Seattle Seahawks

Slow Starts Are The Norm For 2017 Seattle Seahawks

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Slow Starts Are The Norm For 2017 Seattle Seahawks

By Julian Rogers

That won’t get it done against the NFL’s highest scoring offense in week 5

Slow start #4? No worries. The Seattle Seahawks limped to a 10–15 halftime deficit at home against the Indianapolis Colts, then exploded for 36 second-half points in an eventual route on Sunday night. Problem solved. Ship righted. Right?

Slow start #3? Some worries. The Seahawks managed only seven first-half points at the Tennessee Titans (week three) and ended up losing 33–27 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

Slow start #2? Yes, worries. The Seahawks, in their second outing and first home game, managed only six first-half points against the (still) winless San Francisco 49ers. They amassed 12 points on four field goals to get their first win of the season.

Slow start #1? Serious worries. The Seahawks could only muster three first-half points in a week one loss (9–17) at Green Bay. They did not score their first offensive touchdown until the second quarter of week three at the Titans.

Getting better

At least the trend is going up (ish) for the Seattle Seahawks. After only three first-half points against the Packers, they got six points in week two, seven in week three and cracked double digits in week four. At that pace, they’ll get maybe 12 first-half points against the Los Angeles Rams.

Anyone feeling good about Seattle’s chances if this trend continues?

You might feel good about it, depending on whether or not the Seahawks can convince the Rams to start the game in the third quarter. Since that seems unlikely, the blue birds need to find a way to get their offensive engine jump-started earlier in the contest. Since the Sean McVay-led Rams of 2017 are averaging a league-best 35.5 points per game, the Seahawks must counter with nine points or more per quarter to keep pace.

This is the very definition of a tall task. In their 16 quarters of play, the 2017 Seahawks have scored nine or more points in a quarter three times; two of which were in Q3 and Q4 against the Colts. The 12s had better hope the latter half Seahawks are the new Seahawks for the rest of the season.

And they might be. There were definite signs of life as the Colts faded from competitiveness in the latter half of the game.

Tomorrow never knows

Time and again, we’ve learned that how a team plays in the first quarter of the season bears little resemblance to how they play in November, December and (hopefully) January. The Seahawks, by dint of their 2–2 record, combined with the 3–1 record of the NFC West Division-leading Rams, are essentially starting the season over, one-quarter of the way in.

The winner of this game will have early (for what it’s worth) control of the division. The Seahawks are right there, and have determined what works — and perhaps more significantly, what doesn’t work — on offense.

We’ve seen what the Seahawks are now: a sketchy passing attack for most of their 2017 possessions. Poor run-blocking that’s getting worse. Russell Wilson running for his life on almost every down. The Seahawks consistently move the ball when they spread defenses out and go up-tempo. The results say: Do more of that.

Despite the two-halvesness nature of the Seahawks’ offense, a quick examination of the team’s offensive statistics does reveal a remarkable symmetry in the Colts game. Three different receivers totaled more than 60 yards in receptions; none as much as 70. In total, eight different receivers caught passes, including four receivers, two running backs and two tight ends. Quarterback Russell Wilson is a master at running Darrell Bevell’s offense and remains willing and able to target any individual based on matchups and opportunities on any given play.

His trustiest target, No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin, was not among the top three receivers in the Colts game, with only 35 receiving yards. No matter. Given favorable field position, thanks to a highly effective defensive performance, Wilson was able to find all of his receiving weapons when he needed to, despite tossing two interceptions (21/26, 295 yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, 2 INTs, 1 safety).

While the Seahawks have churned their way through running backs (as has become their recent custom) due to injury (Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Chris Carson) ineffectiveness (Eddie Lacy; all of the others, at times) and inexperience (J.D. McKissic), they may have just found the right combination against the Colts.

Now that Carson is out long-term with a nasty lower leg injury, Eddie Lacy looks to be the current workhorse back, with McKissic providing the occasional big-play spark. Lacy’s most recent stat line: (11 rushes for 52 yards) combined with McKissic’s (4 rushes, 38 yards and 1 reception for a 27-yard touchdown) are a more than solid combination.

They’ll need it to keep pace with the NFL’s second-leading running back (to rookie phenom Kareem Hunt), dual threat Todd Gurley (86 carries, 362 yards [4.2 YPC], 4 TDs and 3 receiving TDs).

What the Seahawks have known about Gurley since his rookie season of 2015 is that he is the whole deal for the Rams offense. So far in 2017, he’s the real deal — and a complement to the blossoming second-year quarterback Jared Goff’s suddenly potent passing attack.

Goff, whose trajectory has spiked upward, has been (I’ll say it) surprisingly aided by the addition of two former Buffalo Bills receivers, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, and Eastern Washington rookie Cooper Kupp. Not only are the Rams the highest scoring offense, they also own the fifth-ranked passing offense and the 15th-ranked rushing offense. The Seahawks, after the second-half outpouring against the Colts, are 13th and 11th, respectively.

The biggest difference: In Los Angeles, the sexy yards come from Gurley. In Seattle, they come from Wilson.

Good day sunshine

It’s a new day in the NFC West with the Los Angeles Rams leading the division with the league’s highest flying offense. It’s a new opportunity for the Seahawks, who have managed to stay within a game of the Rams while sorting through their offensive slow starts and injury woes. Could this week five matchup be a defining moment in not only the 2017 season, but the course of both franchises going forward?

Regardless of records, recent history tells us that the Seahawks have a hard time against the Rams, whether in Seattle, Los Angeles or St. Louis. The Seahawks are 2–4 against the Rams since the 2014 season. The Seahawks were a playoff team in those years; the Rams were also-rans.

Whoever triumphs on Sunday will own the division now that the preliminary month has concluded. This is no “must win,” but it will be a determinant win — for one franchise.

Seahawks: Defense doesn't win games -- balance does

Seahawks: Defense doesn't win games -- balance does

The old cliche is that defense wins football games.

I would argue with that. I think balance wins football games. Take the Seattle Seahawks. Please, before their fans die of boredom.

The Seahawks have had a terrific defense for years. They should, because they seem to spend all their salary cap room on defenders. Problem is, no matter how well your defense plays, you still need a few points to win games.

Balance between offense and defense is always the key in any sport. If your offense is terrific, your defense doesn't need to be quite as good. In Seattle's case, the defense is very good. But even if the defense pitches a shutout, Seattle can't win without a few points. The Trail Blazers have been walking this fine line for a few years now. Yes, their defense isn't very good, but when their offense is clicking, the defense is often good enough.

Seattle used to pride itself on a power running game that played into the defensive strengths. Quarterback Russell Wilson was good enough getting the ball up the field to solid receivers that the Seahawks won a Super Bowl (and, of course, should have won two of them.) But the trade of Max Unger began the undoing of the offensive line and Seattle hasn't been the same since.

Wilson now has become the offense. And I'm not talking about his passing, either. Wilson has become the running game all by himself. He rode to the rescue Sunday against the 49ers with his fourth-quarter scrambles and finally got his team into the end zone for its first touchdown of the season.

