The NFL’s Best Game Of The Week Is The Ravens At The Seahawks

Intensity of a thousand suns take: we’re going to watch some fun football this weekend.

I’m utterly fascinated by the Baltimore Ravens this year. Honestly, I wish I could’ve seen more of them to date; if I had NFL Sunday Ticket, I’d be tempted to put them on just about every week! After two games, they looked on track to compete for a Super Bowl slot with the Patriots and Chiefs; but were we watching fool’s gold? Wins over the Dolphins and Cardinals – blowouts that they were – are obviously not very impressive. You’re supposed to kill those teams.

Nevertheless, my expectations for this Ravens team heading into the season were completely out of whack compared to what they put out into the world. I was not a Lamar Jackson believer, for starters. I thought he was a fine fantasy quarterback, in the same way Josh Allen is a fine fantasy quarterback. Rushing yards can make all the fantasy difference at the QB position. But, in real life? In the NFL, where wins matter above all else? Where you need to prove you actually have an arm and can use it for something other than jabbing it into a defender’s face as you run by him for extra yardage? I couldn’t buy it.

The fact of the matter is, the Ravens’ offense from 2018 threw me off the scent. Lamar was a rookie, after all, and they used him like one. He sat behind Joe Flacco for an uncomfortably long time. Then, when he got in there, the offense looked so drastically different, it seemed like they pared down the playbook to a post-it note. I figured, at some point – probably as soon as Week 1, 2019 – defenses would adjust to the Run-First/Run-Second/Run-Third ethos of what John Harbaugh was trying to instill, by stacking the box and forcing Lamar to throw deep.

And, they might have very well done that! But, funny thing: Lamar just went over the top and blew everyone’s doors off!

He threw for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns against Miami (with only 6 yards rushing). He followed that up with another 272 yards and 2 more TDs against Arizona; and the MVP chatter was in full effect.

I watched that Ravens/Chiefs game in Week 3 pretty closely for a while, until the score got out of reach (I missed a lot of the garbage-time points the Ravens scored late), and honestly I liked what I saw. The Ravens took chances, went for it on 4th down, went for two on the game’s opening touchdown; they knew that field goals and field position weren’t going to be enough to beat the high-flying Chiefs offense. It was a brilliant strategy, poorly executed (especially in the first half).

What I saw over everything else was a defense that isn’t NEARLY as good as I expected them to be. The Ravens’ defense, in 2018, really carried the mail. They were the reason I had them in the hunt at all for a possible wild card spot. I figured it would be more of the same as 2018; that’s usually my mistake when making pre-season predictions.

To be fair, I don’t know exactly what they did exceptionally last year, but I’m assuming it was the front seven. With the addition of Earl Thomas in the backfield, I figured he would do what he did for many a mediocre Seahawks’ defenses in the last few years: pick them up on his back and make them look much better than they actually were.

But, he hasn’t really stood out (aside from almost killing that Steelers quarterback), and I contend they’re using him wrong. I haven’t watched the tape or anything, but I can’t believe he’s lost that much of a step after looking fantastic in his few games in 2018; yet he’s seemingly never in a position to make a play. I put that on the scheme. My hunch is they’re playing more of a Tampa 2 when he’s coming from a Single High scheme. Let your dog hunt! Set Earl loose and watch the magic happen!

Anyway, the Ravens biffed it against the Chiefs, and completely fell apart against the Browns (giving up 33 and 40 points respectively). That’s on the defense. Things have settled down the last two weeks – they beat the Steelers and Bengals in closer games than they probably should’ve been – but again, those are terrible teams. The Ravens are 4-2 and have beaten probably the 4 worst teams in the league through six weeks.

So, what does that tell us?

I don’t know if it’s told us a whole lot. Lamar Jackson has looked much more like the player I was expecting in the last few weeks. Fewer passing yards, more rushing yards, fewer TDs, more picks. But, he’s yet to face this Seahawks defense.

A defense that’s as much of an enigma as I’ve ever seen.

Jarran Reed returns this week. I hope and pray that brings with it a bit of stability, but I’m worried he won’t play as much as we probably need him to. He drastically improves our depth in the front seven and in particular in the defensive tackle rotation. He’s a great run stuffer, and as he showed last year, he can be a whiz rushing the passer. We need the middle of that line to be as good as it’s been all year to slow down the Ravens’ rushing attack. Between Lamar and Mark Ingram, they’ve got a couple of LOADS that are tough to stop, who only get stronger as the game goes on.

I would hope that our defense will shut down their deep passing attack, but I’ve seen so many breakdowns this year, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see one or two get behind us for big gains. I’m more concerned with the rush defense though, and the pisspoor tackling we’ve seen from pretty much everyone.

I’ve stopped banking on this team actually getting sacks, but if it’s EVER going to happen, this would probably be the game to see ’em. The Ravens love some play action and Lamar loves to extend plays, so we should – if nothing else – see some coverage sacks.

