Are You Not Entertained: Seahawks Flush Season Down The Toilet

The game couldn’t have started off any worse.  First drive:  Atlanta marched right down the field for a touchdown.  The defense got caught by a couple penalties and our shaky secondary got picked on.  Jeremy Lane couldn’t have been more useless last night in proving what a collosal drop-off he is from Richard Sherman.  Of course, it wouldn’t be the Seattle Seahawks without more catastrophic injuries, hence the Shaq Griffin loss on the opening drive.  He was replaced by Byron Maxwell, who did okay, but I really would’ve liked to have seen what Griffin could’ve done in this matchup (and I REALLY would’ve liked to have seen what the defense would’ve looked like with Griffin on one side and Maxwell on the other, with Lane in the Dime package, if on the field at all).

Then, as Tyler Lockett brought back his first of many tremendous kickoff returns out past the 50 yard line, it looked like we’d be in for a barn-burner.  Instead, Russell Wilson threw a mind-boggling interception on 2nd & 1, which led to another easy Atlanta touchdown.  On the back of another quality kickoff return, the Seahawks pulled the game back to within 7 points on yet another nifty touchdown to Jimmy Graham, and after forcing the first of only 3 Atlanta punts, it looked like we’d climb back into this thing.

Not so fast:  another disastrous play by Wilson – this time a sack/fumble – led to a defensive touchdown and a 21-7 Atlanta lead.

The Seahawks and Falcons went back and forth the rest of the half, with Atlanta leading 24-17 with a little over a minute left to go.  The Seahawks got into field goal range almost immediately, and then they did what all shitty teams do:  they settled for that field goal.  EXCEPT NOT SO FAST!  They had a fake all lined up and ready to go, which was killed on Twitter all last night and will continue to be killed in Seattle the rest of this week, but I’m telling you right now:  that fake would’ve worked if it didn’t get blown up by Grady Jarrett, who flew past the long snapper and stopped Luke Willson in the backfield.  You stop that guy, and the Seahawks had that thing blocked all the way to the endzone.  Instead, it’s a missed field goal opportunity (which, when you figure you’ve got Blair Walsh, is at best a 50/50 proposition, from any distance 40 yards or closer), and a reason to point fingers at the coaching staff.

The Seahawks moved the ball all day, at will.  I know there were turnovers and whatnot, but Jon Ryan only punted once all day.  Tyler Lockett racked up 197 yards in kickoff returns alone, and the offense tacked on another 360.  Russell Wilson accounted for 258 yards passing, with another 86 yards rushing, and 3 combined touchdowns.  Of course, he gets dinged for the pick and the fumble leading directly to 14 Atlanta points (pretty important when the Seahawks only lost by 3), but yeah, let’s go ahead and put all of this on the coaches.

The way I see it, there was only one time I was disappointed in Pete Carroll, and that’s when he challenged the Doug Baldwin drop.  I know, he’s Doug Baldwin, and believing he caught the ball inspires more confidence than what your own eyes tell you, but you can’t listen to him in that situation.  You’ve got to trust in your staff who – upon seeing that replay JUST ONCE – should’ve been telling you to stay away from that red challenge flag.  And, if the staff didn’t tell you that, then someone should be fired, because they were asleep on the job.  That timeout was WAY more important than stroking some wide receiver’s ego, and I’ll argue that cost us the game more than the fake field goal attempt.

Even still, the Seahawks had a chance.  I tried to predict a Seahawks victory with 3:49 left in the game, down 11 points.  And, sure enough, we marched right down the field, scoring on an impressive throw to Baldwin with 3 minutes to go in the game.  Hell, we even hit the 2-point conversion!  (which, in hindsight, might’ve actually lost us the game, as I have to believe we would’ve been more aggressive in that final drive – as opposed to settling for the game-tying field goal try – if we were down by 5 points).

In the end, the Seahawks got the ball back, down 3, with almost 2 full minutes to go in the game (and no time outs).  And again, they got into Falcons territory super quick … and then proceeded to throw short pass after short pass, instead of going for the jugular and winning this thing in regulation.  I’ll never understand how Pete Carroll can be so aggressive one minute, and so conservative the next.  There’s really no rhyme or reason to it sometimes.

But, there we were, a 52 yard field goal away from sending this game into overtime.  A game we’d been losing since the opening drive, would’ve finally been tied for the first time since 0-0.  It was straight enough, it looked on target, but it fell just under the crossbar for the soul-crushing defeat.  Blair Walsh needs to be off this team going into 2018, that’s all I’ve got to say.  He obviously doesn’t trust his leg – which is why he put all his focus into making sure it was on target, as opposed to putting the oomph required to get the ball to fly 52 fucking yards – he’s a mental case, and he doesn’t deserve to be on this team.  Period.

You can say this about every single loss, but there really is a lot of blame to go around.  Some people blame the fake field goal.  Some people blame the botched challenge.  How about blaming Doug Baldwin for dropping an easy 3rd down conversion late in the game?  Or, how about punting in that situation when you know your fucking defense couldn’t stop a God damn thing?  You’ll notice the Falcons got a field goal right after that sequence, to go up two scores; if we go for it on 4th down and fail, HEY, they’re in field goal range already and maybe we save a couple minutes!

You can blame the dropping-ass receivers, you can blame the refs for clearly looking for reasons to throw flags on us (while overlooking all the holding and interfering the Falcons were doing on very similar-looking plays), you can blame the secondary for not only allowing Julio Jones to do whatever he wanted, but for making the rest of their mediocre receivers look like Julio Fucking Jones.  You can even play Poor Me and blame all the injuries, because if we’re being honest, if you put both of these two teams on the same field at full strength, the Seahawks would wipe the floor with the Falcons.

But, for me, the number one culprit in why the Seahawks lost falls squarely on the defensive line.  Specifically the pass rush, as the rush defense was okay, aside from not tightening up on the goalline.  4 QB hits?  1 sack?  Matt Ryan had all FUCKING day to throw the ball!  And I don’t give a shit if he spent most of the day getting the ball out quick, do you understand how many resources we’ve piled into bolstering this D-Line?  Even without Avril, we’ve got Michael Bennett (big money contract), we’ve got Frank Clark (high draft pick, could’ve been a first rounder if not for his trouble in college), we’ve got Sheldon Richardson (All Pro talent, who we traded away a 2nd round pick for), we’ve got Dion Jordan (taking a flier on the 3rd overall draft pick in 2013), we’ve got Naz Jones (another relatively high draft pick), we’ve got Dwight Freeney (a future Hall of Famer who was non-existent in this game), and we regularly run K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner up the middle on blitzes (two Pro Bowl/All Pro type talents at linebacker).  WE HAVE ALL OF THAT, and all we could muster were 4 QB hits and 1 measly sack?

Un-fucking-acceptable.  All we heard about all off-season and all pre-season was about how the Seahawks were going all in on making the pass rush better, and it looks NO DIFFERENT than it did last year, in spite of the influx of all this new talent.  What a fucking joke; the D-Line should be fucking ashamed of the performance it’s put up this season, and in particular last night.

You’re at home for Christ’s sake!  You’ve got nearly 70,000 screaming fans at your back!  You’ve got the other team scrambling with their silent counts and getting guys lined up correctly, and that’s as good as you’ve got?  Fuck that.  Fuck that and fuck you.

As noted by countless people, this loss knocks the Seahawks out of the division lead and out of the playoffs entirely, if they started today.  But, I mean, who cares now?  It’s not like this team has a Super Bowl run in it anyway.  I mentioned this on Twitter last night and I think it’s very appropriate today:  should we even be rooting for the Seahawks to make the playoffs?  What’s a pointless Wild Card game going to prove?  Give me the Top 20 draft pick.  Get a REAL impact player in here to start ruffling some feathers.

This isn’t a good team, particularly the defense.  It’s really sad to watch.  A once-pround, dominant group has now given up over 30 points in 3 of 10 games.  And sure, the offense looks better than ever, but no one ever said “Offense Wins Championships.”  Russell Wilson is great, and if you were voting on the award objectively (and not based on which team has the most wins), he is clearly the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (because without him, we’d be even worse than the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers, which is saying a lot) – also, for the record, Tyron Smith, left tackle of the Dallas Cowboys, is probably #2 on the Objective MVP list, with how that team has fallen apart since he went down, but that’s neither here nor there.  But, Russell Wilson can’t do it all.  He can’t be quarterback AND running back AND wide receiver AND cover guys on special teams AND kick field goals AND cover guys on defense AND sack the quarterback.  I mean, he’s Russell Wilson, he’s not 53 guys.