I can't believe anybody in Seattle, including Pete Carroll, believes that's a sustainable way to win football games. At 5-11 and about 215, I don't think Wilson can handle the load. He's not going to get through the season if he has to continue to be the go-to ground gainer on this team. It just won't work. Obviously.

Somehow -- and maybe it's going to take trading a great defensive player for a great offensive player at some point -- the Seahawks have to regain their balance.

 

Week 1: Seahawks vs. Packers - Where each team is weak

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Week 1: Seahawks vs. Packers - Where each team is weak

BY 

Tackling running backs and running over tackles

If you’ve ever wondered which circumstance is worse for your football team — no viable offensive tackles or no viable running game — the definitive answer will reveal itself on Sept. 10, 2017 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. These two potentially fatal weaknesses will be on full display when the Green Bay Packers host the Seattle Seahawks in NFL regular season week one.

The answer to this question may well decide the game. To make it interesting, the two old foes have split this weakness evenly with the Seahawks fielding a duct-taped lineup of underwhelming tackles and the Packers offering a doesn’t-matter-could-be-anyone lineup of ball carriers. Both opposing defenses are licking their chops at the prospect of taking full advantage of these glaring weaknesses.

On the left

George Fant was considered to be a rising talent at the long-suffering left tackle slot this season for the Seahawks. Whether or not it was actually true is now a moot point as the Fant experiment ended early in the Seahawks’ preseason week two exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. Fant tore his ACL in an unfortunate friendly fire collision and is now lost for the season. Enter Rees Odhiambo, who took over for Fant for the rest of the game. As of now, the 2016 third-round pick appears to be the putative leader at that spot, where he had practiced some while also splitting time at guard (as the clear backup to newcomer Luke Joeckel).

When the answer to “who’s our left tackle?” is “next man up,” shortly on the heels of “let’s try this guy who never played tackle in college,” you know it’s less than ideal. Odhiambo will have to fend off the Seahawks’ two new panic Monday acquisitions, Matt Tobin, who was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday and street free agent Tyrus Thompson. Joeckel is also a possibility, but the Seahawks would prefer he stay at guard.

Offensive line coach Tom Cable was his usual effusive self in his assessment of the blue birds’ chances at fielding a respectable left tackle, “We have choices.” Coincidentally, Russell Wilson will also have choices: sprint wide left or wide right on every drop-back.

On the right

At the other end, the news may not be much better. Last year’s first-round selection, Germain Ifedi, has been moved from 2016’s position (guard) to right tackle. The job is his to lose and he may just do it. In his first 2017 preseason action, Ifedi allowed three pressures in 13 snaps. In week two, my impression of Ifedi was that he was doing an effective impression of a turnstile. Some say he improved over preseason week one, but I still counted two quarterback hits in about one half of action.

Theoretically pushing Ifedi at right tackle is 2017 second-round pick, Ethan Pocic. Pocic is also splitting time at guard (like Ifedi did in his rookie season) but he is built like a tackle (6’6”, 309 lbs.) and will ultimately sink or swim at the outside position. Against lesser competitors than Ifedi has had to go against so far in his two preseason games, Pocic appears to have a long way to go. He comically missed a second-level block against the Los Angeles Chargers’ backups in preseason week one. He got called for a hold in week two against the Vikings backups.

I think Russell Wilson is in trouble.

No rush

Also in trouble, the Green Bay Packers’ rushing game. Despite anointing surprise 2016 lead rusher Ty Montgomery as the starter and then drafting three rookie running backs in April, the Packers have yet to demonstrate any kind of impact from the position thus far into the preseason. Nobody is making the Packers forget Eddie Lacy.

Montgomery, the third-year converted wide receiver, is making his way through his first NFL preseason as a running back and has yet to demonstrate any of the sizzle that saw him gain 457 yards on 77 carries (5.9 YPC) in a partial 2016 campaign. To date, he’s had a total of three carries for zero yards, a lost fumble and a lower leg injury that held him out of the week two preseason contest in Washington D.C.

In his stead have been a litany of rookie running backs (three draftees, two free agents) who have yet to impress. Combined, the backs have received 31 carries for 74 yards, averaging a scant 2.38 yards per carry. It’s as if George Fant is carrying the ball for the Packers. Post-ACL injury.

The Packers’ running back culprits that will line up against the Seahawks in week one will consist of Montgomery and probably no more than two of the following five rookies: Jamaal Williams, BYU (round 4), Aaron Jones, UTEP (round 5), Devante Mays, Utah State (round 7), Kalif Phillips, Charlotte (FA) and William Stanback Virginia Union (FA) one or two fullbacks (Aaron Ripkowski, Joe Kerridge) who do not do anything other than pass protect and lead block.

Who of those two rookies will make it? Impossible to tell at this point and even more importantly—it hardly makes a difference. None have shown any ability to get more than what has been blocked for them. There is no rookie-vintage Thomas Rawls in the group.

The good news / bad news for Green Bay is that Aaron Rodgers and his deep, talented receiver corps remains the entirety of the Packers’ offense. They even imported two new free agent tight ends (Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks) to diversify the pass dispersals. The Packers will once again rely upon an aerial attack to move the ball and score. It’s worked in the past. It’s just never been the only option before. The Packers running backs will likely be judged more on their ability to pass protect and know assignments more than their rushing ability.

There will be two Achilles’ heels ready to snap in week one. The Seahawks’ and the Packers’ defenses could not be more pleased.

The Seahawks lost at Green Bay 10–38 in the last meeting between these two teams in 2016 week 14. Both teams were eliminated from the playoffs by the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

Scouting the Seattle Seahawks’ week 1 opponent

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Scouting the Seattle Seahawks’ week 1 opponent

BY 

The Green Bay Packers will host the Seattle Seahawks week one at Lambeau Field. Here’s an early look at the blue birds’ first regular season opponent.

The Packers went defense early and often in the 2017 NFL Draft. General Manager Ted Thompson made a statement by going cornerback, safety, defensive tackle and linebacker with the Packers’ first four picks. That statement: “We need help.”

The impact of Ted’s statement moves will have to wait. Despite the Packers’ need to bolster the NFL’s 22nd-ranked defense from last year, the Packers will line up week one at home against the Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, Sept. 10) with a full complement of holdovers on the defensive side of the ball.

What they won’t have are a number of rookie contributors. The Packers’ prize rookies will be mostly watching the proceedings.

Here is how the Packers’ four top draft picks are faring thus far, with a look at their chances of playing against the Seattle Seahawks in week one.

Kevin King, CB (Washington, Rd 2, № 33 overall)

In a word: Rough. It’s been a tough start for the Packers’ first draft pick, Seattle’s Kevin King. Right now, the word is “usual growing pains” for a raw player (only 1.5 seasons at cornerback at the University of Washington) trying to find a place at what is probably the league’s toughest position to master, due to a bevy of supreme athletes at wide receiver and a stacked-against-the-defense rule book.

That said, King has struggled but managed to keep his head up despite suffering a minor shoulder injury and working through some rough practice reps that saw him get scorched with frequency by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his deep receivers corps. The good news: He’s not demoralized. Yet.

