Originally Created 5/11/15
UPDATE 09/08/15: While I originally composed this blog post after the 2015 NFL Draft, it would be awfully imprudent of me to not include some of the pre-season observations and injuries when making a season prediction. Where an update would apply, I’ve added it.
UPDATE 10/17/15: Now entering Week 6 of the 2015 NFL Season, the Hawks are 2-3, and the road ahead looks bleak by most standards, but they were in a similar predicament last season. Still not a reason to panic!
It’s been a few days since the NFL draft officially ended, and I am already dreading the long absence of football again in my life. The NFL commissioner is the worst version of a groundhog, whether he sees his shadow or not. So I’m taking to this post to write so that I don’t go crazy.
Of course, if you were on planet Earth in the last week or so, you know the QB Jamies Winston went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Tampa Bay needs Winston more than Winston needs Tampa Bay. Yes, there’s a lot of off the field concerns, but the NFL seems to be a yellow brick road to redemption for troubled players. Marcus Mariota is of course, with the Tennessee Titans, for now. It was particularly great to see Chip Kelly come up short of landing his beloved Oregon product. The Titans have a bit of work cut out for them, but Mariota’s off season work with the Browns QB coach should translate to some easy success in the NFL this year.
Free Agency Bonanza: TE Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, C Max Unger to the Saints, RB Murray to the Eagles, RB Shady McCoy to the Bills, OL Ndomakung Suh to the Dolphins, CB Darrelle Revis to the Jets, CB Byron Maxwell to the Eagles, RB Ryan Matthews to the Eagles, WR Torrey Smith, RB Reggie Bush to the 49ers, QB Josh McCowan to the Browns, RB Frank Gore, WR Andre Johnson to the Colts, RB Roy Helu to the Raiders, RB Darren McFadden to the Cowboys, RB AP (Questionable) to the Vikings, RB Trent Richardson to the Raiders, RB C.J. Spiller to the Saints, WR Randall Cobb to the Packers (Still), WR Jarrett Boykin to the Panthers, WR Harry Douglas to the Titans, WR Michael Crabtree to the Raiders, WR Percy Harvin to the Bills, WR Stevie Johnson to the Chargers, WR Jeremy Maclin to the Chiefs, WR Hackeem Nicks to the Titans, TE Jordan Cameron to the Dolphins, TE Owen Daniels to the Broncos, QB Nick Foles to the Rams, QB Sam Bradford to the Eagles, QB Tim Tebow to the Eagles, the list goes on. Basically, the first few weeks of Free Agency had every football fan tied to their phone to ensure their favorite player didn’t bolt or get traded to a new team. We are still many more weeks away from the actual pre-season, so expect there to be some more, last minute changes.
This being a Seattle Seahawks themed post, we’re obviously going to talk about the picks. Seattle traded C Max Unger to New Orleans for TE Jimmy Graham and the ‘Hawks first round pick in the 2015 draft. From there, their picks split 7/1 in favor of the defense. For a Dan Quinn –less team, there seems to be no rest for the wicked here. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the first pick the ‘Hawks made, DE Frank Clark from Michigan. You already know my stance regarding off the field issues. Whether the ‘Hawks thoroughly vetted this guy or not, that’s ultimately their call. Knowing what I do know about Domestic Violence, there really is no place for it, but if we as a society are too quick to judge and ultimately form a mob against Clark and we are wrong, we’ve got no one but ourselves to blame. Yes, the police reports are available, just like DE Greg Hardy. The choice of both victims in question not testifying, as with other players this pre-season, definitely makes me wonder. There’s been reports of people threatening to give up their season tickets because of this selection. No one really liked Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo when he first started, and look how that turned out? I’m not saying that there’s comparisons, because there aren’t. You get the picture.
UPDATE: Frank Clark has played like a monster all preseason, notching sacks, tackles and generally wreaking havoc on opposing lines. My personal feelings, however, have not changed. There are still too many questions about the ENTIRE situation for me to levy any further thoughts on this.
Seattle obviously made leaps and bounds by bringing a legit Red Zone threat like Jimmy Graham into the fold. Jump balls, hell throw into the next state, and Graham is likely to make a play for it. Last season was rough with some injuries, but if you’ve read my post, pre-season pre-dictions, I think Graham is in for a monster season.
The receiving corps in Seattle not only got the upgrade with Graham, but the addition of WR Tyler Lockett from Kansas State. A phenom punt returner, he’s going to fill a current void in the DST aspect of the ‘Hawks game. Speaking of the WR corps, we cannot look past the valiant efforts of WRs 1/2 Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin. For two Undrafted Free Agents, both of those guys have absolutely wore their hearts on their sleeves, making big plays and keeping the team alive when the chips were down. Need proof? YouTube Kearse’s NFC Championship, and Superbowl 49 highlights. The touchdown in overtime to send the team to the Superbowl, and the bobble seen round the world in that last game, kept me screaming at the T.V. Kearse recently got his- a 2.3 million dollar contract for next year. Well deserved, I’d say. You’ve got to give both of those guys credit- the learning curve in the NFL for any position is steep, but neither of them seem to be having too much issue at WR.
UPDATE: Tyler Lockett has notched three scores this pre-season, a 103 yd Kick Return TD, a 63 yd Punt Return TD, and a 70yd passing TD. Defenses, take note, if you aren’t already shitting yourself about how you’re going to contain a 5 ft. 8 speedster.
Of course, with Seattle favoring the run, it remains to be seen if they continue to run Lynch down the throats of opposing teams. Will Russell Wilson still get a QB sneak in for short yard or a score? Duh. The point I’m making here is that with all of the upgrades in the passing game available, as long as the O-line stops opposing teams from trying to get to Wilson, it bodes well for everyone. Teams will double cover Jimmy Graham, which allows TE2 Luke Willson more single looks, or touch and go coverage. For a young guy that torched the Arizona Cardinals last year on deep balls, the future looks bright for him and all that would catch the ball in ‘Hawksville.
