For Real This Time: We’ve Come To The End Of The Road For The 2019 Seahawks

Every year, after the Seahawks’ season ends – meaning they either get knocked out of the playoffs, they fail to make those playoffs, or that one time they won it all and the NFL season came to its conclusion – I run a week’s worth of posts under the banner “Seahawks Death Week”. Sort of an In Memoriam, as it really does have a funereal feel whenever the NFL season comes to a close. Without the NBA in my life – and still a year away from the NHL – what do I have to look forward to for the next 9 months? Baseball? The Mariners?! Stick a gun in my mouth right now …

Anyway, ever the trooper, I’ve already gotten a jumpstart on Seahawks Death Week, outlining the set of posts that will drop in the coming days. There’s the traditional final game recap, an always-unsatisfying “What Went Right” piece (to try to bring a little hope into the following season), a raging “What Went Wrong” screed, and my favorite exercise: What The Seahawks Should Do Next (because the NFL season never really ends, when you can obsess about the draft and free agency).

In case you couldn’t tell, I believe this is where the Seahawks’ season ends. I’ve said that all along, as soon as we blew it against the Cardinals and 49ers at the end of the season, and we officially got saddled with the Wild Card. Indeed, I’ve harped on this for years: it’s not enough just to get INTO the playoffs, you’ve got to get one of those top two seeds or you’re just deluding yourself.

As I wrote about yesterday, it’s very difficult to win on the road in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; the Seahawks are 0 for their last 8 in this situation. It’s not just a Seattle problem; in the previous 10 seasons (because I really didn’t want to go back further and work on this forever), only 10 teams who played on Wild Card weekend advanced beyond the Divisional Round. And, of those 10, only 4 were actual Wild Card teams who had to go on the road for the duration of the playoffs. The last time an actual Wild Card team advanced to its respective conference championship game was – oddly enough – the 49ers from 2013, when we beat them with The Tip. Not for nothing, but the last time a Wild Card team won it all was Green Bay back in the 2010 season (as a 6-seed, no less).

So, in the last 40 Divisional Round games, 4 teams went on the road in the Wild Card round, won, and then went on the road again and won the very next week. How can you not love those odds?!

Part of me tried to talk myself into believing this week, simply for the fact that we haven’t seen the Packers yet this year (or, more importantly, they haven’t seen us). We last played them on a Thursday Night game in 2018, when they sucked and eventually fired their head coach. I never totally understood that team; sure their defense was so-so, but that’s always been their weakness. But, the fact that their offense struggled so much – with Aaron Rodgers at the helm – really spoke volumes towards why they needed to make a change. Anyway, I tend to like our chances more when a team hasn’t had to face us in the regular season. I don’t have a ton of evidence to back this up, but here are four recent examples to try to bolster my flawed theory:

  • 2018 – Beat Dallas in the regular season; lost in the Wild Card round
  • 2016 – Beat Atlanta in the regular season; lost in the Divisional Round
  • 2015 – Lost to Carolina in the regular season & Divisional Round
  • 2010 – Beat Chicago in the regular season; lost in the Divisional Round

It’s more of a feeling or a generality than a hard and true fact, but it just seems like most teams – when they get a crack at taking on a good team a second (or, if you’re in the same division, third) time, it’s not like it was before. I don’t know if that Eagles game last week would’ve ended remarkably different had Wentz not gone out, but it’s not difficult to fathom the Seahawks ultimately losing (surely Wentz would’ve been better in the red zone in the fourth quarter than McCown, you have to give me that).

***

Anyway, let’s get back to this week’s opponent. This year, the Packers have been much more balanced. I don’t know if I ever feel great about playing Green Bay; with Rodgers, you know they always have a chance, regardless of the talent level around him (this HAS to be what opposing fan bases think about the Seahawks and Russell Wilson). I especially don’t feel great about playing Green Bay when they’ve got a quality running game and a better-than-you-think defense. In the NFL, you’re never without flaws, but this is a Packers team that lacks a real GLARING weakness.

On the flipside, you could also argue that the Packers also aren’t particularly elite at any one aspect either. Honestly, for how balanced they’ve been on offense, I would’ve expected them to be running up the score on some of these crappy teams they’ve played. Instead, they’ve done just enough, and sometimes have played down to the level of their competition (sound familiar?).

Their two real embarrassing losses both came on the road, at the Chargers and 49ers. The loss in L.A. feels wrong in retrospect; I don’t really have a great reason for that happening (other than me believing they’d cover the spread, since I’m apparently the world’s worst football gambler).

They’re actually kind of middle-of-the-road in a lot of key areas. They’re not especially dominant at getting sacks or preventing sacks. That having been said, I don’t figure we’ll be able to get Rodgers on his ass all that much in this one, and with our O-Line as banged up as it is, I fully expect Russell Wilson to be running for his life like last week. They’re also weirdly not great at converting third downs, which I wouldn’t have expected. My hunch is that maybe they went overly conservative in the regular season, with their easy schedule and whatnot. If you’re almost always in it and/or leading, you don’t need to take as many chances on converting third downs.

The keys, as usual, will be those third downs, as well as turnovers and big plays. I wouldn’t expect too many interceptions in this one, as both quarterbacks have had fantastic seasons not giving the ball away; but you just can’t predict fumbles (when they’re going to happen, or whether or not you’re going to lose out on them). Bad fumble luck will make an already-difficult situation pretty much impossible.

I never know what to expect from this Seahawks defense when it comes to giving up big plays. It seems like we can’t help but give up a few – especially between the 20’s – but obviously the emergence of Quandre Diggs has helped curtail that a little. The thing about not playing Green Bay earlier this season kind of gets thrown out the window when you consider how many times Aaron Rodgers has gone up against our defense in the Pete Carroll era; they’re practically a divisional opponent and one of our biggest rivals at this point!

I feel like our biggest liability in this one will be third downs. Rodgers is more than happy to dink and dunk it around our linebackers, picking up good chunks of yardage. This is, of course, a byproduct of our lack of pass rush, which I think will return with a vengeance this week after a season-high 7 sacks last week in Philly (this point is nailed home by the fact that the Packers’ O-Line is fully healthy for the first time in a while). Rodgers knows how to beat this team at this point; there’s nothing we can throw at him that will be a surprise.

***

Offensively, for the Seahawks, if we’re able to move the ball, we should be in it at least. Thankfully, the Packers don’t figure to be nearly as talented at stopping the run as the Eagles. We should get a good, honest look at what the Seahawks have in Homer and Lynch; are they okay? Or are we fucked because one is a Day Three Rookie and the other is over the hill?

Containing Green Bay’s pressure will be important, as they have a couple of outside linebackers with 13.5 and 12 sacks respectively (Za’Darius & Preston Smith). The only real interior threat looks to be nose tackle Kenny Clark, who returned to practice this week after battling an injury. Of all the quality defenders they have, the thought of Clark clogging up the middle probably scares me the most. If we’ve got two maniacs coming from the edges, I want to be able to take comfort in Russell Wilson maybe escaping through the middle. It sounds like with Clark, that window just closed.

The games where we struggle the most are when opposing defenses are able to overly-pressure Russell Wilson with a 4 or 5-man front. Granted, he sees a lot of pressure on a regular basis, but when we look REALLY bad on offense – the recent Cardinals & Rams games come immediately to mind – there’s usually at least one man wreaking total havoc on our protection on an every-down basis. The key will be – if we’re unable to keep a clean pocket – allowing Wilson outlets to escape, scramble around, and either get yards with his legs or throw on the run for gains down field. Even though Cox last week was one of those Aaron Donald-type monsters, Wilson was still able to get around him and keep the chains moving. It’s those games where the pocket gets quickly squeezed, where Wilson does his thing where he dances around, ducks down, and meekly succumbs to the chaos around him, that this offense truly suffers. If the Packers are in his face all day, this will be a hard game to watch.

As long as our targets stay healthy, I don’t think passing will be too much of a chore. The Packers are better at pass defense than rush defense, but that’s never really been an issue for us so long as Wilson can avoid sacks. I don’t know if we can count on a repeat performance out of D.K. Metcalf, but I also wouldn’t expect him to revert back to his dropping and fumbling tendencies either. If anything, I would expect a concerted effort by Green Bay’s defense to put their best cornerback on him, thereby hopefully freeing up Lockett to do damage down field. We’re fucked if they’re able to totally lock down Metcalf with one-on-ones, while they double-team Lockett on the other side. At that point, it’ll be asking a lot to generate explosives and keep the chains moving on a consistent basis.

