Would The Seahawks Have Beaten The Rams With Trevone Boykin?

Short answer:  no, probably not.

Alternate short answer:  what are you, fucking stupid?

You can go ahead and throw that question into the same pile as, “Would the Patriots consider keeping Jimmy Garoppolo as their starter beyond Tom Brady’s 4-week suspension if he plays lights out?” and “Should (insert team with extensive QB injuries here) consider signing Tim Tebow/Johnny Manziel?”  They’re non-starters.  They’re wastes of your time and brain cells.  But, they’re flashy and chock full of #HotTakey goodness that people just can’t resist having an opinion about, even if the obvious answers are, “no, probably not,” and “what are you, fucking stupid?”

But, I’ll tell you this, I bet this was on Seahawks’ fans’ minds last Sunday, as we watched Russell Wilson and this offense struggle to a whopping 3 points.  I know it crossed my mind a time or two, every time Wilson failed to scramble away from pressure, every time the pocket collapsed around him in an instant, every time the running game was completely shut down because no one was buying Wilson as a threat to tuck the ball and keep it on a zone read.

OK, so maybe it crossed my mind a little more than a time or two.

My stance on injuries has always been:  if you’re too hurt to be effective, then it’s time to let someone else have a shot while you get better.  I know everyone in that organization – and probably a good percentage of Seahawks fans – respect the hell out of Russell Wilson’s toughness to play through a high ankle sprain that would render bedridden lesser men for at least a month, if not longer.  And, I suppose I would agree with them, to a point.  But, part of me also REALLY hates the macho bullshit that comes with professional athletes.  It’s one thing if you’re Percy Harvin, and every hangnail puts you on the shelf for 8 weeks; Princess Harvin couldn’t be bothered to go out on the field if he felt even the smallest pea underneath his stack of mattresses the night before.  But, if you’re obviously too injured to function, and your being out on the field is actively hurting our chances of winning, then I’m going to resent your presence.

The tricky part here is:  would the Seahawks have been better with a 100% healthy Boykin, or a 35% healthy Wilson?

On the one hand, the Seahawks scored 3 points; could Boykin have been THAT much worse?

On the other hand, yeah, maybe!

Here’s what we know:  with Boykin in there, you’re guaranteed to see a quarterback who can legitimately run with the football.  That’s not nothing.  That’s probably the biggest (and maybe the ONLY) reason to put him in there over Wilson, particularly when you factor in how good the Rams are along the defensive line.  Our O-Line had no shot against them, so it would make sense to have Boykin out there to run around, avoid sacks, maybe rack up some yards on the ground, and generally be a thorn in that defense’s side.  With Wilson in there, we were painfully one-dimensional, and not even in a good way, because there were precious few opportunities where we could throw deep or on the run outside of the pocket.

But, with a rookie, undrafted quarterback, you take the good with the bad, and in Boykin’s case, you wonder if the bad outweighs the good.  Boykin’s more likely to be turnover prone.  Even if you scale the offensive playbook way back and stress the importance of living to fight another day, it’s reasonable to expect Boykin to be fooled by coverages and by Gregg Williams’ exotic blitzes.

The Seahawks might have scored more than 3 points with Boykin, but there’s also a non-zero chance that the Seahawks could’ve been shut out.  There’s also a better-than-good chance that the Rams would’ve turned Boykin mistakes into more than the 9 points they ended up with.

Yes, it was an embarrassing defeat that never should’ve happened, but in the end, a Russell Wilson at 35% health still had the ball, with 2 minutes left in the game, and was able to drive us pretty far into Rams territory before Christine Michael fumbled to seal our fate.  Had Michael not fumbled, we would’ve had 4th & 2 on the 27 yard line (or thereabouts) with just under a minute to go.  You give that 4th down conversion about a 50/50 chance of succeeding, which puts us inside the 25 yard line with 30-40 seconds to go in the game, needing a touchdown to win it.  I think, at that point, it’s probably 50/50 that the Seahawks get that touchdown.  Making our overall odds of winning the game in this scenario 25%.

So, I’ll ask you, first:  if you had Boykin in that same exact scenario (starting a drive with 2 minutes to go, needing a touchdown), what are the odds the Seahawks win the game?  I think, given the atmosphere, given his experience level, and given his overall talent level, our odds are considerably worse with Boykin in there.

But, now I’ll ask you this:  would the game have been even THAT close had Boykin started the game?  Would we have even had a chance to win it at the end?  I find it pretty doubtful.  Aside from potential turnovers, look at time of possession; with Wilson, we were able to keep it even with the Rams.  With Boykin, you wonder how many more 3 & Outs the Seahawks would’ve had.  Short drives (both in yards gained, and in time of possession) surely would’ve strained the defense that much more than it already was.  Maybe that strain leads to a few more breakdowns, and a few more converted third downs, and maybe a few more points for the bad guys.

And finally, just psychologically speaking, what’s the difference between a 100% healthy Boykin vs. a 35% healthy Wilson?  Wilson’s a known quantity, and a Pro Bowl calibre one at that.  The Rams have to respect his abilities, and while they knew he had the ankle issue, they also knew he never missed a practice.  They had to wonder if Wilson was trying to deke them out.  But, either way, they had to respect Wilson’s arm and his accuracy.  With Boykin in there, I think they just rear back and attack at will.  Moreover, I think their confidence goes through the roof, helping them to play that much better.  On the Seahawks’ side, you have to think our guys were pumped to have Wilson in there.  With Boykin, you wonder if other guys might have tried to do too much, resulting in more mistakes like we saw with Christine Michael at the end of the game.

I think, when you add it all up, the better call was having Wilson in there, sprained ankle and all.  In case there was still any doubt, I just farted out 1,100+ words on the topic to try to put your restless mind at ease.

No, I haven’t been sleeping well since this travesty of a game ended, why do you ask?

What’s Wrong With The Seahawks?

You know what?  Fuck the Rams, there I said it.  This isn’t about them.  Fuck that game, fuck everything.  I’m talking about the Seahawks here (it’s not ALL ABOUT YOU, RAMS!!!).

This is the point in the season where everyone freaks the fuck out and asks, “What’s wrong with the Seahawks?”  Truth be told, this moment hit us a week earlier last year, as we had the misfortune of playing the Rams in Week 1 (why the SHIT can’t we have our first game against the fucking Rams in Week 11?  Why’s it always gotta be EARLY in the season?), but once again, here we are.  And once again, we’re asking the same question.

Of course, everyone also has an answer to this question, because EVERYONE’S GOTTA BE A BLOGGER NOW!  Or, at the very least, everyone’s gotta be a Twitter cunt who spends all day every day bombarding the beat writers with their insanity.

What’s wrong with the Seahawks?  A shitload!

And, unsurprisingly, I’m going to start with the offensive line.  Most fans would point to them and call them Public Enemy Numbers 1-5.  Most in the national media keep harping over how little we spend on our line, either via draft capital or free agency dollars.  Some of the savvier local bloggers like to defend the O-Line as much as possible, pointing to things like Russell Wilson holding the ball too long, or how they haven’t been “that bad” compared to the level of competition we’ve played through the first two weeks.

