The Seahawks Face The Lions On Monday Night

With no Seahawks game on Sunday, I’m free to obsess about my fantasy football team, who’s already in a deep, dark hole thanks to Steve Smith getting injured in last night’s slugfest between the Ravens and Steelers.  In an effort to distract myself from what will surely be the first loss of many for Catalina Wine Mixer, I’ll try to focus on the real, important game on Monday night.

The Lions come to town!  Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, the return of Golden Tate, a criminally underused running game, a Suh-less defense.  It should actually be a pretty entertaining contest, even though the oddsmakers are predicting a Seahawks blowout.

What we’ve got going for us is that their offensive line is also a total and complete mess, hence why they struggle rushing the ball even though they’ve got an exciting rookie runner in Ameer Abdullah.  The Seahawks SHOULD have little trouble keeping their ground attack at bay once again, while at the same time generating significant pressure on their quarterback.  The fact that this is being played in Seattle only bolsters that argument.

What we’ve also got going for us is that their defense isn’t anything special.  So, in short, what I’m telling you is that this is pretty much every single Detroit Lions team we’ve ever seen since Barry Sanders retired.  Haloti Ngata is a big ol’ widebody and might pose some challenges to our running game.  But, he’s a significant step down from Ndamukong Suh in every way there is to be a defensive tackle, so I’m not too worried.  My worry MAY increase if Marshawn Lynch is sidelined again, but I liked what I saw from Rawls last week.  And, of course, the real question is whether our O-Line is improved enough to handle even a mediocre defense that the Lions may throw at us.  Don’t be shocked if, yet again, our offense starts slowly and frustrates for most of the first half.

Let me put it this way:  if I’m in a sportsbook while this game is going on, I’d put a large wager on the Seahawks being down at halftime (or, at the very least, not covering the halftime spread), parlayed with the Under.  Then, at half, hit up the sportsbook to bet the Seahawks to cover and the game to just crack the Over.  It’s a risky bet, but if I’ve seen any Seahawks games the last few years, I think it’s a winning one.

From everyone I’ve read, this game (more than most) should hinge on turnovers.  Matthew Stafford is a slob with the football, throwing interceptions like he’s dropping a plate full of spaghetti & meatballs on my God damned brand new carpet!  On the flip, the Seahawks have 0 interceptions and only 4 recovered fumbles in the first three games.  I wouldn’t worry about our defense in the creating-turnovers regard (the Bears were playing offensive football like old people fuck, and the Packers are the Packers and Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get picked off at home), but I think it’s also a little misguided to just expect the Seahawks to pick off Stafford 2-3 times in this game.

You know what you get with a game in Seattle.  You know you have to be extra extra EXTRA careful with the football, or you’re going to get steamrolled.  You also know that you’re most likely not going to connect on anything deep (especially when you can’t get Michael Bennett to jump offsides due to all the crowd noise).  So, as we’ve seen with almost everyone who’s played against us, expect a lot of shorter throws to open receivers.  Expect Stafford to complete a high percentage of those throws, leading to a lot of 2nd/3rd & shorts.  If we get any picks, then either Matthew Stafford is a complete moron (which, you know, don’t rule it out), or more likely the ball was probably tipped up into the air.

Either way, turnovers or no turnovers, this is still a dangerous Lions offense.  Yes, they’re 0-3, but they had to go all the way out to San Diego in week 1, then they had to go on the road to Minnesota in week 2, and they had to face the Broncos at home last week.  The Chargers are like the Lions in a lot of ways, with the Lions blowing a huge lead in the second half thanks to some shoddy defense.  The Vikings are probably better than we all expected, and they’ve got an up & coming defense that should carry them pretty far this year (at least in the hunt for a Wild Card).  And, the Broncos have one of the best defenses in football.  It’s going to take an A-Game out of our defense to match what the Broncos were able to do last week.

I’ll be really interested to see how the Seahawks look in this one.  So far, we’ve looked like crap for the first two weeks (albeit, on the road, and without a full defense), then we played probably the worst football team in the league last week at home.  This will be a good test to see where we are.  Are we closer to the teams who botched it on the road?  Or, are we closer to the dominant force we saw who shut out the Bears?  This game could go a long way towards shedding some light on how good this team really is.  If we blow it at home and fall to 1-3, we are in SEVERE trouble.  But, if we win – even in a close, ugly game – I’ll feel a lot more comfortable about our chances going forward.

As it stands, I’m pretty confident the Seahawks will prevail.  I’m sensing that this will be one of those standout Russell Wilson performances we tend to see so much in primetime games.  I wouldn’t even be shocked if we see a 300-yard passing/100-yard rushing day out of our quarterback, with the wealth spread out generously among Graham, Baldwin, Kearse, and Lockett.

Predicting The 2014 NFL Season

This was me last year.  I like doing these posts because I’m an idiot.  So, without further ado, here’s how I think the NFL season is going to go down.

(How’s that for an intro to get your juices flowing?)

NFC East

Philadelphia
NY Giants
Dallas
Washington

I tend to have a pretty good idea of where things stand – or, at least, where I THINK things will stand – by this point in the pre-season.  But, I’m more befuddled this year than probably any other year.  I start to REALLY second-guess myself when I start predicting repeat division champions, because that’s generally what all the national pundits go with and the national pundits are fucking morons.

That having been said, you might see a lot of repeaters out of me this year.  Since I can’t predict where injuries are going to fall, I have to look at straight up talent.  And Philly has it all over the rest of the teams in the East.  For the record, all four of these teams have just the worst defenses, but I think the Eagles have it a hair above the others.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see something of a bounce-back year out of the Giants and Eli Manning to perhaps get to 9 wins.  Dallas will score a lot and they’ll give up a lot, and Tony Romo will be Tony Romo.  Something in the 7-win range is in order.  RGIII is looking at a new coaching staff and probably some more growing pains.  If you’re a Redskins fan, you probably hate to see your young quarterback suffer coaching instability this early into his career.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay healthier this year, but also take a step back as they try to turn him into a pocket passer.  Watch out for a potential QB controversy here as well.

NFC North

Detroit
Green Bay
Chicago
Minnesota

Gotta take a chance in your predictions somewhere.  I thought Detroit was poised to crack the playoffs last year, but ultimately their coaching staff was comprised of nothing but fuckups.  Your team reflects that.  This year, they’ve got a calming influnece in Jim Caldwell.  I didn’t like him as much trying to follow Tony Dungy in Indy, but I like him here taking over a hyper-talented offense.  That team should be averaging 30 points per game; how they improve their rushing attack will dictate how efficiently they’re able to score.  And the defense HAS talented pieces.  I think Caldwell’s staff will be able to get the most out of this unit, and I think the Lions will push through to take the division with 10 or 11 wins.

I still think Green Bay will be good, but they’ve got a brutal schedule.  They start 4 of 6 on the road, including games at Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, and Miami.  They also have to go to New Orleans and Tampa, while catching New England, Atlanta, Carolina, and Philly at home.  Like I said:  BRUTAL.  Chicago still stinks on defense and shouldn’t be anything to worry about.  Jay Cutler is still Jay Cutler and he’ll continue taking stupid chances that will be picked off in big situations (Tony Romo-lite, as it were).  Minnesota will be a bottom-feeder.

NFC South

New Orleans
Atlanta
Tampa Bay
Carolina

You’re going to see a minimum of two playoff teams in this division, but I’ve got a feeling (and I’m staking my reputation on it) that we’ll see three.  I think New Orleans is – with Seattle – among the best two teams in the conference (and maybe in all of football).  Their offense is still amazing, but their defense REALLY impressed me last year, and only figures to get better as players gel and exceed expectations under their second year with Rob Ryan.  It’ll be neck-and-neck with the Saints and Seahawks for the top two seeds, but ultimately the Saints will win a minimum of 12 games and hang onto that second seed.

Elsewhere, with Atlanta healthy, they’re sure to rebound.  Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback and they’ve got one of the best wide receiver duos in the league with Julio Jones and Roddy White (still effective after all these years).  What you have to hope for, if we’re all being honest, is that Steven Jackson doesn’t get in the way.  He’s done.  He’s old and slow and useless.  MAYBE if they used him (when he gets healthy again) exclusively as a goalline back, he might be somewhat decent.  But, they’ve got to turn that running game over to the younger backs we’ve watched on Hard Knocks this year.  Defensively, they can’t help but improve just by having healthy bodies on the field.  Really, they have to do just enough to make other teams work for their points and let their offense get a lead.  The secondary is young and went through their growing pains last year; I would expect a good step forward out of them in 2014.

