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12 Thoughts as the 2021 season finally begins

A collection of FTR thoughts that weren’t turned into their own articles ...

My first “12 Thoughts” article was published a week before training camp opened and, at the time, I thought that a week before the first game of the season might be a good target for the second one.

But then 3 things happened that I didn’t see coming:

One. The league’s first-ever 3-game preseason resulted in the Seahawks resting almost all of their starters and not even really trying to be competitive in 2 of the 3 games.

Two. The initial 53-man roster was really bizarre; it had more RBs than WRs (5 to 4), included 3 QBs, and had 11 offensive linemen.

Three. D.J. Reed intentionally announced that he was moving from RCB to LCB while simultaneously accidentally letting it slip that Tre Flowers was taking his old spot at RCB.

Wow!

That last one led to me turning off my computer for a few days.

I still visited the site and posted comments from my phone, but no computer = no FTR articles and ... that was probably a good thing. Even though it delayed this piece.

I’m good now.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!


Thought #1

Optimism is for suckers but pessimism just plain sucks.

I choose optimism.

For now.

That might change by Sunday afternoon - especially if the Seahawks embarrass themselves against the Colts.

They won’t though; Seahawks 38, Colts 14.


Thought #2

Credit where credit is due.

I don’t always agree with John P. Gilbert but he certainly has a higher batting average than I do when it comes to offseason predictions. Here are but 2 examples: Cade Johnson did not survive the final cut (even if he was the last receiver to be released); and, no, the Seahawks weren’t going to re-sign K.J. Wright.

JPG wasn’t perfect (one UDFA did make the team), but I’ll tip my hat to him as he circles the bases after yet another stellar offseason/preseason here on Field Gulls (and on Twitter).

Note: The Mariners are in the playoff hunt as the Seahawks prepare to start their season so mixed-sports metaphors are not only permissible, they’re expected.


Thought #3

Speaking of K.J. Wright ...

His 1-year contract with the Raiders guarantees him $3M and has a max value of $5M (technically, $5,005,000). I’m not embedding Mike Garafolo’s Tweet because it had a typo that confuses things, but here’s the breakdown:

  • $3M base salary (fully guaranteed)
  • $255k in per-game roster bonuses ($15k for each game he’s active)
  • $1.75M in playing time incentives - $500k for 25% of the defensive snaps; $500k for 45%; $375k for 65%; $375k for 75%

Could Seattle have matched that? Sure. But it’s certainly understandable why they didn’t and/or why Wright might not have wanted them to.

(I will now refer you back to Thought #2 and let JPG take a victory lap.)


Thought #4

Kyle Shanahan has a reputation for being innovative. As a former Innovation Manager, I can respect that. However, he is certifiably insane if he thinks a quarterback “platoon” is the way to resolve the mess that they created in Santa Clara Adjacent over the past few months by:

  1. Moving up to #3 to select an FCS QB
  2. Simultaneously keeping their china-doll QB with the $26.4M cap hit despite there being a negligible amount of dead money on his contract
  3. Continuously changing their tune re: their plans at the position this year
  4. Apparently “punting” the decision regarding the quarterback competition that wasn’t a competition even though it clearly was a competition even when it allegedly “wasn’t” ... but actually WAS

As a Seahawks fan, I think this is delightful. Absolutely delightful.

There is, of course, a chance it will work. If I were a Niners fan though, I’d be scratching my head at both the process and the result.


Thought #5

Turning our attention to another division rival ...

The top 10 cap hits on the Rams current roster range from $20M (Matthew Stafford) to $5,250,0001 (A’Shawn Robinson) and total a combined $87,488,667 (47.9% of the $182.5M salary cap).

By comparison, Seattle’s top 10 cap hits range from $32M (RW3) to $3.625M (Quandre Diggs) and total a combined $93,475,000 (51.2% of the 2021 salary cap).

That is interesting in and of itself as it shows just how top-heavy both rosters are.

Here is where it gets more interesting though:

  • The Niners ($100,362,984) and Cardinals ($100,447,367) are both higher
  • Other contenders that are also higher include the Packers ($96,143,231), the Vikings ($99,911,419), and the Cowboys ($109,553,868)
  • The team in Washington ($94,733,699), the Bears ($95,471,764) and the defending Super Bowl Champions ($93,734,311) are also higher

The point (to this point) is this: Top-heavy rosters are pretty much the norm for teams that have at least semi-realistic expectations of making the playoffs.


