My Thoughts On A Potential 18-Game NFL Schedule

The best thing about taking a day off of work following a vacation (aside from the fact that it’s one less day you have to work that week) is getting to watch shows like Around The Horn and PTI.  On the west coast, unless you’re a college student with a favorable schedule, unemployed, or home sick, you miss out on daytime television gems like these (and The Price Is Right, All My Children, Days Of Our Lives, Oprah, and so on).

Anyway, on Monday one of those shows talked about the NFL and how it is continuing to push for the 18-game schedule, with this caveat:  players would only be allowed to play for 16 games.  In other words:  they would have to take two full games off (ostensibly, in addition to the BYE week that already exists).

In general, the 18-game schedule gets uniformly criticized by everyone, and I don’t understand why.  I mean, I understand their arguments, which appear to be as follows, in no particular order:

  • It’s hypocritical for the NFL to preach the virtues of “safety” while at the same time lengthening an already-brutal season.
  • It would have the potential to punish teams who aren’t as deep on their bench, with a higher possibility of the stars getting injured if they happen to be surrounded by second or third stringers.
  • What makes the NFL so special is that the games are few and far between.  It’s not like baseball, where you’re worn out by six full months of a regular season.  Nor is it like the NBA with its seemingly endless playoff system.

Here’s the thing, though.  The NFL is the best.  Everyone loves it.  People complain about lengthening the season, or having games on Thursdays, and yet here it is, the most-watched thing on TV each and every week!  What are you going to do, NOT watch the NFL in those 17th or 18th weeks?  I didn’t think so.

Truth be told, I think the 18-week schedule is a great idea!  First and foremost, it would require teams to employ more players.  With bigger rosters, we’d be more able to keep some of those fringey guys we’re so sorry to see go at the end of the pre-season.

Also, two additional weeks of the football season is two less weeks I have to sit around and watch baseball, or other inferior sports.  If I could have stopped paying attention to the Mariners two weeks sooner, don’t you think I would have done that in a heartbeat?

Plus, I love this idea of trying to manage your rosters according to this rule of playing no more than 16 games.  That means the Seahawks would HAVE to start Tarvaris Jackson in two of our games this year.  Which two would it be?  Obviously, Jacksonville comes immediately to mind.  I think the other one would have to be Tennessee.  When you’re an NFC team, the least-important games on your schedule are the games you play against AFC teams.  Since both of those are home games, you feel like you’ve got a pretty good chance to win both of those games without your starters in the lineup.  Maybe the Seahawks go full-on backups vs. Jaguars.  It wouldn’t have been the most pleasing-to-the-eye game we’ve ever seen, but then again, a blowout by four touchdowns isn’t all that interesting either.

It would be tough, though.  I mean, you can’t just sit ALL of your starters, because you’re not going to have enough players to fill in.  And, what happens in that game where you start Tarvar and he ends up getting knocked out of the game in the third quarter?  Do you put Russell Wilson into the game to get you through?  Or, do you put in a third string quarterback?

All of this is endlessly fascinating to me.  It adds this new level of strategy I never thought would be possible.

Of course, as is natural, injuries will take care of the job for some coaches.  Chris Clemons, for instance, would have missed the first two games anyway because he was recovering from surgery.  So, there’s that out of the way.  Bruce Irvin would be good to go thanks to his suspension.  And so on.

It makes more sense for players to miss two full games vs. 8 full quarters.  If Russell Wilson takes the third quarter off for eight games in a row, is he taking the same reduction of a beating as he would by missing two full games?  Of course not.

Which brings us back to the bigger rosters.  I think you’d need to carry at least an extra 20-30 guys on each team.  Which shouldn’t be a problem, since teams go all the way up to 90 players in the pre-season.  Maybe in this instance, teams are less gung ho about putting guys on the IR to try to hang onto them.  Also, I think you need to introduce some sort of Disabled List like baseball has.  Limiting teams to one IR spot with a designation to come back is pretty brutal, especially for a sport like football.  Introduce a 2-week DL with the option to keep them on there as long as they need to recover.  The PUP list is a joke because it only works for guys who get injured prior to the season.  The vast majority of players get injured IN season, and you have to make the tough decision to keep them on your roster (but inactive on game days), put them on IR, or waive them.  A DL allows you to keep more of your players while not hurting the team in the process by making them play under-manned.

With bigger rosters, you’re going to need to lengthen the draft.  Shouldn’t be a problem; there are tons of college players out there who go undrafted.  This 18-game schedule is only going to reward teams like the Seahawks who have smart people crafting this roster through the draft.  You know all those guys who blow you away in the pre-season, then end up on the roster, but almost exclusively play special teams?  Well, we’d FINALLY get to see what they look like in a real game situation!  Just imagine how many more diamonds in the rough we’d find.  How many more feel-good stories would be written.  Journalists, why are you fighting this?  The NFL is trying to make your job EASIER by giving your more material to write about (besides the material excoriating the NFL for doing things like expanding the season to 18 games).