I Really Wish I Could’ve Seen The Version Of That Game Where Kevin Pierre-Louis Didn’t Have That Dumb Holding Penalty

Believe me when I say that I would never blame a single play or event as to why the Seahawks lost to Atlanta.  There are SO MANY factors, and not even factors in that game, but across the entire season, and possibly across many seasons.  Having the worst offensive line in the league.  Losing Earl Thomas.  Losing out on the 2-seed by getting beaten by Arizona on Christmas Eve (or, shit, how about losing out on the 2-seed by settling for a fucking tie in Arizona earlier in the year when Hauschka had an opportunity to give us the improbable victory).  An inability of this coaching staff to coach up its depth players for when they’re pressed into duty thanks to in-game injuries.  Those very in-game injuries themselves, like DeShawn Shead and Germain Ifedi.  Russell Wilson being alarmingly inaccurate this season (and in particular on that pass in the third quarter, down by 16, when he had Doug Baldwin wide open in the endzone and overthrew him).  The pass rush not getting home.  Our zone defense being completely and totally ineffective, thereby not giving the pass rush more time to get home.  Our entire blitz package being a complete failure.  Marshawn Lynch retiring before the season.  Trading Unger for Graham.  Signing Percy Harvin.  Letting Golden Tate go.  Losing Dan Quinn as a defensive coordinator.  I could go on and on and on.  There’s never any one thing that decides a football game, even a game decided by one score, but ESPECIALLY a game you lose 36-20.

P.S.  Look who guessed Atlanta would score 36 points this game

And I get that momentum isn’t a thing, so I’ll try to avoid talk of that mumbo jumbo.  But, what IS a thing is being sent backwards from the Atlanta 7 yard line to the Seattle 7 yard line thanks to one stupid fucking holding call on Kevin Pierre-Louis – who was pancaked by the blocker, then proceeded to compound his ineptitude by pulling the blocker down with him like a fucking moron – which led to the Seahawks losing 3 yards on first down before losing the other 4 yards on a safety because our backup rookie right guard stepped on our quarterback’s foot, leading to this fucking Three Stooges scenario where Wilson falls on his ass and gets landed on for 2 points going the other way.

What was a 10-7 lead, with the Falcons forced to punt on a 3 & Out, with Devin Hester – in what I’m hearing will be his final game ever – returning a booming punt 80 yards, with the Seahawks facing first and goal and at a MINIMUM poised to add another 3 points to our total, with a better than average chance of taking a 17-7 lead and changing the entire complexion of the game; instead became a 10-9 lead, with the Seahawks free-kicking it away to the Falcons, who promptly drove it down and went up 12-10, then holding the Seahawks to a 3 & Out, followed by the Falcons going up 19-10, and the rest is history.

All because Kevin Pierre-Louis made one idiotic mistake, which was compounded by a baffling series of mistakes.

Still, I’d like to see what that game would’ve looked like with the Seahawks up 17-7.  Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Maybe we still would’ve lost.  But, I’ll tell you this, we wouldn’t have been trailing 19-10 at halftime in this scenario, with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  Worst case, we probably would’ve been tied at 17 at halftime with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  And, even if things would’ve shaken out like they did for most of the second half, we at least would’ve been within 7 points with the ball late in the fourth quarter.  We at least would’ve had a SHOT!

And, who knows?  Maybe if the Falcons are down double-digits, maybe they start making the mistakes.  Maybe they press, trying to get back in the game.  Maybe Matt Ryan – who was one of the most mistake-prone quarterbacks in the entire NFL just one season ago, when he had a mind-boggling 21:16 TD to INT ratio and led to my keeper league fantasy team dropping his ass in the final week, to avoid even the TEMPTATION of keeping him for another mediocre season – would’ve made some of those Matt Ryan poor decisions that led to so many turnovers in the red zone.  He may end up with the MVP award this year, but he is NOT a good quarterback, and he’s certainly not the most valuable player in the NFL I’m (not) sorry to say.

That game, the one where Kevin Pierre-Louis doesn’t exist, would’ve been SO MUCH more enjoyable.

But, no, I’m not blaming one guy for one massively stupid penalty.  He can go fuck himself for being an overall disappointment though!  One of many duds we’ve drafted and failed to develop since 2013.  Does John Schneider deserve a little slice of blame?  You betcha.  They all do.  Every last man, woman, and child on this team.

So begins Seahawks Death Week for another year.  Where I complain about the season that was, try to keep things a bit in perspective, and look forward to what this team needs to do in the coming offseason to get back on track and start winning their way into the top seed of the NFC again.  Because, apparently, this team is only able to nut up and play with heart when it’s got homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  Without that, it’s one road loss in the Divisional Round after another.

Let’s Not Start Sucking Each Other’s Dicks Quite Yet: The Falcons Aren’t The Lions

Well, that was a sight for sore eyes.  Thomas Rawls looked as good as he ever has, the O-Line had their best run blocking game of the year, the offense dominated time of possession, Russell Wilson mixed in some nice throws, Paul Richardson stepped up big to pick up the slack of losing Tyler Lockett, the defense stuffed the run without Tony McDaniel while getting good pressure on the quarterback, and a game that was 0-0 after the first quarter turned into a comfortable Seahawks victory by the midpoint in the fourth quarter.  It was everything we’ve come to expect from the Seahawks the last few years.

It was everything the Seahawks haven’t been THIS year.

So, that’s it huh?  Bygones are bygones and we can forget this whole inconsistent regular season ever happened?  They flipped the switch and we can all book our tickets for the Super Bowl?

Yeah, I dunno.

It’s one thing to do it at home on Saturday night.  It’s one thing to do it against arguably the worst defense in football.  It’s one thing to do it against a quarterback with a broken finger on his throwing hand.  It’s one thing to do it while getting the majority of the calls from an over-matched referee crew.  It’s one thing to do it when you’re heavily favored and clearly the superior team.  But, it’s quite another to do it on the road next Saturday afternoon, against arguably the best offense in football, against the likely MVP of the league, while contending with a certain over-correction from next week’s referee crew, when we’re sure to be heavy underdogs and clearly the inferior team.

Or, maybe you don’t think that’s totally accurate.  Maybe this performance has swayed you.  I’m trying to avoid the over-reaction to one fine performance, at home, in the Wild Card round, against a team dealing with a lot of injuries.  Sure, the Seahawks are dealing with injuries too, but you know who’s not?  Atlanta.  They’re pretty much as healthy as can be, and they’ve had a week off to get ready for this game.  And maybe you don’t necessarily think the Falcons are clearly superior to the Seahawks.  But, you know who they ARE clearly superior to?  Detroit.

Atlanta’s not going to drop the (approximately) billion passes that the Lions receivers dropped.  Passes that would’ve extended drives, converted third downs, and put them into scoring situations more frequently.

Atlanta’s not going to be gashed for six yards per carry to Thomas Rawls.

Atlanta doesn’t employ hotheads who lose their cool like Anquan Boldin, who cost his team 30 yards of field position.

Atlanta’s not going to consistently over-throw their receivers because of a finger splint.

Atlanta’s not going to abandon the run, because unlike the Lions, they have a solid O-Line and two elite running backs.

And you sure as shit better recognize that Atlanta’s not going to be held to 6 points.  36 maybe.

The same problems with the Seahawks that we’ve been pulling our hair out over all season – and particularly over the last few weeks – are still here, waiting to be exposed by a hungry, talented Falcons team who’d like nothing better than stick it to an over-confident Seahawks team.

Yes, we have revenge on our minds, from 2012, but as someone noted on Twitter last week, I think there’s less than 10 people still playing on this team right now that played in that game.  The Falcons have revenge on their minds too, from earlier this season, on a play they thought they got jobbed on at the end of the game.  Would’ve cost them the 2-seed had it not been for our own incompetence in losing to the Cardinals on Christmas Eve (or any of the other winnable games we lost this year).

I don’t want it to sound like I’m mad that we beat the Lions or anything.  Indeed, another week we get to sit around talking about the Seahawks ALWAYS beats the alternative (which, I suppose, is looking forward to the Mariners, but that’s neither here nor there).  I’m not saying I give the Seahawks absolutely no chance of beating the Falcons.  Honestly, the last time I was so convinced the Seahawks would lose a game was back when we had to go into New England in November.  So, you know, that’s a good sign, right?

I just don’t want to get carried away or go off the deep end, based on one impressive Seahawks victory.  Yes, it would be HUGE if we could run the ball like this the rest of the way.  Yes, it’ll be ENORMOUS if C.J. Prosise returns this week and hits the ground running like he was in that very New England game where he racked up 153 total yards on offense.  And of course, if Paul Richardson can pick up the slack and be the deep threat this team needs to open things up underneath, all of our offensive woes could very well be behind us.

