The Seahawks Aren’t Going To Be Major Players In Free Agency

I feel like this is something that shouldn’t be up for debate.  And yet, for some reason, the same stupid questions keep popping up on Twitter, being handled with savage aplomb by the beat writers who somehow manage to maintain some semblance of sanity in this brave new world we live in where everyone has a voice (hi!) and gets to shout it to the masses whenever they fucking want.

People see the Seahawks have $20+ million in available salary cap room and think, “Oh boy!  Shopping spree!”  Why, with that amount of money, with some creative bookkeeping, you could easily fill a couple spots on the O-Line, with enough room left over for Adrian Peterson, Alshon Jeffery, and a couple dominant pass rushers!

Forget about the fact that that’s insane, and very much NOT enough money to do all those things, but as usual people fail to see the bigger picture.  Yes, unlike in years past, the Seahawks do have some money to throw around.  But, as usual, compared to the rest of the NFL, the Seahawks are relative paupers.  At the moment (before the flurry of deals set to go down in the coming days), the Seahawks rank 22nd out of 32 teams in the NFL in available cap space.  The Cleveland Browns, for instance, rank 1st, and have over $100 million!  8 teams in the NFL have DOUBLE what the Seahawks have in available cap space!

And, speaking of big picture, this is the NFL.  Where the risk of injury is at its highest among the professional sports, and where the contracts aren’t fully guaranteed.  In the life of an NFL player, you gotta get yours while the getting’s good, because any snap or even any practice rep could be your last.

As such, the best free agents are going to chase the highest dollars.  And the majority of the league has stacks on stacks on stacks more money than the Seahawks.  So, you know, don’t expect the Seahawks to land some whale in the first hours of free agency.

Also, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have more than a single hole to fill.  If we were just one player away from a guaranteed Super Bowl run, then yeah, spend the bulk of that $20+ million on the best guy and call it a day!  No, see, there are a number of holes to fill, along the O-Line, along the D-Line, and especially throughout the depth of our roster.  In other words, we’ve gotta make that $20+ million last, and spread that shit around to as many guys as we can.

So, with that in mind, can we PLEASE take a reasoned, somewhat educated look at potential Seahawks targets?

I mean, I won’t, but maybe the rest of you can.  The NFL free agency rumor mill couldn’t interest me less.  Which is why Twitter is perfect for this sort of thing.  Oh, the Seahawks may or may not be interested in Jamaal Charles?  Put it in a Tweet!  But, I can’t sit here and respond to every possible player we’re supposedly tied to in conversation!  Even if I am tantalized by the notion of a healthy Charles just destroying defenses this season.  Who has the time?  The news changes so frequently, I can’t keep up.

In the end, there has to be a modestly-priced offensive tackle out there that the Seahawks will get around to signing.  I could see us going after a veteran running back, but I really doubt it if the guy is coming off of major injury (considering the rash of injuries we’ve sustained to Rawls and Prosise).  I’m sure there’s a solid D-tackle out there we’ll bring in.  But, again, while these positions are priorities, they’re also something that can be knocked out later in the process.  The NFL draft isn’t until the last weekend in April.  There’s PLENTY of time for the Seahawks to make smart, sensible moves.

If Terrell Davis Is A Hall Of Famer, Why Not Shaun Alexander? Marshawn Lynch?

I was going to get to this earlier in the week, but work happened.  And, I didn’t want to half-ass this one.  And since there weren’t any other things I COULD half-ass, you get the 2-day gap in posts.

So, apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever, the name Jamal Lewis popped into my brain, and I got it into my head that he had a crazy amount of rushing yards for a running back to NOT be in the NFL Hall of Fame.  As it turns out, he’s currently only 24th on the list, with 10,607 yards, and there are PLENTY of backs with 10,000+ yards who aren’t in the Hall and quite frankly don’t belong there.  As I look at Jamal’s numbers now, even though he’s one of a VERY small few to have a 2,000-yard season, it’s not a total shocker to see him not in there yet.  He does have seven 1,000 yard seasons in total, but only the one Pro Bowl/All Pro year.  I’ll let some Ravens fan make the case for Jamal Lewis; this is a Seattle-centric blog for Christ’s sake.  I’m here to talk about Shaun Alexander, and yeah, Marshawn Lynch, relative to the recently-inducted Terrell Davis.

So, when I looked at the list of the running backs with the most yards in NFL history – to check and see where Jamal Lewis stood – I went ahead and dug around to see where Terrell Davis landed.  Knowing nothing, aside from the fact that his career was relatively short compared to most running backs you consider to be Hall of Famers, I figured going in that he was sub-10,000 yards.  But, I figured he’d be in the 9,000 range.

NO!  Not even!  Try 7,607!

He’s 55th all time.  The only other Hall of Famers in his range or lower are the REAL old timers.  Like, before the Super Bowl was a thing.  Like, before the AFL and the NFL merged into a single league.

Now, for what it’s worth, I do think Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame.  But, you know, I’m more of an Eye Test guy.  When I say the name Terrell Davis, I think, “Yeah, that guy was one of the all-time greats.”  But, when you see 7,607 staring you back in the face, it’s enough to give you pause.  It gave me pause anyway!

I’ve always maintained that Shaun Alexander was and is a fringe Hall of Famer, but ultimately if you twisted my arm, I’d say probably not.  But, with 7,607 here to consider, I mean, come on!

Shaun Alexander finished with 9,453 yards (Lynch with a little less, so I’ll get to him later in the post).  If you discount his 4 games with the Redskins in the final year of his career, he spent 8 full seasons in Seattle.  Davis did what he did in 7 seasons in Denver, so the career lengths are comparable.  Alexander finished with exactly 100 rushing touchdowns and another 12 receiving TDs; Davis finished with 60 rushing and 5 receiving.  Alexander averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, Davis at 4.6, so not a HUGE difference there.  And, if you go by Approximate Value per Pro Football Reference (the higher the number the better), Alexander finished with a 79, Davis with a 78.

I mean, when you put it all down there like that, and you factor in the extra 1,846 career rushing yards and the extra 47 combined touchdowns, how is Shaun Alexander not even in the conversation and Terrell Davis is already in?

Politics aside – because I will say this:  it IS a popularity contest, no matter what you hear from anyone; if the voters don’t like you (*cough* Terrell Owens *cough*), you’re screwed – it’s kind of insane.  But, one thing we were told is that Terrell Davis’ induction is a referendum on the production he had in his Peak Years.  I think, going forward, for a lot of these players on offense – as the numbers skyrocket, as rules changes make the game more high scoring – unless you have just insane career totals, you’re going to need to build your case in your Peak Years, when you were at your very best.  How many Peak Years did you have, and how dominant were you in those years?

Terrell Davis was drafted in 1995.  He had a pretty good rookie year, but his very best years were 1996-1998.  From 1999-2001, he played in a grand total of 17 games and was out of football after that.  So, really, we’re talking about a 3-year span, but since he ended up in the top 10 in rushing in his rookie year, we’ll include that to give him a 4-year Peak.

  • In 1995, he ran for 1,117 yards and 7 TDs, good for 9th in yards and outside the top 10 in TDs.
  • In 1996, he ran for 1,538 yards and 13 TDs, good for 2nd in yards (behind Barry Sanders) and tied for 3rd in TDs with Ricky Watters, behind Curtis Martin’s 14 and Terry Allen’s 21.
  • In 1997, he ran for 1,750 yards and 15 TDs, good for 2nd in yards (behind Barry Sanders’ 2,000 yard season) and tied for 1st in TDs with Karim Abdul-Jabbar.
  • In 1998, he ran for 2,008 yards and 21 TDs, good for 1st in yards and TDs.

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl and first team All Pro three times, 1996-1998.  He won the NFL’s MVP award in 1998.  He led the Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, winning the Super Bowl MVP the first time and ceding it to John Elway the second time.  He was placed on the 2nd team All-1990s team to boot.

So, that’s the resume, more or less.  How does that compare to Shaun Alexander’s Peak Years?  Well, he didn’t start as a rookie in 2000, which was understandable at the time – we still had a prime Ricky Watters giving us his all – but will likely go down as the reason why Alexander ultimately doesn’t make the Hall.  If he were to hang another 1,000 yard season on his career totals, with another 10 or so TDs, I don’t see how you could keep him out.  Regardless, I’m giving Alexander a total of 5 Peak Years, from 2001-2005.  He topped 1,000 yards each year and had no less than 14 rushing TDs in each of those years!  To wit:

  • In 2001, he ran for 1,318 yards and 14 TDs, good for 6th in yards and 1st in TDs.
  • In 2002, he ran for 1,175 yards and 16 TDs, outside the top 10 in yards, but tied for 2nd with Ricky Williams in TDs (behind Priest Holmes).
  • In 2003, he ran for 1,435 yards and 14 TDs, good for 8th in yards and tied for 3rd in TDs with Clinton Portis & the aforementioned Jamal Lewis, behind Ahman Green and Priest Holmes again.
  • In 2004, he ran for 1,696 yards and 16 TDs, good for 2nd (by ONE YARD behind Curtis Martin) in yards and 2nd in TDs behind LaDainian Tomlinson.
  • In 2005, he ran for 1,880 yards and 27 TDs, good for 1st in yards and tying a then-NFL record for TDs in a season (to be broken by LDT the very next year with 28, who holds it to this day).

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl three times (2003-2005), made first team All Pro one time, in 2005.  He won the NFL’s MVP award in 2005.  He led the Seahawks to just one Super Bowl appearance in the 2005 season (he likely would’ve been the Super Bowl MVP had the refs not screwed us over, but that’s neither here nor there).  And, he was placed on the 2nd team All-2000s team.

I guess, what you have to ask yourself is, what do you take more stock in?  Shaun Alexander had a longer Peak, and arguably a better one.  I mean, those touchdown totals are INSANE for a 5-year run!  Terrell Davis didn’t set or tie any single-season marks!  So, do you rank that higher, or do you rank Davis’ Super Bowl success higher?

You gotta admit, it’s a helluva story.  Terrell Davis helps the long-suffering John Elway get his only two Super Bowl titles as he rides off into the sunset.  While Shaun Alexander led an okay Seahawks reign in the mid-2000s, that only got to the lone Super Bowl, and lost it in frustrating fashion.

You might sit here and argue that Shaun Alexander had a couple of Hall of Famers in Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson to run behind, but Terrell Davis had a very good O-Line in his own right.  On top of that, let’s face it, the zone blocking scheme Denver was running back then was relatively new, and the NFL hadn’t really adapted to defending it.  Which is why you saw so many Denver running backs in those days plucked from the bottom of the draft and making huge impacts.  I’d put all of that as a wash, or even a little in Davis’ favor.

Where I think Shaun Alexander might have some trouble is that he spent most of his career in LDT’s shadow.  Sure, there were good running backs playing when Terrell Davis had his reign, but I don’t think there were as many as when Shaun Alexander was doing his thing.  The running back position as a whole really exploded in the early-to-mid 2000s.  I mean, shit, with Davis’ induction, now we’re talking about Priest Fucking Holmes having an argument to be included!  The guy only had 3 good years and was injured the rest of the time for fuck’s sake!

It’s a shame, too, because Shaun Alexander came up in the era where Fantasy Football really exploded.  If that has any effect whatsoever, then you have to remember that Shaun Alexander was ALWAYS a top 2 pick in any fantasy draft, with LDT.  The game of football, at its purest, is about scoring touchdowns and preventing the other team from scoring touchdowns.  There weren’t many running backs in the history of the league who had a nose for scoring touchdowns the way Shaun Alexander did.  In fact, looking at the leaderboard, Alexander is tied for 7th with Marshall Faulk for his 100 touchdowns.  He only falls to 13th in combined rushing & receiving TDs as well.  Davis is 48th & 120th respectively.

