What We Learned From the Seahawks Win, Plus a Playoff Preview and the Great NFL Coaching Purge

Will the record holder for most touchdown passes in a rookie season please stand up?

Russell Wilson continued to scribble out portions of the Seahawks’ record book, and the NFL’s for that matter, and write himself in. Wilson now has tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes thrown in a rookie season. Not something people would have expected for a Quarterback who was selected after five other QBs, one of whom isn’t even starting (Brock Oswiler is Manning’s backup.)

It Doesn’t Come Cheap

(That sounds nothing like any kind of title, it’s mainly there to make my other bolded title look better by default.)

The Seahawks demolished the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers in recent weeks. Maybe you heard. Point is that another blowout probably wasn’t going to be beneficial, at least for the playoffs. The Seahawks had to work for this win. That will be nice when the playoffs roll around and teams won’t be losing by astronomical amounts.

Playoffs

“Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?!”

That would be Jim Mora talking about, you guessed it, the playoffs. Yes, the glorious playoffs are here. We all get to wait and see who delivers the play of the postseason. Last season it might have been Kyle Williams’ muffed special-team handling, maybe Mario Manningham’s Super Bowl catch. The year before that, gave us Marshawn Lynch’s brilliant touchdown run against the Saints. Hopefully this year someone will provide us with a play that belongs in the same breath as the Lynch run or David Tyree’s catch. Because frankly, as much as I just amped up the Manningham catch and Williams’ trouble holding onto the ball, those plays are summed up in one word: anticlimactic.

The playoffs are a different animal this year in the NFC and almost the same relative animal in the AFC. The “National” Conference returns only Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco from last years’ playoffs with Seattle, Washington and Minnesota as the newcomers. The AFC meanwhile has the exact same lineup (Houston and Cincinnati played in the 3-6 game last year and will do the same this weekend, they must love playing each other) with the sole difference being Indianapolis taking Pittsburgh’s slot.

In the first round of the playoffs, I think Andrew Luck is going to win many a playoff game in his career, but I can’t see the Ravens losing this game. Not with it being a home game, not with it potentially being Ray Lewis’ last game, not with it being possibly Lewis’ last home game period, win or lose. The Ravens will beat the Colts 33-21.

The Bengals will definitely be more competitive than in last year’s 31-10 romp. That being said, I don’t think the Bengals can keep up with the Texans top-ten ranked offense and defense. Houston wins 24-14 over Cincinnati.

Over in the NFC I like the Vikings to beat the Packers. The Vikings won last week over Green Bay, and nothing says momentum like beating a team and then playing them again. Adrian Peterson could very well have another field day. It will be a surefire win if the Vikings’ 9th-ranked pass defense can bottle up Aaron Rodgers, Bahia Verde’s (that’s Spanish for “Green Bay” for all you folks at home) 20th-ranked run offense could stick out like Clay Bennett in Seattle. Minnesota wins 27-21.

The Great Coaching Purge: NFL

It’s being dubbed “Black Monday,” but the day that a good portion of the league lost coaches was mainly due to lack of quarterbacks. Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia all made changes. All of those teams, with the exception of Chicago (Lovie Smith probably got fired for not getting it done in the postseason, or even getting there) and maybe San Diego, have serious long-term questions at the quarterback position.

I’ll check in next week with the divisional round preview. See you then.

What We Learned from the Seahawks 50-17 Win Besides the Fact that Buffalo is Also Pitiful

It’s really not a joke. The Seahawks aren’t pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone who seems to miss their games (i.e. everyone who lives outside of the great state of Washington.) Yes, Buffalo is a bad team, and Arizona was/is too, but you can’t ignore 50-plus points in consecutive games.

  • The Record Book just won’t go away. Russell Wilson continues to take records and break them as if he was eating a sandwich for lunch. After strong play last week, Wilson now holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game for the Seahawks. Something he did in the first half with three rushing scores. No Seahawks QB has ever rushed for that many touchdowns in an entire game.
  • Read Option. The Seahawks continually used the “Read Option” to their advantage on Sunday. On the play, Wilson receives the snap with Marshawn Lynch to his right in the backfield. If it looks better for Wilson to run it himself, then he fakes the handoff to Lynch and goes behind Lynch with the ball. If the play looks like the team would get more out of it if Lynch ran it, then Wilson simply hands off the ball. The point of the play is that the QB makes the split-second decision on what would work best. Hence it being called the “Read Option.” The Seahawks used this play to continually rip off huge gains versus a porous Bills’ defense.
  • Passing Dan Marino. Last week I told you with one more touchdown Russell Wilson would pass Dan Marino in terms of number of passing touchdowns in a rookie season. With his TD pass to Zach Miller, Wilson moved his total to 21, passing Marino’s 20.
  • Win and You’re In. The Seahawks can clinch at least a wild card berth with a win on Sunday against San Francisco. The Seahawks would clinch the number two seed in the playoffs, and receive the first round bye that comes with it, if they beat the Niners and Rams to close out the year. And, if the 49ers lose both of their remaining games, and if Green Bay loses one of its last two games. Plus, they would get home field advantage at home in the divisional round (they’re 6-0 at the Clink this year.)
  •  50-50. The Seahawks are now one of three teams in NFL history to score at least 50 points in two straight games. This feat hasn’t been accomplished since the 50’s. This is fantastic for a team who was 28th in the league in total offense last year. Other quarterbacks who have yet to accomplish this or haven’t: Tom Brady (very surprising,) Peyton Manning (equally surprising,) Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, John Elway ( I think you see my point.)
  • Winning. The Seahawks now have tied their highest win total since 2006, the year before they went to the Super Bowl. That team was 9-7.