***

Defensively for the Seahawks, we HAVE to stay healthy to stay in it. The drop-off from our studs – Diggs, Wagner (especially with Kendricks on IR) and Clowney – would be too much to overcome against this offense. Also, Davante Adams is a beast, and if he’s going up against Tre Flowers all day, I’d expect a lot of flags on our dude. I also heard Adams has been making some hay in the slot, which is scary. There’s been talk about Shaquill Griffin following him around the field. I don’t normally like taking our guys out of their comfort zones, but in this case it might be warranted, especially if the Packers get off to a hot start.

And, since I don’t expect a whole lot out of our pass rush, we’ve got to figure out a way to keep Aaron Jones from taking over. He’s a great running back who had been criminally underused in Green Bay until this season, and his emergence has really paid dividends for this offense as a whole. They may not blow teams out like they used to, but with a Top 5 QB like Rodgers, and a Top 5 or Top 10 running back like Jones, that’s the type of combo all teams dream of.

***

My ultimate prediction in this one consists of the Packers not really punting a whole lot (if at all), scoring more touchdowns than field goals, and generally making life miserable for the Seahawks to keep it close. I would anticipate being down by double-digits in the first half, scrambling like crazy to close the gap in the second half, but ultimately falling well short, probably by two scores. Green Bay -4 honestly feels like the easiest money of the weekend (I like the Chiefs over the Texans a little more, but 9.5 points are a lot to cover for any team).

I just can’t help but envision the Seahawks dropping like flies. I see guys leaving with concussions, ankle strains, you name it. And, lacking the depth to pick up the slack, on top of being on the road, in Lambeau, and all the rest, I think it’ll just be too much.

While I think GB -4 is a mortal lock, I could also easily see us up late, needing to prevent the Packers from scoring on a last-second field goal or something. Anything and everything is on the table; there are countless ways for the Seahawks to blow it, leaving us all – on Monday morning – bemoaning the fact that once again we let a viable opportunity slip through our fingers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: even if we won in the Wild Card round (which we did), we were never making it to the NFC Championship Game. It’s too hard, too much of the deck is stacked against us, and as I’ve said countless times, the Seahawks just aren’t good enough. If you took an honest assessment of this team, you’d agree that on eye test alone (if nothing else), these Seahawks aren’t championship-calibre. I’ve come to terms with that since I saw we were destined to play in the Wild Card round. Soon enough, everyone else will come to terms with it too.

I’m No Good At Titles & The Seahawks Won Their Wildcard Matchup Against The Eagles

I had this weekend ALL wrong!

I’ll tell you this much: I legitimately thought the Saints were one of the top two teams in the NFC and that they were going to KILL the Vikings. For what it’s worth, if that was Vikings at Seahawks, I still think Seattle prevails, but the outcome has me thinking twice a little bit. Maybe the Saints are Playoff Cursed?

No matter, because the Seahawks went into Philly and came out on top, just like we all knew they would, right guys?! We’re all on the right side of history in this argument!

I will say this much: I’m VERY happy that the Vikings did win, because I would MUCH rather they be cannon-fodder for the 49ers next week over us. I think the 49ers win that game by three scores EASILY; they’re super healthy across the board, well-rested, and have a team flying halfway across the country on a short week with a quarterback who is 1 for a million in big games (happy for Cousins and all that, but one win doesn’t automatically wipe out his entire broken reputation).

Anyway, let’s tarry no further and talk about this Eagles game. In a lot of ways, it went according to expectations; but a few key spots were totally unpredictable.

Let’s start here; I feel like I need to get an “I Told You So” out of the way to boost my confidence: the Seahawks’ rushing attack was truly abysmal. If you take away Wilson’s scrambling (which he could have in most every game if he really wanted), the Seahawks’ running backs (Homer primarily, Lynch secondarily, and Turbin never) ran 17 times for 19 yards and a touchdown. Homer had one 12-yard rush; his other 10 carries went for a combined 0 yards. Lynch had that one MAMMOTH 5-yard TD rush, but even Beastmode could only muster 2 additional yards on his subsequent 5 carries.

Fletcher Cox easily made the biggest impact for the Eagles and it’s not even close; he was the second-most important player in this game behind Jadeveon Clowney (who we’ll get to later). It obviously hurt the Seahawks to be out Duane Brown (replaced by George Fant), Mike Iupati (replaced by Jamarco Jones), and Justin Britt (replaced by Joey Hunt), but even D.J. Fluker was getting pushed around (or, at best, stonewalled) by Cox and his wrecking crew on that front four. I’ve always known Cox was great, but MAN was he impressive in this one; he was a man possessed, and he didn’t seem to take a single play off. As a Seahawks blogger, I don’t tend to write a lot about opposing players, but I have to tip my cap to him; he almost single-handedly ruined the Seahawks’ season.

The Seahawks scored 17 points, so obviously the offense didn’t do a whole helluva lot, but there were three key aspects to the Seahawks’ success:

  1. The Seahawks didn’t turn the ball over
  2. The Seahawks were 8/15 on third down
  3. Russell Fucking Wilson

There were actually no turnovers in this game, period (which was odd, considering the start, where both offenses put the ball on the turf only to recover their own fumbles), so even one bad throw or mis-handled snap could’ve really swung the entire season. I hate to say it (especially considering Homer almost bonered it in the first possession), but NOT having Chris Carson might’ve made all the difference! Look, I love the guy as much as anyone, but he CLEARLY never fixed his fumbling problem (he had three in his first three games of the season, was clean for a while, then had a 3-game stretch where he lost the ball 4 times – but the opposing team only recovered 1 of them, which is pretty fortunate).

The success on third down was doubly-great because we were in 3rd & Long so many times! Some of that was luck/poor tackling on the Eagles’ part, but most of that was Russell Wilson flat out making plays. So, let’s get to him.

325 yards on 18/30 (for a 10.8 average) with a TD and a 108.3 passer rating. Add on 45 rushing yards on 9 scrambles, and we’re talking about the guy who was once the frontrunner for the MVP this season. He wasn’t perfect; there was an overthrow here and there, but he was as close to it as you can get.

It really sunk in as you watched some of these quarterbacks this weekend (and ESPECIALLY throughout the season): if it’s 3rd & 18 or whatever, and the Seahawks have Josh Allen or Ryan Tannehill or maybe 85% of the mediocre-to-crappy quarterbacks in this league, they’re either running a draw play or a screen pass to the running back, getting anywhere from 5-10 yards, and punting. Now, say what you will about the play calling (it was growing more and more alarming every time the Seahawks ran the ball after a penalty on 2nd & 20, I’ll admit it), but we’re not afraid to put the ball in Wilson’s hands when we’re behind the sticks, our backs are against the wall, and we need an incredible play. He’s the reason why you pay a quarterback $30+ million per season. He’ll get the job done when 90-95% of the rest of the league will fail in those same situations.

It was a low-key special performance by Wilson that will largely be forgotten to the sands of time, especially when you factor in this was D.K. Metcalf’s Coming Out Party.

I’ve been extremely high on Metcalf ever since we drafted him. Most talent evaluators (including the other 31 teams in the league) focused on the negatives in his repertoire, but I’ve known all along that his skillset fits this team and this quarterback perfectly. As has been discussed, his rookie season was largely a success, but there have been plenty of ups & downs. This was the first time he really put everything together and showed a glimpse of what he could become: a flat-out superstar in the NFL. 7 catches on 9 targets, 160 yards and a touchdown. The TD was incredible – a 53-yard catch, stumble, get-back-up, and barrel into the endzone – but his game-sealing 36-yard reception on 3rd & 10, with the Eagles holding only 1 time out on the wrong side of the 2-minute warning, was the reason you brought him in here in the first place. One-on-one coverage, no safeties deep, you absolutely need to convert that to win the game, otherwise you punt it away for the chance to tie, and he high-pointed the ball and came down with the W. Simply outstanding.

I was probably least-sure about the Seahawks’ defense in this one, but this was a classic performance by these guys.

Clowney was a total difference-maker; we haven’t seen him play this well since the 49ers game in Week 10. He filled up the stat sheet with 5 tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and one very memorable quarterback hit.

You can’t talk about this game without talking about Carson Wentz getting injured in the first quarter, leaving the game with a head injury, being replaced by a 40 year old Josh McCown who came out of retirement to be this team’s backup. We’ll never know if the Eagles would’ve won with Wentz in there for the full game, but I have to imagine at the very least that he would’ve found a way to at least get them in the endzone one time. As it stands, McCown was okay, but he was clearly over his skis; he threw for 174 yards on 18/24 passing and most importantly 0 turnovers. But, he also suffered 6 of the 7 sacks the Seahawks got in this one (after we had the second-fewest in the league in the regular season) and was clearly a little gimpy, having to run for his life most of the day.