I dunno!  Maybe I’m a homer.  Or, maybe I’m a fucking purist and Shaun Alexander deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame!

Now, regarding Marshawn Lynch, I think he has an even-tougher road to hoe than Alexander in a lot of ways.  He has 6 seasons where he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, his first two with Buffalo and his first four full years with Seattle.  He racked up a career total of 9,112 yards (37th all time) and 74 rushing touchdowns (24th all time), with another 9 receiving TDs.  I won’t discount his first two years in Buffalo, but I’d have to say his Peak Years were the first four full ones with Seattle, so let’s run them down now:

  • In 2011, he ran for 1,204 yards and 12 TDs, good for 7th in yards and tied for 3rd in TDs with AP and Ray Rice, behind Cam Newton and Shady McCoy.
  • In 2012, he ran for 1,590 yards and 11 TDs, good for 3rd in yards and tied for 5th in TDs with Doug Martin and Trent Richardson.
  • In 2013, he ran for 1,257 yards and 12 TDs, good for 6th in yards and tied for 1st in TDs with Jamaal Charles.
  • In 2014, he ran for 1,306 yards and 13 TDs, good for 4th in yards and tied for 1st in TDs with DeMarco Murray.

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl five times (2008, 2011-2014) and the first team All Pro once, in 2012.  No MVPs, but he led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one, and should have won them both.  He was also stripped of a Super Bowl MVP award opportunity by not being handed the ball at the 1-yard line against the Patriots, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, obviously, the numbers aren’t really there for Lynch, compared to Alexander.  But, as I said before, it’s always so much more than just numbers.  Now, I’m not sure Beastmode is going to win many popularity contests, with the way he shunned the media in his later years – particularly in those two Super Bowl seasons – but I also feel like time will heal those wounds somewhat.  I guess it just depends on how many Hall of Fame voters were also those media people who were all bent out of shape about his antics.  I could see that going either way, but it’s hard to see that as a deal-breaker.

What’s very much in Beastmode’s favor is the fact that he was a motherfucking BEAST!  He had, without question, the greatest run in the history of the NFL, PERIOD!  And, if you search for a reel of highlights, I mean, he’s amazing.  For me, he’s on a short-list with guys like Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Jim Brown and maybe that’s it, of guys I just love to watch run with the football.  Guys who could do ANYTHING with the football!  With that mystique behind him?  Compared to Shaun Alexander, who has this reputation for being a bit soft (which I don’t think is totally fair, but it’s out there), I dunno.  I think that pulls Marshawn Lynch up even with Alexander, when you factor in total numbers plus the popularity contest element.

Then, take a look at playoff numbers.  Because I think this is obviously where Terrell Davis got over the hump, with the two Super Bowls and all that.  Davis is 6th all time in playoff yards with 1,140.  Each of the top 7 guys on this list (and 8 of the top 9) are in the Hall of Fame.  Ready for a shocker?  Marshawn Lynch is 8th on this list (and hence the only one of the top 9 not in the Hall) with 937 yards.  That, I think, is going to be a huge feather in his cap, if and when Lynch ever gets his day in the sun.

So, where do you look next?  I’ll tell you:  the era.  Shaun Alexander played in the last era of the great running backs.  Once he hung ’em up, and teams started realizing you could find quality running backs later in the draft, and pair them in these shared backfields teams have gone to, to mitigate injury risk and running back paydays, you just don’t see as many workhorses as you used to.  In that sense, Marshawn Lynch has a leg up, because he was a rare breed in that regard.  A workhorse and right up there at the top for his 4-year Peak run with Adrian Peterson and that’s about it.

At this point, once we start passing by the Hall of Famers in the first decade of the 2000s and get into the 2010s, you have to shift your expectations for what a Hall of Fame running back looks like.  You can’t just STOP putting running backs in the Hall of Fame, because their numbers aren’t like the video game numbers of the 1990s and early 2000s!

So, I could see a legitimate situation where Shaun Alexander never gets in (which would be a crime) and Marshawn Lynch does get in (which would be well-deserved).

I just hope the media guy who advocates for those two puts up a good fight, because I now think both are VERY deserving, especially if Terrell Davis is already in there.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

I’m still firmly in the camp of the Seahawks being the best team in football until some other team (or teams) jump out and prove themselves superior … but I can’t help having these nagging worries.  Doesn’t it feel like something’s a little off about this year’s team?  I read all these quotes and they’re as encouraging as always:

  • About how our stars are working harder than ever before
  • About how guys are in the best shapes of their lives
  • About how everyone is still hungry and that winning a Super Bowl has only made them hungrier

But, I dunno.  This is more of a gut feeling than anything, but it just feels like we’re going through the motions.  Like, everyone’s on auto-pilot until they decide to turn it on and ramp it up.  Which, in most cases, our auto-pilot is better than most other teams’ 100% effort, but it’s still cause for concern.

I just wonder why it looks so BLAH out there.  Is it Super Bowl Hangover?  Is it because we know we’re so very good, we can’t see anyone else as a threat?  Like that smart kid in school who acts out because he’s not challenged?  Or, have we lost our heart?

Golden Tate, Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons all play for other teams.  They were all either released, or it was made very clear to them that we didn’t want them back or need them back.  Those three guys were also three of the biggest personalities on the team.  Tate had a swagger about him that was the perfect complement to Beastmode’s tenacious desire.  He could dish out the shit-talking and he could back it up.  When the offense or special teams needed a big play, Tate’s sheer force of will would make it happen, no matter what it required.

Red Bryant was the leader on defense.  Not the signal-caller – that job belongs to Wagner – but he was the emotional leader for sure.  I can’t count the number of times I’d see him make a big play and then stomp around like a rabid elephant, barking at everyone around him that they were NOT going to run it in his direction!  Everyone looked up to him and voted him defensive captain.  It can’t be easy to lose that, because there’s a void bigger than his 330-pound frame left in his place.

And, by all accounts, Chris Clemons was the resident hard ass.  He’s all business, and he’s in the business of tearing some new assholes out of opposing quarterbacks.  When you look at these three guys, the word that comes to mind is:  intensity.  They had it, and we’ve lost it.  Sure, Earl Thomas brings the fire.  But, even he seems a bit scaled back this year.  I see it a little more in Bobby Wagner, which is nice, but it would be better to see it out of more guys.  I don’t care what anyone says, we need emotional leaders to step up.  When you tack on the loss of Michael Robinson, Sidney Rice, and so on, this could be a major problem for this team going forward.

The main take-away after two games is:  opposing offenses are going to be in no-huddle mode as much as possible, to prevent us from substituting on defense.  Part of me says, “BRING IT ON, BITCH!”  But, part of me also knows that subbing guys in and out regularly is what kept this team fresh, especially along the defensive line.

Now, obviously, not all teams are going to be able to do this, but the good ones will.  We were successful against Green Bay, but we were a trainwreck against San Diego.  Maybe it WAS just the weather and other circumstances that prevented us from playing our best last week, or maybe that’s just how it’s going to go:  the best teams are going to go no-huddle, and sometimes we’ll win, and sometimes we’ll lose.  The bad thing about that is:  if we want the #1 seed again, we can’t afford to lose too many games.  Three is about the limit.  We’ve already lost one, with Denver coming to town in a few days.  If we start the season 1-2, it’s going to require a ton of effort and a lot of luck to get back to 13-3.

I’m not in “Sky Is Falling” mode just yet.  I won’t even be in “Sky Is Falling” mode if we lose to the Broncos this weekend.  I know that our schedule has an 8-game creamy center of easiness that should have us red hot by the time we play the 49ers and Eagles in late November/early December.  I also know that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.  No one ever won a Super Bowl in September.  I’d MUCH rather we play our best football in December and January instead of right now.

But, while slow starts aren’t necessarily fatal, they can hurt an awful lot.  For my own peace of mind, I’d be delighted to see the Seahawks stick to taking care of business against these pass-first offenses like they’re supposed to.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Until further notice, this year will resemble 2013 in a lot of ways:  it’s the Seahawks & Broncos in some order at the top, and then everyone else.  No loss to an old AFC West foe – that we will never face again this year – will change that.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-0) – The proof will be in the pudding this weekend as the Broncos travel to Seattle.  They’re 2-0 at home with a couple comfortable 1-score victories.  Let’s see if they can take their show on the road in their toughest matchup of the year.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) – This is as complete a team as it gets, with their feisty defense.  Losing A.J. Green isn’t ideal, so it’ll be interesting to see how they manage until his return.
  4. New Orleans Saints (0-2) – The defense scares me, but it also hasn’t had a chance to get a home game under its belt.  My feeling is that it can’t get much worse, and the offense will start clicking.  Bank on the Saints being one of those rare 0-2 teams to win a division.
  5. New England Patriots (1-1) – Start on the road in 3 of their first 4 and 4 of their first 6 games of the season.  That’s rough.  They’re still good (though, it’s possible Miami is better than we thought).
  6. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – Hahahaha, I can’t believe I gave up on that Bears game and they ended up coming back to win!  What a gift!  49ers still look pretty strong, considering their injuries.  But, if their offense doesn’t take the next step, this team will be doomed.
  7. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – Well, they blew a late lead on the road against what appears to be a better-than-expected Cardinals team.  Then, they gave the Seahawks the business.  This team’s legit.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, and yes, their offense is explosive.  But, it should probably be concerning that they keep starting games so shabbily.
  9. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – Is it possible the Packers are WORSE than expected?  Well, I didn’t expect them to win their division, so maybe they’re just “as expected” in my book.
  10. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – If they can continue to play teams tough, even without Carson Palmer, that doesn’t make me feel good.  Their immediate future is a little rocky with games against the 49ers, Broncos, and Eagles coming up in the next few weeks; I don’t think they stay a Top 10 team for long.
  11. Carolina Panthers (2-0) – I must say, this is a pleasant surprise if you don’t hate the Panthers.  I still have my doubts that they’ll be able to continue winning over the long haul, but they’re clearly not the bottom-feeders I thought originally.
  12. Indianapolis Colts (0-2) – You look at Andrew Luck – if you’re an objective football viewer and not necessarily a fan of either the Colts or the Seahawks – and you think:  yeah, I’d rather have him over Russell Wilson.  I guess he passes the eyeball test or whatever.  But, he’s streaky!  He goes through long periods of sucking before turning it on.  Yes, he’s able to generate breathtaking comebacks in those games where they start so poorly, but you have to ask yourself:  is he part of the problem?  Or, conversely, if you swapped quarterbacks, and Luck got to enjoy all the talent around him that the Seahawks have to offer (along with a coaching staff that preaches ball control and plays a different style of offense than the Colts), would he be better than he is right now, on the Colts?  Would Wilson be remarkably worse if he played in Indy and had a crap defense with no running game and a pass-first mentality?  These are the questions.  I don’t necessarily have the answers, though.
  13. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – I’m still in wait-and-see mode with this team.  They strike me as a team right around .500, but who knows?
  14. Chicago Bears (1-1) – So, they lay an egg at home against the Bills, then they lay another egg on the road in San Francisco before getting hot in the 4th quarter to steal one.  Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m still not buying the Bears as a legitimate playoff team.
  15. Detroit Lions (1-1) – Well, they’ve beat up on a terrible Giants team, then got throttled by a sneaky good Panthers team.  Probably not the start they envisioned, but then again I don’t think the rest of the teams in that division are all that great either.
  16. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – You put a good defense in front of Matt Ryan and he’s going to struggle.  The good news is, they don’t play what I would consider another “good” defense for another nine weeks.  And, by then, who knows where the Panthers will be?
  17. Miami Dolphins (1-1) – No, I don’t think Buffalo is all that good.  I think the Dolphins kicked one they should’ve won.  Their schedule going forward is pretty cheesy, so they SHOULD still be able to parlay that into a good record.  But, watch out for games like we saw last weekend, because they’ll show up again.
  18. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – That’s a bad team right there.  But, they’re in a bad division and their offense is kinda okay.  If they manage to stick with the run game, their offense could even be GREAT.  Or, at least good enough to keep them in enough ballgames to be interesting.
  19. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) – They’re screwed.  They’re even more screwed if Jamaal Charles goes down.
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) – Probably not as bad as that Thursday performance, but still not very good.  Their defensive line is shot, their secondary is less-than-ideal, and their cap situation is a joke.  You’re going to hear the words “Blow Up” when it comes to the Steelers more than a few times this year.  These are the lean times.
  21. Buffalo Bills (2-0) – Well, if any city deserves a pleasant surprise, it’s Buffalo.  I wouldn’t expect it to last though.
  22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) – Lost two home games and two conference games (one in the division).  THAT’S what we call a bad start.  Every year, I get sucked into the Bucs and every year they come out of the gate in a fucking coma.  Now, they play three straight on the road, starting with tonight in Atlanta (followed by Pittsburgh and New Orleans).  Can you say 0-5?
  23. Tennessee Titans (1-1) – They won a game 26-10 and lost a game 26-10.  Those are weird scores to have in a football game, let alone in back-to-back games.  That’s all I have to say about the Titans.
  24. New York Jets (1-1) – I’m even more interested in what the Jets have to offer after almost sticking it to the Packers.  They’re not a good team, don’t get me wrong; but can they be decent?
  25. Cleveland Browns (1-1) – I know the Browns can be decent!  Do they weirdly have the Saints’ number, or is it just me?
  26. Washington Redskins (1-1) – I’m definitely more afraid of the Redskins with Cousins than I am with RGIII.  A lot of unhappy fantasy owners this week.
  27. St. Louis Rams (1-1) – You still have to write off the Rams, right?  Yeah, I think so.  I think so …
  28. Houston Texans (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, but they’ve only played the dregs of the league.  Washington and Oakland?  No thank you.
  29. New York Giants (0-2) – This team is amazingly bad and in need of a total overhaul from top to bottom.  They remind me a lot of the 2008/2009 Seahawks.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-1) – I don’t know how much you can learn about a team that’s faced one of the worst teams (with a ton of injuries) and one of the best teams.  One thing is for certain:  Matt Cassel needs to be out of football.
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-2) – Derek Carr isn’t quite the world-beater I thought he was going to be.  Then again, they’ve faced two pretty solid defenses with the Texans and Jets.  Doesn’t get much easier with the Patriots and Dolphins coming up.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – In a freak occurrence, they took a 17-0 lead against the Eagles.  They have since been outscored 75-10.  Worst team in football, you’ve returned to me!

