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  • The Rams Will Win The West

    The Less Things Change, The More They Stay The Same:
    By Rams Nation's AvengerRam

    As a loyal fan of the Rams for over a quarter-century, I could have easily reached this conclusion solely with my heart. Fortunately, the same conclusion also results from objective analysis of the facts at hand.

    The starting point of this analysis is an undeniable fact: the Rams were the better team in 2003. Not only did they have a better record (12-4 to 10-6), they scored more points (447 to 404), allowed only one more point (328 to 327), had more takeaways (46 to 28), a better turnover ratio (+7 to -1) and more sacks (42-40) than the Seahawks.

    So, I ask… what has changed since then that would cause me, or anyone else, to conclude that the outcome will be different in 2004? The answer again is simple: in the aggregate, virtually nothing has changed. The teams enter the 2004 season with rosters that are not markedly different than last years’ versions. Consequently, when fan loyalty is taken out of the equation, the only logical conclusion is that the Rams will reign supreme again.

    On offense, the Seahawks begin the season with the same starting lineup as last year. In fact, the team has not added a significant offensive player to the roster, either through free agency or the draft. So where will the improvement come from? Seahawk fans might suggest that key players like Matt Hasselbeck will progress and become elite players. But isn’t that what they said about Koren Robinson? You remember Koren, right? The guy who had a break out year in 2002, was on everyone’s “next big thing” list for 2003, only to fall from grace in a year marred by drops, internal disciplinary actions and an overall downturn in productivity. The bottom line is that the progression or regression of players cannot be predicted with any accuracy, and therefore cannot form the basis of a logical prognostication.

    Stated another way, while the Seattle faithful may hold out hope that last year’s lineup will produce greater results on offense in 2004, its just that… hope.

    By contrast, the Rams are objectively likely to improve on offense. They, like the Seahawks, return with all eleven starters. However, at the same time, they have addressed the offense’s biggest problem of the past two years – depth behind Marshall Faulk. By adding rookie Steven Jackson, rated by most as the top running back in this year’s draft, the Rams now have a far more talented understudy than Lamar Gordon and Arlen Harris to take over if Faulk cannot stay healthy (if he can, all the better). Jackson can also be a significant upgrade in the Rams’ short yardage and red zone running game, as he is a bigger, more powerful back than anyone on last year’s roster.

    Thus, the Rams offense, which outscored the Seahawks by 43 points last year, has added a blue chip running back, while the Hawks merely hope for improvement from within. Advantage: Rams.

    On Defense, the Seahawks have made a few changes. Many have praised the addition of cornerback Bobby Taylor. But how much of an improvement is the 30 year old Taylor over departed Shawn Springs? Perhaps that’s an upgrade, but it may be tempered by the loss of starting strong safety Reggie Tongue. The Seahawks are counting on either Damien Robinson or rookie Michael Boulware (a college linebacker) to fill this role. At best, this is a risk. At worst, a recipe for disaster.

    The Seahawks are also engaging in intense finger crossing with respect to their inside run defense. At defensive tackle, a problem area for the past two years, the Seahawks are counting on the rapid emergence of rookie Marcus Tubbs. This is not likely, as defensive tackles typically do not make an impact as rookies – just ask the Jets (Dewayne Robertson), Saints (Jonathan Sullivan), Rams (Jimmy Kennedy) and Giants (William Joseph), who all learned this lesson last year. The Seahawks also no longer have the safety blanket of veterans Norman Hand, Chad Eaton and John Randle, and have failed to upgrade the middle linebacker position.

    The Seahawks’ biggest defensive free agency coup of the offseason was the signing of defensive end Grant Wistrom. While Wistrom is a solid player, and an upgrade on the Seahawks defense, to suggest that he will be a true impact player is untenable. Remember, this is the same player who has been unable to record double digit sacks despite playing opposite Leonard Little, one the league’s premier pass rushers.

    In all, the Seahawks have arguably upgraded their defense, though not by any significant degree.