The Seahawks’ pass rush really showed up on a day the team desperately needed it. It wasn’t any one man, either, as 6 different guys combined for the 7 total. Of course, that was a byproduct of the Eagles also suffering a number of injuries on their O-Line, but clearly the Seahawks were better able to cope (as Wilson only had the one).

Seattle has Wilson and that’s a definite leg up over the rest of the NFC, but we’ll only go as far as this defense can take us, and that means having all of our key guys healthy and playing at the top of their games. Clowney sure showed up. Bobby Wagner showed why he’s yet again an All Pro this season. And, Quandre Diggs – first game back since his high ankle sprain – showed why he’s so important to this defense. The longest reception by an Eagles player went for 32 yards to Ertz, but there was nothing over the top, and obviously they never saw the endzone. We’ll never know for sure how many of the sacks were due to tight coverage, but it’s definitely a non-zero number. Diggs allows McDougald to play more closely to the line of scrimmage, to help out in defending the run as well as covering those two great tight ends.

I want to shout out Cody Barton, as he was a guy I highlighted as a major concern before the game. For as much as this team plays base defense – and indeed, he was in there for 75% of the Seahawks’ snaps – he showed why this team loved him throughout the pre-season. He had a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two passes defended in this one as well as an additional QB hit. I saw him do nothing but make play after play, as he finally had a full week to practice at one spot, and this team coached him up to their fullest abilities. If he continues to show out like he did in this one, there’s no doubt he’ll be starting for this defense in 2020.

As I said before, this was a classic defensive performance: bend, don’t break, lots of aggressive penalties, but ultimately keeping the inferior offense out of the endzone and keeping them at 0 for 2 on fourth down (both deep in Seattle territory, on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter). This is a similar (but obviously not the exact same, due to injuries) defense that let Brett Hundley march down the field on them in that fakakta Cardinals game, so it was nice to see them stand up when it mattered most.

It all sets us up for the best-possible scenario for the Seahawks, given the circumstances. We avoid the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which I’ve argued all along is of utmost importance. Now, Green Bay is obviously no slouch – and certainly the talking points around Seahawksland will be their terribly-easy schedule this season – but with Aarons Rodgers & Jones, Davante Adams, and a better-than-you’d-think defense, that team is balanced and experienced and, most importantly, at home.

I’m still pretty convinced that the Seahawks will lose in this one, but I’m more willing to give us a chance to score the upset than I would be if we’re going to Santa Clara. Make no mistake, I obviously believe the Seahawks COULD beat the 49ers (we obviously did it once on their home field, and should’ve beaten them twice this season), but it would be too difficult in this particular round of the playoffs: the 49ers are at full strength, with a week off, while we just played a brutal game against a very physical team all the way across the country. If we were to shock the world and upend the Packers, I’d give us a 50/50 shot at beating the 49ers in the Championship Game.

But, to get there, we have to beat a different very good, healthy, well-rested team at home. It’s never easy to win in Green Bay, and it’s especially not easy to beat them there in January. Knocking Aaron Rodgers out of the game almost certainly won’t be on the table, so here’s to hoping there’s a little Russell Wilson Magic left in the tank (we hopefully didn’t need to use it all up in that Eagles game).

The Seahawks Signed Brandon Marshall

This feels like more of a news story than it is, I think.  Brandon Marshall is a fringe Hall of Famer who frequently elevated the play of the sub-par quarterbacks around him.  If you had paired him with a Hall of Fame quarterback for the majority of his career – if, for instance, he had played his 12 years with Tom Brady – we might be talking about one of the very best wide receivers of all time.  But, I guess teams didn’t want to deal with his personality or whatever, so he never really stuck with any one team.  Not for longer than 4 years, anyway.

The Seahawks would be his 6th NFL team.  Up until last year’s injury-riddled stint with the Giants, Brandon Marshall had racked up at least one 1,000-yard season everywhere he went, with guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, and Jay Cutler (again) throwing to him.  Just like Russell Wilson is the best quarterback Brian Schottenheimer has ever had, Russell Wilson is the best quarterback Brandon Marshall will have ever had.

Of course, that’s assuming he sticks.  It’s just too bad he’s 34 years old instead of 24 years old.

It’s a 1-year deal, for up to $2 million with incentives.  I can’t imagine much of it – if any – is guaranteed.  This has the feel of a guy we bring into Training Camp and see if he has anything left in the tank, a la Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards.

Obviously, Doug Baldwin is your #1 and Tyler Lockett is your #2.  The Seahawks brought in Jaron Brown to be the team’s #3, so if anything, this looks like it’s Jaron Brown Insurance.  Brandon Marshall can walk onto this team right this moment (assuming he’s fully healthy from last year’s injury) and be the 5th or 6th best receiver on this roster.  That would take very minimal effort from a fringe Hall of Famer, but you don’t bring in a Brandon Marshall to be this team’s 5th or 6th receiver.  Because, in all honesty, you need more from those guys; you need those guys to be standout special teamers, and that’s absolutely not in the cards for Marshall.  The only way Marshall makes the team is if he’s so much better than you’d expect him to be.  If he’s simply AS good as Amara Darboh, David Moore, or Marcus Johnson, then guess what:  you’re going to keep the younger guys with more cost control and less miles on their legs!  Is he better than those guys right now?  Almost certainly, but that’s not enough.

Brandon Marshall isn’t fighting for a spot against all the other wide receivers on this 90-man roster; he’s fighting for a roster spot against Jaron Brown.  He essentially needs to be BETTER than Jaron Brown to make this team.  I should point out that it doesn’t preclude the team from keeping both; in that hypothetical scenario, it just means both Brown and Marshall will have impressed the coaching staff enough to make a difficult decision (also in that hypothetical scenario, figure that means the team keeps 6 receivers, which – if I have to guess – is not something they want to do; I bet they opt to keep 5 and one of those veteran receivers gets the ax; most likely Marshall, but that’s neither here nor there).

In the end, figure it’s much ado about nothing.  It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Marshall is good enough to make this team, aside from some pretty serious injuries to the wide receiver unit.

Should The Seahawks Consider Trading Russell Wilson?

Short answer:  no.

Slightly longer answer:  absolutely not.

Slightly longer answer with profanity:  go fuck yourself.

Just so you know where I stand.  But, seeing as we’re knee-deep in a Seahawks-less playoffs, we’re weeks and weeks away from Spring Training nonsense, and the college football season is officially in the rearview mirror, it’s an interesting thought exercise to play around with.

We all know the reason why you would NOT trade Russell Wilson:  he’s a franchise quarterback, in his prime; he’s a proven winner with one title under his belt and almost a second one; you know if you put proper talent around him, he can take you to where you want to go.  He’s young, healthy (aside from that one season), still mobile, has a strong arm, is usually pretty safe with the rock, usually makes good decisions, and is generally lights out in the fourth quarter and overtime.  Also, it’s abundantly clear how difficult it is in the NFL to find a franchise quarterback and nuture his talents so that he reaches his full potential, so when you have one still in his prime, you don’t give him away!  You pay whatever it takes to keep him around, and deal with the roster fallout accordingly!

This is all simple, basic, NFL 101 stuff here.  So, again, would I trade Russell Wilson?  Not unless I’m guaranteed to get another franchise quarterback in return.

But, you know, he’s not perfect.  There’s always been flaws or weaknesses in his game, and those came to the forefront in 2017, particularly in December when the team completely fell apart.  He doesn’t do well with pressure up the middle.  With teams frequently gameplanning around keeping him in the pocket, all they have to do is bully our overmatched interior linemen and Wilson just crumbles.  Why is that?  Well, because he’s not 6’3 and can’t see over these guys!  It also takes him WAY too long to get going.  If the Seahawks could just jump out to regular 2-score leads and let the defense sit on opposing offenses, we’d be a MUCH better team!  All too often, it’s the other way around, and the Seahawks’ offense doesn’t start getting going until the second half, or the 4th quarter in particularly brutal cases.  Part of that is Wilson not being as accurate early in games.  Part of that is Wilson saving his legs until the team absolutely needs him to tuck the ball and run.  There may be other reasons on top of it, but it almost exclusively falls on the quarterback play (with nods to a crappy offensive line, and suspect play-calling).  For the Seahawks to succeed, the team needs (a running game) to gameplan early to get Wilson going.  The new offensive coordinator needs to bring in quick, easy throws, to get him converting short third downs and keep the chains moving.

