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12 Thoughts on Week 2 and the upending of expectations

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

Week 2 in the NFL’s first-ever 18-week regular season sure didn’t go the way we expected, did it? And I’m not just talking about here in Seattle. Raise your hand if you expected the Saints to follow up their 35-point deflowering of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers by losing to Sam Darnold and the Panthers by 19? How about the Raiders? Even after pulling off the Week 1 home upset on Monday Night Football, did anyone really expect Jon Gruden’s band of pirates to prove that their win wasn’t a fluke by going to Pittsburgh and beating the Steelers?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, and let’s not forget about the Lions swaggering into Lambeau and shocking the world by (a) scoring first, and (b) having the LEAD at halftime (!!!). Alas, unlike some teams, the Lions are really good at meeting (low) expectations and the Packers outscored them 21-zip after the break - which was cool since I picked the Packers straight-up, but also NOT cool because I picked the damned Lions against the spread.

Sigh. 10-6 on my weekly picks ain’t bad - even if Mookie was 11-5 (!!) this week. Not sure what happened to Willie Keeler (no picks this week?), but it’s a tight race for bragging rights amongst the rest of the amateur bettors on staff here at Field Gulls with Tyler, Brandan, the aforementioned Mook-ster, and myself sitting atop the standings at 19-13 heading into Week 3. JPG and Stan are 1 game back with matching records of 18-up, 14-down.

As was the case last week, that should be the last betting reference. Maybe. No promises. There IS is a lot to cover this week though, so let’s get started.


Thought #1

You might have heard that the Seahawks had won 12 straight home openers heading into the 2021 season. Naturally, this means that Russell Wilson was 9-0 in home openers. Bobby Wagner as well. And Pete Carroll was 11-0 ... in Seattle. Overall, Pete Carroll was working on a 15-game undefeated streak in NFL home openers, having gone 3-0 with New England and 1-0 with the Jets. I am not feeling “motivated” enough to see if Pete lost any home openers as a head coach in the college ranks, but given how college powerhouses like USC tend to pad their schedules with inferior “friendly” opponents early in the year (most years), it wouldn’t surprise me if this was Pete’s first-ever loss in a home opener. If so, color me impressed. Even if not, I’m still pretty impressed that Pete had not lost a home opener in the NFL before this year.

Seattle Seahawks v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

Thought #2

Because there were no ties last week, half of the NFL teams (16 of 32) started the season with a win. Yes, that’s stating the obvious, but it’s the precursor for the 3 bullets I’m about to share with you.

  • Three of the sixteen Week 2 games featured a 1-0 team battling a 1-0 team: San Francisco at Philadelphia, Las Vegas at Pittsburgh, and New Orleans at Carolina; obviously 3 of them improved to 2-0 while the other 3 fell to 1-1.
  • Of the ten remaining teams that were 1-0 after Week 1, six of them lost: Cincinnati (at Chicago), Houston (at Cleveland), Miami (vs. Buffalo), LAC (vs. Dallas), Seattle (sigh), and Kansas City (at Baltimore). Note: If I were including betting references in this week’s thoughts, I might draw attention to the fact that 3 of the 6 (LAC, SEA, and KC) lost to underdogs and the other 3 (CIN, HOU, MIA) were underdogs.
  • Through 2 weeks, there are only 7 undefeated teams (last year there were 11). Five of the 7 teams are in the NFC and 3 of those 5 are in our division. On the AFC side, there’s only Denver and Las Vegas. Who could have predicted that?

FUN FACT: Only 2 of the remaining undefeated teams made the playoffs last season. After Sunday, there will be one. Unless they tie.


Thought #3

I wrote about Chris Carson’s impact on Seattle’s Won-Loss record earlier this week, but because that piece was focused on how his performance affects wins and losses, I sort of glossed over something that deserves to be mentioned.

Despite scoring two touchdowns, Chris Carson had arguably the 2nd-worst game of his career.

