Beat The Man - The Mid-Season Report

To some, accountability is little more than one of them there big words. Not to our intrepid prognosticator, though! To celebrate the NFL's halfway mark, Scott Jones relives his pre-season predictions and grades without a curve...

Last Week’s Results: 2-3
Season to Date: 17-15

Accountability…

Ray Rhodes is fond of that term (only he makes himself completely unavailable to any criticism during the season, virtually sequestered from the media. Choosing instead to leave his players out to dry in front of those oh-so-cruel microphones). I’m fond of that term as well. Accountability is when a person expects to deliver on their promise, recognizes the importance of sincerity, and places the highest importance upon… being responsible for whatever it is they lay claim to be or do.

When Terrell Owens say’s he’s a difference maker - and wins games for a team? He’s accountable. When he bricks a ball into a defender’s hands (in Chicago wearing a 49er jersey) for a Defensive TD in overtime - and then complains he didn’t get the ball enough? He’s an arrogant buffoon.

When the Seahawks field the best team they’ve ever had, and say they’re ready – they’re to be held to that qualification and deliver on a weekly basis. They’re not to lose to Arizona… following a loss where they played as if it were a game they never had any business winning. When they put on the jersey, they’re expected to recognize all the individuals in the world who worship that opportunity, if only they had the athletic talent. They’re to wear it like a suit of armor only the mightiest are honored to receive. They’re expected to respect that honor and give it every ounce of sand they have on Sunday. They’re expected to respect all of those who’ve come before them. Some of whom have earned the distinction of being the last individual in that jersey allowed to EVER wear that number. They’re expected to understand that what makes the game great has never been about one man… but that every man must do his damndest to make himself accountable to the others.

Accountability, in the NFL, means never having to say you’re sorry or make excuses for… mediocrity. With accountability comes credibility. And with credibility comes success. With success comes – joy. And joy is the ultimate pursuit.

The Seahawks are a mediocre 4-3. BTM is a mediocre 17-15. We’re in perfect symmetry. Only, it ain’t harmony. So with respect to accountability and the pursuit of loftier goals… Here’s a look at my initial expectations on the season, where I’ve been right, and where I’ve been wrong. I hold myself accountable.


Teams That Suck

BROWNS
What I said then: “Is this the QB that can take advantage of the stretch-the-field WR’s? Negative – he can’t get them the ball deep…. Defense? On a 5-point scale I rated them: DL 2.5, LB 2, DB 1.5. That’s a nice steady decline to the endzone… The Dog Pound will be wearing poodle heads this year. Woof woof.”

Mid-season results: The Dog Pound comment is interesting as the Brownies have played remarkably well at home with commanding wins over BAL and CIN, victory over DC and a close one vs. the red hot Eagles. So I’ve got my tail between my legs on that one. However, they’re 0-4 on the road thanks in large part to mediocre at best play from Garcia (who’s 53%, 5.62 YPA, 3TD/5int’s, and a 61.1 rating in those losses). Take away the one game where he was 13.48 YPA against that sad Cincy secondary - and he has NOT been able to advantage the running game to get the ball deep. Their leading receiver is Andre Davis with 16 catches for 416yds (99 of that coming on 1 catch in that same game vs. Cincy). In addition to that, they’re near the bottom in Overall Defense and Against the Pass.

Swami score: I guess I’ll take a C+ on that.


BEARS
What I said then:
“…RB Thomas Jones ain’t gonna cut it… On Defense Lovie Smith is going to use everything he knows to make them better than mediocre… If I’m new coach Smith, I’m handing the ball to A-train all day, behind an improved O-line, and hoping we can keep it close enough to squeak out a miracle. That’s the gist here.”

Mid-season results: Thomas Jones made me look like true turkey the first few weeks, and then cooled off (which may actually be due to the QB situation) to a still respectable 511yd/ 4.4 avg with 5TD’s on the year (behind that improved O-line). Next to that I may have been wise to credit Lovie Smith with more than a pretty name. The Bears have remained somewhat competitive, ranking 11th in Overall D, while sludging to a 2-5 record. Though they’ve tracked a respectable pts For and Against score (108 to 121), they still have only covered 3 of 7 games. If you’re on everyone’s suck list, and you still can’t cover? You belong there...

