The Seahawks Will Have Real Problems If They Don’t Beat The Panthers This Weekend

I was pretty, I dunno, laid back I guess, in my analysis of last week’s game.  While we’re all used to the Seahawks going on these terrific runs to close out their seasons under Pete Carroll (particularly with Russell Wilson behind center), it seems like every year they have at least one slip up.  A game they lose in November or December – en route to a solid playoff run – that they really should’ve won, but for whatever reason didn’t.

Last year, we lost at home to the Rams.  The year before, it was a road game in Kansas City.  The year before that, it was that crazy home loss to the Cards where Carson Palmer threw four picks and still managed to lead them to a late win.  The year before that, in Wilson’s rookie season, it was that loss in Miami against a pretty mediocre Dolphins team.

So, again, I wouldn’t take too much stock in their loss to Tampa last week.  On the road, across the country, a foe we don’t play very much, with injuries on both sides of the ball.

However, if we lose THIS week … we’ve got issues.

This week, we’re at home, on Sunday Night Football, against a team we’re VERY familiar with, who has had to fly across the country and stay out in San Jose for the week instead of going back and forth twice in two weeks.  And, whereas the Seahawks are getting their guys back – Bennett, Earl, Shead, and Britt have all practiced this week, so as long as they hold up through Saturday, they should play – the Panthers are the ones dealing with major injuries on both sides of the ball.  They’ve lost multiple O-linemen for the year, Luke Kuechly is dealing with another pretty severe concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin has been limited (though he figures to give it a go with a bum shoulder).  The Panthers are also, not for nothing, mired in a post-Super Bowl hangover season where they find themselves 4-7 and in last place in their division.

Make no mistake, as long as they’ve got Cam Newton, they’re more than capable of going on a run to close out the season, but it just feels like this team is dealing with more than simple injury woes.  There’s a fundamental flaw with this team that’s going to keep them out of the playoffs.  MAYBE it’s simply the loss of Josh Norman!  They are giving up 275 yards per game through the air, compared to 234 last year.  I mean, that’s pretty steep.  I know if I were a Panthers fan, I’d be ripping their GM on a weekly basis.

Here’s the thing, though:  being familiar with a team – because you play them so much – isn’t necessarily a good thing.  With all things being equal, it usually leads to a game being relatively close and exciting.  But, if they terrorize our offensive line like they’ve been known to do in recent years, we could be in for another LONG day.

We’ll see how it goes.  I tend to believe the Seahawks – by getting everyone back healthy – will go out and crush the Panthers this weekend.  If we don’t, though, then you have to wonder what that means for the rest of our season.

Next week, we go to Green Bay, another team we’re VERY familiar with, and another supposedly great team having a bad season.  If we can’t beat the Panthers this weekend, what hope do we have of beating the Packers next weekend?  Then, we’re home for the Rams and Cardinals.  I don’t need to tell you about the Rams; and as for the Cards, they’d be the third team in four weeks who went to the playoffs last year and appear to be dead this year.

I mean, this is SUPPOSED to be among the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL!  And yet, every team (except the 49ers in Week 17) terrifies the living dickens out of me!

Except, not really.  I’m of the belief that the Seahawks should win out, because they’re clearly the most talented of the remaining teams on their schedule.  What I’m REALLY afraid of is the Seahawks themselves.  More often than not, if the Seahawks lose, it’s because they beat themselves.  Too many penalties, too many sacks and QB pressures allowed, getting too cute with roster construction (particularly along the O-Line), getting too cute with the play-calling, holding onto the ball too long, taking too long to settle down on defense (or, conversely, giving up too many big plays late), not getting off the field on third downs on defense, not converting third downs on offense.  These are all things that are within OUR control, and when we lose games, it’s because there’s a major breakdown in one or more of these areas.

The Seahawks just need to go out, play Seahawks football, stop losing so many key players to injury, and get the fucking job done.  Cat feesh?

A List Of The Seahawks’ Pre-Season Storylines

Making us all wait until Saturday before we get to watch the first Seahawks pre-season game seems a little masochistic by the NFL, but what are you gonna do?  Tomorrow, FINALLY, the pre-season starts.  All we’ve had so far are beat writer accounts of practice and sports radio interviews of coaches and athletes.  But, now we get to see the team in action.  It might be pretend action, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a whole lot about what these 2016 Seahawks are going to look like.

From this point forward, there will be a lot more writing on the Seahawks on this site, so get ready!  I’ve jotted down a list of the major storylines, with a little blurb on each one, that I could very well expand upon in longer posts sometime in the next month or so.  Without further ado, and in no particular order:

The Offensive Line

Yeah, you better believe I’m going to be focusing on the O-Line more than any other unit when the Seahawks take the field this pre-season.  I read good things about various guys so far in Training Camp, but is that relative to last year’s abomination?  We’ll find out.

Improved Secondary

I think it’s funny to hear these national writers talk about the Vikings, or some other team, having the league’s best and deepest secondary, TOTALLY sleeping on the Seahawks.  Motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre the L.O.B.  Earl is still Earl, Sherm is still Sherm, Kam is still the most destructive force in the strong safety game today.  Beyond that, you want to talk about depth?  I’m looking at Lane, Shead, and Simon all playing at high levels when healthy.  I’m looking at a 2nd year pro in Tye Smith with a chip on his shoulder who had a healthy rookie year where all he had to do was learn the system.  I’m looking at safety Kelcie McCray who could be starting on a lot of teams right now.  I’m looking at a special role for Brandon Browner, matching up exclusively with other teams’ big receivers and tight ends.  Then, there’s Tyvis Powell, an undrafted rookie, who’s making a big impression these first couple weeks.  They’re sleeping on the L.O.B. now, but the league will be quick to learn who the real O.G.’s are.

The Defensive Line

I keep reading reports about how this is – or could be – the greatest pass rush we’ve had since 2013, but I’ve got my doubts.  We lost Bruce Irvin and replaced him with Frank Clark; is that a good move or not?  Last year, we had BOTH guys, so how does losing Irvin help us, exactly?  And, aside from Bennett, where are we getting our interior pass rush?  Is there someone I’m not familiar with who will step up as a 4th pass rush option from the defensive end position?  Believe you me, that’s going to be a huge part of my pre-season focus.

New Look Running Game

Obviously, the scheme will be the same, but the players are new.  Will Thomas Rawls return to last year’s record-breaking form?  Will the resurgence of Christine Michael translate into increased opportunities?  Will ANY of the rookies be able to stay healthy?

Passing Game Stability

I love the fact that the Seahawks brought Jermaine Kearse back, and that for the most part, our entire receiving corps is back for another run.  They may not be household names across the league (although, I don’t know how you can ignore Doug Baldwin’s contributions to our success any longer), but these guys continue to get the job done.  As they continue to mesh with Russell Wilson, in conjunction with the question marks surrounding the running game, I do think we’ll see an increase in this team’s passing numbers.

Backup Quarterback

For at LEAST the next two weeks, as the backups tend to play more than the starter in those games, this will be a constant point of focus, in the games and in the media between games.  Trevone Boykin vs. Jake Heaps vs. some possible third option not currently on the roster vs. Tarvaris Jackson perhaps?  Boykin appears to be more mobile, more Russell Wilson-esque; Heaps appears to be the better pocket passer and more accurate.  We know what Tarvar can do, so he could probably roll in here the day before the regular season starts and get his job back if he wants it.  But, I’ll tell ya, if the backups shit the bed against the Chiefs tomorrow, don’t be surprised if you see a flurry of tryouts by Monday.

Long Snapper

Scoff all you want!  You won’t be scoffing the moment one of these new long snappers sails a football over Jon Ryan’s head, or costs us a game-winning field goal attempt!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you chickenfuckers, because I’m going to have a little blurb about the long snappers after every pre-season game this year!  “Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner” I’ll call it, and it’s going to be all anyone ever talks about!

Michael Bennett’s Contract

Things have sort of quieted down in this arena, which is nice, because no one really wants to hear about it anyway.  But, you know it’s going to come up again.  If Bennett continues to kill it, you’re going to hear (from him, and media types alike) that he deserves bigtime money.  But, the fear is:  what if he goes the other way?  What if the production dips?  Surely, they’ll look to point out that he’s not content with the money he’s making.  Now, a lot of that is likely a bunch of bullshit; but if there’s any element of truth to it, and he does slack off because he’s not making the money he thinks he’s earned, then we could be in for a long, frustrating season.  He is key in so many ways to this team’s defensive success.

Bobby Wagner Bounce Back Year

It’s not in the numbers he put up last year, so much as the eyeball test.  I just want to see more of an impact, in the obvious, fan sense.  Big run stuffs, big sacks, big interceptions, big forced fumbles.  Let’s get Bobby Wagner back on the map and in the same arena as Luke Kuechly.

Brandon Browner’s Return

This guy was a Pro Bowler for us.  This guy’s tenacity and strength and attitude was a HUGE reason why this secondary was so good back in the day.  I want to see if he’s as bad as he was in New Orleans, or if he was just used improperly.  I want to see if he’s still got something in the tank to be an enforcer this team needs.  I want to see him knock some tight ends on their asses!  Remember all those games we blew late last year?  Cincy, Carolina, Green Bay, St. Louis?  All of them had big days out of their tight ends.  Here’s to hoping Browner can put a stop to that shit once and for all.

Russell Wilson’s Eliteness

There’s nothing fans love more than to tout their quarterbacks as the best.  New England fans have had a stranglehold on this type of douche-baggery for far too long.  Wilson showed he can be an elite pocket passer for much of the second half of last season.  Let’s see him pick it up where he left off (especially since we’re breaking in this all-new offensive line).  Let’s see him make Pete Prisco look more and more like the know-nothing jackass that he is.

Tyler Lockett’s Impending Breakout

He was excellent as a rookie.  So, what can this kid do now?  He made it through the whole year healthy, has had a full offseason to absorb the playbook and work with Wilson away from the practice setting.  He’s going to be on the field more than any other receiver except for Baldwin; he’s going to get PLENTY of chances to make some big plays.  I, for one, can’t wait to see him unlock his full potential.

Frank Clark’s Expanded Role

He was pretty solid as a rookie.  He didn’t have to play a lot, but he showed flashes.  I’m curious to see how he’ll do as more of a primary pass rusher (really, as this team’s third option behind Bennett and Avril).  I don’t generally have a ton of confidence in young pass rushers, so I hope he’s able to take a HUGE step forward.  Otherwise, as I mentioned up top, this team’s pass rush could be in real trouble.

The SAM Linebacker

Or, Replacing Bruce Irvin in Base Defense.  So far, it’s been a 3-man race between Mike Morgan, Cassius Marsh, and Eric Pinkins.  Morgan has the experience, knows the system, and feels like the sensible choice.  Marsh dropped weight to get to this point, has always been good against the run, and seems athletic enough.  Even if he doesn’t win the starting job, you don’t have to worry about him, because he’s one of this team’s best Special Teamers.  Pinkins has been coming on strong of late, from what I’ve read.  He appears to have the highest upside of the three, from a playmaking perspective.  He’ll need to play mistake-free, assignment-correct football (or pretty close to it) in the pre-season games to win the job.  I hope he does; this team could always use another young, cheap playmaking force.

Jimmy Graham & Thomas Rawls

Their returns from graphic injuries will continue to be stories until they’re not.  Until they get back on the field, in a game setting, and knock it around with the pros.  Rawls came off the PUP list first, and could be practicing with the team as early as next week.  Graham just came off the PUP list a day or two ago, has the more-serious of the two devastating injuries, and will need to be brought along more slowly.  As such, and given his star status, his every movement will continue to be news for the next month straight.  I eagerly await his return, but I’d be just as happy to see him held back as long as possible, to avoid re-injury, and ESPECIALLY to avoid injuring other body parts in compensation for protecting the knee.

The Seattle At Carolina Preview

When you take them one game at a time, it doesn’t feel so ominous.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Minnesota.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Carolina.  And, in a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Arizona OR a game in Green Bay.  But, jeez, when you line them all up in a row, knowing you have to do all this in back-to-back-to-back weeks, it starts to feel REALLY daunting.  Even though it’s just a series of three coin flips, one week apart, it’s just knowing that you have to win all three that sort of drives me batty.

Last week, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks would advance.  Of course, the game ended up being a lot closer (and a lot closer to DISASTER) than I anticipated, but the better team did win and move on.  This week, as I’ve said repeatedly, feels like the Super Bowl.  I still think the Seahawks are the better football team, but they’ve got SO MUCH going against them.  At this point, fair or unfair, right or wrong, it’s going to depend on which Seahawks team shows up.  Will it be the team that struggled to find consistency in the first half of the season (and in recent games against the Rams & Vikings)?  Or, will it be the team running like a top, who has taken care of business against some pretty good opponents?