And, look at it this way:  by giving backups a couple games per season to start, you give them real-game experience that you may need in the future, when you have to replace aging stars because of injury or ineffectiveness.  Have reservations about re-signing all of our stud receivers?  Well, what if I told you we could start Stephen Williams and had to play him with the number 1 offense?  Or, how about this:  worried about how much longer Marshawn Lynch has to go?  What if I told you that the Seahawks would HAVE to sit him for two games, and in his place you could get Christine Michael some reps with the number 1 offensive line?  And not JUST against the crappy Jaguars at the tail-end of a blowout!

The only question I have is:  where do we find the 17th and 18th games?  Do we add two more games against opposite-conference opponents?  The way schedules are created now, it makes sense:

  • 2 games against every team in your division (6 games total)
  • 1 game against every team in one other division in the same conference (4 games total)
  • 1 game against every team in one division in the opposite conference (4 games total)
  • With the final two games relegated to the other two divisions in the same conference, based on where you finished the season prior

Take Seattle’s 2013 schedule:  We have our six divisional games, four games against the NFC South, four games against the AFC South, and since we finished 2nd in the NFC West in 2012, we play the 2nd place teams in the NFC East and North in 2012 (Giants & Vikings).

I kind of like the idea of playing two more games against the opposite conference, because you’re going to want two more of those less-important games (for tie-breaking purposes) to help your team decide when to play the bulk of its backups.  But, something tells me the Seahawks would be playing two more NFC games.  The easy way to figure it out would be everything stays the same (six divisional games, NFC South, AFC South) and then for those final four games, it would be one of two scenarios:

We would either play a home-and-home series with both the Giants and Vikings, or the top 2 in the NFC West from 2012 (in this case, San Francisco & Seattle) would play the top 2 from both the NFC East & North in 2012 (in this case, the Seahawks would play both the Redskins & Giants as well as the Packers & Vikings).  That would leave the Rams and Cardinals playing the following four teams:  Cowboys, Eagles, Bears & Lions.  Either way makes sense (the home & homes or the top 2 from each division) and I wouldn’t care which way they decided to go.

I feel like I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t care.  Part of my being FOR this particular 18-game schedule, I suppose, is because the Seahawks are the best team in football.  If I were to get a chance to watch this team play two more times every year, I’d sign up for that in a heartbeat!

I also think the NFL would be better suited to get rid of Thursday Night games and instead go with both a Friday Night AND a Saturday Night game.  That way, the league gets more primetime dollars than it would from one crappy Thursday night game.  It also gives teams one extra day to recover (Thursday games just seem cruel, while Friday doesn’t seem AS bad).  And, you know if the NFL is on Friday and/or Saturday nights, people are still going to watch.  It’s the NFL!  Good to the last drop!

Previewing & Predicting The 2013 Seattle Seahawks

Last year, I got to my predictions column late.  Past week 1 late.  It was kind of a sorry development, but what are you gonna do?  The season was already started by this time last year.  Anyway, I didn’t think very highly of the Seahawks heading into the 2012 season.  I didn’t think very lowly of them either, which is how you get to an 8-8 record.  Honestly, I would’ve predicted 9-7, but since I got to my post a week late – and the Seahawks crapped the bed in Arizona that first week – I downgraded to 8-8.

The Seahawks, as everyone knows, finished 11-5, going 7-1 over the second half of the season, and 1-1 in the post-season, ending up in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  Those last 10 games were as epic of a run as you can get without actually making it to the Super Bowl.

But, enough about last year.  That was damn near a year ago, for Christ’s sake!

This year, the sky is the limit.  At worst, the Seahawks will be 11-5.  At best, I’m sorry, but at best you’ve gotta say 16-0.

Before we get into official predictions, let’s take a look at the make-up of this team:

Part 1 – Roster

How do the Seahawks differ from this time last year?  Well, for starters, our backup quarterback is new (or old, I can never tell).  Tarvar takes over for Matt Flynn, and to be honest with you, it’s probably a downgrade.  Obviously, we don’t know how good Flynn can really be (and, reports indicate that he can’t even win the fucking starting job on the RAIDERS of all teams), but I guess that’s the point.  We know what Tarvar is – he’s a near-.500 quarterback – and we don’t know what Flynn is.  Flynn could be great in small doses, Flynn could be great in large doses, or he could be terrible no matter the serving size.  If you’re a salary cap-head, then you like Tarvar because he saves you money.  So, maybe in the long run this is an upgrade?  Whatever, who cares, moving on.

At running back, Lynch and Turbin return, ostensibly in the same roles they occupied as last year.  Christine Michael replaces Leon Washington, which is an improvement at our #3 running back spot, but hurts us in the return game, as Michael is not a returner.  Derrick Coleman takes over for Michael Robinson, which is a soul-crushing blow.  But, on the flipside, he’s younger, cheaper, and under team control for longer.  Considering Robinson only played somewhere around 30% of our offensive snaps in 2012, I can’t imagine this one little move at fullback is going to make that much of a difference.  Finally, Spencer Ware is either going to be a special teams replacement for Robinson, or he’s going to spend the bulk of the season on the Inactive List on gameday.  We’ll see.

