & The Texans

This was a game you’ll love if you’re a fan of numbers.  Specifically offensive numbers, as we had oodles.  Russell Wilson:  452 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 30 rushing yards.  Deshaun Watson:  402 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 67 rushing yards.  DeAndre Hopkins:  11 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD.  Will Fuller:  5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett:  6 catches, 121 yards.  Paul Richardson:  6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs.  Jimmy Graham:  4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs.  Hell, even Lamar Miller had 54 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, and 2 combined TDs.  Offense.  For.  Days.

But, it was pretty slim pickin’s as far as defense is concerned.  Earl Thomas came back with a pick-six after giving up a long opening-drive touchdown bomb.  Richard Sherman had a couple interceptions after being challenged with impunity all game.  Jadeveon Clowney was a beast, both in pass rush and particularly in the run game.  The Seahawks had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, including big games for Bennett, Clark, Wright, and Wagner.  Even Dwight Freeney got in on the action with half a sack.

All of those things were great, but you don’t come out of a 41-38 game and heap praise on the defense.  And, I gotta tell ya, while it was a refreshing change of pace to see the Seahawks go out there and sling the ball up and down the field, I think I still prefer it when our defense is the best group on the field.  There’s something about both teams scoring on 13 possessions out of 26 (not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) that’s a little overwhelming.

What I did like was the fact that no team was ever up by more than 7 points.  That’s pretty rare, considering how much scoring took place.  I mean, the Over damn near hit before halftime!  When there’s a game like this, it usually involves the Seahawks looking like crap for the first half, then scrambling to come back by multiple scores to win by some miracle at the end.  This one was just a slugfest; two insane offenses throwing haymakers back and forth.

In a game like this, you can take it one of two ways:  you can breathe a sigh of relief and live with your heads in the clouds over how the offense moved the ball.  Just throw out the books and appreciate this one for what it was:  probably the most exciting game (from start to finish) in the NFL this season (perhaps narrowly edging that Chiefs/Raiders Thursday Night game a couple weeks back, but I don’t want to succumb to recency bias).  Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t help but see some of the warts.

I’m willing to more or less overlook the L.O.B.’s lack of dominance in this one, because let’s face it:  they’ve pulled this offense’s ass out of the fire on PLENTY of occasions.  Every once in a while, they deserve to have a bad game and somehow the team still finds a way to win.

I thought, for the most part, the run defense looked pretty good, aside from some key breakdowns in contain when it comes to Deshaun Watson.  I mean, where was the spy?  Isn’t this game tailor-made for Bobby Wagner to have eyes on Watson all game?  What you absolutely can’t have happen is the line getting sucked over to one side, with 20 yards of open field for Watson to punish us.

More than anything, you can say the Seahawks’ defense – while mediocre as a whole – made just enough big plays when it mattered most.  The aforementioned Earl Thomas interception returned for a touchdown.  The Sherman interception that led directly to a field goal that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24.  The sacks and D-Line pressure that led to the Texans’ five punts on the day.  And, the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, and the Texans up 38-34, the Seahawks were driving.  Russell Wilson just scrambled for 21 yards that had me literally exclaim, “Wow, how did he do that?!”  He stepped up in the pocket and ran through a nexus of three Texans who all converged on a single spot, and instead of getting his block knocked off, he somehow caused all three of them to hit one another as he scampered to the 20 yard line.  At that point, it was without question that the Seahawks would re-take the lead, and the only question that would remain would be:  did we leave the Texans too much time on the clock?  Except, instead, Wilson treated everyone to his single worst throw of the game, an out-route that was easily picked off, as if he had intended to throw it to the defender.

(which, I mean, let’s not rule this out.  You know as well as I do that Russell Wilson is a wizard.  He just is.  He’s magic, and we’re all fortunate to be graced with his presence.  So, hear me out on this:  what if he could see into the future, realize we were in the process of scoring too quickly, and had we done so, Deshaun Watson would be the one everyone is lauding for his last-minute game-winning efforts?  I submit this as my argument that he MEANT to throw that interception, knowing we’d get the ball back, and ultimately score with too little time left on the clock for the Texans to do anything about it)

But, I digress.  Getting back to the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

The Texans took over with just under three minutes left in the game.  They ran the ball for 4 yards on first down, the Seahawks opted to save their time out.  They ran the ball for 8 yards on second down, and we hit the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs.  After the break, the Texans ran again for 1 yard, time out.  THEN, we get to the play of the game:  second down, hand off to Miller again, this time for 5 yards.  But, if you look at it, the Texans had that thing blocked to go for double-digit yards or more.  Things just opened up like you wouldn’t believe, and if it weren’t for Michael Bennett diving in there and slapping at his foot to get him to fall down, the Texans would’ve ended the game right there.  Go back and look at it!  If you can find it, that is, because like I said, hardly anyone is talking about it, and yet the only reason the Seahawks had a chance at the end is because Michael Bennett saved the day.

Now, I’ll also say I agree with the majority of America today:  Bill O’Brien should’ve put the ball in Watson’s hands on at least the third down play.  I can see it both ways:  with the run, you take away Seattle’s final time out, and as I just discussed, there’s a decent chance of converting a 3rd & 4 with the way things were going as recently as that very drive.  But, on the other hand, Watson was a juggernaut yesterday.  You could’ve run with him, you could’ve had him drop back and pass, you could’ve done a run-pass option, you could’ve done one of those fucking plays where he fakes it to three other guys before hitting a fourth option (that our defense somehow could NOT figure out, at any point in this game).  Instead, in hindsight, it feels pretty weak to just run it back up the middle again for the fifth straight play.  The Seahawks stopped it for a 2-yard gain and the rest was history.

I suppose more of my consternation with this game comes from the fact that the Seahawks’ run game was abysmal.  I mean, just the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived through full seasons of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett!

Part of this absolutely has to do with Chris Carson going down with injury, because God fucking dammit would he come in handy right about now!  Why do all of our best running backs have to be fucking injured all the God damn time?  Him and Prosise this year, Rawls and Prosise last year, Rawls the year before.  I mean, shit!

Part of this has to do with Eddie Lacy, because he’s effectively useless.  I’d been willing to give him time to grow with this offense up until this game, because he’s a volume rusher, and gets better the more you feed him (ironically enough).  But, 6 carries for 0 yards?  No.  No thank you.  Go home, eat your China food, and waste some other team’s time.  You’ll never for ONE SECOND get me to believe the guys on the active roster are better than Mike Davis, who is LANGUISHING on the practice squad right now.

Which gets me to my next gripe:  Darrell Bevell.  Not Darrell Bevell the play-caller, mind you.  I know that’s what everyone gets on him about, but again, I thought he called a pretty great game, all things considered.  He gave the running game everything he had, but it clearly wasn’t working and he gave it up for the most part in the second half.  What I’ve got a problem with is Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator.  And, by that I mean, the way he designs his offense, and how he uses the players he’s got.

It took him FUCKING FOREVER before he put Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline this season.  Why is that?  Because he doesn’t want to tip off his play-calling.  It’s why he lines Graham up inside on run plays, when Graham is the worst blocking tight end in the universe.  You can’t just have Graham out there on passing plays, because then defenses will expect that.  SO FUCKING WHAT?  Here’s a newsflash, you fucking moron:  what you’re doing now – by “out-thinking” the defense – ISN’T FUCKING WORKING!  Rushing plays with Graham on the field get blown up CONSTANTLY!

Same goes for Thomas Rawls, out there on third downs.  Why would you do this when you’ve got a talent like J.D. McKissic?  Oh, because if McKissic is out there, the defense will know you’re passing?  WHO CARES?  It beats throwing to a fucking stone-hands, who drops carefully-lobbed balls in the endzone!

I come from the school that says, “Put my best 11 guys up against your best 11 guys and let the chips fall where they may.”  Because, more often than not during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, the Seahawks have had the most talent in the NFL.  That’s just a fact.  And, you know what?  It used to be enough for this team.  The Seahawks used to be a team (albeit, with Beastmode in the backfield, which obviously has to account for a lot) that would run the ball when the opposing team had 8-9 guys in the box, and we’d STILL get a productive gain on the play!  Because our 11 guys were better than their 11 guys, and we’d make them pay for their inferiority.