Then, Seattle did what could arguably be called (especially by me, a military member) the only draft pick that mattered. Except, it wasn’t a draft pick, it was a post draft call to Texas Long Snapper Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret with the U.S. Army and walk on to the Texas Longhorn football team. Which, he would start all four years and be offered a chance to compete for a position on the roster for this upcoming season. Watch his first media highlight here. Talk about poise, humility and grace. This guy should (and will) contribute greatly to the ‘Hawks in terms of DST.
UPDATE: Boyer was cut from the team shortly after the first pre-season game, where he went 4-4 on snaps. Boyer remains a free agent at the time of this writing, and I am still pissed at ‘Hawks, but secretly hoping Boyer’s skills are put to good use elsewhere in the league.
The ‘Hawks have a combined record of 36-12 in the last three seasons, 2011: 11-5. 2012: 13-3, 2014: 12:4 . The points for (PF) and Points Against (PA) for the last three seasons are (PF) 1,123 and (PA) 730, which if you average those scores by three seasons you come up with (PF) 374.33333 and (PA) 243.3333. I Interpret this further that, on average, they score 23.395833 ppg, and give up 15.2083333 ppg. I took into account more than the last three years for some of the teams to give you an idea of what the Blue and Green are up against this season. Now, onto business.
Note: All W/L statistics are Seattle centric (2W, 4L= 2 wins, 4 loss for SEA vs opponent)
1: @St. Louis Rams
W/L Record (last three years): 4W 2L (21-13 all time in favor of SEA)
Draft Actions: 6/9 Defense, 3/9 Offense
Prediction: Nick Foles, save for his injury history, is poised to make a comeback. Think of his first season- breaking contact, dropping 15 yards back in pocket, escaping tackles, and launching a 40 yard bomb to net you +10, +15 yards every time. The receiver corps is different in St. Louis, and I don’t think he’ll be throwing out to similar caliber guys. Last season, the WR success count varied from week to week. Their QB situation is definitely upgraded, even if you still hold onto some sort of belief that QB Sam Bradford was on the comeback train, pre Eagles trade.
They added another QB who could start if injuries avail Foles and poor play plague Hill another time. The addition of RB Todd Gurley, while being a quizzical pick, if he’s healthy, stands to show a lot of promise. RB Tre Mason showed us at times he could be a workhorse back and put up mind blowing numbers, especially against sub-par defenses like the Oakland Raiders. As with the WR position though, RB Zac Stacy was ‘that guy’ the season prior, so it remains to be seen what they end up going with come game time.
I would advise head coach Jeff Fisher to favor Mason in the beginning, and to use Gurley sparingly at first, lest Gurley destroy his knee in spectacular fashion again, and then you ask Mason politely to forget your SNAFU and help the team out. We cannot forget that Stedman Bailey burned us on a punt return for a TD last season. Eyes on the ball! I don’t see week one being the week that St. Louis has all aspects of their game in order, and Seattle capitalizes on it. W/L; W, 1-0 to start the season.
UPDATE: Foles has looked like Foles in the pre-season, but the passing games and running games have seemed more lame duck than angry ram. Factor in the Stud RB Todd Gurley not starting for a few weeks, I see no changes here. I expect the Rams defense to put on their best effort, and its a formidable one, but the ‘Hawks still squeak out a win.
2: @Green Bay Packers
W/L Record (last three years): 3W (1OT), 0L (8-10 all time in favor of GB)
Draft Actions: 50/50 Offense/Defense
Prediction: Fresh from all the critics blaming them for botching the onside kick, or their inability to finish the Seattle offense off last year in the NFC Championship games, look to the Packers to bring the heat at home in Week 2. We can anticipate that GB will not ease up if Seattle commits turnovers, and that both Seattle WR Jermaine Kearse and TE Jimmy Graham will be double covered and pushed around a lot to have bobble ball bumbles and Red Zone Errors, instead of success.
They’ve alleviated some of their needs in Free Agency, and their draft shows a holistic approach, don’t upgrade what doesn’t need fixing. Head Coach Mike McCarthy will give up a lot of the play calling, and maybe this loosening of the grip means that GB shows us how mobile they can be. Yes Rodgers is more than capable of throwing deep, accurate spirals. This is the first game I legitimately see Seattle losing, for the facts mentioned above, and the fact that no one really likes to lose at home. Do the GB Tight Ends finally get more involved in the passing game? Not likely, with RB Eddie Lacy still the lead back in cheesehead country. Randal Cobb staying put means TE blocking, not receiving, so no real Rodgers to Rogers connections this time around. I daresay that their onside kick recovery numbers go in their favor, if the chance presents itself. They can’t afford any more mistakes, and I believe they will be ripe with vengeance and ready for payback come Sep 20th. W/L: First L for the ‘Hawks, 1-1 through 2 weeks.
UPDATE: WR1 Jordy Nelson is done for the season, Davante Adams is now the WR2 behind Randall Cobb (WR1). Lacey will be slightly more involved in the passing game, but the resigning of WR James Jones, and their already deep (albeit young) receiving corps means they still have a high revving offense. No change to the W/L.
3: Chicago Bears
W/L Record (last three years): 1W (OT) 0L (10-6, all time in favor of SEA)
Draft Actions: 4/2 Defense/Offense.
