Looking At The Best Seahawks Wide Receiver Duos Of All Time

In reading through the Seattle Times sports section last week, I came upon an interesting question in one of the mailbag articles asking something to the effect of, “Is D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett the greatest wide receiver duo in Seahawks history?” That’s a bold statement (in the form of a question) after just a year and five games, but I think it’s worth exploring more fully.

I think, without question, the potential is there for this duo to be the best and it not even being all that close. The greatest Seahawks receiver of all time is Steve Largent; he’s a hall of famer and once held every significant receiving record in NFL history before Jerry Rice broke them all. Based on athleticism, you could argue Joey Galloway was the most talented receiver the Seahawks have ever had. But, I don’t think he will ever make the NFL Hall of Fame, and he only played in Seattle for five years before being traded away.

Regardless, based on the whole package, on top of his rapport with Russell Wilson (it always helps to have a future Hall of Famer throwing to you in both of your primes), I think D.K. Metcalf could blow away any and all wide receivers the Seahawks have ever employed. When you factor in Tyler Lockett’s all-around versatility – deep threat, short and intermediate god, great hands, great coordination with his feet near the out-of-bounds lines, can play outside or in the slot, durable, consistent – I mean, this is a monster pair! This is, like, Randy Moss/Wes Welker!

Anyway, let’s go backwards and look at all the great Seahawks duos and see how they match up.

Immediately preceeding this one, we have Lockett and Doug Baldwin (who was the consensus #2 best Seahawks receiver all time, until Metcalf overtakes him); they played together from 2015-2018. I would argue Lockett didn’t really make a leap until 2018, which coincides with an injury-plagued final year for Baldwin, so that’s a tough hang.

One that gets a little overlooked is Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. Boy those were the good ol’ days! They played together from 2011-2013, but Tate didn’t do much in 2011, and Baldwin was largely injured in 2012. However, that magical 2013 season was something to behold! From a talent standpoint, both players were pretty elite and fit our scheme and quarterback perfectly. They’d be pretty high on my list.

I was discouraged – when I read the Times article – that Bobby Engram was nowhere to be found. His time with the Seahawks was quietly pretty special! In 8 years, he put up nearly 5,000 yards, largely out of the slot, and for some really good Seahawks teams. Nate Burleson overlapped with Engram from 2006-2008, with the 2007 season being their peak as a duo. Darrell Jackson, though, overlapped with Engram from 2001-2006, which is really THE duo from the Mike Holmgren era. D-Jack had three seasons over 1,000 yards, plus another 956 in 2006. Engram was largely a complementary player in those seasons, but no one was more of a go-to on third down. I rank D-Jack and Engram pretty high as well (and don’t even talk to me about Deion Branch, because I’m pretending he never existed).

I guess you also have to include Koren Robinson and D-Jack, who overlapped from 2001-2004 (with 2002-2003 being particularly elite), but Robinson had D.K.’s level of talent, only unrealized due to substance-abuse issues. There’s less of a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart for this duo.

If you want to talk about a forgotten blast from the past, look no further than Sean Dawkins and Derrick Mayes! They were the guys for just two years, from 1999-2000, but we rung in Y2K with a combined 1,821 yards between them!

What I’m finding is, through the 90’s and much of the 80’s, there were a lot of good 2-season runs (Joey Galloway with some guy, Brian Blades before him with some other guy, and so on) but no really great extended run for any particular duos. Also, to be fair, the Seahawks were largely terrible for the 90’s, but that’s neither here nor there. Even through the 80’s and the Largent years, it was mostly a one-receiver show. You’d be hard-pressed to find a good second option until you get to Sam McCullum, who overlapped with Largent from 1976-1981. McCullum had a couple of decent years where he caught over 700 yards apiece, but Largent was really doing the heavy lifting in this tenure.

And that’s pretty much it! So, outside of D.K. and Lockett, here are my rankings:

  1. Golden Tate & Doug Baldwin
  2. Darrell Jackson & Bobby Engram
  3. Steve Largent & Sam McCullum
  4. Doug Baldwin & Tyler Lockett
  5. Sean Dawkins & Derrick Mayes
  6. Bobby Engram & Nate Burleson
  7. Joey Galloway & Whoever
  8. Brian Blades & Whoever
  9. Koren Robinson & Darrell Jackson

If I had to place D.K. Metcalf & Tyler Lockett in that list right this minute, I’d probably put them fourth and bump everyone else down a peg. But, give me another year and a half and you could EASILY see this duo in the #1 spot! I can’t wait to see every minute of them together!

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2019: Consolation Bracket Bound

That’s it. The regular season is over. I finished 6-7, a game outside of the playoffs. The top two seeds get a first round BYE, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 play one another this week, but that doesn’t affect me, so whatever.

I won a meaningless game last week against the last place team, 172.20 to 96.50; it was just the third time out of 13 weeks where I exceeded my projected points. I finished with the 7th most points scored. There’s another 6-7 team ahead of me in total points who got knocked out of the playoffs on a heartbreaker, losing by less than 2 points this past week. He has the third-most points scored in the entire league and is on the outside looking in, which is just a kick to the crotch (though he did start Julio Jones on Thanksgiving, who ended up not playing).

I did end up with the second-most points scored against me (only the last place team had a higher total against him, but he also scored by far the least amount of points in the league, so his 2-11 record was well-earned), but as I’ve said countless times, I can’t blame the fantasy gods for this one. My team underachieved, plain and simple, and when they didn’t underachieve, I made a series of terrible decisions to eliminate myself from the playoffs.

***

I’m on BYE this week as the Consolation Bracket has to wait until Week 15 to get going. It’s unfortunate, because most of my matchups are truly magnificent. Brady vs. Kansas City, Wentz vs. the Giants, Kupp vs. Seattle, Le’Veon Bell vs. Miami; those guys alone should’ve propelled me to the next round of the playoffs. Instead, I get to watch those guys rack up a ton of points for my bench.

No roster moves this week. I picked up the backup running backs for Dallas and Minnesota last week, mostly to be a dick I guess? I mean, if the guy who has Dalvin Cook couldn’t be bothered to handcuff him, that’s not really my problem (my longterm goal is for the Vikings to trade Cook in the offseason and commit to his backup going forward, before it’s time for us to declare our keepers).

***

One of the last remaining decisions to make is who my keepers will be. I’m pretty committed to keeping Daniel Jones, considering all it took to get him and keep him on my roster this year. Here’s to hoping for that Year 2 bump.

I’m also pretty dialed in on keeping Ezekiel Elliott. He’s got his big payday, he’s still in the prime of his career, so he’ll be one of my starting RBs for a good while yet.

I’m also very committed to Josh Jacobs with the Raiders. He’s had a great rookie campaign and figures to really bust out next year, assuming he stays healthy and all that good stuff. He’s over 1,000 yards and has 7 TDs through 12 games; I’d say that’s keeper-worthy.

The fourth one is probably my most vital decision. Right now, I’m leaning towards Carson Wentz. He’s shown he’s pretty capable when his receivers are healthy; the main problem is his receivers have NOT been healthy. Like, at all this year. I also don’t want to put too much stock into one mediocre season. The last time I did that was Dak Prescott’s second year (where he took a step back after a fine rookie campaign). He ended up turning things around in Year 3 and has been a legitimate MVP candidate in Year 4 this season. Assuming Wentz makes it through this last month healthy, there’s no reason to NOT expect a bounce-back year in 2020.

My next-best option is Le’Veon Bell. He’s been a target-monster this year in a terrible offense with a terrible offensive line. I’ll be looking at him very closely, to see where he ends up next year, and how good his situation appears. If he stays with the Jets, they better beef up their O-Line something fierce.

Beyond Wentz or Bell, it’s a lot of fliers. I have Tom Brady, but he seems like he’s finished. Even if he plays in 2020, he’s already a shell of his former self, so I can’t imagine how mediocre he’ll be at age 43. He can’t throw the ball down field at all, and if they don’t put elite receivers around him, no one can get open with enough space to do anything after the catch. If they get whoever’s the equivalent of Randy Moss in 2020, maybe I’ll consider him.

