Every Time The Seahawks Play The Patriots, It’s The Best Game Of The Year; Last Night Was No Exception

That game was so good, I don’t even know where to start, so let’s just run through everything in order of appearance, because there’s too much to discuss to have any other format for this post.

Is Greg Olsen The Most Washed-Up 35 Year Old Tight End Inexplicably Earning $7 million On A Team With No Pass Rush?

Boy did he have a bad game in this one. How do you feel about 0 catches on 1 target? Furthermore, how do you feel about that lone target coming on the first drive of the game, being a perfect throw that bounced off of his hands and into the open arms of Devin McCourty for a Pick-Six? I kept waiting for Olsen’s redemption moment that, unfortunately, never came (unless it was some impactful block that I missed because who pays attention to THAT stuff?). I get the feeling that we’re destined for a super-mediocre season out of Olsen where the saving grace is that he catches 7 touchdowns, or one for every million dollars he’s earning. Nope, couldn’t have put that money to better use on the defensive line; NO SIR!

Seahawks Rushing Attack Quietly Good

It’s hard to say if Russell Wilson “cooked” in this one; the numbers were split pretty evenly: 28 passing attempts, 30 rushes (to be fair, those five Wilson runs were scrambles that would’ve been passing attempts had things looked differently on those plays). I mean, if you want to point to the ideal Pete Carroll type of offensive game, you’re looking at it. He doesn’t care where the touchdowns come from (all five were Wilson throws, which is pretty fancy cooking any way you sauté it), he just wants the running backs at least AS involved in moving the football as the quarterback. As a team, the Seahawks ran for 154 yards (a robust 5.1 yards per carry), with Carson leading the way (as it should be), 17 for 72. Don’t discount the effectiveness of Wilson’s 5 carries for 39 yards; he’s not just saving these attempts for the fourth quarter like in seasons past. He’s busting them out early enough to force defenses to account for him on potential zone-read plays later on (Travis Homer was the recipient of a few quality runs in this mold, ending up with 3 carries for 21 yards). Since the Patriots’ run defense isn’t that great, it was nevertheless good to see that the offense didn’t forcefeed us an All Wilson All The Time type of game.

Tyler Lockett Is There Whenever You Need Him

On any other team, or if Lockett were like a traditional wide receiver diva, he would command 15 targets per game and be among the league leaders in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He’s THAT good! He’s ALWAYS open, even when he’s got guys draped all over him! In this one, he ended up with a sensible 7 catches (on 8 targets) for 67 yards and a touchdown (in the drive immediately following the Pick Six, to tie the game at 7-7), but it seemed like all of his catches were big (either to convert a first down, or to get us out of a huge hole after a holding penalty or a sack or something). One of the ways the Seahawks have been very effective so far this year has been in how the offense has dug itself out of holes. Even though holding penalties are down leaguewide, the Seahawks are still right up there among the worst offenders as an offensive line. But, for the most part (not every time, obviously; this offense isn’t perfect in spite of Russell Wilson signing a pact with the devil) it’s not an automatic punt whenever we find ourselves in 1st & 20, or 2nd & 15. Tyler Lockett has a lot to do with this. Most teams would take more advantage and throw it to him too much; but Wilson knows it’s best to save those moments for when they matter most, because Lockett will always be there to pull this team out of the fire.

Quandre Diggs (tsk tsk tsk)

Yesterday was as bad a day across the NFL when it comes to injuries that I’ve ever seen. Not just the number of guys who went down, but the number of high-impact players who were out for the rest of their respective games, who will end up missing a number of weeks, and/or who will be out for the remainder of the season! I’ll discuss more of that in my fantasy column later in the week, but it was rough. As it turns out, you can’t go from 0 to 60 at the drop of a hat – with no pre-season ramp-up – and not expect to see this as a reality! You may ask, “Why didn’t we see all of this in the first week?” Well, my thoughts are that everyone got beat up pretty good, and since no one was in real game shape, everyone needed more than the 6-7 days they were given for their bodies to recover. Since everyone was heading into yesterday without sufficient recovery time, all their bodies were more susceptible to the types of injuries we were seeing. You can dismiss the pre-season all you want, but going from playing a quarter, to a half, to into the third quarter, and then scaling it back to almost-nothing in the fourth game sure seems to be a better way to ramp up everyone’s bodies for the pounding they take on a weekly basis than what we had this season.

Anyway, what does that have to do with Quandre Diggs? On the Patriots’ first offensive drive of the game, he was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver (on a 4th down play, that ultimately put New England in a position to go up 14-7). No one was injured on the play, though it was a good call by the league. Seahawks fans were complaining on Twitter, asking what Diggs was supposed to do with it being such a bang-bang play; well, he’s not supposed to lazily ram into a guy while fully erect, with his helmet smashing into the other guy’s helmet! If Diggs was using proper technique, he would’ve bent his body at the waist, gotten his head out of the way, and led with one of his shoulders … you know, like we’ve been preaching around here for the better part of the last decade! This is simple, people; Diggs had plenty of time to put his body into proper position. He was just lazy on that play, didn’t feel like bending down, and he was properly ejected as a result.

How this gets back to injuries is that, of course, Marquise Blair – our Big Nickel defensive back extraordinaire last week – went in to replace Diggs at safety after that (flip-flopping with Lano Hill whenever we were in a Nickel Defense), and also of course, ended up with a serious knee injury. It will either cost him a few weeks or the rest of the season, which is just a crusher. I still have faith in this secondary to lead the way; we have lots of guys behind Blair who will step up and be good. But, Blair sure looked like he was turning into something really special. It’s only his second season in the league, so there’s time for him to bounce back and become great. But, it’s a shame when someone this early in his development has a setback this potentially-significant.

Newsflash: Cam Newton Is A Great Rusher

His numbers weren’t quite as sparkling as his 15 rushes for 75 yards against the Dolphins last week, but 11 rushes for 47 yards is nothing to sneeze at. He tacked on two goalline touchdowns in that total and looked ALMOST unstoppable (foreshadowing, you know you want it). I was really impressed with the variety of different rushes the Pats used at the goalline; they will be tough to defend down there. Don’t let them get inside of the 10 yard line if you have hopes of holding them to field goals! It won’t work out most of the time.

Great Punting Tho

With the Seahawks down 14-7 and driving, I was legitimately starting to worry about our ability to stop New England’s offense. Had we fallen too far behind, it would’ve been super tough to come back with Cam pulling plays out of his ass all night. That’s why I was so discouraged we took a minor sack on third down at the New England 42 yard line. 4th & 5 isn’t all that different from the fourth down we converted last week (with the bomb to D.K.). The way we were otherwise moving the ball at will, that seemed like a pretty easy one to convert. I’m not saying the ends justify the means, but we did win the game, so I won’t complain too much. But, had we lost, this is a moment I would’ve pointed to as one of the reasons why.

Nevertheless, we had a GREAT game from Michael Dickson! No one cares about punting, of course, but he showed why he was an All Pro as a rookie two years ago. He averaged an even 50 yards per punt (with a long of 63), and all four of them ended up inside the 20 yard line (including one that died inside the two yard line all by itself, like he’d chipped it with a pitching wedge or something). That is an impact that doesn’t show up directly on the scoreboard, but it nevertheless affects the game in countless hidden ways.

Seahawks Run Defense Also Quietly Good

I know I was up there praising Cam Newton a minute ago, but this is a true statement! The Patriots as a team ran the ball 25 times for 67 yards (2.7 yards per), and the non-Cam runners were a terrible 14 carries for 20 yards (1.4 yards per). That was legitimately shocking to me. I thought for sure the Pats would Ground & Pound it up our bums, but clearly the emphasis for this defense was to stop the run at all costs (which, as it turned out, meant giving up a lot of passing yardage, as we’ll get to later).

D.K. Is Living In The Future, So The Present Is His Past

His presence is a present, kiss my ass! Stephon Gilmore was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. I don’t know if he’s the best cornerback in football, but he’s up there. There were rumblings coming into this one that he would lock onto D.K. Metcalf and shut him down (while the rest of the Pats’ defense did whatever it could to stop everyone else). I never expected Russell Wilson to back down and avoid Metcalf entirely, but it wouldn’t have shocked me if we saw a quiet game out of him nevertheless.

Instead, his game was so loud it damn near made up for there being no fans in attendance!

He had four catches for a team-high 92 yards, including a 54-yard bomb that he caught over Gilmore (who was all over him, and indeed had an arm in Metcalf’s bread basket as he caught it), who was swatted away like a gnat en route to the endzone. It was incredible! Gilmore was indeed on Metcalf most of the game, which ultimately led to a near-brawl on the Seahawks sideline as Metcalf manhandled Gilmore on a block, who took offense to being dismissed accordingly. I didn’t see much between the two after that; Gilmore sat out for a play, and I think it was more of a Defend-Metcalf-By-Committee situation after that. Get used to reading about that, because every week Metcalf is inching closer to being the best in the game.

Why Not Some Words On The Kicking Game?

That D.K. touchdown tied it at 14-14, but New England marched right down the field again. Our defense stopped them at the Seattle 33 yard line, which resulted in the Pats missing a 51-yard field goal. In a game they lost by five points – which (spoiler alert!) ended with them at the goalline – that’s a pretty significant miss.

As I believe there was last year, there’s an early-season epidemic in the kicking game leaguewide. I don’t have the numbers, but they’re out there; it’s being discussed by people with more patience than me. Anyway, Jason Myers was a perfect 5/5 on extra points in this one, and considering how those are no longer automatic, it’s nice to see our guy isn’t making our lives miserable.

A Quiet End Of Half

After all that had happened to this point, it was crazy the Seahawks were in a position to take the lead heading into halftime. Following the missed field goal, we had excellent field position. But, we couldn’t get out of our own way in spite of numerous opportunities. Greg Olsen had a false start to add to his negative ledger. Wilson threw an insane forward pass when he was a good five yards beyond the line of scrimmage (and penalized accordingly). Then, we somehow got bailed out on 3rd & 19 with a defensive holding penalty. With a first down at midfield, hopes were restored, but another penalty and a sack pretty much torpedoed that drive; the only good thing we did was chew up all the clock (and punt it inside the two yard line), so the Pats had no chance to do anything.

Jamal Adams Showed Up!

I read somewhere that all of Adams’ stats happened in the second half of this game. 10 tackles (one for loss), a sack, and two hits on the quarterback. It wasn’t all DPOY roses and sunshine, though, as he gave up a number of big gains through the air (presumably playing more free safety than we would’ve liked, with Diggs ejected). His sack was huge, as he dove at Cam’s ankles to trip him up; if he’d missed, Cam definitely would’ve converted it for a first down. There were, however, at least a couple times where he had Cam dead to rights in the backfield, but Cam eluded him, which was frustrating as all get-out. Mixed bag sort of day, but this team doesn’t win this game without Jamal Adams.