Rice, Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse are all hold-overs from last year.  Kearse, of course, spent most of 2012 on the Practice Squad, but came on late in a special teams capacity.  I wouldn’t expect a TON out of him, but then again he is going to be our starting kick returner, so buttons.  He did, after all, return that one kick in the pre-season for a touchdown.  If he turns out to be a monster in that aspect of the game, I might cream in my pants.  Harvin starts out the season on the PUP list and will hopefully return sometime in November.  Stephen Williams – the pre-season phenom – is holding his seat for the time being.  It’s hard to see this team keep five active receivers going every game (remember, you can only play 45 of your 53 guys every gameday), but then again, can you really keep this guy off the field?  I’d like to see the Seahawks throw one long bomb jump ball to him every half; I bet he comes down with half of them, and in so doing earns his weekly paycheck.

This year, we’re only keeping the two tight ends, instead of last year’s three.  The lone holdover is the uber-talented Zach Miller.  He’s our starter and our muse (our flame).  Anthony McCoy, as you’ll recall, is lost for the season on IR.  Evan Moore, thankfully, is no more.  In his place, we actually have a guy worth a damn in Luke Willson.  Even though Willson is a rookie, he looks like the real deal and the future at the position we’ve been trying so hard for so long to draft.

Our starting O-Line remains intact, which is probably the most important thing outside of quarterback you want to remain intact.  Okung, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy, and Giacomini are the guys, with James Carpenter getting worked in (over time, to be the full-time replacement at left guard).  Lemuel Jean-Pierre returns as our backup center, Mike Person returns as our backup … something.  Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey are a couple of rookie projects who came on strong this pre-season.  Gone is John Moffitt, traded to Denver for being not worth the time or effort.

On the D-Line, Clemons, Bryant, and Mebane all return.  Clemons avoided the PUP list, as he is a specimen of the gods and will hopefully start practicing within the next couple weeks.  Everyone else is brand new.  Avril & Bennett are our two big free agent splashes.  Both are kinda hurt, but both should be okay to play out of the gate (if not, then expect one or both to be Inactive right along with Clemons for Week 1).  Tony McDaniel is a less-heralded signing, but his impact will be just as important as he will be our starting 3-technique defensive tackle.  Jordan Hill is a rookie who survived pre-season mostly healthy.  He’ll get regular playing time in the defensive tackle rotation.  Jesse Williams, unfortunately yet predictably, landed on IR with his bum knee.  O’Brien Schofield and D’Anthony Smith are cast-offs from other teams who we know little about.  Schofield spent most of the pre-season in Seattle and was fine, I guess.  Smith came over after the cut-downs to 53 and has been injured most of his career.  Questionable move to say the least, but obviously John Schneider and Pete Carroll know something we do not.  Rounding out the group, we have Benson Mayowa, an undrafted rookie out of Idaho who led the team in sacks in the pre-season.  He looks like he’s got some real moves, but unless injuries deplete this team early, it’s hard to see him getting a lot of playing time.

At Linebacker, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner return, ready to kick some more ass.  Malcolm Smith also returns and figures to get some playing time at the strong-side spot.  Bruce Irvin has converted to the strong side, but of course he’s suspended for the first four games.  It’ll be interesting to see – A. whose spot he takes upon returning in week 5, and B. how he fares as a pass-rushing linebacker.  The team found room for special teams lord & savior Heath Farwell, so look for that unit to continue demolishing other teams.  Allen Bradford was around last year, but never played.  Now, he’s our backup middle linebacker and might find a way to work himself into a rotation if he keeps up the good work.  Rounding it out, we have John Lotulelei, who will probably never play unless he stands out on special teams.

In the secondary, Marcus Trufant has been replaced by Walter Thurmond, who was injured for most of his career.  Antoine Winfield was let go because our younger guys were just plain better.  Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell could be starters for other teams, which is what makes this unit the best in football.  At safety, Winston Guy was let go.  He was kinda flashy, and he blitzed a lot last year, but he didn’t really do a whole lot and shouldn’t be missed.  Chris Maragos is super fast, so he shouldn’t be too much of a step back if Earl Thomas can’t play.  Kam Chancellor and Jeron Johnson round out the group of safeties; Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman complete the set.

Kicker, punter, and long snapper all return.

Part 2 – Analyzing The Roster

Working our way backward, the Special Teams looks as good as it ever has.  Steven Hauschka, as I’ve mentioned before, has been a man possessed this pre-season.  Jon Ryan is Jon Ryan, putting in consistent MVP-quality work.  Clint Gresham hasn’t botched any snaps that I can recall, so bully for him.