I’d honestly be surprised and a little lot disappointed if we let the Ravens score in the high 20’s or 30’s. This is probably a game the Seahawks should win in a semi-grudge match. Something like 24-16.

It should be raining, which is always a concern for the Seahawks’ offense. The last time it rained for a home game was against the Saints, and you saw all the freaky shit that happened.

I have to believe the Ravens will sell out to stop the run, which is playing right into Russell MVP Wilson’s hands. There’s no doubt Earl will make his presence felt in this one, but the rest of their secondary is pretty ordinary, so we shouldn’t have any trouble throwing on the outside.

I’m expecting a workmanlike, forgettable Seahawks victory in this one. I’m also expecting to be surprised by the Ravens as I’ve been pretty much all year, so I can’t wait to watch this game.

Can The Seahawks Win With Russell Wilson Making A Million-Billion Dollars?

There are two schools of thought dominating the NFL landscape nowadays:

  1. You can’t win without a Franchise Quarterback
  2. You can’t win with a Franchise Quarterback taking up too high of a percentage of your salary cap

Which essentially boils down to:

  1. You can only win with a Franchise Quarterback on his rookie deal, or
  2. You can only win if you have Tom Brady and you cheat the salary cap in some way that has yet to be exposed

So, that’s great if you’re the cheatin’-ass Patriots, but otherwise it’s a pretty minuscule window of opportunity for the rest of the league. For starters, how many Franchise Quarterbacks are there in the league right now? Let’s count ’em out, in no particular order:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Ben Roethlisberger
  3. Andrew Luck
  4. Patrick Mahomes
  5. Philip Rivers
  6. Aaron Rodgers
  7. Matt Ryan
  8. Cam Newton
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Russell Wilson

I think that’s pretty much it. You could make an argument for Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Kirk Cousins, but I think you could also make plenty of arguments against those guys as well. Anyone I haven’t listed here is on that next tier down; doesn’t mean you can’t win a Super Bowl with those guys (see: Eli Manning, Nick Foles, Joe Flacco), but obviously you need to hit on a roster full of studs around them.

Regardless, we’re talking approximately a third of the league having bona fide Franchise Quarterbacks. Everyone else has some variation on a question mark. Everyone else needs to be special in other ways (like the Rams, with their coaching staff) or they’re selling out to find that elusive game-changer at the game’s most important position.

So, let’s pull it back to just the cream of the crop; how many are Tom Brady or on a rookie deal? Well, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, so the Pats are set. Other than him, you’re talking about Mahomes, Watson, Wentz, the Rams (in spite of Goff more than because of him), and let’s throw in the Browns for shits n’ giggles. We’re talking about 6 teams who are in a prime position with their quarterback and salary cap situations; should we just lop off the rest of the teams in the league?

Or, do the Seahawks have a shot?

It’s funny, because in the days leading up to Russell Wilson’s contract extension, everything I read was some variation on: DON’T BE STUPID, YOU HAVE TO EXTEND WILSON BECAUSE HE’S AMAZING! Then, as soon as Wilson announced his signing, everything I’ve read since was: THE SEAHAWKS ARE PAYING TOO MUCH FOR THEIR QUARTERBACK, THEY’LL NEVER WIN!

Ostensibly, the argument is: if you’re going to run all the damn time, what’s the point in paying a quarterback $35 million a year? Pay someone adequate like Case Keenum to be a game manager, and use the rest of the money to bolster other areas.

The first knock against that line of thinking is that you’re never going to build the perfect team. The 2013 Seahawks were a fucking unicorn; being able to draft or otherwise acquire that much Hall of Fame talent in one roster is nearly impossible. There are always going to be holes and weaknesses, even on the best teams, and that’s before you get into the injury attrition that nearly every team faces every single year.

The second knock against that line of thinking is that, even on the best teams, you’re still going to need your quarterback to put the team on his back and win you a handful of games. Even the 2013 Seahawks needed some Russell Wilson magic against Carolina, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game (before The Tip, there was the 4th down bomb to Kearse). Could you envision that team with the likes of Case Keenum winning it all? Because I can’t.

In fact, I would argue that it’s even MORE important to have someone as clutch and efficient as Wilson on a team like the 2018 Seahawks, where running on 1st & 2nd downs were the norm. There’s so much more strain on Wilson to do more with fewer opportunities than there is on someone like Mahomes, who threw it 36 times a game compared to Wilson’s just under 27 attempts.

Ultimately, in the reality we’re living in, would you rather have Wilson on the deal he got, or whatever’s behind Door #2 (maybe trade him for draft picks while he’s got the most value, then either try to acquire whatever semi-competent veteran is still on the market, suck for a year with Paxton Lynch, and/or draft a new QB in this year’s questionable class)?

For me, I’ll take the certainty that Russell Wilson provides.

The obvious trade-off, though, is that there’s not as much money left to spread around the rest of the roster. Which gets us back to the topic of this post: can the Seahawks win with Russell Wilson making a million-billion dollars?

