My Angry Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review

There’s a lot to dig into with this game, so I’m gonna split it up into two posts.  Look for My Happy Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review a little later.  Spoiler Alert:  it should be a lot shorter than this one.

The Seahawks played like dogshit yesterday.  There’s no other way to describe it.  Even when the offense was going good, there’d be a drop, or a breakdown in protection, or a lack of pocket awareness by Russell Wilson, or a baffling string of play calls, and all that good would be derailed.  And yeah, the defense held Brian Hoyer to 99 yards passing, but they gave up a whopping 124 yards rushing to Carlos Hyde, on only 15 carries!  On the day, the 49ers rushed for an average of 8.4 yards per carry!  If you put even a SEMI-competent quarterback on that team, the Seahawks would’ve lost handily.

Let me repeat that:  the Seahawks – AT HOME – nearly lost to the 49ers, a team coming off of a 2-14 season, with a new coaching staff, a rookie GM straight out of the broadcast booth, and a backup quarterback masquerading as a starting quarterback until they can draft somebody better in 2018.  Now, granted, I like Kyle Shanahan a lot.  I think he completely transformed the Falcons into a dominant force last season, and I think he’s got a lot of great things in store as a head coach.  I also like what they were able to do with their draft this year, and could see John Lynch really working out if they can manage to find their quarterback of the future (either via the draft, or via signing Kirk Cousins to a megadeal).  But, come on!  At this point, the 49ers shouldn’t pose a threat!  They CERTAINLY shouldn’t find themselves ahead 9-6 in the fourth quarter in the driving rain of Seattle, Washington!

Look, there was never a point where I was looking forward to this game last week.  It’s almost one of those proverbial “no-win” situations.  If you kill the 49ers, then great, you’ve killed the 49ers and it’s a boring game.  If you LOSE to the 49ers, then that’s it, the season’s over and we can all kill ourselves.  But … this?  Scratching and clawing to a 12-9 victory at home?  That’s almost as bad as a loss.  Now, obviously, it’s not worse.  A win is still a win and they all count the same, regardless of how pretty they are, but with the win everyone gets to gloss over the fact that the Seahawks looked terrible and in no way look like a viable playoff team going forward.

You know what I thought of when I was watching this team?  The Houston Texans.  The Texans are notorious for their 9-10 win seasons where – by virtue of the terrible division they reside in – they frequently make the playoffs as a 4-seed, before getting bounced in the first round whenever they don’t play the Bengals.  Yeah, it’s cool having an awesome defense, and it’s cool to call yourselves “Division Winners”, but how cool is it to lose every time you play a quality team?

And that’s the bottom line here.  The last two years, against the Best of the Best, the Seahawks have a record of 4-7.  When you go back to our two Super Bowl years, sure the Seahawks would drop a clunker every now and then, but they also seemed to get up for the big ones!  If they’re going to spend all their time just beating up on the bad teams and losing the games that really matter, they might as well call themselves the Mariners and get it over with!

But, if they keep playing offense the way they have through two weeks, I don’t think “beating up on the bad teams” is even on the table.

I’m going to start with Jimmy Graham, because this guy is the fucking worst.  Oh yes, I’ve found my new whipping boy!

Look, we all knew Graham was soft.  He was a big puffy cloud of cotton candy in New Orleans, and he didn’t suddenly get hard because he joined the Seahawks.  We KNEW this!  We knew this when we played against him:  if you hit Jimmy Graham in the mouth, he will become a non-factor for the rest of the game.  I don’t mean that literally, of course, but if I had all the time in the world, I’d love to do a deep dive into his career and watch all of his video.  What are his numbers when he takes a huge hit in the first quarter of a game?  Because it seems just from watching him that he shrivels up like a dick in the Arctic Ocean.  Gutless.  Weak.  A punk.  And probably worst of all:  a frontrunner.  When things come easy to him, when defenses play off-coverage, when he’s able to nab a few balls and get into the flow of the offense, Jimmy Graham will pile on the catches and yards and really look like a dominant force.  But, when the chips are down and you need a big catch in the fourth quarter of a game, where is he?  Nowhere to be fucking found.

And I’m not buying this argument that the Seahawks don’t use him right.  Fuck that.  If you’re a tight end, you have to do ALL the things tight ends do.  If you want to be a wide receiver, then tell your team that ahead of time.  But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t know a lot of teams that want a slow wide receiver on the outside with bad hands.  Sure, it’s fine when you throw fades to him in the red zone, when he can contort his body and only has to contend with one defender.  But, that’s not realistic.  He NEEDS to be able to make catches in the middle, in traffic, absorb the hits, and most importantly COME DOWN WITH THE FUCKING FOOTBALL!

The Seahawks use him just fine.  They throw to him probably MORE than he deserves.  And what has HE done to deserve the benefit of the doubt?  There’s got to be a give and take here.  Quite frankly, I no longer think it’s a coincidence that this team looked VASTLY improved in the second half of 2015 when he was OUT of the lineup.  You know what, throw all your bullshit stats at me; I’ll throw “Scoreboard” back at you.  How has this offense looked throughout 2016 and through the first two games this year?  How did this offense look in those few games in 2014 when they tried to revolve the offense around Percy Harvin.  Prima donnas don’t fucking WORK in this offense!  At this point, I’d take 8 Jermaine Kearses over an offense that tries to make Jimmy Fucking Graham its centerpiece.

So, what do you do?  I mean, you can’t cut him, but I think you can demote the shit out of him.  I think you can make Luke Willson the starter.  I think you can keep Graham on the bench outside of clear-cut passing situations.  I don’t need him fumbling blocks and being a waste of space on all running plays.  On any straight hand off to the running back, it’s already 10 vs. 11 because the quarterback is a non-factor; but, with Graham on the field, it’s like 9 vs. 11, and that’s why this team time and time again fails to move the ball on the ground.  I agree, you CAN’T call Jimmy Graham your starting tight end, but only play him in passing situations; so stop starting him.

And, when he’s out there in passing downs, keep throwing him into heavy coverage.  Either he’ll adapt to the harder hits and start catching these fucking passes, or he’ll get himself injured, and you can just cut him and move on.  Yes, I’m ACTIVELY rooting for Jimmy Graham to get injured; better him than someone who can actually help this team win fucking football games!

I would suggest trading him, but that doesn’t seem very realistic either.  Part of me thinks putting him in the AFC would be ideal (my fantasy team would appreciate it if he joined the Patriots, who very much should be trying to trade for him at this point, what with their receiver situation and Gronk’s injury history), but from a strict football standpoint, I think it’d be better for the Seahawks to send him to an NFC rival.  Stick him on the Packers, let them start to depend upon him, and then beat the shit out of him in the playoffs and leave them scrambling to find answers for when he inevitably no-shows.  It’s how we kept beating the Saints; I don’t see why it wouldn’t work again!

