The Seahawks Should Get Right In Carolina

I choose to write my Seahawks preview today because I’ve got more important fish to fry for tomorrow. Vegas Fish.

You know how – when you look at a team’s schedule before the season, and you start counting off the wins and losses for the whole set of 16 – there are those teams later in the year where you say to yourself, “That’s gonna be a tough matchup for our little Seahawks.” Well, by and large, they ALL looked like that this year, but there are always one or two teams that subsequently fall apart by the time December rolls around, and those games don’t look NEARLY as ferocious as they once did.

This is one of those games.

The Panthers started a little rocky this season, but really came on in the middle portion, their zenith being a 5-3 record. Sure, Cam Newton went out injured, but they somehow looked BETTER with Kyle Allen at the helm! Whether that’s actually true or not, I suspect some recency bias, but there were nevertheless people who advocated for keeping Allen and getting rid of Newton on merit alone!

Not for nothing, but there are still people advocating for the change, but mostly due to concerns over Newton’s injury and his vast potential for more injuries in ensuing years. You don’t play his style of ball without breaking down extraordinarily early respective to other quarterbacks of his calibre (who actually know how to avoid contact and protect themselves).

Anyway, Kyle Allen looks like a flash in the pan, and somehow that’s Ron Rivera’s fault, as they shit-canned him a couple weeks back. Seems rash and short-sighted – Rivera was the best head coach in franchise history – but what do I know? I’m not there. Maybe they just needed a change of scenery for all parties involved.

Since that 5-3 start, the Panthers have lost five straight, and this isn’t a matter of their schedule getting more difficult. Two losses to the Falcons and a loss to the Redskins are in that stretch. It’s also not a matter of the Panthers losing a bunch of unlucky nailbiters; they’ve lost by a combined score of 156-91 (or an average of 31.2-18.2). This is a team that – through their first 8 games – played everyone really tough (aside from a 49ers blowout; who hasn’t been there?). Their defense has completely fallen apart, and their offense – aside from Christian McCaffrey (who always gets his) – can’t really muster much of anything.

So, I fully expect the Seahawks to go into Carolina and have their way with the Panthers. Sure, on any given Sunday and all that, but come on. One team is vastly superior to the other – who is falling apart at the seams and properly tanking as a byproduct – and if we don’t come away victorious, then there should be serious concerns for the Seahawks the rest of the way.

I don’t want to waste the braincells on what might be at stake here, because the Seahawks are just going to win and that’ll be that. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

I’ll be watching from a sportsbook in Vegas. I hope to be earning many hundreds of dollars in the process.

Russell Wilson Will Be The NFL MVP For The 2019 Season

SCORCHING MOLTEN LAVA TAKE ALERT! This is one of those things where if I’m right, I’ll be crowing like a jackass for the rest of my life. And, if I’m wrong, then it’ll never be spoken of again.

Remember the time I predicted the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl before the season started?

Remember the time before that when I predicted the Ravens would beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl just 1 week into the regular season?

I’ll leave it to the rest of you to find all the times I’ve been wrong, and go out on a limb to say I’m the greatest sports mind of our generation.

I don’t often do a lot of prognosticating on the NFL’s MVP award – or ANY MVP award, really – because I kind of don’t care about it. The only time a Seahawk has won was in 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 13-3 regular season. I argued this at the time and maintain it to this day: the most important player to the Seahawks’ success that year was actually Matt Hasselbeck (we NEVER would’ve gotten anywhere without him), but since he didn’t have insanely gaudy stats (3,459 yards, 65.5% completions, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) he didn’t stand a chance.

Which brings me right back to this year and begs the question: if gaudy stats are a precursor, WHY IN THE HOLY HELL WOULD I PREDICT RUSSELL WILSON FOR THIS AWARD?

Look, it’s not the most thought-out opinion I’ve ever had. 99% of everything I say on here I pull straight from my gut, which has been notoriously inconsistent over the years. But, I’ll try to make an argument and you take it with however much salt you want.

Last year, Wilson had a pretty impressive season: 3,448 yards, 65.6% completions, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 110.9 passer rating. Of course, that was nothing compared to Patrick Mahomes’ season (the actual MVP): 5,097 yards, 66.0% completions, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, and 113.8 rating. Every step of the way (except for INTs) he was better than Wilson.

Well, the first part of my argument is that I believe Mahomes takes a step back in his second full year as a starter. I think he’ll come down to Earth and be more in the middle of the pack. He’ll almost certainly throw for over 4,000 yards, but I don’t think he’ll approach 50 TDs again, and I think his INTs will increase. I would also argue that whenever someone wins as thoroughly as he has, there’s inevitably a backlash among voters, who are constantly looking to give the award to someone different. If you don’t believe that to be true, then please explain to me why LeBron James has zero MVP awards since the 2012/2013 season, in spite of the fact that until this year, he carried his teams to every single NBA Championship series in that span. Also, while you’re at it, tell me why Bill Belichick hasn’t won since 2010 and yet Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have both won twice in that span.

So, if you bet Mahomes at +400, you’re throwing your money away. Which brings me to the current betting odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes +400
  • Drew Brees +700
  • Aaron Rodgers +800
  • Andrew Luck +800
  • Tom Brady +1000
  • Baker Mayfield +1400
  • Russell Wilson +1600
  • Carson Wentz +1900
  • Philip Rivers +2200
  • Deshaun Watson +2500

That’s just the top 10. Some things stand out. All of those guys are quarterbacks (the most important players in the game) and all of those guys are projected to be in the playoffs (or at least contending for the playoffs). While being a quarterback isn’t a MUST, it’s certainly the safest bet. For a non-quarterback to win it, he has to do something REALLY special. Like Shaun Alexander’s touchdown totals. The last non-quarterback to win it was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 8 yards of the all-time rushing yards record in a single season. The time before that, it was LaDainian Tomlinson the year after Alexander, when he ran for 1,815 yards and broke Alexander’s rushing touchdown record with 28.