Another guy I’ll be watching closely this month is Derrius Guice. He’s shown flashes of his original potential, but obviously injuries have killed his first two years. Nevertheless, if he can make it through this next month injury-free, and goes the whole offseason in good health, I could easily see myself keeping him over some of these other guys (especially if he’s declared to be far-and-away the #1 starter on their team).

My aforementioned fliers include rookies Terry McLaurin and Darius Slayton. They’re nice fallback options – along with Cooper Kupp – if things go horribly, horribly wrong with the rest of my keepers. But, at this point, I’ll be following them with an eye towards drafting them next year. I think both could be future Pro Bowlers, and fantasy dynamos.

(also, not for nothing, but if we turn this into a Dynasty League in the offseason, I feel I’m well prepared with the youth on my roster).

Finally, the afore(not)mentioned Alexander Mattison is a lottery ticket, in case Dalvin Cook gets traded or injured in pre-season. On that team, he’d be a no-brainer as a keeper if he was the Vikings’ #1 back.

We get until a week before next year’s draft to declare our keepers, so I’ll have the entire offseason to mull it over and obsess over every little thing I read. Should be a good time and not at all unhealthy!

***

I won’t be running this post next week, so I should probably explain our league’s Consolation Bracket, for those unaware.

In an attempt to keep the entire league engaged and trying to the end of the season, we set up the Consolation Bracket to determine the next year’s draft order for the top 4 picks. Winner of the Consolation Bracket gets the #1 pick, which is huge considering every team keeps 4 players. It’s been made even bigger this year when we switched from a Snake Draft to a Straight Draft, so the winner of the Consolation Bracket not only gets the #1 overall pick (after keepers), but the #1 pick in every round of our draft.

This year, the top three draft slots from the previous year all jumped into the playoffs (including the guy who drafted first overall; he ended up with the 2-seed and a first round BYE). Of course, the guy who drafted fourth overall ended up in last place; whereas the guy who drafted ninth in every round ended up with the 1-seed, so it’s clearly a crapshoot.

***

When it’s time for me to play again in Week 15, I’ll be going up against Korky Butchek. I beat him in Week 1, but lost to him in Week 10.

I’ll be riding or dying with my usual lineup. Brady @ CIN, Wentz @ WAS, Kupp @ DAL, Bell @ BAL, Elliott vs. LAR, Waller & Jacobs vs. JAX, Tucker vs. NYJ, Buffalo D @ PIT. My one change (assuming everything stays the same; i.e. Hilton is out & Haskins is still the QB of Washington, rendering McLaurin unstartable) is putting in Darius Slayton vs. MIA. He’s less valuable when the rest of the Giants’ starters are playing, but he’s still got big play ability and Miami’s defense is pretty terrible. We’ll see; a lot can happen in two weeks.

Like Danny Dimes coming down with an ankle injury and Eli Manning getting a start. If that keeps up, I’ll have to go away from Slayton, for what should be obvious reasons.

Is Russell Wilson Turning A Corner?

The last four games have been phenomenal:

  • vs. SF:  24/29 260 yards, 8.97 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 138.5 rating
  • vs. Pit:  21/30 345 yards, 11.5 avg., 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 147.9 rating
  • @ Min:  21/27 274 yards, 10.15 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 146.0 rating
  • @ Bal:  23/32 292 yards, 9.13 avg., 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 139.6 rating

Add it all up and you’ve got 89/118 (75.4% completions), 1,171 yards (9.92 yards per attempt), 16 TDs, 0 INTs, and whatever that amounts to in the passer rating world (very, very good).  Look at how it lines up against his previous nine games:  175/266 (65.8% completions), 2,118 yards (7.96 yards per attempt), 10 TDs, 7 INTs, and whatever his passer rating was (not nearly as good).  That, in a nutshell (combined with the fact that the Seahawks have lost 5 games, while the Panthers have lost 0 games), is the reality we’re living in as to why Russell Wilson will not be a serious contender for the NFL MVP award.

BUT, it’s reason-enough to get excited about Russell Wilson’s career arc, and whether or not this 4-game stretch represents a turning point in that career.

I think it’s safe to say we, as Seahawks fans, are pretty happy with Wilson to date.  Three playoff appearances (soon to be four), two Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl victory, 44-17 regular season record, 50-19 record including playoffs (say what you will about QB Winzzz, but for the sake of this argument, from a fan perspective, it’s been a pretty thrilling four years with Russell Wilson behind center).  He’s already the greatest quarterback in franchise history and it’s pretty safe to assume (barring injury), we’ve got at least another decade with him at the helm.  If you told me that we could bottle Russell Wilson’s first three seasons, and get to enjoy the exact same success out of him for the rest of his career, I think we’d all gladly take it.

But, what if we could get a better version of Russell Wilson than we’ve ever seen?  What if these last four games are only the tip of the iceberg?

Well, for starters, we’d be talking about the most perfect quarterback who’s ever put on a uniform.  Someone who limits turnovers, throws a high percentage of completions without necessarily throwing a high number of passes, still generates enough explosive plays with his arm to get that high average per attempt, AND ohbytheway is also as explosive as they get with his legs.  If that isn’t the model for the perfect quarterback, I don’t know what is.  It’s essentially what everyone talks about when they breathlessly stroke the ego of Aaron Rodgers, and no one in their right mind would EVER compare A-Rod’s running ability to that of Russell Wilson!  (Try calling Aaron Rodgers “A-Rod” from now on; I find I enjoy how he distastefully compares to the other loathesome A-Rod from baseball).

There are, of course, some caveats to all this greatness we’ve been seeing recently.  The 49ers are pretty terrible, the Steelers’ defense is nothing special, the Vikings were seriously banged up on defense when we played them, and the Ravens are even MORE banged up.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a while since Russell Wilson has been challenged by a defense, either via the pass rush or even a decent secondary.  Also, you can’t say Wilson hasn’t had stretches like this in the past; look at these four consecutive games from his rookie season of 2012:

  • vs. Min:  16/24 173 yards, 7.21 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 127.3 rating
  • vs. NYJ:  12/19 188 yards, 9.90 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 131.0 rating
  • @ Mia:  21/27 224 yards, 8.30 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 125.9 rating
  • @ Chi:  23/37 293 yards, 7.92 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 104.9 rating

Obviously, these numbers aren’t QUITE on par with what he’s done this last month, but they’re similar:

  • 2012:  72/107 (67.3% completions), 878 yards (8.21 avg.), 9 TDs, 0 INTs
  • 2015:  89/118 (75.4% completions), 1,171 yards (9.92 avg.), 16 TDs, 0 INTs

At the very least, you could see this sort of greatness coming.  There’s also this 3-game streak in 2013 that I find illuminating:

  • @ Atl:  19/26 287 yards, 11.04 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 134.6 rating
  • vs. Min:  13/18 230 yards, 12.78 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 151.4 rating
  • vs. NO:  22/30 310 yards, 10.33 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 139.6 rating
  • TOTAL:  54/74 (73.0% completions), 827 yards (11.18 avg.), 7 TDs, 0 INTs

And there are any number of 2-game streaks where Wilson has showed how impressive he can be.  The underlying factor does appear to be the fact that he’s doing these things against less-than-stellar defenses (and less-than-stellar teams in general), but this stretch FEELS different, doesn’t it?

The obvious answer, of course, is that he’s doing a lot of this from the pocket, and within the flow of the offense.  In other words, this isn’t just Wilson scrambling around until someone gets open, then heaving a jump ball down field for his man to go up and get.  Sure, he’s had his share of rushing attempts, but his game is no longer rushing-dependent.  He’s finding open receivers, getting the ball out on time, and giving them a chance to make plays down the field.  He’s also, more and more, showing his trademark touch on deep balls, and locking in on those favorable matchups pre-snap.  It also helps that his pass protection has been amazing of late.  Russell Wilson is always dangerous; Russell Wilson with extra time to survey the field is downright lethal.