More David Moore!

David Moore had a pretty underwhelming 2019, which had a lot of fans down on his prospects going forward. He seemed like Just A Guy, made more infuriating by how often Wilson tried to force it to him last year. Well, in this game, Moore showed why this team is so high on him! He ended up with 3 catches for 48 yards, but one of them went for an insane touchdown (that had a less-than 7% probability of being completed, per some weird stat I don’t understand) at the front-left corner of the endzone, to give the Seahawks a 21-17 lead early in the second half. How he managed to keep both feet in bounds while coming down with the football, I have no idea, but it was truly miraculous!

Quinton Dunbar, Hello!

Through the first half of this game, you would’ve been justified in wondering whether or not Dunbar is actually a good football player. As it stands, we might have to question whether or not he’s a good fit for this team, but I’m going to give it a few more weeks before I make any definitive statements. Anyway, he very nearly had a pick-six of his own earlier in this one, before finally succeeding in jumping an out route and picking off Cam Newton following the David Moore touchdown. It was a welcome sight! It’s been a few years since the Seahawks have had a cornerback who’s capable of generating interceptions; now, if only Dunbar can stop getting faked out on comebackers.

A Freddie Swain Sighting In The Wild

If you never expected rookie wide receiver Freddie Swain to make any sort of impact this year, don’t worry, I was right there with you! I didn’t even think he’d make the team! If anything, I thought this was a year for John Ursua to assert himself, but he seems to be on his way out of the organization (currently on the Practice Squad). Swain, however, might be a legitimate baller. He only had 1 reception for 21 yards, but he made the most of it, catching a crosser and taking it to the house for a 28-17 lead late in the third. He looked fast and crisp in his route running, everything we need out of a #4 receiver right now!

Let Cam Cook!

Cam Newton was great all game, but he really came alive in the fourth quarter. He finished with 397 yards passing and 1 TD (to go along with his rushing yards and two rushing TDs). So, taken with Atlanta’s crazy passing day last week, the Seahawks’ secondary has given up approximately 900,000 passing yards in two games, which is, you know …

It’s hard to blame the secondary too much, because he was really zipping those balls into some tight windows! For the most part, our defensive backs were in good spots to make plays, but Cam was pretty perfect.

Of course, he had all damn day to throw the ball! Oh my God, was the pass rush ever atrocious in this one! When we blitzed, it was either picked up, or Cam was able to side-step a guy and run for a first down; when we rushed four, they did nothing; when we rushed three, Cam was able to give his nails a manicure, read a magazine, wait for his hair to dry, and gab with the gals about all sorts of juicy gossip while his receivers took their sweet time getting open. It was unbelievable! I’ve never in my life seen a Seahawks pass rush this inept; it’s incredibly infuriating!

Anyway, New England took almost no time at all to make it 28-23; the only thing our defense did right on that drive was stop the 2-point conversion. The touchdown itself, though, was mighty nifty. See, every other time the Patriots got down close to the goalline, Cam lined up in shotgun, took the snap, held the ball for a second or two until a lane opened up, and ran right through it for a score. Well, this time, he did the same thing, but faked a run and threw to some fullback I’d never heard of for the score. If that continues to happen, New England will be truly unstoppable down around the endzone.

More Wilson Magic

The teams improbably traded punts on the subsequent two possessions – more due to questionable play-calling for both teams than anything the defenses managed to do – but with nine minutes left in the game, you knew the Seahawks needed to add more points. Thankfully, we have Russell Wilson (and you don’t).

The Seahawks methodically marched down the field, and on 2nd & 5 from the New England 18, he dropped a beautiful pass into Chris Carson’s arms for a 35-23 lead, with four and a half minutes to go that felt pretty insurmountable.

Superman

But, again, Cam Newton is Superman. In just over two minutes, he took New England 75 yards and, once again, plunged over the goalline to make the game 35-30. There were thoughts that the Pats might onside kick it after that; given what the Seahawks’ offense was able to do all night, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But, they had all of their time outs, so it made sense to kick it deep.

There was some iffy decisionmaking on the ensuing Seahawks possession. For starters, Chris Carson took a handoff and looked like he had a bead on a 10-yard gain. But, his momentum was about to take him out of bounds and he slid instead, to keep the clock moving. The only problem with that was: you always take the first down. Besides that, we snapped it with 2:09 left in the game; the two-minute warning was coming regardless. While I like the thought, it was just a little misguided and almost cost us.

On 2nd & 4, we handed off to Carson again, who tried to find a hole, but could only muster three yards. I didn’t LOVE the play call there; I would’ve preferred to give Wilson two cracks at throwing for a first down. But, I get it. You force New England to use a time out there, and you make it 3rd & 1, which SHOULD be easily converted every time.

The fanbase might’ve stormed CenturyLink Field and revolted had we handed off to Carson there and he was stuffed, so I was happy to see Wilson with the ball in his hands. I was MORTIFIED, however, to see Wilson chuck it deep, overthrowing Lockett by a few yards (it looked like he was moderately interfered with, but no ref worth his salt was ever going to flag that play). I don’t know what Wilson was thinking, because he had Carson wide open on a check down; he also could’ve simply run it a couple yards and kept the clock moving. Instead, it saved the Pats a time out and probably set-back the Let Russ Cook movement; any time he fails, I keep thinking the coaching staff is going to revert, so let’s not fail again for a while!

Kryptonite

New England started on their own 19 yard line after the Seahawks punt, with just under two minutes in the game and two time outs remaining. In less than a minute, the Pats were on Seattle’s side of the 50. We were able to keep most plays in front of us, and tackled guys in bounds to keep the clock moving. But, with 36 seconds remaining, Cam hit Julian Edelman for 18 yards down to the Seattle 13.

Bafflingly, New England didn’t use its last time out, so the clock ticked down to 12 seconds following an incompletion. Cam then hit a pass down to the 1 yard line with three seconds remaining, forcing New England to use their final time out. They had one play to win it! Everyone on the planet knew it was going to be a Cam Newton run; their goalline offense had been perfect to that point in the game (and probably the season, though I didn’t watch their game against Miami last week).

True to form, Cam took the ball and looked for a hole to his left. But, L.J. Collier had the play of the game, blowing it up and getting to Cam’s legs. Between him and Lano Hill on the outside, undercutting the blocking running back to force Cam inside, they really saved the day, as Cam took a 1-yard loss on the play. Game over, Seahawks win 35-30.

That’s, not for nothing, the third time in the last three matchups against the Patriots that the game has come down to a final goalline stand (with the defense prevailing every time, including Super Bowl XLIX). These games are always so ridiculously fun. No one, really, in all of football (except maybe Andy Reid) has ever been able to play chess with Bill Belichick like Pete Carroll. They are so different in their coaching styles, but so damn similar in their preparation and ability to match up with one another during games. We were never going to have Belichick as our head coach; he doesn’t strike me as a West Coast type of guy. But, it’s nice to have the next-best thing. Pete Carroll often gets overlooked around these parts – mostly by fans who grow weary of watching a conservative offense – but it’s really been an honor to have a coach like him, who sets the tone for the entire organization. There’s a reason why this team has been so good for the last decade, and while Russell Wilson deserves a lot of credit, Pete Carroll is ultimately why we’ve had so much fun watching this team over the years.

How High Can These Seahawks Fly?

The big questions heading into week two are: was Week 1 an aberration, or a sign of things to come? And, if it’s a sign of things to come, how good can this Seahawks team really be?

All you can really do – heading into a new season – is review any roster changes and see how they might fit with what you’ve seen from that team in the past. Generally, you would compare this team to what it was in 2019, but we have ten years’ worth of Seahawks teams to look at with respect to Pete Carroll, eight of those years with Russell Wilson. Knowing what we know, having seen what we’ve seen, it was sensible to expect more of the same: a balanced offense, relying on the defense to keep it close, and hope our All Pro quarterback can pull it out in the fourth quarter. For a team that’s only missed the playoffs twice under Pete Carroll – and only once with Russell Wilson at quarterback – clearly “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” comes into account.

That’s why last week was such a shock – a welcome shock, don’t get me wrong – because it was SO unexpected. Part of me saw them throwing on that first drive and thought, “Well, they’re just doing this to shut the fans up; they’ll get back to a run-heavy approach on the next drive.” But, the passes kept coming, and coming, and coming, and before we knew what hit us, the Seahawks turned into the 2019 Chiefs!

You’ll recall that’s a team that won the Super Bowl. So, in answer to the second big question listed at the top: that’s how good this team can be. With Russell Wilson playing out of his mind, with this offense putting up that many points every week, it doesn’t really matter what the defense does; as long as it’s not dead-last in all of football, this team will win 12+ games, the NFC West, and could very well advance to the Super Bowl if things go right in the playoffs.

BUT, remember that caveat: if Week 1 was a sign of things to come, and not just a one-time treat.

I’m going to stick with my cautiously-optimistic stance for a bit here (instead of full-blown elation), for two reasons. For starters, Pete Carroll was already quoted this week complaining about how few carries the running backs had against Atlanta. 16 carries split between the three of them. Chris Carson is still one of the best running backs in football – as evidenced by his two receiving touchdowns – but he only had six carries! That’s not good enough. In a game we won by double-digits, it’s weird that we didn’t have more of a running game presence in the fourth quarter. So, I would expect Carroll will get his way as early as this week in pounding the rock more than we did last week.

The other cause for concern is our opponent: the New England Patriots. Their defense is crafted much like ours, in that their biggest strength is in the secondary. While I don’t expect the Seahawks to completely revert back to their 2019 form, it would make sense to neutralize things a little bit by hitting the Pats where they’re weakest: defending the run.

That isn’t to say the Pats are bad at defending the run; I can’t say with any certainty one way or the other. Against the Dolphins last week, they held them to 87 yards and a 3.2 yards per carry average; however, the Dolphins’ top two rushers combined for 62 of those yards on 14 carries, for a 4.4 yard average. The Dolphins were playing from behind for most of the game, so they didn’t have the luxury of working that part of their offense in more.

It’ll be REALLY interesting to see what how the Patriots gameplan the Seahawks’ offense. Bill Belichick famously creates a new scheme every week, based on his opponent, to take away whatever it is they do best. Now, he’s a smart man, and he surely knows Russell Wilson is what this team does best, so I don’t expect him to neglect defending the pass in any way. But, will he see this Seahawks team through the lens of what happened last week, or the previous ten years?