Thought #6

Piggybacking on Thought #5 ...

The Rams are carrying $39,574,303 in dead money this year, including $24.7M from Jared Goff and $8.4M from Todd Gurley.

For comparison, other teams I listed in Thought #5 have dead money that ranges from $2,703,175 (Tampa Bay) to $21,033,022 (Chicago) with the Seahawks ($8,307,798), Cardinals ($8,852,469), and Niners ($15,643,684) in the middle of that range.

So, to recap, and narrowing our focus to the NFC West:

  • LAR top-10 + dead money = $139,937,287
  • SF = $116,006,668
  • AZ = $109,299,836
  • Seattle = 101,782,798

Right about now you’re probably thinking that John Schneider and his team are salary cap wizards. And they are! But that’s not this thought; it’s just the groundwork for the thought.

2022

The top 10 contracts for the Rams in 2022 currently carry a combined cap hit of $166,796,668.

That represents 80.1% of the maximum 2022 salary cap ($208.2M).

Ouch!

6 of those 10 players carry 2022 cap hits in excess of $15M with another one (Andrew Whitworth) at $14,666,668. If Whitworth retires, as he is expected to do, LAR’s top 10 cap hits fall, but only by about $8M (to $158,488,668; 76.1%).

That is not sustainable.

By comparison:

  • Seattle’s top 10 cap hits in 2022 total $117,493,059 (56.4%)
  • SF is currently at $138,729,561 (66.6%)
  • AZ’s 2022 top 10 total $139,576,841 (67.0%)

NOW is when you can sit back and marvel at the awesomeness that is Seattle’s front office (at least from a salary cap perspective).

Anyone want to place bets on which players our NFC West rivals decide to move on from next offseason because of “salary cap concerns”?


Thought #7

Ah ... speaking of bets.

Last season, I created a spreadsheet and tracked my weekly NFL picks. I was 162-93-1 during the regular season (131-124 against the spread). I went 9-4 in the playoffs (7-6 ATS). Add that up and I had a combined total prediction record of 171-97-1 (138-130 ATS).

That’s not terrible. I am, however, glad that none of those predictions involved money - especially the ATS ones.

This year though ... this year I am going to have some fun.

I’m still not going to risk actual cash - because I’m not a gambler; I just like a challenge and am curious how I would do with actual odds involved.

And I’m not going to post my predictions here on FieldGulls because we don’t do that. But I did join the 21st century recently and now I have a Twitter account (God help us all).

@Frank_T_Raines ... for those that are interested.

And here’s my first-ever Tweet.


Thought #8

Since I’m now playing around with betting lines - and since someone hooked me up with an account on tallysight.com - I perused 70 or so NFL “futures” bets and had some fun.

I’m going with Aaron Donald for DPOY again. I picked the Seahawks to have OVER 10 wins. I went with Buffalo to win the AFC East and the Chiefs to win the AFC West.

All of those seem like pretty safe bets (if I were actually betting).

But, remember, I said had some FUN.

__________

2021 Sack Leader? Yeah ... y’all know I picked Jamal Adams! And with the following comment:

“What does the league’s highest-paid safety do one year after setting the single-season record for sacks by a DB? Lead the league in sacks, of course!”

__________

Offensive Player of the Year? Russell Wilson.

Comment: “I have faith in Shane Waldron figuring out how to Let Russ Cook all season long.”

__________

NFL MVP? Yep! Russell Carrington Wilson.

Comment: “After having never gotten a single vote, RW3 grabs ALL the votes in 2021.”

__________

Super Bowl Winner: The Seattle Seahawks!

Comment: “You can’t fight destiny.”

__________

What? It’s not like I would bet against us - whether I’m using real money of not. And, if I did, I sure wouldn’t be writing about it here :p


Thought #9

Speaking of Russell Wilson and destiny ...

Peyton Manning collected 105 wins over his first 10 seasons. That is the most in NFL history. Mr. Wilson is sitting on 98 wins entering his 10th season.

Anyone here think that he’s not going to finish the season with bragging rights?

Seven to tie; eight to stand alone atop the mountain.

I’m circling the November 21st home game against the Cardinals as Win #106. And I’m predicting that he finishes the season with between 110 and 112 wins - just to put an exclamation point on things.