I’ve always said that the mark of a great quarterback – a true Franchise Quarterback – is his ability to make those around him better.  Tom Brady is a perfect example; he’s made a career out of winning ballgames in spite of inferior receivers (and, when he actually had great receivers in Moss & Welker, Brady’s game went into the stratosphere).  You can also lump Ben Roethlisberger into that mix; he was always a winner, but he’s been even better with his current crop of all-world receivers.  No one would say Wilson has been blessed with the type of receivers you hear about going to multiple Pro Bowls (and when he has had them, this team has tended to struggle – I’m looking at you, Harvin & Graham).  I would argue that Wilson is in that same conversation as Brady when it comes to doing more with less, and it’s starting to look more and more likely that if you put Wilson into the same sort of pass-first offense Brady’s been running for years, he too would thrive under those conditions.

It’s fun to look at what Wilson has done this last month and thrust his name into the MVP discussion.  And, I’m sure, as this type of production continues in the years to come, he’ll have his real, legitimate shots at actually winning that coveted award.  But, I’m thinking more long-term, when I see a guy like Wilson playing as well as he is.  It’s not a question of whether or not Wilson is one of the best football players of 2015; it’s a question of whether or not he’ll be one of the best to ever play the game.

He’s got a long way to go, obviously.  But, if these first four years are any indication, then he’s only scratching the surface of his greatness.  Think about THAT when you look at this franchise’s chances of being a dynasty this decade.

Seahawks Draft Frank Clark & Tyler Lockett On Day 2

It never really fails.  The Seahawks reportedly “reaching” for a player they could’ve gotten much later in the draft (whether that’s true or not – the player still being available the next time we picked – is another story).  Last year, you could argue Justin Britt was that guy.  The year before, it was Jordan Hill.  The biggest names on this list are Bruce Irvin in 2012 and James Carpenter in 2011.  Guys at the top of our drafts, who the Seahawks fall in love with while everyone else scratches their heads.  It wouldn’t be an NFL Draft with Pete Carroll and John Schneider if someone wasn’t selected who made everyone say, “Him?

Frank Clark is that player in 2015.  The Seahawks like to take these chances because we’re so often drafting in the lower half of rounds.  It’s hard to get REALLY talented players.  There are diamonds in the rough, guys you can coach up to one day be studs.  But, we’re looking for those players who are already talented, but for whatever reason they fell to us (and some teams believe they’re players worthy of falling even further).

James Carpenter had injury concerns.  He also wasn’t really a natural-born offensive tackle.  People hated on the pick because there were other, more talented linemen available.  Gabe Carimi was picked after Carpenter, and he’s not so hot.  Derek Sherrod was taken after Carpenter and his injuries have been so bad (including a broken leg) that he’s hardly played at all since his rookie year!  I’m not going to go on and on down the list, but I will say this:  James Carpenter wasn’t the biggest mistake everyone makes it out to be.  When he was healthy, he was a dominant force in our run game.  That’s what the Seahawks saw when they drafted him – a unique talent for run blocking no one else left on the draft board had – so they took him.

Bruce Irvin had character concerns.  He was also severely under-sized.  But, the Seahawks tabbed him as the draft’s best pure pass rusher.  Weight can be put on, technique can be refined, but his natural gifts couldn’t be taught.  Irvin’s another guy who doesn’t prove Carroll & Schneider are geniuses, but he also doesn’t prove them to be fools.  Irvin led all rookies in sacks his first year.  He converted to linebacker and this appears to suit him quite well.  He’s going into what may or may not be his contract year with a drive I’m sure will lead him to a nice contract.  I won’t say it’s a make-or-break year, because pass rushers tend to really explode later in their careers.  But, I could see it really being a boon for our defense.

Frank Clark falls right in that wheelhouse.  He’s got unique talent for a defensive end.  Possibly even first round talent.  But, he’s got a sordid past.  This is a tricky area to dance around.  Domestic Violence.  It’s been on the minds of football fans since the Ray Rice video came out.  It’s an issue that’s plaguing this country and various parts of the world.  In many respects, women are treated as second-class citizens.  For everyone who jumps to the conclusion that “he did it” there’s a just-as-vocal contingent asking things like “what did she do to deserve it?” or “is she lying to try to destroy his career?”

Gone Girl is a movie.  A movie based on a book.  It’s fiction.  And yet, it seems to be every man’s worst nightmare, of the crazy bitch who frames her innocent husband, drags his name through the mud in the press, and ultimately comes THIS close to ruining his life forever.  Obviously, there are a lot more ins and outs and whathaveyous to the story of Gone Girl, but it’s appalling how many people out there whose first instincts are to blame or shame the victim.

That having been said, I think it’s okay to give someone the benefit of the doubt.  One bad night, one bad incident, does not make someone an Abuser For Life.  Did he hit that girl?  I have no idea; I wasn’t there.  Probably something happened, and that something wasn’t good.  And, the way he talked about the incident at the Combine was really far from ideal (deflecting blame away from himself, as if he had no part in it).  But, you know, we’re not talking about a polished public speaker.  Words come out wrong when you’re in the heat of the moment, with all the cameras and reporters on you.  But, as far as I know, this is the only incident of domestic violence in his past.  And, by all accounts, he’s been in counseling and appears to be working through his issues.  It at least shows he WANTS to be a better person.

I’ll just say this and step down from my soapbox:  he probably did a bad thing, and it sucks.  But, he’s moved on from it, and now he’s a member of the Seattle Seahawks.  You are all free to form your opinions of him and stick to your guns.  If you hate the pick for what he did, I can’t blame you.  I agree with the person on Twitter who said they’d give him a chance, but he’s already on strike two.  One questionable drunken incident doesn’t make someone an abuser of women.  But two?  Two means you did something, you got away with it, and you didn’t care enough to not do it again.  Plus, he’s in the NFL.  There’s added scrutiny and added responsibility when you’re in the NFL.  You have to live up to a standard if you’re going to make it.  You KNOW the world is just waiting for you to slip up.  It’s like that kid who got busted with a failed drug test at the Combine – you KNEW when the Combine was!  How fucking stupid do you have to be to fail a Combine drug test???  Same thing here.  Everyone is waiting for Frank Clark to hit another woman so they can say, “See, this guy hasn’t changed!  He had you all duped, because he plays football, and because you don’t value the life of a woman the way you do the GAME of football!”

For me, Frank Clark has two strikes.  But, I’m not going to bury him straight away.  He’s got to prove he can keep his nose clean, work hard, follow the leadership of the stars on this team, and one day prove his worth.

Frank Clark could be a special talent.  He fell to us at the end of the second round because of his character.  Ultimately, it’s up to him as to whether or not Pete & John are made to look like geniuses or fools.

***

I feel a little bad about blowing this post out on Clark’s off-the-field past, because the player I’m MOST excited about is Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett!

The Seahawks swapped third round picks – moving from the bottom to near the top – with the Washington Redskins (Scot McCloughan strikes again!) to take Lockett at 69.  It was a bold move – costing us (in addition to our 3) a fourth, fifth, and sixth round pick – but apparently one the Seahawks were eager to make.  Initial reports stated the Houston Texans really wanted this kid, so take that for what it’s worth.

Lockett is 5’10, 183 pounds.  He’s fast.  He can play in the slot or outside.  Most importantly, he returns kicks and punts, and he does so really well!

I was raving about this kid when I saw him play against UCLA in the Alamo Bowl this past January.  In that game, he caught 13 balls for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns.  In that game, he also had 3 kick returns for 44 yards and 2 punt returns for another 41 yards.

This is the real deal.  This is Percy Harvin without the attitude dysfunction.  This is a guy who – from day 1 – will be our kick and punt returners.  On top of that, with Richardson likely out for some time due to injury, I like his chances of getting some offensive packages.  Yes, yes, the bubble screen game we all love so much.  But, who knows?  If he flashes a little Golden Tate, maybe he also grabs some jump balls down the field.

