A nice problem to have. Some would say that about the Browns having both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. If Anderson is either (A) for real (I doubt this) or (B) able to make it through most of the season without being exposed, he could net them a decent draft choice this coming offseason. But what I'm referring to is the Football Outsiders server exploding. Congrats, nothing says "arrived" like tombstoning a server. By some luck, I was able to get a couple stat pages up before the system went kablooey. So here, slightly truncated, slightly modified is your matchup kickoff---Statapalooza! A name guaranteed to make you sick of nineties nostalgia even before Gin Blossoms muzak and long haired dudes wearing backwards caps sitting in backwards chairs brings the looming specter of your own mortality to brutal, kitschy life. Douglas Coupland thinks your T-shirt is smugly ironic. So there.
Strength Versus Strength
Shopping is Not Creating: The Browns' offense, thanks to a massive commitment of resources, is beginning to show some life. Too bad the last defensive lineman they drafted before the 6th round was Gerard Warren...in 2001. Because Seattle has long been known as an offense first team, everyone seems to think Sunday's contest will turn into a shootout. A slightly perplexing contention when one considers that Seattle hasn't allowed any opposing offense to score more than 23 points all season. Still, a young, worthy left side of the offensive line, a pair of playmaking receivers and a chuck and duck quarterback on a hot streak has the Browns faithful looking at their offense as an up and coming force. The Hawks are still a very good passing team, and the Browns have one of those defenses that can coax even the most moribund unit to life--you out there Shaun Alexander? Saying this game is destined to be a shootout, rather than a beatdown, is a kneejerk slight of Seattle's defense, but fact remains, the two most dominant, non-special teams units to take the field this Sunday are the Browns and Seahawks 7th and 12th respectively ranked passing Os.
New Zealand Gets Nuked, Too/Dead at 30, Buried at 70: I took a lot of flack for ripping on Shaun Alexander through the preseason and early regular season. You know, when his stats looked decent and the lot of boxscore skimmers could project him to 1,500 yards and 10 TDs or some such nonsense. Now that his Macarena-like mincing behind the line and through the hole have become common knowledge it seems a little unnecessary to continue to point out how badly he sucks. So without piling on our McRunning Back further, let me say simply that the Hawks 30th ranked rushing attack faces another mediocre rush defense (18th) that should, with little additional effort, be able to completely shut it down.
Adventure Without Risk is Disneyland: The Hawks face no worse mismatch than Kellen Winslow against their 28th ranked pass defense against tight ends. On first look, this appears to be a great candidate for tomorrow's Matchupalooza---trust me, I've looked into it. The Hawks hugely expensive free agent strong safety acquisition, perhaps the second best tight end in football, how can this not be a hugely important matchup for the Hawks? Well, because Grant doesn't play a lot of man coverage, he's more of a centerfielder type, to use a limp but limpid metaphor. Jim Mora Jr. will almost certainly send the Hawks faithful down Splash Mountain: lots of otherwise idol figures singing and dancing on the periphery, with the occasional free fall in the middle. That's right, Winslow should face a ton of zone coverage down the seam, and if he doesn't wrack up a ton of yards I'll eat my foot.
It Can't Last: Recently, when my friends want to talk to me about arts or culture or politics I've been forced to respond "If it's not football, I don't know about it." I've become a sort-of deliberate idiot savant. You recognize some weird stuff when you pay way too much attention to something very specific. Deion Branch is the first receiver I've ever noticed whose loss has adversely affected his teams' pass blocking. Noted objectivist Matt Hasselbeck would rather his brains be beaten in than throw the ball to weak willed communalist Nate Burleson. Before the loss of Branch, Seattle had one of the best pass blocking teams in football. 8 sacks in two and a half contests later and the Hawks' line is being referred to as a "dangerous, jerry-rigged apparatus". That's entirely false. Watch for Seattle's 20th ranked pass blocking to break out of the schneid against the Browns' 30th ranked pass rush.
Poverty Jet Set: It's easy to mention the Hawks 12th ranked passing offense against the Cleveland Browns 31st ranked pass defense, but not very illuminating. The Browns have invested a lot into their secondary, but their best DB was an undrafted free agent, Leigh Bodden. The result is a very talented unit that's almost entirely masked by a non-existent pass rush. The Browns are decent against top two wide outs, but generally crappy against tight ends, running backs and "other" receivers (23, 22, 22). What better time to get D.J. Hackett back from injury? Hackett is Mr. Other Receiver. Watch for him and Leonard Weaver to get open after much contemplation by Matt Hasselbeck. Weaver will get more catches, Hackett more yards.
Await Lightning: Many took my bonus matchup from week 3 completely seriously, so to assuage all the cynics out there, let me say I am completely serious about the following matchup. Shaun Aexander has averaged 176 yards rushing when playing in cities residing in the central time zone, in November, that have had a Drew Carey sitcom staged in them. That's right, this is the week that Alexander goes Berzerker on the Dawg Pound--and the "z" tells you I'm serious--SERIOUSLY.