Will Russell Wilson ever get completely healthy this season?
Maybe not — and certainly not at this rate. And not with this Seahawks offensive line. Just as he got past the high-ankle sprain he’d been nursing since Sept. 11, he got a pectoral-muscle pull on his right, throwing side this past week. And Thursday for the first time, Seattle’s multi-threat quarterback admitted what was obvious, that one of his biggest threats is not there. He acknowledged the strained medial collateral ligament in his knee he got Sept. 25 is keeping him from full mobility. He says doctors told him he should have missed four weeks with the knee injury. Yet he plays on. Sunday will be the 81st consecutive start in 81 games to begin his career. He’ll likely still be wearing the knee brace. And he’ll again likely be unable to mask the issues on his O-line, where an undrafted rookie college basketball player may be making his NFL debut at left tackle against the Saints. Four years of beating fate with Wilson’s speed to keep him healthy and the line looking at least serviceable have ended these last six weeks. Yet Seattle has one loss in six games and leads the NFC West by 1 1/2 games. Wilson’s not at his best. But so far it’s been good enough.
Why are fewer people watching on TV?
Because there are too many of them. I mean, Jacksonville at Tennessee on Thursday night? You thought the “Color Rush” uniforms were bad? You and I would rather rake wet leaves in the dark than watch that matchup. The arrogant league will say it’s the contentious election that has distracted viewers. But no one with half a brain and dignity wants to watch that daily train wreck, either. The NFL has reached a point it never fathomed: oversaturation of its wildly popular product. Prime-time games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights are down 21 percent. That is a big deal to the league. It has the attention of commissioner Roger Goodell, because lower ratings can drive drown advertising dollars and, ultimately, future TV deals with the networks that currently pump billions into owners’ bank accounts. Goodell wouldn’t be nearly as popular with them if some of the owners’ bucks stop there. Here’s another way the NFL hurt itself and made people stop watching games on TV: It’s giving away some Thursday games for free on Twitter. You sow. You reap. Yes, even the popularity of the NFL has a ceiling. “We have been led to believe the NFL … (is) immune to these trends, but it turns out they aren’t,” Rick Gentile, a former CBS Sports executive producer who now runs the Seton Hall University sports poll, told The New York Times. “This isn’t a fatal blow, but it is a wake-up call.”
Why don’t big trades happen during the season?
The system almost eliminates them. This isn’t baseball, with its flurries of wheeling and dealing up to each July 31 trading deadline. Maximizing yet staying under the salary cap is an art form for NFL teams’ general managers and their cap experts. Teams don’t stow millions of dollars for up to seven, eight weeks into the regular season reserving cap space to acquire a veteran starter before the Nov. 1 trade deadline. The best ones leave just enough room under the cap for contingencies such as injury replacements, not blockbuster acquisitions in late October. Plus, Seattle and New England have proved the way to sustain a winner is to stockpile draft picks, not give them away to teams trying to dump veteran starters midway through another lost year. All this is a long way of saying don’t hold your breath that Seahawks GM John Schneider is going to trade for Joe Staley, Joe Thomas, or any other veteran starting left tackle named Joe before Tuesday’s deadline.
What do the NFC’s three one-loss teams have in common?
Defense. Specifically, not letting the other team score. Minnesota (5-1) and the Seahawks (4-1-1) are tied for first in the NFC in points allowed per game, and Dallas (5-1) is fifth. That’s how the Vikings have not just survived but thrived despite the major injuries to All-World running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater — Minnesota’s first loss last week to Philadelphia (4-2) notwithstanding. QB Dak Prescott soaring as Tony Romo’s fill-in has gotten all the attention in Dallas, but the more pertinent fact is the Cowboys are finally stopping people on defense this season. And we know what the Seahawks have been doing: 95 snaps last weekend at Arizona without allowing a touchdown.
How good is Wilson’s idea to eliminate regular-season ties?
The Seahawks’ quarterback said after 75 minutes (including an entire overtime) didn’t determine a winner last weekend at Arizona that the league should change its extra-period play to guarantee a winner. Have a second overtime be a coin toss then the team winning the toss getting to attempt a 53-yard field goal on the only snap of the second OT. Make it, your team wins. Miss, the other team wins. A soccer-like, NFL penalty-kick shootout. Sounds great. No extra banging on worn-out bodies. Kickers earning their cash in a pressure-packed spot, winner take all. And no more lingering half-game in the standings lost or gained depending on how the rest of the season goes.
Gregg Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org