I’ll say this:  the offensive line IS a problem, and it’s probably the biggest problem.  It’s the reason why the Seahawks can’t effectively move the football against anyone with a Top 10 defense.  You can deflect blame all you want, but turning Russell Wilson into a pocket passer who gets the ball out in 2 seconds or less isn’t going to make a difference.  This isn’t the New England offense, and he isn’t Tom Brady.  He’s a guy who needs time for plays to develop, so he can make plays downfield.  If we’re going to try to be this quick-strike offense (and make no mistake, it’s 100% because the O-Line is terrible and can’t hold a block for more than 0.5 seconds), you know what that’s going to lead to?  10 guys in the box, press coverage on the outside, and a complete and utter inability to formulate a running game.

The Seahawks don’t dink & dunk.  The Seahawks play smashmouth football, with regularly executed deep strikes through the air.  I’d rather have Russell Wilson hitting 60% of his passes, with a high average per attempt than have him hit 70% of his passes with a low average per attempt.  On the spectrum of short passers, he’s more closely resembling Sam Bradford than he is Philip Rivers, and that’s NOT what we’ve come to expect out of this offense!

Now, obviously, this problem O-Line would be mitigated if our quarterback could run, but again, whose fault is that?  Oh, that’s right, the sieve of an O-Line that’s letting guys get free runs at our most valuable offensive weapon.  Just because this unit can nut up once every 20 pass attempts and actually block for a reasonable amount of time doesn’t give them a pass for all the times they let guys run free and clean at our quarterback!

At the very least, you could hang your hat on this team having a viable running game.  Even against the very best defenses, we’d ALWAYS be able to get yards on the ground to help matters along.  But, we haven’t been able to do a damn thing on the ground this year!  Thomas Rawls is a fantastic running back, and he’s getting hit in the backfield more in these first two games than he did ALL of last year!  It doesn’t seem to affect Christine Michael as much, but I’ve noticed he doesn’t always stick with what the play calls for.  He’s a guy who’s always naturally going to want to bounce things outside, to get into open space and see if he can make some moves for some home run-type plays; but he’s been doing that WAY more than usual, and it’s been out of necessity.  Rawls is great, but he doesn’t have Michael’s quicks or his cutting ability, but that’s neither here nor there because he didn’t have those things LAST year either, when he was averaging 5.6 yards per carry!

Of course, Wilson’s injury doesn’t help matters any in the running game either.  A hobbled Wilson means defenses don’t have to worry about him tucking and running, which means they can focus all their energies on the back he inevitably hands the ball off to.  You’d think that would lead to more traditional handoffs, where Wilson takes the ball from under center – so at the VERY least we can make better use of play-action in the passing game, to try to open things up that way – but NOPE!

Because ultimately, this falls squarely on Darrell Bevell’s shoulders.  He spent the better part of these first two games running an offense with a healthy Russell Wilson in mind, when he should’ve been adjusting for the fact that Wilson can’t run.  At this point, you have to dig deeper into the playbook.  Recall that Tarvaris Jackson was once this team’s starter, and try to remember what plays HE used to run.  Because, let’s face it, Tarvar was never a running quarterback, and right now, neither is Russell Wilson.

Oh, and the best part?  They STILL haven’t figured out how to get the ball to Jimmy Graham in the redzone!  Oh, what a joy it’ll be, when people can’t fall back on the Seahawks “bringing him along slowly” routine and we return to the weekly lament about how Graham gets no redzone targets because Darrell Bevell is a mental midget and Russell Wilson is a literal one.

And don’t think the defense is getting off any easier in this thing.  You want a medal for holding the Dolphins to 10 points and the Rams to 9?  Bravo, you did your fucking job against two inept quarterbacks.  You look to be well on your way to another league championship in fewest points given up, but you’ll also forgive me if I don’t line you up to suck each of your dicks.

Hey guys, where’s the fucking turnovers?  Are you shitting me?  You can’t get teams led by Ryan Tannehill and Case Fucking Keenum to turn the ball over to you?  When – SPOILER ALERT – Keenum threw 2 picks against the 49ers last week, and Tannehill did the same against the Pats this week (on top of a couple of fumbles the Pats were able to force)!  I mean, shit guys, how about a short fucking field for once!  How about making it so the offense doesn’t have to fucking go 90 yards for a touchdown every God damn drive!  How about, when our offense flips the field position, and we’re able to down the ball inside the 10 yard line, you NUT THE FUCK UP and force a 3 & Out to give us BACK our good field position???

You have to understand, Michael Bennett and all the rest, that you haven’t done shit yet.  The defense has been good, but not great.  Not dominant.  Not elite.  An elite defense would’ve held the Rams to 3 points, or 0 points, not 9.  An elite defense would see that their offense is in trouble, that their best skill position players (from Baldwin, to Lockett, to Graham, to Rawls, to Prosise) are banged up, and their all-world quarterback is a shell of his former self as he tries to play through a high ankle sprain, and that elite defense would step the fuck up and shut out an offense like the Rams.  Like the Dolphins.  Like the 49ers next week.

And that defensive coordinator needs to realize his defense is giving up too many big plays.  Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley knew how to scheme well and prevent those big plays.  This has only become a problem since Kris Richard took over.  Maybe the job is too much for him.  Well, management better fucking figure that shit out and put someone in there who’s up to the task.  Because, we can’t be fucking away these seasons when everyone is in their prime, just to coddle a fucking defensive coordinator who isn’t ready for the fucking job.

Beat the 49ers you sacks of shit!  Or, don’t be surprised when you see more 12s dumping all over you.

Part 2: Why The Seahawks Will Win The Super Bowl This Year

We got into the Glass Half Empty side of things yesterday.  Today, it’s all about Glass Half Full.

I’ll start here where I started yesterday:  the offensive line.  In this run of dominance the last four years, the Seahawks have never really had a world-beating O-Line.  Sure, Okung was a nice player and a talented first rounder, but he also often found himself injured and being replaced by the likes of Alvin Bailey.  Has that stopped us from winning ballgames or running the ball among the best teams in the league?  Absolutely not!  We’ve gotten by with the likes of James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, and Patrick Lewis – all fine players in their own rights, but ultimately all replacement level players who made their money on the back of this team’s success.

People like to denigrate Russell Wilson, saying he’s just a “system quarterback”, and that had he been put into the wrong situation, he’d be another nobody right now.  Well, by the same token, this is a “system” offensive line, behind Tom Cable’s vision for what this unit should do and do well:  run the football.  It’s always going to struggle somewhat in pass protection – it has the last four years anyway – but like I said before, that hasn’t stopped us yet.

Because we DO have Russell Wilson!  And while he might want to thank his lucky stars the Cleveland Browns didn’t draft him, I think he’s pretty great, and fully capable of making up this O-Line’s shortcomings.  Will he be perfect?  No.  He’ll occasionally run himself into some sacks.  He’ll hold onto the ball too long when he should’ve just thrown it away.  But, he’s also going to do some truly amazing things that only he can do.  And, in the end, that’s going to be more than good enough to make up for the O-Line.

I like our ability to run the ball.  I like the continuity of our receiving corps.  And while I don’t necessarily think Russell Wilson is going to double his second half of last year and turn it into a full season this year, I think he’ll certainly take another step in his progression and by season’s end have had his best year ever.  I don’t know if the offense is going to be the dominant Seahawks unit over the defense, but I think we’ll have put up the most points in franchise history when all is said and done.

