NFL

Titans QB Marcus Mariota has a fractured fibula

Titans QB Marcus Mariota has a fractured fibula

The Titans’ playoff chances took a hit on Saturday with a loss to the Jaguars, but a Texans loss on Saturday night will keep their hopes of winning a division title alive.

They’d need to go on and beat the Texans in Week 17, but they’d have to do it without quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota was carted off the field during Saturday’s game with an air cast on his lower right leg. After the game, coach Mike Mularkey confirmed that the injury was just as serious as it looked.

“Marcus has a fractured fibula. Obviously he is out,” Mularkey said.

Read more at NBCSports.com 

 

 

A frozen showdown between Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers

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USA Today

A frozen showdown between Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers

BY 

This Sunday, Russell Wilson will return to the home of his college football glory days, and the game will mark just the second time Wilson has appeared in a football uniform in the state of Wisconsin since November of 2011. Between seven home games in his senior year in college and one game played at Lambeau Field in his fourth NFL season, Wilson holds a 7-1 lifetime record in football games played in the state of Wisconsin, with an .875 winning percentage. Wilson’s rival this Sunday, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, has notched 70 professional football games in the state of Wisconsin, and holds a 54-16 record in games he has started, with a .771 winning percentage. 

Today, it would be difficult to find two better NFL QB’s, but just as recently as five years ago, a Wilson-Rodgers duel wouldn’t have sounded like much. Back then, Wilson was the green third round rookie QB who was still learning the speed of the pro game, but he was clearly better than most first year players, and limited his mistakes by leaning on a strong running game and only releasing the ball in high percentage passing situations. It wasn’t always exciting, but it was key in getting him to where he is today. 

By 2012 Rodgers was already a veteran by NFL standards, with a Super Bowl ring, Super Bowl MVP, and regular season MVP in his trophy case. Like Wilson, Rodgers puts a premium on limiting his mistakes, and holds the active record for career passer rating and lowest interception percentage. Number two on both of those lists – Mr. Russell Wilson. Rodgers and Wilson are the only active players with career passer ratings over 100, and if they stay where they are or better, both will retire as the only players in NFL history with a career rating at 100 or higher.

Wilson and Rodgers have faced off four times since 2012, and WIlson won their initial meeting by way of a controversial game-ending touchdown, and the rivalry officially began. Since the opening chapter in their rivalry, Wilson and Rodgers have faced each other three times, with Wilson winning twice, and Rodgers winning the most recent meeting.

In four career games against Wilson, Rodgers has completed 66% of his passes for 839 yards, four touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Over the same span, Wilson has completed 65% of his passes for 736 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Rodgers has attempted at least 33 passes in all four contests, while Wilson has thrown 29 or fewer passes in three of the four matchups. Both passers are hovering around 200 yards per game in the rivalry, and while Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown in all four games including two without a turnover, while Rodgers has avoided turning the ball over in two of the games, but failed to throw a touchdown pass in their first meeting, and has at least one touchdown pass in the three meetings since. 

The home team has won all four matchups in this heated rivalry, with Seattle hosting and winning the first three contests, and Green Bay hosting and winning last season’s matchup. Over the series, Seattle has averaged 24 points per game, and Green Bay has averaged 19.  Two games have been decided by one score, and two games have been decided by at least two scores, making it difficult to gauge reasonable expectations.

The most intense meeting between the two teams came in the 2014 NFC Championship game, where Green Bay led 16-0 at halftime, held a 19-7 lead in the fourth quarter,  failed to close the game out on an onside kick return with the game winding down, and after kicking a field goal to force overtime, gave up a long touchdown pass on Seattle’s opening possession of overtime to end the game. Green Bay won the turnover battle including forcing Russell Wilson into four interceptions, but despite serious injuries that limited Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman late in the game, Mike McCarthy opted for conservative play calls down the stretch, and Seattle’s bold playmakers took advantage and took the victory. 

Green Bay won the meeting last year to make the series a little less lopsided, but Seattle still owns the Packers since drafting Wilson. This year, both sides are missing key players that won’t be back in time for Sunday but that won’t excuse the losing side this weekend.

Despite their gap in records, both teams still really need this win, but for different reasons. Green Bay sits at 6-6, and in third place in the NFC North. In order to keep pace in a very crowded wild card race, the Packers need to win out, or deal with watching the postseason from the couch. Seattle stands at 8-3-1 and currently holds the lead in the NFC West and the #2 seed in the NFC. As long as they stay ahead of the Falcons, Lions, and Giants, they should earn a much needed first round bye as well as host any game not against Dallas.