But, without Earl Thomas, and quite frankly with how this defense has been called by Kris Richard the last couple years, I could easily see Matt Ryan and Co. carving up our zone like a turkey made out of warm butter.

I noticed more man-to-man in this Lions game though, so maybe there’s a shifting of philosophy.  Or, maybe that was just a one-game game-plan and we’ll go back to getting eaten alive later this week.  Either way, it’ll be fun to debate it in my head the next few days!

I Don’t Know How The Seahawks Beat The Falcons

You know when you’re a cartoon tough guy getting ready to sock someone right in the puss, and as you’ve got your fist cocked and loaded they come back at you with an apology, and now you’re just standing there teetering on the line between rage and forgiveness?  You’ve got all this aggression inside you, just begging for release, but the target of your aggression no longer deserves to have that violence heaped upon them!  It’s an awkward feeling.  Almost as awkward as the opening to this Seahawks post.

As the third quarter spilled over into the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks drove to the red zone, trailing for the first time all game, I couldn’t help but think about that third quarter, and how easy it had all of a sudden become for the Falcons to move the ball at will.  This drive was do or die, and there we were with 1st & Goal at the 10 yard line.  Crazy run by Michael stuffed for no gain, drop by Spiller inside the 5, incomplete to Kearse in the back of the endzone.  There we were, settling for a field goal, with part of me secretly wishing we’d just go for the jugular and go for it on 4th down.  And then we botched the field goal, and for a minute there, I had to stop watching the game.  I turned the TV off for the next Falcons drive, because no good could have come from it.

I was sitting there, stewing.  Thinking about all the reasons why we were losing.  Hopping mad about how EMBARRASSING the Seahawks looked in the second half.  Breakdowns in the secondary, lack of a pass rush after we’d gotten after Matt Ryan consistently in the first half, Pete Carroll chickening out of a 4th & Inches situation on the Falcons’ side of the 50 yard line, the Falcons – in general – making the halftime adjustments, and our inability to counter, Christine Michael bungling multiple opportunities to plow ahead for first downs, seemingly allergic to contact.  I mean, I could go on and on.

But, then somehow we forced the Falcons to punt!  A miracle!  We drove straight down there, and thanks to a timely pass interference penalty, we were able to punch it in!  All I could think about was how there was still a lot of time left, and maybe it wouldn’t be so hot to be in a tie game with the Falcons at this point.  Sure enough, the extra point was blocked, and my wish was granted!  Of course, I never expected that wish to be granted, but I swear there was some logic being it:  in a tie game, the Falcons are more likely to be aggressive and move the ball down the field through the air – which, to that point, had been like a hot knife through warm butter.  But, if the Falcons were nursing a lead, they’d be more likely to go conservative, try to milk some clock, and otherwise play it safe to avoid the defensive big play turnover.

As it happened, the Falcons had no intention of going conservative.  They threw on their subsequent three plays.  A couple of short-gainers for a first down, and then a slant to Julio Jones, who had abused us all second half.  It tipped off of his outstretched hand and ultimately bobbled its way into the cradling grasp of Earl Thomas for the defensive big play turnover we’d been looking for!

We ended up driving it right back down into field goal range, and this drive really had all the makings of one of those 4-minute, run-out-the-clock type drives where you win it on the last second field goal.  But, Russell Wilson – who ended up having a fine, if unspectacular game – got a little antsy and overthrew a WIDE open Tyler Lockett with a terrible lob pass on 3rd & 3.  Nevertheless, with two minutes to go in the game, we re-took the lead, 26-24.

Shockingly, Matt Ryan threw three straight incomplete passes to Mohamed Sanu before finally going for Julio on 4th down.  In double coverage, with our two best secondary guys draped all over him.  Richard Sherman ultimately got in the way enough to allow the ball to fall incomplete, but God damn was Julio close to catching it anyway.

And don’t think this is me trying to gloss over the fact that Richard Sherman most certainly interfered with the receiver.  But, there’s a clear difference between how Sherm interfered with Julio, and how Atlanta’s Robert Alford interfered with Jermaine Kearse earlier in the quarter.  For starters, Alford is one of the worst cornerbacks in football.  He’s constantly out of position and giving up huge plays.  And, when he’s not doing that, he’s drawing huge flags to further dismantle his team’s chances of getting a stop.  Desmond Trufant is good, but he can’t cover everyone at once!  But, that’s neither here nor there, because whether or not Sherm had a good game yesterday (I don’t know the defensive play calls or the audibles or whatnot, so I don’t necessarily know what his responsibilities were supposed to be), he’s still a great cornerback.  And the great ones know how to interfere with a receiver’s ability to catch the football, while at the same time make it so subtle that the refs don’t see it.

That was a subtle move Sherman put on Julio.  Without gesticulating a lot, just keep Julio’s arm pulled down at his side so he can’t go up with two hands to catch it.  While, at the same time, turning around to make a play on the football.  I’ll admit, I didn’t even notice the interference on first watch; to me, it looked like two guys going up for a football.  And, I’m sure that’s how it looked to the refs who were in the area.  When you’ve got all that, plus you’re talking about an end-of-game situation, they’re usually going to let the guys play.

All in all, it added up to a miracle finish, one the Seahawks needed pretty desperately.

This was the most un-Seahawky game I think I’ve seen in a long time.  Normally, when the Seahawks (under Pete Carroll) struggle to win a game, it’s because we’ve gotten off to yet another slow start.  The offense can’t convert on third down, and the defense helps dig us an early hole.  Then, after halftime, adjustments are made, the opposing offense is held in check, and Russell Wilson & Co. hurry to make yet another breathtaking comeback!  This game was pretty much the opposite of that.  While the offense wasn’t any great shakes in the first half, we did score on half of our drives, which more than compensated for a defense that held the Falcons to all of 3 points in generating a 17-3 halftime lead.  Then, it was the Falcons who made the adjustments, while our defense fell apart to the tune of 21-unanswered.

If you could win games in the third quarter, the Falcons would’ve gotten the better of us!  But, I think I heard somewhere that you can’t win the game in the third quarter.  Just like you can’t win it in the second or first quarters, but that’s neither here nor there.

At halftime, I was convinced this game would be a walk-over.  After the third quarter, it wasn’t even dread, it was full blown resignation that the Seahawks were going to lose.  Thankfully, you can only win games in the fourth quarter.  And so we got the W, but it was costlier than I like.

Michael Bennett was taken out at the knees and was unable to return.  That one looked pretty scary, but from the sounds of things, it might not even keep him out of next week’s game against the Cardinals.  We may have dodged a bullet, so pray to the god of skinny punks that it turns out to be nothing.

Luke Willson suffered what looks like a crusher.  We won’t know until they do the MRI and all that, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends his season, and potentially his Seahawks career.  He’s an unrestricted free agent next year, so you have to wonder.  At the very least, he probably has to sign a 1-year prove-it deal somewhere, before he can cash in for something more substantial.  Either way, knee injuries are never good for “move” tight ends.  I hope it’s less severe, for his sake as much as the Seahawks’.

That means Brandon Williams moves up a spot, which is less encouraging.  I don’t want to short-change him, I’m sure he’ll be fine, but Luke’s got a track record of making some big catches for us.  That’s a nice security blanket, in the event Graham goes down.  It also means Nick Vannett is returning from his high ankle sprain at just the right time.  You figure he’ll be thrown into the fire right away, so I hope he has that playbook on lock.

Let’s run through the kudos.

Jimmy Graham with another huge game.  God, it’s just so HUGE to have a player of his calibre on this team!  It took him about a year to get comfortable with the scheme, and for Wilson to get comfortable with him, but now that everyone’s on the same page, this is the type of lethal combination we’ve been waiting for since we drafted Wilson.  Doug Baldwin is a great player, and will always be that security blanket for us, but it’s just so awesome to have a big guy we can throw it up to in traffic and have him come down with it for a big play.

Alex Collins had a nifty little TD run in the second quarter, when Christine Michael was out in the concussion protocol.  Bad for my fantasy team, but good for the kid to do that and do it in a victory.

Player of the Game on defense had to be Cliff Avril, who was on the warpath, particularly in the first half.  He had two sacks and multiple hits, as well as a forced fumble that was picked up by Tony McDaniel.  We’ll certainly need him to be at the top of his game if Bennett ends up missing any extensive time.

Another great game by Bobby Wagner, who’s really showing up with big play after big play.  Same with Earl Thomas, who nabbed the all-important interception in the 4th quarter.

