Seattle Seahawks 2017 NFL Draft Profile

The Seattle Seahawks are up for day 24 of Draftmas.

Summary

Seattle had a good season, but ended up losing to the Falcons in the Divisional Round of the 2016 NFL Playoffs. Their 10-5-1 record was solid, but they do have some things to address in the draft to get back to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Russell Wilson (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia.org)

The pass offense was good under Russell Wilson, ranking 10th in the league, but the Seahawks had one of the worst rushing attacks in the league. Wilson carried the offense to score 22.1 points per game.

Wilson is and will be the franchise quarterback for years to come. Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are both solid running backs and Eddie Lacy was signed in hopes he regain the form he had early in his career. At wide receiver Doug Baldwin continues to play well and Paul Richardson has played decently in his first three years, while Tyler Lockett returns from injury. Jermaine Kearse had a bad season last year, but should be able to do well again this season. Wide receiver may be addressed in the draft, but like running back, they most likely won’t take a wide receiver until late in the draft. Jimmy Graham is a great tight end and Seattle has Luke Wilson backing him up.

Offensive line, like the past few years, is a big area of concern for the Seahawks. Luke Joekel was signed to give some experience at left tackle, but he hasn’t played up to the hype of being the number one overall pick. Oday Oboushi was signed to play guard, but he isn’t that great either. Basically at this point they could use all the help they can get. They do have a center that played well last season in Justin Britt, but that may have just been a flash in the pan.

Seattle, as it usually does, had a great defense last season that ranked eighth against the pass and seventh against the rush last season.

Earl Thomas needs to get healthy after breaking his tibia last season, but if he is healthy, he and Kam Chancellor are the best safety duo in the league. The trade rumors surrounding Richard Sherman make it necessary for the Seahawks to acquire a corner. Even if Sherman doesn’t get traded, Seattle still likely needs to draft a corner or two.

Another linebacker could be used for their base 4-3 defense, but do already have K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. On the defensive line the Seahawks have a lot of versatile players, but could use a few more for depth.

Picks and Needs

The Seahawks have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Five are in the first three rounds, so they will be able to get a few impact players for next season.

First round: (1) No. 26

Second round: (1) No. 58

Third round: (3) No. 90, No. 102, No. 106

Fourth round: (0)

Fifth round: (0)

Sixth round: (1) No. 210

Seventh round: (2) No. 226, No. 244

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Guard- Mark Glowinski and Oday Oboushi should not be starting. At some point the Seahawks have to start protecting Russell Wilson.

Tackle- Luke Joekel was signed, but he isn’t a sure thing. Gary Gilliam needs to be upgraded.
 Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- With some versatile players on the defensive line, the Seahawks need to take some players for depth, regardless of position.

Cornerback- Sherman is in trade rumors, but even if he stays, they need help at corner.

Linebacker- Just one linebacker is needed to play alongside Wright and Wagner.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Seahwaks could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #26: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

Garett Bolles (Photo courtesy: denverpost.com)

Improving the offensive line has to be a top priority for the Seahawks. Bolles only has one year of starting experience at Utah, but has good mobility and flexibility for a tackle. He can play left tackle if Joekel fails, or start at right tackle.

Second Round:

Pick #58: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

Wilson is a tall corner, who has good speed. He is a good man to man cover corner, but is susceptible to pass interference calls. He doesn’t offer much in terms of run support and sometimes looks as if he doesn’t want to tackle anybody. The Seahawks will like his length and may think they can teach him their zone coverage scheme.

Third Round:

Pick #90: Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn

Adams can help the Seahawks by being a pass rusher from the defensive tackle position. This enables them to keep Michael Bennett on the outside. There are some questions with his motor, but Seattle will be able to get the most out of him.

Pick #102: Pat Elfein, OG/C, Ohio State

Elfein has experience at both guard and center at Ohio State and can be a good value pick in the third round to help out the offensive line immediately. This isn’t a great class for offensive linemen, but Elfein should be one of the few interior linemen able to have an impact at the NFL level.

Pick #106: Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida

Anzalone is a fast player that has experience playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He can start in the base defense for the Seahawks and learn from Wright and Wagner. He will need to improve to stay on the field in more than just the base defense.

Conclusion

Seattle is a perennial power in the NFL and just needs a few more things to make their quest for another Super Bowl happen. With a good draft this season, they can shore up some holes and help bring the city another Lombardi Trophy.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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Marshawn Lynch is Going Home

Marshawn Lynch is going home to play for the Oakland Raiders. According to Michael Silver, the source who broke the news, Lynch and the Raiders have agreed to terms on a deal for the 30-year-old running back. Lynch is a native of Oakland, California.