And, again, as with Percy Harvin costing us a chance to extend Golden Tate, I wonder if having Jimmy Graham around cost us a chance to keep Jermaine Kearse around for one more year.  I won’t overreact to his 2-TD day with the Jets yesterday, but I will say that I’d straight up trade Graham for Kearse right now.  Regardless, having Kearse around would’ve been nice considering Tanner McEvoy dropped everything thrown in his direction, including a surefire touchdown that would’ve changed the complexion of the entire game.  Between him, Prosise, and the rest, guys were dropping balls left and right!  Prosise particularly, as Russell led him with a pass that would’ve taken him straight into the endzone on our opening drive.  He also dropped a potential third down conversion later in the game that was a crusher.

It really made Russell Wilson’s day look so much worse.  I’m not going to sit here and say he played great – he definitely had his share of poor throws and poor decisions – but it could’ve been a decent, forgettable performance had he not been greeted by so many drops.  Also, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s still running for his fucking life back there, even when the protection is kinda okay.

But, for the most part, it wasn’t okay.  It’s never GOING to be okay.  Mark Glowinski is a disaster, and he needs to not be starting for this team anymore.  I know Oday Aboushi is just a veteran on a 1-year deal, but I refuse to believe he’s worse.  I think the Seahawks see a guy they drafted, a guy under club control for a bit longer, and they want to shoot for continuity over simply just playing the five best linemen, and I get that to a point.  I think we’re in a no-win situation with Luke Joeckel, because if he turns it around and somehow plays well, he’s going to command a mint on the open market.  If he’s terrible, then he’s likely going to find himself back on the street next offseason, playing for another 1-year prove-it deal (only this time as a clear backup).  Either way, it doesn’t seem likely that he’s a longterm solution for the Seattle Seahawks at left guard.  So, to play two of these types of guys – with Aboushi at right guard – and risk losing both to free agency next year if they both play well, is a lot to handle.

But, I mean, how much more of THIS can we withstand?  Sure, there are a couple of underwhelming defensive fronts the next two weeks with the Titans and Colts, but then it’s right back to getting your ass kicked against the likes of the Rams, Giants, Texans, Cardinals, Falcons, 49ers, Eagles, Jags, Rams again, and the Cardinals again.  That’s 10 of your remaining 14 games against really good defensive fronts that should certainly give this Seattle O-Line fits.  RARE is the game we can look forward to this team being in control of the line of scrimmage.  And, I’m sure, even against those terrible fronts, we’ll still struggle, because of course we will.  No name assholes will make mincemeat out of us, and Russell Wilson will have the bumps and bruises to prove it.

And holy shit, what was THAT on defense?  That’s two years in a row where Carlos Hyde has come into our building and come away with a 100-yard game!  We’re supposed to be this elite defense at stopping the run, and we can’t stop a just-sort-of-okay running back?  He almost single-handedly cost us the game with his explosive plays!  They couldn’t do SHIT aside from his long-distance runs!

But, you know, pobody’s nerfect.  The defense has been outstanding these first two weeks, only to be repeatedly let down by this offense.  Really, since 2012, we’ve been sitting around and daydreaming about a time where the offense finally takes over.  We thought, maybe in 2014, the script would flip.  Then, after that dominant run to close out the 2015 season, we thought YES!  2016 is the year!  And here we are, now in 2017, and this offense is more inept than it’s ever been.  The defense is STILL carrying this team.  And somehow, we’re not greeted with weekly rantings by disgruntled stars on that side of the ball.

You know how I know that pre-season Seth Wickersham article is 100% accurate?  Particularly the parts that talk about the defense being upset with this offense costing the Seahawks ballgames?  Because I’m sitting here watching this team fall all over itself in the running game, and in the red zone, and everywhere else, and I know for a fact I’d be going ballistic if I was a member of this elite defense and I knew every single game was on our shoulders.  We all wanted to dismiss Wickersham – myself included – but this is a real problem, and if we blow another shot at a championship with all these stars in the prime of their careers, I think we’re going to see all the bad vibes start to snowball.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Roster looks like this:

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

With my bench looking like this:

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

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

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

Here goes nothing.

Seahawks Death Week: The “2016 The Year” Of Football Seasons

There’s just nothing to like about that season by the Seattle Seahawks.  Not a damn bit of good came from it.  That’s two years in a row of spinning our tires in the mud, with not a lot to show for it.  All we got was another year older.  Instead of being the next great dynasty, we’re just another good team.  One Super Bowl win, with the hope that we’re able to squeeze another one out of Russell Wilson before he moves on.  More and more, it’s looking like instead of a Brady/Manning/Roethlisberger situation, we’ve got a Drew Brees situation.  Maybe one title is all this group gets.  Maybe we spend the rest of our time with this core just slowly getting worse, until it’s just Wilson and Carroll, and a bunch of stiffs, regularly finishing in 3rd and 4th place in the NFC West.

The worst part is, I don’t even know how to define this season.  Yeah, the O-Line stunk, but they didn’t stink in every single game.  Yeah, we lost Earl Thomas, but there were plenty of times where this defense looked inept with Thomas in there.  If you go game by game, it’s a pretty frustrating exercise.

***

The Seahawks barely beat the Dolphins at home in week 1; the offensive line was definitely our primary fault in that one.  Wilson’s ankle got rolled up on, and that was the genesis of Hobbled Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks lost on the road to the Rams in week 2; again, the O-Line was crushed.  We lost three field goals to one, in the second game where the offense was totally out of sorts.

The 49ers were some home cooking in week 3; but, then Wilson got rolled up on again, this time injuring his knee, sending him to work with a brace for the rest of the regular season.  No fun there.

The Jets on the road were supposed to be a big test in week 4; they ended up being 5-11 on the year and one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Seahawks, with Hobbled Russell Wilson, won by 10 points and settled into a much-needed BYE week.

The Seahawks were able to squeak by the Falcons in week 6; I think we all know enough of that game.  One bright spot was that, even in spite of a disastrous third quarter, we were able to fend off a last-minute drive, like we weren’t able to do in 2015.  The defense, when most everyone was healthy, was certainly better in 2016 than 2015; but the defense was rarely healthy.

Just when we were hoping to build on some momentum of a 3-game winning streak, we went and tied the Cardinals in week 7.  The third game out of six for the Seahawks where the offense was absolutely manhandled.  Of course, had Hauschka not been a ninny, this would’ve been a win.

The Seahawks followed that up with a road trip to New Orleans, and a baffling defeat in week 8; but, a defeat very similar to ones we have every year.  Not a good look for our defense, but the fact that our offense was held to 13 points (the other 7 attributed to an Earl Thomas fumble return for TD) against that defense is unconscionable.  Four games out of seven where the offense was a fucking trainwreck.

The Seahawks played the Bills on Monday Night Football in week 9; turns out Rex & Rob Ryan are the cures for what ails this offense.  It was less encouraging for our defense to give up 25, but they were able to foil a 2-minute drive at the end of the game to lock it up (again, shades of this not being the 2015 season).

In a game everyone expected the Seahawks to lose, they went into New England on Sunday night and upset the Pats 31-24.  Even with Michael Bennett on the shelf, this was a watershed game for our defense, as Kam returned and locked down Gronk in New England’s final series.  This was also a coming out party for C.J. Prosise, showing what this offense can do when it has a healthy, dynamic running back.