Prediction: No one really knows what the Bears think their football team is at this point in time. With WR Marshall now playing for the Jets, newcomer WR Kevin White will have plenty of slack to pick up as WR Jeffrey and TE Martellus Bennet will all be out there running routes. Bennet’s efforts last season came under fire, as he far underperformed than what was expected. Will he be traded? Who knows. The team has a lot to prove, especially 120+ million dollar baby QB Jay Cutler. Is he the answer at QB? We’ll see. White offers the passing game another level and more breadth, which is desperately needed. This is a team ‘Da Bears’ that used to be feared inside and outside of Soldier field. There’s a comeback season a-brewing, but the 2015 season isn’t the season they do it. When they visit the ‘Hawks at Century Link, they’ll be in for an early season domination. Multiple picks will abound for Cutler, and one of them will be a pick six. Kam Chancellor? Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see.
The Bears under a new head coach will need to get the pieces of the puzzle in place, and soon. Chicago fans are not likely to be happy with another losing season after dropping so much capital on Culter. All of the elements you need in a successful team are already in place, let’s hope that with the new coaching staff, John Fox also brings a tenacity for change, and no BS. W/L: W for the ‘Hawks, with the pick six occurring in the second quarter. 2-1 through 3 weeks.
UPDATE: White is on the physically unable to perform list for at least 6 weeks, and that means TE Bennett is going to be top tier target for Cutler. Kam Chancellor’s current month plus long holdout over contract issues means the pix six I predicted is in great jeopardy. IF Chancellor comes back before week three, it’s still a possibility. If not with the team, the ‘Hawks will still notch a W, though the rest of the defense will need to provide the defensed passes and the pick six.
4: Detroit Lions
W/L Record (last three years): 1L (2012) (7-5 all time, in favor of SEA)
Draft Actions: 5/2 Defense/Offense
Prediction: QB Matt Stafford looks to once again bring his team to the brink of success. Can all of the parts of the offense finally click and bring home some more Ws? WR Golden Tate enjoyed a breakout season with the absence of WR Calvin Johnson. A great handcuff for fantasy owners, Tate represents a deep threat in yardage, and punt returning skills, and a complimentary player to watch alongside Megatron. RB Joique Bell may not get the lions share of the carries with Bush to the 49ers, as newcomer RB Ameer Abdullah will look to fight for the starting job as well. I expect TE Eric Ebron to become more involved in the passing game, as he recognized last year he wasn’t doing all he could to get open. The last time these two teams faced, it was in DTW, and the Lions won by 4 points. W/L: W, though with Detroit’s renewed spirit, it’s a close one, possible OT. 3-1, through 4 weeks.
UPDATE: It seems that Stafford is vintage Stafford. Tate will obviously look to extract some long yardage vengeance on Seattle’s cornerbacks, but I see Abdullah, who’s looked like a strong able bodied runner so far in the pre-season, looking to breakout here. Joique Bell is still battling injuries, and Eric Ebron has largely been mum so far. An OT showdown is still in the works. No Change to the W/L.
5: @ Cincinnati Bengals
W/L Record (last three years): No Data Available (1W, 1L in SEA, 1L at CIN since 2003, 9-10 all time in favor of CIN)
Draft Actions: 6/3 Defense/Offense
Prediction: Still too many issues to fix here, namely, QB (0 Playoff wins) , though ex- Oakland Radiers QB Terrelle Pryor as a backup shows a smidge of promise. The RB duo of Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill gets them lofty scoring ability, particulary for Hill.. The WR combo of A.J. Green/Mohammed Sanu is of particular dangerous note, especially if both remain healthy and line up in two WR sets. Weak TE production is an issue here, and too many games of last season showed the Bengals might not have had enough stamina to finish teams off. With two TEs selected in their draft, it’s obvious that the play scheme will be changing, either to incorporate two TE sets, or blocking schemes. Is the coaching the issue? Who knows. Four years, no playoff wins gets most other coaches fired. W/L: W, 4-1, through 5 weeks. Go Hawks!
UPDATE: Tyler Eiffert is being way overhyped, and Dalton and head coach Lewis are on what could be conceived as their last legs if they don’t produce. RB Jeremy Hill will be the bell cow back for sure, and A.J. Green will keep Richard Sherman busy, if he’s not making Marcus Burley’s life miserable. No change to the W/L.
6: Carolina Panthers
W/L Record (last three years): 3W, 0L (7-2 all time, in favor of SEA)
Draft Actions: 3/2 Defense/Offense
Prediction: WR Kelvin Benjamin is a promising rookie, especially in jump ball situations, even with all of the dropped passes last season. Now with another 6-5 WR named Devin Funchess on the squad, accuracy will be stressed but not needed, provided Newton throws the ball in the same solar system as Benjamin and Funchess. But we all know in Carolina, the name of the game is Newton. He constantly favored running the ball himself more than handing it off. Rib Cage shields and a car accident almost flat lined their season, and they were lucky he was able to come out to play at all. Them relying on RB Jonathan Stewart towards the end of the season paid off. Hopefully, they start the season on this foot. DE Greg Hardy’s departure was a necessary move. Luke Kuechly is still going to be the truth for this team. He’s an animal season in, and season out. QB Pressure and chasing down opposing players is his deal, and he’s superb at it.
The addition of Shaq Thompson at Outside Line Backer complements this. We may yet see a return to some defensive chess match type games from Carolina this season. Once Newton stops trying to play all 11 positions on the field, I think the run and passing game will be upgraded and worth noting. This will be especially true for RB Jonathan Stewart, who turned it on towards the end of last season. That being said, they are 0-3 vs the ‘Hawks. Now isn’t the time to start worrying about the Panthers, unless they show some real pizzaz in the preseason or opening weeks. W/L: W, 5-1 through 6 weeks.