Lockett could top out as one of those hybrid #1 receivers, like a T.Y. Hilton or a DeSean Jackson.  Not the big, Randy Moss types.  But, the stretch-the-field burner types.  If he ends up panning out, that proceeds to slot the rest of our receivers right where they belong (in the 2-3-4 range).  With Lockett potentially stretching the field, Graham as our red zone threat, and Baldwin and Kearse doing their thing, I believe our offense is pretty well set.

It was a huge price to pay, but ultimately one I think will be worth it.  If you look at how the third round shook out, all the good receivers were taken by the time it would’ve gotten to us (including picks by Pittsburgh and Green Bay, because they seemingly want to draft ALL the receivers).

I don’t know who these people are who are killing the Seahawks for drafting Lockett, but you need to screw your heads on straight.  I hate to break it to you, but Dorial Green-Beckham was selected with the 40th pick; it would’ve cost WAY too much for us to trade up there and grab him!

This way, we fill a couple holes in our return game and our offense, while at the same time maybe landed a pass rusher who will complement Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril really well.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  You can’t have enough pass rushers.

Players To Watch In Super Bowl XLIX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Case Against The Elite Passers

Seahawks fans are pretty high on Russell Wilson.  We think he’s already great, but that he also has room to be even BETTER.  We understand he gets knocked down a peg because of our offensive game plan (run-heavy) and our defense (best in the game), which just makes the hypothetical arguments that much more interesting:  how good could Russell Wilson be if the offense completely ran through him and he had to throw the ball 35-50 times per game?

My question today is:  would we even WANT him to be that quarterback?

Who are the best pure passers in the league today?  Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, and Andrew Luck.  Besides those guys, when you’re looking at teams who funnel the offense entirely through the quarterback position (because they’re not blessed with a top-notch running game, or at least don’t take advantage of the running game they’ve got), you can also tack on guys like Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco.  These 14 guys have combined for 9 championships, but let’s look at those figures a little closer.

For starters, the Tom Brady that won his three rings was WAY different than the Tom Brady he would become once the Pats picked up Welker and Moss.  From that point onward, that was a pass-first offense that relied almost exclusively on the arm of Brady to take them where they were going to go.  Young Tom Brady headed up a balanced offensive attack and won it all three out of four years.  Old Tom Brady breaks a bunch of passing records and loses Super Bowls (if he’s even able to make it at all).

I would also argue that Eli’s two rings were when the Giants had a capable rushing attack to balance out the load.  Eli wasn’t throwing the football around all day when he beat the Patriots twice!  He is now, because the team around him has fallen apart.

When you look at an offense as a whole, and you factor in how well they pass vs. how well they run, the number of success stories starts to dwindle.  The 2012 Ravens gave Flacco more responsibility and he rode an insanely hot streak to the promised land.  The 2009 Saints & 2010 Packers only went as far as their quarterbacks took them (not to mention, saw a big spike in defensive productivity in those years).  The 2006 Colts got Peyton Manning his only ring.  And, before that, you have to go all the way back to the 1999 Rams and their Greatest Show On Turf.

That’s five titles in the last 15 years.  Meanwhile, among the runners up, you’ve got last year’s Broncos, the 2007 & 2011 Patriots, the 2009 Colts, the 2008 Cardinals, the 2004 Eagles, the 2002 Raiders, and the 2001 Rams.  Most of these runners up lost to teams that were well balanced on offense (or, simply ran into buzz-saw defenses; either way, the fact that their offenses were so one-dimensional was detrimental to their ultimate goals).

The thinking seems to be:  if you’ve got an elite quarterback (or someone who you THINK is elite), then you might as well take advantage of that fact and tailor the offense to his talents.  Ultimately, that sees teams neglecting other aspects of their offense.  They de-emphasize the running game.  They fail to bring in quality wide receivers (New England), believing that their QB can make any guy off the streets into a producer.  They make it so the team is SO reliant upon this one guy, that if he gets hurt or has a bad game, you’re effectively guaranteeing a loss.

Who wants to put all that pressure on just one guy?  Why would you risk needing someone to be totally perfect each and every week, or else your team will fail?  I argue that you should spread out your talents, and your burdens.  Russell Wilson’s greatest asset isn’t the fact that he’s a leader, or that he’s a “running quarterback”, or that he’s got a strong arm.  His greatest asset is adaptability.  If something isn’t working, Russell Wilson and this offense can do other things to make up for it.  It’s like an ace pitcher in baseball.  Maybe his change up isn’t doing what he wants it to do on a particular day.  But, that doesn’t mean he just gets shelled for three innings.  He finds a way to use his other pitches to bear down and keep his team in the ballgame.

In an ideal world, the offensive line would create a protective force field, allowing Russell Wilson all day to stand in the pocket as he completes every pass on his first read.  But, rarely is the world ideal.  That’s where having someone like Russell Wilson is an advantage over having someone like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Drew Brees.  If you can prevent those quarterbacks from doing the one thing they do well – throw the ball from a clean pocket – you’re going to shut them down.  When they’re forced to move around, their effectiveness goes way down.  And, since they’re on teams that absolutely refuse to run the ball, they don’t have that to turn to when the chips are down.  Opposing defenses get to gear up and attack one guy.  Once he’s neutralized, the game is over.

Just because you have someone who can do it all, it doesn’t mean he SHOULD be doing it all.  I hope Russell Wilson and the Seahawks never change their philosophy.

An Appreciation of Sidney Rice

There are rumblings that Sidney Rice will be waived very soon.  This comes as zero surprise.  There’s a $7.3 million boost to the salary cap that comes with this move.  To show you how not-surprising this move is, literally every single time I’ve ever sat down to write about the Seahawks’ impending salary cap situation for 2014 and beyond, the very first thing I’ve done every time is go to Google and type “Sidney Rice overthecap” and hit “I’m Feeling Lucky”.

Ever wondered who uses the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button?  I’m your man!

I have a difficult time bad-mouthing anything the Seahawks have ever done in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime, since they went and won us a championship and everything.  But, I have a feeling that people are going to look at the career of Sidney Rice in a Seahawks’ uniform and say, “Well, that was a move that totally backfired!”

The Seahawks signed Sidney Rice coming into the 2011 season.  We were coming off of a 7-9 campaign that resulted in a division championship, a wild playoff victory over the Saints, and a predictable playoff defeat against the Bears.  He signed for 5 years and $41 million, with a $6 million signing bonus.  In his three years with the Seahawks, Sidney Rice earned $23.5 million of his $41 million deal; not too shabby for three years’ work.

The 2010 Seahawks were led in receptions and yards by Big Mike Williams (65 for 751 and 2 TDs), followed by Deon Butler, Ben Obomanu, John Carlson, and Brandon Stokley (all ranging between 30-36 receptions and 318-494 yards).  Suffice it to say, the Seahawks could use some help in their receiving corps.  Golden Tate was on the roster, but he was still a rookie in 2010, and two years away from starting to break out.

There were plenty of holes on that Seahawks team, and thanks to an unlikely Divisional Round playoff appearance, we were rewarded with a low first round draft pick.  Not only that, but the 2011 season came on the heels of the Lockout, so the time to sign players and get them ready for the season was ridiculously short.

And, I don’t know if you remember anything about the free agents in 2011, but here’s a smattering of names that were available:  Mike Sims-Walker, Antwaan Randle-El, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Torry Holt, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, Chris Chambers, Plaxico Burress, and Steve Breaston (and those are just the names I recognize).  We had our pick of a bunch of nobodies, and a bunch of those aforementioned, over-the-hill losers.

Truth be told, Sidney Rice was the pick of the litter.  Granted, they probably should have just drowned that litter and started over, but that’s neither here nor there.