This matchup will feature a mixed bag of offense and defense, as the Seahawks come in with the league’s 20th best scoring offense at 22 points per game, the 14th ranked passing attack with 256.4 yards per game, and the 20th ranked offense with 101.5 yards per game. They will be facing the Packers 23rd ranked scoring defense allowing 25.2 points, the 16th ranked passing defense allowing 254.2 yards, and the 9th ranked rushing defense allowing 92.9 yards per game.

On the flip side, Green Bay has the 11th ranked scoring offense at 24.6 points per game, the 10th ranked passing attack at 261.2 yards, and the 24th ranked ground attack with 99.1 yards per game. Seattle’s scoring defense is ranked 1st at 16.2 points allowed per game, the 23rd ranked passing defense at 231 yards allowed, and the 14th ranked rush defense at 99.2 yards per game.

For Seattle, with a win they could knock Green Bay out of playoff contention, and put a bigger gap between them and the teams fighting for the top seeds in the NFC playoffs. WIth just three games to go after this week, a losing record will be too much for the Packers to overcome in the NFC playoff hunt, and it should give Seattle the distance it needs to keep the Falcons, Giants, and Lions fighting for the third seed and keep the second seed for themselves.

The gametime temperature this Sunday is expected to be below freezing, leaving Seattle the perfect opportunity to do something cold to the host Packers – end their season. Green Bay could save their season with a win over the Seahawks, but the odds are stacked against them even on their home field.

Seattle reignited their much needed second half surge with a blowout win over Carolina last week, and could make a bigger statement with a win in Green Bay followed by a favorable schedule over the final three weeks against teams with losing records. Can the Seahawks string a pair of wins together and put a stop to their see-saw season? We’ll find out this Sunday.

Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Week 14

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USA Today

Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Week 14

BY  

You know what they say about the number thirteen, right?

Well let’s just say that last week sucked for me. 1-4. That’s the worst week since Week Two.

If I want to get back to .500 for the season I need to nail 15 picks in a row. Tall task, so straight to the picks!

Washington Redskins -2 @ Philadelphia Eagles

When these two teams met up in October the Redskins handed the Eagles only their second loss of the season. They dominated a game that ended with a final score of 27-20. But it wasn’t even that close.

Washington had 493 yards of total offense. Philadelphia had 239.

Washington sacked Carson Wentz 5 times. Philadelphia didn’t get to Kirk Cousins once.

Since that game the Redskins are 2-3-1, the Eagles are 2-5.

The difference in this game is the fact that the Redskins need this win to bolster their chances of making the Playoffs in an increasingly competitive NFC. Because of their tie earlier in the season, the Redskins are a half game behind the Buccaneers. A win against the struggling Eagles would go a long way to propelling them to play into January.

Redskins 28 – Eagles 17

Pittsburgh Steelers -2 @ Buffalo Bills

This is one of the more interesting games of the week. The Steelers pretty much dismantled the Giants last week in Pittsburgh. The score board at the end of the game showed 24-14 but it felt much, much worse.

Pittsburgh is a team that is getting better every week, while a lot of teams around the league are getting worse.

Both of these teams are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Playoffs, but they are both hoping to make a late push to make the postseason.

When it is a close matchup I like to pick the better quarterback, and in this matchup, it isn’t even close. Expect Ben Roethlisberger to pick apart the talented secondary, especially with new weapon Ladarius Green finally healthy.

Steelers 31 – Bills 21

Dallas Cowboys -3 @ New York Giants

This is the game that the Cowboys have been waiting for since September 11th.

In that week one matchup, the Cowboys controlled the time of possession and had more total yards than the Giants. In the end, Eli Manning was the most established quarterback in the game and found a way to beat a Cowboys team that had yet to form their identity.

Thirteen weeks into the season, the Cowboys have an identity, that identity is as the best team in the league.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott are legitimate MVP candidates. The defense has developed a bend-but-don’t-break mentality good enough for 5th best in the league in points allowed, allowing only 19 per game. This is a team that is hungry to prove they belong.

Look for the Cowboys to control the clock, score early, and win the game to be crowned as NFC East Champs.

Cowboys 26 – Giants 21

Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers +3

This is one that I have gone back and forth on but feel pretty comfortable about.

The high temperature on Sunday is supposed to be a balmy 29 degrees. That is not conducive to much, let alone football. But it sure seems like the Packers typically embrace the weather as an advantage.

Neither team loves taking the field in below freezing temperatures. The ball is hard. Your feet burn. Your muscles cool down much quicker. But it’s part of the game.