Swami score: I guess I’ll take a B+ on that.


JETS
What I said then:
“I expect Curtis Martin to hit the wall this year (take note FF fans)… This means Pennington is going to have to hold the ball too long, often, and get clobbered in the process… The Defense is just getting its feet wet. On that side of the ball, they did have a suitable draft (LB Vilma, CB Straight, S Coleman and Washington), which is good, cuz those rookies will see plenty of playing time by mid-season when the Jets are no longer involved in the big picture… Game 1 vs CIN should tell us a lot about who the Jets are – if they get clowned, then that’s what they are…”

Mid-season results: In fact they beat Cincinnati in a hard fought Game1. The young Defense has proven worthy by mid-season – having seen “plenty of playing time”. Rookies Vilma and Erik Coleman have shown immediate credibility [gotta love that, eh Editor Doug?] [Editor’s Note: “VILMA!!!”] leading the Jets to a #8 ranking vs. the Rush and respectable #9 ranking overall. Pennington, while only throwing for 8TD’s has put up Pro Bowl numbers in consistency and a 99.1 rating. He’s been masterful in dropping the ball off to avoid getting clobbered…

Now, let’s talk about Curtis Martin. I mean, he’s obviously completely finished…

Swami score: Here’s my bail out on an F score: “On the other hand, as a credit to Herman Edwards, if they’re able to establish their identity as the team you fail to respect… they could bump up into the Bottom Feeder category.” Hardly a Bottom Feeder at mid-season, my inclusion of the Edwards factor (which I believe to be the difference because “It’s haaaaaaaaaaard, very haaaard to win in this league… It’s difficult”) escapes the F and earns me a D-. Dontcha think?


Bottom Feeders
Contrary to teams that just suck – Bottom Feeders are quiet teams that I expect to put the hurt on unprepared “good” teams.


BENGALS
What I said then:
“…Will Carson Palmer play well enough to keep Kitna on the bench? How many games will it cost them if he doesn’t? That’s a question I can’t answer… Now that WR Chad Johnson is a marked man, will Peter Warrick step up and be the bonified player we all thought he’d be coming out of Florida State?… Will coach Lewis improve the defense to the status of playoff team? Uhmmmmm… yeah-no! (otherwise known as, I want to say “yes”, but the talent says “no”)… If the Tigers-of-a-Strange-Breed can split their first 4 games (vs NYJ, MIA, BAL, PITT), I’m thinking they’ll cause problems throughout the year. Keep an eye on that line, betting man…”

Mid-season results: Abandon ship!!! Their record in those first 4 games was 1-3 (with a win against the beached Dolphins). They’ve managed to cover only 1 game this season (vs. Denver). The Defense has been completely helpless, simply because – they don’t have the talent. Warrick has been injured, leaving Johnson to battle triple coverage (until the Denver game, when Warrick returned). And how many games has Carson Palmer cost them? 55.1%, 5.9 YPA, 5TD/10int’s, 62.6 rating. Growing pains? Gee, ya think?

Swami score: I really thought the Bengals would scratch and claw to win each week. They haven’t. I’ll take another D-


FALCONS
What I said then:
“Freshman coach Jim Mora (ex 49ers Defensive Coordinator) has lots of toys to work with here… They’re going back to the 4-3. (Which is smart, because to take away the best part of your defense – relegating pass rushing DE’s Patrick Kearney and Brady Smith to what is essentially DT duties in a 3-4 – so you can add another quality LB you don’t have on the roster, into the basic formation? Is stupid. Stupid is as stupid does, eh Gump?)… The Falcons just happened to stock themselves at positions of need, with talent I like in this year’s draft. They also have some dynamic athletes already in place. And a coach that I feel knows just what to do with that talent. They’re a concern.”

Mid-season results: Ah, finally a stellar grade. The Falcons have improved exactly as I said they would. I’ve been on them all year long, they’re 6-2, flying around on Defense, learning how to win, bouncing back from embarrassing defeats, they’ve beaten St LOU and DENVER, making me look good when I’m nothing but mediocre. All of a sudden I’m a genius.

Swami score: As per my definition of Bottom Feeders, you’ll have to grant me an A here.