If I were going to pick a non-QB in 2019, I’d lean towards Saquon Barkley (at +4000), but the Giants are so bad that he would literally have to break every single rushing record for it to happen.

Anyway, as you can see, Wilson is firmly in the Top 10 (shamefully behind Baker Mayfield, which is just a crime against humanity at this point), so Vegas likes his chances. With his new contract extension, Wilson’s name is in the zeitgeist. And, at this junction in his career, I believe there are enough fervent Wilson believers out there to really help make his case and keep his name alive.

Now, he can’t do it alone. It’s going to require the Seahawks to get back to the playoffs. It’ll probably even require the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which I believe this team is capable of. Ideally, the Seahawks will be a top 1 or 2 seed and have a BYE in the playoffs. Something like 12-4 could accomplish this, if everything breaks right. The Rams, you figure, are in for a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints and Bears figure to be our biggest obstacles, as I believe the NFC East will feast upon itself to keep their records down.

Playing well in marquee games is also a must. The Seahawks have five primetime games scheduled, including three in a row late in the season, right in that window where we separate the men from the boys in races like these. Wilson has traditionally stepped up big in these games, so I don’t see that as being an issue either.

With the team playing well, and with his reputation intact, that just leaves his biggest hurdle: his numbers.

Wilson has thrown for over 4,000 yards only twice in his career (though he was 17 yards away in 2017 from making it three times), and last year he was obviously limited by the offense’s design. Part of that was a backlash against the losses in our first two weeks, when the coaching staff had to re-set everything. But, ultimately this team was so successful running the ball that there wasn’t always a serious need to get things done through the air. While the plan heading into the season will be more of the same run-centric style, it wouldn’t totally shock me to see our effectiveness on the ground weaken (much in the same way that I see Mahomes’ numbers taking a dive). Opposing defenses will game plan better. And, I figure injuries will play a more significant role (Carson played in 14 games; I could see that dropping as he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay healthy for the duration) with both the running backs and the O-Line. There’s no Mike Davis, who was a solid contributor, and I seriously question whether Penny will be up to the task if he’s thrust into the #1 role. There should be just enough of a dip in the running game to add a few hundred more yards to Wilson’s passing total.

On top of that, Wilson’s rushing yards are going to continue to go down with every year. He’s a quarterback, and an elite one at that. Elite quarterbacks throw the ball or hand it off, period. He’s heading into his 8th season, which puts him squarely in his prime. He’s had a Hall of Fame trajectory to this point in his career, and I don’t know a whole lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who haven’t won an MVP award. With that in mind, it sort of feels like it’s his destiny to win this award at least once. If we get to the end of the season, and no one has really stood out with awe-inspiring numbers at any position, maybe the voters will look around, see Wilson sitting there with 0 career MVPs, and figure he’s due. People have voted for things based on dumber logic before (say hello to every politician who ever seemed like a guy you’d want to have a beer with).

Getting back to the numbers, though, Wilson’s best chance seems to be with his touchdowns. While he was a far cry from Mahomes’ 50 last year, Wilson was still tied for third with 35. In 2017, he led the league with 34. In 2015, he came in sixth also with 34. I could easily see that number jump up into the 40’s, which should put him well within range. More than that, he’s usually very careful with the ball. Last year he tied a career low with only 7 INTs. I feel with his ability, he can shave that down even further. If he has an insane TD:INT ratio of something like 40:3, that’s the sort of stat that could push him over the top.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the Most VALUABLE Player, then who has had more value to his team than Russell Wilson in his career to date? The knock against him has always been that he’s had an elite defense (except for last year) or an elite running game (except for a few years there post-Beastmode). Well, I’ve already argued that I don’t believe the running game will be as exceptional as it was in 2018, and as for the defense, it was already middle-of-the-road last year; this year, I think middle-of-the-road will be this unit’s CEILING. I think the defense could be truly terrible this year. We’ll likely rank in the bottom third or bottom quarter in the league in sacks and turnovers.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 43 sacks, 13 of which belonged to Frank Clark. 43 put us 11th in football; 30 would’ve been tied for 30th. Ziggy Ansah figures to mitigate some of that, but I highly doubt he’s going to get us all the way there. In fact, I don’t think he’ll even get us halfway there (yes, I’m putting Ansah’s over/under of sacks at 6.5, and I’ll bet the under). With no one else coming in to help account for the loss of Clark’s production (both in sacks, and in the help he provided someone like Jarran Reed, who saw his numbers skyrocket playing with Clark on the outside next to him). If Reed is our only pass-rushing threat (assuming Ansah misses multiple games, or plays through injury and is ineffective as a result), he can be easily neutralized, sending the D-Line tumbling towards the bottom of the league.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 12 interceptions, 5 of which belonged to Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, and Frank Clark. 12 put us tied for 18th in football; 7 would’ve been tied for 29th. Bradley McDougald had 3 of his own last year, but he’s also an injury waiting to happen. Of our younger core in the defensive backfield, Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Tre Flowers all combined for 3 total INTs (Hill and Flowers combining for 0). Who did we add to this group? A couple of rookies, and presumably whatever veterans we bring into Training Camp later this summer. There just isn’t a lot of turnover production in this unit. With the D-Line unable to get pressure, that puts more of the onus on the secondary, which is not NEARLY as talented as the Legion of Boom in its prime.