From the Seahawks perspective, they are going to miss have Earl Thomas roaming center field for them on the defensive side of the ball. He is their ironman and their captain; they don’t know what it will be like without him out there. This offense has had its ups and downs this season; can they follow up a huge performance last week against a tough run defense?

On the Packer’s side, this is a must-win. The Packers need to really run the table to get to the postseason. They need to find a way to exploit the back end of the Seahawks’ defense without Thomas playing the middle portion of the Cover 3. Jordy Nelson could have a big game on the seam route.

Packers 20 – Seahawks 18

Upset Special of the Week:

New Orleans Saints +3 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs have won 4 in a row, the Saints have lost 3 out of the last 4. Why in the world would I pick the Saints to win on the road?

Drew Brees.

The sub-6’ quarterback continues to amaze. The Saints’ offense is the second highest scoring team in the league, scoring 28.9 points per game. Brees leads the league in passing yards (3913) and passing TDs (30). Brees also has the 4th best passer rating in the league. The future hall of famer is better than what his teams’ record indicates.

On the other side of the field, the Bucs are a prideful and enthusiastic bunch that enjoys playing together, it is apparent. My one real concern is the longevity of the momentum that they have. Their upcoming schedule is not easy for a young team trying to make the Playoffs.

Vs. Saints, @ Cowboys, @ Saints, vs. Panthers.

To make the Playoffs, they need to at least split those games. They likely won’t beat the Saints twice in three weeks, and the Cowboys are the best team in the league. This is an important game for the Bucs but they are going to fall short in the big spot.

Saints 38 – Bucs 35

  Wins Losses Push Percentage
Week One 1 3 1 30%
Week Two 1 4 0 20%
Week Three 2 3 0 40%
Week Four 2 3 0 40%
Week Five 3 2 0 60%
Week Six 2 2 1 50%
Week Seven 3 2 0 60%
Week Eight 2 3 0 40%
Week Nine 3 1 1 70%
Week Ten 3 2 0 60%
Week Eleven 3 2 0 60%
Week Twelve 2 2 1 50%
Week Fourteen 1 4 0 20%
OVERALL 28 33 4 46%

 

Seattle vs. Carolina: The Battle of former superpowers

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USA Today

Seattle vs. Carolina: The Battle of former superpowers

BY 

When Carolina and Seattle played in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, it had the feeling of an old fashioned heavyweight title bout. Cam “SuperCam” Newton vs Russ “DangeRuss” Wilson honestly belonged on an old boxing billing. We had the undercards in Luke Kuechly vs Marshawn Lynch, Josh Norman vs Doug Baldwin, and Richard Sherman vs Greg Olsen. It was a battle for the ages, and we scheduled our weekend around it.

These teams were so similar on both sides of the ball that it was honestly a shame that one of them had to lose, and you’d love to see them face off in the Super Bowl if it were possible.

Fast forward to this season, and really all that anyone can think of to describe the matchup is “maybe I’ll watch”. Part of the issue is that you would probably have trouble finding supporters outside of the two fan bases who would think of these two teams as NFC superpowers. Sure, Seattle has a winning record, but they are not consistently beating elite teams. They are having an equal amount of trouble with average teams, and Carolina is having trouble just getting out of their own way against just about anyone they face.

We saw Seattle get KO’d by Tampa Bay last week, and the Seahawks were so inconsistent on both sides of the ball that they made Tampa look an awful lot like the 2010 Seahawks, who used supersized receivers and a fired up defense along with a home crowd hungry for a big time win to upset the overconfident visitors.

Carolina lost a heart breaker to Oakland by a mere 3 points after being down 24-7 at halftime, and has looked like they lost their identity along with CB Josh Norman in the offseason. Whatever magic they summoned to take the league by storm last year dissipated when they lost to Denver in the season opener on a last second missed field goal.

The Panthers are 4-7 and look nothing like they did the last two years when they were a legitimate contender. Their defense was top five last season, and is struggling to stay in the top thirty this season, while their offense is still ranked tenth, nine spots lower than their number one spot last season. Seattle is 7-3-1 and could wind up snagging the #2 seed in the NFC if they can keep pace with 7-4 Atlanta, who lost to Seattle in week six.  The Seahawks continue to hold water on defense despite enduring a revolving door of injured stars, but their offense is a work in progress, and the young offensive line has forced a ripple effect that has caused struggles across the rest of the team.