The Seahawks followed this up with a dominating performance over a then-contending Eagles team at home in week 11.  Prosise had another big impact in this game, with a 72-yard touchdown run, before leaving injured and not returning for the rest of the season.  Not a ton of people talking about the loss of Prosise as the 2016 Seahawks’ downfall, but let’s just say if we’d had him healthy for the full season, things might’ve gone a lot differently for this offense.

On the heels of another 3-game winning streak – and probably the best 3-game stretch for this team in the 2016 season – the Seahawks went to Tampa in week 12 and had their fifth terrible offensive game of the season.  This one is all on the O-Line, but one could argue things might have gone differently had Britt been healthy.  Either way, after going down 14-0 in the first quarter, and giving up no points the rest of the way, that was a real missed opportunity for the Seahawks, allowing the Bucs to hang around in contention for a while longer.

Injured guys started trickling back for the next game, at home, against the Panthers in week 13.  Britt was back, Bennett was back, Rawls had worked his way back to being a workhorse, Wilson was on the mend.  For the first time in a long time, things were FINALLY looking up for the Seahawks.  We crushed the Panthers, 40-7, and this was around the same time where we always go on our late-season runs of dominance.  But, because 2016 is the fucking worst, this was the same game where Earl Thomas broke his leg and was lost for the season.  Hashtag WeCantHaveNiceThings.

It was hard not to be deflated over the Thomas injury, but I refused to believe things would fall apart just because he was out.  We still had Kam after all!  Well, week 14’s game in Green Bay should’ve been our first clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things and the Seahawks were blown out for the first time since 2011.  Also, this was the sixth terrible offensive game, but mostly due to Russell Wilson’s interceptions.

In week 15, we handled the Rams on Thursday Night Football, in the game where Richard Sherman put Darrell Bevell on blast.  He would go on to put most everyone else on blast the rest of the year, in what should’ve been our second clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  The Seahawks don’t lose their cool.  Even when they lose their cool, it’s for a reason.  There wasn’t much of a reason for this.

In spite of the Seahawks being an up-and-down team, they held their fate in their hands.  All they needed to do was beat an underwhelming Cardinals team at home, then finish off the 49ers on the road.  Simple, right?  Win those two games, lock down the 2-seed.  Lock down the 2-seed, get the first round BYE.  Get the first round BYE, then host the Falcons in the Divisional Round instead of the other way around, and maybe our crowd does enough damage to their offense to allow the Seahawks to win and host the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons.  But, the defense gave up 34 points to the Cardinals in week 16, and all of that was washed away.  The third and final clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality:  now we’d be a 3-seed, be forced to play in the Wild Card round, and have to go on the road to the Falcons, where we would go on to lose.

The Seahawks were able to take down the 49ers in week 17, but it was a lot closer than it should’ve been.  Was it us taking it easy, knowing the Falcons would lock up the 2-seed in a matter of hours?  Was it the defense continuing to struggle without Earl Thomas?

Then, the big Wild Card win at home.  The last hurrah, over a pretty inept and banged up Lions team.  Not a lot to learn from that, and ultimately the next game would look nothing like this one.

***

I mean, how do you wrap your head around a season like that?

To start, you can’t say a damn thing about it without getting into the offensive line issues.  This was the second year in a row that the Seahawks went with a bullshit, makeshift O-Line, instead of ponying up the money for proper blockers.  Justin Britt had his position moved for the third time in three seasons, and that was the ONLY move that worked.  He’ll go into the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 as our starting center; that makes me happy.  You can take the other four guys and throw them in a fucking volcano for all I care.

The Seahawks, in their prime, 2012-2014, always got by with Just Okay offensive lines.  Adequate, middle-of-the-road, doing just enough to let Marshawn Lynch run by them, and to let Russell Wilson run around them.  Then, slowly but surely, all the good parts were stripped away:  Unger traded away; Giacomini, Carpenter, and Sweezy allowed to hit free agency; Russell Okung – probably the most talented of the bunch – also allowed to hit free agency and sign a terrible deal in Denver.  Ending up with two rookies, a second-year player getting his first starting action, a third-year player switching positions for the third time, and Garry Gilliam, the only guy starting in the same spot from the year before.  Oh, and don’t forget the two free agents – Sowell and Webb – who were terrible, lost their starting jobs, and won’t be around beyond this season.

And, I get it.  I understand what the Seahawks were doing.  There’s only so much money to go around, and they preferred to give that money to their star players at the skill positions.  Wilson, Baldwin, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, Wright, Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor.  Those guys take up a lot of money.  Where can we save?  The O-Line!  Hell, we’ve got Tom Cable, surely he can build them up to be respectable by season’s end!

They damn near did it in 2015.  It looked like, once Patrick Lewis took over at center, things settled down for that unit.  Then, we got into the Divisional Round, against the Panthers and their ferocious interior linemen, and that unit was reduced to rubble.

But, without much of a choice, they did the same thing again in 2016.  As I mentioned, Britt was moved to center and that worked.  Glowinski was drafted in 2015 to be a guard of the future for this team, so why not let him work on his craft in actual games?  Germain Ifedi came at the price of a first round draft pick in 2016, so there was no way he wasn’t starting.  They made it through the season mostly unscathed, and you can ALMOST see a future with those guys in those spots, but they’ve got a lot of work to do.

And, while the guards made PLENTY of mistakes, and were often the worst parts of this unit, in my book they’re taking a back seat to the tackles, who were God-fucking-awful.  George Fant was a tight end in college, and here he was as our starting left tackle.  He was almost constantly over-matched, when we weren’t chipping defensive ends with our tight ends and running backs to give him a little help.  Gilliam was a little better – particularly later in the season, when he essentially had his manhood questioned by the coaching staff – but he too was often overmatched.  Together, neither of them are starting talents in the NFL.  Gilliam is a guy who might be a swing tackle for a good team, a 6th guy on the line who can start for you in a pinch.  But, he has no business being in there everyday.  Fant should’ve had this year to just develop in the background, but since this organization did absolutely nothing to replace Okung – aside from signing Sowell, who is a known commodity as one of the worst tackles in football – Fant was put in a position he had no business being in.  And, in that sense, he did all right.  He could be another guy who is a quality swing tackle, but he probably shouldn’t be a starter either.

This team needs, at a minimum, two new offensive tackles.  Ideally, one high in the draft and one as a free agent.  Luckily, we’ve weathered the storm of our salary cap being up against it, and should have enough extra money to make some moves, as 2017’s cap looks to be up to $170 million or more.  Not so luckily, we draft 26th again, and no quality offensive tackles will be there waiting for us.  I don’t know what the free agent market is going to be like, but things are going to get REALLY salty in Seattle if this team sits back and does nothing.