Any discussion about trading Russell Wilson has to include what we’d get in return.  And, honestly, there aren’t a lot of comparable trades to reference here, because again, teams don’t trade franchise quarterbacks in their prime!  You generally see guys either past their prime (Brett Favre to the Jets, Joe Montana to the Chiefs, Drew Bledsoe to the Bills), on their way up (Trent Green to the Chiefs, Brad Johnson to the Redskins, Rob Johnson to the Bills, Jeff George to the Falcons) or with injury concerns (Sam Bradford to the Vikings, Carson Palmer to the Raiders).  One interesting comp is the Jeff George deal, where the Colts netted a 1st and 3rd, as well as a 2nd rounder that converted to a 1st rounder based on performance.  Carson Palmer’s trade to the Raiders was another interesting case, because he ostensibly WAS in the prime of his career.  It wasn’t a great career, but he put up a lot of numbers and was essentially the face of the Bengals’ franchise.  The Bengals got a 1st and a 2nd round pick, but their hands were tied.  Palmer was threatening retirement if he didn’t get traded, and it doesn’t sound like the market was willing to over-pay for someone whose heart might not be in it.

I guess the closest comp I could find was the Jay Cutler trade from Denver to Chicago.  Cutler and a 5th round pick went to the Bears for two 1st rounders, a 3rd rounder, and Kyle Orton.  Right here, I think you’re in the ballpark.  I think any trade for Wilson has to start with two 1st rounders, and one of them better be in the Top 10.  There’s any number of ways you can add on from here.  Would you take three 1st rounders?  Let’s say the Jets – currently drafting 6th – offered three 1st rounders (this year’s 6th and the next two first rounders), would you take it?  I’m not sure I would, but you’d have to think about it, right?  For what it’s worth, I don’t know if I’m totally in love with this draft class of NFL quarterbacks, so this thought exercise might be pointless; but maybe you love the top three guys, and you work your magic to move up from 6th to 3 (trading with Indy, who won’t need to draft a QB) and take whoever’s left over.

If it’s me, I think if you’re in the market to trade Wilson, you let it be known (quietly), but that you’re not in a hurry to cut and run.  Listen to offers, but be secure at the end of the day with keeping Wilson and having a long and fruitful career with him.  In that sense, I think you wait until some team over-pays.  One of these Top 10 drafting teams who need a quarterback, I think you squeeze a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in 2018, and another 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in 2019.  Something like that.  You sign a Josh McCown for a year or two and you use those picks to draft a QB of the future you can mold, as well as fill in the roster around him with extremely talented young players.  Get a stud running back, get a stud offensive tackle, get a badass defensive back, get another solid pass rusher.

Also, if it’s me, I’m only dealing with AFC teams.  Fortunately, the AFC stinks, and is full of idiot owners and general managers, so this shouldn’t be a problem.  Why the Browns aren’t offering the Seahawks the moon and the stars is beyond me.  If they offered the Seahawks all their first and second round picks this year (1st overall, 4th overall, and three 2nd rounders – including two at the very top of the 2nd) straight up for Russell Wilson, I think the Seahawks do that in a heartbeat and I think I’d do that too.  It’s crazy, of course, because that trade would never happen …

Or would it?

Jim Plunkett is best known as a 2-time Super Bowl champion of the early-80s Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.  However, he was a #1 overall draft pick of the New England Patriots back in 1971.  After five pretty mediocre seasons as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for three 1st rounders, a 2nd rounder, and a player.  That was after a season full of injuries and being benched in favor of a rookie!  So, it’s not like Plunkett was in Russell Wilson’s league when this deal went down.  And yet, the 49ers paid and paid handsomely, because they were a struggling franchise with a moron owner/general manager.  And, that’s just it.  Bad teams make terrible decisions all the time.  Would the Browns over-pay for someone like Russell Wilson, to have him come in and be the savior of the franchise?  It wouldn’t shock me one bit.

But, again, as I’ve said repeatedly, unless the deal was crazy insane bonkers in our favor, I’m not trading a franchise quarterback in his prime.  There’s a way to turn this thing around without going to such extremes.

Seahawks Throttle Jets Before Well-Deserved BYE Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Whom Might The Seahawks Trade Russell Wilson?

‘Tis the season for rampant speculation on matters we know nothing about!  It’s a glorious time to be alive, what with the Internets and whatnot.

I read this over the weekend from Mike Florio with Pro Football Talk.  It references another option in the Russell Wilson Contract Saga that nobody’s really talking about:  in lieu of signing him, or franchising him, the Seahawks might feel like they need to trade him.

For the record, this is the last thing I want to see happen.  I’m of the school of thought that you do NOT trade your franchise quarterback for anything!  Unless he’s too old and broken down, and even then I’d be pretty sad to see him go.  Nevertheless, I was reading that story and it got me to thinking.  I’m not so much interested in the super-bounty of draft picks, but I am interested in the part where it talks about, “the Seahawks could send Wilson to another team for its starting quarterback.”

So, consider that the premise for this post:  who would the Seahawks realistically get in return for a Russell Wilson?

Before we get started, I agree with Mike Florio in the article:  regardless of what happens, I 100% doubt that the Seahawks are trading Russell Wilson in 2015.  Even if we’re a billion dollars apart in our contract terms, I still think we ride this season out and hope for another ring.  So, what we’re looking at – in this hypothetical world where the endgame is Russell Wilson being traded – is the Seahawks putting one of the franchise tags on him, then sending him away.

So, I’m going to go through all the quarterbacks who are either starting for their teams, or are in some kind of a timeshare/training camp battle because none of them on that particular team are all that good.

Here we have a list of quarterbacks whose teams would never trade them to us:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Joe Flacco
  • Matt Ryan
  • Cam Newton
  • Ryan Tannehill

Rodgers, I feel, is pretty obvious:  he’s the best quarterback in the league and I don’t think Green Bay is in for an over-priced step down.  Luck’s not quite there yet, but he clearly WILL be the best quarterback in the league, and I would wager sooner rather than later.  Joe Flacco is already a Super Bowl-winning quarterback; I don’t see Baltimore giving him up.  You could argue he’s making too much money and looking to shed some salary, but remember in this scenario:  Russell Wilson is looking to be the highest-paid quarterback in the history of the game.  I think Ryan, Newton, and Tannehill are too young, and they’ve just gotten paid.  Plus, I don’t think those teams could afford to take the cap hit that Wilson’s going to bring (especially Miami, what with Ndamukong Suh making all the money he’s making).

Next up, quarterbacks whose teams ALMOST CERTAINLY won’t trade them:

  • Tom Brady
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Tony Romo
  • Eli Manning
  • Matthew Stafford

With Brady and Roethlisberger, I just think they’re too tied to their respective teams and cities.  But, those organizations have been known to be ruthless with their veterans, so if they felt like either one might be slipping, and they had a chance to get a young stud QB in return, they MIGHT pounce on him.  I’d put Romo and Manning in the same boat (too tied to their teams & cities), just on a lesser scale because they’re not as good.  Stafford’s interesting because I think he’s right on the edge of being good and being overrated.  Seemingly every year I have a different opinion about him.  Ultimately, I think Detroit feels he’s good enough to get the job done, and likely wouldn’t trade him away for a guy like Wilson.

The Division Rivals:

  • Carson Palmer
  • Nick Foles
  • Colin Kaepernick

The overarching theme of this section is:  under no circumstances do you EVER trade your franchise quarterback to a team in your division.  Putting that aside, I think all three of these teams would trade their starters for Russell Wilson in a heartbeat.  Carson Palmer is obviously too old and too injury prone to be counted upon.  Nick Foles is interesting, but ultimately not worth facing Wilson twice a year (especially with their offensive line and defense overall, I think the Rams would be a total dynasty with Wilson at the helm).  And honestly, Colin Kaepernick might be the best fit in the league for our offense – given his scrambling ability.  I think if you reined him in, forcing him to be a little more conservative with his throws, he wouldn’t be much of a step down at all compared to Wilson.  Hell, under Harbaugh he went to three straight NFC Championship Games; I think he’d do okay here as well.

The Young Ones:

  • E.J. Manuel
  • Geno Smith
  • Johnny Manziel
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Jameis Winston
  • Ryan Mallett/Tom Savage
  • Blake Bortles
  • Marcus Mariota
  • Derek Carr

Manuel, Smith, and Manziel are just too bad.  No way the Seahawks take them in return.  I think the Seahawks would think long and hard about Bridgewater and Winston, but if Bridgewater makes steady improvement in 2015, I don’t think the Vikings will want to get rid of him (and if he takes a step back, I don’t think the Seahawks would want him).  The Bucs are just too committed to Winston as part of their rebuild, so I don’t think he’d work out in this scenario.  Mallett and Savage are a couple of unknowns, but ultimately I don’t think they’ll be all that great as starters.  I feel like Bortles and Mariota are a couple of future backups being thrust into roles they’re not good enough for.  I think the Seahawks might take Carr in a heartbeat, but I don’t think the Raiders will give up on him (for the record, I’m pretty high on Carr and think he’s going to have a great second year).