To emphasize this point, Wilson is on pace for 4167 yards, 16 TDs, and 6 INTs. The passing game struggles have been evident on the stat sheet, as Wilson already has five games this season where he has not thrown a single touchdown, as compared to last season where he averaged 2 TDs per game and threw at least one touchdown in all 16 games.

By comparison, Newton is on pace for 3,537 yards, 18 TDs, and 11 INTs, a far cry from the 3,837 yards, 35 TDs, and 10 INTs he put up last year. Newton had two games in 2015 where he failed to throw a TD pass, and through 12 weeks this season he is has two games with zero TD passes.

So what can we expect this Sunday? Probably something resembling their week 6 matchup in 2015 that featured a lot of offense, not much defense, and came down to a touchdown with less than a minute to play that gave Newton his first win against Russell Wilson. Newton would follow it up with a 31-0 halftime lead in the divisional round of the playoffs, with Wilson getting within 31-24 before running out of game clock.

In six matchups since the 2012 season including two showdowns in the playoffs, these teams have ended the game separated by a single score in five contests, levelling each other in defensive affairs in the first four games, and then exploding for 105 combined points during their two games in 2015.

This Sunday’s matchup should feature a lot of scoring, and two teams desperate to get their season back on track. After close wins over Buffalo, New England, and Philadelphia before coming to a halt in Tampa, Seattle has come back down to earth and needs a signature win to get some consistency going. With four of their wins coming against teams with winning records, Seattle needs to avoid overlooking Carolina and put the Panthers away early. Carolina has gone 3-2 since their bye week, but all four of their wins this season have come against teams with losing records, and a win against Seattle could get them feeling confident enough to beat elite teams again.

Seattle struggled against Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, and Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin have the size and ability to catch the ball in traffic that could give the Seahawks the same problems they couldn’t solve last week. The home crowd should aid matters, as Seattle typically plays much better at home than they do as the visiting team.

It may not look like the same matchup we drooled over the last few years, but these teams still have plenty to play for and a lot of pride on the line. Seattle holds a 4-2 edge in the series since 2012, and while Cam would love to show up Wilson on his home field for the second year in a row, Seattle should beat Carolina and avenge the loss that ended their 2015 playoffs.

Seattle vs. San Francisco: Week 3 Preview

Seattle vs. San Francisco: Week 3 Preview

The Seattle Seahawks were in need of some good news - any good news, really - to help extinguish the stench from last week’s dreadful offensive performance, and the subsequent loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

On Wednesday, they got it.

In his weekly press conference with the media, head coach Pete Carroll – who, quite frankly, needed something to smile about as well – doled out good news left and right.

Russell Wilson? He’s looking better and ahead of schedule. Tyler Lockett, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise? All could potentially be good to go on Sunday.

But perhaps the biggest development could be the impending debut of Germain Ifedi, the mammoth offensive guard who’s expected to make his NFL debut. Ifedi, out of Texas A&M, was Seattle’s first-round selection in the draft this year. He was brought in to help shore up an offensive line that struggled last year, lost some pieces, and was expected to be in dire straights entering this season.

He hasn’t been anointed the savior, and he shouldn’t be. But infusing talent, no matter how young, is vital at this stage.

Two weeks in, those painful predictions of the offensive line have played out for the world to see. Seattle can’t run the ball (they're 18th in the league at 89.5 yards per game) and they’re not throwing the ball well (21st in the NFL at 239.5 passing yards per game).

Not all of the offensive woes can be placed on the line; not all can be placed on Wilson’s ankle, either. But the two combined factors have limited Seattle to just 7.5 points per game, a 1-1 record, and raised serious questions about the offense’s ability to help the defense at all this season.

The good news? As anemic as the Seahawks have been on offense, San Francisco, Seattle’s next opponent, has been slightly worse. Under first-year coach Chip Kelly – who knows a thing or two about offense, if you recall – the 49ers are 28th in the league in passing yards (203.5).

After a wild offseason, followed by a tumultuous preseason, sidetracked by the ongoing Colin Kaepernick saga, the 49ers have settled on Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, hamstringing a unit that, seemingly, could benefit from the playmaking ability Kaepernick would provide.

CSN Bay Area is reporting that Kaepernick is still regaining strength after an offseason in which he couldn’t lift weights. According to the report, Kelly said that at some point this season Kaepernick could be an option.

It won’t be against Seattle, although it may not matter with the way the Seahawks’ defense is playing. Aided by two games against the Dolphins and Rams, Seattle’s defense is first the NFL – by 25 yards – allowing just 248 yards per game and just 9.5 points per game.

And yet, according to multiple players, they haven’t played close to their best ball.

