Seattle Seahawks

2011 NFL Season: Trends, Ends, and Bends (Week 3)

When does a season really take shape? Is it in the beginning when surprising teams get off to hot starts? Is it when elite teams hit their stride and begin to pile drive the competition? Or is it late in the season when the scramble for playoff position is at full tilt? Each season is different, but I think I can say there are some things I know about the 2011 season.

  1. The Buffalo Bills are for realfinally. I’ve liked this team for several years now and they’ve been a disappointment. This team has more confidence, better offensive coaching (Chan Gailey), and more playmakers at key positions. Can they outlast the Patriots and Jets? I think they’ll have to beat one or both of them on the road to make the playoffs.
  2. The Minnesota Vikings are a mess. The entire team is playing the second half of games as if they are expecting the worst. And their fans are doing the same thing. In the first half of games this season, the Vikings have outscored the Chargers, Buccaneers and Lions by a combined score of 54-7. The second half of games has been a merciless parade of broken tackles, three-and-outs, “too smart” playcalling, and sloppy play. Leslie Frazier bears full responsibility for this. The team has the talent. He has to get inside his player’s heads and clear out the cobwebs.
  3. The Atlanta Falcons are overrated…and so is Matt Ryan. Guys who are mediocre outdoors and on the road are mediocre, period. When Michael Turner is unable to get off on the ground, the Falcons have trouble scoring and winning. Roddy White could have won that game yesterday. It’s not all on Matt when they lose, but it’s not all on him when they win — and they can’t seem to win consistently outdoors and on the road.
  4. However, the luck of the Bucs is due to run out soon. For the second consecutive week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won big games vs. conference opponents that harbor dreams of making a post-season splash. For the second consecutive week, Bucs QB Josh Freeman has thrown an interception in the end zone. That has to stop. Focus up young man and take what the defense gives you!!
  5. Cam Newton can win games. The Panthers played in a virtual monsoon for part of their game vs. Jacksonville. The Panthers have issues on their offensive line and only one professional wide receiver. Still, Newton has found a way to provide leadership and stability. For a team playing without Thomas Davis and John Beason, getting off the field on 3rd down is going to be a stiff challenge. Carolina has the toughest schedule in the entire league this season and it will get much more difficult as the year progresses.
  6. Running Mike Martz’ system requires mental toughness. I don’t believe there is a coordinator in the league that puts more pressure on his QB’s than Martz. Whether it’s calling protections with limited blocking, reading blitzes, calling audibles or making accurate and timely throws, Martz’ demands may just be too high for Jay Cutler and this group of Bears.
  7. Why did the Vikings run the ball with Toby Gerhart on 4th down vs. the Lions? Why???????
  8. The Steelers have a +/- turnover ratio of -9. This team doesn’t have the overall talent to play at that level. If that number doesn’t change, the Steelers are going to miss the playoffs. Between Roethlisberger’s fumbles, interception and missed field goal, Pittsburgh lost roughly 19 points. A game that might have been a blowout, especially given that starter Kerry Collins was knocked out, wound up as a tightly contested game that I will remember for Pierre Garcon’s dropped touchdowns as much as anything else.
  9. Before this season, the Steelers have ranked in the bottom half of turnover ratio only 6 times since 1988. Each time, they’ve missed the playoffs. This morning…they rank dead last in a league of 32 teams.
  10. The Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2004. That was a long time ago. What’s missing? The power running of Corey Dillon. Even before Dillon, the Pats could rely on Antowain Smith to get short yardage conversions, maintain possession and keep defenses honest. Dillon, of course, was particularly valuable in the Red Zone. When the Patriots lose, it’s because they’re throwing a few too many passes against teams that either have a slew of good DBs or they have a good pass rush or both (Bills ’11, Jets ’10, Ravens ’09, Saints ’09, Giants ’07). They don’t lose often, but when they do — that’s why.
  11. The Giants’ Victor Cruz really is that good. I know most people have never heard of this guy, but if you live in New York, you must remember his breakout performance in last year’s pre-season game vs. the New York Jets. Yeah, it was pre-season. Yeah, it was a year ago. But, Cruz showcased the savvy, strength, agility, and speed against the Eagles that he did against the Jets. He never saw the light of day behind Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon. The Giants were DEEEEEEEEEEEP at wide receiver. Cruz is just one more high-quality player at the position.
  12. Big men with bad feet. Antonio Gates. This is going to be an ongoing problem isn’t it?
  13. James Harrison is a strong man. If anyone threw Dallas Clark around like that on the street, the police would have been called hours ago.
  14. I don’t care much for Mike Shanahan. I think he definitely knows what he’s doing. Two rings bear that out. Still, I thought Washington has the pieces in place to make a run last year. The best player on that offense, when his hands cooperate, is Fred Davis. The best player on that defense, once he masters that scheme, is Brian Orakpo. That’s not a bad tandem to build around.
  15. So let me get this straight. Some people think the Eagles would be better off with a guy who couldn’t beat the lowly Seattle Seahawks. If Tarvaris Jackson can beat Kolb (as a Seahawk) and Warner (as a Viking), maybe he knows something about the Cardinals that even Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t know.
  16. Andy Dalton and Cam Newton are both 1-2, sort of. Guess what. Andy Dalton has been credited with a win he didn’t deserve. In Week 1, the Bengals beat the Browns, but Dalton was knocked from the game with his team trailing 14-13 at halftime. Dalton didn’t return to the game. The Bengals won under the leadership of Bruce Gradkowski. Dalton is 0-2 in his other starts and mustered all of 8 points vs. the San Francisco 49ers. I’m not sold.
  17. I was wrong about Matt Schaub. Maybe I don’t watch enough Texans games…maybe I do. It seems to me that Schaub almost always manages to put up big numbers (thanks to Andre Johnson and a Shanahan-based offensive system), but never does enough to win the big game. Week 1 wins at home vs. the Colts are not big wins, especially if the game is played in Houston as it was in 2010. On the road vs. the Saints — make me a believer! Couldn’t get it done. At home vs. the Ravens in ’10 — make a believer! Couldn’t get it done. Winnable games with a playoff spot on the line in 2010 — make a believer!! Couldn’t get it done!!!
  18. If your name is Matt, I’m not feeling you, unless…. Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan, Matt Cassel! No thanks. Matthew Stafford! I’m buying that guy. He’s a baller. If he ever begins to go by Matt Stafford, we’re done. Matt’s come up short almost all the time. Hasselbeck is the only Matt to even win a playoff game. As highly regarded as these players are, you’d think they were setting the world on fire. Let’s put this in perspective…the four Matt’s have been in the league for a combined total of 28 years and have amassed a combined post-season record of 5-9.
  19. I was for the Raiders before I was against them. The Raiders swept the otherwise powerful AFC West in 2010. While the national media continues its infatuation with the San Diego Super Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Silver & Black have quietly emerged as the team to beat once again in this division. Oakland is poised to make the post-season in 2011 if they can remain focused and out of the 9-7 morass that will get dicey if they face a tie-breaker with the Bills in late December.
  20. All I know about the Jets rush defense is that they are not nearly as good as Rex Ryan would have you believe. Call it The Kris Jenkins Effect. In last year’s Super Bowl, we saw a bit of the Cullen Jenkins Effect. Of course, it was overshadowed by the B.J. Raji Effect, but nonetheless, the Jenkins men cast a large shadow in the trenches. The Jets have been without Kris Jenkins off and on for much of the past 2 years. They have been their most formidable with Jenkins, but now it’s all catching up with them.
  • 27 – 121 – 1
  • 27 – 112
  • 32 – 234 – 4