But, nowadays?  The Seahawks have lost their sack.  They’re trying to get cute, which leads to throws to Rawls, runs towards Graham’s side, long bombs to McEvoy, and fullbacks streaking free up the middle for 66-yard gains.  Which, obviously, when it works – like the throw to Madden, and the 53-yard bomb to McEvoy – you look like a genius.  But, more often than not, those plays haven’t been working this season, and you just look like an asshole who’s trying to get a head coaching job somewhere else.  Which, GREAT, DO IT, GET OUT OF HERE!  But, of course, the NFL sees right through that, so we’ll be stuck with Bevell here for as long as Pete Carroll remains head coach.  It’s our burden, but one I’m willing to live with.  Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it.

Thankfully, the receivers were there to pick up the slack.  Doug Baldwin was mostly quiet, which is shocking.  But, we had 100-yard games from Lockett and Richardson, who both had a bevy of long bombs they went up and snagged.  P-Rich in particular looks like the Golden Tate we’ve been lacking since we let him walk to Detroit.  See, the Seahawks don’t necessarily need a guy who’s 6’5; we just need a guy like Richardson who’s 6’0, but can jump like a freak of nature.  Thankfully, he’s been able to stay healthy, because he sure looks like a stud this season.

Let’s finish with some quick hitters.

The Seahawks took over their final drive on their own 20 yard line, and Russell Wilson immediately uncorked a dagger.  Honestly, I don’t know how Ifedi got away without a holding flag, and I’ll admit, I half-expected another flag on P-Rich for offensive-PI (replays showed that to be a clean catch, but I’ve seen flags for less contact than that).

I hope Earl Thomas’ hamstring injury isn’t too serious.  At the same time, I was relieved that Steven Terrell wasn’t back there to get torched in the game’s closing moments.

I thought the Special Teams got short shrift for having a pretty great game.  The Texans didn’t get much of anything on their returns, Jon Ryan made some clutch punts off of some poor snaps, and Blair Walsh was a silent assassin.  He made his two field goals (both pretty short range), and all 5 of his extra points, which ended up being huge, particularly the last two that gave us 3-point leads, as a Houston field goal in response would’ve only tied the game instead of given them the lead.  The NFL’s objective with the longer extra points was to make them more exciting, and while I hate them with a passion and wish like Hell that they’d move them back to the 2-yard line, I have to admit they’re maddeningly interesting, particularly in games like this.

Finally, I’d like to shout out the offensive line.  Not so much for the running game, in which their blocking was predictably awful; but in pass protection, they were okay!

I know, the narrative now and forever is that the pass-protection was, is, and always will be dreadful.  But, I mean, if it was really THE WORST as everyone (particularly the national media) claims it to be, could Wilson have thrown for a franchise-record 452 yards?  Obviously, while it wasn’t the best, and a stick figure quarterback like Jay Cutler or Eli Manning would be lunch meat behind this kind of line, it was Good Enough.  Hawkblogger’s Sunday night tweets go into it in a lot of detail, so check out his Twitter.  Essentially, the Seahawks were middle-of-the-road, from a leaguewide perspective, when it comes to pass protection, and God bless ’em, that’s all Russell Wilson needs!  Hell, that’s all any of us have been clamoring for since Wilson busted out onto the scene!  We don’t need a Top 5 unit to put up a ton of points, just give us a Top 15-20 unit and watch us go to work!  And, yesterday, the O-Line (again, from strictly a pass-protection perspective), played like just that.  They gave Wilson time to throw, and when they didn’t, they at least opened up lanes for him to scramble around until he could find someone down field.  That’s our game!

What’s frustrating is when there’s a guy in his face on the third step of his 3-step drop.  I’m sure the Texans’ defensive numbers will show a lot of good pressures on Wilson, but those are the types of pressures we can all live with.  And, in the end, it all added up to Wilson’s best day as a pro.

Of course, we’ll never REALLY know how much of that was due to his wizardry, but that’s the beauty of magic:  it’s more fun when you DON’T know the magician’s secrets.

Seahawks Host The Texans This Weekend

I don’t have a super great handle on how this game is going to go on Sunday.  I’ll say this:  I’m glad we’re home; if this game was being played in Texas, I don’t think we’d stand much of a chance.

Ordinarily, if you told me an okay, .500 team was coming into Seattle with a rookie quarterback, I’d tell you to pack your bags because we’re going to Flavor Country!  That’s a recipe for a slam dunk if I’ve ever seen one!  Except, here’s the deal, Deshaun Watson isn’t an ordinary rookie.  He’s almost certainly the top rookie QB of his class, and maybe one of the best rookie QBs of all time!