Looking Ahead To YOUR 2014 Seattle Seahawks

This was me last year.  I predicted the Seahawks would go 13-3, take the #1 seed in the NFC, and beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  Last year’s NFL season was so easy to predict, I actually managed to correctly guess 2 of the Seahawks’ 3 losses (Indy & at SF, with my lone boner being the Atlanta game).  Of course, when you’re predicting the fortunes of a team this good, it’s hard to be wrong.  Just pick the Seahawks to win every game and you’re bound to be mostly right!

These Seahawks aren’t too different from the 2013 Seahawks.  Off the top of my head (so, forgive me if I forget a few), here are the players no longer on the roster, who had at least a minor impact on last year’s championship squad:

  • Golden Tate (#1 receiver)
  • Michael Robinson (fullback)
  • Paul McQuistan (guard/tackle)
  • Breno Giacomini (starting right tackle)
  • Kellen Davis (3rd tight end)
  • Sidney Rice (receiver)
  • Michael Bowie (guard/tackle depth)
  • Chris Clemons (starting LEO defensive end)
  • Red Bryant (starting 5-tech defensive end)
  • Brandon Browner (starting cornerback)
  • Walter Thurmond (nickel cornerback)
  • Clinton McDonald (backup defensive tackle)
  • Chris Maragos (backup safety)
  • Heath Farwell (IR) (backup linebacker)

On paper, that looks like a lot.  But, it’s pretty easy to spot which players were REALLY important to our success in 2013, and which players were sort of along for the ride.

Golden Tate is obviously the biggest blow.  He was our top receiver and punt returner.  He’s playing for Detroit now and should put up monster numbers while playing alongside Calvin Johnson.  His loss is mitigated somewhat by having a fully healthy Percy Harvin.  If Harvin can play all or the majority of games in 2014, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that our passing game (and offense as a whole) should actually IMPROVE.  Yes, Tate is a good player, but Harvin is on a completely different level of greatness.

Our offensive line depth took some big hits, and that’s going to be a concern.  No doubt about it.  I’d go out on a limb and say losing Paul McQuistan is addition by subtraction, though.  He’s getting up there in age and probably shouldn’t be an everyday starter going forward.  His best position is guard, but he was also our backup left tackle last year when Okung went down.  As a tackle, McQuistan is THE WORST.  So, not having him around to tempt the coaches into starting him when Okung ultimately gets hurt again is probably for the best.

Michael Bowie was always a depth guy last year, who got some serious playing time with all the injuries we suffered.  He was going to contend for the starting right tackle spot this year – and many had penciled him in as the favorite coming into Training Camp.  But, what no one expected was Bowie coming into camp overweight and/or out of shape, as well as injured.  He was ultimately released and the starting right tackle job has been given to rookie 2nd rounder Justin Britt.  In the long run, going with Britt now hopefully will prove to be the smart choice.  But, in the short term, we’re probably going to feel the sting of losing Giacomini.  I really liked him and thought he was solid when healthy.  But, again, you can’t afford to pay everyone, and you’ve got to get younger whenever possible to keep the roster fresh and vibrant (and to be able to afford expensive extensions to your stars).  I think by season’s end, Britt will have made us all forget about Giacomini’s reign of terror.  But, in the early going, it could be rough.

No one is worried about losing Sidney Rice, because he never really impacted this roster to the extent his contract would have dictated.  Jermaine Kearse is more than capable of picking up the slack.  Michael Robinson was on his last legs, plus fullback isn’t an important position.  Ditto the third tight end spot.  So, that rounds out the losses to our offense.

Defensively, our line took a big hit.  Clemons and Bryant were both starters and were both critical to stopping opposing offenses from running the ball.  McDonald was a pleasant surprise, capable of generating good pressure on the quarterback with our second unit.  Being able to interchange our linemen so frequently ultimately helped keep everyone fresh and healthy when it came time to make our playoff run.

In their place, Michael Bennett was extended; he’ll play a bigger role.  Cliff Avril will move into the starting LEO spot.  Kevin Williams was signed as a free agent.  In his prime, Williams was one of the best defensive tackles in the league.  He’s older now, but with reduced snaps – and playing alongside the elite talent we’ve got – he should prove to at least be as effective as McDonald.

Where we’re really going to be tested is in our depth.  Last year, our second-unit defensive line featured Bennett and Avril (it was truly an embarrassment of riches).  This year, they’re starting, and we’ve got to find replacements.  Cassius Marsh is a promising rookie out of the 4th round who can play on the end and on the inside.  But, he’s been dinged up quite a bit in the pre-season, so durability is in question.  Greg Scruggs is back and healthy this year, but he didn’t show a whole helluva lot in the pre-season.  It looks like he can play both outside & inside as well, but I don’t know if he’s any good at either.  O’Brien Schofield was one of the biggest surprises in camp, as he fought off Benson Mayowa for one of the final roster spots.  Schofield was on the team last year, but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time (and didn’t really deserve a whole lot of playing time, considering the talent around him).  He was signed away by the Giants in the offseason, but they ended up backing out of the deal, worried about possible injuries.  So, the Seahawks swooped in and re-signed him to a small number; he could be the steal of the off-season!  I have to imagine he’s the backup LEO behind Avril at this point, with the potential to join our NASCAR defense and play on the same line as Avril, Bennett, and either Marsh or Williams, with Irvin coming from the linebacker spot.

No, we’re not as deep as we were last year, but it could be close enough if Schofield shows up to play.

We have similar depth issues with our secondary as well.  We ultimately lost Browner and Thurmond for long stretches late in the season last year, but we found that Byron Maxwell was more than up to the task of being the starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.  Maxwell is back – on the last year of his deal – so we should be okay there.  But, again, the depth has taken a hit.

With Thurmond gone, Jeremy Lane steps up.  I like Lane and think he has the potential to be as good or better than Thurmond; but, right now Lane is injured, so that’s troubling.  Tharold Simon was a rookie last year and never played thanks to injuries.  He looks to be back and healthy now (though, like Lane, he’s suffering through some nagging something or other at the moment), and he also looks capable of being another in a long line of productive outside cornerbacks.  Where we’re light is in the nickel corner spot, which is why we recently traded for Marcus Burley for a 6th round pick in next year’s draft.  I know pretty much nothing about him, but apparently he had a pretty good camp this year.  And, apparently he’s pretty fast and super athletic.

I’m less inclined to worry about the secondary than the D-Line, because our starters are intact.  And our backup safeties are top-notch, with DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson.  Shead, especially, can play both the safety and corner spots, so in a pinch we can totally put Shead in the nickel and be fine.

With our linebackers healthy and peaking at the right time, we should be just fine on defense.  Yes, we lost Farwell – who was our special teams captain – but we picked up Brock Coyle, an undrafted rookie, who could be Farwell 2.0.

***

So, those were the primary changes between 2013 and 2014.  Next, we’ll look at what’s the same.

When I was younger, I would’ve taken the position that:  if you’ve got a championship team, just keep that team together for as long as possible.  Indeed, the 95/96 Supersonics were a championship-calibre team (they just ran into the buzz-saw that was the greatest team of all time, with those Jordan/Pippen/Rodman 72-win Chicago Bulls).  If the 96/97 Sonics wouldn’t have tinkered so much (like signing Jim McIlvaine to a monster contract), they could’ve made serious runs at a title for the next 2-3 years.  Same goes for the 1995 Mariners.  Just keep that team together and make some moderate improvements to the pitching staff.  DON’T trade Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the fucking Yankees and hand them a million championships!

But, there’s one main difference between the NBA/MLB and the NFL:  keeping the team intact for too long will ultimately kill your franchise in football.  The shelf life for good-to-great baskeball and baseball players is WAY longer than it is in football.  In the NFL, if you’re approaching 30, you’re approaching retirement.  The ideal scenario in the NFL is to get young, coach those young players into being stars, and then constantly churn about 20% of your roster every year, where you’re shipping off the older players and infusing with young talent through the draft (or among the undrafted).

Could the Seahawks have retained Golden Tate, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Breno Giacomini?  Yeah, I think I can envision a scenario where we make it all work for at least one more year.  But, then we wouldn’t have gotten the team-friendly extensions for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Doug Baldwin.  We wouldn’t be in a position to make Russell Wilson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league next year.  Getting those guys done early (not counting Bennett, who was an unrestricted free agent at the time) is supremely important (as you can see by the subsequent cornerback deals for Patrick Peterson and the like, which were higher than what we ended up giving Sherman).

Yes, there were some losses to the roster.  There will always be losses to the roster.  Teams have to make important decisions each and every year.  Next year, we’re looking at the possibility of not having Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, James Carpenter, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, and Cliff Avril around.  I would anticipate at least a few of those players WILL be here, but that’s life in the NFL.  You never know.