Too Over-The-Hill:

  • Peyton Manning
  • Matt Cassel
  • Josh McCown

Pretty much says it all, if you ask me.  Manning is signed through 2016, but you have to wonder if he’s even going to be around.  He almost opted to retire THIS year.  After getting banged around in Gary Kubiak’s offense (where I FULLY expect to see Manning seriously injured at some point), I’m almost convinced he’ll be done.  Either way, I don’t think you can throw Russell Wilson away on a guy who’s going to be 40 next year, who MIGHT have 1-2 years at the most left in his career.  Cassel and McCown aren’t even worth the words.

Too Terrible:

  • Sam Bradford/Mark Sanchez/Matt Barkley/Tim Tebow
  • RGIII/Kirk Cousins
  • Jay Cutler
  • Brian Hoyer

Speaking of “aren’t even worth the words,” we have the poo-poo platter that the Eagles have in camp this year.  It should go without saying, but Bradford is TOO DAMN INJURY PRONE.  The rest of those guys are the total beans and the Eagles are going to be lucky to win five games this year.  RGIII is also too injury prone, plus he’s a terrible leader who doesn’t follow directions, plus he’s just a bad all around quarterback.  Cousins is Just Another Guy, same as Hoyer.  Jay Cutler seems enticing, but that’s just because of that cannon he’s got for an arm.  Squint a little more closely and you’ll see he’s easily the second coming of Jeff George (not a compliment).

The Definite Possibilities:

  • Drew Brees
  • Philip Rivers
  • Alex Smith
  • Andy Dalton

I know Brees and Rivers feel like those guys up top who are too tied in with their teams and cities (Brees especially).  But, I have my reasons for having these guys down here.  For starters, I think New Orleans is in full on rebuild mode.  Brees isn’t getting any younger, and the Saints are probably five years away from being a championship-type team again.  They MIGHT decide to give Brees a chance to win a title elsewhere.  And, considering we’ve already done that deal for Jimmy Graham, it honestly might be the most perfect fit we could hope for.  On the downside, Brees will be 37 years old next year, and it’ll be the last year of his current deal.  At best, you hope he’s got three more elite years left after 2015, but realistically it might be closer to one or two.  A trade for Brees gives us the best “Win Now” option.  When you consider Pete Carroll’s on the short contract (by design, as he might opt to retire or move to another team), Brees might be the next best thing to just keeping Russell Wilson forever.

Philip Rivers will only be 34 in 2016, so you gotta like your chances with him longer term.  Honestly though, this probably doesn’t work because 2015 is the final year of his deal, and I don’t know if they can franchise tag him or not.  The other variable is whether or not the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles.  Will Rivers want to stay?  If not, maybe they work out a sign & trade with the Seahawks.  The downside to that is, I’ve read reports that should Los Angeles get two teams – which seems to be the way this is going – there’s the possibility of the Chargers moving to the NFC West.  And, as I said above, you do NOT trade Wilson to a team in your own division – even a team that might one day move to your division.

Alex Smith might be the best type of guy we can hope for.  He’ll be 32 next year, and 2018 is the final year of his deal.  He’s not making all that much money – which would allow us to spread the wealth to other positions.  He’s the consummate Game Manager:  doesn’t make mistakes, is decently mobile, is comfortable playing in a run-first offense.  The downside is, obviously, his downfield throwing.  We wouldn’t get those chunk plays that we like to get.  But, with weapons like Jimmy Graham around him, and with the emergence of some of our younger receivers, I think he’d be good enough to get the job done.  He sort of reminds me of a Brad Johnson type.  Brad Johnson won a title with the Bucs, why couldn’t Alex Smith do that with the Seahawks?

Andy Dalton is the guy I most fear the Seahawks pursuing.  He’ll be 28 years old next year, and his deal runs through the 2020 season.  He too isn’t making any serious kind of money (his biggest cap hit is in the final year, and it’s only $17.7 million).  By 2020, that’s going to be peanuts!  He’s shown a propensity to hit on the deep ball, but that’s with the likes of A.J. Green.  More importantly is Dalton’s shoddy decision-making and his inflated sense of self-worth.  He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s better than he really is, which is going to make it difficult when he can’t make all the throws he needs to make.  As it is, he’s had more career meltdown games than you like to see; what’s he going to be like in three years when he’s that much older and beaten down?  Furthermore, playing behind our offensive line, how’s he going to handle the near-constant pressure?  I think Dalton is a guy the Bengals would gladly unload for the chance to sign Wilson (yes, even with how stingy their ownership is; I think they’d feel like Wilson would be worth it).  And, I think, if the Seahawks didn’t get blown away by any other deal they saw, they’d pull the trigger on a Dalton-centric trade.  I just hope like hell this never comes to fruition.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 15

So, the question on everyone’s minds right now is:  Is the Seahawks/49ers rivalry dead?

It’s an interesting question to ponder.  For starters, you have to find an appropriate definition of a “rivalry”.  At this point, with all the bad blood that’s been figuratively spilled, in comments sections and message boards, in the blocking of friends and family on various social media sites, in the verbal altercations and maybe even physical altercations between drunken fans, I don’t think we’re ever fixing this relationship:  Seahawks fans and 49ers fans are going to forever hate one another.  Or, at least for the foreseeable (and considerable) future.

Some people seem to think a rivalry requires that both teams are good at the same time.  Both teams, fighting for the same goal that only one team can ultimately have.  Granted, that makes for a GOOD rivalry, but you don’t stop being rivals when one team is awesome and the other is on a downward spiral.  Indeed, it’s in these spots where a rivalry truly gains a foothold.

Think about the rivalry between the Huskies and Cougars.  No one is sitting there calling these two schools, or these two football programs, equals.  They haven’t both been good at the same time in quite a while.  And, I don’t think they’ve ever really both been simultaneously good for an extended period of time (say, five years or more).  At least, I don’t remember that being the case in the last 30 years or so.

But, you know what games stand out almost as much as the de facto playoff appearances between two successful rival teams?  Those games where the underdog knocks the great team out of contention for something great.

I mean, look at it this way:  the Huskies lead the all time series against the Cougars by a record of 69-32-6.  CLEARLY, the Huskies are the superior team in this rivalry, but just because the Cougs are so inept, it doesn’t make it any less of a rivalry.  Take the 1982 season, for example.  The Cougs finished 2-4-1 in conference play.  But, they beat the previously 1-loss Huskies in the Apple Cup, knocking us out of the Rose Bowl and a possible Top 5 finish.  THOSE are the games I’m talking about.

Yeah, 49ers fans hate the Seahawks for keeping them out of the Super Bowl last year.  That loss in the NFC Championship Game was a devastating blow.  But, imagine if the 49ers had beaten the Seahawks this past Sunday.  The 49ers, a team going nowhere, coming into Seattle and scurrying away with a hard-fought victory, costing us a chance at the division title and a first round BYE in the playoffs (while also making our path to simply securing a playoff spot that much more difficult).  Isn’t that just as bad?  Knowing you SHOULD have beaten a bitter rival, but they still find a way to win anyway?

Unless you’ve got a natural geographic rival (like Seattle and Portland, for instance), it’s a little difficult to manufacture a rivalry.  The Seahawks moved back to the NFC West in 2002.  From that point through the 2011 season, the Seahawks didn’t really have a rival.  Yeah, San Francisco is the closest city to us in NFL terms.  They’re in our division and everything.  But, when we started playing them regularly in 2002, they were total shit, and we were a team on the rise.  The NFC West in general was pretty hit-or-miss, but if I had to say someone was our main rival, I would’ve put that on the Rams, who were just playing out their run as the Greatest Show On Turf when we came into the picture.  By the time we went on our run of NFC West championships (from 2004 thru 2007), we really didn’t have a rival.  There was some bad blood for the Steelers, maybe a little for the Packers and Bears, but nothing like we’ve had since 2012 with the 49ers.