In the secondary, you can’t help but be excited for Walter Thurmond.  He’s finally healthy and finally able to show what he can do for this team.  He’s a HUGE upgrade over an aging Marcus Trufant, and that’s important because nickel corner was one of our main areas of concern going into 2013.  To be fair, this team could play a Dime package all day every day and I wouldn’t lose sleep.  Maxwell looks like he could make the Pro Bowl THIS year if he was given a chance to start.

At linebacker, you have to believe this team also improved.  Leroy Hill is gone and they’ve done some shuffling.  K.J. Wright moves to his old spot at the weak-side, so that’s great.  You always want more speed, especially at the linebacker position.  Wagner, with a year under his belt and a chip on his shoulder to prove he doesn’t belong in Luke Kuechly’s shadow, also looked like a man possessed this pre-season.  I expect a huge jump in his play in 2013, rivalling the jump Richard Sherman made from his rookie to his second year.  On the strong side, replacing Wright, we’ve got the combo of Malcolm Smith and eventually Bruce Irvin.  It looks like the team wants the strong side ‘backer to be more of a pass-rush threat, hence the Irvin move.  I love the idea.  Any way this team can get more pressure on the QB that isn’t just sending a safety on a blitz that takes forever to materialize, I’m all for it.  The depth at this position is infinitely better than it was last year too.  Bradford could start on almost any other team, and Lotulelei looks like he could develop into a force if given the chance.

Along the D-Line, you have to have concern, I’m not gonna lie.  Can McDaniel and Hill make up for the loss of Alan Branch and Jason Jones?  When he was healthy, Jones was fairly effective.  And Branch was a starter for the past couple years.  If they can just maintain and not take a step back, I’d be happy.  Also, how long will Mebane be able to stay healthy?  He’s no spring chicken.  Depth at tackle is also a concern.  The Seahawks gave away a couple of decent depth guys in Jaye Howard and Clinton McDonald.  In their place, we have newcomer D’Anthony Smith, and Michael Bennett on passing downs.  Bennett should be solid, but I just don’t know.

On the ends of the line, it’s just as concerning.  Red Bryant returns, and he looks as healthy as ever, so that’s good.  But, he’s still a mountain of a man, and those guys don’t tend to stay healthy for very long.  Clemons we’ve talked about, but it’s still encouraging that he’ll be back soon.  Avril is a little less encouraging, as he hasn’t played at all in pre-season.  The Seahawks robbed Peter to pay Paul a little bit by moving Irvin out of the LEO end spot.  Unless Clemons and/or Avril return soon, this could be a real weakness for the team.  Remember, Greg Scruggs could play both inside and outside, and he’s gone for the year too.  Unless Schofield or Mike Morgan (who I failed to mention above in the roster section) step up in a big way, I think this team is going to be hurting for sacks.  Then again, the first two games are against Carolina and San Francisco, so we should probably worry less about sacks and more about contain.  Either way, it could be rocky for this unit early.

I’m not worried about the O-Line.  If there’s anything I’m rock solid on this year, it’s that.  Even the injury bug doesn’t concern me, because the depth looks good, and Tom Cable is a wizard.

Seeing Luke Willson perform the way he did in the pre-season makes me a LOT more comfortable about the tight end position.  Let’s see if Zach Miller has what it takes to stay on the field for the full go.  If not, then I’m probably going to spend the rest of the season hyperventilating.

I absolutely LOVE what we’ve done with the wide receivers on this team.  Braylon Edwards was never going to be a player worth having.  I’d take Stephen Williams over him any day.  Ben Obomanu was solid on special teams, but he’s worse than Jermaine Kearse.  And when Harvin returns, he’s like a million billion times better than Charly Martin.  Most improved lineup on the team by FAR.

I just kinda like what they did with the running backs.  In a perfect world, football teams would keep 54 players and Michael Robinson would still be on this one.  But, you know, you’ve gotta move on.  Hopefully Derrick Coleman is the next Michael Robinson.  If that’s the case, then we truly are the king of kings.  Also, look for Christine Michael to supplant Turbin before season’s end.  And in a couple years, when Michael is our starting back and Ware is our big tough guy backup, we’ll continue to suck the dicks of John Schneider and Pete Carroll for their foresight and vision.

Russell Wilson.  All you gotta say about the quarterback position.  Stud.  Winner.  Champion.

Part 3 – The Schedule

Week 1 – @ Carolina, 10am:  This is where it pays off having played Russell Wilson the full season last year.  He (along with some shaky late-game defense) cost us that first game in Arizona.  This year, with that in mind, count on Wilson not letting us lose in week 1.  Honestly, I don’t think this will even be close.  Maybe the offense starts out sluggish early, but I think the defense comes to play and we lean on them all game long.

Week 2 – vs. San Francisco, 5:30pm:  Home opener, Sunday Night Football on NBC, the crowd absolutely fucking INSANE … this is where the Seahawks show the 49ers what power football is all about.  Another one I don’t think is all that close.