***

Aside from that, it’s a lot to do with what I was talking about yesterday:  our shoddy depth.  Starting with the 2013 draft, let’s look at who panned out:

  • Luke Willson – backup tight end
  • Spencer Ware – quality running back who we waived; he’s playing well for the Chiefs
  • Paul Richardson – 4th receiver, started coming on in this year’s playoffs with Lockett injured
  • Justin Britt – starting center, with 2016 being his first good year
  • Cassius Marsh – backup pass rusher & special teamer, 3 career sacks
  • Frank Clark – quality defensive lineman
  • Tyler Lockett – quality receiver & returner
  • Mark Glowinski – guard, started in 2016
  • Germain Ifedi – guard, started in 2016
  • Jarran Reed – quality run-stuffing defensive tackle
  • C.J. Prosise – quality running back who can’t stay healthy

That’s it, and I’m really stretching the definition of “panned out” with some of these guys.  The quality guys who we still have on this team include:  Britt, Clark, Lockett, Reed, and Prosise.  Beyond that, when you talk about this team’s depth, it’s a lot of young guys who haven’t really gotten a chance to start – because they’ve been boxed out by all the studs we’ve got starting on this team – but these same guys also aren’t making the most of their opportunities when they do find themselves on the field.  That means the coaches are failing them, or that they’re just not working very hard, but I don’t think this coaching staff or this team would sit by and let a bunch of slackers fuck around in practice.

Also, not for nothing, but when I talk about depth, I’m mostly looking at the secondary.  The depth on the O-Line is, I’m sure, a real problem, but so are the starters, so why beat that dead horse?  There’s solid depth at receiver – as shown by how P-Rich stepped his game up in the playoffs this year like a fucking CHAMP!  PROUD of you, boy! – and at tight end.  There’s also good-enough depth at D-Line and in the linebackers’ room to get by.  Where this team – and particularly this defense – struggles is when we get into the depth in the secondary.  When Kam Chancellor goes down (as he seems to do every year now), and when Earl Thomas goes down.  When, inevitably, Richard Sherman goes down (because he’s such a monster tackler; I can’t imagine those shoulders will hold up forever).  Or, like in this last game, where Shead went down with what looks like an ACL.  We thought Jeremy Lane would be enough – and I think he did okay, I’m not in this big hurry to run him off the team – but this team needs more back there.  It’s a shame too, because that’s supposed to be Pete Carroll’s specialty.  He should be ashamed of the depth we had back there in the secondary – particularly at safety – and he should be looking to shore that up in a major way in the upcoming draft.

No team stays healthy for a full year, but you’ve got to have guys to come in there and pick up the slack.  We weren’t able to do that this year.  That, and our O-Line troubles, doomed us for two years in a row.

It sounds insane to be this disgruntled about a team that hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in the last two years, but that’s what comes with success.  We’re not very far from those teams, in terms of talent and in terms of years, but we’re also trending in the absolute opposite direction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hapless Seahawks Narrowly Edge Hapless Cowboys

At that spot near the end of the game, where it was clear the offense was playing it safe – playing not to lose – by keeping the clock running and settling for the go-ahead field goal to make it 13-12 with a little over a minute left, I was envisioning the blog post I’d write about the game.  The working title in my head was, “Just Fuck You, Darrell Bevell”.  I guess that’s why I like to wait until the next day to write this thing (that, and because I’m usually in some form of food/football coma by the end of the day on Sunday, and the three working braincells I have left, I need to get me home).

We have Jimmy Graham.  We spent a great deal to bring Jimmy Graham to Seattle.  We gave up a starting, Pro Bowl-calibre center and a first round draft pick to get Graham and a third rounder.  Jimmy Graham is 6’7, with some of the best hands and leaping ability in the NFL.  He may not be quite as good as Gronk when it comes to purely catching the ball, but he’s close.  We brought him in here because we have a need for a reliable red zone target in the passing game.  That’s priority number one when it comes to Jimmy Graham.  Or, that is, it SHOULD BE priority number one.

And yet, there we were, with a little over two minutes left, at the seven yard line.  The PERFECT spot to utilize Jimmy Graham’s unique physical gifts.  As I alluded to before, the Seahawks were down by two points going into this drive.  They NEEDED a touchdown, which would force the Cowboys to go for a touchdown, which never would’ve happened in a million years because they had Matt Cassel and we had the Legion of Fucking Boom.  The Seahawks scoring a touchdown there might as well have meant the Seahawks scoring a 50-burger there; there was no coming back.  On the flipside, kicking a field goal would mean the Cowboys only needed a field goal of their own to re-take the lead and win the game.  As the announcers mentioned during the game, Dan Bailey is the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history.  They were also playing indoors.  He had also in that game nailed a 52-yarder like it was nothing.  The Seahawks playing it safe and settling for the field goal was putting the game in jeopardy that we didn’t need to do.

Unless you don’t trust your quarterback, which is another conversation altogether.

You know what I love about how New England utilizes Gronk?  When they’re down near the goalline, they’ll line him up wide (sometimes on an island, sometimes with another receiver in the slot).  If he’s on an island, and he’s being guarded by a lone cornerback, then it’s just an easy hitch route or fade route, pitch n’ catch, touchdown.  It’s the bread and butter of the Pats’ offense.  If he’s on an island and they’re double-covering him, then more than likely you’ll get the middle of the endzone wide open.  Or, you can throw a screen the opposite way and have the numbers in your favor.  Or, shit, you can just run the ball up the middle because there won’t be enough defenders in the box.  There are any NUMBER of options at your disposal when you use your weapons effectively like the Patriots do.

Let’s say you put Gronk out wide, with a receiver in the slot; I don’t even need to tell you what comes next.  Gronk runs a slant, or an in-route, and picks off the other receiver’s defender, while the receiver runs an underneath out-route, catches the pass going away from Brady, and easily finds the edge for a touchdown as now both defenders on that side are tangled in a heaping mass of Gronk.  As you can see, I’m not saying that the Seahawks have to get down there and throw it to Graham three times.  But, if we had an offensive coordinator who didn’t have his head so far up his own ass, he might design some plays that utilized Graham as a decoy effectively enough to still get us the touchdowns that we need.

What do we do instead?  We run left, which Marshawn Lynch mystifyingly takes out of bounds.  Ostensibly, this was because the Cowboys were out of time outs and we wanted to drain the clock to the 2-minute warning.  Then, on second down, we run it AGAIN, because there were still seven seconds left before the 2-minute warning.  Once again, the run is stuffed for a loss, but at least now we’ve got two minutes to go, so the Cowboys can’t stop the clock again without an incomplete pass or running out of bounds.  At this point, you have the big decision:  do you drain 40 seconds with another run, kick the field goal, and pray your defense can do what it hasn’t done all year:  hold a close 4th quarter lead?  Or, do you go for the throat, utilize Jimmy Graham smartly, and take a chance at the endzone and really putting this game away?  Granted, in that second scenario, they probably get the ball back with 1:50 left in the game if the pass falls incomplete.  But, when they’ve got a kicker like Dan Bailey, do the extra 40 seconds really matter?

In this instance, I guess it didn’t matter, as we were able to harass Cassel enough into turning the ball over on downs (after an idiotic personal foul penalty on Michael Bennett to start the drive).  But, I argue the Seahawks’ decision was asinine in that situation, and they’re LUCKY it didn’t bite them in the ass.