I also don’t know if the defense will be able to make it 5 straight years with the fewest points allowed, but if not, they’ll still be close to the top.  I just think, at this point, you know what to expect from this defense.  With everyone here, happy, and healthy to start the season, I think that puts us in the driver’s seat compared to last year, where we had so many issues.  Just having the vets around, practicing, playing, is going to be great for our younger guys.  The kids won’t have to play right away, they can soak in more of the system, more of the game plans, so by the time they ARE pressed into duty, because of injuries or whatever, they’ll be that much better than if they had to start right away and be thrown into the fire prematurely.

Finally, I like what the schedule has to offer.  Let’s break it down, week by week:

Miami, to kick things off on Sunday.  I think this game starts off a little too close for comfort in the first half, but ultimately I think the Seahawks start to blow it out in the second half for a double-digit victory.

At Los Angeles, for their regular season home opener.  By all rights, I’d be a fool to lock this one down as a win.  The Rams, particularly under Jeff Fisher, have had our number in ways I’m not even comfortable thinking about.  With this being their first game back in L.A., with upwards of 90,000 fans in a rabid froth, it won’t be easy.  I think this game is a slog, but I also think the Rams are remarkably worse than they’ve ever been, and I think we take this by a field goal to start 2-0.

San Francisco in week three.  Absolute pushovers from top to bottom.  Nothing about this team scares me.  I think we beat them by three touchdowns.

At New York, to play the Jets before our BYE week.  A lot of people have this down as a loss for the Seahawks.  I can see why.  You’ve got a cross-country trip and a 10am start.  You’ve got a team with an excellent defense, some strong weapons on offense, a savvy veteran quarterback, and one of the better up & coming head coaches in the NFL.  But, at the same time, I think you’ve got a team that doesn’t match up with us very well.  Sure, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but we’ve got one of the top secondaries in the league.  I think we easily shut down their passing attack, and just as easily shut down their mediocre rushing attack.  This game will depend on how well the Seahawks can move the football.  The Jets’ D-Line is ferocious, so it’ll be tough sledding for our O-Line.  They’ve also got Revis, but I think we have what it takes to beat him.  If he clamps down on Doug Baldwin, I think Tyler Lockett has a big game.  I also think the Seahawks take advantage of Kearse’s size in this one and he leads the team in receptions.  I also think our tight ends will be a huge factor, as Jimmy Graham should have played his way back into the #1 role.  It’ll be a dogfight, but I’m seeing something like 17-13, with the Seahawks on top.

Atlanta at home, after the BYE.  I just don’t think the Falcons are very good.  At all.  Matt Ryan has been a mistake-prone mess ever since Tony Gonzalez – his security blanket – retired, and ever since Roddy White’s aging body turned him into a nobody.  Sure, he’s still got Julio Jones – making Jones one of the most valuable receivers in the game, for fantasy purposes – but we’ve got Richard Sherman.  Beyond that, good fucking luck.  I think the Seahawks steamroll in this one by a good 2-3 touchdowns.

The next two weeks are at Arizona and at New Orleans.  The Arizona game is a Sunday Night game, the Saints game is a 10am start.  I think the Seahawks go 1-1 in this set of games, but I’m not going to commit to which game they win and which one they lose.  What does that mean?  Well, USUALLY it means I think the Seahawks will win the game they’re supposed to lose, and lose the game they’re supposed to win.  It’s probably idiotic, but even at Arizona’s best, we’ve been able to handle them pretty savagely on their home turf.  Combined with the fact that we’ll be out for revenge after they embarrassed us on Sunday Night in 2015, and the opinion that I secretly hold – which is that the Cards are due for some regression in 2016 – and I could see the Seahawks walking all over the Cards and solidifying our hold on first place in the division.  As for the Saints game, I’ve seen this one play out too many times before.  It reminds me of the Chargers game in 2014, the Lions game of 2012, and ESPECIALLY the Colts game of 2013.  They have a dominant offense, with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will put up 30+ points against us.  Meanwhile, we’ll probably make one too many mistakes on offense – against a shitty, but improved Saints defense – and gag it away at the end.  Saints 35-27, to put our record at 6-1.

Buffalo on Monday Night to close out the first half of our schedule.  This one should be another home walk-over.  We’ll be jacked up for a home Monday Night game, and the Bills – who have no experience in our environment – won’t know what to do with themselves.  7-1 to close out the first half.

At New England on Sunday Night to kick off the second half.  I try to run this game through any number of scenarios, and I just can’t find a way the Seahawks win, short of Tom Brady being injured.  Another cross-country trip.  All the hype from it being a Super Bowl XLIX rematch.  And, let’s face it, if any team is going to put into use the main strategy of beating the Seahawks – dink & dunk, then try the seams on double moves with their taller receivers – it’s the Patriots.  On the plus side, I think the Pats’ defense is much worse than two years ago.  So, if the Seahawks DO win this game, it’s almost certainly going to require this game being a shootout like last year’s Steelers game.  But, I don’t see that happening.  Patriots by a single score.

Home for Philly and another walkover.  You’ve got a team starting a rookie quarterback, but more than that, you’ve got a team clearly playing for next year.  They’re stocking up on draft picks and kicking out all the old players on the roster, compiled by Chip Kelly.  I don’t see this one being particularly close either.

At Tampa in yet another cross-country flight.  We really got hosed by playing the AFC East and NFC South (which are all pretty much in the East anyway).  This game strikes me as one of those traditional slow starters for the Seahawks.  I think we have to overcome a double-digit deficit, and perhaps have to win this one in overtime, just like the last time we played the Bucs, back in 2013 (except that game was in Seattle).  Ultimately, I think we have just enough to pull this nailbiter out.

Home for Carolina in another Sunday Night game.  If both teams are at full strength, we could be looking at the best game of the regular season.  I just love how these teams match up.  I also wonder how healthy Cam Newton will be, considering all the hits he took in last night’s game.  Will his recklessness in taking hits finally catch up to him?  I kinda, sorta have a feeling this game will come down to who’s actually playing, and for whatever reason I have a feeling Cam will be out for this game.  Either way, I like our chances at home, on Sunday Night, trying to rectify the disaster that was our 2015 season against the Panthers (going 0-2 in two games).  It’ll be a nailbiter, but Seahawks win.

At Green Bay in December.  I think this is another one of those games we’re supposed to lose, but in fact we turn the tables and steal one.  Is it weird for the Packers and their fans to hate Seattle more than teams in their own division?  Well, when we keep ruining their playoff hopes, I guess it’s not!

Home for the Rams and Cardinals the next two weeks.  I think we go 1-1 here too, and while I’m not yet ready to commit, I will say that I feel it’s more likely we beat the Rams and lose to the Cards.  I still think this is the year the Rams go 6-10 or 5-11 and Jeff Fisher gets fired.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Finally, at San Francisco to close it out.  If we’re playing for anything, I think we win easily.  If we’ve somehow got the #1 seed wrapped up, I think we let the kids get the majority of the snaps and probably lose it in the end.  Let’s just say we win and call it a day.

13-3, number one seed in the NFC, and an inside track for another Super Bowl.  This year, we get back to it, and this year we win the whole fuckin’ thing.  Mark it.