An interesting name being floated around at the time was Vincent Jackson.  He was franchised by the Chargers in 2011 and was looking to get the hell out of there.  He was a disgruntled, super-talented receiver looking for greener grass, and the Seahawks had their eyes on him.  Of course, he would have cost us a buttload of draft picks on top of what would eventually be a 5-year $55 million deal (that he would go on to sign in Tampa the very next year), and at that point it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for that Seahawks team (with that many holes they needed to fill through the draft) to give up draft capital just to bring in a superstar receiver.

So, the Seahawks got Sidney Rice.  And they got Zach Miller.  And those two moves sort of paid dividends, except Rice was injured through most of his first year here and ended up only playing in 9 games.  I would argue that his full participation in 2011 wouldn’t have made much of a difference, because we still weren’t that great of a football team, so I’m willing to overlook all of that.

Rice came back in 2012 and played in all 16 games, leading the team in receptions and yards.  Granted, they weren’t the greatest numbers in the world (50 for 748 and 7 TDs), but on that team, with how much we wanted to run the ball, those were indeed #1 receiver numbers.  I’d say in 2012 we got our money’s worth.

2013 was, once again, a disappointment, as Rice was only able to play in 8 games before tearing his ACL and losing out on our Super Bowl run.  Even in those 8 games, it’s hard to say he was living up to what was expected, as his numbers were WAY down compared to 2012.  That’s essentially while he was playing with the same receiving corps (Harvin and Rice never once played a down together at the same time last season).

If I’m sitting here objectively, looking at his totals over the last three seasons (97 receptions, 1,463 yards, 12 TDs, 33 of a possible 48 regular season games played), then no, there’s no way that type of production was worth $23.5 million.  97/1,463/12 are the type of numbers you’d expect out of a legitimate #1 receiver in a single season, not spread out over three.  And make no mistake, Sidney Rice was getting paid #1 receiver money.

But, here’s the thing:  what else were the Seahawks supposed to do?  Sidney Rice was the best-available option in a free agent class that could best be described as “slim pickin’s”.  We needed offensive firepower, because the previous regime left this team bereft.  And yes, Sidney Rice had injury concerns coming in (which turned out to be valid, given the number of games he missed with the Seahawks), but you have to figure that’s the cost of doing business.

Sidney Rice was never a bona fide #1 receiver for the Seahawks, but he was incredibly valuable in that 2012 run.  Likewise, once we lost him in 2013, our offense suffered tremendously.  Had the Seahawks lost in the playoffs, instead of all this joy in my heart, I would have written endlessly about how losing Sidney Rice was an underrated aspect in this past season falling apart.  Sidney Rice might have never been a true #1, but he made some catches that left my jaw on the floor.  And without him, I don’t think we would have seen near the progress in this offense from Russell Wilson’s first snaps onward.

It all boils down to football being a business.  Some fans feel a little jaded because this team paid all this money to a guy who did relatively little, but as I said before, it’s the price of doing business.  When you’re a bad team looking for a quick fix via free agency, that’s the price you have to pay to bring in talent.  Conversely, some players get upset because teams never honor their contracts.  The price of doing business:  if you’re over-compensated, you’re going to get the ax when your contract becomes too prohibitive.  Had Sidney Rice lived up to his #1 billing, then paying him a little under $20 million for the next two years would have been a relative bargain (or, at least commensurate to what he’s capable of producing).  Since he didn’t live up to his end, he’s gone.  So it goes.

Sidney Rice won’t go down as one of the greatest Seahawks wide receivers of all time, but that’s okay, because in the end we got our championship.  While he didn’t catch any game-winning touchdowns down the stretch, he was still a part of this team.  He was a part of turning around a franchise, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.  For that, he’ll always be remembered fondly, at least in my book.

And, with this cap savings, you could say Sidney Rice is the gift that keeps on giving.  With this $7.3 million (not to mention the base salary of $9 million we won’t have to pay next year), we’ll be able to re-sign Michael Bennett.  Or extend Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman.  His sacrifice enables our greater good.  So, don’t kick the man on his way out of town.  Thank him for his hard work and wish him well in his next endeavor.  There’s no sense in being resentful when your team is getting fitted for championship rings as we speak.

The Whole Richard Sherman Hullabaloo

There are two universal truths on the subject of Richard Sherman:

  1. I’m a hardcore Seahawks fan, therefore I love Richard Sherman
  2. If I was a 49ers fan, I would despise Richard Sherman

And that’s what it boils down to.  If he was on your team, you’d love him and defend him like he’s a member of your family.  You’d take him exactly as he is and you wouldn’t trade him for anything.  As it stands, literally any team COULD HAVE gotten him, but he fell to the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, so if you don’t like him, blame your organization’s general manager for lacking the foresight that ours so obviously has. 

To the rest of the world – outside of Seattle and San Francisco – Richard Sherman is up for debate.

There are people, no doubt, who hate the Seahawks simply because of Richard Sherman.  Even though we’ve got one of the most pleasant young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, even though we’ve got one of the funniest, toughest, and most likeable running backs in Marshawn Lynch.  If you have no affiliation with Seattle or the Seahawks, and you’re watching this game as a casual observer of the NFL, AND Richard Sherman just so happens to rub you the wrong way … well, you’re probably going to be rooting for the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl (that is, unless you live in Kansas City, New England, Oakland, or San Diego).

***

Richard Sherman, boy is he polarizing!  I often find myself wondering if I would appreciate his antics if he played on another team.  Obviously, if he was a 49er, I’d hate his guts.  But, let’s say he played for Cincinnati, or Philadelphia, or some other team I have relatively benign feelings about.  Well, the easiest way to answer that question is to look back at some of the most polarizing players in years gone by.  Deion Sanders.  Chad Johnson.  Terrell Owens.  Randy Moss.  I like ALL of those guys!  To me, talent always trumps any of that off-the-field nonsense.  Sometimes, what a guy says is funny.  Sometimes, what he says is enlightening.  Sometimes, it’s just narcissistic boasting.  But, it’s almost always entertaining.  And, if they have the talent on the field to back up what they say off of it, then I’ve got no problem.

It’s when guys run their mouths, then turn around and suck dick on the field … that’s what I’ve got a problem with.  But, with players like Owens, Moss, Sanders, and Sherman, it’s like watching a majestic bald eagle soaring over a field of supermodel lesbian orgies:  I don’t want to take my eyes off of them, except to brush away a tear because of how beautiful it all is.

***

I like a good rivalry.  Hell, I LOVE it.  There’s nothing like it.  Of course, what would I know about it, since this is the first real rivalry I’ve been a part of?  Even those Sonics teams in the 90s didn’t have one particular team they always competed against on an even level.  The Utah Jazz came close, I guess, but can you really define your sports fandom on a Sonics/Jazz rivalry?  The Trailblazers and the Lakers came close too, but I dunno.  It’s hard to remember the passion you felt for something 20 years ago.  I have this memory of just generally hating all the other Western Conference teams equally.

Anyway, what makes for a good rivalry are two teams who are evenly matched, who play one another regularly (so, it helps if they’re in the same division), and who actively dislike one another.  Scrapes and jawing on the field.  Verbal barbs through the media.  Rumors floating around on Twitter about what REALLY happened between so-and-so and so-and-so.

In this case, we have Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree.  Apparently, at an off-season charity event, Sherman was slighted by Crabtree in some way.  We’ll probably never get the full truth out of this one, but suffice it to say, they don’t like one another.

Then, we had the quotes after the NFC Championship Game.  First, on the field, with Erin Andrews:

I’m the best corner in the game!  When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you going to get!  Don’t you ever talk about me!

And, when Andrews tried to get the scoop, asking him who was talking about him, Richard responded:

Crabtree.  Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut if for you real quick!