Tampa is my third playoff team.  Lovie Smith is a pro’s pro at head coach.  Josh McCown is a great pickup for them.  He should prove for that team what Alex Smith was for KC:  a steady influence that will manage the offense, keep mistakes to a minimum, and let the players around him be the stars.  Defensively, Tampa is stout.  Young and fast and hungry.  With Lovie’s defensive-mindedness, we should be looking at a Top 10 unit, with the upside of a Top 5.

As for Carolina, I just don’t see a repeat of 2013 in their immediate future.  As it was, they had practically no weapons on offense, and then they lost their top two receivers to free agency (well, Steve Smith was released, but still).  Their horrendous cap situation has destroyed this team, leaving no one around Cam Newton to pick up the slack.  He may be elite, but he can’t literally do EVERYTHING.  The defense lost some pieces too, which should contribute to their free fall in 2014.  If they get knocked around by the injury bug, you’re looking at a 4-win team.  At best, I think they’re only a 6- or 7-win team.

NFC West

Seattle
San Francisco
St. Louis
Arizona

I’ll get into this more on Thursday when I come out with my big prediction post, but I think the Seahawks – with this vastly improved offense and still-great defense – will get to 14 or 15 wins.  San Francisco’s defense is getting KILLED by injuries and suspensions.  Without that unit being a Top 5 (or even Top 10) unit, I think the offense will struggle as it’s tasked with carrying the load.  My guess:  8-9 wins and on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Elsewhere, I think the Rams are young enough and talented enough at certain spots to overcome the loss of Sam Bradford and look decent.  Maybe they struggle early, but I could see this team coming together and stringing some quality games out towards the end of the season.  Arizona is facing a similar situation with injuries and suspensions to their key defensive starters; they’ll take a step back in that area.  And, I still don’t buy that the coaches will give Ellington the superstar role he deserves.  With the atrocious Carson Palmer at the helm, I wouldn’t expect his health for anywhere near 16 games; and even when he IS healthy, I expect him to continue to be far below average.  That’s a 3-4 win team if I’ve ever seen one.

AFC East

New England
Miami
NY Jets
Buffalo

Tom Brady continues to be the man.  I don’t necessarily care for their receivers, but if Gronk can return to anywhere near his form two years ago, they’ll manage.  The running game is always a question mark for this team, but I think they’ll get by with their committee approach.  I like Miami’s potential on offense, as they bring in a new coordinator who worked with Philly last year.  Up-tempo, lots of short passes for Tannehill, and an improved running game should be just what the doctor ordered.  I REALLY wanted to pick them as a Wild Card team, but I think they’ll just miss out.  Still, we could be looking at a 9- or 10-win team, giving them hope for the future.  The Jets still should be good on defense, but I don’t think they’ll have enough on offense to win late in games.  Buffalo kind of looks like a trainwreck right now.

AFC North

Cincinnati
Pittsburgh
Baltimore
Cleveland

The AFC is where you’re going to see a lot of the repeat predictions out of me.  Cincinnati is a nice, well-rounded team.  Andy Dalton will probably never make the jump to elite status, and will thus struggle to win games in the playoffs.  But, in the regular season, against some of the lesser teams in the AFC, with the talent around him, he’ll continue to put up good-enough numbers to stay employed.  Defensively, I like them a lot.  Again, nothing flashy, but just all-around solid.  I’d expect a lot of 24-10 games out of this team in 2014.

Pittsburgh was an 8-8 team last year and they were old and injury-riddled throughout.  Their offensive line should improve just by staying healthy, if they can manage it.  Roethlisberger may be on the downside of his career, but he’s got enough in the tank for a couple/few more runs at the playoffs.  Antonio Brown is a stud, and if their running backs manage to bounce back from their weed-smoking infraction late in the pre-season, we could be looking at a very solid team.  How the Steelers will fare depends entirely on working in younger players on defense around the veteran starters they retained.  I think it’ll be just enough to snag a 6-seed.

Baltimore still looks to be reeling from that insane contract they gave Flacco.  Their running game sucks, and if they continue to lean on their wacky pass-first mentality, it figures to be a long season for them again.  Joe Flacco had that great Super Bowl run a couple years ago, but he’s not an elite quarterback.  Torrey Smith tantalizes in fantasy, but ultimately falls short of expectations.  Defensively, I’m not convinced they’ll be in the top half in the league.  And, as for Cleveland, you’re looking at one of the worst teams in football.  They’ll be drafting high again; so Browns fans better hope they have the general manager in place – with all of their draft capital – to rebuild smartly.

AFC South

Indianapolis
Jacksonville
Tennessee
Houston

Has anyone led a more charmed life than Colts fans over the last couple decades?  They have maybe the best quarterback of all time for the bulk of his career – culminating in two Super Bowl appearances and one title – then he gets injured for one year, they win the #1 pick, and they have the great fortune to draft Andrew Luck:  another guy who may end up as one of the best of all time.  AND, to top it all off, just as Luck comes into the league, the rest of their division totally falls apart, giving him every opportunity to win this division for the foreseeable future.  It’s Indy and everybody else in the AFC South.

I like Jacksonville to continue to improve under Gus Bradley.  Blake Bortles will contend with Derek Carr of the Raiders for best QB in his draft class.  Hopefully, they can bring him along slowly and give him a soft landing somewhere around mid-season.  I can easily see this team scratch its way to 8 wins.  I don’t think Locker will ever be able to stay healthy and prove what he’s capable of.  Even if he does play the bulk of their games, this just isn’t a good team.  They have an upside of probably 7 wins.  Houston will fight with Cleveland, Buffalo, and the Raiders for that top draft pick in next year’s draft.

AFC West

Denver
San Diego
Kansas City
Oakland

Manning has another year in him.  Their defense is vastly improved.  They shouldn’t miss Decker too much with Sanders in the fold.  The running game will always be secondary as long as Manning is behind the center.  This is a Top 2 team in the AFC.  San Diego should look even better than last year’s team that snuck into the playoffs.  They’ll still be a Wild Card team, but I like them to be one of the better Wild Card teams in football and give either Cincy or Indy a run for their money in that 4/5 playoff game.  Kansas City lost pieces in the defense and they still don’t have an elite receiver.  They’ll go as far as Jamaal Charles takes them, and I really wonder about his health.  The Raiders will start to be interesting as soon as they bench Schaub’s ass and put Carr into the starting role be much more exciting with Carr as a starter.  Carr may not light the league on fire the way he did against the Seahawks in that final pre-season game, but he’ll look plenty good and keep them in some ballgames.  Still, you hate to see one of the worst teams also as one of the oldest.  I could see injuries take this team down for the count early.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. New Orleans
  3. Detroit
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Atlanta
  6. Tampa Bay

AFC Playoffs

  1. Denver
  2. New England
  3. Indianapolis
  4. Cincinnati
  5. San Diego
  6. Pittsburgh

Wild Card Round

Detroit over Tampa Bay
Atlanta over Philadelphia
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
San Diego over Cincinnati

Divisional Round

Seattle over Atlanta
New Orleans over Detroit
Indianapolis over New England
Denver over San Diego

Championship Round

Seattle over New Orleans
Denver over Indianapolis

Super Bowl

Seattle over Denver

Predicting a repeat of the previous year’s Super Bowl matchup is about as hokey as it gets, I know.  But, one thing I won’t do is predict something different just because the odds are so far against a repeat matchup.  Seattle and Denver are, by far, the best two teams in football again this year.  And, it’s not like it’s an impossible feat – Dallas and Buffalo had a couple repeat Super Bowl matchups in the early 90s.

My thing is – and I’ll deny it to my grave if I’m wrong – I have a SERIOUS nagging worry that the Seahawks and Denver will both make it back to the Super Bowl, but it’ll be the Broncos hoisting the Lombardi trophy while we sit and watch, devastated.  Again, that’s not what I THINK will happen, but it’ll always be in the back of my mind until Peyton Manning breaks an ankle around midseason and completely blows up this predictions post.