The answer, of course, is yes. How likely is it? I dunno, but let me flip it back on you: how likely is it for ANY team to win a Super Bowl? Because, that’s what we’re talking about, right? The worst nightmare of any NFL fan is ranging anywhere from 8-8 to 10-6 and at best winning a Wild Card berth while going nowhere in the playoffs and constantly drafting in the mid-20’s. If that’s what we’re doomed to be for the next 5 years with Russell Wilson under this contract, then I’ll admit to being pretty disappointed. It’ll further fuel the fire of those who list off all the Super Bowl champion teams with quarterbacks making under such-and-such percent of their team’s cap (conveniently ignoring the cap status of those teams who lost their respective Super Bowls, though they were just as capable of winning those games had certain things broken their way).

Ultimately, it’s all randomness! There’s no one blueprint to winning a Super Bowl (unless you cheat and get away with it like the Patriots). You need a good quarterback, we know that. Beyond that, you need the strengths of your team to overcome the weaknesses. You don’t NEED a dominant defense, you can easily overcome that the way the Chiefs did last year by scoring a ton of points. Even the Pats never really have super great defenses, but the coaches scheme the shit out of their opponents and ultimately those D’s do just enough to put Brady & Co. in position to win (the fact that the Pats constantly get to coast to a division championship every single year because the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets are all inept notwithstanding).

I would argue, the Seahawks have a Top 5 quarterback. The Seahawks have a Top 5 coaching staff. The Seahawks have enough skill position players on offense to move the ball and score on the regular, as well as an offensive line that can keep the whole thing moving. The question at this point would be: do the Seahawks have enough talent on defense to take it to the next level and compete for a divisional title? Or, conversely, do the Seahawks have enough on offense to mask their defensive deficiencies? That ultimately remains to be seen.

More than anything, if the Franchise Quarterback is 1-A most important, luck is 1-B. Good luck with injuries. Good luck with hitting on draft picks and free agent signings. And good luck with key roster guys making big leaps from year to year. And, quite frankly, good luck in those 50/50 games that keep a 10-6 team from being 12-4 or better. The Rams were 3 games better than the Seahawks, but beat us by a combined 7 points in two games. What happens if we find a way to win those two? What happens if we beat the Broncos in week 1, or the lowly 49ers in week 15? Just a couple bounces of the football here or there. What happens if we keep Dak from scoring on that insane 4th down run in the Wild Card game?

Sure, you need the Franchise Quarterback to put you in a position to win those 50/50 games, but it’s luck more than anything else that decides if you’re going to be 13-3 or 10-6.

My thought process, heading into the 2019 season, is we’ve got the most important piece locked in. Luck will hash out the way it hashes out. But, beyond that, I think the Seahawks have a winning formula they can follow. I believe in this team running the football, using its giant goons up front to punish opposing defenses. Running the football keeps the clock moving, keeps the defense off the field, and limits the punishment Wilson has to face (especially when you factor in how our O-Line still isn’t super great at pass protection).

The Seahawks were 6th in points per game with 26.8. That’s with a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive line coach, and a lot of new pieces on that side of the football. Sure, it ended crappy in Dallas, but I think with the continuity in place, this coaching staff learned a lot about what this team is made of. I think they’ll be able to tweak things enough to improve upon those points per game and be even more efficient going forward, without the need to drastically increase the number of times we throw the football. Having all of this set and ready to go TODAY – as opposed to learning on the fly and figuring things out heading into Week 3 last year – puts us at a greater advantage over the 2018 squad. From there, I’ll trust that this coaching staff and front office knows what it has to do to improve the defensive side of the ball.

Plus, let us not forget, we’ve got a Pro Bowl kicker now. You scoff, but let’s go back to that whole luck argument: how many games did a kicker cost us in 2017?

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 12

I’m just a mess of a human being.  I went into Monday Night trailing TheGangUnderperforms by a score of 140.75 to 124.75.  I was absolutely ROLLING during the morning games on Sunday.  At one point, I was projected as a 90% favorite to win the week.  Sure, a few of my guys were doing okay, but my heavy hitters were yet to come, and more importantly HIS guys were shitting the bed!  Ben Roethlisberger was at negative points until late in that game against the Jags; Mariota ended his day with less than 2 points total.  Then, that same shit in the bed started hitting the fan.

Predictably, TheGangUnderperforms picked up a tight end to play in Gronk’s place before Sunday.  He ended up picking up Vance McDonald for the Steelers, who MIRACULOUSLY caught a touchdown.  Because of course he did.  He only did that because he was going up against my team!!!  That was double-touchdowns because, obviously, Roethlisberger was the one who threw it.  Things went downhill as the Steelers’ fortunes continued to soar.  Instead of handing off to James Conner at the goalline, Roethlisberger ran in the winning touchdown just to FUCKING spite me!

Anyway, unpredictably, TheGangUnderperforms snuck Doug Baldwin into his lineup before the Thursday game.  He benched Kenny Golladay, which was the good news, but still, Doug had easily his best fantasy game of the season – again – because he was going up against me.