It takes a few good years of sustained success that we enjoyed to manufacture a rivalry with the likes of a team like the 49ers.  In their heyday of the 80s and 90s, you’d say the 49ers’ main rivals were the nationally great teams:  the Giants, the Redskins, the Cowboys, the Bears.  Now, with the divisions realigned, the Seahawks are it.  And, even if the 49ers lose Harbaugh, and even if Kaepernick never finds his groove again, and even if their defense ages into obscurity, and even if the 49ers are terrible for the next ten consecutive years, we’ll still always have this run from 2012-2014 as our rivalry’s heyday.  And, going forward, should the Seahawks continue to be successful, there will still be a rivalry.  Maybe the 49ers go 1-9 against us in the next ten meetings.  But, that lone defeat will still sting like a thousand defeats, because that bad blood will always be there.

What I’m more looking forward to is being like those 49ers of the 80s and 90s.  Being like what the Patriots have been for the last decade plus.  Yeah, the Pats have the Jets and Dolphins and Bills, who they’ve been playing twice a year for decades.  But, since Tom Brady took over, aside from a couple great Rex Ryan teams, the Pats have more or less demolished their division en route to a long string of division titles and first round BYEs in the AFC.  If you had to name New England’s top rival in that span, it wouldn’t be anyone in their division, it would be the Indianapolis Colts, followed by the Denver Broncos.  Essentially, wherever Peyton Manning called home.

THAT’S what I want.  Yeah, it’s nice having that blood feud with the 49ers.  And it’s fun to hate on the Cardinals and Rams to a lesser extent.  But, I want us going after the big guns of the NFC.  I want our big rivalry to be with the Packers, or the Saints when they’re good, or any of the NFC East teams if they can get their shit together for an extended run of brilliance.

In my mind, the Seahawks should find simply winning their division to be a little blasé.  It should just be a given.  The Patriots don’t go into their seasons thinking, “I hope we win our division this year!”  They go in EXPECTING to win their division, while thinking, “I hope we represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year!”

That’s what I want.  That’s the kind of rivalry I hope to see.  The kind of rivalry that transcends geography.  The kind of rivalry where you only face your opponent once per regular season, and that’s because you’re both winning your respective divisions every year.  I want the kind of rivalry where Grantland documents each of the games between their respective teams based on how well each quarterback plays.

We thought we might have had that between the Seahawks and 49ers, but that’s looking less and less likely.  Jim Harbaugh is douchebagging his way out of a job, and Colin Kaepernick is mediocre-ing his way into being a professional backup.  The 49ers’ flame burned bright and quick, and the status of this particular rivalry is in question going forward.  The Seahawks have three straight wins, and have won 5 of the last 6.  There are more Seahawks blowouts than there are simple, close 49ers victories in the Wilson/Kaepernick Era.  We’ll see what happens from here, but it strikes me that the 49ers are about a year away from a total rebuild, while the Seahawks are moving on to bigger and better things.

The Seahawks Dynasty is still in play.  And, at that point, the NFL world will be so sick of us, we’ll be EVERYONE’S rivals.

***

  1. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) – The jinx of the #1 spot is real!  Let the Cowboys be next to feel its sting!  Uhh, I mean, YEAH, the Cowboys are the best team in the NFL!  This is a thing I truly believe!  7-0 record on the road and whatnot!
  2. Seattle Seahawks (10-4) – Mid-season swoons be damned, the Seahawks are back and better than ever!  But, they’re never EVER setting foot in my top spot.  Not as long as that jinx is hanging around.
  3. Denver Broncos (11-3) – I don’t really know what to say.  Their offense doesn’t look great right now, but they’re finding ways to win.  Defense is rock solid, so I guess that helps.
  4. New England Patriots (11-3) – I don’t know who I fear more between the Broncos and Patriots, I’m just glad the Seahawks only have to face one or the other in the Super Bowl.
  5. Green Bay Packers (10-4) – I never thought it was possible, but the BILLS of all teams gave us the opportunity to grab hold of the #1 seed.  God bless them, every one.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (10-4) – Why they struggled so much against the Texans is the exact reason why they’re not a Super Bowl team.
  7. Detroit Lions (10-4) – Same goes for the Lions, with their struggles against the Vikings.
  8. Arizona Cardinals (11-3) – Another win in the books, another quarterback down for the count.  Meet the team EVERYONE wants to face in the playoffs (non NFC South edition).
  9. San Diego Chargers (8-6) – A pretty good team who’s just getting eaten alive by their schedule.
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) – What is this, the 8th week in a row where the team that’s played the Seahawks has lost the next week?  That’s kinda ridiculous, isn’t it?
  11. Baltimore Ravens (9-5) – Ravens gonna cakewalk backwards into the playoffs this year.  Face Houston’s third string QB next week, then Johnny JamBoogie and the hapless Browns in the final week.
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) – Steelers got a nice path to the playoffs.  Could knock out the Chiefs next week and the Bengals the week after.  Both games in Pittsburgh, so you gotta like that if you’re a Steelers fan.  Especially considering how you just trounced the Bengals two weeks ago.
  13. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) – They’re technically the division leader now by a half game, but stick a fork in ’em.  Home against the Broncos, then at the Steelers.  That’s got 0-2 written all over it.  Thanks for playing 2014 NFL football!
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) – The Chiefs missed out on the playoffs when they lost at Oakland last month.  They finish at Pittsburgh and vs. San Diego.  No way they’re able to put up points with the Steelers.
  15. Buffalo Bills (8-6) – You know what, Bills?  I don’t really believe in you, but you beat the Packers for us, so you get to hang out in the Winner’s Bracket for a week.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Sorry, Dolphins.  Teams who play their head coaches out of jobs don’t get to be ranked among the winners (plus, you know, it helps if you have a winning record and everything).
  2. San Francisco 49ers (7-7) – Knocked ’em out of the playoffs.  Got their douchebag head coach fired.  Finally convinced them Colin Kaepernick isn’t a starting quarterback in this league.  What a great weekend!
  3. St. Louis Rams (6-8) – Another year of being moderately scary, another year with a record not over .500.
  4. Houston Texans (7-7) – Well, it was a fun ride while it lasted.  Now, go find yourselves a quarterback.
  5. Cleveland Browns (7-7) – Seriously, Johnny JamBoogie, your money sign with the hands is idiotic when you haven’t done a fucking thing in this league.
  6. Minnesota Vikings (6-8) – Honestly, this team is better than I could have expected, given their best player was lost for the year and they’re breaking in a rookie quarterback.
  7. New Orleans Saints (6-8) – I can’t wait for the Saints to host the Cardinals in the first round, followed by the Saints beating the Cardinals’ third string quarterback, followed by the Saints coming BACK to Seattle in the Divisional Round so we can crush them once again!
  8. Atlanta Falcons (5-9) – I just honestly don’t know what to say about this NFC South.  Was the NFC West in 2010 THIS bad?  I’m asking for real; I can’t tell because I’m too close to the situation.
  9. Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) – They host Cleveland and go to Atlanta.  If Cam Newton comes back, you never know.
  10. Chicago Bears (5-9) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  11. New York Giants (5-9) – Yeah, whatever.
  12. Washington Redskins (3-11) – Total shitshow.
  13. New York Jets (3-11) – Way to screw yourselves out of the #1 pick.
  14. Oakland Raiders (2-12) – Okay.
  15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – Uh huh.
  16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) – Fucking irritating team.  WHY ARE YOU STILL PLAYING MCCOWN???
  17. Tennessee Titans (2-12) – You are one pathetic loser!

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 12

Get a load of this clown and then come on back.

If you give two shits about Marshawn Lynch not talking to the media, then you either need to find some more meaningful shit to do with your life, or you’re a self-righteous, self-important member of the media who needs to find some more meaningful shit to do with your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying ALL members of the media are pompous windbags who start immediately sniffing their own farts once they smugly turn in one of their articles or click “Publish” on their blog posts.  Indeed, I enjoy the works of many of our local beat writers and such.  And I’m sure they’d LIKE it if Lynch would talk more, and give more satisfying answers to their questions – Lynch is a unique person and as a fan, I’m sure I’d be endlessly entertained if I had the opportunity to sit around and bullshit with Beastmode – but they understand Lynch’s stance of not talking to the media.

It’s when you start talking about these national guys and gals.  The people who survived the struggle of local sports coverage and really “made it” in the bigtime.  These people who think it’s their job to police everything media related, even when they only have about a quarter of the actual story.  The same people who read a misleading headline and automatically label Lynch as disgruntled without any insider knowledge whatsoever.  They like to make you BELIEVE they have all this insider info, but few of them ever do.

