Relatively speaking. If you go by win/loss record, of course, the Seahawks closed out on top of 6th Place. But, I think this victory over the Cardinals goes a long way in proving that these aren’t the same Seahawks we saw the first time we played them.
This was an offense carving through a defense like a surgeon. Or, maybe like a serial killer. Methodical. Ruthless. With all the time in the world and all the patience to take what’s ours. It was the offense we’d been seeing for five of the last six weeks. A quarterback playing better than ever, a running back slashing his way down field, wide receivers making plays, and an offensive line giving them all enough time to get it done.
And, this was a defense as close as we’ve seen to the great defenses of recent past. With this performance, of course, the Seahawks have now led the league in fewest points allowed for a record-breaking fourth straight year. Now led by our otherworldly defensive front seven – with the secondary more or less doing enough to get by as our depth in that area has bottomed – this is a unit that can dominate anyone, at any time.
It turns out, one week after a miserable anomaly, the Cardinals really didn’t stand a chance against this Seahawks team. And with our playoff spot secured, we now head into the time of year where Matchups are king. Home field helps. Getting a week off helps. Getting guys back from injury helps. But, what we’ve got now are three individual games. It just so happens all will be on the road; it just so happens that we’ll be playing a team coming off of a BYE (should we happen to advance, of course); but nothing that’s happened before matters. Only the next three weeks. Only getting back to a third straight Super Bowl.
Wild Card Round
The Seahawks play the Vikings this week, thanks to the Vikings edging out the Packers for the division title. As unlikely as it sounds, this is probably our best-case scenario (so, be on the lookout for a mortifying defeat this Sunday).
This Vikings team will surely play better than the Vikings team we saw in Week 13. For starters, they’ll have some defensive starters back that they didn’t have before. That alone should theoretically make things more difficult. If any defense in the playoffs resembles the Rams, this would be the closest thing to it. The Seahawks should be getting Okung and Sweezy back though; they will be key in making sure Wilson has time to throw.
On the flipside, this is still the same Vikings offense we saw from before. Unlike Wilson, Bridgewater HASN’T made some miraculous jump in quarterbacking ability. He still has relatively no feel for the deep pass and relies entirely too much upon his running game and checkdowns to be a winner in the playoffs. I would expect Adrian Peterson to get more than 18 yards rushing, because that’s an insane number we held him to in Week 13; but it’s unrealistic to expect him to be this dominating force when our run defense has been the more dominating unit on the year.
This game might be a little uglier than Week 13, but I’d still expect a Seahawks victory. With the temperature around 0 degrees, I’d be on the lookout for sloppy play. But, in the end, the talent on this Seahawks team should be too much for them.
Carolina looms in the second round, should the Seahawks advance. There’s actually a lot to like about how we played them back in Week 6; except for – obviously – the fourth quarter collapse. To be fair, Cary Williams is no more. Also, the Panthers managed to lose their second- and third-best cornerbacks to injury in recent weeks, so look for their defense to take a hit in spite of their extra week’s rest.
The Panthers are flying high, no doubt about it. If anything, their performance this year reminds me a lot of the Seahawks in 2013; it just sort of FEELS like destiny. I would argue that the winner of this game is the team that’s going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, and I bet I’m 100% right.
The only thing that has me leaning towards the Seahawks is that we know what we’re going to get out of the Panthers. We’ve played them at least once a year for the last four years now, and 3 of those 5 games were on the road, which we happened to win. I’m not saying it’ll be easy. I’m not saying it won’t be a challenge. But, we SHOULD have beaten them earlier this year, and I think that’s going to get rectified in two weeks.
In my estimation, the Cardinals have the easiest road of anyone in these playoffs. For starters, they locked down that BYE week, which is critical. And, as the 2-seed, they avoid the Seahawks in the divisional round, likely going up against the winner of the Green Bay/Washington game. I’m leaning towards the Redskins taking that one, but either way, those are two seriously flawed teams, especially on defense. I think the Cardinals have zero problem beating either one in the Divisional Round.
Which brings us to the NFC Championship Game, at the site of last year’s Super Bowl collapse. At this point, you’ve gotta ask yourselves: do I think I’m going to see the Week 10 Seahawks, or the Week 17 Seahawks? I’m leaning towards the latter, but we won’t really know until we get there. A lot can happen in these next two weeks. The Seahawks could lose any number of players to injury between now and then.
I will say I expect a better game in this one. I’m also oddly comforted in having this one on the road, as it seems like we play them better on their own turf (and worse in CenturyLink Field) for some reason.
Should the best happen for the Seahawks, then we’ve also gotta be prepared for the worst. If the Seahawks are to make the Super Bowl again, I’m convinced it’s going to be against the Steelers in a rematch of my worst nightmare. Make no mistake, outside of the Patriots again, playing the Steelers in the Super Bowl is my biggest fear. I’m sick just thinking about it.