A Christmas Miracle: Seahawks Beat Cowboys

I really tore one on this weekend, and as such wasn’t able to roll my ass out of bed until about 1pm on Sunday, and spent the duration of the Seahawks game with a massive hangover.  So, I very well might have hallucinated into existence a Seahawks victory over the Cowboys, and if I did, please don’t wake me up!

With Christmas in between, and me missing a lot of the third quarter as I did my Christmas shopping as I always do – at the last minute, at my local Safeway, buying gift cards for everyone on my list – I don’t remember much about what happened.  There was a sweet punch-out of the football from Byron Maxwell to Dez Bryant that resulted in our first touchdown and a 7-6 lead late in the second quarter.  There was a Justin Coleman pick-six that I missed, giving the Seahawks a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter.  And there was one good offensive drive by the Seahawks with a nifty Doug Baldwin TD at its conclusion to make the score 21-12.  From there, a couple late field goal misses by the Cowboys sealed the deal.

Here are the take-aways from this one:  the Seahawks’ offense was garbage.  Still no change in the running game, obviously, because that’s going to be something that needs its fixing in the offseason with new personnel.  And, one of the poorer Russell Wilson games, who only threw for 93 yards.  The best thing you can say about this one was that he avoided turnovers, but no praise whatsoever should be reserved for this offensive group.

Defensively, however, it was a sight for sore eyes.  Ezekiel Elliott – who had that bet with Eric Dickerson that he’d run for 200 yards in his first game back from suspension – was solid, but still held to 97 yards.  Dak Prescott continued his second-half slide as he threw a couple picks, but one of them was off of a deflection, as he received zero help from his so-called #1 receiver Dez Bryant, who finished with 3 catches, but had a number of others go off of his hands (and one of those receptions did end up as the aforementioned fumble forced by Maxwell).  I don’t know if there was any one reason for the defensive turnaround – though, it surely helped having a healthy K.J. Wright and a healthier Bobby Wagner – so much as this was a total team effort.  It also helped that the Dallas passing attack is broken, so we were able to expend our energy in trying to stop the run.  Better tackling was important too.

The miracle part of this thing didn’t just come with the Seahawks winning in Dallas, though I’ll be the first to admit I wrote a post last week predicting a Seahawks loss.  Really, I think the bigger surprise was waking up on Sunday afternoon and discovering that the Bengals beat the Lions!  With that out of the way, and with the Falcons losing to the Saints, there’s now a clear path for the Seahawks to make the playoffs.

First, they have to beat the Cardinals this Sunday.  That sounds easy enough, but we’re gonna need to see more from the offense than we have in recent weeks.  Then, the only other thing we need is for Carolina to go into Atlanta and beat the Falcons.  I like the Panthers a lot, and think they’re the better team this season, but there are a couple things going against us.  One, the Falcons aren’t terrible.  With their season in the balance, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Falcons go out there and lay the smack down.  And two, if the Saints beat the Bucs, the Saints win the division, meaning the Panthers would have nothing to play for.  As both games start at the same time, we’re at least assured that the Panthers will play all their starters.  However, if the Saints run up a huge lead, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see the Panthers resting their stars at the end of the game.  Just in time for the Falcons to sneak away with a late victory?

You could argue it behooves the Panthers to knock the Falcons out of the playoffs, and I’ll buy that to a point, but if they’re stuck as a 5-seed and the Falcons a 6-seed, they wouldn’t meet until a hypothetical NFC Championship Game matchup, which is unlikely in its own right.  And besides, if you did want to see a potential 5-seed home game in the NFCCG, that means you NEED the 6-seed to get there too, and who is more likely to win two road games it the playoffs, the Falcons or the broken and old Seahawks?

Make no mistake, there’s the Team No One Wants To Play every year in the playoffs; well, the Seahawks are the Team No One Would Mind Playing.  Which leads me to the next issue:  should we root for the Seahawks to make the playoffs at all?

It’s an age-old argument.  The Seahawks almost certainly have no shot – as a 6-seed – to run the table through the NFC and get to the Super Bowl.  They’re too beat up, and this offense – including Russell Wilson – has been too terrible over the last month to give any indication that we can win even ONE playoff game, let alone 3-4.  Ergo, just by making the playoffs, you’re sticking yourself with a worse draft pick.  And, every playoff game you win, the further down the draft board you fall.

The counter-argument to that is:  anything can happen on any given Sunday.  Just make the playoffs and hope to get hot; hell, it’s how Joe Flacco won a title!  Plus, if the 2010 Seahawks had missed out on the playoffs as we hoped heading into that post-season, we never would’ve had the Beastquake run.  Does that mean anything on its own?  Of course not, but it’s a fond memory, and it set the table for the Never Say Die ethos of those championship teams a few years later.

Even though it runs against all rational thought, I’ll still root for the Seahawks to make it.  I just want to see at least one more week of meaningful football for my favorite professional team.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

Hey look, I get it, losing sucks.  Teams like the Seahawks have a finite championship window.  On the one hand, that’s a good thing because it means we have a good team.  The Cleveland Browns don’t have a finite championship window because they suck!  On the other hand, that championship window is going to close sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.  For what it’s worth, I think the future still looks pretty promising, but that obviously comes with the fact that they have work to do on the player personnel side.

Before I get into the promising future, let’s take a quick look back.  We’re at the end of the best 5-year run in franchise history!  56-23-1, or a .706 winning percentage.  That easily bests any of the best 5-year runs in the 80’s, as well as that superb 5-year run in the Holmgren years.  This includes the fact that we’ve won at least 10 games AND made the playoffs AND won at least one playoff game every season since 2012.  Only the Patriots have done that, and they enjoy the luxury of having the very worst divisional opponents this side of the AFC South.  On top of that, factor in 3 divisional championships, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship, and you could say the Seahawks have been pretty hashtag-blessed in this run.

All the while, the Seahawks have remained one of the youngest teams in the NFL.  Now, more and more, that’s a result of the back-end of our roster being filled with rookies, but the players at the top are still in their primes, which means we’ve got at least 2-3 more years of this championship window left to stress over!

First and foremost, we’ve got a franchise quarterback.  You’re not going anywhere without a franchise quarterback.  Just ask those aforementioned Cleveland Browns, or the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and so on and so forth.  Even in those rare instances where a team rides its defense to a title, you’re never going to be able to achieve sustained success with that tactic.  Yeah, Peyton Manning stunk in 2015 and the Broncos won it all, but you saw what happened in 2016.  Due to salary cap constraints, players get poached.  Due to the law of averages, a defense largely healthy one year suffers a bevy of injuries the next.  I mean, go back through time of all the teams with elite defenses and crappy quarterbacks – 2002 Bucs, 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears – did any of them repeat?  The Bears didn’t make another Super Bowl until the 2006 season; the Bucs haven’t been back period; and the Ravens didn’t win it all again until the 2012 season, at which time their defense was a shell of its former self, and they were able to ride the hot hand of Joe Flacco of all people.  The overwhelming majority of Super Bowl champions – and even Super Bowl participants – had either great quarterbacks, or average quarterbacks having great seasons.

Now, is there cause for concern about Russell Wilson’s 2016 season?  Sure felt like a step back to me, but I don’t know how much you can learn about a season when he’s hobbled and still running for his life because of that O-Line.  I think it all finally caught up to him, resulting in rushed throws, which in turn resulted in a lot of inaccurate throws.  Improved offensive line play will surely result in improved quarterback play.  Or, it’ll spell doom for a promising young player who looked like he was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.

As I mentioned before, the wide receiver group is as strong as ever.  Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are great players.  Jermaine Kearse unquestionably had a down year in 2016, but he nevertheless brings a lot to the table with his blocking and his rapport with Wilson and the other receivers.  Paul Richardson came on like gangbusters after Lockett went down.  If we’re able to incorporate him more into this offense, we haven’t had a player with his combination of speed and catch radius EVER in the Pete Carroll era.  The person who comes closest is Sidney Rice in his prime, which I think this team would take in a heartbeat.  When you top it off with Jimmy Graham – who I believe this team not only needs to hang onto in 2017, but should probably look to extend out another 2-3 years to make his cap hits more reasonable – this offense has the weapons in the passing game to succeed.  They won’t need to hit the free agent or trade markets, nor will they need to look in the draft all that high.

