How Many Titles Can We Expect From The Seahawks & Russell Wilson?

The NBA has obviously been on a lot of minds recently, with the Michael Jordan documentary (still haven’t seen it, still probably won’t see it) coming to a conclusion. When you think about the greatest players in NBA history – Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Shaq – you’re talking about guys with multiple championships (somehow, of the guys on that list, Bird has the fewest titles with three). One guy in the NBA can change things SO DRAMATICALLY for a franchise; you look at these players with their careers spanning 13-20 years and it would be fascinating to go back in time and be able to tell those fanbases: with this guy, you’re going to witness anywhere from 3-6 championships during his career.

It obviously doesn’t work that way in the NFL. The most important player is obviously the quarterback, and of the best all-time (since the merger in 1970), there have only been four NFL quarterbacks who’ve won more than 2 titles: Tom Brady (6), Joe Montana (4), Terry Bradshaw (4), and Troy Aikman (3) (I don’t count Steve Young here, because he was only the starter for one of his three championships).

For what it’s worth, you see A LOT of guys with 2: Peyton Manning, John Elway, Roger Staubach, Ben Roethlisberger; A LOT of guys with 1: Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Ken Stabler, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees; and A LOT of guys with 0: Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Philip Rivers.

In the middle of all of that, we have Russell Wilson with his one championship (the same number as Patrick Mahomes, probably the only quarterback most people would take over Russell Wilson if they had to start a franchise right now and could pick any player). Wilson is smack dab in the middle of his prime; he was the best he’s ever been in 2019, and we can expect right around that level of effectiveness for the next few years at least. He still hasn’t even surpassed 10 years in the league yet! And quarterbacks nowadays can play 20+ years.

But, it’s SO. FUCKING. HARD to win a championship in the NFL. Even for the very best players in the league! So much harder than it is for the very best NBA players. Which makes it reasonable to ask: how many more championships can we expect from Russell Wilson while he’s still in a Seahawks uniform? If Future Steven were to come back in time from 15 years down the line, how many Super Bowl titles would he be able to tell me I have to look forward to?

Odds are that number is ZERO! Odds are, I’ll have up to 15 more years with Russell Wilson (at the MOST; probably closer to only 10 more years) and I will see zero more championships for the Seattle Seahawks in that span. That feels just so damned demoralizing to think about, but that’s the nature of the beast. The Tom Bradys of the world are a once-in-a-generation breed. Wilson has played eight seasons; by this point in Brady’s career, he’d already won three championships. Montana had won twice. Bradshaw had also won twice and Aikman had nabbed all three of his. Wilson, again, just the one (and we’re all super-impressed that he’s already been to the Super Bowl a second time, but that fakakta play-call at the goalline obviously screwed the pooch).

I’m a firm believer that Russell Wilson will – when it’s all said and done – have a Hall of Fame career under his belt. That’s why I’m talking about him among these other all-time greats. I’m almost assuredly biased, but I think Wilson is a better player than all of those QBs I mentioned above who have one or fewer championships. I would like to think Wilson is among the elite level that Manning and Elway reached, which means I would HOPE he has at least one more title in him before he hangs ’em up.

If I’m right, then I think it’s reasonable to expect another Seahawks championship at some point in the next decade. Obviously, it’s unfair to put all of that on one guy; this is the NFL after all, there are 50+ other players on the team that need to pitch in to make this thing work. But, make no mistake, the quarterback gets all the credit and all the blame for a reason. The all-time greats find a way to come up big in the biggest moments. If Russell Wilson aims to be lumped in that category, then he’s going to need to find a way to take this team on his back and will them to victory.

