Time To Kick It Into Higher Gear, Seahawks

I don’t know much about cars; do you really kick gears?

The Seahawks did a great and impressive thing last week:  they stepped toe to toe with one of the better offenses in the league, and they came out on top.  When you look at the probable major players for the NFC playoffs, you’re going to have to overcome some impressive offenses:  Arizona, Green Bay, and Carolina (even though nobody thinks of them as having an impressive offense, go really look at the numbers they’re putting up this year with essentially no one but Cam).  It’s going to be vital in some of these potential playoff matchups (if, indeed, that’s where the Seahawks end up) to have our offense clicking to match theirs.

On the flipside, we have this week’s matchup against the Vikings.  They DON’T have an impressive offense.  In fact, it’s pretty feeble.  It’s Adrian Peterson and A LOT of game managing out of their quarterback.  But, their defense is rock solid in just about every aspect.  When you look at teams like the Vikings, Arizona and Carolina again, and to a lesser extent the Falcons, you’re going to see some good defenses in the playoffs as well.  Getting our guys going against these stout fronts will make all the difference in getting back to a third Super Bowl in three years.

Finally, the big thing about this week’s game is that this is the last really good team we’re going to face until the playoffs (if you think like I do, that the Cards will be resting the bulk of their starters for the bulk of that game in week 17, as they’ll have the 2-seed wrapped up by then).  I see this as the true litmus test of the second half of this season.  To date, until defeating the Steelers, the Seahawks had lost every game against every quality opponent they faced.  They’re now 1-4 in those games, with – as I mentioned – one final test to go.  If these are the same Seahawks we watched struggle to a 4-5 start, then I would put all my money down on the Seahawks LOSING this weekend in another heartbreaker.  BUT, if they’ve somehow turned a corner (like they did towards the end of 2014 and 2012), then the Vikings will be just another mediocre opponent we’ll have no trouble defeating by 7-10 points.

The formula couldn’t be simpler:  stop Adrian Peterson and you stop the Vikings.  At that point, it’s just a matter of getting to 17-20 points to give yourself enough of a cushion to withstand any late-game heroics.  Do I think the Seahawks are capable of doing that?  Mmm, I think anything’s possible.

As I mentioned in my review of the Steelers game, I like our defense to make a big leap forward in the coming weeks.  I like Shead as our other starting corner.  I like getting Lane back and him having a full game under his belt.  I think we’re JUST starting to get our groove back as a whole, defensively.  But, I think it’s highly probable that we’re not giving Teddy Bridgewater enough credit for limiting mistakes and getting the ball into the hands of playmakers.  The Vikings have a good, young receiver (Stefon Diggs) and a quality, underrated tight end (Kyle Rudolph), and I think they’ll be able to move the ball through the air just enough.  I also think it’s impossible to stop Adrian Peterson for a full 60 minutes.  We’ve got a very good run defense, but then again, is it good because of the long line of stiffs we’ve been playing against?  Take a look:

  1. The Rams, pre-Gurley (Benjamin Cunningham led with 45 yards on 16 carries)
  2. The Packers, featuring Fat Eddie Lacy (James Starks actually led with 95 yards on 20 carries)
  3. The Bears, featuring Jimmy Clausen & no Alshon Jeffery (Forte, with 74 yards on 20 carries)
  4. The Lions, ’nuff said (Ameer Abdullah with 33 yards on 13 carries)
  5. The Bengals, featuring Disappointing Jeremy Hill, and playing from way behind (Giovani Bernard with 80 yards on 15 carries)
  6. The Panthers, first solid rushing team (Jonathan Stewart with 78 yards on 20 carries)
  7. The 49ers, ’nuff said (Carlos Hyde with 40 yards on 11 carries)
  8. The Cowboys, no Romo (Darren McFadden with 64 yards on 20 carries)
  9. The Cardinals, decent rushing team (Chris Johnson with 58 yards on 25 carries)
  10. The 49ers again, this time no Hyde (Shaun Draughn with 37 yards on 12 carries)
  11. The Steelers, primarily a passing team (DeAngelo Williams with 29 yards on 8 carries)

I mean, really, LOOK at that list!  Carolina ran the ball well, aside from J-Stew.  Starks had a solid game.  Bernard burned us pretty good at times.  But, NONE of those guys are even close to what a healthy A.P. can do.  Are we SURE the Seahawks’ run defense is that good?  We’ll find out this weekend.  If it isn’t as good as we thought, we’ll be in big trouble.

Lose this game and it’s not necessarily the end of the world.  Drops us to 6-6, with three easy games (at an injury-riddled Baltimore Ravens; home vs. Cleveland; home vs. the Rams – who we always beat at home) and another potentially-easy game against the Cards.  10-6 would still be possible with a loss this weekend.

But, a loss also leads to shifting expectations.  I don’t think we’d have any business believing that this is a championship team.  If we can’t beat the Vikings, what would make us believe that we’d beat a try-hard Cardinals team, or a still-good Packers team, or a flawless Panthers team?  We’d be making the playoffs just for the sake of being there, and we’d probably get bounced in the first round by the winner of the NFC North.  Especially if that team is the Packers and we have to go back to Green Bay again, this time in the bitter cold.

A victory in Minnesota this weekend, however, puts a total re-set on the season.  It would mean the Seahawks ARE legit, and they HAVE flipped the switch at the exact right time.  At that point, I’d expect the Seahawks to win out, nab that 5-seed, and go into the winner of the NFC East and DESTROY them with ease.  My excitement level for the final four weeks will be off the charts.

As a closing aside, the last few years we’ve been talking about the great dynasties of past decades.  The Vikings of the 60s, the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s, the Cowboys of the 90s, the Patriots of the 00s; but, one “dynasty” I’ve always had a soft spot for is the Buffalo Bills of the early 90s.  Yeah yeah, I know, they lost four straight Super Bowls, and from a historical perspective, they’re laughingstocks.  But, do you know how IMPOSSIBLE it is for a team to go to four straight Super Bowls?  The Dolphins went to three in the early 70s (winning two), everyone else it’s two in a row or less.  Just getting to four straight Super Bowls, even winning none of them (though, coming to within a missed field goal of winning that first one) is an all time miracle of professional football.  That’s being consistently good enough to be dominant year after year, while at the same time catching fire in the playoffs.  And the Bills weren’t beating up on a down conference, either!  They had Marino’s Dolphins, Esiason’s Bengals, Moon’s Oilers, Schottenheimer’s Chiefs, and Elway’s Broncos to contend with year-in and year-out.  Some of the greatest players and coaches of all time coached in this era, and still the Bills went to back-to-back-to-back-to-back Super Bowls.  Unreal!

I’m not making an argument that I’d trade places with those teams or anything, but I like the idea of the Seahawks making a serious run at going to four straight.  Well, this would be year three.  In years 1 and 2, the Seahawks were division winners and top seeds in their conference.  In years 1 and 2 for Buffalo during their run, the Bills were division winners and top seeds in their conference.  In year 3 for the Bills, they had some struggles and finished second in their division.  But, they nabbed the top Wild Card slot, won a crazy playoff game where they came back from being down by 32 points (still the greatest comeback of all time), and scratched and clawed their way back to their third Super Bowl (knocking off the #1 seed in the Divisional Round, then beating their divisional rival in the Championship Game).

This year’s Seahawks team looks like it’s headed for a Wild Card spot.  We already had our huge “comeback game” against the Packers last year, but who’s to say we don’t win some crazy Wild Card game this year, face the Panthers in the Divisional Round, and then have to go down to Arizona for the NFC Championship Game?

For what it’s worth, that fourth Bills team easily won its division and reclaimed their #1 seed in the playoffs.  So, we have that to look forward to, if my prophecy comes to fruition (except, no more getting beat in the Super Bowl, thx).

The Hellacious Seattle Seahawks 2015 Season Preview!

There was supposed to be three full days of previews – befitting the excitement level of going into yet another Championship Season in this current Championship Window – but my dad picked up a cold over Labor Day weekend, which remained dormant in my body until Tuesday afternoon, when it revealed its presence, dragging down my fragile frame in the process.