UPDATE: Benjamin left the team with an ACL tear shortly after the pre-season started. Now TE Greg Olsen will have to bear the brunt of Cam Newtons targets, as he won’t want to scramble too often, seeing as he was sacked a crazy amount of times last year. Stewart will have to work overtime, as Devin Funchess is already battling some nagging injuries, so this may be a bloodbath more than just a win. No chance to the W/L.
UPDATE: Panthers Cornerback Josh Norman has four interceptions thus far in the season, with two of those interceptions being returned for Touchdowns. The run game through Jonathan Stewart is rather lackluster, and after last week’s bottling up of Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill, this isn’t the week he gets it going either. Cam Newton was picked off in the end zone for a return TD last year when these two faced. The stakes are high, and it will likely be a bloodbath in favor of one team, or a low scoring defensive match. Greg Olsen (Tight End) is the top receiver for the Panthers through four weeks.
7: @ San Francisco 49ers
W/L Record (last three years): 5W, 2L (18-15 all time in favor of SEA)
Draft Actions: 5/4 Defense/Offense
Prediction: Harbaugh may have been an asshole, may have played players too hard, but we may be forgetting that this team was Superbowl caliber just a few seasons ago. Yes, almost all of the solid parts of their football team are gone, with retirements and free agency absolutely decimating their roster. Similar to the Panthers, the run game in SF suffered greatly last season, with Gore and Hyde breaking out in separate flashes. TE Vernon Davis said recently that he’s blown away by what QB Colin Kaepernick is doing these days, labeling him a different QB altogether. I’ve been burned by ‘mobile QB’s’ so much that whenever I hear the term, I freak out a little bit (The exception to this rule is QB Russell Wilson). Pocket passing skills are perishable, and the rise of hybrid, more mobile quarterbacks is showing that the scene is ripe for change. Just like Newton, Kaepernick can burn simple defenses for long runs. But he’s had a bit of injury concern and hasn’t been able to click off long untouched runs against average or above average defenses. You won’t see the head coach allowing him to be the leading rusher on the team this time around.
Do you think a comeback is imminent? Could be, but the Vegas odds are stacked against them and first year coach Jim Tomsula, a defensive minded coach, will likely tone down things a bit. The addition of WR Torrey Smith from the Ravens is a big upgrade in terms of vertical attacks. I know this, because every time I benched him last season in fantasy football he went H.A.M, just straight yaya, and racked up tons of yards after the catch. If he breaks contact with the cornerbacks (and he should), he’s liable to sneeze and put 6 points on the board in seconds. While SF may be on it’s last leg and cane on starting over road, it would be foolish to think they will win a number of next seasons games. They will however, focus on the matchups the can exploit. I don’t see CB Richard Sherman having an overly difficult time covering Smith, assuming they line up opposite of each other. At 2-5 vs Seattle, the 49ers have a lot to prove, and while I think Capn’ Kaepernick may be riding the comeback caboose this year, the first time they meet SF squeaks out a win. It will be a FG or a single score as Kaptain Krunch and co stuns us, and sets up a grudge match for later in the season. With a big push in TE and WR selections, I think they’ll be working extremely hard to prove they can get back on contention road. This team needs help at DST, WR, even with RB Reggie Bush, RB Carlos Hyde (on track to get handed the rock an absurd amount of times) and WR Torrey Smith, the practice has to make perfect for the 49ers to erase the memories of last season.
W/L: L, 5-2 through 7 weeks.
UPDATE: Frank Gore is now in Indy, hooking up with Andrew Luck, and San Francisco has an incredibly powerful backup rugby player turned RB named Jarryd Hayne who is poised to be a rare type of talent, similar in punt return raw ability to Seattle’s Tyler Lockett. Check out his highlights here. Torrey Smith is already dealing with some injuries, and there’s still a bit of question about his work ethic, and the chemistry between Kaepernick and him isn’t exactly reactive. I wanted to believe that Tomsula doesn’t possess what it takes to stun the ‘Hawks, but they have a Kam Chancellor esque guy that will likely return kicks and punts for them. He’s proficient in knocking dudes sideways, and has a lot to prove in the league. As much as this pains me to say, Tomsula and Co go Super Mario on us and eek out the W, no change to the W/L.
UPDATE: Carlos Hyde and the WR pair of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith made the NY Giants defensive backs lives a living hell a couple weeks back. Tomsula has made brilliant leaps after struggling early on in the season. However, given the nature of Seattle’s situation, I see this as a necessary road win, So I will change the W/L here to a W, as the Legion of Boom is gelling and will look to keep the 49er’s bleak season looking even bleaker.
8: @ Dallas Cowboys
W/L Record (last three years): 1W, 1L (6-10 all time, in favor of DAL)
Draft Actions: 7/8 picks in the draft were defensive picks, the lone pick being a TE from Texas. Their defense is already on par and above a lot of teams they will face. They are showing us that their drafts from years prior that they are focused on stopping teams with their incredible offensive line . All of the additions this time around mean we need to pay extra attention, because with a potent line that allows anyone to be running supremacy, and has the ability to do the inverse to opposing teams.
Prediction: In QB Tony Romo they trust. Why, we may never know, but the 6 million dollar man continues to go under the knife and play just as well (or poorly, depending on how you look at it) season after season. Was that a football move? Was it not a football move? We’re over it, but Dez Bryant may not be. I can guarantee that every time he catches the ball from now on he’s going to pull it into his chest and roll down the side of a mountain before he lets it go again. Yes, RB Demarco Murray is gone, getting paid all the money he deserves from the Philadelphia Eagles. Is Darren McFadden, the newest addition to the Dallas running back corps, the answer? No, in the same way Maurice Jones Drew and Trent Richardson haven’t been anything solid when switching teams back and forth. RB’s don’t leave Oakland and suddenly have monster seasons, but the Dallas O-line was underrated last year, and they owned a lot of other teams on the field. There’s nowhere but up for McFadden’s numbers to go, but they will not be Murray numbers.