Predicting The 2016 NFL Season

Still my favorite post of the year!  Still don’t care how wrong I am!  Still got love for the streets, repping 253!  Still not loving police!  And so on and so forth …

Last year, I had the Seahawks over the Colts in the Super Bowl.  I got something like 2 division winners right, and maybe only half of the playoff participants.  And I had some MIND-BOGGLING picks, like the Rams & Lions & Dolphins in the Wild Card, and the Chiefs over the Broncos and Ravens over the Bengals as division winners.  In short, it was all bad; so let’s try to do better.  As usual, I’ll refrain from predicting actual records, and just list the teams in order of where they’ll finish in the standings in their respective divisions.

NFC East

Washington
NY Giants
Dallas
Philadelphia

I got the Redskins on a big ol’ come-up!  Mostly because I think Scot McCloughan is a roster genius and has turned around every franchise he’s put his hands on.  Their offense improved greatly over the course of the 2015 season and should play well going forward as long as Cousins stays healthy.  I think they’ll find just enough on defense to stay in games.  And, I think the Cowboys and ESPECIALLY the Eagles will be pretty bad this year.  Gods and clods in this division, as I have the Giants taking the next step and returning to the playoffs as a wild card.  I figure 9-7 should be good enough in this NFC to nab a 6th seed.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

You hate to put all your hopes on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, but that’s essentially what I’m doing with the Vikings this year.  Granted, I don’t think he’s great, but I think he is good at limiting mistakes and playing within the flow of the offense.  With the team around him, I think he’s worth an extra 1-2 wins over his counterparts (in this case, Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford).  I just think Hill is doomed to get hurt at some point, and Bradford has the misfortune of not having practiced with the team all offseason.  Both guys are clear steps down compared to Bridgewater, which I think relegates this team to 7 or 8 wins at most.  That puts Green Bay in the driver’s seat by default, and a real contender for the top two spots in the NFC.  I like Detroit to play good offense and poor defense, and I like Chicago to play good defense and poor offense.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
New Orleans
Atlanta

This feels remarkably easy, but Carolina is simply the most complete team in the division, period.  I think the Bucs take a big step forward this year – especially on offense – and I think they contend for that 6th seed, but I think they ultimately fall short on tie-breakers.  I don’t expect much out of Atlanta’s offense again this year, and I think their defense is considerably worse.  I think the Saints do enough on offense to win some games they should lose, but ultimately they need to do too much on defense to be competitive this year.  Maybe 2017.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

This is the homer coming out in me.  By all rights, the Cardinals should repeat as division champs – they’re just as good as they were last year, if not better in certain areas, AND they have the easier schedule, by dodging Tom Brady and playing the Vikings instead of the Packers – but I just think the Seahawks are hungrier.  I also think the Seahawks are going to get off to a really hot start this year.  Combine that with the fact that Palmer is due for another devastating injury (with the outside chance that his psyche never recovers from that playoff dismantling by the Panthers last year), and let’s just say I’m hedging my bets by having the Cards make the wild card at something like 10-6.

Not for nothing, but I also think the Rams take a HUGE step back this year.  I think the 49ers shock some people – as they have the most negative hype I’ve seen in recent memory – and I think the Rams do so poorly that they have no choice but to fire Jeff Fisher and company (in spite of his recent contract extension).  I just think they can’t afford to waste Goff’s prime on a nothing coaching staff and will look to shake things up by bringing in the hottest offensive coordinator on the market this upcoming offseason (whoever that may be).

AFC East

New England
Buffalo
NY Jets
Miami

Keep picking the Pats until the end of time!  You want a shocker (and the clubhouse leader for the pick I’m likeliest to get wrong)?  I got Buffalo FINALLY breaking their streak as the team with the longest playoff drought!  I like Tyrod Taylor a lot, I like a desperate Rex Ryan, and I like how nobody’s giving this team a shot.  I think 9-7 (with tiebreakers) does it.  I don’t think Fitzpatrick has another year like 2015 in him, and he proves why paying guys like him $12 million per year is a fool’s errand.  I think Tannehill improves with Adam Gase as his head coach, but I don’t think it’s enough, as this team is pretty weak and unimpressive in most areas outside of the D-Line.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

I like Roethlisberger to stay mostly healthy and put up huge numbers again.  I like the defense to do just enough, but the offense to ultimately carry them.  I think Andy Dalton takes a step back without Hue Jackson holding his hand.  I think Baltimore improves, but only to the 7 or 8-win range.  And, I think Cleveland gets another Top 5 draft pick to throw onto the pile.  Ultimately, I think the Bengals fall short of making the playoffs, with potential coaching casualties following.

AFC South

Houston
Jacksonville
Indianapolis
Tennessee

I think Brock Osweiler is a VAST improvement over all the QBs Houston had on their roster last year, and with the talent around him (particularly Lamar Miller’s breakout year), and that defense behind him, is enough to get them to 10 or 11 wins.  The key for Osweiler is to limit turnovers.  If he can do that (the way Hoyer & Co. could not), the sky is the limit for this team.  I like Jacksonville to take a big step forward and really contend for a wild card spot, but I think they’re probably another year away.  I’m also concerned about Bortles regressing, but I’ll avoid that conversation for now, as I’m counting on him in Fantasy to lead me to glory this year and beyond.  I think Indy is a trainwreck, and no amount of Andrew Luck will be able to carry this team to the playoffs, in what is a vastly improved division.  I think the Titans give the Colts a run for their money, but ultimately fall just short (because the Titans have garbage coaching, and no weapons on offense outside of TE).

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I like the Chiefs for 12 wins and one of the top 2 seeds.  I like Oakland to be the team to make the jump into the other Wild Card spot.  I like Denver for about 8 wins (never thought their defense alone would be enough to carry them back into the post-season).  And, I like the Chargers to be playing in a city outside of San Diego in 2017.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. NY Giants

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I like the Seahawks because I’m a homer, and I like the Packers over the other three teams because I think they have the most favorable schedule (AFC South & NFC East are the divisions they have to play, while catching Seattle, Houston, Indy, and the Giants at home, and playing garbage Atlanta thanks to their 2nd place divisional schedule).

I like New England because they’re New England.  I like the Chiefs because I think they’re balanced and poised to take that next step.

Wild Card Round

Washington over NY Giants
Carolina over Arizona
Houston over Buffalo
Oakland over Pittsburgh

Divisional Round

Seattle over Carolina
Green Bay over Washington
New England over Oakland
Kansas City over Houston

Championship Round

Seattle over Green Bay
Kansas City over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Kansas City

What can I say?  I like me some Seahawks, and I like me some Super Bowls against AFC West opponents!

Doug Baldwin Signed His Extension

4 years, $46 million, to keep Doug Baldwin locked down through the 2020 season.

$24 million is guaranteed, including his entire 2017 salary and half of his 2018 salary.  So, at the very least (because I know this is what people like to think about as soon as a contract is signed – how soon can we break out of it?), figure Baldwin’s status with the team is safe at least through the 2018 season.  But, assuming his production remains where it has been, it’s pretty safe to say Baldwin will be a Seahawk for Life.