Now, of course, the Seahawks tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries in 2018, but as we all know, that’s largely based on the luck of the bouncing ball. We did tie for third in forced fumbles, which you’d hope would translate, but again our leader in that category – Frank Clark – is gone.

My point with all of this is to further indicate that I think the Seahawks’ defense will be bad. Our only hope is that we hold teams to an inordinate amount of field goals. But, my expectation is, for the Seahawks to win a lot of games, we’re going to rely exclusively on our offense. That means Russell Wilson will have to do considerably more than he had to do in 2018.

All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like a strong argument, and I get that. All I can say is, with this being the second season with a new offensive coordinator, you have to figure Brian Schottenheimer has had a full year to work with this team, and a second full off-season to tinker with his scheme. While it’ll be foolish to expect the running game to take a complete back seat, I think his ability to adjust in games will improve. With the defense putting us into more passing situations – based on game score alone – I think it’ll open things up for Wilson to really shine like he’s never quite shone before.

Wilson has had spurts. The back-half of his 2015 was as brilliant as it gets; if he had a full season of that, he’d be a hands-down winner of the MVP. I also thought 2018 was his best year yet, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. If we keep the efficiency (or even improve upon it slightly), increase touchdowns, decrease turnovers, and boost up those yards, there won’t be any other excuses to keep him from his due. ESPECIALLY when you consider Baldwin retired, and Lockett is his only quality veteran receiver heading into this season. Voters won’t have the L.O.B. to fall back on, nor will they have as dominant of a running game. They’ll have 8 full years’ worth of elite game play, with 2019 as a coronation of sorts.

In a muddled year of MVP candidates, Wilson will win it in a close voting battle. Mark my words (unless I’m wrong, then forget this ever happened).

The Seattle At Carolina Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

Seattle/Carolina, that’s what’s up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Worry About The Carolina Panthers

The date:  May 7, 1994.

The location:  Seattle, Washington.

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

The matchup:  Seattle Supersonics vs. Denver Nuggets.

The result:  A 98-94 overtime defeat.

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

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

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

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

***

The date:  October 22, 2001.

The location:  Bronx, New York.

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

The matchup:  Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is This A Joke?

I wasn’t going to write about this when I first heard about it last night, because it’s pointless and stupid.  It’s a list, of the 32 NFL head coaches, ranked in order of best to worst.  I guess.  Anyway, it’s dumb.  Everyone makes lists all the time and they’re all retarded, except this guy KINDA takes the cake.

Remember the name Elliot Harrison, because this guy’s going places.  I mean, if he can generate this type of chatter in the middle of July, he must be pushing just the right buttons.

I’ll get to what’s really grinding my gears in a bit, but first, I’ll just say that for the most part, I don’t have a problem with this guy’s rankings.  The guys at the bottom are there for a reason – they lack NFL head coaching experience.  I might have ranked Gus Bradley a little higher, partly because I’m biased and partly because I like to look at someone’s potential when I do these types of things.  I think Gus Bradley has a chance to be great.  And, I think the Jags will be one of the most improved teams this year.  So, to get in on the ground floor, I probably would have put Gus around 20 or 19 or something.

I would have put Jason Garrett dead last.  He is, BY FAR, the worst head coach of them all.  I know he doesn’t get many favors from his GM (except further employment for some ungodly reason), but he has bungled more than his fair share of games and probably should’ve been fired a season or two ago.

I also think Joe Philbin is a ninny and should be placed closer to the bottom than he already is.

I’m a little higher on Ron Rivera and probably would’ve put him in the mid-teens.  I think Rex Ryan’s coasting on his AFC Championship games he had way back when and isn’t nearly as good as his ranking.  Mike Smith is probably a little too high, as is John Fox, but really, these are all minor quibbles.

Pete Carroll is ranked 7th.  In a vacuum, that doesn’t sound so bad.  If I looked at him, then shut my eyes, and tried to think of a good ranking for him, I feel like the number 7 would pop right into my mind.  But, that’s without any consideration for the other coaches listed above him.

Mike McCarthy is ranked 6th.  Say what?

Tom Coughlin is ranked 5th.  Ehh, that feels right.  Guy has been around a long time, has a couple championships to his name.  Yeah, he’s missed the playoffs a few times, but the guy has made a champion of Eli Manning twice over!

John Harbaugh is ranked 4th.  Again, I’d probably rank him ahead of Pete Carroll as well.  He’s had a lot of sustained success since he got the head coaching job with the Ravens.  They share the same number of championships; I’m okay with that.

Here’s where it gets me – and I’m sure it was intentional.  Jim Harbaugh is ranked 3rd.  You see, this is the genius of Elliot Harrison.  Ideally, if he wants to piss off any fanbase, it’s probably that of the Patriots.  They’re the loudest and most easily-peeved by any slight against them.  But, to do so would have meant ranking Harbaugh over Bill Belichick, and that’s just insanity.  Belichick might go down as one of the greatest head coaches of all time.  To rank anyone ahead of him would immediately render his list as invalid.

So, instead, Elliot Harrison decided to troll TWO fanbases – Seattle & Baltimore – by not only ranking our most hated rival FOUR SPOTS ahead of Pete Carroll, but also ranking the wrong Harbaugh brother ahead of the other.

Let me see if I get this straight:  the two Harbaugh boys coached against one another in the Super Bowl before last, and the LOSER of said Super Bowl ends up getting ranked ahead of the victor?  Just because he’s 3 for 3 in NFC Championship appearances, that gets him the nod?  Even though John Harbaugh had made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons, making three AFC Championship Games and the aforementioned Super Bowl victory over his brother … he gets docked a point for missing the playoffs one time?  Are you KIDDING ME?

