I continue my look down the 16-game schedule as I further alienate myself and burn all those blogging bridges* I worked so hard to build, but it is necessary that I lay out this plausible (nay, inevitable) perfect season for the Seahawks. We are now in Week 5, over the hump of our AFC South schedule and marching forth with our third straight game against that division without a second to waste for the first time in Indianapolis against the Colts since 2009.
Indianapolis won that game 34-17 because it was 2009. Seneca Wallace attempted 45 passes, scored two touchdowns, T.J. Houshmandzadeh had 103 yards, and Owen Schmitt had a touchdown. Edgerrin James! It was a better time for the Colts than it was for us.
Colts? More like dolts. (Brad Wells over at Blue Stampede probably just lit fire to the bridge right then.)
*A "blogging bridge" is really a tunnel. A tunnel that stretches from basement to basement.
As I was trying to come up with the perfect headline for this perfect season, a light bulb went off when I created this gem: Indy and A Dome. It's a beautiful and relevant pun... if only the Colts still played in a dome. I had to double-check on the internet and found out that the RCA Dome has only been gone for like five years. Lucas Oil Stadium features the retractable roof (made popular by Seattle, or at least that's what I will always tell everyone) and therefore it's not Indy and a Dome, anymore. You tend to forget these things about AFC teams, and of course it makes me vulnerable to mistakes when you don't get to watch a team as often as their hometown fans.
Which is probably why the Colts fans and everyone else might have a slightly different opinion of what happened in 2012. Because what they might have seen was an 11-5 team led by deserving Rookie of the Year Andrew Luck.
What I saw was a team outscored by 30 points during the regular season, led by a very talented but deserving of third place Rookie of the Year status Andrew Luck. To me, the Colts seemed like the best example of just how bad the AFC is at this time, because there were plenty of signs to the outsider to a team that could have just as easily been 5-11.
Football Outsiders had the Colts 25th in Total DVOA, behind the Bills and Browns... and well 22 others, of course. That includes being 31st in defensive DVOA. In the more traditional sense, the Colts were 18th in scoring, 21st in points allowed, 29th in rushing yards allowed, 31st in yards per carry allowed, and Luck's 18 interceptions were a tad high; the Colts turned it over 27 times, and forced only 15.
They lost to the Bears 41-21, lost to the Jaguars, lost to the Jets, lost to the Patriots 59-24, and lost to the Texans 29-17. They beat the Browns (by four), the Titans (in OT), the Dolphins (by three), the Jaguars, the Bills, the Lions (by two), the Titans (by four), and the Chiefs. Their best wins were the Vikings in Week 2 (23-20), the Packers in Week 5 (30-27, after the Pagano news), and the Texans (28-16) in Week 17.
Of course, the Colts were coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history. Even if they weren't "as good as 11-5" they weren't terrible. A bad team would have found a way to lose 11 games, but the Colts found a way to win 11 games, especially at Lucas Oil where they were 7-1 and beat those Vikings, Packers, and Texans.
Now it's 2013 and the Seahawks travel to Indianapolis for their Week 5 game against Luck and the Colts. At that point, Luck has likely had over 20 games of experience, including playoffs. Now him and his skill players have had that much more time to work together, and the fellow first-year players from 2012 are also more experienced second-year players. I felt going into last year that the Colts were a playoff team because they had overturned the roster dramatically in a positive way, and were playing in the AFC. Now I look at a team that I feel the Seahawks would have destroyed by the second half of they year last season, that's again overturned some of the bad pieces of the roster, kept most of the good ones, and are ready to make the next step from being a team that's opportunistic to one that's actually a threat.
A threat to our perfect season? Of course not! Here's why:
1. The Defense Rests. And Rests. And Rests.
Thirty-first in Defensive DVOA!
The Colts traded their 2013 second round pick last year for cornerback Vontae Davis. They used their first rounder on defensive end Bjorn Werner, possibly great value for a player that was once projected as a possible top five pick. They signed players like cornerback Greg Toler, safety LaRon Landry, defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois, and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin.
