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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Roster looks like this:

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

With my bench looking like this:

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

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

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

Here goes nothing.

Seahawks Throttle Jets Before Well-Deserved BYE Week

The lasting image I’ve taken away from this game – the first thing that’ll come to mind as the season goes on and I’m reminded of the week we went to New Jersey to play the Jets – isn’t Russell Wilson’s heroism, or Jimmy Graham’s demolition of everything in his path, or even the fact that we flew across the country and dominated in a 10am west coast start time that would’ve been unheard of 10 years or even 5 years ago.  While those are all great storylines that I’ll gladly talk about below, the really fascinating part of this game was the Brandon Marshall vs. Richard Sherman matchup, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fearlessness in trying to exploit it.

Richard Sherman doesn’t follow the other team’s #1 receiver every game.  Part of that is many teams don’t have a TRUE #1 receiver worthy of all the attention, part of that is our scheme is so sound and our other cornerbacks are pretty good in their own rights.  So, when Sherm does the unusual, like he did on Sunday, it’s noteworthy.  Hell, it’s appointment television!  And, this matchup didn’t disappoint.

Brandon Marshall IS a true #1 receiver.  He is, indeed, probably one of the top five most gifted and dominant receivers in all of football.  People don’t usually throw his name into the mix as much as they should because he’s 32 years old, he’s bounced around to now his fourth team in a tumultuous career, and he’s rarely – if ever – had a really elite quarterback throwing him the ball.  But, I’ll tell you this much, he’s had eight 1,000+ yard receiving seasons (including at least one with four different teams, which I believe is an NFL record), and he’s had 6 seasons with 100+ receptions.  This is a bona fide NFL Hall of Fame talent, and maybe a first ballot guy at that.

I mean, just look at the list of quarterbacks he’s made look like Pro Bowlers:

  • Jay Cutler
  • Kyle Orton
  • Chad Henne
  • Matt Moore
  • Jay Cutler again
  • Josh McCown
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick

If that isn’t a who’s who of utter crap, I don’t know what to tell you!

So, when I caught on to what Richard Sherman was trying to do, that game took on another level of intrigue.  Now, it didn’t hurt that Eric Decker was out with injury.  While Decker isn’t in Marshall’s league, he’s still a quality, veteran receiver and a consummate #2 guy who will do his share of the damage if the opposing team focuses too much on Marshall.  I wonder, with a fully healthy Decker, if Sherm still would’ve followed Marshall, or if we would’ve played it straight.

Either way, he did follow Marshall around, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.  There’s no doubt in my mind – with the way Fitzpatrick was already trying to pick on Sherm, because we left him out there on an island (so to speak) – that had we stuck with our regular defense, Marshall would’ve lined up against Shead probably 80% of the game, and he would’ve destroyed us for 200+ yards and maybe a couple more touchdowns.  And, believe me, I like Shead!  I just think there’s another class of cornerback above Shead (a class that Richard Sherman is in), and it takes a guy IN that class to try to shut down a quality receiver like Marshall.

I mean, hell, as it was, with Sherm on him all day, Marshall STILL caught 4 balls for 89 yards and the first receiving touchdown this defense has given up this season!  You’re telling me those numbers wouldn’t EASILY be doubled with Shead guarding him predominantly throughout the game?  Unless we would’ve shaded our safeties to his side on the reg, which isn’t really the way we like to play defense.

Anyway, it looked like it was going to pay off for the Jets.  Marshall got the lion’s share of his catches and yards in the first half – including the touchdown right before halftime that looked very un-Sherm, as he was unable to get his head turned around to look for the ball – but after a VERY bullshit pass interference call on Sherm in the second half, Fitz was caught with his hand in the cookie jar one too many times, and Sherm cut it off at the wrist with the first of two interceptions for him on the day.  EASILY the most satisfying interception I’ve seen him catch, probably since the 2013 game at Houston, as it came immediately after the bullshit flag.

In the end, the Sherman vs. Marshall matchup went about as well as you’d expect.  Marshall got his licks in early – because you’re not going to COMPLETELY eliminate a guy of his calibre – but ultimately Sherman won the day, and not just because the Seahawks came away with a victory.  Yes, Marshall had 4 receptions, but he was targeted 12 times.  Yes, Marshall got the TD, but Sherm got 2 INTs.  Yes, the Jets were able to exploit that matchup a little bit in the first half, but Sherman put Marshall on lock in the second half, and that was all she wrote.

Honestly, more than anything, I was shocked Fitzpatrick kept trying to go that way!  I understand the rationale – in the NFL, you love to go to a 1 on 1 matchup with a hall of fame receiver all day every day – but it just seems like eventually you’re going to get snakebitten.  I kept thinking that throughout the first half:  one of these times, Sherm is going to get his, and it’s going to be glorious.  It also makes sense in the fact that they really didn’t really have anyone else to throw to.  Decker was out.  Quincy Enunwa is a nice story as a second year possession receiver, but he’s not even at Decker’s level, let alone Marshall’s.  Behind him, there’s no one.  The Jets haven’t even completed a pass to a tight end in over a year!  Other than Enunwa, they had the two running backs to throw to.  While Bilal Powell had a nice game, and a couple of catches for first downs, that’s essentially playing right into our hands if they do that all day.  So, really, Fitzpatrick had no choice but to go to Marshall as if he was being guarded by Just Another Guy!  Nevertheless, it doesn’t make him look like any smarter of a person (Harvard education or not), but them’s the breaks in the National Football League.

***

Moving on to other things, Russell Wilson looked phenomenal.  Again, he was hampered by injuries, but I gotta think his ankle – if it’s not back to normal yet – will be fine by our next game in a couple weeks.  And, wearing the brace on his knee, while it slowed him a little bit – and most certainly took away a lot of our zone read plays – still allowed him to move around a little bit when he needed to.  I don’t think we’re going to see Wilson go full Tarkenton for a few more weeks yet (maybe in the second half of the season), but he’s upright, he’s mobile enough, and he’s making enough plays in the pocket to re-introduce the narrative of him taking that next step to Elite status (regardless of what many national pundits think; which, do they even bother watching ANY tape before crafting their hot taeks?).

Wilson completed 23 of 32 passes for 309 yards and 3 TDs.  8 of those 23 completions were of 15 yards or more.  He was, for the most part, on time, and dropping dimes into windows only our receivers could get to.

One of those receivers taking the bulk of the yards in this one was Jimmy Graham, who caught 6 more balls for 113 yards, which puts him on a 2-week run (since we opened him up to the full playbook and the full allotment of offensive plays) of 12 receptions for 213 yards and a touchdown.  He came up particularly huge in yesterday’s game, given the fact that Baldwin was held to just 4 catches for 54 yards.

As usual, Wilson did his thing when it comes to spreading the ball around.  8 different players caught at least one pass, including Tanner McEvoy’s first-ever reception (a WIDE open 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter), and C.J. Spiller’s first-ever Seahawks reception for a touchdown (after having just been signed earlier this week off the streets).

The offensive line did its job against a remarkable defensive line.  It wasn’t able to open up as many rushing lanes as you’d like, but that’s to be expected.  What was awesome was how much time it afforded Russell Wilson to pass the ball.  Sure, there were some pressures, and a couple sacks, but this O-Line isn’t ever going to be perfect.  As long as it can limit the damage as it’s been doing for the most part this season, and (even bigger) avoid excessive penalties that put us behind the chains, we’ll be just fine with this much-maligned group.

Germain Ifedi got his first start in replacing J’Marcus Webb, and had some good times and some bad times, but I have no doubt in my mind that he was better than what we would’ve gotten with Webb against that group.  Furthermore, going forward, we’re in MUCH better hands with Ifedi, as long as we can keep him off the trainer’s table.  We have this week off, which is a godsend to everyone with nagging injuries, but even better:  we face a much more reasonable slate of D-Lines going forward.  In the Nothing Special department, we face:  Atlanta, Arizona, New Orleans, Buffalo, New England, Philly, and Tampa in the next seven games.  The rest of the way, depending on injuries, we only have to be concerned about the D-Lines of Carolina, Los Angeles, and maybe Green Bay, and that’s it!  So, grey skies are gonna clear up, folks.