Silver said the Seahawks were shocked and unaware the two parties were in agreement. The Raiders now must put together a trade with the Seahawks to officially finish the deal.

Trading for a 30-year-old running back should be relatively easily. The trade will likely come in the form of conditional draft picks, meaning the pick they get depends on how Lynch performs. The picks will likely come from either the third or fourth round with the possibility of being an earlier round if Lynch has a certain amount of carries.

 

Raiders Favorites?

What does this mean for the Raiders, The AFC, and the rest of the NFL? The Raiders aren’t going to be the favorites in the AFC by solely acquiring Marshawn Lynch. New England is still the favorite but the gap has closed significantly.

Lynch’s last full season as a full-time starter came in 2014 in which he had 280 carries for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. Lynch played in 2015 but only appeared in seven games due to injuries. He has spent the last season retired from the game, meaning he has fresh legs.

Marshawn Lynch Oakland Raiders

(Photo Credit: https://www.fanragsports.com)

This gives the Raiders an offense with no weaknesses at all. Derek Carr is entering the top five of quarterbacks in the NFL. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are one of the best receiver duos in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders line as fourth best in the NFL. All that was missing was a workhorse running back.

Because their offense will be so potent, they will be able to score with any offense in the league, including New England’s. Not to mention they traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks as well.

This move allows the Raiders to focus completely on their defense in the draft to try and close the gap even more. If the Raiders can make moves to build the depth of their defense, they will have just as much as a shot at winning the AFC as the Patriots.

Buckle up Oakland, the last few years in the city may lead to parades.

 

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Houston Texans

How The Houston Texans Can Win The Super Bowl

The AFC South has been one of the worst divisions in football for two years now. The Houston Texans have won the AFC South both seasons with back-to-back 9-7 records.

The biggest problem for the Texans is the lack of consistent quarterback play. The Texans started four different quarterbacks in 2015: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden. They started two more quarterbacks last season: Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage.

Starting six quarterbacks in two years is not the formula to winning the Super Bowl, but they are really close.

Super Bowl Defense

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. The Seahawks’ defense was so dominant four years ago that it led them to a 43-8 Super Bowl victory. The Patriots came up with a goal-line interception three years ago to the win the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos had one of the best defenses in the NFL two seasons ago and shut down the top scoring offense to beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. The Patriots came back down from 28-3 this past February to win the Super Bowl. That could not have happened if their defense didn’t shut down the high-flying Falcons offense.

The Texans have a defense capable of playing to the level of all these other defenses. Houston allowed the fewest yards in the NFL last season at 301 per game. They also allowed the second-fewest passing yards.

Houston also has the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. He only played in three games last season, which makes what Houston’s defense did more impressive.

Watt is a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, which is tied for most all-time with Lawerence Taylor. Adding him back to the mix makes them an elite defense.

The Texans also finally saw the emergence of former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who had six sacks last season. Clowney’s amazing play doesn’t show up in the stats. He constantly received double teams without Watt in the lineup, but still made plays. In the Wild Card game against the Raiders, he made an incredible interception that took over the game.

These two great defenders will make one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. The Texans also have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, headlined by Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus. If the secondary can make up for the loss of A.J. Bouye, they could contend for the best defense in the NFL.

What Is Missing?

It is no secret that the Texans need to improve offensively. Houston’s offensive line ranked 18th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. They must improve both guard positions if they want to improve the overall line play.

Running back is not an issue of concern. Lamar Miller finished 10th in the NFL with 1,073 yards in just 14 games. Alfred Blue is also a solid backup to Miller.

The receiving corp is solid with Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller, but headlined by DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 189 receptions, 2,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Those stats are impressive with six different quarterbacks over two years.

It all comes back to quarterback play. The Texans are a quarterback away from being the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC. There is one quarterback perfect for the Texans that they need to get.

The Missing Piece

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: http://boltbeat.com)

Houston threw millions at an unproven Brock Osweiler and it failed miserably. Osweiler has since been traded to the Browns and the only quarterbacks on the Texans’ roster are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. These quarterbacks won’t even win the division, let alone a Super Bowl. So what should the Texans do?