So, there I was, Monday Night.  I had Tyreek Hill, Robert Woods, and a 16-point deficit; he had Kareem Hunt and the aforementioned lead.  It was the Chiefs at the Rams, easily the most hyped matchup in the history of regular season football.  This was a fantasy boon the likes of which we’ve never seen.  So many games were on the line!  So many high-scoring players were in the middle of the action!

And I couldn’t bring myself to watch one single second of it.  Literally the greatest offensive shootout in the history of the NFL – the first time two teams scored over 50 points in the same game – and I was hiding in my room, watching old reruns of The Monkees and Get Smart.

This is what Fantasy Football has brought me to!  It’s literally ruining my life!  But, in my crazy, fucked-up brain, I needed to NOT watch to win my fantasy game.  I went to bed not knowing the result – of either the Rams/Chiefs or TheGangUnderperforms/King Flippy Nips – and I woke up at 4am to immediately hop on my computer to check the results.

Sure, I was disappointed I didn’t see the Best Game Ever, but I won.  DAMMIT, I WON!  186.33 to 160.85!

Blessings to Tyreek Hill, who got me over 44 points.  Tidings of love and joy to Zeke Elliott who got me over 33.  Kudos to Dalton and Chicago for getting over 20.  And a bigtime FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU to Carson Wentz, who finished with -3.60, and single-handedly was the reason why I couldn’t bring myself to watch the game on Monday.  Had he done what he was supposed to, I would’ve had a comfortable lead heading into Monday, and my night would’ve been more enjoyable for it.

To think, a friend of mine on Saturday said he wasn’t sure if Carson Wentz would eventually turn into Drew Brees or Ryan Tannehill (to which I replied, “Oh, he’s WAY better than Ryan Tannehill!” … yeah, except Tannehill didn’t even play this weekend and would’ve gotten me more points).

Anyway, here I am.  5-6 in the standings.  I leapfrogged TheGangUnderperforms to get into 5th place.  I am still comfortably 3rd in total points, and still 2nd in total points against.  That’s the good news, if you can call it good news.

The bad news is I have 2 games to go, and I need help (in more ways than one).  Two of the bottom-feeders won last week in upsets.  That puts them both at 4-7.  Those two teams – as chance would have it – play one another THIS week, meaning one of them is guaranteed to be 5-7 heading into the final week of the regular season.  As you’ll see below, I’m going up against the #1 team (in record, #2 in total points by a large margin over me) and I’ll be projected to lose.  Assuming I do lose, that will drop me to 5-7 and in a tie with one of those bottom-dwelling teams.  In the final week of the regular season, my opponent is the #2 team (in record, #1 in total points by a large margin over me); I will be projected to lose that game as well.  The aforementioned bottom-feeders will have very winnable games that week, so I’m in a real pickle.  Without getting too much further into the weeds, I’ll need certain teams to lose a lot the rest of the way …

Or, I’m effectively in if I can just get an upset win in one of the next two weeks.

Yeah, I’m screwed.

Just one minor move this week.  I swapped Matt Prater out and brought in Matt Bryant.  I don’t love any offensive player going up against the Saints right now – as they’re just STEAMROLLING people left and right – but I think the Falcons will move the ball a little bit.  My big concern is that the Saints get up by such a big score that the Falcons will have to go for nothing but touchdowns all game.  I could’ve legitimately put a zero in my lineup this week; regardless, going forward I like Bryant and that Falcons offense more than Prater and the Lions right now.

Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • QB1 – Carson Wentz vs. NYG
  • QB2 – Jameis Winston vs. SF
  • WR1 – Adam Thielen vs. GB
  • WR2 – Tyler Boyd vs. CLE
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott vs. WAS
  • RB2 – Adrian Peterson @ DAL
  • TE – Greg Olsen vs. SEA
  • FLEX – Chris Carson @ CAR
  • K – Matt Bryant @ NO
  • DEF – Chicago @ DET

My bench is:  Dalton, Carr, Hill (BYE), Woods (BYE), Brown (BYE), Bell (IR).

I like Andy Dalton at home against Cleveland – and I think it’s highly possible he goes off against them – but I also think the Browns’ defense is a little underrated, and they could force him to look a little mediocre.  I think with Winston (first of all, I need to get SOME sort of value out of that Le’Veon Bell trade, even if I’m shoe-horning it in this fashion), the Bucs have nothing to lose, so they’re going to let it rip.  I could see that game being super high scoring, because the Bucs’ defense is the worst in football, so as per usual they’re going to be throwing the ball a lot.  With Winston, you accept there are going to be turnovers.  The hope is that he’ll also rack up the TDs and yards to outweigh all the shittiness.  Also, who knows, maybe with his career on the line, he steps up and blows the league away.  Bottom line is the upside is higher with Winston over Dalton, while the floor is essentially the same (both of them could throw tons of picks and blow it for me).  Beyond that, with the BYEs what they are, my lineup choices are essentially made for me.