Great games by Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas (who got his first pick of the season), K.J. Wright, and our D-Line as usual.  We ended up with 4 sacks on the day, a bunch of QB hits, and we held them to 58 yards rushing on the day.  If it weren’t for a crazy play involving the quarterback being strip-sacked, fumbling the ball about 10 yards forward, where a receiver picked it up and ran it into the endzone while everyone else on the field thought it was an incomplete pass, our points-against number would look a lot better than it does.  With that, and those two garbage time TDs by the 49ers last week, that’s a good 22 points we’re going to have to make up if we want to hold onto our championship belt of fewest points allowed in a season!

This one was fun.  Now, let’s all rest up and get ready to put the whuppin’ on the Falcons in two weeks.

Part 2: Why The Seahawks Will Win The Super Bowl This Year

We got into the Glass Half Empty side of things yesterday.  Today, it’s all about Glass Half Full.

I’ll start here where I started yesterday:  the offensive line.  In this run of dominance the last four years, the Seahawks have never really had a world-beating O-Line.  Sure, Okung was a nice player and a talented first rounder, but he also often found himself injured and being replaced by the likes of Alvin Bailey.  Has that stopped us from winning ballgames or running the ball among the best teams in the league?  Absolutely not!  We’ve gotten by with the likes of James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, and Patrick Lewis – all fine players in their own rights, but ultimately all replacement level players who made their money on the back of this team’s success.

People like to denigrate Russell Wilson, saying he’s just a “system quarterback”, and that had he been put into the wrong situation, he’d be another nobody right now.  Well, by the same token, this is a “system” offensive line, behind Tom Cable’s vision for what this unit should do and do well:  run the football.  It’s always going to struggle somewhat in pass protection – it has the last four years anyway – but like I said before, that hasn’t stopped us yet.

Because we DO have Russell Wilson!  And while he might want to thank his lucky stars the Cleveland Browns didn’t draft him, I think he’s pretty great, and fully capable of making up this O-Line’s shortcomings.  Will he be perfect?  No.  He’ll occasionally run himself into some sacks.  He’ll hold onto the ball too long when he should’ve just thrown it away.  But, he’s also going to do some truly amazing things that only he can do.  And, in the end, that’s going to be more than good enough to make up for the O-Line.

I like our ability to run the ball.  I like the continuity of our receiving corps.  And while I don’t necessarily think Russell Wilson is going to double his second half of last year and turn it into a full season this year, I think he’ll certainly take another step in his progression and by season’s end have had his best year ever.  I don’t know if the offense is going to be the dominant Seahawks unit over the defense, but I think we’ll have put up the most points in franchise history when all is said and done.

I also don’t know if the defense will be able to make it 5 straight years with the fewest points allowed, but if not, they’ll still be close to the top.  I just think, at this point, you know what to expect from this defense.  With everyone here, happy, and healthy to start the season, I think that puts us in the driver’s seat compared to last year, where we had so many issues.  Just having the vets around, practicing, playing, is going to be great for our younger guys.  The kids won’t have to play right away, they can soak in more of the system, more of the game plans, so by the time they ARE pressed into duty, because of injuries or whatever, they’ll be that much better than if they had to start right away and be thrown into the fire prematurely.

Finally, I like what the schedule has to offer.  Let’s break it down, week by week:

Miami, to kick things off on Sunday.  I think this game starts off a little too close for comfort in the first half, but ultimately I think the Seahawks start to blow it out in the second half for a double-digit victory.

At Los Angeles, for their regular season home opener.  By all rights, I’d be a fool to lock this one down as a win.  The Rams, particularly under Jeff Fisher, have had our number in ways I’m not even comfortable thinking about.  With this being their first game back in L.A., with upwards of 90,000 fans in a rabid froth, it won’t be easy.  I think this game is a slog, but I also think the Rams are remarkably worse than they’ve ever been, and I think we take this by a field goal to start 2-0.

San Francisco in week three.  Absolute pushovers from top to bottom.  Nothing about this team scares me.  I think we beat them by three touchdowns.

At New York, to play the Jets before our BYE week.  A lot of people have this down as a loss for the Seahawks.  I can see why.  You’ve got a cross-country trip and a 10am start.  You’ve got a team with an excellent defense, some strong weapons on offense, a savvy veteran quarterback, and one of the better up & coming head coaches in the NFL.  But, at the same time, I think you’ve got a team that doesn’t match up with us very well.  Sure, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but we’ve got one of the top secondaries in the league.  I think we easily shut down their passing attack, and just as easily shut down their mediocre rushing attack.  This game will depend on how well the Seahawks can move the football.  The Jets’ D-Line is ferocious, so it’ll be tough sledding for our O-Line.  They’ve also got Revis, but I think we have what it takes to beat him.  If he clamps down on Doug Baldwin, I think Tyler Lockett has a big game.  I also think the Seahawks take advantage of Kearse’s size in this one and he leads the team in receptions.  I also think our tight ends will be a huge factor, as Jimmy Graham should have played his way back into the #1 role.  It’ll be a dogfight, but I’m seeing something like 17-13, with the Seahawks on top.

Atlanta at home, after the BYE.  I just don’t think the Falcons are very good.  At all.  Matt Ryan has been a mistake-prone mess ever since Tony Gonzalez – his security blanket – retired, and ever since Roddy White’s aging body turned him into a nobody.  Sure, he’s still got Julio Jones – making Jones one of the most valuable receivers in the game, for fantasy purposes – but we’ve got Richard Sherman.  Beyond that, good fucking luck.  I think the Seahawks steamroll in this one by a good 2-3 touchdowns.

The next two weeks are at Arizona and at New Orleans.  The Arizona game is a Sunday Night game, the Saints game is a 10am start.  I think the Seahawks go 1-1 in this set of games, but I’m not going to commit to which game they win and which one they lose.  What does that mean?  Well, USUALLY it means I think the Seahawks will win the game they’re supposed to lose, and lose the game they’re supposed to win.  It’s probably idiotic, but even at Arizona’s best, we’ve been able to handle them pretty savagely on their home turf.  Combined with the fact that we’ll be out for revenge after they embarrassed us on Sunday Night in 2015, and the opinion that I secretly hold – which is that the Cards are due for some regression in 2016 – and I could see the Seahawks walking all over the Cards and solidifying our hold on first place in the division.  As for the Saints game, I’ve seen this one play out too many times before.  It reminds me of the Chargers game in 2014, the Lions game of 2012, and ESPECIALLY the Colts game of 2013.  They have a dominant offense, with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will put up 30+ points against us.  Meanwhile, we’ll probably make one too many mistakes on offense – against a shitty, but improved Saints defense – and gag it away at the end.  Saints 35-27, to put our record at 6-1.

Buffalo on Monday Night to close out the first half of our schedule.  This one should be another home walk-over.  We’ll be jacked up for a home Monday Night game, and the Bills – who have no experience in our environment – won’t know what to do with themselves.  7-1 to close out the first half.

At New England on Sunday Night to kick off the second half.  I try to run this game through any number of scenarios, and I just can’t find a way the Seahawks win, short of Tom Brady being injured.  Another cross-country trip.  All the hype from it being a Super Bowl XLIX rematch.  And, let’s face it, if any team is going to put into use the main strategy of beating the Seahawks – dink & dunk, then try the seams on double moves with their taller receivers – it’s the Patriots.  On the plus side, I think the Pats’ defense is much worse than two years ago.  So, if the Seahawks DO win this game, it’s almost certainly going to require this game being a shootout like last year’s Steelers game.  But, I don’t see that happening.  Patriots by a single score.