The subsequent two days were spent in various states of repose, between my couch and my bed, filling my body with a steady diet of bananas and Vitamin C while I filled carefully folded bundles of toilet paper with mucus from my ever-running nose.  I’m still nowhere near 100%, but season previews don’t write themselves!  So, here goes nothing.

As you could probably tell from this post, I’m pretty high on the Seahawks getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it yet again.  In fact, I’m higher on the Seahawks THIS year than I was last year, when we were essentially the same starting units on both sides of the ball less a couple key components.  Where the 2014 Seahawks really bought the farm was in the loss of Golden Tate.  Had we never made the trade for Percy Harvin, and instead focused on giving Tate the deal he deserved, the rest of the receivers on this team would’ve slotted out where they were supposed to be, and we wouldn’t have been throwing a goalline pass to Ricardo Lockette of all people on our final offensive play of the Super Bowl.  But, it’s not fair to lay all the blame on one guy (or lack thereof), when the real culprit of 2014 was a lack of quality depth.

That’s where 2015 comes on to shine.  Harvin and Tate have been replaced by rookie Tyler Lockett.  Turbin and Michael have been replaced by Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls (two steadier and more capable backs).  Willson and Helfet get knocked down to the second & third tight end spots with the trade for Jimmy Graham.  Our pass rush that was – by season’s end – pretty much just Bennett, Avril, and Irvin, gets bolstered with the addition of rookie Frank Clark, and the growth and maturity (and hopefully health) of Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill.

2015 should also offer additional gains out of our already-established stars.  Guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tharold Simon should all see considerable improvements in play as they enter the primes of their careers.  And, while guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are coming off of significant injuries, it’s still fair to expect their very best play, as we would with veterans like Bennett, Avril, Okung, Mebane, Lynch, and Chancellor if/when he ever shows up again.

If you assume everyone will be healthy all year (which, I understand, is ridiculous), then on paper the only real weakness we’re looking at is the offensive line.  You could make an argument for secondary depth being the primary weakness, but as long as the rest of the defense is able to stay on the field, it should more than make up for what’s going on opposite Richard Sherman.  The O-Line is truly the problem area, but I also feel that’s a bit unfair.

For starters, when you compare the O-Line to the other position groups on this team, OF COURSE it’s going to rank dead last!  But, more importantly, I would argue this position group has always been a little bit neglected from a talent perspective, and they’ve made up for it by employing one of the very best O-Line coaches in the league.  AND, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have gone to two straight Super Bowls with two pretty sub-par offensive lines, and it hasn’t prevented us from winning yet.

They tinkered with it in the pre-season and came away with a starting five that’s as good as it’s going to get (since we can’t really afford to bring in quality outside help).  But, that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it’s ever going to be.  We’ve got three guys – Britt at left guard, Nowak at center, Gilliam at right tackle – who are getting their first professional starts at their respective positions.  Will it be a struggle early?  I think, from what we’ve seen of the running game this pre-season:  yeah, it’s going to be a little ugly.  This O-Line is going to struggle against the better D-Lines in the league (which makes it utterly horrific that we have to play the Rams in week 1), but it’s going to look downright competent against the lesser D-Lines.  And, I think these guys have a real chance to mature and gel, to where by season’s end, we’ll be looking at a solid group of guys on an offense that’s humming along with the best of ’em.

When even your weakest point is still good enough to be argued into a strength, you know you’ve got a great team on your hands.  I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that this team has the potential to be better than their 2014 counterparts, with a ceiling being at the 2013 level (which is really saying something, because I’ll always believe the 2013 Seahawks were one of the all time greatest teams in the history of the league).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns.  There are always reasons to worry, especially early in the season.  Will Earl Thomas be back to his usual self?  Will Kam Chancellor ever end this idiotic holdout?  Will Richard Sherman make it through the full season?  Will the offense mesh well with Jimmy Graham, or will they try to force it to him too many times, stalling too many drives?  Will the O-Line be able to open holes for Lynch?  Will Russell Wilson be a better pocket passer?  And, most importantly, in an overall sense:  will the key players and key positions be able to stay healthy?

Health is the ultimate X-Factor.  I say it every year, and ever year it’s no less true.  Poor health can take a championship team and prevent them from even making the playoffs.  It can rear its ugly head at any time – and often at the worst of times – leaving you grasping at straws for a solution.  Did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because of the one goalline play?  Or, did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because our entire fucking secondary was injured, and Cliff Avril had a concussion that reduced our pass rush to nothing, thereby allowing the Patriots back into a game we were controlling?  You can make compelling arguments for either, but the fact remains the same:  if the Seahawks were mostly healthy in that game, it probably doesn’t come down to a goalline pass in the first place.

So, that’s what you’ve gotta do:  pray for health and let the chips fall where they may.  Let this be the last word on health for the rest of this preview.

The first half of this season is fairly tough.  Five of eight on the road, five of eight against 2014 playoff teams, and not very many soft landings.  Let’s run through the schedule to see where we are.

Week 1, at St. Louis, 10am

Honestly, I have my doubts about this one.  I know I probably shouldn’t; I know they’re going through something similar on their offensive line as we are, and I know their starting two running backs are both injured, but I can’t help but look at this game and see our offense struggling.  I see Lynch getting bottled up, I see growing pains with Graham, and I see the Rams doing just enough on offense to kick one more field goal than us.  I’m putting my life savings on this game being within one score either one way or the other, and if you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you the Rams come out on top in this one, 16-13.

Week 2, at Green Bay, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

Bounce back game, and one the Seahawks desperately need (with tie-breakers and whatnot).  I know the Packers will be fired up, and I know their fans will be insane after a day’s worth of tailgating, so it probably won’t be easy coming out of the gate.  After a sluggish first quarter, I expect the Seahawks to move the ball with regularity and defeat the Packers with ease in the second half.  Somewhere along the lines of 31-20.

Week 3, vs. Chicago, 1:25pm

This one should be a walk-over, but I expect the Bears to put up a bit of a fight, as they’ve got some nasty, talented guys in Jeffery and Forte.  But, given that this is Seattle’s home opener, I’d look for the home team to jump out to an early lead and keep it pretty comfortably in the 1-2 score range the rest of the way.  33-27.

Week 4, vs. Detroit, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

The return of Golden Tate!  There’s no way he doesn’t make a big play or two in this game.  But, with Seattle back home for a primetime game, I’m expecting another win for the good guys.  Maybe not quite the blowout we’re used to, but we’re going to scratch it out.  27-24.

Week 5, at Cincinnati, 10am

I’ve been wary of this game from the moment I saw it on our schedule.  Something about road AFC games in the morning, teams we rarely get to go up against, and them having just enough talent to get by.  I’m on record as hating on Andy Dalton pretty hard, but I think he’s going to go into this game with extra focus in not turning the ball over.  Combine that with the fact that this game isn’t in primetime and I think you’ll see Good Andy Dalton on this day.  Plus, their running game is legit, and they’ve got enough talent at receiver to move the ball on us if they want.  I see an upset here, with Cincy taking us down 20-13.

Week 6, vs. Carolina, 1:05pm

Notice we can’t help but beat on Carolina every damn year and no one ever talks about them getting fired up for us like they do about the Packers getting up for us.  Pretty much, Carolina is Seattle’s younger brother, and we can’t help but hold them down, rub our asses in their faces, and fart repeatedly until they call mom to get us to stop.  No change here.  I expect something along the lines of 27-14.

Week 7, at San Francisco, 5:25pm (Thursday Night)

The 49ers are going to be terrible this season and I expect them to look terrible whenever we play them.  Without Gore, I expect their running game to be non-existent.  Without Harbaugh, I expect their offense to be pathetic and their overall output to be among the worst.  There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a cakewalk, in a long line of ugly, unwatchable Thursday Night Football games.  Seahawks 38, 49ers 3.