His only live preseason action saw more of the same. King was up and down against the Philadelphia Eagles in Green Bay on August 10, showing a strong willingness to tackle. King also got burned for a few long gains, including a 38-yard touchdown after a failed tackle attempt.

Early season outlook: In reality, the Packers are sure to line up with veteran safeties Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (first-time Pro Bowler) and a combination of three veteran cornerbacks for their standard nickel package that will include returnee Davon House (past two seasons in Jacksonville) and recent high draft picks Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall.

As the Packers’ top draft pick, King’s roster spot is assured early on, but he will be challenged to get any playing time even in the dime package, where he will have to beat out last year’s №1 cornerback (due to a spate of injuries) LaDarius Gunter and athletic second-year prospect Josh Hawkins. Veteran Demetri Goodson can also not be counted out.

Ultimately, King provides the type of body (6′ 3″, good speed and smooth athleticism) that other Packers defensive backs do not have. He will be counted on when the Packers decide to play match up ball, but not early on.

Josh Jones, S (NC State, Rd 2, № 61 overall)

In contrast to King, Jones is having a fine start to his young career. He is easily the brightest spot among the Packers’ rookie defenders. Or at least he was until he suffered a right ankle injury in practice on Tuesday, Aug. 15. His current availability is unknown, but he was carted off the Packers’ practice field for treatment.

The Packers would be well-advised to consider encasing Jones in bubble wrap during the preseason, given the gimpy shoulder of the guy drafted before him and his two fellow defensive draftees below, both of whom are out of action for multiple weeks.

The anecdotal reviews for Jones are good:

  • “Based on practice, it sure looks like Jones wants to hit. … He closes fast.” (Eric Baranczyk & Pete Dougherty, USA TODAY NETWORK)
  • “Josh Jones — a physical defensive back with an aggressive, violent play style … the early star of the Green Bay Packers’ … organized team activities. (Zach Kruse, Packers Wire)
  • “ The hard-hitting rookie drafted in the second round has left a strong impression so far in training camp, showing the potential to contribute …” (AP / Fox Sports)

Early season outlook: At 6′ 2″, 220 lbs., Jones is ideally suited for the in-vogue hybrid safety / inside linebacker several teams are deploying these days. Count Green Bay in that group. They call it their Nitro package. Unfortunately for Jones, starting safety Morgan Burnett and 2016 enforcer, second-year safety Kentrell Brice, are taking a lot of the reps as the Nitro linebacker as well. Since we already know who the Packers’ starting nickel group will be and the high likelihood that Brice will be next in line, Jones will almost certainly be relegated to special sub packages in the early season once recovered from his current ankle injury.

Montravius Adams, DT (Auburn, Rd 3, № 93 overall)

Adams, the former Auburn Tiger, looked to be a perfect fit for the drafters and draftee. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it through his first training camp practice uninjured. Adams felt pain in his foot during the first practice of training camp on July 27, played through it the next day and has been inactive since. He underwent surgery in early August, having a screw inserted in the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe.

Early season outlook: At this stage, Adams looks to be unavailable for even week one duty. With virtually no training camp reps in his rookie season, Adams will have to be worked in slowly to get acclimated to game shape and moreover, acclimated to real NFL action. At least he got mini-camp reps, unlike Vince Biegel. The Packers will be fortunate to get any contributions of substance from Adams by mid-season.

Vince Biegel, OLB (Wisconsin, Rd 4, № 108)

Fourth-round selection outside linebacker Vince Biegel, was the first of the Packers rookies to go down. He remains out of action with a foot injury suffered on the second day of rookie orientation in early spring. He has not taken a padded rep since the Packers drafted him in the fourth round. He remains on the PUP list now nearly two weeks into training camp.

Early season outlook: While Biegel claims that his foot injury is “progressing well,” he refuses to put a return date on it. Which means, “not soon.” Which means the Packers are inching close to potentially a lost season for the Wisconsin product.

Given the high importance of early training camp reps where competition is prioritized over game preparation, Biegel will be hard-pressed to regain any stature among the Packers linebackers. His opportunities to contribute this season shrink every day he remains out.

Kick off for the Seahawks at the Packers is at 1:25 p.m. Pacific on Sunday, Sept. 10.

Bats heat up late: Hops hold off AquaSox in 5-4 win

Bats heat up late: Hops hold off AquaSox in 5-4 win

It was a pitcher’s duel turned shootout in the Hops 5-4 win over the Everett AquaSox on super hero night at Ron Tonkin Field Friday night.

In their second televised game of the season on CSN, a pitchers duel broke through the first five innings. On the hill for the Hops was Connor Grey, who came into Friday night’s game 1-2 with an 8.05 ERA. Retiring 15 of his first 17 batters, Grey registered 7 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, striking out 5. His ERA dropped nearly three whole runs. 

With both Grey and Inman pitching lights out for their respective teams, the Hops turned to small ball in the bottom of the 6th inning. After Tra Holmes singled with one out, then subsequently stole second base, LF Billy Endris laid a bunt down the third base line. Corralled by pitcher Inman, his throw to first was off the mark, sailing into right field, bringing home Holmes. Heading to second base, Endris scored after a Bryan Araiza single to left. Araiza got caught rounding first, though Endris had already touched home, making the score 2-0. 

The AquaSox went to their bullpen and Ted Hammond in the bottom of the 7th, but the Hops bats were all warmed up. After a walk and a single from Eudy Ramos and Pavin Smith, Dalton Varsho stepped to the plate with one out and lined a double down the left field line, bringing in both runners, making it 4-0. Hillsboro tacked on another run in the 7th after a hard ground ball to short that forced Johnny Adams to force the out at first. 

Everett did not go away quietly, however. In the top of the 8th, after Grey’s lights out performance, righty Rafael Pujols, who had not given up a run this season, was shelled for 3 earned runs off 0.0 innings pitched. Anfernee Benitez didn’t fare much better.  He surrenders one run in 0.2 innings, including two runs that were credited to Pujols. In a game that saw little offense through the first 5 innings, 9 runs were scored in two-and-a-half innings on 13 hits.  

The Hops improved to 8-8 on the season, which is good enough for third place in the southern division of the Northwest Conference. 

Connor Grey receives the win. He improves to 2-2 on the season. Inman, who allowed one run on four hits in six innings, is credited with the loss.

Diamondbacks first round pick (7th overall) Pavin Smith, who entered Friday night’s game 6 for 21 (.286), went 2 for 4 and a run scored. 

Hillsboro and Everett’s series continues Saturday at 5pm at Ron Tonkin Field with Michael Suarez projected to start for the AquaSox opposite Riley Smith for the Hops. 

 

Seahawks agree to trade Marshawn Lynch to Oakland

Seahawks agree to trade Marshawn Lynch to Oakland

The most anticipated homecoming in the NFL is finally a reality.  According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Seattle Seahawks have agreed to trade Marshawn Lynch to the Oakland Raiders.