If last week’s showdown with Los Angeles was about defense, this week is looking to follow suit. Seattle (27th) and San Francisco (28th overall) both appear woeful offensively. But Seattle’s defense is masking any and all problems at this point.

With the health problems seemingly on the mend, the Seahawks’ offense has to be nearing a turning point. There’s no better time to start that now.

Prediction

Seattle 17, San Francisco 9

 

Fantasy

Last week, I told you to take the safe road, pick the Seahawks defense for your fantasy team, and get out of dodge. That’s the safe bet this week – and for the whole season, probably – but I can’t take the easy road again.

So, I’m going to go out on a huge ledge: Jimmy Graham.

Since Graham arrived at the beginning of last season, he’s been a square-peg-in-a-round-hole. Nothing about Graham’s style of play has fit in with what the Seahawks expect. They want him to block; he can’t do it. He wants to hug the seams; they want him to be complex. But last week, in Seattle’s 9-3 loss, we may have begun to see a glimpse of the Graham everyone expected. He only had 3 catches for 42 yards, but there seemed to be a conscious effort to get him the ball. And it makes perfect sense: you have an offensive line that doesn’t give you any time, and a quarterback who’s inured and can’t move.

The natural outlet? Graham. It’s a risk, but it may pay off.

Carrolling Away in the Emerald City

Carrolling Away in the Emerald City

I’m worried about Pete Carroll.

OK, I’m not really worried about him as much as I’m concerned for him. On Sunday, as his Seahawks were trudging through one of the most anemic offensive performances we’ve seen, a rare scene kept playing out on the sidelines:

Carroll, normally exultant and gratified at just being the head coach, and getting to be a part of things, was so distressed through parts of the game, that it looks as if he’s reached a level of frustration normally reserved for a tight, 4th-quarter NFC Championship game.

He was screaming. He was throwing headsets. He was mowing his own players over on the sidelines.

Part of Carroll’s success – and a big part of his charm – is his ability to compartmentalize aspects of the game that other coaches struggle with. He’s the antithesis of the Belicheckian cloud that hovers over the NFL, threatening to kill off any semblance of joy that may seep out. Carroll knows it’s a game; he allows his players to have fun; he dances, and sings, and looks as if (gasp) he actually enjoys what he is doing.

It made him a star at USC; players flocked to the campus to be involved with the party he was throwing.

It allowed him to integrate himself in Seattle, taking youngsters and veterans alike and showing them the part of the game they enjoyed when they were kids. The part of the game that came organically to them. When the game was just that…a game. He still coached, sure. He got after guys when he saw fit. But he never let the pressures override his ability to crack a smile. He could laugh off any defeat, be it a preseason game or the Super Bowl.

But just two games in, it seems as if the Carroll we’ve come to know and love - just like the rest of Seattle offense - is absent.

Seattle has scored 15 points. Their once fluid attack – give it to Marshawn Lynch a bunch of times, with a sprinkling of passes for good measure – has gone by the wayside. And there are a lot of things to blame for it.

The offensive line (and stop me if you’ve read this before) is giving Russell Wilson no time.

Wilson, because of the ankle injury in the season opener, has been stripped of his ability to improvise (a weapon that would be handy with his line). The running game has been virtually non-existent.

The most frustrating part for Carroll has to be that he finally has a group of skill players to boast about. With Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, he’s flush with talent that he hasn’t had since Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and Co. were running all over the Pac-10.

But right now, Seattle can’t do a thing about it; they’re handcuffed by a lack of ability to run anything resembling an NFL-caliber offense.

Now, it must be noted the Seahawks’ first opponents – Miami and Los Angeles – fielded two of the better defensive lines in the NFL, so struggles were inevitable, but, despite some improvements from my vantage point, things still are not grading out.

From Pro Football Focus:

“The Seahawks’ offensive line couldn’t block the Rams’ defensive line; Mark Glowinski (45.5 grade) and J’Marcus Webb (32.6 grade) had trouble giving injured quarterback Russell Wilson a clean pocket. Glowinski allowed 5 pressures, 3 from the outside, and Webb surrendered 3. Bradley Sowell, who replaced Webb, allowed 5 pressures, 4 from the outside.”

For Carroll and his staff, there’s no end in sight. Offensive lines in the NFL don’t mature overnight; there are not incremental jumps in performance from week-to-week. For the most part, aside from some cohesion that is built, guys are who they are.

Seattle has neglected to address their line the past few offseasons, and it’s coming back to haunt them.