I think I’m more upset about this whole John/Jim fiasco than I am with Harbaugh being ranked so far ahead of Pete Carroll.

You want my opinion?  Here’s my top ten (I’m not going all the way to 32, because what’s the point?):

  1. Bill Belichick
  2. Sean Payton
  3. John Harbaugh
  4. Tom Coughlin
  5. Pete Carroll
  6. Jim Harbaugh
  7. Andy Reid
  8. Jeff Fisher
  9. Lovie Smith
  10. Mike Tomlin

Now there’s a ranking that’s somewhat respectable.  But, it’s not a ranking that’s necessarily going to draw a bunch of fire from pissed off fanbases.  It’s just a ranking that makes SENSE.  Jim Harbaugh inherited a team that already had a ton of talent on it.  Pete Carroll, and some of these other coaches ahead of Harbaugh, took over teams that were pretty bad.  They’ve BUILT something.  They’re not living off of the success of previous regimes.  You know what’s going to happen when the talent on the 49ers gets too old?  You’re going to see Jim Harbaugh start missing the playoffs more and more.

However, the Seahawks – a team not afraid to play younger guys at key positions – should be able to regenerate on a yearly basis, thanks to Pete Carroll’s coaching style and philosophy.

I’ll say this:  this Elliot Harrison guy’s rankings will look a lot different next year, after the Seahawks are coming off their second of two championship seasons.

Let’s Finish This Now, Seahawks

Before the season, I did a prediction post where I picked all the games.  I do it every year and every year it’s as meaningless as it was before.  This year, I picked us to lose at Indy, Atlanta, and the Giants.  I predicted 13-3 and frankly, it’s still on the table.  Who could have foreseen that Atlanta and the Giants would fall on their faces like they did?  Either way, I predicted a #1 seed, and I predicted a meaningless Week 17 game against the Rams.

Next week is going to be SUPER lean on the posting front, as I’m taking Thursday and Friday off after Christmas, for a big ol’ 5-day weekend.  I’ll probably hop on here to do a recap of the Husky bowl game, but not much else.  If we win this game on Sunday, we will have clinched the #1 seed and my premonition of a meaningless week 17 game will come true.  It’s an awesome “problem” to have, and I’ll speak on that next Tuesday before Christmas Break.

In the meantime, we’ve got one last meaningFUL game before a 2-week break.  Our lone threat in achieving our rightful spot as the best team in the NFC is the San Francisco 49ers.  Nothing the Panthers or Saints do will make a difference.  As has been stated before, either we win (or the 49ers lose) and we get the #1 seed, or we lose out and the 49ers win out and we get the #5 seed (due to what will be a superior divisional record by the 49ers).  San Francisco plays at home on Monday night against the woeful Atlanta Falcons.  It’s their last home game in Candlestick.  I’m sure dozens of ex-49ers will be in attendance.  The crowd will be as jacked up as a bunch of tea-drinkers can be (they’re no 12th man, but it won’t take much to get under Atlanta’s skin).  There’s no way they lose that game.  They close out the season at Arizona.  If Arizona finds a way to beat Seattle, they probably still have a chance at a playoff spot, and therefore would be playing hard, but I REALLY can’t see the 49ers losing this game if it’s for the division and the top seed.

So, what that means is:  the Seahawks need to win one more.  Why not just win it now, against Arizona, and get it over with?  We knock the Cardinals out of the playoffs, the whole state of Arizona gets a little butthurt at us, and we all have a nice, relaxing week 17.

As I stated before, the Cardinals are a lot better than I originally thought they’d be.  9-5 is nothing to sneeze at, and normally 9-5 would have them comfortably in the playoffs if the season ended today.  It’s a testament to how great the NFC is that they’re on the outside looking in right now (remember that bullshit after the first couple weeks of the season, where everyone was making a big deal about how the AFC actually had a better record against the NFC?  That shit didn’t last too long, did it?).  The Cardinals have gone 6-1 in their last seven games, which makes them one of the hotter teams … until you look at who they’ve played.

They beat Atlanta, Houston, Jacksonville, and Indy to go on a 4-game winning streak.  Make a big deal about Indy all you want, but that is NOT the same team that beat the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos early in the season.  Ever since they lost Reggie Wayne, they’ve gone 4-3, beating Houston and Tennessee two times each (while losing to the likes of Arizona, St. Louis, and Cincinnati in embarrassing fashion).  Arizona, you can’t crow about that victory; Indy is shit now.  The Cardinals followed their 4-game winning streak by losing to a good Philly team.  Then, they beat a mediocre Rams team and barely held on against a mediocre Titans team.

Arizona has exactly one quality win this year, and it’s against the Panthers (right before Ron Rivera turned into Riverboat Ron and they ripped off eight in a row).  Again, not the same team, so you could argue that the win over the Panthers isn’t even all that legit.

Carson Palmer is still Carson Palmer (which means:  a walking turnover machine).  They have no running game.  It’s not too hard for this secondary to shut down Larry Fitzgerald.  They have no other receivers.  All they are is a great defense.  Too bad they won’t be as effective on the road.  And too bad that our defense is better than theirs (while our offense is WAY better than their offense).

I want this.  I want it right now.  Seahawks, the NFC is yours for the taking.  The Super Bowl is yours for the taking!  Just go out there, win on Sunday, and let’s all go out for hot fudge sundaes!

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 12

This topic doesn’t deserve its own post, because frankly, I’m getting sick and tired of writing this fucking post.