Lynch, an Oakland native, retired from the NFL following the 2015 season, but had recently shown interest in rejoining the league.  It was reported back on April 14 that the Raiders and Lynch had agreed to terms of a deal, and that the ball was in the Seahawks' court to complete a trade; a trade that was figured to be nothing more than a formality at the time.

According to reports, the Seahawks and Raiders will swap late round picks in 2018 in exchange for the rights to Lynch. Seattle will send its sixth round pick to Oakland in exchange for the Raiders fifth round pick.  Lynch’s deal with the Raiders is reportedly a two-year deal worth $3 million base, with added incentives should he eclipse the 1,000 yard mark.

In his final season in the league Lynch battled injuries and rushed for just 417 yards in seven games played. However, the year prior he played in all 16 games and rushed for 1,306 yards, averaging 4.66 yards per carry.

If his body is healthy and he has any gas left in the tank, then the Raiders just got a steal.

Earlier today Lynch took to twitter to thank the Seahawks fans and more or less make the deal official.

“Yes Lawd 12th man I'm thankful but [expletive] just got REAL I had hella fun in Seattle…But I'm really from Oakland doe like really really really from Oakland doe... town bizzness breath on me."

Fans in Oakland are ecstatic, but so are his new teammates.

The Raiders open the 2017-18 season on September 10 in Tennessee against the Titans, and play their first home game the following weekend when they host the New York Jets.

OSN NFL Mock Draft

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OSN NFL Mock Draft

Welcome to NFL Draft Week! This is the week where dreams are made, hope is at an all-time high in the league, and there is always a surprise or two along the way.

This week the OSN staff got together to do a cumulative mock draft. Eight writers each took a specific division and drafted for the 4 teams in their respective divisions. Each writer brought a different angle and level of expertise to the table.

While there is no telling how the rollercoaster 3-day event will unfold in Philadelphia this weekend, check out how we see the 1st Round going on Thursday!

1 – Cleveland Browns – DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Doug Mackar – “The best player in the draft. Garrett is a potential All-Pro talent that will have an immediate impact. A move in the draft order may allow the Browns to snatch up a QB early in the first round, but #1 this year is all about the defense. A QB isn’t going to help the second worst defense in the league; an elite pass rusher with the ability to play DE, or LB if needed, will. Garrett has the quickness, skill and power to beat the best O-linemen off the snap. Any team would be happy to have this talent on board. The Browns should be absolutely ecstatic.”

2 – San Francisco 49ers – DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford

Jason Hartzog – “The 49ers need to add talent all across the board. I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade the number 2 pick – trading down a few spots while adding some picks. Their biggest need is at the QB position, but they will remain patient and wait for the right guy. The 49ers will highly consider corner Marshon Lattimore (injury history brings up a red flag) and Mitch Trubisky (not sold on as the future QB), but ultimately take the best talent that they can put on the field in Thomas. Thomas has a high motor. He’s very versatile, he can play inside or outside. He will help improve their front line wherever the 49ers decide to play him.”

3 – Chicago Bears – CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

Casey Mabbott – “Chicago needs a lot of help on both sides of the ball and could use the pick to add a playmaker to their #28 ranked scoring offense, but in order to keep pace with opponents in a pass heavy league, they need to keep adding on defense. This team gave up more points than 23 other teams in the league, that’s not going to get the job done as their offense goes through a massive transition. Lattimore is a pro-ready defender with great instincts who will add an immediate impact to a position of need, the Bears can’t ask for much more from a top-5 pick.”

4 – Jacksonville Jaguars – RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

Simon Teska – “The Jaguars have done a good job in recent years wasting top-10 picks on defensive lineman (that haven’t really panned out to be much) in an attempt to fix their perennial problems at DT and DE. Well enough of that crap. They haven’t had a legitimate RB since MJD took over for Fred Taylor. Fournette is the best back on the board and he geographically played close to the Jaguars fan base – although at SEC rival -Florida. Still though, Jaguars, don’t do anything stupid.”

5 – Tennessee Titans – S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Simon Teska – “Ohio state players seem to be popular throughout all seven rounds of the draft every year and the Titans are throwing it back to 1996 when they took Eddie George out of OSU. This year, they look to add excitement on the defensive side of the ball.”

6 – New York Jets – QB DeShaun Watson, Clemson

Miriam Ludlow – “Established leadership and wins under his belt. Excellent pocket passer. He has championship experience. Meaning he can handle the pressures of the game. This is THE match as the NYJ are lacking QB talent.”

7 – Los Angeles Chargers – S Jamal Adams, LSU

Julian Rogers – “The Chargers have seen the past few seasons go up in smoke due to offensive line woes. Pro Football Focus ranked the Chargers’ line ahead of only the Seattle Seahawks’. They would love to go offensive line here, but the value just isn’t there. Instead, they’ll take the best player still available in Adams and add another piece to an impressive, young & ascending defense.”

8 – Carolina Panthers – RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Darby Marioth – “With Leonard Fournette off the board, the Carolina Panthers settle, which I say with a grain of salt, for Stanford offensive Swiss army knife, Christian McCaffrey. While he may not be the speedy bulldozer that Fournette is, McCaffrey has a lot to show in terms of athletic ability, including a 4.48 40-yard dash and a 37.5 inch vertical leap. Where McCaffrey has Fournette unarguably beat is with his overall instincts. His ability to consistently find the correct lane is a prime example of this. A big reason why McCaffrey will fit in great with Carolina’s system is that he’s a sneaky-footed RB with a pass-catching ability that surpasses a great deal of wide receivers in the NFL. With the Panthers’ receiving corps in shambles and starting RB Jonathan Stewart only getting older at age 30, they’ll take out two birds with one stone by selecting McCaffrey.”

9 – Cincinnati Bengals – DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Doug Mackar – “Strengthening the D-line could take this team from average to fighting for a playoff spot. At 6’3”, he’ll need to take full advantage of his strength and quickness to compete with pro-level offensive lines. Solid against the run and an absolute nuisance to opposing quarterbacks, his speed will allow him to make plays outside the pocket that larger linemen may miss. Allen is a leader, a winner, and most importantly: a proven talent under pressure.”

10 – Buffalo Bills – S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Miriam Ludlow – “A multifaceted player, the man can play all positions, offense, defense and special teams. The man can do it all! For a team that needs help in all positions he is the perfect match!”

11 – New Orleans Saints – DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Darby Marioth – “Wait, Derek Barnett is still available? It’s a match made in heaven. The New Orleans Saints are in dire need of a dependable edge rusher, and have been for many years. Barnett is specifically known for his freakish ability to stop the run and put terror into the lives of quarterbacks despite his not-so-freakish physical marks at 6’3”, 259 pounds. Not only will Barnett provide an instant three-down talent in the league, I fully expect him to end the season with more recorded sacks than first-overall draft pick, Myles Garrett.”

12 – Cleveland Browns – TE O.J. Howard, Alabama

Doug Mackar – “Howard will fit in with a team that despite a 1-15 record (that actually hurts to write) actually showed some signs of life throughout the season. Another elite TE will help the QB-starved Browns find some yards with more consistency both in the air and on the ground.”

