We got a game coming up this Sunday against the Eagles that looms large. I get the feeling that it looms larger than people give it credit for.
At this time last year, the Seahawks were 11-1. We had just come off the most impressive drubbing of the Saints on Monday night, a week removed from our BYE. The season was a smashing success and we were officially a win or two away from locking up everything.
At the same time last year, the Eagles were 7-5. They were in the middle of an impressive run, where they finished the season on a 7-1 streak to take the NFC East with a 10-6 record. Nick Foles had officially supplanted Mike Vick as the quarterback on the team and was looking like a real winner. The Eagles scored 24 or more points in each of their final eight games, as Chip Kelly’s high voltage offense was humming along.
When the playoffs came around, the Seahawks were enjoying the #1 seed they’d worked so hard to get, while the Eagles hosted the Saints in the Wild Card round. The Eagles had a lead late, but the Saints were able to move into field goal range and kick the game winner as time expired.
All Seahawks fans know what happened from there: we hosted the Saints and beat them pretty soundly. Which, in turn, saw us hosting the 49ers before thumping the Broncos in the Super Bowl. What all Seahawks fans might not be aware of is that the Eagles and their fans wanted us bad. Last year, the Eagles featured the best offense in the NFC by yards and the second best offense in the NFC by points scored. They were a threat. To be fair, the Saints were also a threat, but the Eagles were a different threat. They were a threat the Seahawks hadn’t seen before. Not in that incarnation. Not with that style of play.
If I’m a betting man, and we could do last year over with the same exact circumstances, only with the Eagles replacing the Saints in the NFC Divisional round (which is actually impossible, because the Eagles were the 3-seed, meaning we would’ve faced the 49ers in that round, followed by the winner of the hypothetical Panthers/Eagles game in the NFC Championship game; but just go with me on this one), I’d wager that the Seahawks would’ve won just the same.
But, it’s that unknown that’s always given me pause. With the Saints, you had to figure the game would’ve been different than it was the first time, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind: we were going to beat them into submission once again. We had the horses to stop Jimmy Graham, and after that everything would slot into place quite nicely (as it did). The weather was a variable I didn’t foresee, but how could you, you know?
As it stands, I’m glad everything worked out, and I wouldn’t trade 2013 for anything in the world. Nevertheless, now it’s 2014, and we’ve got the Eagles coming up this Sunday as our opponent. Nick Foles is out, but Mark Sanchez has looked fine in his place. Indeed, theirs is an offense that’s not as quarterback-reliant as most others. You can get by with a subpar signal caller. 2014 Nick Foles hasn’t looked nearly as good as 2013 Nick Foles, leading us all to wonder whether he’s truly an elite quarterback, or just a good player in an elite system (and that was before the injury that’s kept him out for the better part of the last five games).
This system, by the way, is mind blowing. Yes, every team has a system, and the term “system quarterback” is very dismissive. Aaron Rodgers is a “system quarterback”, but he’s also a fucking manimal. Mark Sanchez has proven without a shadow of a doubt that he’s a massive tool. You could’ve put Rodgers on the Jets way back when and he’d still be leading them to the playoffs on the reg. You couldn’t put Sanchez in Green Bay unless you wanted to be the first general manager to be lynched.
I still can’t fully wrap my head around how the Eagles have been this successful, almost from the get go. Right now, the Eagles are 9-3, in first place in the NFC East, and while they currently hold the 3-seed, they’re tied for the best record in the NFC. True, both the Cardinals and the Packers have tiebreakers over them thanks to head-to-head matchups with each. But, it’s not impossible to envision a scenario where they leap one or both of those team by season’s end. After the Seahawks, they get Dallas at home, followed by the Redskins & Giants on the road. If they win out and get a little help, you never know.
If the Seahawks are able to win this game, not only does it send a clear message to the rest of the NFL that we’re BACK in a big way, but it helps our chances in getting one of the top seeds in the NFC playoffs.
A Seahawks win means both us and the Eagles would be 9-4. At that point, we just need the Eagles to maintain their division lead over the Cowboys (because the ‘Boys hold a tiebreaker over us by way of beating us earlier this year) and we’ll have it. All the Eagles would have to do is either beat Dallas next week (which they should do), or just have the same record as them at season’s end (because their superior divisional record would give them a tie-breaker in the event Dallas is able to even up that head-to-head record).
At that point, if the Seahawks win the NFC West, and the Eagles win the East, and both teams have the same record, we’re guaranteed to have a Top 2 seed. From there, we’d still need help from the Packers to take over the number 1 overall seed; their schedule is as easy as pie the rest of the way (vs. Atlanta, at Buffalo, at Tampa, vs. Detroit). IF we can somehow achieve a tie with Green Bay, we’d overtake them in the rankings, based on our head-to-head win to start the season. But, that’s a long way off (and would require the Seahawks winning out, followed by the Lions not only beating the Packers in week 17, but having something to actually play for, which might not be the case if they continue winning as well).
A lot of variables going forward, but this game on Sunday will go a long way toward determining things. A Seahawks victory doesn’t guarantee anything, as we still have three tough (but winnable) games within our division. But, a Seahawks loss almost certainly guarantees that we won’t have a first round BYE in the playoffs (and it might go a long way in sealing our fate as to whether or not we win our division at all).
As I said up top: this one looms large. I know everyone is giddy about beating the 49ers on the road on Thanksgiving. And, I know everyone is even giddier about beating the 49ers again NEXT week and almost certainly knocking them out of the playoff hunt. But, let’s not overlook the one that’s right in front of us. Never has the phrase “championship opportunity” been more appropriate for a regular season game. Never has “going 1-0 every week” been a better motto to have. Can’t look past the Eagles. Gotta have the eyes on that prize.
