Seattle Seahawks

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.

 

Scouting the Seattle Seahawks’ week 1 opponent

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Scouting the Seattle Seahawks’ week 1 opponent

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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.

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.

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks enter the offseason

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USA Today

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks enter the offseason

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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

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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.

Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Wild Card Round

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USA Today

Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Wild Card Round

BY 

Last year I was better than 53% in my Breaking Vegas picks and I aimed for 60% this year. As the regular season comes to a close I finish slightly over 50%.

While this might not be the best way to “Break Vegas”, I look to the Playoffs to keep up my late-season momentum.

I will pick all 11 games of the Playoffs and also have prop bet picks before the Super Bowl.

This Wild Card Round is completely bi-polar. The games are either must-watch television or they are matchups that fans of the teams don’t even have interest in.

Let’s see who I pick this week…

Oakland Raiders +4 @ Houston Texans

Let me start with one of the most lackluster Playoff matchups in NFL history. If you polled the 100+ players on these two teams, I doubt 50 of them would even watch this game if they weren’t in it.

The Texans are a bad team that won the worst division in the AFC. Even though they won the division, I would much rather watch Andrew Luck and the Colts or Marcus Mariota and the Titans. This Texans team has underwhelmed all year but is hosting a game in the Wild Card Round. The worst investment in the NFL was the contract given to Brock Osweiler. He can earn some of that contract with a home Playoff win.

On the other hand, the Raiders were one of the feel-good stories of the NFL season. A late-season injury to Derek Carr brought that to a screeching halt. Carr is one of the good guys of the NFL and was really developing into the franchise quarterback that the Raiders so desperately needed for so long. All of that is in the past and not the Raiders are starting fourth round pick Conner Cook under center. It will be the first time ever that a rookie quarterback made his first start in a Playoff game. Not a lot of precedence here, but let me give you a hint, it won’t go well.

Neither team can score enough points to run away with it, but the Texans find a way to win.

Texans 16 – Raiders 14

Detroit Lions +8 @ Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. That only gets intensified entering the Playoffs. Home field advantage is absolutely crucial for the Seahawks this year because this is not the team that people are accustomed to. Without Earl Thomas, this defense is missing their captain. The passing game has been hot and cold. The offensive line and running game have been abysmal at points. If the Seahawks want to make a run, they need major efforts from Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham.

The Lions are a sleeper in my opinion. If Matthew Stafford can adjust to his finger injury on his throwing hand, this team has the offensive firepower to play with anybody. The last two weeks of the regular season the Lions lost to the Cowboys and the Packers. Those two teams just so happen to be two of the best teams in the league. There isn’t a lot of belief in this Detroit team right now and that has driven this line. Bet the Lions in this one.

Seahawks 24 – Lions 20

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers -10

This is the line that I have the least faith in. This is also the first time that the Steelers will play a Playoff game with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell on the field at the same time. That will be the difference.

Pittsburgh can score 50 any given night. In the Playoffs, with a little bit more motivation, I expect their best performance of the year.

Steelers 38 – Dolphins 27

New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers -4.5

I fully admit that I am a Cowboys fan and I am hoping they can go to and win the Super Bowl this year. If I take my biased lenses off, I don’t know that there is a hotter team in the NFL than the Green Bay Packers.

Despite several flaws, the Packers have won 7 games in a row and have a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is, arguably, the most talented quarterback to play the game. He is playing at the top of his abilities and has the team around him believing in him. He is the rare quarterback and leader that has every other person on that team bought in. This is a dangerous Packers team heading into January.

Although the Giants have some very quality victories this season, and have a track record of success in the Playoffs, I just don’t see this team a legitimate contender. This team is not a great offensive team, despite having Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants only scored 310 points this season, good for only 26th in the NFL. The other NFC Playoff teams…

Atlanta Falcons scored 540 (1st)

Green Bay Packers scored 432 (4th)

Dallas Cowboys scored 421 (5th)

Seattle Seahawks scored 354 (18th)

Detroit Lions scored 346 (20th)

While you can make the case that defense wins championships, you still have to score points to win games. This Giants team just hasn’t scored enough points for anyone to have much faith in them. The stakes get bigger and the opponents tighten down their defenses come January. Giants just won’t have enough to make a dent in the NFC Playoffs.

Packers 28 – Giants 21

  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 Thirteen 1 4 0 20%
Week Fourteen 3 2 0 60%
Week Fifteen 4 1 0 80%
Week Sixteen 3 2 0 60%
Week Seventeen 3 2 0 60%
OVERALL 41 40 4 50.6%

*All betting lines provided by Bovada.LV on the Thursday preceding particular NFL week.

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.

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.