As a Seahawks fan in recent years, we’ve come to expect certain things.  We expect our defense to clamp down like a bear trap.  We expect varying levels of success out of our offense, with steady improvement as the game goes along.  This year has flipped the script a little bit.  The defense – while still tops in points allowed – isn’t quite what it has been in recent years.  It shows flashes, and sometimes pulls off entire games where it looks as dominant as ever.  But, other times, the game starts to get away from them.  Breakdowns happen.  Where once it was the Seahawks making their furious comebacks late in games, now it’s the other teams taking it to us.

I don’t know how you get more frustrating than that first Carolina game this year.  Let’s take a look back, blow by blow.

  • We traded punts on the first three drives of the game
  • On Carolina’s second possession, deep in their own territory, Cam Newton threw a pick to Earl Thomas at the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks ran four plays & had to settle for a field goal
  • On the next possession, Carolina ate up the rest of the first quarter, marching 80 yards with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • On the next possession, Seattle marched right back to score a TD, re-taking the lead 10-7, which is how the half ended after trading more punts
  • Carolina got the ball to start the 2nd half, went 3 & Out
  • On the next possession, Seattle scored a TD on two explosive pass plays to make it a 2-score game
  • Again, deep in their territory, Cam Newton threw a pick, returned to the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks went 3 & Out and settled for a long field goal to go up 20-7
  • On the next possession, Carolina marched 80 yards AGAIN, with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • The teams traded punts, then the Seahawks drove for a FG to again make it a 2-score game, 23-14
  • The teams again traded punts, then the Panthers engineered their third 80-yard TD drive, mostly on the arm of Cam Newton, to make it a 1-score game
  • On the next possession, the Seahawks went 4 & Out – marred by penalties & sacks, while only managing to take off less than 90 seconds of game clock
  • In a little under 2 minutes, the Panthers completed their comeback with their FOURTH 80-yard TD drive of the day, with Greg Olsen catching the go-ahead score on a broken coverage in the secondary

It was a good sign to see the team move the ball relatively effectively, as well as the defense forcing Cam Newton into two interceptions on the day.  But, the offense was a miserable 4/14 on third down (29% conversion), 1/3 in the red zone, and failed to convert either of those turnovers into touchdowns.  On top of that, I’m sorry, but that was a mind-boggling performance by the defense.  On Carolina’s four 80-yard TD drives, they ran 42 of their 72 overall plays, while taking up 18:23 of their 32:12 time of possession.  And, as I said, for the most part it was a healthy mix of run & pass, running for 135 yards and throwing for another 248 in total on the day.  We’re talking about a defense who – all year – only gave up 6.6 yards per pass attempt; Cam Newton managed 7.5.  And a defense who – all year – only gave up 3.6 yards per carry; Carolina managed 4.1.

Now, obviously, the Seahawks were missing some dawgs.  Bobby Wagner, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lane, Marcus Burley, all sat out with injury.  And, of course, the notorious Cary Williams (who has been, without fail, the biggest fucking scapegoat I’ve EVER seen) still held his starting job at that time, and was getting picked on throughout.  Nevertheless, if I’m a member of the Seahawks defense, going into Carolina this weekend, I’m out for blood.  Our Week 6 performance was absolutely unacceptable.

For all the factors going against the Seahawks this weekend, there’s one positive in all this:  the revenge factor.  Coming into the 2015 season, the Seahawks had made Carolina our bitches time and time again.  Close, hard fought games, sure.  But, we always found a way to pull it out, and I’m sure that had to have driven them CRAZY.  It all came to a head in last year’s playoffs, where the Panthers came in and played pretty well for a team with a losing record.  But, we owned that fourth quarter, and pulled away when it mattered.  So, when they came back to Seattle in Week 6 with an undefeated record, against a somewhat reeling Seahawks team still trying to find its footing, they were not only prepared for the onslaught of the fans and the hugeness of the game, but they powered through and made us look silly in the fourth quarter, when that’s OUR time.  That’s when WE make YOU look silly!

So, now, here we are.  Underdogs in a playoff game for the first time since probably 2012.  Going into Big, Bad Carolina, the 15-1 juggernaut who couldn’t have had an easier path to the #1 seed.  The last taste we have in our mouths being that Week 6 embarrassment.  You’re telling me we don’t have a reason to be up for this game, outside of the obvious (this being the playoffs, win or go home, and all that)?  I think the Seahawks want to show Carolina – and the rest of the world – who the REAL top dawgs are.  We may have stumbled at times this year, but we’re STILL the champs.  And January is when we come to play our best!


Can I just step back for a second and say how much fun I think this all is?  On the one hand, yeah, it’s the playoffs and it’s nerve wracking as all get-out.  The further you advance, the more intense it becomes.  And LOSING in the playoffs?  I don’t know what’s worse.  For a good week or two or three or fifty (as is the case when you lose a Super Bowl like the Seahawks did last year), I just couldn’t feel any lower as a fan.  Depressed and angry and jealous and confused and depressed some more.  There are SO MANY drawbacks to being a sports fan, I sometimes wonder why it’s all worth it.

But, then we get to a week like this.  Seahawks at Panthers.  THIS is what being a fan is all about.  Remember how jacked up we all got when the Seahawks would face the Jim Harbaugh 49ers?  This feels just like that.  Maybe Ron Rivera isn’t as loathesome as The Douchebag (I actually respect the hell out of the guy, if I’m being honest); but I’m starting to come around on hating Cam Newton.  I don’t know if anyone can be as revolting as Colin Kaepernick kissing his own bicep after a touchdown, but Cam Newton and all his dabbing is a REAL close second in my book.  If I’m being perfectly honest, I do think a lot of the hate, in general, from non-Carolina fans throughout the country, is at least somewhat racially motivated.  I mean, when Tom Brady runs around like a maniac during his touchdown celebrations, mostly people just talk about how he’s a competitor and a fiery guy; but when Cam Newton does his thing, he’s a preening cunt.  I’m not going to be that guy who’s out here calling everyone a racist, but I think subliminally, there’s a little something to it.

All I know is, if he was my team’s franchise quarterback (and I knew nothing of what it’s like to have Russell Wilson), I’m sure I’d love Cam Newton to death.  But, he’s not on my team, and he plays on one of my team’s biggest rivals, so I’m starting to hate him just a little bit more.  It’s only healthy.

What’s fun about the Seahawks/Panthers matchup is that it IS a rivalry now.  We’ve played them at least once every year since Russell Wilson came into the league.  Five times overall.  The Seahawks won the first four matchups (including last season in the Divisional Round), and through that point, while the games were all close and highly competitive, it was a little bit like the Big Brother holding the little brother at arm’s length while he stands there flailing his fists wildly to no avail.  Our defense was the embodiment of “Stop Hitting Yourself!” when it came to forcing Cam Newton into untimely mistakes (untimely for the Panthers, anyway).  Then, the Panthers came into Seattle in Week 6 and totally pantsed us, and NOW it’s a true rivalry.  They stole our mojo, in the home of the 12’s, and rode that mojo to the best record in all of football.  Now, it’s on, and it couldn’t be more exciting.


If you’re a football fan, and you don’t necessarily have a hog in this race, I don’t see how you can look at the four games this weekend and NOT be looking forward to the Seahawks/Panthers matchup the most.  Kansas City/New England?  There’s a slim chance that game is competitive, but my money is on the team with the better quarterback.  I think the odds of that game being a blowout are VASTLY greater than of the game being interesting in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.  Green Bay/Arizona?  No way.  The Cards are going to CRUSH them into dust!  That might be the most boring game of the weekend.  Pittsburgh/Denver is the only game that might even approach the quality of our game, but there are a lot of reasons to think that might be an ugly affair.  Can Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball more than 10 yards in the air?  Does Peyton Manning have any juice left?  We could be looking at a matchup of the noodliest arms in the history of the league!  With Denver’s defense on a mission, if Ben doesn’t have it, I could see this being a rout in the Broncos’ favor.

Seattle/Carolina, that’s what’s up.

We’re talking about two teams who are as healthy as they could possibly be at this point in the season (not counting players on IR, of course; and assuming Marshawn Lynch is able to give it a go).  We’re talking about the MVP of the league (Cam) against the hottest quarterback in the league the last half of the season (Wilson, 25 TDs, 2 INTs in the last 8 games, including last week).  We’re talking about the #1 scoring offense (Carolina) against the #1 scoring defense (Seattle).  The #2 rush offense (Carolina) against the #1 rush defense (Seattle).  A rematch of last year’s remarkable Divisional playoff game, only this time played in the other team’s stadium.

And, when you flip it around, it’s still pretty damn close.  Seattle was the #4 scoring offense; Carolina was the #6 scoring defense.  Seattle was the #3 rushing offense; Carolina was the #4 rushing defense.  Seattle’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Wilson, Lynch, Baldwin, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, LOB); Carolina’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Newton, Stewart, Olsen, Kuechly, Davis, Short, Norman).  Our strengths are their strengths; this should prove to be a massively entertaining ordeal.

The great equalizer in all this, oddly enough, will be Seattle’s offensive line.  In that Week 6 game, Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times, but harassed all day.  The Panthers had 7 QB hits and another 6 tackles for loss.  Russell Okung also had a pretty costly holding penalty that negated a big run by Lynch, helping lead to that drive stalling.  Over the majority of the second half of the season, as Russell Wilson’s performance has improved, so has the offensive line’s.  Everyone returned for last week’s game, and no new injuries cropped up.  On top of that, Luke Willson is returning, who should provide a boost over the other tight ends on the roster when it comes to blocking.

If the Seahawks’ offensive line plays to the best of its abilities, the Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble improving upon their third down conversion rate, moving the football, and scoring touchdowns over field goals (when compared to our Week 6 contest).  When the Seahawks are clicking, as they’ve been known to do from time to time, there’s no team in the game that can stop them.

But, when the Seahawks make mistakes.  When they let the pressure overwhelm them, when they allow lots of hurries and sacks, when they get penalized at inopportune times, then the game gets all mucked up, and before you know it, there we are at the end of the game sweating out another nailbiter.

As far as weather is concerned, we’re looking at the low-to-mid 40s come kickoff.  Says there’s a 20% chance of rain, but overall looks pretty reasonable.  Nothing too much to be concerned with there.

The thing I can’t help but shake is the comparison to the 2012 playoffs.  That was our first year with Russell Wilson, but we still blew it in the first half, and ultimately blew it at the game’s end.  Getting over THIS hump feels like the more difficult challenge than the hump that would await (likely in Arizona); just like getting over the hump in Atlanta in 2012 proved to be more difficult than it would have been to beat the 49ers that year.  Losing in the Divisional Round is pretty bad in its own right, because it leaves you with so many more What If’s.  Mainly:  what if we’d won and gotten a chance to play in the NFC Championship Game?

We can’t lose this one.  And, I don’t THINK we will, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was last week.  What everyone is banking on is that the Seahawks are battle tested.  7 of our 16 regular season games were against playoff teams; we were 3-4 in those games.  The Panthers, by contrast, only faced off against 4 playoff teams in their 16 regular season games; they went 4-0 in those games.  Obviously, the most impressive win was against Seattle IN Seattle.  Two of those games were against Houston and Washington (both at home), who were two of the shakiest divisional winners of all time.  The other was also at home, against a struggling and injury-plagued Packers team.  Their schedule, to be quite honest, deserves all the ridicule it gets.  But, to be fair, they did get the job done, and beat the teams they were supposed to beat.

And, as we all know, anything can happen in a 1-game sample.

So close, and yet still so far away.  This is the week where the Seahawks can prove whether they truly earned the title of Team Nobody Wants To Play in this year’s playoffs, or if they’ll just be another in a long line of cautionary tales, about the struggles that good teams can face when they don’t get one of the top two seeds and home field advantage.

I’ve got Seahawks 33, Panthers 27, but like I said before, I’m not confident at all.

Why I Worry About The Carolina Panthers

The date:  May 7, 1994.

The location:  Seattle, Washington.

The situation:  Number 1 seed from Seattle in a do-or-die game against a bottom-feeder in the playoffs.

The matchup:  Seattle Supersonics vs. Denver Nuggets.

The result:  A 98-94 overtime defeat.