The Texans could find a quarterback in the draft, but most analysts feel there are no NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft. Free agency is always an option and Houston was hoping to get Tony Romo, but he retired. Jay Cutler is available, but that option could be just as bad or worse than what they already have.

That leaves only one option, a trade. The Houston Texans should go all in for a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers for Philip Rivers. The Chargers are nowhere close to contending for a championship and Rivers is 35 years old.

Rivers has accomplished a lot in his time in the NFL. His career record is 97-79. Rivers has 314 touchdowns, 156 interceptions and 45,833 yards.

By most comparisons, he is the AFC’s Tony Romo. Everything he has done of significance has come in the regular season. His playoff record is 4-5 and couldn’t get to the Super Bowl with Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates.

This narrative could change with a trade to Houston. His career would be revitalized and he would have a three to four years to win the Super Bowl. He would have the necessary weapons to succeed; such as a running game and a top 10 receiver in the NFL. The Texans would have a top five defense and an offense capable of keeping pace on the scoreboard with any team in the NFL.

Houston, if you want to win the Lombardi Trophy, trade for Phillip Rivers.

 

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Marshawn Lynch Return? Intriguing, but not Impactful

The Raiders on field product is in position to be a force for several years to come despite growing turmoil off the field. Oakland may have been the stiffest obstacle between the Patriots and another Super Bowl if MVP candidate Derek Carr didn’t get injured late in the regular season.

Derek Carr

Photo: heavy.com

However, there is one offseason rumor surrounding the Raiders that will not seem to go away: The possible return of retired running back Marshawn Lynch to join his hometown team in Oakland. Lynch reportedly visited team headquarters on Wednesday.

The Raiders have operated unconventionally throughout their history with mixed results.  This particular out-of-the-box move is a bad idea. Here is why.

Oakland Has Bigger Needs Elsewhere

Oakland’s defensive unit ranked outside the top 20 against both the pass and run last year. Their total defense ranking followed suit. The Raiders were quite fortunate that Carr and the offense were so good last year.

The offense will be very good as long as Carr is healthy. Last year’s starting running back Latavius Murray is now with the Vikings, but the Raiders still have two talented young running backs on the roster.

With an above-average offensive line, bringing in another running back should be way down on the Raider’s list of priorities. It is somewhat surprising that linebacker Jelani Jenkins is Oakland’s only defensive free agent signing to this point with their defensive rankings. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that all of their football related resources need to be dedicated towards building the defense in the draft. Any time spent on Lynch is a waste.

Spell Out the Specifics, It Makes No Sense

The Raiders suddenly find themselves trying to make the jump from good to great after over a decade of futility. This is the toughest jump to make in the NFL. Lynch’s power running style and outlandish personality made him one of the best and most memorable running backs of his era.

Beast Mode run

Photo: sportsworkout.com

In nine seasons, Lynch averaged over a thousand yards per season. A return would be interesting to see, but he will turn 31 later this month.

Ask yourself the following question: When was the last time an NFL team went from good to great by acquiring a 31-year-old running back who has not played in two years? One of Oakland’s decision makers needs to ponder this question before this flirtation goes any further.

 


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Cleveland Trade

Cleveland’s Blockbuster Trade

Cleveland just dropped a bombshell on the NFL. It is hard to imagine anybody saw this trade coming. The Cleveland Browns have traded the first overall pick in this years draft, and a 2018 second round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for Richard Sherman, the rights to Marshawn Lynch, and the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Yes, you read that right. The Browns just went full Cleveland on us. This trade is something you might have seen in the movie Draft Day. Hue Jackson said a few days ago they would not be trading the pick and here they are trading the first pick in the draft for a cornerback and a retired running back.

Cleveland’s Thinking

Cleveland's Blockbuster Trade

(Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Pinpointing why the Browns would do this trade is difficult. The one bright spot in this trade is they were able to acquire Seattle’s first-round pick, meaning they still have two first-round picks. There is still a possibility they trade back up into the top 10 with those two first-round picks.

Cleveland also acquired one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Richard Sherman has spent his entire career in Seattle and some may see him as a success of a system rather than it being personal greatness. It will remain to be seen if acquiring Sherman is a smart move or a reach at this point in his career.

The other acquisition is the biggest head-scratcher of all. There is no guarantee Marshawn Lynch was going to come out of retirement, and it is less likely he comes out of retirement to play for a team sitting in the dumpster. If Lynch is coming out of retirement, it would be to play for a contender.