13 – Arizona Cardinals – WR Mike Williams, Clemson

Jason Hartzog – “Williams is a top tier talent. He makes big plays down the field and can make plays between the hash marks. He’s a potential number 1 receiver. He passes the eye test with his athleticism, size and speed. He can come in next to Larry Fitzgerald and maintain their high powered offense. Eventually Williams will replace an aging Fitzgerald as their number 1. Cardinals are thrilled to see him drop to 13 here.”

14 – Philadelphia Eagles – WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Garrett Thornton – “The Eagles would absolutely love Christian McCaffrey here. Instead they go with another offensive playmaker. A lot of folks think that with the acquisitions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith that the Eagles won’t take a receiver here. False. Jeffery and Smith are on one year deals and Davis is a game changer. This guy can, and will, be a true number one receiver in the NFL.”

15 – Indianapolis Colts – OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

Simon Teska – “It isn’t a flashy pick by any means, but somewhere on draft day Andrew Luck is breathing a sigh of relief. Christian McCaffrey has been off the board for a while, so they can find Frank Gore’s replacement later (sorry Dalvin Cook). O-line isn’t deep this year, but the Colts think they’ve got the best available and Ramczyk will either start right away or will certainly add depth to a group that needs it.”

16 – Baltimore Ravens – OT Cam Robinson, Alabama

Doug Mackar – “Alabama is taking the AFC North by storm in my draft. Simple fact is that Baltimore gets significantly better by adding Robinson to their line. By playing to his strengths and steadily improving on his weaknesses, the Ravens will have one less thing to worry about on their journey to top the Steelers in the North.”

17 – Washington Redskins – LB Haason Reddick, Temple

Garrett Thornton – “Haason Reddick is one of the most versatile prospects in this draft, and the Redskins would be shocked and excited if he were available at #17. Reddick could be a rush end, a stand up linebacker, or a hybrid pass rusher that can disrupt every play. The Redskins need playmakers in the front seven and Reddick would make an impact Week One.”

18 – Tennessee Titans – TE David Njoku, Miami

Simon Teska – “Now, it’s time for Marcus Mariota to add a weapon in the Titan offense. A WR, like Washington’s speedster John Ross is also here, but the versatility of Njoku at the tight end position gives Mariota a reliable, safety valve to help on those third downs while providing a deep threat in the middle of the field as well. He’s athletic, he’s fast and he can make an immediate impact in the Tennessee offense.”

19 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State

Darby Marioth – “Dalvin Cook is one of the most interesting prospects in this draft. He’s bounced around various mock drafts, seen anywhere between the Philadelphia Eagles at 14 and the late second round. His major red flags haven’t been a result of his play, but rather his somewhat troubled past. In the words of Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, “Mistakes make you grow.” Cook is a classic “made it” story. Tampa Bay will be ecstatic to have Cook drop to them at the 19 spot. Tampa Bay’s old school offensive system, which relies on a feature back, is in need of a makeover with the underperforming, often injured Doug Martin running the show. Former Florida State standout and starting quarterback Jameis Winston will be a fantastic positive influence for Cook.”

20 – Denver Broncos – OT Garett Bolles, Utah

Julian Rogers – “A true need pick. The 2016 Broncos’ offensive line performance had as much to do with the team’s fall from Super Bowl Champion to also-ran just as much as poor quarterback play. The Broncos shored up one offensive tackle spot by bringing in oft-injured Menelik Watson from the Oakland Raiders. But the right tackle spot still needs major help with Pro Football Focus’ worst-ranked offensive lineman of all last year, Donald Stephenson. With Watson’s side not yet determined, according to general manager John Elway, Bolles will compete for a starting spot at either right or left tackle.”

21 – Detroit Lions – LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

Casey Mabbott – “The Lions could use quite a bit of help on defense and pass rushers or cover corners are legitimate needs, but what they lack most is a leader in the middle. Reuben Foster was outstanding in his senior year at Alabama, earning All-American and Butkus Award honors as college football’s best linebacker. Foster has had some off the field concerns, most recently being dismissed from the combine and failing a drug test. If he stays out of trouble, he has the potential to be a Patrick Willis type of player and could be the leader on the field for Detroit from day one. Taking Foster this early could be risky, but getting a legitimate top-10 talent this late in the round is an opportunity the Lions need to take a chance on.

22 – Miami Dolphins – DE Taco Charlton, Michigan

Miriam Ludlow -Solid DE. Quick off the line.  6’6, 277 pounds of athletic ability and with the experience he has, having lead Michigan with 9.5 sacks among 13 tackles for loss, Taco could help the Miami Dolphins get to the next level.

23 – New York Giants – QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

Garrett Thornton – “This is a case of best player available. Eli Manning is 36 years old and isn’t going to be around forever. Trubisky can sit behind Manning for the next couple years in a Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers type situation. This would be a phenomenal landing spot for Trubisky! The Giants really need an offensive tackle, but the top 3 are off the board so they go with a quarterback and future leader of the franchise.”

24 – Oakland Raiders – CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State

Julian Rogers – “If the draft really falls this way, the Raiders would be thrilled to nab Conley in this spot. Considered by some to be the equal of Ohio State Buckeye teammate Marshon Lattimore, Conley is the type of cornerback the Raiders like most: fast, tall, experienced (three-year starter), versatile and adept at press-man coverage. Instant starter.”

25 – Houston Texans – QB Pat Mahomes III, Texas Tech

Simon Teska – “With Trubisky off the board to the Giants, the Texans have to “settle” for in-state option Pat Mahomes. It really isn’t settling, however, as Mahomes brings in play-making ability to the QB position. Whether he starts right away is yet to be determined, but the sooner the Texans move on from the Brock Osweiler debacle the better. Mahomes is smart and shows poise, but is a little undersized at 6’2″.”

26 – Seattle Seahawks – OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

Jason Hartzog – “The Seahawks need to bolster up an offensive line that gave up 42 sacks last season (6th most in NFL). Lamp should be a great addition. There has been trade talk of Richard Sherman this offseason. It’s hard to imagine the Seahawks with Sherman, but if that becomes more of a reality on draft day they may look a little hard into a corner. Washington’s Kevin King or Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey would be nice options at this point.”

27 – Kansas City Chiefs – DE Charles Harris, Missouri

Julian Rogers – “Harris is a bit of a conundrum in that he is lauded as an effective speed rusher, yet doesn’t sport a sexy 40 time (4.82). He will need to work on his run defense, but the in-state selection will be a nice addition to the Chiefs’ defense. They also could go cornerback or running back, but the draft is deep at those positions. The Chiefs will wait for later rounds to fill those needs.”

28 – Dallas Cowboys – DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

Garrett Thornton – “The Cowboys need secondary and pass rush help more than anything else in this draft. With cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Kevin King still on the board, I was tempted to go that way. In the end, I think cornerback is a deeper position and the Cowboys could get a quality starter in Round 2. Takk had an impressive combine, running a 4.59 40-yard dash. In comparison, that was faster than top wide receiver prospect Mike Williams, and faster than any top QB prospect in the draft. McKinley may not be ready Week One after a shoulder surgery post-combine, but will be a disruptive pass rusher as a rookie.”