The Seahawks offense has been built around two concepts: running the ball and completing deep passes. Last week, the Seahawks completed exactly one deep pass (the 4th down touchdown to D.K. Metcalf), and as I mentioned, hardly ran the ball at all. Most of these were short-to-intermediate routes, which is completely counter to everything we’ve ever done before. Pete Carroll prides himself on his offenses taking care of the football. Running, and throwing deep balls to guys in one-on-one situations, are the safest things you can do. As long as your running back isn’t a fumbler, with a guy like Wilson chucking it, you feel like you have a minimal risk of turning it over on a bomb (either your guy gets it, or it’s incomplete; even in the rare instances where it’s picked, that’s still sort of like a punt in the field position game). The odds of turning it over increase when you throw it a lot, and throw it in those short-to-intermediate routes (where there are lots of different defenders running around, some in areas you wouldn’t expect them to be).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks are going to totally revert to what they’ve always done, but I do think it will be difficult to run that same gameplan out there for a second week in a row and have the same level of success. I think the running game will have to be incorporated more, for the simple reason that I don’t think the Patriots’ coverage will be as soft as the Falcons’ coverage was last week. If their corners start bullying our receivers at the line of scrimmage, or if the Pats play significantly more zone – while their D-Line does everything it can to keep Wilson in the pocket – I think that’ll open us up to switch to running plays at the line of scrimmage. It won’t be the coaching staff asserting their dominance, it’ll be Wilson doing the smart thing and checking to what the defense is giving us.

It has never made sense to continually pound the running back into 8-man boxes. I think what we saw against the Falcons had to do with exactly that: giving our quarterback the freedom to make smart decisions on the fly.

I actually like the Seahawks in this one. It’s a night game, for one, and you know how we always show up for those. While the home-field advantage won’t be there – with no fans in the stands – I would argue that hasn’t been as effective in recent years, as most teams have adapted to playing on a silent count. I just think we’re better than them at this point.

Now, that isn’t to say I believe we’ll blow out the Pats (though, I’m not throwing that concept out of bed either). I kind of see this as a normal Seattle/Carolina matchup, only with a better coaching staff. Cam Newton is the star of that offense (an offense that is pretty bereft of talent, even by Cam Newton standards); he’ll be the man we need to beat. The Patriots have built an offense that features his skillset (meaning: lots of designed quarterback runs) that might end up being even better than some of those elite offenses he ran with the Panthers (having him on a one-year deal makes this more palatable, as if you run him into the ground or get him injured, it’s no long-term risk to your franchise). With Julian Edelman being the only guy that scares you from that receiving corps, it’s never been more The Cam Newton Show than it will be this year. And, for as savvy as Edelman is, I think our cornerbacks won’t have trouble keeping up with him, for the most part.

It’s almost like the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams with this game in mind in particular. As we all saw, Adams was all over the place last week, frequently up at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, and also frequently diving into the backfield to chase after the quarterback or running back. He was often successful, and more importantly, he punished anyone that he ended up hitting. My biggest concern in this game isn’t the pass rush; it’s the run defense. The Falcons, when they did run the ball, were pretty successful, including a number of chunk runs through considerable holes created by their otherwise so-so offensive line. It’s been YEARS since the Patriots have had an alpha dog at running back; they usually have three or four guys they like to work in there throughout every game. So, it doesn’t really matter who they hand it to, if their O-Line is able to do to our run defense what the Falcons were able to do, they’re going to have an easy time moving the ball down the field (made even easier by the fact that Cam Newton, when healthy, is in the top two among rushing quarterbacks with Lamar Jackson).

That’s where Jamal Adams comes in. Cam is an elite runner; we need an elite defender to shadow him. Bobby Wagner has traditionally been that man for us, and he’ll certainly play a significant role in following Cam around and keeping him in check. But, as we saw last year, Bobby can’t do everything by himself. Having Adams right there with him should be the difference-maker in keeping this Patriots offense from blowing up.

I’ll also be very interested in seeing what Bruce Irvin and L.J. Collier can do in setting the edge on either side of the line. Keeping Cam contained as a scrambler is just as important as stopping him on those designed runs. Irvin didn’t seem to do a whole lot last week, but as the game went on I thought he did a good job of setting that edge (of course, where is the statue that is Matt Ryan going to run to?); he’s going to be vital in this one, and I think he has what it takes to step up in a big way.

I’m a little over 50% convinced the Seahawks win in a close game. I also think there’s a reasonable chance we prevail by double-digits again (in which case, go ahead and lump us in with the Ravens and Chiefs as the best teams in football, because it’ll be Go Time, my friends!). The only way we lose is the same way most elite offenses like ours end up losing: by keeping them on the sidelines. If the Patriots convert an insanely-high percentage of 3rd/4th downs and dominate Time of Possession, they could steal a close one late in the game. There’s an infinitesimal chance the Pats blow us out, so small as to not even be worth thinking about.

I am SOOOOOO excited for this game! Even more than I was last week, and that had all the juice of being the first game of football I’ve seen since the Super Bowl (not counting the Thursday Night game, of course). I think we’re all holding our breath and crossing our fingers and rubbing our lucky rabbit’s feet that this offense will come out slinging it just like we did last week (and, not only that, but producing a similar type of production from a points perspective). All of our collective worst nightmare is if we continue to throw the ball and it fails; we endure multiple 3 & Outs and turnovers in the process. Because then, you seriously have to wonder about the coaching staff abandoning it and going back to what worked before.

Our enjoyment of football is on the line, people! On the biggest stage, against history’s best-ever football coach, and the team that has far-and-away won the most football games over the last two decades! If we succeed here, the rest of 2020 shapes up as one of the most fun football seasons we’ve ever seen. If we fail, the cost will be enormous.

I know I sound like those lying politicians who say this election is the most important in history (how can they ALL be the most important?), but I’ve never been so on edge for a Week 2 football game in my life. I’m 1-0 in both of my fantasy football leagues, yet all I can think about is the actual football team I follow? You KNOW this is a big one!

The Seahawks Continued To Shore Up Depth By Signing Phillip Dorsett

I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about the Seahawks’ free agency period. 2013 sounds like such a sucker answer, but it might be true!

The old adage, of course, is you build your NFL team through the draft, and you use free agency and the like to fill in any cracks. And, for a while, the Seahawks were the model of efficiency in that department. But, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to continue to hit with the success rate that the Seahawks ran from 2010-2012; indeed, as soon as 2013 we started seeing them fall woefully short in the draft, and therefore needing to rely more and more on crazy trades and trolling the bottoms of the seven seas for washed-up, has-been free agents on their last legs (due in large part to salary cap constraints, thanks to some of those trades, as well as extending our superstar draft picks from 2010-2012).

Through it all, coaching and Russell Wilson have kept this team afloat, as they’ve continued to stretch all they can get out of their salary cap dollars. But, this is the first year since 2013 where the Seahawks have had significant money to spend (and, indeed, there are more moves they can and will make to improve upon that amount), and I’ve never been happier with the results.

I’ve harped on it enough, but we all knew heading into the offseason where the major holes were/are on this team:

  1. Pass Rush/Defensive Line
  2. Offensive Line
  3. Secondary
  4. Offensive Weapons

I would say the Seahawks have had a nice START to filling out the #1 priority, but obviously there are a lot of things that can happen in that arena between now and the start of Training Camp. Multiple holes opened up on a pretty solid offensive line, thanks to injuries and free agency; and I’d say the Seahawks did the best they could with the resources they had available, to shore that up and at least maintain the level of consistency we’ve seen in 2018 & 2019. I would argue there isn’t a ton the Seahawks could do with the secondary, but the trade for a potentially-elite cornerback has to sit pretty well for most Seahawks fans. As for the offensive weapons, we’ve seen minor deals for tight ends – Greg Olsen, Luke Willson, and Jacob Hollister – but nothing in the receiver market.

Until yesterday, when it was announced Phillip Dorsett was signed to a 1-year deal.

Dorsett was a first round pick by Indy in 2015, and has largely been considered to be a disappointment. To that, I would say Andrew Luck missed half his games as a rookie with various injuries; Dorsett had a better 2016, but of course played second-fiddle to T.Y. Hilton. He was then traded to the Patriots for Jacoby Brissett. In 2017, he was way down the depth chart (behind Brandin Cooks, Gronk, and their bevy of running back targets), and in 2018 he was behind James White, Gronk, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and others. He finally got a shot in 2019, but still was way behind Edelman and White.

Plus, let’s face it, the Patriots’ passing game was atrocious last year. Tom Brady’s arm has about had it, their offensive line frequently forced him to rush his throws, and in all honesty Brady over the last few years has been CONSTANTLY looking for the check-down pass as a means to avoid being hit. Yeah yeah yeah, Brady’s the G.O.A.T. or whatever, but I don’t blame Dorsett for Dorsett not breaking out in that offense. Brady is a My Way or The Highway kind of guy at this point in his career; he’s not making the receivers around him better, he’s demanding you get on his wavelength, or he’ll find someone else who does.

Russell Wilson, by contrast, is smack-dab in the prime of his career. He’s the best deep-ball passer in football. Dorsett is entering a situation with one of the three best QBs in football, where he doesn’t HAVE to prop up a shaky offense. There are other weapons! Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are the top two receivers on this team; they will continue to be that for the foreseeable future. On top of which, the Seahawks are one of the more-balanced teams in football; we’re not throwing the ball 40 or 50 times a game. Dorsett, in all likelihood, won’t see much more than 50 or 60 targets in 2020; but I can damn near guarantee he’ll put up better numbers than he ever has.

He’s fast, he’s being put alongside two other very fast guys in Lockett and Metcalf, which means he’ll see primarily single-coverage from defenses. I don’t know about his leaping, or his ability to go up and high-point a football, but I like his chances in any one-on-one situation, especially since he almost certainly won’t have to face the opposing team’s best, shutdown cornerback. Regardless, if he can run fast, Wilson shouldn’t over-throw him very often. I expect a high yards-per-catch average, and I expect him to grab anywhere from 6-10 touchdowns, probably somewhere around 500 yards or so.

Bottom line is he’ll be better than Jaron Brown, David Moore, and anyone else who’s been on this team in recent years as this team’s #3.

This is the sort of depth I’m talking about. Dorsett was never going to succeed in that Pats offense last year as their designated #2; but he will THRIVE as the Seahawks’ #3. And, with that success, it wouldn’t shock me to see him revive his career moving forward.