This trade is just an overall head-scratcher for Cleveland. They may be trying to acquire veteran talent that has been in winning organizations to help build a winning culture in Cleveland. However, giving up the first overall pick seems to be a bit too much.

Seattle’s Thinking

From the outside, this looks like a win for Seattle. Sherman has been known to speak his mind to the media, even if it should be kept in-house. Lately, he and teammate Doug Baldwin had been exchanging words through the media. Reports came out that the Seahawks had been fielding offers for Sherman ever since. Losing a top-three cornerback is a huge loss, and Sherman will be hard to replace.

Lynch is also heading to Cleveland with Sherman. Seattle won this part of the trade because there is no guarantee Lynch returns to football. They essentially traded Sherman and a first-round pick for the first overall pick and a second-rounder.

Conclusion

Cleveland Trade

(Photo Credit: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/news/nfl-mock-draft)

Seattle won the trade and now will most likely add Myles Garrett to their already loaded defense. Losing Sherman hurts, but if their pass rush becomes elite, their cornerbacks won’t have to be in coverage long.

Cleveland added a veteran presence from a winning culture to their locker room. If Lynch comes out of retirement, the trade looks better for Cleveland. However, it is still a huge loss. They did not get enough for the first overall pick in the draft.

Cleveland fans, I am sorry that the Browns organization has been so bad that this trade is believable. Happy April Fools Day from The Game Haus.

 

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John Lynch

Lynch Trying not to Join Infamous List of NFL Head Scratchers

The San Francisco 49ers raised more than a few eyebrows at the end of last month when they hired John Lynch as their new general manager. Despite a borderline Hall of Fame playing career, Lynch has no relevant front office experience to speak of. In fact, he is coming straight out of the television broadcast booth.

While it is much too early to pass judgment on Lynch’s hiring, there have been a few other peculiar NFL coaching and front office hires in recent years. For the most part, they have not worked out.

Art Shell: Raiders head coach (2006)

Art Shell

Photo courtesy of USA today

Raiders fans will not enjoy the first part of this article. Up until very recently, Oakland spent almost a decade as the NFL’s top dumpster fire. For some reason, late owner Al Davis thought it would be a good idea to bring Art Shell back as head coach after a 13-year hiatus.

The game changes in 13 years and it left Shell behind. Shell was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Raiders, but his second tenure as head coach is best left forgotten.

His first big hire to his staff was offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. Walsh had been out of football for six years and was running a bed and breakfast.

Walsh is also infamous for saying that the skills of wide receiver Randy Moss were “diminishing.” After being traded to the Patriots, Moss had a record-breaking season in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Shell’s Raiders stumbled to a 2-14 finish and he was let go after a single season. Somehow, Oakland’s next head coaching hire was even worse.

Lane Kiffin: Raiders head coach (2007-2008)

Lane Kiffin

Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

Lane Kiffin is well known to football fans now. When Davis first hired him to resurrect the Raiders in 2007, Kiffin was a 31-year-old who had never been a head coach at any level of football.

The friction between Davis and Kiffin was almost immediate. The Raiders still had virtually no talent on the roster. To make matters worse, they drafted quarterback JaMarcus Russell who went down as one of the most spectacular draft flops in NFL history.

Davis fired Kiffin during the 2008 season in an epic press conference that resulted in Kiffin taking legal action against the Raiders. He posted a record of just 5-15 and has since bounced around the college ranks.

Matt Millen: Lions President and General Manager (2001-2008)

Matt Millen

Photo Courtesy of Seattle Times

This is the story that makes 49er fans most nervous. Much like Lynch, Millen was hired straight from broadcasting after a really good playing career in 2001. The result was disastrous. Under Millen’s direction, the Lions best single season record was 6-10.

While no one in the NFL fails all on their own, Millen’s biggest gaffe was using a first-round pick on a wide receiver three straight years. Moreover, the Lions passed on guys like DeMarcus Ware to draft Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Charles Rogers.

After years of losing and fan protests, Millen was put out of his misery in September 2008. The Lions had just begun what would become the only 0-16 season in NFL history. Millen has since returned to broadcasting.

Paul DePodesta: Browns Chief Strategy Officer (2016-present)

Admittedly, the jury is still out on this one. However, that does not make hiring a former MLB analytics guru for a major executive role in the NFL any less odd. The Browns have been a laughing stock since returning to the league in 1999. Maybe they know something the rest of the world does not, but I doubt it.