For the record, I’m two for my last two in predicting Super Bowl matchups and Super Bowl winners.  I had Baltimore over San Francisco, and I had Seattle over Denver.  I’m on a pretty good run here, so let’s see if I can keep it going.

Futzing Around With Seahawks Top 10 Lists

I just saw this, while killing some time.  It’s a cool take on the whole “Top Ten Seahawks Of All Time” list idea.  And, as you may or may not know, I’m a total SUCKER for LISTS!

Terry’s rules for this list were:  no current players, and they must have played at least 5 seasons with the Seahawks.  That leaves us with a good chunk of players.  He was provided 29 different names by fans in their own lists they sent to him.  Of those 29 players listed, here is my Top 10:

  1. Walter Jones
  2. Cortez Kennedy
  3. Steve Largent
  4. Shaun Alexander
  5. Jacob Green
  6. Kenny Easley
  7. Matt Hasselbeck
  8. Dave Brown
  9. Steve Hutchinson
  10. Lofa Tatupu

For starters, we have the three NFL Hall of Famers in the top three spots, because that’s just what has to be done.  I organized these three by their place in NFL history.  Walter Jones has gone down as one of the greatest left tackles in all of NFL history (if not THE greatest).  There aren’t enough superlatives, so let’s just move on.

Cortez, I believe, has to be on everyone’s Top 10 list for defensive tackles (at least in the modern era, if not all time).  He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, since he played for Seattle (and played on a bunch of awful teams by a terribly-run organization), but he was truly a monster force in the middle.

If my 10 year old self could see what I’m writing now, he’d call me a fucking idiot for putting Steve Largent at #3, when he’s so obviously the greatest wide receiver of all time.  Except, in the 23 years since then, about a thousand receivers have passed Largent and broken all of his records.  He’s great, and in his time he was the greatest, but now he’s long-forgotten, and you legitimately have to question whether he’d make the Hall of Fame if he had his same exact stats, but retired today instead of at the end of the 1989 season.

Henry Ellard has Largent beat by almost 700 yards, but he’s not in the HOF.  Tim Brown has almost 2,000 more yards and the same number of receiving touchdowns and hasn’t made the HOF yet.  When Largent retired, he was #1 in both yards and touchdowns for a receiver; now he’s 14th and tied for 7th, respectively.  More receivers are breaking his records every year, with still more right on his heels.  Andre Johnson and Steve Smith are both one good year away from passing him in yards (within 1,000 of the Seahawks legend).  Larry Fitzgerald is a year or two away, and if Anquan Boldin’s creaky old bones can cling to life, he’s probably two or three years away.  Going forward, Calvin Johnson is practically a shoo-in to be in the top 10 in yards; and Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant will likely pass Largent as well.  Granted, it’s a different style of NFL play now than it was in the 70s & 80s, but that’s not going to make it any easier going forward for any more of those fringe old-timers to make the HOF.  Largent’s lucky he retired when he did.

After the top three of Jones, Tez, and Largent, I found the next five to be pretty easy.  Alexander is the best running back in franchise history, was an MVP, and led us to our first Super Bowl appearance.  He won’t be a HOFer, but he’s still one of the best Seahawks ever, so his slot at #4 is well-deserved.

Jacob Green is another one of those guys who isn’t quite a HOFer, but he’s tops in the Seahawks’ book.  Green, ranking #1 in franchise history in sacks with 97.5, ranks tied for 32nd in NFL history.  The magic number for sack-artists to get into the HOF is apparently 125, so Green was a ways off.  Nevertheless, he was solid for us.

Kenny Easley kinda makes this list on talent and potential over longevity which is QUITE hypocritical considering I left Curt Warner off my list because he couldn’t stay healthy.  But still, Easley is hands down the best member of the Seahawks secondary in franchise history (not counting the current members of the L.O.B.).

Matt Hasselbeck – the franchise’s best quarterback – comes in at #7.  That’s a testament to the quality of players ahead of him on my list, as well as the lack of really elite quarterbacks in franchise history.  Hasselbeck is also kinda like those other near-HOF types, except he’s pushed way down that list; I mean, you can KINDA make a case for Shaun Alexander to be in the HOF, but you’ll be laughed out of the country if you try to make a case for Hasselbeck!

Rounding out the last of my easy choices, Dave Brown was the best cornerback in franchise history (again, not including those in the L.O.B.).  After him, I had a really tough time choosing the last two.  I eventually narrowed it down to six players:  Curt Warner, John L. Williams, Brian Blades, Hutch, Lofa, and Eugene Robinson.  I couldn’t decide between the two running backs, so as a compromise, I decided to leave them both out.  Blades was a tough one to cut out; he’s certainly my #11 pick on this list.  And, Eugene gets docked because he did a lot of his best playing after he left the Seahawks.

Which, again, reveals my blatant hypocrisy, because I gave Hutch the #9 slot.  Losing him right smack dab in the middle of his prime definitely hurts his ranking on my list (had he been a career Seahawk, it’s pretty easy to see him in my top three or four), but I can’t deny his elite talent level.  Granted, Joey Galloway also had elite talent, and his end with the team was similarly acrimonious, and yet he wasn’t even an honorable mention!  To that, I don’t know what to tell you.  I’ll always be kind of annoyed with Hutch and his dickhead agent, and to a lesser extent the Vikings (even though we just won a Super Bowl with a bunch of their players), but the real villain in that whole deal was Tim Ruskell, leaving me the opportunity to (for the most part) feel good about Hutch’s time here.

The last spot goes to Lofa.  He was truly great from the moment he was selected by this team, and he’s a big reason why our defense was able to cobble together enough yards & points prevention to lead this team to a #1 seed and a Super Bowl appearance in 2005/2006.  Lofa’s career ended prematurely due to injury, otherwise it’s possible his all time ranking could’ve been higher as well.  He was a tackling machine who – had he not worn down so fast – might have made a play for the HOF, with the way he was racking them up in his first few years.

***

Now that I’ve given you my Top 10 list of Seahawks not currently on the team, why don’t I give you my Top 10 list of only Seahawks who ARE currently on the team?  Here we go:

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Marshawn Lynch
  4. Richard Sherman
  5. Kam Chancellor
  6. Russell Okung
  7. Brandon Mebane
  8. Bobby Wagner
  9. Michael Bennett
  10. Doug Baldwin

Before I get started, I have to point out that Percy Harvin is left off because he’s played in all of three games in a Seahawks uniform.  I’m going to need at least a season or two out of him before I start putting him among the all time leaders.

Byron Maxwell was left off because I had a really hard time putting four LOB members on my list.  But, talent-wise, he probably deserves it.  At the very least, he’d be my #11 pick (and, by the end of 2014, could see his ranking go up even higher).  Zach Miller was left off because, while I appreciate all that he does, it still feels like we could do what we do without him.  Max Unger was left off due to an inconsistent (and injury-riddled) 2013 season.  Cliff Avril was another honorable mention.

In going down my list, I knew the other three members of the LOB would be there and be ranked high, but it was just a matter of where they’d rank.  I have Earl Thomas at #1 because I think he’s far and away the best safety in the game today.  Richard Sherman has some competition for best corner, but I think he’s #1 with a bunch of other guys right on his heels.  That’s the difference between the two.

Nevertheless, I had to put Russell Wilson at #2 because he is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to what we do on offense.  He’s the franchise quarterback we’ve been dreaming of since Seattle was given a franchise!  He and Earl Thomas are the perfect bookends for this team, from their elite talent level, to how they prepare, to their desire to win above all else, to their abilities to make those around them insanely better.

Marshawn Lynch gets the #3 spot because he’s the workhorse.  He’s also in the Top 3 when it comes to NFL running backs today.  While that sounds odd to say, knowing that I put Richard Sherman at the #4 spot (and I consider him to be the best corner in football), I will say that there are way more elite cornerbacks than there are elite running backs.  That’s just the way it goes.

Kam gets into my Top 5 because he’s Kam.  He’s the baddest, hardest hitting motherfucker in this league and he was certainly deserving of being the MVP of the Super Bowl over Malcolm Smith.  In the national spotlight, Kam gets lost a little bit because of Sherman’s outspokenness and Earl’s on-field flashiness, but on almost any other team, he’d be the best player on that defense and it wouldn’t even be close.