I’ll say this: he’s on the right track. You can complain about play-calling and how the coaching staff is hamstringing him, but this is the organization we’ve got, and they’ve proven they can win in this league with their system. We’re not the Kansas City Chiefs, we’re not the New England Patriots; we’re the Seattle Fucking Seahawks, and Russell Wilson is being put in situations to succeed nearly every year. And, quite frankly, we haven’t been able to get it done in recent seasons. We haven’t been able to win enough regular season games to take the NFC West and lock down one of the top seeds in the conference, and we haven’t played our best on the road in these playoff games. At some point, we have to talk about Russell Wilson the way we talk about all of the other all-time greats, and stop making excuses. As everyone else needs to be better, so does Russell Wilson. Yes, he’s the best thing going for the Seahawks right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be better!

All I know is, I don’t want to wake up this time in 2030 and see the same number of championships next to Russell Wilson’s name. The clock is ticking. Yes, the Seahawks need to take advantage of Wilson’s prime, but you know who else does? Russell Wilson.

I’m Glad That Tony Romo Is Staying With CBS

I feel like the best-case scenario for the vast majority of sports announcers & color commentators is for me to not know who the fuck you are. If I don’t know your name, that means you’re fine. You bring to the game what I expect to be brought, without annoying me or otherwise getting in the way.

And, I would say the vast majority of these people – across all sports, at least from a national perspective (there’s just no getting into the weeds on the broadcast crews working for individual teams; those people are generally nuts) – are just that: they’re fine. Nondescript. Workmanlike.

Then, there are the outliers, and they land on both sides: there are the truly abysmal, and there are the truly great. These are the guys whose names you know, for one reason or the other.

I should probably point out at some point that this is obviously a matter of opinion. My opinion is going to differ from yours, and that’s okay. I’m not trying to change your mind; you don’t have to feel like you need to change mine. I’m not making an argument here and presenting facts to try to say that one guy is the best …

(for what it’s worth, that argument has been over for a while now; Gus Johnson is the best sports broadcaster and it’s not even close. FIGHT ME YOU GOONS!)

I’m just saying that I like Tony Romo as a color guy for the NFL. I think he’s entertaining, I like that he’s energetic and excited about what’s going on, I think he brings a lot of insight you don’t get from a lot of other guys in his position, and I’m generally intrigued by his working relationship with Jim Nantz (who I also greatly admire). Are they really friends? Do they even speak a single word to one another when the mics aren’t on? I can’t tell and it’s driving me crazy!

There were rumors that ESPN was looking to poach Romo away, which would’ve been a complete disaster. If it’s to be a roving analyst on their various shows (Sportscenter and whatnot), that sucks because I never watch those shows. If it was to be in the booth for Monday Night Football, that’s just as bad! MNF is a wasteland! The matchups are usually terrible, there’s no way to flex them out, and by Monday I’m usually footballed-out unless the Seahawks are involved.

In fact, I don’t watch Monday OR Thursday Night Football unless the Seahawks are playing; I have to go to bed early for work, so it just isn’t convenient for me (plus, nothing ever seems to go right for my fantasy football team on these nights, so I’d rather avoid it altogether if that’s all right with you). I’ll watch the Sunday Night game sometimes, depending on the matchup (and for the record, Michaels and Collinsworth are my favorite duo working today).

But, I ALWAYS watch the Sunday morning and afternoon games, regardless of who’s playing or how bad the matchup is. And, since the Seahawks are usually on FOX, whatever ends up on CBS either needs to be compelling football, or the announcers need to keep my interest somehow. Tony Romo does that for me.

It’s not football season anymore, so my mind is a little rusty. But, I like Nantz & Romo and Buck & Aikman about the same; they’re all great and the #1 teams for their respective networks for a reason. Beyond them and the NBC guys, I’d say everyone else is fine.

I thought it was funny on the Brock & Salk podcast this week, Salk talking about how he liked Phil Simms and Booger McFarland, because I’m sorry, but I’m out. I think Simms is great on the pre-game/halftime panel, but I don’t need 3 hours of Simms every week. That “Better in Small Doses” theme extends to someone like Bill Walton, who could probably hang ’em up at any point now and I’d be okay with it. No one’s ever going to top Tim McCarver, though, for just the dumbest, most annoying announcer of my entire life.