I have to imagine it was hard for him on the Pats. So much of football – especially the skill positions – is about confidence. Guys always talk a big game, but they also need to be put in spots to succeed, and I don’t think that was ever going to happen in New England, not even with Brady. But, it certainly CAN happen here.

A+ signing in my book. Most importantly, the Seahawks don’t necessarily have to worry about drafting a receiver now. Frankly, I don’t think the Seahawks need to draft anyone on the offensive side of the ball, period, except maybe a running back in the later rounds. That makes this year’s free agency period particularly exciting for me. While I’m sure the Seahawks will be pretty defense-heavy in the draft, they’re also more-or-less free to simply draft the Best Player Available.

If that BPA just so happened to be a quality offensive tackle who could learn under Duane Brown for the next couple years, all the better, but that’s neither here nor there.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2019: Man Down!

So, in hindsight, maybe I should have traded Danny Dimes for Stafford & Godwin? It certainly would’ve made my Week 4 a whole lot less stressful.

I was heading into some deep doo-doo as it is when I originally set my Week 4 lineup. T.Y. Hilton had left his Week 3 game prematurely with a nagging injury he’s been dealing with all year. Then, Scary Terry McLaurin popped up on a mid-week injury report for a quad or something. Whatever it was, he did it in practice, and it’s especially brutal because they were – in theory – going up against a terrible secondary in the Giants.

What was even worse for me is that with those two guys eventually declared inactive, I was down to just one healthy wide receiver. I’ll explain.

The person who picked up Wayne Gallman last week (and left him on HIS BENCH no less!) dropped David Montgomery (Chicago’s rookie RB) to get him. In my opinion, TheGangUnderperforms was a little short-sighted in this move, as Gallman will eventually be relegated to his usual backup role, whereas I’m of the belief that Montgomery is only getting better, and will continue to see his snaps increase with each passing week. If I were him, I probably would’ve dropped Matt Breida, but that’s me and I could easily be wrong in this thing. Regardless, I wanted David Montgomery, so that took up the bulk of my Wednesday-Thursday, obsessing over who I should drop.

It was down to Chris Thompson or Christian Kirk. I was 4th in waiver priority, and while I felt pretty good about my chances (that the top 3 guys wouldn’t put in a claim, or even notice he was out there), I couldn’t let him pass and see someone with a lower priority make the claim. So, I used mine. The claim would go through on Friday morning, and at this point in the week I believe Hilton was still pretty doubtful, but Scary Terry (from reports of Washington beat writers) was looking a little more probable than he had the day before. Since I’ll see Tyreek Hill and A.J. Green eventually returning from their injuries at some point this year, and I’m already rostering Kupp, Hilton, and Scary Terry, I had a hard time justifying Kirk’s existence. Particularly when – while I do have a pretty loaded backfield – running backs are notoriously injury prone, and I like playing Thompson in case of emergency, over some waiver wire scrub.

So, I dropped Kirk, and I crossed my fingers. With my luck, neither Hilton nor McLaurin made miraculous recoveries, which left me with two options: leaving the spot open and only playing one receiver, or leaving the spot open and seeing how the weekend went. I just so happened to be going up against the worst team in the league (who was also, thankfully, minus one of his regular QB’s in Jimmy G), and even minus one player, I was still in the thick of things heading into the week. I had a good game out of Wentz on Thursday, so I rolled the dice.

I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done, because as Sunday progressed, the pool of available wide receivers – for lack of a better word – sucked. When I woke up Monday morning and saw that Zeke Elliott had an okay game, I was up 131.35 to 117.7. I had no one in the Cincinnati/Pittsburgh game; he had Andy Dalton. Could Pittsburgh’s defense hold him to under 13 points? I didn’t LOVE my chances, but I thought they were reasonable enough. My other option would’ve been picking up either James Washington (the person I was leaning towards, who ended up with 0 points) or Diontae Johnson (who ended up scoring over 17 points and would’ve easily sealed the deal). See, my other thought was, with the Steelers having a backup QB, the odds of someone like Washington getting zero points were very legit, and I would’ve had to waive someone I REALLY didn’t want to waive to get those zero points.

In short, I was willing to take the Week 4 L to preserve my roster for the long term. The me of 5 years ago would’ve panicked; I’m proud of my restraint, and I was rewarded accordingly. I won’t say I deserve this victory, but after last week’s bullshit, I think I earned it.

***

Yeah, as it turns out, Danny Dimes kinda stunk in his second start. Meanwhile, Gardner Minshew once again tore it up, this time in Denver of all places. I was strongly considering rolling with the Mississippi Moustache in Carolina this week, but their defense has savagely limited QB production this year, whereas the Vikings can be thrown on. So, Dimes gets one more week.

I otherwise got just okay games from the rest of my lineup, minus Kupp who REALLY saved my bacon. The Lance Petemans had pretty much everyone else on the Rams (Gurley, Woods, and Cooks) who combined for 68.5 of his 121.05 points. I was most worried about having to play Buffalo’s defense against the Patriots, but they did me an okay 7 points. On top of which, they kept Brady out of the endzone and limited him to 3.20 points for my opponent (he got a combined 6.55 points out of his two quarterbacks, which ultimately sealed his fate).

This victory brings me back to .500 at 2-2. I’m in fourth place (currently tied with three others at 2-2), I’ve got the fourth-highest total points and the second-highest points against.

***

Apparently Cooper Kupp is now a Must Start wide receiver. It’s weird! I don’t know how it happened – especially coming off of his injury last year – but he’s got more points than any other Rams skill position player! By kind of a lot, after four weeks.

As for my other receiver, it’s Wait & See once again. I don’t know if I can throw away another WR spot this week, so I’ll probably be forced to make some kind of move if my guys don’t get right. I prefer T.Y. Hilton (@ KC) over Scary Terry (vs. NE), but at this point I’ll take what I can get (and hope that Dwayne Haskins doesn’t get the start).

I get Le’Veon Bell back this week to pair with Zeke, which is always comforting. Darren Waller is locked in as my starting tight end as long as he’s breathing. For my FLEX, it’s down to Josh Jacobs (vs. CHI) Thompson (vs. NE) or Montgomery (@ OAK). The Raiders/Bears game is actually in London, so throw location out the window. Jacobs is a no-play for me against that Bears defense, so it’s down to Thompson vs. Montgomery. I like Thompson particularly in this matchup, where you figure it’ll be nothing but check-downs to running backs no matter who’s playing quarterback for the Redskins. But, I’m rolling with my new pickup Montgomery.

Montgomery is now, finally, getting the lion’s share of the carries in their base offense. His snap counts have improved from 38% in Week 1, to 44%, then 67%, then 69% against the Vikings last week. I’ll be the first to admit, his fantasy numbers still aren’t great, and he’s useless if the Bears have to throw a lot to get back into the game. But, I expect their defense to really sit on the Raiders and I don’t think it’ll be too hard for the Bears’ offense to move the ball. Game script being what it should be, I like Montgomery for a lot of second half points in this one.

I’m pretty lukewarm on the matchups my players are facing this week. I’m also a little terrified to be going up against one of our better fantasy players (he’s got his name on the league trophy multiple seasons). Beasts has got Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. He’s got McCaffrey and Chris Carson. He’s got Edelman and Godwin. He’s got Tyler Boyd going up against Arizona’s shitty defense, and he’s got Baltimore’s defense going up against Pittsburgh’s shitty offense. I’m nervous. With Seattle’s kicker, he’s got three Seahawks going up against the Rams; last year both of those games were shootouts and I see no reason why that won’t continue now.

As it stands now, Beasts is a 57% projected favorite in our matchup, but I’m used to playing the underdog. I don’t think Yahoo has a good handle on a lot of the younger players I have on my team; as they keep exceeding expectations, I figure my projections should start to change in the coming weeks.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 9

Man, that was a squeaker!

By all rights, I should’ve lost last week.  In the end, I have my opponent to thank.

In the flurry of mid-week moves made in our league come Wednesday morning of last week, The Lance Petemans picked up Dion Lewis and dropped Chris Carson.  Per his description, Carson fucked him all year long, so of course the week he drops him is the week I claim him and he goes for 105 yards and a touchdown (20.40 points in total).  Had someone with a higher waiver priority made a play for Carson, my backup emergency fill-in RB for Ezekiel Elliott on his BYE was likely going to be Kenjon Barner (my thought process being: Sony Michel was injured, the Pats were likely to kill the Bills, and hopefully Barner would get me a goalline TD for my trouble).  Barner ended up getting all of 0.40, a full 20 points less than Carson.  King Flippy Nips beat The Lance Petemans 171.70 to 160.94, so you go ahead and do the math while I wait here and smoke this victory cigar.

I never in my wildest dreams figured I’d pick up a running back I actually wanted to keep around on my roster; I thought I’d get a guy for the week, be disappointed, and drop him as soon as humanly possible.  But, Carson isn’t only a viable plug n’ play, he might actually be a Must Start.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself, because he’s only had 2 good games out of 7, but this is the guy I was expecting coming into the draft (when I selected him in my other league WAY too early).

I got a lot of good play up and down my lineup.  Derek Carr got me almost 40 on my bench, but Wentz & Dalton both had 27+.  Thielen and Peterson also got me over 20, and the rest of my skill guys got me 10+.  Matt Prater had a crap game, and Chicago’s defense certainly missed Khalil Mack, but all in all it was a full team effort.

Having Tyreek Hill go down with a groin injury is far from ideal, but if there’s a position I can afford to have some injuries in, it’s wide receiver.  Woods is a Must Start for me at this point, and I’ve got plenty of depth to fill out my FLEX spot.  I just hope Hill’s injury doesn’t linger too long, and he isn’t beset with constant setbacks.

The victory brought me back to .500 at 4-4.  I’m in 4th place, comfortably in 3rd place in total points scored, and 6th in points against.

Week 9 is the week I’ve been dreading (and had blocked out of my mind to this point) all year.  On top of Leonard Fournette being on BYE (here’s hoping he’s back and starting in Week 10), I have not one but TWO quarterbacks on BYE.  Yes, this is a 2-QB league, and yes, I only have 3 QBs on my roster.  What’s more, Wentz was a keeper and the other two were draft picks, meaning I did this to myself.  Did I realize it when I picked Dalton?  Probably not.  Did I do anything about it back when I had a chance to grab someone off waivers?  Well, I owned FitzMagic for a hot minute, but dropped him back when he was benched for Jameis.

You can see where I’m going with this.  By picking up Chris Carson, my waiver priority fell; I was 9th out of 10 teams heading into this week.  Now, luckily I got the win last week, which I absolutely prefer to getting a chance to claim FitzMagic this week, so in that sense I don’t totally regret missing out on him.