Week 3 – vs. Jacksonville, 1pm:  Can you say 3-0?  Anyone who has the Seahawks defense in fantasy football can bank on scoring anywhere from 30-60 points, depending on how you score it in your league.  This is the reason why we all drafted them at least three rounds too early.

Week 4 – @ Houston, 10am
Week 5 – @ Indianapolis, 10am:  I’m lumping these together because I’m a coward.  The Seahawks will go 1-1 in these two games, but I just can’t figure out which they’ll win and which they’ll lose.  If you look at it objectively, Houston has a great running game and an okay passing game.  When you figure that our defense is great against the pass, but only so-so against the run, you have to look at that game and figure it’s the loss, right?  Meanwhile, Indy can’t run for shit and they pass 50 times a game.  Nevertheless, my gut is telling me we beat the Texans and lose to the Colts.  Luck is a gamer, he gets better as the game goes on, and I could see this being one of those games like we had against the Lions last season.  High scoring, little defense, and Indy pulls it out at the end with a late TD.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks win ugly in Houston, something like 14-10.

Week 6 – vs. Tennessee, 1pm:  Another easy win.  This will be the game I attend this year, because tickets were reasonably easy to get, weren’t prohibitively expensive, and honestly I don’t care if I go to any games, so what does the opponent matter?  No reason to expect Russell Wilson to play beyond the 3rd quarter in this one.

Week 7 – @ Arizona, 5pm:  Thursday night game, the bane of my existence.  But, I promise to not bitch about them as much this year (unless the games are so ugly and boring, the NFL forces my hand).  Normally, I’d be concerned, but not this year.  Carson Palmer will spend more time on his back than he will on his feet (if he’s even still healthy at this point in the year).  The Seahawks win ugly, but they win, and the defense scores another touchdown.

Week 8 – @ St. Louis, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football!  Why does the league even schedule the Seahawks to play on the road on nationally televised games?  It’s like they’re tired of showing the rest of the world what real fans look like.  I guess St. Louis could pose a challenge, but I just don’t see it.  Look for something like 24-19, with the Rams scoring late (missing the 2-point conversion) to make it semi-close.

Week 9 – vs. Tampa Bay, 1pm:  I think Tampa looks good this year, but I think they look bad in this game.  Think of it as something like the game vs. Minnesota last year and you’ll be on the right track.  The Bucs are going somewhere, but they’re not contenders.

Week 10 – @ Atlanta, 10am:  Revenge Game!  Still, at this point the Seahawks will be 8-1 coming in.  And Atlanta (and Matt Ryan) just don’t lose at home.  I could honestly see something of a carbon copy of last year’s game, with Atlanta pulling it out at the end.

Week 11 – vs. Minnesota, 1pm:  Total destruction.  No contest.  YOU think YOU can get soup?  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Week 12 – BYE:  finally.

Week 13 – vs. New Orleans, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football #2!  This one is a little scary.  You can’t shut down Drew Brees forever.  Then again, he does take a lot of unnecessary risks, and his receivers really don’t scare anybody.  I think we all get a little nervous for this one, but I think the Seahawks handle them pretty easily.  33-13.

Week 14 – @ San Francisco, 1pm:  Man, what a showdown THIS game will be.  Last year, the Seahawks caught the 49ers at home late.  This year, the tables are turned.  Everyone and their grandmothers are giving this game away to the 49ers, forgetting that the Seahawks last year – in San Francisco – nearly came away victorious.  There were mistakes in the first half that I just don’t think this team makes again.  I think it’s a slug-fest, but I think the Seahawks take the season series and effectively clinch the division right here.  At this point, the 49ers won’t be mathematically eliminated, but they’ll be a couple games back and they’ll have lost the tie-breaker.  Week 14 is where the Super Bowl berth is earned, because week 14 is where the Seahawks make their statement that the #1 seed won’t be denied.

Week 15 – @ New York Giants, 10am:  Another east-coast trip, another 10am start.  Coming after the insane high that was the victory in San Francisco, I see this as a total let-down game.  The Seahawks get off to a slow start and the Giants pull too far ahead.  Russell Wilson tries to engineer a comeback, but too many turnovers seal our fate.

Week 16 – vs. Arizona, 1pm:  At this point, the Seahawks will be 11-3 going into this game.  The #1 seed won’t yet be won, but we’ll have the inside track, at least a game up and also with tie-breaker advantages.  This is a TCB type of game.  It won’t be a massive 58-0 obliteration like last year, but it’ll be comfortable.  We won’t worry for one second about losing this game.

Week 17 – vs. St. Louis, 1pm:  I’d like to say that this has a chance to be flexed, but at this point, with nothing to play for, I just don’t see it.  Russell Wilson will play for a quarter, maybe a half, but then Tarvar will come in and finish it off.  He’s no Charlie Whitehurst, but he’ll do.