I can hear you arguing with me now, though.  Yes, I saw the third down play.  Yes, I saw Russell Wilson take the ball on a bootleg, run to his right, and when no one was open, tuck the ball and run for a few yards.  I saw all of that.  But, I would argue – for starters – that the Seahawks never really had any intention of throwing on that play whatsoever, unless there was a complete breakdown in coverage, which obviously wasn’t the case.  I would also argue, if they were serious about throwing the ball, WHY IS JIMMY GRAHAM LINING UP ON THE LINE, INSTEAD OF OUT WIDE???  What have I been writing about all day?  How the Pats use Gronk, and how he helps them become the best red zone team in football.  Why aren’t WE doing THAT???

You know what a roll out near the endzone gets you?  It draws every single defender to that third of the field, as well as the majority of the receivers who are out in the pattern.  It’s like trying to throw the football through a tornado; the odds of completing that pass are almost nil.  And NFL coaches are so pissing-their-pants afraid of throwing back across the field, they almost never send any receivers out the other way, for fear of having the ball picked off and run back to the house.  So don’t give me this shit about the Seahawks trying to throw for the touchdown there; they had no intention whatsoever.  That play may have been a run/pass option, but it was designed to fail from the creator himself, Darrell Bevell.

You want to know why Darrell Bevell has never really been seriously considered for a head coaching job, and why he’ll never ever have one at the NFL level?  Because he’s a chickenshit little loser with impotent play design who could be out-coached by a 10 year old playing Madden.

That’s why, John Schneider, you’re going to have to spend this whole upcoming off-season revamping our offensive line with quality draft picks and free agent signings.  It’s time to cut off Darrell Bevell; he gets no more offensive weapons until he figures out how to play with the ones he has.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nonsense Surrounding Super Bowl XLIX

I don’t like calling them “distractions”, because I don’t really think the players give two shits about all the crap people talk about in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.  They may be in awe of the whole experience of just playing in the big game, but all this other stuff?  It’s not going to affect how they prepare, how they practice, and ultimately how they play the game.  Once we hit kickoff on Sunday, all of this will be immediately forgotten.  As it should.

Of course, the biggest, most inescapable story of these last two weeks has been the circus surrounding the New England Patriots and their under-inflated footballs.  I’ve been kind of passively following along with this bemused indifference, but I’m sure if I was a Pats fan I’d be outraged.  You’re telling me that instead of celebrating our great season, everything is going to be boiled down to some bullshit that ultimately didn’t even matter?

Well, you know what?  I’m sorry, but that’s too damn bad.  Because for starters, people STILL won’t let go of the whole Seadderall Seahawks thing, even though like half of those suspensions were for marijuana anyway, and aside from all of that, adderall has about as much impact on a football game as under-inflated balls.  So suck it, Patriots fans.  Eat a dick.  Also, your hands aren’t clean in the whole suspension for banned substances issue.  Just be glad no one gives a shit about Aaron Hernandez anymore, because I’m pretty sure murdering multiple people out-weighs a simple brain stimulant.

Am I as tired of the issue with the footballs as everyone else?  Of course.  But, it speaks to a larger issue, and that’s how the Patriots are pathological cheaters.  And what’s more:  they’re obviously TERRIBLE at it!  I know there probably aren’t a ton of ways you can cheat in this day and age, what with there being cameras everywhere, and with everyone capable of going on Twitter to rat out virtually anyone doing anything.  But, you’d think with Belichick being this so-called “genius”, he’d figure out a way to cover his tracks better.

Obviously, them spying on the Jets is the bigger of the two scandals, but this thing with the footballs constitutes a trend.  They absolutely deserved to be raked over the coals, even if it had no effect whatsoever in their crushing the Colts last week.  Don’t forget, we’re talking about a team whose only focus is the legacy of their head coach and quarterback.  Sure, they care about winning the championship, but they care for the wrong reasons.  The Seahawks want to win for themselves and their teammates.  The Patriots want to win so they can feel validated.  So the franchise can be considered the most elite.  They’re focused on nothing but the history books, while the Seahawks are living in the now.  That’s not nothing.

The second-biggest story of Super Bowl week is the story that WE’RE all sick and tired of hearing about:  Marshawn Lynch.  Specifically:  Marshawn Lynch Not Speaking To Reporters and Marshawn Lynch Grabbing His Nuts.

Oh, Pats fans are tired of talking about balls?  Join the club.

It’s weird to hate something as much as I hate the NFL, while at the same time love an entity within the NFL as much as I do the Seahawks.  Will the NFL’s bullshit policies stop me from watching the game of football?  Of course not.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop bitching about them endlessly for being hypocrites, evil fuckers, and all around punk bitches.

You know what I want to see?  I want to see the Seahawks – in the waning moments of a triumphant victory this Sunday – collectively gather together and in unison grab their crotches.  You want to penalize us?  You want to fine us?  Fuck you, NFL!  If you’re going to do it to Marshawn, you’re going to do it to everyone!  The whole post-Super Bowl celebration, nothing but crotch grabs.  Count me in.

As far as the whole not talking to the media thing, I’m pretty much over my initial outrage.  Lynch has found a way to circumvent the NFL’s draconian rules, he gets to keep his money, these twisted old fools in the national media get to stick it where the sun don’t shine, and maybe we can all finally get over it and move on.  I mean, seriously, who cares?

One thing that causes me a little more concern are these reports of Marshawn Lynch retiring after the season.  I tend to believe that he WON’T retire, because that just sounds crazy to me.  But, then again, it sounded crazy to me when Barry Sanders retired.  It sounded crazy to me when Ricky Watters couldn’t get a deal anywhere once his contract with the Seahawks ended.  And, it was crazy when Robert Smith of the Vikings had the greatest season of his career and then CALLED it a career.

Look, I’m like 85% confident that Lynch won’t retire.  But, that needle keeps getting pushed a little more towards 50/50 with every new report that comes out.  I mean, it DOES kinda make sense.  The NFL keeps on with their bullshit rules and their bullshit crackdown … I mean seriously, with all the off-the-field trouble the NFL has had to deal with this year, from beating women to beating children to drunken driving to drug and alcohol suspensions, and THIS is their main focus?  Preventing Lynch from grabbing his junk while at the same time forcing him to interact with the media?  THIS is your big stand?

The NFL is pathetic.  And, if they’re not careful, they’re going to push one of the greatest running backs in the game today right out of the league.

The more I watch Lynch and the more I see what he means to this team, the more convinced I am that we’re fucked the day he walks away from us.  Think of how great we have it now, and think of how great we had it with Shaun Alexander.  Now, think of how awful we were with Julius Jones & Co.  Don’t take Beastmode for granted, because believe me, it can be A LOT worse.

A little more under the radar have been some interview comments in recent days.  I’m, like, 100% convinced the media looks for perceived slights against an opponent more than the players of either team.  It’s like everyone says:  if you need bulletin board material at this point in the season, then you don’t deserve to be there in the first place.  But, you gotta write about something, and the Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year.