My opponent this week is Space Forcin’.  You may recall he’s the guy who kept Mahomes, Rivers, and Kamara from last year, so he’s obviously pretty fucking stacked.  You may also recall that at full strength, he beat my ass by almost 30 points back in Week 3.

Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.  The good news is Mahomes is on BYE this week.  The bad news is that his team is still really fucking stacked and I pretty much have no chance of winning.

I can only make an educated guess at this point as to who Space Forcin’ will put in his lineup, as everyone apparently likes to wait until the last minute to make a fucking decision:

  • QB1 – Philip Rivers vs. ARI
  • QB2 – Joe Flacco vs. OAK
  • WR1 – Davante Adams @ MIN
  • WR2 – JuJu Smith-Schuster @ DEN
  • RB1 – Alvin Kamara vs. ATL
  • RB2 – Marlon Mack vs. MIA
  • TE – George Kittle @ TB
  • FLEX – Aaron Jones @ MIN
  • K – Wil Lutz vs. ATL
  • DEF – Philadelphia vs. NYG

His bench is:  Mahomes (BYE), C.J. Beathard, Miami, Austin Hooper, Duke Johnson.

Joe Flacco against the Raiders would normally be as juicy of a matchup as you can get on a team this stacked.  But, his injury status is looking iffy.  I texted Space Forcin’ to try to get a sense of what his plan is.  Frankly, the QBs on the free agent scrap heap are nothing to write home about.  Tannehill is starting this week, so that rules out Osweiler.  Colt McCoy is probably the best bet of the bunch to at least get points, but someone with a higher waiver priority just made a claim on him.  He has Beathard now, but that’s probably a hail mary of an option, in the hopes that Nick Mullens goes down with injury or otherwise gets benched.  The only guy left in free agency is Taysom Hill, the backup for the Saints who runs a few gadget plays per game.

Could I have dropped Derek Carr this week, now that I’m holding 4 healthy quarterbacks on my roster?  I absolutely could have, but why should I help the best team in the league when I don’t have to?  He’s got enough.  Let me try to get mine.

As it stands, even with just 1 QB starting, he probably has more than enough to beat me.  Rivers is more than capable of shredding the Cards, Adams will be a focal point in a must-win game against the Vikings, Kamara might lead the league in non-quarterback points this week in a shootout against the Falcons, and so on and so forth.  Meanwhile, without Hill and Woods, the upside for my team takes a significant hit, as I’m forced to start both Chris Carson AND Adrian Peterson.  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy!

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 2

  • See my Intro to understand what this is all about.
  • See my Draft Recap to learn where my team started.
  • See my Week 1 Recap to get all caught up.

My Rationale Beforehand

Predictably, panic has set in as King Flippy Nips looks to rebound from a heartbreaking week 1 defeat (blowing a 20-point lead because Derek Carr sucks).  The longer I go without winning a game, the more panic moves I’m going to make.

There’s been a little roster shuffling already.  For starters, Yahoo has let me put Greg Olsen in my IR spot, as he figures to be out for a number of weeks.  This freed up a spot which I used to put in a waiver claim on Nick Foles.  At this point, it’s anybody’s guess as to when Carson Wentz comes back, and I can’t rely on Dalton and Carr alone to get me through.  I need quarterbacks I can COUNT on.  Foles and the Eagles are going to Tampa this week and the Bucs’ defense doesn’t impress-ah me much (as Shania Twain might also agree).  After some first week struggles, I fully expect Foles to bounce back, so he’s going right into my starting lineup in place of Derek Carr (who is going to Denver in another impossible defensive matchup).

That leaves my other QB spot with Dalton, playing Thursday Night against the Ravens.  I don’t love it.  I have no data on this, but it feels like Dalton always shits the bed whenever he’s playing in a nationally-televised game (Bengals fans, back me up here!).  I’m trying not to over-react to the Ravens’ defense, as they had a cupcake matchup against the Bills last week, and literally any defense would’ve looked at least almost as good.  I’m sticking with Dalton even though I made another move this week, dropping my beloved sleeper Kenny Stills to pick up Joe Flacco.  Flacco had a great week 1 as well, but again, I’m trying not to over-react to the fact that he played against Buffalo’s defense.  I think Cincy’s defense is a lot better, plus the Bengals are at home.  So, for now, I’ll stash Flacco on my bench (also, not for nothing, but my opponent might’ve been in the market for someone like Flacco, as he only has 2 healthy & active QBs, and Mariota is questionable this week; so preventing my rival from filling his squad is always ideal), and mix-and-match between all my QBs going forward based on matchups until I can settle on two guys I can trust.

For what it’s worth, I have a ton of wide receivers on my roster.  I have to start Tyreek Hill and Adam Thielen every week, and I really like Demaryius Thomas (who will be my FLEX guy for the foreseeable future).  After that, I had two receivers on my bench – Stills and Robert Woods – and I just like Woods a LITTLE bit more (plus he’s on an offense I know is going to be great all year, while I’m still unsure about Miami long term).  So, we’ll see.  I do expect Stills to be picked up by someone, but I think there’s a chance we’ve seen the best out of him already.