I won’t rehash the specifics, nor will I pull the iconic photo/video, as I’m sure any of you around at the time must be picturing the giant’s massive hands clutching the basketball while laying on the court, laughing maniacally.  I’ll just say this:  in 1994, the Seattle Supersonics were the consensus Best Team In The NBA (thanks to Michael Jordan “retiring”).  And, with that defeat, the Seattle Supersonics became the first Number 1 seed to ever lose to a Number 8 seed.  While that feat has happened a number of times since then, everyone will always remember the first time.  That’s just the way it works.  Dikembe Mutombo may or may not ever be a Hall of Famer, but he’ll always be remembered for this achievement.

The 1993/1994 Supersonics weren’t the best squad in team history, but you could argue that the 1994 playoffs were our best chance at winning an NBA title in my lifetime (dating back to 1981).  We had a 2-year window without Michael Jordan lurking in the Eastern Conference.  We blew year-one of that window in spectacular fashion.

As a fan of Seattle sports teams, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my insecurities.  The Sonics teams from 1993 thru 1998 were some of the best teams in the league.  In the 1993 playoffs, we reached the Western Conference Finals as a 3-seed, only to get screwed out of our shot at a championship by the refs in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns.  In 1994, we had the best record in the NBA by five games over second place.  In 1995, we had the 4-seed and again lost in the first round (though, admittedly, that team was pretty flawed).  In 1996, we were back to being the best in the Western Conference, our regular season record only overshadowed by the record-setting Bulls who went 72-10.  We would go on to lose in the Finals that year to those very same Bulls, and I’ll go to my grave believing that was the greatest team in NBA history.  In 1997, the Sonics were a 2-seed in the West, losing to the Rockets in the semis, 4-3.  Finally, in 1998, the Sonics were again a 2-seed in the West, losing to Shaq and the Lakers in 5 games in the semis.

That was the entirety of our championship window.  It was a spectacular six seasons, with the Sonics going 357-135 (that’s an average record of 59.5-22.5 per season).  The Sonics fired George Karl after that 1997/1998 season and fell into a death spiral shortly after.  And, what did we have to show for it?  Two oustings in the first round, two defeats in the second round, two trips to the Conference Finals, and a meager six games in the NBA Finals (with only two Finals victories).  Until these Seahawks teams under Pete Carroll came around, those were the greatest teams I’d ever rooted for in my lifetime.  And, yet, a lot of flukey shit led to that championship window closing without a dent in the history books.


The date:  October 22, 2001.

The location:  Bronx, New York.

The situation:  Team from Seattle with the best-ever regular season record in a do-or-die game against a team that won 21 fewer games that year.

The matchup:  Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees.

The result:  A 12-3 defeat to lose the series in five games.

I’ll give you that this isn’t really apples to apples when compared to the heartbreak of having a #1 seed lose to a #8 seed; but, we’re talking about the greatest regular season record in MLB history!  116 wins!  The second place team in the AL West – Oakland – won over 100 games and was FOURTEEN games back in the standings!

The Mariners had a championship window from 1995-2003.  In that time, we had four playoff appearances, losing in the ALCS three times and losing in the ALDS once.  In this 9-year window, there were two losing seasons and three other winning seasons where the Mariners DIDN’T make the playoffs (including back-to-back 93-win seasons where we were nipped by superior Athletics teams).

Baseball’s a different beast than most other sports.  It requires enduring success through a too-long regular season, followed by a hot spurt through a large handful of post-season games.  In the NBA, the best team almost always wins it all, thanks to the sheer number of teams granted admission into the playoffs and the number of games they’re supposed to play in every round.  In baseball, all you have to do is make it in and let the chips fall where they may.  The best team DOESN’T always win in MLB, that’s what you gotta remember.

The 2001 Mariners were the best team in franchise history, hands down.  And yet, they were made into mincemeat by the Yankees, who were “built for the post-season”.

Like the Sonics before them, this championship window by the Mariners closed with a whimper.  There hasn’t been a playoff team for the Mariners SINCE 2001.  While many believe 2015 will be the beginning of another Mariners championship window, that still remains to be seen.  162 games need to be played, against some fierce AL West competition.  So, we’ll see.


The Seahawks play the Panthers on January 10, 2015.  The Seahawks are the top seed in the NFC, and a consensus favorite to reach the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots of the AFC.  The Panthers are just the second team with a losing record to make the playoffs.  They defeated an injury-plagued Cardinals team in the first round.

Why am I worried about this game?  It’s the same reason why I SHOULD have been worried about the ’94 Nuggets and the 2001 Yankees.  Truth be told, that Nuggets series was my first real taste of the brutality that is being a sports fan.  There’s A LOT of heartache for not that much elation.  As a 13 year old basketball fan just starting to garner interest in the sport and follow it with some knowledge of the game, I was probably overwhelmingly confident in the Sonics going all the way.  Having the rug ripped out from under me was the start of a long, painful decline into the twisted wizard you see before you.  Until the Seahawks threw off the shackles I’d had wrapped around my mind in last year’s Super Bowl, I would go into these types of games EXPECTING to lose.  And, honestly, that feeling never really goes away.  I’m an abused pet living with new, kinder owners.  They’ve proven to be caring, loving people, but at the same time I still wince whenever an arm or a voice is raised.

The Seahawks SHOULD win this game.  If I were a more confident man, I’d go so far as to say the Seahawks WILL win this game.  In the entirety of the NFL playoff teams, the Panthers are the second-best option I’d choose for a Seahawks opponent (behind only the defeated Cardinals and their Lindley-esque shit offense).  While there is cause for real concern about this Panthers team (the defense is improved over the last month-plus, the rushing attack is improved with the return of Jonathan Stewart), it’s pretty obvious that this team is the most eminently beat-able in all of the NFC.  I was positively outraged at the notion that they’d go into Green Bay to play the Packers in the second round if Detroit had held on to beat Dallas last week.  Green Bay would throttle them by 40 points!  And WE’D have to battle a nasty defensive line of the Lions and a potentially explosive offense if they ever got their shit together.

As a quick aside:  don’t you think the #1 seed should be able to choose its opponent for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, pending the results of the Wild Card Round?  Why should we have to play an 11-5 Lions team (had they won) over a 7-8-1 Panthers team, simply because the Panthers were deemed to be a 4-seed while the superior Lions team a 6-seed?  When the NFL gets its own shit together and fixes the playoff system, maybe let’s make this a priority as well as never letting a team with a losing record host a playoff game, huh?

Anyway, getting back, my insecure fan-self is a little encouraged by the fact that there has already been a losing-record playoff team who defeated a playoff team with a superior record.  In fact, these loser teams are 2-1 in the playoffs, thanks to the 2010 Seahawks paving the way by defeating the Saints before going on to lose to the Bears in Chicago the following week.  BUT, what hasn’t happened – and what is rocking me to my very core as I sit and anxiously await tomorrow night’s game – is one of these loser teams going on the road and winning in the Divisional Round.

From the 1980s up until the Seahawks Super Bowl victory last year, there has been a bevy of reasons why Seattle sports teams have been laughingstocks.  Take, for instance, the first 20-or-so years of the Mariners playing professional baseball.  Or, the Seahawks almost moving to Los Angeles.  Or the Sonics signing Jim McIlvaine.  Or the Sonics drafting an endless string of worthless centers.  Or the Mariners getting crushed by the Yankees in the ALCS in back-to-back years.  Or the Seahawks getting referee’d to death in Super Bowl XL.  Or the Sonics being sold & uprooted after 40-some-odd years.  Or the best team in Seattle for the longest time being the women’s professional basketball team.  Or the Mariners plowing through a million managers over the last decade.  Or the fiasco with the Seahawks at the end of Holmgren’s tenure.  Or, the fact that all three franchises had – at one time or another – some of THE worst owners/general managers in all of professional sports (Ken Behring, Jeff Smulyan, Howard Schultz, Lincoln/Armstrong, Wally Walker, Tim Ruskell, Bill Bavasi).

I could go on and on with that list.  The 2013 Seahawks championship team has done the lord’s work in rectifying some of our past indiscretions.  But, a defeat to the Panthers a year later would do absolutely everything to undo all of that goodwill.

This current Seahawks unit is in the midst of a championship window that started in 2012 with a surprise late-season run into the playoffs.  When this window closes remains to be seen, but I think we can all agree it will be various degrees of open as long as Russell Wilson and the core is intact and still playing at a high level.  Whether that’s 5-10 years or more, the fact of the matter is:  these championship windows don’t grow on trees.  They can close in an instant and they may never reopen again in our lifetimes.  We can’t take these seasons for granted!

The Seahawks wrangled one championship and were 30-some-odd seconds away from fighting the 49ers for a second championship in the playoffs two years ago.  They currently sit poised in the catbird seat:  top seed in the NFC, with either Green Bay or Dallas being forced to come all the way out here in a potential NFC Championship showdown.  In spite of an early-season loss to the Cowboys at CenturyLink, we match up really well against both of those teams.  More importantly, WE’RE different than we were back in October.  I’ll be a lot more confident if we can just get this Divisional Round game out of the way.

The thing with the Panthers is:  they match up pretty well with us.  Earlier this year, we scratched and clawed our way to a 13-9 victory.  It took a late 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown and pull it out.  In the 2013 season opener, we scratched and clawed our way to a 12-7 victory.  It took a 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; and a late 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  In 2012, we scratched and clawed our way to a 16-12 victory.  It took a late 3rd quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; a late 4th quarter goalline stand by our defense; and a later 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  Margin of victory for those three games:  4 1/3 points.  In the NFL, that’s nothing.

The notch in our belt is that all three of those games were on the road, in Carolina.  It’s notoriously difficult to win on the road, so you cherish any victory, even some ugly-ass shit like those games I just mentioned.  This game is in Seattle.  In the evening.  In front of what may be the rowdiest crowd we’ve seen all year (or, at least, since the week 1 showdown against the Packers).

Another notch in our belt is the level of competition the Panthers have beaten to get to this point.  The Panthers needed a 4-game winning streak to even make the playoffs.  If they would’ve lost any of these games, they would’ve been eliminated.  In those games, they faced the Saints, the Bucs, the Browns, and the Falcons.  The Saints had one of the worst defenses in football; they surrendered 41 points to the Panthers in New Orleans.  The Bucs were the very worst team in the NFL, earning the #1 draft pick in this year’s draft; they lost by 2 points to these very same Panthers.  The Browns were going with Johnny JamBoogie at quarterback, who left injured late in the first half; with Hoyer coming in in relief, the Browns would go on to lose by only 4 points to these very same Panthers.  The Falcons were just an absolute trainwreck on both sides of the football for most of this season, yet they would have made the playoffs with a win over the Panthers in week 17; they surrendered 34 points to the Panthers in Atlanta.  And, to top it all off, the Panthers hosted the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs last week, taking full advantage of the Lindley-pocalypse (Apoca-Lindlypse?) to get to this point.

Not that the Seahawks had all that difficult of a road to hoe in getting the top seed the final six weeks of the season (only two playoff teams faced, and both of those teams were the Carson Palmer-less Cardinals), but I’d say we’ve looked MUCH more impressive in getting to this point.

Here’s the bottom line:  the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  Yes, we’re particularly good against the pass, but we’re also among the best against the run (indeed, we’re THE best against the run of the remaining playoff teams, but that’s neither here nor there).  If we can prevent the Panthers from gashing us in the run game, they should stand no chance.  On the flipside, while they have a good front seven, they’re not unstoppable.  We should be able to do what we want to do on the ground, while at the same time taking advantage of holes in their secondary.  An important thing to note is this game features the two very best middle linebackers in all of football with Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner.  Overall, though, the Seahawks have MUCH more talent from top to bottom than the Panthers.  In fact, the Seahawks hold a distinct advantage in nearly every position group.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, Cam Newton is a staggering bundle of injuries being held together by duct tape and painkillers.  There is ZERO reason why the Seahawks should lose this game.

And yet, it’s not entirely impossible.  There was zero reason why the 1994 Supersonics should lose to the Nuggets in five games.  There was zero reason why the 2001 Mariners should fail to make the World Series.  Sometimes, shit just happens.  Sometimes, a matchup materializes that goes against everything one team stands for.  Sometimes, players just have a bad day.

The Panthers have been a tough matchup for the Seahawks for the last three years now.  Regardless of the fact that those prior three games were all played in Carolina, we’re still talking about a mini version of ourselves.