It’s impressive that this is one of the top 7 or 8 richest contracts for a wide receiver in the league today.  Which gets me to wondering:  what are people thinking about this deal outside of the bubble of Seattle?  Obviously, as Seahawks fans, I think you have to love the deal.  WE know the true value of someone like Doug Baldwin.  He’s not a guy who’s going to get 50 million targets like Antonio Brown or Julio Jones.  Baldwin’s eliteness doesn’t come with 10 force-fed targets per game.  Indeed, until his supernatural run in the second half of last season, where – starting with the Arizona game – he caught 12 of his 14 touchdowns, and 724 of his 1,069 yards, Doug Baldwin is the LAST name you’d want to see on your fantasy football team!

Baldwin’s value is in how he does more with less.  His efficiency is tops in the game today.  Stick him in Tom Brady’s offense, and he’d put up better numbers than Wes Welker in his prime.  Stick him in San Diego, Green Bay, or pair him with Chip Kelly and any competent QB, and you’d see a guy making many multiple Pro Bowls on his way to a Hall of Fame career.  His proficiency in the slot is top notch, but his versatility to line up anywhere and catch passes anywhere is truly what sets him apart.  When you tack on the Jerry Rice work ethic and his intangible leadership qualities, as a Seahawks fan I can tell you that 4 years and $46 million is a bargain.

But, what does the rest of the nation think?  I’d be curious.  I think the more in touch commentators trust he’s a perfect fit in this system.  But, I have to believe, deep down, the vast majority of the football-viewing public saw this deal and laughed their asses off.  Not that it matters!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not THAT insecure.  But, I think I’d like to see their faces over the next few years, as Baldwin is firmly entrenched in his prime, with this unequivocally being Russell Wilson’s team – understanding that the mentality will always be run-first, but let’s face it, you don’t keep a cherry red Corvette locked up in storage only to drive it three times a year – the numbers Baldwin will put up will be astonishing.  If Baldwin doesn’t finally make a Pro Bowl in the next four years, I’ll be legitimately shocked.

This deal ensures Baldwin will go down as the second-greatest receiver in franchise history.  Which is appropriate.  He’s already in the top 10 in franchise history in most important figures, and he’s only been here for 5 seasons.  Just imagine where he’ll be when you DOUBLE the number of seasons!  Especially if he takes off, like I think he can.

The Seahawks’ Schedule Was Released, Everyone!

A sense of dread is the only appropriate feeling heading into the hours leading up to the NFL releasing its schedule.  “How will the NFL fuck us over THIS year?”  Early BYE week?  Too many 10am starts?  Too many road primetime games?  Get saddled with playing too many teams coming off of their own BYE weeks?  Long road trips?  Back-to-back trips to the East Coast?

The appropriate response to seeing your team’s schedule ranges from pure, unadulterated rage (on the bad side), to wincing, cautious relief (on the best side).  This year, I’m more or less happy to report that I feel closer to relief than rage.  And I want to believe it’s NOT just because everyone I follow on Twitter seemed to like it.

  • Week 1 – vs. Miami, 1:05pm
  • Week 2 – @ Los Angeles, 1:05pm
  • Week 3 – vs. San Francisco, 1:05pm
  • Week 4 – @ New York Jets, 10am
  • Week 5 – BYE
  • Week 6 – vs. Atlanta, 1:25pm
  • Week 7 – @ Arizona, 5:30pm
  • Week 8 – @ New Orleans, 10am
  • Week 9 – vs. Buffalo, Monday Night
  • Week 10 – @ New England, 5:30pm
  • Week 11 – vs. Philadelphia, 1:25pm
  • Week 12 – @ Tampa Bay, 1:05pm
  • Week 13 – vs. Carolina, 5:30pm
  • Week 14 – @ Green Bay, 1:25pm
  • Week 15 – vs. Los Angeles, 5:30pm
  • Week 16 – vs. Arizona, 1:25pm
  • Week 17 – @ San Francisco, 1:25pm

Immediate reaction:  I don’t hate it!  Only two 10am starts.  Only one set of back-to-back road games.  Doesn’t appear to be as front-loaded with difficult opponents like last year.  Yeah, the Week 5 BYE sucks, but I’m always going to hate where the BYE week falls.  There should be one designated BYE week for every football team, smack dab in the middle of the season, so it’s fair for everyone.  Since that’s literally NEVER going to happen, and they apparently have this aversion to lumping them all into a 4-week period in the middle of the season, we get what we get.

We knew the teams we were going to play long before this.  We also knew which teams we’d play at home and which we’d play on the road.  This just lines them up in the correct order.  So, you know, we always KNEW that the tougher opponents would be on the road (not counting divisional opponents, we’re talking about the Jets, the Patriots, the Packers, and MAYBE the Bucs).  The only good break for the Seahawks is getting Carolina at home; but the rest of the home slate looks pretty easy.

I mean, you tell me, would you rather play the Pats and Jets at home (with the Bills and Dolphins on the road), or vice versa?

Anyway, if you believe, like I do, that Miami will be pushovers, then we should get off to a good start to the season.  If you believe, like I do, that the Seahawks are fundamentally better than the Rams, then it should be no problem to beat them on the road, Jeff Fisher or no Jeff Fisher (also, not for nothing, LOVE having the Rams back in L.A., and having one less 10am start every season!).  If you believe, like I do, that the 49ers are a fucking trainwreck, then YAY, the Seahawks will start the season 3-0!  The only thing stopping us from a perfect run headed into the BYE week is a road trip to New Jersey to play the Jets.  Will they have Ryan Fitzpatrick back at quarterback?  Even if they do, are they any good?  Or was their winning record last year padded by a shit schedule?  If you believe, like I do, that the Seahawks are also fundamentally better than the Jets, then the Seahawks have no one to blame but themselves if they’re not 4-0 headed into the BYE.

Atlanta is like Miami, in that they’re a couple of those middle-of-the-road teams.  I like catching them both at home, if for nothing else than we avoid two INSANELY long flights to the southeast.  The Seahawks SHOULD beat Atlanta to go to 5-0 and get off to their best start, maybe ever.  That leads us to road games against Arizona and New Orleans.  To be on the safe side, let’s say the Seahawks go 1-1 in those games (odds are, we lose the Arizona one, even though we’ve handled them pretty well on the road in recent years).  That gets us to 6-1 with a Monday night showdown against the Bills, which is an interesting choice, I guess, but don’t you remember when Monday Night Football had marquee matchups?  Don’t you wish we’d get more divisional games on Monday Night, instead of these oddball pairings?  I dunno, maybe it’s inspired.  I like Tyrod Taylor a lot, and I suppose we’re going to get 50,000 comparisons to him and Russell Wilson, since they’re both from the same area growing up.  But, in the end, it’s probably a Seahawks walkover.

Which gets us to 7-1 and my Lock of the Year.  Following our Monday night game, we go on the road to play the Patriots the following Sunday night.  The Patriots, it just so happens, will be coming off of a BYE week the week before (the only such instance on the Seahawks’ schedule, so I guess that’s not too bad).  But, it’s in their stadium, and you know how they like to sabotage opponents with their headset communications and in their locker rooms and whatnot.  Don’t think for a minute that the Seahawks are going to overcome all of that – AND, ohbytheway, it’s also a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX, so get ready to see The Play over and over and over again in the days leading up to the game, as well as all throughout the game itself.  If the Seahawks don’t lose this game, I’ll eat my hat (with the caveat being that I assume Tom Brady will be healthy for this game, otherwise, all bets are off).  This game is just going to be the worst; I almost don’t even want to watch it.