LIONS
What I said then:
“Okay, this aughta be real interesting… At Running Back, Kevin Jones is going to light up the world and compete for Rookie of the Year... The Defense is actually very serviceable, while also a bit young. LB could be a team strength if rookie Teddy Lehman is able to step right in and join last year’s success, Boss Bailey (I believe he will)… the ONLY thing Detroit has done this off-season is improve their team and chance to compete… I expect Detroit to motor up and give a LOT of teams trouble. We may be looking at a Wild Card surprise here...”

Mid-season results: Ah yes, Detroit Lions, 4-3, one game back of Minnesota, having beaten… nobody we’re certain is any good. Boss Bailey, Bryant and Bly have been banged up, while Teddy Lehman has helped my draft guru rep (2nd on the team in tackles) resulting in a respectable Defense against the Rush and a porous one against the Pass. Expect that to improve as they get healthy. Are we looking at a Wild Card surprise? That appears doubtful (would have loved to see Charles Rodgers actually play some NFL ball). And Kevin Jones? Hey, I was right about Curtis Martin and I’m right about Kevin Jones (but seriously, he’s not getting the ball. Mooch is platooning like he did in SF. What can I say?).

Swami score: I could cheat and say I look pretty smart here. But the truth is, Detroit is not really much of a threat. I’ll take a C+


Great Pretenders

You’ve seen these names tossed around as teams to fear this year. I don’t fear them. Like Churchill said, “The only thing to fear is…” uh, myself!

EAGLES
What I said then:
“Knock knock... Who’s there? The NFC Championship… NFC Championship with who? Not the Philadelphia Eagles. This year the wheels come off… Here’s the reality: They lost 2 premier CB’s in Taylor and Vincent… Can the back 7 be offset by a scary, scrappy, and athletic front 4?… Get yourself a cushion TO-ilet. That ass is gonna hurt this year. The Eagles will not make the playoffs.”

Mid-season results: Oh the wheels came off, alright. Apparently they don’t need ‘em when the world’s loudest mouth backs up every word, and their QB suddenly becomes as consistently accurate as Troy Aikman on a good day. Cast-off corners Taylor and Vincent have been invisible for their teams (the Hawks and the Bills). The back 7 apparently CAN be offset by a “scary, scrappy, and athletic front 4” just fine, thank you. And, uh, well – the Eagles are CLEARLY the best team in football this year. My ass is properly reddened.

Swami score: F-


COLTS
What I said then:
“They’ll have to score constantly to have a chance… Last year’s defensive improvement has been shattered by the Manning contract… Peyton Manning will have lots of success pointing to this year’s stats to qualify his contract. But the only number that really matters is in the win column… Watch for Indy to have their hands full in a division with the once again solid Titans (saved by a stellar draft) and upstart Jags and Texans…”

Mid-season results: The win column says 4-3 after a strong start and 2 straight losses facing JAX and KC. They are, in fact, dead last in Defense. However, Peyton Manning has been a man on fire. Earning every penny of that fat contract and I must say, overall – making up the difference lost on Defense. That’s really quite remarkable. It truly does hearken back to Dan Marino… one of my favorite players. Who, by the way, never won a Super Bowl.

Special mention – the Jags are winning the division, just above the Texans, Colts, and still in contention Titans.

Swami score: The Colts are looking like a playoff team. I thought perhaps not. That’s a C-


FISH
What I said then:
“First of all – Dave Wannstedt is still the HC. That’s bad… They shipped a #2 pick to Philly for 3rd string QB A.J. Feeley, inviting a QB controversy for a guy who’s likely not much better than incumbent Jay ‘my ears are enormous’ Fiedler… They finally landed a top tier WR to compliment Chris Chambers. That’s good. His name is David Boston, and if you live in San Diego – that’s bad… And lastly, Dave Wannstedt is still the coach…”

Mid-season results: I’m hitting on all cylinders – they suck.

Swami score: A+ (though that one was WAY too easy).


PACKERS
What I said then:
“Pedestrian Defense… Borderline playoff team and nothing more… the talent just isn’t here… I’ve got the D-Line through the Secondary all rated at 2.5 (out of 5). That just doesn’t get it done… Sorry, but we’re not talkin’ Brie here. More like basic Cheddar.”