To recap his progression, he started the season as the team’s backup to Tom Savage.  Tom Savage played in exactly one half of football, in the first game of the season, against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  In that half of football, the Texans punted 4 times, Savage fumbled twice (one returned for a touchdown), and their final drive ended the half without a score.

Watson struggled in the second half of that unwinnable game, was marginally better in a 13-9 victory over the Bengals on a Thursday night.  And, ever since he’s actually had a full week to prepare for a game, he’s been off-the-charts great.  His first Sunday start was a narrow 36-33 defeat to the defending champion Patriots, where he threw for a career-high 301 yards and 2 TDs.  He followed that up with a 4-TD game against the Titans, and a 5-TD game against the Chiefs.  Last week was only a 3-TD affair in an easy victory over the Browns.  All told, he’s 3-2 on the season, with those two defeats against the two best teams in the AFC:  the Pats & Chiefs.

Now, obviously, it’s not all on him, so I don’t want to make this a post about QB Wins.  I’d say, more than anything, their defense has been a bigger letdown than he has been a pleasant surprise.  I think a lot of us expected the Houston defense to be the biggest strength of this team; I certainly expected a lot more of those 13-9 type games than I have all these shootouts, but it is what it is.

The Texans have the potential to really sling that ball all around the yard.  They also have the potential to unleash the beast, as it were, when it comes to the Seahawks’ offense.

I’m not going to say that New England has anything resembling a formidable home field advantage when it comes to their fans.  A LOTTA frontrunners in those stands, who will get awfully quiet if the Pats get punched in the mouth.  Nevertheless, it’s more than a little intimidating to go up against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and Watson didn’t blink.  This kid has stones, and I don’t think a little Seattle noise is going to make him shrink in this game.  So, if you were counting on going to the game this weekend and expecting him to roll over at your full-throated screams, I’d think again if I were you.

So, yeah, I’d be shocked if Watson came out and stunk up the joint.  But, I’d also be shocked if he totally dominated.  He strikes me as a guy who likes to push the ball up the field, and if he brings that mess in this game, he might be in for a rude awakening.  Teams with quarterbacks who exhibit a great deal of patience tend to give the Seahawks fits.  Teams with quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to check down, who will settle for the underneath route, and most importantly, who are accurate and poised enough to convert those short third downs; THOSE are the teams that beat the Seahawks.  And, judging from my perch as a fantasy owner of Lamar Miller, I’ll tell you this:  Deshaun Watson does NOT settle for the running back checkdown very often.

What he does do is utilize his two excellent wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, who will go up and get a ball with the best of ’em, and who can also burn past you with the best of ’em.  I would expect Richard Sherman won’t be ignored in this one.  Any way you slice it, he’s going up against a top notch receiver, so he could be key in this one.

I’ll also say this:  safety play is going to be paramount.  I have to imagine there will be at least one interception between Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in this game.

What I can’t see is Houston bringing its running game.  Lamar Miller is not to be trusted in MOST circumstances, but I have to imagine he’s going to be pretty well shut down in this game.  Likewise, I wouldn’t expect D’Onta Foreman will have much running room.  If Watson isn’t the Texans’ leading rusher, I’ll be shocked.

Defensively, obviously the big news is how they lost J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the year.  Those are two HUGE hits to their pass rush.  This week, they’re also dealing with injuries in their linebacker corps which should also limit them.  Even with those losses, they still have a lot of firepower, led by Jadeveon Clowney.  We have to keep what’s left of their pass rush – and double team Clowney to keep him off of Wilson’s ass – or it could be a really long day.

I think the Seahawks can manage.  And, if they do, I could see the Seahawks scoring over 30 points in this one.

There are plenty of reasons why the Seahawks could lose, but I still think they should probably win.  Like I said up top, they’re at home, and even if Watson comes in and does okay, it’s still better than the alternative of him being at home.  Assuming we keep them one-dimensional on offense, and shut down their deep passing attack, I would expect a victory in the 34-24 range, with the Seahawks scoring a touchdown late to put the game away.

Why Aren’t The Seahawks In The Super Bowl?

