S.H.I.T.: On Expectations, and the Meeting Thereof

Posted: December 1, 2011 by Dinner Party Animal in 2011 NFL Picks, Dream Team, football, NFL, S.H.I.T., Seattle Seahawks

Expectations are a tricky thing, even if they form the lifeblood of any sports fan.  The buildup to a season is all about establishing your expectations for your team: maybe this will be THE year, maybe we’ll make the playoffs, maybe the young guys will show some promise, maybe we’ll be so bad we get a high draft pick, and so on.  Of course, expectations can (and often do) change over the course of the season.

Some of the most fun to be had as a sports fan is when your team exceeds your expectations.  I still have tremendously fond memories of the 2004-2005 Sonics, a team that came out of basically nowhere to go 52-30 and take the eventual champion Spurs to a sixth game despite being without their second-best player for the series.  Sure, there were Sonics teams that won more games, where the expectation heading into the season was higher, but they had a nasty habit of losing in the first round of the playoffs (now is the time when I tell Dikembe Mutumbo to go fuck himself).

The point is, the surprise is what makes a team memorable, at least in my eyes.  I’m sure Packers fans are enjoying this season a great deal, but I have to imagine that it’s hard to feel the same way about the team that they did last year, when everything came together at the right time.  Football of late has shown that as long as you can hang around the playoff picture, you might be able to put it together just in time to make a run to the Super Bowl, as the Steelers, Giants, Cardinals, and Packers have all done in recent years.

It’s that reason why this Seahawks team has been so unusual.  I privately harbored mild expectations coming into this year: I figured that so long as Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t terrible (and by and large he hasn’t been), the offense would improve as the season went along, and the defense would likely be good enough that the team would hang around an otherwise unimpressive NFC West race until December at least.  Well, the 49ers have somewhat ruined that idea, but the fact remains that the Seahawks are basically what I expected them to be: occasionally good, usually mediocre, and sometimes terrible.

What no one expected is that they’d come into this game arguably a better team than the Eagles.  While I wasn’t exactly handing the Lombardi Trophy over to Andy Reid before the season started, it was hard to picture a team as theoretically dynamic as the Eagles not even sniffing the playoffs.  If you’d asked me before hand to envision a scenario in which they were out of playoff contention in November, it would have involved season-ending injuries to several key players.  While obviously Vick, Jackson, Maclin, and others have all missed some time, that hasn’t been the case overall.  Instead, those guys just haven’t been very good.

So of course whenever the general projection goes awry, the immediate response on the part of most folks is to look for a simple answer: “The Eagles were too cocky,” “Reid is a terrible coach,” “Vick isn’t a winner,” and so on.  Of course, in sports as in life, there are no simple answers.  While the “Dream Team” quotes were premature and stupid, they also came from the back-up QB, meaning it’s hard to claim that everyone on the team just assumed they’d win the Super Bowl.  Similarly, while Andy Reid has his (obvious) flaws, that franchise has been one of the best in the league for his entire tenure.  He’ll probably be sent packing this offseason, if not before, and maybe that’s for the best: in the end, even great coaches wear out their welcome, but the few smart Philly fans out there would do well to remember him as the coach that had their team in the playoffs almost every year, something few others can boast.

In reality, it seems that the biggest problem with the Eagles is that many of their supposed star players were never that good to begin with.  Despite the highlights, neither DeSean Jackson nor Jeremy Maclin are a real number one receiver: both lack the size to go over the middle consistently, and they’re both extremely fragile.  LeSean McCoy may be the real deal, but the team seems hesitant to put the ball in his hands 20-25 times a game with regularity.

Defensively, the presumed dominance of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has failed to manifest, and the front four, despite big-name free agent signings, has been underwhelming.  In fact, despite perhaps 1/1000th of the hype, the Seahawks have the better defense according to most advanced metrics.  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

So you have two teams that have arrived at tonight’s game with identical 4-7 records, but completely opposite journeys.  The Seahawks have mixed occasional exciting and tantalizing wins over teams like the Ravens and Giants with frustrating losses, like last week’s to the Redskins.  The Eagles’ losses are a bit more explicable (outside of Arizona), but outside of the beatdown applied to Dallas, they’ve never looked like the world-beaters many expected coming in to the year.  Even if they leave Seattle with a win, they’re looking at a long and difficult climb back into a playoff race that might have already lapped them.

For the Seahawks, meanwhile, this game marks an opportunity to show a national audience that some of the pieces of a future playoff team are in place here as well as a chance to heap a bit more humiliation on a team that might well be ready to quit on its season.  Oh yeah, and a chance for me to talk a bit of shit to Phanatic, and really who can’t get behind that?

Here’s are our picks for tonight’s game.

DREAM TEAM (-2.5) AT SEAHAWKS
Stone: Seahawks
Slumdeezy: Dream Team
Rory: Seahawks
DP Animal: Seahawks
Phanatic: Dream Team

CURRENT RECORDS
Rory: 96-74 (Last week: 8-7)
Stone: 96-74 (11-4)
Slumdeezy: 92-78 (8-7)
DP Animal: 84-86 (8-7)
Phanatic: 82-88 (7-8)

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