  • Career worst: January 5th, 2019, at Dallas, in the playoffs ... 13 carries for 20 yards; 2 receptions for minus-1 yard, zero TDs ... Seattle lost 22-24
  • Sunday, September 19th, 2021, at home, vs. Tennessee ... 13 carries for 31 yards with 2 TDs; 0 receptions (0 targets) ... Seattle lost 30-33 in overtime

Now, to be fair, Carson did have 2 touchdowns against the Titans and that’s not nothing. But I would argue that Seattle would have scored in those instances even if Carson had been on the bench. What I am looking at is the fact that minus the touchdowns, Carson did jack-and-shit with the ball in his hands. I mean, do the math. His per-carry average is a meager 2.38. Two-point-three-eight (!!!!!).

Note: For some perspective on that sad, sad per-carry average, the next-worst total is 3.07 and Carson would have needed nine additional yards to top it (13 for 40 equals 3.0769 which rounds up to 3.08).

The other “contenders” I considered for “worst” games are:

  • Week 2, 2018, at Chicago (6 carries for 24 yards; avg. 4.0) - L
  • Week 12, 2019, at Philadelphia (8 for 26; avg. 3.25) - W
  • Week 1, 2020, at Atlanta (6 for 21; avg. 3.5) - W

Note: The game that Carson averaged 3.07 yards in was Week 1, 2019, vs. Cincinnati and Carson had 16 carries for 46 yards with touchdown - and Seattle won.

As a little post-script to this thought ... 11 of Chris Carson’s 13 carries against the Titans were on 1st down plays. That’s not exactly the best way to move the chains on a day when he’s averaging 2.x yards per carry. I would think that Sunday’s performance wasn’t what the Seahawks had in mind when they re-signed Chris Carson exactly 6 months earlier.


Thought #4

On a happier front, the quarterback that leads the NFL in quarterback rating (by a healthy margin) after 2 weeks is ... Tyrod Taylor! Wait, sorry, no ... he’s actually 4th - yes, 4th! - with a rating of 122.9. Matthew Stafford (the leader after Week 1) is #3 at 127.0. In second place is the NFL’s golden boy with a rating of 131.4. And, at #1 ... yeah, y’all already know it’s Russell Wilson. What you might not know is that Wilson’s quarterback rating of 146.9 leads the field by 15-1/2 points (!!!!).

Tennessee Titans v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Note: Wilson is also #1 in yards per attempt (11.1), although that’s a closer battle.


Thought #5

Speaking of quarterbacks ... how did the rookies do in Week 2?

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With Tyrod Taylor now on IR, and Deshaun Watson ruled out (again), we can expect to see Davis Mill on the field when the Texans take on the Carolina Panthers Thursday night. Also, the Chicago Tribune, among others, is reporting that Justin Fields will get his first start on Sunday ... on the road ... against the Cleveland Browns.

Side note: Baker Mayfield has an insane completion rate of 81.6% (40 of 49) through the first 2 weeks. Might be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.


Thought #6

Throwing an interception is never good. Especially when you trail the defending Super Bowl Champions by 11 points on the road and just got the ball to start the second half.

To that point, Matt Ryan had completed 80% of his passes (16 of 20) for 151 yards - and the INT came on a tipped-pass so we’ll cut Matty Ice some slack. But ... 20 or so minutes later, this happened ...

At that point, Matt was probably considering it “a bad day at the office.” But y’all know that I wouldn’t be using one of my 12 thoughts on a pair of NFC South teams without a super amusing reason, right? Well, here comes that reason ...

Yes, that’s right, the 2016 NFL MVP leveraged his 13 years of NFL experience to throw two pick-sixes (in a span of 4 minutes) ... to the same player. Undaunted (according to CBS Sports), Matt Ryan had this to say on Tuesday:

“Seventeen games ... You can throw all the old stats out. With that extra game, none of those rules apply that were there before. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got 15 games to go. I think we’re a young team that made strides from Week 1 to Week 2. We need to continue to make strides as we go into Week 3. If we can do that, I really feel like we’ve got enough weapons and the right people that we can correct this thing and get it moving in the right direction.”