Home for Philly and another walkover.  You’ve got a team starting a rookie quarterback, but more than that, you’ve got a team clearly playing for next year.  They’re stocking up on draft picks and kicking out all the old players on the roster, compiled by Chip Kelly.  I don’t see this one being particularly close either.

At Tampa in yet another cross-country flight.  We really got hosed by playing the AFC East and NFC South (which are all pretty much in the East anyway).  This game strikes me as one of those traditional slow starters for the Seahawks.  I think we have to overcome a double-digit deficit, and perhaps have to win this one in overtime, just like the last time we played the Bucs, back in 2013 (except that game was in Seattle).  Ultimately, I think we have just enough to pull this nailbiter out.

Home for Carolina in another Sunday Night game.  If both teams are at full strength, we could be looking at the best game of the regular season.  I just love how these teams match up.  I also wonder how healthy Cam Newton will be, considering all the hits he took in last night’s game.  Will his recklessness in taking hits finally catch up to him?  I kinda, sorta have a feeling this game will come down to who’s actually playing, and for whatever reason I have a feeling Cam will be out for this game.  Either way, I like our chances at home, on Sunday Night, trying to rectify the disaster that was our 2015 season against the Panthers (going 0-2 in two games).  It’ll be a nailbiter, but Seahawks win.

At Green Bay in December.  I think this is another one of those games we’re supposed to lose, but in fact we turn the tables and steal one.  Is it weird for the Packers and their fans to hate Seattle more than teams in their own division?  Well, when we keep ruining their playoff hopes, I guess it’s not!

Home for the Rams and Cardinals the next two weeks.  I think we go 1-1 here too, and while I’m not yet ready to commit, I will say that I feel it’s more likely we beat the Rams and lose to the Cards.  I still think this is the year the Rams go 6-10 or 5-11 and Jeff Fisher gets fired.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Finally, at San Francisco to close it out.  If we’re playing for anything, I think we win easily.  If we’ve somehow got the #1 seed wrapped up, I think we let the kids get the majority of the snaps and probably lose it in the end.  Let’s just say we win and call it a day.

13-3, number one seed in the NFC, and an inside track for another Super Bowl.  This year, we get back to it, and this year we win the whole fuckin’ thing.  Mark it.

Seahawks Death Week: A Wishlist For 2016

OK, so I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy over here, so a lot of this stuff is going to be pretty general, based off of numbers I’m pulling from Over The Cap.  Anecdotally, the 2016 salary cap figures to be closer to $154 million, so that’s the number I’m going to play with when discussing the Seahawks.

Per Over The Cap, including all Dead Money, the Seahawks have $123 million already on the books for 2016, leaving around $31 million to play with.  This is a pretty decent amount of money, but as we looked into yesterday, there are a lot of contracts coming off the books, and a lot of decisions to make regarding our own free agents.  If we just take, for example, a few core starters who are free agents:  Okung, Sweezy, Kearse, Mebane, Irvin, Rubin, and Lane, you could see that $31 million disappear pretty damn quick.

Okung was already a high salary guy to begin with, earning around $8 million a year; in spite of his injury concerns, he’s proven to be a pretty talented left tackle in a league DESPERATE for left tackles.  He’s also got a pretty good amount of leverage against the Seahawks because he’s easily the best offensive lineman on this roster, and with the Seahawks drafting in the mid-20s, it’s not likely there will be a left tackle in the draft who’s as capable, who would fall to them.  So, the Seahawks would either need to meet his demands, or probably risk losing him to another team.  Believe you me, there ARE teams out there who will drive up the bidding for a guy like Okung.  There are LOTS of teams in the NFL with offensive line issues, and a short supply of proven left tackles.  So, if you were thinking the Seahawks would force Okung into less money because of all his maladies, think again.

At this point, I’d let Okung walk, and I’ll tell you why.  I think Garry Gilliam is a more natural left tackle than he is a right tackle.  He may not be Walter Jones either, but at this point, with the way we run our offense, and ESPECIALLY with the way other teams try to defend Russell Wilson, I think our primary objective for 2016 needs to be boosting our talent level at the interior spots of the line.  Call it the Aaron Donald Conundrum.  When Russell Wilson struggles most is when he’s got interior linemen pushing the pocket straight back into him (or, of course, when guys just flat out run past Justin Britt without him even touching them).  I would MUCH rather have three beasts at the guard & center positions, while sacrificing a little bit at our tackle spots, than the other way around.  Why?  Because more and more, teams are looking to keep Wilson in the pocket.  So, their outside rushers aren’t doing much more than trying to contain Wilson and prevent him from spinning outside the pocket and making plays with his legs out in space.  If they’re going to just give us a pocket to play with, then why not take advantage of that by making damn sure our interior linemen don’t continually fuck it up by allowing pressure straight up the middle every God damn other play?!  He’s not Peyton Manning.  This isn’t the movie The Blind Side.  The left tackle is kind of overrated in this type of offense, with this type of mobile quarterback.  And, as we’ve talked about a lot these last couple months, as Wilson improves as a pocket passer, he’s going to be running less as a result.

So, my first wish:  let Okung walk, spend the money we’re saving on interior linemen.

Next on the list of core starting free agents:  J.R. Sweezy.  He’s a 4-year starter and has held up pretty well for the most part.  No injury concerns here.  He’s generally better than he gets credit for, but he’s also not without his faults.  He was a net asset for this team because he was a 7th round pick, so he was earning next to nothing.  Only in 2015 did he FINALLY get over the million dollar hump in salary, at $1.5 million, so obviously he’s due for a pretty significant raise (respective to what he’d been earning, of course).  Again, I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy, so I don’t necessarily have a good idea of what a guy like him would be worth on the open market, and I’m really grasping at straws when I throw out numbers.  I’d say YES to bringing him back, with the caveat that it’s under a reasonable deal.  What’s reasonable?  Again, I have no idea.  $4-$5 million per year?  That feels right, but what do I know?  I’ll say this:  it would probably be foolish to blow up the entire offensive line; I don’t think you can find 4 other guys to come in here and dominate for you, without spending your entire cap space and/or trading away a bunch of draft picks.  For the right price, Sweezy is worth keeping around.  He knows the system, so if nothing else, he’d be an asset if the team moves on from Okung and moves Gilliam to the other side.

Second wish:  bring Sweezy back on a friendly deal.

Let’s stick with the O-Line theme, since it’s the biggest issue facing this team in 2016.  We need a new left guard, full stop.  Justin Britt isn’t the man for the job.  In an ideal world, the second coming of Steve Hutchinson will be out there as an unrestricted free agent for us to poach away from some unsuspecting team, but I don’t know who all the other free agents are.  Obviously, you like building through the draft, but that doesn’t happen until the last week of April, and probably all the good free agents will be gone by then.  Nevertheless, I’m prepared to spend whatever it takes:  $8 million per year or more, if there’s an absolute superstar out there, to really lock down this spot.

Third wish:  superstar free agent left guard.

Fourth wish:  failing that, draft a superstar-in-waiting with our first round draft pick.

At center, I’m content to go with Patrick Lewis for another year.  I can’t imagine his stock is all that high, and even so, he’s a restricted free agent, so odds are we’ll at least get him back on a 1-year deal.  As I mentioned in a prior post this week, let’s bring Lewis back, make him our starter from Day 1 (assuming, of course, that he comes into camp healthy and in shape), but at the same time, draft the center of the future in one of the first four rounds (I hear this is a great draft class for centers, so we could be in good shape waiting a few rounds if need be).

Fifth wish:  bring back Lewis on a 1-year deal, draft our center of the future & have him learn under Lewis.

At right tackle, if we’re moving Gilliam over to left, then I suppose I could be okay with moving Justin Britt back over to right, and having him compete with whoever.  Low-end draft pick, guys on the practice squad, whatever.  Again, I’m not too picky on who our tackles are, as long as we shore up the interior.

Sixth wish:  Britt or whoever at right tackle; no need to work too hard to replace this spot.

