Here at the TMFL Network we like to span the league and take the temperature on various topics the league has given us. Today we grabbed 7 journalists and asked them 7 questions. We wanted to get their first impressions on some early developing storylines in 2018. The 7 journalists joining us in this edition are… Trey Dingo, Orange and Brown Report (Cleveland, OH) Big Enos Burdette, Houston Hustle (Houston, TX Russell Leeves, Gold Digger Blog (Santa Clara, CA) Jimenez Almeida, The Pigskin Piñata (Mexico City, MX) Jake Plummer, Birds Nest Blog (Phoenix, AZ) Brom Tady, New England Nonsensical (Boston, MA) Nick Bakay, 12thManRising.com (Seattle, WA) EDITOR’S NOTE: Questions were sent to journalists the beginning of Week 6 and had until Week 6 conclusion to answer. Timeliness of stats may vary 1. We’d probably offend the entire west coast if we didn’t start with the Seahawks. This team has gone from winless in 2017 to undefeated in 2018. Do your best to explain this voodoo magic. Trey Dingo : A solid offseason of bringing in the right guys and cutting the fat will do that to a team. The young pups are spearheading the effort with rookies found at the wide receiver and running back positions. The offense is extremely balanced and its allowing the Seahawks defense to actually get some rest this season. I honestly had thought Russell Wilson had retired before the 2017 season because he was putting his defense on the field so much. Big E : I think there is only one real explanation, and it is that our own Nick Bakay is a sandbagging son of a gun. Eff the Seahawks, I hope there is an oil spill in the north pacific and it wipes out all the wildlife. Russell Leeves : The Seahawks have vastly improved defensively and the emergence of rookie HB Lamar Howard has sparked a once stagnant offense. Seattle has been able to efficiently go back to what they do best, which is run the ball. This is allowing them to wear teams down and win games in the 4th quarter, where they lost quite a few of their games last season. Marshawn is no longer a #1 HB and the fact that Seattle got him to return on a bargain deal and still have him producing on reduced carries is huge for them. Jimmy A. : The Seahawks success is not voodoo, but there is a little luck involved. In back to back games vs. the Diablos and then the Broncos, Russell Wilson and company survived two scares. The Seahawks were down late and stole the game from both teams in the final seconds. The Diablos were burned deep on back to back plays while in the perfect defense. The coaching staff of the Diablos found out later that the CB that was left standing still, Janoris Jenkins, had sprained his hamstring. In the Broncos game, the Seahawks were rescued by the refs as one of them called pass interference in the end zone which kept hope alive and enabled the go ahead TD. Those were two very lucky wins which easily could have been two losses. Although, Roman philosopher Seneca said it best, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." This Seahawks team is very prepared and focused at the moment. Will the preparation and focus last? I don't buy into the sandbagging/tanking talk of last season. I feel that the ownership, coaches, and players on this team ride the waves. This team is as dangerous as any team when they are winning, but when losses stack up and come early they tend to check out and lose focus. I believe that is what happened last season (that's why cheez disappeared from the chat ). As long as there is no losing streak this team will be a tough out, but if losses pile up consecutively the Seahawks amazing season could change drastically. Jake Plummer : Last year Seattle might have been the most competitive team to go 0-16 in any sport. While they were not winning games, for the most part they were in them. This year the biggest difference is they are winning the close games because of their play defensively. I don't think it is any coincidence that with half of their defense in a contract year they are playing their best defense in the last 4 years. Brom Tady : It's very simple. Defense is making plays. Turnovers and DEF 3rd down conversion % is very high. They can be beaten though. The question is who is going to do it? Nick Bakay : I did my best to explain it in the last 7 on 7... but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOBODY wanted to believe ol' Nick Bakay. He's crazy they said. He's running his mouth again they said. Well, I said this! This team is doing exactly what I said they were going to do. The only thing I was wrong about was Lynch being the feature back. He started as the feature back, but has seen his role diminish over the last few weeks in favor of 2nd round pick Lamar Howard. Despite Lynch's downfall, Seattle is among the league lead in rushing yards per game. The passing game is more balanced, with Kearse not expected to do as much of the heavy lifting (except when he plays the Diablos - something about Mexico City brings out the best in him). While still on top of the depth chart, two rookies are playing significant roles in the receiving game. Russell Wilson is being asked to do less with more talent around him. All of these factors lead to touchdowns rather than the field goals last year's team was settling for. The improved offense is helping the defense as well. Instead of being on the field the majority of the game, the Seattle offense allows the defense to get a break on the sideline. This allows them to be fresh come crunch time - something that could not be said about the Seahawks of last year. When a defense that is so reliant on speed at linebacker is tired, it's going to falter and we saw a lot of that last season. Mikhail Prewitt is playing well opposite of Richard Sherman, too. He's currently second among rookies in terms of interceptions, and doesn't often get beat by receivers. And what the hell, let's talk special teams. Steven Hauschka kicked a 60 yarder against the Chargers! Steve Weatherford is punting closer to midfield as opposed to his own 20. Everything is coming up roses for Seattle. 