Most importantly to the Seahawks chances in 2014 will be who is still around.  This is still a MONSTER of a lineup:

  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Marshawn Lynch (RB)
  • Percy Harvin (WR)
  • Doug Baldwin (WR)
  • Jermaine Kearse (WR)
  • Zach Miller (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Christine Michael (RB)

And those are just the skill position players!  Our offensive line is 4/5 intact (and looking MUCH improved at the guard positions, with Carpenter in the “best shape of his life” and with Sweezy having bulked up while still retaining his athleticism).  And, we’ve got a couple rookie receivers who may not make much of an impact this season, but who should prove to be important for many years to come.

Then, on defense, you’re looking at:

  • Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
  • Cliff Avril (DE)
  • Brandon Mebane (NT)
  • Tony McDaniel (DT/DE)
  • Bobby Wagner (MLB)
  • K.J. Wright (OLB)
  • Bruce Irvin (OLB
  • Malcolm Smith (OLB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)

I’d still put that defense up against any other defense in the NFL.  Depth will be an issue, but depth is an issue pretty much everywhere, every year.  This is still a Top 5 defense unless we just get absolutely crushed with injuries.

***

Now, it’s time for my favorite part of any preview post:  predicting the schedule results.

Week 1, vs. Green Bay, 5:30pm (Thursday Game)

I go back and forth on this one.  Like, 85% of me believes this will be a comfortable Seahawks victory.  14% of me believes this will be a nailbiter of a Seahawks victory.  And, that last 1% seems to think that Green Bay can come in here, withstand all the craziness, and pull off a huge upset.

Are you kidding?  A week’s worth of build-up.  The city shutting down large areas of SoDo and Pioneer Square.  A pre-game concert.  THE UNVEILING OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP BANNER!  All of that alone would be enough to have the loudest 12th Man presence in the history of the world, but I expect there to be a hidden edge to this game.  The NFL cursed us with this game being the only home game played at night.  They’d have you believe that’s just the way it shook out, but I’m CONVINCED it’s because we keep crushing our opponents whenever we have a night game at home, and they’re tired of televising blowouts.  With this being our only chance to shine on a national stage (unless we somehow have one of our late-season games flexed), I think the 12th Man is going to take it to another level.  Look for this to be somewhere in the range of 38-17, Seahawks.

Week 2, at San Diego, 1:05pm

The schedule this year will be famous for the difficult first three games and the difficult final five games.  This has “Trap Game” written all over it.  Hangover from our season-opening win, combined with a rematch of the Super Bowl NEXT week back at home.  Considering the Chargers should be plenty good this year, I’m not calling this one a walk-over by any stretch.  In fact, I could see this being pretty high-scoring.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are able to do just enough to pull out a 33-30 victory.

Week 3, vs. Denver, 1:25pm

No chance.  No way, no how we lose this game.  I do think we’re looking at a closer contest, but that’s only because I think the Broncos’ defense has improved enough to warrant it.  Losing Wes Welker to suspension certainly hurts the Broncos.  Indeed, I think they’ll try to lean on their running game like they did in the pre-season.  How our defense responds will be key.  The Seahawks still win, but we’re looking at a 24-20 type game.

Week 4 – BYE

Bullshit.  Complete and utter bullshit.  I would’ve rather had the alternate NFL schedule that put the Seahawks on the road for three straight weeks over having a BYE in September.  For the record, NO team should have a BYE week in September.  They should all be clustered in late October and early November, to make it fair for everyone.  Either that, or break down and give every team two BYE weeks per year, because this shit is ridiculous.

Week 5, at Washington, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

If the NFL didn’t want to televise blowout Seahawks victories, they probably shouldn’t have put this game on the schedule.  Indeed, there appears to be a lot of dogs when it comes to the Monday Night slate this year; don’t know how that worked itself out, but I’d be pissed if I ran ESPN.  The Redskins don’t have a defense that can anywhere REMOTELY hang with our speed.  44-10, Seahawks victory.

Week 6, vs. Dallas, 1:25pm

This game is my wet dream.  A pass-first offense without a bona fide slot receiver and a shaky quarterback who takes too many chances?  If Richard Sherman doesn’t get his hands on at least 8 balls (interceptions, tips, etc.), I’ll be shocked.  35-17 Seahawks (and that’s only because it’s going to be 28-3 at halftime and we end up running out the clock in the second half; we could probably drop 50 on them if we tried for the full game).

Week 7, at St. Louis, 10am

The League did do us one favor with the schedule:  we’ve only got three 10am starts this year.  This is the first one.  No Sam Bradford, no win for the Rams.  Last year, we were lucky to come away from this game with a victory, needing a last-second goalline stop to preserve it.  This year, I’m expecting more of an easier go.  We’re not going to be perfect; they do still have a solid defensive line.  But, 27-13 is in order.

Week 8, at Carolina, 10am

Back to back road games starting at 10am Pacific time.  I’m already on record as saying that I think Carolina is going to struggle mightily this year.  But, this is still a road game on the East Coast, so a victory won’t come easy.  I’m looking at something like 19-9, with a LOT of field goals.  Seahawks improve to 7-0.

Week 9, vs. Oakland, 1:25pm

I like catching Oakland here.  Derek Carr will have had some bumps in the road by now, so his confidence will likely be shaken.  Their veterans on defense will be wearing down and/or injured by this point.  I’m expecting an easy victory, if maybe a sloppy one.  Still, we should take it going way, 27-6.

Week 10, vs. NY Giants, 1:25pm

Give me Eli, give me a nothing defense, and give me no weapons on offense.  Is it possible to shut out a team in back-to-back years?  I think so!  44-0, Seahawks.

Week 11, at Kansas City, 10am

Final morning game.  Kansas City is sure to come back to Earth this year, as their defense is worse and they still did nothing to improve the offense around Jamaal Charles.  Nevertheless, I got a feeling this one will be closer.  I’m looking at a 34-28 victory for the Seahawks.

Week 12, vs. Arizona, 1:05pm

There will be no repeat of last year’s fluke Cardinals victory in Seattle.  The defense is remarkably worse and Carson Palmer is remarkably a year older.  I’m sensing a 33-7 Seahawks victory.

Week 13, at San Francisco, 5:30pm (Thanksgiving)

The Seahawks will be the talk of the nation coming into this game, as their 11-0 record is the best in football.  However, their relatively tame schedule to this point (highlighted by poor seasons out of the teams they’ve played in recent weeks) will give pundits cause for concern:  is this team really as good as their record?

It will be at this point that I will give just about anything to steal a win in Santa Clara.  EVERY YEAR I keep thinking:  this will be the time.  And every year, the 49ers end up finding a way to pull it out.  I can’t remember the last time we won down there, but I’m sure it was the best day of my life.

Unfortunately, this year will be no different (prove me wrong, Seahawks!), as the underwhelming 49ers find a way to pull it out.  I’m thinking 28-24, Seahawks lose to go to 11-1.

Week 14, at Philadelphia, 1:25pm

Many pundits are eyeballing this as a defeat for the Seahawks.  The Eagles were pretty good last year; their offense is and was on point.  Could be looking at another Trap Game, as this one is sandwiched between the two games against the 49ers on our regular season schedule.

I don’t see it, though.  I think the Seahawks’ offense is the story of this game.  I’m looking at something around 44-34, Seahawks win.

Week 15, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

And here is the game where we kill the 49ers, like we do every time they come to town.  Nothing fancy, just making Kaepernick our bitch.  31-13, Seahawks.

Week 16, at Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

By this point, I’m expecting to see the Cardinals in full give-up mode.  Carson Palmer will be either benched or injured, and their backup will be some lame-ass.  Their defense will still be terrible and the Seahawks will roll, 38-10.

Week 17, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

At this point, we’ll be 14-1 and we will have wrapped up home field advantage.  So, it’ll come down to a couple things:  how long will our starters play in this game, and how well will our backups hold the fort?

For the record, I DO think our starters will get at least some play.  My guess is, anywhere from 1 to 2 quarters.  Yes, Seahawks fans will lose their God damn minds (as, again, the Rams have the best defensive line in football, and the last thing we need is for Russell Wilson to take unnecessary hits).  I don’t think we’ll be necessarily all that sharp though.

In the end, the backups come in and they’ll get pushed around a little bit.  The Rams will make a late-game comeback, and the Seahawks will lose.  Something like 24-17.

The Seahawks will be 14-2, and in spite of the final-week defeat, will be on fire as a football team heading into the playoffs.  I think ultimately the schedule will prove to be easier than last year’s, as a lot of the teams we THINK will be good are ultimately not.  I think the 49ers start to decline, even though they’ve got enough talent to still be pretty okay.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are just too good.  They’re too talented, they’re strong at every position group, and they’ll have enough depth to push through and overcome any injuries in their way (except for the quarterback position, of course).

Yes, repeating as world champions is one of the most difficult things to do.  Hell, just winning ONE championship is one of the most difficult things to do!  But, we’re in a once-in-a-lifetime window here where the Seahawks are the best team in football.  Now, it’s time to go out and show the world just how great we truly are.

Predicting The 2014 NFL Season

This was me last year.  I like doing these posts because I’m an idiot.  So, without further ado, here’s how I think the NFL season is going to go down.

(How’s that for an intro to get your juices flowing?)

NFC East

Philadelphia
NY Giants
Dallas
Washington

I tend to have a pretty good idea of where things stand – or, at least, where I THINK things will stand – by this point in the pre-season.  But, I’m more befuddled this year than probably any other year.  I start to REALLY second-guess myself when I start predicting repeat division champions, because that’s generally what all the national pundits go with and the national pundits are fucking morons.

That having been said, you might see a lot of repeaters out of me this year.  Since I can’t predict where injuries are going to fall, I have to look at straight up talent.  And Philly has it all over the rest of the teams in the East.  For the record, all four of these teams have just the worst defenses, but I think the Eagles have it a hair above the others.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see something of a bounce-back year out of the Giants and Eli Manning to perhaps get to 9 wins.  Dallas will score a lot and they’ll give up a lot, and Tony Romo will be Tony Romo.  Something in the 7-win range is in order.  RGIII is looking at a new coaching staff and probably some more growing pains.  If you’re a Redskins fan, you probably hate to see your young quarterback suffer coaching instability this early into his career.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay healthier this year, but also take a step back as they try to turn him into a pocket passer.  Watch out for a potential QB controversy here as well.

NFC North

Detroit
Green Bay
Chicago
Minnesota

Gotta take a chance in your predictions somewhere.  I thought Detroit was poised to crack the playoffs last year, but ultimately their coaching staff was comprised of nothing but fuckups.  Your team reflects that.  This year, they’ve got a calming influnece in Jim Caldwell.  I didn’t like him as much trying to follow Tony Dungy in Indy, but I like him here taking over a hyper-talented offense.  That team should be averaging 30 points per game; how they improve their rushing attack will dictate how efficiently they’re able to score.  And the defense HAS talented pieces.  I think Caldwell’s staff will be able to get the most out of this unit, and I think the Lions will push through to take the division with 10 or 11 wins.

I still think Green Bay will be good, but they’ve got a brutal schedule.  They start 4 of 6 on the road, including games at Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, and Miami.  They also have to go to New Orleans and Tampa, while catching New England, Atlanta, Carolina, and Philly at home.  Like I said:  BRUTAL.  Chicago still stinks on defense and shouldn’t be anything to worry about.  Jay Cutler is still Jay Cutler and he’ll continue taking stupid chances that will be picked off in big situations (Tony Romo-lite, as it were).  Minnesota will be a bottom-feeder.

NFC South

New Orleans
Atlanta
Tampa Bay
Carolina

You’re going to see a minimum of two playoff teams in this division, but I’ve got a feeling (and I’m staking my reputation on it) that we’ll see three.  I think New Orleans is – with Seattle – among the best two teams in the conference (and maybe in all of football).  Their offense is still amazing, but their defense REALLY impressed me last year, and only figures to get better as players gel and exceed expectations under their second year with Rob Ryan.  It’ll be neck-and-neck with the Saints and Seahawks for the top two seeds, but ultimately the Saints will win a minimum of 12 games and hang onto that second seed.