Week 8, at Dallas, 1:25pm

This game would normally scare the bejesus out of me, and scream “Third Loss Of The Season!”  But, I dunno.  I like the Seahawks with 10 days to prepare.  I like the Seahawks a week before their BYE.  I like the fact that the Cowboys embarrassed us on our home turf last season.  And, quite frankly, I like how Dallas has zero home field advantage to speak of whatsoever.  I predict a huge following by the 12’s, I predict a solid day out of our offense, I predict a return touchdown from someone (probably Lockett) and ultimately I predict a Seahawks victory, to the tune of 24-23.

Week 9 – BYE

Week 10, vs. Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

I’d be shocked if Carson Palmer isn’t injured at this point in the season, but even if he’s managed to stay healthy, I don’t expect the Cards to be as good.  This game feels like a gift from the scheduling gods – at home, after a BYE, on Sunday night?  Are you kidding me?  This has blowout written all over it!  26-9.

Week 11, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

Just played them three games ago, I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome.  Seahawks 30, 49ers 7.

Week 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:25pm

Three home games in a row after a BYE!  That’s what I’m talking about!  This one looks like a difficult matchup.  I like the Steelers’ offense a lot, particuarly their passing game.  I don’t care for their defense, but that hasn’t stopped some fringey defenses from coming in here and making us look bad.  Ultimately, I think this game will be a shootout, and I think it’ll prove to be the most exciting game of the entire season.  And, as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Steelers come in here and steal one.  They have JUST the right mix going for them:  veteran quarterback, difficult to take down or rattle in the pocket, superstar wide receiver, superstar running back.  I just think they’re going to expose us the way no other offense on our schedule will.  Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 30.

Week 13, at Minnesota, 10am

I like Minnesota’s rebuilding plan.  They’ve got a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, with a hungry Adrian Peterson and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a lot of potential.  He might not ever be an MVP of the league, but I think he can lead this team to some winning seasons in his career.  In this game, I like the Seahawks to bounce back on defense and make life difficult for the Vikes.  Seahawks 17, Vikings 6.

Week 14, at Baltimore, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

This might be the most hyped non-divisional, non-playoff game on the horizon.  Two sterling franchises, two stud quarterbacks, two sound defenses.  All the storylines in the world, from Lynch vs. Forsett, to Pete Carroll vs. The Other Harbaugh, to this being a matchup of two of the last three Super Bowl winners.  Both teams should be in great positions in the standings by this point (likely leading their respective divisions) and I think we’ll all be talking about how it’s a real strong probability that this is the eventual Super Bowl matchup in February.  A lot of people will predict a Ravens victory, but I just like the Seahawks too much in primetime.  I see Seattle winning 27-23.

Week 15, vs. Cleveland, 1:05pm

Please, dear lord, give me one chance to see Johnny Football obliterated by the Seahawks in Seattle.  It’s all I ask.  Seattle 28, Cleveland 0.

Week 16, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

No tricks, just hardnose football.  The Seahawks make up for the week 1 defeat as we almost always do this time of year when the Rams come to town.  This game effectively wraps up the division, if not Home Field Advantage, pushing the Seahawks to 12-3 on the season.  20-13, Seahawks.

Week 17, at Arizona, 1:25pm

I don’t expect the Seahawks to need this victory, so I don’t expect many of the starters to play for too long.  As a glorified pre-season game, I see the Seahawks going down to the Cardinals 28-17.

12-4 is pretty tame for a #1 overall seed, but with tie-breakers over the Packers and Cowboys, I think it’s just enough.  What we have to hope for at that point is that we don’t get stuck playing the Rams, or some other difficult defensive team in the playoffs.  As always, I’ll take a battle of offenses over a grudgematch on the defensive side of the ball, as I think our defense is better than most any offense you can put on the field.

Now, all we have to do is play the games.  NBD.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 14

I think, regardless as to how it plays out, as a fan you’re always happy when your team is able to win its division.  You’re ecstatic when your team is able to finagle its way into a first round BYE.  And, you’re on cloud nine when you’ve got home field throughout the playoffs.

At this point, I wouldn’t put a lot of confidence in Seattle’s chances at getting that top seed in the NFC.  Even if we win out – which I DO have a lot of confidence in us achieving – we’ve got the Cowboys and the Packers to contend with.  The Packers have 3 losses with 3 games to play:  at Buffalo, at Tampa, and at home vs. Detroit.  It’s certainly not IMPOSSIBLE for the Bills to beat the Packers, but it would go down as a VERY big shock to the NFL landscape.  It would require an uncharacteristically bad game out of Aaron Rodgers and/or an early game-ending injury out of Aaron Rodgers.  So, for your sanity, just count on that being a win for the Packers.  Tampa is about as hapless as it gets, so don’t even go there.  That puts the onus on the Lions in week 17, playing in the frozen climate that is Green Bay.  Certainly, the Lions have the best chances of anyone to beat the Packers in this regular season slate, but don’t be shocked if they fall short.

Then, there’s Dallas.  Yes, the Tony Romo & Jerry Jones & Jason Garrett-led Cowboys.  I know they’re the laughingstock of the league (non-Bay Area edition) and that they always fall apart in December and are the kings of mediocrity, but they’re a thorn in our side and they’re driving me crazy.

They have a tiebreaker over us based on our head-to-head matchup, because we somehow let them come into our home and walk all over us.  The ONLY reason why we’re in the playoffs right now and they’re not (if the season ended today) is because Detroit also shares a 9-4 record with us.  In a 3-way tiebreaker with the Lions and Cowboys, we come out ahead on wins in common games and conference games.  But, if the Lions fall out of that 3-way tie, then the first tiebreaker immediately reverts to head-to-head matchup, which as I said before, Dallas wins.

That’s a problem!  While the Cowboys have the most difficult remaining schedule (at least, in my opinion) the rest of the way (at Philly, vs. Indy, at Washington), it’s not impossible for them to win those games.  Philly has flaws (as we just witnessed), Indy has flaws (as the Browns just exposed), and the Redskins are terrible.  If Dallas wins out, and Seattle wins out, and Green Bay wins out, then we’re looking at Green Bay & Dallas as the NFC’s top two seeds, with the Seahawks hosting either the Lions, Eagles, or Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs (sending us to Dallas in round 2 if we were to win, followed by a road trip to Green Bay or back to Seattle against either the winner of the NFC South or whoever comes away with the 5-seed in the NFC Championship Game).

It’s discouraging that the Seahawks don’t control their own fate beyond the NFC West.  Everyone just ASSUMES the Cowboys will lose a game between now and season’s end, but that’s far from guaranteed.  Ideally, we’re going to need Philly to win at home against the Cowboys this week, otherwise things might get VERY hairy.

But, getting back to my original point, as a Seahawks fan, you just want to see the Seahawks get in.  Of course, it’s better to have that first round BYE, but it’s by no means ALL IMPORTANT for the Seahawks to have that in order to advance to the Super Bowl.

The two Super Bowl teams in franchise history have had the luxury of home field advantage throughout.  That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, as it’s pretty fucking difficult for teams to come in here and win.  But, there’s something to be said for being a team that can win the tough ones on the road.  If things go as planned, and the Seahawks win out, we will finish the season 7-1 at home and 5-3 on the road.  I know, it’s not like we’re talking about big time road warriors or anything; but if the Seahawks who lost in St. Louis and San Diego (and Kansas City, for that matter) were playing as well as THESE Seahawks have been playing against the Cardinals, 49ers, and Eagles, you’d be looking at a team that’s cruising into the top overall seed.  In any event, the Seahawks have won twice in a row on the road against supposedly really good teams.  It took a bunch of flukey shit for us to lose in St. Louis.  We were pretty injured for that Chiefs game.  And it was 120 degrees in San Diego way back in week 2.  If you shuffled this year’s schedule like a deck of cards and caught some of these teams during their weaker moments, who knows where we’d be right now?