Mid-season results: Does anyone think they’re going to make the playoffs? And if they don’t, it’s because of the reason’s I listed, right? Favre can’t do it all (though he’ll do his damndest to try. And becoming more of a vocal leader, I might add. Expanding his resume). Basic Cheddar. Slip me some Gruyere if you get a chance…

Swami score: A- (Didn’t do too bad in this group. I guess I know pretenders pretty well then)


Top Contenders
Here it is, The Must List. Pull out a wad of cash and throw it down on these guys… cuz I said so and I didn’t have to sweat to make your money. You did. (What that means is, you should only gamble on teams you truly believe in, not just a “hot tip” from some internet dude you’ve never met. Be responsible).

PATRIOTS
What I said then:
“Short and sweet: I find this team superior to last years. Tom Brady is now a bona fide top-echelon QB. Corey Dillon fills a gaping hole. Young WRs have another year under their belt… the enormous loss of Ted Washington found a capable sub in stellar Miami rookie Vince Wilfork. Additionally, they now possess a very real intimidation factor. No one knows how to solve the ever-changing game plan of mad genius Bill Belichick and his equally astute counterpart Charlie Weis. They love football. Fear them.”

Mid-season results: Well the wall finally came crumbling down at the hands of Big Ben… and some uncharacteristic foibles. But the Patriots have been everything that could be expected and more. The epitome of unity. They make me a proud American (even if the rest of the country is completely short sited and far too focused on themselves to see the big picture. Thanks for voting in any case…) Patriots indeed. Torch carrying members of the NFL.

Swami score: A+ (also a very easy prediction)


VIKINGS
What I said then:
“Scary. Very scary. This might be the team to beat for the rights to Florida in January… Offensively, they can score, we know that... Defensively? Their front 4 will improve what’s average behind it… rookie OLB Dontarrious Thomas, joining last year’s new stud E.J. Henderson… Antoine Winfield, a scrappy corner who’s run support pays dividends… But – is Mike Tice a good coach? Or is he the unstable type that compromises the teams certainty and qualified stance? I think maybe the later (Sorry Mike, loved you in Seattle). Regardless, this team will be tough to beat. And I was not at all saying that about them last year.”

Mid-season results: Never mind all that I said above. The Defense is slightly improved – they have more opportunity on Defense, more playmakers, and more ability. But the difference has been Daunte Culpepper. When he’s been on they’ve won. When he’s made mistakes (Philly, NYG), they’ve lost. The running game clicks regardless of who’s back there, because the passing game, and Daunte’s own feet – are such a threat. Minnesota will be there at the end…

Swami score: B+ (they’re only 5-2. And the D has not truly met my expected improvement)


PANTHERS
What I said then:
“Interesting… Motivated and confident… they had what I had perceived to be a poor off-season. Only – it wasn’t… The OL experienced a 3/5 overhaul (3 new starters) Jeno James and Todd Steussie were replaced with Rich Tylski and Adam Meadows. OT Meadows will play the right side while Rookie phenom Jordan Gross shifts over to the left (where he played in college). LG is a concern, but they have enough bodies to find a suitable player. I think that line holds… Defensively they’ve encountered some concerns in the Secondary – where I don’t think Ohio St rookie Chris Gamble is worth a wager… Their dime package is a major concern.”

Mid-season results: The Offensive line does appear to have suffered a setback. When you combine that with the revolving door of black magic injuries at key players and positions? Who could have predicted such a catastrophic change in the roster? The fact they’re not getting blown-out on a weekly basis is a credit to the character of the team and it’s coaching staff.

Swami score: Incomplete (Sorry, even a Schleprock can’t grade himself on THAT luck!).


TITANS
What I said then:
“This off-season saw the retirement of bread-winner TE Wycheck, a trade of productive deep threat WR McCareins, continual theft on the D-Line (including Freakboy Kearse), and a tearful farewell to Eddie George. Time to fall from grace, yes? Wrong. Much like heart-of-a-lion QB Steve McNair, Tennessee finds a way to prop themselves up and compete. A mammoth draft of talented DE’s LaBoy, Schobel, and Odom, plus super-steal DT Randy Starks, satisfies D-Line concerns for the next 4 years. Add to that freaky athletic first selection TE Ben Troupe, and 8 other draft choices… the bleeding has properly been sutured with fresher skin. Scary talent in the secondary ensures a once again scrappy Defense. And what about the loss of mainstay RB Eddie George? Well, that stings, but they do have a suitable replacement in hard-hitting RB Chris Brown… Mr. Fisher knows how to tap the character of his team. They compete, each and every week. Count it.”