Brock Osweiler was the only free agent quarterback available who looks like he’ll get a start this week.  That’s suboptimal, but what are you gonna do?  In the flurry of waiver moves on Wednesday morning, Sam Darnold was thrown to the wolves, so I put in a claim for him.  It won’t go through until Friday, so stay tuned!

Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • QB1 – Derek Carr @ SF
  • QB2 – Brock Osweiler vs. NYJ
  • WR1 – Adam Thielen vs. DET
  • WR2 – Robert Woods @ NO
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott vs. TEN
  • RB2 – Adrian Peterson vs. ATL
  • TE – Greg Olsen vs. TB
  • FLEX – Kenny Golladay @ MIN
  • K – Matt Prater @ MIN
  • DEF – Chicago @ BUF

My bench is:  Wentz (BYE), Dalton (BYE), Fournette (BYE), Carson, Hill, Devonta Freeman (IR).

As usual, the big decision I had was Olsen vs. Reed.  This week, I like the Panthers TE against the poor Bucs defense because they give up a ton of points to tight ends (whereas the Falcons’ defense is middle-of-the-road against tight ends).  Since Fournette is no longer an option for the IR spot, I had to create two openings before I could make any moves.  I dropped Jordan Reed so I could slide Fournette back to my bench.  Both Reed and Olsen are injury-prone (in spite of the fact that Reed hasn’t missed a game this year), but I like Olsen’s upside in a more prolific offense.  The other move was dropping Calvin Ridley for Osweiler.  Considering I’ve still got Golladay on my bench – and his role figures to increase now that the Lions traded Golden Tate – I feel I have plenty of top-shelf wide receiver depth on my roster.

The other big decision this week was Golladay over Carson for my FLEX.  Carson is really touchdown-dependent, but the Seahawks have been super-committed to him (as well they should be, because he’s far-and-away the best running back on this team and it’s not even close).  Golladay conversely, got lost in the shuffle the last two weeks with all the other Lions’ weapons stepping up.  Minnesota’s defense is pretty good against wide receivers, so for a while there I had Carson in my lineup.  But, with the trade of Golden Tate, Golladay HAS to see an increase in production.  Considering I feel the Lions will have to throw a lot to stay in this game, I think Golladay is both the safer play and the higher-ceiling play (as you’ll see tomorrow, I don’t have a ton of confidence in the Seahawks beating the Chargers).

This week, I’m going up against Beasts.  Last week, I talked about how The Lance Petemans have won the league championship every other year for the last too-many-years; well, the guy who’s won the league championship ALMOST every other year that The Lance Petemans failed to wrap it up was Beasts.  In back-to-back weeks I’m playing arguably the two best fantasy owners in our league’s history.  Great.

Here’s Beasts’ lineup:

  • QB1 – Russell Wilson vs. LAC
  • QB2 – Matt Ryan @ WAS
  • WR1 – Brandin Cooks @ NO
  • WR2 – Jarvis Landry vs. KC
  • RB1 – Christian McCaffrey vs. TB
  • RB2 – Phillip Lindsay vs. HOU
  • TE – Kyle Rudolph vs. DET
  • FLEX – Julian Edelman vs. GB
  • K – Graham Gano vs. TB
  • DEF – Minnesota vs. DET

His bench is:  Bortles (BYE), Tevin Coleman, Cooper Kupp, Doug Martin, Amari Cooper.

His quarterbacks should be rock solid in their games.  It’s sort of appalling how often the Rams try to force it into Cooks (when Woods is so much more wide open all the time!), and Landry is just a target machine against a terrible pass defense.  McCaffrey is a fantasy god going up against an even worse defense, and Phillip Lindsay pretty much owns that backfield now.  There really isn’t a weak player in the bunch; I guess I don’t love Minnesota’s defense against an offense like Detroit’s.  Nevertheless, my team is going to need to bring its A-game.

For what it’s worth, I like my non-QBs this week.  Chicago has a legitimate chance to be the best defense of the week (so watch them lay an egg somehow).  My kicker figures to have a nice bounce-back performance in a should-be high-scoring game.  All of my receivers look like they’ll be in games where their teams are throwing a lot.  And, here’s hoping Zeke comes back with a vengeance after a BYE week’s rest.  My hunch is that I lose this one, but I’ve got some guys that can keep me close.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Roster looks like this:

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

With my bench looking like this:

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

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

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

Here goes nothing.

The Seahawks Released The Kraken (Is That Still A Thing?) All Over The Patriots

I’d handed the keys to the Monday post on this site to the Huskies this season, but the less remembered or said about the game on Saturday, the better.  I’ll get to Husky football later in the week, when I’m better able to handle such rejection.  In the meantime, I’ll kick things off on a much more pleasant note:  a weekend-salvaging victory for the city of Seattle that took place in New England.

I didn’t really give the Seahawks much of a chance to win this game, along with most of the football-watching public, for all the usual reasons:  we were coming off of a short week, they were coming off of a BYE; we were flying across the country, they’d only left the greater northeastern portion of the country one time after week 1; we’re dealing with injuries at many key positions, they’ve enjoyed relative good health for the most part.  And, let’s face it, you never feel comfortable going up against a coach like Bill Belichick, but you ESPECIALLY never feel comfortable when he’s got two weeks to prepare for you.  They’re the best team in the AFC and one of the best teams in all of football, and as such, you not only had the vast majority of America predicting a Patriots victory, but a blowout victory to boot!

To my very minimal credit, I told you that line was too high.  As I mentioned, the Seahawks have only lost twice by more than 7 points since the start of the 2012 season; WE. DON’T. GET. BLOWN. OUT.  If you were smart with your money, you would’ve written that down, pinned it to your shirt, and at the very least bet the Seahawks to cover.  If you would’ve been truly ballsy and bet the Seahawks on the money line, I heard it got as high as +290, which is an absurdly tempting bet when you’re talking about a team like the Seahawks.  Even if I didn’t think they’d win outright, +290 is too good not to at least throw a hundo on!

The Seahawks had a couple things going for them that made all the difference in the world.  First, we got Kam Chancellor back for the first time since we had our BYE week; and second, we finally came to terms with the fact that Christine Michael isn’t a starting-calibre running back in this league.  Well, maybe that’s not fair, but he’s certainly not starting-calibre in this system that we run under Tom Cable.  He might very well thrive under a different scheme, but we’ll never realize that with him in a Seahawks uniform.

The difference between Michael and C.J. Prosise is drastic!  I never really picked up on it until I finally got an extended look at Prosise – like most of the rest of the world – in last night’s game.  Prosise seems to know where the plays are supposed to go.  He seems to hit the appropriate hole more often than not.  When he gets the ball in his hands, I’m not sitting there worried about him running himself into a 3-yard loss.  Michael has a lot of talent in open space, and it often feels like he’s THIIIIIIS close to breaking one for 60+ yards.  But, more often than not, he misses his opportunity to get a decent gain by trying for the home run.

Prosise also avoids a couple of annoying Christine Michael traits that have been driving me crazy this whole year:  1) he doesn’t slip and fall with no one near him, and 2) he doesn’t try to avoid contact by running out of bounds.  The slip & fall thing I just don’t get.  Either Michael isn’t wearing the proper cleats, or he’s literally a fucking character on the old Scooby Doo cartoons whose legs are running faster than the rest of his body.  But, again, last night he found himself on the turf before a defender was anywhere near him, and that shit just needs to stop!  As for the avoiding contact thing, I don’t get that either.  I mean, Marshawn Lynch was JUST HERE last year!  Michael’s been working under Lynch since he came into the league in 2013!  How does NONE of Lynch’s toughness rub off on him?  Has he not been paying attention to how the rest of the team reacts and feeds off of our running backs when they seek out contact instead of running away from it?  Let’s face it, that’s not who we are.  We don’t run away from anything; we get after it!  (unless you play quarterback, and then you do the sensible fucking thing, because we don’t need you missing games).

It’s cool to have last night sort of be the coming out party for a guy like Prosise.  I scoffed quite a bit when – after we drafted him – a few people who were familiar with him in college broached the idea that he could be an every-down type of back.  I still think that’s a little far-fetched, mostly because I have serious doubts about his ability to stay healthy in ANY role, let alone one as a feature running back in this system.  But, I think it’s very reasonable to point out that the Seahawks have added a valuable weapon to our offensive arsenal.  When you think about the Seahawks on offense, you rightly start with Wilson, Graham, and Baldwin; then, if you’re feeling generous, you tack on Tyler Lockett, Thomas Rawls when he’s healthy, and Jermaine Kearse as a bigger, possession-type receiver who’s also capable of going down field and making a big play.  Well, I think you very much have to throw Prosise’s name into that mix, and a lot higher on the list than you might’ve thought coming into the year.  Just imagine what this offense will look like when Rawls comes back in a week or two.

There were a lot of huge plays in this game.  Baldwin’s three touchdowns were all impressive, there was a pretty dime to Lockett early on to jumpstart things, and I seem to remember at least one really important conversion to Jimmy Graham to keep a drive alive (was it at the end of the first half, maybe?).  But, do you want to know what my favorite play was in that game last night?  I should really say “plays”, because the Seahawks went to this well more than once, to almost universal positive results; and, quite frankly, it was something I don’t remember the Seahawks running all that much to this point in the season.  It’s that play where the Seahawks allow the opposing rusher to run free at the quarterback off the edge, and as he runs past a running back (mostly Prosise) who spills out into an open flat, Wilson lobs the ball over the rusher to the wide open running back for an easy gainer.  The Patriots defended that play correctly only once all game, but the Seahawks gashed ’em repeatedly, as they kept forgetting to have a backup defender peel out on the running back.  These weren’t just checkdowns, either.  This was something they likely saw on tape as a way to beat this defense, and it almost always worked for either first downs or big yards.  And, the thing about it is, it’s easy to defend, so I’m sure other teams will take note and try to take that away from us, but you know what happens then?  It re-opens the middle of the field for Jimmy Graham to take over.  WE GOT YOU ASSHOLES COMING AND GOING!!!

And, make no mistake, New England’s #1 gameplan was to Stop Jimmy Graham.  To their credit, they did the job.  Graham only had 48 yards on 4 receptions and no TDs.  You know what you’re going to get with a team like New England:  they’re going to take away what you do best, and you’ve got to find other ways to beat them.  To Russell Wilson’s credit, he didn’t try to force the issue by targeting Graham unnecessarily (if anything, he probably targeted Kearse too much, especially in the early going, but it’s not necessarily his fault that Kearse’s stone hands have returned).