The point is, I like that the Seahawks are looking at having another winning road record.  I like the fact that CenturyLink Field has already been demystified by losses to the Cardinals late last year, and to the Cowboys earlier this year.  We’re NOT just a team that’s impossible to beat at home!  We’re a well-rounded team that can win anywhere, at any time of day.  Under the white lights of a national audience, we only get stronger.  You can’t say that about everyone.  I mean, shit, the Cowboys are only 3-4 at home!  Who’s afraid of going to Dallas to play THEM in the playoffs?  That atmosphere is as sterile and impotent as anything Santa Clara has to offer, with all the comforts of being in a climate-controlled environment.  Shit, at this point, that sounds a HELLUVA lot more inviting than playing under potential rainstorms in Seattle!

Regardless, these Seahawks are a scary bunch.  No one in football wants to play us at our best.  Don’t forget, when you’re talking about the Seahawks, you’re talking about the Champs.  The target is still on us, remember?  Except, it’s really not.  Not anymore.  So many people (Seahawks fans included, myself especially included) wrote off this team earlier this year.  They’re still focused on Green Bay and the big dogs in the AFC.  And yet, if you really think about it, where does the pressure lay?  The Packers can’t afford to lose another game, otherwise they might fall out of the top 2 seeds.  The Cowboys can’t afford to lose another game, otherwise they might fall out of the playoffs entirely.  Same goes for the Eagles, Cardinals, and Lions.  And sure, the Seahawks are in danger if they screw up somehow, but does anyone REALLY see that happening?

The 49ers are a Chernobyl right now.  The Cards have their hands full tomorrow in St. Louis, with another road game in Santa Clara sandwiching a home game against us; color me unimpressed with Arizona’s so-called home field advantage.  Don’t forget, we handled them pretty easily down there last year.  Then, in week 17, we get our usual home date with the Rams.  The Seahawks don’t lose at home to the Rams in week 17, it just isn’t DONE!

Yes, the Seahawks could use some help around the NFC to get one of those top two seeds, but I’m not going to go out and say they NEED help.  The Seahawks are in control of their own fate regardless.  Two playoff games before the Super Bowl or three playoff games before the Super Bowl, it doesn’t matter.  The Seahawks ARE going to the Super Bowl, and it seems like we’re the only people who know it.

***

  1. Green Bay Packers (10-3) – Some things are even more powerful than my first-place jinx.  And those things are the Atlanta Falcons and their defensive ineptitude.
  2. Denver Broncos (10-3) – This running the ball horseshit needs to end now, or else I’m going to be 2001 Mariners’d out of the fantasy football playoffs this year.  Gonna need Sanders to have a nice, big game this week.
  3. New England Patriots (10-3) – Getting a lot of heat this week about a possible Seahawks/Patriots Super Bowl.  Not gonna lie to you, I’d be for it.  Over/under on the times people use variations on the phrase U Mad Bro?:  7 million.  I’m taking the over.
  4. Seattle Seahawks (9-4) – Number four with a bullet!  To be frank, I think the Seahawks could beat any team in the nation right now, the way the defense is playing.  But, there has to be a penalty for that mid-season swoon.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Every team from here on down has serious flaws that will cost them in the playoffs.  I can’t trust their defense, and I still think Luck is a little too mistake-prone for comfort.
  6. Detroit Lions (9-4) – The defense is solid, but the offense is oddly inept.  It’d be pretty rad to see the Lions match up with the Seahawks in the playoffs, though.
  7. San Diego Chargers (8-5) – I don’t much care for their defense or their running game.  I also don’t much care for their remaining schedule; they’re by no means a lock to make the playoffs.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) – Obviously, there are issues at quarterback and in the secondary.  Just need them to take care of business this week and after that, who gives a shit?
  9. Arizona Cardinals (10-3) – Again, big time trouble at quarterback.  Only, they don’t have Nick Foles possibly looming on the horizon to save them.
  10. Dallas Cowboys (9-4) – Very good up and down on offense.  But, Tony Romo’s struggles have to be in the back of your mind at all times.
  11. Baltimore Ravens (8-5) – Easiest remaining schedule of the bunch in the AFC North.  Gotta like their chances to run the table.  Plus, their defense should get healthy come playoff time.  Scary team in the AFC, to be honest.
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) – Too up & down to be threatening.
  13. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) – Just not that good.
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) – Even worse than the Bengals, if that’s possible.
  15. Miami Dolphins (7-6) – Probably needs a quality head coach.  Wouldn’t mind seeing Jim Harbaugh there next season if I’m a Dolphins fan.
  16. San Francisco 49ers (7-6) – Obviously time for a change.  They should see if they can trade Harbaugh & Kaepernick to the Dolphins for Tannehill and a mid-round pick.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. St. Louis Rams (6-7) – Honestly:  the team I fear the most in the Seahawks’ remaining three games.
  2. Houston Texans (7-6) – At worst, they’ll be 8-8.  At best, probably 9-7 and on the outside looking in at a playoff spot.
  3. Buffalo Bills (7-6) – At best, they’ll be 8-8.  At worst, at least they’re staying in Buffalo and have discontinued those awful Toronto “home” games.
  4. Cleveland Browns (7-6) – Good GOD is Hoyer a fucking disaster!  I’ve seen paper airplanes made by 6 year olds fly with better accuracy than his footballs!  Also, don’t ask what I’m doing around 6 year olds with paper airplanes.  NO COMMENT.
  5. Minnesota Vikings (6-7) – Pretty brutal schedule the rest of the way, but at least it looks like they’ve got the best rookie quarterback of the bunch this year.  That’s not nothing!
  6. Atlanta Falcons (5-8) – Don’t blame the Falcons for losing to the Packers.  After all, they did us a solid by taking out the Cards.  You can’t expect them to do EVERYTHING for us.
  7. Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) – I, uh, yeah.  I dunno.  They got home games against Tampa and Cleveland before a road game in Atlanta.  The Falcons’ other games are home against Pittsburgh and at New Orleans.  The Saints go to Chicago and Tampa for their other two games.  I’ve got the Panthers at 6-9-1, the Falcons at 6-10, and the Saints at 7-9 (with an outside shot of them also losing at Tampa, which would be the ultimate fuck you to the NFL playoff system).
  8. New Orleans Saints (5-8) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  9. Chicago Bears (5-8) – They’re really blowing the last good years of Matt Forte’s career.  You hate to see it.
  10. New York Giants (4-9) – With Eli, ODB, and maybe an explosive running back in next year’s draft, we could see the Giants turning this thing around as early as next year.  Watch out, America.
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) – Look, it’s pretty obvious that they’re angling for Marcus Mariota, and I for one hope they get him.  My question is:  do I go out of my way to draft Mariota next year in fantasy?  I play in a QB-heavy keeper league, so the answer to this question is kind of important.
  12. Washington Redskins (3-10) – If they’re smart, they’ll cut RGIII loose, fire Jay Gruden, and hang Dan Snyder with piano wire.
  13. New York Jets (2-11) – Can you imagine if there was a Ryan brother who focused exclusively on being an offensive coordinator?  Would every play be a Hail Mary?
  14. Oakland Raiders (2-11) – OK, you beat the 49ers, so you’re solid in my book.
  15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) – Blake Bortles or no Blake Bortles, if the Jags get the number one pick, I still say they continue to go after a quarterback until they get it right.
  16. Tennessee Titans (2-11) – You are one pathetic loser!

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 16

Had all gone according to plan, one of two things would have happened:  either the Seahawks would be 13-2 right now, having beaten the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, or the Atlanta Falcons would’ve completed their comeback last night and knocked the 49ers out of the running for the NFC West title.  Shockingly (regarding the Seahawks’ defeat) and yet predictably (regarding Atlanta Couging it), we’re here right now needing one of two things to happen:  either the Seahawks finish the season 13-3, having beaten the St. Louis Rams next Sunday, or the Arizona Cardinals do their best Arizona Cardinals impression by taking out the 49ers (also next Sunday).

This part of my Tuesday post was supposed to be about what the Seahawks should do now that they’ve got the #1 seed all wrapped up.  Various schools of thought abound.  Some say:  give your starters the week off.  The rest (and eliminating the risk of injury) is far more important than whatever hocus pocus you believe in with regards to momentum or “staying in rhythm”.  For every team that lost in the divisional round after resting their starters for two weeks, you’ll find a team that went to the Super Bowl after resting their starters for two weeks.  That theory is in direct conflict with the Rust Theory.  Want your players to get rusty?  Then, by all means, take them out of their regular weekly routine.  It’s better to keep playing every week; why, just look at such and such team that played all their starters even though they didn’t need to!  They didn’t get injured and never missed a beat through the playoffs!