Part 4 – Conclusion

13-3.  Number 1 seed in the NFC, with home field all the way to the Super Bowl.  It’s not the easiest schedule in the world, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you don’t necessarily WANT an easy path to the Super Bowl.  The 2005 Seahawks had one of the easier paths to Super Bowl XL and look at what happened when a team finally posed a challenge.  You want a little trial by fire in this league.  If a schedule is too difficult, that means your team wasn’t good enough.  Bottom line.  Don’t fear this schedule.  A famous writer said that the strongest steel is forged by the fires of Hell.  That’s what we’ll be come playoff time, and that’s what we’ll be in the Super Bowl.

4 Down, 19 To Go: Seahawks Finish Pre-Season Perfect, Because They’re Perfect

Caught the game on DVR upon my return from camping and here are some words on a mostly-meaningless fourth pre-season game.

  • Steven Hauschka looks amazing.  3 field goals of over 50 yards in this game.  And, he only missed one kick all pre-season, a 61-yarder that hit the cross-bar.
  • All Stephen Williams does:  catch long bombs.
  • I don’t know if Chris Harper effectively lost himself a place on this 53-man roster with his two drops in this game, but they surely didn’t help his cause.
  • Maybe it’s been watching him dominate against inferior opponents, but I can’t help feeling at least a little confident in Tarvar’s abilities should he need to take over for Russell Wilson for a very short time.
  • The Seahawks’ defense gave up 36 points in their four pre-season games.  L-O-A-D-E-D.

That’s really all I have to say about this game.  Bring on the regular season!  I’ll write more about the roster cut-downs in a different post.

#9 – Sidney Rice

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2013, click here.

Like it or not, we’re nearing the end of the Sidney Rice era in Seattle.  He’s making $9.7 million this year.  If we were to cut him before the season, he would count a whopping $3.6 million against our cap.  And, look, I can’t guarantee that he ISN’T one of our cap casualties going into the regular season.  The way Stephen Williams is playing, he looks like the real deal right now.  Jermaine Kearse has taken a HUGE step up.  Golden Tate is still on his rookie deal, so he’s not costing us a whole lot.  Plus, Tate is poised to make a jump into the near-elite catagory of receivers, so you’d like to see what he’s capable of before making a long-term decision on him.

Sidney Rice, by contrast, is a very known quantity.  He does have issues with injuries, which may mean that he misses games, or it might just mean the team holds him out of regular practices throughout the season in an attempt to keep him upright for the full 16.

However, I will say this:  Softy mentioned this the other day and I wholeheartedly agree:  this is NOT the year you fuck around with the team.  We’re not in terrible shape cap-wise.  At least, we’re not over.  You could make the argument that it’s important to save as much money as we can to compensate for these contract extensions we’re going to have to do in the next couple years, as teams are able to carry this money over.  But 2013 is special.  Just because you CAN cut guys like Sidney Rice, Michael Robinson, and so on; doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Yes, Stephen Williams looks great, but he’s never looked great in the regular season.  So, do you want to roll the dice with him?  Or, would you rather play the guy you KNOW is great.  And, make no mistake, Sidney Rice is still great.  He catches some balls that no man on this team is capable of catching.  He’s a proven threat that defenses have to game-plan around.  If you double him, then Golden Tate is in a more favorable matchup.  If you double Tate, then you’ve got Rice one-on-one.  Or, if you lock down both of these guys with your best corners, then we’ve got other options to pick up the slack.

This wide receiver unit is as stacked as it has ever been, and Sidney Rice is a big part of that.  None of these guys are those elite #1 receivers everyone wants.  But, many of these guys are some of the best #2’s you’ll ever see.  That’s just as good, in my book.

Of course, going forward, you have to wonder about how much longer the team is able to keep Rice.  Next season, Rice is set to earn another $9.7 million; but his dead cap money will only be $2.4 million.  At that point, with guys like Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Russell Wilson lining up for their paydays, I think you have to consider cutting ties with Rice and seeing if Stephen Williams is able to go that extra mile.

But, for now, we ride this out as long as he’ll take us.  Sidney Rice is a very valuable and important weapon on this offense.  The longer we can keep him healthy, the better our odds are for a long and enjoyable season.

3 Down, 20 To Go: Sloppy Seahawks Slip Past Putrid Packers

Fail Mary THIS, assholes!

Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, at 6:30pm, smack dab in the middle of this contest, I had my fantasy football draft.  $50 buy-in, ten players, all old buddies from college … there’s a trophy and a year’s worth of shit-talking on the line.  So, forgive me if I wasn’t exactly glued to this pre-season game featuring the Seahawks in Green Bay.  In the first half, I saw a lot of underwhelming play.  I saw the Packers hide Aaron Rodgers, like they didn’t want to give us a challenge or something.  I saw Russell Wilson get destroyed on a couple sacks.  I saw Russell Wilson look idiotic on a couple of interceptions (granted, one was tipped, but still, he had to see there was no throwing lane there).  I saw Guns Turbin get absolutely fucking ABUSED by Clay Matthews on a blitz.  I saw the Richard Sherman every Seahawks fan hopes we never see when the games start to count (because, seriously, every fucking dick in the yard is rooting for him to fail this year after his off-season shit-storms).