    The Rams, on the other hand, have made few changes on defense. Wistrom’s departure leaves a question mark at defensive end, likely to be filled by a committee consisting of players such as Toyoka Jackson, Bryce Fisher, Erick Flowers and rookie Anthony Hargrove. At defensive tackle, the Rams lost solid contributor Brian Young, though if Damione Lewis can stay healthy and second year prospect Jimmy Kennedy progresses at all, it is likely his playing time would have been greatly reduced anyway.

    At linebacker, the Rams return their three starters, and have added depth with players like Brandon Spoon, Trev Faulk and rookie Brandon Chillar. Likewise, the starting defensive backfield returns, with rookie Jason Shivers adding depth at safety.

    Thus, the Seahawks have made minor upgrades, while the Rams defense looks to be about the same as last year. Slight advantage: Seattle.

    It is a credit to both teams that they have been able to maintain their rosters despite salary caps and free agency. However, for a team like Seattle, which is playing catch-up with the Rams, this will be of little comfort.

    The good news for Seattle is that the schedule makers have set up a scenario that could resolve the issue early on. Seattle opens by traveling to Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Given their difficulty (2-6) on the road, the Seahawks may very well find themselves in an 0-2 hole before getting in the win column in week three at home against the *****, and going into their fourth week bye with a 1-2 record.

    Meanwhile, the Rams will open at home against Arizona, and have very winnable games at Atlanta, home against New Orleans and at San Francisco. A 4-0 record after week 4 is a distinct possibility.

    The Rams will then travel to Seattle in Week 5. If the Rams win that game, they would open a very large lead less than a third of the way into the season, with a home game against Seattle looming in Week 10. Not a favorable position for the Hawks.

    The press is constantly in search of new angles. In St. Louis, the drama of Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger has dominated the offseason. Great for beat writers, commentators, and fans. But, in the end, the Rams decided to go with the younger Bulger, the same quarterback that lead them to a division title last year.

    In Seattle, hopes have been raised by high profile free agent signings. But, while signings of known players always make for good print, they don’t always make for improvement on the field.

    In the end, the Rams and the Seahawks are essentially the same teams that took the field last year. The Seahawks are a legitimate playoff contender, but the Rams are still the class of the division.

    Doug Farrar’s Rebuttal:

    David, David, David…while your well-articulated position seems reasonable on the surface, there are several flaws in the overall logic of your argument, not to mention a few things you’re just plain overlooking. As such, I’ll have to take you to task. Don’t worry…it won’t hurt TOO much:

    When you flatly state that the Rams were the better team in 2003…well, the fact that you have to use certain select statistics to buff up your case proves what Seahawks fans know – these two teams were closer in ’03 than Ram fans would like to admit. In your statistical drive-by, I noticed that you conveniently omitted the following:

    The Seahawks created more overall yards per game (351.7 to 341.1), more rushing yards (125.6 to 93.5), and had a more balanced offense (53.3% pass-to-run ratio to the Rams’ 59.3%). In addition, the Seahawks’ run defense outclassed the Rams’ by far, allowing 109.9 yards per game to the Rams’ 123.8, and the two teams allowed essentially the same number of points per game (20.4 for Seattle, 20.5 for the Rams). The one stat that worries me in the overall argument is turnover ratio – as you pointed out, this number heavily favors your team. However, you should be far more concerned about your team’s run defense than you’re letting on, especially with the opponents you’ll be facing in 2004 and the fact that the Rams will be putting together a patchwork line at best.

    As to the matter of the supposed inability to project future performance on past numbers…well, that’s what prognostication is all about, my friend. This is the number one off-season sport – pretending we’re the “experts” and projecting what our team did last year into this season. When looking at the Seahawks, factors such as excellent rookie campaigns (Trufant, Hamlin, Rashad Moore), “breakout” campaigns (D.D. Lewis, Ken Lucas, Itula Mili), increased support around an individual player (Chike Okeafor) or intangibles such as the “walk year” factor (Shaun Alexander, who will probably have the best numbers of his career to inflate the value of his impending free agency) do indeed matter, and can indeed, to a point, be used as approximate predictive factors.