Elsewhere, with Atlanta healthy, they’re sure to rebound.  Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback and they’ve got one of the best wide receiver duos in the league with Julio Jones and Roddy White (still effective after all these years).  What you have to hope for, if we’re all being honest, is that Steven Jackson doesn’t get in the way.  He’s done.  He’s old and slow and useless.  MAYBE if they used him (when he gets healthy again) exclusively as a goalline back, he might be somewhat decent.  But, they’ve got to turn that running game over to the younger backs we’ve watched on Hard Knocks this year.  Defensively, they can’t help but improve just by having healthy bodies on the field.  Really, they have to do just enough to make other teams work for their points and let their offense get a lead.  The secondary is young and went through their growing pains last year; I would expect a good step forward out of them in 2014.

Tampa is my third playoff team.  Lovie Smith is a pro’s pro at head coach.  Josh McCown is a great pickup for them.  He should prove for that team what Alex Smith was for KC:  a steady influence that will manage the offense, keep mistakes to a minimum, and let the players around him be the stars.  Defensively, Tampa is stout.  Young and fast and hungry.  With Lovie’s defensive-mindedness, we should be looking at a Top 10 unit, with the upside of a Top 5.

As for Carolina, I just don’t see a repeat of 2013 in their immediate future.  As it was, they had practically no weapons on offense, and then they lost their top two receivers to free agency (well, Steve Smith was released, but still).  Their horrendous cap situation has destroyed this team, leaving no one around Cam Newton to pick up the slack.  He may be elite, but he can’t literally do EVERYTHING.  The defense lost some pieces too, which should contribute to their free fall in 2014.  If they get knocked around by the injury bug, you’re looking at a 4-win team.  At best, I think they’re only a 6- or 7-win team.

NFC West

Seattle
San Francisco
St. Louis
Arizona

I’ll get into this more on Thursday when I come out with my big prediction post, but I think the Seahawks – with this vastly improved offense and still-great defense – will get to 14 or 15 wins.  San Francisco’s defense is getting KILLED by injuries and suspensions.  Without that unit being a Top 5 (or even Top 10) unit, I think the offense will struggle as it’s tasked with carrying the load.  My guess:  8-9 wins and on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Elsewhere, I think the Rams are young enough and talented enough at certain spots to overcome the loss of Sam Bradford and look decent.  Maybe they struggle early, but I could see this team coming together and stringing some quality games out towards the end of the season.  Arizona is facing a similar situation with injuries and suspensions to their key defensive starters; they’ll take a step back in that area.  And, I still don’t buy that the coaches will give Ellington the superstar role he deserves.  With the atrocious Carson Palmer at the helm, I wouldn’t expect his health for anywhere near 16 games; and even when he IS healthy, I expect him to continue to be far below average.  That’s a 3-4 win team if I’ve ever seen one.

AFC East

New England
Miami
NY Jets
Buffalo

Tom Brady continues to be the man.  I don’t necessarily care for their receivers, but if Gronk can return to anywhere near his form two years ago, they’ll manage.  The running game is always a question mark for this team, but I think they’ll get by with their committee approach.  I like Miami’s potential on offense, as they bring in a new coordinator who worked with Philly last year.  Up-tempo, lots of short passes for Tannehill, and an improved running game should be just what the doctor ordered.  I REALLY wanted to pick them as a Wild Card team, but I think they’ll just miss out.  Still, we could be looking at a 9- or 10-win team, giving them hope for the future.  The Jets still should be good on defense, but I don’t think they’ll have enough on offense to win late in games.  Buffalo kind of looks like a trainwreck right now.

AFC North

Cincinnati
Pittsburgh
Baltimore
Cleveland

The AFC is where you’re going to see a lot of the repeat predictions out of me.  Cincinnati is a nice, well-rounded team.  Andy Dalton will probably never make the jump to elite status, and will thus struggle to win games in the playoffs.  But, in the regular season, against some of the lesser teams in the AFC, with the talent around him, he’ll continue to put up good-enough numbers to stay employed.  Defensively, I like them a lot.  Again, nothing flashy, but just all-around solid.  I’d expect a lot of 24-10 games out of this team in 2014.

Pittsburgh was an 8-8 team last year and they were old and injury-riddled throughout.  Their offensive line should improve just by staying healthy, if they can manage it.  Roethlisberger may be on the downside of his career, but he’s got enough in the tank for a couple/few more runs at the playoffs.  Antonio Brown is a stud, and if their running backs manage to bounce back from their weed-smoking infraction late in the pre-season, we could be looking at a very solid team.  How the Steelers will fare depends entirely on working in younger players on defense around the veteran starters they retained.  I think it’ll be just enough to snag a 6-seed.

Baltimore still looks to be reeling from that insane contract they gave Flacco.  Their running game sucks, and if they continue to lean on their wacky pass-first mentality, it figures to be a long season for them again.  Joe Flacco had that great Super Bowl run a couple years ago, but he’s not an elite quarterback.  Torrey Smith tantalizes in fantasy, but ultimately falls short of expectations.  Defensively, I’m not convinced they’ll be in the top half in the league.  And, as for Cleveland, you’re looking at one of the worst teams in football.  They’ll be drafting high again; so Browns fans better hope they have the general manager in place – with all of their draft capital – to rebuild smartly.

AFC South

Indianapolis
Jacksonville
Tennessee
Houston

Has anyone led a more charmed life than Colts fans over the last couple decades?  They have maybe the best quarterback of all time for the bulk of his career – culminating in two Super Bowl appearances and one title – then he gets injured for one year, they win the #1 pick, and they have the great fortune to draft Andrew Luck:  another guy who may end up as one of the best of all time.  AND, to top it all off, just as Luck comes into the league, the rest of their division totally falls apart, giving him every opportunity to win this division for the foreseeable future.  It’s Indy and everybody else in the AFC South.

I like Jacksonville to continue to improve under Gus Bradley.  Blake Bortles will contend with Derek Carr of the Raiders for best QB in his draft class.  Hopefully, they can bring him along slowly and give him a soft landing somewhere around mid-season.  I can easily see this team scratch its way to 8 wins.  I don’t think Locker will ever be able to stay healthy and prove what he’s capable of.  Even if he does play the bulk of their games, this just isn’t a good team.  They have an upside of probably 7 wins.  Houston will fight with Cleveland, Buffalo, and the Raiders for that top draft pick in next year’s draft.

AFC West

Denver
San Diego
Kansas City
Oakland

Manning has another year in him.  Their defense is vastly improved.  They shouldn’t miss Decker too much with Sanders in the fold.  The running game will always be secondary as long as Manning is behind the center.  This is a Top 2 team in the AFC.  San Diego should look even better than last year’s team that snuck into the playoffs.  They’ll still be a Wild Card team, but I like them to be one of the better Wild Card teams in football and give either Cincy or Indy a run for their money in that 4/5 playoff game.  Kansas City lost pieces in the defense and they still don’t have an elite receiver.  They’ll go as far as Jamaal Charles takes them, and I really wonder about his health.  The Raiders will start to be interesting as soon as they bench Schaub’s ass and put Carr into the starting role be much more exciting with Carr as a starter.  Carr may not light the league on fire the way he did against the Seahawks in that final pre-season game, but he’ll look plenty good and keep them in some ballgames.  Still, you hate to see one of the worst teams also as one of the oldest.  I could see injuries take this team down for the count early.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. New Orleans
  3. Detroit
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Atlanta
  6. Tampa Bay

AFC Playoffs

  1. Denver
  2. New England
  3. Indianapolis
  4. Cincinnati
  5. San Diego
  6. Pittsburgh

Wild Card Round

Detroit over Tampa Bay
Atlanta over Philadelphia
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
San Diego over Cincinnati

Divisional Round

Seattle over Atlanta
New Orleans over Detroit
Indianapolis over New England
Denver over San Diego

Championship Round

Seattle over New Orleans
Denver over Indianapolis

Super Bowl

Seattle over Denver

Predicting a repeat of the previous year’s Super Bowl matchup is about as hokey as it gets, I know.  But, one thing I won’t do is predict something different just because the odds are so far against a repeat matchup.  Seattle and Denver are, by far, the best two teams in football again this year.  And, it’s not like it’s an impossible feat – Dallas and Buffalo had a couple repeat Super Bowl matchups in the early 90s.

My thing is – and I’ll deny it to my grave if I’m wrong – I have a SERIOUS nagging worry that the Seahawks and Denver will both make it back to the Super Bowl, but it’ll be the Broncos hoisting the Lombardi trophy while we sit and watch, devastated.  Again, that’s not what I THINK will happen, but it’ll always be in the back of my mind until Peyton Manning breaks an ankle around midseason and completely blows up this predictions post.

For the record, I’m two for my last two in predicting Super Bowl matchups and Super Bowl winners.  I had Baltimore over San Francisco, and I had Seattle over Denver.  I’m on a pretty good run here, so let’s see if I can keep it going.

Taking An Early Look At Seahawks’ Strength Of Schedule

The narrative for this year is forever going to be:  It’s So Super Hard To Repeat As Super Bowl Champions, You Guys!

Nevermind the fact that most of these idiot pundits out there pick the same teams to win the Super Bowl every year, and a lot of them keep predicting the same two teams who played last to go back, because they don’t know any better than what they’ve seen most recently.  You’re either in two camps in this thing:  those who believe the Seahawks are at the beginning of their dynasty, and those who believe that dynasties don’t exist anymore, what with free agency and whatnot.  And, the overwhelming majority this year seem to be on the side that the Seahawks won’t repeat as champions.

They cite recent precedent:  there hasn’t been a repeat champion since since the 2004 Patriots.  So that’s, like, 9 Super Bowls in a row where we’ve had a different champion; ergo, this trend must continue forever.

They also cite the difficulty of the NFC West:  the Seahawks have to go through the next-best team in the NFL, and a couple of strong up-and-comers.  Every team in the NFC West has an elite defense.  Surely, the Seahawks won’t be able to make it through that gauntlet two years in a row!

Finally, they’ll have us take a look at strength of schedule:  8 of our 16 games are against teams who made the playoffs in 2013, with two more against Arizona who won 10 games and just missed out.

Look, it’s hard to argue with recent precedent.  Winning just ONE Super Bowl is a pretty daunting task!  You’ve got to make the playoffs, you’ve got to win 2-3 playoff games, and then you’ve got to beat the best (or the hottest) team from the other conference in the most hyped specacle of the year.  It’s HARD!  Why do you think it took the Seahawks so long to win their first one?  A lot of shit had to go right at the exact same time.  And even then, the Seahawks faced their share of adversity.

Which leads me to the second point, about the difficult NFC West.  Yes, it was the toughest division in football last year.   Yes, it’ll probably be the toughest division in football this year.  All four defenses have elite talent and all four offenses have what it takes to compete in just about every game.  Yes, the teams have improved, but I wouldn’t say that one team has dramatically improved over any other.  Each team scares me for different reasons, but no team has done enough to be better than the Seahawks.  I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but then again, it wasn’t easy last year either, and we still managed to go 13-3 and lock up the #1 seed.

So, ultimately, it’s going to come down to the schedule.  And yes, it looks scary on paper.  The AFC West might be the second-toughest division in football.  They sent three teams to the playoffs last year, but you have to figure that feat won’t be repeated again.  Injuries and regression appear to be in order.

So, let’s go through the list of games.