My solution is pretty simple:  treat this like the final pre-season game.  Split reps in practice, then play the starters for one quarter (or two series apiece).  It gives them a chance to get their work in, it gives the starters a chance to go through the regular start-of-game ritual, it lets the starters run around and get hit a little bit, it lets the starters rest after the first drive, and it has the starters come back out after resting.

Of course, there are caveats.  First and foremost, if any prized starter is knicked up in the least, you don’t play that prized starter.  Anyone you see with a little gimp (like a certain set of wide receivers), anyone with a history of back issues (Marshawn Lynch), anyone who COULD play – if the game mattered – but probably shouldn’t play … that guy is getting his helmet taken away, end of story.

The main positives are twofold:

  1. You rest your stars, limiting the opportunity for injury, while still letting them get some reps in
  2. You give your backups extended playing time, just in case they’re needed if someone goes down in the playoffs

This was supposed to be what we looked forward to next Sunday.  Instead, we’ve got agita and doubt.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DID I WANT MARSHAWN LYNCH PLAYING AGAINST THIS RAMS FRONT SEVEN!  If anyone could use a week (or two) off, it’s Lynch!  I want him fresh as fresh can be for this championship run!  I don’t want him getting banged around by yet ANOTHER awesome-sauce front seven!

This fucking sucks like you would not believe.  I hate the Rams.  I don’t hate the Rams like I hate the 49ers or Cardinals.  I hate the Rams because they scare me.  I hate the Rams like you hate a respected rival who ISN’T a total cock & balls.  The Rams fans don’t give a shit about buying a billboard in your town; the Rams players won’t be on their sideline eating Skittles just to taunt us.  They just go out, bust their asses, smack you in the mouth, and give you everything you can fucking handle for 60 God damned minutes.

That having been said, I don’t seriously think they’re going to win on Sunday, but after the Cardinals game, I can’t 100% rule it out either!  I do believe our offense is going to figure its shit out and come out whaling.  Our defense is still the tops in the league and surely won’t take kindly to the Rams doing what the Cardinals did at the end of the game.  Fortunately, the Rams are sort of Cardinals-lite (which means we should handle them a bit easier), but that still doesn’t mean I enjoy the idea of banging bodies with them for four quarters.

This is the kind of game, the kind of matchup, that sees a team run into a slew of injuries.  We’ve spent the past 15 games being tenderized by some of the best defenses in the league, from Carolina to Frisco to Arizona to New Orleans to Houston (when they were decent) to Tennessee (when they were decent) to Tampa (when they almost shocked the world) to the fucking Rams again!  After this week, I’d like to see a ranking of teams, from the Most Dominant Defenses Faced to the least.  I bet the Seahawks would ranke PRETTY high on that list.

Regardless, Objective #1 is to Win The Game.  A distant second would be:  avoid injuries.  Any way you slice it, the Seahawks are going to want that home field advantage, and the only way we’re going to get it is by beating the Rams.  We sure as shit can’t count on the fucking Cardinals!

Isn’t it funny how the Cardinals and the 49ers have been in the same division since 2002 – same time the Seahawks joined – and yet those two teams don’t hate one another NEARLY as much as both of those teams hate the Seahawks.  I’d like to think it’s due to our sustained success since we entered the NFC West, but really it’s just this particular team of the last couple seasons.  They HATE us so much!  The Cardinals hate us so much that they wouldn’t mind so much if they lost on Sunday, as long as it meant the Seahawks fell to the #5 seed.  They hate always hearing about our home field advantage, they hate hearing about our 12th Man, they hate it when we always dominate on Sunday Night & Monday Night Football.  And they hate our players.  Our brash, foul-mouthed, cocky players.  For the Cardinals, last weekend was their Super Bowl.  There’s no WAY they’re able to match that intensity against the 49ers!  Not when they know they’re depending on the 4-11 Bucs to go into New Orleans and somehow come away victorious; it’s never going to happen!  The Cards, as of that Interception Return For Touchdown last night against the Falcons, are done.

Sure, they’ll try to win the game, like all athletes do when on the field of battle.  They’re not just going to roll over and let the 49ers walk into the endzone.  But, they’re not going to be NEARLY as Berzerker as they were against the Seahawks.  And, because they’re the fucking Cardinals, they’re surely going to show their true colors.  Carson Palmer will be just as ineffective and reckless with the football.  Their receivers will be just as mediocre.  Their running game won’t be nearly as effective.  And, their defense will forget all about what they did against Russell Wilson and let Colin Kaepernick run wild.  You just watch.

On to the rankings.

***

The Best:

  1. Seattle Seahawks (12-3) – Well, if the Seahawks lose again and fall to the 5-seed, the final Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings are going to look VERY different this time next week.
  2. Denver Broncos (12-3) – And Peyton Manning takes over the lead for all time touchdowns thrown in a season.  They’re still not out of the woods, and will almost certainly need to try their hardest next week in order to keep that #1 seed, so look for Manning to only add to his NFL record.

The Second-Best:

  1. Carolina Panthers (11-4) – This team scares me more than any other simply because their defense is so good.
  2. New England Patriots (11-4) – Way to break the spirit of the Baltimore Ravens a week after their miracle victory briefly kept their playoff hopes alive.
  3. New Orleans Saints (10-5) – On the plus side, you clinched a playoff spot.  You just need to win next week, while the Panthers lose to the Falcons, and you still get that division.
  4. San Francisco 49ers (11-4) – Gonna be a shame to see a 12-4 team have to go on the road in the playoffs.  A real fucking tragedy.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – With that win, IN Kansas City, and as impressive as it was, you (at least temporarily) earn your way into Contender status.  Don’t blow it.
  6. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) – Well, that was embarrassing!

The Rest:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) – The generic football fan in me hopes they beat Dallas and make the playoffs.  The Seahawks fan in me hopes Dallas comes through, because they’re terrible.
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) – The good teams find a way to go undefeated at home (currently 7-0 with one game to play).  The great teams figure out a way to be better than .500 on the road; considering you likely won’t have home field throughout, that doesn’t bode well for your playoff chances.
  3. Arizona Cardinals (10-5) – Well, nice job beating us.  You kept your playoff hopes alive for a day.
  4. Baltimore Ravens (8-7) – Did I or did I not predict this would be an 8-8 team when the season started?
  5. Chicago Bears (8-7) – I don’t like Jay Cutler.  Bears fans have to be with me, right?  This team just plays better with McCown (and, not for nothing, so does Matt Forte).
  6. Miami Dolphins (8-7) – You can’t give away the last playoff spot in the AFC!
  7. Detroit Lions (7-8) – Wow Lions.  Just wow.  You went from 7-5 and having the inside track on the division to 7-8 and totally done.
  8. Dallas Cowboys (8-7) – Way to make next week’s game matter!  That’s the Cowboys I know and love.  Always stringing their fans along, then crushing their hopes at the last possible second.  I call it Romo-ing.
  9. St. Louis Rams (7-8) – I really don’t like needing to win against this team.  They’re too good on defense and too well-coached.  I don’t care IF this game is in Seattle, I’m tired of playing the Rams in week 17 to lock up our spot in the playoffs!
  10. San Diego Chargers (8-7) – The Chargers are doing a pretty good job of Romo-ing, themselves.
  11. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) – I think it’s absolutely adorable that the Steelers are still somehow “alive” for a playoff spot.
  12. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) – As soon as I saw it was Matt Flynn one more time, I knew my fantasy week would be doomed once again with a sub-par Jordy Nelson effort.
  13. New York Giants (6-9) – Give them their due, there’s no quit in this team.
  14. New York Jets (7-8) – Somehow, you just had to know the Jets would beat the Browns, even though the Browns have looked pretty decent this second half, while the Jets have been an aborted fetus in a trashcan.
  15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) – I don’t know where you take any hope from this team.  Can Mike Glennon REALLY be the guy?  He doesn’t pass my eyeball-test, but what do I know?
  16. Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – Could’ve done us a solid there by beating the 49ers.  Could’ve REALLY been a pal, but no.
  17. Buffalo Bills (6-9) – Somehow, you just had to know the Bills would break the Dolphins’ hearts.
  18. Cleveland Browns (4-11) – Cleveland, just know that losing was in your best interests.  You’re that much closer to drafting a top 5 bust next year!
  19. Tennessee Titans (6-9) – You weren’t swept by the Jags.  Something for this coaching staff to hang their hats on (as they’re looking for new work this offseason).
  20. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1) – Way to just lay down and die against the Bengals.  Now THAT’S how you tank!
  21. Oakland Raiders (4-11) – Not to be out-done by the Vikings, the Raiders really screwed their own pooch against the Chargers.
  22. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars!  #WhatDrugs
  23. Washington Redskins (3-12) – They looked pretty feisty, but still lost.  I’m telling you, they’re in cahoots with the Rams!
  24. Houston Texans (2-13) – Whatever you do, don’t win next week, and don’t believe that Case Keenum can be a starting quarterback in this league.  Just hope and pray that some team will flip you a late-round draft pick for him and move the fuck away.