And then he took it a step further ...

“I think the biggest thing is we’re capable of being in the mix. ... Keeping ourselves relevant late into the season, in December and January. I think we’re capable of doing that ... It’s just about getting hot at the right time.”


Thought #7

Dear Matt Ryan: I like you. I really do. And I get why you said what you did, but ... You’re fucking nuts if you think the Falcons have any chance of making the playoffs this year

Yes, there is an “extra” game this year. In theory, sure, that changes things. I mean, why not just toss out the fact that teams that started a season 0-2 only made the playoffs 12% of the time from 1990 to 2019? Answer: Because that’s not really how it works. Sorry, Matt. Also, the fact that the playoffs expanded to 7 teams last year seems like it should have affected things, right? I mean, there’s a whole EXTRA team from each conference getting into the playoffs now. But guess what ...

Here are the 11 teams that started 0-2 in 2020:

Hmmm .... Look at that ... Not a single playoff team on that list Shocking! Absolutely shocking! Now, to be fair, the Dolphins were still in the mix for a playoff spot heading into the final week of the season, but they got spanked by the Bills (56-26) and the Colts snuck past them for the final spot.

Oh, and after dropping their first 2 games last year, the Dolphins won 6 of their next 7 because they were actually ... what’s the word? ... GOOD. Atlanta? Not so much. Per ESPN, in an article about the 0-2 Jaguars trolling them, the Falcons’ points allowed (80) and point differential (minus-49) are franchise-worst marks through a season’s first 2 games.


Thought #8

As mentioned, I like Matt Ryan. He’s probably in my Top 7-10 players in the league as far as “guys I cheer for outside the Seahawks.” But he’s also an example of how one player can hamstring a team financially - and the poster boy for why Seattle’s front office is so much better than Atlanta’s.

I won’t dive into all of the details, but here’s a high-level view of Matt Ryan’s current contract and cap hits:

  • 5-year, $150M extension signed prior to the 2018 season
  • Remaining cap hits are $26,912,500 (2021), $48,662,500 (2022), and $43,613,500 (2023)
  • Total remaining = $119,187,500
  • $65,437,500 of that is dead money ($24,912,500 in 2021 and 2022; $15,612,500 in 2023)

And here is a high-level view of Russell Wilson’s current contract and cap hits:

  • 4-year, $140M extension signed prior to 2019 season
  • Remaining cap hits are $32M (2021), $37M (2022), and $40M (2023)
  • Total remaining = $109M
  • $39M in dead money ($13M in 2021, 2022, and 2022)

Additional information:

  • Matt Ryan’s contract was the highest-ever when signed ($30M APY); 11 months later, Wilson reset the market again with an APY of $35M
  • Both contracts run through the end of the 2023 season
  • Russell Wilson’s 2021 base salary ($19M) is fully guaranteed; technically, as a vested veteran, so is Matt Ryan’s (although it’s only $2M)

Direct comparison:

  • After this season, the cash flow (base salary + current bonuses) on Matt Ryan’s contract will total $51,750,000. That number is $51M even for Russell Wilson.
  • The cap hits for Matt Ryan in 2022 and 2023 total $92,275,000. Wilson’s 2022 and 2023 cap hits are $15,275,000 less ($77M total).

Indirect comparison:

  • Ryan’s cap hit in 2019 was $15.8M; Wilson’s was $26,286,766. Seattle made the playoffs with an 11-5 record, Atlanta watched the playoffs from home after finishing 7-9.
  • Ryan’s 2020 cap hit was $18,962,500; Wilson’s was $31M. Seattle won their division with a 12-4 record; Atlanta’s record was 4-12.

Moral of the story: Seattle > Atlanta. It’s really not any more complicated than that.


Thought #9

It’s never, ever, ever too early to be thinking about playoff seeding. Am I right or am I right or am I right?