Okung gets his spot on the list based on talent and potential, though he certainly gets knocked down for his inability to stay healthy.  Brandon Mebane is almost the opposite.  He does nothing BUT stay healthy.  He doesn’t have the highest pedigree.  He isn’t an animal in the middle like Cortez was.  But, Mebane has been a ROCK on that D-Line since he got here in 2007.  And, from what I’ve read, his 2013 season was arguably his best year in the league.  That’s unbelievably impressive, especially when you consider he plays a spot on the line that’s difficult to keep healthy.  Seems like whenever a nose tackle gets injured, it’s only a matter of time before his career fizzles out.

I had to pick a linebacker, because we’ve got three good ones, so I went with the best.  Bobby Wagner is the guy – if we’re only able to keep one for salary cap purposes – that I’d most want to retain.  He plays middle linebacker, which is the most important spot of the three, and he plays it at a high level (either as well, or if not, very close to the level of Luke Kuechly).  The best part:  he’s played at this level since day 1, and could very well see even MORE improvement.

There’s a reason why we decided to bring back Michael Bennett and let key leaders Red Bryant and Chris Clemons go.  Bennett can do everything on the defensive line and do it all well.

Finally, what can I say about Doug Baldwin that hasn’t already been said?  I feel MUCH more secure about this team and its offense when I know I have Doug Baldwin on the field.

***

Now, the real point of all of this:  when I was reading the above Terry Blount post, and I read that current players were to be left off for the purposes of this exercise, I got to wondering:  how many current players would – right now – make the Top 10 in franchise history?

You’d have to think quite a few, considering the Super Bowl is fresh on our minds, and that’s something no other Seahawks team has ever accomplished.  Fans would rabidly vote for today’s players, because it’s all about that action, boss.

I’m going to try to set emotion aside on this one and try to be rational about it.  Essentially, since a lot of these guys are fairly new, I have to go by what they’ve done as well as what they could potentially do, if they can stay reasonably healthy.  Anyway, here’s my list:

  1. Walter Jones
  2. Earl Thomas
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Russell Wilson
  5. Cortez Kennedy
  6. Steve Largent
  7. Shaun Alexander
  8. Kam Chancellor
  9. Marshawn Lynch
  10. Jacob Green

As you’ll notice, both Sherm and Kam passed Lynch on this list.  That’s because, when all is said and done, I expect both of those guys to surpass Lynch’s output – which projects to end after the 2014 season.  You’ll also notice that Sherm passes Wilson on this list, because in the end I think Sherman will be a greater cornerback (on the all time NFL list) than Wilson will be a quarterback (on the all time NFL list).  Nevertheless, I expect both of them, as well as Earl, to make the HOF (giving us six total Seahawks, and counting).  Shaun Alexander still gets the nod over Lynch because there’s no way Lynch is passing him in total output.  I know most people like Lynch more, but I won’t discount Alexander’s overall talents.  Jacob Green nabs down that 10-spot, because he’s awesome.  Of the current players who could someday crack the top ten that I don’t have in there right now, I’d look at Wagner and maybe Baldwin.

So, that’s five current players in the All Time Top 10.  I never would have thought you could have ANY sort of Seahawks Top 10 without Matt Hasselbeck, but there you have it.  What’s more impressive is, I have three current players in the top 5.  I don’t know if I’ll ever see a player on the level of Walter Jones, but if anyone has a chance to pass him, it’s most likely Earl Thomas.

Then again, if Russell Wilson leads us to five Super Bowl championships, that may be the ultimate decider.

Comparing The 2005 Seahawks To The 2013 Seahawks

Last week, we more or less giddily looked forward to the “Big Game” on February 2nd.  This week, I’ve decided to take a step back and review the last time the Seahawks were in a position to give all of our lives meaning.

The 2005 Seahawks didn’t come out of nowhere, per se, but they also didn’t look like a team that would be bound for the Super Bowl.  In 2003, the Seahawks finished second in the NFC West (to the Rams), and lost in the Wild Card round to Green Bay (take the ball, score, all of that nonsense you wish you could forget).  In 2004, the Seahawks won the NFC West, but lost again in the Wild Card round, this time to the Rams (who, sadly, managed to beat us three times that season).

Suffice it to say, these Seahawks were starting to remind everyone of the early George Karl Sonics teams (good enough to win divisions and make the playoffs, but ALWAYS with the first round exits).  In a way, 2005 was a make-or-break year for Mike Holmgren.  Obviously, he had already lost his General Managing duties by this point, but if there was another underperforming finish to this season, you had to wonder how hot his seat would’ve been.  2005 was his seventh season in Seattle.  He had made the playoffs three times in those seven years, and each time he lost in the first round.

So, it was more than a little disconcerting to see us go into Jacksonville – where we expected to be the better team, given the Jags’ questions at quarterback – and lose to kick off the season.  Granted, those Jags would end up 12-4, but we had no idea they’d be that good going in.  The Seahawks bounced back with a couple of home wins over a couple of mediocre teams (Falcons & Cardinals), before losing on the road once again (this time to the Redskins).

By this point, it was the same boring storyline:  the Seahawks can’t win on the road (and they especially can’t win on the road at 10am Pacific time).  The very next week would, once again, put this theory to the test, as we faced off against our most bitter rival (at the time), the St. Louis Rams.  After they’d beaten us three times the previous year, we knew there was a dragon left to be slain.  Having it on the road, in the morning, made it all the sweeter when we won 37-31.

This kicked off an 11-game winning streak that was only broken in Week 17 when we rested many of our starters (as we’d locked up the #1 seed).

Looking back on it, the NFC was VERY weak in 2005.  The Rams & Packers were both in the midst of down seasons.  The Bears had a great defense, but were led by Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman of all people.  The Seahawks drew the Redskins in the Divisional Round, with the aging Mark Brunell, and easily dispatched them.  That led to an NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.  We made mincemeat of Jake Delhomme (probably the beginning of the end of his career, with three interceptions against only one touchdown) and Steve Smith (at the height of his powers, held to a trivial 5 catches for 33 yards).  These were not teams to fear.

For sure, all the talent was in the AFC in 2005.  The 14-2 Colts were the best team in football.  The 13-3 Broncos were surprisingly effective with Jake Plummer at the helm and the 3rd ranked defense by points scored.  The 10-6 Patriots were still, more or less, the same team that had won three of the last four Super Bowls.  The 11-5 Bengals were a surprising division winner, with Carson Palmer looking to really make his mark on this league.  The 12-4 Jaguars were one of the better 5-seeds in the history of the league to that point (boxed out by the aforementioned 14-2 Colts).  Leaving the 11-5 Steelers, in the 6-seed.

Had things gone according to plan (or according to the 2013 blueprint), the Seahawks would have played Peyton Manning and his Colts in the Super Bowl.  Of course, nothing goes the way you want it to.

The Steelers started out their playoff run by killing Carson Palmer’s career.  He thew one pass for 66 yards.  On his next attempt, he was hit at the knees by a defensive lineman and was out for the game (Palmer would make it back, but he was never as good as he was in 2005).  A promising Bengals team was defeated, with Jon Kitna at the helm.  The Steelers continued their run by going into Indy and playing the top team in the league.  They came away with a 3-point victory.  That led to them going into Denver to play the Broncos (who somehow managed to defeat the Patriots), where they won easily.

To be honest, the run couldn’t have gone more perfectly for the 6-seeded Steelers.  It was a harrowing feat to say the least.  You want to talk about steel sharpening steel?  Compare that run of three straight road games to the charmed life the Seahawks had, with one of the easiest conference regular seasons in recent memory, followed by two home games where we enjoy the best Home Field Advantage in the world.  Pretty much, the Seahawks were flying first class to the Super Bowl, while the Steelers had to survive a death march over steaming hot coals.

In any other year, against any other team, I would have been cheering on the Steelers like nobody’s business.  Instead, I came out of Super Bowl XL with the Steelers as one of my most hated teams of all time

***

I’ll have more on Super Bowl XL tomorrow.  Right now, let’s take a look at those 2005 Seahawks, and how they compare to the 2013 version.

As a general overview, the 2005 Seahawks were (unsurprisingly) quite successful on offense and not so much on defense.  In fact, they led the league in points scored and were second in yards gained.  However, on defense, they weren’t quite the trainwreck I seem to remember.  They were 7th-best in points allowed and 16th in yards given up.  Of course, I would contend their schedule had something to do with that, but the point is, we’re not talking about the 2012 Saints or anything.