Would You Look At That: Seahawks Defeat Bears

I don’t know what to tell you.

In my last Seahawks-related post, I finished with three paragraphs that sort of read like a Keys To The Game type of thing.  To recap:

… Chicago isn’t like the Perfect Team or anything.  They’ve got a quarterback who’s prone to meltdowns.  They’ve got a running back who’s prone to injury.  They’ve got one wide receiver who should be shut down by either one of our soon-to-be-suspended cornerbacks.  They don’t appear to have a tight end or any other receivers of note.  We SHOULD, theoretically, be able to shut down their offense.

Well, their quarterback (Jay Cutler) had a better passer rating than Russell Wilson as he threw for 233 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs.  Certainly no meltdown there.  Their running back (Matt Forte), while prone to injury, made it through the game incident-free as he tallied 96 total yards and a TD.  Their wide receiver (Brandon Marshall) was seemingly unstoppable as he caught 10 balls for 165 yards, including a 56-yard pseudo-Hail Mary with the game in the balance to set up the overtime-forcing field goal.  Granted, no one else on their offense showed up, but with that kind of production, they didn’t really NEED to show up.  Moving on:

Their defense is stout, but it’s aging and it’s banged up.  And they seem to thrive only when getting turnovers.  That could be to our advantage; if we’re able to keep from coughing up the football, we should be able to move it on them well enough.

We fumbled on our opening drive, which set up their opening touchdown, but after that we were more careful.  And it proved effective, as we gained 459 yards of total offense.  It wasn’t the greatest offensive performance ever, but for a team playing on the road (especially THIS team, who SUCKS on the road), color me damned impressed.

In a close game, anything can happen.  Why do I see us winning this game when we failed so miserably last week?  Call it a hunch.  Or call it blind homerism.  Call it whatever you want, I’m just glad I don’t have to watch.

Can’t get much closer than overtime.  And from the looks of things, just about anything DID happen.

I watched the entire first half.  In that first half, I saw a Seahawks defense getting manhandled.  Their initial TD drive was TOO easy.  The follow-up drive that led to them failing to convert a 4th down was likewise TOO easy.  While I don’t necessarily believe that decision to go for it decided the game, I do think it was fortunate.  They bungled a couple of opportunities to convert and go up by 14-0.  If I’m in Lovie’s shoes, I would’ve been pretty fucking confident in the Bears’ abilities to move the ball up and down the field, even after failing to convert that 4th down.

Somehow, the Seahawks settled down, they engineered a touchdown drive late in the second quarter, and they ALMOST engineered another one before time expired!  As things stood, the Seahawks were up 10-7 at halftime.  On the one hand, confident that we weathered a pretty nasty shitstorm; on the other hand, this was still the Seahawks on the road.

What shitstorm?  Well, you can’t really overlook all of these close calls going against us.  I’m not going to pin it on the refs:  the Lynch fumble WAS a fumble, those Bears fumbles caught lucky bounces (for them) and even though we left the pile with the balls, it still clearly looked like – in both cases – the fumbler fell on the ball first.  That overturn of the TD right before the half was a LITTLE questionable, but I can see why it was indeed overturned.

That could’ve been bad.  That last break going against us; the coaching staff must have done a marvelous job of calming everyone down at halftime.  I’m sure the players were PISSED OFF by that point.

I was on the road for most of the third quarter, but arrived at my destination in time to see the Bears take the lead.  I ended up missing all of the fourth quarter, but a chorus of cheers in another room led me to the TV where I saw replays of Rice’s go-ahead score.  I figured it was over, but of course, we’re talking about the Seahawks on the road.

And yet, the Seahawks came out in overtime and flat-out got the job done.  Russell Wilson, by all accounts, was extraordinary (293 yards passing, 71 yards rushing, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers).  I don’t know if he was the best player on the field (there was, after all, Jon ‘MVP’ Ryan), but I would venture to say he was the best quarterback on the field.  The fact that we’re saying that after a road victory in Chicago in December really says a lot.

This win, coupled with the 49ers losing to the Rams, opens up a ton of possibilities.  The Niners still have to go to New England, and they still have to come to Seattle.  If they lose to the Patriots, and Seattle wins out, we’re talking about Division Champs.  Division Champs HOSTING a playoff game.

It’s too early to get excited.  Give me another week or two, though.  I may be frothing at the mouth by Christmas.

Chris Clemons Is Happy Now

He got his deal.  I don’t currently know the terms of the deal, but it’s a deal.  Some kind of extension taking him through the 2014 season (apparently).  In short, he’s happy, he will come to Training Camp on time, and I guess it’s time to tip-toe around all that bitch-talk from before.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I understand everything about the game.  What I failed to acknowledge in the Bitch Post is the Franchise Tag, which is a very real (and apparently, very prison-like) possibility that pays someone like Clemons an average of the Top 5 salaries at his position.  For whatever reason, making even MORE millions of dollars on a 1-year deal is a fate worse than Hell.  I guess people have no faith in their abilities to stay healthy anymore.

It makes you wonder why a player would even LET himself get to a contract season.  I mean, obviously, if the Chris Clemons scenario is any indication, if you hold out the offseason BEFORE your contract year, you’re going to get what you want all the same.

Yeah!  Let’s just hold everyone hostage!  Damn the torpedoes!

I’m sorry, but I’m firmly NOT in the player’s camp in most of these hold-out situations.  Unless you’re a Drew Brees and you have JUST broken the all-time single-season passing record (or whatever his equivalent is, which I will remind you, doesn’t incorporate very much of the NFL), or if you’re Matt Forte and you essentially ARE the offense of the Chicago Bears, then you don’t really have much of a leg to stand on and you need to honor your deal.

To which, the natural response is:  Why?  NFL teams don’t honor their contracts!  They will cut you to save cap at the drop of a hat!

Yeah, well, they wouldn’t do that if you lived up to your deal!  If you produced at a level to which you deserved an inflated balloon payment at the end of your deal, then I’m sure the team would bend over backwards to keep you around!  But, if you start coming down with hangnails, or start letting your age reflect your level of play, then you DESERVE to be cut.  Here’s to hoping you invested your money wisely so you can have a nice, comfortable retirement, however premature it may be.

But, whatever, I’m off my soapbox now.  Chris Clemons is back, and I guess that makes me glad.  After all, having more talent is better than having less.  Clemons, regardless of how I disagree with his negotiation tactics, is still a talented defensive end who should continue to produce at a level worthy of keeping around.  For 2-3 more years?  Sounds good to me.  Let’s get this team together, let’s have a fucking amazing Training Camp, and let’s show the world what the Seahawks can do in 2012!

A Companion Post: Who Might Want Beastmode Besides Seattle?

One thing I failed to explore in the previous post is:  what’s the market look like for a guy like Marshawn Lynch?