Running back might be another story.  When healthy, you’ve got elite talent with Rawls and Prosise, but obviously you can’t count on either of them for a full 16-game season plus playoffs.  Alex Collins really started to play well towards the end of the season, so obviously I think you keep him in the mix.  But, this team will most definitely have to look in the draft for another quality back to throw onto the pile.

In talking about the O-Line, Justin Britt was a pleasant surprise and lone bright spot.  While there is plenty of work to do here, it’s nice to know at least ONE spot out of five is locked in.

Defensively, we’re still stacked up and down the lineup.  Bennett and Avril are still making lives miserable.  Frank Clark – already solid as a rookie – took a big leap forward in his second year, setting himself up for a HUGE third season, and likely a huge payday once next season concludes.  Along the interior, Rubin and Reed and the return of Tony McDaniel helped us maintain our status as one of the best run defenses in the league.  You never mind picking up extra talent in this group – particularly at the back end, to shore up the depth – but D-Line isn’t really the priority it has been the last couple years.

I was most impressed with our linebackers in 2016.  Bobby Wagner had a so-so 2015, and responded with the best season of his career this past year.  He was, in fact, the best linebacker in the entire NFL, which is no small feat.  Led the league in tackles, managed 4.5 sacks for a guy who doesn’t rush the passer a ton, and was just generally always around the football.  K.J. Wright continued being the most underrated defender in football, and the guy most deserving of a Pro Bowl invite who has yet to actually make it who finally got in this year!  This group didn’t see its strongside linebacker out on the field a lot, but when Mike Morgan came back from injury, he was a force, particularly in setting the edge on running plays.  Just, all around, the best linebacking unit in football, period.

The secondary, while it needs some work, has the broad strokes in place.  Richard Sherman didn’t have his best year (and, it sounds like half that year he was dealing with an MCL issue), but when he’s locked in on his side of the field, as you saw in the Detroit playoff game, he’s still a force to be avoided.  On the opposite side, DeShawn Shead got the starting nod and really acquitted himself well.  Unfortunately, they didn’t trust him enough to just leave him over there – as we saw more and more Richard Sherman following the other team’s best receiver – and I think that might’ve had something to do with our defense taking a step back.  At safety, Kam was his usual dominant self when he was on the field, and Earl was Earl (again, when he was on the field).  The fact that both of those guys missed some pretty extensive time this year, and the fact that our defense REALLY suffered accordingly, means this team has work to do in shoring up our depth in the secondary.  Those four guys, plus Jeremy Lane, were supposed to make the secondary this team’s #1 strength.  Instead, they were this team’s second-biggest weakness, when the likes of Kelcie McCray, Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and Neiko Thorpe were thrust into active duty.  Bolster the unit from the bottom up and we should see a return to former glories for the secondary.

The foundation is solid, is what I’m trying to get at!  Across the board, except for the O-Line.  We’ve just got to figure out a way to get the complementary pieces in place to get us through the hard times.  As luck would have it, 2017 presents a unique opportunity to really pump this team full of talent.  The Salary Cap should be upwards of $170 million.  Our dead money is currently less than $1 million.  Add that to our contracts already on file, we’ve spent approximately $135 million on our 2017 roster.  The best part, though?  Our list of unrestricted free agents is pretty weak.  The most expensive player on that list is Steven Hauschka, and we might end up looking in another direction at kicker anyway, given how poor of a season he had in 2016.  Then, there’s Luke Willson, who figures to test the market and see if he can get himself a starting job somewhere.  If he comes back to Seattle, it’ll likely be on a very reasonable deal.  As for starter types, Mike Morgan and Tony McDaniel could be had on small deals as well.  Beyond those guys, we’re talking about the bottom of the roster:  McCray, Sowell, Thorpe, Marcel Reece, Tukuafu, Jeron Johnson, Brandon Williams, and Damontre Moore.  So, you know, it’s not like there’s some big contract we need to take care of on our own roster.

I’m fuzzy at best as to what the free agent market is going to look like, but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, let’s just bask in the glow that we’ve got a very good football team, with some very smart people running the show, and we’re really not THAT far off from competing for the top seed in the NFC and the Super Bowl.

Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Seahawks

My last Seahawks post wasn’t a joke, I really don’t have much confidence in the Seahawks doing much of anything in these playoffs.  My brother and I already have a Pizza Party bet going.  He says the Seahawks will beat the Falcons (i.e. implying that the Seahawks will get there by beating the Lions this weekend) and I say they absolutely will not.  So, as I told him before, it’ll either be the sweetest pizza I’ve ever eaten (if I’m wrong and we beat them) or the easiest free pizza I’ve ever won (when I’m right and we lose tomorrow or next Saturday).

But, as Seattle sports fans, we’re nothing if not dreamers.  All you gotta do is get in the post-season tournament, then anything can happen.  Hell, Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl in 2012 (after closing out the regular season on a 1-4 streak), while throwing 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in his 4 playoff games!  If that doesn’t scream “on any given Sunday”, I don’t know what does.

There are plenty of reasons to be down about the Seahawks right now.  Earl Thomas is out and our pass defense has collapsed as a result.  Tyler Lockett is out and we’re reduced to signing Devin Hester off the scrap heap (which, I suppose, beats having Richard Sherman back there and risking him to injury; but Hester also fumbled a bunch earlier this year, which is why he was free to sign with us in the first place; he’s also 34 years old).  And we’ve absolutely run out of time on this offensive line.  There are no more practice games where we can say, “Maybe they’ll pull it together and gel for the stretch run.”  We’re fucking IN the stretch run!  And they haven’t gelled for shit!  Remember last year, when our O-Line really DID gel in the second half of the season (or, at least, we thought they did)?  Remember what happened in the first half of that Carolina playoff game, where their D-Line was in our backfield so often it felt like it was Week 1 against the Rams all over again?  Well, the Lions nor the Falcons are on par with what the Panthers had going last year, but with how much worse the Seahawks are this year, they might as well be the fucking ’85 Bears.

But … I’m supposed to be optimistic here.  Reasons for optimism.  Think think think.

Well, truth be told, the Lions are probably the best possible draw in the NFC.  We don’t have the luxury of being in the AFC with half the teams missing their starting quarterbacks, so we’ll take what we can get.  The problem is, if the Lions are the 6th team out of 6 in the NFC, the Seahawks are probably 5th.  One could argue there’s some low-level blogger in Detroit writing about his Lions right now, thrilled (relatively speaking) that they caught a break and only have to play the very-beatable Seahawks this week, as opposed to Green Bay or the Giants.

Also on the plus side is that, while it’s no BYE week, we still get the game at home.  We’re 7-1 at home this season, and while we’ve been far from dominant, we’ve at least played better here than on the road.  It’s a night game, on a Saturday, so I’m sure the crowd will be in a drunken lather.  In an ideal scenario, the Seahawks will come out on fire and take a double-digit lead, thereby allowing our pass rush to tee off.  In the likeliest real world scenario, Matthew Stafford will dink and dunk us to death, taking out the crowd but good.

If you want to get down to it, the biggest reason for optimism is the fact that we have Russell Wilson and his two best receiving targets in Baldwin and Graham.  Between the two of them, you’d think we’d be able to get at least one of them going!  Also, by the looks of the 49ers game, it looked like Wilson was more aggressive in the zone read, pulling the ball and running with it.  Considering our O-Line can’t open up any holes for our running backs, we might need about 80 yards or so on the ground from our quarterback.

We’re not going to keep the Lions off the scoreboard, so it’s going to come down to our offense probably winning in some sort of a shootout.  The Lions’ defense doesn’t strike me as all that impressive; they seemed to beat up on the crappy teams (holding the Titans, Bears, Redskins, Vikings, Jags, Vikings, Saints, Bears, and Giants under 20 points; I suppose that performance against the Giants is somewhat impressive, but Eli is still Eli), but they’ve been gashed pretty good by the likes of the Packers twice, the Cowboys, the Colts (all over 30 points) and even the Rams (28 points).  I’d say 30 is the magic number.  I have a tough time seeing the Seahawks losing this game if we can put up 30 or more.