Super Bowl Worthy? I posed this question last week, and now it should be a given. The Seahawks are Super Bowl worthy. Finally.

What Victor Martinez’s Injury Means for the Tigers

Victor Martinez tore his ACL. He might end up missing the entire season if not most of it.

This means a lot of things. One is that the Tigers will lose their 5 hole hitter and prime protector of Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. Because of that it also weakens the Tigers’ batting order to a degree.

Believe me, the loss or potential loss of a hitter of his caliber for a couple weeks, let alone an entire season, is hard to fathom.

It feels a bit like the game towards the end of July in 2010 when Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen were both injured in one game against the Toronto Blue Jays that somewhat dashed the Tigers playoff potential and chances.

But on the flipside, it’s not particularly the same. At that point the only other middle of the order protection Detroit had was Johnny Damon, a struggling Brennan Boesch and Jeff Larish.

Now it’s a little different. Delmon Young was a monster in the playoffs. Boesch is back from injury. Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila have both come into their own as top run producers at their positions. Plus Brandon Inge had a resurgent playoffs.

The lineup is certainly much better, as is the pitching seeing as Justin Verlander won the Cy Young and the MVP. Doug Fister went bonkers down the stretch. Throw in Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and the possibility of super prospect Jacob Turner in the rotation, and thinks aren’t as bad as they appear.

Before the Martinez injury, Boesch was probably the number 2 hitter with Young third, Cabrera hitting cleanup and Martinez behind him. After V-Mart there was going to be some combination of Peralta and Avila in the 6 and 7 spots. Following them was probably the second baseman (TBD) with Inge hitting 9th.

The question that will likely come to mind is how can the Tigers can repeat in the AL Central  or contend in the AL without V-Mart? Supposedly their chances are “worse” or the future is “murkier” or whatever term does it for you. Frankly, the chances are a bit worse without their starting DH, but they will contend in the Central and contend for a World Series as well.

Think about the other teams in the Central:

Kansas City is probably another year and a piece or two from really competing. Cleveland might not have the goods to do contend for the first half of the season and could fall into the Buffalo Bills of the Majors in a competing-for-the-first-half-and-then-flopping sense. Chicago has a new manager and is fresh off of trading one of their best hitters (Carlos Quentin) as well as two key pieces of their bullpen (Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor). They also lost long-time ace Mark Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen to the newly named Miami Marlins. Minnesota is the last team in the conference. That probably comes from a talent perspective as well (take that back, they’re tied with the Indians for least talent in the division — go on and start celebrating Royals fans). But come on, Minnesota? Ron Gardenhire’s teams never go down without a fight, but this might be another year in which we see a “fight”. Joe Mauer is presumably without a position. Justin Morneau is one of the few other constants. He and new additions Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham are the only sure things. The Minnesota starting pitchers are going to get you a lot of double digit wins per pitcher, but also double digit losses per pitcher, with the latter out weighing the former. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all go 10 and 15 on the year.

So what I’m trying to say is that Detroit will contend in the AL Central and for a World Series title.

Another small positive to come out of this is the available free agent DH options. There are quite a few. Former Tigers Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena could all be fits. One potential fit could be Prince Fielder. I know this is a bit farfetched and a long shot at best, but what if Prince takes a one year deal in Detroit? I’ll leave the monetary value to the agents and GMs, but what about Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hitting three and four? And this isn’t any biased opinion whatsoever, but wouldn’t those two, the rest of the supporting cast and a Verlander-led pitching staff elevate the Tigers to the top of the AL? Or baseball in general?

I’m probably getting ahead of myself and Prince Fielder will probably sign with the Nationals, Toronto or Texas, but wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

One other parallel to think about, last year’s St. Louis Cardinals. I know this has come up numerous times on different sites, blogs and things of the like. But the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to season-ending surgery in spring training and went on to win the World Series.

Think what you will about the injury to Victor Martinez, the Tigers are going to be relevant in Major League Baseball. Get used to it.