In last year’s AFC Championship Game, Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall pounded the Jets for 121 yards on 27 time consuming carries.  The Jets were unable to overcome the Steelers running game and were forced to retool for this year. A week ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars crawled into town led by Luke McCown. En route to a 32-3 blowout, Maurice Jones-Drew was still able to scratch out 88 yards on 18 carries. The team ran for 112 yards on 27 carries in a losing effort. The writing was on the wall. Yesterday, the Raiders dispensed with any notion that the New York Jets have a stout run defense. Darren McFadden bought space in Rex’s head like a desperate shoe salesman with a web cam and a penchant for panty hose. 171 yards later, the Jets are looking for a new story to tell. They are not the bullies of the AFC. They weren’t at the end of last season and they are not at the beginning of this season. Rex has work to do and so do the men in the trenches. Kris Jenkins is not walking through that door.

On to the next.

Is Matt Hasselbeck Done in Seattle?

In 2009, the Seattle Seahawks finished 5-11 and in third place in arguably the weakest division in the entire NFL.  In 2008, Seattle finished 4-12 and in third place in arguably the weakest division in the entire NFL.  In the two seasons before that, the Seahawks won Wild Card games, but lost in the division round to the Packers and Bears, respectively.  Mike Holmgren is gone.  Jim Mora, Jr. is gone.  Edgerrin James is gone.  Walter Jones is gone.  Steve Hutchinson is gone.  Matt Hasselbeck remains, and so does the question.