Going forward, if you want reasons for optimism in these playoffs, here’s a juicy one:  the Seahawks will either be playing at home or in a covered (domed) stadium from here on out.  Yeah, I know the Falcons and Cowboys are really good, but if we end up playing both of them on the road, at least there won’t be any field conditions to worry about.  At least if we’re ever faced with any sort of bitter coldness, it’ll be in front of our home fans (should either the Giants or Packers go into Dallas and beat them, which is entirely possible, while we go into Atlanta and win, which … could theoretically happen I suppose).

I would also say, regarding the remaining four NFC teams (Falcons, Cowboys, Giants, Packers), that none of them are really dominant on defense.  Each team has a player here and there you have to worry about.  But, nothing like the Vikings or Panthers were able to throw at us last year, or even the Cardinals or Bucs this year (at least, when you talk about D-Lines).

What the Seahawks need to do, if they expect to make another run at the championship, is have the offense put on its big boy pants and get to work.  For too long, they’ve leaned on the defense like a crutch.  Well, now the defense is struggling.  It’s banged up and thin.  So, now it’s time for the offense to finally pick up the defense.

I’ve been saying for years that I think Russell Wilson is an elite quarterback, and if you give him a chance to carry this team, he’ll prove he’s just as good as the likes of Brady, Brees, and Roethlisberger.  Well, I don’t see a running game anywhere, do you?  This is it!  The time is now!  Russell Wilson is all we’ve got!  And, to be quite honest, he hasn’t been good enough.  After last season’s breathtaking second half blitzkrieg, we all thought that the switch had been flipped and we’d be witnessing a Top 3 quarterback in the prime of his life.  While he’s managed career highs in completions, attempts, and total yards, his completion percentage is down from last year, his average yards per pass attempt is among the lowest of his career, and he’s thrown 13 fewer touchdowns than his career high last year!  While surpassing his career high in interceptions thrown.  Suffice it to say, he’s seen career lows in both QBR and passer rating.  I know he had those nasty knee and ankle injuries earlier in the season, and we were lucky to even get him in all 16 regular season games, let alone starting them all and playing the lion’s share of snaps.  But, he’s had some of his very worst games in the second half of this season – ostensibly when he was feeling as good as he had since before the injuries – and he’s consistently been missing receivers and turning the ball over too much to be effective.

I would never want my quarterback to be more like Joe Flacco – because he’s terrible – but if the Seahawks are going to do anything this year, they’re going to need Russell Wilson to channel some of that Joe Flacco 2012 post-season magic.  It’s the only way.

For Strictly Fantasy Purposes, I Hate Matt Ryan

Simply put, I’ve been involved with a 2-QB league for the better part of my adult life.  In Matt Ryan’s first few years, he was always a great guy to have in the mix, because even though they were more run-focused in his early days, he still threw enough TDs to keep you in the black, while avoiding turnovers to ensure his floor was high.  Paired with a really dominating QB, Matt Ryan of the first three years of his career was a nice little complement.

Then, as Matt Ryan made the jump to perennial 4,000-yard passer, people in my league caught on, and would draft him before I had the chance.  Once we made the switch to being a 2-keeper league, I made it my mission to get Matt Ryan back in the fold once and for all.  As it just so happened, that coincided with his atrocious 2015 season, when he threw only 21 TDs to counter a whopping 16 INTs.  Yeah, throwing for a ton of yards is great and everything, but if you’re making the sorts of bone-headed mistakes he was making last year, it’s absolutely impossible to field any sort of consistent fantasy team (unless you’re looking for “consistently fucking terrible”).

Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback, regardless of what his numbers look like this year, and regardless of how he was able to go into Denver last week and defeat the Broncos with their awesome defense.  Matt Ryan is an average quarterback with 1 elite wide receiver in Julio Jones.  How does a guy like Ryan throw for 500 yards in a game?  When he has a guy like Julio catching 300 of those yards (going up against a secondary in Carolina that might be the worst in football).  I guarantee if you put Kirk Cousins or Ryan Fitzpatrick or even Brian Fucking Hoyer on this team with a healthy Julio Jones, they’d all look just as competent.

And yet, for some reason, all anyone can talk about heading into this game is Matt Ryan, his improvement over last season, and how he’s giving the Falcons more than a decent chance of winning in Seattle.

You think YOU can get SOUP???  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Matt Ryan isn’t an elite quarterback because elite quarterbacks make the players around them better.  No one said a God damn thing about the Seahawks’ receivers until Doug Baldwin caught 14 TDs last year, yet the Seahawks and Russell Wilson have been pretty great since 2012!  Why is that?  Because regardless of who you put on the field with Wilson, he’s going to make it work and grind it out for a win.

Take away Julio Jones and you know what you’ve got in Matt Ryan?  Yet another Joe Flacco.  Flacco needs elite talent around him to be successful.  Ever since the Ravens opted to skimp on receivers, tight ends, and running backs, Flacco has been mediocre at best and a disaster the rest of the time.

What has Matt Ryan been like the last few years?  Well, for starters, Julio hasn’t always been healthy, and when he’s slowed down by injury, forget it.  The Falcons are pathetic without Julio.  But, they were also trying to get by with a broken down Roddy White, no running game, and a poo-poo platter of crap as their #3 receivers and tight ends.  Tony Gonzalez has been out of the game for a while, and that might have been the biggest set-back to Matt Ryan’s career!

So, don’t tell me Matt Ryan has turned a corner.  Everyone wants to talk about how the Seahawks have faced the easiest schedule through 4 games when it comes to opposing offenses; well, aside from the Broncos, who have the Falcons played?  Tampa, Oakland, New Orleans, and Carolina.  Those are four bullshit defenses who couldn’t stop anyone!  And, of the five games, Ryan’s worst was easily last week’s against the Broncos, when he was held under 100 in passer rating.

I would also argue Denver’s defense MIGHT not be as great as we anticipated coming into the season.  I’ll give Atlanta credit for exposing some things (like how you can pass all day on their linebackers, if you have top-notch, pass-catching running backs).  But, I’m going to go ahead and say this right now:  Denver’s defense is no where NEAR as complete as ours, at all levels.  They might be as good as us in the secondary, but check the game last week:  Atlanta’s top two running backs caught a combined 167 of Matt Ryan’s 267 passing yards.  That means Julio Jones and the Gang were held to 100 yards receiving COMBINED.

I’ll go out on a limb and say their receivers will have a slightly better day on Sunday than they did last week, but their running backs won’t do shit!  Unless you’re in the mood for a lot of check-downs, then by all means, tout the Falcons’ passing attack.

But, you’re looking at the Seahawks coming off of a BYE, with everyone healthy, at home in the pouring rain, against a domed Falcons team.  I’ll take this matchup all day every day, please and thank you.

Also, tell me, how are the Falcons on defense going to stop us?  Desmond Trufant is only one man, the last time I checked.  Even if you put him on Doug Baldwin, I still expect Baldwin to get his.  But, how are they going to guard Jimmy Graham?  Who will account for Tyler Lockett?  And, for the love of all that is holy, can ANYONE stop Christine Michael?

We’ve got weapons, plural.  They’ve got Julio.  If there’s any justice in this world, Richard Sherman will shadow him all day, giving us another fascinating matchup like we had with the Jets and Brandon Marshall two weeks ago.

I’d expect this game to be exciting, but mostly if you’re a Seahawks fan.  I’d expect people will be having a lot of third and fourth thoughts about how good the Falcons really are when this one’s finished.

Why Russell Wilson Is One Of The Four Best Quarterbacks In The NFL Right Now

This post is going to be COMPLETELY subjective and COMPLETELY drenched in my homerizzm, but I don’t care.

I think Russell Wilson is pretty great at football.  If you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably agree.  I also think we’re just scratching the surface of Russell Wilson’s greatness.  Based on the second half of his 2015 season, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably also agree.

Why do I think Russell Wilson is one of the four best quarterbacks in the NFL?  It’s quite simple:  I can’t think of more than three quarterbacks in the league for whom I’d be willing to trade our franchise guy.  For the sake of this exercise, I should point out that I’m including age and experience in this thing, but I’m not really all that focused on the size of the contract or anything like that.  This is a simple one-for-one swap:  would I rather have Russell Wilson for however many remaining years of his career (probably well over 10 more years, if everything goes well health-wise), or would I rather have Player X?  It’s not as simple as:  you have one year, who is your starting quarterback?  It’s also not as simple as:  who had the best 2015 season?  This is, going forward, who would you be willing to have start for your team in place of Russell Wilson?