***

With the O-Line set, let’s look at the rest of the offense.  The biggest story, from a national perspective, is obviously:  will Marshawn Lynch be back?  I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this subject, as it’ll be a sad day when he’s finally out of here, but for now the question isn’t “will Marshawn Lynch be back”, but rather “WHEN will Marshawn Lynch be GONE?”

His release pushes $5 million into our Dead Money column, but as he was going to count $11.5 million against our cap, that’s a net savings of $6.5 million (if the Seahawks cut him after June 1st, which for the record, I doubt they’d do, we’d be able to spread that $5 million in dead money over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, meaning we’d have an extra $2.5 million – or $9 million total – to play around with for 2016 … something to keep in mind with him or any potential cuts).  Let’s just say, we decide to pay homage to all the great service he’s done for us while in a Seahawks uniform, and we cut him sooner rather than later, to give him the biggest opportunity to maximize his contract with another team; that still gives us the $6.5 million I mentioned, pushing our over all cap room up to around $37.5 million or so.  That’s not nothing.

While we’re talking about potential roster cuts, I’d just like to put my two cents in that I believe Lynch will be the only major casualty.  Of our big money contracts in 2016 (besides Lynch), we’re looking at Wilson, Sherm, Earl, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wright, Kam, Bobby, and Doug.  In other words, our core guys.  If you really wanted to grasp at straws, you could look at Graham and Kam.  Graham is coming off of an injury, and poses no Dead Money issues if we let him go, so he’d save us a cool $9 million.  But, I just don’t see it.  We only had slightly more than half a season with him, he seemed to be getting more and more comfortable with the offense as the season progressed, and assuming he makes a full recovery, he’s still one of the best weapons we have and one of the top tight ends in the league.  The only way I see us dropping Graham is if there’s another free agent receiver out there we want to try to overpay for, but I kinda doubt that’s going to happen.

As for Kam, the only way I see us cutting him is if we don’t want to deal with the potential headache of him holding out again, and/or he demands too much money in re-working his deal.  For what it’s worth, I think the team will try to do a little something to juice his deal (maybe a million or two), but I could just as easily see the team dropping the hammer.  Letting Kam go would free up $4.1 million, which is nice, but if it were up to me, I’d rather have Bam Bam back and happy again.

So, getting back to Lynch, with him gone we’re looking at $37.5 million in free money, some of which would ideally go towards re-signing Sweezy and bringing in a stud free agent left guard (among many other moves).

That leaves us with Thomas Rawls and his penny contract starting for us at running back.  I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks using one of their later-round picks on a 3rd down, shifty scat-back in the Darren Sproles mold to pair with him.  As for our #2 running back, I think it’d be awfully cool to bring Christine Michael back and let him get those old Robert Turbin carries (or, shit, if Turbin’s a free agent, maybe we look into bringing him back on a low-end deal, although I think that’s highly unlikely).

Seventh wish:  cut Lynch (frowny face), make Rawls the starter, draft the next Sproles, re-sign Michael to be the #2.

At receiver, we’ve got Doug Baldwin going into the last year of his deal.  I would be SUPER stoked if the Seahawks took this opportunity to lock him up to a long-term deal.  His last deal was 3 years, $13 million, which I felt was great, but obviously he’s due a raise.  Co-leading the league in touchdown receptions will automatically raise your stock (weird!).  If I had to guess, I’d put him in the range of $6+ million per year, but under $8 million, or the Eric Decker range ($7.25 million per year).  MAYBE you talk Baldwin into a bit of a discount, as he’s still got a year left under his current deal (set to earn $4 million in base salary), but I’d venture a guess that he gets Decker money regardless.

Eighth wish:  extend Doug Baldwin for another 4-5 years.

Beyond that, we’re in good shape with cheap deals on Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  The only other decision is:  do we re-sign Jermaine Kearse?  Oddly enough, a good comp for him is that time we re-signed Doug Baldwin.  Would you pay 3 years, $13 million for more Kearse?  I think I would.

Ninth wish:  bring back Kearse on a smallish deal.

No need to do anything fancy with the tight ends.  Keep Graham, Willson, and whoever as our third guy.

***

Now, let’s look at the defense.  Recall, the major defensive free agents are Mebane, Rubin, Irvin, and Lane.  Mebane has made a healthy $4-$5.5 million per year over the last few years.  While his 2014 was cut short by injury, he played in every game in 2015, and showed no signs of slowing down (albeit to my semi-untrained eye).  He’s 31 years old, so odds are we’re not talking about a long term deal.  I’d be okay with something in the range of 2 years and $10 million, with maybe a $5 million base salary in 2016 and a $2 million signing bonus (something like that, where his cap hit reduces as we go forward, in hopes of keeping him until he decides to retire).  Rubin, meanwhile, is coming off of a year that saw him count less than $3 million against our cap, so he’ll be due a raise.  How big remains to be seen.  All the talk that I’ve heard is that we can’t afford to bring them both back, so if I can only have one, I choose Bane.

Tenth wish:  re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace Rubin with another cheap free agent, draft another run-stuffing defensive tackle in the early or middle rounds.

Next up is Bruce Irvin, and I honestly have no idea.  He accounted for a little over $9 million total over the four years of his contract as a first round draft pick in the new CBA era.  Given his production, he’s due a big, fat raise too.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what a guy like him earns on the open market.  He’s not Von Miller (yet), so you’d be hard pressed to see him get top-of-the-line money.  Nevertheless, pass rusher is a premium position in this league, and he’s accounted for 22 sacks over 4 years.  But, he had 8 sacks in his rookie year, when he was exclusively a pass-rushing defensive end.  Obviously, his skill set limits him in run defense, which limits his overall value, but it’s only natural to look at those 8 sacks in somewhat limited duty as a rookie, and start to drool at the potential of him as an every-down pass rusher.  I’m generally in favor of keeping Irvin, as I’ve said repeatedly, I think his best days as a pass rusher are still in front of him, but I’m not in favor of keeping him at any price.  Not when we’re paying Bobby Wagner among the top middle linebackers in the game, while at the same time paying K.J. Wright a good chunk of change too (he’ll be accounting for over $6 million in cap space going forward for the next three seasons).

Eleventh wish:  re-sign Irvin, at a somewhat cost-effective price.  Otherwise, replace him with someone like Mike Morgan, or a draft pick.

Then, there’s Jeremy Lane.  So, let’s take this opportunity to talk about the secondary in general.  We’ve got most of it locked down in Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Obviously, if the team parts with Kam (who didn’t do himself or the team any favors with his semi-down year in 2015; I can’t imagine his trade value has gone up all that much, if the team felt that to be an option), we need to replace him.  Is that Kelcie McCray?  Probably, but I’d also look to draft at that position just in case.  As for Lane, I think he’ll be looking for starter’s money.  And, to be quite honest, I think he’s earned it.  That injury in the Super Bowl was the flukiest thing I’ve ever heard of.  I mean, how do you do so much damage to so many body parts all on the same play?  The fact that he recovered, returned in 2015, and played as well as he did, shows that he’s capable and ready to be an everyday player.  Hopefully, what the Seahawks have figured out – in the wake of the Cary Williams debacle – is that we CAN’T just bring in any guy from the street and expect him to play like the Legion of Boom.  Speaking of the devil, Williams signed a 3-year, $18 million deal to come to Seattle, with $7 million guaranteed ($3.5 million as a signing bonus, $3.5 million in base salary in 2015).  Of our current dead money, he’s the primary reason for what we’re dealing with in 2016.  Would 3 years and $18 million be enough to retain Jeremy Lane?  Probably not.  But, he’s also not going to command 4 years and $56 million like what Richard Sherman got; he’s obviously somewhere in the middle.  What about 4 years and $30 million?  Is Jeremy Lane worth $7.5 million per year?