We kick off on Thursday, September 4th, in a nationally televised game at home against the Green Bay Packers.  I’m not saying they’re a bunch of push-overs, but come on.  The fans are going to be out of their MINDS for that game.  It always seems difficult to play elite teams – and the Packers figure to repeat as NFC North champions, so long as Rodgers can stay healthy – but catching them at home, in the first week, when our last game of significance was a Super Bowl championship?  I’d say that’s got walk-over written all over it.

Then, 10 days later, we go to San Diego.  I’ll admit, this game is a little troubling.  I could see the Chargers dinking and dunking it up and down the field on us; succeeding where the Broncos failed in the Super Bowl.  The Chargers don’t take too many chances down field like they used to, they’re a young and hungry team on the rise, and I fully expect this game to come down to a final possession.  Not the type of game you want to see early on your schedule.  Having the extra few days to prepare might make all the difference, but I could easily see us dropping this one.

The following week, we have the rematch with Denver on our home field.  Again, it’s a game you don’t like to see early on in your schedule.  If you’re like me, you get the nagging feeling that injuries are going to overwhelm the Broncos in 2014.  But, week 3 is probably too early in the season for those injuries to really break them down.  Either way, you like seeing your toughest opponents at home, so the Seahawks probably shouldn’t have much trouble in this one.

After the BYE week, we’ve got three of four on the road (@Was, vs. Dal, @St.L, @Car).  The defenses of the Redskins and Cowboys don’t scare me whatsoever.  Those feel like two games where we can really impose our will (and, since it’s still relatively early in the season when we’re playing in D.C., hopefully the field won’t be a sloppy shit-pile like it was the last time we played there).  Going to St. Louis is always a challenge, but I have no reason to believe that they’re better than us.  Here’s to hoping our offensive line can remain healthy and give Russell Wilson a chance back there.  Carolina will take a HUGE step back in 2014, because they’ve lost too many good players and because Cam Newton has zero weapons.  There’s a game you’d think you’re supposed to fear, but I’ll put good money down on the Panthers not making it back to the playoffs.

After that stretch, the Seahawks have 3 of 4 at home (vs. Oak, vs. NYG, @ KC, vs. Ari).  The Raiders are easily the worst team in the AFC West, they should be easily handled here in Seattle.  You’d think the Giants would be better in 2014 (as they can’t get much worse than they were in 2013), but that’s another game you like to see in Seattle.  They don’t have the weapons to hang with us three time zones away from home.  The Chiefs are probably one of the bigger regression candidates in the NFL.  They’ve lost some useful pieces, and had one of the easier schedules in 2013.  Nothing about them – outside of their starting running back – scares me, and Jamaal Charles has shown to be injury prone in the past.  Finally, we get Arizona back here for a rematch of last season’s shocking defeat – our only loss at home.  Like the Rams, I don’t see a reason why we should lose this game.  Because we’re better than them.  But, like the Rams, you can never really count them totally out either.

So far, through the first 12 weeks, I only see a couple games that scare me.  San Diego for sure, and Denver kinda (you gotta think that the Broncos have revenge on their minds; they’ve also got a radically improved defense thanks to free agent pickups in Ware & Talib).  The Rams and Cardinals scare me a little bit, but again, they’re just not better than us, so to defeat us would be a fluke.

Then, the meaty part of the schedule comes into play.  A Philadelphia Eagles sandwich with the 49ers as the bread.  We go to Frisco on Thanksgiving night, so that’s great.  Not gonna lie to you, that one has loss written all over it.  I hate playing them on Thursdays (of course, I hate Thursday games period, but that’s neither here nor there).  Maybe we’ll get lucky and the 49ers will run into a slew of injuries at all their key positions.  Somehow, I doubt that.  Then, we go all the way to Philly.  Again, we get 10 days off, so that’s nice.  This game actually looks pretty solid, as it’ll be strength against strength:  their explosive offense vs. our explosive defense.  In the end, this reminds me of the Super Bowl all over again, as our offense is leaps and bounds better than their defense.  You have to expect regression out of Foles, considering he was somewhat lucky in a lot of his big plays last year.  Also, they cut their best receiver in Desean Jackson; don’t think that won’t bite them in the ass.  We’ll see if they get enough out of Sproles to make it work, but he’s getting up there.  The following week, we play the 49ers again, this time in Seattle.  On a Sunday.  In the afternoon.  I’d gotten so used to playing them on national television, this is going to be a weird experience.  Of course, with the NFL clamping down on Seattle home games at night (because we keep embarrassing our opponents and making the games unwatchable blowouts), it’s to be expected.  I’d like to think the Seahawks could go 1-1 against the 49ers, but as always it’s a tall order.  Thankfully, Kaepernick gets the yips when he comes to Seattle, so it should work out.

Then, we close the season at Arizona and at home against St. Louis.  Two more semi-tough games that we should win.

All in all, there’s only two games outside of the division that really put the fear of God into me.  Every game inside the division puts SOME fear into me, but what are you gonna do?  Is it a tall order to repeat as champions?  Of course it is.  But, it’s far from impossible.

As always, it’ll come down to injuries.  We can’t suffer too many of them.  And, we’ve got to build up our depth to mitigate those that do hit us.  Keeping Russell Wilson alive will be our top priority.  After that, it’s just hoping that one position group doesn’t get hit inordinately harder than the others.  We’ve got the talent – more talent than most.  If we can keep that talent on the field, we should be able to defeat any team put on our schedule.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 11

I tend to have issues with people who consider their own opinions infallible.  Oh, you’re SO important that it’s impossible for you to even be SLIGHTLY wrong?  Fortunately, I don’t feel like this happens much to me in my daily life, but in sports it happens ALL THE TIME.

Referees and umpires.  Who needs ’em, right?  Well, I guess some of these games would devolve into chaos, but you know what?  They shouldn’t have the type of power they have over games.  These sports leagues have done what they can to take back some of that power with “instant replay”, but I would argue that they haven’t gone NEARLY far enough.

In the end, fans don’t REALLY care about how long these games are.  That’s a product of the media, giving voice to people who don’t really exist outside of the media.  Yeah, beat writers and such want the games to be shorter, because they don’t want to sit around for four hours or more doing their jobs.  It’s pretty pathetic when you think about it, but just look at it!  Who is arguing for less time “under the hood?”  It’s media types.  Period.  That’s why you always hear about them complaining whenever a baseball game goes into extra innings.  Oh, you poor thing, you get to write about sports for a living, and you have to stay a little longer!

The only thing fans care about is getting the call right.  It doesn’t matter if the game is 3 hours or 3:30 or even 4 hours.  They want to know they’re getting a game that’s judged fairly.

So, to think it’s okay that certain refs call certain penalties a certain way is an absolute joke.  These players already have to adjust to all the things the other team is throwing at them; now they’ve got to adjust their play to how the refs are calling pass interference?  And, as for baseball, a strike zone is a strike zone, and it shouldn’t matter who is behind the plate or if the batter is left-handed or not!

How would I change things?  For starters, no more umpires calling balls & strikes.  You use whatever technology they have to track balls and strikes and you go by THAT.  Instead of an ump, just have a couple of lights at the backstop:  red for a ball, green for a strike.  Let the umpire stand there if you want, but he’s only in charge of over-riding the system if a batter swings and misses (and the home plate ump no longer gets to stand behind the plate – he stands across from the batter, watching for checked-swings).  Oh, we’re not allowed to question your almighty judgment on balls & strikes with replay?  Fine, then we’re taking the job away from you altogether.

As for everything else in baseball, it’s all automatically reviewed.  There’s a guy from the MLB home office in every stadium, with no affiliation to the umpire’s union, and he calls for a stoppage of the game if there’s a missed call.  Like, a short stop’s phantom tagging of second base on a double play.  That shit won’t fly when I’m in charge!

As for football, all penalties can be reviewed.  I will never understand why teams aren’t allowed to question a penalty!  Or, an egregious non-call.  It’s absolutely absurd that referees get to have all of this unquestioned power over a football game!  Do you understand how many billions of dollars the NFL is worth?  And we’re letting these little panty-waists dictate the results of games?

Again, here, there would be an impartial observer to review penalties.  Someone who knows the rules inside and out, someone who can come on the broadcast and explain things for us (so the stupid refs don’t have to), and someone who won’t be swayed because they were once in Ed Hochuli’s shoes.

Also, I think all reviews in the NFL should be automatic.  Give coaches their two-to-three challenges just in case “Upstairs” doesn’t see something in time, but otherwise I want the game stopped on close calls.

We can do this, people!  If we put our minds to it, we can do anything!  By God, I won’t have another Super Bowl XL!  Not on my watch!

On to the rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (9-1) – Inside track for AFC West, and proof-positive that they’re the #1 team in the NFL.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (10-1) – Most fortunate BYE week of anyone in the NFL.  You’ve earned this rest, Seahawks.

The Rest:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) – Not going to call them a pretender, but they’re going to need to play better – and get Jamaal Charles more involved – if they’re going to take down the Broncos.
  2. Carolina Panthers (7-3) – Holy shitballs!  This team is for real!  Boy, are we lucky we caught them early, before Riverboat “Swingin’ Dick” Ron took control.
  3. New England Patriots (7-3) – The Colts gotta be pretty stoked about the Patriots losing like this.  It’ll be a shame for whichever team doesn’t get the #2 seed.  Then again, not as much of a shame as whichever team between the Chiefs/Broncos getting the #5 seed.  There outta be a law.
  4. New Orleans Saints (8-2) – The showdown for the NFC #1 seed in two weeks.  These Saints will lose.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (7-3) – Almost blew that to the Titans.  They will struggle without Reggie Wayne.
  6. San Francisco 49ers (6-4) – Not the same football team without Crabtree.  Now, they’re not even guaranteed to be a playoff team!
  7. Detroit Lions (6-4) – Playing defense like that is going to lose you that division title.
  8. Chicago Bears (6-4) – McCown is not stealing the starter’s job from Cutler.  He will be back in there when he’s healthy … just not a moment sooner.
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) – Even when Nick Foles doesn’t throw a TD pass, he still scores 30 fantasy points.  Fantasy Juggernaut!
  10. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) – Not a contender.  But, probably still a division winner.
  11. Arizona Cardinals (6-4) – I would have laughed and laughed if the Jags had beaten them.  As it stands, I’m just laughing and laughing because they have the same record as the 49ers.
  12. Green Bay Packers (5-5) – Will you PLEASE make Matt Flynn your starter?
  13. Miami Dolphins (5-5) – What can you say?  Solid win.  They’re still not a great team, but whatever.
  14. Dallas Cowboys (5-5) – Sorry Cowboys, your season is over.  The Eagles will F your S up.
  15. Baltimore Ravens (4-6) – All it took was one of the worst weather games in NFL history for the Ravens to remember they have Ray Rice on their team.  Fantasy owners would probably appreciate it if you gave him this type of attention the rest of the year.
  16. New York Giants (4-6) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Green Bay Packers, BFD.
  17. St. Louis Rams (4-6) – I think the Rams beat the 49ers the next time these two teams play.
  18. New York Jets (5-5) – Wasn’t this team supposed to be good on defense?  I guess it’s hard to be when your offense turns it over so much.
  19. San Diego Chargers (4-6) – Will people finally stop believing that this is a playoff team now?
  20. Cleveland Browns (4-6) – Whatever.
  21. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Yeah, I dunno.
  22. Tennessee Titans (4-6) – 4-6 record and second place in their divison.  Huh.
  23. Oakland Raiders (4-6) – Now THAT’S how you play with a backup quarterback!
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) – The Steelers & The Lions:  A Defensive Pillow Fight For The Ages.
  25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) – This team COULD approach a 7-9 record by season’s end.  Not too shabby after that start.
  26. Washington Redskins (3-7) – And yet, still not out of the NFC Least.
  27. Houston Texans (2-8) – Keenum benched?  What is this world coming to?
  28. Atlanta Falcons (2-8) – Just an awful, awful team.
  29. Minnesota Vikings (2-8) – I guess that’s that for Christian Ponder, yeah?
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Predicting The 2013 NFL Season

I’ve got a lot to live up to this year, based on my DOMINANCE last year.  I mean, who else can say they got 7 of 8 division winners and 8 of 12 playoff teams?  Nate Silver, this time you can suck MY dick!  Oh, by the way, I had three of four teams in their respective championship games, and I had the Super Bowl matchup exactly right.