Also, for the sake of argument, let’s forget about all the growing pains of bringing in a new guy, having him learn the system, having him build a rapport with the players, and so on.  Let’s just assume, whoever you trade for, will know our system and will get along with the players as well as Wilson has.

To fulfill the “experience” and “quality” requirements, I chopped off over half of the league’s starters from last year.  None of the 2016 rookies interest me whatsoever when compared to Wilson.  Guys like Bortles, Mariota, and Winston are all very interesting, but they’re obviously not at the level of quality or experience that Wilson has.  Tyrod Taylor is another interesting name, but I’m going to need more than 14 games started before I can take you seriously as a Wilson replacement.  Osweiler is yet another interesting name, who’s had many years backing up a hall of famer, but only in 2015 was given the opportunity to start real, regular season games.  Carr, with the Raiders, is the last of the young’uns I left off of my list.  He looks every part the gunslinger that team has desperately needed for ages, but I just can’t quite put trust in any belief that his ceiling is higher than Wilson’s until I’ve seen it first.

The next group of candidates have the experience, but are lacking in the quality department, and have been left off for what I feel are obvious reasons.  Foles, Kaepernick/Gabbert, Cutler, Stafford, Bradford, Alex Smith, Dalton, Flacco, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, and anyone else I didn’t list above, who deserve to remain nameless because they suck.  I may get blowback on guys like Dalton, Stafford, and maybe even Cutler, but those guys have showed me absolutely nothing outside of a season here and there.  They can’t consistently stay out of their own way and they tend to shit the bed when it matters most.  To be honest, Joe Flacco is probably my favorite of this bunch; I think he’d fit in quite well with what the Seahawks like to do on offense (run the ball, play action deep passes), but there’s no way in hell I’m trading Wilson for him.

That brings me to the realistic candidates.  Quarterbacks who have the ability to play at an elite level, but for various reasons I’d rather not give up Wilson for them.  Let’s start with Tom Brady, because that’s obviously the name everyone puts at or near the top of any list of the world’s best quarterbacks.  Yes, obviously, if I had one season and I wanted to win a championship, I’d consider trading Wilson for Brady.  But, Brady is going to be 39 years old this August.  While he’s still playing at an elite level this deep into his career, how many more years can you reasonably expect him to squeeze out, let alone at that aforementioned elite level?  Two?  MAYBE three?  Remember, at age 37, Peyton Manning had the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of the game.  Two seasons later, it looks like he’s played his last down.  I’m not trading upwards of a decade or more of Russell Wilson for 1-2 more quality Brady years, sorry-not-sorry (people still say that, right?).

Same story for Brees.  He’s got a lot of mileage and I’m not wasting a guy in his prime for a guy who will be out of the league soon.

Next up, I’m going to lump in guys like Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Of all the quarterbacks playing today, Roethlisberger might be playing at the highest level (doesn’t hurt he’s got the weapons he’s got).  But, all three of these guys are injury risks, which makes them older – in an NFL sense – than their actual ages.  All are quality passers, but I just don’t think I’d ever trade Wilson for them.

Then, there’s Eli.  He’s started every single game for the Giants since the start of the 2005 season; no injury concerns there.  He’s going into his age 35 season, so you figure if things continue to go as well as they have, he’s probably got another good 5 years or so.  I just don’t think, as a quarterback, he’s as good as Wilson (and that’s not even taking into account my opinion that Wilson will only get better as these next few years go on).  Matt Ryan is another guy who’s been pretty durable, and when he’s got a good team around him, he’s shown he’s a franchise guy.  But, like Eli, I don’t think Ryan is nearly the calibre of passer as Wilson.  I mean, let’s face it, Wilson has done a lot of good with what’s been a pretty poor pass-protection unit.  Ryan falls apart at the first instance of pressure!  No thank you.

Philip Rivers is the last guy in this section, and he’s one I honestly sort of agonized over.  He’s been on some pretty terrible and injury-riddled teams of late.  One wonders what he’d be able to do on a legitimately great team like the Seahawks.  He can go out and win you a shoot-out if need be.  He can slow it down and play the high-percentage, short passing game.  He’s not that mobile, but he’s lightning-quick in his decision-making.  My only knock against him is that he tends to be a little too reckless with the football.  Not as bad as Cutler, or some of these other guys lower on the list, but it’s still a concern.  He’ll also be 35 years old by season’s end this year, so there’s fewer seasons to look forward to with him, compared to Wilson.

Of the players I feel are of equal or greater value to Wilson, I can count only three.

Andrew Luck is a guy I think, when it’s all said and done, will be a Hall of Famer.  He needs to learn to get hit less on his scrambles, but it would also help if he had a better offensive line (Indy’s line makes Seattle’s look like the Hogs from the 80s).  I still see a long and fruitful career for Luck; don’t forget, he’s largely been carrying that team with not a lot of talent around him.  Imagine what he’d do on a stacked Seahawks team!  Right now, I’d probably rank Wilson ahead of Luck, but I wouldn’t be totally devastated if they were swapped straight up.

Next up, obviously, when you talk about the world’s greatest quarterbacks, you’re talking about Aaron Rodgers.  A-Rod will be 33 years old by season’s end, but who gives a shit?  He’s another Hall of Famer, and another guy who should play into his 40s when all is said and done.  I think, until Wilson really starts to pour it on (i.e. turns the second half of his 2015 season into many multiple FULL seasons in the future), you have to rank A-Rod ahead of him.  Even though I think he’s a collosal douche, I’d trade Wilson for him straight up.

Finally, there’s Cam.  No one wants to hear it, because everyone outside of Carolina hates Cam (and/or spends way too much time defending him when he acts like an immature little crybaby), but the dude is a straight-up baller, and not just with his legs (although, it doesn’t hurt that he’s so good running with the football).  One wonders how his body will handle all the hits long-term, but I think his running ability will last a lot longer than Wilson’s (who I feel will slide into more of a pocket passer role the more he gets comfortable reading pre-snap defenses).  Like Luck, I don’t know if Cam is necessarily BETTER than Wilson, but he’s certainly on par, and he’s young enough, and he’s carried sub-par teams to winning records/playoff appearances for multiple seasons.  From a fan standpoint, I’d probably prefer Luck to Cam, but from strictly a player standpoint, I think I could be talked into taking Cam over Luck.  Talk to me again in a year or two and that statement might look batshit crazier than it already does, but that’s how I feel right now, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate (if it wasn’t already clear) that I think Russell Wilson is great and I don’t necessarily want to trade him for anyone in the league.  But, if I HAD to, I’d only accept A-Rod, Cam, or Luck, in that order.  Anyone else, I feel, would be beneath what Russell Wilson has to offer over the course of the rest of his career in this league.

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings, The Third

We’re hitting the home stretch, with four weeks to go.  Playoff scenarios are taking shape, we’re weeding out the contenders from the pretenders, the dregs are tanking accordingly.  So, let’s get right to it with the top 8:

  • Denver:  10-2, last quarter:  #4, first quarter:  #4
  • Cincinnati:  10-2, #2, #3
  • New England:  10-2, #1, #1
  • Arizona:  10-2, #3, #7
  • Carolina:  12-0, #5, #11
  • Seattle:  7-5, #9, #6
  • Pittsburgh:  7-5, #10, #19

I’m sorry, but until Andy Dalton wins a big game at night, I can’t have him as the quarterback of my #1 team.  Considering they go to Denver in Week 16, that should be decided in spectacular fashion.  As for Denver, their defense is legit tops in the league.  They toppled the former #1, so they get to be #1.  The Patriots are just too banged up at too many spots.  Won’t keep them out of the playoffs – and it won’t prevent them from making a lot of noise in the playoffs since they should get a bunch of injured guys back by then – but for now they drop to third.  As for the NFC, I still like Zona over Carolina.  Fuck, Panthers, beat AH good team besides a struggling (at the time) Seahawks and an overrated Packers team.  I can’t WAIT to play the Panthers again in the playoffs, we’re going to destroy them like we usually do!  Pittsburgh rounds out the top 8 as long as Roethlisberger stays healthy.