2. Sticking with undefeated teams, we currently have 3 in the AFC (Colts, Ravens, Bengals). Are all 3 of them Super Bowl contenders? TD : Speaking of stellar off-seasons. Whereas the Colts didn’t do much in terms of roster overhaul, the sale of the team has seemed to rejuvenate the franchise. Now they have lost Andrew Luck for close to half of the season and that will likely slow them down, but not enough to keep them out of the playoff picture. Super Bowl contender, though? Probably not. That is where the Ravens and Bengals come in. These two teams are the class of the AFC. The Bengals led by a rookie signal caller and the Ravens turning the reigns over to a 2nd year player after a year’s tutelage from Joe Flacco. These young pups are legit and it would not shock me to see the two of them square off three times this year. EB : Of the three I think the Bengals and Ravens have a real shot at a deep playoff run. The Colts had a devastating injury to Andrew Luck and he is out for several weeks. I see that injury catching up to them sooner rather than later. RL : If I had to pick a favorite for the super bowl this early in the season, I'm picking the Ravens. I think they are the real deal and Peyton Ryan has proved to us in his limited time that management was right dealing Flacco and putting the franchise in his hands The Bengals are off to a hot start but they are a year or two away and will soon fade. They have a brutal 3 game stretch up next with Pittsburgh, Carolina and Baltimore that could very well see them drop all 3. The Colts have looked great and could well be a playoff team but I'm not crowning them contenders for the SB just yet. Let me see how they handle the NFC East gauntlet they have coming up (Washington, @Philadelphia, @Dallas) and then we can talk again about the Colts. JA : I think the Ravens and Colts are both contenders. The Ravens are a proven team that can win any way necessary. They are able to score points in a shootout and play great defense in a low scoring slug fest. The Ravens prepare for blowouts, but can eek out the wins in a close game. The Colts to me are a contender because they have the playoff recipe for success going for them...BALANCE and very few turnovers. On top of that the coaching staff is relatively new, so the element of surprise is a factor as well. JP : The Ravens are not just a Super Bowl contender but the way they are the current favorites. The way they are playing on both sides of the ball solidifies them as contenders. The Bengals moved on from Dalton after trading up to #2 to take Dexter Blake and have shown a great deal of improvement. I fully expect them to contend as well. The Colts are tough to get your head around right now. Their offense has been rolling but the combined record of their opponents through week 5 is 5-23. Losing Andrew Luck has to hurt this team, so for right now I'm not going to crown them yet. Starting week 8 their schedule gets much tougher so this team still has a lot to prove. BT : The Ravens are serious SB contenders. This is another team that struggled last season, but has really turned it around. The Bengals are playing above their individual talent right now. Couple that with them being in the same division as the Ravens and you have a recipe for playoffs but no ring. The Colts are an enigma. New ownership is getting more out of these guys than the previous regime. Two wins over the Titans, who were in the AFC CG last season, and it appears they have their division just about locked up. SB though? Have to wait and see how they fare against top teams from other divisions first. NB : The Ravens and the Bengals are both the real deal. The division they play in is exceedingly difficult (sans the two free wins from the Browns) and the showdowns between these two teams and the Steelers are always good. It's not unreasonable to say that there will be 3 playoff teams from the AFC North - all of which have a real chance to make it to the Super Bowl. The Colts have played absolutely nobody (including the Browns), and reports out of Indianapolis are suggesting that Andrew Luck might be missing some significant time. Time will tell on the Colts, but I'm not ready to even crown them as division champs yet. 3. Of TMFL’s 5 unbeatens, who is the last to lose and when does it happen? TD : The Ravens will be the last unbeaten team to lose. Honestly, I’m not sure it even happens in the regular season. The AFCN drew a friendly schedule and while they still have both of their meetings with the Bengals left, I think the Ravens are the superior team and win both of those matchups. Teams with undefeated pressures are vulnerable to dropping a game they should have won, maybe that happens. Or maybe they ride it all the way to an AFC Title Game appearance. Gun to my head though, I’m saying an upset special in Cleveland. Especially if the whisper are true and that Jimmy Graham will soon be dressing in Orange and Brown. EB : Colts are the last to lose and it is going to be against the Oilers. RL : The Colts and Bengals will lose in the next two weeks. I have the Seahawks and Cardinals both being unbeaten when they square off in Seattle in week 9 and they will each when at home against each other. That leaves the Ravens, who will have to knock off the Bengals twice but I see their toughest