The exclamation points are mine, but really I like to think they’re everybody’s, because that was as delightful an exchange as I’ve ever seen from a post-game, on-field interview.  Generally, those things are THE WORST.  The interviewer & interviewee can’t really hear one another, the questions are always the same (“How does it feel to win the game?”  “What were you thinking when so-and-so did that thing?”), and the answers are always dumb fucking cliches, because when you ask a dumb fucking question, you deserve a dumb fucking answer.  I will take Sherman’s animation and exuberance any day of the week.

Then, in his post-game interview session with the rest of the reporters, Sherman said the following:

I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre player.  Me-di-oc-re.  And when you try to beat the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens.  Game.  I appreciate that he knows that now.  There has been a lot of talk from him running his mouth about me.

And also:

He wouldn’t make the top 20 of NFL receivers.  If any team had a chance to pick Crabtree, they wouldn’t draft him.

And finally, in response to a question about being surprised that Kaepernick challenged him:

Everybody in the stadium was surprised.  You throw that?  It’s insane.  I’m thankful they keep doing it.  I should have picked it, but there was some offensive interference and I knew it wouldn’t be called.

Jewels.  Crown jewels, all of them.  I treasure each one of these quotes like they’re my own offspring.  I could write a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of fiction and it still wouldn’t make me as happy as those quotes.

Here’s the thing:  if you’ve ever played sports – even if it’s just at the intramural level of basketball or football or whatever – and you’ve gone up against a team or a player who just rubs you the wrong way, you know exactly what Richard Sherman was feeling at the end of that game.  It takes a certain type of individual, with a certain mind-set, to get as caught up in these petty grudges.  But, when you’re in the moment, nothing else matters.  To defeat that fucking dickhead – regardless as to WHY you think he’s a dickhead – is the best thing that’s going to happen to you that week.  It’s a feeling unlike any other, because it’s a feeling that only the most competitive sorts possess.

***

Richard Sherman is a rare talent.  He’s the best at what he does, yet he’s punished by not getting a chance to do what he does as often as he’d like.  What I mean by that, of course, is that other teams avoid throwing at him like the plague.  He had two balls thrown his way in the entire game.  One resulted in a holding penalty on third down that continued a scoring drive for the 49ers; the other ended the game with a Seahawks victory in hand.  To go out there and maintain your focus has to be one of the toughest things to do in this sport.  At any moment, the threat of being beat is real.  Richard Sherman has to stay in that moment and prevent that threat from becoming a reality, play-in and play-out.

He has to stand there as the quarterback ignores him.  He has to try his best, even though the other team is CLEARLY positioning its third or fourth-best receiver in his area of the field.  Not only did Sherman play a near-flawless game of coverage, but he almost single-handedly preserved the victory when the 49ers were so foolish as to change the one tactic that was working for them all game.

I talked about it yesterday, but it bears repeating:  only a foolish type of arrogance would lead a team down this direction.  If Michael Crabtree is your best receiver, and you’re determined to throw it to him to win the game, why wouldn’t you put him on the other side of the field, against Byron Maxwell?  I’m not saying it would have worked out any better – because Maxwell is a beast in his own right – but at the very least it would have given them a CHANCE.  Against Sherman?  No chance.  Game.

***

Richard Sherman doesn’t need a guy like me defending him.  Anyone who has done the least bit of research knows, deep down, this is a good guy at heart.  When you consider the man’s background, his charity work, his dedication to this team and the players around him:  really, he’s the ideal guy to root for.

Most people refuse to listen to reason, though.  They’ll never take the time to learn, and if they do, they’ll dismiss all of his genuine qualities.  I get it.  It’s like arguing politics with someone.  They’re steadfast in their beliefs and nothing is going to change their minds.

All I can say is, I’m glad we’ve got Richard Sherman, and I’ll take him exactly as he is.  Accept no substitutes.  This is the guy to lead us to the Promised Land.

Always Never A Doubt In My Mind

At one point in this game, Russell Wilson had scrambled his way into an opening-play fumble (recovered by the 49ers), LaMichael James had muffed a punt (recovered by the 49ers), and Colin Kaepernick had the ball stripped on a sack (recovered by a 49ers lineman, ran for 6 yards).  That final piece of lunacy saved a touchdown drive and gave the 49ers a 17-10 lead, and it left Seahawks fans wondering if the football gods were EVER going to smile down upon us.

Ask anyone who knows anything, and they’ll tell you that going 0 for 3 on fumble recoveries is pretty fucking rare.  A fumble is generally a 50/50 proposition, and if the Seahawks went down because of this stat, you’d call it one of the unluckiest breaks in football.  Of course, one game is pretty much as small of a sample size as you could get; nevertheless, I couldn’t help but believe that this streak couldn’t continue FOREVER.  There would HAVE to be fumbles forthcoming that would bounce our way.

Sure enough, from that point in the third quarter where the 49ers went back up by a touchdown, the Seahawks caught all the breaks.  Colin Kaepernick was strip-sacked by Avril (recovered by Michael Bennett).  A fumble by Jermaine Kearse at the goalline that was recovered by Marshawn Lynch at the 1.  And, on the very next play, a Russell Wilson/Marshawn Lynch fumbled exchange on 4th & Goal from the 1 yard line (recovered by Michael Robinson, which doesn’t sound so great, because we failed to score the touchdown or even keep the 49ers pinned back inside the one yard line, but if you look at it again, you’ll see a ton of 49ers players around that football, with a clear opportunity to return that thing for a 99-yard touchdown).  Kaepernick was intercepted by Kam (which wasn’t a lucky break, per se, but it was a turnover).  Another Russell Wilson fumble on a busted play (recovered by Wilson, resulting in an offensive pass interference penalty).  And finally, the game-ending interception on the tip from Sherman to Malcolm Smith.

To be honest with you, I don’t know how to feel about a game that hinged so deeply upon luck.  There’s the obvious turnover issues I described above, there were referee issues (some iffy penalties, some iffier non-calls, and that fumble recovery that couldn’t be reviewed, which ended up not really mattering anyway), there were injury issues (I don’t know if we’ll ever know the impact of the 49ers losing their best offensive guard and their best linebacker in Iupati and Bowman respectively), and there was the play of the game.

To set it up, the Seahawks pulled to within 17-13 on a Hauschka field goal.  We forced a 3 & out thanks to the refs missing what probably should have been roughing the punter.  We got the ball at our own 38 yard line, and we drove to the San Francisco 34 yard line, with 2nd down and 6 coming up.  Russell Wilson was called for a clear Intentional Grounding, which put us back to the 50 yard line, for a 3rd down and 22 to go.  This is the nightmare scenario, but to our credit, we called something reasonable.  A nice little pass to Zach Miller out on the flat, who rumbled for 15 yards to the San Francisco 35 yard line.  At this point, it was 4th and 7.  Maybe within the range of Hauschka, but not really something you feel comfortable about in this situation.  It was the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks very nearly decided to kick it, but ultimately burned a timeout.  Had we lost this game because we were short on timeouts, I’m sure everyone would have pointed to this situation.  As it stood, that timeout was probably the smartest decision we made all game.

We put the offense back out on the field to pick up the seven yards.  Russell Wilson nailed the hard count, which got the 49ers to go offsides.  To their credit, the refs didn’t whistle the play dead (for the record, in a similiar situation this season, the refs blew the play dead and cost us an opportunity to make a huge play).  All the receivers broke off of their intended routes and ran for the endzone.  Wilson made the perfect throw, and Jermaine Kearse came down with an amazing catch.

How does luck come into it?  Well, if that throw is offline, or if the 49ers defender makes a better play on the ball, and it falls incomplete, then we’re looking at 4th and 2 from the 30 yard line.  At that point, I don’t think there’s any question that the Seahawks go for the field goal, to pull within 17-16.  And who KNOWS how the game turns from there!  What if Hauschka misses the 47 yarder?  Of course, he would go on later to make a 47 yarder, but Hauschka was on record – after the game – as saying that he really didn’t want to kick that field goal when it was going to be a 52 yarder.  What if, in his shaken state, Hauschka pulls that one?  Then, the 49ers would get great field position, and most importantly, we’d get no points.  Even if we assume he would make it, that still would have left us down a point with a quarter left to go.  That touchdown was the difference between the 49ers ultimately needing a touchdown to win the game vs. needing a field goal to win the game.  If that’s the case, I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re sitting here today lamenting the fact that the 49ers are playing for the championship.