I’m KINDA leaning towards Yes on this one.  Let’s look at it this way:  we don’t want another Cary Williams situation, so pretty much eliminate any big name (or semi-big name) on the free agent market.  But, if Lane walks, we’re tangling with another pretty big hole in our secondary for the second straight year.  We can assume DeShawn Shead returns, and would be the likely starter opposite Sherman, but then you gotta take a look at who’s behind Shead.  Tharold Simon is an interesting name.  He’s going into the final season of his rookie deal.  Obviously, you like that, because you know he’s going to be super motivated.  But, he’s proven in his first three years in the league, that he absolutely cannot stay healthy, at all.  IDEALLY, if the team opts to let Lane walk, you’d start Shead, but then bump Shead inside to the slot receiver and have Simon play outside when we’re in our nickel defense.  In this world, you have to feel pretty confident in Simon’s ability – when healthy – to give us the type of production we’ve come to expect out of the Legion of Boom.

When you go from there to look at our backups, you’re talking about guys like Burley, Terrell, and Seisay, who are all restricted free agents, and who all will most likely be back (at least through training camp and the pre-season).  But, none of them are all that impressive, and none of them project to be starters.  Then, there’s our rookie from 2015, Tye Smith, who the Seahawks managed to stash on the 53-man roster for the full year (because we didn’t want to risk losing him by putting him on the practice squad), but who essentially red shirted as a professional.  So, obviously, the team likes him A LOT.  I mean, to not even put him on the IR feels like a pretty rare thing for a championship-calibre team like the Seahawks, with as many issues as we had with injuries this season (at times, just BARELY filling out our 46-man gameday roster with healthy guys).  Tye Smith figures to be a slot corner (with his size, at 6’0), but if he’s as talented as I think he MIGHT be, the sky could be the limit for him.  It’s still unrealistic to see him starting in Game 1 of the 2016 season.  But, if he pans out, that mitigates the damage of letting Jeremy Lane go.  It also helps us going forward, if we happen to lose Shead and/or Simon going into the 2017 season.

BUT, if the Seahawks can find it in their budget to re-sign Lane (even at the seemingly excessive deal of $30 million over 4 years), just imagine what that does for us, depth-wise.  We’d have the greatest collection of secondary depth since the 2013 season, for starters.  Sherm, Lane, and Shead are all starting-quality players.  Simon is too, when healthy, and if Tye pans out, you’re talking about five guys we can throw out there at any given point (giving us plenty of wiggle room for when Simon inevitably has to sit out).

So, I’m going to make my twelfth (!) wish:  re-sign Jeremy Lane for a deal that’s considerably more than Cary Williams’, but considerably less than what Byron Maxwell got from the fuckin’ Eagles.

The cool thing about this Seahawks team is that it feels more set than ever, so there’s no need to do a lot of crazy things in free agency or trades.  Our biggest need is offensive line, so a high-priced free agent at guard should be our top priority.  Beyond that, it’s a matter of paying our own guys who deserve to return (Lane, Mebane, Kearse, Sweezy, maybe Irvin), letting the guys go who probably don’t deserve huge salaries (Okung, Lynch, Rubin, maybe Irvin), and locking down Baldwin a year early to make him a Seahawk for life.  Again, to reiterate my wishlist:

  1. Let Okung go, move Gilliam to left tackle
  2. Bring back Sweezy
  3. Sign a stud free agent left guard
  4. Or, draft a stud left guard with the first round pick (or, shit, why not both?)
  5. Bring back Lewis, while also drafting a center of the future in the middle rounds
  6. Move Britt back to right tackle, make him compete with other cheap guys
  7. Cut Lynch, make Rawls the starter, bring back Michael for #2, draft a quick, pass-catching 3rd down back
  8. Extend Doug Baldwin on a 4-5 year deal
  9. Re-sign Kearse to a 3-year, $13 million deal
  10. Re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace him with another cheap DT, draft a DT in the early-to-middle rounds
  11. Re-sign Irvin for a reasonable amount, or don’t and spread his savings elsewhere
  12. Re-sign Lane, 4 years, $30 million-ish range

I don’t know if all of this is possible, under salary cap structures in place, so feel free to pick it apart all you want.  While you’re at it, pick apart all my other hare-brained ideas, what do I care?

The Seahawks Have A Very Important Game Against The Broncos This Weekend

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I’m nervous.  That I’m worried about this weekend’s game and the possibility of the Seahawks losing said game.  This is the part where I concoct a scenario where the other team could plausibly wrench victory from the jaws of defeat.

Except, this isn’t just an ordinary game preview post where I’m trying to fill a self-imposed word-quota (more than 300, less than 30,000).  I can ACTUALLY see a way the Broncos could defeat the Seahawks.  The answer, more or less, lies in last week’s game in San Diego.

The Seahawks lost to the Chargers.  Why did they lose?  Because we faced an All Pro-type quarterback having one of the better games of his career.  Because while we mitigated their explosive plays over our heads, we still had a helluva time getting off the field on third down.  Because we made mistake after mistake on defense and an old, veteran, Hall of Fame tight end took advantage of our aggressiveness and made us pay.

Well, the Broncos have an All Pro-type quarterback.  The Broncos are generally pretty good at converting third downs.  And, rather than having an old, veteran, Hall of Fame tight end; they’ve got a young, explosive, potential FUTURE Hall of Fame tight end.  On top of a lot of other great players, and a VASTLY improved defense compared to the one we saw in the Super Bowl.

Oh yeah, that.  The Broncos also have an entire offseason where they heard nothing but praise about how dominating the Seahawks are.  How the Seahawks might be the next dynasty.  How the Seahawks’ defense is among the greats like the 60s Vikings, 70s Steelers, the 85 Bears, and the 2000 Ravens.  How the Broncos wilted, were afraid, GAVE UP in what was – for the non-Peyton Manning members of the team – the most important game of their lives.

Think about that.  This is no longer a rivalry like it was in the 80s and 90s (though, try telling that to John Elway, current GM and Vice President), but just imagine if our situations were reversed.  The Seahawks got plastered in the Super Bowl, while everyone in the world thought we were the better team and should have won easily.  Imagine all these months, listening to various Broncos players on First Take or Jim Rome or whathaveyou, flapping their gums about how they knew what plays we were going to run.  About how our receivers couldn’t handle running crossing patterns in the vicinity of whoever their strong safety is.  Wouldn’t you be a little salty?  Wouldn’t you expect your local columnists to write ham-fisted articles about how much more improved we are this year?  About how tired we are of hearing all their talk?

Yes, we’ll always have the Super Bowl.  No one can take that away from us.  But, it’s a new season.  No sense in living in the past, even if it only happened seven-or-so months ago.

Talent, motivation, health:  the Broncos have it all going for them this week.  One could argue that the Seahawks have all that going for them too, and on top of that, we’ve got home field advantage.

A little something about that.  For starters, I don’t necessarily think the 12th Man has the type of power it once had.  There’s no element of surprise anymore.  EVERYONE is aware of how loud it is up here in Seattle.  It’s been showcased on countless national broadcasts; we’re not catching anyone off guard anymore.  No one is taking the noise lightly anymore.  They’re preparing for it and overcoming it.  Yes, the noise is nice, and I’m sure opposing teams don’t like going on silent counts, but these are professionals we’re talking about.  This isn’t some Pee Wee Football League team playing in front of thousands of screaming fans for the first time.  PLUS, this is an afternoon game.  Even if I’m being overly dismissive of the 12th Man’s effect on a game, everyone HAS to admit that it’s just not the same compared to nationally-televised night games.  For one thing, the Twelves haven’t had as much time to get sauced!  Take it from someone who could turn Pro in weekend warrioring:  those extra 3-4 hours of beer chugging make all the difference between a little snooty intoxication and outright belligerent jack-assery.