  • Kansas City:  7-5, #19, #14
  • Minnesota:  8-4, #7, #13
  • Buffalo:  6-6, #14, #10
  • New York Jets:  7-5, #12, #8
  • Tampa Bay:  6-6, #29, #32
  • Indianapolis:  6-6, #15, #20
  • Washington:  5-7, #20, #16
  • New York Giants:  5-7, #13, #9

Quite the turnaround for the Chiefs to crack the Top 10.  I knew they weren’t as bad as their record indicated when they started out so shitty (they had the WORST schedule you could imagine), which probably means we shouldn’t have a ton of confidence in them now.  Can they beat a good team?  That’s the question we’ll be looking to answer as they make a Wild Card spot.  The Vikings are definitely better than what we saw last week against the Seahawks, but they’re also a fringe-quality team who will go nowhere in the post-season.  The Bills when healthy are pretty scary.  The Jets get knocked down for blowing that game against the Bills.  The Bucs make the BIGGEST leap, with Winston’s improved play.  Indy keeps plugging along in one of the worst divisions in football.  I’d really like the Redskins to NOT win the NFC East, so I don’t have to worry about one of the Seahawks tearing an ACL on their shitty field.  The Giants should be dominating that NFC East, but can’t seem to get out of their own way.

  • Chicago:  5-7, #22, #27
  • Oakland:  5-7, #11, #17
  • Houston:  6-6, #30, #29
  • Philadelphia:  5-7, #18, #25
  • Jacksonville:  4-8, #32, #30
  • Atlanta:  6-6, #17, #5
  • St. Louis:  4-8, #8, #12
  • Detroit:  4-8, #28, #21

Any of these teams could beat or lose to any of these teams on any given Sunday.  The Rams are the biggest fallers of the group, having gone 0-4 the last month.  Jacksonville, Houston, and Detroit won some games and improved their standing.  Jacksonville exclusively for that high-powered offense; Houston exclusively for their defense’s return to dominance.  Atlanta is trending WAY downward thanks to Matt Ryan and only Matt Ryan.  That’s all I’ve got for this group of trash.

  • Miami:  5-7, #21, #24
  • New Orleans:  4-8, #16, #22
  • San Francisco:  4-8, #23, #26
  • San Diego:  3-9, #26, #15
  • Tennessee:  3-9, #31, #31
  • Dallas:  4-8, #24, #23
  • Baltimore:  4-8, #25, #18
  • Cleveland:  2-10, #27, #28

Feels weird not having Jacksonville in the bottom spot, but I think Cleveland is as worthy as anyone.  They stink, their only good quarterback is out for the year, and they’re in full-on tank mode (just so they can waste yet another high draft pick on a loser).  Baltimore’s injury woes have finally extended to the quarterback position, as Flacco is missing the first games of his career.  Baltimore will do SO MUCH MORE with their draft pick at 5 or 6 than Cleveland will do with the top pick, mark it.  I think the Saints’ defense is the worst I’ve ever seen.  That’s all I’ve got.  Enjoy restocking the front office you blew up, Miami!

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

I love doing this post, I don’t care how wrong I am.  Last year, I was pretty far off in a lot of ways.  Detroit winning their division, Green Bay out of the playoffs entirely, New Orleans as the clear-cut second-best team in the NFC (and maybe NFL), Tampa and Atlanta both sneaking in as wild cards (essentially, I was high on everyone in what would be the worst division of all time – the 2014 NFC South – except the actual division winner).  And, of course, I made the mistake of picking a repeat Super Bowl matchup, which is about the dumbest thing you can possibly do.

I did have this little nugget of wisdom heading into the 2014 season, and if you replace all the Denver parts with New England parts, it rings eerily true:

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.

Of course, my official pick was a repeat Super Bowl championship, and we all know how that turned out.

So, let’s turn the page to 2015.  Here are my picks, in all their glory:

NFC East

Dallas
NY Giants
Philadelphia
Washington

Seemingly every year, I find the NFC East to be a crapshoot, where the hottest team in December ultimately wins the division.  That USUALLY means the Cowboys are on the outside looking in, but in 2014, they finally put it all together.  For 2015, I don’t see a whole lotta drop-off.  They still have that offensive line, so their running game should be all right, which means their offense should continue to be the strength.  Do just enough on defense, and I think they’ll take it.

Coming into this month, I would’ve had the Giants as my pick.  I like the way they finished last year; and a full season of Eli to ODB should be gangbusters.  But, I hear too much bad stuff about their defense for comfort (then again, that same bad stuff was said about the Cowboys’ defense last year, and they turned out okay).  I have a hard time trying to peg Philly.  I think they could be as good as a top 2 seed in the NFC, or they could be last in their division with 4 wins.  I choose to believe that Sam Bradford will at some point be lost for the year.  I also believe their defense got lucky on a lot of return TDs last year, and DeMarco Murray is another injury waiting to happen.  Ultimately, all the tinkering will have made them worse.  As for Washington, the less said about them, the better (though, I do believe with their new GM – Scot McCloughan – they have a chance to turn it around in a hurry; so long as Dan Snyder doesn’t fuck things up first).

NFC North

Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

Well, if I’m going to put the stink on anyone, it might as well be the Packers.  I’ve got them as the biggest challenge to the Seahawks making it to a third straight Super Bowl, and right now, in fact, I have them with the edge for that #1 seed (by way of them hosting us in week 2, and by way of their incredibly easy schedule for a first place team).  The loss of Jordy Nelson for the year isn’t great, but with James Jones back in the fold, they should have enough receivers to get through the year just fine.  One of the strongest Packers teams I’ve seen since they went 15-1.

I still like Detroit – indeed, I like them as a Wild Card pick – and think they’ll have no trouble winning 10 games, even with the losses they’ve suffered on defense.  I like Minnesota to take a step forward, as Teddy Bridgewater gets more comfortable as a passer.  And, I like Chicago to be one of the very worst teams in the entire NFC (and therefore, the world).

NFC South

Carolina
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

I still find this division to be pretty pathetic, and I still doubt the winner of this division will have more than 9 wins.  I don’t like Carolina much, but I like the teams I’ve ranked below them even less.  Atlanta is still far from solid on defense, and they’ve got exactly two good players on offense (Matt Ryan & Julio Jones).  That’s it.  In games it wins, I’m sure the Ryan to Jones connection will be on point.  But, good teams will be able to shut that option down, and thereby shutting down the entire offense.  They don’t have a running game at all, Roddy White is very near retirement, and they’re STILL trying to figure out a way to replace Tony Gonzalez (will the mummy Antonio Gates be a free agent anytime soon?).

I’ve got New Orleans in the 3-hole, but I could easily see them as dead last.  Who are Brees’ options?  Are they REALLY going to devote their offense more to the run?  Do they even HAVE a defense?  I could see this year going sour in a hurry.  Tampa actually has some upside, and if their #1 QB gets the hang of this game, they could approach 6-8 wins.

NFC West

Seattle
St. Louis
Arizona
San Francisco

I’ll get to the Seahawks throughout the week in a series of previews, but suffice it to say, with all the turnover, I still feel the Seahawks are one of the best two or three teams in the NFL.  In a little more shocking news, I finally like the Rams to get over the hump and into the playoffs.  I think this is the year their defense puts it all together.  I don’t like Nick Foles a ton, but he is a starting quarterback in this league, and I’d much rather have him than someone like Cutler, Dalton, Fitzpatrick, Bradford, Cousins, Hoyer, and QB Browns.  Furthermore, I don’t think they’ll have to do much at all on offense to win games this year; I foresee a lot of 16-13 wins, as teams struggle to move the ball.  The schedule doesn’t help them out much early (3 of first 5 on the road, with games vs. SEA, vs. PIT, @ AZ, and @ GB), but after their week 6 BYE, they have a stretch where they play 6 of 9 at home, featuring (vs. CLE, vs. SF, @ MIN, vs. CHI, @ BAL, @ CIN, vs. AZ, vs. DET, vs TB).  I see them winning 7 of those games alone, and with a couple of unmentioned road games against the 49ers and Redskins, it’s not impossible to see this as a 10-win team.

