Considering the Seahawks were 11-1, and considering we feel 11-1 is a more true reflection of the talent on this Seahawks team, that means the Seahawks – by going 1-2 in their last three games – are in a slump. Hey, it happens! You can’t win ’em all!
We still have a lot to be thankful for. We’ve already made the playoffs. We control our own destiny to win the NFC West and the #1 seed in the conference, we play our last game at home against a team that’s only 7-8 and playing without its regular starting quarterback. It could be worse! We could be where the Saints are right now – needing a win just to make it into a Wild Card slot.
And yet, conventional wisdom states: now is the worst time to be slumping. There’s no proof that’s the case – and indeed recent history dictates that having a long winning streak going into the playoffs is no better than simply backing your way into the playoffs. It’s all a crapshoot once you get in there, that’s why they say the most important thing is just GETTING in there.
In reality, you COULD say that the Seahawks losing is a blessing in disguise, but losing your first game at home in two years – thus giving everyone on the team a valuable lesson – has no bearing on future playoff success (just like long winning streaks don’t). Last week’s loss WASN’T a blessing in disguise. What’s more important? Winning the division and the conference’s #1 seed? Or, learning some stupid lesson about not taking your home field advantage for granted? I’ll take the win and the peace of mind any day of the week. If things were different, and the Seahawks prevailed against the Cardinals, no one would be looking back after the Super Bowl saying to themselves, “You know, that was fun and all, but I really wish we would have lost that game to the Cardinals in week 16.”
The patron saint of slumping teams going into the playoffs is last year’s very own Baltimore Ravens. “Well, if they can do it, then there’s hope for us!” Yes, the 2012 Ravens started their season 9-2. Then, they proceeded to lose four of their last five and got knocked all the way down to the #4 seed. They hosted a young Indianapolis team and took care of business. They went into top-seeded Denver and got a miracle touchdown at the end of the game to force overtime, where they went on to win. Finally, they went into 2-seeded New England and forced a bunch of turnovers. Through it all, Joe Flacco was perfect (thus earning him that ridiculous contract), and they went on to dismantle the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
They didn’t have to go on the road for three straight weeks (not counting Super Bowl) to win it all, but there are examples of that as well. If you want peace of mind, there are examples of amazing feats by particular teams that can give you hope, if you choose to believe.
But, getting back to the regular point: is there ever a good time to slump? I would say no, especially if it knocks you out of the #1 seed, all the way down to the #5 seed. But, if this post has made any point at all, it’s that there’s not a BAD time to slump either! Unless it’s in the playoffs, but then it’s win-or-go-home anyway so you’re fucked. I’m talking about the regular season. Losing two of our last three games isn’t a blessing. It isn’t a curse either (unless, as I’ve said repeatedly, we coug away our home field advantage). It’s just a fucking thing that’s happened because those two teams – the 49ers and Cardinals – happen to match up well against us. Teams with great defenses are match up nightmares: WHO KNEW???
Well, we better fucking get it figured out. Because there’s only one secret to winning the Super Bowl. It’s not momentum, it’s not “blessings in disguise” late in the season, and frankly: it’s not even home field advantage throughout! It’s the matchups. That’s it. All the teams who make the playoffs have parts of them that are great. That’s how you GET into the playoffs! Some teams are great on offense, some are great on defense, some are just sorta so-so on both, but they’re well balanced and maybe they came from a somewhat shitty division (looking at you, Indy). There’s a reason why these teams are there! We won’t be seeing any more Jaguars or Vikings in these playoffs.
So, how do you get past them? Take advantage of the matchups. How does a Steelers team go on the road three straight weeks, beating presumably the three best teams in the league in the 2005/2006 playoffs? They provided matchup nightmares for those teams and ended up squeaking by. How does last year’s Baltimore team run the table four times in the post-season? Same deal.
The Seahawks match up well against teams with good-to-great offenses and only so-so or crappy defenses. Since our defense is so amaze-balls, it’s not difficult for us to shut a great offense down. So, if we lucked out in this year’s playoffs, we would play teams like Green Bay/Chicago, Philly/Dallas, or New Orleans.
But, if you want a recipe for disaster – even if we have home field advantage – then force us to play the 49ers and Panthers back-to-back.
The fact of the matter is: the Seahawks have an obvious weakness. That weakness is our offense. When I settle in to watch the Seahawks, I’m not worried that our defense is going to crap the bed; I’m worried if the offense is going to score touchdowns or field goals. I’m worried about our running game finally getting going. I’m worried about the play-calling playing right into the hands of the other team’s defense.
If you want to see the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, then I suggest you root hard for the NFC North and East. I suggest you root even harder for New Orleans. It’s abundantly clear to me now who the Seahawks match up well against and who they match up poorly with. We need the 49ers out of the playoffs in the first round. We need the Saints to beat the Eagles. And we need whoever beat the 49ers (Bears/Packers) to turn around and beat the Panthers. If that happens, no one will be thinking about slumps or weaknesses. They’ll be too busy watching the Seahawks steamroll over fools.
But, if it turns out we have to play the 49ers in the Divisional Round, with a date against the Panthers as our reward for winning, then I hope you like ugly, low-scoring, lotsa-punts football. I hope you like games that come down to the last possession. I hope you like sitting on the edge of your seat and praying for the football gods to give you one last opportunity to watch Russell Wilson with the ball in his hands. Personally, I’d rather go with the Walk Into The Super Bowl approach.