Thought #10

Here is a prediction for the coming season that coming season that, on the surface, might seem insane ... but that isn’t really as crazy as it sounds once you dig into it.

Seattle’s offense will score at least three hundred (300!) points more than the Seahawks’ defense allows.

For some context on that prediction, here are Seattle’s 2020 totals and average:

  • Offense: 459 points scored (28.7 avg.)
  • Defense: 371 points allowed (23.2 avg.)

So ...

I am predicting a 300-point difference this year when the difference last year was only 88 points ... and you are thinking, “FTR is insane!”

Here’s the thing ...

During the first 8 games last season, the Seahawks scored an average of 34.25 points per game and, over the last 8 games, Seattle’s opponents averaged 16.0 points per game.

Say what you want about the opponents and/or Seattle’s historical tendency to seldom have the “good” offense and the “good” defense in the same place at the same time, but ... 34.25 minus 16.0 = my prediction.


Thought #11

How about another crazy/not-crazy prediction for the upcoming season?

Only the Kansas City Chiefs will finish with a better record than the Seahawks in 2021.

That sounds outlandish, doesn’t it? Eyebrow arching, even.

CBS Sports would certainly think so since they (via Pete Prisco) ranked the Seahawks at #18 in their Week 1 Power Rankings.

And the fine folks over at Sports Illustrated? Also skeptical; they have Seattle at #10, behind the Niners and the Rams who are at #8 and #4 (!?!?), respectively.

Consider this though:

  • The Chiefs were an NFL-best 14-2 last year;
  • Only 2 teams, the Packers and the Bills, finished 13-3 in 2020; and
  • The Seahawks’ 12-4 record was tied for 4th-best league-wide (with the Saints and Steelers)

Then add these extenuating circumstances:

  • The Saints are heading into the 2021 season without Drew Brees;
  • The Steelers have a QB who is well past his use-by date and also have the NFLS’s toughest Strength of Schedule (SOS) at .574;
  • Green Bay’s SOS is #4 (.542) - plus, this season is unofficially (and yet sort of officially) the Aaron Rodgers Farewell Cheeseheads Tour; and
  • The Buffalo Bills, who very well may have overachieved in 2020, have to play both of last year’s Super Bowl teams ... on the road

Thought #12

Here’s my optimistic view of the Flowers/Reed combination that we expect to see on Sunday: It might not be as bad as we fear.

Last season, Tre Flowers played Weeks 1 through 12 while D.J. Reed played Weeks 8-11 and 13-17. Thus we only had 4 games last year where both of them played: Weeks 8 (vs. SF); Week 9 (at Buffalo); Week 10 (at LAR); and Week 11 (vs. AZ).

Here are their coverage snaps from those 4 games:

  • Flowers: 30, 47, 43, 49
  • Reed: 46, 48, 41, 48

These were the starters in those 4 games (per the NFL Gamebooks):

  • Week 8: Flowers (LCB), Dunbar (RCB), 3 LBs
  • Week 9: Flowers (RCB), Dunbar (LCB), Reed (DB/Slot), 2 LBs
  • Week 10: Reed (LCB), Flowers (RCB), Amadi (S/Slot), 2 LBs
  • Week 11: Reed (LCB), Flowers (RCB), 3 LBs

As we can tell from this breakdown, there were only 2 games last year where Flowers and Reed started at the outside corner spots - Weeks 10 and 11 - and they started those 2 games at the same spots they’ll be in on Sunday.

Let’s look at those 2 games.

The combined stat lines for the 2 QBs we played Week 10 (Goff) and Week 11 (Murray) looked like this:

  • 56 completions on 79 attempts (70.9%)
  • 571 yards (excluding sacks)
  • 2 touchdowns
  • Combined passer rating of 99.7

And here are the combined stats for Flowers and Reed in those 2 games:

  • 19 receptions allowed on 24 targets (79.2%)
  • 209 yards
  • 1 TD

The completion rate is obviously higher than we would like but, overall, those numbers are better than I expected them to be.

  • Only 30.1% of the targets were to players covered by Flowers and Reed
  • Only 33.9% of the completions were allowed by the outside corners
  • Only 36.6% of the yards were give up by them

If we can get a similar performance out of the duo of Flowers and Reed on Sunday in Indianapolis ...

Things might not be as bad as we fear.