Anyway, I just thought I’d show my appreciation for not having my Sundays ruined for the next decade (maybe that’s overkill, but they would’ve definitely taken some sort of a hit). Long Live Tony Romo At CBS!

The Seahawks Released Doug Baldwin & Kam Chancellor

The Kam news was expected. It wasn’t a matter of If, but When. Kam was never going to play football again, and after 2019 there’s no more dead money associated with his contract due to injury guarantees, so the team could finally move on from the future Ring of Honor safety.

The Doug news was somewhat expected, but much more startling. I thought we might’ve had more time, maybe letting things sit until Training Camp. See how he recovers from his latest treatment and if that comes with a possible change of heart. Sure, the reports – from both league sources and the team itself – sounded pretty definitive. And, sure, the Seahawks went out and drafted three new receivers to add to the pile – including John Ursua in the 7th round (who looks to be the type of receiver we’d bring in to take Doug’s place in the slot) – which was a clear indicator that the team was readying itself to move on. But, there was always the hope that Doug might come back at some point. Miracles do happen. Athletes of his calibre tend to heal much faster than mortal men; and the sheer will of Doug’s determination could see him taking the field for one more go-around.

But, this move effectively puts that to bed.

Which makes sense. There’s no point in carrying his contract on our cap, when we’re talking about someone who might be hanging it up. I won’t rule out a Marshawn Lynchian return somewhere else, after a year off to heal up I’d imagine, but it certainly won’t be with the Seahawks.

It’s a tough blow we all saw coming. The Seahawks are seriously going to miss him. Doug Baldwin truly is the best receiver this team has had since Steve Largent retired. No, the numbers won’t get him anywhere near the Hall of Fame, but as usual the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Doug Baldwin was one of the five best receivers in the league, period. His hands, his route running, his ability to shake off defenders and get open, his intuition with Russell Wilson; we always call our quarterback a wizard, but I would argue Doug made just as many mind-blowing plays. Having him on the field during crucial third downs and in the fourth quarter was the ultimate security blanket. Our offense has suffered immensely when he’s been out; there’s no way we’ll be able to replace him in 2019. The most we can hope for is one of the young guys panning out, but even that’s a lot to ask.

It’s a hard day for Seahawks fans. More and more, the holdovers from our Super Bowl teams are dwindling. I’d always hoped for Doug and Russ to be this team’s version of Rice and Young, or Irvin and Aikman. While they certainly had that kind of rapport, we’re most likely not even halfway through Wilson’s career and he’ll be looking for his next Go-To Target.

Maybe that’s Lockett, but I just can’t see his role changing all that much. Lockett is an outside receiver and our primary speed/deep threat. While he’ll figure to get the lion’s share of targets going forward, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he just slides into the slot and we move on. It’s going to be a true team effort to replace Baldwin; here’s hoping we have the guys to get it done.

The Seahawks Will Keep Losing Until They Stop

I’m torn this week.  On the one hand, I feel committed to this bit I started where I’m picking against the Seahawks until they prove to me they’re capable of actually winning a football game.  On the other hand, the Seahawks are at home, and I feel like they actually match up pretty well against the Cowboys this Sunday.

There’s a lot of toxicity around the Seahawks and their fanbase this week after a pretty embarrassing road defeat to the Bears on Monday Night.  We’re not used to this.  Not since Russell Wilson joined the team, anyway.  The Seahawks have been consistent winners!  This is uncharted territory, albeit probably not totally unexpected given all of our pre-season reservations.  8-8 teams lose on the road to other 8-8 teams.  By the same token, they usually win at home against other 8-8 teams.  Dallas is an 8-8 type team.

But, I’ve gotta say, if I pick the Seahawks and they lose, I’ll be FURIOUS with myself for going against my stated pledge!

Make no mistake, while I’ve picked against the Seahawks in the first two weeks, I was absolutely rooting for them.  It’s one of those no-lose situations where either my pick comes through, or it doesn’t but my team is happy.  But, at some point, you gotta stop riding the fence, you know?  Either you hop on the bandwagon or you run away screaming; but just walking beside the bandwagon isn’t a viable long-term solution.