29 – Green Bay Packers – CB Kevin King, Washington

Casey Mabbott – “Green Bay can score points as well as any team in the league, where they fall short is slowing down opposing offenses, and that’s putting it nicely. Last year’s starting corners did little to contain opposing receivers, routinely allowing career high numbers whether they faced all-pros or guys you’ve never heard of. A veteran corner would have been nice, but GM Ted Thompson did nothing to improve his #31 pass defense after releasing Sam Shields (who was not able to pass concussion protocol after suffering his 4th concussion in 7 seasons during a week one contest at Jacksonville), so the team will once again look to the draft for help. The Packers will have to hope that Kevin King will be something like UW alum Marcus Peters, and use his speed and length to provide an immediate impact to a secondary in desperate need of help.”

30 – Pittsburgh Steelers – S Josh Jones, North Carolina State

Doug Mackar – “The Steelers are a Super Bowl contender as long as they stay healthy. A dangerous team on both sides of the ball, taking their average pass defense up a notch is a priority this year. If Jones is coached well and quickly develops the discipline of a pro, he can step in and be a difference maker from game one.”

31 – Atlanta Falcons – DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State

Darby Marioth – “If the Atlanta Falcons can display their patience, you’ll see them select Jordan Willis at the 31 spot. Willis is an explosive, speedy defensive end who will make a living as a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. His physical numbers are best compared to DeMarcus Ware. His potential skill set is best compared to, well, DeMarcus Ware. If the Dirty Birds can provide Willis with some coaching on his hand usage and technique, they very well could have the NFL’s next great edge rusher on their team.”

32 – New Orleans Saints – DE T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Darby Marioth – “There are a lot of great defensive ends in this year’s draft, and it’s only right that the first round of the draft ends the way it started; with the selection of a DE. T.J. Watt, brother of J.J. Watt, is ready to make a name for himself behind some pretty promising numbers. The 6’4”, 252 pound defensive menace could be an instant impact player in NO, who ranked 27th in the league in sacks last season. After selecting Derek Barnett earlier in the first round, you’d expect NO to look elsewhere. While the Saints could take a cornerback here, maybe LSU’s Tre’Davious White, I think that finding a definite answer for their horrendous pass rushing is a top priority. if this project pans out, the Saints could instantly become one of the NFL’s top edge pressure defenses.”

Top Ten Players Still Available After Day One (According to CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler):

1 – DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State (#20 Overall on Brugler’s Top-100)

2 – WR John Ross, Washington (#21)

3 – LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt (#24)

4 – RB Curtis Samuel, Ohio State (#25)

5 – LB Jarrad Davis, Florida (#26)

6 – CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama (#27)

7 – TE/WR Evan Engram, Ole Miss (#28)

8 – QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame (#29)

9 – CB Tre’Davious White, LSU (#32)

10 – S Budda Baker, Washington (#33)

Report: Seahawks, Joeckel agree to one-year deal

Report: Seahawks, Joeckel agree to one-year deal

After a season besmirched by porous offensive line play, the Seattle Seahawks are making it clear that they plan on upgrading the team's most pressing position.

According to Adam Schefter and his sources, the Seahawks are set to sign Luke Joeckel, the #2 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The deal is reported to be for one year at $8 million. 

Joeckel, who played three seasons at Texas A&M, has battled inconsistency and injuries in his four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Drafted as a tackle, he has since slid inside to guard. It is unknown where Joeckel would play on the line, but after last season, when the Seahawks averaged just 99.4 yards per game on the ground, no spots should be set in stone. 

Free agency is in full swing as of yesterday, and the NFL Draft is April 27-29. 

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks enter the offseason

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USA Today

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks enter the offseason

BY 

Oregon Sports News writers Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath discuss the Seattle Seahawks’ now concluded 2016 season.

Rogers: No, the Seahawks’ season wasn’t over when Earl Thomas broke his leg by running into Kam “Cyborg”Chancellor on Dec. 4. It only seems like it.

In fact, the Seahawks’ season was over in the second quarter of the Divisional Playoff when reserve linebackerKevin Pierre-Louis was called for holding at the line of scrimmage. By itself, that was bad. But since it wiped out an 80-yard punt return by Devin Hester and instead pinned the Seahawks deep in their own territory, as opposed to being on Atlanta’s door step, the game — and season — collapsed.

The next play saw Thomas Rawls get stuffed for a loss. The following play saw Russell Wilson get tripped onto his backside in the end zone due to being stepped on by substitute offensive guard Rees Odhiambo.

The resulting safety was the nail in the Seahawks’ coffin, even though they still had the lead at that point (10–9). The Falcons added a field goal shortly after the safety and never looked back.

Jess, we both picked the Seahawks to lose in this game. But looking back over the entire season, is a Divisional Round playoff loss about where you would have expected the blue birds’ season to conclude, or did you expect a different ride? Can you remember early-season optimism?

Ridpath: September seems like a lifetime ago. Thomas had two working legs. Wilson hadn’t yet been injured. Brock Osweiler had a sweet new deal as a franchise quarterback. The Panthers were the team to beat. And Donald Trump was a longshot. So much has happened since then that I had to actually go back and read our old columns to remember whether or not I was optimistic in the early season.

What a year of ups and downs for the Seahawks. From low points like their 6-6 tie with the Cardinals to high points like beating the Patriots in Foxborough, this season has had a little bit of everything. But way back in week five, you and I both picked Seattle to win the NFC West—despite their rocky start and the obvious impact of Wilson’s injuries. (In fact, Julian, you picked seven of eight division winners correctly in our week-five column. Grab a feather and stick it in your cap.)

It was in week six that my doubt started to creep in. And by week nine, I was downright skeptical—saying things like: “If there’s anything Seattle has shown the league in the last two weeks it’s that they’re almost as likely to get a penalty as a first down,” and “we’re at the season’s halfway mark, and it’s clear that the Seahawks are only contenders because of their stout defense — which spent more time on the field than they should have again last week.” I was worried about overwork and potential injuries at the time. Sometimes I hate being right.

As you mentioned, penalties (or rather one penalty, in particular) played a huge part in Seattle’s loss to the Falcons. No surprise there. What is surprising is that the defense—compromised without Thomas, but still formidable—allowed a 99-yard drive consisting of all pass plays, which gave Atlanta a two-score lead before the half. This un-Seattle-like performance has some saying that the Legion of Boom is no more.

I know you still envision a bright future for the blue birds. And it’s clear that they need to beef up their offensive line—the one group that played consistently “meh” (or worse) all season. But what do you make of the assertion that Seattle’s once-feared secondary is all washed up?

Rogers: They’re not Super Bowl season-caliber anymore, but they’re far from washed up. They finished eighth in pass defense in 2016, despite playing without Earl Thomas for last month of the season. But there is reason for concern because change is on the horizon — maybe not in 2017, but soon thereafter. Thomas threatened retirement when he broke his leg. Chancellor will be 29 in April and has had more injuries lately. Richard Shermangutted out a hidden MCL sprain for the last half of the season, but he worries many with his emotional outburstsand occasional cheap shots, which hit a peak this season.