  • Mobile quarterbacks
  • Unheralded offensive lines
  • Lack of game-breaking talent in the receiving corps
  • Tough, hard-nosed running backs
  • Underrated and stout defensive lines
  • Freakishly athletic linebackers
  • Mostly-conservative gameplans & coaches (in spite of Ron’s riverboat ways in 2013 and Pete’s alleged “big balls”)

In the NFL, it only takes one bad game to derail an entire season.  That in and of itself should be enough to terrify us to no end.  I don’t necessarily fear the Cowboys/Packers because I think we match up exceedingly well against them.  Their defenses aren’t anything special, and their offensive attacks play right into our L.O.B. hands.

But, the Panthers pose a tough matchup BECAUSE they’re so similar to us.  Because their defense can harass Russell Wilson and potentially knock him out of the game.  The Panthers – more than any other team remaining in these playoffs – have the capability to hold our offense in check.  And, if they do that, and it comes down to a battle of who wins the fourth quarter, then you’re looking at no better than a flip of a coin.

I don’t like that.  And neither should you.  We JUST have to get past this one game and I’ll feel more at ease.  The thing is, I don’t think anyone’s taking this game seriously.  I know, for the most part, fans are already booking plans for the NFC Championship Game.  But, they’re going to feel pretty damn stupid if we reach the end of Saturday night, with the Panthers celebrating on our field like the Nuggets did on our court 20-some-odd years ago.

Here’s to hoping the Seahawks take this game a little more seriously than the 12th Man.  If they don’t, we’ll be looking at the absolute worst defeat in franchise history, and a defeat far surpassing those aforementioned Sonics & Mariners achievements of yore.  2014 will be just another drop in the bucket of Seattle being Sports Hell.

Futzing Around With Seahawks Top 10 Lists

I just saw this, while killing some time.  It’s a cool take on the whole “Top Ten Seahawks Of All Time” list idea.  And, as you may or may not know, I’m a total SUCKER for LISTS!

Terry’s rules for this list were:  no current players, and they must have played at least 5 seasons with the Seahawks.  That leaves us with a good chunk of players.  He was provided 29 different names by fans in their own lists they sent to him.  Of those 29 players listed, here is my Top 10:

  1. Walter Jones
  2. Cortez Kennedy
  3. Steve Largent
  4. Shaun Alexander
  5. Jacob Green
  6. Kenny Easley
  7. Matt Hasselbeck
  8. Dave Brown
  9. Steve Hutchinson
  10. Lofa Tatupu

For starters, we have the three NFL Hall of Famers in the top three spots, because that’s just what has to be done.  I organized these three by their place in NFL history.  Walter Jones has gone down as one of the greatest left tackles in all of NFL history (if not THE greatest).  There aren’t enough superlatives, so let’s just move on.

Cortez, I believe, has to be on everyone’s Top 10 list for defensive tackles (at least in the modern era, if not all time).  He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, since he played for Seattle (and played on a bunch of awful teams by a terribly-run organization), but he was truly a monster force in the middle.

If my 10 year old self could see what I’m writing now, he’d call me a fucking idiot for putting Steve Largent at #3, when he’s so obviously the greatest wide receiver of all time.  Except, in the 23 years since then, about a thousand receivers have passed Largent and broken all of his records.  He’s great, and in his time he was the greatest, but now he’s long-forgotten, and you legitimately have to question whether he’d make the Hall of Fame if he had his same exact stats, but retired today instead of at the end of the 1989 season.

Henry Ellard has Largent beat by almost 700 yards, but he’s not in the HOF.  Tim Brown has almost 2,000 more yards and the same number of receiving touchdowns and hasn’t made the HOF yet.  When Largent retired, he was #1 in both yards and touchdowns for a receiver; now he’s 14th and tied for 7th, respectively.  More receivers are breaking his records every year, with still more right on his heels.  Andre Johnson and Steve Smith are both one good year away from passing him in yards (within 1,000 of the Seahawks legend).  Larry Fitzgerald is a year or two away, and if Anquan Boldin’s creaky old bones can cling to life, he’s probably two or three years away.  Going forward, Calvin Johnson is practically a shoo-in to be in the top 10 in yards; and Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant will likely pass Largent as well.  Granted, it’s a different style of NFL play now than it was in the 70s & 80s, but that’s not going to make it any easier going forward for any more of those fringe old-timers to make the HOF.  Largent’s lucky he retired when he did.

After the top three of Jones, Tez, and Largent, I found the next five to be pretty easy.  Alexander is the best running back in franchise history, was an MVP, and led us to our first Super Bowl appearance.  He won’t be a HOFer, but he’s still one of the best Seahawks ever, so his slot at #4 is well-deserved.

Jacob Green is another one of those guys who isn’t quite a HOFer, but he’s tops in the Seahawks’ book.  Green, ranking #1 in franchise history in sacks with 97.5, ranks tied for 32nd in NFL history.  The magic number for sack-artists to get into the HOF is apparently 125, so Green was a ways off.  Nevertheless, he was solid for us.

Kenny Easley kinda makes this list on talent and potential over longevity which is QUITE hypocritical considering I left Curt Warner off my list because he couldn’t stay healthy.  But still, Easley is hands down the best member of the Seahawks secondary in franchise history (not counting the current members of the L.O.B.).

Matt Hasselbeck – the franchise’s best quarterback – comes in at #7.  That’s a testament to the quality of players ahead of him on my list, as well as the lack of really elite quarterbacks in franchise history.  Hasselbeck is also kinda like those other near-HOF types, except he’s pushed way down that list; I mean, you can KINDA make a case for Shaun Alexander to be in the HOF, but you’ll be laughed out of the country if you try to make a case for Hasselbeck!

Rounding out the last of my easy choices, Dave Brown was the best cornerback in franchise history (again, not including those in the L.O.B.).  After him, I had a really tough time choosing the last two.  I eventually narrowed it down to six players:  Curt Warner, John L. Williams, Brian Blades, Hutch, Lofa, and Eugene Robinson.  I couldn’t decide between the two running backs, so as a compromise, I decided to leave them both out.  Blades was a tough one to cut out; he’s certainly my #11 pick on this list.  And, Eugene gets docked because he did a lot of his best playing after he left the Seahawks.

Which, again, reveals my blatant hypocrisy, because I gave Hutch the #9 slot.  Losing him right smack dab in the middle of his prime definitely hurts his ranking on my list (had he been a career Seahawk, it’s pretty easy to see him in my top three or four), but I can’t deny his elite talent level.  Granted, Joey Galloway also had elite talent, and his end with the team was similarly acrimonious, and yet he wasn’t even an honorable mention!  To that, I don’t know what to tell you.  I’ll always be kind of annoyed with Hutch and his dickhead agent, and to a lesser extent the Vikings (even though we just won a Super Bowl with a bunch of their players), but the real villain in that whole deal was Tim Ruskell, leaving me the opportunity to (for the most part) feel good about Hutch’s time here.

The last spot goes to Lofa.  He was truly great from the moment he was selected by this team, and he’s a big reason why our defense was able to cobble together enough yards & points prevention to lead this team to a #1 seed and a Super Bowl appearance in 2005/2006.  Lofa’s career ended prematurely due to injury, otherwise it’s possible his all time ranking could’ve been higher as well.  He was a tackling machine who – had he not worn down so fast – might have made a play for the HOF, with the way he was racking them up in his first few years.


Now that I’ve given you my Top 10 list of Seahawks not currently on the team, why don’t I give you my Top 10 list of only Seahawks who ARE currently on the team?  Here we go:

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Marshawn Lynch
  4. Richard Sherman
  5. Kam Chancellor
  6. Russell Okung
  7. Brandon Mebane
  8. Bobby Wagner
  9. Michael Bennett
  10. Doug Baldwin

Before I get started, I have to point out that Percy Harvin is left off because he’s played in all of three games in a Seahawks uniform.  I’m going to need at least a season or two out of him before I start putting him among the all time leaders.

Byron Maxwell was left off because I had a really hard time putting four LOB members on my list.  But, talent-wise, he probably deserves it.  At the very least, he’d be my #11 pick (and, by the end of 2014, could see his ranking go up even higher).  Zach Miller was left off because, while I appreciate all that he does, it still feels like we could do what we do without him.  Max Unger was left off due to an inconsistent (and injury-riddled) 2013 season.  Cliff Avril was another honorable mention.

In going down my list, I knew the other three members of the LOB would be there and be ranked high, but it was just a matter of where they’d rank.  I have Earl Thomas at #1 because I think he’s far and away the best safety in the game today.  Richard Sherman has some competition for best corner, but I think he’s #1 with a bunch of other guys right on his heels.  That’s the difference between the two.

Nevertheless, I had to put Russell Wilson at #2 because he is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to what we do on offense.  He’s the franchise quarterback we’ve been dreaming of since Seattle was given a franchise!  He and Earl Thomas are the perfect bookends for this team, from their elite talent level, to how they prepare, to their desire to win above all else, to their abilities to make those around them insanely better.

Marshawn Lynch gets the #3 spot because he’s the workhorse.  He’s also in the Top 3 when it comes to NFL running backs today.  While that sounds odd to say, knowing that I put Richard Sherman at the #4 spot (and I consider him to be the best corner in football), I will say that there are way more elite cornerbacks than there are elite running backs.  That’s just the way it goes.

Kam gets into my Top 5 because he’s Kam.  He’s the baddest, hardest hitting motherfucker in this league and he was certainly deserving of being the MVP of the Super Bowl over Malcolm Smith.  In the national spotlight, Kam gets lost a little bit because of Sherman’s outspokenness and Earl’s on-field flashiness, but on almost any other team, he’d be the best player on that defense and it wouldn’t even be close.

Okung gets his spot on the list based on talent and potential, though he certainly gets knocked down for his inability to stay healthy.  Brandon Mebane is almost the opposite.  He does nothing BUT stay healthy.  He doesn’t have the highest pedigree.  He isn’t an animal in the middle like Cortez was.  But, Mebane has been a ROCK on that D-Line since he got here in 2007.  And, from what I’ve read, his 2013 season was arguably his best year in the league.  That’s unbelievably impressive, especially when you consider he plays a spot on the line that’s difficult to keep healthy.  Seems like whenever a nose tackle gets injured, it’s only a matter of time before his career fizzles out.

I had to pick a linebacker, because we’ve got three good ones, so I went with the best.  Bobby Wagner is the guy – if we’re only able to keep one for salary cap purposes – that I’d most want to retain.  He plays middle linebacker, which is the most important spot of the three, and he plays it at a high level (either as well, or if not, very close to the level of Luke Kuechly).  The best part:  he’s played at this level since day 1, and could very well see even MORE improvement.

There’s a reason why we decided to bring back Michael Bennett and let key leaders Red Bryant and Chris Clemons go.  Bennett can do everything on the defensive line and do it all well.

Finally, what can I say about Doug Baldwin that hasn’t already been said?  I feel MUCH more secure about this team and its offense when I know I have Doug Baldwin on the field.


Now, the real point of all of this:  when I was reading the above Terry Blount post, and I read that current players were to be left off for the purposes of this exercise, I got to wondering:  how many current players would – right now – make the Top 10 in franchise history?

You’d have to think quite a few, considering the Super Bowl is fresh on our minds, and that’s something no other Seahawks team has ever accomplished.  Fans would rabidly vote for today’s players, because it’s all about that action, boss.

I’m going to try to set emotion aside on this one and try to be rational about it.  Essentially, since a lot of these guys are fairly new, I have to go by what they’ve done as well as what they could potentially do, if they can stay reasonably healthy.  Anyway, here’s my list:

  1. Walter Jones
  2. Earl Thomas
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Russell Wilson
  5. Cortez Kennedy
  6. Steve Largent
  7. Shaun Alexander
  8. Kam Chancellor
  9. Marshawn Lynch
  10. Jacob Green

As you’ll notice, both Sherm and Kam passed Lynch on this list.  That’s because, when all is said and done, I expect both of those guys to surpass Lynch’s output – which projects to end after the 2014 season.  You’ll also notice that Sherm passes Wilson on this list, because in the end I think Sherman will be a greater cornerback (on the all time NFL list) than Wilson will be a quarterback (on the all time NFL list).  Nevertheless, I expect both of them, as well as Earl, to make the HOF (giving us six total Seahawks, and counting).  Shaun Alexander still gets the nod over Lynch because there’s no way Lynch is passing him in total output.  I know most people like Lynch more, but I won’t discount Alexander’s overall talents.  Jacob Green nabs down that 10-spot, because he’s awesome.  Of the current players who could someday crack the top ten that I don’t have in there right now, I’d look at Wagner and maybe Baldwin.

So, that’s five current players in the All Time Top 10.  I never would have thought you could have ANY sort of Seahawks Top 10 without Matt Hasselbeck, but there you have it.  What’s more impressive is, I have three current players in the top 5.  I don’t know if I’ll ever see a player on the level of Walter Jones, but if anyone has a chance to pass him, it’s most likely Earl Thomas.