    In addition, your contention that since neither team has really made significant changes, the results will be the same goes completely against conventional NFL wisdom these days. In the first place, the Seahawks did make some fairly significant personnel improvements, but even if they hadn’t, the “status quo” in the NFL simply doesn’t exist anymore. From 2002 to 2003, exactly ONE TEAM (the Philadelphia Eagles, who went 12-4 both seasons) retained their record from the season before. In addition, only 10 of the 32 NFL teams retained their identical division positions, and only five of the twelve 2003 playoff teams were involved in the postseason in 2002. Neither the Panthers nor the Patriots made the playoffs in 2002, not even as a wild-card. Moral: “Staying put” is practically a death sentence in such a change-oriented league.

    Regarding the Seahawks’ offense…who’s asking for huge improvements? I think most Hawk fans would take a carbon copy of the offense we saw in 2003, drops and all (although losing said drops would be a good thing). It was unquestionably the Seahawks’ DEFENSE that prevented the team from taking the division and quite possibly advancing much farther in the playoffs. Your question about Bobby Taylor and whether he’ll be an upgrade over Shawn Springs…did you SEE Springs play last year? The guy had no speed, no vertical ability, he was getting napalmed by receivers in every game he played, and the fact that he was found whistling a merry tune in the locker room after the heartbreaking loss to the Ravens alienated him from every fan he ever had in Seattle. The only defensive back in the NFL who wouldn’t be an upgrade over Springs at this point would be your very own Jason Sehorn. Springs is done. Taylor might not be at his best ever (although he could be a big surprise if he stays healthy), but he’ll be an improvement simply by showing up.

    As far as Koren Robinson being a disappointment in 2003 – I’ll give you that one. But I don’t think that anyone watching Matt Hasselbeck is hoping he’ll “progress and become an elite player”…he’s already there. In 2003, Hass was seventh in the NFL in passer rating (ahead of Tom Brady and your own Marc Bulger, who was 13th). There’s absolutely nothing to indicate a fluke season, either. In fact, I’m wondering if any anti-Hass faction (if such a thing exists anymore) could say why 2004 won’t be even better for him.

    Your points about both teams’ schedules, and the Rams’ possibility of getting a quick head start are…ummm…creative, but I’m not really sure where you’re coming from there. Based on the 2003 winning percentage of their opponents, the Seahawks will have the third-toughest schedule in the NFL in 2004, while the Rams will have the eighth-toughest. It’s going to be a dogfight all year for both teams.

    So, as we come into the 2004 season, you’re right…the Rams are still the “class of the division” (at least that’s what the standings say). Something tells me that once the games have been played, however, you’ll be whistling a different tune…
    Attached Files

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamDez
    The ‘Hawks? In 2004, It’s a Lock!
    by RamDez
    The ‘Hawks? In 2004, It’s a Lock!
    By Seahawks.net Doug Farrar

    However, before the Seahawks can take their “rightful place” at the top of the NFC West, there’s a bit of knocking off to do…the 2003 Division Champion St. Louis Rams are still a serious threat, they’re the established winners, and they’ll be a headache all year. So, in the spirit of competition (and to hopefully establish a friendly rivalry between Seahawks.NET and GridironGateway), I thought it was high time that a fan of each team state their case. You’ll read the take of my esteemed adversary David Spalter (also known as "AvengerRam" on the ClanRam forums) not to mention my rebuttal…and here’s why I believe that the NFC West crown in 2004 can only go to our Seahawks.

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way first…the Seahawks and the Rams are the only two teams with a real shot at the division, a fact to which even the most ardent ***** and Cardinals fans would have to bend. The Cardinals might be a team to look out for down the road (hiring Denny Green and drafting Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett will do that…they might even play spoiler this year), but the Niners are smack-dab in the middle of what they want their fanbase to believe is an intelligent, reasoned “rebuilding program”. Uhhh…sure. According to .NET salary cap guru “The Hawkstorian”, SF has around $20 million in total 2004 cap hit reserved for players that aren’t even on their ROSTER…what else are they going to say? All I know is that the next time I’m playing poker, I want at least one ***** executive at the table. It’s clean-up time!