The largest, most immediate concern for the LOB is the other corner position. We learned after the Divisional Playoff loss that DeShawn Shead’s knee injury is a torn ACL that will require a full eight months or more rehabilitation. That spot is now wide open and could take precedence in the draft over the much, much, desperately needed offensive tackle position.

I expect the LOB to be a top-third secondary again next season. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Overall, the team has an enviable stable of top talent to take into the 2017 regular season. Looking ahead, the Seahawks can expect to reap equal or improved rewards from Wilson, Rawls, C.J. Prosise, leading receiver Doug BaldwinTyler Lockett, Paul RichardsonJimmy GrahamMichael Bennett, Thomas, Chancellor, Sherman, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and more. That’s quite a collection of superior talent.

Now I’m going to sound like a real Pollyanna. There’s the matter of the NFC West. It quickly went from one of the most competitive divisions to the league’s worst in 2016. San Francisco and Los Angeles are in turmoil with new coaches and major quarterback questions for each. Plus, each has additional myriad problems. The guess here is that the Rams get better sooner than the 49ers, but that is still probably only an 8–8 upside in 2017.

The Arizona Cardinals fell off the shelf in 2016 and have major questions at quarterback (will/should Carson Palmerreturn?), wide receiver (Michael Floyd got axed, Larry Fitzgerald may move on) and their offensive line is in need of major upgrades.

There is no better division in which the Seahawks should toil. At worst, they’ll only be looking up at the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in terms of their NFC prospects when the next season kicks off.

There are whispers that the Seahawks might jettison Graham before next season with Graham owed $10 million including a $2 million roster bonus due on March 11. But Pete Carroll indicated Jimmy Graham will remain with the Seahawks next season.

I can’t think of a worse decision they could make with their returning high-priced veterans. It is more likely the Seahawks try to extend the 30-year-old tight end, who has only one year remaining on the deal he previously signed in New Orleans.

Graham actually had the team’s second-highest average yards per catch (14.2; Tyler Lockett 14.6) among the regular full-time receivers. That’s better than Richardson (13.7), Jermaine Kearse (12.4) and Baldwin (12.0). Baldwin coming up last in that group in YPR is a surprise to me. Keep an eye on that in 2017.

Jess, any final thoughts or predictions you want to toss out there? Maybe an offseason Seahawks wish?

Ridpath: Wishes usually come in threes, right? Here are mine:

  • Earl Thomas gets healthy and decides not to retire.
  • Richard Sherman gets psychological counseling.
  • The Seahawks get the Cowboys’ offensive line.

Two of the three are obvious pipe dreams. But the need for change in both areas is a stark reality if 2017 is going to turn out any better for the blue birds.

Composure does not take away from toughness. In fact, it’s a quality that fuels championships. Sherman might not agree with that, but it seems his buddy Kam Chancellor does. At least he does right now.

Here’s hoping that Kam’s sentiments find traction among his teammates and spark some introspection in the offseason. There’s no doubt that Seattle’s defense is tough enough and talented enough to regain their dominance in 2017. We’ll have to wait and see if they can also find their poise.

Turning to the offensive line, Julian, I have to say that I like the “admittedly terrible” advice you recently offered the Seahawks: Spend every draft pick on offensive lineman. Probably not gonna happen. But your point above bears repeating:  The rest of the team is “quite a collection of superior talent.” On this squad, the least expensive o-line in the league is obviously the kid that’s not like the others.

To Pete Carroll, I say this: What a gift to have Russell Wilson as your quarterback. To have a receiving corps that is the best it’s been in decades. To have a running back like Thomas Rawls after you lost Marshawn Lynch. Don’t squander these gifts, Pete. Build an offensive line that’s worthy of these talented young men. They deserve it.

The other thing I want to say to Pete Carroll is … WTF? Not reporting an injury is a questionable decision for so many reasons. But now it’s gone and put your second-round draft pick in jeopardy—at a time when a strategic and successful draft is tantamount to your team’s success next year. I’m disappointed in you, Pete.

So, that’s it for me and the Seahawks’ 2016 season, Julian. I’m sending almost half the squad to their rooms to think about what they’ve done. Myself, I’m going to enjoy the last few football games of the season before the long drought sets in. Here’s my bold prediction: The Green Bay Packers will be Super Bowl champs. I just have a feeling.

Rogers: That’s quite a wrap-up. I think you hit on the way a lot of 12s are feeling right now. When the team gets back together again in the spring in the new league year, hopefully the news will be better about injuries and mental states. We should know by then what, if any, penalty the Seahawks may incur for their flagrant disregard of the injury reporting rules. It’s quite the odd self-inflicted wound to start the offseason with.

Regarding the Super Bowl champs … I think the Packers’ magic run ends this Sunday in Atlanta. My bet it is this is another championship season for the New England Patriots.

Until then.

 

Owning up Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.

What he got right: The game winner. I’m 11–7 on my picks for the Seahawks’ regular and post-season.

What he got wrong: I thought the playoff matchup with the Falcons would be closer. The Seahawks hit their limit in the Divisional Round. No disgrace there.

What she got right: The game winner, bringing me to 9–9 through the end of the Seahawks ride in 2016. At least I finished the season at .500. (It feels about as good as a 6–6 tie.)

What she got wrong: I thought this would be a “nail-biter” of a game that would come down to the final minutes. Nope. Atlanta stole the momentum just before the half and never looked back. (All my nail-biting happened the next day, watching the Packers take down the top-seeded Cowboys. What. A. Game.)

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions

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USA Today

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions

BY  

Oregon Sports News writers Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath discuss and predict the Wild Card matchup between the Seattle Seahawks (10–5–1) and the Detroit Lions (9–7).

When: 5:15 p.m., Saturday, January 7, 2017 Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Rogers: Unless the Seahawks get to play themselves, they could not have gotten a better draw in the Detroit Lions for their first game of the NFL Playoffs. Jess, I kid because I know you’re down on their chances this year.

But look at it this way: The Lions faced only four teams that made the playoffs this season and lost to them five times. (They played Green Bay twice). In early December, the Lions were riding high having squeaked by the woeful Chicago Bears, building a 9–4 record. They haven’t won since.

The Lions dropped three straight to close out the regular season to the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. If you are concerned about the Seahawks’ momentum, you have to absolutely laugh at the “momentum” of the Lions.

Does that mean they are no threat against the Seahawks on Saturday? I won’t say that. But look at how they are obviously compromised: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are on injured reserve (their top two running backs). Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s productivity (and the Lions’ win/loss record) has plummeted since he experienced his finger injury on Dec. 11. The Lions’ top cornerback, Darius Slay, only just returned to the lineup (hamstring), but could not offer much impact against the Packers’ passing attack. The Lions’ #2 receiver, Marvin Jones, hasn’t scored a touchdown since Oct. 16 and may be out with a concussion. Old friend Golden Tate only collected four touchdowns all season. Two starting offensive linemen (Riley Reiff and Travis Swanson) missed last week and are questionable this week.