Then again, if Russell Wilson leads us to five Super Bowl championships, that may be the ultimate decider.

The Key To Roster Building In The NFL

I’ll preface this by saying:  you can’t do anything without a quarterback.  That’s obvious.  Everyone knows it, so there’s really not even much point in bringing it up, except if you don’t bring it up, then wise-asses will come on here and tell me I forgot about the quarterback position.

There are all kinds of different types of quarterbacks that can win you a championship, as evidenced by the last decade or so of NFL champions.  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady are going to go down as all-time greats.  Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger likely won’t.  Doesn’t mean they’re BAD; just means that no one is going to put them in their Top 10 All Time Greatest Quarterbacks list.

For the record, my picks:

  1. Joe Montana
  2. Tom Brady
  3. John Elway
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Dan Marino
  6. Steve Young
  7. Johnny Unitas
  8. Brett Favre
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Warren Moon

But, that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the quarterback is crucial.  It’s too early to say where Russell Wilson will fall on that list, but I’d venture to say we’d still be ringless if he had to carry a team with an underperforming defense last season.

And that’s what the elite quarterback will afford you.  The elites – like Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Brees, etc. – can cover up for just a so-so defense.  Of course, the fact that all of those quarterbacks only have one championship apiece will tell you that a quarterback can’t do it by himself (and, truth be told, the years their respective teams won it all, their defenses weren’t that bad).

The more talent you have around your quarterback, the less perfect your quarterback has to be (hence why Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger both have two championships each).  But, the NFL has a salary cap, and teams have got to find a way to fit 53 players into that cap (plus a little extra to make up for injuries and such).  So, HOW you build around your quarterback is just about as important as the quarterback itself.

There isn’t exactly one specific way to run your team, but I’ll tell you this much:  you’re not going to get very far without a good defense.  That means one of two things:  elite pass rush, or elite secondary (or, ideally both).  Without really delving deep into things, I think it’s pretty safe to say that at least half of NFL teams are pretty happy with their quarterbacks.  I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that at least half of the teams have a guy under center capable of winning it all (assuming everything breaks right and they have a good team around them).  So, you figure that at least half the time, your defense is going to face a pretty good quarterback.

Now, if you’re going to build a defense to combat all those pretty good-to-great quarterbacks, you’ve got to have one of the two aforementioned qualities:  an elite pass rush or an elite secondary.  It’s all about disrupting the quarterback’s timing and forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do.  If you’ve got the pass rush, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw early; if you’ve got the secondary, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw late (and hopefully give your adequate pass rush enough time to get home).  So, it would stand to reason that if you’re building your roster to win a championship, you’re going to focus the bulk of your defensive salary cap on edge rushers and/or the secondary.

What you DON’T want to do is start pumping a bunch of money down into your linebackers and interior linemen.  Unless that interior lineman is in the Cortez Kennedy/Warren Sapp mold, you’re probably overpaying.  You can find wide-bodies just about anywhere, on the cheap, no problem.  Ditto linebackers.  People will point to some of the quality guys like Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly, and I will admit that those dudes are pretty awesome at what they do.  But, you know who else is pretty awesome?  Bobby Wagner.  He’s a second round pick making a fraction of what those guys are making and will make.  Bobby Wagner isn’t heralded in the least, but he’s still awesome.  And, I would venture that you can find a TON of Bobby Wagners in the draft, which will save you money in the long run over massive extensions for the Kuechlys of the world.

Take a look at the Seahawks.  We’ve pumped some serious money into Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, and soon we’ll devote a whole bunch more into Richard Sherman.  Pass rush & secondary.  Where are we finding savings?  How about three linebackers (Wagner, Wright, Smith) all drafted in the 2nd round or later, all still on rookie deals.  Now, the Seahawks MIGHT extend one or more of those guys when the time comes, but I bet they’ll be mid-range contracts that don’t kill our cap for years to come.

We’re also saving money on our interior line.  Brandon Mebane has a $5 million APY, and that leads the team on interior line spending.  Tony McDaniel is on a short-term, on-the-cheap deal, and the rest of our interior guys are on rookie contracts.

Of course, the Seahawks could always use a little more pass rush security.  Maybe Cliff Avril gets extended beyond this year.  Maybe we hit on someone in the draft.  Maybe we pick up another team’s cast-off.  Or, maybe we just try to hold the fort and steal another team’s outgoing free agent next year.

The point is:  pass rush & secondary = big money players.  Linebackers & interior linemen = savings.

On offense, the Seahawks have proven that a run-first model isn’t entirely out-dated.  Nevertheless, their spending in this area kinda sorta is.

Marshawn Lynch has the fourth-highest average per-year salary on the team (behind Harvin, Thomas, and Okung).  His contact runs out after the 2015 season.  Nobody really expects Lynch to see the final year of that deal as it’s currently configured, because nobody really expects Lynch to continue playing at the high level he’s been at the last three or four years.  Plus, there’s the whole issue with Russell Wilson getting his money after the 2014 season (when the team can negotiate an extension and finally pay him what he’s really worth).

As you can see from all the free agent deals for running backs this off-season, they’re not getting the kind of money they used to get even 10 years ago.  It sounds crazy when you think of someone like Chris Johnson, who can only get a 2-year deal; he was once the best runner in football and he’s NOT THAT OLD.  Same goes for these other guys.  What kind of a deal would Ben Tate have gotten even five years ago?  Now, he’s playing for peanuts, as is MJD, Darren McFadden, and every other running back who hits free agency.

Why is that?  Because teams are reluctant to go with the one-back system and instead opt for a By-Committee approach.  Because injuries are a son of a bitch.  And because all too often, a no-name guy from the back-end of the draft will enter the mix in the NFL and be just as good, if not better, than these over-paid mama’s boys (Trent Richardson) who somehow still get drafted high.

All of this tells me one thing:  you’re foolish if you’re pumping too much money into the running back position.

The Seahawks have the luxury of paying Marshawn Lynch a high salary because they’re paying next-to-nothing for Russell Wilson (and the quarterback position at large).  But, when Wilson’s commanding around $20 million per season, you’ve got to find ways to cut corners somewhere.  I would wager the Seahawks will pull some of that money out of the running back position (which is a shame, because everyone loves Marshawn Lynch with a passion).

It’ll be difficult, for the Seahawks more than others, because we DO rely on the run so much to make our offense go.  The run sets up the play-action pass.  The run keeps defenses honest.  The run also reduces the risk of turnovers, because if we’re successfully running the ball, then we’re not throwing as much.  If we’re not throwing as much, then we’re not throwing as many interceptions.  Bing, bang, boom.  So, the Seahawks can’t throw just any ol’ scrub in the backfield and expect to succeed.

To do what I advocate, you have to draft wisely and you have to draft often.  Finding value in a guy like Christine Michael (if he does, indeed, turn out to be the elite runner we all expect) will set us up for a good long while.  Yet, even if we were saddled with only Robert Turbin and whoever else via draft, I’d be content.

Because as long as you put value and talent into your offensive line, it really shouldn’t matter who you have at running back.

Under my system – which incidentally is the one the Seahawks have been using – you’ve got to have a great left tackle.  Russell Okung fits that mold.  He’s not quite Walter Jones, but then again, who is?  You SHOULD be able to cut corners a little bit on the guard spots, as long as you’ve got a great center.  The Seahawks have Max Unger, who is pretty terrific.  I’d like to see a breakdown of the best centers and how often they’re involved in lengthy playoff runs, because I think they’re WAY more important than most people give them credit for.

Under almost no circumstances should you be paying elite money to a guard.  Unless you know you’re getting someone like Hutch in his prime.  At which point, you should probably find a value center and make due with a so-so right tackle.  Obviously, you can’t pay everyone, but you should probably have at least two guys who are worthy of high-paying contracts.

If you’re a bad team, get that left tackle with a high draft pick.  There is ALWAYS an elite left tackle coming out in the draft.  So, if you have a high draft pick, make that guy your first priority.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderful coach like Tom Cable, so try to get yourselves one of those.

The model isn’t perfect, obviously.  The Seahawks had two great linemen and a bunch of injuries last year and really struggled to protect the quarterback.  That’s where your QB comes into play.  You can put a crappy QB behind an elite O-Line and make some hay.  You probably won’t win many championships, but you can consistently make the playoffs.  The worse your O-Line is, though, the better your quarterback must be.  Russell Wilson probably isn’t an elite QB just yet, but he was good enough to make up for all the injuries and inconsistencies we suffered last year.

And, of course, that leads us to the passing game.  You can run the football all you want, but unless you can throw the ball when it counts, you’re not going to go all the way.  Ask Adrian Peterson about that, I’m sure he’s got some stories to tell.

Like I said at the top, you need the quarterback, but it helps if he has talent to throw to.

Some quarterbacks – like Brees, Peyton Manning, etc. – will turn any receiver into a 1,000 yard threat.  Others – I’m looking at you Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, etc. – need their receivers to elevate their games.

Andy Dalton would be a poor man’s Kyle Orton if he didn’t have A.J. Green.  Kaepernick was God-awful last year without Crabtree!  And Jay Cutler’s a fucking mess WITH guys like Brandon Marshall, but just imagine how terrible he’d be without him.

Now, say what you will about our receivers, but I think they’ve been pretty great.  And, until Percy Harvin came along, they’ve been relatively cheap as well.

Again, a great quarterback will make up for a lot of deficiencies.  I have no doubt that someone like Russell Wilson makes someone like Jermaine Kearse a better football player.  It’s tough to say what Kearse’s ceiling would be in an offense that passes as much as New Orleans or Green Bay, but I bet it would be higher than you’d think if you had someone like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees throwing the ball around 35 times a game.

Our offense doesn’t need to over-spend at the wide receiver position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  If you can get someone like Percy Harvin, you probably should do it.  If you draft someone and he turns out to be the next Calvin Johnson, then you should probably do whatever it takes to keep him.

This can be a little tricky, because if your #1 receiver is making top quarterback money, AND if you happen to have one of those top quarterbacks, then you can get into a situation like they’ve got down in Detroit.  The Lions should probably worry about pumping their resources into an offensive line, or a secondary, to round out their team (and not, for instance, over-pay for someone like Golden Tate, but you didn’t hear that from me).

There are talented receivers out there in the draft and among the undrafted free agents, but you gotta be smart about it.  I would more than be in favor of an A-B-C salary structure for your top three receivers.  Your A-player gets the lion’s share, your B-player gets a healthy mid-level contract, and your C-player is probably a rookie or a young guy on a cheap deal.

In short, on offense, you’re going to want to pump a lot of money into the quarterback and the offensive line.  Stay away from overpaying running backs and tight ends (unless you’ve got one like Jimmy Graham that plays more like a wide receiver anyway).  And, just be smart about paying your receivers.  If you’re only going to throw 20-25 times per game, maybe don’t throw all your eggs into the receiver basket.  But, don’t leave the cupboard completely barren either.

The point of all of this is to say that the Seahawks are doing it the right way.  If you root for another team, and they happen to be struggling, then follow the money.  Where are their big-money contracts going?  Would they be better off putting that money elsewhere?  Are they making the same mistakes over and over?  Then, you might be a redneck Mariners fan, and get out of my brain.

Previewing & Predicting The 2013 Seattle Seahawks

Last year, I got to my predictions column late.  Past week 1 late.  It was kind of a sorry development, but what are you gonna do?  The season was already started by this time last year.  Anyway, I didn’t think very highly of the Seahawks heading into the 2012 season.  I didn’t think very lowly of them either, which is how you get to an 8-8 record.  Honestly, I would’ve predicted 9-7, but since I got to my post a week late – and the Seahawks crapped the bed in Arizona that first week – I downgraded to 8-8.

The Seahawks, as everyone knows, finished 11-5, going 7-1 over the second half of the season, and 1-1 in the post-season, ending up in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  Those last 10 games were as epic of a run as you can get without actually making it to the Super Bowl.

But, enough about last year.  That was damn near a year ago, for Christ’s sake!

This year, the sky is the limit.  At worst, the Seahawks will be 11-5.  At best, I’m sorry, but at best you’ve gotta say 16-0.