Something that caught my eye was Jeremy Lane saying something to the effect of, “Gronk isn’t very good.”  Granted, it’s just another comment in a long line of brash, cocky musings from this team, but I dunno.  While I won’t condemn him, I’m more of the school of Let Your Play Do Your Talking.  More than anything, I just don’t like hearing our third-best cornerback calling out probably the very best tight end in the league.  I don’t NEED that!  I don’t want to look back on a game we’ve lost because Gronk exploded for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns.  I have all the confidence in the world that our defense will figure it out and keep his production to a dull roar, but you never know.  I never thought Antonio Gates would have the kind of day he had earlier this season, for instance.

Then, there was that thing with Brandon Browner calling for his teammates to attack Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas because they’ve got a couple bum wings.  For starters, stop it.  Just STOP.  He’s good friends with these guys.  He’s also – not for nothing – not the most eloquent speaker in the world.  I don’t think he literally wants people to hurt his friends.  But, yeah, do you go after those guys a little bit more, knowing they have this weakness about them?  Of course!  If you were a Pats fan, you’d be outraged if they DIDN’T attack these guys!

Finally, out of the hullabaloo that was Media Day yesterday, we got a nice little bit of reciprocity from LeGarrette Blount, who said something to the effect of the Seahawks’ defense isn’t immortal.  They can be beaten.  There we go.  If that’s not on par with what Jeremy Lane said, I don’t know what is.  I happen to agree with the sentiment, mostly.  CAN the Seahawks be beaten?  Of course.  We’re not out there shutting teams out every week; you CAN score on us.  But, it’s tough to know what he really meant by it.  We can be beat?  Yeah, four teams beat us this year alone.  But, what’s the context?

Does Blount think they can run up 30 points on us?  That seems a bit far-fetched.  Over 25?  It’s possible, but not too likely.  In the low 20s seems a bit more in range.  But, I’ll tell you this much:  if the Patriots beat the Seahawks, it will have more to do with how their defense shuts down our offense than their offense being overly dominant.

The difference between what Lane said and what Blount said should be pretty clear.  Lane attacked one guy.  And, Gronk is Gronk, I don’t think it’s going to phase him.  It might lead to Brady targeting him more, to make a point.  But, it’s not going to make Gronk run faster or catch better.  See, but Blount talked about our entire defense.  You don’t think he’s going to have guys barking in his face every time he’s stopped for a 2-yard gain?  And, pity the moments where we stuff him in the backfield; he’ll never hear the end of it.

Anyway, that’s all I can stomach.  We’re in the home stretch now.  Two more days of build up, then we can all get rowdy as fuck on Saturday in anticipation of the big day on Sunday.  Soak it all in.

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.

Why The Seahawks Will Return To The Super Bowl

Right around this time last year – though, admittedly, a couple weeks later – I was writing a lot about the impending Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  Sometimes, I do this thing where I’ll write one article on how the Seahawks could theoretically lose, and another article on why they’ll win.  Usually, I do this because I’ve run out of other things to write about, but sometimes there’s a good reason to argue both sides.  But, last year, I really struggled with it.  How might the Broncos have beaten us in the Super Bowl?  Well, on any given Sunday and all that …

Yeah, pretty much anything can happen at any time.  A player can take a wrong step and tear his ACL.  A perfectly-thrown pass can bobble out of the hands of a receiver and into the hands of a defender.  Fumble luck is INCREDIBLY random and sometimes infuriating.  A couple of special teamers can take bad angles and before you know it, the other team is running back a freebie touchdown.  I could go on and on.  There are millions of reasons why the Packers might beat the Seahawks this Sunday, just as there were millions of possibilities in that Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl.

But, just looking at it rationally, it was pretty hard to believe that the Seahawks were going to lose last year.  Just like it’s pretty hard to believe they’ll lose on Sunday.

How, exactly, are this year’s Packers different than last year’s Broncos?  Both teams play/played with MVP quarterbacks.  With Aaron Rodgers’ calf strain, he’s about as mobile now as Manning was last year.  Neither defense was all that impressive.  And, I would argue that Denver’s offense last year was MUCH better than Green Bay’s this year.  The only thing left to look at is how the Seahawks are different this year compared to last.

On the surface, not much.  We’re missing a Golden Tate on offense, and you can’t argue that we’ve really found a replacement.  Jermaine Kearse has stepped up, so it’s not a HUGE drop-off, but our third and fourth receivers as a result are a step back.  So, there’s that.

We’re missing Zach Miller, but I’d say Luke Willson and company have stepped up adequately.  Our offensive line is about the same.  Running game is the same.  And quarterback is the same.

Defensively, we’ve lost Mebane and Jordan Hill along the interior.  Hill was turning into a nice little Clinton McDonald replacement, so that hurts.  On the outside, we no longer have Chris Clemons or Red Bryant, but we haven’t had those guys for the full year and our defense has still held up like gangbusters.  You’re still looking at the top defense in the league and it’s not really even close when the stars are healthy.

So, you tell me.  How are the Packers supposed to come in here and beat us?  I repeat:  “in here”, as in “in Seattle”.  The Super Bowl was on a neutral field!  So, not only were the Broncos a more formidable opponent, but they didn’t even have to play us in the most dominant home field advantage in all of football!

I just don’t see it.  I don’t think it’s possible to be more at ease going into a conference championship game.  I’m trying to get my worry on about this game, but it all comes back to fluke shit.

One thing I could look at is to review all of our defeats this year.  How did other teams beat the Seahawks?  Seems impossible, right?  But, it happened.  Four times, in fact!  Four different teams beat the Seahawks in 2014!  So, what can we learn?

Week 2, at San Diego

I would argue we were at our healthiest in this game among the four defeats, so this game really stings.  What happened here?  Well, the Chargers dominated time of possession by dinking and dunking us to the True Death.  They had two drives that lasted less than 4 minutes.  One came off of a turnover that they converted into a touchdown; the other was a punt after six plays.  In the second half.  We didn’t force the Chargers into a punt until the second half of the game!  The Chargers went 10/17 on third down and Philip Rivers was about as perfect as can be.  He was perfect because there was only one pass that was completed beyond 20 yards.  Patience, timing, and 100+ degree weather really did us in.  Our offense was moving the ball well, but almost too well, as all three of our scoring drives were touchdowns that took less than three minutes of clock.

Week 6, vs. Dallas

Admittedly, this was the only game I didn’t watch this year, as I was travelling.  But, from what I’ve read and seen, the Cowboys were able to run the ball at will and made just enough plays through the air to keep us honest and win the fourth quarter.  A particularly back-breaking completion to Terrance Williams converted a third & long late in the game, allowing them to secure victory.  In this game, the Seahawks were pretty banged up.  Also, this was the game where Percy Harvin reportedly refused to re-enter the game late.  The team was kind of a shitshow at this point in the season, and the Cowboys were an underrated power.  Sort of a perfect storm if you will.  It’s almost too bad we don’t get to play them again, as they may still believe they’re better than us (silly mortals).