Is he done?

Down the stretch, Hasselbeck fired four interceptions in back-to-back weeks vs. the Buccaneers and Packers.  Seattle lost by a combined score of  72-17.  The high point of the season was Hasselbeck’s four touchdown performance in a 41-0 drubbing of The Lifeless Del Rio’s (the Jacksonville Jaguars).  Seattle went 3-8 the rest of the way.  The only wins were at home vs. Detroit and San Francisco, and on the road at St. Louis.

Pete Carroll was hired by the Seahawks after team ownership sought the services of Tony Dungy in rebuilding the franchise.  Dungy, who was poised to name Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier as head coach, declined the position of general manager.  Carroll’s arrival, after his success at USC in winning on the field and in preparing players for the NFL, brings high expectations.  Fans in Seattle expect Carroll to bring in talented players; to improve the performances of the current roster; and bring a winner back to the northwest.  The team is less than five years removed from a Super Bowl appearance vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This franchise has committed tremendous resources to supporting Matt Hasselbeck.  Departed guard Steve Hutchinson may be a Michigan Man, but he has underperformed for the past few years.  The Seahawks were wise not to pay an exorbitant price to retain his services.  The absence of Walter Jones, though, damaged this team.  The Seahawks have been abysmal for two seasons and amassed sufficient draft picks to fix some of their weaknesses, but prospects for the quarterback position are not better with a rookie at left tackle.

Bigger than Okung: The Job of Fixing Matt Hasselbeck

Wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and others (Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram, Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson and Ben Obamanu) have all underperformed.  Houshmandzadeh, Branch and Burleson have performed admirably in other circumstances.   The team was enmeshed in rumors around the pursuit of Brandon Marshall.  Entering the 2010 season, Matt Hasselbeck is looking like a guy who needs a game changing wide receiver to mask his increasingly poor performances.

That guy is not on the roster…and maybe Matt Hasselbeck shouldn’t be there either.

Maybe it’s time for the Seahawks to look, once again, to Green Bay for a solution.  It worked when they brought in Holmgren and his prized pupil a generation ago.  Maybe this time, the answer isn’t someone who played for the Packers, but someone like Charlie Whitehurst, a native of the Land that Lambeau and Lombardi built.

2009 NFL Season: Week 13 Picks

After going 13-2 two weeks ago (missing on Oakland over Cincinnati and Kansas City over Pittsburgh) and following that up with a 10-6 week (including a 41-17 prediction of New Orleans over New England), there is no doubt that I am on fire!!

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2009 NFL Season: Week 9’s Biggest Losers

The week isn’t over yet, but on Sunday, some teams lost more than a single game.  It’s still early enough that anything can happen, but some teams may be watching their seasons fall apart.  Let’s take a look at the early casualties.

  • San Francisco 49ers. You knew the Titans were a dangerous opponent.  With Vince Young quarterbacking and Mike Heimerdinger calling plays, the Titans were sure to rely on a conservative attack  and their ability to pound the rock and force turnovers.  That’s exactly what happened.  The Titans won 34-27 on the road and forced Alex Smith into a sloppy, hurried game.  Frank Gore was dynamic and versatile, but he didn’t dominate the action like he did before the Viking game.  Suddenly, a team that began the season 3-1 with quality wins over division opponents is sitting at 3-5.  The bad news is that first-place Arizona won at Chicago on the strength of a 5 td performance by Kurt Warner (without Anquan Boldin).  The good news is that the Niners only trail them by 2 games — and already have a win at Arizona.  Mike Singletary has changed quarterbacks.  They score more points with Smith, but have less ball security than under Hill.  Next up: the Bears, Packers, Jags, Seahawks.  There is no reason this team can’t be 7-5 in a month.  Book It: If they’re +8 or better in turnovers over that time frame, they’re going to the playoffs.
  • New York Giants. If the playoffs began tomorrow, the New York Giants would have the same vantage point as the New York Yankees, and you and I.  They’d be watching from home.  The Giants have lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers.  They’ve lost on the road to the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.  There really is no shame in losing to any of these teams.  The Saints finished in last place last season, but they’ve been remade and have yet to lose a game this season.  Arizona and the Eagles played in the NFC Championship game last year.  San Diego is a perennial playoff contender.  That the Giants have lost to these teams in consecutive weeks is surprising.  That the Giants have failed to score more than 20 points in any of these games is shocking.  The Chargers have been an enigmatic bunch all season.  They’re 5-3, but could be 7-1 or 2-6.  They’re inconsistent and have been unable to stop the run since the injury to Jamal Williams in September.  All of that sounded like a recipe for resurrection in the Meadowlands.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, the same depleted secondary that was undressed by Drew Brees was dissected by Philip Rivers.  The Giants could do “soul-searching” or any number of things on their bye week, but the answers (like the problems) are on the field.  The execution is simply what it has been — on either side of the ball.  When the sun rises tomorrow, the Giants will be 2 games behind the leader of the NFC East.  Next up: Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia.  This could get much worse before it gets any better.  Book It: If the Giants are not able to defeat second and third tier quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton, the season will be over before they meet host Dallas and Philadelphia in consecutive weeks.
EliManning_Scramble_JacquesCesaire