The 2005 Seahawks had the MVP of the league in Shaun Alexander.  He scored 27 rushing touchdowns which, at the time, was the NFL record.  It would be beaten by LaDainian Tomlinson the very next season, but it was still an amazing achievement.  Alexander also ran for 1,880 yards, which was a career high for him.  You can say what you want about his running style, but the man got the job done for us and should be appreciated as the greatest running back in Seahawks history.

The 2005 Seahawks were led by Matt Hasselbeck.  He was in his seventh year in the league, fifth year with the Seahawks, and third year as the Seahawks’ unquestioned starter at the quarterback position.  Remember, when he first got here, we were jerking him around with Trent Dilfer on the roster.  As if winning that Super Bowl with the Ravens (and the greatest defense of all time) somehow made Dilfer competent at the quarterback position or something.  Anyway, I made the point at the time (and stand behind it to this day) that the 2005 Seahawks were as good as they were because they had Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.  Shaun Alexander might have been the league’s MVP, but Hasselbeck was the team’s MVP.  Had we played that season with a replacement-level quarterback (or, Seneca Wallace, as he’s formally known), we would have had replacement-level results, no matter how many yards and touchdowns Alexander ran for.

Then again, the heart and soul of the 2005 Seahawks resided along the offensive line.  It was EASILY the best in football and EASILY the best line we’ve ever seen in Seattle.  It also probably rivals some of the best offensive lines in the history of the league, but I’ll leave that argument for people smarter than me to make.  All I know is:  with Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson on the left side of that line, the rest of the offense’s job was made a lot easier.

So, let’s start there.  Let’s make the rest of this post a position-by-position breakdown, starting with the offensive line.  For the record, I’m going to try to pick the player who played the most games at his given position (or, who is known as that team’s “starter”).  The better player is highlighted in blue.

Left Tackle
2005 – Walter Jones
2013 – Russell Okung

Left Guard
2005 – Steve Hutchinson
2013 – James Carpenter / Paul McQuistan

Center
2005 – Robbie Tobeck
2013 – Max Unger

Right Guard
2005 – Chris Gray
2013 – J.R. Sweezy

Right Tackle
2005 – Sean Locklear
2013 – Breno Giacomini

Overall, when you consider the offensive line as a whole, you give the overwhelming nod to the 2005 Seahawks.  The 2013 Seahawks have no one NEAR the calibre of Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson of 2005.  Max Unger gets a marginal nod over Tobeck.  Chris Gray was like 2005’s version of Paul McQuistan (savvy veteran, able to play multiple positions along the line, helps more than he hurts).  I never did like Sean Locklear.

Quarterback
2005 – Matt Hasselbeck
2013 – Russell Wilson

I’m not gonna lie to you, before I looked at the stats, just going off of memory, I REALLY wanted to pick Hasselbeck over Wilson.  I just thought, given the style of offense (West-Coast, heavy on the passing and the completion percentage), the Seahawks would have required more out of Hasselbeck than they do out of Wilson now.  But, look at these numbers!

Hasselbeck:  294/449 (65.5%), 3,459 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 98.2
Wilson:  257/407 (63.1%), 3,357, 26 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 101.2

First of all, I thought Hasselbeck would have attempted WAY more passes than Wilson, but it turned out to only be 42 more passes (or a little over two and a half passes per game).  As it turns out, Wilson was the more efficient quarterback, who still managed to best Hasselbeck in touchdowns thrown.  When you tack on Wilson’s rushing yards, it’s pretty clear who’s the better quarterback.  It’s NOT Year 7 Hasselbeck; it’s Year 2 Wilson.  Soak that in as you daydream about the next dozen years with Wilson at the helm.

Running Back
2005 – Shaun Alexander
2013 – Marshawn Lynch

Listen to me, now.  I know how much you love Beastmode.  Hell, I love myself some Beastmode as much as anybody!  I wouldn’t trade his hard-nosed, rugged running style for anything.  It isn’t even really a question of who would you rather have.  I’m not posing the notion of putting 2005 Alexander with 2013’s offensive line to see who would be the better guy.  Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander WITH 2005’s offensive line is just a better running back than 2013 Lynch with 2013’s line.  I’ll kindly refer you to the numbers:

Alexander:  370 attempts, 1,880 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, 27 touchdowns
Lynch:  301 attempts, 1,257 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns

Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander’s numbers are Looney Tunes!  You just don’t see running backs like this very much anymore.  They’re a dying breed.  Alexander was 28 when he had this season.  Lynch is 27, but considering the pounding his body takes, you’d have to think he’s in a similar boat.  When Alexander hit 30, he fell off the cliff.  I would expect nothing less out of Lynch.

Also, 2005 Alexander had 69 more attempts!  In what is supposed to be a pass-oriented offense.  Now, granted, those Seahawks won a lot of games and leaned on teams late with that rushing attack.  But, the 2013 Seahawks ALSO won a lot of games, but weren’t putting up numbers like this.

It boils down to those 2005 Seahawks being a fast-paced offense vs. the 2013 Seahawks slowing the game down.  Of course you’re going to get better offensive numbers if you’re going to be running so many more plays.

Wide Receiver 1
2005 – Darrell Jackson
2013 – Golden Tate

The numbers don’t bear out that Jackson was the team’s #1 receiver – because he missed a good ten games in the middle of the season before returning for the playoff run – but it’s pretty obvious who the team’s top target was.  Jackson’s early career was mired by drops, but he managed to get his shit together starting in 2005.  And, in that playoff run (where he caught 20 balls for 268 yards in three games – and it would have been more in the Super Bowl had things gone a little differently), Jackson really took a step forward.

Nevertheless, Golden Tate gets the nod.  He draws the lion’s share of the coverage (usually with the other team’s best cover corner), and still managed to catch 64 balls for 898 yards.  What puts Tate over the top is his talent, his versatility, and his ability in the punt return game.

Wide Receiver 2
2005 – Joe Jurevicius
2013 – Sidney Rice / Jermaine Kearse

I resisted the urge to put Doug Baldwin here, mainly because I want to save him so I can compare him to Bobby Engram.  In his stead, I put the duo of Rice & Kearse.  Rice was obviously this team’s #2 receiver when he was healthy, but of course, he went down after 8 games and Kearse picked up some of the slack.  You’ve got to ding Rice for not being reliable with his health.  But, aside from all that, Jurevicius was rock solid in 2005.

He caught 55 balls for 694 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns!  He was the type of big body that Pete Carroll has been spending his entire Seahawks career trying to bring in.

Wide Receiver 3
2005 – Bobby Engram
2013 – Doug Baldwin

Bobby Engram was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin was even a twinkle in the Seahawks’ eye!  Engram was Hasselbeck’s 3rd Down security blanket just as Baldwin is that for Wilson today.  And, when other receivers went down – as they seemingly always did – Engram was able to pick up the slack, just like Baldwin has this year after Rice went down.

I’m giving the nod to Baldwin for a couple reason.  Even though Engram caught 17 more passes, they caught the same exact number of yards:  778.  Doug Baldwin is the more explosive receiver.  He can go downfield and make a big play FAR more regularly than Engram ever could.  While he may play in the slot, Baldwin isn’t just a traditional slot receiver like Engram was.  Baldwin can play all over, yet still be that security blanket on third down who finds the hole in the zone or makes the diving sideline grab.

Tight End
2005 – Jerramy Stevens
2013 – Zach Miller

I probably shouldn’t let my emotions get the better of me, but in this case I can’t help it.  2005 Jerramy Stevens’ numbers absolutely dwarf Zach Miller’s, and if he even REMOTELY lived up to the hype coming into his pro career, Jerramy Stevens would be a beloved individual around these parts.  Instead, he sucked dick, and is beloved in Pittsburgh for handing them the Super Bowl.  So, Zach Miller gets the nod (plus, Miller is actually a true tight end who blocks well and does the whole thing; Stevens was a glorified, overweight wide receiver and not a very good one at that).