If you read that title like I’m four years old, it makes the bulk of this post very different.  For some kids around that age, you seriously got to wonder:  why aren’t they letting my team play this weekend?  I DON’T GET IT!!!  *throws tantrum, runs away screaming and slamming doors*

It does kinda suck, though.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I really got used to spending these weeks leading up to the Super Bowl reading all about how great my team is.  And writing about how great my team is.  And just generally basking in the glow that is being a participant in the biggest annual spectacle in the entire world (even if it’s just from a fan’s perspective).  You get to look back at the season that was, while at the same time knowing there’s still one game left to play that will determine whether or not your team is the best.  You get to look forward to the game itself, breaking it down piece by piece, trying to get a handle on whether or not your team will come out victorious.

Two years of that.  Two straight years of being one of the last teams to play a meaningful game of football.  But, this year, we’re heading into Super Bowl week on the outside looking in.

And, not for nothing, but it absolutely sickens me to my core.  I try not to think about this, because it WILL drive me absolutely bonkers, but come on:  the Seahawks would KILL this Broncos team, almost as badly as we killed them two years ago!  Fucking A, is the AFC a weak-ass bullshit conference!  You think Peyton Manning’s noodle arm is going to pick us apart?  If he couldn’t do it at his peak two years ago, what makes you think he could do it now when he’s about a week away from announcing his retirement?  And their defense?  Pardon me if I don’t crap myself with terror!  No doubt, over two weeks of prep, we’d find a way to get the job done.

ARGH!  ARGH I SAY!  If the Seahawks could have only showed up in the first half of that Carolina game, we would have gone on to Arizona – who we would’ve handled easily, especially considering Carson Palmer’s messed-up thumb – and we’d be looking at a third straight Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened since those early-70s Dolphins teams those early-90s Bills teams!

Gotta stop.  Gotta put that agony away and focus on the reality of the world we’re living in.  One where Cam Newton is less than a week away from having as many Super Bowl victories as Russell Wilson (and, odds are, infinitely more Super Bowl MVP awards).  Get ready for the Panthers to be our foil for the next decade, because it’s looking like them and the Seahawks will be the teams to beat in the NFC for this generation.

A question hit me over the weekend, that I thought I’d workshop here:  why didn’t we make the Super Bowl?  Answer:  because we lost in the playoffs.  But, why did we lose?

As has been the case since the Seahawks went on this run, and managed to win a world championship, I like to look at our place in history (as it’s happening).  The hope of hopes being that this team would be a dynasty, like so many great teams throughout NFL history.  The talent is there on the field, the talent is there in the coaching staff, the climate is right for a team to pick up where the Patriots are inevitably going to leave off.  Could THIS Seahawks team be ranked among the all time great dynasties?

Well, you’re going to need multiple Super Bowl titles for starters, something we’re still working on.  The worry, of course, is that we’ve somehow missed the boat.  Plenty of dynasties have had an off-year in the midst of their dynastic run; it’s entirely possible that the Seahawks return to form, seal up the NFC in 2016, and go on to take down a second Super Bowl victory against whatever bullshit gets squeezed out of the AFC’s butthole.

I guess, the question I’m looking to answer is:  was 2015 a temporary dip?  Some flaw that can be easily rectified before returning this team to its dominant glory days?  OR, has a team like the Panthers officially done enough to surpass us?  Are the Seahawks still on the cutting edge of the NFL?  Or, are we just another member of The Pack, looking up at the greatness that is whatever the hell they’re doing in Carolina?

That’s probably a little drastic, but it’s something my insecure brain lands on when confronted with two weeks of pre-Super Bowl build up and no Seahawks talk whatsoever.  We like to sit here in our Pacific Northwest bubble and celebrate the huge leap forward in Russell Wilson’s development, but it should be pretty scary to look over there and see the huge leap forward in Cam Newton’s development.  It’s hard to see in the numbers themselves; his year-to-year progression is a little wacky, and you could argue that Cam Newton is what he is and is what he has been all along.  He’s going to hover around 60% completions, around 4,000 passing yards, but he had a monster jump in passing TDs, as well as a career-low in interceptions.  Top that off with his usual bananas production in the running game, and you’ve got someone who will be a force for the rest of his career.  Even as his legs start to wear down (whenever that may be), he’s proven to be adept-enough in the pocket to lead his team to victories.  Oh, and let’s not forget, this year he probably had the fewest weapons in the passing game of any year in his career!  He lost his #1 receiver before the season even started, then went on to have probably the best year he’ll ever have!  Think about THAT!  Think about what that team would look like if they ever managed to draft an elite receiver like DeAndre Hopkins.  Or signed a receiver like Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason.  I may not like Cam Newton, but I respect the shit out of his game.