Yes, the Franchise Tag is a good cost-cutting tool when trying to re-sign a player.  But, a complete and utter lack of teams desiring to sign an over-priced running back is probably the best thing the Seahawks could ask for.

Of course, on Lynch’s side, you’ve got the age-old adage:  it only takes one.

So, let’s just go around the league.  For starters, you can count out the NFC East.  Dallas has any number of quality young backs already locked in (including super-stud DeMarco Murray who is sure to be a fantasy god for years to come).  The Giants appear to be set with Bradshaw and whoever else behind him.  The Redskins have a nice little stable of young backs.  And the Eagles have Shady McCoy (and, I imagine, not a whole lot of cap room to boot).

In the NFC North, I’m banking my life-savings (and one of my fantasy keepers) on the fact that they will retain Matt Forte.  Minnesota obviously has one of the very best backs in the league.  The Detroit Lions, however, could be interesting.  All they’ve got on their roster right now is Jahvid Best, and he’s a fucking injury waiting to happen!  It’s certainly NOT a good sign that he ended his season with concussions last year.  And, you’d have to think that for a young team trying to cultivate this bad-ass attitude, a guy like Beastmode would slide right in nicely.  Even MORE interesting are the Green Bay Packers.  You’ve got a team with an all-world quarterback, with a shitload of receivers, and with absolutely no running game to speak of whatsoever.  Ryan Grant is a free agent who has played his last game with the green and gold; James Starks is good, but he’s no Beastmode.  I gotta think Lynch might be just the piece to put the right balance into that explosive offense.

The NFC South will be no competition.  Atlanta still has a lot of money tied up in Michael Turner.  New Orleans drafted the top running back last season (and they have other money tied up in three or four other guys); plus, theirs is not an offense that would make any sense for a guy like Lynch.  Carolina still has three running backs (including the guy who takes snaps from the center).  And Tampa is a young team that will never in a million years put in the money it would take to get Lynch.

As for the other teams in the NFC West:  San Francisco has Gore, St. Louis has Jackson, and Arizona has Wells.  They all seem pretty committed to their guys.

You know who scares me more than any other team in the NFL?  The New England Patriots.  Think about it, they were THIS close to winning it all this past season!  What were they missing?  What are they ALWAYS missing?  A balanced offensive attack!  Let’s face it, Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger.  Yes, I know the Patriots like to skimp on their running backs (just as they like to bank draft picks for future drafts), but at one point or another, they’re going to have to cash in before it’s too late.  That crack about Tom Brady not getting any younger:  the same can be said for him not getting any BETTER.  Tom Brady is as good as he’s ever going to be; it’s all downhill from here.  One of these seasons, his skills are going to erode.  He’s not going to see the open receiver soon enough, he’s going to force more and more balls into coverage, he’s going to take more and more hits from ferocious defenses looking to take out the guy while he’s on top.  The Pats could sure as shit use a guy like Lynch to take off some of the load.

And, don’t look now, but Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are both free agents.  They’re not going to hand the ball off to Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen 30 times a game!  Why WOULDN’T they make a huge push to get Lynch and start dominating the Time of Possession in every game?  What’s the downside here?

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins are tied up with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, the Jets seem pretty happy with Shonn Greene and whatever young buck they’re going to slide behind him.  And, of course, the Bills have Jackson and Spiller (plus, duh, they’re the team that traded Lynch in the first place).

In the AFC North, you know damn well Baltimore is re-signing Ray Rice, so forget about it.  The Steelers would be an AWESOME fit for a guy like Beastmode, but they’re still stuck with Mendenhall (plus, they NEVER fork over money on free agents).  Cincy won’t fork over the money it’ll take either.  And the Browns – in spite of his sub-par season – will most likely re-sign Hillis (plus, they’ve got a stable of young backs they could easily throw into the mix should Hillis go elsewhere).

The AFC South has three teams that are simply non-starters.  Houston has not one but TWO massively effective running backs (Foster, who’s a fantasy god; and Tate who – as a backup – nearly ran for 1,000 yards).  The Titans have Chris Johnson and his massively insane contract.  And the Jags have one of the better all-around guys in MJD.

The Indianapolis Colts, however, are a God damned wild card and I just don’t like it!  Now, for starters, if they opt to keep Peyton Manning, then you can just skip to the next paragraph right now, because they won’t have two cents to rub together.  But, let’s say they let him and his $28 million walk:  suddenly, they’re in play!  They will have a rookie quarterback starting from Game 1.  They don’t have a single running back worth a good God damn on their team.  And, the organization will have to do something for its fans to make up for the fact that they just let go of a Hall of Famer (especially if he goes to another team and starts kicking ass again).  I wouldn’t put it past the Colts to do something drastic; mark my words.

In the AFC West, we’re talking about teams who are all pretty much set.  The Chiefs will be looking for Jamaal Charles to bounce back from an early-season season-ending injury in 2011.  The Broncos still have Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.  And the Raiders will still have McFadden; if they re-sign Michael Bush, then all the more reason for them to NOT sign Lynch.

So, aside from the Seahawks, we’re talking about four potential teams:  Detroit, Green Bay, New England, and Indianapolis.  All have ample reasons to sign a back like Lynch; all have ample reasons to not do a damn thing.  There will be other, cheaper options out there (Hillis, Bush, Mike Tolbert, Cedric Benson, Tashard Choice, Justin Forsett, Ryan Grant) for teams like New England and Detroit to snap up, if they so choose to go the tightwad route.  Really, it’s tough to know exactly WHICH of these four teams would be the most likely, considering I don’t know what their cap situations are like.  If I were Green Bay or New England, though, I’d think long and hard.  Both teams were DAMN close this past season.  Both teams had very similar, pass-first types of offenses.  And both teams lost to the same team (the Giants) which could have been avoided had they had a running game.

Something to think about as these Beastmode negotiations continue.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking Ahead

In the finale of our Seahawks Death Week series, I’ll be looking at next year.  How does it look?

Well, I’d probably be nuts if I said it wouldn’t look very similar to this season; at least, as far as the Seahawks are concerned.  If I had to guess, I’d say we retain Marshawn Lynch, we draft a quarterback but he’s immediately implanted as the backup to Tarvar, our defense stays relatively the same as it has been these last few weeks of the season (with Trufant likely gone and Thurmond likely the third corner).

The schedule next year looks a LITTLE fucked, if we base it on this year’s results.  According to the pattern, we are due to play the NFC North next season (Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota) and the AFC East (New England, NY Jets, Miami, Buffalo).  That’s a little rough.  Tack onto that, if we beat the Cardinals this weekend we will have a 2nd place finish in the West (meaning we would play Atlanta AGAIN next year, as well as the loser of the Dallas/Giants game … or maybe Philly depending on how the NFC East tiebreaker shakes out).

Let me break this down for you, in case you need help following along:

  • San Francisco
  • @ San Francisco
  • Arizona
  • @ Arizona
  • St. Louis
  • @ St. Louis
  • Green Bay
  • Detroit
  • Chicago
  • Minnesota
  • New England
  • NY Jets
  • Miami
  • Buffalo
  • Atlanta
  • Dallas/NY Giants/Philly

I don’t care who you are, that’s a TOUGH schedule.  6 games against 2011 playoff teams (maybe 7 if the Jets find a way to sneak in).  And when you factor in the Bears (who were a lock for the playoffs before Cutler and Forte got injured), the always-tough NFC East, and the fact that Miami and Buffalo have been pretty dominant at times this year … it’ll be a rough go.

Here’s what I’m going to fall back on, though.  I DON’T think San Francisco is that good this year (I believe they are going to fall hard in their first playoff game).  The whole “Great Defense/Game Manager QB” thing is okay in small doses, but just ask the New York Jets how that works out for you long term.  I think Frank Gore gets a year older, I think the 49ers get a little more unlucky with injuries, and I think Alex Smith reverts back to his old, mistake-prone ways.  The 49ers won’t be irrelevant next year, but they also won’t be anywhere NEAR 13-3.  I see the 49ers and Seahawks duking it out to see who can get to a 9-7 record.  Ironically enough, the Seahawks will be doing it all next year the same way they have this year:  “Great Defense/Game Manager QB”.  But, hopefully we won’t have to suffer this fate too many seasons thereafter.