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE – No one in my league picked up Stills on waivers, so I grabbed him as a free agent and re-waived Flacco.  The perfect crime!

Anyway, here’s my lineup:

  • QB1 – Andy Dalton vs. BAL
  • QB2 – Nick Foles @ TB
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill @ PIT
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen @ GB
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott vs. NYG
  • RB2 – Adrian Peterson vs. IND
  • TE – Jordan Reed vs. IND
  • FLEX – Demaryius Thomas vs. OAK
  • K – Robbie Gould vs. DET
  • DEF – Chicago vs. SEA

My bench consists of Carr, Flacco, Wentz, Woods, Stills, and Leonard Fournette.

The big choice this week was AP over Fournette.  Well, given Peterson’s dominant week 1 performance, combined with the fact that Fournette got injured in last week’s game and didn’t practice all week, sort of made up my mind for me.  Fournette was slated to be a true Game Time Decision, and unfortunately his game started in the afternoon, while AP’s game started in the morning.  So, I had to go with the sure thing and just pray the Jags would give Fournette a week off to rest.  That being said, don’t believe for a minute that I didn’t obsessively check Twitter for any last-second updates on Fournette’s condition.

This week, my opponent is TheGangUnderperforms, which I’m assuming is some sort of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia reference(?), crossed with his usual brand of self-effacing humor.  He’s the 9th place team in our league – having scored the second-fewest points in week 1 – so it sounds like his team’s name is as fitting as they come.  He’s the poor sap in our league who’s stuck with Le’Veon Bell, with the unfortunate kick in the crotch that he failed to draft James Conner (even though, in real life, he’s a big Steelers fan and should’ve known better).  I should also point out, before week 1, I offered him a trade of Adrian Peterson and Robert Woods for Bell (who made it known he wasn’t going to come back to the team in time for the game) and he shot me down!  It must be his immense pride that has prevented him from crawling back to me asking for a re-do on that decision.  When will Bell return to the Steelers?  Maybe never!  And here I’ll be, reaping the rewards of a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson (with the security blanket of a Robert Woods on my bench for potential BYE week & injury fill-ins).

In spite of some injuries and depth issues on his bench, TheGangUnderperforms still has a pretty talented squad that is FULLY capable of wiping the floor with my ass.  In the next section, we’ll get to the results.

***

Week 2 Results

The week got off to a tremendous start!  Andy Dalton is a wonderland!  He nearly doubled the points of Flacco and absolutely doubled his projected point total.  On top of that, my opponent’s kicker – Justin Tucker – only managed 7 points, three below expected.  I started the week a coin flip, and after Thursday I was a 65% favorite heading into the weekend.

TheGangUnderperforms’ lineup looked like this:

  • QB1 – Ben Roethlisberger vs. KC
  • QB2 – Marcus Mariota vs. HOU
  • WR1 – Julio Jones vs. CAR
  • WR2 – Larry Fitzgerald @ LAR
  • RB1 – Kareem Hunt @ PIT
  • RB2 – Jamaal Williams vs. MIN
  • TE – Gronk @ JAX
  • FLEX – Emmanuel Sanders vs. OAK
  • K – Justin Tucker @ CIN
  • DEF – N.Y. Jets vs. MIN

It looked marginally dicey early when Ben Roethlisberger threw non-stop on a pathetic Chiefs defense; fortunately I was saved because Mariota didn’t play and my opponent didn’t have any room for any other QBs on his roster (aside from the rookies he has on his bench who aren’t starting yet, and Jameis Winston, who’s still suspended).  Nevertheless, Roethlisberger scored enough points to cover both QB spots, as he pushed 50 on the day.

TheGangUnderperforms didn’t have any help anywhere else though.  Gronk and Fitzgerald had bad days, Julio stayed true to the team name and underperformed, and everyone else was just sort of average.

My team, meanwhile, did even better than the week before!

Foles and Carr were about the same, so that didn’t bite me in the ass as both had around 20.  My receivers – Thielen and Hill – absolutely torched the competition once again, for a combined 50+ points.  My kicker doubled his kicker; my Chicago defense had a field day; Zeke had a solid game.  And, while AP, Demaryius, and Reed didn’t impress, they also gave me SOMETHING, in the range of 6-10 points.

All told, it was a 194.59 – 130.90 drubbing!

I’m currently in 3rd place with a 1-1 record, though I have the second-most points in the league behind the guy who kept Mahomes, Rivers, and Kamara (clearly getting more out of his keepers than anyone else in the league).  As chance would have it, I have to go up against that juggernaut this very upcoming week.  Luckily, it looks like I get Carson Wentz back, as well as (hopefully) Leonard Fournette.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 1

See my Intro to understand what this is all about.

See my Draft Recap to see where we are heading into the first week of the season.