Before we get into official predictions, let’s take a look at the make-up of this team:

Part 1 – Roster

How do the Seahawks differ from this time last year?  Well, for starters, our backup quarterback is new (or old, I can never tell).  Tarvar takes over for Matt Flynn, and to be honest with you, it’s probably a downgrade.  Obviously, we don’t know how good Flynn can really be (and, reports indicate that he can’t even win the fucking starting job on the RAIDERS of all teams), but I guess that’s the point.  We know what Tarvar is – he’s a near-.500 quarterback – and we don’t know what Flynn is.  Flynn could be great in small doses, Flynn could be great in large doses, or he could be terrible no matter the serving size.  If you’re a salary cap-head, then you like Tarvar because he saves you money.  So, maybe in the long run this is an upgrade?  Whatever, who cares, moving on.

At running back, Lynch and Turbin return, ostensibly in the same roles they occupied as last year.  Christine Michael replaces Leon Washington, which is an improvement at our #3 running back spot, but hurts us in the return game, as Michael is not a returner.  Derrick Coleman takes over for Michael Robinson, which is a soul-crushing blow.  But, on the flipside, he’s younger, cheaper, and under team control for longer.  Considering Robinson only played somewhere around 30% of our offensive snaps in 2012, I can’t imagine this one little move at fullback is going to make that much of a difference.  Finally, Spencer Ware is either going to be a special teams replacement for Robinson, or he’s going to spend the bulk of the season on the Inactive List on gameday.  We’ll see.

Rice, Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse are all hold-overs from last year.  Kearse, of course, spent most of 2012 on the Practice Squad, but came on late in a special teams capacity.  I wouldn’t expect a TON out of him, but then again he is going to be our starting kick returner, so buttons.  He did, after all, return that one kick in the pre-season for a touchdown.  If he turns out to be a monster in that aspect of the game, I might cream in my pants.  Harvin starts out the season on the PUP list and will hopefully return sometime in November.  Stephen Williams – the pre-season phenom – is holding his seat for the time being.  It’s hard to see this team keep five active receivers going every game (remember, you can only play 45 of your 53 guys every gameday), but then again, can you really keep this guy off the field?  I’d like to see the Seahawks throw one long bomb jump ball to him every half; I bet he comes down with half of them, and in so doing earns his weekly paycheck.

This year, we’re only keeping the two tight ends, instead of last year’s three.  The lone holdover is the uber-talented Zach Miller.  He’s our starter and our muse (our flame).  Anthony McCoy, as you’ll recall, is lost for the season on IR.  Evan Moore, thankfully, is no more.  In his place, we actually have a guy worth a damn in Luke Willson.  Even though Willson is a rookie, he looks like the real deal and the future at the position we’ve been trying so hard for so long to draft.

Our starting O-Line remains intact, which is probably the most important thing outside of quarterback you want to remain intact.  Okung, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy, and Giacomini are the guys, with James Carpenter getting worked in (over time, to be the full-time replacement at left guard).  Lemuel Jean-Pierre returns as our backup center, Mike Person returns as our backup … something.  Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey are a couple of rookie projects who came on strong this pre-season.  Gone is John Moffitt, traded to Denver for being not worth the time or effort.

On the D-Line, Clemons, Bryant, and Mebane all return.  Clemons avoided the PUP list, as he is a specimen of the gods and will hopefully start practicing within the next couple weeks.  Everyone else is brand new.  Avril & Bennett are our two big free agent splashes.  Both are kinda hurt, but both should be okay to play out of the gate (if not, then expect one or both to be Inactive right along with Clemons for Week 1).  Tony McDaniel is a less-heralded signing, but his impact will be just as important as he will be our starting 3-technique defensive tackle.  Jordan Hill is a rookie who survived pre-season mostly healthy.  He’ll get regular playing time in the defensive tackle rotation.  Jesse Williams, unfortunately yet predictably, landed on IR with his bum knee.  O’Brien Schofield and D’Anthony Smith are cast-offs from other teams who we know little about.  Schofield spent most of the pre-season in Seattle and was fine, I guess.  Smith came over after the cut-downs to 53 and has been injured most of his career.  Questionable move to say the least, but obviously John Schneider and Pete Carroll know something we do not.  Rounding out the group, we have Benson Mayowa, an undrafted rookie out of Idaho who led the team in sacks in the pre-season.  He looks like he’s got some real moves, but unless injuries deplete this team early, it’s hard to see him getting a lot of playing time.

At Linebacker, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner return, ready to kick some more ass.  Malcolm Smith also returns and figures to get some playing time at the strong-side spot.  Bruce Irvin has converted to the strong side, but of course he’s suspended for the first four games.  It’ll be interesting to see – A. whose spot he takes upon returning in week 5, and B. how he fares as a pass-rushing linebacker.  The team found room for special teams lord & savior Heath Farwell, so look for that unit to continue demolishing other teams.  Allen Bradford was around last year, but never played.  Now, he’s our backup middle linebacker and might find a way to work himself into a rotation if he keeps up the good work.  Rounding it out, we have John Lotulelei, who will probably never play unless he stands out on special teams.

In the secondary, Marcus Trufant has been replaced by Walter Thurmond, who was injured for most of his career.  Antoine Winfield was let go because our younger guys were just plain better.  Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell could be starters for other teams, which is what makes this unit the best in football.  At safety, Winston Guy was let go.  He was kinda flashy, and he blitzed a lot last year, but he didn’t really do a whole lot and shouldn’t be missed.  Chris Maragos is super fast, so he shouldn’t be too much of a step back if Earl Thomas can’t play.  Kam Chancellor and Jeron Johnson round out the group of safeties; Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman complete the set.

Kicker, punter, and long snapper all return.

Part 2 – Analyzing The Roster

Working our way backward, the Special Teams looks as good as it ever has.  Steven Hauschka, as I’ve mentioned before, has been a man possessed this pre-season.  Jon Ryan is Jon Ryan, putting in consistent MVP-quality work.  Clint Gresham hasn’t botched any snaps that I can recall, so bully for him.

In the secondary, you can’t help but be excited for Walter Thurmond.  He’s finally healthy and finally able to show what he can do for this team.  He’s a HUGE upgrade over an aging Marcus Trufant, and that’s important because nickel corner was one of our main areas of concern going into 2013.  To be fair, this team could play a Dime package all day every day and I wouldn’t lose sleep.  Maxwell looks like he could make the Pro Bowl THIS year if he was given a chance to start.

At linebacker, you have to believe this team also improved.  Leroy Hill is gone and they’ve done some shuffling.  K.J. Wright moves to his old spot at the weak-side, so that’s great.  You always want more speed, especially at the linebacker position.  Wagner, with a year under his belt and a chip on his shoulder to prove he doesn’t belong in Luke Kuechly’s shadow, also looked like a man possessed this pre-season.  I expect a huge jump in his play in 2013, rivalling the jump Richard Sherman made from his rookie to his second year.  On the strong side, replacing Wright, we’ve got the combo of Malcolm Smith and eventually Bruce Irvin.  It looks like the team wants the strong side ‘backer to be more of a pass-rush threat, hence the Irvin move.  I love the idea.  Any way this team can get more pressure on the QB that isn’t just sending a safety on a blitz that takes forever to materialize, I’m all for it.  The depth at this position is infinitely better than it was last year too.  Bradford could start on almost any other team, and Lotulelei looks like he could develop into a force if given the chance.

Along the D-Line, you have to have concern, I’m not gonna lie.  Can McDaniel and Hill make up for the loss of Alan Branch and Jason Jones?  When he was healthy, Jones was fairly effective.  And Branch was a starter for the past couple years.  If they can just maintain and not take a step back, I’d be happy.  Also, how long will Mebane be able to stay healthy?  He’s no spring chicken.  Depth at tackle is also a concern.  The Seahawks gave away a couple of decent depth guys in Jaye Howard and Clinton McDonald.  In their place, we have newcomer D’Anthony Smith, and Michael Bennett on passing downs.  Bennett should be solid, but I just don’t know.

On the ends of the line, it’s just as concerning.  Red Bryant returns, and he looks as healthy as ever, so that’s good.  But, he’s still a mountain of a man, and those guys don’t tend to stay healthy for very long.  Clemons we’ve talked about, but it’s still encouraging that he’ll be back soon.  Avril is a little less encouraging, as he hasn’t played at all in pre-season.  The Seahawks robbed Peter to pay Paul a little bit by moving Irvin out of the LEO end spot.  Unless Clemons and/or Avril return soon, this could be a real weakness for the team.  Remember, Greg Scruggs could play both inside and outside, and he’s gone for the year too.  Unless Schofield or Mike Morgan (who I failed to mention above in the roster section) step up in a big way, I think this team is going to be hurting for sacks.  Then again, the first two games are against Carolina and San Francisco, so we should probably worry less about sacks and more about contain.  Either way, it could be rocky for this unit early.

I’m not worried about the O-Line.  If there’s anything I’m rock solid on this year, it’s that.  Even the injury bug doesn’t concern me, because the depth looks good, and Tom Cable is a wizard.

Seeing Luke Willson perform the way he did in the pre-season makes me a LOT more comfortable about the tight end position.  Let’s see if Zach Miller has what it takes to stay on the field for the full go.  If not, then I’m probably going to spend the rest of the season hyperventilating.

I absolutely LOVE what we’ve done with the wide receivers on this team.  Braylon Edwards was never going to be a player worth having.  I’d take Stephen Williams over him any day.  Ben Obomanu was solid on special teams, but he’s worse than Jermaine Kearse.  And when Harvin returns, he’s like a million billion times better than Charly Martin.  Most improved lineup on the team by FAR.

I just kinda like what they did with the running backs.  In a perfect world, football teams would keep 54 players and Michael Robinson would still be on this one.  But, you know, you’ve gotta move on.  Hopefully Derrick Coleman is the next Michael Robinson.  If that’s the case, then we truly are the king of kings.  Also, look for Christine Michael to supplant Turbin before season’s end.  And in a couple years, when Michael is our starting back and Ware is our big tough guy backup, we’ll continue to suck the dicks of John Schneider and Pete Carroll for their foresight and vision.

Russell Wilson.  All you gotta say about the quarterback position.  Stud.  Winner.  Champion.

Part 3 – The Schedule

Week 1 – @ Carolina, 10am:  This is where it pays off having played Russell Wilson the full season last year.  He (along with some shaky late-game defense) cost us that first game in Arizona.  This year, with that in mind, count on Wilson not letting us lose in week 1.  Honestly, I don’t think this will even be close.  Maybe the offense starts out sluggish early, but I think the defense comes to play and we lean on them all game long.

Week 2 – vs. San Francisco, 5:30pm:  Home opener, Sunday Night Football on NBC, the crowd absolutely fucking INSANE … this is where the Seahawks show the 49ers what power football is all about.  Another one I don’t think is all that close.

Week 3 – vs. Jacksonville, 1pm:  Can you say 3-0?  Anyone who has the Seahawks defense in fantasy football can bank on scoring anywhere from 30-60 points, depending on how you score it in your league.  This is the reason why we all drafted them at least three rounds too early.

Week 4 – @ Houston, 10am
Week 5 – @ Indianapolis, 10am:  I’m lumping these together because I’m a coward.  The Seahawks will go 1-1 in these two games, but I just can’t figure out which they’ll win and which they’ll lose.  If you look at it objectively, Houston has a great running game and an okay passing game.  When you figure that our defense is great against the pass, but only so-so against the run, you have to look at that game and figure it’s the loss, right?  Meanwhile, Indy can’t run for shit and they pass 50 times a game.  Nevertheless, my gut is telling me we beat the Texans and lose to the Colts.  Luck is a gamer, he gets better as the game goes on, and I could see this being one of those games like we had against the Lions last season.  High scoring, little defense, and Indy pulls it out at the end with a late TD.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks win ugly in Houston, something like 14-10.

Week 6 – vs. Tennessee, 1pm:  Another easy win.  This will be the game I attend this year, because tickets were reasonably easy to get, weren’t prohibitively expensive, and honestly I don’t care if I go to any games, so what does the opponent matter?  No reason to expect Russell Wilson to play beyond the 3rd quarter in this one.

Week 7 – @ Arizona, 5pm:  Thursday night game, the bane of my existence.  But, I promise to not bitch about them as much this year (unless the games are so ugly and boring, the NFL forces my hand).  Normally, I’d be concerned, but not this year.  Carson Palmer will spend more time on his back than he will on his feet (if he’s even still healthy at this point in the year).  The Seahawks win ugly, but they win, and the defense scores another touchdown.

Week 8 – @ St. Louis, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football!  Why does the league even schedule the Seahawks to play on the road on nationally televised games?  It’s like they’re tired of showing the rest of the world what real fans look like.  I guess St. Louis could pose a challenge, but I just don’t see it.  Look for something like 24-19, with the Rams scoring late (missing the 2-point conversion) to make it semi-close.