If I had to think of some reasons to be excited for next year, I’d point squarely at that defense, which I believe with the experience of this 2011 season, will only make them BETTER.  Lots of forced turnovers.  Lots of teams being held to field goals.  Maybe the Seahawks starting a streak of their own, with respect to keeping other teams from getting rushing touchdowns.

I’d also look at the offensive line.  The younger guys might not have had a full season, but they had half.  And they will benefit from an offseason of coaching (even if they’re still rehabing major knee maladies).  With Beastmode back in the fold, next year should prove to be the best on the ground since Shaun Alexander’s heyday.

As for the reasons to dread next year, it starts and ends with the promise of another 16 games with Tarvar.  Unlike some misguided sycophants out there, I DON’T think Tarvar progressed one iota this season.  I think he looked just as harried and confused as he ever looked in Minnesota!  I also think he benefited greatly from a dominant running game in the second half of the season (like he used to have in Minnesota on all of those 8-8 teams).  Tarvar is no better than a .500 quarterback, and that’s all he’s ever going to be.  Watching him dick around as the pocket around him collapses, refusing to EVER just throw the fucking ball away … it’s more maddening than anything I’ve seen since the Rick Mirer days.

16 more games.  AT LEAST.  Good lord.  Would some kindly defensive lineman PLEASE just roll up on his leg early next year?  I’m begging you!

Why I Have Very Little Confidence In The Seahawks Winning This Sunday

You wanna know why?  Because every single time I get sucked into this team one way or the other (either sucked into believing they’ll contend for a high draft pick, or sucked into believing they’ll contend for the playoffs), they proceed to FUCK me!  It goes back to the whole unpredictability thing about this team.  They beat the Giants, they lose to the Browns.  They beat the Ravens, they lose to the Redskins.

You can see this team is getting better.  Overall, we’re a deeper, more talented team.  The defense is coming on strong with huge performances in three of the last four games.  The offensive line is jelling even as we’re losing linemen hand-over-fist to season-ending injuries.  That’s a sign of good coaching, plain and simple.  From Carroll on down to Bradley and Cable, and even further down to whoever runs the secondary, the linebackers, and the running backs.  We seem to be clicking at the right time.

And yet, I still can’t get that Redskins game out of my head!  Tarvar reverted back to his usual Tarvar-self.  Our defense was getting burned left and right.  Our running game wasn’t nearly as dominant as it has been lately.  We blew that game, plain and simple.  We were coming off of an easy win in St. Louis and we were looking at three straight home games against very-beatable opponents.  And right off the bat!  Pow, our hopes were dashed.  By the fucking REDSKINS!  We were 4-6 going into that game.  We SHOULD be 7-6 now.  The ‘Skins are a terrible team, we caught the Eagles at the perfect time, and the Rams are one of the worst teams in football.  Just THINK of how excited we would all be if things went according to plan!

And, in an instant, that plan was ruined.  Oh sure, we’re still mathematically alive, but does anyone REALLY believe we’re going to take this thing all the way to Week 17 with a chance at cracking the playoffs?  Wouldn’t it be MUCH more plausible if we blew it right off the bat against the Bears?  Falling to 6-8, with yet another team ahead of us in the tiebreaker?  Doesn’t that just FEEL like the way it’s going to go down?  Then, we blow the minds of the 49ers at home, followed by winning a hard-fought battle down in Arizona to finish 8-8 … you know, the stupid way?

I know what you’re thinking.  The Bears couldn’t look any worse right now.  They were one of the very best teams in football, really clicking on all cylinders, and then they lost their starting quarterback followed by their Pro Bowl running back.  What was a great team – with nothing to write home about as far as receivers are concerned – is now a terrible offensive team with no hope in sight.  They couldn’t muster any more than 3 points against the Chiefs (in Soldier Field, no less), and they could only get 10 against Denver before absolutely falling apart. 

I get all that!  But, is Caleb Hanie any worse than Rex Grossman?  And, not for nothin’, but Marion Barber hasn’t been used a whole lot this season, so you know he’s fresh at the very least.  Yeah, he had his miscues last week, but he was still running hard and running effectively before he got Tebow’d.

And don’t discount the power of a great defense, at home, in the cold of Chicago in December.  Even though they’ve lost their last three games, all three defeats have been by 7 points or less (that KC game being the 7; that 7 being a Hail Mary caught for a touchdown).

In other words:  I wouldn’t count on Beastmode surpassing 100 yards.  I wouldn’t count on Tarvar having his best game ever.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole Seahawks offense got completely shut out!  Yeah, we put up the points against Philly and the Rams the past two weeks, but a lot of that had to do with Special Teams and Defense, with the bulk of our offensive output coming on the ground late in the game when we already had it put away.

I wouldn’t count on the Seahawks putting the Bears away anytime soon.  Don’t look now, but all this hope we’re clinging to for a mediocre football team is about to come crashing down to Earth.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

An Ode To The #2 Rushing Defense In The NFL

Let’s face it, the Seahawks haven’t had a really great defense since the ’92 and ’93 seasons.

Back when This Guy was commanding constant double and triple teams

Even in our Super Bowl year, our defense wasn’t “Great”.  It was average, right around the middle of the pack.  What helped was that our offense was so good, we ran the ball a lot which kept the clock moving, and they were opportunistic with turnovers.  Not only did we get a bunch, but we got them in key moments at the ends of games while it was still within a single score and the other team was deep in our end.

Of course, the last couple years the defense has looked like the absolute pits.  For that, I don’t necessarily blame personnel – although being undersized at key positions (cornerback, defensive line) didn’t really help our cause.  No, the last couple years the defense has been bad primarily because the offense has been bad.  Or, in other words, the defense has pretty much been the same as it was throughout the decade, only since Time of Possession was so lopsided against us, the defense was on the field WAY too much and therefore its weaknesses were much more prevalent.

Now, this isn’t an Ode To A Return Of Dominance (if you consider the ’92 and ’93 defenses dominant, which I think they were as close as this team ever got; especially when you consider those offenses were among the worst of all time).  But, this defense IS half-dominant.  Point blank:  you can NOT run on this team!  Exclamation point!

So far, we’ve given up 352 yards on the ground in five games, for an average of 70.4 yards per (which makes it the aforementioned #2 rushing defense in the NFL).  To put that easily in perspective, the Seahawks’ running game is averaging 85.8 yards per game (hint:  the Seahawks’ running game is god-awful; or to be technically accurate, 30th in the league).

Pretty much what I’m saying is, we’ve made other teams one-dimensional.  Granted, Denver running backs don’t scare a wet paper sack, and San Diego pretty much does nothing but throw the ball anyway; but we held Frank Gore to 38 yards (2.2 ypc), Steven Jackson to 70 yards (only 3.2 ypc), and Matt Forte to 11 yards (1.4 ypc).  I don’t know what you’ve heard, but those are some good backs.

To be able to keep teams one-dimensional … that’s huge!  To be able to say, “Look, you’re not going to run on us today, so be prepared to throw it upwards of 40-50 times if you expect to win,” that’s tremendous.  Especially when you consider some of the teams we’ll be playing and their problem quarterbacks: (Arizona twice, Oakland, Carolina, San Francisco, Tampa Bay) … would even their own fans look at their quarterbacks and have confidence that they can go out and single-handedly win them a ballgame?

It’s got to be a huge boost to the defense as a whole.  To know that, pretty much, you’re always going to get to tee-off on the quarterback every single game.

Of course, lost in all this is the fact that our passing defense is 30th in the NFL, giving up 290.8 yards per game … but that’s going to happen.  Especially when you play against Philip Rivers.  More often than not, though, you’re NOT facing the likes of Philip Rivers or Drew Brees.  And in those cases, you HAVE to take advantage of what advantages you’ve got.  In this case, this week, we have to make Max Hall earn it.

Or (hopefully) die trying.