A 1-15 debut was not encouraging for DePodesta and the rest of the Browns revamped front office, but next year will tell the tale. The Browns have five of the first 65 picks in the 2017 NFL draft and are among the league leaders in salary cap space. That should mean a significant improvement. If not, it may well be back to the drawing board yet again in Cleveland.

What you do not see in this article is as important as what you do see. Generally, the teams who make these type of moves are bad for a decade or longer. Teams like the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks and Broncos do not go outside the box very often. Those are the teams in contention year in and year out.

Given the current state of the 49ers, Lynch will be fighting the odds not to join the likes of Millen, DePodesta, Kiffin and Shell.

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Assembling the Ultimate NFL Dogdeball Team

NFL Dodgeball

With the Super Bowl matchup set, the two-week long waiting game has begun. The NFL Pro Bowl will take place in Orlando on Sunday. The game itself has become mostly unwatchable. However, a dodgeball challenge between select players from the two conferences could be somewhat entertaining.

It also got me thinking which players from the NFL’s past would make up the ultimate dodgeball team. I am talking about these guys in their prime. I am by no means a dodgeball expert. This is meant to be a somewhat lighthearted and imaginative piece. Please take it as such.

Photo Courtesy of philly.com

Randall Cunningham– Natural athleticism is a plus for any sport. Why not lead off the ultimate NFL dodgeball team with one of the greatest pure athletes the NFL has ever seen? With a career completion percentage under 60, accuracy was always an issue for one of the original dual-threat quarterbacks. However, his career rushing yardage total is good enough for second all-time among quarterbacks. That kind of speed and elusiveness would be well-suited for dodgeball.

 

Bill Romanowski– This is all about intimidation. In the NFL, rules were merely guidelines for the four-time Super Bowl champion linebacker. The altercations involving Romanowski are countless. From spitting in opponents faces to openly admitting to trying to injure former teammates, controversy always followed Romanowski. A self-admitted product of “roid rage,” he was no doubt a scumbag during his career. I do not advocate cheating, but I do advocate trying in a hyper aggressive manner. The original “Romo” always walked that fine line. Romanowski is the kind of guy I want on my side in any competitive endeavor. Listen to the guy talk in a short clip below from CBS news. That kind of energy would dominate the dodgeball court if harnessed correctly.

Chuck Bednarik– Some of the same things I said about Romanowski are also true of Chuck Bednarik. Bednarik played in an era where players got away with a lot more. He played his entire career with the Eagles and is a member of the NFL’s 1950s all-decade team. He was the last player to play both offense and defense on a regular basis. He did so as a linebacker and a center. In the video below from the Graham Smeaton YouTube channel, Bednarik describes knocking Giants quarterback Frank Gifford out cold. Watch it and then imagine the kind of damage this guy could do if he was given a ball to throw at your head.

Barry Sanders– I am still mad this Lions’ legend retired so young. If there was ever a guy that could run between rain drops it was Barry Sanders. The NFL’s third all-time leading rusher would have had every record imaginable had he played a few more years. Defenders could never tackle him. Nabbing him with a ball would be a tall task. His historically low key personality would be an interesting counter to guys like Bednarik and Romanowski. Even though they rarely got it done, it is fun to watch defenders try to tackle Sanders. Enjoy ten of his finest masterpieces from the NFL’s YouTube channel.

Steve Largent– At under six feet tall, durability would be a concern for Seattle’s all-time leading receiver. However, there is a place on the dodgeball court for anyone who can make catches like the undersized Seahawk did. The video below from the NFL’s YouTube channel gives you a small taste of his greatness.

 

 

Photo Courtesy of the Seattle Times

Bo Jackson– Simply put, Bo Jackson is one of the most athletically gifted people the world has ever seen. You can count on one hand the number of people that have played two sports at the highest possible professional level. Prior to getting derailed by injuries, Jackson always looked like the best player on the football field or baseball diamond. He is the kind of athlete that would have translated well to any sport, dodgeball included. The same can be said for Deion Sanders, but this team already has enough strong personalities.

 

Well, there you have it. The fiercest NFL dodgeball team my twisted mind can come up with. Who would make your ultimate NFL dodgeball team?

 

 

 

 

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Franchise Analysis – Seattle Seahawks

Since beating the Redskins in 2012, the Seattle Seahawks have been a perennial contender. With Russell Wilson and the legion of boom at the helm, there’s no doubt Seattle will look to compete for another title in 2017. However, this organization is not without flaws. Seattle’s eye-opening loss to Atlanta proves that there is still room to improve. The question is not where do they improve, but how. Between decreasing cap space and glaring positional needs, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have a tough task ahead of them.