Russell Wilson really played a fantastic game.  He was far from perfect – he missed repeatedly on the goalline when we were trying to turn some of those field goals into touchdowns, often overthrowing guys too far to the outside in what looked like an effort to be extra-cautious and not have his routes jumped – but even in a game where he left some throws on the field, he showed he was the best offensive player in that game.  Oh yes!  Even better than Mr. Tom Brady himself!  To be fair, Brady had a pretty good game in his own right, but his interception was VERY uncharacteristic, and he was held without a TD pass (which really screwed over a lot of fantasy teams like mine, I’m sure).  I actually thought he was going to beat us on yet another quarterback sneak, as that play might be the most deadly play in football.  But, he went up against a very talented and very fired up defense, who got the better of him in the end.

This game as a whole was reminiscent of the Super Bowl these two teams played, and not just because NBC made no bones about bringing up that game, and that fateful pass, what felt like every 30 seconds (as was expected going in).  Tom Brady, for the most part, took what the defense gave him, as he did two years ago, and it was successful throughout the game, until the final drive.  It was entertaining as all get-out, to be sure!  Seven lead changes in that game, just hours after another game (Cowboys at Steelers) had seven lead changes of its own (leading to pundits and NFL lackeys to hyperbolically dub yesterday The Day That Saved The NFL).  But, there was one key difference in last night’s game that swung it to the Seahawks:  health, particularly on defense.

See, New England’s defense is garbage, and I didn’t really have any fears about moving the ball on them.  When we started off the game settling for field goals, I was a little nervous.  You can’t be an underdog, on the road, trading field goals for touchdowns against a player like Tom Brady.  So, while I was fairly confident in the Seahawks scoring points in this one, my main concern was:  could we score ENOUGH?  In other words, how big of a hole would our defense dig us into?

Probably an unfair fear on my part.  I mean, I’ve been watching this team and following it pretty closely for a while now.  Years and years and years now.  All I needed to do was go back, reflect on that Super Bowl, and think about how that team differed from this one.  What was the main reason (aside from not handing it off to a certain running back at a certain goalline) the Seahawks lost that game?  A game that, if you’ll recall, we had been leading by two scores going into the fourth quarter.  Why did we blow such a lead?  Because of injuries in our secondary.  Jeremy Lane literally died in the first quarter when he intercepted Brady.  LITERALLY DIED!  Richard Sherman, I’m pretty sure, lost an arm.  He got a bionic one in the offseason though, so he’s fine now.  Kam and Earl contracted leukemia for that game, then cured it organically afterwards through their sheer badassery.  I may be misremembering things here a bit, but rest assured, the entirety of our secondary was dealing with pretty savage injuries in that game, and it reflected in our play on defense when we were trying to hold a lead against a surging Patriots offense led by the eventual MVP.

Last night, not only were our guys healthy, but Kam was making his first appearance in over a month.  And look, I like Kelcie McCray, you like Kelcie McCray, but this defense just isn’t the same with him back there.  Bam Bam is the heart & soul of this defense and this team, but don’t forget he’s also a REALLY fucking good football player!  REALLY good.  Like, I don’t know what this team looks like without Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas, and I hope I never have to know, but from what I’ve seen out of this team without Kam Chancellor back there, I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t the best player on this defense.  Not even joking.  He’s that good.  He’s that much of a difference maker out there.  There’s no other player on this defense like him, and quite frankly, there’s no other player in this LEAGUE like him.

Lots of teams (I’m really just thinking about the Falcons here, with their drafting of Keanu Neal in the first round this year; though, I’m sure every other team feels the same way) are trying to get a Kam Chancellor of their own.  But, there’s a big difference between drafting an over-sized safety who hits hard.  Granted, Kam is that, but he’s also so much more!  He’s technically sound, he’s just as good against the run as he is against the pass, he helps ensure everyone is lined up correctly and that everyone in the secondary knows their assignments, he’s instinctive, he picks up on things and acts upon them that don’t necessarily have to be said to those around him, and he’s probably the only guy in this league who can body up on Rob Gronkowski and not just hold his own, but absolutely make him his bitch.  Yeah, I should say that every team wants to have their very own Kam Chancellor, but the dude is one of a kind, and he’s ours, and you can’t God damn have him!

Which is why I’m always so flabbergasted whenever I see 12’s out there trashing him.  They write to the beat writers on Twitter, asking about trading him for draft picks or cutting him after the season’s over.  ARE YOU INSANE?  Do you just not watch the games when he’s in there?  Do you not see the difference between when he’s in there and when he’s not?  I know the hold-out left a bad taste in our mouths as fans last year, and yeah, he’s been knicked up a little bit the last couple seasons.  He plays football, it’s a violent sport, let’s try to have some understanding here.

I’ll just spell it out so everyone understands my position:  the Seahawks should not, under any circumstances, be looking to rid themselves of Kam Chancellor, now, in the offseason, or ever.  In reality, they need to keep him for the life of his contract, and when the time is right, they need to be looking to see how they can extend him and ensure he retires as a Seahawk.  Kam Chancellor is as important to this team’s ongoing success as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, and yes, even Russell Wilson.  If you’re looking to get rid of Kam, you’re doing it wrong as a fan.

As this post has gone WAY beyond the realm of decency in its word count, let’s get to the kudos now before it’s too late.

  • That hit by Earl Thomas on Gronk that knocked the wind out of him (and knocked him out of the game for a while), was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen.  How he caved in his chest like that on the slow-mo replay is painful just to watch.
  • My favorite play on defense goes to Kam for stripping the ball from Edelman’s hands.  I fucking hate that guy, so any time he fucks up (which led to a TD on Seattle’s subsequent drive) it’s really entertaining in my book.
  • Again, can’t say enough about Prosise.  He led the team in rushing with 66 yards on 17 carries, AND receiving with 87 yards on 7 catches.  He won’t be as featured when Rawls gets back up to speed, but like I said before, that’s quite a weapon to have out of the backfield.  Pencil us in for points on every 2-minute drill when Prosise is in the game.
  • Can’t say the same for Alex Collins, who fumbled on his only carry.  You hate to give up on draft picks too early, particularly when they were so vital in college, but he has a real Spencer Ware vibe for me.  Like a guy who’s destined to be cut next year, who will be picked up by Kansas City to be an every-down player.
  • Frank Clark had a great game, including a 1-handed sack where he grabbed a fistful of Brady jersey and yanked him to the ground while still engaged with the block from the left tackle.  Outstanding!
  • The interior of the line – Reed, McDaniel, Siliga, Rubin, and newcomer Damontre Moore – all had outstanding games!  Granted, LeGarrette Blount ran for three TDs, but those guys combined for 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, as well as held the Pats to under 3 yards per carry, and were critical in stopping them at the goalline at the end of the game.
  • Finally, big ups to Tyler Lockett in the return game.  He ran his only kickoff back 32 yards, and was a big reason why they kicked the ball out of bounds on another, as they were trying to avoid him getting the ball at all costs.

Why I’m Still Freaking The Fudge Out About Super Bowl XLIX

Yesterday’s post was a little grim, huh?  Made things seem a little hopeless?  Well, it’s not ENTIRELY doom and gloom.  My first big prediction for this game is that it’s going to be close.  The Patriots aren’t going to blow us out, because we don’t GET blown out.  Same thing in reverse.  We won’t blow them out because they don’t get blown out in Super Bowls.  You’re not going to give that team two weeks to prepare and watch them lay the kind of egg Denver laid last year.  So, gird your loins for an up and down battle, and a hot finish in the end.  It will come down to the final possession, and it’s just a matter of catching a break here and there to see us come out on top.

New England has two pretty big things in their favor, in that I don’t think the Seahawks are going to be particularly effective in the pass rushing department, and I don’t think we’re going to be able to throw the ball well on them.  That in and of itself leads me to believe we could be playing from behind when we dig down into the second half.  We don’t want that.  It’s not something entirely alien to this team, but still, it’s never ideal.

Like I said, the Pats have a couple big advantages, but the Seahawks have a lot of smaller advantages that could possibly add up to enough to push us over the edge.

For starters, you can almost chisel it in stone:  Russell Wilson won’t be NEARLY as terrible as he was against Green Bay.  The weather alone is enough to ensure that, but more importantly, Wilson hasn’t suddenly forgotten how to take care of the football.  I think as a whole, our team is better than theirs at protecting the rock.  In this game, a turnover here or there could make all the difference.

As I alluded to before, I think we have an advantage in the passing game when it concerns their linebackers in coverage.  Maybe that means Luke Willson on a seam route.  Maybe that means Marshawn Lynch on a wheel route.  Maybe it’s even Moeaki on a drag route.  SOMETHING.

Sticking with the passing game, I think they can be beaten deep.  I don’t really trust their safeties.  If we can work over their corners a play here and a play there on a double- move or something, I think it could be effective.  I’m not saying we’ll be chucking bombs all day long.  But, here and there, maybe two or three deep throws.  Darrelle Revis ISN’T perfect.

I also don’t necessarily see penalties being a problem.  Aside from the usual false starts and/or offsides we get every single game.  But, I’m talking more in the pass defense realm.  I could easily see their DBs get called for more flags than our DBs.

Obviously, the Seahawks have a GREAT advantage in the secondary, as we do every single game.  Importantly in this one is the Patriots really DON’T have an elite wide receiver.  There’s no T.Y. Hilton or Demaryius Thomas to worry about.  Edelman is about as good as it gets, but he’s just a shifty slot guy who I think we’ll be able to contain just fine.

We’ve also got elite linebackers in coverage.  Gronk will get his, but I sincerely doubt he goes off for a huge day.  Maybe a backup tight end or fullback or something will catch a pass here or there, but they’re not going to do serious damage.  If we execute the way we’re supposed to execute, we should be just fine holding down their passing attack, even without a pass rush.

Don’t discount the fact that we’ve had two weeks off.  I know they’ve had the same two weeks, but I think it helps us more.  We’ve got some DOGS on this team.  Our speed and athleticism is unrivaled in the NFL.  Especially on defense.  Giving this team two weeks to rest up and heal will put a bounce in our steps like it does every time we’re coming off of a BYE week.  It’s the one thing that gives me hope with our pass rush.  We looked pretty good against Carolina, even though we didn’t crush Cam Newton like I’d hoped.  Part of that is simply Cam’s ability to elude.  Tom Brady doesn’t really have that ability, not how Cam does.  I could see Bennett being a dominating force and really make a name for himself, as long as the rest of our linemen are doing their jobs.