Murray had holes the size of a four lane highway with no traffic to run up, and Romo had all day to throw down the field. Resigning WR Cole Beasley is something you need to pay attention to. In third and long, and similar situations, he runs fast routes and has no issue stretching a 10-15 yard play into a 15-20 yarder. He rarely didn’t come through in the clutch when he was needed. The same could be said for WR Terrance Williams. TE2 Gavin Escobar broke out for a three TD game last year. Teams are too focused on covering TE1 Jason Whitten. I get that. When you leave that big of a TE open, you are going to get burned. But Whitten has cooled off a bit, and teams still drawing double coverage on Whitten in place of Escobar, RB Randle (if he catches on a play instead of running) and Beasley.
Make all of the ‘paying off the ref’ jokes you want, unless Dallas signs RB Adrian Peterson from the Vikings, we’re going to see a refined approach from head coach Jason Garrett, no longer in a contract year. Or maybe, we will see him go over the top and try and stomp teams, instead of slowing them down. Fantastic job grabbing Greg Hardy, and not giving any money (if he doesn’t play, which he won’t, for the first ten weeks). At 50% in the W/L category, the threat of adding Peterson does more than perk my ears up. W/L: W for the ‘Hawks if AP stays with the Vikings, L if he goes to Dallas 6-2/5-3 through 8 weeks.
UPDATE: Not only did Dallas NOT get AP in free agency, they acquired RB Christine Michael from Seattle after the pre-season was over. Michael was with the team for a while, so it’s safe to say that there are a number of things Dallas will find out about Seattle’s coverage, especially with the restructuring of the O line. The running back by committee situation in Dallas, even behind one of the highest touted O-lines in the league, may not be enough to help them win, and the ‘Hawks get revenge for last years Turkey day loss.
UPDATE: NOT ONLY did Dallas lose out on grabbing a stud running back in AP, but BOTH Dez Bryant and Tony Romo are down right now on injured reserve. (Romo with a broken Clavicle, and Bryant with broken foot bones) Their defensive line, with Greg Hardy back from his four game suspension, readily demonstrated the ability to get after opposing quarterbacks, and with Russell Wilson leading the league in times sacked thus far this season, this is definitely something to pay attention to.
9: BYE: this week couldn’t come at a better time. In the middle of the season, we get to rest, refit, and prepare for the long slog back to home field advantage for the NFC championship. On the Quest to own the West (Shout out to Seahawkers Podcast!), we go.
UPDATE: Home Field advantage looks to be just out of reach, but it is a possibility, provided the rest of the NFC starts racking up some losses.
10: Arizona Cardinals
W/L Record (last three years): 4W , 3L, (1OT) 16-16 all time
Draft Actions: 50/50 mix between Offense/Defense
Prediction: RB Andre Ellington is putting on more weight, but where in the world is WR Larry Fitzgerald? Sure, with the carousel of QBs, it’s difficult to maintain good relationships with four different people, and they will all view the same calls and plays differently. With Ellington, the injury history is something that will likely come back with a vengeance. Is Carson Palmer the answer? Maybe, if he’s ready to go week 1, but do you want the success or failure of your passing game dependent on a QB with no good legs?
I really feel that Fitz got shafted with the contract negotiations this year, and the emergence of WR John Brown from last year shows us Fitz won’t always get WR1 looks from whoever is under center. So hopefully he comes out guns blazing and I’m wrong in my assessment. While Brown is capable of hustling some scores on the board, he doesn’t possess the stamina or grit that Fitz does. Their draft, stacked mostly for defensive players, will help head coach Bruce Arians continue his defensive schemes. This is the most highly appreciated coach in the NFL, and their W/L record against the ‘Hawks shows that we are always to be playing our best against them. They’ve had some games where the kicker won it for them, so you know that stopping other teams from putting too many scores on them is going to be their main priority, especially at the CLINK, as they’ve been outscored by the ‘Hawks 199-84 over the last three years. W/L: W, 7-2/6-3 (dependent on the DAL game, pre-BYE week)
UPDATE: Carson Palmer looks good, bad, and indifferent throughout the pre-season. But there is no denying that Palmer and John Brown and Fitzgerald are going to be great downfield targets. Brown has been embarrassing defensive backs and has a chip on his shoulder this season. Fitz ain’t going down without a fight. Unfortunately, Palmers near interception rate is something I’m guessing will prevent them from leaving the Emerald city with a W. No change to the W/L.
UPDATE: Carson Palmer is one fire through the first five games, going 4-1. The lone loss came at home versus the St. Louis Rams, who have kept their status as disrupters of the NFC. They caused Aaron Rodgers two interceptions, yet still lost the game. Chris Johnson, a late signing for the Cardinals looks like vintage Frank Gore, and Larry Fitzgerald has two multi TD outings this season already. Look for Sherman and Williams to shadow John Brown and Fitz, and Kam Chancellor to level hits against CJ2K, Andre Ellington and possible picks and sacks from the L.O.B and Defensive Lines. No change from the W/L tally.
11: San Francisco 49ers
W/L Record (last three years): 5W, 2L (18-15 all time in favor of SEA)
Prediction: As I mentioned earlier (in a somewhat shocking revelation), I think the 49ers come to life for the first part of the 2015 NFL season. The parts are coming together, and maybe pride (and pent up frustration) squeaks them out a win the first time we play them. However, their comeback season starts along a downward trend, and comes to a grinding halt when they visit the CLINK, where Wilson and Co. end their winning streak and put this W/L to 19-16 all time. W/L; W, 8-2/7-3 through 11 weeks.