In short, I saw a lot of heinous shit.  But, in the end, the Seahawks came out with the victory.  And here’s the thing:  you can say what you want about how bad this team looked, but that’s to be expected.  The Seahawks aren’t going to steamroll every team they play this year.  Sometimes – especially on the road – they’re going to have to slog through some terrible fucking performances and find a way to win it at the end in an ugly 17-10 fashion.

And, for as bad as this team looked, there were some definite high points.

I’m going to start right with the running game.  This offensive line looked like it was in peak mid-season form in their run blocking.  Pass protection:  not so much.  But, they were blowing defenders off the line and our running backs were the recipients of some massive holes.  That bodes VERY well for this team, considering THIS is what it wants to do the most.  Russell Wilson won’t always have a shit game like that, but when he does, it’s nice to know we can rely on our ground attack to fuck some bitches up.

Next up:  I thought the defense looked great.  There were breakdowns at times, but that’ll happen.  This defense might not shut anyone out all year.  BUT, they will generate turnovers.  Two more forced fumbles on absolutely textbook strips.  Like I said, this team may not lead the league in defense when it comes to points or yards, but it’s going to be among the league leaders in turnovers and return touchdowns scored (it’s why I reached heavily in my fantasy draft to pick up Seattle’s D in the fifth round)

(I should point out that defensive scoring in our league is kind of insane, so a top-flight defense can be a real boon to your chances week-in and week-out)

The pass rush is still a bit of a concern (seriously, if you can’t get to Green Bay’s quarterback, then you’re gonna have a bad time) but I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon, so I’m going to take that broken record off the player for a while.

Third on the hit parade:  Stephen Fucking Williams.  I can’t even get over this!  He is a deep-ball specialist!  If this team doesn’t keep him on the 53-man, I’m going to have some serious fucking issues.  Because SOME team (hint hint, 49ers) will pick him up and he will dominate.  Unreal.  Another 40-plus yard bomb for a touchdown, out-jumping a defender.  I want to have his babies.

Finally, I’ll just say that even though Brady Quinn won’t be around in a week or two, I really love that he launched that deep ball to Williams.  He’s looking for a backup job SOMEWHERE and he had absolutely nothing to lose.  Taking that one-on-one matchup and exposing the defense like that could be the difference between him having a job and him trying to sneak his way onto a CFL team.

Here’s the thing to ultimately take away from this game.

This was the third pre-season game.  The game where your starters play into the third quarter to get their game legs under them, to get their timing down, and to treat it like they would a regular season game (without, of course, giving away your whole bag of tricks).  You want to look good in your third game because that gives you an idea of how good you’ll actually be when the games start to count.  So, on that end, the Seahawks failed miserably.  Because, if they play like that in the regular season, they’ll be lucky to go 9-7 and grab the final Wild Card spot.

There IS another way to look at it, if you choose to say your glass is half full.

The Seahawks knew all of that going into this game.  They knew this was the real test of the pre-season and they TRIED to come out and beat the Packers like they beat the Broncos and Chargers before them.  Only, it didn’t work, and a lot of it was more the fault of the Seahawks being bad than the Packers being good.  You can’t strip the Pack of all the credit, mind you, but the Seahawks self-inflicted a lot of damage.  Penalties, missed blocks, poor throws, bad coverage, worse tackling.  A lot of these things are in the Seahawks’ control.  Knocking that penalty shit off is a biggie, and I have no doubt they’ll find a way.  Also, pass protection should be infinitely better with Lynch and Robinson carrying the load (not to mention a healthy Zach Miller).

In a funny kind of way, the Seahawks needed a game like this.  They needed a reality check.  Our stars did not come out, they did not shine.  They struggled.  Some played like total ass!  There is going to be so much tape of this game to learn from, it’s not even funny.  If the Seahawks aren’t a shit-ton cleaner against the Raiders next week, I’ll eat my hat.  Once they know they can play a clean game of football, that first game against Carolina should be a breeze.

So, I’m not going to totally obliterate this team.  Not now, anyway.  If they come out like this and blow week 1’s game in Carolina, though, it’ll be an entirely different story.

Seahawks’ Backups Better Than Chargers’ Backups

The Seahawks, under Pete Carroll, have moved to 8-5 all-time in Pre-Season games.  And, if you think that’s a dumb statistic, then congratulations, you understand the very importance of Pre-Season games!

Of course, as with any exhibition game, there were a number of stand-out players last night.  Tarvar looked like one of the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL, which just goes to show you:  the Seahawks have the greatest third-string quarterback in all of football!  YEAH!