Week 9 – vs. Tampa Bay, 1pm:  I think Tampa looks good this year, but I think they look bad in this game.  Think of it as something like the game vs. Minnesota last year and you’ll be on the right track.  The Bucs are going somewhere, but they’re not contenders.

Week 10 – @ Atlanta, 10am:  Revenge Game!  Still, at this point the Seahawks will be 8-1 coming in.  And Atlanta (and Matt Ryan) just don’t lose at home.  I could honestly see something of a carbon copy of last year’s game, with Atlanta pulling it out at the end.

Week 11 – vs. Minnesota, 1pm:  Total destruction.  No contest.  YOU think YOU can get soup?  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Week 12 – BYE:  finally.

Week 13 – vs. New Orleans, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football #2!  This one is a little scary.  You can’t shut down Drew Brees forever.  Then again, he does take a lot of unnecessary risks, and his receivers really don’t scare anybody.  I think we all get a little nervous for this one, but I think the Seahawks handle them pretty easily.  33-13.

Week 14 – @ San Francisco, 1pm:  Man, what a showdown THIS game will be.  Last year, the Seahawks caught the 49ers at home late.  This year, the tables are turned.  Everyone and their grandmothers are giving this game away to the 49ers, forgetting that the Seahawks last year – in San Francisco – nearly came away victorious.  There were mistakes in the first half that I just don’t think this team makes again.  I think it’s a slug-fest, but I think the Seahawks take the season series and effectively clinch the division right here.  At this point, the 49ers won’t be mathematically eliminated, but they’ll be a couple games back and they’ll have lost the tie-breaker.  Week 14 is where the Super Bowl berth is earned, because week 14 is where the Seahawks make their statement that the #1 seed won’t be denied.

Week 15 – @ New York Giants, 10am:  Another east-coast trip, another 10am start.  Coming after the insane high that was the victory in San Francisco, I see this as a total let-down game.  The Seahawks get off to a slow start and the Giants pull too far ahead.  Russell Wilson tries to engineer a comeback, but too many turnovers seal our fate.

Week 16 – vs. Arizona, 1pm:  At this point, the Seahawks will be 11-3 going into this game.  The #1 seed won’t yet be won, but we’ll have the inside track, at least a game up and also with tie-breaker advantages.  This is a TCB type of game.  It won’t be a massive 58-0 obliteration like last year, but it’ll be comfortable.  We won’t worry for one second about losing this game.

Week 17 – vs. St. Louis, 1pm:  I’d like to say that this has a chance to be flexed, but at this point, with nothing to play for, I just don’t see it.  Russell Wilson will play for a quarter, maybe a half, but then Tarvar will come in and finish it off.  He’s no Charlie Whitehurst, but he’ll do.

Part 4 – Conclusion

13-3.  Number 1 seed in the NFC, with home field all the way to the Super Bowl.  It’s not the easiest schedule in the world, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you don’t necessarily WANT an easy path to the Super Bowl.  The 2005 Seahawks had one of the easier paths to Super Bowl XL and look at what happened when a team finally posed a challenge.  You want a little trial by fire in this league.  If a schedule is too difficult, that means your team wasn’t good enough.  Bottom line.  Don’t fear this schedule.  A famous writer said that the strongest steel is forged by the fires of Hell.  That’s what we’ll be come playoff time, and that’s what we’ll be in the Super Bowl.

#17 – Bobby Wagner

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2013, click here.

Honestly, I only remember seeing Bobby Wagner make one play this pre-season, and that was at the tail-end of a four-day bender, so can I even be sure I saw it at all?  Nevertheless, what I thought I saw was a bolt of lightning shooting between large men to tackle a slightly-less large man with the football for little-to-no-to-negative gain.  And on that play, I saw the greatest play I’ve ever seen out of Bobby Wagner – and he came in 2nd in the Defensive Rookie Of The Year vote last year (so you know there were many great plays out of him last year)!

One of the things that happens when your front office hits on so many draft picks is that often there are players who are overlooked.  Bobby Wagner is certainly one of those guys.  When people talk about the Seahawks, they talk about Russell Wilson first, then Marshawn Lynch, then the Legion of Boom, then the wide receivers, then how the defensive line needs more pressure on the quarterback, then Tom Cable and his ragtag misfits along the offensive line, then the special teams, and THEN the linebackers.  These linebackers are the forgotten ones.  And even then, when people talk about the linebackers, they start with the question of Who Is Going To Be Our SAM Linebacker?  Followed by K.J. Wright and his transition to weak-side.  And last, but not least, Bobby Wagner.  The 53rd guy people think about when they think about the Seattle Seahawks.

This post comes somewhat timely, as Luke Kuechly last night had a game against the Ravens that has people across the NFL falling all over one another to be first in line to suck his dick.  Kuechly, if you will recall, came in 1st in the Defensive Rookie Of The Year vote last year.  He’s the next Brian Urlacher or some damn thing.  I guess.  If you ask me, I’d tell you that he’s the lone bright spot on one of the worst defensive units in the NFL.  You tend to stand out when you’re a rose growing out of a football field of shit, but that’s neither here nor there.  The narrative is that Luke Kuechly Is The Next Elite White Middle Linebacker.  So, whenever you see a televised Carolina Panthers broadcast, after they finish hyping up Cam Newton (because quarterback), the announcers are going to spend the next 30-90 seconds belaboring the “heart” and “intensity” and “fire” and “guts” and whatever buzzword you want to pull out of your ass about Luke Kuechly.  Because if America needs anything, it needs retarded hillbilly children’s pageant contestants and one great white middle linebacker every generation.

OK, soap box over.  The point is:  is Luke Kuechly all that remarkably better than Bobby Wagner?  I don’t think so.  And I think this year will go a long way toward proving that.  Yeah, as a rookie Kuechly led the league in tackles.  But, Wagner came in 7th.  Not among rookies, but among ALL NFL players.  Bobby Wagner was also on a much better defense, so he wasn’t forced to be the focal point.  Kuechly had absolutely nobody, so he HAD to be the man running around making all the ankle tackles that nobody else could make.  But, I’ll tell you what, when Bobby Wagner takes that step forward this year, becoming the impact player we all believe he can be, on THIS defense full of impact players, then you’ll know that you’re looking at one of the best middle linebackers in football.  Will he still be overshadowed by the Great White Hope?  Probably.  But, at least he won’t be overshadowed on his own fucking team anymore.  After this year, when you’re talking about the Top 10 Seattle Seahawks, you won’t be able to leave off the name Bobby Wagner.

Mariners Complete First Sweep Of The Season

I decided to get my sports nerd on this weekend.  It all started on Saturday morning.  I was coming off of a night of comedy at the Moore Theater (Sub Pop’s 30th anniversary treated us to the likes of Marc Maron, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Jon Benjamin, Jon Glaser, Kyle Dunnigan, and Kurt Braunohler.  Somehow, I escaped the night unscathed by hangover, which left me most of the day Saturday to fuck around (before going to the Sub Pop music fest in Georgetown that night, featuring Mudhoney & Built To Spill).

On a lark, I started following DJ’s Sportscards on Facebook and noted they had a 25% off sale in celebration of their 25th anniversary.  As a child, I collected massive amounts of football cards.  Starting in 1988 and running through 1990 (with a little spillover into 1991), I was treated to a pack or two of football cards every week (as I had pretty nasty allergies and had to go in for allergy shots 1-2 times a week).  1988 Topps (of which I now have a complete set), 1989 Pro Set, Topps, and Score (of which I have a smattering), and 1990 Pro Set (of which I now have a complete set, which is pretty massive and required a lot of help from eBay).  My furor for buying packs of cards started to wane in 1991 (my tenth year of existence) in favor of buying individual cards of my most favorite players (which would cost more money, but were much more satisfying to display).

Over time, I gave up on football cards altogether in an effort to amass the biggest collection of rock n’ roll compact discs you’ve ever seen (at one point, I was signed up for Columbia House’s CD club under three different family names, to buy the minimum and quit, before starting all over again).  Nowadays, I keep my sports memorabilia to a minimum.  Part of that has to do with the fact that there haven’t been too many Seattle sports stars of late that I’ve wanted to openly display my affection for.  Part of that has to do with me not having a whole lot of disposable income (until recently).

But, with the knowledge of Felix’s long-term extension, and with guys like Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and Richard Sherman on the Seahawks, I can feel the bug starting to burrow itself into the part of my brain that’s willing to throw money around in large clumps.

So, with nothing else to do on Saturday, I went to DJ’s Sportscards and bought a box of 2012 Topps football cards (specifically 2012 Topps Magic).  24 packs per box, 8 cards per pack, with a guarantee of 3 autographs per box.  Truth be told, these are some pretty cool-looking cards, with lots of different types of random inserts (and, for some reason, identical cards that are 2/3 the size of a normal card).  I was hoping to get a rookie Russell Wilson, but no dice.  I did get two different RGIII rookies, two different Luke Kuechly rookies, two different Doug Martin rookies, two different LaMichael James rookies, a Kirk Cousins rookie and a Stevan Ridley rookie.  And, for some local flavor, I got a Jermaine Kearse rookie, a Sidney Rice, a Robert Turbin rookie, a Chris Polk rookie (for some reason, even though he hardly played last season), a Golden Tate, and a Bobby Wagner rookie.  The signed cards were less than impressive:  Quinton Coples, Ryan Broyles, and Montario Hardesty.  Also, randomly, this set includes some old timers, so I have the likes of Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Barry Sanders.  One box gets me nowhere NEAR the complete set, but I like them enough to at least make a second attempt at a box (which is pretty pricey at over $100, so suffice it to say this won’t be a weekly endeavor).

Which leads me into Sunday, where I woke up once again sans hangover.  At around 10am, with a 1:10pm first pitch, I decided to head over to the Mariners game.  I left my apartment at 11, walked to the Link tunnel downtown, and was inside Safeco by noon-ish.  I bought a ticket at the box office and it was like the lady could read my mind!  I told her I wanted an outfield seat.  She said she could get me in the third row in the lower right field, but if I wanted to sit back a ways, I wouldn’t be surrounded by so many people.  I told her that sounds delightful, let’s try to get me on an aisle.  So, I sat in the first seat in the last row in section 108 and pretty much had the row to myself for the first couple innings before people started filling in around me.

The Mariners featured a dream line-up for me (which goes to show you how uninteresting my dreams are):

  1. Brad Miller (SS)
  2. Nick Franklin (2B)
  3. Raul Ibanez (LF)
  4. Kendrys Morales (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Justin Smoak (1B)
  7. Michael Saunders (RF)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Dustin Ackley (CF)

Sundays are so often squandered with giving guys days off (or “rest” even though, come on, it’s baseball, you can’t play every day?) and playing your bench.  I can’t stand it!  But, we were treated to a day without Jason Bay, without Henry Blanco, without Brendan Ryan, and without Endy Chavez.  Who could ask for anything more?

On the line, we had a bunch of compelling stories.  First and foremost, would the Mariners extend their team-record string of games with a home run to 22?  Answer:  yes, thanks to Michael Saunders’ two-run bomb in the second inning to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

Also on the line:  would guys like Miller, Franklin, Seager, and Smoak continue their hot-hitting ways?  Answer:  yeah, sort of.  Miller went 1-4 with a run scored to bring his slash line to .246/.324/.393.  It’s not the best line you’ve ever seen, but after a semi-slow start, it’s exciting to see what this kid is capable of.  Franklin went 0-1 with three walks in his first three plate appearances, to bring his slash line to .268/.337/.451.  He’s a little on-base machine and it looks like he’s going to be putting up high-quality at-bats and making life miserable for opposing pitchers for years to come.  Seager went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk, to bring his team-leading line to .293/.359/.488.  This guy is going to be a perennial All Star VERY soon.  And, finally, Smoak went 2-3 with a walk, a double, and a run scored to bring his line to a very-respectable .272/.372/.431.  Those are four guys who represent a core foundation for this team.  When was the last time we could say we had four hitters we could count on?

Shit, fuck that, because there’s also Ibanez and Morales to consider.  SIX!  Six guys we can count on in our line-up!  Unreal.

The third storyline:  what about our struggling youngsters?  Saunders, Zunino, and Ackley.  Well, like I said above, Saunders had that 2-run homer in his 1-3 day.  He’s currently batting .225, but it feels like any time now he’s going to go on a hot streak and bring that up to the .260-.270 range.  Zunino, I would argue, is looking better every day.  He had a hit and a sac-fly to bring in a run (in a text-book manufactured run-scoring situation in the fourth inning, with a single, a walk, and a Saunders sac-fly preceeding Zunino’s RBI).  Also, Zunino’s strong throwing arm makes me quiver with sexual excitement, so there’s that.  Ackley, unfortunately, has not brought his success in Tacoma with him to the Majors.  He went 0-4 and is still batting .205.  His at-bats don’t look QUITE as hopeless as before he was sent down, but he’s not getting any kind of results either.