The defense will likely be better because the defense was really terrible last year. I also figured the same about the third season of The Killing, but nope, still terrible. Davis and Toler are good enough to start in this league when healthy, but it's hard to see them as stars. I remember asking David Fucillo at Niners Nation about Jean-Francois last year before the second Hawks-Niners game because Justin Smith was going to be out, and at that point he was still only a part-time player that few people knew about. Landry is coming off of his first Pro Bowl appearance, but has had a career riddled with injuries and inconsistency, and he'll likely never be the kind of player many thought he would be when he was drafted.
Also, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, the leader of bad defenses with the 49ers in 2007 and 2008, and now the Colts in 2012, is still the defensive coordinator.
I'm having a hard time making any connections that say that the Cotls have improved immensely on defense. They'll need to score points to keep up.
2. Paired with Hilton
At this point, it seems bad to assume that Reggie Wayne won't perform just because he's 35. He's been the same player for years, with the exception of the 2011 disaster without Peyton Manning. Last year, he put up 135 yards against the Bears, 212 yards against the Packers, and 114 yards against the Ravens in their playoff loss.
He could definitely be productive, even against the Seattle secondary. But what about the rest of the Colts?
T.Y. Hilton was a star in college, but the issue that his college was Florida International. That caused enough skepticism for him to drop to 92nd in the draft, but Hilton was one of the most productive rookies in the NFL last season, catching 50 passes for 861 yards and seven touchdowns, with a little success as a punt returner. If he continues to get better, he could concern the Seahawks in the way that Titus Young concerned them against the Lions last year.
But there's usually good news with players that come out of nowhere to put up big yardage numbers. Oftentimes, they were lesser-known for a reason, they had issues to work through, and Hilton is no exception. From Stampede Blue:
For instance, Hilton was one of the worst wide receivers in the league last season when it came to drops. On just 101 targets, he dropped 12 catchable passes. That tied with Avery for the third-worst drop rate (16.67) among wide receivers who played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps.
How many touchdowns offset a dozen drives that might have dropped dead? How will he fare against the likes of Antoine Winfield, or Brandon Browner? How will Darrius Heyward-Bey fit in with the Colts, and will he be able to get back to the performance he had in 2011, rather than the one he had in 2012 that meant that even the Raiders didn't want him anymore?
Andrew Luck can't go to Wayne over and over again. Not against Sherman. Eventually that's going to lead to one for the good guys. They're going to want to see more production out of Coby Fleener and hope for the continued development of Dwayne Allen.
That's a lot of weapons. But none of them other than Wayne are proven.
So, can they run the ball?
3. Can they run the ball?
Chuck Pagano insists there will be more running this season for Indy. (Somewhere, a joke about Indiana Jones and a boulder emerges.) Last year, Vick Ballard led the team with 814 yards on 3.9 yards per carry. Donald Brown also had 3.9 yards per carry. They also added Ahmad Bradshaw in free agency.
But Bradshaw, like Heyward-Bey, was available for a reason. Will he be healthy and productive? They were 22nd in rushing yards and 26th in yards per carry last season. Is free agent addition Gosder Cherilus or offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton the key to turning that into a top 10, or even top 15 rushing offense? Or will they be forced to keep going to the Luck well because their defense can't hold any kind of a lead?
Against the Seattle defense? We got torn up last year a couple of times against great running games like the Vikings and 49ers, but the Colts? Not if they're still playing the way they were last season in the running game.
4. And what of the Seahawks "out there" run game that could be described as "Lynchian"?
Barring something unforeseen, the Seahawks should sport one of the best running games in sport with Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Christine Michael, and Robert Turbin / Michael Robinson.
The Colts were the worst run defense in the NFL per Football Outsiders. This seems to be setting up for a game that has like a 70 / 30 Run / Pass offense for Seattle, if everything goes to plan.
5. Because it will decide once and for all who the better QB prospect is between Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, and we all know that the answer to the is Russell Wilson and therefore this game has already been predetermined in the Scrolls of Carrollian Times that stated:
"And one day a man shall appear before us that is unlike any other man. What if David had not only defeated Goliath, but absorbed his soul and though he was small in stature, stood taller than any man seen before and could destroy all creatures before him whether human or horse. This man will soar like some sort of mythical bird among the clouds and win all of the things.
PS. He is definitely not "Lucky" but you could say that he Will have a Son, someday.
PPS . It is not Andrew Luck."
Now, who does that sound like to you?
And there you have it. 5-0, bitches.
And here are the others so far: