Had all gone according to plan, one of two things would have happened: either the Seahawks would be 13-2 right now, having beaten the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, or the Atlanta Falcons would’ve completed their comeback last night and knocked the 49ers out of the running for the NFC West title. Shockingly (regarding the Seahawks’ defeat) and yet predictably (regarding Atlanta Couging it), we’re here right now needing one of two things to happen: either the Seahawks finish the season 13-3, having beaten the St. Louis Rams next Sunday, or the Arizona Cardinals do their best Arizona Cardinals impression by taking out the 49ers (also next Sunday).
This part of my Tuesday post was supposed to be about what the Seahawks should do now that they’ve got the #1 seed all wrapped up. Various schools of thought abound. Some say: give your starters the week off. The rest (and eliminating the risk of injury) is far more important than whatever hocus pocus you believe in with regards to momentum or “staying in rhythm”. For every team that lost in the divisional round after resting their starters for two weeks, you’ll find a team that went to the Super Bowl after resting their starters for two weeks. That theory is in direct conflict with the Rust Theory. Want your players to get rusty? Then, by all means, take them out of their regular weekly routine. It’s better to keep playing every week; why, just look at such and such team that played all their starters even though they didn’t need to! They didn’t get injured and never missed a beat through the playoffs!
My solution is pretty simple: treat this like the final pre-season game. Split reps in practice, then play the starters for one quarter (or two series apiece). It gives them a chance to get their work in, it gives the starters a chance to go through the regular start-of-game ritual, it lets the starters run around and get hit a little bit, it lets the starters rest after the first drive, and it has the starters come back out after resting.
Of course, there are caveats. First and foremost, if any prized starter is knicked up in the least, you don’t play that prized starter. Anyone you see with a little gimp (like a certain set of wide receivers), anyone with a history of back issues (Marshawn Lynch), anyone who COULD play – if the game mattered – but probably shouldn’t play … that guy is getting his helmet taken away, end of story.
The main positives are twofold:
You rest your stars, limiting the opportunity for injury, while still letting them get some reps in
- You give your backups extended playing time, just in case they’re needed if someone goes down in the playoffs
This was supposed to be what we looked forward to next Sunday. Instead, we’ve got agita and doubt. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DID I WANT MARSHAWN LYNCH PLAYING AGAINST THIS RAMS FRONT SEVEN! If anyone could use a week (or two) off, it’s Lynch! I want him fresh as fresh can be for this championship run! I don’t want him getting banged around by yet ANOTHER awesome-sauce front seven!
This fucking sucks like you would not believe. I hate the Rams. I don’t hate the Rams like I hate the 49ers or Cardinals. I hate the Rams because they scare me. I hate the Rams like you hate a respected rival who ISN’T a total cock & balls. The Rams fans don’t give a shit about buying a billboard in your town; the Rams players won’t be on their sideline eating Skittles just to taunt us. They just go out, bust their asses, smack you in the mouth, and give you everything you can fucking handle for 60 God damned minutes.
That having been said, I don’t seriously think they’re going to win on Sunday, but after the Cardinals game, I can’t 100% rule it out either! I do believe our offense is going to figure its shit out and come out whaling. Our defense is still the tops in the league and surely won’t take kindly to the Rams doing what the Cardinals did at the end of the game. Fortunately, the Rams are sort of Cardinals-lite (which means we should handle them a bit easier), but that still doesn’t mean I enjoy the idea of banging bodies with them for four quarters.
This is the kind of game, the kind of matchup, that sees a team run into a slew of injuries. We’ve spent the past 15 games being tenderized by some of the best defenses in the league, from Carolina to Frisco to Arizona to New Orleans to Houston (when they were decent) to Tennessee (when they were decent) to Tampa (when they almost shocked the world) to the fucking Rams again! After this week, I’d like to see a ranking of teams, from the Most Dominant Defenses Faced to the least. I bet the Seahawks would ranke PRETTY high on that list.
Regardless, Objective #1 is to Win The Game. A distant second would be: avoid injuries. Any way you slice it, the Seahawks are going to want that home field advantage, and the only way we’re going to get it is by beating the Rams. We sure as shit can’t count on the fucking Cardinals!
Isn’t it funny how the Cardinals and the 49ers have been in the same division since 2002 – same time the Seahawks joined – and yet those two teams don’t hate one another NEARLY as much as both of those teams hate the Seahawks. I’d like to think it’s due to our sustained success since we entered the NFC West, but really it’s just this particular team of the last couple seasons. They HATE us so much! The Cardinals hate us so much that they wouldn’t mind so much if they lost on Sunday, as long as it meant the Seahawks fell to the #5 seed. They hate always hearing about our home field advantage, they hate hearing about our 12th Man, they hate it when we always dominate on Sunday Night & Monday Night Football. And they hate our players. Our brash, foul-mouthed, cocky players. For the Cardinals, last weekend was their Super Bowl. There’s no WAY they’re able to match that intensity against the 49ers! Not when they know they’re depending on the 4-11 Bucs to go into New Orleans and somehow come away victorious; it’s never going to happen! The Cards, as of that Interception Return For Touchdown last night against the Falcons, are done.