UPDATE: No big changes here. ‘Hawks are in full “BLANK YOU” mode, and the 49ers leave the clink with another L.
UPDATE: The 49ers may, in a last ditch effort to salvage their dumpster fire of a season, may make this a high scoring match, but it may come down to a kick. No matter, the 49ers still lose.
12: Pittsburgh Steelers
W/L Record (last three years): No Data Available (2L, complete shutouts in 2011/2007 @ PIT, 8-9 all time in favor of PIT)
Draft Actions: 6/2 Defense/Offense
Prediction: Big Ben, Big Money, Big Win? We’ll see. Playing at home is great for the home team, Kryptonite for the visitors, and you can’t overlook the WR combo of Antonio Brown (Leading WR of last season) and Martavis Bryant. Bryant, who in my mind should change his name to “Garbage Time Jesus Christ” because in those situations, Big Ben lobs a pass high, and Bryant somehow manages to turn it into a 94 yard play. He’s got deceptive speed, and in touch and go coverage, he burns almost all Cornerbacks he encounters. I’m serious, though we won’t know how tough of a player VS CBs he can be until he faces the LOB this season. Let’s not overlook WR Sammie Coates in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Coates adds another Garbage Time threat. TE Jesse James looks to overtake TE Heath Millers nonexistent role as of now. Even if James was a blocking tight end, Big Ben will find a way to get the ball in the hands of his teammates.
Seattle’s corners will be working overtime if the inside linebackers or defensive backs closer to the line focus heavily on RB Le’Veon Bell. Speaking of Bell, he’ll be out for three weeks in the beginning of the season, for a suspension stemming from last years DUI arrest with then teammate RB LeGarrette Blount.. So he gets three weeks to rest up, and then visit the CLINK and put on a show. Bell manages to catch the football adequately as well, so I can expect a lot of short yardage catches and quick moving chains in this game, We can stack that box against Bell all we want, but it will make coverage thin for the three aforementioned receivers, which will hurt.
Sure, some parts of the ‘Steel Curtain’ are no longer there. Their defense has been losing a bit of steam in the past season. But Big Ben showed us all he was still capable of putting up monster numbers when we write him off. Expect this to be a high scoring game, or a blowout where Seattle picks him off a ton (a la Revenge style), especially if Sherman and Brown line up opposite of each other, which I suspect they will. W/L: W, 9-2/8-3
UPDATE: Martavis Bryant is suspended for 4 games, due to failing multiple drug tests. Guys, COME ON! You play in the NFL, not the Drug FL. I still see this as a high scoring game, but Seattle hasn’t forgotten the Super Bowl loss, and will be playing their best, penalty free behavior to get the win. This will be due to my attendance at the game!
UPDATE: Leveon Bell is capable of running against time, Antonio Brown has been redounded almost useless by Michael Vicks throwing (in)ability while Big Ben is absent with a bruised knee. Though he may look to be back a week or two before this post Turkey Day showdown, it remains to be seen in those first few games if Big Ben still has what it takes to recreate some of the magic he was involved in during the 2006 SB win over Seattle. They still lose to Seattle.
13: @ Minnesota Vikings
W/L Record (last three years): 2W, 0L (8-5 All time in favor of SEA)
Draft Actions: 8/2 Defense/Offense
Prediction: Relative Newcomer QB Teddy Bridgewater had some shining moments last season. The absence of RB Adrian Peterson was felt, but don’t expect RBs Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata to carry the rock that many times again this year. Sure, Peterson wants to go to Dallas, but one of two things are going to come to fruition next season: Either Peterson gets paid 14 million big ones to ride the bench and not play, or he used this entire offseason to devise a way to put a whuppin’ on the teams he’ll face this year with a chip on his shoulder. Parenting occurs in football, I mean how could it not? Players bow down to coaches like they are father figures. You don’t hear of coaches hitting players much, because if they did, they would be toast. Somewhere along the lines, we failed to draw the link that teaching people to be violent isn’t something we can simply turn off on any given Sunday. Add this to the fact that a number of NFL players might have come from similar harsh upbringings, you can’t be shocked when a kid is disciplined hard. Yes, you should act in defense of the child if the situation calls for it, but this post isn’t about parenting style.
If Bridgewater can convince WR Cordarrelle Patterson to stop dropping the balls that are thrown to him, Minnesota has a chance to show us we are wrong to write them off, especially with AP in full form by this point in the season. WR Mike Wallace will show up to help out WR Charles Johnson continue his upward trend from last year. The TE position is still shady in Minnesota, as Kyle Rudolph will be stuck blocking for AP if he’s back. CB Trae Waynes, fresh from his combine broad jump records, showcases some speed and maybe gets a lone INT against Wilson in the 3rd Quarter. That will be because Wilson commits, but underthows his receiver based on matchup coverages. Waynes won’t get a pick six off of it, but we will all gasp when they travel on the road close to the end of the regular season. W/L L (if AP stays) 8-3, W (If AP goes to Dallas) 10-2 through 13 weeks.
UPDATE: AP Stayed in Minnesota, didn’t play much throughout the pre-season, and refferred to himself as the LeBron James of the NFL. I expect them to be a run first team, but WR Charles Johnson is primed for a big season, and if all he does is ride targets off of broken coverage for teams trying to stop AP, then so be it. Kyle Rudolph will take some of the heat off of Bridgewater, who is finally playing without the white glove. Sorry, Seattle, no change to the W/L column, we get a L this week.