Once we get over this hump, though, we’ll be 7-2 and headed into the home stretch of the season.  Host Philly the next week, they should be pushovers.  At Tampa Bay has the potential to be a struggle, but they still feel like a year or two away.  Hosting Carolina will be huge – as you have to expect both the Panthers and the Seahawks will be in the running for the top seed in the NFC – but I like our chances to finally get back at them after losing twice in the 2015 season.  At Green Bay will be tough.  It’s in December, so the weather could factor in.  The Packers are always tough at home.  Probably count that one as a loss, to put us at 10-3.  Then, we host L.A. and Arizona in back to back weeks, and you know I like us at home.  With the 49ers on the road being just a cakewalk, I’m looking at a 13-3 season!  We’ll see how my feelings change in the ensuing months, but if you promised me a 13-3 season right now, I’d gladly shake your hand and say, “You’ve got a deal!”

Why Russell Wilson Is One Of The Four Best Quarterbacks In The NFL Right Now

This post is going to be COMPLETELY subjective and COMPLETELY drenched in my homerizzm, but I don’t care.

I think Russell Wilson is pretty great at football.  If you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably agree.  I also think we’re just scratching the surface of Russell Wilson’s greatness.  Based on the second half of his 2015 season, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably also agree.

Why do I think Russell Wilson is one of the four best quarterbacks in the NFL?  It’s quite simple:  I can’t think of more than three quarterbacks in the league for whom I’d be willing to trade our franchise guy.  For the sake of this exercise, I should point out that I’m including age and experience in this thing, but I’m not really all that focused on the size of the contract or anything like that.  This is a simple one-for-one swap:  would I rather have Russell Wilson for however many remaining years of his career (probably well over 10 more years, if everything goes well health-wise), or would I rather have Player X?  It’s not as simple as:  you have one year, who is your starting quarterback?  It’s also not as simple as:  who had the best 2015 season?  This is, going forward, who would you be willing to have start for your team in place of Russell Wilson?

Also, for the sake of argument, let’s forget about all the growing pains of bringing in a new guy, having him learn the system, having him build a rapport with the players, and so on.  Let’s just assume, whoever you trade for, will know our system and will get along with the players as well as Wilson has.

To fulfill the “experience” and “quality” requirements, I chopped off over half of the league’s starters from last year.  None of the 2016 rookies interest me whatsoever when compared to Wilson.  Guys like Bortles, Mariota, and Winston are all very interesting, but they’re obviously not at the level of quality or experience that Wilson has.  Tyrod Taylor is another interesting name, but I’m going to need more than 14 games started before I can take you seriously as a Wilson replacement.  Osweiler is yet another interesting name, who’s had many years backing up a hall of famer, but only in 2015 was given the opportunity to start real, regular season games.  Carr, with the Raiders, is the last of the young’uns I left off of my list.  He looks every part the gunslinger that team has desperately needed for ages, but I just can’t quite put trust in any belief that his ceiling is higher than Wilson’s until I’ve seen it first.

The next group of candidates have the experience, but are lacking in the quality department, and have been left off for what I feel are obvious reasons.  Foles, Kaepernick/Gabbert, Cutler, Stafford, Bradford, Alex Smith, Dalton, Flacco, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, and anyone else I didn’t list above, who deserve to remain nameless because they suck.  I may get blowback on guys like Dalton, Stafford, and maybe even Cutler, but those guys have showed me absolutely nothing outside of a season here and there.  They can’t consistently stay out of their own way and they tend to shit the bed when it matters most.  To be honest, Joe Flacco is probably my favorite of this bunch; I think he’d fit in quite well with what the Seahawks like to do on offense (run the ball, play action deep passes), but there’s no way in hell I’m trading Wilson for him.

That brings me to the realistic candidates.  Quarterbacks who have the ability to play at an elite level, but for various reasons I’d rather not give up Wilson for them.  Let’s start with Tom Brady, because that’s obviously the name everyone puts at or near the top of any list of the world’s best quarterbacks.  Yes, obviously, if I had one season and I wanted to win a championship, I’d consider trading Wilson for Brady.  But, Brady is going to be 39 years old this August.  While he’s still playing at an elite level this deep into his career, how many more years can you reasonably expect him to squeeze out, let alone at that aforementioned elite level?  Two?  MAYBE three?  Remember, at age 37, Peyton Manning had the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of the game.  Two seasons later, it looks like he’s played his last down.  I’m not trading upwards of a decade or more of Russell Wilson for 1-2 more quality Brady years, sorry-not-sorry (people still say that, right?).

Same story for Brees.  He’s got a lot of mileage and I’m not wasting a guy in his prime for a guy who will be out of the league soon.

Next up, I’m going to lump in guys like Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Of all the quarterbacks playing today, Roethlisberger might be playing at the highest level (doesn’t hurt he’s got the weapons he’s got).  But, all three of these guys are injury risks, which makes them older – in an NFL sense – than their actual ages.  All are quality passers, but I just don’t think I’d ever trade Wilson for them.

Then, there’s Eli.  He’s started every single game for the Giants since the start of the 2005 season; no injury concerns there.  He’s going into his age 35 season, so you figure if things continue to go as well as they have, he’s probably got another good 5 years or so.  I just don’t think, as a quarterback, he’s as good as Wilson (and that’s not even taking into account my opinion that Wilson will only get better as these next few years go on).  Matt Ryan is another guy who’s been pretty durable, and when he’s got a good team around him, he’s shown he’s a franchise guy.  But, like Eli, I don’t think Ryan is nearly the calibre of passer as Wilson.  I mean, let’s face it, Wilson has done a lot of good with what’s been a pretty poor pass-protection unit.  Ryan falls apart at the first instance of pressure!  No thank you.

Philip Rivers is the last guy in this section, and he’s one I honestly sort of agonized over.  He’s been on some pretty terrible and injury-riddled teams of late.  One wonders what he’d be able to do on a legitimately great team like the Seahawks.  He can go out and win you a shoot-out if need be.  He can slow it down and play the high-percentage, short passing game.  He’s not that mobile, but he’s lightning-quick in his decision-making.  My only knock against him is that he tends to be a little too reckless with the football.  Not as bad as Cutler, or some of these other guys lower on the list, but it’s still a concern.  He’ll also be 35 years old by season’s end this year, so there’s fewer seasons to look forward to with him, compared to Wilson.

Of the players I feel are of equal or greater value to Wilson, I can count only three.

Andrew Luck is a guy I think, when it’s all said and done, will be a Hall of Famer.  He needs to learn to get hit less on his scrambles, but it would also help if he had a better offensive line (Indy’s line makes Seattle’s look like the Hogs from the 80s).  I still see a long and fruitful career for Luck; don’t forget, he’s largely been carrying that team with not a lot of talent around him.  Imagine what he’d do on a stacked Seahawks team!  Right now, I’d probably rank Wilson ahead of Luck, but I wouldn’t be totally devastated if they were swapped straight up.