In short, you can’t dismiss the home field advantage straight away, but let’s stop building it up to be something it’s not.  We have seven more regular season home games; every God damn one of them will be played in the afternoon.  After the first series or two, the crowd settles into a predictable routine and the opposing offense settles into a potent weapon capable of knifing through the noise.  Once the initial surge is overcome, the home field advantage goes away and it’s all up to the players on the field (if you don’t believe me, go back and look at that Arizona game last season).

As for the players on the field, you know who they are.  The Broncos are pretty much the same team on offense as they were last year (swap Decker for Sanders and Moreno for Ball).  On defense, their stars are healthy, and their new players are impactful.  DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib are the obvious new additions and they are still playing at the peak of their abilities.  Factor in Von Miller back to full health, and Terrance Knighton clogging up the middle, and it certainly won’t be as easy to move the ball up and down the field, regardless of our pumped up offensive weapons.

What can I say about this game?  Either we’ll find a way to stop them with some regularity on third down, or we won’t.  Either the game will be close, or it won’t.  Either we’ll win, or we won’t.  I’d like to think our defense will look better than it did against San Diego.  It won’t be as hot, for starters.  Peyton Manning isn’t as mobile as Philip Rivers.  We’re a little more familiar with their offensive scheme, since we spent the better part of two weeks prior to the Super Bowl studying their tendencies.  And, we HAVE to be a little salty ourselves, considering we gave up a 30-spot for the first time since October of last year when we lost to the Colts.

In closing, I’ll talk about why this game is so important.  There are a couple of obvious, conflicting points at play here.  On the one hand, if we want to get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, we probably can’t afford to lose more than three games.  Losing to the Broncos here would drop us to 1-2 already, with most of a full season left to go (not to mention, we’d be 1-2 going into a BYE week, which means starting in October, it’ll be 13 straight weeks of games with little respite).  On the other hand, like the Chargers, the Broncos are in the AFC.  If you’re going to lose two games, they might as well be to teams in the opposite conference, as that still leaves all of your key tie-breakers in play (with you in control of your own destiny).  I already discussed the following 8-game stretch of cream-puffs on our schedule.  Yeah, we could be 1-2 after this Sunday’s contest, but we could also be 9-2 going into our Thanksgiving battle royale with the 49ers.

But, here’s something that only recently occurred to me.  If we lose this game, we will have lost two games against good-to-great opponents.  And, if Green Bay isn’t necessarily the world-beater we all thought they’d be, then you have to ask:  are the Seahawks as good as they were last year (when we managed to beat three good, playoff teams in the regular season)?  What does it mean if a team only pounds on the bad teams, but loses heartbreakers to the good ones?  I know it’s early for all of this type of talk (and essentially meaningless, considering the NFL doesn’t care about the types of teams you beat like they do in college), but it’s a psychological component that nobody’s talking about.

How do you know you’re good?  When you beat other good teams.  What do you call a team that has a good record, but hasn’t beaten anyone of note?  The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.

Are we the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs?  Or, are we going to kick Denver’s shit in on Sunday?!

Look, I have us winning this game, but I’m going to tell you right now, it’s ONLY because I’m a huge homer.  If I were a fan of literally any other team, I’d be making the Broncos my Upset Special.  I still think the Seahawks are more or less going through the motions.  I still think there’s a lot of talk going around about how the Seahawks are “taking this week seriously” and putting in the type of practice required to win a big game at home.  But, I honestly feel that’s a lot of bullshit and Denver is going to come in here and move the ball around with ease and escape with a comfortable victory.  Peyton Manning isn’t the be-all, end-all of quarterbacks, but I’ll tell you this much:  I don’t like playing his teams this early in the season.  I like playing his teams when it’s cold and the weather is shitty and the pressure of the moment overwhelms his robot brain.

I like playing his teams when the NFL hasn’t spent the entire offseason catering to his every want and need by increasing the emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact in the secondary.

When you factor in the Mariners playing the series of their lives down in Houston – against pitchers who have generally crushed our feeble lineup – I can see this being a REAL bad weekend for the professional teams of Seattle.  Somebody hold me; I need a hug.

Like One Of Those Fly Dreams: The Seahawks Won The Super Bowl

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this.  Every Seahawks fan knew we were capable of this.  Maybe you’re a total homer if you predicted a solo score for the Broncos like I did, and like many others have.  Or, MAYBE you’ve just paid close attention to a team that legitimately has one of the greatest defenses of all time, and you saw a matchup that CLEARLY favored the Seahawks.

What’s the best part of this championship team?  Its secondary.  It’s the best part of this team because it’s the best secondary in the league.  That means something.  And, it means a helluva lot more than Peyton Manning means to his team.

***

Relief.  I think that’s the overwhelming feeling that’s come over me from the minute that game was truly out of reach.  Just knowing that I have this, and nobody can take it away from me.  And more importantly, nobody can make an argument that we were lucky, or that we were handed anything.  The Seahawks ran a gauntlet, playing in the very best division in football, getting past the second-best team in the league in the San Francisco 49ers, and absolutely bashing the shit out of the best team in the AFC and the best single-season offense of all time.

That game was a bludgeoning!  This was the first game that wasn’t close in the second half (and the most lopsided snoozer) since the 2003 game where Tampa thrashed the Raiders.  To be honest, this was probably the most unpleasant game to watch from a standpoint of your “average Super Bowl viewer” (i.e. not fans of the winning team) since Super Bowl XL.

***

Coming into the game, I was on edge as I anticipate most fans of these teams would have been.  I wasn’t terribly nervous about our defense, and I only grew more excited when we won the toss and opted to defer the opening kick.

Anytime you can kick off to start the game and get the best defense in the league out on the field, you have to like your chances, no matter who’s throwing the football on offense.  They chose to run the opening kick out of the endzone and it proved to be a big mistake as they only got back to around the 15 yard line.  First play of the game:  snap past Manning’s head when he wasn’t expecting it:  safety.

Where I was sitting, I was obviously happy about the result of that play, but you’re not going to win a game like this 2-0.  How our offense responded would say a lot about where this game would go.  On the subsequent drive, we took it straight down the field and had to settle for a short field goal.  OK, so they spotted us 5 points.  Still not time to relax as a Seahawks fan.  As the first half progressed, and the hits kept on coming, it was easier to sit here and watch the game solidly confident in victory.  We bumped the game up to 8-0, then 15-0 on a Lynch run, then 22-0 on the MVP’s interception return.

You’d think with a 22-0 lead at halftime, it’s all academic.  No WAY this defense is giving up a 22-point halftime lead to lose this game!  But, even still, in the back of my mind, I had visions of watching the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.  I saw all of those heartbreaking defeats in the past and thought, “How fitting would it be for the Seahawks to lose the Super Bowl in this fashion?”

Then, Percy Harvin ran back the opening kick of the second half.

Could we POSSIBLY lose after having a 29-point lead 12 seconds into the second half?  Well, Indy did make a comeback against the Chiefs in these very playoffs when all was supposedly lost.  And, if anyone is capable of generating this type of comeback, you’d think Peyton Manning would be the guy.

But, I mean, you saw it.  Denver moved the ball in that third quarter – 152 yards in total.  But, they only came away with 8 points, and that was after the Seahawks scored ANOTHER touchdown, to make it a 36-point lead.

Simply put, even if Denver eliminated the turnovers, it would have simply taken them too damn long to engineer scoring drives against this defense.  This would have been a much different, much closer game had Denver not turned the ball over four times (including two unforgivable interceptions by Manning), but in the end Seattle’s defense would have been too much for them to overcome.  And, quite frankly, Seattle’s offense would have been too much as well.

***

In a game where we’re playing the number one offense in the Denver Broncos, where we had a big lead for most of the game, where we spent most of the fourth quarter just trying to run out the clock, the Seattle Seahawks outgained their opponents in total yards 341 to 306.

We could have done so much more!  That’s what I’m getting at here.  That was a solid, efficient game, but if push came to shove and the Broncos weren’t so overwhelmed by our defense, we were moving the ball at will and would have had no problem out-scoring them in a hypothetical shootout.