The final storyline going into this game was Hisashi Iwakuma.  Coming into this game, he was riding a string of five consecutive sub-par starts:

  • 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts in Oakland
  • 7 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts vs. Oakland
  • 8 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts vs. Chicago Cubs
  • 6 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 1 walks, 2 strikeouts in Texas
  • 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts vs. Boston

All told, that’s five starts, a little less than 6 innings per, with 6 and a half hits per, 4 and a half runs per, less than 4 strikeouts per, and a whopping 10 total homers.  Not good numbers for any starting pitcher, but ESPECIALLY not good for a guy going into his first All Star Game.  You’ve got people talking about how he didn’t deserve the honor (even though he had the American League’s leading ERA when he was picked) and you even have people talking about trading him at this year’s deadline to see what we can salvage from him.  For the record, I don’t think we should trade him.  I think he had a cold streak as all pitchers do.  Still, it was important for him to come out and be on top of his game.

And, to his credit, he was very strong against the Angels.  7 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 homer, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts.  The homer was a solo shot by Mark Trumbo, but for the most part he was able to keep them off-balance and spread the hits out.  After a shaky 6th inning where he gave up 2 runs to bring the game to within a run, I thought Wedge was playing with fire by keeping him in there.  At that point, batters 1-8 had all seen him three times (with #9 hitter Erick Aybar already having gone 2-2).  Yes, his pitch count was low (in the 80s), but with the top of the lineup (featuring best player in the game Mike Trout in the 2-hole) coming up in the 7th, I didn’t like our chances.  But, again to his credit, Iwakuma went out there and shut ’em down in order (punctuating it with a strikeout of Trout).

Which brought up a bonus storyline:  how would the bullpen fare?  To be sure, the bullpen has struggled to say the least this season.  Not this time, however, as Furbush nailed down the 8th inning hold and Tom Wilhelmsen (still in a sort of time-share with the closing duties) locked up his 19th save of the season.  I like Wilhelmsen (well, really, I like all these guys, more or less), so I hope he’s able to turn it back on and start dominating again.  Of note was his complete lack of any strikeouts today.  His strikeout rate is pretty pisspoor, so that’s gonna have to change.

Nevertheless, the Mariners won 4-3.  It’s the first sweep of the season, and their first 3-game winning streak since the beginning of May (there is no 4-game winning streak).  They go into the All Star break 9 games under .500 and still in fourth place in the AL West, but they also go into the All Star break on an 8-5 streak.  We’re not talking about the Mariners in contention or even scratching their way back into contention.  Right now, we’re just talking about some exciting baseball.  With the kids starting to improve by the day, relying less and less on the veterans to win ballgames.  And, we’re talking about the team trying to save the jobs of Eric Wedge and Jackie Z.  The second half should be VERY interesting (that is, until the Seahawks start to take over the city like a rampaging Cloverfield).

All in all, a great weekend for geeking out on sports, comedy, and music.  To put a capper on it, they introduced the All Star Game jerseys.  They’re blue and pretty cool looking, so when I got home after the game I bought a Felix jersey.  It should be here in a week or two, and I plan to wear the hell out of it.

Can Richard Sherman Win Defensive Player Of The Year?

***Update 12/27/2012*** Aaaaaannnnnd Sherman has been acquitted.  Free at last!

Well, for starters, not making the Pro Bowl is a bad sign.  But, that probably says more about the Pro Bowl than it does about Sherman’s abilities and his status as the best cover-corner in the NFL.

Nobody’s really talking about this right now (not tooting my horn or anything; I just haven’t seen any articles on the topic), so let’s take out the possible suspension of Sherman for Adderall for the sake of argument.  I don’t know if you’re allowed to win any awards if you’re suspended for this, but my gut tells me either way, by the simple fact that we have these allegations, there will probably be people who leave him off their ballots entirely.

There have been 41 winners of the D-POY award.  15 have been linebackers, 9 have been defensive ends, 7 have been defensive tackles (including Cortez Kennedy in 1992), 5 have been safeties (including Kenny Easley in 1984), and 5 have been cornerbacks.  So, right there, it’s pretty rare to have a cornerback win the award.

When you think about the D-POY, what do you think of?  You think of a defensive player who has made the biggest impact in the league.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, you have to like the chances of a guy who’s going to the playoffs over a guy who doesn’t.  Only 6 players who’ve won the D-POY did not participate in the playoffs that season (with Cortez Kennedy being the most mind-boggling in this regard, coming off of a 2-14 season with those ’92 Seahawks).  You also gotta figure he’s on a defense that’s in the top half of the league.  There’s only one player who was on a defense ranked worse than 14th and that’s Reggie White in a 1987 strike-shortened season where the Eagles missed the playoffs; their defense was ranked 23rd out of 28 teams.  Still, when you’re Reggie White and you get 21.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and a touchdown, those are the kinds of undeniable numbers you can’t ignore.

Richard Sherman is on a top-flight defense (easily in the top 3 in the league in most catagories).  Richard Sherman’s team is also going to the playoffs.  Those are two big checks in his favor.  Of course, they’re not the ONLY things voters look at.

Going back, you’re talking about a guy who makes the biggest impact; what does that mean?  Having a lot of tackles is great and all, but tons of guys have a bunch of tackles.  Those won’t separate you from the pack.  Impact plays are, in no particular order:  sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and touchdowns.  Then, when you’re talking about cornerbacks, you’ve gotta look at Passes Defended, you’ve got to look at number of penalties against, you’ve got to look at number of targets (i.e. how many times that player was challenged by the opposing quarterback; because if a quarterback is avoiding that side of the field due to the level of competition on defense, that’s a HUGE impact), and finally, I’m sure the voters do the ol’ Eye Test.  Does he LOOK like a defensive player of the year?  This could go any number of ways.  They can watch the games, they can watch highlight packages, they can read about him in local and national articles, they can hear what players and coaches say about him.

Anyway, that’s what you’re looking at.  I’m just a humble blogger, so I don’t know things like how many times he was targeted, or what the players are saying about him.  But, there are plenty of websites that can give me the hard stats.  First, let’s take a look at past winners; specifically, past winners who were cornerbacks.

What does it take to be a cornerback and win the D-POY?

  • 2009 – Charles Woodson (Green Bay):  2 sacks, 9 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 65 tackles, 18 passes defended.
  • 1994 – Deion Sanders (San Francisco):  6 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 34 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 1993 – Rod Woodson (Pittsburgh):  2 sacks, 8 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown, 95 tackles, 23 passes defended.
  • 1980 – Lester Hayes (Oakland):  13 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown, an unknown number of tackles & passes defended (because these were not recorded stats back then).
  • 1975 – Mel Blount (Pittsburgh):  11 interceptions, an unknown number of tackles and passes defended.

I don’t know a thing about Mel Blount, but I know he played for the Steelers.  The Steelers in the 1970s had one of the most fearsome defenses in the league.  A Steeler won the D-POY 4 times out of the first 6 years the award was given out, all in the 70s.  I gotta think that’s a major reason why Blount won it in ’75 (plus, you know, 11 interceptions is pretty fucking insane for a cornerback).

I don’t know much about Lester Hayes either, but that’s a pretty damn good season.  Plus, he had some cachet back then.  If you’re a cornerback and you have eyes on the D-POY award, you’ve got to have some name recognition.  Hayes (for being just a brutal hitter and tackler), Rod Woodson, Deion (Primetime) Sanders, and Charles Woodson all have HUGE name recognition.  Normally, the best athletes are reserved for offense.  It’s pretty rare to be the best athlete on your team and also play corner.  In the case of these last four guys, you’re talking about just that.  You’ll also notice that a lot of these guys have returned kicks in their days; not a coincidence.  If your best player is a cornerback, you do whatever it takes to get him on the field with the ball in his hands.

Of the five guys listed above, I think Rod Woodson’s season was probably the most impressive.  I mean, 95 tackles for a corner?  Are you KIDDING me?

Anyway, let’s take a look at Sherman’s numbers for reference:

  • 2012 – Richard Sherman (Seattle):  1 sack, 7 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 touchdowns, 53 tackles, 23 passes defended.

He’s up there in interceptions, which is good.  He’s got some forced fumbles, he’s got a couple touchdowns, he’s got a ton of passes defended, and he’s even got a sack for good measure.  These are all numbers right in line with the best seasons of any cornerback.  So, let’s look at some of the other great cornerbacks this year.

  • 2012 – Charles Tillman (Chicago):  3 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 touchdowns, 71 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Tim Jennings (Chicago):  8 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 19 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Patrick Peterson (Arizona):  7 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries, 50 tackles, 15 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Champ Bailey (Denver):  2 interceptions, 58 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Johnathan Joseph (Houston):  2 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets):  3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 28 tackles, 13 passes defended.

In case you were wondering:  those are the six starting cornerbacks selected to this year’s Pro Bowl.  Whether you agree with the decision or not, these are six premiere corners and thus need to be taken seriously as competition with Richard Sherman for D-POY.

If you look among the league leaders, Sherman is tied for 2nd with 7 intereptions (Jennings is alone at the top with 8).  In forced fumbles, among defensive backs (including safeties), he’s tied for 7th in the NFL with 3.  Tillman has a GROTESQUE 10 forced fumbles to lead the league, regardless of position.  If you take the safety position out of the equation, then Sherman is tied for 2nd among cornerbacks with 3.

If we just stick with cornerbacks, it’s only Sherman and Tillman and everyone else.  Tillman has forced a combined 13 turnovers.  Sherman has forced 10.  Both have multiple touchdowns.  Both have name recognition.  Tillman has been in the league for 10 years, so he has a little MORE name recognition, but still.  People know who Richard Sherman is, and they will only continue to know who he is.  He leads the league in opposing quarterback rating when he’s thrown at.  Don’t know where Tillman ranks, but based on the fact that he has nearly 20 more tackles, I gotta think opposing quarterbacks don’t fear him quite as much.  It’s not opposing QBs’ fault that their wide receivers keep getting stripped by the guy.  Likewise, Sherman has nearly 10 more passes defended.

Looking elsewhere, J.J. Watt is getting a lot of pub down in Houston.  As a defensive end, he currently has 20.5 sacks.  Aldon Smith for the 49ers has 19.5, but you can see his play has tailed off considerably with Justin Smith injured.  Getting punked by Russell Okung in primetime surely didn’t help his chances either.

As for the linebackers, you’ve got a dark horse in Arizona by the name of Daryl Washington.  He’s got 123 tackles and 9 sacks to go along with an interception and 2 forced fumbles.  You’ve got London Fletcher with Washington:  128 tackles, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 10 passes defended.  Then there are the big dogs in tackles – Luke Kuechly (151, with 1 sack, 2 INTs), Chad Greenway (145, with 3 sacks, 1 INT), NaVorro Bowman (144, with 2 sacks, 1 INT), and Jerod Mayo (142, with 3 sacks, 1 INT).  I’m going to say, with his name recognition, and the fact that everybody LOVES the guy, I’m putting London Fletcher as the clubhouse leader among linebackers.  He’s got a nice stat spread that could go a long way in this race.

I don’t think there are any serious contenders among the safeties.  The usual suspects – Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed – have either been injured, or less stellar than in years past.

That leaves us with four legitimate candidates:

  • London Fletcher
  • J.J. Watt
  • Charles Tillman
  • Richard Sherman

My hunch?  I really like London Fletcher’s chances.  Remember when they gave Denzel Washington the Academy Award for that awful Training Day movie?  This is kind of like that.  A belated award to an industry veteran who’s at the top of his game while slumming it.  In the case of Fletcher, “slumming it” means he’s on a TERRIBLE defense, but is the one shining vision of glory holding things somewhat together.

But, I don’t necessarily think anything is decided yet either.  Will Sherman win his appeal?  That’ll go a long way.  Will Sherman close out the regular season in dramatic fashion?  Maybe he gets another interception, scores another touchdown, keeps the national focus on himself.  Do they put into consideration playoff performance?  I don’t know, but if they do, then Sherman will have more opportunities to shine.  I would wager:  more opportunities than either Fletcher or Tillman.

A lot of things up in the air for the D-POY award.  It’s not impossible for Sherman to win it, but right now I’d say he’s a longshot.