Sure, they’ll try to win the game, like all athletes do when on the field of battle. They’re not just going to roll over and let the 49ers walk into the endzone. But, they’re not going to be NEARLY as Berzerker as they were against the Seahawks. And, because they’re the fucking Cardinals, they’re surely going to show their true colors. Carson Palmer will be just as ineffective and reckless with the football. Their receivers will be just as mediocre. Their running game won’t be nearly as effective. And, their defense will forget all about what they did against Russell Wilson and let Colin Kaepernick run wild. You just watch.
On to the rankings.
- Seattle Seahawks (12-3) – Well, if the Seahawks lose again and fall to the 5-seed, the final Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings are going to look VERY different this time next week.
- Denver Broncos (12-3) – And Peyton Manning takes over the lead for all time touchdowns thrown in a season. They’re still not out of the woods, and will almost certainly need to try their hardest next week in order to keep that #1 seed, so look for Manning to only add to his NFL record.
- Carolina Panthers (11-4) – This team scares me more than any other simply because their defense is so good.
- New England Patriots (11-4) – Way to break the spirit of the Baltimore Ravens a week after their miracle victory briefly kept their playoff hopes alive.
- New Orleans Saints (10-5) – On the plus side, you clinched a playoff spot. You just need to win next week, while the Panthers lose to the Falcons, and you still get that division.
- San Francisco 49ers (11-4) – Gonna be a shame to see a 12-4 team have to go on the road in the playoffs. A real fucking tragedy.
- Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – With that win, IN Kansas City, and as impressive as it was, you (at least temporarily) earn your way into Contender status. Don’t blow it.
- Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) – Well, that was embarrassing!
- Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) – The generic football fan in me hopes they beat Dallas and make the playoffs. The Seahawks fan in me hopes Dallas comes through, because they’re terrible.
- Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) – The good teams find a way to go undefeated at home (currently 7-0 with one game to play). The great teams figure out a way to be better than .500 on the road; considering you likely won’t have home field throughout, that doesn’t bode well for your playoff chances.
- Arizona Cardinals (10-5) – Well, nice job beating us. You kept your playoff hopes alive for a day.
- Baltimore Ravens (8-7) – Did I or did I not predict this would be an 8-8 team when the season started?
- Chicago Bears (8-7) – I don’t like Jay Cutler. Bears fans have to be with me, right? This team just plays better with McCown (and, not for nothing, so does Matt Forte).
- Miami Dolphins (8-7) – You can’t give away the last playoff spot in the AFC!
- Detroit Lions (7-8) – Wow Lions. Just wow. You went from 7-5 and having the inside track on the division to 7-8 and totally done.
- Dallas Cowboys (8-7) – Way to make next week’s game matter! That’s the Cowboys I know and love. Always stringing their fans along, then crushing their hopes at the last possible second. I call it Romo-ing.
- St. Louis Rams (7-8) – I really don’t like needing to win against this team. They’re too good on defense and too well-coached. I don’t care IF this game is in Seattle, I’m tired of playing the Rams in week 17 to lock up our spot in the playoffs!
- San Diego Chargers (8-7) – The Chargers are doing a pretty good job of Romo-ing, themselves.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) – I think it’s absolutely adorable that the Steelers are still somehow “alive” for a playoff spot.
- Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) – As soon as I saw it was Matt Flynn one more time, I knew my fantasy week would be doomed once again with a sub-par Jordy Nelson effort.
- New York Giants (6-9) – Give them their due, there’s no quit in this team.
- New York Jets (7-8) – Somehow, you just had to know the Jets would beat the Browns, even though the Browns have looked pretty decent this second half, while the Jets have been an aborted fetus in a trashcan.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) – I don’t know where you take any hope from this team. Can Mike Glennon REALLY be the guy? He doesn’t pass my eyeball-test, but what do I know?
- Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – Could’ve done us a solid there by beating the 49ers. Could’ve REALLY been a pal, but no.
- Buffalo Bills (6-9) – Somehow, you just had to know the Bills would break the Dolphins’ hearts.
- Cleveland Browns (4-11) – Cleveland, just know that losing was in your best interests. You’re that much closer to drafting a top 5 bust next year!
- Tennessee Titans (6-9) – You weren’t swept by the Jags. Something for this coaching staff to hang their hats on (as they’re looking for new work this offseason).
- Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1) – Way to just lay down and die against the Bengals. Now THAT’S how you tank!
- Oakland Raiders (4-11) – Not to be out-done by the Vikings, the Raiders really screwed their own pooch against the Chargers.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars! #WhatDrugs
- Washington Redskins (3-12) – They looked pretty feisty, but still lost. I’m telling you, they’re in cahoots with the Rams!
- Houston Texans (2-13) – Whatever you do, don’t win next week, and don’t believe that Case Keenum can be a starting quarterback in this league. Just hope and pray that some team will flip you a late-round draft pick for him and move the fuck away.