We’ll definitely look back at this one come playoff time, especially if the Falcons continue playing well.  This win gives us a tie-breaker advantage over a likely divisional winner.  Since we won’t get a chance to play the Cowboys or Vikings, getting as many of these types of wins will be huge.  Next week is another one, as we can really put the Cardinals away early and put ourselves in the driver’s seat for one of the top two seeds in the playoffs.  Whatever keeps us from playing that Vikings defense as long as possible is the best scenario in my book.

For Strictly Fantasy Purposes, I Hate Matt Ryan

Simply put, I’ve been involved with a 2-QB league for the better part of my adult life.  In Matt Ryan’s first few years, he was always a great guy to have in the mix, because even though they were more run-focused in his early days, he still threw enough TDs to keep you in the black, while avoiding turnovers to ensure his floor was high.  Paired with a really dominating QB, Matt Ryan of the first three years of his career was a nice little complement.

Then, as Matt Ryan made the jump to perennial 4,000-yard passer, people in my league caught on, and would draft him before I had the chance.  Once we made the switch to being a 2-keeper league, I made it my mission to get Matt Ryan back in the fold once and for all.  As it just so happened, that coincided with his atrocious 2015 season, when he threw only 21 TDs to counter a whopping 16 INTs.  Yeah, throwing for a ton of yards is great and everything, but if you’re making the sorts of bone-headed mistakes he was making last year, it’s absolutely impossible to field any sort of consistent fantasy team (unless you’re looking for “consistently fucking terrible”).

Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback, regardless of what his numbers look like this year, and regardless of how he was able to go into Denver last week and defeat the Broncos with their awesome defense.  Matt Ryan is an average quarterback with 1 elite wide receiver in Julio Jones.  How does a guy like Ryan throw for 500 yards in a game?  When he has a guy like Julio catching 300 of those yards (going up against a secondary in Carolina that might be the worst in football).  I guarantee if you put Kirk Cousins or Ryan Fitzpatrick or even Brian Fucking Hoyer on this team with a healthy Julio Jones, they’d all look just as competent.

And yet, for some reason, all anyone can talk about heading into this game is Matt Ryan, his improvement over last season, and how he’s giving the Falcons more than a decent chance of winning in Seattle.

You think YOU can get SOUP???  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Matt Ryan isn’t an elite quarterback because elite quarterbacks make the players around them better.  No one said a God damn thing about the Seahawks’ receivers until Doug Baldwin caught 14 TDs last year, yet the Seahawks and Russell Wilson have been pretty great since 2012!  Why is that?  Because regardless of who you put on the field with Wilson, he’s going to make it work and grind it out for a win.

Take away Julio Jones and you know what you’ve got in Matt Ryan?  Yet another Joe Flacco.  Flacco needs elite talent around him to be successful.  Ever since the Ravens opted to skimp on receivers, tight ends, and running backs, Flacco has been mediocre at best and a disaster the rest of the time.

What has Matt Ryan been like the last few years?  Well, for starters, Julio hasn’t always been healthy, and when he’s slowed down by injury, forget it.  The Falcons are pathetic without Julio.  But, they were also trying to get by with a broken down Roddy White, no running game, and a poo-poo platter of crap as their #3 receivers and tight ends.  Tony Gonzalez has been out of the game for a while, and that might have been the biggest set-back to Matt Ryan’s career!

So, don’t tell me Matt Ryan has turned a corner.  Everyone wants to talk about how the Seahawks have faced the easiest schedule through 4 games when it comes to opposing offenses; well, aside from the Broncos, who have the Falcons played?  Tampa, Oakland, New Orleans, and Carolina.  Those are four bullshit defenses who couldn’t stop anyone!  And, of the five games, Ryan’s worst was easily last week’s against the Broncos, when he was held under 100 in passer rating.

I would also argue Denver’s defense MIGHT not be as great as we anticipated coming into the season.  I’ll give Atlanta credit for exposing some things (like how you can pass all day on their linebackers, if you have top-notch, pass-catching running backs).  But, I’m going to go ahead and say this right now:  Denver’s defense is no where NEAR as complete as ours, at all levels.  They might be as good as us in the secondary, but check the game last week:  Atlanta’s top two running backs caught a combined 167 of Matt Ryan’s 267 passing yards.  That means Julio Jones and the Gang were held to 100 yards receiving COMBINED.

I’ll go out on a limb and say their receivers will have a slightly better day on Sunday than they did last week, but their running backs won’t do shit!  Unless you’re in the mood for a lot of check-downs, then by all means, tout the Falcons’ passing attack.

But, you’re looking at the Seahawks coming off of a BYE, with everyone healthy, at home in the pouring rain, against a domed Falcons team.  I’ll take this matchup all day every day, please and thank you.

Also, tell me, how are the Falcons on defense going to stop us?  Desmond Trufant is only one man, the last time I checked.  Even if you put him on Doug Baldwin, I still expect Baldwin to get his.  But, how are they going to guard Jimmy Graham?  Who will account for Tyler Lockett?  And, for the love of all that is holy, can ANYONE stop Christine Michael?

We’ve got weapons, plural.  They’ve got Julio.  If there’s any justice in this world, Richard Sherman will shadow him all day, giving us another fascinating matchup like we had with the Jets and Brandon Marshall two weeks ago.

I’d expect this game to be exciting, but mostly if you’re a Seahawks fan.  I’d expect people will be having a lot of third and fourth thoughts about how good the Falcons really are when this one’s finished.

Part 2: Why The Seahawks Will Win The Super Bowl This Year

We got into the Glass Half Empty side of things yesterday.  Today, it’s all about Glass Half Full.

I’ll start here where I started yesterday:  the offensive line.  In this run of dominance the last four years, the Seahawks have never really had a world-beating O-Line.  Sure, Okung was a nice player and a talented first rounder, but he also often found himself injured and being replaced by the likes of Alvin Bailey.  Has that stopped us from winning ballgames or running the ball among the best teams in the league?  Absolutely not!  We’ve gotten by with the likes of James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, and Patrick Lewis – all fine players in their own rights, but ultimately all replacement level players who made their money on the back of this team’s success.

People like to denigrate Russell Wilson, saying he’s just a “system quarterback”, and that had he been put into the wrong situation, he’d be another nobody right now.  Well, by the same token, this is a “system” offensive line, behind Tom Cable’s vision for what this unit should do and do well:  run the football.  It’s always going to struggle somewhat in pass protection – it has the last four years anyway – but like I said before, that hasn’t stopped us yet.

Because we DO have Russell Wilson!  And while he might want to thank his lucky stars the Cleveland Browns didn’t draft him, I think he’s pretty great, and fully capable of making up this O-Line’s shortcomings.  Will he be perfect?  No.  He’ll occasionally run himself into some sacks.  He’ll hold onto the ball too long when he should’ve just thrown it away.  But, he’s also going to do some truly amazing things that only he can do.  And, in the end, that’s going to be more than good enough to make up for the O-Line.

I like our ability to run the ball.  I like the continuity of our receiving corps.  And while I don’t necessarily think Russell Wilson is going to double his second half of last year and turn it into a full season this year, I think he’ll certainly take another step in his progression and by season’s end have had his best year ever.  I don’t know if the offense is going to be the dominant Seahawks unit over the defense, but I think we’ll have put up the most points in franchise history when all is said and done.

I also don’t know if the defense will be able to make it 5 straight years with the fewest points allowed, but if not, they’ll still be close to the top.  I just think, at this point, you know what to expect from this defense.  With everyone here, happy, and healthy to start the season, I think that puts us in the driver’s seat compared to last year, where we had so many issues.  Just having the vets around, practicing, playing, is going to be great for our younger guys.  The kids won’t have to play right away, they can soak in more of the system, more of the game plans, so by the time they ARE pressed into duty, because of injuries or whatever, they’ll be that much better than if they had to start right away and be thrown into the fire prematurely.

Finally, I like what the schedule has to offer.  Let’s break it down, week by week:

Miami, to kick things off on Sunday.  I think this game starts off a little too close for comfort in the first half, but ultimately I think the Seahawks start to blow it out in the second half for a double-digit victory.

At Los Angeles, for their regular season home opener.  By all rights, I’d be a fool to lock this one down as a win.  The Rams, particularly under Jeff Fisher, have had our number in ways I’m not even comfortable thinking about.  With this being their first game back in L.A., with upwards of 90,000 fans in a rabid froth, it won’t be easy.  I think this game is a slog, but I also think the Rams are remarkably worse than they’ve ever been, and I think we take this by a field goal to start 2-0.

San Francisco in week three.  Absolute pushovers from top to bottom.  Nothing about this team scares me.  I think we beat them by three touchdowns.