Mid-season results: Don’t count this team out just yet. They’re nothing if not resourceful. The abundance of rookies has pushed them off the plate, but I remain confident in the talent they drafted. Additionally, when Steve McNair is not on the field – that’s like saying the legitimacy of a retired jersey ain’t important. (Don’t get me started). The Titans have a BYE week, and then a game against the Bears before they face the results of their season in 3 successive weeks at JAX, TEX and INDY. I wouldn’t be surprised if they take 2 of 3 road wins there. That’s how much respect I have for this team’s approach to winning. And if they do, well, that’s obviously going to shake things up a bit…

Swami score: C- (But I’m meeting with teacher for extra credit)


JAGUARS
What I said then:
“Says right here this is THE team to keep a curious eye on all year long. Mark it down… Head Coach Jack-box Del Rio has these boys believin’. And guess what – they just got a lot better in the off-season… I actually have them just ½ point behind TEN on my rating scale and way out front of Indy, Baltimore, KC, Philly, Tampa, and others (which blew me away, even though I already had them on the come prior to my forecast breakdown)… not only are they on the come, they’re legitimate playoff contenders. You heard it here first. Use it or lose it.”

Mid-season results: Pardon me while I thump my chest (hey, I gotta take satisfaction where I can this year. Sort of like being happy about beating 4 non-contenders for a winning record, eh). The Jags want to be real, man. They want to get serious. Last week they disappointed that effort, but Jack-Box does have a team on the rise, and one talented enough to scratch into the playoff’s this year. They’re 5-3 at the half-way mark, having played a respectable list of teams, earning confidence, understanding, sort of like Seattle last year… I think they’ll be there for a playoff spot.

Swami score: A+ (I don’t recall much of ANYBODY on the Jagz bandwagon in July other than myself.)


SKINS
What I said then:
“Normally, ever since the Dolphins tried to buy a Championship when Free Agency was a new thing, I avoid teams with extensive roster changes. But guess what… This toy can do plenty!… The D-Line is a concern, other than that: Brunell can still play. Clinton Portis is the most terrifying RB since Barry Sanders. The Posse is back at WR in Coles, Gardner, and Thrash… On Defense, Gregg Williams knows what he’s doing as well. And he’s got a nice LB core with Arrington, Barrow, and Washington. Backed by Smoot and Springs, Walt Harris, and the next in a recent bonanza of 1st RD stud Safeties – Sean Taylor. That’s a secondary that can compete and qualify the trade of Champ Bailey for Clinton Portis… On paper, you have to like what you see here. It’s enough for me to ignore the past and expect the Skins to win the Division. Welcome back, Mr. Tibbs (er, Gibbs).”

Mid-season results: Brunell can’t play. Clinton Portis is the most terrifying back to ever put on a white bedsheet for Halloween and say, “Boo, don’t you remember I’m frightening?” That WR trio ain’t no Posse. The team is 2-5 with zero chance to win the Division. Mr. Gibbs has not been an instant success. Their offense appears as bumbling as Steve Spurrier sans visor. Yet – Gregg Williams has done a fantastic job getting the max from that talented roster. They’ve had a chance in every-single-game-they-played! If only they could figure out how to move the ball with some consistency… and hold onto it.

Swami score: C (As mediocre an arrangement as ever possible)


SEATTLE
My lips are sealed until after we meet Minnesota Dec 12…


So there you have it. I stand before you, naked as a Jay Bird…


Oh yeah, this week's picks of ill repute:
PHI –1 @ PITT
NE –2.5 @ RAMS
JETS –3 @ BUFF
OAK +7 @ CAR
AZ +3 @ MIA


“Beat the Man… cuz you’re late for work and he's in the damned way”


G. Scott Jones is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Seahawks.NET. Reaction of any sort is always encouraged at schleprockhawk@sbcglobal.net.


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