The Reasons Why The Cowboys Will Win On Sunday

Because even with the likes of Bobby Wagner and Tre Flowers back in the fold, this defense isn’t anything special.  The Cowboys might not dominate with their rushing attack, but they’ll be able to do a little bit; the Seahawks won’t totally shut Zeke down.  They’ll be the more disciplined team – avoiding offensive penalties that put them behind the chains – and Dak is fully capable of dinking and dunking his way down the field.

Furthermore, there won’t be enough big plays to keep the 12th Man in it.  The 12th Man just isn’t as formidable as they once were.  Sure, it’ll be loud to start the game – it is the Seahawks’ home opener after all – but that’ll dissipate as the Cowboys rack up the first downs and move the ball at will.  By the second half, I’m sure Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be wondering where all that vaunted crowd noise went.

And, let’s face it, the Seahawks’ weapons just aren’t there to help out Russell.  With no Doug, we’re over-dependant upon guys trying to get open, and those guys just aren’t up to the task.  With Wilson holding the ball longer and longer, that gives ANY defensive line – even one that’s as mediocre as the one I’m assuming Dallas has – time to get home.  The book is out:  nothing fancy, just constrict the pocket, wall Wilson in, and wait for him to make a mistake.  As long as you don’t let Wilson escape – and as long as the Seahawks’ coaching staff is willfully preventing any movement of the pocket – then it’s only a matter of time before we run into a sack, a fumble, or a penalty.

Speaking of the coaching staff, their unwillingness to stick to the running game – and stick to a specific running back (COUGH COUGH CHRIS CARSON) within that running game – is sinking this season.  I don’t expect anything here to change.  Penny is still going to get his shots; he’s going to continue looking just okay (but far from a first round talent).  Carson is going to look amazing, but left on the bench for long, unforgivable stretches.  C.J. Prosise is going to be healthy, but never in there when he’s most valuable (in 3rd downs and 2-minute offenses).  And, most importantly, the team is going to continue to slow down the pace of the offense, making it so it takes an entire half of football or more before Wilson gets comfortable and in the flow of the game.

It’s the same garbage fucking offense we had under Bevell, with a fresh coat of stupid slapped on there by way of Brian Schottenheimer’s play-calling (or Pete Carroll’s hormonal instincts, take your pick, depending on what you believe is actually going on).

The Reasons Why The Seahawks Will Win On Sunday

For what it’s worth, this is probably closer to what I actually believe, so spoiler alert.

This was never going to be an overnight fix.  What am I talking about?  Well, take your pick.

The offensive line was always going to need time to gel.  D.J. Fluker might be back this week, though it now looks like Britt is going to miss some time.  I think, in the grand scheme of things, it’s more important to gain Fluker’s mass than it is losing Britt’s … whatever he brought to the table.  Leadership, I guess.  I just think any sap can be a center.  The quarterback can always assist in line reads and pointing out blitzes and whatnot.  From strictly a talent standpoint, I don’t think there will be much of a difference between Hunt and Britt.  The dropoff from Fluker to Sweezy is much more significant, so getting our starter back would be HUGE.

Even though I don’t think the running back rotation will be any different, I think as time goes on, this O-Line will continue to improve.  Furthermore, the coaches have had 2 weeks to figure out what’s working and what’s not.  I HAVE to believe they’re going to work some fixes into the offensive play-calling to get this thing going.  It won’t be perfect, but it should be significantly better than it was the first two weeks.  Being in our temperate climate, without the significant crowd noise we had to endure on the road, should only assist in making sure plays are called timely and correctly.

As always, it’s going to be entirely dependant upon the offense to win this game.  I think the defense will be fine.  Sometimes, the Cowboys will drive the ball with ease; sometimes we’ll be able to stop them.  They’ll probably score in the low-to-mid 20’s; so it’s a matter of the Seahawks scoring in the mid-to-high 20’s to win it.