2016 Evaluation – offense

It’s clear that Russell Wilson is a great quarterback and who this offense will revolve around moving forward. Wilson ended the 2015 season playing the best football of his career, but that momentum did not carry over to the start of the 2016 season. Overall, the Seahawks finished as tied for 18th in points scored and 12th in yards. Russell Wilson had his second-best statistical season in terms of completion percentage and his best in terms of yards. While his quarterback rating was the lowest yet, Wilson had never thrown more in his NFL career. Not only was Wilson asked to do more in 2016, he was also asked to work with less.

The former college basketball standout George Fant had a rude awakening this year, discovering how hard it is to play tackle in the National Football League (Courtesy of; MyNorthwest.com).

No, I am not referring to his playmakers on the outside or in the backfield. I am talking about the left and right tackle positions. Any marginal Seahawks fan knows that the tackle position was a liability this season. Here is how poor that position played relative to the rest of the league. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Gary Gilliam and George Fant were rated as the 73rd and 80th best tackles among 80 qualified players. The Seattle Seahawks empirically had the worst tackle in the NFL protecting Wilson’s blindside. Both players were also liabilities as run blockers. This impacted the decreased production on the ground more than not having a “premiere” running back. Seattle absolutely must address both tackle positions this offseason if they hope to keep Russell Wilson upright in the immediate future.

Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are great playmakers. Both players are rated as top 10 players at their position by PFF. The emergence of Paul Richardson as a compliment to Baldwin on the outside is also a good sign moving forward. The Seattle Seahawks will see an increased production from all of their current players is they find a way to upgrade their tackles in the offseason. This idea is simple, but not easy, given the salary cap situation of the team.

2016 Evaluation Defense

Since the Seahawks started their ascension to one of the best franchises in the NFL, they have had a dominant defense. The 2016 season was no different. This defense finished as the third in terms of points and fifth in yards. Their secondary, when healthy, is the best bar none. They have two great linebackers in Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, as well as a premiere defensive lineman in Michael Bennett. Given all of these great defensive assets, there is still room to improve.

Despite his incredible play, Bobby Wagner remains egregiously underrated nationally as a top 10 defensive player (Courtesy of; Bleacher Report).

The biggest drop off in a relevant statistic for the Seahawks was their third down defense. In 2015, opposing offenses converted only 34.4 percent of their third downs. In 2016, the Seahawks only stopped their opponents on 38.7 percent of their third downs. That may not seem like much, but small percentages in this statistic matter. For example, there’s only a 3.5 percent difference between the first and 10th ranked third down defense and a 7.5 percent difference between the 15th and 32nd ranked third down defense.

The 4.3 percent difference from year to year leads to extended drives by the opposition and more points. That difference in production could have been the difference between winning another game and potentially getting a first round bye and a home divisional playoff game.

Of course, injuries played a role in this decline. Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Michael Bennett all missed at least four games at some point during the season. With the emerging information about Richard Sherman’s injury, it’s fair to say that he was impacted significantly throughout the season. It’s absolutely logical that this portion of the Seattle defense will improve next season as their key players return to full health.

Divisional Analysis

The Seattle Seahawks have been the class of the NFC West for the past five years; every divisional rival is building their team to beat the Seahawks. So what does Seattle need to do? They need to continue refining and reinforcing what got them to this point: a productive running game and a dominant defense.

Given the greatness of Russell Wilson, they won’t ever have an offense that goes through a running back, like Marshawn Lynch. But they need to be able to control the line of scrimmage in order to stay atop this division. When you have to face the Cardinals and Rams front seven twice a year, you need a physical offensive line and running game. We’ve already talked about their deficiency at both tackle positions.

With the 26th overall pick, Seattle has an opportunity to address this need. It is likely that Cam Robinson will be off the board by the time Seattle is on the clock. Other viable players at that position include Ryan Ramczyk from Wisconsin and Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame. At this point, those are the only two players outside of Robinson that could warrant a first-round selection.

Injuries are never expected, but always occur. While you can’t predict being without your best defensive players for multiple games, you can do your best to prepare for that scenario. Seattle needs to add depth to their defensive line and secondary. Michael Bennett is unique because of his ability to play every defensive line position at a high level. Carroll Phillips from Illinois could be that player in the third or fourth round to add depth to an already physically gifted front four. While he has off-field issues, his talent could outweigh those issues if he remains a day two prospect.