I’ll be the first to admit I obsess WAY TOO MUCH about fantasy football.  Thinking about my roster, listening to podcasts, reading articles, pouring over the rankings of other people, scouring the waiver wire for potential pick-ups, conjuring trades to try and swindle my friends out of their elite players.  My productivity in general takes a HUGE hit during the football season for those reasons and many others, but I’m no more insane than I am in the lead-up to Week 1.

It’s no more or less important than any other regular season week, but it FEELS like the most important game of the season.  At the same time, I’ve been trying my best in recent years not to tinker too much with my roster before I’ve actually had a chance to see these guys play.  I mean, if I liked these guys enough to draft them a week ago, why am I sitting here second-guessing myself before they’ve done anything to convince me they’re no good?

Last year, I think I managed to go all the way through the first week before making a roster change; this year I wasn’t as strong.  But, I feel I had a good reason:  the Bears made a huge trade for Khalil Mack over the weekend – the day AFTER I drafted Baltimore’s defense – so I used my relatively high waiver priority (3rd in the league) to swap defenses.

My draft strategy this year was simple:  wait until the very last minute to draft a defense.  There are a few you have to feel good about – the Rams, the Jags, the Vikings, maybe the Eagles – but a lot of the time, defense is about matchups.  Likewise, there are countless stories of defenses that came out of nowhere to lead the fantasy league in points, just as there are countless stories of supposedly-elite defenses succumbing to age or injury or simple over-rating.  Why get caught up in the fervor of taking one of the top pre-season defenses early in the draft when you can get one pretty close to just as good at the end of the draft or on waivers after the first week.  So, in this league, I picked up the Ravens’ defense, because they’re going up against Buffalo in Week 1, and that felt like a good one to stream against until some other team popped out as one to go with from Week 2 onward (or, if I got lucky, and the Ravens’ defense was really good in general – and not just against the Bills – then I just got them in the next-to-last round while the suckers in my league wasted precious earlier draft picks on the same quality).

The thing is, even heading into the draft, I liked Chicago’s defense as a possible sleeper.  I think Vic Fangio is an excellent defensive coordinator – on a tier just below Wade Phillips – and I seemed to remember them really going hard after young talent in the draft on this side of the ball.  They seemed poised like a breakout candidate BEFORE trading for Mack; now that they have him, and his sack potential, I like the Bears enough to make them my ONLY defense.

Also, not for nothing, but I like my bench players an awful lot (heading into Week 1, my bench includes:  Greg Olsen, Carson Wentz, Robert Woods, Adrian Peterson, and Kenny Stills).  I don’t want to drop ANY of those guys at the moment, as I feel like they could all play important roles on my team this year.  If I did have to drop someone, it would likely be one of those two receivers, so seeing how they both look in the first week is going to be critical in my line of thinking going forward (gun to my head:  I’d probably choose Woods over Stills, as I like the Rams’ offense more than Miami’s; but Stills could end up as the Dolphins’ best receiver this year, while the Rams have a lot of guys who will divide Goff’s attention).

Anyway, how I plan to do this is I’m going to write up my thought process heading into the week ahead of time, that way my rationale won’t be tainted by events that already happened.  You’re going to know exactly what I’m thinking heading into this week, because I’m writing it before the games start.  Then, I’m going to write a section after the fact, letting you know how my week went.  So, without further ado:

My Rationale Beforehand

Here’s my roster for Week 1:

  • QB1 – Derek Carr vs. LAR
  • QB2 – Andy Dalton @ IND
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill @ LAC
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen vs. SF
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott @ CAR
  • RB2 – Leonard Fournette @ NYG
  • TE – Jordan Reed @ AZ
  • FLEX – Demaryius Thomas vs. SEA
  • K – Robbie Gould @ MIN
  • DEF – Chicago @ GB

Obviously, if Wentz was healthy, he’d be my QB1 and I’d probably end up sitting Carr this week.  On waivers, the available QBs (at the time of this writing) are Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and both Bills quarterbacks.  Of those guys, I might marginally prefer Taylor to Carr based on matchups (I could see Carr getting in trouble against that Rams defense, while Taylor is always careful with the football and the Steelers don’t really pose much of a threat to make his life miserable), but not enough to make a roster change.  I have a lot riding on Carr this year, based on the fact that I drafted him so high and because I believe the Raiders will be throwing a lot, so I kinda need him to work out for me early in the season.

I don’t have a lot to say about my starting WRs and RBs; they seem pretty self-explanatory.  I will say that I’m pretty confident about my FLEX guy as well, as I think Thomas could have a field day against this Seahawks defense.  For what it’s worth, I like Emmanuel Sanders a lot this year, but not particularly in this game.  The Broncos tend to move Thomas around quite a bit, and honestly I don’t see him going to Griffin’s side as much as Sanders.  I don’t think they play Thomas in the slot very much, so that negates Justin Coleman’s impact.  If I’m right, and Thomas is lining up opposite of Griffin’s side on the other end, I think 150 yards and a TD or two is well within his capabilities.  If I wasn’t playing Thomas, I would’ve gone with AP, but I’d like to take a wait-and-see approach with the veteran running back before I commit to giving him regular time in my fantasy lineup.