Here’s the lo-down, from what I can tell:  one of these members of the national media tattled on Lynch, because he wasn’t talking to anyone after games.  The NFL, in turn, fined Lynch for continuing to not talk (after a brief reprieve on Media Day during Super Bowl week earlier this year).  As such, hoping not to be fined further, Lynch sat down and gave a ridiculous Q&A session to some reporters around his locker after the game last week.

Were Lynch’s actions juvenile?  Yes.  But, that’s because the NFL’s actions – and the media’s REACTION – towards this whole thing is fucking disgraceful.

I understand the rules the NFL sets out.  If you play in the NFL, you have to abide by the rules, or else you’ll get punished.  In this case, the punishment is in fines collected.  Considering he’s a millionaire, I’m sure he can afford it, so don’t think I’m sitting here defending a one-percenter because he’s inconvenienced out of some pocket change.

But, the rules are fucking retarded, and this Ed Sherman guy takes the retard cake.  In his post – linked above – he talks about the struggle the NFL faced many, many, MANY decades ago, when it was a fledgling sport trying to gain traction in a baseball-obsessed world.  Yes, I’m sure in the 1920s and 30s, the print media was king, and so it behooved the NFL to kowtow to the newspaper writers in order to get attention, sell tickets, and ultimately bloat the league into the monster it is today.

But, guess what?  Print media isn’t king anymore.  And, besides that, the media needs the NFL WAY more than the NFL needs the media.  How do you sell papers?  Or, more importantly, how do you generate clicks on the Internet?  You write about what people want to read about.  In this case, the NFL is king, and without access to it, what would all these sportswriters do for a living?

Let’s take this to its illogical conclusion:  if we let one guy ignore the media, what’s to stop the next guy, and the next guy?  Hell, what’s to stop every single player from ignoring the media?  That’s the argument they’re trying to make, right?  Surely, society would collapse upon itself!  Surely, without the almighty written word of beat writers and national pundits, the NFL would fold and the American public would have to spend time with their families on Sundays during the fall and winter months!

Oh, wait, that wouldn’t happen at all.  People would still watch the NFL, because people can’t get enough of football.  “Mutter(ing) a few short answers,” and “throw(ing) in a cliché or two” won’t make a fuck-all of difference.  What Ed Sherman is proposing is that everyone just “plays the game” and we’ll all go home happy.  Except, you’re forgetting one thing:  the overwhelming majority of sports fans HATE clichéd answers to their bullshit questions!  Sports clichés have a lower approval rating than the fucking U.S. Congress!

And, besides ALL of that, NFL players aren’t going to simply up and stop talking to the media.  Why?  Because many NFL players are still businessmen at heart.  Some have aspirations after football.  Those aspirations usually include some role in the very media we’re talking about!  Even if Richard Sherman doesn’t have an ounce of interest in being a studio analyst after football, or being a color analyst, or hosting his own sports-related talk show, he knows he has a brand and a persona that he wants the world to see.  The sky is the limit for someone like Richard Sherman BECAUSE he’s so good with the media, talking to large crowds and before the cameras and whatnot.

Marshawn Lynch, and people like Marshawn Lynch, who might not necessarily have any post-football aspirations to be in the public life, shouldn’t be required to do something they’re obviously uncomfortable doing, for whatever reason.  It’s another form of bullying and it’s absolutely unacceptable to hold someone to this asinine rule just because the media used to be important to the NFL’s fledgling success back in its infancy!

I’ll say this loud enough for you to hear:

FANS DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF MARSHAWN LYNCH TALKS OR NOT.

The only people who care are these elitist fuckwads like Ed Sherman.  Fuckwads who end up running off and crying to Papa Goodell because the bad man won’t talk words to us when we want him to!  Grow up.  No one is sympathetic to members of the media.  At all.  You earn your living by writing about professional sports; you pretty much have the best jobs in the world outside of people actually PLAYING those sports.  If you can’t “do you job” because a few guys won’t talk to you, then obviously you’re not very good at your job.  Quotes from Marshawn Lynch won’t make or break your story.  Just talk to the punter, obtain a cliché or two, and you’re out the door.

It really isn’t that difficult.

***

  1. New England Patriots (9-2) – The curse of the #1 team is in full effect; you’ve been warned.
  2. Denver Broncos (8-3) – Some serious holes with this Broncos team, but either way, it should be a fun AFC playoffs.
  3. Green Bay Packers (8-3) – This defense isn’t as good as advertised.  Better than last year, sure, but they’re not going to continue to dominate the rest of the way.
  4. Arizona Cardinals (9-2) – I don’t know if it’s fair to expect the Cards to come into Seattle and win that game.  Did we expose some flaws in their overall scheme?  I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure the New England Patriots themselves could have come up here and won that game, with the way our defense was playing.  That game was more about how the Seahawks FINALLY brought their A-Game more than the Cardinals struggling or otherwise regressing back to the mean (hopefully we’ll see signs of that when we go down to Glendale in December).
  5. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) – When I saw that T.Y. Hilton was about to be a father on Sunday morning, I would have bet everything I own on him scoring a touchdown that day.  Luckily, he’s a major factor on my fantasy team, so all’s well that ends well.
  6. Detroit Lions (7-4) – Hitting a bit of a rough patch.  I had no idea their offense was this inept!  With Stafford, Johnson, and Tate, they should be putting up 30 points a game!  I still have faith in the Lions, but it’s good to see them lose a few games.  The last thing I need is another amazing run defense weaseling its way into the playoffs.
  7. Philadelphia Eagles (8-3) – The Eagles would get more credit in my eyes as soon as they use Mark Sanchez to win a football game against a good opponent.
  8. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) – A loss to the Raiders = moving down in my rankings.
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4) – Pretty jealous of anyone who gets a week 12 BYE.  This is the last time I’ll get to say this, but the NFL needs to fix this shit.  Starting next year:  two BYE weeks for each team.  Get on it.
  10. San Francisco 49ers (7-4) – It’s mindblowing how bad their offense is right now.
  11. Dallas Cowboys (8-3) – Oh, I wish they would’ve blown that game against the Giants.
  12. San Diego Chargers (7-4) – It took a goalline interception by their defense to beat the Rams, but that might be the play that saves their season.  Good for them.
  13. Seattle Seahawks (7-4) – Forget the Seahawks, I need them to beat the 49ers this week!  If I have to go 10 days between Thanksgiving and the next game in Philly, stewing over a loss to the Santa Clara Fuckwads, I might go insane.
  14. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) – Just don’t figure them to win many games when the national spotlight is focused on them and they’re sure to go far.  What are the odds the Bengals can get the NFL to televise all of their playoff games within the region of Cincinnati and its opponent exclusively?
  15. Baltimore Ravens (7-4) – That’s a nice win down in New Orleans, but it’s not THAT nice.  Let’s see them run the ball that well against a respectable defense, then we’ll talk.
  16. Miami Dolphins (6-5) – Season hanging on by a thread; things should get easier with 3 of their remaining 5 games against the Jets and Vikings.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. St. Louis Rams (4-7) – I don’t care that they’re 4-7, they’re better than the Browns!  And, obviously, they’re better than a few of the teams in the winner’s bracket.
  2. Cleveland Browns (7-4) – Didn’t deserve to beat the Falcons.  Then again, they didn’t deserve to beat the Browns.  This one should have been decided by penalty kicks.
  3. Houston Texans (5-6) – If their defense hadn’t scored that touchdown off of an interception, it would’ve been a terrible fantasy week for them.  How you gonna let the Bengals move the ball up and down the field like that?
  4. New Orleans Saints (4-7) – Not gonna lie to you, I really wasn’t prepared for the Saints to lose to the Ravens.  I understand the defense is pretty brutal, but why is the offense so inept so often?
  5. Buffalo Bills (6-5) – That Mario Williams is a nasty mofo.
  6. Chicago Bears (5-6) – They’re hovering, but they won’t sneak up on anyone.
  7. Atlanta Falcons (4-7) – Mike Smith is the most toothless, spineless, ineffectual head coach in the NFL when it comes to managing the game.  If anyone ever tries to point to Andy Reid or Jim Caldwell, you send them over to see me.
  8. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  9. Minnesota Vikings (4-7) – Did they … did they play this week?  They did, right?
  10. New York Giants (3-8) – You are one pathetic loser!
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9) – More like Josh McCLOWN, am I right?
  12. Washington Redskins (3-8) – You had one job:  beat the 49ers.  ONE JOB.
  13. New York Jets (2-9) – Wow.
  14. Tennessee Titans (2-9) – There are no words.
  15. Oakland Raiders (1-10) – Those defenders celebrating after that 3rd down sack, almost resulting in the Raiders being penalized for being 30 yards offsides on the 4th down snap are my favorite things I’ll see all year in the NFL, except maybe for that ODB catch Sunday night.
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) – Now, this feels right, doesn’t it?