At New York, to play the Jets before our BYE week.  A lot of people have this down as a loss for the Seahawks.  I can see why.  You’ve got a cross-country trip and a 10am start.  You’ve got a team with an excellent defense, some strong weapons on offense, a savvy veteran quarterback, and one of the better up & coming head coaches in the NFL.  But, at the same time, I think you’ve got a team that doesn’t match up with us very well.  Sure, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but we’ve got one of the top secondaries in the league.  I think we easily shut down their passing attack, and just as easily shut down their mediocre rushing attack.  This game will depend on how well the Seahawks can move the football.  The Jets’ D-Line is ferocious, so it’ll be tough sledding for our O-Line.  They’ve also got Revis, but I think we have what it takes to beat him.  If he clamps down on Doug Baldwin, I think Tyler Lockett has a big game.  I also think the Seahawks take advantage of Kearse’s size in this one and he leads the team in receptions.  I also think our tight ends will be a huge factor, as Jimmy Graham should have played his way back into the #1 role.  It’ll be a dogfight, but I’m seeing something like 17-13, with the Seahawks on top.

Atlanta at home, after the BYE.  I just don’t think the Falcons are very good.  At all.  Matt Ryan has been a mistake-prone mess ever since Tony Gonzalez – his security blanket – retired, and ever since Roddy White’s aging body turned him into a nobody.  Sure, he’s still got Julio Jones – making Jones one of the most valuable receivers in the game, for fantasy purposes – but we’ve got Richard Sherman.  Beyond that, good fucking luck.  I think the Seahawks steamroll in this one by a good 2-3 touchdowns.

The next two weeks are at Arizona and at New Orleans.  The Arizona game is a Sunday Night game, the Saints game is a 10am start.  I think the Seahawks go 1-1 in this set of games, but I’m not going to commit to which game they win and which one they lose.  What does that mean?  Well, USUALLY it means I think the Seahawks will win the game they’re supposed to lose, and lose the game they’re supposed to win.  It’s probably idiotic, but even at Arizona’s best, we’ve been able to handle them pretty savagely on their home turf.  Combined with the fact that we’ll be out for revenge after they embarrassed us on Sunday Night in 2015, and the opinion that I secretly hold – which is that the Cards are due for some regression in 2016 – and I could see the Seahawks walking all over the Cards and solidifying our hold on first place in the division.  As for the Saints game, I’ve seen this one play out too many times before.  It reminds me of the Chargers game in 2014, the Lions game of 2012, and ESPECIALLY the Colts game of 2013.  They have a dominant offense, with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will put up 30+ points against us.  Meanwhile, we’ll probably make one too many mistakes on offense – against a shitty, but improved Saints defense – and gag it away at the end.  Saints 35-27, to put our record at 6-1.

Buffalo on Monday Night to close out the first half of our schedule.  This one should be another home walk-over.  We’ll be jacked up for a home Monday Night game, and the Bills – who have no experience in our environment – won’t know what to do with themselves.  7-1 to close out the first half.

At New England on Sunday Night to kick off the second half.  I try to run this game through any number of scenarios, and I just can’t find a way the Seahawks win, short of Tom Brady being injured.  Another cross-country trip.  All the hype from it being a Super Bowl XLIX rematch.  And, let’s face it, if any team is going to put into use the main strategy of beating the Seahawks – dink & dunk, then try the seams on double moves with their taller receivers – it’s the Patriots.  On the plus side, I think the Pats’ defense is much worse than two years ago.  So, if the Seahawks DO win this game, it’s almost certainly going to require this game being a shootout like last year’s Steelers game.  But, I don’t see that happening.  Patriots by a single score.

Home for Philly and another walkover.  You’ve got a team starting a rookie quarterback, but more than that, you’ve got a team clearly playing for next year.  They’re stocking up on draft picks and kicking out all the old players on the roster, compiled by Chip Kelly.  I don’t see this one being particularly close either.

At Tampa in yet another cross-country flight.  We really got hosed by playing the AFC East and NFC South (which are all pretty much in the East anyway).  This game strikes me as one of those traditional slow starters for the Seahawks.  I think we have to overcome a double-digit deficit, and perhaps have to win this one in overtime, just like the last time we played the Bucs, back in 2013 (except that game was in Seattle).  Ultimately, I think we have just enough to pull this nailbiter out.

Home for Carolina in another Sunday Night game.  If both teams are at full strength, we could be looking at the best game of the regular season.  I just love how these teams match up.  I also wonder how healthy Cam Newton will be, considering all the hits he took in last night’s game.  Will his recklessness in taking hits finally catch up to him?  I kinda, sorta have a feeling this game will come down to who’s actually playing, and for whatever reason I have a feeling Cam will be out for this game.  Either way, I like our chances at home, on Sunday Night, trying to rectify the disaster that was our 2015 season against the Panthers (going 0-2 in two games).  It’ll be a nailbiter, but Seahawks win.

At Green Bay in December.  I think this is another one of those games we’re supposed to lose, but in fact we turn the tables and steal one.  Is it weird for the Packers and their fans to hate Seattle more than teams in their own division?  Well, when we keep ruining their playoff hopes, I guess it’s not!

Home for the Rams and Cardinals the next two weeks.  I think we go 1-1 here too, and while I’m not yet ready to commit, I will say that I feel it’s more likely we beat the Rams and lose to the Cards.  I still think this is the year the Rams go 6-10 or 5-11 and Jeff Fisher gets fired.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Finally, at San Francisco to close it out.  If we’re playing for anything, I think we win easily.  If we’ve somehow got the #1 seed wrapped up, I think we let the kids get the majority of the snaps and probably lose it in the end.  Let’s just say we win and call it a day.

13-3, number one seed in the NFC, and an inside track for another Super Bowl.  This year, we get back to it, and this year we win the whole fuckin’ thing.  Mark it.

Why Russell Wilson Is One Of The Four Best Quarterbacks In The NFL Right Now

This post is going to be COMPLETELY subjective and COMPLETELY drenched in my homerizzm, but I don’t care.

I think Russell Wilson is pretty great at football.  If you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably agree.  I also think we’re just scratching the surface of Russell Wilson’s greatness.  Based on the second half of his 2015 season, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably also agree.

Why do I think Russell Wilson is one of the four best quarterbacks in the NFL?  It’s quite simple:  I can’t think of more than three quarterbacks in the league for whom I’d be willing to trade our franchise guy.  For the sake of this exercise, I should point out that I’m including age and experience in this thing, but I’m not really all that focused on the size of the contract or anything like that.  This is a simple one-for-one swap:  would I rather have Russell Wilson for however many remaining years of his career (probably well over 10 more years, if everything goes well health-wise), or would I rather have Player X?  It’s not as simple as:  you have one year, who is your starting quarterback?  It’s also not as simple as:  who had the best 2015 season?  This is, going forward, who would you be willing to have start for your team in place of Russell Wilson?

Also, for the sake of argument, let’s forget about all the growing pains of bringing in a new guy, having him learn the system, having him build a rapport with the players, and so on.  Let’s just assume, whoever you trade for, will know our system and will get along with the players as well as Wilson has.

To fulfill the “experience” and “quality” requirements, I chopped off over half of the league’s starters from last year.  None of the 2016 rookies interest me whatsoever when compared to Wilson.  Guys like Bortles, Mariota, and Winston are all very interesting, but they’re obviously not at the level of quality or experience that Wilson has.  Tyrod Taylor is another interesting name, but I’m going to need more than 14 games started before I can take you seriously as a Wilson replacement.  Osweiler is yet another interesting name, who’s had many years backing up a hall of famer, but only in 2015 was given the opportunity to start real, regular season games.  Carr, with the Raiders, is the last of the young’uns I left off of my list.  He looks every part the gunslinger that team has desperately needed for ages, but I just can’t quite put trust in any belief that his ceiling is higher than Wilson’s until I’ve seen it first.

The next group of candidates have the experience, but are lacking in the quality department, and have been left off for what I feel are obvious reasons.  Foles, Kaepernick/Gabbert, Cutler, Stafford, Bradford, Alex Smith, Dalton, Flacco, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, and anyone else I didn’t list above, who deserve to remain nameless because they suck.  I may get blowback on guys like Dalton, Stafford, and maybe even Cutler, but those guys have showed me absolutely nothing outside of a season here and there.  They can’t consistently stay out of their own way and they tend to shit the bed when it matters most.  To be honest, Joe Flacco is probably my favorite of this bunch; I think he’d fit in quite well with what the Seahawks like to do on offense (run the ball, play action deep passes), but there’s no way in hell I’m trading Wilson for him.