My biggest sticking point is in my TE spot, where I’ve already waffled once and it wouldn’t shock me if I waffled again.

Here’s the deal:  I drafted Olsen in the 8th round.  As I noted previously, I didn’t intend to use that high of a pick on a tight end this year, seemingly content with taking the leftover scraps.  But, Olsen was sitting there, and I would’ve felt like a fool if I’d let him drop any further.  He’s obviously a tremendous talent, both in fantasy and in real life, and in a usual circumstance, I’d be happy to start him against the Cowboys.  But, then in the 12th round, Jordan Reed was sitting there.  He’s got Alex Smith throwing to him.  He’s in an offense that utilizes the tight end to a great extent even before Alex Smith got there.  And, it’s week 1.  He’s healthy!  He’s probably as healthy as he’s ever going to be.  Indeed, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the last chance I got to start him, that’s how fragile he is!  He’s going up against the Cardinals, which feels like a juicy matchup, and they’re on the road, so I expect the Redskins will need to throw the ball more than they would if they were at home and more likely to be sitting on a lead in the 4th quarter.  Ultimately, I feel like there’s better touchdown potential for someone like Reed over someone like Olsen, factoring in everything around both players.  The Panthers just have more weapons on offense, and I don’t believe Cam will be as inclined to look for his TE in the red zone as Smith will be.  We’ll see; I have a feeling I’m going to regret whatever I do here.

Also, thinking long term, I fucked up when I took Reed, because both players have Week 4 byes, which means if they both stay healthy between now and then, I either have to drop a really productive guy, or I’ll have to roster a third tight end for a week (or I guess I could take a 0 at that spot for one game, but that seems idiotic that early in the season).

Anyway, that’s that.  Below, read about how my fantasy week went.

***

Week 1 Results

Well, I didn’t want to believe it, but Derek Carr fucked me ALREADY!

I had a 20-point lead heading into Monday Night.  I had Carr left to go; usually, when you’re winning and you have a quarterback still to play, you’re in pretty excellent shape.  I want to say I was an 80% favorite heading into the night.  My opponent, Crazy N8’s Prostates, had Marvin Jones and the Rams’ kicker.  It was a lock, right?

Not so fucking fast.

If Carr had just thrown a single TD, I would’ve won.  If he’d just thrown TWO interceptions – instead of three – I would’ve won.  If Legatron had just missed one of those field goals (he ended up with 17 points in total), I would’ve won.  Instead, I’m a 3-point loser and everything is meaningless.

For a while there, I was looking like a genius with the Bears defense.  I also looked like a fucking boner, because remember how I had to drop Baltimore’s defense to pick up the Bears?  Well, not only did they go off (to the tune of 31 points in our league, way over their expected 17.12), but they went off FOR MY OPPONENT (who picked them up and played them against me!).  At one time, with Aaron Rodgers out of the game, the Bears had 35 points, but then the Packers started scoring, so that total fell to 20 (still well above the expected 9.06 Yahoo projected).

My big decision of Jordan Reed over Greg Olsen ended up panning out somewhat, with Olsen being the one to leave his game with an injury.  Reed beat Olsen by 9.5 points, so bully for me.

That Fournette injury is obviously a concern.  He was on his way to a monster day, but I guess his injury woes aren’t behind him.  Now, every time I have him in my lineup, I have to wonder if he’s going to get me 30 points or 3 points.  As long as Adrian Peterson is healthy – and in a plus matchup – I really have to consider putting him in there more often.

Demaryius Thomas acquitted himself well as my FLEX guy.  Predictably, the Seahawks’ defense posed little threat.  The bigger threat is Keenum’s rapport with Emmanuel Sanders, who went OFF in that game.  Still, my value pick is looking solid so far.

My biggest shining star was Tyreek Hill, who blew up to the tune of 46.10 points this week (he led all non-Fitzmagic players in my league).  He almost pulled my ass out of the fire, but you just can’t overcome a 3-point week out of your top available QB.

Crazy N8’s Prostates’ lineup looked like this:

  • QB1 – Kirk Cousins vs. SF
  • QB2 – Alex Smith @ AZ
  • WR1 – ODB vs. JAX
  • WR2 – Keenan Allen vs. KC
  • RB1 – Shady McCoy @ BAL
  • RB2 – David Johnson vs. WAS
  • TE – Travis Kelce @ LAC
  • FLEX – Marvin Jones vs. NYJ
  • K – Greg Zuerlein @ OAK
  • DEF – Baltimore vs. BUF

I ended up being the highest scorer of all the losers and had the third-highest points in the league this week.  Pretty sad state of affairs, all things considered.  Carson Wentz can’t come back soon enough.  Starting to think about picking up Fitzpatrick.  Things are looking bleak already!

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.