Thank you, I WILL take a bow!

OK, so let’s see if I can avoid being biased by various off-season power rankings and such.  Who the shit knows, right?

NFC East

Washington Redskins
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles

One of the keys to any successful prediction column is to not pick the same exact teams every fucking year.  How many times do you see the Patriots and the Giants make the Super Bowl, followed by lumbering idiots predicting that those very same teams will make it BACK to the Super Bowl.  Do you know how HARD it is to repeat as divisional champs, let alone conference champs?  It’s safe and it’s stupid and you need to grow some balls if you’re going to get your answers right at the clip I plan on getting mine right.

That having been said, I feel that choosing the Redskins here is anything BUT safe.  Let’s face it, you’re going to run into more pundits hedging their bets on RGIII staying healthy than you will on them totally believing he will stay upright for a full 16.  Well, I’m going out on that limb.  When RGIII is healthy, the Redskins are far and away the best team in this division.  And that’s coming from a guy who irrationally likes the Cowboys and thinks they have real potential to win 10 games this year.  Then again, I think I like the Cowboys to win 10 games every year, so I dunno.  One of these times I gotta get it right, right?

NFC North

Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears

Look, I may not get a lot of things right, but I’m banking my reputation on the Bears finishing in last place in 2013.  Because as soon as Jay Cutler goes down with a season-ending injury, they will have NO ONE to fill his void!  And, that defense is going to take a serious step back.  They scored HOW many touchdowns on defense last year?  Yeah, you know that’s not sustainable.  Bank on the Bears taking a huge bear-sized dump.

If anyone was strong enough to listen to our 2013 NFL Predictions Podcast, I’m sorry, and if you send in your receipt, I’ll gladly give you your money back.  Anyway, if you did listen, you may remember that I chose the Detroit Lions as my surprise divisional champs.  Just know that I had been drinking for something like 12 hours straight that day, so my head was a little cloudy to say the least.  However, I do somewhat stand behind my bold choice in making the Lions a team to be reckoned with.  I see them also winning somewhere around 9-10 games, though I’m not ready to give them a Wild Card just yet.

AFC South

Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints

This division is ridiculously difficult to predict.  Honestly, I think they’re all going to kill themselves.  The winner will have 10 wins, the last place team will have 8 wins.  That’s what we’re talking about here.  I like the Falcons because I kinda HAVE to like the Falcons.  I’ve said on more than one occasion that Matt Ryan is a stud and not just because I lucked into him in my fantasy league (10 team league, each team gets 2 keepers in a 2-quarterback set-up that heavily favors passing yards & TDs; he fell to 6th in the opening round and I snapped him up like a boss).  I don’t think the Falcons are a 13-win team anymore, because I think their defense is iffy.  That having been said, I also think the Bucs are a 10-win team and I think they take a Wild Card spot on tie-breakers over both Dallas and Detroit.  The NFC is stacked.  There aren’t that many terrible teams in the bunch.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers
St. Louis Rams
Arizona Cardinals

The more I think about it, the more I keep talking myself into a 13-3 or 14-2 season for the Seahawks.  I’ll have this shit figured out tomorrow in my Seahawks Prediction Post, but for now just know that I have the Seahawks as my #1 seed overall, with a cakewalk into the Super Bowl.

I still got love for the 49ers (and again, not just because I was forced into keeping Colin Kaepernick on my fantasy team because I was a last place finisher and had no other good players to choose from; also, fuck you Eli Manning).  I have them anywhere from 10-12 wins, and at least three of those losses are coming within the division.  The Rams are solid and I have a sneaking feeling that they take a bigger step forward again this year.  I think Sam Bradford finally proves his worth, and I think this team wins 9 games.  I think the Cardinals stink and are one of the bottom 5 or 6 teams in the NFL.  Carson Palmer is a joke and there’s no way his interception-throwing ass is going to turn that team around.

Also, I should point out that just because I said up there, “I still got love for the 49ers” doesn’t mean that I literally LOVE them.  I do, in fact, hate them with a passion.  But, I don’t hate them enough to predict that they will be terrible record-wise, or enough to not keep their quarterback when I’m desperate for fantasy talent.  But, I digress.

AFC East

New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins
New York Jets
Buffalo Bills

Here’s where we start finding a bunch of terrible teams.  New England is bound to win this division like the Seahawks won the 2010 NFC West.  This year, it’s the AFC Least, as the bottom three teams should all have losing records.  I don’t like the way Miami is building that team at all and I think Tannehill continues to disappoint.  Maybe not in a Blaine Gabbert way, but close.  I think the Jets and Bills both win somewhere around 3-4 games and dogfight to the bitter end for one of the top five draft picks.  Personally, I have less faith in the Bills’ organization, which says a lot because I hate the Jets like I hate slow drivers in the fast lane.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens
Cleveland Browns

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again:  the Ravens will not go back to the playoffs.  Joe Flacco will have a hangover year (and probably throw a lot of picks in the process), their defense will be a work in progress, and they’ll win around 7 games.  I almost like the Browns more than the Ravens and think they’ll take 6 or 7 games, but I’m not a psychotic, so the Browns remain last.

Pittsburgh is one of my Wild Card choices, and for the life of me I can’t explain why in a way that sounds rational.  They tend to follow up bad seasons with reasonably good ones.  I think everyone in the NFL is sleeping on this team and it baffles me.  They still have a solid quarterback who can pull games out of his ass by himself.  They still have a solid foundation that will develop the talent required on defense to keep this team in ballgames.  I think they win 9 games and steal that final playoff spot (in a conference that isn’t very good anyway; I only have six teams in the AFC with winning records, so there you go).  Cincinnati is finally ready to explode and I’ve got them with a 2-seed and 11 wins.

AFC South

Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville Jaguars

I don’t like Indy.  I didn’t like them last year, as they were easily one of the luckiest teams in the league.  With their schedule and their proclivity to win close games, I think they come crashing down to Earth in a big way (regression alert).  Now, be that as it may, I still think Andrew Luck continues to improve.  But, he won’t be enough, as they finish 8-8.  Houston does just enough and probably wins something like 9 games.  I picked Tennessee over Jacksonville because of my love for Jake Locker, but I could also see this team being the very worst in the NFL.  I hope I’m wrong!

AFC West

Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders

Have you seen Denver’s schedule?  It’s incredible.  They play the AFC South (with two very bad teams and two so-so teams) and the NFC East (four so-so teams).  Granted, they have to go to Houston and Indy, but I think they go in there and have a very good chance of winning both.  They play the Giants and Cowboys on the road, but again, Denver is just better.  With their first place schedule, they play the Ravens and Patriots.  They get the Ravens at home later tonight in the first game of the season, and they go on the road to play the Pats, which will be very tough, as it’s in late November.  That’s probably a loss.  Still, they play in the AFC West, where San Diego and Oakland are as big of pushovers as you’ll find in the NFL.  That’s four wins right there.  Figure they go 3-1 against the AFC South (with an outside chance at 4-0) and 3-1 against the NFC East (again, with an outside chance at 4-0) and they go 1-1 against the Ravens and Pats.  That’s 11-3 with two games against Kansas City.  This is easily a 12-4 team that could win as many as 14 or 15 games.  I’m not even joking.  They’ll have the division wrapped up well before their final regular season game in Oakland, and even by playing all backups, they should still win that game!

This is why I made Denver my first pick in the Total Wins Pool me and my friends are doing.  Their chances to be great are off the charts.  Manning has a full year under his belt, he’s got the bad taste in his mouth from last season’s playoff defeat; I think he’s ready to go out and murder people.

That having been said, I like Kansas City.  As opposed to Miami – which I thought should have continued to build through the draft instead of going for a bunch of quick fixes – I think Kansas City was a lot better than their 2-win team in 2012.  Look at how many Pro Bowlers they have on that team!  Look at how many good offensive weapons they have!  With an average quarterback and a decent head coach, they could’ve won 8 or 9 games.  Well, they’ve got that average quarterback and they’ve got that decent head coach.  Andy Reid will fuck up Jamaal Charles, because he doesn’t know enough to run the football when he has one of the league’s best running backs, but he’ll be great for Alex Smith, and I think that’ll be enough to get them to 10 wins and the 5th seed.  Oakland is hopeless and will fight Tennessee, Buffalo, Jacksonville, and the Jets for the #1 overall draft pick.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. Washington Redskins
  4. Atlanta Falcons
  5. San Francisco 49ers
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

AFC Playoffs

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. New England Patriots
  4. Houston Texans
  5. Kansas City Chiefs
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers

Wild Card Round

Tampa Bay over Washington
Atlanta over San Francisco
New England over Pittsburgh
Kansas City over Houston

Divisional Round

Seattle over Tampa Bay
Green Bay over Atlanta
Denver over Kansas City
New England over Cincinnati

Championship Round

Seattle over Green Bay
Denver over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Denver

Think I’m excited for football season to start?  It’s not just because the Mariners are the worst thing ever created.  Think I’ll be freaking out if Seattle loses in week 1 to Carolina?  I might just jump off of a building …

A Companion Post: Who Might Want Beastmode Besides Seattle?

One thing I failed to explore in the previous post is:  what’s the market look like for a guy like Marshawn Lynch?

Yes, the Franchise Tag is a good cost-cutting tool when trying to re-sign a player.  But, a complete and utter lack of teams desiring to sign an over-priced running back is probably the best thing the Seahawks could ask for.

Of course, on Lynch’s side, you’ve got the age-old adage:  it only takes one.

So, let’s just go around the league.  For starters, you can count out the NFC East.  Dallas has any number of quality young backs already locked in (including super-stud DeMarco Murray who is sure to be a fantasy god for years to come).  The Giants appear to be set with Bradshaw and whoever else behind him.  The Redskins have a nice little stable of young backs.  And the Eagles have Shady McCoy (and, I imagine, not a whole lot of cap room to boot).

In the NFC North, I’m banking my life-savings (and one of my fantasy keepers) on the fact that they will retain Matt Forte.  Minnesota obviously has one of the very best backs in the league.  The Detroit Lions, however, could be interesting.  All they’ve got on their roster right now is Jahvid Best, and he’s a fucking injury waiting to happen!  It’s certainly NOT a good sign that he ended his season with concussions last year.  And, you’d have to think that for a young team trying to cultivate this bad-ass attitude, a guy like Beastmode would slide right in nicely.  Even MORE interesting are the Green Bay Packers.  You’ve got a team with an all-world quarterback, with a shitload of receivers, and with absolutely no running game to speak of whatsoever.  Ryan Grant is a free agent who has played his last game with the green and gold; James Starks is good, but he’s no Beastmode.  I gotta think Lynch might be just the piece to put the right balance into that explosive offense.

The NFC South will be no competition.  Atlanta still has a lot of money tied up in Michael Turner.  New Orleans drafted the top running back last season (and they have other money tied up in three or four other guys); plus, theirs is not an offense that would make any sense for a guy like Lynch.  Carolina still has three running backs (including the guy who takes snaps from the center).  And Tampa is a young team that will never in a million years put in the money it would take to get Lynch.

As for the other teams in the NFC West:  San Francisco has Gore, St. Louis has Jackson, and Arizona has Wells.  They all seem pretty committed to their guys.