Is it Carolina, and not Seattle, who is the real dynasty of this decade?

God, perish the thought, but now it’s out there.  And, once they dismantle the Broncos just like we did a couple years ago, it’s going to be all anyone talks about this offseason.  So, have fun with that.

Ups & downs, strikes and gutters, these things happen.  I still believe the Seahawks are right there.  My biggest lament, and probably the main reason why we might not be the next New England Patriots, is that we don’t play in an insufferably weak division like the AFC East.  The Pats have had their run of things, in large part, because they don’t have to worry about being a Wild Card team, or going out on the road in the first round of the playoffs.  The Pats, with Brady and Belichick, will never know the struggle of going into the playoffs as a 6-seed and having to win out on the road against three caged tigers.  Usually, their schedule is easy-enough that they get to walk blindfolded into a top 2 seed, then they play some upstart, then they grapple with whatever team Peyton Manning is on (and, starting next year, I doubt they’ll even have Manning’s carcass to kick around anymore).  The Seahawks, on the other hand, have always had a Top 2-calibre team within their own division, a bevy of stout defenses to tangle with, and at least one other Top-2 calibre team somewhere else in the NFC to get past.  Next year looks to be no different, as long as Carson Palmer can remain upright.

So, the question is:  will Carolina continue to have the pathetically easy road a la New England?  Or, will their division mates finally start pulling their own weight?

You gotta like what Jameis Winston did in his rookie year.  Tampa could be frisky, if they ever get their shit together.  New Orleans probably has seen its best days; with Drew Brees aging out of the league any year now, they probably won’t be able to rebuild the roster around him before he retires (with the probability that they, in fact, end up trading Brees and go Full Rebuild from scratch).  Atlanta is the real enigma.  We all think that Dan Quinn is the real deal, but it’s just as likely that he’s not, especially if they don’t figure out how to make that defense better (and if they don’t provide Matt Ryan with the weapons on offense he so clearly needs).

It’s entirely possible that Carolina will dominate that division next season just as they did this one.  But, like the Seahawks, they’ll have to tangle with the NFC West next year (on the road to face the Rams and Seahawks, hosting the 49ers and Cards).  And, cherry on top, they play the most difficult division in the AFC next year in the AFC West (on the road in Denver & Oakland; hosting San Diego & Kansas City).  Odds are, even if they do as well in their own division as they did in 2015, they won’t come close to 15 regular season wins.

God, I seriously can’t wait for the 2016 NFL season to start.  August can’t come soon enough.

Biggest Concern This Week: The Receivers

Doug Baldwin is good.  Really, really good.  He’s not what you would consider an elite #1 a la Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, or A.J. Green, but nobody asked him to be.  That’s not his game.  He’s not going to run a bunch of vertical routes, leap over defenders, and make crazy catches in traffic.  He’s also not a burner, a la T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks, or John Brown; he’s not going to blaze past defenders for a bunch of 40-yard bombs.  He works out of the slot, but he’s MORE than your traditional slot guy, a la Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, or Randall Cobb.  He can do it all, he can line up anywhere, and his best attributes are his hands, his smarts, and his route running.  With those three things, Doug Baldwin is just as capable and effective as any of the guys I’ve listed in this paragraph.  He doesn’t need freakish size or speed.  The best comp, in all honesty, is probably Antonio Brown, who I feel is the best wide receiver in the game of football today (although, to be fair, Brown does have superior speed to get to those deep balls).  In a more pass-friendly offense, Doug Baldwin would be a top 5 or at the very least a top 10 receiver in this league.

In Seattle, Doug Baldwin is a #1 who’s not really a #1.  And, this week, he may be looking at his greatest test since the Super Bowl against New England.

The Panthers are down to one healthy starting cornerback.  He just so happens to be Josh Norman, who is on the final year of his deal while at the same time playing the best football of his career.  He’s a legit Top 5 shutdown corner in the league, and he’s looking at a significant payday once his season ends.  Much like Richard Sherman, Norman generally plays on the outside.  While he CAN follow receivers into the slot, he usually doesn’t.  This is the rationale for why Seahawks fans should be comfortable with the receiving matchups this week; because other than Norman, Carolina is forced into playing a couple guys they “picked up off the streets”.