I don’t like Arizona at all.  I think they got incredibly lucky in 2014 (which is a ridiculous statement, considering how unlucky they were with injuries, specifically with the quarterback position) and were not as good of a team as their record.  Carson Palmer is back, but I can’t imagine he has much left in the tank.  They’ve lost a bunch of guys on both sides of the line, and they still don’t have a running game at all.  They might get off to a good start early (home games against the Saints, 49ers, and Rams in the first four weeks, with the only road game being at Chicago), but look for the wheels to come off as that stretch is followed by the following (@ DET, @ PIT, vs. BAL, @ CLE, BYE, @ SEA, vs. CIN, @ SF, @ StL).  I could easily see them losing 6 of those games, and that doesn’t factor in a tough stretch of mostly home games to close out the season (vs. MIN, @ PHI, vs. GB, vs. SEA).  With Palmer surely injured by this point, I could see them losing out and having at least 10-11 losses this year.

And with all of that said, I STILL think the 49ers will be worse!  My hope is that they’re terrible, but not so terrible that they get a Top 5 pick.  Is that possible?  Well, considering all their good people are either retired or playing/coaching elsewhere, we might actually be looking at the future #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.  Not quite my worst nightmare, but it’s close.  The only things they have going for them is a Week 10 BYE and they get to host us on a Thursday (#ShortWeek).

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
NY Jets

With Tom Brady embiggened emboldened by the overturning of his 4-game suspension, I fully expect him to lay to waste any defense that comes across his path.  The thing with that is, teams aren’t just going to roll over and die (well, MOST teams; I fully expect the Steelers on Thursday to roll over like the good doggies they are, as I’m playing against my friend in Fantasy Football who’s starting Brady this week).  The Dolphins, Bills, and Jets all have pretty tough defenses.  I don’t expect them to beat the Pats a whole lot, but I’d LIKE to see them knock Brady around, to wipe that smug fucking smirk off his face.  They also face the defenses of Houston, Denver, and Dallas who should all be pretty tough as well.  How they managed to dodge playing the Ravens in the regular season is a crime against NFL scheduling (though, I obviously understand how NFL scheduling works, wouldn’t the hype for that game – which would invariably be played on either a Sunday or Monday night – be deliciously over the top?).

Elsewhere, like the Rams, I think this is the year the Dolphins finally make it over the hump.  Mike Wallace is gone, so that’s addition by subtraction.  I think they have the weapons in both the passing game and the running game to be a consistent force on offense.  With the addition of Suh on defense, that gives their run defense instant credibility, forcing other teams to be one dimensional.  That formula (combined with playing the NFC East and AFC South) should be more than enough to get them to 10 wins and a wild card.  I like Buffalo for approximately 7-8 wins (mostly due to their very-strong defense and lack of a quarterback), and I like the Jets for even less than that (mostly due to their less-strong defense and even BIGGER lack of a quarterback).

AFC North

Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland

The Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, then suffered an immediate setback thanks to the Joe Flacco contract.  They shed older players, reloaded through the draft, and now they’re back once again, ready to contend for more championships.  You know I love me some Seahawks front office, but I have only the utmost respect for the Ravens’.  And, not to get off on a tangent here, but I like the Ravens’ front office even more than the Patriots’.  Yeah, the Pats may have been more successful over the last decade and a half, but they’ve also been cheating throughout, and most importantly, they’ve EASILY had the lowest level of divisional competition by a fucking thousand miles.  If you swapped the Ravens and Patriots (so the Ravens were in the AFC LEast and the Pats were in the AFC North), I can make a pretty easy argument for the Ravens being the last great dynasty in the NFL, and the Pats still being pretty good, but nowhere near 6 Super Bowl appearances in 15 years.

Like the Giants, if you’d asked me to rank the divisions a month ago, I probably would’ve put Pittsburgh on top.  Again, you gotta like the way their offense played down the stretch.  But, that defense is clearly rebuilding, and they’re unlikely to remain as lucky with injuries as they were in 2014 (their center is already out for at least half the year, being put on the IR-designated to return).  If I had to predict the 2016 division champions, I’d probably tell you the Steelers will finally be ready.  But, as it stands now, I think they win no more than 9-10 games, and I think that’s still not good enough to crack the Wild Card.  I like Cincy to fall below .500 for the first time since Andy Dalton came into the league.  I also think Andy Dalton’s stranglehold on the starting QB job is in jeopardy and he starts losing some snaps to A.J. McCarron (Wave of the Future!).  Finally, I think Cleveland is a mess and that’s the end of that analysis.

AFC South

Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville
Tennessee

Indy is quickly taking over the reign of Worst Divisional Opponents In The NFL from New England, which is pretty easy to do when you’re good and the rest of the teams in your division don’t have any quarterbacks.  I think Hoyer and that Texans defense will be good enough to get to around 8 wins.  I think Jacksonville will make some strides towards .500 this year, but I don’t believe in Bortles as far as I can throw him; he’ll be another bust.  And the Titans are too young to do much of anything.  Mariota being Jake Locker 2.0 is probably their worst nightmare.

AFC West

Kansas City
Denver
San Diego
Oakland

I think we’re reaching the end of the line for Peyton Manning.  I like them to sneak into a wild card spot, but I’m not even really high on that, to be honest.  This is sort of a hedge pick; if Manning stays healthy, and the defense keeps up their end of the bargain, the Broncos could be divisional winners.  If Manning gets hurt, I think they could fall as far as last place in the division.  So, I decided to meet in the middle – maybe Manning misses a bunch of games in the middle of the season and they get him back for a hot stretch run in December.  Either way, I feel pretty good about the Chiefs grabbing control of the division.  Most people blame Alex Smith for their offensive woes last year; I blame their sub-pedestrian receivers (led by the corpse of Dwayne Bowe).  With a REAL number one receiver in Jeremy Maclin, I think this offense hums along like those old Andy Reid Philly teams.  And, considering their defense is pretty fearsome, I wouldn’t be shocked if this team won 12 games and a BYE in the first round of the playoffs.

I could see the Chargers sneaking past the Broncos for that final wild card spot, but I dunno.  The Chargers seem to be a team that always has all the promise in the world, but ultimately falters to a .500 finish.  I’m going to say their defense isn’t up to the charge (!), their running game isn’t where it needs to be, and Rivers doesn’t quite have the receiving weapons to get the job done.  As for the Raiders, it all hinges on Derek Carr.  That’s a scary proposition.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Dallas
  4. Carolina
  5. St. Louis
  6. Detroit

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Kansas City
  4. Baltimore
  5. Denver
  6. Miami

Wild Card Round

Dallas over Detroit
St. Louis over Carolina
Kansas City over Miami
Baltimore over Denver

Divisional Round

Seattle over St. Louis
Dallas over Green Bay
New England over Baltimore
Indianapolis over Kansas City

Championship Round

Seattle over Dallas
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Indianapolis

In 2012, the Colts – with rookie Andrew Luck – won 11 games, made the playoffs, and lost in the first round to the Ravens.  In 2013, the Colts won 11 games again, made the playoffs again, beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, and lost to the Patriots in the Divisional round.  In 2014, the Colts won 11 games one more time, made the playoffs, beat the Bengals in the Wild Card round, beat the Broncos in the Divisional round, and lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.  My point being:  the Colts have gotten better every single year under Andrew Luck.  Their first year was just seeing what they had – and what they had was the next Peyton Manning.  The next year was seeing if the first year wasn’t a fluke.  Last year was taking that next step towards being elite.  THIS year is where they put it all together.

They’ve got Andre Johnson to go with T.Y. Hilton, which is a vast improvement over Reggie Wayne towards the end of his career.  They’ve got the steady presence of Frank Gore who’s been nothing if not healthy and is dying for a chance to win a ring.  And, FINALLY, I think they’ve made real strides to toughen up that defense.  I think this is the year they finally get over the hump of the Patriots running the ball down their throats.  I think they’ve got the complete package – even an elite shutdown corner in Vontae Davis (if he can stay healthy) – and I think this is the year they make their reemergence into the Super Bowl.

And, with all that being said, I think they’re going to get beat by the Seahawks.  You could argue that the first 10 games of the 2014 season saw the Seahawks wrapped up in a long term Super Bowl Hangover.  I think there’s no such hangover this year.  Everyone has their eyes on that prize and they’re going to do anything and everything to make people forget about The Play Call That Shall Not Be Named.