***

Russell Wilson:  18/25, 206 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers, 88.1 QBR, 123.1 rating.  Of all my pre-game predictions, this is what I’m most proud of.  I had Wilson hitting at a 70% clip and lo and behold, that’s what it ended up being.  We saw big plays out of the offense, we saw big running lanes (albeit, late, when we were just trying to chew through clock after the game had been decided), and we certainly saw Harvin have a big impact on the game.

I predicted 24-7 Seahawks.  Not for nothing, but if you take away the defensive and special teams points, this would have been a 27-8 game.  Just sayin’.  Obviously, I was 100% wrong on the turnovers front, so I can’t really take a whole lotta credit for this.  Nevertheless, the defense was dominant, and I think a lot of us saw that coming.

I predicted Earl Thomas would be the MVP, but he had a relatively quiet game compared to the REAL most valuable players:  Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril.  I don’t think anyone saw Malcolm Smith coming into this game as a potential MVP.

***

Speaking of Malcolm Smith, I don’t necessarily have a problem with the choice, because there’s some dumb rule that says you can’t just give the MVP to the entire defense.  I guess that would require more free trucks than they were prepared to hand out.  If you asked me at the tail-end of the game who would be the MVP, I would have looked at guys like Percy Harvin (who made a great case, leading the team in rushing on two big fly-sweeps, in addition to bringing the hammer down with that kickoff return), Jermaine Kearse (4 for 65 and a touchdown on one of the most impressive plays you’ll ever see), Doug Baldwin (led the team in receiving, 5 for 66 and another TD), Marshawn Lynch (not the biggest game out of him, but he clearly drew the lion’s share of the attention from Denver’s defense, opening up the passing game; also had a hard-fought goalline touchdown run), Kam Chancellor (10 tackles, some monster hits, the game’s first INT), any number of guys along the defensive line who managed to get pressure on Manning all game with just a 4-man rush, Richard Sherman for once again locking down one side of the field and taking Eric Decker completely out of the game, and of course Malcolm Smith with the pick-six, the 10 tackles, and the fumble recovery.  I would have looked at all of those guys and I would have told you, “They probably cancel one another out and Russell Wilson gets the nod.”

But, here’s the deal.  With that defensive performance, you HAD to give it to a defensive player.  And, once again, you’re talking about guys cancelling one another out.  Either way, I’m not going to complain about it.  There might not be any better story to come out of this game than a seventh round draft pick – who wasn’t even starting on this team at the beginning of the season – who played his way into more playing time, and came out of this game in the right places at the right time.  I love it.  No one outside of Seattle knew who this guy was before this game.  Hell, many people IN Seattle didn’t know who this guy was.  And now, he’s going to Disneyworld and he’s being interviewed by national media guys.  Not Richard Sherman.  Not Russell Wilson.  Not all these guys you constantly see in front of a mic.  But, the soft-spoken role player named Malcolm Smith.

I’ve got a lot more to say about everything, but it’s all still such a delightful blur right now.  World Champs.  I’ve got a lot more ESPN to watch right now, so I’ll just leave with a Go Hawks!

Who You Need To Watch Out For On The Denver Broncos

Look, we all know the stars of the Broncos offense.  It goes without saying that they’re great.  But, that’s not really what I find interesting right now.  So, instead, I’m going to start with Denver’s defense.

If you’re worried about the Seahawks scoring on offense, don’t be.  We’re going to get ours.  This defense is not very good.  Nevertheless, they’ve got some good pieces out there that we should be aware of.

The Broncos are actually tied with the Seahawks in rush defense, at 101.6 yards per game.  Of course, it’s easy to sort of dismiss them as a defense that’s always playing with a significant lead, and therefore is seeing the other team pass more than they run.  But, the Broncos are up there on yards per attempt too (in the top 10, as is Seattle), so consider them legitimately good at holding off the run.

Just as the Seahawks’ defense poses a challenge to Denver’s biggest offensive strength (passing), Denver’s defense does the same thing to Seattle’s biggest offensive strength (rushing).

Players like Terrance Knighton are getting a lot of press right now, for good reason.  He’s their big, beefy defensive tackle (wears #94) who clogs up the middle, making it nearly impossible to run up the gut.  He’s flanked by guys on that line who, I’m sure, are solid if unspectacular.  You don’t really need to be all that amazing when you’ve got someone like Knighton in the middle.

In the linebacking corps, I really like Danny Trevathan (#59), but I’ve read conflicting reports saying that he’s overrated and not very good.  I’m reading into that that he makes a lot of aggressive mistakes.  He may flash and sizzle on one play, then totally bungle his assignment the next.

You can say that’s a trend for these Broncos.  Duke Ihenacho (#33) is their safety.  He’s a hard hitter, but he’s not very smart, and will fall for the play-action fake like nobody I’ve ever seen.  There are chunk yardage plays available in this game, and Ihenacho is a big reason why.

With Von Miller out, I’m not super-worried about Denver’s pass rush.  Shaun Phillips (#90) is a 10-year vet and the only player with double-digit sacks, but he only has 10.0, so it’s not like he’s this dominant force.  I think, without Miller, Phillips is going to see the lion’s share of the attention on the offensive line and will most likely be neutralized.

Miller isn’t the only injury casualty, as Chris Harris – arguably their best cornerback – is also on the IR.  That leaves Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (#45), who is okay but a little overrated, the aging Quentin Jammer (#23) and the even MORE aging Champ Bailey (#24), who at 12 and 15 years of experience respectively, are mere shells of their former selves.

There are passing yards to be had.  If I’m the Seahawks, I’m going right to the play-action pass early and often.  Hopefully, in time, it’ll open up the run for us and let us lean on them late in the game.  Everyone says the best defense against a Peyton Manning-led offense is to control time of possession and keep him off the field.  To Hell with that!  Let them worry about time of possession, we should look to get our points any way we can.  In this game, I contend they will come in the deep passing game.

On offense, what can you say?  Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time.  This year, at age 37, he threw for the most yards and most touchdowns in NFL history for a single season.  He completes over 68% of his passes, which mitigates his arm strength issues.  Being super-accurate in the short and moderate passing game is enough to compensate for not taking as many shots deep down field.

And weapons?  Hoo boy, does he have weapons.  Demaryius Thomas (#88) is one of the top five receivers in football.  Statswise, anyway.  It’s tough to say how much of that is due to the offensive set-up and having Peyton Manning as your quarterback vs., say, Brandon Weeden.  But, either way, he’s a concern. 

Also a concern:  Eric Decker (#87).  This offense tends to spread out the big receiving days pretty evenly, but you could tell that Decker’s production improved immensely as the season wore on (and defenses made Demaryius Thomas their top priority).  Decker actually reminds me of Doug Baldwin quite a bit.  He will catch the deep balls, he will catch those insane sideline passes, and he’s Manning’s security blanket on third down.  You want to stop this Denver offense?  Blanket Decker on third down.

Finally, of course, there’s Wes Welker (#83).  He’s clearly on the downside of his career (you won’t see any more 100-reception seasons out of Welker going forward), and from the looks of things, his numbers diminished greatly over the second half of the season (maybe due to his being used to take too many cheap shots on crossing patterns against helpless defenders?), but he’s still another quality receiver for this team.  He’s also a guy you’ve got to watch on third down, and oddly enough in the red zone.  Welker gets a surprising amount of touchdowns for a guy his size, because he’s so small, he can easily find the open zone in the defense and wiggle his way into the endzone.

Just when you think I’m finished talking about the offensive weapons at Manning’s disposal, I have to remind you of their #1 pass-catching tight end, Julius Thomas (#80).  For fantasy purposes, he’s one of the top five tight ends in the game, and yet another guy you have to be aware of in the red zone.  I like our chances here, because we’ve shut down Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis – who are at least on-par, talent-wise, with Thomas, if not better than – but that doesn’t mean you can just ignore him, or he’ll kill you.