Oh, and on Monday, Carroll’s week took another hit, as Seattle was dinged again (as they were in 2014) for excessive contact in offseason OTAs. It’s small, but it adds to the growing uncertainty surrounding this team.

Two games do not a season make, and Seattle has the talent at every other position to make a Super Bowl run. But until the O-line figures it out, and until Wilson’s ankle heals, I’m afraid the Pete Carroll we’ve become accustomed to – the jovial man living each day to the fullest – is going to be gone.

And if he’s not careful, the goodwill he’s built, and the charm he’s instilled in people, will be lost. What’s left will be a sullen, ashen man, slogging his way through his 18-hour work day.

You know… a normal NFL coach.

Seahawks unveil "Action Green" Color Rush uniforms

Seahawks unveil "Action Green" Color Rush uniforms

Who could ever forget those wonderful lime-green jerseys the Seahawks rolled out in 2009?  They weren’t all that forgettable. In fact, most people remember them for how awful they looked. Now, in 2016, the Seahawks have gone back to the lime-green well to churn out a brand new alternate uniform; this time with decidedly different results.

[PHOTO GALLERY]

Billed as “Action Green,” the new uniforms come as part of the NFL’s Color Rush series. Last season, eight teams wore Color Rush jerseys, and this season all 32 teams will have a Color Rush to roll out on Thursday nights.

For the Seahawks, the uniform takes the old lime-green idea and gives it a much better, modern twist. When Nike took over NFL uniform production in 2012, one of the biggest changes they made was a complete revamp of the Seattle uniform. Since then, Seattle has had arguably one of the best uniform sets in the league, and this new addition is no different, just take the Seahawks words for it:

The team loves them, however, the fan reaction on Twitter has been mixed:

The Seahawks took something old and something new and made a jersey that truly stands out. It may not be the best look in the repertoire, but you have to give it to the Seahawks for taking a risk. 

The Seahawks will wear the new look on Dec.15, when the Los Angeles Rams head to CenturyLink. As for fans, they don’t have to wait to get their hands on them. The “Action Green” jersey is already available at the team store and online.

 

 

 

The Seahawks' Broken Wing

The Seahawks' Broken Wing

It turned out to be nothing. But at CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon, for about 30 minutes, 69,000 people sat on their hands, hearts in their throats.

Russell Wilson was down. Then he was up. Then, he was a shell of himself.

As we were witness to, after yet another game-winning drive, Wilson -- barring any setbacks -- will be fine. His ankle, although precariously situated underneath the weight of Ndamukong Suh, made it through and will live to see another day.

But for the Seahawks and GM John Schneider, every move from this day forward must be in preparation for the worst. Because even with Wilson limited to one ankle, there was nowhere to turn. Not to Trevone Boykin, the lone QB on the roster besides Wilson, who, as an undrafted rookie could be a catastrophe. Not to a veteran backup, destined to hold a clipboard until times get rough.

It was a disturbing reality for a Seattle team, hell-bent on a Super Bowl return, that the fate of their entire offense rests on the health of one man.

Yes, they have their all-world defense. No, that won’t be enough.

The offense, which relies heavily on sleight of hand and Wilson’s ability to improvise, crumbled after his injury transformed him into a lavish statue. Thanks to inept coaching on the part of the Dolphins -- who, for whatever reason, did not blitz Wilson on every play -- the Seahawks were able to tread water long enough to survive.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson recorded a 95.7 passer rating when the Dolphins did not apply pressure.

To make matters worse Seattle’s offensive line, young and unproven entering the season, did absolutely nothing to assuage the fears that they won’t be able to protect Wilson, or open holes for Thomas Rawls and Christin Michael. Only left tackle Gary Gilliam managed to post a positive grade (79.8), and Bradley Sowell and J'Marcus Webb were simply atrocious; each surrendered two QB hurries and recorded 46.6 and 40.7 grades, respectively, according to PFF.

Add it up, and your entire season is riding on Wilson playing behind a maladroit line.

Schneider and Pete Carroll knew they were rolling the dice this season with the quarterback position. For the first time since he was named the starter in 2012, Wilson was devoid of a heady, veteran backup.  But more than having a player they could turn to in times of crisis – if Wilson were to miss extended time, for example – the Seahawks appear to be lacking a player they can turn to for any time.

When Wilson hopped off the turf and looked to the sideline, you could see in his face he needed out. The next play? A handoff. The one after that? A flat-footed throw, no zip. Without the ability to plant, or throw on the run, Wilson was missing the most important tool in his arsenal: the threat of the run. After the game, in a press conference lock-jawed with clichés, Wilson told those gathered that he doesn’t like to run, but he knows how it can be used to his advantage.