Just a wild, crazy game.  Here are some other observations:

Russell Wilson was REALLY driving me crazy in that first half.  I understand that you’ve got to take the good with the bad with a guy like Wilson, and it really COULD be worse.  I’m not sitting here wishing that we had some gunslinger like Tony Romo who would ultimately cost us more in big games than he’d help us.  But, it really looked like Wilson was playing tentative yesterday.  Holding the ball too long, looking to scramble out of the pocket (which couldn’t have been worse, because more often than not – with our linemen pushing their ends outside and around the pocket in a circle – he was just running himself INTO pressure) when he should have just stepped up and made a throw (especially when he’s got Golden Tate streaking downfield with single-coverage).

Of course, Wilson ended up having enough in him to lead us to victory, so it’s not like I can complain too hard.  And, if he leads us to a Super Bowl victory, it’s going to be hard for me to EVER badmouth the man again.

Good God, do we need someone better to spy Colin Kaepernick on the run!  It struck me that Bruce Irvin probably would have been perfect, but it didn’t look like we used him all that much in this game.  He seriously whiffed on one play, where he bit on the play fake and let Kaep run around him for a huge gain; but, if Irvin’s sole job was to simply follow the quarterback wherever he went, I think Irvin’s speed could have neutralized him.

Marshawn Lynch had another huge game, going for 109 yards on the ground and a touchdown.  This was the first time anyone had run for over 100 yards on the 49ers this year, and for a minute it looked like one of the rare times that the Seahawks would lose a game where Lynch went over 100 yards.  That fumble at the goalline wasn’t even his fault, so I’m glad they didn’t put that on him in the scorebook.

Doug Baldwin, as always, was a revelation.  One of these days, he’s going to get the respect he deserves, but for now, let the doubters keep doubting him.  He’ll just keep making them look stupid.  With 6 catches for 106 yards, it looked like he was going to be the MVP of the game.  He still might be, especially when you consider his 69 yard kickoff return ultimately led to a field goal (and probably should have been a touchdown drive, if our offense wasn’t still sputtering so frustratingly.

Finally, what can you say about a defense that’s the best in the game.  From the first play, where we were placed at a disadvantage thanks to the Wilson fumble, this defense showed up and put in their usual outstanding work.  Bobby Wagner led all tacklers with 15, and Kam Chancellor wasn’t far behind with 11.  Kam also came down with that interception (on just an AWFUL pass by Kaepernick) and had another two passes defended.  Our D-Line wasn’t able to get as much pressure as you’d like, but I thought they played a lot smarter in the second half, not letting Kaepernick just immediately have the edge to run.  Even though we were playing so safe, Bennett and Avril were still able to wreak some havoc.  And the run defense?  Aside from Kaepernick (who got most of his rushing yards on scrambles when a pass play broke down), this part of their game was completely shut down.  Frank Gore finally started looking his age, running for 14 yards on 11 attempts.

I don’t really know what the next-day narrative is going to be today (aside from Everything Richard Sherman, which I will write about tomorrow), but I have the feeling that Colin Kaepernick is going to get a lot of love from the national media.  This is a mistake.

Yes, it’s quite the breathtaking thing to see Colin Kaepernick with the football, running in the open field.  Dodging tacklers, graceful as a gazelle, he’s a weapon unlike any other in the game of football.  If he didn’t have all that, you know what he’d be?  Without the ability to run for dozens upon dozens of yards, Colin Kaepernick would be Jeff George:  a rocket arm attached to a mental midget.

When he’s on, he’s something to behold.  That touchdown pass to Boldin in the back of the endzone from 26 yards out was as good as it gets.  Nevertheless, it was a STUPID decision and the ball was very nearly tipped or picked off entirely.  Then, there’s that aforementioned interception to Kam.  He was standing RIGHT THERE the whole time!  There was no deception out of Kam to bait him; Kaepernick saw him the whole time and still threw the damn pass right to him!  He said he thought he could get it over Kam … but Kam’s 6’3!  There were his two fumbles, which resulted from him trying to do too much with a play (which I can’t really fault him for, unless I feel like jumping down Wilson’s throat every time he does something annoying like that).  And, of course, the game-clinching interception when he challenged Richard Sherman with less than 30 seconds to go in the game.

He said he’d take Michael Crabtree in a 1-on-1 matchup with anyone in the league.  He said he wouldn’t change a thing about his decision-making process.  Did he say this because he’s stupid?  Because he’s arrogant?  Because of his blind hatred of the Seahawks and especially Richard Sherman?  Any way you slice it, it’s foolish thinking from a foolish individual.  Maybe if Crabtree magically transformed into Randy Moss in his prime, I could see it.  But, Crabtree isn’t anything special.  I’d take Doug Baldwin over him any day.  Crabtree is only considered an “elite” receiver by the national media because he was drafted in the first round, plain and simple.  There’s nothing about his game that’s elite.  He’s okay.  Off the top of my head, I can think of 25 wide receivers who are better than him (Baldwin, Tate, Fitzgerald, Dez, Marshall, Jeffery, Megatron, Jordy Nelson, Cobb, Demaryius Thomas, Decker, Welker, Hilton, Garcon, Green, Brown, Cruz, Desean Jackson, Andre Johnson, Keenan Allen, Josh Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, and Jimmy Graham – who is actually a wide receiver, in spite of what they try to label him as in New Orleans).

The point is, he’s not better than Richard Sherman.  And if Kaepernick is too stupid or too stubborn to realize that, then maybe Kaepernick isn’t the guy who’s going to lead you to a championship.  His talent may be good enough to get him past most teams in the league, but his hubris is ultimately going to be his undoing against the best teams in the league.  He thinks that just because he has a strong arm, he can make every throw, and that’s just not the case.  And, if that throw’s not there, no worries, he can just run for any first down he wants.  Except, here’s the thing:  when his team is down and he’s got to mount a comeback, the same shit he gets praised for is what’s going to ultimately cost his team ballgames.

In the end, this was a game about two quarterbacks.  One a little too cautious, one a little too reckless.  Somewhere in the middle, you have the perfect NFL player.  But, ultimately, it’s easier for a cautious quarterback to take a few more chances than it is for a reckless player to settle for the sensible decision.  That’s why the Seahawks won this football game.  That’s why the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and the 49ers are licking their wounds.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

Normally, I’m of the opinion that winning is the only thing that matters to me as a fan.  I don’t necessarily care what type of person you are off the field, what your beliefs are, what you do in your free time, whatever.  I’m not a fan of Local Sports Athlete, The Person.  I’m just a fan of Local Sports Athlete, The Member of Local Sports Team.  And when you leave the Local Sports Team, I tend to immediately lose interest in you.  Even the all-time greats!  I rarely took the time to see what Ken Griffey Jr. or Gary Payton did after they left Seattle.  Unless they were involved in a playoff run, in which case I would root from afar, but not too hard, because it’s impossible to root hard for a team that’s not your own.

Tangents aside, in getting back to my original point:  NORMALLY, I could care less about who these athletes are.  If you’re kind of a creep, I’m probably going to put up with your antics, because as the axiom goes:  You would absolutely LOVE everything Richard Sherman says and does if he was on YOUR team.

I’m sure Richard Sherman has his fair share of fans who aren’t necessarily Seahawks fans.  It is possible to overlap in this Venn diagram.  For instance, I always liked whenever Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens or Randy Moss made waves with whatever controversial things they said or did.  Even the Sharpie Incident, which happened during a game against my beloved Seahawks; I LOVE that shit!  I think it’s hilarious.  Now, in the heat of the moment, I was most likely enraged, but taken objectively, I think there IS a place in the game for these types of characters, and I wish we had more of them.