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 10

The storyline for the week has been something along the lines of:  Marshawn Lynch isn’t likely to be back next season, but the Seahawks would be foolish to let him go.

This talk, quite frankly, is defeatist.  EVENTUALLY, at some point, the Seahawks are going to have to find a way to move on from Marshawn Lynch.  He’s not going to play forever.  And he’s NOT going to be here through the life of Russell Wilson’s career.  So, really, what are we talking about?  Delaying the inevitable?

I’m not saying it’s going to be peaches and cream if and when Marshawn Lynch is let go, but it’s not like we’re stuck with chopped liver in his absence.  Granted, there isn’t a running back on this team right now quite like Beastmode.  But, that’s a little unfair, because there isn’t a running back on this PLANET quite like Beastmode.  Are you kidding me?  His toughness, his ability to break tackles, his skill as a pass catcher, his durability to play every down if we needed him to, there is NOT anyone like him.  Anywhere.

But, there’s a distinction there.  I didn’t say Marshawn Lynch is the “best” running back in the league.  Just that there’s no one else like him.  And that’s true.  Marshawn Lynch is, indeed, the best running back on the Seahawks, but I’m not so sure I’d go as far as to say he’s the best in the NFL.  He’s in the discussion, I guess, but what does it all boil down to when you’re talking about running backs?

Yards.  Yards and touchdowns.  Right now, Lynch is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, but he’s tops in the NFL in rushing touchdowns after his 4-TD game last week.  Those are great figures, and this team is better for having him.  But, is it fair to say this team would be sunk without him?

Robert Turbin is probably best suited as a backup running back.  I can’t see him breaking any records as a starter.  But, among backups, I’d rate him near the top.  He COULD start in this league and, I think, be pretty effective.  He’s got the tools, he runs hard, he can catch the ball, he blocks well.  He’s a clear step down from Beastmode, but who isn’t?

Then, there’s Christine Michael.  The Great Running Back Hope.  Our second round draft pick in 2013.  At the moment, he’s a big unknown.  He hasn’t played a whole lot because of speculative issues with his blocking or having his head screwed on straight or whatever.  Really, he hasn’t been playing because there’s a Top 5 Running Back In The NFL ahead of him, plus a quality backup with more experience also ahead of him.  Teams don’t tend to run with 3-headed hydras in their backfield unless they’re one of those unfortunate teams who simply DON’T have a true #1 running back.

What we think we know about Michael is that he’s got game-breaking speed and toughness.  The sky is the limit with this kid, but first he needs to get playing time outside of the preseason so he can let us know where he’s at.  I happen to think he could be something special with the ball in his hands.  But, again, what do I know?

I don’t have a problem with how we’ve used the running backs this year.  Lynch is getting his periodic rest, the backups are getting some work in, and quite frankly the Seahawks have one of the best running back units in the NFL.  I wouldn’t even have a problem with the Seahawks honoring Lynch’s deal and bringing him back for 2015.  He is, after all, one of my favorite players on this team, and I’d love to watch him do what he does for another year.

But, we do need to be thinking about the future as well.  If the front office feels that it’s time to move in a different direction after this season.  Or, if Beastmode wants out, to try to get a big deal on the open market, I’m not going to be too sad.  I just want things to end amicably, so I can look back on Marshawn Lynch with the fond memories his tenure here in Seattle deserves.  That means not keeping him here too long, past his prime, where we only grow to resent him as he makes millions of dollars he doesn’t deserve.  Likewise, that also doesn’t mean keeping him here against his will, on a 2015 contract that isn’t indicative of his true value to this team.  If 2014 has to be the last year he’s here, I’m not going to throw a fit.  The Seahawks will find a way to move on, I promise.  There are two quality backs here, plus a whole draft to pick up a third.

Getting even 75% of Marshawn Lynch going forward should still be pretty damn good.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (7-2) – I’d like to point out that my fantasy team is 2-0 this year against Peyton Manning, but Honky Hoedown is dreading the inevitable third showdown in the playoffs.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (8-1) – This is about the time I’d set Arizona way down the list on the ol’ Power Rankings, but they’ve continued to win games even without Carson Palmer, so fuck that.
  3. Detroit Lions (7-2) – You don’t want to face this team in the playoffs.
  4. New England Patriots (7-2) – Words cannot describe how excited I am for this Patriots/Colts game this week.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Colts are at home, they’ve got a great quarterback who’s prone to making mistakes from time to time.  But, he’s also prone to overcoming those mistakes.  Again, should be a great, GREAT game.
  6. Green Bay Packers (6-3) – No doubt about it, the Packers are better than the Bears.
  7. Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) – Good defense, great running game, solid quarterback.  This team is legit and it’ll be impressive if the Seahawks beat them this week.
  8. Seattle Seahawks (6-3) – Going to have to play mistake-free football, or as close to mistake-free as it gets.
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) – So, the Steelers only have two numbers retired after Mean Joe Greene last week?  What number do they have reserved for their Fans to wear, then?
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (7-2) – I’m going to need to see an extended period of greatness with Sanchez behind center before I’m willing to move them up.  And, if it happens, then I’ve gott ask:  what is it about Chip Kelly’s offense that turns even the biggest piles of crap into winners?
  11. Dallas Cowboys (7-3) – Talk to me in December when you’re NOT blowing games you should win.
  12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) – The last straw for Cincy’s defense in fantasy was laying a huge turd against the Browns.
  13. San Francisco 49ers (5-4) – Drew Brees saved your season.  How do you feel about that?
  14. Miami Dolphins (5-4) – That’s a tough team with a hard-luck loss against an elite Lions team.  Miami is on the rise, no doubt about it.
  15. San Diego Chargers (5-4) – On the fall, we have the Chargers.  Probably too late to turn it around.
  16. New Orleans Saints (4-5) – It’s never too late when you play in the pathetic NFC South!  I can’t believe I thought this would be the best division in football before the season.
  17. Baltimore Ravens (6-4) – Even though they’ve got a decent record, I don’t see the Ravens as a playoff team.
  18. Cleveland Browns (6-3) – See:  what I said about the Ravens.
  19. Carolina Panthers (3-6-1) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  20. Houston Texans (4-5) – On the plus side, I didn’t see J.J. Watt’s commercial all weekend, and neither did you.
  21. Chicago Bears (3-6) – How many Bears fans would go back in time, trade Cutler to the Bucs for a couple draft picks, and retain Josh McCown for pennies on the dollar?  Is it more than 50%?  75%?
  22. Buffalo Bills (5-4) – Kyle Orton isn’t the solution you were looking for.
  23. New York Giants (3-6) – You are one pathetic loser!
  24. St. Louis Rams (3-6) – It’s never going to happen with Jeff Fisher & the Rams, there I said it.
  25. Atlanta Falcons (3-6) – The question remains:  do I keep Matt Ryan in my fantasy league?  It’s a QB-centric league, which means it’s closer to real life (quarterbacks are the most important players on the football field, so why shouldn’t they be the most important players in fantasy football?).  I have to believe that Matt Ryan is going to get improved offensive line play next year.  But, what I need to know is:  is Matt Ryan an elite quarterback?  On that, I’m not so sure.
  26. Minnesota Vikings (4-5) – Wouldn’t it be weird if Adrian Peterson returned and led the Vikings to a Wild Card?  I’ve gotten so used to an Adrian Peterson-free league.
  27. Washington Redskins (3-6) – Better with RGIII, I guess.
  28. New York Jets (2-8) – Better with Vick, I guess.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) – Better with McCown, not so much.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-7) – A-yup.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) – Woof.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-9) – Yiminy.

Predicting The 2014 NFL Season

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

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

NFC East

Philadelphia
NY Giants
Dallas
Washington

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

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

NFC North

Detroit
Green Bay
Chicago
Minnesota

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

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

NFC South

New Orleans
Atlanta
Tampa Bay
Carolina

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

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

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

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

NFC West

Seattle
San Francisco
St. Louis
Arizona

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

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

AFC East

New England
Miami
NY Jets
Buffalo

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

AFC North

Cincinnati
Pittsburgh
Baltimore
Cleveland

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

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

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

AFC South

Indianapolis
Jacksonville
Tennessee
Houston

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

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

AFC West

Denver
San Diego
Kansas City
Oakland

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

NFC Playoffs

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

AFC Playoffs

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

Wild Card Round

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

Divisional Round

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

Championship Round

Seattle over New Orleans
Denver over Indianapolis

Super Bowl

Seattle over Denver

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

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

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