About the only thing the Lions have going well for them at this stage of the season are a not-terrible-but-still-bottom-half defense (18th overall; 18th against the rush, 19th against the pass) and a better-than-the-Seahawks offensive line (still iffy) and an overall offense that is almost parallel to the Seahawks: Lions average 21.6 points per game; Seahawks average 22.1.

Jess, the Lions should have “Playoff Fodder” stamped on their helmets. Does that cheer you up?

Ridpath: Half of my childhood icons are dead, a fascist tyrant is about to become our president, and the two football teams I despise the most are the top contenders for the Super Bowl. I’m afraid a little truth telling about the ho-hum Detroit Lions isn’t quite enough to lift my spirits. But thanks for trying.

I didn’t see much in Seattle’s performance last week to raise my spirits, either. But there were a few visible bright spots (even when viewed through my grumpy glasses):

  • After a slow start, the defense looked like it might be ready for playoff-caliber football—especially league-leading tackler Bobby Wagner, who added 10 tackles and 2 sacks to his collection.
  • Rookie Alex Collins ran the ball for 7.9 yards per carry, the highest average posted by any Seahawk running back in the regular season.
  • Russell Wilson was only sacked once.

Those last two bright spots dim a bit when you consider they were achieved against the league’s worst defense (San Francisco). But I’m still intrigued by Collins’ performance. He’s had a total of 21 carries in three of the Seahawks’ last four games, averaging more than 5 yards per carry. Thomas Rawls, on the other hand, has averaged a mere 1.5 yards per carry in his last three games.

Julian, is Collins’ performance of late enough to earn him a bigger share of the rushing gig in the playoffs?

Rogers: I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t. Rawls just isn’t having success running behind the same line. With this much production and praise from Pete Carroll, I see Collins getting in on the action even sooner than we’ve seen before. He could come in on the second series if Rawls starts off with another couple of nowhere runs.

As I noted above, the Lions have a middling rush defense. They just might get Rawls bounced early, which might not be to their benefit.

One match up I intend to keep my eye on is the way that Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin deploys his defensive ends. The Lions have a tendency to go “wide 9” with their defensive ends, meaning they put their outside linemen quite wide — primarily for the purposes of containment against mobile quarterbacks. It didn’t work last week against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers broke the backs of the Lions with 42 yards on scrambles and designed rushes on 10 attempts (3 of which were kneel-downs for minus-4 yards). That will be a key determinant in this game. If Wilson can use his escapability to similar effect, Seattle should be able to move the ball at will.

Speaking of dreary outlooks for the new year, what are your picks for the NFL’s Wild Card round? Four teams and their fans are going to have their hearts broken this weekend. Here are mine:

Saturday January 7, 2017

Oakland @ Houston — Texans 23, Raiders 20 (Houston has a ridiculously lucky quarterback advantage.)

Sunday January 8, 2017

Miami @ Pittsburgh — Steelers, 30, Dolphins 13 (Pittsburgh’s killer Bs are rested and too good to lose at home.)

Giants @ Green Bay — Packers 30, Giants 27 (Pack scores just enough and exorcises Giants playoffs demons of recent past.)

Usually one home team loses in the Wild Card round. Will it be Seattle?

Ridpath: If any team is going to lose at home in the Wild Card round, it will either be Houston or Seattle. Your predictions for Pittsburgh and Green Bay are right on, IMHO—although I expect the Packers’ victory over the Giants will be a bit more comfortable. Eli Manning’s performance this season has been unimpressive (some might even say “atrocious”), and I don’t see him leading the Giants to 27 points at Lambeau field.

Even though the Raiders have lost two starting quarterbacks to injury in the last two weeks and will likely have to start rookie Connor Cook under center, I don’t think Brock Osweiler and his 72.2 passer rating are really that big of an advantage for the Texans. I’ll give the edge to Houston because of their league-leading defense, but I think this game could go either way.

Which brings me to Seattle. The Seahawks have not lost a playoff game at home in the Carroll-Wilson era … while the Lions have not won a playoff game since 1991. And the last time they won a post-season game on the road? 1957. For real.

Considering these trends, a Seattle victory seems almost certain. But I’m not buying it. I know I’m in the minority here, but I think the Seahawks chances at victory are 50/50 at best. For a variety of reasons, some rational … others perhaps not so much:

  • Earl Thomas: His absence leaves the Hawks’ secondary vulnerable to Stafford’s big arm. The last two times Seattle faced teams with elite passing quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer), they lost.
  • The o-line: Playoff football requires playoff-caliber pass protection. And that’s something we haven’t seen from Seattle’s offensive line all season. Watching them play has been like eating a box of chocolates … (you fill in the rest).
  • Karma: The Lions fell to the blue birds in Seattle last season after a blown call late in the 4th quarter of their week four matchup on Monday Night Football. The universe has a way of evening out these types of injustices over time.
  • 1957: That’s a loooong time ago. Things have gotta change at some point.

Julian, this is where you tease me for being a New Age Hippie from Olympia. Go for it. Then tell me who will win this matchup and why.

Rogers: Take a bath and get a job, hippie! Honestly, I have no idea why I’m supposed to castigate you for being a hippie, but when you offer me a free shot, I’ll take it. Maybe you can explain it to me sometime over some kombucha? You Olympians confuse me. I grew up there, but I got out. I remain outside the realm of understanding what Olympians are talking about.

Speaking of out, the Lions are about to have their playoff lives snuffed out. The Seahawks won’t be dropping a home playoff game this time to the weakest playoff squad in the NFC track. I don’t foresee a cakewalk for the blue birds, but a win nonetheless as the Lions continue their slide. Prediction: Seattle 27, Detroit 20.

Please allow us your patchouli-soaked prediction, if you please.

Ridpath: Seeing as how my mood obviously needs lifting, I’m going to try a little reverse psychology on myself and pick the Lions. That way, if the Hawks disappoint me by losing, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of being right. And if they win … well, then I’ll have another week of Seahawks football to look forward to. Prediction: Seattle 23, Detroit 24. (Bonus prediction: Somewhere along the way, Steven Hauschka is going to miss a field goal or an extra point. And it’s going to matter. Big time.)

Owning up Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.

What he got right: The game winner. I’m 9–7 on my picks for the Seahawks regular season.

What he got wrong: I pointed to Richard Sherman going off the rails. Seems he’s beaten me to the punch by nowfreezing out the media. So I guess we won’t be treated to a meltdown any time soon. The San Francisco 49ers made it closer than I predicted, but the Seahawks rested starters in the fourth quarter.

What she got right: The game winner, bringing me back to even at 8–8. Congrats, Julian! That means you win our regular-season prediction showdown. Your prize awaits you in Olympia. (But since us Olympians are so “confusing,” you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.)

What she got wrong: I thought this would be a comfortable victory for Seattle. They were playing against the worst defense in the league, after all. But the Hawks fell behind early after a dismal first quarter and had to rely on their defense to get them back in the game.