UPDATE: AP has looked slightly like AP, though a half step behind where he was a year ago. Though he’s getting better and better over time, the passing game is struggling mightily, Bridgewater is 2/2 for a QBR of 84.5% Kyle Rudolph has brought almost nothing to the passing game. I don’t think that the Vikings will win this game though, as they are currently 2nd in the NFL Rushing Yards, but 32nd in Passing Yards (as of 10/17/15), they will make this an interesting, hard win for Seattle.
14: @ Baltimore Ravens
W/L Record (last three years): No Data Available, (2-0 in SEA, 0-2 in BAL) (2-2 All Time)
Draft Actions/Prediction: WR/TE grabs in the first two rounds lets you know that QB Joe Flacco is going to come out throwing this year. A SB team a few years removed, you can’t entirely discredit them. RB Justin Forsett will be the lead back again this year, and I owe my Fantasy Football success to his actions last season. He was mum as a RB for the Seahawks, but turned it on in the wake of the Ray Rice disaster. Sure, Taliaferro and Bernard Pierce are there to vulture touches or goal line sneaks. Either way, look to Forsett to continue to churn and burn yards throughout this game, especially if he gets a bit of success early.
This offense is looking like they mean serious business. You want to write a team like Baltimore off every time you play then, especially if you believe that WR Torrey Smith was the only deep passing threat on their roster. Steve Smith Sr. proved that you can’t forget to ‘ice up, son’, that the deep ball threat is still there. With Smith SR assuming the WR1 duties for this teams, consistency is the real enemy of QB Joe Flacco. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him turning down the pace a bit, maybe opting to bring some more QB sneaks and runs in this year, but again, with all of the weapons at his disposal, it would be beneficial to switch pace between run/rush.
In spite of their great draft selections, nothing I see on paper right now leads me to believe that the Ravens will hand us another defeat, especially on the road. W/L: W, 11-2 through 14 weeks.
UPDATE: Steve Smith has said he intends to retire. He won’t be aching to make bomb plays week to week, but he will make a number of notable ones, especially given the match ups. This could be one of those weeks. I fully expect Forsett to garner as many receiving yards as rushing yards. TE Maxx Williams isn’t blowing anyones minds, and neither is their other Tight End. No change to the W/L tally, though if Flacco and Co want to make it interesting it may be a close score.
UPDATE: Baltimore is decimated by injuries as of late, with Steve Smith Sr. nursing bruised discs in his back, the majority of the running back corps fighting angle or other season ending injuries, and Maxx Williams and Crockett Gilmore looking like duds more than studs. No chance to the W/L record.
15: Cleveland Browns
W/L Record (last three years): No Data Available (0-2 vs CLE at home since 2005, 11-6 all time, in favor of SEA)
Draft Actions/Prediction: Seemingly Allergic to WRs and nursing a major affinity for RBs, the Browns still are nursing a QB hangover. Pun intended. Is Manziel going to the starting QB? Who knows for sure. For someone who talked so much trash, I expected him to far outplay his efforts. He’s got a Jay Cutler-esque road to redemption, especially with all of the things he didn’t accomplish in his first season. Teams still want to tear him to pieces, and I believe that some of Seattle’s line land a couple sacks, as many as three, in this game alone. Manziel, if he or McCown starts, don’t offer any resistance to a ‘Hawks offense that is in tunnel vision towards the playoffs at this point in the season. I wish I could write more about this team, I just simply think that they are the current dumpster fire in their division. W/L: W, 12-2 through 15 weeks.
UPDATE: Manziel is dealing with a sore elbow, may even need Tommy John surgery, but regardless, neither he or McCown has been brilliant. Their full back field is looking desolate, with injuries and trades cutting it up. Isiah Crowell will be getting a ton of work, and Dwayne Bowe had better step up and take some pressure off of him for targets. This may be a game that Seattle eases off of the throttle on, even brining in some of the second string guys to shore up some play reserves for the week to come.
UPDATE: Manziel was caught in yet another Alcohol related incident, and Josh McCown has thrown for a franchise record 457 yards in one game, coming off of two 300+ passing yard games before that. The running game is atrocious, but Gary Barnidge makes 30+ year old Tight Ends look like they could actually exist in this league. Dwayne Bowe? Who is he? The Hawks still win this one.
16: St. Louis Rams
W/L Record (last three years): 4W 2L (21-13 all time in favor of SEA)
Prediction: As I’ve stated earlier, there is a lot to watch about with this team concerning the state of new RB Todd Gurley, and QB Nick Foles. I think the Rams get their act together and put up a fight we end up losing this game in OT. As much as I don’t want to believe it could actually happen, I am aware of what Mega-Man (Codename, Nick Foles) is capable of when his team gets behind a big amount. One of the most frustrating things about having him on my fantasy rosters was the 20 points he put up each game, because the first half of the game he would have 3 points, and then go crazy in the second half of the game to set up an electrifying finish. This is one that won’t sit well with Seattle fans at home. St. Louis shows life, and we consider for just a moment that Jeff Fischer knows what he’s doing. W/L: L, 12-3/ OR: W 13-2 through 16 weeks.
UPDATE: No changes here. Gurley shows us he’s worth the hype, and Seattle stops getting heat for having bandwagon fans, because St. Louis’s stadium’s fan rates will skyrocket with every passing week that Gurley stays upright, healthy, and wrecking opposing defenses. It’s worth noting that if the Rams make the playoffs, we make up for the transgressions of this game, and knock their lights out.
UPDATE: After losing the first of these meetings, the ‘Hawks have a bit of vengeance to exact upon the Rams. Todd Gurley notched 146 rushing yards against the Cardinals, and 159 against the Packers. It’s clear that after three games, Gurley is exactly the product that Jeff Fischer hopes he would be. Nick Foles has practically imploded this season, so Gurley will bear a lot of weight going down this stretch. The Rams don’t win at Century Link though, no matter how much Gurley tries to re-live his twilight years as a Georgia running back.