I don’t consider New England’s running game much of a threat.  If they do somehow find a way to gash us on the reg, I think we’re proper fucked.  But, I doubt it’ll be an issue.  Like I’ve said before, I don’t see them completely abandoning the run like they did in the second half of that Baltimore game, but I also don’t see them getting anywhere NEAR the type of production they got against the Colts.

All of those things may or may not be enough to add up to a Seahawks victory, but I’ll tell you something you already know:  this game hinges ENTIRELY on how well the Seahawks are able to run.

The Patriots at times have struggled against the run, but at times they’ve also been pretty good.  Obviously, they’ve got Vince Wilfork who’s about as close to an every-down defensive tackle as it gets in the NFL.  He’s a future hall of famer and he could pose a huge problem with our relatively undersized defensive line.  Likewise, they’ve got ex-Seahawk Sealver Siliga, who’s not the greatest, but he’s another big widebody they use to clog running lanes.  If they opt to go jumbo and sell out against the run, it could be a long day.

But, even with those guys, it’s not impossible.  The Ravens had a field day running the ball three weeks ago against them.  The Ravens run a similar style of zone blocking scheme as we do.  Obviously, we’ve got probably the best running back in football.  We are who we are and just because they’ve got some big dudes on defense, it isn’t going to stop us from enforcing our will.

My biggest fear out of all of this is:  I just don’t want to read about Tom Brady being the “Greatest Quarterback of All Time” because he won his fourth Super Bowl.  Can we NOT be the ones that “settles” that discussion?  I don’t want to go to ESPN.com and have that story shoved in my face for the next nine months rest of my life.

The Patriots can be beaten.  And we’re the team to do it.  Because, even though we’re not as good as we were last year, we’re still the best team in the NFL.  We just need to go out, play a relatively clean game, and make the plays when they’re presented to us.

It’s been said quite a bit that the Top Defense always beats the Top Offense.  This is our chance to prove it once and for all.  To have beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back years would be a feat no defense has EVER accomplished.  If we want to be considered among the all-time greats, this has to be done.  Now.  Not next year.  Not later on in the twilight of Brady’s career.  Right now.  Right when he’s still sort of in his prime and it can be considered a monumental achievement to beat the best at his best.

Everything that there’s to say has been said.  I’ve got Seahawks 26, Patriots 23.  Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go throw up for two straight days.

Players To Watch In Super Bowl XLIX

You know who the big dogs are on the Seattle Seahawks.  The top ten, in some order, looks like this:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Earl Thomas
  • Richard Sherman
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Michael Bennett
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Cliff Avril
  • Max Unger

So, I’m not going to sit here and tell you why all these guys are important.  You KNOW why.

This one’s dedicated to the specific Patriots we should probably be concerned with heading into the game next week.  These are the guys everyone will be talking about until this low simmer we’re all on ratchets up to a huge boil.

Let’s start with Tom Brady, because why not?  He’s the only sure-thing Hall of Famer on that team (though, there are some other possibilities, that we’ll get to).  Tom Brady has been one of the best quarterbacks in football pretty much since he took over the starting job with New England in 2001.  His career passer rating is 95.9 – which is outstanding – and he hasn’t even really missed a beat.  In 2014, he had his usual gaudy numbers, adding up to a passer rating of 97.4.  And, with the exception of a few peak years with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady has done all of this with a largely anonymous group of receivers (sound familiar?).

Tom Brady is a quarterback who clearly makes the people around him better.  He has an unquestioned dedication to the game of football and that’s why his teams have always gone to the playoffs and why they’ve had so much success once they’ve gotten there.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the AFC East has largely been one big shitshow the entire time, but that’s neither here nor there.

Unlike Manning, Brady doesn’t run his own offense.  He’s not his own offensive coordinator.  If it’s going to help the team win, Brady is more than willing to defer to the running game, if that’s what it takes.  I guess that’s the difference between being a 6th rounder vs. a #1 overall draft pick.  I guess that’s the difference between being led by one of the most successful and talented head coaches in NFL history (even if he is a big, lousy cheater sometimes) vs. a random smattering of guys who are more than willing to let their star quarterback just do his own thing.

Brady is dangerous in the same way that Russell Wilson is dangerous, in the fact that all they care about is winning, at any cost.  It just so happens that Brady has never REALLY had a dominating running game to defer to.  He’s never had a Marshawn Lynch to lean on.  Early in his career, though, Brady DID have an outstanding defense backing him, which was the real driving force in their three Super Bowl titles.  As Brady emerged from that early period in his career, the talent on defense diminished, so he was required to do more.  And, to his credit, he succeeded in almost every way.  That 2007 squad will go down historically as one of the very best teams of all time.  But, when shit got real, they were nipped by the Giants, and that’s that.

Nowadays, Brady doesn’t have the cannon he once did.  You’re not going to see the jump balls he threw to Randy Moss.  Part of that is the talent around him (Brandon LaFell isn’t anywhere near Randy Moss’s UNIVERSE), but part of that is just Brady getting older.  37 years old.  Over 50,000 yards on that arm.  In that respect, he is like Manning, or a latter-day Marino.  He’s going to hang around in that pocket (when he’s not sneaking for that first down on 3rd- & 4th-&-inches), he’s going to rely on rhythm passing from 0-10 yards in front of him, and he’s going to try to dictate tempo by going hurry-up to keep the defense on its heels and tired.

We saw this last year!  None of this is new!  We were worried about the same damn thing with the Broncos and it ended up being a non-issue!  Tom Brady CAN be affected if you get in his face.  You don’t necessarily want to send wave after wave of blitzers after him, but then again, maybe you do.  I mean, the Jets seem to have the Patriots pretty well figured out, and they’ve been running out a Junior Varsity quarterback out there for the last couple decades!  All Rex Ryan DOES is blitz!  I’m not saying that’s what the Seahawks will do – we tend to be among the least-blitzing teams in the NFL, in spite of our mascot’s name – but in theory, if things start getting hairy, it’s not a bad idea.  Let our corners press, and start throwing five and six guys after him on the reg.

If you let Tom Brady stand there all day, he’s going to pick you apart.  Unlike Manning – who’s so afraid of taking a hit that his internal clock is running on fast-forward at all times – Brady will hang in the pocket as long as necessary.  It’s not what he wants, I’m sure, but if the defense is going to press and bump receivers off of their routes, then we’re going to have to punish Brady accordingly for having the gall to wait it out until they get open.

I don’t necessarily see this as a game where the Patriots are going to try to slug it out with us on the ground.  We’re not the Colts, who are a wet paper bag when it comes to stopping the run.  Of course, we’re not necessarily the Ravens either – who make it a point to go all out in stopping the run.  We are who we are.  We’re going to stop your run the same way we stop everyone else’s run.  So, in that sense, I wouldn’t expect the Pats to completely abandon it the way they did in the second half of that Ravens game, but at the same time, we’re probably going to get a heavy dose of passing regardless.  On the year, Brady threw the ball 36 times per game.  That’s about what I’d expect out of this one as long as it remains close.  If it gets out of hand one way or another, figure to add or subtract about 15 to that total.

Pressure Brady, and everything else should fall into place.  A great way to do that?  Put the lockdown on Gronk.

The Pats have four primary receiving threats.  Here’s what they looked like in the regular season:

  • Rob Gronkowski:  82 catches, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs
  • Julian Edelman:  92 catches, 972 yards, 4 TDs
  • Brandon LaFell:  74 catches, 953 yards, 7 TDs
  • Shane Vereen:  52 catches, 447 yards, 3 TDs

Gronk’s just a beast.  He broke out in his rookie year of 2010 with 10 TDs, then turned into a total monster in 2011 with over 1,300 yards and 17 TDs.  The two subsequent years were marred by injuries and he lost large swaths of playing time.  You had to wonder if he would even be able to return to the game.  At the beginning of this year, it seemed like the team was a little too overly-tentative with him.  He’d be off the field for huge chunks of games and the offense struggled accordingly.  In the first four weeks, he had 13 catches for 147 yards and 3 TDs, while mostly playing around the red zone.

After the Pats got crushed by the Chiefs and fell to 2-2, they had no choice but to let Gronk do his thing.  The Patriots won 7 in a row and 10 of 11 overall to close out the regular season, with Gronk putting up the following numbers in that span:  69 catches, 977 yards, and 9 TDs (with an average of approximately 6 catches, 89 yards, and just under a TD per game).  Absolutely unreal.

As you can tell, Gronk IS the red zone offense for this team.  If I were a gambling man, I’d put a very large chunk of money on Gronk scoring a TD in this game, with a good portion of that on him scoring the FIRST touchdown in the game.  I’m sure you’d hardly win a damn thing on that wager, but what are you gonna do?

Seahawks fans are going to sit here and say, “Well, we’ve dismantled guys like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas; I’m not worried about Gronk!”  That would be a mistake.  Guys like Graham and Thomas are glorified, slow-footed wide receivers.  They’re soft.  Breathe on ’em wrong and they’ll go home crying to mama.  Gronk is built more in the Tony Gonzalez & Antonio Gates mold.  Remember those guys?  Remember how they were able to pick apart our defense for huge catches and scores?  Those guys thrive on contact, as does Gronk.

People are going to talk about the Gronk & Chancellor matchup, and believe you me, I’ll be looking forward to it as much as anyone else.  There’s nothing I’d like to see more than for Bam Bam to knock Gronk on his ass.  But, the underlying theme will be people talking about Kam shadowing Gronk all day, and that’s just not the case.  That’s not how the Seahawks operate.  We’re going to stick a linebacker on him just like most teams.  Since our linebackers – especially K.J. Wright – are better in coverage than most teams, we should be able to prevent Gronk from racking up a ton of yards.

But, it’s in that red zone where I’m worried.  When they opt to run Gronk out wide, with someone like Simon or Maxwell on him.  Good cover guys, sure, but I could see our corners draped all over him like a Snuggie and see him STILL come down with the ball at the goalline.

Don’t dismiss this guy just because he’s annoyingly awesome and you’d LOVE him if he was on the Seahawks.  To keep the Pats in check, we’ve got to keep Gronk in check, and that’s all there is to it.

Edelman is their possession guy.  Their Doug Baldwin, if you will.  On third down, Brady has two targets:  if Gronk is double teamed, or otherwise covered, he’s looking for Edelman in a crossing route or out in the flat.  We HAVE to control this guy.  If the Pats start converting a ton of third downs, it’s likely going to be because Edelman is getting open and squirming his way to the first down marker.