Next up, obviously, when you talk about the world’s greatest quarterbacks, you’re talking about Aaron Rodgers.  A-Rod will be 33 years old by season’s end, but who gives a shit?  He’s another Hall of Famer, and another guy who should play into his 40s when all is said and done.  I think, until Wilson really starts to pour it on (i.e. turns the second half of his 2015 season into many multiple FULL seasons in the future), you have to rank A-Rod ahead of him.  Even though I think he’s a collosal douche, I’d trade Wilson for him straight up.

Finally, there’s Cam.  No one wants to hear it, because everyone outside of Carolina hates Cam (and/or spends way too much time defending him when he acts like an immature little crybaby), but the dude is a straight-up baller, and not just with his legs (although, it doesn’t hurt that he’s so good running with the football).  One wonders how his body will handle all the hits long-term, but I think his running ability will last a lot longer than Wilson’s (who I feel will slide into more of a pocket passer role the more he gets comfortable reading pre-snap defenses).  Like Luck, I don’t know if Cam is necessarily BETTER than Wilson, but he’s certainly on par, and he’s young enough, and he’s carried sub-par teams to winning records/playoff appearances for multiple seasons.  From a fan standpoint, I’d probably prefer Luck to Cam, but from strictly a player standpoint, I think I could be talked into taking Cam over Luck.  Talk to me again in a year or two and that statement might look batshit crazier than it already does, but that’s how I feel right now, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate (if it wasn’t already clear) that I think Russell Wilson is great and I don’t necessarily want to trade him for anyone in the league.  But, if I HAD to, I’d only accept A-Rod, Cam, or Luck, in that order.  Anyone else, I feel, would be beneath what Russell Wilson has to offer over the course of the rest of his career in this league.

Why Aren’t The Seahawks In The Super Bowl?

If you read that title like I’m four years old, it makes the bulk of this post very different.  For some kids around that age, you seriously got to wonder:  why aren’t they letting my team play this weekend?  I DON’T GET IT!!!  *throws tantrum, runs away screaming and slamming doors*

It does kinda suck, though.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I really got used to spending these weeks leading up to the Super Bowl reading all about how great my team is.  And writing about how great my team is.  And just generally basking in the glow that is being a participant in the biggest annual spectacle in the entire world (even if it’s just from a fan’s perspective).  You get to look back at the season that was, while at the same time knowing there’s still one game left to play that will determine whether or not your team is the best.  You get to look forward to the game itself, breaking it down piece by piece, trying to get a handle on whether or not your team will come out victorious.

Two years of that.  Two straight years of being one of the last teams to play a meaningful game of football.  But, this year, we’re heading into Super Bowl week on the outside looking in.

And, not for nothing, but it absolutely sickens me to my core.  I try not to think about this, because it WILL drive me absolutely bonkers, but come on:  the Seahawks would KILL this Broncos team, almost as badly as we killed them two years ago!  Fucking A, is the AFC a weak-ass bullshit conference!  You think Peyton Manning’s noodle arm is going to pick us apart?  If he couldn’t do it at his peak two years ago, what makes you think he could do it now when he’s about a week away from announcing his retirement?  And their defense?  Pardon me if I don’t crap myself with terror!  No doubt, over two weeks of prep, we’d find a way to get the job done.

ARGH!  ARGH I SAY!  If the Seahawks could have only showed up in the first half of that Carolina game, we would have gone on to Arizona – who we would’ve handled easily, especially considering Carson Palmer’s messed-up thumb – and we’d be looking at a third straight Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened since those early-70s Dolphins teams those early-90s Bills teams!

Gotta stop.  Gotta put that agony away and focus on the reality of the world we’re living in.  One where Cam Newton is less than a week away from having as many Super Bowl victories as Russell Wilson (and, odds are, infinitely more Super Bowl MVP awards).  Get ready for the Panthers to be our foil for the next decade, because it’s looking like them and the Seahawks will be the teams to beat in the NFC for this generation.

A question hit me over the weekend, that I thought I’d workshop here:  why didn’t we make the Super Bowl?  Answer:  because we lost in the playoffs.  But, why did we lose?

As has been the case since the Seahawks went on this run, and managed to win a world championship, I like to look at our place in history (as it’s happening).  The hope of hopes being that this team would be a dynasty, like so many great teams throughout NFL history.  The talent is there on the field, the talent is there in the coaching staff, the climate is right for a team to pick up where the Patriots are inevitably going to leave off.  Could THIS Seahawks team be ranked among the all time great dynasties?

Well, you’re going to need multiple Super Bowl titles for starters, something we’re still working on.  The worry, of course, is that we’ve somehow missed the boat.  Plenty of dynasties have had an off-year in the midst of their dynastic run; it’s entirely possible that the Seahawks return to form, seal up the NFC in 2016, and go on to take down a second Super Bowl victory against whatever bullshit gets squeezed out of the AFC’s butthole.

I guess, the question I’m looking to answer is:  was 2015 a temporary dip?  Some flaw that can be easily rectified before returning this team to its dominant glory days?  OR, has a team like the Panthers officially done enough to surpass us?  Are the Seahawks still on the cutting edge of the NFL?  Or, are we just another member of The Pack, looking up at the greatness that is whatever the hell they’re doing in Carolina?

That’s probably a little drastic, but it’s something my insecure brain lands on when confronted with two weeks of pre-Super Bowl build up and no Seahawks talk whatsoever.  We like to sit here in our Pacific Northwest bubble and celebrate the huge leap forward in Russell Wilson’s development, but it should be pretty scary to look over there and see the huge leap forward in Cam Newton’s development.  It’s hard to see in the numbers themselves; his year-to-year progression is a little wacky, and you could argue that Cam Newton is what he is and is what he has been all along.  He’s going to hover around 60% completions, around 4,000 passing yards, but he had a monster jump in passing TDs, as well as a career-low in interceptions.  Top that off with his usual bananas production in the running game, and you’ve got someone who will be a force for the rest of his career.  Even as his legs start to wear down (whenever that may be), he’s proven to be adept-enough in the pocket to lead his team to victories.  Oh, and let’s not forget, this year he probably had the fewest weapons in the passing game of any year in his career!  He lost his #1 receiver before the season even started, then went on to have probably the best year he’ll ever have!  Think about THAT!  Think about what that team would look like if they ever managed to draft an elite receiver like DeAndre Hopkins.  Or signed a receiver like Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason.  I may not like Cam Newton, but I respect the shit out of his game.

Is it Carolina, and not Seattle, who is the real dynasty of this decade?

God, perish the thought, but now it’s out there.  And, once they dismantle the Broncos just like we did a couple years ago, it’s going to be all anyone talks about this offseason.  So, have fun with that.

Ups & downs, strikes and gutters, these things happen.  I still believe the Seahawks are right there.  My biggest lament, and probably the main reason why we might not be the next New England Patriots, is that we don’t play in an insufferably weak division like the AFC East.  The Pats have had their run of things, in large part, because they don’t have to worry about being a Wild Card team, or going out on the road in the first round of the playoffs.  The Pats, with Brady and Belichick, will never know the struggle of going into the playoffs as a 6-seed and having to win out on the road against three caged tigers.  Usually, their schedule is easy-enough that they get to walk blindfolded into a top 2 seed, then they play some upstart, then they grapple with whatever team Peyton Manning is on (and, starting next year, I doubt they’ll even have Manning’s carcass to kick around anymore).  The Seahawks, on the other hand, have always had a Top 2-calibre team within their own division, a bevy of stout defenses to tangle with, and at least one other Top-2 calibre team somewhere else in the NFC to get past.  Next year looks to be no different, as long as Carson Palmer can remain upright.