To wit:

According to ESPN, “Wilson attempted a career-high 43 passes Sunday. It was the first time in his career his team won when he attempted 40 or more passes in a game. Wilson averaged 6.0 yards per attempt Sunday, a lower figure than he had in any game last season. Part of the reason was that Wilson's average pass traveled 4.7 yards downfield, the third-shortest of his career.”

He attempted those passes out of necessity. And when he is forced to be a stabilizing pocket-passer, he struggles mightily.

The Monday of Week 1 is often referred to as “Over Reaction Monday,” and for good reason. Fan bases across the country, those happy and those sad, woke up today with the thought that their team is better than they originally envisioned. Or, they're worse. That’s up for water-cooler debate. But for Seahawks fans, one glaring truth lies before them:

Their team is good. Really good. But he could be gone in an instant, incapacitated on the field, without a soul behind him to help.

Confident Seahawks will overwhelm Dolphins

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USA Today

Confident Seahawks will overwhelm Dolphins

by 

It’s week one, and not much is on the line.

Nothing on the line anyway, except for saving face, proving your status as a contender, and showing your fans and your critics that you can win without one of the game’s best running backs. It all starts with a home contest against Miami and a chance for both sides to prove they have a new identity.

Enough time spent on “small potatoes”, let’s get acquainted with this week’s challenger.

Miami comes to town with a new head coach in Adam Gase, who was the offensive coordinator in Chicago last season, after making a name for himself as Denver’s offensive coordinator in 2013-14, overseeing one of the best offenses in league history. He won’t be working with a legend like Peyton Manning this season, and it remains to be seen if Dolphin’s QB Ryan Tannehill is even on Jay Cutler’s level.

Gase isn’t the only new face in town, as Miami’s entire coaching staff has been shaken up. Clyde Christensen, formerly the QB coach in Indy, will take over as the new OC and help Gase with Tannehill’s development. New DC Vance Joseph, who was the defensive backs coach in Cincinnati from 2014-15, will try bring the Dolphins’ defense back to a respectable level.

A 6-10 team in 2015, Miami will try to climb out of the AFC basement and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when they had Chad Pennington at QB and Tom Brady sat out 15-3/4 games. Miami did little correctly last season under the guidance of former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philben, as they finished 26th in total offense (19th passing, 23rdrushing) and were the league’s 27th worst scoring team.

Defense wasn’t much better, as the Dolphins gave up the 25th most yards overall, and were 21st against the pass and 28th against the run, finishing as the 19th ranked scoring defense.  Needless to say, they have plenty to work on, while trying to implement a new scheme on both sides of the ball.

There are new faces on both sides of the playing field as well, as RB Lamar Miller and CB Brent Grimes were replaced by Arian Foster and Byron Maxwell in the offseason, and the early returns do not look promising. Miller is one of the best dual-threat rushers in the league, while Grimes is an elite corner, nearly on the level of Richard Sherman. Maxwell has not shown he can be a shut-down corner without Sherman covering the other side, and will face plenty of scrutiny for chasing a big payday without being able to support his worth as a standalone player.  Foster has all the talent in the world, but age and injuries appear to have slowed him down to being an average back, and Foster looks very similar to the way Marshawn Lynch looked last season, lacking burst and lateral quickness.

New defenders Kiko Alonso and Mario Williams should help solidify a defense in dire need of leadership and playmakers, and if 2015 free agent acquisition Ndamukong Suh plays to his ability and gels with the new talent around him, Miami’s front seven could be as scary as Carolina’s, and that’s saying something.

WR Jarvis Landry has talents similar to Odell Beckham Jr and could give the Seattle secondary fits if he has a big day, but Tannehill’s overall accuracy and deep ball placement continue to need improvement, and could hurt Landry as much as he helps him.

On the Seattle side, you could not ask for a better week one opponent. Seattle’s front seven mauled Denver in the 2013 Super Bowl and week 3 of the 2014 regular season, which were both offenses run by Gase and the new-look Dolphins appear to be a very, very poor man’s version of the 2013 Broncos. Miami simply does not have the offensive talent or chemistry going yet, so there could be quite a few drives ruined by three-and-outs and turnovers as the Dolphins lack playmakers aside from Landry, even if Foster is 100%.

On offense, even if RB Thomas Rawls is limited (as recent reports suggest), Christine Michael appears more than ready to handle the role of an every down back. Doug Baldwin is looking to improve on a very impressive 2015 season, and prove his 1000+ yards and 14 TDs was not a fluke.