Week 7, at St. Louis

The Seahawks had just traded Harvin a couple days before.  The Rams pulled off a road-runner punt return for a TD as well as a fake punt late in the game to seal it.  I’m calling bullshit on this one.  I highly doubt Green Bay will devote their week to a bunch of asinine trick plays to beat us (though, I guess if they’re smart, they probably should, as we seem to fall for it every time).

Week 11, at Kansas City

The defeat where we were at our MOST banged up.  Brandon Mebane had just gone down.  We were on our final week without Bobby Wagner.  And, the Chiefs straight up bullied us with their running game.  Still a hard one to swallow, considering how badly they finished the regular season.

What to take away?  Well, for starters, as I alluded to before, throw out that Rams game.  If the Packers are going to win, they’re going to have to achieve some combination of the other three games:  i.e. develop a running game and stick to it, while at the same time having Aaron Rodgers maintain a level of patience where he sticks to the easy, short throws and doesn’t challenge us deep.  Likewise, they’re going to have to keep him protected.  Yeah, it’s always important to keep your quarterback from getting hit, but it’s especially important in this scenario, as Rodgers is already gimpy and he IS their team.  Without him, they might lose by 40.

Somehow, I just don’t see it.  Eddie Lacy might have some success, but I doubt he’ll have the type of success where he’s gashing us consistently.  Also, let’s face it, there is blood in the water.  Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin must be absolutely licking their chops at the prospects of chasing down an immobile Aaron Rodgers.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more blitzing out of this defense than we’ve seen at any other time in the last three years.

One key will be whether or not Byron Maxwell is healthy.  I need to see him back and starting on the other side of the field.  Particularly, I need to see him put a stranglehold on Randall Cobb.  Either that, or lock down Jordy Nelson and allow Kam Chancellor the opportunity to put Cobb on his ass a la Wes Welker last year.

On the flipside, I don’t see the Packers stopping our offense.  Once again – like in the run-up to last year’s Super Bowl – people are ignoring the other matchup of our offense vs. their defense.  Yes, the marquee reads “Aaron Rodgers vs. The Legion Of Boom”, but the undercard of “Wilson & Lynch vs. Whatever The Hell The Packers Call Their Defense” is really what’s going to determine things.  If we can get out to a strong start, we’ll take away any hopes they had of running the football.  At that point, it’ll be time to tee off on Rodgers.

I expect the Seahawks to have a MUCH better rushing attack this week compared to last.  The Panthers are stout up front; the Packers … not so much.  I’d expect a 100-yard day out of Lynch at a minimum.  And if they try to stack the box and take him away, well guess what:  Big Game Russell Wilson is back there, ready to take over.  The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball and scoring on this team.  Oh, and all this talk about Clay Matthews moving from outside to inside linebacker?  Great!  Leave the edges to an inferior defender so Russell Wilson can abuse them with his legs!

I’m sorry, but I’m totally at ease in this game.  The only way we lose is if we screw ourselves with an abundance of turnovers.  Or, if our defense isn’t able to capitalize on turnover opportunities.  It also wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Rodgers go down and have to leave the game at some point prior to the 4th quarter.  Mark it down.  I’m usually wrong, but I don’t see how I can be wrong here.

Come Monday, we’ll all be giddy with anticipation for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.

And, just to get it on the record now, I HOPE we get to play the Patriots.  I’m sorry, but the Colts scare the bejesus out of me.  Their defense is better than they get credit for (especially with Vontae Davis healthy as one of the top cornerbacks int he league).  Luck is obviously the more mobile quarterback, and he’s got tons of weapons to throw to.  Neither team really has much of a rushing attack to worry about, but I just feel like we could get to Brady more often, and we can neutralize Gronk (who is really the only guy to worry about on their team).  Gronk, meet Kam, and get your clock cleaned in the process.

So, yes, go Patriots.  Go Seahawks.  Let’s ring up another championship, boys!

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

If there’s one complaint Seahawks fans have had over the last 2.5 years, it’s gotta be the offensive line.  It has been a disaster for too long, but it’s been masked by our success, both record-wise and in the running game.

Since the start of 2012, the Seahawks have gone 33-12 (including playoffs), with a Super Bowl championship.  In that time, here is how the Seahawks have ranked in rushing stats:

  • 2012:  3rd in total yards with 2,579; 5th in yards per carry with 4.8
  • 2013:  4th in total yards with 2,188; 12th in yards per carry with 4.3
  • 2014:  4th in total yards with 1,188; 1st in yards per carry with 5.1

For the record, the top three teams in total yards this year have all played in an extra game.

Those are pretty good numbers.  Moreover, it fits our identity as a run-first, smashmouth football team.  Granted, our numbers probably get a boost from having Russell Wilson at quarterback, as opposed to Carson Palmer or someone else who will get you no rushing yards.  Nevertheless, it sort of makes our offensive line look better than it truly is.

The sack numbers aren’t particularly egregious, but they’re still not ideal.  We gave up 33 sacks in 2012.  That number spiked to 44 last year.  This year, we’ve given up 16 (on pace for 32, if my math is correct).  But, sacks don’t tell the whole story.

Russell Wilson is as under siege now as he has ever been.  I don’t have the hits/hurries numbers in front of me, but the eyeball test doesn’t look too good.  My primary concern at this point isn’t even Wilson getting injured (which would be a fucking catastrophe), but:  is this shitty O-Line stunting Wilson’s growth?

We all recall the cautionary tale of David Carr, first overall draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2002.  He was supposed to be a star for the expansion franchise.  The only problem was, they put him behind a wet paper bag offensive line.  Carr never had a chance, as he’s still being sacked to this very day.

Now, he may or may not have made it in the league if he’d had an elite crew protecting him; we’ll never know.  I’d like to think Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than Carr ever was, but even with this being his third year in the league, Wilson is far from a finished product.  He still has some growing and developing to do as a professional.  No one should expect him to be perfect every single game, but it’s always concerning to see games out of him like we had with the Raiders last week.  And against the Cowboys a few weeks ago.  Seeing him rushing throws, throwing the ball high, missing wide open receivers.  All of these are symptoms of a guy who’s running for his life on nearly every down.

It’s tough, because on the one hand, everyone scolds him for not hanging in the pocket and playing like some of these other, more polished pocket passers.  Yet, if he hangs in the pocket, he’s going to get killed.  Either way, he’s not going to be an effective passer if he doesn’t do his damnedest to elude pressure.  All of this falls on the offensive line.

I wanted to make the argument that the Seahawks are intentionally ignoring this all-important position group, trying to rob Peter to pay the Paul of the defense and some of the other stars on this team.  But, the fact of the matter is, Okung and Unger comprise two of the top five salary cap numbers of this year.  And, Carpenter isn’t cheap, what with him being the 13th-highest paid member of the team.  The Seahawks have skimped with guys like Sweezy and Britt, but I would argue that those two guys have been the most reliable members of the entire line!  At least they’ve played a full slate of games without missing big chunks of time due to injury.