That brings me to the realistic candidates.  Quarterbacks who have the ability to play at an elite level, but for various reasons I’d rather not give up Wilson for them.  Let’s start with Tom Brady, because that’s obviously the name everyone puts at or near the top of any list of the world’s best quarterbacks.  Yes, obviously, if I had one season and I wanted to win a championship, I’d consider trading Wilson for Brady.  But, Brady is going to be 39 years old this August.  While he’s still playing at an elite level this deep into his career, how many more years can you reasonably expect him to squeeze out, let alone at that aforementioned elite level?  Two?  MAYBE three?  Remember, at age 37, Peyton Manning had the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of the game.  Two seasons later, it looks like he’s played his last down.  I’m not trading upwards of a decade or more of Russell Wilson for 1-2 more quality Brady years, sorry-not-sorry (people still say that, right?).

Same story for Brees.  He’s got a lot of mileage and I’m not wasting a guy in his prime for a guy who will be out of the league soon.

Next up, I’m going to lump in guys like Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Of all the quarterbacks playing today, Roethlisberger might be playing at the highest level (doesn’t hurt he’s got the weapons he’s got).  But, all three of these guys are injury risks, which makes them older – in an NFL sense – than their actual ages.  All are quality passers, but I just don’t think I’d ever trade Wilson for them.

Then, there’s Eli.  He’s started every single game for the Giants since the start of the 2005 season; no injury concerns there.  He’s going into his age 35 season, so you figure if things continue to go as well as they have, he’s probably got another good 5 years or so.  I just don’t think, as a quarterback, he’s as good as Wilson (and that’s not even taking into account my opinion that Wilson will only get better as these next few years go on).  Matt Ryan is another guy who’s been pretty durable, and when he’s got a good team around him, he’s shown he’s a franchise guy.  But, like Eli, I don’t think Ryan is nearly the calibre of passer as Wilson.  I mean, let’s face it, Wilson has done a lot of good with what’s been a pretty poor pass-protection unit.  Ryan falls apart at the first instance of pressure!  No thank you.

Philip Rivers is the last guy in this section, and he’s one I honestly sort of agonized over.  He’s been on some pretty terrible and injury-riddled teams of late.  One wonders what he’d be able to do on a legitimately great team like the Seahawks.  He can go out and win you a shoot-out if need be.  He can slow it down and play the high-percentage, short passing game.  He’s not that mobile, but he’s lightning-quick in his decision-making.  My only knock against him is that he tends to be a little too reckless with the football.  Not as bad as Cutler, or some of these other guys lower on the list, but it’s still a concern.  He’ll also be 35 years old by season’s end this year, so there’s fewer seasons to look forward to with him, compared to Wilson.

Of the players I feel are of equal or greater value to Wilson, I can count only three.

Andrew Luck is a guy I think, when it’s all said and done, will be a Hall of Famer.  He needs to learn to get hit less on his scrambles, but it would also help if he had a better offensive line (Indy’s line makes Seattle’s look like the Hogs from the 80s).  I still see a long and fruitful career for Luck; don’t forget, he’s largely been carrying that team with not a lot of talent around him.  Imagine what he’d do on a stacked Seahawks team!  Right now, I’d probably rank Wilson ahead of Luck, but I wouldn’t be totally devastated if they were swapped straight up.

Next up, obviously, when you talk about the world’s greatest quarterbacks, you’re talking about Aaron Rodgers.  A-Rod will be 33 years old by season’s end, but who gives a shit?  He’s another Hall of Famer, and another guy who should play into his 40s when all is said and done.  I think, until Wilson really starts to pour it on (i.e. turns the second half of his 2015 season into many multiple FULL seasons in the future), you have to rank A-Rod ahead of him.  Even though I think he’s a collosal douche, I’d trade Wilson for him straight up.

Finally, there’s Cam.  No one wants to hear it, because everyone outside of Carolina hates Cam (and/or spends way too much time defending him when he acts like an immature little crybaby), but the dude is a straight-up baller, and not just with his legs (although, it doesn’t hurt that he’s so good running with the football).  One wonders how his body will handle all the hits long-term, but I think his running ability will last a lot longer than Wilson’s (who I feel will slide into more of a pocket passer role the more he gets comfortable reading pre-snap defenses).  Like Luck, I don’t know if Cam is necessarily BETTER than Wilson, but he’s certainly on par, and he’s young enough, and he’s carried sub-par teams to winning records/playoff appearances for multiple seasons.  From a fan standpoint, I’d probably prefer Luck to Cam, but from strictly a player standpoint, I think I could be talked into taking Cam over Luck.  Talk to me again in a year or two and that statement might look batshit crazier than it already does, but that’s how I feel right now, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate (if it wasn’t already clear) that I think Russell Wilson is great and I don’t necessarily want to trade him for anyone in the league.  But, if I HAD to, I’d only accept A-Rod, Cam, or Luck, in that order.  Anyone else, I feel, would be beneath what Russell Wilson has to offer over the course of the rest of his career in this league.

Why Aren’t The Seahawks In The Super Bowl?

If you read that title like I’m four years old, it makes the bulk of this post very different.  For some kids around that age, you seriously got to wonder:  why aren’t they letting my team play this weekend?  I DON’T GET IT!!!  *throws tantrum, runs away screaming and slamming doors*

It does kinda suck, though.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I really got used to spending these weeks leading up to the Super Bowl reading all about how great my team is.  And writing about how great my team is.  And just generally basking in the glow that is being a participant in the biggest annual spectacle in the entire world (even if it’s just from a fan’s perspective).  You get to look back at the season that was, while at the same time knowing there’s still one game left to play that will determine whether or not your team is the best.  You get to look forward to the game itself, breaking it down piece by piece, trying to get a handle on whether or not your team will come out victorious.

Two years of that.  Two straight years of being one of the last teams to play a meaningful game of football.  But, this year, we’re heading into Super Bowl week on the outside looking in.

And, not for nothing, but it absolutely sickens me to my core.  I try not to think about this, because it WILL drive me absolutely bonkers, but come on:  the Seahawks would KILL this Broncos team, almost as badly as we killed them two years ago!  Fucking A, is the AFC a weak-ass bullshit conference!  You think Peyton Manning’s noodle arm is going to pick us apart?  If he couldn’t do it at his peak two years ago, what makes you think he could do it now when he’s about a week away from announcing his retirement?  And their defense?  Pardon me if I don’t crap myself with terror!  No doubt, over two weeks of prep, we’d find a way to get the job done.

ARGH!  ARGH I SAY!  If the Seahawks could have only showed up in the first half of that Carolina game, we would have gone on to Arizona – who we would’ve handled easily, especially considering Carson Palmer’s messed-up thumb – and we’d be looking at a third straight Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened since those early-70s Dolphins teams those early-90s Bills teams!

Gotta stop.  Gotta put that agony away and focus on the reality of the world we’re living in.  One where Cam Newton is less than a week away from having as many Super Bowl victories as Russell Wilson (and, odds are, infinitely more Super Bowl MVP awards).  Get ready for the Panthers to be our foil for the next decade, because it’s looking like them and the Seahawks will be the teams to beat in the NFC for this generation.

A question hit me over the weekend, that I thought I’d workshop here:  why didn’t we make the Super Bowl?  Answer:  because we lost in the playoffs.  But, why did we lose?

As has been the case since the Seahawks went on this run, and managed to win a world championship, I like to look at our place in history (as it’s happening).  The hope of hopes being that this team would be a dynasty, like so many great teams throughout NFL history.  The talent is there on the field, the talent is there in the coaching staff, the climate is right for a team to pick up where the Patriots are inevitably going to leave off.  Could THIS Seahawks team be ranked among the all time great dynasties?

Well, you’re going to need multiple Super Bowl titles for starters, something we’re still working on.  The worry, of course, is that we’ve somehow missed the boat.  Plenty of dynasties have had an off-year in the midst of their dynastic run; it’s entirely possible that the Seahawks return to form, seal up the NFC in 2016, and go on to take down a second Super Bowl victory against whatever bullshit gets squeezed out of the AFC’s butthole.

I guess, the question I’m looking to answer is:  was 2015 a temporary dip?  Some flaw that can be easily rectified before returning this team to its dominant glory days?  OR, has a team like the Panthers officially done enough to surpass us?  Are the Seahawks still on the cutting edge of the NFL?  Or, are we just another member of The Pack, looking up at the greatness that is whatever the hell they’re doing in Carolina?