QB Russell Wilson hit numerous career highs while taking control of a new pass oriented offense last season, and looks primed to have a great day against an average Miami secondary.  2nd year speedster Tyler Lockett could have a big afternoon burning Miami’s second and third corners, and if TE Jimmy Graham is a full-go, it could be a very long day for the Fins.

Based on last year’s final numbers, this contest shouldn’t even be close, as Seattle finished in the top-5 on both sides of the ball and were a playoff team. However, week one is always difficult to predict, especially with so many new faces on the field and the sideline for the opposition.

I expect to see a big day from Seattle’s offense, and a Miami offense struggling to move the ball on a hungry and healthy Seahawks defense. While it won’t be a laugher, Seattle wins this one with room to spare.

Final score: 34-17

Seahawks, Dolphins Set For Opener: Week 1 Preview

Seahawks, Dolphins Set For Opener: Week 1 Preview

It was over before it began.

That’s the reality for the Seattle Seahawks as they reflect back to last season’s chastening playoff defeat to the Carolina Panthers.

“We’re not really satisfied with how that game went and we don’t want to have a season end like that again,” linebacker Bobby Wagner told the MMQB this summer. “We didn’t start playing our style of defense until the second quarter.”

Even in finding their style, Seattle’s 31-24 loss – which was made respectable only by a 24-0 surge to end the game - capped what was a trying year from the get-go. A perplexing off-season trade that sent Max Unger to New Orleans for Jimmy Graham; a faltering 2-4 start; an offense that never got its footing.

From the outset, Seattle’s magical two-year run, which ended in two Super Bowl appearances, was doomed.

The only thing left to do is turn the page.

On Sunday, 238 days after Cam Newton Dabbed all over their dreams, the Seahawks get to begin anew. The Miami Dolphins (6-10 in 2015) are challenge number one; but, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter as much who’s on the other sideline for this Seahawks team. Not yet, at least. Because for all the certainties – the Legion of Boom; the linebackers; Russell Wilson and his emerging crop of receivers – it’s the unknowns that will determine just how far this team can go.

Can an offensive line that’s scattered with inexperience and performance questions come together? Can Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls come close to duplicating the impact of Marshawn Lynch? Can Frank Clark step in for Bruce Irvin and be a force on the defensive line?

These answers will begin to play out on Sunday, but we won’t have a full grasp of them for a few weeks.

Miami may not present the most menacing of challenges, but their strength – a mayhem-wreaking defensive line – coincides perfectly against Seattle’s biggest weakness: their young and mostly unproven offensive line.

When the Seahawks released their Week 1 depth chart on Tuesday, the line – which includes rookie Germain Ifedi – comes with a combined nine years of experience, led mostly by 5th-year left tackle Bradley Sowell.

The Dolphins counter-punch? Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams.

Wake and Suh, who combined for 13 sacks last season, provide a 1-2 punch that could disrupt all of the Seahawks’ plans. Despite his struggles to fit into the culture during the 2015 season - his first with Miami - Suh is still a top-tier defensive tackle.

It will be a baptism by fire for the line, which will be cause for concern early, but could pay off exponentially. Pete Carroll and his staff are putting a lot on the shoulders of this young group, knowing full well the rewards that may come down the road.

If they can hold up – giving Russell Wilson enough time, and opening up some holes for Michael and Rawls – Seattle will be 1-0.

If Suh, Wake and Co. blow it up, and Seattle’s offense can’t run the ball, putting the whole game on the shoulders of Wilson, things will get dicey.

 

Prediction: Seattle 24, Miami 21. As to be expected, look for a slow start offensively for the Seahawks. There’s no way around it – the offensive line is going to have its growing pains, and they’re breaking in two new running backs. But with every passing series, things will begin to mesh together. You simply cannot replicate live, in-game snaps during practice, so Sunday will be their first test.

But there’s too much skill on the outside, and Wilson is in charge at QB. Though it hasn’t really been mentioned yet, the Seahawks defense is still the Seahawks defense. They’ve had to carry the team before; to start the season, they’ll be called upon again.

 

Fantasy Player to Watch: Odds are that Wilson will have precious little time to get the ball to his receivers with the Miami defensive line barring down. There’s a good chance we’ll see lots of quick hitches, out patterns and slants – which could mean a huge day for Tyler Lockett. No one on Seattle’s roster has a running style as elusive and ethereal as that of Lockett. He excels in weaving through tight spaces, and that’s all that can be expected on Sunday. Look for Lockett to have a big game as he continues his rise from special teams star to an all-around threat.