Nevertheless, Richard Sherman has an inordinate amount of haters because of who he is and what he says.  Golden Tate, too, has an inordinate amount of haters, because of the Fail Mary, and more recently the taunting spectacle in the Monday Night Rams game.  And, I guess because he went to Notre Dame and it’s always popular to hate on the Fighting Irish.

I contend that I would be fans of these guys even if they’d never once worn a Seahawks uniform, because they’re entertaining.  They’re not boxed into some white-bread formula for what a professional football player is supposed to be.  I don’t need a league full of cookie-cutter athletes.  I think Mark Schlereth is the most boring analyst on television and I’d rather there be MORE players who ruffle his feathers.  I don’t subscribe to the Mike Golic way of thinking, and I’m better for it.

That having been said, there’s another type of professional athlete who I can’t stand.  And I want to believe I’d hate this type of player even if he donned the Seahawks’ unis.  This player is no better exemplified than by one Richie Incognito.

This guy is a fucking asshole of the highest order.  What’s worse, the bulk of his value isn’t derived from his skill at the offensive guard position, but rather in how dirty he is as a player.

There have been dirty players I’ve enjoyed and rooted for in my lifetime.  Dennis Rodman was always pretty dirty; but he also rebounded the ball like a madman and was ultimately an asset on the floor until his personality got in the way and the team soured on his antics.  There have been any number of cheaters in baseball who I’ve rooted for at one time or another.  I even have a generally postive opinion of Barry Bonds; but don’t get me started on that dickhead Roger Clemens.  Even Brandon Browner is more imposing enforcer than NFL cornerback; but he still has a skillset and for the most part plays within the rules.

Richie Incognito, on the other hand, is damn near a psychopath.  How he has never played for the Oakland Raiders is anybody’s guess.  Being billed the Dirtiest Player In The NFL isn’t something to be proud of!  What’s more, if he wasn’t so dirty, he wouldn’t even be in the league!  The guy is a mediocre lineman at best, and that’s while using every dirty trick in the book.  He’s often one of the most-penalized players in the NFL.  And now, we’ve got this hazing incident.

If the Seahawks went out and signed him to the minimum for next year as some added depth, there is no way I’d root for the man.  I’d actively criticize this front office every chance I got.  Hell, if the Seahawks would’ve signed him in his supposed-prime, I still would have criticized the move!  He’s a terrible football player, a wretch of a human being, and I hope he has played his last down in the NFL.  And, if he gets another chance to play again, I hope he tears both ACLs in his first practice.  Incognito is scum; that is all.

On to the rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (7-1) – WOW, look at this schedule the next four games:  @SD, KC, @NE, @KC.  There’s your gauntlet, my friends.  This is also the stretch that likely decides the AFC West and the AFC top 2 seeds.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (8-1) – The best team in football doesn’t let a team like Tampa put up a 21-point lead; I don’t care if we came back in the second half.

The Rest:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) – They’re just steady, what can you say?
  2. Indianapolis Colts (6-2) – Boy, that Andrew Luck is simply a baller.  It’s going to hurt him not having Reggie Wayne around, though.  They’re going to need to find a #2 receiver in a bad way.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (6-2) – You chickenfuckers thought you were going to get one on us!  Not sorry to let you down, assholes!
  4. New England Patriots (7-2) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Pittsburgh Steelers, BFD.
  5. New Orleans Saints (6-2) – They’ll still end up with a good record, but I just can’t see the Saints as a Top 2 team in the NFC.  I still think Green Bay steals that #2 seed in the end.
  6. Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Like so many teams, the Packers are one injured quarterback away from being totally worthless.
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) – And, Andy Dalton follows up his best game ever with three interceptions and a safety to end the game in overtime.  This is why we can’t have nice things!
  8. Detroit Lions (5-3) – So, have you seen Detroit’s second-half schedule?  Look at these cupcakes:  @Chi, @Pit, TB, GB, @Phi, Bal, Giants, @Min.  This team could EASILY be 12-4 at season’s end!
  9. Carolina Panthers (5-3) – Panthers are riding a 4-game winning streak and absolutely had to win that game against the Falcons.  Their upcoming schedule is pretty rough, with the next three:  @SF, NE, @Mia.  If they figure out a way to go 2-1 in that stretch, I would legitimately be afraid of this team.  Also, not for nothing, but they still play the Saints twice.
  10. Chicago Bears (5-3) – Matt Forte is a national treasure.  This year of fantasy dominance totally redeems him for his last two years of utter sucktitude.
  11. New York Jets (5-4) – J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!  They beat the Saints for us and we ALMOST blew it.  Either way, way to go!  You’re earning more points in my book every week!
  12. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) – Wow, Tony Romo in the clutch … what is the world coming to?
  13. Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – This team could finish 10-6 or 6-10 and it wouldn’t totally shock me.  Home games against Texans, Indy, Rams, and 49ers.  Road games against Jax, Phi, Ten, and Sea.  I could see 6 wins in that slate, and also 6 losses; guess it just depends on whether or not Palmer has enough in the tank.
  14. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – Like the Dolphins, we’re not talking about a good team.  One of these two teams (Chargers or Dolphins) will take that 6th spot in the AFC playoffs, but they will lose in that first playoff game, without question.
  15. Miami Dolphins (4-4) – They beat an inconsistent Bengals team.  Who cares?  They’re still not very good.
  16. Houston Texans (2-6) – Boy, I tell you, that Case Keenum fella is going to be fun to watch for the next 5-6 years.  Houston kinda lucked out this year.  If they can finish with a crappy-enough record, maybe they get a high draft pick and immediately reload for next year.
  17. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) – Matt Ryan is KILLING me right now.  You can’t be throwing all these interceptions!  Well, except for next week, when Seattle comes to town.  but, after that, NO MORE!
  18. Cleveland Browns (4-5) – Oh those resilient Browns!  I never had a doubt that they’d beat the Ravens.
  19. Buffalo Bills (3-6) – Tuel looked kinda okay against the undefeated Chiefs.  In the end, he cost them the game, and he’s clearly the third-best quarterback on that team, but still.  He should hold his head reasonably high.
  20. Baltimore Ravens (3-5) – There is something seriously wrong with Ray Rice.  Well, there are five things seriously wrong with Ray Rice, and that would be his offensive linemen.
  21. Tennessee Titans (4-4) – Didn’t have Locker’s best game, but still went in and put a pounding on a decent Rams team (on the road, no less).
  22. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) – Nick Foles, you have single-handedly won me my fantasy game on an otherwise down week!  I love you!  You may have also saved my season and pushed me through into the playoffs!  I want to have your babies!
  23. Oakland Raiders (3-5) – Pretty stinky performance, Raiders.  My fantasy team thanks you for that.
  24. Washington Redskins (3-5) – That goalline stand against the Chargers was bigtime to force the field goal that forced overtime.  I’m pretty skeptical that the Redskins are going to turn it around two seasons in a row after starting off ultra-shitty, but this might be the spark they need.
  25. New York Giants (2-6) – Everyone in the crappy NFC East won on Sunday.  And yet the Giants are still in this thing at 2-6.  Ye gods.
  26. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6) – Maybe the only offensive line worse than the Seahawks’.
  27. St. Louis Rams (3-6) – They looked decent, but you’re still talking about a team headed by Kellen Clemens.  No thanks.
  28. Minnesota Vikings (1-7) – I had to play Nick Foles in my fantasy league this week (2-QB league) and I ALMOST swapped him out when I saw Christian Ponder on the waiver wire.  In the end, I stuck with Foles, believing that while Ponder was probably the safer play, Foles had the higher upside.  Had I gone with the swap, you’d be looking at a dead man right now, because I would have jumped out of a 10-story building before the end of the afternoon games on Sunday.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) – Still a bad team.  They just caught the Seahawks at the right time.  Maybe if they had the same dedication to the run, they’d start winning some games.  Ya think?
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.