Through Week 2:

Four thoughts:

  1. Maybe it IS too early.
  2. It’s actually sort of fitting that Seattle sits at #12.
  3. I wasn’t intending to take another shot at the Atlanta Falcons, but it’s not exactly my fault - they earned the last-place standing.
  4. _______ the Rams!

Thought #10

Let’s start with the numbers for 2 “anonymous” groups of players and then I’ll ask you two super simple questions.

GROUP 1

  • Week 1: 9 receptions on 9 targets for 88 yards, long of 22
  • Week 2: 3 receptions on 4 targets for 17 yards, long of 11
  • Total: 12 of 13 for 105 yards, long of 22

GROUP 2

  • Week 1: 9 receptions on 13 targets for 62 yards, long of 11
  • Week 2: 15 receptions on 16 targets for 148 yards, long of 22
  • Total: 24 of 29 for 210 yards, long of 22

Question #1: Given all the offseason hype and speculation about Shane Waldron’s “magic” offense, which group would you EXPECT is Seattle’s tight ends and running backs?

Question #2: How sad are you going to be when I tell you that Group 2 is the RBs and TEs for the Tennessee Titans? (led by first-year Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing)

Tennessee Titans v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Thought #11

Some random tidbits to (maybe) impress your friends with this week:

  • Carolina is 2-9 all-time on Thursday Night Football. Why do we care about that? We don’t. Not really. But they’re favored by 7-1/2 points against the Texans this week. And Sam Darnold, who secured his first-ever 2-0 start when the Panthers beat the Saints on Sunday, could be 3-0 when he sits down on September 26th and watches his former team fall to 0-3. And who doesn’t like a good “revenge” story?
  • The once-powerful Saints had a total of 128 yards of offense in Carolina last weekend and picked up a total of 6 first downs in the game (six!)
  • Ever seen someone’s quarterback rating drop 100+ points in a week? Jameis Winston Week 1: 130.8. Jameis Winston Week 2: 26.9. Now you’ve seen it.

Three “streaks” worth mentioning ... four if we include Seattle’s 7-game win streak versus the Vikings:

  • Detroit has allowed 30+ points in 8 straight games. Up next? The Ravens, averaging 31.5 points per game so far this season. Did I mention that 8-straight is the team “record”? Methinks it’s going to be 9 straight games come Sunday afternoon.
  • The Jets have lost 11 straight games in the month of September (which helps explain why Sam Darnold has never had a 2-0 start). Anyone here think they won’t be riding a 12-game streak after playing in the thin atmosphere of Denver this weekend?
  • Never one to let the Jets hog the spotlight, the Jaguars are riding a much more impressive losing streak of 17 consecutive games streak that dates back to Week 2 of the 2020 season. And, just to up the “interest factor”, the last 6 losses have been by 10+ points. The Arizona Cardinals are looking to “plus-1” both of those streaks this weekend.

Last, but not least .... Here’s a real doozy to end this thought with:

  • Peyton Manning had a 5-game streak with 4 or more touchdown passes back in 2004. Tom Brady is looking to tie that mark on Sunday ... in his first-ever career game in Los Angeles. Personally, that first part impressed me, but the second part ... how is that even possible?!

Note: That’s a somewhat rhetorical question; it’s actually not that hard to figure out given that he was in the AFC since the NFL merger (or thereabouts). But 299 regular season games across 21 seasons plus 45 playoff games and he’s never taken a snap in the 2nd-largest media market in the US ... ? WoW!


Thought #12

This is less a “thought” and more just a chance to enjoy the Rams looking like the dipshits that they are (or that we at least wish they were). It’s unfortunate that they actually managed to win this game, but at least they gave us a chuckle that we can relive over and over and over and over again.


Bonus Thought

It may have been a bit meta or perhaps just obscured by the multitude of bullet points, but since this week’s theme was “the upending of expectations,” I actually used paragraphs in this article. Don’t get used to it.