17: @ Arizona Cardinals
W/L Record (last three years): 4W, 3L, (1OT) (16-16 all time)
Prediction: After an early season smackdown, the Cardinals manage to eek out a win in the last week of the regular season, albeit after we clinch home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. For the .500 average that Cardinals enjoy against the ‘Hawks, it isn’t too difficult to imagine that the Cards again find a way to get their players on whims, dreams and staunch hopes to grab another W. W/L: 13-3/ 12-4 to end the season.
UPDATE: Even with John Brown and Larry Fitz highlighting the passing game, a near never healthy for a full season Palmer and Ellington makes this W just about unfathomable. Obviously, the upcoming season will tell us how much gusto they have, but whenever a backup QB starts for the Cards, the House of Cards falls. I’m betting there’s more of that, and there’s no way they win against the hawks, as we end the season 13-3.
UPDATE: The Cardinals have simply floundered through the end of multiple seasons. Their inability to produce late in their 16 game slogs due to injuries or poor play means they’ve got a lot of learning to do, and this isn’t the season where they get it right.
Overall, the ‘Hawks early slumps might mean that a 13-3 season is a longshot, however, not totally out of possibility. The advantage of home field through the NFC playoffs also looks like a long shot. 12-4 or 11-5 is not out of the total realm of possibility, but I think 12-4 is a best case scenario, with 10-6 being a worst case scenario, leaving the ‘Hawks to fight feverishly for a Wildcard playoff spot. If that is the case, of course Seattle will play with a Mt. Rainier sized chip on their shoulders, and it will work out to their advantage.
WildCard Prediction: New England Patriots
W/L Record (last three years): 1W, 1L (8-9 all time in favor of NE)
Prediction: Fresh from their SB 49 loss, if in some measure the team chaired by Tom Brady wins another AFC championship, it will hopefully set up another record setting televised event. Important things to note- If WR Julian Edelman sustains what appears to be another concussion and it still allowed to play, Seattle forces a call for an on field evaluation. Short slant routes are tied down, Gronk is given short yardage but double (or triple) teamed if targeted in the red zone. With only RB LeGarrette Blount on the squad for RBs, RB Shane Vereen (now with the NYG) doesn’t catch his third down passes, and this game becomes markedly different. I would estimate if these two teams meet again in the future, especially at a Superbowl, that the Lockette twins give SB 49 MVP CB Malcolm Butler a run for his money, RB Lynch, QB Wilson, and TEs Graham/Willson essentially walk all over New England in what can only be described as ample payback. K Stephen Gostwoski keeps it within reach by kicking his heart out, but if it comes down to Ks to win the game, Seattle and K Steven Hauschka put the final nail in that coffin.
Yes, head coach Bill Bellicheck is known for working magic with lower round picks, and another head coach quite capable of matching him in this area is Pete Carroll. The stats would be more 50-50 if NE had kept parts of their defense steady and had more consistent deep threats, like if WR3/4 Michael Tyms had enough consistent production to stretch Seattles DBs and CBs out. Instead, they will face a Space Jam Monstar type squad, where TE Jimmy Graham, a bevy of WRs and a very much out to prove something RB Marshawn Lynch, will look to keep the pressure on and the point tally rising.
I would also like to point out that I think it is absolutely LUDICROUS that commissioner Roger Goodell suspended NE QB Tom Brady for allegations of under inflated footballs during the Colts/Patriots game last season. This seems to me like a classic case of lower rung guys ‘singing’ to get their time in the spotlight, or worse, immunity for flipping against a two time Super Bowl MVP.
Should the team be fined? Yes, if there is substantial evidence, not allegations. Should the suspension be four games? No. It’s been pointed out already- Ray Rice got a two game suspension for throwing haymakers in the elevator. You don’t have to look far to see this a snap judgement. The draft pick punishment is played out- because as I’ve already mentioned, the Patriots are Houdini with lower round picks. Way to go, commish. Even if the Pats manage to go 0-4 to start the season, don’t be surprised to see them playing, yet again, in the AFC playoffs next year. Four friggin’ months and all you have is unsubstantiated claims? I want to meet the people who got paid to undertake this commission, because it’s very obvious that they are true kings in wasting colossal amounts of our time and patience. Now, if the Pats (and QB Brady) are guilty beyond reasonable doubt, no amount of social media armchair quarterbacking will solve the image problem the NFL has. I would then favor scaled punishment that fit the crime. Until just punishment is disbursed across the entire league for the most HEINOUS of crimes like Domestic Violence, Drugs, etc., every time Goodell makes a boneheaded decision, people will continue to boo him and wait for him to relinquish command of the league.
UPDATE: The latest damning allegations from ESPN’s Outside the Lines, totaling the leagues shady ‘Spygate’ fiasco, is too big of an event to not acknowledge, but too big to write about here. Whether they actually committed the crimes or not, remains to be seen, let’s hope the Pats keep their collective noses clean, and they win so them and Seattle have a grudge match for the books. I also wrote a piece about this, which you can read here.
UPDATE: The Patriots are 4-0, clearly on a raging comeback, though they face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday 10/18/15 for an AFC Championship game rematch, so that will either be a shootout or a lopsided win. However, this Patriots team was held to just 6 points by the hobbled together Dallas Cowboys defense. They are beatable.
So there you have it- another ambitious run for your Seattle Seahawks on their quest for a three-pete of appearances at the Superbowl in three consecutive years. The predictions are my own, based off of statistics, Fantasy football, personal game viewings and NFL Draft coverage. As the season progresses, and the playoff status becomes more visible, I will do another post of playoff predictions. Till next time…
Stats Courtesy of Football Database, Accessed May 2015.