I think we can do that, because I don’t think the Cowboys are nearly as formidable in their pass rush as the Bears or Broncos.  If I had to point to one reason why the Seahawks will win this game, it’s that the Cowboys don’t have a Von Miller or a Khalil Mack.  That’s it!  That’s good for probably a Seahawks win by 3 points.

Where it could all go haywire is:  what if it doesn’t matter?

What if the Cowboys are just sort of average as a pass rushing unit, but they get home and make Russell Wilson’s life miserable anyway?  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m dreading next week if that’s the case.  The last thing I need in my life is more consternation about Wilson and the offensive line.

Anyway, I’m picking the Seahawks, but I’m not thrilled about it.  In fact, an overwhelming sense of dread and panic just set in as I typed out those words.  Visions of Wilson crawling around on the turf trying to collect the football he just had ripped out of his hands, combined with various Cowboys slicing and dicing through our Swiss cheese defense.

I CAN’T DO IT!  I’m picking the Cowboys.  As I’m usually wrong about most things, what’s really going to happen isn’t a 27-24 Seahawks victory, or a 24-16 Cowboys victory, but probably a 38-13 Cowboys victory, where the whole city just melts down.  Wilson will have multiple turnovers, Janikowski will miss a field goal and an extra point, the defense will give up a bevy of long plays, Elliott will run for 170 yards, and our punter will dislocate a shoulder trying to make a tackle.

Just the worst case scenario, all across the board.  And the calls to blow the whole thing up will only intensify.

The Importance Of Drafting “The Right Quarterback”

I was reading something about the Vikings last week.  As you may or may not know, they cleaned house over the last few weeks and are now looking to start over.  The GM was in place, but the head coach is brand new, and it looks like the quarterback position is going to get a once-over.  In this article I read, it was mentioned that they “need to find the right quarterback”.  I don’t know why, but that particular phrase stood out to me.

What is the “right quarterback”?  I would suggest it’s the quarterback that takes you to – and hopefully WINS – the Super Bowl.  Now, does it matter how you get that quarterback?  Actually, it does.

This latest Super Bowl is one of those rare exceptions of a game that didn’t feature a matchup of quarterbacks who were drafted by their respective teams.  Russell Wilson was, but Peyton Manning wasn’t.  In looking backward, you’ll notice a trend; among Super Bowl participants, the overwhelming majority drafted “the right quarterback” and rode him all the way to the end.

  • Baltimore/San Francisco – Yes/Yes
  • NY Giants/New England – Yes (technically no, but he was traded on Draft Day by San Diego)/Yes
  • Green Bay/Pittsburgh – Yes/Yes
  • New Orleans/Indianapolis – No/Yes
  • Pittsburgh/Arizona – Yes/No
  • NY Giants/New England – Yes/Yes
  • Indianapolis/Chicago – Yes/Yes
  • Pittsburgh/Seattle – Yes/No
  • New England/Philadelphia – Yes/Yes

In the last ten Super Bowls, you’re looking at only 4 teams who didn’t draft their quarterbacks.  Three of those teams – Denver, Arizona, and New Orleans – picked up future Hall of Famers via free agency (the 2005 Seahawks, of course, had Hasselbeck, who we picked up in trade from Green Bay, where he was drafted while Holmgren was still their head coach).

So, when Minnesota talks about “finding the right quarterback”, they mean “drafting the right quarterback”.  And, since there’s no time like the present, you can expect them to draft one this May, in the hopes that they will have found the next Russell Wilson or Joe Flacco or Aaron Rodgers.

Obviously, the quarterback doesn’t do it all.  But, it’s next-to-impossible to get where you want to go without one.  That’s why we REALLY need to sit back and appreciate just how rare of a find Russell Wilson is.  I’m not even talking about the fact that he’s a 3rd round pick (though, that is amazing in and of itself); I’m just talking about the fact that the Seahawks found a quarterback of his calibre at all!