So, if you add it up for both sides, 2005 gets the edge on Offensive Line, Running Back (an extension of the offensive line), and one of the three wide receivers.  2013 wins on Quarterback play, Tight End, and 2/3 of the wide receivers.  If I’m weighting things as I should, it’s pretty neck and neck.  Offensive line is the most important part of any football team, so they factor in pretty heavily.  QB comes next.  And, I figure the receivers and tight end equal out the Shaun Alexander MVP factor.  I’m calling it a wash across the board.  But, you can’t just call it a tie, so let’s go to the numbers:

2005:  452 points, 5,915 yards, 1,020 total plays, 5.8 yards per play, 17 turnovers
2013:  417 points, 5,424 yards, 973 total plays, 5.6 yards per play, 19 turnovers

Look, by the slimmest of margins, I’m giving 2005 the nod over 2013 on offense.  There are pieces there to cobble together the greatest offense of all time (2005 O-Line with 2013’s skill position players), but if you want the truth, I’m going to go with the offense that scored more points.  It’s kind of as simple as that.

***

Let’s hop right into the defenses.

2005 Defensive Line
Bryce Fisher (DE)
Grant Wistrom (DE)
Rocky Bernard (DT)
Marcus Tubbs (DT)
Chuck Darby (DT)

2013 Defensive Line
Red Bryant (DE)
Chris Clemons (DE)
Brandon Mebane (DT)
Cliff Avril (DE)
Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
Tony McDaniel (DT)
Clinton McDonald (DT)

This goes without question.  I mean, LOOK at that rotation!  The 2013 Seahawks can come up with any number of fronts, whereas the 2005 version pretty much ran out the same four guys play-in and play-out.  I would argue that Mebane was just as disruptive up the middle as Tubbs.  Michael Bennett can do just as much as Rocky Bernard on the inside (as far as pass rush is concerned), as well as have the ability to slide outside and rush on the edge.  Grant Wistrom was less of a joke than a nightmare I’m still trying to wake up from.  No contest.  Next song.

2005 Linebackers
Leroy Hill
D.D. Lewis
Lofa Tatupu

2013 Linebackers
K.J. Wright
Malcolm Smith
Bobby Wagner
Bruce Irvin

In 2005, you had Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu as rookies, and therefore at the height of their powers and physicality.  But, Tatupu was never good enough to hold Bobby Wagner’s jock, and the combination of Wright & Smith is WAY more versatile than Leroy Hill ever was.  Hill was great at run-stuffing, and he managed 7.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, but there’s more to linebacker than simply running forward.  You’ve got to run laterally, and backward.  You’ve got to play in coverage, and that’s where the 2013 crew has it all over the 2005 crew.  Which is odd, because those Holmgren defenses were known for their speed.  Here’s the thing:  2013 HAS that speed, but they’ve also got size and versatility.  Again, no contest.  Next song.

2005 Secondary
Marcus Trufant
Kelly Herndon
Michael Boulware
Marquand Manuel
Jordan Babineaux
Ken Hamlin
Etric Pruitt

2013 Secondary
Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell
Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Brandon Browner
Walter Thurmond
Jeremy Lane

I could have stopped after just Richard Sherman – with he alone covering all of the other team’s receivers – and he would have beaten out the 2005 secondary.  I was going to split them up by cornerbacks and safeties, but what’s the point?  It’s laughable how terrible that 2005 secondary was.  Luckily for the 2005 team, they were frequently playing with a lead.  It’s a lot easier to play defense with a lead than it is from behind.

On the whole, it’s not even close.  2013 defense in a landslide.  In fact, I don’t know if there are any guys on that 2005 team would would even PLAY on the 2013 version!  I don’t think anyone turns down a 2005 Rocky Bernard.  And I know 2005 Bryce Fisher had 9.0 sacks, but does he have the ability to stuff the run like Chris Clemons does?  I mean, maybe Fisher cracks the defensive end rotation, but most of those 2005 guys are backups at best on the 2013 team.  I’ll tell you this much:  I’m starting Byron Maxwell over Marcus Trufant every day of the week.

***

In conclusion, the 2013 Seahawks are the better team.  You pit them against the 2005 Seahawks, one game, winner takes all, it’s the 2013 team by a comfortable margin.  2013’s defensive line might struggle to get pressure on the quarterback, and it’s 50/50 whether or not the 2005 team runs the ball well.  But, there’s no way 2005 is throwing all that well against 2013’s secondary.

For the record, nothing would bring me greater joy than to see Kam Chancellor knock the shit out of Jerramy Stevens.  I don’t even mean in any hypothetical matchup between these two teams.  I mean in real life.  Kam Chancellor hunts Jerramy Stevens down, wherever he’s living, and he fucks his shit up.  For real.

5 Down, 18 To Go: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish

I knew there was a reason to be worried about the Panthers.  What I didn’t know was how good their defense truly was.

If you’re like me, you’ve been gorging yourselves on all the hype surrounding the Seahawks.  Both ESPN and Sports Illustrated have the Seahawks at least going to the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks appear to be a favorite over at Grantland as well.  Obviously, the Seahawks-related bloggers (including yours truly) are no place to go for objective, rational journalism.  Unless you’re a particular fan of a particular set of teams that might have the talent to compete for a championship (San Francisco, Atlanta, Green Bay, Denver, and to a lesser extent Houston and New England), you’ve probably thought long and hard about the Seahawks.

It’s the way the world works.  The Seahawks were one of the best teams in the NFL at the end of last season.  In the off-season, they made a bunch of moves to seemingly get better while other teams (including those listed above) made a bunch of moves to seemingly get worse.  The 49ers lost a couple of crucial defenders, then they lost Crabtree to injury.  Atlanta lost some defenders and traded in one old running back for another old running back.  Green Bay lost Woodson and Jennings and is relying on bits and pieces at running back.  Denver blew it with Elvis Dumervil and saw Von Miller lose 6 games to suspension.  Houston has always been a fringey type of Super Bowl contending team and they’ve still yet to find a second receiver aside from Andre Johnson.  And, speaking of receivers, New England has none.  Then, they lost Aaron Hernandez to prison and Gronk to yet another surgery.  I don’t even consider Baltimore a contender anymore, but if you include them, they still lost Boldin as well as the heart and soul of their defense; this is a transition year for them and nothing more.  They’ll be back, but not in 2013.

So, really, among the contenders, the Seahawks were the only team to really IMPROVE.  Of course they would be the near-consensus #1 football team in America!  Once the sportswriters picked up on that talking point, it all snowballed into the Hype Machine, where out plopped the Seahawks, Men Among Boys.

After a 12-7 victory in Carolina, I shudder to think how the national media is going to over-react.  I would expect more than a few power ranking polls to have the 49ers steal all of our glory.

The Seahawks didn’t look good yesterday.  Then again, they didn’t look particularly bad either.  I think you have to give Carolina’s defense a lot of credit.  I also think it’s unfair to ask a West Coast team to travel to Carolina in week 1 and play a 10am game.  But, I don’t think the national media will take that into consideration.  12-7 was probably the best we could have hoped for given the circumstances.

Normally, in these types of games, the Seahawks show up and look sloppy and unorganized from the get-go.  I didn’t think we looked necessarily that bad in the beginning, I just think that Carolina looked really GOOD and fired up.  They made two things abundantly clear in their gameplan:  they weren’t going to let us run the football, and they weren’t going to let Russell Wilson scramble outside the pocket.  Unless it was a designed roll-out, there weren’t many instances where Wilson was able to get outside on his own and make something happen.

It was hard to tell if the Seahawks made a conscious decision to not run the zone read with Wilson keeping the ball, or if Carolina’s defense dictated that the zone read wouldn’t be viable to begin with, but as we maintained a 7-6 deficit into the fourth quarter, I was ready to unleash Wilson in a variety of run plays as long as it meant we could move the football consistently.

The offensive line could have been a lot better, but that’s probably to be expected.  Going from the likes of our pre-season competition straight to one of the best D-Lines in the NFL, there’s going to be some transitional growing pains to be had.  Carolina’s front four is beefy.  They have the kind of defensive line that we’ve been dreaming about for years.  When was the last time we were able to generate consistent pressure up the middle, with just our tackles?  I like Mebane and everything, but he’s no Star Lotulelei.  Unfortunately, you mostly have to draft in the top 10 to get that type of talent, and I don’t see the Seahawks drafting that high anytime soon.