Eli Isn't the Only Man On the Run (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

  • Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are kicking themselves tonite for taking the Bengals lightly.  I don’t know why they continue to do that.  It seems they forget that they have a 3-8 record vs. Carson Palmer.  They don’t scare him.  He torches them more regularly and scars them more deeply than any QB in the league.  Really, if they think about it, they’re his bird bitches.  They probably don’t like to admit it, but 8 wins is 8 wins.  The Ravens know they will not be winning the AFC North this season.  They will not be beating the Steelers twice.  They may not even beat them once.  The good news, though, is that they hold tie breakers over the Broncos and Chargers.  Only 1 of them can win the division.  If the Ravens can somehow manage to get to 10 or 11 wins, they can sneak in as the 3rd in the AFC North.  New England, a probably division winner is the only team they’ve lost to in the AFC aside from Cincinnati.  It means their destiny is still in their own hands.  Baltimore can win 6 or 7 of their final 8 games.  If they do, they’re in because of their wins over the AFC West.  Next up: Browns, Colts, Steelers, Packers.  They get Indy and Pitt at home.  Book It: If Baltimore finds a way to win these 4 games and wins out until their Dec. 27th game in Pittsburgh, they’ll beat whomever they play in the Wild Card round.

Teams like the Bears, Texans and Packers lost games yesterday that likely surprised their die-hard fans.  What Bears fan doesn’t expect to beat the Cardinals in Soldier Field?  In all honesty, the Bears simply are not the same team they were at the beginning of the season.  The Bears were fortunate to beat the Steelers this season — and that win has been the cause of all “great expectations” since the signing of Jay Cutler.  It was a quality win.  It was something the Vikings were unable to do.  Still, there hasn’t been much for the Monsters of the Midway to hang their hats on.  Without Urlacher and Hillenmeyer, I don’t expect much.

For all their talent and perennial promise for unleashing potential, the Texans simply cannot be expected to win at Indianapolis.  I expect them to do what they did — play tough, play a little less than smart, and lose.

The Packers simply are not a good team.  They play unevenly and had to be flatter than week-old Coke after playing against Brett Favre under the national spotlight at home last week and then traveling in anonymity to lifeless Raymond James Stadium for a late game vs. a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach.  Teams that lose games like this don’t really belong in the post-season.  Green Bay will find their way out.

Addendum:

  • Philadelphia Eagles. Anytime you lose at home to a division rival, it’s painful and it adversely impacts your playoff positioning.  This version of the Eagles is losing games they are supposed to win.  They’ve lost at Oakland…and now this.  If you don’t think the Eagles are going to regret this loss, consider that over the next four weeks, they will be on the road at San Diego, at Chicago and at Atlanta.  The Eagles could lose every one of these games.  The last time the Eagles played on the West Coast, they lost to Oakland.  Against Dallas, the Eagles only ran the ball 23 times.  They didn’t run many plays overall.  Philly only converted 4 of 12 first downs, including some notable failures on 3rd and 4th down with short distances to go.  Jason Peters was injured.  Asante Samuel was roughed up.  Sheldon Brown was toasted.  Brian Westbrook was inactive.  Michael Vick was ineffective (He’s got time.)  McNabb looked like his ribs are still sore…and he also looked like he always looks.

Murder in St. Tammany Parish?

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Terreal Bierria, a former Seattle Seahawks player who started 12 games for the team in 2004, was arrested Tuesday on charges of first-degree murder in Slidell, La.

Bierria, 30, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Seahawks in 2002 and played 30 games for Seattle between 2002-04.

According to this story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Bierria was arrested the day after Soron Salter, his long-time friend, was found stabbed to death inside his apartment in Slidell.

The newspaper reported that police indicated evidence pointed toward a fight over drugs and that a “significant amount” of cocaine was found inside the home.