That’s probably a little drastic, but it’s something my insecure brain lands on when confronted with two weeks of pre-Super Bowl build up and no Seahawks talk whatsoever.  We like to sit here in our Pacific Northwest bubble and celebrate the huge leap forward in Russell Wilson’s development, but it should be pretty scary to look over there and see the huge leap forward in Cam Newton’s development.  It’s hard to see in the numbers themselves; his year-to-year progression is a little wacky, and you could argue that Cam Newton is what he is and is what he has been all along.  He’s going to hover around 60% completions, around 4,000 passing yards, but he had a monster jump in passing TDs, as well as a career-low in interceptions.  Top that off with his usual bananas production in the running game, and you’ve got someone who will be a force for the rest of his career.  Even as his legs start to wear down (whenever that may be), he’s proven to be adept-enough in the pocket to lead his team to victories.  Oh, and let’s not forget, this year he probably had the fewest weapons in the passing game of any year in his career!  He lost his #1 receiver before the season even started, then went on to have probably the best year he’ll ever have!  Think about THAT!  Think about what that team would look like if they ever managed to draft an elite receiver like DeAndre Hopkins.  Or signed a receiver like Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason.  I may not like Cam Newton, but I respect the shit out of his game.

Is it Carolina, and not Seattle, who is the real dynasty of this decade?

God, perish the thought, but now it’s out there.  And, once they dismantle the Broncos just like we did a couple years ago, it’s going to be all anyone talks about this offseason.  So, have fun with that.

Ups & downs, strikes and gutters, these things happen.  I still believe the Seahawks are right there.  My biggest lament, and probably the main reason why we might not be the next New England Patriots, is that we don’t play in an insufferably weak division like the AFC East.  The Pats have had their run of things, in large part, because they don’t have to worry about being a Wild Card team, or going out on the road in the first round of the playoffs.  The Pats, with Brady and Belichick, will never know the struggle of going into the playoffs as a 6-seed and having to win out on the road against three caged tigers.  Usually, their schedule is easy-enough that they get to walk blindfolded into a top 2 seed, then they play some upstart, then they grapple with whatever team Peyton Manning is on (and, starting next year, I doubt they’ll even have Manning’s carcass to kick around anymore).  The Seahawks, on the other hand, have always had a Top 2-calibre team within their own division, a bevy of stout defenses to tangle with, and at least one other Top-2 calibre team somewhere else in the NFC to get past.  Next year looks to be no different, as long as Carson Palmer can remain upright.

So, the question is:  will Carolina continue to have the pathetically easy road a la New England?  Or, will their division mates finally start pulling their own weight?

You gotta like what Jameis Winston did in his rookie year.  Tampa could be frisky, if they ever get their shit together.  New Orleans probably has seen its best days; with Drew Brees aging out of the league any year now, they probably won’t be able to rebuild the roster around him before he retires (with the probability that they, in fact, end up trading Brees and go Full Rebuild from scratch).  Atlanta is the real enigma.  We all think that Dan Quinn is the real deal, but it’s just as likely that he’s not, especially if they don’t figure out how to make that defense better (and if they don’t provide Matt Ryan with the weapons on offense he so clearly needs).

It’s entirely possible that Carolina will dominate that division next season just as they did this one.  But, like the Seahawks, they’ll have to tangle with the NFC West next year (on the road to face the Rams and Seahawks, hosting the 49ers and Cards).  And, cherry on top, they play the most difficult division in the AFC next year in the AFC West (on the road in Denver & Oakland; hosting San Diego & Kansas City).  Odds are, even if they do as well in their own division as they did in 2015, they won’t come close to 15 regular season wins.

God, I seriously can’t wait for the 2016 NFL season to start.  August can’t come soon enough.

Seattle Sports Hell’s Quarterly Power Rankings, The Third

We’re hitting the home stretch, with four weeks to go.  Playoff scenarios are taking shape, we’re weeding out the contenders from the pretenders, the dregs are tanking accordingly.  So, let’s get right to it with the top 8:

  • Denver:  10-2, last quarter:  #4, first quarter:  #4
  • Cincinnati:  10-2, #2, #3
  • New England:  10-2, #1, #1
  • Arizona:  10-2, #3, #7
  • Carolina:  12-0, #5, #11
  • Seattle:  7-5, #9, #6
  • Pittsburgh:  7-5, #10, #19

I’m sorry, but until Andy Dalton wins a big game at night, I can’t have him as the quarterback of my #1 team.  Considering they go to Denver in Week 16, that should be decided in spectacular fashion.  As for Denver, their defense is legit tops in the league.  They toppled the former #1, so they get to be #1.  The Patriots are just too banged up at too many spots.  Won’t keep them out of the playoffs – and it won’t prevent them from making a lot of noise in the playoffs since they should get a bunch of injured guys back by then – but for now they drop to third.  As for the NFC, I still like Zona over Carolina.  Fuck, Panthers, beat AH good team besides a struggling (at the time) Seahawks and an overrated Packers team.  I can’t WAIT to play the Panthers again in the playoffs, we’re going to destroy them like we usually do!  Pittsburgh rounds out the top 8 as long as Roethlisberger stays healthy.

  • Kansas City:  7-5, #19, #14
  • Minnesota:  8-4, #7, #13
  • Buffalo:  6-6, #14, #10
  • New York Jets:  7-5, #12, #8
  • Tampa Bay:  6-6, #29, #32
  • Indianapolis:  6-6, #15, #20
  • Washington:  5-7, #20, #16
  • New York Giants:  5-7, #13, #9

Quite the turnaround for the Chiefs to crack the Top 10.  I knew they weren’t as bad as their record indicated when they started out so shitty (they had the WORST schedule you could imagine), which probably means we shouldn’t have a ton of confidence in them now.  Can they beat a good team?  That’s the question we’ll be looking to answer as they make a Wild Card spot.  The Vikings are definitely better than what we saw last week against the Seahawks, but they’re also a fringe-quality team who will go nowhere in the post-season.  The Bills when healthy are pretty scary.  The Jets get knocked down for blowing that game against the Bills.  The Bucs make the BIGGEST leap, with Winston’s improved play.  Indy keeps plugging along in one of the worst divisions in football.  I’d really like the Redskins to NOT win the NFC East, so I don’t have to worry about one of the Seahawks tearing an ACL on their shitty field.  The Giants should be dominating that NFC East, but can’t seem to get out of their own way.

  • Chicago:  5-7, #22, #27
  • Oakland:  5-7, #11, #17
  • Houston:  6-6, #30, #29
  • Philadelphia:  5-7, #18, #25
  • Jacksonville:  4-8, #32, #30
  • Atlanta:  6-6, #17, #5
  • St. Louis:  4-8, #8, #12
  • Detroit:  4-8, #28, #21

Any of these teams could beat or lose to any of these teams on any given Sunday.  The Rams are the biggest fallers of the group, having gone 0-4 the last month.  Jacksonville, Houston, and Detroit won some games and improved their standing.  Jacksonville exclusively for that high-powered offense; Houston exclusively for their defense’s return to dominance.  Atlanta is trending WAY downward thanks to Matt Ryan and only Matt Ryan.  That’s all I’ve got for this group of trash.

  • Miami:  5-7, #21, #24
  • New Orleans:  4-8, #16, #22
  • San Francisco:  4-8, #23, #26
  • San Diego:  3-9, #26, #15
  • Tennessee:  3-9, #31, #31
  • Dallas:  4-8, #24, #23
  • Baltimore:  4-8, #25, #18
  • Cleveland:  2-10, #27, #28

Feels weird not having Jacksonville in the bottom spot, but I think Cleveland is as worthy as anyone.  They stink, their only good quarterback is out for the year, and they’re in full-on tank mode (just so they can waste yet another high draft pick on a loser).  Baltimore’s injury woes have finally extended to the quarterback position, as Flacco is missing the first games of his career.  Baltimore will do SO MUCH MORE with their draft pick at 5 or 6 than Cleveland will do with the top pick, mark it.  I think the Saints’ defense is the worst I’ve ever seen.  That’s all I’ve got.  Enjoy restocking the front office you blew up, Miami!

Looking Back At Dallas & Looking Ahead Post-BYE

There’s a lot to unpack about that Seahawks/Cowboys game on Sunday.  So, with the BYE week coming up, I’m going to continue blathering.  You can read my post from yesterday, where I bitch about that last offensive series (kneel-down aside) and our usage of Jimmy Graham down near the goalline.  For what it’s worth, I know there’s been a general, “What Are The Seahawks Doing With Jimmy Graham?” consensus among fans and media types, but that seems to be an all-encompassing question about targets and whatnot.  My post about yesterday strictly addresses his useage near the goalline, and how our offensive coordinator is a moron who designs terrible plays that in no way utilize Graham’s height gifts.