On the flipside, the Seahawks have been reduced to the following because of injuries:  Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  I might be in the minority here, but I just don’t see why Carolina would choose to play status quo defense when they’ve got a shutdown corner and the Seahawks have one of the hottest receivers in the league.  We’ve seen Richard Sherman follow a receiver all around the field from time to time this year; I’m sure Josh Norman has done the same thing.  If I’m coaching for Carolina, this is the week I’m taking full advantage of all that Josh Norman has to offer.  And, while Doug Baldwin will get SOME catches, I highly doubt he’ll have this huge, impactful game (if, indeed, my theory is correct).

So, where does that leave us?  Well, for starters, I’m not expecting much at all out of our running game this week.  Carolina’s front seven is as good as it gets and should have no problem keeping us in check.  This game is going to hinge on the arm of Russell Wilson, which means it’s going to hinge on the other receivers getting open for him.

I like Jermaine Kearse as much as the next guy.  He runs pretty clean routes in his own right, and for the most part I trust him to catch whatever he gets his hands on.  But, his frequency of making big plays has diminished considerably this year; he’s essentially become a possession receiver in 2015.  Maybe he’s just saving it all up for another chance to be the hero in the NFC Championship Game, but this week would be a really good opportunity for him to break out.

The one person I forgot about when I started this post is Tyler Lockett.  He has, by all measures, had a wildly successful rookie season.  He’s an All Pro returner, and has cemented himself as this team’s third receiver.  He’s had a few big games (three combined touchdowns in the two games against the 49ers, 7 catches for 90 yards in the first Minnesota game, 6 catches for 104 yards and 2 TDs in the Baltimore game), but for the most part has had the kind of season you’d expect from a quality rookie receiver trying to break through on a championship-calibre team (averaging approximately 3 catches for 41.5 yards per game and a TD every third game or so).  We’ve seen Lockett’s over-the-top speed beat some defenders for big plays this year, but where his game is lacking a little bit is his ability to high point a ball and win those deep catches in traffic.  Obviously, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but how many times have we seen Russell Wilson launch a 50/50 jump ball to Lockett, with that ball ultimately falling incomplete?  That’s where you miss a guy like Golden Tate; that’s where you’d ultimately like to draft a guy like DeAndre Hopkins to do that for you.

If the Seahawks are going to be successful against the Panthers this week, Tyler Lockett is going to have to really bust out.  There’s no reason why he shouldn’t get open on the reg against the likes of Cortland Finnegan (who I actually suspect will try to manhandle Kearse throughout the game) or Robert McClain.  I honestly sort of expected him to have more of an impact in the Vikings game last week, but the cold rendered that moot.  THIS WEEK, however, should be the week where he breaks his foot off in their asses.

I suspect, unless injuries arise, we won’t see much out of Kevin Smith or Kasen Williams this week outside of special teams.  I nevertheless maintain my belief that we will see at least ONE huge play out of Kevin Smith that nobody will see coming.  Maybe it’s a deep ball in traffic, maybe it’s a short catch and a lot of YAC.  Something!  Just watch.  As for Williams, I feel the Seahawks are missing a great opportunity there.  Williams DOES have a great ability to high point balls and come down with difficult catches in traffic.  If we’re smart, the Seahawks will include a few sub-packages with Williams, like we did with Chris Matthews in the Super Bowl last year.

This week is also the perfect week to get Luke Willson back.  I can’t even begin to tell you how tired I am of Cooper Helfet being our #1 tight end.  Not that I don’t like Helfet.  I think as a #2 or a #3, Helfet is quite effective.  But, his game is diminished the more he’s forced into the limelight.  I would assume Carolina’s defense is pretty stout against tight ends, what with their monster linebackers, but at least Willson presents a respectable challenge and will have to keep them honest.

I may be off base in this part of the game being my biggest concern – after all, Carolina’s secondary right now is much more palatable than it is at full strength – but it’s going to be imperative that our guys find ways to get open and get open quickly.  Their pass rush is insane, so being on time and staying on schedule is the best way we have of winning this game.