Seattle could also go the route of drafting a long, athletic corner to bolster their secondary. This could come in the form of Des Lawrence from North Carolina, who has the size and would fit well in their cover 3 defense. However, his man to man skills are not NFL ready. If they decide to add depth, they will be using day two and three selections to do so.

Post Season Prospects

This section is meant to show non-playoff teams where and by how much they need to improve to be a playoff team. Clearly, Seattle was a playoff team, so I will use them as a means to back up why I use these metrics to determine post season probability.

Metrics like points scored and time of possession are straightforward. However, stats like yards per attempt and third down conversion give more insight about the team. Yards per attempt is one of the best stats to differentiate between quarterbacks. A high yards per attempt means a quarterback is consciously trying to throw the ball downfield as opposed to constantly checking down. Thus, this is the difference between a Russell Wilson and an Alex Smith and why one has had more post season success.

Wilson is always looking to make a play downfield as opposed to dumping the ball off after three seconds. Alex Smith missed a wide open Tyreek Hill twice during their playoff game because he doesn’t try to attack defenses deep. Being in the top ten in yards per attempt is a good sign for any offense. There are of course areas in which this offense can improve. The biggest theme of this entire analysis is that if the Seahawks had just average tackle play, they might still be playing. Being in the bottom third of the league in sacks allowed is the direct result of such poor tackle play.

From a defensive perspective, this team just needs to stay healthy. We outlined their decrease in third down efficiency, but it’s not because they aren’t getting to the quarterback. This means that problem is in the secondary and with so many injuries, it was bound to impact their play. I firmly believe that is also why the turnover numbers are low for this unit. Health permitting, the 2017 Seahawks will be better on third down as well as accumulating turnovers.

Predictions

Pete Carroll and John Schneider need to have an excellent off season in order to overcome this teams sanctions and salary cap situation (Courtesy of; The Seattle Times).

As I eluded to earlier, the Seattle Seahawks have a unique challenge facing their franchise this offseason. The salary of Russell Wilson and their elite defensive players has left this team strapped for cap space. The Seahawks have just over $4.8 million in cap space. This is not enough to sign substantial free agents to upgrade their tackle positions. They have 14 players who become free agents this year, but none of them will create significant cap space if let go.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big issue, but with the emerging story concerning Seattle’s second-round draft pick, it becomes a pressing one. Yes, they have found good players in the late rounds of the draft. However, no franchise can depend on striking gold with a day three pick. Given their salary cap and draft situation, I don’t see this team being able to get all the adequate help they need. With that being said, I believe the Seattle Seahawks will finish 9-7 behind the Cardinals, but will make the playoffs as a wild card team.

 

 

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NFL Divisional Playoff Picks Against the Spread

Wild Card Weekend rung in the NFL playoffs with a whimper rather than a bang. However, the divisional round has arrived and the general consensus is at least three of the four games should be highly contested. I was 2-2 against the spread last week and 3-1 straight up. My system remains the same with my picks being in bold and outright upsets having an asterisk. Hut hut, hike!

*Seahawks at Falcons (-5) – This is your classic defense versus offense matchup. Games like this are a yearly occurrence for the Seahawks. The same cannot be said for the Falcons. Thus, I just trust Seattle more here. Playing Detroit last week was a good way to prepare for Atlanta. The Seahawks defense finally seemed to figure out how to play without Earl Thomas. If Thomas Rawls can run the ball anywhere close to the way he did last week, Seattle becomes even more difficult to deal with.

The Falcons have had a fantastic season. However, I am just not sure how they will handle this occasion. They are about as anonymous a playoff team as you will ever come across. Their only primetime appearances this year were a Thursday night game and a Monday night game that went opposite a presidential debate. Even though the Falcons defense has vastly improved from a year ago, Matt Ryan and company are still having to put up 28-30 points to feel comfortable. Seattle will not allow that to happen. Sea 24 Atl 20

Texans at Patriots (-15) – 15 points in a playoff game? No one disputes that New England is a much better team, but I will take 15 points every day of the week and twice on Sundays. It becomes all the more enticing when one considers that the Texans have the NFL’s top defense. The Patriots could very easily go out and win this game by a ridiculous margin. However, Houston’s defense and coaching staff are good enough to make anyone sweat. Jadeveon Clowney is finally staying healthy and being the game wrecker everyone knew he was capable of being. Brady and Belichick will find a way like they always seem to do this time of year, but it will not be the bloodbath that most people are anticipating. NE 27 Hou 17