It’s absolutely no coincidence that the Seahawks finally won their first Super Bowl only after they found their franchise quarterback.  Dating back to the 1992 season (where free agency coalesced into the free agency we more-or-less know today), there have been only six Super Bowl winning teams that did NOT draft their quarterback:

  • 1994 49ers
  • 1996 Packers
  • 1999 Rams
  • 2000 Ravens
  • 2002 Bucs
  • 2009 Saints

Again, you’re talking about four of those teams who managed to pick up current or future Hall of Famers (Steve Young, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, & Drew Brees), with the other two teams featuring a couple of the best defenses of the last generation.  Literally anyone, living or dead, could have quarterbacked those 2000 Ravens to a Championship.

But, look at that!  16 of the last 22 NFL Champions somehow lucked into their quarterback via the draft.  And, just because I’m a glutton for punishment, I went back and checked out every single Super Bowl winner.  Of the 48 NFL Champions, 36 drafted their quarterbacks.  Among the notable champions who weren’t drafted by their Super Bowl-winning teams are Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas (both originally drafted by the Steelers of all teams), Jim Plunkett (twice a champion for the Raiders), Joe Theismann and Doug Williams (both champions with the Redskins).

I don’t know what the point of this post is, other than to emphasize how much of a crapshoot it all is.  When you’ve tried and failed to craft a championship football team for decades upon decades, it can really feel hopeless.  You tend to question every single move your team has ever made and every single move they make going forward.  Then, in an instant, all of that changes.  You don’t know it right away, of course; think back to where you were when Russell Wilson was selected by the Seahawks in April of 2012.  You surely didn’t think, “That’s it!  We’re going to win a Super Bowl within two years!”

Yet, here we are.  And, the best part?  When you win so early, there are always opportunities for multiple.  In looking back at past winners, you’ll notice a lot of repeating names:

  • Starr
  • Staubach
  • Griese
  • Bradshaw
  • Montana
  • Aikman
  • Elway
  • Brady
  • Roethlisberger
  • Eli Manning

Those ten quarterbacks account for over half (26) of the 48 Super Bowl champions.  Only Jim Plunkett has managed to win more than one Super Bowl while not being drafted by the team that won them.  I think that says a lot.  About how lucky the Seahawks are, for starters.  And about how important it is to find your guy and cultivate him from Day 1.  The right quarterback can immediately turn around a franchise.  That means recognizing what you have and not giving him away.  That means building around him to put him in the best position to succeed.

And that means, if you’re currently a franchise in need, don’t try to go for the quick fix by picking up some doofus off the street.  I can all but guarantee the Chiefs, for instance, will never win a championship with Alex Smith at the helm.  That says nothing of Smith’s abilities.  That’s just playing the percentages.  The only chance you have to succeed through free agency is to obtain a future Hall of Famer, and what are the odds of that?  As I said before, if you’re smart, you hang onto those guys for dear life.  So, in reality, you have to be EXTREMELY lucky.  Even luckier than you have to be to just draft the right guy in the first place.

What To Expect From Denver’s Offense

Whenever there’s a big game, people want to analyze it to death.  Like, if they can just figure out EXACTLY what’s going to happen, they won’t have to stress out about it when the game finally starts.  It’s like actively seeking out spoilers for an exciting TV show or movie.  I abhor spoilers in my regular entertainment, but in my sports entertainment, I seemingly can’t get enough of ’em.

The broad strokes of this game are as follows:  Denver has the best passing attack in football, featuring one of the best quarterbacks of all time, having his greatest statistical season ever.  Seattle has the best overall defense and BY FAR the best pass defense.  If you want one overarching theme to Super Bowl XLVIII, it’s a referendum on what’s REALLY most important in winning championships:  Offense or Defense.

If you think they’ll cancel one another out, then it boils down to Seattle’s offense vs. Denver’s defense, but who really wants to talk about that?  Save THAT story for next week, when we’re running out of things to talk about.  This week, we’re going to look at the matchup everyone wants to see.  Indeed, if Seattle vs. Denver was the Super Bowl everyone wanted all along, then it’s exactly BECAUSE of the matchup of Seattle’s Defense vs. Denver’s Offense.