The line could potentially be great if it stayed healthy, but that’s never going to happen.  Okung, Unger, and Carpenter have all proven they can’t stay on the field.  Which means, they’ve all proven they need to be replaced in the short term.  Right now, we’re getting by with backups like Bailey, Schilling, and Garry Gilliam, but that’s just it.  We’re ONLY getting by.  We’re not thriving.  And, we may actively be hurting our young quarterback’s development in the process.

Pete Carroll was right about one thing in his post-game comments this week:  the Seahawks were fairly fortunate in 2013 in one-score games.  We were involved in 8 of them and we ended up losing only 3.  Of the games we were truly in danger of losing, I’d say the Carolina, Houston, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay games could have realistically been losses.  Two of them were overtime victories, and the other two required late-game heroics to seal the deal.  That’s how close a 13-3 team could become a 9-7 team, and out of the playoffs.

This year, we’ve been pretty well handled in two of our three losses, but there were still opportunities to tie or take the lead late in each one.  When you tack on the Raiders, Panthers, and Broncos games, look at how close we are to being 2-6 and the laughingstock of the league!

So, in one sense, “getting by” is working for us.  It’s better to be 5-3 than the other way around.  But, our success in these close games – just like our success in the running game – is really masking a bigger problem that needs to be corrected in short order.

My solution?  For starters, let Carpenter walk after this season.  If he is to come back, bring him back at a very modest salary and give him some REAL competition for the starting job.  It’s probably unrealistic for this team to go out and spend huge amounts of money in free agency for a left tackle, but I think we can get a starting-calibre left guard for a reasonable rate.  Pit the new guy against Carpenter (on a short-term deal, I might add) and either you’ve dramatically upgraded, or you’ve got some solid depth at an oft-injured position of need.

Russell Okung is signed thru 2015.  His salary hit actually drops to $7.28 million next year, which is awesome.  If we were to cut him prior to June 1st, we could save $5 million, but again, I’m not so sure we’re going to find a left tackle on the open market who’s better than Okung, who won’t completely break the bank.  I say we keep him for next year, but we also make left tackle our number 1 priority in the draft.  This may prove difficult if we make the playoffs this year, as the best left tackles tend to be snapped up pretty early in the first round.  Worst case scenario:  we draft a highly-rated prospect and give him a year to learn behind Okung (with ample opportunity for actual playing time whenever Okung is too injured to play, which is more certainty than possibility).  I say first or second round draft pick at the LATEST.

Max Unger is signed thru 2016.  His salary drops the next two years to $5.6 million per.  His dead money hits aren’t too big either (we’d save $3.4 million if we cut him prior to June 1, 2015; we’d save $4.5 million if we cut him prior to June 1, 2016), so in theory we can move on from him at any time.  I’d honestly look to treat Unger the same way I would Okung:  for sure keep him next year.  But, at the same time, draft a replacement center (maybe in the 4th/5th round).  Give that player a year to learn behind Unger (who really is a quality center when he’s healthy).  And, if by the grace of God, Unger manages to play a full slate of games next year, let him play out his contract in 2016.  At that point, keep Unger on a year-by-year basis until he proves that the injury bug has returned.  But, always have a contingency in place in the form of a young prospect with potential.  Not these young guys we’ve got now who are nothing more than practice squad fodder.

In the next two years, I’d like to see a true overhaul along the offensive line.  And, for the love of all that is holy, stay away from Alabama linemen!

***

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2) – Patriots are on fire offensively right now, but I still think the Broncos are the best until further notice.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1) – I’d love to live in an alternate universe where they had to face Romo instead of Weeden.  Then again, I’d love to live in an alternate universe where I’ve got a 13-inch cock and am a millionaire because of said gargantuan cock.
  3. Detroit Lions (6-2) – In two weeks, this team goes into Arizona.  THAT will be a game to watch.
  4. New England Patriots (7-2) – Offense is fucking legit.  How?  Gronk and a bunch of magic beans, I suppose.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Andrew Luck is hands down the first guy anyone would take if they’re building their own franchise right now.  And yet, he’s prone to meltdowns that would make your head spin.
  6. Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Must be nice to move up the rankings on a BYE week.
  7. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) – Couple of cakewalks the last couple weeks.  I’ll be interested to see their game in Buffalo next week.  Can KC continue to roll against inferior teams?  IS Buffalo an inferior team?
  8. Seattle Seahawks (5-3) – Gonna be a much different team if we can get our injured guys back quickly.
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) – Offense is starting to roll after the season nadir in Cleveland.
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2) – Yeah, the record is nice, but I’m just getting a jumpstart on their rankings decline with the Sanchize at the helm.
  11. Dallas Cowboys (6-3) – Mo’ Weeden, Mo’ Problems.
  12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1) – Two team race in the North between the Bengals and Steelers after the Ravens went in the tank.  They play one another twice in the final month; look for one or both of those games to be flexed to primetime.
  13. San Francisco 49ers (4-4) – You know a shit-ton of 49ers fans were laughing their asses off when the Rams beat us.  I’d like to see the looks on each one of their faces after that Kaepernick fumble on the goalline.
  14. Miami Dolphins (5-3) – Impressive shutout win against the Chargers.  Ryan Tannehill is starting to roll, which should bode well for that franchise.  He’s probably not a Top 5 QB in this league, but he could top out as a Top 10 guy, which is good enough.
  15. San Diego Chargers (5-4) – I don’t want to hear about a tough schedule.  You can’t lose three games in a row against your primary AFC competition and expect to make the playoffs.
  16. New Orleans Saints (4-4) – NFC South is there for the taking.  I think the Saints will look good going forward, but I by no means think this team is ready to go on a huge winning streak.
  17. Baltimore Ravens (5-4) – In the same boat as San Diego, losing too many games against important AFC foes.  2-3 in the division, with one left against Cleveland, isn’t the way to take care of business.
  18. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1) – It was aa nice run, but the Panthers just don’t have the horses this year.
  19. New York Giants (3-5) – For some reason, I have Rueben Randle on my fantasy team, because he was deemed to be – after Victor Cruz’s injury – the #1 receiver on the Giants.  Which is like being ranked the #1 shitter in a diarrhea contest (also, Randle’s got nothing on ODB).
  20. Houston Texans (4-5) – One defensive lineman can’t do it all, I’m sorry, but it’s true.
  21. Chicago Bears (3-5) – Hello Bears.
  22. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – Hello Bills.
  23. Cleveland Browns (5-3) – Really struggling at home against the Raiders and Bucs the last two weeks.  Not the strongest 5-3 team in the world, let’s put it that way.
  24. St. Louis Rams (3-5) – I don’t know how this team looks as good as it does – especially defensively – against the Seahawks and 49ers, and then lays as many eggs as it does against every other team in the league.  Do me a favor, go beat the Cardinals a couple times this year, will ya?
  25. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) – Hi Falcons.
  26. Minnesota Vikings (4-5) – Scraping by against those bottom-feeders.
  27. Washington Redskins (3-6) – One of those bottom-feeders.
  28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7) – One of the biggest disappointments in the league.
  29. New York Jets (1-8) – One of the biggest messes in the league.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-6) – One of the most boring bad teams in the league.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – One of the most frustrating bad teams in the league.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-8) – And the rest.