    The Draft/Free Agency: The Rams’ first-round pick of RB Steven Jackson may have been a good choice in theory, but in practice, this is a case where going “Best Player Available” may hurt them in the end. By taking Jackson and passing over several notable (and desperately needed) defensive players, St. Louis, in the words of Little Richard, “got what they wanted and lost what they had”. With Grant Wistrom off to Seattle and Leonard Little’s future in serious doubt (a situation which had availed itself at the time of the draft), the Rams come into 2004 with major potential deficiencies on the line. The Rams pulled off what could be their best reach pick in the sixth round with QB Jeff Smoker, who could be great and only dropped so far due to personal issues that Smoker himself sorted out. Don’t know why, but there’s a little part of me that’s rooting for him to make it work.

    The Seahawks, in passing up Jackson and selecting Texas DT Marcus Tubbs, addressed need first. Seattle also drafted for potential (FSU linebacker Michael Boulware, who will be converted to safety), and depth in the offensive line (T/G Sean Locklear). They may have a steal of their own with fifth-round pick WR D.J. Hackett, a tough, smart potential possession receiver.

    While it’s difficult to grade drafts at the time they happen...
    -05-28-2004, 12:47 AM
  • RamDez
    Seahawks-Rams matchup huge on a number of fronts
    by RamDez
    Seahawks-Rams matchup huge on a number of fronts

    By CLARE FARNSWORTH
    SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

    KIRKLAND -- Watching the St. Louis Rams kick the gold dust out of the ***** in San Francisco on Sunday was like watching what the Seahawks did to the once-proud ***** the week before at Qwest Field.

    It also prompted similar questions. Are the Rams (and Seahawks) that good? Or is it that the ***** are that bad?

    These twin conquerors collide Sunday in an early season biggie in the NFC West. The defending division champion Rams are 2-2 and need a victory to climb above .500, while the 3-0 Seahawks can open a 2 1/2-game gap with a victory.

    "It's obvious San Francisco is having some problems," All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson said yesterday, when the Seahawks resumed practicing after having the previous four days off during their bye week.

    "But St. Louis is a good team. They're the best team, in all aspects of the game, that we'll face so far."

    That's more than locker-room talk the week of a big game. Despite their 1-2 start, that included a squeaker over the Arizona Cardinals and an overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints at home, the Rams are winners of the NFC West three times in the past five seasons and runners-up the other two.

    Three reasons the Seahawks should be concerned:



    <LI>For the offense: The Rams' defense ranks 27th in the league and former coordinator Lovie Smith is now the head coach in Chicago. But the Rams still have safety Aeneas Williams and defensive end Leonard Little -- two players who have given the Seahawks fits.

    Williams had a career-high eight solo tackles against the Seahawks last December in St. Louis. Little had two sacks, six quarterback pressures and a forced fumble against the Seahawks in Seattle last year, and eight tackles, one sack and a forced fumble against them the year before, also in Seattle.

    "Their speed and their scheme," Hutchinson offered when asked what most worries him about the Rams' defense. "They like to bring pressure from a lot from different looks, and they have speed -- even their nose guard is fast."



    <LI>For the defense: The usual suspects. Torry Holt. Marshall Faulk. Isaac Bruce. Mark Bulger. Orlando Pace. Between them, they have been to 17 Pro Bowls and accounted for 279 touchdowns in their careers.

    "They're well-rounded. They have a lot of weapons," defensive end Chike Okeafor said. "We've just got to be disciplined, but still try to create havoc and turnovers."



    <LI>Intangible: The Seahawks are 0-5 after their bye weeks under Holmgren, including a 35-13 drubbing at the hands of the Packers in Green Bay last season that followed a 3-0 start.

    Three reasons for the Seahawks...
    -10-07-2004, 12:17 PM
  • RamDez
    Seahawks are happening in Seattle
    by RamDez
    Seahawks are happening in Seattle
    By Lori Shontz

    Of the Post-Dispatch
    10/09/2004
    Coach Mike Holmgren (right) has had a steady rebuilding plan, which has ended up paying dividends for QB Matt Hasselbeck (8).
    (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)







    It wasn't that long ago that on the entertaining Underground Seattle tours, which take tourists under the city to see the old city, now buried by a series of natural disasters, that guides used the city's professional football team as a punchline.

    Oh, Seattle's had it's share of disasters Earthquakes, fires . . . Seahawks.

    Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who arrived in town for the 2001 season, had no idea such jokes were being told. "That would hurt my feelings," he said. He meant it. The one-liner didn't make him laugh.

    The fact is, Seahawks jokes wouldn't get much of a laugh anymore.

    The Seahawks, who went to the playoffs as a wild card team last season, are returning five Pro Bowl players: Hasselbeck, running back Shaun Alexander, offensive tackle Walter Jones, offensive guard Steve Hutchinson and special teams star Alex Bannister. Their defense, anchored by former Rams lineman Grant Wistrom, is ranked No. 1 in the NFL.

    Although the Rams are the defending NFC West champions, the Seahawks are considered the team to beat, and they are also wearing the label "legitimate Super Bowl contender."

    All this from a team whose road record over the years has been another surefire laugh line, a team that had never quite captured the heart or mind of its city. Rams defensive end Bryce Fisher, who grew up in Seattle, is typical. He and his friends grew up rooting for the Raiders because the Seahawks were so bad.

    But for Sunday's game against the Rams at Quest Field, coach Mike Holmgren is expecting that the sold-out stadium full of screaming fans will be one of his team's advantages.

    "It's kind of like when it first happened in St. Louis," Wistrom said. "How fired up everybody was, how new it was to everybody. And the energy that you can feel. It's very exciting to be a part of something like that again, where everyone's appreciated and fans are fired up about it. All everybody wants to talk about is the 'Hawks right now."

    In this, his sixth season in Seattle after 13 successful seasons at Green Bay, Holmgren has finally put the Seahawks where he always believed they could be.

    "If the organization is willing to stay with you - if they believe in you, first of all . . . and they give you enough time, you should be able to improve," Holmgren said. "And they have done that with us. Now we have pretty good depth, our money situation's in pretty good shape capwise. Hopefully we can keep this thing going and get into the playoffs again."
    ...
    -10-10-2004, 02:17 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Favored Against Seahawks
    by r8rh8rmike
    If this year has shown us anything, it’s that anything can happen. Here we are again with a huge game against Seattle. A win and we’re back in first place with a chance to control our own destiny. A loss and we’re two games behind, in trouble and in need of help to win the division. They’re up, we’re down. So what’s going to happen? Both teams have looked good, and both teams have looked woeful. Depending on what teams show up to play, we could have any number of outcomes. Considering what has happened the last two weeks and how things look on paper, it’s interesting that the Rams are a slight favorite this weekend. Good omen or bad?

    I honestly don’t know what to make of this game, but nothing would surprise me.
    -11-10-2004, 12:57 AM
  • AvengerRam_old
    Forget the Standings. The Seahawks are a Year Behind the Rams.
    by AvengerRam_old
    Seattle 5-9
    St. Louis 1-13

    It should follow that the Rams have further to go to become a playoff contender. Well... maybe not.

    There are a lot of similarities between these teams in terms of roster turnover. However, I believe that the Rams are a year ahead of Seattle in this process.

    At QB, the teams are similar. Both are at a point where a "QB of the future" must be found. However, in the Rams case, Bulger's fate is pretty much sealed. Seattle, on the other hand, will likely rely on a 35 year old Hasselbeck for another year.

    At WR, the Rams have purged their roster of the aging vets they relied on, and have started the process of developing a young WR corps. Seattle's top 3 WRs will be 29 (Burleson), 33 (Houshmenzadeh) and 31 (Branch) when next season starts. They need to begin planning for the future.

    On the O line, the Rams let Orlando Pace go and have drafted his replacement. The Seahawks will have a similar decision to make with Walter Jones, and will have to consider using their first pick in 2010 to draft his replacement.

    On defense, the Rams youth movement is in full swing. With the exception of Leonard Little, the Rams' starting unit is very young. Seattle, on the other hand, has several key parts that are aging rapidly (Kerney, Trufant, D.Grant).

    Even in the Front Office, the Rams have made their changes, while Seattle is in the process of finding a new GM.

    It isn't unsual for a team that has had success to try to hold on to their veterans for one more run at the playoffs. The downside is that a veteran roster can age rapidly, requiring a quick purge and a difficult reload process.

    The Rams have started that journey.

    Seattle soon will as well.
    -12-23-2009, 10:14 AM
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