I have no such doubts about this year like I did going into last year.  I’m not QUITE as confident as I was going into the 2013 season (where I knew as soon as the 2012 playoffs ended that we’d be the team to beat), but that team was as complete as can be on both sides of the ball.  This team is almost there, but I worry about a few growing pains early.  If we beat the Rams and Packers in the first two weeks, all doubt will be washed away going forward.

The course for a Seahawks Dynasty is still very much on track.

Have Teams Figured Out How To Beat The Seahawks’ Defense?

I’m not gonna lie to you, this is something of an underlying fear of mine that I don’t think enough people are talking about.

We all know the formula by now.  You start by taking what you can get from your running game.  Some days are better than others for teams trying to rush on us; hell, some DRIVES are better than others.  Sometimes you get stuffed, sometimes you bust into the secondary with ease; a.k.a. you take what you can get.  In the passing game, it’s short, quick passes.  Don’t give our speedy pass rush an opportunity to get home, and neutralize the speed in our linebacking corps by getting the ball out into the open spots of the zone before they have a chance to read your eyes and react.

What you absolutely DON’T want to motherfucking do is pull out the 7-step drops and try to throw on us deep.  That wack shit won’t hunt.

It requires an over-abundance of patience, especially because all that work tends to get washed away in the red zone and you’re generally stuck settling for field goals.  Bend/Don’t Break.  That shit’s etched into our very being.

The Seahawks take so much away that other teams like to do, that you HAVE to settle for the scraps if you want to get by.  Yes, the Seahawks love to slow it down on offense, run the ball a lot, reduce the number of overall possessions, and “shorten the game” as the coaches like to say.  On the flip, you have to understand that the Seahawks’ defense is the exact opposite:  they want to end your drive on FIRST down if they can!  They can’t handle it when the tables are turned and other teams shorten the game.  The longer they’re on the field, the less effective they become; you make them tired and they’re unable to rely on the one thing they rely upon the most:  their speed.  Now, obviously, you can say that about ALL defenses, and I’ll still take my chances with what the Seahawks have to offer.  I’m just saying, that’s what you have to do.

Like I said before, you can’t get frustrated.  When you get frustrated, you start taking chances you shouldn’t be taking against a defense of this calibre.  Likewise, the longer the Seahawks’ D is on the field, the MORE frustrated they’re going to get.  Which, if they’re not careful, will lead to assignments being missed, guys trying to do too much, and ultimately some moderately big plays for the offense if they’re not careful.

That’s it.  That’s how you beat the Seahawks’ defense.  So, if it’s so easy, why doesn’t EVERYONE do it?  There’s your $64,000 question, my friend.  EVERYONE … CAN’T do it.  It takes a special kind of offense which is just a really nice way to say it takes a special kind of quarterback:  comfortable in a swarming pocket, quick release, and above all accurate.  Who shredded the Seahawks the most last year?  Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady.  One might not normally lump Romo in with those other two, but behind that O-Line he might as well be Joe Montana.

So, in 2015, who are some of the better quarterbacks out there that might achieve such a feat, that the Seahawks also happen to have on the schedule?  Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo again, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco just to name a few.  I’m less-inclined to call Flacco a patient, accurate passer like some of those other guys, but that’s a road game, so he’s getting lumped in.

Obviously, the Seahawks aren’t going to lose to ALL of those teams.  Just like they’re not going to beat ALL the teams I didn’t list.  But, they just have to lose ENOUGH to get to the point where – should they make the playoffs – they’ll have to head out on the road.  It wouldn’t be impossible for this team to win a playoff game or two on the road, but obvs you like your chances more with the 12th Man at your back.

I know I said this last year, but I was still entranced by the seductive power of a healthy Percy Harvin being added to the 2013 offense that just won a Super Bowl almost entirely without him.  A prior MVP candidate, with this quarterback and this running game, should’ve made for tidings of GREAT joy.  Anyway, I said last year that 2014 might be the season where the offense out-plays the defense.  I said that coming from a place where I believed the D would be just as good as 2013, but the Harvin-full offense would be on another level entirely.  Of course, I was wrong as SHIT, and the offense actually sort of took a step back in a lot of ways.

But, this year, not only do I believe it will finally happen, I think it HAS to happen for this team to consider a third crack at the Super Bowl in as many years.  Unlike Harvin, Jimmy Graham is a positive influence in the lockerroom and in the community.  Unlike Harvin, Graham helps us in the area we need the MOST help:  the red zone.  I mean, when you think about it, the best version of Percy Harvin is a nice idea between the 20s; but what in the merciless fuck is a bloody pipsqueak like Harvin going to do for you in the endzone?  Get knocked down by the multitude of bigger defenders, followed immediately by pulling himself out of the game for no reason (the reason is: because he’s a P-U-S-S-Y and would be better-served playing a game like youth soccer instead of American Football).

Why do I think the offense needs to be better than the defense this year?  Because I have a strong conviction that this is the year we finally stop leading the league in fewest points allowed.  The more I look at this defense, picture this secondary without some key players, and worry about Richard Sherman’s reportedly “minor hip issue” that could just as easily be “future hip surgery” with the definition of the word “future” being “within the next three months, weeks, or days”, the more I believe the Seahawks won’t even be in the top 10 in points allowed.  And, if that’s the case, we’re in for a lot of long drives by opposing teams, followed by our own offense needing to throw its way back into games.

I think they can do it, don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad to have Graham here.  I’m glad Baldwin and Kearse are another year stronger and experienced.  I’m glad we drafted Tyler Lockett.  I’m even glad Ricardo Lockette will likely be around to atone for the play that which we do not speak its name.  And, should Chris Matthews return from injury, and should Luke Willson figure out his drops issue, and should Marshawn Lynch play like we’ve come to know and love these last few years, I’ll sit here and tell you that this offense has the potential to REALLY make a charge into the top half of the league.  And that everything will be all right and we’ll still find a way to get by with a lesser defense.

In the end, it’ll make for more exciting football, but I gotta tell ya, it’ll be less-enjoyable for me.  I LIKE having the best defense in the game!  I like being the team that slogs out 19-3 victories.  I like completely imposing our will on opposing offenses, in a league where all the rules are tilted that way and the bulk of the talent tilts that way.  I think those days – for the most part – will be in the past.  Now’s when we find out if this team can overcome and still be as great as ever.

Underworld – Always Loved A Film

Russell Wilson Signed His Contract Extension

So, now we can all relax a little bit.  You know, until we get more rumors and conjecture about Bobby Wagner’s negotiations.  Or until the next guy threatens to hold out or otherwise demands a new contract.  Or until we start hearing about guys in the locker room being disgruntled about the deals other people are getting around them.

It’s 4 years, $87.6 million.  It’s a good thing because it’s a fair deal for both sides, it sets up Wilson to be this team’s quarterback for the bulk of his career, and it also sets him up to be in a position in 2020 to get a spiffy new deal.  Other than that, I don’t really care about how the contract breaks down.  It sounds like Wilson’s getting a lot of that guaranteed, but when you think about it, as long as he stays relatively healthy, the whole fucking thing is going to be guaranteed.  Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere.  He’ll see every dime of that $87.6 million and then some.  He’s going to be a very wealthy man for the rest of his life.

The greatest thing about this is that it’s finally over.  We don’t have to talk about Russell Wilson’s contract again for another 3-4 years.  We won’t have this looming over the entire season (I honestly don’t know how the people of Baltimore survived that contract season for Joe Flacco; I guess winning the Super Bowl probably helps).  Really, after the excitement of this morning, that’ll be it.  We’ll be on to the issues at hand:  Training Camp, and the upcoming 2015 NFL season.

I like Wilson.  I like having him around.  I think he’s going to be a good one for the duration of his career.  I’m glad his contract isn’t going to hamstring the organization capwise, and I’m glad that he’s probably happy making just a tick under Aaron Rodgers.  I won’t argue with which quarterback deserves the most money or whathaveyou, but it sort of feels right that Rodgers is still the highest-paid QB in the NFL.  Mostly, I’m just glad this deal got done before Andrew Luck did his extension.  I’d hate to see that pissing contest, I’ll tell you that much.