One decision — it’s worth noting it was the right decision — changed everything. It altered his NFL career. Some might even say it killed it.

That decision, though, saved his family.

Bierria had started 12 games for the Seahawks in 2004, but was replaced late in the year because of performance and played only on special teams in Seattle’s playoff loss to St. Louis. In training camp in 2005, he was fighting for a spot on the team. That’s the NFL. And he was struggling.

But Bierria wasn’t worried about his football career. He had far bigger concerns.

In the final days of camp, he had been sick with fear. His family — some 150 relatives — was trapped in the New Orleans area during Hurricane Katrina. He paced restlessly at the team hotel, watching as one news program after another showed thousands of people being feasted on by the deadly natural disaster.

He dialed family members’ cell phones nonstop. He could find out only bits and pieces. He didn’t know who was dead or alive. And he’s supposed to worry about blitz schemes?

Thank God he heard from his daughter, mother, father and brother within the first couple days of the storm. His mother reached him from a hospital phone in Ruston, La.  She did not have good news.  The home Bierria bought for them was all but gone, along with his high school and Milne’s Playground in downtown New Orleans, where his mother first signed him up for rec football.  His grandmother was OK, but her home was buried by seven trees. A cousin was stranded on his roof, another on a bridge; some more family was in the Superdome, where news reports said something close to anarchy was taking place. An uncle was in intensive care in San Antonio, fighting for his life.


So many people he loved were suffering, and he was thousands of miles away feeling totally helpless.

“Just hearing the stories about the rapes going on in the shelters, people killing themselves, just the mad pandemonium going on down here,” Bierria says. “As a man, I can’t not go home and see about what’s going on there.”

He couldn’t justify staying in Seattle, sitting comfortably in a lucrative NFL lifestyle while his relatives’ lives were being torn apart.

“I didn’t know where half of my family was, and the other half, I didn’t know if I was ever going to see them again,” he says.

Take a moment to read the entire article.  It’s worth it.

There is often more to a story than meets the eye.  Bierria was charged this week.  We’ll all see how it plays out.

2009 NFL Season: What Week 5 Tells Me

How did they do that?

Is he really that good?

Wow.  I had no idea that team was that solid.

Dolphin tastes more like Shark than Chicken!!

That’s what people were saying on Monday after a week of surprising outcomes.  Perhaps none was more surprising that the score by which Atlanta dominated San Francisco and the method by which Miami defeated the New York Jets.   (more…)

2009 NFL Season: Early Looks with 2 in the Books

The 2009 NFL season is now headed to Week 3.  It is still very early in a season that has yet to reveal its true self.  It usually takes more than two weeks.  With that said, I believe that some early events and trends may be indicators for the long haul.  Some of these events and trends are carry-overs from last season.  Some are as new as Sunday afternoon or Monday night.

1.  The Colts run defense is atrocious. Since his Pro Bowl season of 2005, Colts SS Bob Sanders has missed approximately 27 games.  That is too much time for this elite player to be considered a “reliable” factor in the Colts defense.  Sanders is as likely to play a season as he is to miss a season.  He’s never played 16 games in a season (The Colts routinely held elite players out of Week 17 games under Tony Dungy.) and has played as few as 6 games twice.  The Colts cannot stop the run without Bob Sanders on the field.  The first time this weakness was revealed Jacksonville’s Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew lit up Indy for 303 yards.  Last night, the Dolphins went for 239.  The Colts have neither the personnel, the scheme, nor the inclination to fix this problem.  The only 2009 solution for the Indianapolis Colts is the return of Bob Sanders.  Until then, get used to seeing this team’s Front Seven get mauled. (more…)

2009 NFL Draft – The Day After Day 1

Winners and Losers?

Philosophically, I believe that the team which drafts the BEST player in the draft must always be listed among the winners.  The strange psychology of the NFL draft and its salary structure is such that an elite super star player may not be drafted first simply based on the position he plays.  This year, the consensus pick for best player in the draft is Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.  (Watch how he plays this reverse and beats two blockers in a tight game…2:35)

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2009 NFL Draft — Live Blog

2009 NFL Draft.

Check Meebo for added live commentary.

It’s official.  Roger “Burn those Tapes” Goodell is at the podium.

1.  The Detroit Lions are on the clock.  The Detroit Lions are off the clock.  That was quick.

Matthew Stafford, QB.  Georgia.  The fans at the draft booed this pick.  I agree.  I’m not a hater, but I do not love Stafford.

The Lions always seem to draft like they’ve been backed into a corner.

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