So, the question is:  will Carolina continue to have the pathetically easy road a la New England?  Or, will their division mates finally start pulling their own weight?

You gotta like what Jameis Winston did in his rookie year.  Tampa could be frisky, if they ever get their shit together.  New Orleans probably has seen its best days; with Drew Brees aging out of the league any year now, they probably won’t be able to rebuild the roster around him before he retires (with the probability that they, in fact, end up trading Brees and go Full Rebuild from scratch).  Atlanta is the real enigma.  We all think that Dan Quinn is the real deal, but it’s just as likely that he’s not, especially if they don’t figure out how to make that defense better (and if they don’t provide Matt Ryan with the weapons on offense he so clearly needs).

It’s entirely possible that Carolina will dominate that division next season just as they did this one.  But, like the Seahawks, they’ll have to tangle with the NFC West next year (on the road to face the Rams and Seahawks, hosting the 49ers and Cards).  And, cherry on top, they play the most difficult division in the AFC next year in the AFC West (on the road in Denver & Oakland; hosting San Diego & Kansas City).  Odds are, even if they do as well in their own division as they did in 2015, they won’t come close to 15 regular season wins.

God, I seriously can’t wait for the 2016 NFL season to start.  August can’t come soon enough.

The Day Of A Thousand Seahawks Eulogies

Really, the only thing that can make this defeat any worse is staring down the barrel of yet another Manning vs. Brady showdown.  Time to avoid ESPN at all costs.

Yesterday couldn’t have gone any worse.  And yet, there we were, down a score, with a chance to kick an onside kick with a little over a minute to go.  Obviously, not an ideal scenario – not something you’re praying for going into a game like that.  But, after the way the Seahawks looked in the first half, it’s really all you could hope for.

I woke up yesterday with just the WORST feeling about the game.  I don’t know why.  I certainly didn’t expect Carolina to jump out to a 31-0 lead.  But, for some reason, I couldn’t help feel like we were in for a bad day.  Maybe it’s because just about every Seahawks fan thought this game was going to be a cakewalk.

For the record, my impressions after this game are 100% different than they were after last week.  In spite of the Vikings missing a chipshot field goal – and a VERY likely victory – I thought the Seahawks were the better team.  This week, I don’t think there’s any way you can say the Seahawks are a better team than Carolina.  We may have more talented players at certain positions, but as a team, the Panthers were better this year, and they showed us all why yesterday.

The Seahawks are flawed.  They’re not BAD, but they did take a bit of a step back in 2015, while at the same time sort of taking a step forward as well.  For as great as Russell Wilson has been in the second half of the season, he’s still prone to falling back to his old tricks when consistent pressure is getting to him.  That can be a good thing, like when he grabs an errant snap and turns it into a 35-yard gain against the Vikings.  But, it can also be bad, like when he holds onto the ball too long, trying to make something happen, and then gets dropped for a 10-yard loss when he had PLENTY of time to throw the ball away.  While I like the improved pocket play out of Wilson this year – and hope he builds on that in the years to come – it wouldn’t hurt to have him play a little smarter on some of those plays and look to live another day.

Of course, our Achilles heel the whole year reared its ugly head – especially in the first half – with poor offensive line play.  We couldn’t run, nor could we stop their pass rush between the tackles, and I think it’s pretty plain to see this team needs a major upgrade, really, at all five offensive line positions.

Moving along, I’d also say the 2015 Seahawks had some serious flaws on defense.  Yeah, I know, led the league in scoring and was second in yards.  Big deal.  The Seahawks made their hay against some really shitty offensive teams this year (Chicago, Detroit, Frisco twice, Baltimore, Minnesota, Dallas, Cleveland), and yet look at the point totals we gave up to these teams:

  • St. Louis – 34
  • Green Bay – 27
  • Cincinnati – 27
  • Carolina – 27
  • Arizona – 39
  • Pittsburgh – 30
  • St. Louis – 23
  • Carolina – 31

That’s four games where we gave up over 30 points; THIS is your elite defense?  Now, I get it, we’ve been spoiled.  We had one of the all-time greatest defenses in 2013, and it’s going to be hard to live up to that standard.  That defense made the good offenses look mediocre and the mediocre offenses look non-existent.  The 2015 Seahawks aren’t bad on defense, but you can’t say they haven’t taken a step back.  And, I’m sorry, but it’s obviously not all Cary Williams’ fault.

I thought Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and K.J. Wright really lived up to the standard they’ve set as pros.  Throw in Mebane and Rubin as well; those guys were phenomenal and – in spite of yesterday’s performance – the rush defense was no joke this season.  As for everyone else on that side of the ball, I don’t know what happened.  Maybe we’ll find out they were dealing with nagging injuries that prevented them from playing up to their abilities.  I saw a drop-off in the number of big plays by Earl Thomas.  I saw a HUGE drop-off in the number of big plays by Kam Chancellor.  I thought Bobby Wagner was okay, but he didn’t seem to have as many impact games as I’m used to.  Bruce Irvin never really popped, in spite of this being a contract year.

And, if you just look at this unit as a whole, I think something was really missing.  Too many breakdowns in coverage.  Too many guys WIDE OPEN.  You know teams are going to try to beat this defense with quick passing, so instead of playing so much zone, why not play more man-to-man, in hopes that it’ll give our ferocious defensive line enough time to pressure the quarterback?  One of the lesser talked-about aspects of this season is that Kris Richard is a rookie defensive coordinator.  He’s going to have his growing pains, just like anybody.  Hopefully, he’ll get his house in order and help this team get back to its old, punishing ways.

I don’t want it to sound like I’m just calling everybody out here.  I’m not angry with this team.  Just disappointed, like everyone is, with how the season ended.  There’s still A LOT to like about this team.  In the coming days, I’ll touch on that, as well as what this team needs to do to get better.  For today, I’m just going to wallow a little bit more, and then I’ll be okay.

One of the better aspects of losing the way we were losing yesterday – having the doors blown off in the first half – is that you can start preparing yourself for the inevitable that much sooner.  I’d lose like this a thousand times before I’d lose like we did in that Super Bowl again.  Which, of course, got me to thinking:  the decision to pass there on that final play is now DOUBLY atrocious, because we couldn’t come back and right that wrong this season.  Now, it’s been TWO years since our last Super Bowl victory.  And, a loss like yesterday’s – and a season like 2015’s – just goes to show you how difficult it is, not just WINNING a Super Bowl, but getting there in the first place.  We could’ve had 2 titles, and with that, losing to the Panthers wouldn’t feel quite as awful.  Instead, we have 1 title, and you can’t help but wonder if/when we might get another.

The Peak Seahawks Era looks to be coming to a close.  But, the Championship Window is still open (I just don’t think we’ll ever be quite as good as we’d been from 2012-2015).  Now, it’s time to go to work and rectify all that needs improving.

The Seattle At Carolina Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

Seattle/Carolina, that’s what’s up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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