Betting On Yourself: A Quick Thought On Russell Wilson’s Contract Negotiations

I’m certainly not the first person to come to this conclusion, but then again I don’t see it as a thought that’s readily expressed in most articles on the subject, so I’m going to put it down here.

I’ve had other thoughts on this matter, which you can read here.  And perhaps here.  And today’s thoughts probably won’t be my final thoughts – especially as we’re hearing today that if he doesn’t get a deal done by the start of Training Camp, the matter will be set aside until next offseason.  That’s pretty standard protocol; at this point it’s up to both sides:  Do I want to be comfortable and secure that a deal is in place?  Or, am I okay with letting this hang over everything for the next year.

I’m pretty damn sure that this negotiation is going to bleed into next year.  I just can’t see either side coming so far off of their current stance to meet anywhere in the middle.  I hope I’m wrong (and luckily for everyone, I frequently am), but this just screams to me to be a Joe Flacco situation.

Which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  If Russell Wilson playing out his rookie deal means the Seahawks go all the way and win the Super Bowl, I would GLADLY watch the Seahawks give him the richest quarterback contract in NFL history.  Wouldn’t you?  Yeah, it’ll mean some lean times ahead; we’ll have to let some starters go we otherwise wouldn’t mind keeping around.  And the Seahawks will CERTAINLY have to start drafting more productive players than we’ve seen in the last few drafts (since 2013, the only productive players – aside from Justin Britt – have been backups & reserves:  Luke Willson, Jordan Hill, Tharold Simon, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Christine Michael).  Russell Wilson earning the maximum will create a hardship that might very well mean a dip in our future success, but what are you going to do?  Let a 2x NFL champion and 3x NFC champion quarterback walk in free agency?  Or trade him for 50 cents on the dollar?

I dunno, maybe that’s what a lot of fans want to see.  They like having the top defense, they like the powerful running game, and they believe the hype – that this type of team can win with an average quarterback.  I’m sure there’s a lot out there who believe that.  I think it’s insane, for many reasons.  First of all, these legendary defenses get old pretty quickly.  If you cling to a unit, you’re bound to be one of the oldest and slowest teams in the NFL within a few years.  Plus, injuries are a way of life in the NFL.  Even though most of our defense is right in their peak physically, you can’t account for freak injuries.  See how prepared we were for life without Jeremy Lane in the Super Bowl once he went out.  Tack on the fact that nearly everyone else in the secondary was playing through SOMETHING, and it’s pretty easy to see how the Patriots were able to carve us up so well in the second half.  Then, you’ve got to take into account the sheer number of games this team has played in since 2012.  Players wear down quicker when you’ve got so many post-season miles on your legs.  Factor in how Marshawn Lynch could retire at any moment, and it’s just not practical to throw away a franchise quarterback and try to build around someone inferior.

Quarterback is the most difficult position to fill, and the most difficult position to get right.  You don’t let franchise quarterbacks go; and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Russell Wilson is (a point made ever more clear should he lead this team to another championship in 2015).  This team would not be where it’s been had Tarvaris Jackson been starting for us.  That’s a fact, and all of you doubters have to realize that.  Having the league’s best defense and one of its most formidable running games isn’t enough to steamroll over the entire league.

Think about that game in Chicago in 2012:  no way we win that without Russell.  There are at least four games in 2013 – wins over Carolina, Houston, St. Louis, and Tampa – that very well would have been losses with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm.  And even if he does somehow lead us into the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers that year, does he do what Wilson did?  Does he make that throw to Kearse on 4th down to score the go-ahead touchdown?  I highly doubt it.  Then, if you look at last season, the NFC Championship Game probably looks a lot different without Wilson throwing all those interceptions; but at the same time, I don’t think anyone but Wilson is able to bring this team back from the dead.  And, with Tarvar in the Super Bowl, I don’t see him making ANY of the downfield throws Wilson made; I bet Super Bowl XLIX would’ve been a soul-crushing blowout loss instead of a soul-crushing near-win.

If you believe in a lesser quarterback like Tarvaris so much, I want you to go back to 2011 and take a REAL hard look at some of those games.  Maybe with some more weapons around him, he would’ve been able to do more.  But, just remember, Wilson hasn’t really had the weapons either, and look at how he’s made it work.  Furthermore, look at that offensive line!  Remember Tarvaris holding the ball too long?  Taking sacks he shouldn’t have been taking?  If the Seahawks let Wilson go, they absolutely CANNOT replace him with someone as immobile as Tarvar.  That guy will be killed faster than you can say David Carr’s NFL Career!  Sometimes, you need a guy to elude a rush.  Sometimes, you need a guy to lead you to a come-from-behind victory.  Defense and running game doesn’t do it all.  Sometimes, you need big plays out of your quarterback.  That’s where Russell Wilson comes in.  So, don’t bring your weak-ass argument in here about Russell Wilson not being a franchise quarterback.

***

You know what?  I got so off track with that rant that I completely neglected the original point of this post.  This was supposed to be a QUICK thought, dammit!

Anyway, I just had this notion.  One of the perceived sticking points in the whole negotiation that’s been bandied about in the media is this issue of Guaranteed Money.  One of the rumors goes so far as to suggest Russell Wilson’s side is demanding the entire contract – or at least a prohibitive percentage of that contract – be fully guaranteed.  Who knows is this is true or not?  Seems to me, certain media members noticed Wilson’s agent is a baseball agent, they connected the dots to how baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, and put two & two together with the fact that this agent doesn’t have any other football player clients, so it doesn’t matter if he burns bridges with NFL executives.  When you combine that with Russell Wilson’s “Why Not Us” attitude, and how he wants to achieve the impossible, or prove all the doubters wrong, or whatever, it seems like a reasonable argument.

If that IS true, then I would counter with this:  Russell Wilson is a guy who’s totally willing to bet on himself in order to get what he wants.  That’s a given.  And that’s why these negotiations are going to continue into next year.  The threat of playing on a fourth year of sub-standard wages is not an issue.  He’s got enough money to get by with endorsements and he’s got a big, fat insurance policy to make sure he never goes to bed hungry.  Likewise, the threat of being Franchise Tagged isn’t even a threat either.  For starters, he’ll finally be making some motherfucking money, and it’ll just give him another year to prove to everyone that he’s worth all the money he’s asking for.

But, demanding a fully guaranteed contract just doesn’t seem to be keeping with his personality.  It’s a little too greedy and a little too nefarious.  If he’s willing to bet on himself to the point where this thing will go to the absolute last possible moment – whether it’s this year, or next year, or the year after that when we’re looking at a crazy second franchise tag – then he shouldn’t have any problem betting on himself when it comes to a non-guaranteed deal.

You figure, the average franchise quarterback’s deal has a hefty signing bonus, and maybe the first two years’ worth of salary fully guaranteed.  It’s going to put him somewhere around 60-75% of the contract guaranteed anyway; so what’s the big deal if those last two years aren’t fully guaranteed, as long as they represent an average per-year salary commensurate with other franchise quarterbacks of his ilk?  Joe Flacco’s deal was for 6 years and $120 million, with whatever smaller amount guaranteed.  But, if he keeps winning, and he stays healthy, he’s not only going to see every last dime of that deal – making it, for all intents and purposes a fully guaranteed deal anyway – but he’s going to get another contract extension probably before the end of the deal that will see him make even MORE money.

Why wouldn’t Russell Wilson bet on himself staying healthy for the full 4 years of his impending deal?  It just seems too obvious.  If he thought he was ever going to get injured beyond repair, he would’ve agreed to a deal by now!  So, why should a fully guaranteed contract be a sticking point for him?

If it is, then he’s truly not as good of a guy as you’d like to think.  Let’s be real here, I understand the “plight” of the NFL player in this world of non-guaranteed contracts, and I understand how they have to “get theirs” while the getting’s good.  But, at the same time, I think fully guaranteed contracts in ANY sport are a ridiculous concept.  The Mariners are going to have Robinson Cano under contract for 8 more years after this year.  If he really is on the downslope of his career, that means we’re going to be paying $24 million a year for a guy who isn’t even worth a tenth of that salary.  That’s what’s wrong with baseball in a nutshell, and it’s the last thing I want to see happen to the NFL.