I’ve softened on my stance that the Seahawks NEED to have a #1 seed to get back to the Super Bowl, but do you REALLY want to go back to Philly in January? Do you REALLY want to face the Packers on the road? Does it sound like a good time to you to face both of those teams on the road, in back to back weeks, where I can all but guarantee that at least one of those games will be snowbound?
No, the Seahawks don’t NEED to be the top seed, but it sure as shit helps. To get there, this game is just as important as the others. Maybe the most important.
- Green Bay Packers (9-3) – The curse of the #1 team CONTINUES; I’m a living, breathing jinx!
- Denver Broncos (9-3) – Yeah, but do you really think they’re going to have the stones to dedicate themselves to running the ball from here on out?
- New England Patriots (9-3) – Pretty tough loss, but raise your hand if you expected the Patriots to help the Seahawks out by beating an impressive NFC foe. I’m not saying they lost on purpose, but I’m also saying I remember back in 2012 when the Seahawks were surging at season’s end and the Patriots could’ve handed us the division and a Top 2 seed by beating the 49ers.
- Indianapolis Colts (8-4) – Look, from here on out, if Andrew Luck is going to explode for a million yards and touchdowns, I’m going to need the vast majority of both to go to T.Y. Hilton, otherwise my first place (regular season) fantasy football team is doomed.
- Detroit Lions (8-4) – They’re solidly better than all the crap teams, but I doubt they have what it takes when push comes to shove.
- San Diego Chargers (8-4) – I seem to remember writing this team off after their 3-game losing streak. They followed that up with a 3-game winning streak and an absolutely crucial victory in Baltimore.
- Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) – This Eagles game will be the last big test for the Seahawks. If we can find a way to win, I’ll officially believe that we’re “back”. If we narrowly lose, that’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world, though it’ll mean we have to play on Wild Card Weekend. If we get blown out, I’ll officially be petrified of the playoffs this year.
- Seattle Seahawks (8-4) – I’m at the point now where I’m secure enough in my knowledge of the NFC West to know that the Seahawks are the best team in the division. I’m pretty confident that we’ll win out our last three games (home vs. SF, at AZ, home vs. St. Louis). But, the question remains: will that be enough? Arizona lost in Atlanta, and that’s great. That helps tremendously, in fact! But, if the Seahawks lose in Philly, we’re going to need the Cards to drop another game. They play at home vs. KC, at St. Louis, and at Frisco in their other remaining games. We’ll see.
- Arizona Cardinals (9-3) – To be fair, the Cards on offense look awful, so that’s encouraging.
- Dallas Cowboys (8-4) – It’s December now, but the Cowboys got an early start on their collapse over Thanksgiving.
- Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1) – So, they almost lost to the Bucs? How is that possible?
- Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) – At some point, you need to adjust your offensive scheme against the likes of the Broncos and Chargers, right? Why not let Alex Smith loose and throw it 40 times? You might be pleasantly surprised, or you might lose horribly like you’d do anyway because you’re just not better than those teams.
- Baltimore Ravens (8-4) – Luckily for Ravens fans, none of the teams in the AFC North – even though they all have winning records – are all that terrifying.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) – See: the Pittsburgh Steelers as one of those non-terrifying teams.
- San Francisco 49ers (7-5) – I could still see them finishing 10-6 and pulling out a Wild Card spot, if indeed the Cards are ready for the full collapse.
- Miami Dolphins (7-5) – Woof, what a dog of a game against the Jets! Shakiest good team I’ve seen in a long time.
The Loser’s Bracket:
- St. Louis Rams (5-7) – The Rams are the consummate “They Scare The Shit Out Of Me NEXT Year” team, but then every time the next year rolls around, they shit the bed, so whatever.
- Houston Texans (6-6) – That was quite the mashing of the Titans on Sunday.
- Buffalo Bills (7-5) – I know we’re all happy about the Bills being relevant again, but they’ve got three road games to go, two of them at Denver & at New England (with a home game against Green Bay for good measure). This isn’t your year, Bills fans.
- Atlanta Falcons (5-7) – Big riser in my rankings thanks to beating the Cardinals! Good on ya.
- New Orleans Saints (5-7) – Remarkably easy schedule the rest of the way. It’ll all boil down to their showdown at home against Atlanta in Week 16, but it’s still possible they finish 9-7 and everyone calms down a bit about the whole NFC South thing.
- Cleveland Browns (7-5) – Your record is good, but you’re not going to the playoffs. Might as well start Johnny JamBoogie and see what he’s got for you in the last month.
- Chicago Bears (5-7) – I’m beyond the point of caring about the Bears.
- Minnesota Vikings (5-7) – Same goes for the Vikings.
- Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
- New York Giants (3-9) – You are one pathetic loser!
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) – Mike Evans could be a fantasy stud, but we’ll never know about it, because they’ve got the world’s shittiest set of quarterbacks.
- Washington Redskins (3-9) – See, if your team is terrible for long enough, no one will care what nickname you call your team!
- New York Jets (2-10) – Hard to say you didn’t see a game like this coming. What’s the best way to mitigate the damage of Geno Smith? Don’t let Geno Smith throw the football. Like, at all.
- Tennessee Titans (2-10) – Yeah, I dunno.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) – Probably not a good thing to win too many more games the rest of the way.
- Oakland Raiders (1-11) – Just when I thought it was safe to pull the Raiders away from their last-place standing, they go and get shut out by the Rams, 52-0.