The defensive line most certainly could have been better.  Injuries have ravaged this unit; this is probably (hopefully) the most-injured we’re going to see this team, as Avril and Clemons work their ways back into playing shape.  I’ve kind of given up hope of this team having an elite pass rush, but I do think there is room for lots of improvement once we get our two horses back out there.

On offense, what can you say?  It was the Russell Wilson show.  He took a couple nasty sacks (including a fumble) and a lot more nasty hits, but with the running game out of commission, Russell Wilson was the only thing working.  Doug Baldwin was a godsend, Sidney Rice looked as good as ever, and Golden Tate made a few plays.  Wilson spread the ball around to eight different receivers, including Hero of the Game:  Jermaine Kearse.  His 43-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter gave us the lead (one play after Stephen Williams just dropped a similar-looking pass along the same sideline).

But, it was our secondary, and specifically Earl Thomas with his forced fumble of Deangelo Williams, that gave us the win.  Going into the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks scuffling and Carolina doing everything they could just to hang on, I figured the Seahawks needed two big plays to win it.  One on offense and one on defense.  The offensive big play was the long bomb touchdown, which couldn’t have come at a better time.  The defensive big play was the fumble recovery, which ditto.

This is the type of game the Seahawks likely would have lost last year.  I kept harkening back to the Dolphins fiasco.  Sure enough, after Seattle took the lead, Carolina started to drive right back down the field.  That Williams carry brought them inside the ten yard line (his longest carry of the game, by the way, at 16 yards).  Had he managed to hold onto the ball, Carolina likely would have taken the lead with five minutes to go in the game.  Yeah, maybe Seattle would have worked their way into field goal range in those five minutes (after all, we did kill the clock with a five minute drive to end the game), but maybe the play-calling shifts knowing we’re playing from behind instead of with a lead.  A lot of those plays on that final drive were fairly safe, meant to keep the guys in bounds, keep the clock moving, and eliminate turnovers.  Would we be so safe if we absolutely HAD to score on that drive?  And, in so doing, would we have been as effective in moving the football?  On the flipside, if Carolina’s defense was given a lead, would they have played differently?  More fired up, perhaps?

The point is, it’s no guarantee that Seattle would have scored again had Carolina re-taken the lead.  Ergo, that fumble recovery WAS the game.

And, truth be told, our secondary was everything that was advertised and then some.  Yeah, Steve Smith had his touchdown (and acted the got-damn jackass everytime he was on camera), and yeah Greg Olsen did what he does best (drop perfectly thrown passes), but without any real pass rush whatsoever, this Seahawks defense held Cam Newton to a career-low 125 passing yards.  That’s AMAZING!

Carolina might not have come away very impressed with what we were able to do to them – citing their own mistakes as reasons why they lost – but I’m pretty taken aback by what we were able to accomplish.  Carolina’s offense is POTENT, and we held them to 253 yards.  So, take a deep breath, relax, and be happy that we’re 1-0.

A win is a win is a win.  A win is especially a win when you’re on the road, playing at 10am on the opposite coast, against a quality mid-range opponent.  The Panthers might not be the Packers, but I’ll tell you what, that Panthers D is something else.  And, if you played that game in Seattle, it would’ve been a cakewalk.

Let the 49ers and their fans believe they are the best team.  They’ll see how far that gets them next week, when they face the howling maw of CenturyLink Field.

#4 – Richard Sherman

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

Look, I know I’m quite high on Richard Sherman, you know I’m quite high on Richard Sherman, because he’s a brilliant football player.

I feel that he is the best cornerback in all of football.  Many other Seahawks fans do as well, but there are still quite a lot who have doubts.  And, pretty much anyone who ISN’T a Seahawks fan thinks he sucks.  All of this comes down to his personality.  I think it’s great, and it’s great for the game of football to have these types of personalities.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Seahawks fan.  I thought Primetime was awesome, I thought OchoCinco was awesome, and I even enjoyed the things Terrell Owens and Randy Moss would do to drum up publicity that wasn’t necessarily football-based.  These are entertaining guys in a league where they are doing everything they can to suck the fun right out of it.  Because a bunch of old, white men long for the 1950s where slow, lumbering oafs simply handed the ball to the ref after a play ended and everyone fucked missionary style and only missionary style.

Regardless of how you feel about Richard Sherman’s off-field verbal gymnastics this past offseason, he still has to go out there and prove that he’s the best in the game.  Which means, of course, that all eyes are going to be on him.  Which can be good or bad.  Let’s face it, if you want to make a name for yourself in this game in a hurry, then talk as much shit as possible.  Because, once that spotlight is on you full-time, if you show up and back up that shit-talk with your actions, then you WILL be seen as the best in the game.  The flip-side of that, of course, is that when you get beat, that will ALSO be seen by everyone because the spotlight is on you.

Not only does Richard Sherman need to show up this year and be just as dominant – if not moreso – than in 2012, but he has to come out of the gate on fire.  If he shows up in Carolina and Steve Smith burns his ass for a  bunch of yards and touchdowns, then everyone will dismiss Richard Sherman out of hand and all the work he has done up to this point will be for naught.  But, if he comes out and forces a couple turnovers and plays the lockdown corner I think he’s capable of, then he immediately jumps to the Best In Show status and everyone else is his second banana.

I tend to freak out about a lot of things when it comes to sports, but shit-talking isn’t one of them.  Richard Sherman knows what he’s capable of.  If shit-talking makes him better, then so be it.  We need more shit-talkers in sports.  If they’re going to start throwing flags every time anyone celebrates for any reason, I’m going to need SOMETHING to keep me from falling asleep.

Seattle Sports Hell NFL Power Rankings, Vol. 4

I normally like to have an opening salvo to these posts so it’s not just a subjective list of teams followed by the rantings of a lunatic, but instead of being a responsible human being, I went out for pizza and beer last night.  Sorta makes that trip to the gym right before seem kinda pointless, doesn’t it?

Anyway, here are the rankings. 