Before we get to the running game, I should point out that their top running back, Knowshon Moreno (#27) is an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield.  He caught 60 balls for nearly 550 yards, so be aware of the screen pass and the checkdown.  I think, in this game, you’ll see A LOT of checkdowns.  It’s only natural, our secondary is just that good.  So, we need need NEED to make sure we have a linebacker on Moreno at all times.

As far as running the football is concerned, the Broncos are better than you’d expect.  They’re in the top half in the NFL (averaging 117 yards per game), and Manning isn’t afraid to go with a run-heavy game-plan if that’s what the defense is giving him.

Like I said before, Moreno is their lead back.  Like the Seahawks, they will run him out of the shotgun quite a bit.  Once thought to be a bust-in-the-making, Moreno has broken out as one of the more consistent backs in football.  He only averages 4.3 yards per carry, but when you’re talking about a passing game that averages 8.3 yards per attempt, it’s not like you need Adrian Peterson to be effective.  Montee Ball (#28) is their change-of-pace, bruising running back.  He will poach his fair share of touchdowns near the goalline, but this team is not afraid to let Moreno take it to the house from short yardage either.  It seems to be random, at the whim of the head coach, who gets carries and when.

If I’m scared of anything, it’s this running attack.  Peyton Manning will get his yards.  If we can keep him away from getting anywhere near the 400-yard mark, I think we’ll be fine.  But, if this running game picks up yards in healthy chunks and gives Manning a bunch of 2nd & shorts and 3rd and shorts, then it’s going to be a long game.  At that point, we’ll have to hope to hold them to field goals instead of touchdowns.

Speaking of which, Matt Prater, their kicker, is pretty solid.  Of course, he’s better in the thin air of Denver’s used-to-be-Mile High Stadium, but he’s no slouch and can hit it from 50 in any stadium in America.  With the weather being as cold as it is, I wouldn’t expect too many 50-yarders to be attempted (by either team), but if you’re looking for a weakness, the field goal game isn’t it.

Special teams, however, might be another matter.  Denver, for playing half its games in that aforementioned thin air, doesn’t generate as many touchbacks as you’d expect.  And, as stated above, we’re not in Denver anymore; this air will be thick and freezing.  With Percy Harvin expected to be back and healthy (and returning kicks), our return game could be quite the catalyst.  Regardless of whether you believe in “momentum” or not, getting an awesome kick return immediately after the other team scores is quite the let-down for that team.  Look for Denver to frequently be disappointed after they’ve put points on the board.

Anyway, that’s my take on some of the players you should watch out for.  Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at what we can expect from Denver’s offense.

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.

Reviewing The Divisional Round Weekend

I know, on the one hand, it’s a little disappointing when all the favorites win and move on.  But, doesn’t it just feel like that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to be this year?  The two best possible pre-season matchups going into the respective conference championship games?  Doesn’t that sound exciting?!  And a little frightening?  Let’s get to the recap.

Seattle Defeats New Orleans 23-15

The best part of being the first game of the weekend is – if you win – you just sit back and relax until Monday.

Not a whole lot to relax over DURING the game, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.  I think if the weather wasn’t so totally fucked, the Seahawks would’ve had an easy go of it.  But, as it stands, we’ll take the win – ugly as it was – and try to forget that any of that ever happened.

I can’t remember the last time Russell Wilson was this ineffective.  Usually, when he has a “bad game”, he’s still able to do something to get the job done.  Maybe, if he doesn’t have it going through the air, at least he’ll get 50 yards with his feet or something.  But, Wilson just did NOT have anything.  There were numerous times where – on the read-option – Wilson could have kept it for nice chunk plays on the ground.  Instead, he opted to let Marshawn Lynch do all the work.  And, without Lynch’s efforts in this game, we would have lost, hands down.

You can’t say enough wonderful things about Beastmode, but I will say this:  as he bumped the run outside and had nothing but green in front of him, for a moment I was shouting to myself:  GET DOWN!  But, then I saw how much time was left, and how happy that touchdown made him, and I let myself relax a little bit.

Here’s the thing, though:  if there’s ever a game where you don’t want to see an opponent try an onside kick, it’s one where it’s been raining all day.  I absolutely was NOT shocked that they recovered that ball.  I was just happy we only had 26 seconds left, with them needing 8 points to tie.

Things got a little grim when the Saints pulled to within 16-8, and you could tell the fans in the stands were nervous more than anything else.  Seattle’s offense really went AWOL there in the middle part of this game.  I’ll get a little more into our game plan in a later post, but right now I think I’m just going to enjoy this.

Also, this pick put me 1-0 on the weekend, and 3-2 for the playoffs.

New England Defeats Indianapolis 43-22

Not gonna lie to you, didn’t watch much of this game.  As soon as the Seahawks game ended, my family and I went downstairs to play pool.  We had this game on the TV, but weren’t giving it much of a glance.

I predicted 38-20 and wasn’t too far off.  T.Y. Hilton had over 100 yards, but only 4 catches on but 6 targets.  Andrew Luck stunk, but couldn’t even mount a late comeback, as they were shut out in the fourth quarter.  They had a chance in this game, but too many mistakes and too much New England running was the name of the game.

Can’t say this makes me too excited about New England’s chances next week – I think they beat a not-very-good team – but I guess we’ll see.

This game put me 2-0 on the weekend and 4-2 on the playoffs.

San Francisco Defeats Carolina 23-10

Can’t say that I’m surprised about this one.  Carolina just isn’t there yet.  They don’t have the mental fortitude or, frankly, the talent to contend with the league’s best teams.  Why do you think every Seahawks fan and their grandmothers wanted to see Carolina win this game?  Because we knew we could KILL the Panthers in Seattle.

The 49ers look fucking good right now.  Scary-good.  Like they could come in here and impose their will-good.  I know the last two times we’ve played them in Seattle, we’ve ravaged them like no other, but I’ve got my doubts.

The Seahawks are clearly not putting it all together on offense.  We settle for too many field goals, we still have too many inopportune penalties on big plays (Giacomini!), and we can’t seem to ever get into a rhythm.

The 49ers, conversely, just moved the ball up and down the field on the Panthers.  If a team like the Panthers can’t get pressure on the quarterback – something they’re supposed to be elite at – then you’ve got to wonder if there is any hope for us next week.

Carolina had a nice little run in the second quarter there.  If you believed in momentum, you’d say Carolina was preparing to steamroll over the 49ers.  After being stalled on a goalline stand, the Panthers got the ball back and hit on a long touchdown.  THEN, the Panthers got the ball again and brought the ball down to the goalline, and once again couldn’t punch it in.  That was the ballgame.  The Panthers settled for a field goal and a 10-6 lead, which was short-lived, as the 49ers embarked upon a half-closing touchdown drive to take a 13-10 lead.  A lead they would never relinquish.

This game made me 3-0 on the weekend, 5-2 in the playoffs.

Denver Defeats San Diego 24-17

Pretty cheesy win for the Broncos.  Didn’t feel particularly all that difficult.  The Chargers never REALLY stopped the Broncos so much as the Broncos stopped themselves.  A dropped pass by Decker that turned into an interception in the endzone.  Decker also pulling his Golden Tate impression off on that onside kick.  Drops by either Thomas, a fumble by Tight-End Thomas, a little lax defense in that fourth quarter.

I’m just kind of glad that Peyton Manning won.  You have no idea how tired I am of people ragging on Hall of Fame quarterbacks just because they happen to have a sub-par record in the playoffs.  As if that takes away anything from what they’ve been able to do throughout their careers.

This win puts me at 4-0 on the weekend and 6-2 in the playoffs.

The Championship Round looks like this:

  • New England (2) @ Denver (1)
  • San Francisco (5) @ Seattle (1)

My Super Bowl prediciton is still in line.  It was both my pre-season pick and my now pick, so I’m feeling pretty good.  We’ll see how that changes as the week goes along.