Walter Thurmond!  Thank you!  I mean, God damn, what would a championship season be without an unnecessary road block or two?  It’s like, you saw everyone coming back healthy, you saw this team starting to gel and really hit its stride, and you thought:  “I’m gonna get a little high.”

You're a towel!

You’re a towel!

One game.  We had one game with pretty much everyone healthy and playing (save Sidney Rice, of course, and I guess Brandon Browner).  One game with all of our positions at full strength.  Now, we get to go into the most important game of the season to date, against one of the best passing attacks in the league, down two of our top three cornerbacks.  Great.

I think suspensions for smoking weed are pretty fucking stupid.  But, this is the NFL.  You don’t come to the NFL for progressive, forward-thinking individuals.  You come to the NFL for stodgy, “No Fun League” ethos.  This is the same league that puts crazy restrictions on touchdown celebrations and so-called taunting.  You REALLY think they’re going to let something like smoking weed go by without making a huge stink?  If they could, they’d ban ingestion of anything harder than warm milk!

Nevertheless, you know what you’re getting with the NFL.  The rules are clearly spelled out.  Furthermore, you’re on a team that’s had more than its fair share of players being suspended for being idiots.  You knew the importance of this season from a team perspective (Super Bowl contender) and you knew the importance of this season from a personal perspective (contract season) and you did it anyway.  Why?  Who gives a shit why?  You did what you did knowing the consequences.  Smug Seahawks fans like to play the “Don’t Throw Stones” card in these situations, but I like to think the majority of people who know the fucking consequences of certain situations would be strong enough and smart enough to NOT FUCKING SMOKE WEED.  It’s fucking weed!  I completely understand how much fun smoking weed can be, but it’s not like it’s delicious, delicious alcohol or anything!

I keep telling myself it’s stupid to get angry about these types of things, but I can’t help it.  Right before the Saints game?  God damn it all!

***

Everything above this point was written on Sunday afternoon / Monday morning.  This little bitty section here is being written Monday night, after news that Brandon Browner’s season is over.

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?  It’s not like I expected him to make a miraculous comeback before the Saints game, but I SURE AS SHIT was counting on him for the playoff run!

I guess this makes some of the decisions for next year a little easier.  We won’t have to wonder about the Seahawks giving Browner a huge contract extension.  If he comes back, it’ll likely be for the minimum, on a short-term deal (especially if the 1-year ban holds and he can’t come back until week 13).  But, from what it sounds like, we’re just flat-out moving on.

This is just shitty, shitty news that I didn’t need to be hearing about now.  Or ever, really.  I liked Browner.  I still do, I guess, but this is more disappointing than enraging.  He earned the major contract he was going to get.  Working for peanuts for the Seahawks, going from CFL star to NFL Pro Bowler in the best secondary in football, he had everything going for him.  Of course, I guess you could say it’s his own fault that he’s not going to get paid, since he fucked up and broke the rules again.  Still, I feel for the guy.  He should at least qualify for a Super Bowl ring when we win it all, right?

On to the rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (9-2) – Well, they lost a tough road game against a good opponent, but it’s not quite enough for me to knock them off the top spot.  Especially considering what the Seahawks lost this weekend (I would argue losing Thurmond is more important to us than Moreno is to them).  This upcoming week will say a lot.  Denver goes to Kansas City to possibly decide the AFC West and the conference’s #1 seed.  After this week, it’s pretty smooth sailing for the Broncos.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (10-1) – I’ll tell you this, though:  if the Seahawks find a way to beat the Saints, I’m putting them back in the top spot, regardless of what Denver ends up doing in Kansas City.