Today, I kind of want to step back a little bit and marvel at the importance of that game.  Don’t take a win over the Cowboys for granted.  Yeah, they didn’t have Tony Romo; and yeah, Dez Bryant was in his first game back after many weeks off with that foot injury.  But, that’s still a very good football team down in Big D.  Just because the quarterback was gone, doesn’t mean that was ever going to be an easy contest.  They still have the best offensive line in football.  They still have a very good defense – particularly their front seven.  They still have enough talent at the skill positions to be a threat.  When you factor in this game being on the road – always difficult to win on the road – and overall I’m just happy we got the W.

You could tell the Seahawks were employing a safe, quick-throw, run-heavy offense from the get-go.  With Okung out, Alvin Bailey was our starting left tackle, anchoring a line that has already been pretty maligned, considering the Seahawks have given up the most sacks in the league.  As the game went on, it was pretty clear that the ONE storyline the Seahawks were going to make sure wasn’t a factor in the outcome of this game was the offensive line letting our quarterback get killed.  Which, in and of itself was very nearly the factor that decided the outcome of this game.

The gameplan was conservative to a fault.  None of our usual big plays down the field, and the ones we did try were pretty ill-advised on behalf of Russell Wilson.  Even with Wilson getting the ball out of his hands quicker than I’ve ever seen from him, the Dallas pass rush was in his face almost immediately, from all sides.  This wasn’t a situation where other guys rose up to pick up their games in the absence of Russell Okung.  They seemed to take even less care of their technical responsibilities, knowing that we’d be going with the quick-throw offense.

The running game was pretty disappointing, which I’ll attribute to the Cowboys realizing what we were doing pretty early on.  So, they were able to crowd the line of scrimmage, stack the box, and play a lot of press on our receivers, since there was pretty much no threat of down-field passing.  A terrible offensive line, like the one we’ve got, is the main reason why a team with a lot of stars (Wilson, Graham, Lynch, Lockett, and Baldwin) looks no better than an offense helmed by the likes of Matt Cassel, one of the most underwhelming game managers in the entire league.

There’s absolutely nothing positive to take away from a game like this, except that the Seahawks got the win.  In that sense, it’s a lot like a lot of other Seahawks wins since 2012, so you can either dwell on all of our deficiencies, or you can put it behind you and move on.  I choose to dwell, because it’s in my nature, but I’m also not going to totally believe the sky is falling just yet.  In 2013, the Seahawks nearly lost to a couple of very bad teams in the Rams and Bucs in back-to-back weeks before going on an impressive run.  The 2014 Seahawks lost at home to the Cowboys, then followed that up with a demoralizing defeat in St. Louis, then continued to struggle for the better part of the next month before ending the season with an impressive 6-game winning streak going into the playoffs.

No one is really thrilled with how the Seahawks have played in the first half of this season.  We’ve lost to every elite team we’ve faced, and nearly gagged away a couple of others against some fairly easy prey in the Cowboys and Lions.  If you would’ve told me before the season that the Seahawks would be 4-4 at this point, I would have guessed that Russell Wilson missed 4 games with injury, and I’d be worried about him returning to the team in time to salvage the season.  The fact that we’ve been THIS mediocre, while being one of the more healthy teams in the entire league, really says a lot.  The first thing it says is that maybe 2015 won’t be our year.  But, for whatever crazy reason, I just can’t give up on this year just yet.

If you look a head, you’ll see the BYE week this week, followed by 5 home games and only 3 road games.  That’s a plus.  You’ll also see we play our division 4 times in these 8 games.  So, there’s PLENTY of opportunity to turn this thing around.  We play Arizona twice – which is what everyone is pointing to, which scares the bejesus out of me, because it’s almost like they’re assuming we’re just going to sweep the Cardinals in those two games.  For what it’s worth, I’m over the moon by the fact that we play the Cards at home first.  Both teams should be as healthy as they’ve been since the beginning of the season – so obviously we’re going to get their best fight – but we’re going to be the home team, and we’re playing in primetime, which is usually one of our stronger suits.  If we handle our business in this one, we get the worthless 49ers the following week, and you gotta say we at least have a coinflip chance of beating the Steelers in that third of three straight home games.  Win those three and that puts us in good position to go into Minnesota to try to win another ugly, defense-first game, before going to Baltimore and crushing that dumpster fire.  Win those FIVE, then we get the Browns at home, and the Rams at home for a little revenge over our week 1 defeat.  I like our chances in those two, which could send us into a showdown for the division in Week 17 in Arizona.

That’s sort of the rosy, best-case scenario outlook on things.  But, if you’re drinking out of that half-empty glass, then you can easily see a scenario where this thing turns sour in a hurry.

Arizona – even at home, even in primetime – is no sure thing.  At this point in the season, Carson Palmer was supposed to be felled by another ACL tear or something.  But, he’s rocking & rolling, and they look like one of the two best teams in the entire NFC (with the Packers being the other, in spite of their loss in Denver).  The Cardinals are going to be as fired up as any team has ever been, and I don’t think they’re going to give two shits about how loud the 12’s are.  If they’re able to march down the field on a bevy of big plays, it’ll be a library in there in no time.

I see four games in the second half that I would deem “easy wins”.  Home vs. SF, at Bal, home vs. Cle, and probably home vs. St. Louis.  Again, easy is relative, but I can’t see the Rams moving the ball all that well against us (Gurley be damned) in Seattle.  Then, we have the two Arizona games that could just as easily be losses, in addition to a very good Steelers team with Ben Roethlisberger back in the fold after a few weeks off with injury, and a VERY scary Vikings team with an awesome defense, in Minnesota.  You want a scenario where the Seahawks go from 1 yard away from two straight Super Bowl victories to an 8-8 downer of a season?  Keep losing to all these good teams that you’ve been losing to all year.

Now, what brings me hope is that these good teams aren’t without their faults.  Arizona lost to Landry Jones and the Steelers a few weeks ago, they lost at home to the Rams, and they very nearly lost on the road against the Browns before finally grabbing hold of that game late.  I would expect the game in two weeks will be close; I highly doubt they’d run us off the field.  But, just the same, I hope we shade a little extra coverage Cary Williams’ way.

The Rams and Vikings have pretty shaky quarterback play, so you could argue they’re better versions of the Cowboys team we just played.  But, I’ll say this:  don’t ever take that Cowboys victory for granted.

If I can get back to my original point, it might be very likely that the Seahawks DON’T win the NFC West this year.  Maybe the Cardinals keep rolling, maybe the Seahawks stumble.  Obviously, starting the season 4-4 doesn’t leave us any margin for error for a division title and/or a first round BYE.  So, it might be time to start adjusting our expectations a little bit towards that Wild Card.  One would think that we could get that Wild Card with a 10-6 record … IF we have enough tie-breakers to get us through.

Right now, at 4-4, we’re 8th in the NFC.  The Falcons are 5th at 6-2, but they’re paper tigers if I’ve ever seen any.  I don’t think their defense is all that impressive; Julio Jones is good, but Matt Ryan is definitely erratic, and they’re not good enough to get by on their running game alone.  I think the Panthers are going to run away with that division and I think the Saints are better than the Falcons and will eventually pass them.  The Vikings are currently 6th at 5-2 and definitely look like a stronger team than the Falcons, but they’ve also had a pretty easy schedule to kick off the season (facing the likes of the 49ers, Bears, Lions twice, Chargers, and Chiefs).  For the Seahawks to make a Wild Card, that game in Minnesota will be crucial.  We HAVE to beat the Vikings and get that head-to-head tiebreaker.  Beyond that, assuming the Rams lose next week to Minnesota, we’ll have the same record as them.  If we beat them at home, that should put them to bed (Nick Foles is also, very clearly, who we thought he was, and will not be leading them to the post-season this year).

With the Rams and Vikings out of the way via tie-breakers, and with the Falcons falling to Earth a little bit, and with the Saints still being too inconsistent on defense to really pose a threat, I would argue the only other team left in the NFC to worry about is the Dallas Cowboys.  Remember them?  Well, they host the Eagles next week (honestly, a game the Eagles should probably win, but also a game that could easily go the other way), then they go to Tampa in a game the Cowboys will be favored in.  Even if they go 1-1 in that stretch, that would put them at 3-6.  After that, Tony Romo returns, and they’ll be at full strength.  Their closing run, with Romo back in the fold, features 4 road games and 3 home games, but the only really difficult one is the game in Green Bay.  If Romo returns on fire, and they start playing like the 2014 Cowboys, I could EASILY see them finish the season with a record of 10-6.  At which point, if the Seahawks are also 10-6, you’re going to be glad the Seahawks won an ugly clunker of a game back on November 1st.