What I expect the Seahawks to do is put Jeremy Lane on him all day.  This more or less worked out okay last week, with Lane doing the heavy lifting on Randall Cobb.  Aside from the touchdown, Cobb was held to 6 catches for 49 yards.  Throw that TD into the mix, and Cobb still only had 7 catches for 62 yards, so it’s not like he was this unstoppable force (I think, too, Lane either fell down or ran into someone on that TD; but, that’s going off of memory and I’m too lazy to go back and watch it again).

Here’s the deal:  Edelman is no Cobb.  Cobb is probably the best slot receiver in the game.  Edelman is good, but he’s really just a poor man’s Welker.  I don’t think the Seahawks are sunk if we leave Lane on him.

What I’d LIKE the Seahawks to do is put Maxwell on him all day.  Maxwell is taller, with longer arms, but he’s still a strong presence as our nickel corner.  If the Seahawks are able to shut down Edelman, and roll coverage to Gronk to minimize his impact, I just don’t see any way the Patriots are able to move the ball consistently.

Brandon LaFell is a real wild card.  His overall numbers this year are MUCH better than I was expecting.  He’s their deep threat, if the Patriots even have a deep threat.  LaFell – while playing for the Panthers the last few years – was never really much of a problem for us.  The types of catches he makes – on fade routes and other types of throws into the corner – are the types of balls we defend the best.  I can’t imagine LaFell gets even a LOOK if he’s lined up on Sherman’s side.  I could, however, see him getting a good chunk of targets if he’s opposite Sherman, and he’s being guarded by the likes of Tharold Simon.

See, there’s a risky game to play if the Seahawks shadow Edelman with Maxwell, and that’s Simon on LaFell.  I like Simon, I think he would win most matchups against someone like LaFell, but I think if he’s out there, he’s GOING to get picked on, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a huge penalty or otherwise a big catch going New England’s way.

So, maybe stick with Maxwell on the outside.  Either way, if we’re assignment-sound, I wouldn’t expect to have too much trouble with their passing game.  It’s just:  can we get off the field?  That’s going to require winning on first & second down, and that’s going to require tight coverage on third down.

As for Shane Vereen, I’m not too concerned.  He’s a poor man’s Darren Sproles, and we’ve been able to handle Sproles pretty well in our matchups with him.  I’d expect someone like Bruce Irvin to be big in this one, especially on early downs.

***

On defense, it starts with Darrelle Revis.  He’s not at his peak like he was with the Jets, but he’s still probably a Top 5 cornerback in this league.  It sounds like last week, they stuck Reggie Wayne on Revis Island and Wayne didn’t have an impact whatsoever.  Sounds pretty scary, until you remember the week before where the Ravens threw for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Don’t forget that Ravens game, because I think it’s really important.  The Ravens were VERY balanced, with 129 yards out of Forsett on the ground, topped off by a pretty good day out of Flacco.  Flacco didn’t shy away from Revis, just like Russell Wilson won’t.  The Ravens got beat because their defense – especially their secondary – can’t hold a flame to ours.  If we can get after the quarterback the way they did (the Ravens didn’t have a ton of sacks, but they hit Brady pretty good), I wouldn’t expect anywhere near the type of offensive success the Pats had in that game.

I expect Revis will follow Doug Baldwin all around the field.  So, look for Baldwin to have a pretty ineffective day.  That’s going to put more pressure on Kearse and the rest of our pass-catchers to pick their games up.  New England isn’t impossible to move the ball on, even with some of their relatively big names on defense.

Brandon Browner obviously comes to mind, but we know what to expect out of him.  He’s likely going to stick to a side – maybe even shadow Kearse all day – and put a hurtin’ on whoever comes near him.  Also, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see Browner slide inside and take on one of our tight ends.  A matchup I like even less than the Revis/Baldwin one is a Browner/Willson matchup.  I think Browner would eat our #1 tight end for lunch.  Hopefully, we get the Willson/Random Linebacker matchup I’ve been looking forward to all week.

Kyle Arrington is another guy to keep an eye on.  He’s another cornerback, and apparently is their speed guy (as he took on T.Y. Hilton last week).  I’d look for Arrington to spend his time looking after Lockette, which has the potential to be a nice little mismatch in our favor, as Lockette is 6’2 and Arrington is only 5’10.

Another big one to watch out for is Chandler Jones.  #95 in your programs, he’s a 6’5 monster of a defensive end.  While he only netted six sacks this year, he did miss some time with injury and has been a terrifying beast in the games I’ve seen.  I don’t recall offhand where he generally lines up, but I seem to have him squaring off against Britt in my mind’s eye.  I wish I knew more about his tendencies.  If he’s as aggressive as I think he is, I think we can take advantage of him in the read-option game.  I’d watch for him to crash hard on the fake to Lynch, with Wilson running right around him for big gains.

If only Percy Harvin wasn’t such a massive jack-hole, I could see the jet-sweep being a HUGE play for us, like it was in last year’s Super Bowl.  Why couldn’t we have just kept him inactive each and every week – and away from the team facility entirely – then busted him out for one game a year?

Next up, watch out for a pair of outside linebackers in Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.  Collins especially, #91.  That guy is a FREAK.  He’ll line up on Okung’s side, and could rush the passer or go out into coverage.  He led the team in tackles and really filled up the stat sheet.  I wouldn’t mind seeing us run right at him, to have him swallowed up in our zone blocking scheme, but I gotta wonder if that’s wise.  If he’s able to shed blocks, we might be looking at a long day running the ball.

That’s because the key to the whole defense is Vince Wilfork.  The mammoth nose tackle whose listed weight is 325, but is probably pushing 360.  The Ravens were successful rushing because they managed to run outside the tackles.  But, that’s not really the Seahawks’ game, as we like taking it right at you.  Max Unger and either James Carpenter or J.R. Sweezy will have their work cut out for them.  Considering Carpenter is the only guy on our line who could POSSIBLY move Wilfork’s wide body out of the way, I would expect Wilfork to shade toward Sweezy’s side of Unger.  If Wilfork’s taking up two blockers, that’s going to hurt our running game, because we depend so much upon Sweezy and other guys getting to the second level.

That’s why, again, I like our chances with the zone read.  If we can break off a 100-yard rushing day out of Russell Wilson, that’s going to start opening up things down the field.

If the Seahawks win this game, Russell Wilson will need to have a game for the ages.  Let’s hope he’s got one more left in him.

#5 – Earl Thomas

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

This feels a little low, I know.  As you can probably glean from the rest of this Top 10 list, Earl Thomas at five means that Richard Sherman is somewhere higher than five.  Here’s the deal:  I know if you look across the NFL as a whole, it’s a lot easier to find elite-level cornerbacks than it is to find elite-level safeties.  I’m talking, pretty much, on the level of Earl Thomas.  Those are pretty rare.  It’s, like, him and two other guys, and one of those other guys is Kam Chancellor.

And that’s the thing.  If we were to lose Earl Thomas, we’d still have one of the best safeties in the league, plus the drop-off from Thomas to DeShawn Shead (or whoever beats out DeShawn Shead) isn’t as steep as it would be from Richard Sherman to whoever is right under him (Tharold Simon, probably).  I would think, if Sherman suffers the Madden Curse, they’d keep Maxwell on his side, they’d keep Lane in the Nickel, and they’d bump up Simon to play in Sherman’s spot.  I know everyone likes what Simon has been doing thus far in camp (notwithstanding the ejection in the game against Denver), but he’s as untested as it gets.  At least Shead has played in some meaningful games!

But, enough about why Thomas may or may not be as important as Sherman.  These posts are essentially fluff pieces!  Earl Thomas is outstanding.  He’s the unquestioned leader of the best defense in the NFL.  He’s got more heart and desire to win than anyone I’ve ever seen.  Also, I think he’s still in the process of growing.  He’s going to be the defensive player of the year pretty soon.  And, when all is said and done, he’s going to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Earl Thomas makes football worth watching.  Like most of you, I was glued to the television last Thursday.  Seahawks football was back!  I generally like the pre-season games, because I like watching all the battles for the back-end of the roster.  But, it kind of hit me at the end, when we were officially losing that football game:  this is kinda dumb.  Yeah, I was into it, and it would’ve been pretty neat to see Terrelle Pryor complete that comeback, but it wasn’t REALLY football.  That game only made me that much more excited for September 4th.  When the games matter.  When we get our starters in there for all four quarters.  When we see a guy like Earl Thomas knock someone’s torso clear off his body!

To be fair, there’s probably a little football hangover.  Just a little!  Let’s face it, the Seahawks won it all.  2013 was the greatest sports year of my life, by far.  It’s all been basking in the afterglow ever since February.  No other football season will ever be as great.  Hell, no other season of ANY sport will ever be as great!  This is the first championship I’ve celebrated in my lifetime.  It feels like it JUST ended, and here we are playing football again.

Also, part of that is due to the Mariners making a run at the playoffs.  They’re truly interesting and truly good for the first time in a decade, and to be honest, I’m more interested in what’s going on there than I am in these meaningless football games in August.

But, I’m sure when September rolls around, I’ll get that hunger back.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the battle for the punt returner job.  So far, apparently Earl Thomas is the leader in the clubhouse.  I can’t think of anyone who’s excited by this prospect.  Yeah, I hear all the arguments:  you can’t live your life in fear of injury; the Seahawks have always used their best players on special teams; Golden Tate was our number one receiver and he was back there for just about every punt return the last couple years.  I get all that, but I still don’t necessarily get it.

Will he get hurt?  If he does, I’m like 95% sure he’ll get hurt while playing defense.  But, still, why take the chance?  Is he far-and-away the best punt returner on this team?  If they say he is, then fine.  But, I just don’t see it.  How much lifetime experience does he have returning kicks?  Yeah, he’s fast, and that’s why he’s in the running, but you can’t tell me that one of our back-end receivers wouldn’t be just as good.  It’s a punt return!  The very best punt returner last year was Tandon Doss, who averaged 15.6 yards per return.  The 12th-best punt returner was Julian Edelman, who averaged 10.7 yards per return.  The absolute worst punt returners (who qualified, with at least 20 returns) still managed 5.6 yards per return.  Golden Tate was one of the better returners out there and he still ended up 9th, with 11.5 yards per return.  The difference between Tate, and the worst guys, is about five yards per return.  Is that really worth exposing Earl Thomas to the added 40-50 hits?

Maybe he doesn’t get so injured that he has to miss games, but I guarantee you that it will slow him down to the point where he’s not as effective as he’d be if he were just playing defense.  Ask anyone who’s played football, they’ll tell you there’s a HUGE difference between getting hit and being the one who hits others.

I like Earl Thomas better when he’s hitting others.  Unless he’s got the football in his hands thanks to an interception.  But, please, let’s come to our senses and find Just Another Guy to go back there and catch punts!