The best way to try to figure out what Denver will do is to look at what works against this Seahawks defense.  That’s not an easy task, because this defense has been SO dominant this season.  You could argue that the running game might be key, but it’s seemingly random when the Seahawks give up a huge day on the ground and when they completely shut an opponent down.  In their first game, the Rams ran all over the Seahawks; but in the second game, the Rams could do absolutely nothing.

There have been five instances this season where teams scored 20 or more points against the Seahawks.  Out of 18 games.  That’s good.  The Seahawks are 4-1 in those games, so it’s not like you can look at some point threshold and say, “That’s the magic number Denver has to score to win this game.”  So, let’s say the threshold is 50.  If the Broncos score 50 points, PROBABLY they’ll win the game.  But, no reasonable person could expect that, unless the entirety of our starting lineup came down with ACL tears in pre-game warmups.  Even then, I’m not so sure 50 is all that likely.

The teams that have looked the best offensively against this team are the Indianapolis Colts and, oddly enough, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  I was on a flight home during the Colts game and missed everything except for the game-clinching interception, so I don’t have a great idea of how the Colts did what they did.  It goes to show what a dynamic quarterback can do if he gets on a roll, that’s for damn sure.

The Tampa game was something else entirely.  I’ve spent the last 12 weeks or so trying to FORGET about that game.  No one saw this coming.  In essence, the Seahawks came out flat, and Tampa really executed well.  This was one of those games where an opponent ran the ball for over 200 yards on us, so that’s something.  But, Mike Glennon of all people, really made some nice throws in that first half.  Contrary to what you would expect, Glennon was able to throw behind our coverage units and really diced up our defense good.

If I’m Denver, I don’t think I’m necessarily looking at that Tampa game as some huge revelation.  I think we came into that one expecting a walk-through and were surprised to find a team willing to fight.

Here’s what you should expect out of Denver’s offense.  A LOT of bunch formations.  When they go Trips, expect those three receivers to be lined up very close to one another.  When they have two wides on either side, expect those wides to be lined up one in front of the other.  This will force the Seahawks into more of a zone scheme.  As you know, our corners like to press, while the rest of our defense usually zones up pretty well.  However, when the receivers are bunched, you can’t just declare a man and go, because you’re likely to get rubbed out of the play.  So, in order for them to get some early separation, they’re going to need our corners playing just a bit off the line.

Speaking of rubs, expect A LOT of crossing patterns.  Remember that Wes Welker hit on Aqib Talib in the AFC Championship game?  That’s going to happen again.  Hopefully it doesn’t result in one of our guys going out with an injury.  Crossing patterns are great for two reasons:  first, you can use them to pick off defenders and are more likely to get someone open that way; and second, they’re short and they’re quick, yet if the guy loses his defender, he can run for big gains.

And that’s going to be key:  quick, short throws.  As we all know, it’s going to be cold.  It might even be windy.  And, it’s almost certainly going to involve some form of precipitation at some point in the contest.  The last thing you want to do is come at us with a bunch of seven-step drops and challenging our defenders deep.  It doesn’t matter how long the route is, our guys will keep up with their receivers, and more often than not, they’ll end up winning when the ball is thrown.  Likewise, Manning’s arm isn’t that strong to begin with, so forcing him to chuck it up in sub-freezing weather conditions just isn’t a smart way to attack.  That doesn’t mean you won’t see ANY deep balls out of him – after all, he’s got to keep the defense somewhat honest – but I just wouldn’t expect it to be a major focus of their gameplan.

Finally, the quick passing neutralizes our pass rush.  And here’s, really, the critical point.  Whenever you listen to someone yak about this game or read someone’s analysis for what the Seahawks have to do to stop Peyton Manning, ultimately they’re going to say the most important thing the Seahawks have to do is “pressure Peyton Manning.”  If you haven’t heard that so many times you want to puke, just give it a few more days.