remaining test being at home against Pittsburgh in week 13 which is why they are my pick for the last unbeaten. JA : The Ravens are the last team to lose. The Week 13 game against the Steelers looks like the one that pops their cherry. JP : The Colts lose Week 7 to Denver The Bengals lose week 6 to Pittsburgh The Ravens lose week 8 to Cincinnati The Cardinals lose week 8 to Philadelphia Leaving the Seahawks as the last team left unbeaten. Their joy will be short lived as the Cardinals will beat them twice in 3 weeks. BT : Just because of how the schedule shakes out, I believe the last of the unbeaten will be the winner of the Week 8 BAL @ CIN matchup. That winner has an easy road to staying undefeated for awhile. I'm going to say it will be the Ravens. NB : If I'm going all in on this team, then I'm going to do it right. Let me throw in another quote I said from the last 7 on 7: I have a feeling that this year is going to come down to a 3-game series between the Cardinals and Seahawks - the last of which sadly would likely occur in the divisional round of the playoffs. Now, obviously, whoever wins the last one should be the favorite to go to the Super Bowl for the NFC. But, if the Seahawks can, by some miracle, sweep Arizona (and subsequently drive their head coach to drink turpentine), then 19-0 is not out of the question. 4. What team has been your biggest disappointment of 2018 so far? Who were you expecting more from? TD : Homer pick alert. The Browns had high expectations coming into the year. Second year with Stone leading the charge. Duke Johnson rounding into the best multi-purpose back since Marshall Faulk. Josh Gordon seemingly done with drugs and alcohol and now a focus, legit #1 receiver. The acquisition of some defensive talent as well as a switch in schemes. Well my friends, those were all false hopes and lies. Stone has regressed and turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Duke Johnson can’t seem to find a hole anymore and has no motivation to run crisp routes. Josh Gordon is looking good but can’t get Stone to hit him in the hands. The defense is spending 80% of the game on the field and while looking fairly decent, can’t get over the hump and cause a turnover. Disappointment in Cleveland. What else is new? EB : For me this is a close tie between fellow division rivals the Titans, and the 49ers. I’m sure both owners were expecting better starts than they have had so far this season. It just goes to show how little difference there is in terms of team skill. Everyone is a tough opponent each week. RL : They were my preseason pick for surprise team of the year so I have to go with Tampa Bay. I really thought they had a great offseason and would be ready to take that next step this season. Maybe I was wrong, but they better start showing signs of life soon. JA : Knowing the owner and all the draft picks they had, I am pretty disappointed with the start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bruce. I did not see them starting 1-4 with the roster having some really good talent sprinkled throughout.. JP : This isn't really a team but more of an individual unit. The Eagles defense added superstar Patrick Peterson to a group that ranks in the top 7 nearly every year. After holding the Oilers to 7 points their defense has shit the bed. They are currently ranked 27th in ypg and are giving up over 30 ppg BT : The Steelers. Super Bowl Champions to 3rd Place in the division? Seems like there is a hangover they just can't shake. NB : This has to be Tennessee, right? The Titans have absolutely crumbled since the end of last year, and now are tied for last in their division. It was fair to expect a little drop-off after last season, but this has turned into freefall. Fortunately, the schedule is in their favor if they can turn things around, but you have to wonder if it's already too late. 1-4 is a huge hole to climb out of, and with a 6-0 team in the division it is not likely that they can compete for that title. To even get to 10 wins, the Titans would need to go 9-2 in their last ten games, and that would be on the brink of a playoff berth. 5. Cameron Artis-Payne. Who is this guy? He’s currently on pace in his 4th season to rush for more yards than in his previous 3 seasons COMBINED. I repeat, WHO IS THIS GUY?!? TD : Patience is a virtue. CAP is a patient man. He patiently waited for his chance to be a feature back and he’s one of the more patient runners in the league. He finds holes that when first watching the film you did not even realize were open. The Auburn back is introducing himself to the league and we all will be better off remembering the name. EB : My Dad always told me never to trust people who have three names. This is exactly why. RL : Stewart has been a work horse for the Panthers for a looonng time. Carolina has known for a while that they had to be grooming his replacement. CAP is the result of them being forward thinkers and having a capable HB ready to take the lead role without them losing a beat. JA : I am pretty sure he and Gurley hung out during the offseason and CAP stole Gurley's mojo. I attribute some of CAPs success to his lack of touches in seasons past. Eight more touches this season and it will be a career high for him. The O line also averages 88 run blocking which doesn't hurt either. Curtis Artis-Payne still has to take advantage of his carries and still has to read his blocks , so ill say hats off to him and his success. JP : CAP is doing exactly what the Panthers hoped he would ,after drafting him in the 3rd RD in 2015, taking over for an aging Stewart. CAP had a solid college career and is doing some nice things so far he is sliding into the feature