  1. Atlanta Falcons (5-0):  That Atlanta/Houston Super Bowl is going to be something else … (Last Week:  1)
  2. Houston Texans (5-0):  Something else, indeed … (Last Week:  2)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (4-1):  This has looked like a pissed-off bunch of assholes the last two games after being embarrassed by the Vikings.  Jim Harbaugh must hate losing more than he hates not being a prick at all times.  (Last Week:  3)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (4-1):  I grappled with leaving them here after nearly crapping the bed against the Chiefs.  But, I guess everyone deserves a down game once or twice during the season.  (Last Week:  5)
  5. New England Patriots (3-2):  If the Seahawks can shut down this Patriots offense, then you can stop counting the ballots and give every starting Pro Bowl defensive spot to a Seahawk.  (Last Week:  7)
  6. Chicago Bears (4-1):  Aside from a sloppy Thursday night loss, these Bears have looked like world beaters.  Now, they have a BYE followed by three more cupcakes.  Watch out NFC.  (Last Week:  8)
  7. New York Giants (3-2):  With Eli, you’ve always got a chance.  Huge game against the 49ers this week.  The way they’re playing though, I wouldn’t count on seeing 4-2 anytime soon.  (Last Week:  13)
  8. Minnesota Vikings (4-1):  God damn do I like this team!  Stick Ponder on the Seahawks and you might be looking at the Super Bowl frontrunner.  (Last Week:  15)
  9. Arizona Cardinals (4-1):  Yeah, they’ve looked good thus far this season, but Kolb didn’t just magically turn into Tom Brady or anything.  Welcome back to planet Earth, Cardinals.  We were wondering when you’d finally crash and burn.  (Last Week:  4)
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2):  Just a solid, Steelers-esque win over the Eagles.  Nothing flashy, but they just get the job done.  How much longer can they withstand all these injuries, though?  (Last Week:  16)
  11. Seattle Seahawks (3-2):  This game against the Patriots might just be the ultimate test of this defense’s overall quality.  Top 2?  Or merely just Top 10?  (Last Week:  17)
  12. St. Louis Rams (3-2):  It’s hard to have a lot of confidence in a Thursday night performance.  That having been said, the Rams are 2-0 in the division and in a nice position to make some noise.  (Last Week:  18)
  13. Green Bay Packers (2-3):  Packers, you have no one but yourselves to blame if you don’t make the playoffs now.  Pathetic.  (Last Week:  6)
  14. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2):  This team is just no damn good.  How many times do I have to tell them to stick with the run?  I can only broken record myself so many times.  (Last Week:  9)
  15. San Diego Chargers (3-2):  Antonio Gates looks slower than Jesus Montero.  I imagine he can’t jump as well as he used to either.  Raise your hand if you found him in your Fantasy league’s waiver bin recently.  Don’t do it!  Stay away!  He’s done!  (Last Week:  10)
  16. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2):  Just when I start believing in this team, they go out and blow it against Miami.  This week, they’ll crush Cleveland and we’ll all jump back on the bandwagon, but at what cost?  At what cost?  (Last Week:  11)
  17. Dallas Cowboys (2-2):  Dallas @ Baltimore.  I’m not saying they have ZERO chance, but what’s the next number higher than zero?  No, not one; one is giving the Cowboys WAY too much credit.  (Last Week:  12)
  18. Denver Broncos (2-3):  Stealing a win in San Diego next Monday will go a long way towards increasing their playoff chances.  These are the games they HAVE to win if they wan’t to take the West.  (Last Week:  14)
  19. Washington Redskins (2-3):  They didn’t look half bad against the Falcons, until RGIII went down.  Maybe they’ll end up being BETTER than last year’s Panthers.  I wouldn’t put it past ’em.  (Last Week:  19)
  20. Miami Dolphins (2-3):  Well, hot damn!  Look who has looked good in the last four weeks after being left for dead at the beginning of the year!  Knock Knock.  Who’s There?  Hard Knocks Curse.  Get The Fuck Off My Porch, Hard Knocks Curse!  I’ve Got A Shotgun Pointed Right At Your Junk & I’m Not Afraid To Make You A Eunuch.  (Last Week:  25)
  21. Detroit Lions (1-3):  Next three games:  @ Phi, @ Chi, vs. Sea.  It doesn’t get any easier for last season’s darlings.  It’s looking more and more like the Vikings have usurped that title.  (Last Week:  20)
  22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3):  They get the Chiefs coming out of their BYE this week.  That’s a must win.  If they can’t handle the Chiefs, then they better start prepping their draft boards right now.  (Last Week:  21)
  23. New York Jets (2-3):  L-O-S-E-R-S!  (Last Week:  22)
  24. Buffalo Bills (2-3):   Boy are the Bills shitty!  Good thing they locked up Fitzpatrick to that long extension.  Nothing to worry about at the quarterback position!  Got that shit locked down!  (Last Week:  23)
  25. Indianapolis Colts (2-2):  You could’ve knocked me over with a feather after that performance.  If I knew someone associated with the Colts was near death, I might have re-thought that Green Bay pick in my suicide pool.  (Last Week:  31)
  26. Carolina Panthers (1-4):  Steve Smith sure talks a good game, but those drops were critical in blowing that game against the Seahawks.  No one will talk about it when compared to how our cornerbacks forced those two fumbles, but Steve Smith is just as culpable for that loss.  (Last Week:  24)
  27. New Orleans (1-4):  Drew Brees Michael Vick’d me in Fantasy last night, so I’m not very happy with him right now.  That having been said, it’s about fucking time, Saints!  (Last Week:  29)
  28. Oakland Raiders (1-3):  The Raiders didn’t have a game last week.  That’s the biggest praise you’ll ever read about the Raiders in 2012.  (Last Week:  26)
  29. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4):  What the fuck, Kansas City?  You look frisky against the Saints, then you let the Chargers run all of you, and THEN you hold the fourth-best team in the NFL to three field goals?  And you still find a way to lose?  Pick a way to be shitty and stick with it (bad offense or bad defense) because I can’t handle this back and forth shit!  (Last Week:  28)
  30. Tennessee Titans (1-4):  They have a running back with no desire for football.  They’ve got a top ten draft pick at quarterback who can’t stay on the field.  They’ve got an aging veteran at quarterback who is probably playing his final season.  And their head coach is probably going to get fired because he’s doing a terrible job.  It’s not Jaguars-Bleak, but it’s still pretty fucking bleak in Titans Land.  (Last Week:  27)
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4):  Blaine Gabbert has to be my second least favorite quarterback in the NFL behind Sanchize.  How fucked are the Jags?  At least they probably have nice weather down there … (Last Week:  30)
  32. Cleveland Browns (0-5):  This team is bad from A to Zinc!  Zing!  (Last Week:  32)

The Seahawks Should Put Up A Better Fight Against Carolina

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You probably saw some or all of that game last week; at the very least you either saw some highlights or read about it.  Carolina went into the home of the undefeated Atlanta Falcons and took them to the very BRINK.  Carolina took the ball, up by 1, with two and a half minutes left to play.  Two plays later, Carolina had a fresh set of downs and Atlanta had one less time out at the two minute warning.  Two plays after that, Carolina bled the last remaining time out from the Falcons and needed two measly yards to win the game.  Cam Newton ran that ball those two yards and a little bit more before the ball was knocked out of his hand by an opposing helmet.  Carolina recovered the fumble, but the result of the play was a 4th down.

Now, I would argue that a young team, with a second-year head coach, coming off of a 6-10 campaign, with a chance to go 2-2 on the season, needing only 1 yard to make that happen while you’re on the opponent’s 45 yard line … when you’d run for 199 yards to that point in the game on 5.7 yards per carry … maybe it would have been smarter to just go for the fucking yard on fourth down.  Show some fucking BALLS!

But, they didn’t.  And somehow, they managed to down the punt on the 1 yard line.  The rest is Matt Ryan and Roddy White making their defense (and their defensive-minded head coach) look absolutely idiotic and inept.

One yard.  Carolina was one yard away from defeating the best team in the NFL on the road!  And I’m supposed to come on here and tell you the Seahawks are going to fly across the country – a week after flying halfway across the country – and beat that team?

You’re damn fuckin’ ass right I’m going to tell you that!

That Carolina defense couldn’t stop ME!  That probably doesn’t mean much since you probably don’t know me or have never met me, so let me paint you a picture:  I write a sports blog.  I write the whole fucking thing.  This one, that you’re reading now.  I write these words.  That’s almost literally all I do.  That and booze and some light masturbation.

This isn’t the worst defense in the world; in fact, on a per-game yardage-allowed average, there are 8 teams in the NFL alone that are worse than the Panthers.  But, this is by FAR the worst defense the Seahawks have played this season.  They give up 394 yards per game!  259 in the air and 135 on the ground.  This is what I’m talking about.

(and, for the record, the Cowboys are 4th best in the NFL at 277.5 yards per game; Green Bay is 9th best at 314 yards; and Arizona is 17th at 357 yards.  The Seahawks are 2nd best, but that’s neither here nor there)

There aren’t enough Rodney Dangerfield jokes to describe how little respect I’m giving this Panthers defense.  Which means yes, I think our offense can easily eclipse the 20-point barrier they’ve had such trouble surpassing thus far.

That just leaves the Carolina offense.  Can we stop the three-headed monster at running back (Stewart, Williams and Cam)?  And can we fustigate Newton enough so he’s not throwing for 400 yards against us?

Well, we have the 2nd-best rushing defense in the league, so my guess is we’re going to load the shit out of the box and take our chances on the outside.  I think this coaching staff figures out a way to pressure Cam just enough to force him into some very characteristic turnovers.  I think our corners shut down Steve Smith just like we did back in the NFC title game in 2005.  I think with their offense being one-dimensional (and that one dimension not being all that breathtaking), they don’t stand a chance.

I expect a lot of boos from the home crowd and I even expect a Derek Anderson appearance.

34-14.  That’s my guess.

Based on last week (Carolina looking good, Seattle looking terrible), you probably think I’m nuts.  But, look at it this way:  those were divisional games.  You know why divisional games are always wacky?  Because you play everyone in your division twice a year!  They know you and you know them.  You throw things like home field advantage and point spreads out the window in those games because anything can happen!

We haven’t played Carolina in two years.  We’re completely different and they’re completely different.  We have a couple things we do extremely well (defense and running the football), they pretty much just have the one thing they do well (running the football), but that goes in direct conflict with our very best attribute:  stopping the run.  It’s no contest.

Sleep in late on Sunday, Seahawks fans.  Relax.  Maybe crack open a beer around noon.  It’s going to be an enjoyable, stress-free Sunday afternoon.  I’d bet my farm on it.