And, if you think I’m going to relent on this Tarvar-bashing, you’re insane.  The moment I let my guard down, that’s the moment Russell Wilson breaks a femur and we’re stuck with Tarvar for the rest of the year (and, consequently, I’m out $700).  I’m guess I’m not 100% behind my previous statement that I’d rather have Brady Quinn, but what does it matter?  The death knell for Brady Quinn happened when he came off the bench as the second quarterback in this game.  Remember last year when Matt Flynn kept playing before Russell Wilson, then it turned out this team was giving Russell Wilson every opportunity to win the job?  That’s what they’re doing with Tarvar right now.  Let Quinn fluster about against tougher second-string defenses while Tarvar cleans up against future waiver wire guys.  Everyone’s panties get all moist over Tarvar’s perfect passer rating, and BOOM, he’s the second string guy and Quinn is out on his ass.  Meanwhile, Quinn gets lulled into a false sense of security because he thinks he’s got the upper hand by playing in the second-string role.  Little does he know, the unforgiving sword of doom dangles just overhead.

I thought Christine Michael looked good, as a running back.  You’ll notice he bobbled the first San Diego kickoff to us; I don’t know if that was nerves or what, but a rookie return man is pretty much my worst nightmare.  Is it too late to toss the Patriots a 7th round pick for the rights to take back Leon Washington?

Also, speaking of Michael, I said it on Twitter last night and I’m saying it again here:  the Seahawks will release Guns Turbin.  That’s my hunch.  It’s a tough decision, but what are you going to do?  Keep five running backs (Lynch, Robinson, Michael, Ware, & Turbin)?  What’s the point?  Michael is CLEARLY this team’s future.  Turbin might also be its future, but he’ll end up being its Future Maurice Morris.  I’ll ask it again:  why would you go to all the trouble to keep a future backup running back, when you’ve already got one in Ware?  In a year or two from now, when Lynch is gone, this team will be led by Michael and backed up by Ware.  It might even produce a sour spot for fantasy owners as I can envision Ware getting the bulk of the goalline carries.  What I can’t envision is Turbin somehow wrangling that starting running back position.  Michael does everything Turbin does, only he does it faster, with more explosiveness and more grit & determination.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  There are too many important bubble guys at other positions that our rivals will be all too willing to poach.  Let them have Turbin; I guarantee that does not ever come back to bite us in the ass.

Stephen Williams had a sick game, with two 40+ yard receptions and a touchdown.  People are already handing him the keys to his very own 53-man roster spot, to which I say, “Slow down, Skippy!”  It’s one meaningless game.  I know he has looked good in practice, but let’s see him consistently do it throughout the rest of this month before we go overboard.

As for the rest of the offense, I didn’t watch closely enough to have anyone make much of an impression.  That first play by Russell Wilson looked good (play-action roll out pass to Kearse), but other than that it appeared he needed to shake out the cobwebs.  You really don’t want to read too much into his first two possessions of the season, so let’s not go nuts.  I’ll just say that I expect him to look better next week and leave it at that.

The defense didn’t show me much of anything on that first drive, as San Diego sliced and diced their way through us like Ginsu Terminators.  Saying we played “vanilla defense” is one thing, but at some point your talent needs to step up there and shut down their talent mano a mano.  Our starting 11 on defense should be able to stand still pre-snap, rush four, play in a soft zone, and STILL be able to shut down the San Diego Chargers.  But, again, I’m not going to make too big a deal out of the first drive of the season.  Still, you’ve got to figure that’s the most jacked-up those guys have felt about playing football since the 2012 season ended.  I kind of expected frothing at the mouth intensity and instead I saw a lot of sloppy play and penalties.

Mike Morgan got the start at the Leo defensive end and showed me absolutely nothing.  I know the Chargers kept it simple with a lot of short drops and quick throws, but still.  His technique left a lot to be desired (and left me hoping for a speedier recovery for Chris Clemons).

Walter Thurmond sure got tossed around like a ragdoll, didn’t he?  I was having Marcus Trufant circa 2012 flashbacks last night.  Always a step slow and a step behind his man.  That’s no way to throw yourself into the conversation for starting nickel corner.

Byron Maxwell with the pick – and the almost-second pick – sure looks good out there.  He’s one of those bubble guys I’m talking about.  Do we want to keep Guns Turbin and let Maxwell sign with the 49ers?  Or, do we want to toss a backup, mid-round running back out into the world to sign for somebody’s minimum and probably hardly play any snaps (while keeping Maxwell and using him for either insurance, or trade bait for future draft picks)?

After all that, my night was pretty much lost to Coors Light, thoughts of my fantasy football draft, and losing scratch tickets.  There were some bubble linemen who made an impression and that’s great; again, I’ll say, “What can you do for me next week, and the week after that?”

All in all, it was an enjoyable win.  One thing is for certain:  even Brady Quinn is a better quarterback than Charlie Whitehurst.  Kinda makes you wonder about those Seahawks fans who were calling for him to be a starter over Hasselbeck that one year … WHITEHURST IS GOING TO BE BEAT-OUT BY A ROOKIE FROM SOUTHERN UTAH!