You know who scares me more than any other team in the NFL?  The New England Patriots.  Think about it, they were THIS close to winning it all this past season!  What were they missing?  What are they ALWAYS missing?  A balanced offensive attack!  Let’s face it, Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger.  Yes, I know the Patriots like to skimp on their running backs (just as they like to bank draft picks for future drafts), but at one point or another, they’re going to have to cash in before it’s too late.  That crack about Tom Brady not getting any younger:  the same can be said for him not getting any BETTER.  Tom Brady is as good as he’s ever going to be; it’s all downhill from here.  One of these seasons, his skills are going to erode.  He’s not going to see the open receiver soon enough, he’s going to force more and more balls into coverage, he’s going to take more and more hits from ferocious defenses looking to take out the guy while he’s on top.  The Pats could sure as shit use a guy like Lynch to take off some of the load.

And, don’t look now, but Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are both free agents.  They’re not going to hand the ball off to Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen 30 times a game!  Why WOULDN’T they make a huge push to get Lynch and start dominating the Time of Possession in every game?  What’s the downside here?

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins are tied up with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, the Jets seem pretty happy with Shonn Greene and whatever young buck they’re going to slide behind him.  And, of course, the Bills have Jackson and Spiller (plus, duh, they’re the team that traded Lynch in the first place).

In the AFC North, you know damn well Baltimore is re-signing Ray Rice, so forget about it.  The Steelers would be an AWESOME fit for a guy like Beastmode, but they’re still stuck with Mendenhall (plus, they NEVER fork over money on free agents).  Cincy won’t fork over the money it’ll take either.  And the Browns – in spite of his sub-par season – will most likely re-sign Hillis (plus, they’ve got a stable of young backs they could easily throw into the mix should Hillis go elsewhere).

The AFC South has three teams that are simply non-starters.  Houston has not one but TWO massively effective running backs (Foster, who’s a fantasy god; and Tate who – as a backup – nearly ran for 1,000 yards).  The Titans have Chris Johnson and his massively insane contract.  And the Jags have one of the better all-around guys in MJD.

The Indianapolis Colts, however, are a God damned wild card and I just don’t like it!  Now, for starters, if they opt to keep Peyton Manning, then you can just skip to the next paragraph right now, because they won’t have two cents to rub together.  But, let’s say they let him and his $28 million walk:  suddenly, they’re in play!  They will have a rookie quarterback starting from Game 1.  They don’t have a single running back worth a good God damn on their team.  And, the organization will have to do something for its fans to make up for the fact that they just let go of a Hall of Famer (especially if he goes to another team and starts kicking ass again).  I wouldn’t put it past the Colts to do something drastic; mark my words.

In the AFC West, we’re talking about teams who are all pretty much set.  The Chiefs will be looking for Jamaal Charles to bounce back from an early-season season-ending injury in 2011.  The Broncos still have Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.  And the Raiders will still have McFadden; if they re-sign Michael Bush, then all the more reason for them to NOT sign Lynch.

So, aside from the Seahawks, we’re talking about four potential teams:  Detroit, Green Bay, New England, and Indianapolis.  All have ample reasons to sign a back like Lynch; all have ample reasons to not do a damn thing.  There will be other, cheaper options out there (Hillis, Bush, Mike Tolbert, Cedric Benson, Tashard Choice, Justin Forsett, Ryan Grant) for teams like New England and Detroit to snap up, if they so choose to go the tightwad route.  Really, it’s tough to know exactly WHICH of these four teams would be the most likely, considering I don’t know what their cap situations are like.  If I were Green Bay or New England, though, I’d think long and hard.  Both teams were DAMN close this past season.  Both teams had very similar, pass-first types of offenses.  And both teams lost to the same team (the Giants) which could have been avoided had they had a running game.

Something to think about as these Beastmode negotiations continue.

Suck For Luck Impotence Rankings

To take the title one step further (HO-HO, it’s funny because most people do power rankings, but this … this is the opposite of that …), I was going to rank all the teams on a scale of 0 to 500 million sperms.  But, that seemed to be a bit … gross.

I don’t know why, but one of my favorite moments of every week during football season is when ESPN comes out with their Power Rankings.  It’s a pointless exercise:  what do a bunch of eggheads over at ESPN think is the order of NFL teams from best to worst?  But, whatever, I find it entertaining.  I like lists!  Something so inconsequential can make people so batshit crazy with rage (unlike the BCS rankings – which actually does have an effect on a team and where it finishes in relation to the National Championship – and which deserves all the batshit crazy rage foisted upon it).

For instance, I find this week’s list interesting.  They have the Seahawks as the very worst team in the NFL.  I guess I’m a little surprised, but I also find it somewhat encouraging.  Who knows; maybe all this negativity surrounding the team will lead to a black cloud of despair, which will in turn lead to more and more losses!  (I also find their list interesting because I don’t trust Green Bay’s defense as far as I can throw it; I don’t think they’re long for the ranks of the undefeated).

The following is a list of the teams I feel have the best chance of getting Andrew Luck.  Unlike the ESPN poll, this will be a list steeped in futility, with the Number 1 team being the very worst of the worst.  Also, unlike ESPN, I’m not just going to look at what happened in the previous week and make a snap judgment.  I mean, all of a sudden Buffalo rises 11 spots just because they got a last-second touchdown in their win over Oakland?  What does THAT mean?  That one touchdown makes them 11 spots better than if they hadn’t scored at all on that drive?

Also, I’m not in the business of ranking ALL the teams here.  Because who cares if Green Bay or New England have the lowest odds of drafting Andrew Luck?  My list is only going to include the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) ten or so teams.

Finally, for the record, I decided to wait until after Week 2 because it would be idiotic to rank the teams beforehand.  You don’t REALLY know how well most teams are going to play in the preseason.  And after one week, all you know is that half the teams won and half the teams lost.

So, here we go.  The Week 3 Suck For Luck Impotence Rankings:

  1. Seattle (0-2) – A real test is coming up this weekend.  Seattle’s home opener is going to be one of their most important games of the season.  Losing games like these to teams like Arizona is what separates the bad from the real suck-asses.  A loss this week makes 0-5 a veritable lock before the BYE.  A win here and the Seahawks are thrown into a tizzy.
  2. Cincinnati (1-1) – Yeah, okay, so they beat Cleveland in Cleveland.  I still refuse to buy this offense!  The only thing they’ve got going for them (which ultimately will send them tumbling down my list if I’m wrong) is their creampuffy schedule.  Cincy’s next five games:  vs. SF, vs. Buf, @ Jax, vs. Ind, @ Sea.  We’ll see how off-base I am if they lay the lumber to the 49ers this weekend.
  3. Indianapolis (0-2) – You could make the argument that Indy has played the worst overall football of anyone in the league through their first two games.  I’m not gonna argue with you too much, but I will say that Houston looks pretty damn good this year.  And as for Cleveland, they shocked some teams last year and I expect that to continue this year.  Nevertheless, Kerry Collins is awful.  BUT, the main reason I won’t put them lower on the list is:  while Collins is awful, he’s still a veteran.  These veteran types, if they stay healthy, always tend to squeak out a victory here and there that nobody expects.  Granted, it probably won’t happen this week against the Steelers; I’m telling you, it’s gonna happen.  And, if Peyton Manning doesn’t get shut down for the entire season, I’d be on the lookout for some cheap wins at the end to take them out of the Suck For Luck Sweepstakes.  Until Manning is officially put on IR, I’m going to be hard-pressed to put Indy at the top of my list.
  4. Jacksonville (1-1) – ESPN has the Jags ranked 21st.  That’s INSANE!  They cut David Garrard, they barely beat the Titans in week 1 at home, and now they’ve got themselves an official Quarterback Controversy.  Pick your poison:  Mr. 4-Interception Luke McCown, or Rookie Blaine Gabbert.  Don’t sleep on Jacksonville; they may have started out 1-0, but they might end up 1-15.
  5. Kansas City (0-2) – KC scares me right now.  They’ve been outscored 89-10 in the first two games.  They lost Jamaal Charles for the season (among many other injuries).  Matt Cassel has 4 picks to his lone TD.  AND, their first place schedule isn’t doing them any favors (well, I take that back, they do go to Indy in week five).  What I’m hanging my hat on right now is this:  they’ve played two of the best offenses in the NFL.  Detroit and Buffalo have been shot out of a cannon and are keeping pace quite well with the likes of New England, Green Bay, and New Orleans.  Plus, in spite of the injuries, KC isn’t THIS bad.  They’re not going to continue to get blown out by 40 points every game!  Cassel will pick his game up and KC will end up with 4 or 5 wins probably.  Don’t forget, the AFC West isn’t THAT good.
  6. Carolina (0-2) – The Panthers are CERTAINLY a much better team than I gave them credit for, and that comes all the way down to Cam Newton being the second coming of Johnny Unitas.  Back-to-back 400-yard passing games, back-to-back 1-score defeats to the likes of Arizona (on the road) and the NFL champion Green Bay Packers (at home).  And guess what!  This week they host their expansion sisters Jacksonville.  If that doesn’t spell 1-2, I don’t know what does.  Mark my words, Carolina will beat at least one playoff-bound team this year (to go along with a handful of non-playoff bound teams).  I fully expect Carolina to drop on my Suck for Luck rankings as the season progresses.
  7. Cleveland (1-1) – I have to put the Browns on here because they lost to the Bengals at home.  That’s pretty much my only reason.  They have a ton of winnable games this year and will likely be the 2011 version of the 2010 Oakland Raiders (except, they already lost a game in their division, so I guess scratch that).
  8. Miami (0-2) – Tough start for the Dolphins.  Two home games, two home losses.  It’s not getting ANY easier with three road games against Cleveland, San Diego, and the Jets.  In fact, the more I look at this thing, the less I’m liking the looks of the Dolphins.  They play the NFC East (which appears strong across the board), and the AFC West (which is bad, but is it any worse than the Dolphins?).  I have to hold onto my belief that the Dolphins are better than this and will gut out some victories here and there.  But, I’m definitely keeping them on my radar after they lose their next three games.  Unless they don’t (which, you know, they HAVE proven to be a better road team the last couple years).
  9. Minnesota (0-2) – First of all, McNabb is done.  He’s done-er than done!  That having been said, they’ve still got AP, and just because McNabb is done doesn’t mean he’s not going to look a little frisky every now and then.  The only concern for Seattle Suck For Luckers is:  will McNabb get injured before leading them to a few victories?  Because if Ponder is pushed into the fire too soon, it could be a long Vikings season.
  10. Washington (2-0) – These chickenfuckers are terrible, and yet they’re 2-0!  How about THAT.  I fully expect the ‘Skins to come crashing down to Earth in the coming weeks, but those 2 wins might be more than enough to prevent them from the top spot in my rankings (and from the top spot in next year’s NFL Draft).
  11. San Francisco (1-1) – Here’s a team that should be 2-0 (and if they were, they wouldn’t be on my radar right now).  But, look at their short body of work so far.  It took two special teams return touchdowns for them to beat the lowly Seahawks; then they gagged one away in overtime against the Cowboys and Tony Romo’s punctured lung!  They play 8 of their next 14 games on the road (which is just a stupid way of saying their first two games were at home), but I fully expect them to win enough games to keep them away from the top spot.  Nevertheless, this would be the PERFECT place for Luck to land.  49er nation would eat him up a la mode.
  12. Denver (1-1) – I can see the Broncos getting bumped off this list in favor of someone like Arizona (ESPECIALLY if they lose in Seattle this weekend), but just look at them right now.  They got beat on Monday night at home against the hated Raiders, then it took all of their might to hold off the Bengals (again, at home).  Denver would be another perfect spot for Luck to land.  Oh, what am I saying, they have The Tebow!  They couldn’t POSSIBLY need another quarterback!