role. I just chalk this up as another successful draft pick for the Panthers. BT : Another regime change that brought a spark to an unknown quantity. New ownership seems biased against Cam Newton, as such they are taking the ball out of his hands as much as possible. Hello young guy. NB : In reviewing his game logs, Artis-Payne seems to be a boom-or-bust tailback that has had a few big runs in the beginning of the season. While his numbers are impressive, he has come back to earth with an average of 3 YPC in the 48 carries of his last two games. Just by the sheer volume of carries he should receive through the rest of the season, he will likely finish in the top 10. But if you can keep him in front of you, opposing defenses have nothing to fear. 6. After starting hot the Broncos are rumored to be tearing it down trading aging (yet productive) vets. Is this roster turnover actually overdue? TD : Very. The Broncos were an old team at their core and when the playoff appearances stopped that is ultimately when the core should have been dismantled. While their vets are still productive players in this league, their return value is now pennies on the dollar. Tear it down and rebuild Denver. ASAP. EB : As we have seen time and time again from the Broncos owner, when he wants to make a change he doesn’t steer from his decision. I think decision making on the field is going to be more important than any roster changes the Broncos make. RL : The Broncos are jumping the gun. They have a good chance to win their division this season and they seem to be selling out for next year already. The Broncos never seemed to utilize Graham like I'm sure they envisioned when trading for him so maybe this is an attempt to go back to a more conservative, run based offense with their young QB. JA : The Broncos need an overhaul bad on offense. When some of those past 30 years old players start retiring its going to be a struggle for that team because of lack of depth. The O line talent drop off when the vets leave is scary to think about. TE should also be a concern if its not addressed this offseason. JP : The Broncos are overreacting again... This is the same organization that gave up on Brock, who is becoming a superstar in Dallas. The team has had a tough 4 week stretch and are in no way out of the mix in the West. I think this is all happening too soon.. BT : Fools Gold (double entendre?). The Broncos are who we thought they were. This team was just pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. Now they're selling off good players for the future. Problem is....the future will still have the same owner. NB : This owner is reading too much into the groundhog seeing his shadow on February 2nd. He still believes the Mayan prophecy of the world ending is correct. He bought an underground bunker to hide in during the Y2K crisis, and has kept it at the ready in the event of a nuclear threat.... or a zombie uprising.... or in case the squirrel in his front yard looks at him funny. What shook this team was an absolute beating that they took in week 3. There has been no stability in Denver since the 62-14 throttling that they received, and this is going to do nothing to change that. The Broncos are over-reacting, and it may not be in the best interest of the franchise long-term. 7. Speaking of trading. Who could use a deadline blockbuster deal the most? Who’s “one guy away?” TD : Call me crazy, but I actually think the Ravens are a receiver away from being THE team in the entire league. The coaching staff have developed a system with multiple built-in check downs that allows their quarterbacks to be greatly efficient, but man another weapon lining up on the other side of Perriman could just cause chaos for a defense. The Steelers are rumored to be exploring what they can get in return for Antonio Brown and it might be worth looking into. Their will be the division rival mark-up on the price tag, but it could very well be worth it for the Ravens. EB : I think our local Oilers could be looking to add a playmaker on offense before the trade deadline. This season has seen Bortles get off to a rocky start as defenses continue to figure out their offense. Adding another playmaker could add a whole new dynamic to what was once the top offense in TMFL RL : I'm thinking a team like the San Diego Chargers or Kansas City Chiefs. With the Broncos apparently having given up on the season and the Raiders off to a very poor start, either of these teams could jump up and steal the West. I think the AFC is wide open as far as Super Bowl contenders go so if they can find a way to get into the playoffs these teams could make some noise. JA : The Chicago Bears have to be that team. In the games that they lost, stopping the run was not the issue it was the occasional deep ball. I feel they are an elite FS away from winning more games and taking a hold of the NFC North. A FS that can at least hold his own in zone coverage could help their cause a lot. JP : I think the Oilers fit into this mold. Their offense is explosive but they are doing it without a single superstar which is impressive but you need that guy you can count on in crunch time. This is TMFL, that moneyball stuff isn't going to work here in January. BT : The Patriots. They need some DB or dominate DT help to improve that DEF. The real question is are there any sellers out there? NB : Houston. I don’t know who that one guy is, but the Oilers are just outside of the picture painted by the Ravens and the Bengals as a top team in the AFC. They fell just short against the Ravens a couple of weeks ago. In order to compete with the big boys in the conference this year, they might need to make a move.