The Rest:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) – Well, they really didn’t need to lose to the Chargers.  Possibly a case of them looking forward to Denver again.  Then again, defensive injuries won’t be their friend going forward.
  2. Carolina Panthers (8-3) – Lordy!  You don’t want any part of Riverboat Ron right now!  I know everyone is going to vote for Andy Reid as Coach of the Year, but my vote goes squarely to Ron Rivera.
  3. New England Patriots (8-3) – Gutty.  Now, all they need is for Denver to lose one more game.  Preferably this week, because the rest of their schedule is cake.
  4. New Orleans Saints (9-2) – Thanks to Thurmond, I’m officially having my doubts about a Seahawks victory at home.  So, thanks for that.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) – Given their division, I don’t think they can possibly blow this, but they sure do look shitty all of a sudden.
  6. San Francisco 49ers (7-4) – 49ers fans have to feel a lot better about Kaepernick after last night’s performance.
  7. Arizona Cardinals (7-4) – A team I had dismissed since pretty much the beginning is now in the driver’s seat.  Well, at least they control their own destiny.  And, with wins over the likes of the Panthers, Lions, and Colts, you’re looking at a team you legitimately have to be concerned about.
  8. St. Louis Rams (5-6) – Holy shit, the Rams are just destroying teams!  And to think I’d written this team off just five weeks ago.
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) – This game against Arizona this week looks like the most entertaining one on the schedule.  Where did that come from?
  10. Detroit Lions (6-5) – Hey Lions?  Don’t look now, but you’re fucking this up.
  11. Chicago Bears (6-5) – Uhh Bears?  Don’t look now, but you’re blowing this.
  12. Dallas Cowboys (6-5) – Huge win to keep pace with the Eagles.  In the end, this will come down to their showdown in Week 17.
  13. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) – I like this team about as far as I can throw it.  There are a lot of lose-able games on the horizon, so I wouldn’t be counting any chickens right now.
  14. Baltimore Ravens (5-6) – Game of the year for the Ravens on Thanksgiving against the Steelers.  If they lose, Pittsburgh takes a 1-game lead and owns the tie-breaker, effectively ending the Ravens’ season.  If they win, then certainly you have to consider them alive.  They play at Cincinnati in Week 17.  Win that game and they’d have the tiebreaker over the Bengals, so all they have to do is win out and hope the Bengals bungle a couple along the way.  Definitely possible.
  15. San Diego Chargers (5-6) – Man, that game sure took a turn, didn’t it?  I still don’t believe in this team, but when Philip Rivers gets on a roll like he can from time to time, this offense is as good as any in football.
  16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) – This is certainly something.  Bet they wish they hadn’t gagged away that Titans game in week 1.  If Roethlisberger can stay healthy, I could easily see them powering past Cincinnati.
  17. Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) – It’s about God damn time they gave Flynn the starting job!
  18. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – You’re a huge disappointment and nobody likes you.
  19. New York Giants (4-7) – To be honest, I’m kind of glad Dallas won that game.  I don’t need the Giants on this insane hot streak worming their way into the playoffs.
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) – You heard it here first:  this is a team on the rise!  It only took half a season, but WATCH OUT, NFL!
  21. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – I still haven’t given up hope!  Things could very well start breaking their way and leave them around 9-7 or 8-8 depending on how their quarterback plays and how their defense holds up.
  22. New York Jets (5-6) – Whatever you do, don’t go benching Geno Smith now.  Unless he’s bothered by some nagging injury, you don’t sell the cow now for some magic beans, because this year you absolutely have no shot at anything.
  23. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – Weeden is like an STD that you just can’t shake.  You think you’ve got things cleared up with medication, then you meet a pretty girl and suddenly your face is outbreak central.
  24. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – Yeah, you’re in the hunt now, but your next three games are @IND, @DEN, and vs. Arizona.  Then, it’s @JAX and vs. Houston.  So, 6-10 here we come!
  25. Oakland Raiders (4-7) – Rooting for the Raiders must, in some small way, be like rooting for the Mariners.  A hopeless team, a hopeless franchise, and a hopeless future.
  26. Washington Redskins (3-8) – You know, you’re just helping the Rams get a better draft pick, don’t you?
  27. Houston Texans (2-9) – Well, I picked up their defense for a 1-week trial (because the Seahawks were on BYE and they were playing the Jags.  I guess I got my money’s worth, but come on!  How do you lose to that team?
  28. Atlanta Falcons (2-9) – As the Falcons go, so does my fantasy team:  right down the shitter.  I have Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez.  After a semi-brilliant start to the season, it’s been non-stop agony.
  29. Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1) – I don’t even know how to process a tie right now.  Odds are, it means they’ll be a half-game better than a few teams and it’ll hurt their draft spot.  The only thing worse for them would’ve been an outright win.
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 11

I tend to have issues with people who consider their own opinions infallible.  Oh, you’re SO important that it’s impossible for you to even be SLIGHTLY wrong?  Fortunately, I don’t feel like this happens much to me in my daily life, but in sports it happens ALL THE TIME.

Referees and umpires.  Who needs ’em, right?  Well, I guess some of these games would devolve into chaos, but you know what?  They shouldn’t have the type of power they have over games.  These sports leagues have done what they can to take back some of that power with “instant replay”, but I would argue that they haven’t gone NEARLY far enough.

In the end, fans don’t REALLY care about how long these games are.  That’s a product of the media, giving voice to people who don’t really exist outside of the media.  Yeah, beat writers and such want the games to be shorter, because they don’t want to sit around for four hours or more doing their jobs.  It’s pretty pathetic when you think about it, but just look at it!  Who is arguing for less time “under the hood?”  It’s media types.  Period.  That’s why you always hear about them complaining whenever a baseball game goes into extra innings.  Oh, you poor thing, you get to write about sports for a living, and you have to stay a little longer!

The only thing fans care about is getting the call right.  It doesn’t matter if the game is 3 hours or 3:30 or even 4 hours.  They want to know they’re getting a game that’s judged fairly.

So, to think it’s okay that certain refs call certain penalties a certain way is an absolute joke.  These players already have to adjust to all the things the other team is throwing at them; now they’ve got to adjust their play to how the refs are calling pass interference?  And, as for baseball, a strike zone is a strike zone, and it shouldn’t matter who is behind the plate or if the batter is left-handed or not!

How would I change things?  For starters, no more umpires calling balls & strikes.  You use whatever technology they have to track balls and strikes and you go by THAT.  Instead of an ump, just have a couple of lights at the backstop:  red for a ball, green for a strike.  Let the umpire stand there if you want, but he’s only in charge of over-riding the system if a batter swings and misses (and the home plate ump no longer gets to stand behind the plate – he stands across from the batter, watching for checked-swings).  Oh, we’re not allowed to question your almighty judgment on balls & strikes with replay?  Fine, then we’re taking the job away from you altogether.

As for everything else in baseball, it’s all automatically reviewed.  There’s a guy from the MLB home office in every stadium, with no affiliation to the umpire’s union, and he calls for a stoppage of the game if there’s a missed call.  Like, a short stop’s phantom tagging of second base on a double play.  That shit won’t fly when I’m in charge!

As for football, all penalties can be reviewed.  I will never understand why teams aren’t allowed to question a penalty!  Or, an egregious non-call.  It’s absolutely absurd that referees get to have all of this unquestioned power over a football game!  Do you understand how many billions of dollars the NFL is worth?  And we’re letting these little panty-waists dictate the results of games?

Again, here, there would be an impartial observer to review penalties.  Someone who knows the rules inside and out, someone who can come on the broadcast and explain things for us (so the stupid refs don’t have to), and someone who won’t be swayed because they were once in Ed Hochuli’s shoes.