Photo courtesy of espn.com

Steelers at Chiefs (-1.5) – I genuinely believe Kansas City is the more balanced and complete football team. The early-season 43-14 Steelers blowout in this matchup is hard to ignore though. Teams do change a lot throughout the season. The emergence of Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s now healthy pass rushers, and a dinged up Ben Roethlisberger are enough to nudge me toward the home team in my least favorite pick of the week. KC 23 Pit 20

*Packers at Cowboys (-4.5) – I would have picked the Giants had they reached this spot as well. Dallas has not played a truly meaningful game in roughly a month. That worries me. As good as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been, this is still uncharted territory for them as well as most of the Cowboys roster.

Photo courtesy of sportdfw.com

On the other side, the universe is running out of words to describe how hot Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense are. I am not sure if the health of Jordy Nelson even matters in terms of who wins this game. Rodgers is playing well enough to carry whoever is out there with him to win right now. Also, the Packers have been in “do or die” situations since about week 11. Let another offseason full of drama begin in Dallas. GB 34 Dal 30

 

 

 

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Divisional Round)

(http://thebiglead.com/2017/01/07/video-paul-richardson-made-an-insane-one-handed-td-grab/)

Talk about a major dud! The wildcard round of the playoffs was a major snoozefest. There were some great highlights, such as the Paul Richardson touchdown catch, or the amazing performances by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. By and large, though it was blowout city. The closest game was decided by 13 points. All home teams won and the average margin of victory was by 19 points. Now there are only eight teams remaining in the playoffs. Every game in the divisional round is a rematch from the regular season. This round should be more exciting than the last and the games should be closer as well. Here are this week’s Hagan’s Haus NFL picks.

Last Week: 3-1

Regular Season: 148-103-2

Playoffs: 3-1

Overall: 151-104-2

AFC

Saturday

(https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/tom-brady-records/)

Houston 10 @ New England 27: This game is most likely to be the least entertaining of the four games. The Patriots beat the Texans 27-0 in September. Brock Osweiler played well last week, but Jadeveon Clowney was the one to spark the team and lead the Texans in the wild-card round. New England has a great offense led by the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Their defense is playing great as well. In the month of December, the Patriots defense only gave up 10.6 points per game. The Texans must hope their defense shuts down Brady, but that won’t happen. The Patriots will be heading to another AFC Championship game.

Sunday

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh 20 @ Kansas City 19: This was one of the most difficult games to pick. Pittsburgh is on fire right now. Le’Veon Bell is having a career season. Big Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are also playing great football. This offense is a juggernaut. These two teams met early in the season and it was a blowout. The Steelers won that game at home 43-14. This game will be much more competitive at Arrowhead as the Chiefs have improved since that early season matchup. It won’t be enough though and the Steelers will edge by the Chiefs to meet Tom Brady in the AFC Championship.

NFC

Saturday

(http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/news/seahawks-falcons-picks-predictions-spread-odds-vegas-divisional-playoffs-2017/1tm3kxvdhv0781xfllb4b2nmtd)

Seattle 27 @ Atlanta 24: There is talk that Matt Ryan will end up winning the MVP, but the quarterback has much to prove in the postseason. Seattle has heard so much talk about how great and prolific this offense is. One of the interesting storylines in this game is that Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn was the former defensive coordinator for the Seahawks. He knows this defense and it may help Matt Ryan prepare for it. Atlanta is at home, but they aren’t used to this stage in the same way the Seahawks are. Russell Wilson is going to have a huge game and the Seahawks will find themselves back in the NFC Championship.

Sunday

(https://www.google.com/search?q=cowboys+vs+packers&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwip69vmkLvRAhUF_4MKHaf1Ag0Q_AUICigD&biw=1308&bih=611#imgrc=VzPSCzWZBFm1-M%3A)

Green Bay 27 @ Dallas 28: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in all of football right now. They completely dismantled the Giants last week and have won seven straight games. They look unbeatable and picking against them might be considered crazy. They were originally the team who I thought would win this game, but there is a reason to hesitate. The Cowboys have been the best team in football all season. Why would they stop now? Jordy Nelson may not play in this game, making the Packers less dangerous on offense. Dallas is going to have a lot of pressure, but if they run the ball and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field they will win this game. That is precisely what the Cowboys will do and they will be heading to the NFC Championship.

 

 

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