Peyton Manning has been sacked exactly 18 times in 18 games this year.  This isn’t because he has the greatest offensive line of all time.  This is by design.  I don’t have the exact figures, but Peyton Manning must get the ball out of his hands – on average – quicker than any quarterback in the league.  He’s reading the defense at the line, he’s calling out audibles (or non-audibles) with his Omahas and his Marshalls and whatnot, and he knows EXACTLY who he intends to throw the ball to before he’s even received the snap.  There isn’t a moment of wasted activity in that pocket.  He gets the ball, he throws the ball, and more often than not it’s a completed pass.

When you watch this game, you’re not going to see a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  It’s going to be frustrating – especially if the Broncos are steadily moving the ball up and down the field – and you’re going to listen to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman endlessly rag on the Seahawks’ inability to get pressure on the quarterback.  But, is it really fair to expect guys to “get home” in less than three seconds?

Hey, if they can bust through the line, then great.  But, I wouldn’t count on it.  To combat their short passing game, as I said before, that’s going to mean a lot of zone defense.  If you see any blitzing at all, it’ll likely be some sort of zone blitz, where we’re still dropping the same number of defenders out in coverage, but the attacker is coming from somewhere unexpected.  Seeing more than four people rush the quarterback is likely going to be a rarity.

Go into this game assuming the Seahawks won’t get any pressure whatsoever.  It’ll be better for your health, because when they do manage to force Manning into an ill-advised throw, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  My hope, if we can’t hit him, is to just bat down enough of his throws at the line to keep him rattled.

The real catalyst, as I’ve alluded to before, will be how well Denver runs the ball.  I went into this a bit yesterday, but they will swap out Moreno and Ball at will, going with the hot hand more often than not.  If the Seahawks end up giving up 150+ yards on the ground, it’s going to be a long day.  It sounds funny to say we need to make Denver one-dimensional, but that’s really the case.  Granted, that one dimension is the best in football, but the whole point is:  don’t make it easy on them.

Bend, Don’t Break.  That’s the mantra.  Just know that Denver will get their yards.  More than any other opponent, how we do on third down and in the red zone will dictate who wins this game.  I don’t anticipate turnovers being a factor whatsoever, so just throw that out and focus on third downs & the red zone.  Third downs come into play if we’re struggling in our rush defense.  Manning won’t complete 100% of his passes.  He’s not perfect.  So, if we can hold their running backs to 2 yards or less per carry, we will be in good shape.  But, if they’re gashing us and setting Denver up for a lot of third & 3 or less, then expect Denver to control the time of possession and expect Denver to tire out our defense by the time the second half rolls around.

Stopping the run SHOULDN’T be difficult, but I’ve been wrong before.  While I don’t expect a whole lot of base defense – we’ll probably be in nickel coverage most of the day – I could see us playing our heavy defensive line just as much as we always do.  Unless we’re really going out of our way to install some crazy blitz packages – which I doubt – I think we’ll be as vanilla as it gets in that regard, which should bode well for stopping their ground attack.

That still leaves the rest of their offense, but I’m not too worried.  We’ve got superb length on the outside in Sherman and Maxwell.  And, inside, we’ve got great speed with Thurmond and Lane to keep up with their crossing routes.  I have every reason to think we’ll be able to get some hands on these passes.  Not necessarily a lot of interceptions (though, a guy can dream, can’t he?), but a lot of tipped balls and passes defended.  And, who knows, if we tip it the right way, maybe the ball falls into the lap of a linebacker or something …

I’m not going to come on here and give you a score that the Seahawks have to hold Denver to.  If Denver scores into the 30s, all hope is not lost.  Our offense is just as capable of scoring in the 30s and 40s as theirs.  If this thing turns into a track meet, I expect Russell Wilson and our receivers to be up to the task.

But, I just can’t imagine we’ll get to that point.  Holding Denver to something like 23 points sounds pretty reasonable.  More field goals than touchdowns, that’s the name of the game.

Later on next week, I’ll have my official prediction on how the game will go, but consider this (and yesterday’s post) sort of a primer.