Also, I think all reviews in the NFL should be automatic.  Give coaches their two-to-three challenges just in case “Upstairs” doesn’t see something in time, but otherwise I want the game stopped on close calls.

We can do this, people!  If we put our minds to it, we can do anything!  By God, I won’t have another Super Bowl XL!  Not on my watch!

On to the rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (9-1) – Inside track for AFC West, and proof-positive that they’re the #1 team in the NFL.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (10-1) – Most fortunate BYE week of anyone in the NFL.  You’ve earned this rest, Seahawks.

The Rest:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) – Not going to call them a pretender, but they’re going to need to play better – and get Jamaal Charles more involved – if they’re going to take down the Broncos.
  2. Carolina Panthers (7-3) – Holy shitballs!  This team is for real!  Boy, are we lucky we caught them early, before Riverboat “Swingin’ Dick” Ron took control.
  3. New England Patriots (7-3) – The Colts gotta be pretty stoked about the Patriots losing like this.  It’ll be a shame for whichever team doesn’t get the #2 seed.  Then again, not as much of a shame as whichever team between the Chiefs/Broncos getting the #5 seed.  There outta be a law.
  4. New Orleans Saints (8-2) – The showdown for the NFC #1 seed in two weeks.  These Saints will lose.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (7-3) – Almost blew that to the Titans.  They will struggle without Reggie Wayne.
  6. San Francisco 49ers (6-4) – Not the same football team without Crabtree.  Now, they’re not even guaranteed to be a playoff team!
  7. Detroit Lions (6-4) – Playing defense like that is going to lose you that division title.
  8. Chicago Bears (6-4) – McCown is not stealing the starter’s job from Cutler.  He will be back in there when he’s healthy … just not a moment sooner.
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) – Even when Nick Foles doesn’t throw a TD pass, he still scores 30 fantasy points.  Fantasy Juggernaut!
  10. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) – Not a contender.  But, probably still a division winner.
  11. Arizona Cardinals (6-4) – I would have laughed and laughed if the Jags had beaten them.  As it stands, I’m just laughing and laughing because they have the same record as the 49ers.
  12. Green Bay Packers (5-5) – Will you PLEASE make Matt Flynn your starter?
  13. Miami Dolphins (5-5) – What can you say?  Solid win.  They’re still not a great team, but whatever.
  14. Dallas Cowboys (5-5) – Sorry Cowboys, your season is over.  The Eagles will F your S up.
  15. Baltimore Ravens (4-6) – All it took was one of the worst weather games in NFL history for the Ravens to remember they have Ray Rice on their team.  Fantasy owners would probably appreciate it if you gave him this type of attention the rest of the year.
  16. New York Giants (4-6) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Green Bay Packers, BFD.
  17. St. Louis Rams (4-6) – I think the Rams beat the 49ers the next time these two teams play.
  18. New York Jets (5-5) – Wasn’t this team supposed to be good on defense?  I guess it’s hard to be when your offense turns it over so much.
  19. San Diego Chargers (4-6) – Will people finally stop believing that this is a playoff team now?
  20. Cleveland Browns (4-6) – Whatever.
  21. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Yeah, I dunno.
  22. Tennessee Titans (4-6) – 4-6 record and second place in their divison.  Huh.
  23. Oakland Raiders (4-6) – Now THAT’S how you play with a backup quarterback!
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) – The Steelers & The Lions:  A Defensive Pillow Fight For The Ages.
  25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) – This team COULD approach a 7-9 record by season’s end.  Not too shabby after that start.
  26. Washington Redskins (3-7) – And yet, still not out of the NFC Least.
  27. Houston Texans (2-8) – Keenum benched?  What is this world coming to?
  28. Atlanta Falcons (2-8) – Just an awful, awful team.
  29. Minnesota Vikings (2-8) – I guess that’s that for Christian Ponder, yeah?
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

I hate to go all pervy Andy Rooney on you, but can someone explain to me why NFL cheerleaders get, like, 10 seconds of screen time per game?  Why, in MY day, television producers knew that any lull in the action was just another excuse to give the fans what they want:  tight and firm T&A.

OK, this has already gone off the rails.  I apologize.  Without any further ado, the week 2 rankings:

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-0) – Please say hello to your NFC Champions.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-0) – Please say hello to your AFC Champions.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – This is still a great team against virtually any other team aside from the Seahawks.
  4. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – This offense is a fantasy player’s wet dream.  I have Jordy Nelson and James Jones on my team (in a PPR league) and will be starting them both each and every week until one of them gets injured.
  5. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – They probably should have beaten the Rams by more, but you can’t discount the impact of not having Roddy White in that offense.  Tony Gonzalez owners will attest to this as well.  Also, don’t forget the Rams are pretty good.  Not great, mind you, but pretty good.
  6. Houston Texans (2-0) – The Texans are the flimsiest “elite” team in all of football.  For all the studs on this defense, it’s kind of a joke the way they’re leaving sub-standard teams in these ballgames.  Matt Schaub won’t be able to pull their asses out of the fire each and every week.
  7. New England Patriots (2-0) – Meet the second-flimsiest “elite” team in all of football.  I’m honestly beginning to wonder if they’re going to have enough fire-power to hold off the Dolphins for the division title THIS year.  It’s going to be a swift and brutal fall off the cliff in the coming seasons for this franchise.
  8. New Orleans Saints (2-0) – Absolutely solid win on the road against a very talented Bucs team.  I’ll get to them in a minute, but this is how a professional, well-coached team gets the job done in a close game.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) – Nice win at home last night.  That would’ve been a game the Bungles would have lost.  But these new-look Bengals, why, they’re something else entirely!
  10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) – I had my nagging doubts going into the game against the Cowboys, but the Chiefs proved me wrong as they continue to learn how to win again.  They’re not the most exciting team in the NFL, but we can’t all be the Seattle Seahawks.
  11. Carolina Panthers (0-2) – As soon as they fire Ron Rivera, this team is going to be GANGBUSTERS.  But, seriously, he has the best short-yardage running team in football.  Why isn’t he taking more chances, going for the win instead of trying to avoid the loss?  Whoever snipped Rivera’s balls off of him needs to return them immediately.
  12. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Cleveland Browns, BFD.
  13. Chicago Bears (2-0) – They’ve won a couple of squeakers at home to start the season.  Have you looked at their schedule, by the way?  All of their toughest non-divisional games are at home.  I might have seriously misjudged this team!  Health, of course, will be the ultimate factor, because for a team as talented as they are, they’ve got zero depth if the shit hits the fan.  And I still contend that this defense won’t be as lucky as it is going forward with regards to turnovers and such.  Still.
  14. Washington Redskins (0-2) – OK, let’s not go nuts here.  This team’s best – and only – chance to win is with RGIII in the lineup.  They’ve played two very good offenses and have been thrashed accordingly.  The ‘Skins are going to run into some teams that WON’T generate 600 yards of offense, and when they do, I’d look for their fortunes to change.
  15. Detroit Lions (1-1) – That’s a game you gotta steal if you want to make the playoffs, Lions.  I know Arizona is pretty much on your level, but you gotta be BETTER than that.  Of course, you royally fucked me in Fantasy, as my opponent had Stafford and Johnson, so thanks for that.
  16. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – This team isn’t going to find itself winning consistently until they get rid of the guy calling the plays, because they’re too one-dimensional.  And Tony Romo isn’t Aaron Rodgers, and their team isn’t the Green Bay Packers, so being one-dimensional isn’t going to work.  RUN THE BALL, YOU LIMEY FUCKS!
  17. New York Giants (0-2) – It’s pretty funny how everyone is freaking out about the Giants.  Eli Manning is a disease and this team deserves every misfortune it earns.
  18. Miami Dolphins (2-0) – Bigtime road win against the Colts.  And, not for nothing, but they’ve won two games on the road to start the season.  That can’t help but bode well for this team!  I’m still not convinced that Tannehill and Co. have what it takes to hang with the best, but this upcoming 3-game test before their BYE week will go a long way (vs. Atlanta, @ New Orleans, vs. Baltimore).
  19. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – It’s funny.  Get rid of Norv and all of a sudden Philip Rivers is a fantasy god.  Who knew?  Besides every single fan of the San Diego Chargers, that is.
  20. St. Louis Rams (1-1) – This is the one bad team that you never want to play, because you’re always in for a dogfight.
  21. Arizona Cardinals (1-1) – Was that the faintest whiff of friskiness I smelled out of their running game on Sunday?  If they figure out how to average somewhere around 4 yards per carry, WATCH OUT!
  22. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) – And here begins the regression train.  You can’t win every single close game you assholes!
  23. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) – Running up the score only works if you have the horses on defense to keep the other team under 30 points.  This is going to be a fun and frantic year for Eagles fans.
  24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) – This is the most-talented and least-disciplined team in the NFL.  Their coaching staff should be assassinated.  Forget firing.  Go right to assassination.  Bring in someone good who can get the BEST out of their players.  Being thuggish for the sake of being thuggish doesn’t make you a “tough” football team.  It makes you sloppy and stupid, a la the Oakland Raiders of forever.  The worst part is, by BEING so stupid, the Bucs have to do three times the work just to win these football games.  It’s no wonder they’re 0-2 and sliding fast.
  25. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) – Christian Ponder is THIS close to getting his job taken away.  By Kyle Orton.  Let that sink in for a minute.
  26. Tennessee Titans (1-1) – Someone seriously gave me some bad intel on the nature of the Titans’ defense.  I was told they’d be one of the worst in the league.  As it stands, their defense is the only thing keeping this team in games!  They’re still a tough team to gauge, because their offensive line is so horrendous (and therefore it’s impossible to tell if Jake Locker has what it takes to hack it in the League), but I could see this team rising to Middle Of The Pack status by season’s end with the effort they’re giving week-in and week-out.
  27. Buffalo Bills (1-1) – EJ Manuel is looking more and more, every day, as the real deal.  Color me marginally excited.
  28. New York Jets (1-1) – Rex Ryan can still coach up a defense.  And without the Sanchize blundering his way through another boring game, you never know.
  29. Cleveland Browns (0-2) – I don’t think anyone expected the Browns to beat the Ravens.  But, I surely didn’t expect them to look THAT bad.  Someone firebomb the idiots who touted Weeden as “most improved” after his pre-season.  I’m tired of letting your lunacy seep into my subconscious.
  30. Oakland Raiders (1-1) – Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that win against the Jags was the only time the Raiders win all season.  Hope you enjoyed your Sunday, Oakland!
  31. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) – I didn’t watch a ton of last night’s game, but when I did, the Steelers looked pretty pathetic.  On back-to-back drives, when facing 3rd and 10 (or something like that; long, yet manageable) they chose to run a draw instead of actually, you know TRY FOR THE FIRST DOWN.  They need to figure out what it is they do best and just focus on that.  Unfortunately, running the ball probably isn’t in their wheelhouse.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – They’re bad with Gabbert.  They’re bad without Gabbert.  Can someone tell me who’s running this offense?  Because I’m not gonna lie to you, Gus Bradley’s job depends on this unit improving quickly.