Since I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to play this game, I thought I’d get this post out now before it’s too late.
It’s no secret that this is the worst Seahawks team we’ve seen since the run of greatness started in 2012. We’re currently the “Nobody Believes In Us” poster children of the NFC, and would likely be the highest in the entire NFL if it weren’t for the Houston Texans catching the Raiders without Derek Carr last week. The combination of No Earl Thomas and this offensive line – even coming off their greatest game rushing the ball last week – will almost certainly spell our doom.
Even having said that though, the Seahawks aren’t necessarily in the worst position. Obviously, having the 2-seed would’ve been much better. If we hadn’t blown that game to the Cardinals on Christmas Eve, we’d be hosting the Falcons right now instead of flying all the way to Atlanta, but I’m not so sure there’s a ton of difference. The Falcons being on the road earlier this season didn’t stop them from taking over in the second half and almost winning that game. Having the game in Atlanta just means that it’s going to be noisier for our offense. Here’s to hoping the increased level of communication – by having it quiet for our defense – will be enough to combat the loss of Earl Thomas in this one.
The Falcons are the Falcons. They’re good. But, truth be told, they’re probably only the 3rd best team remaining in the NFC. And, if you compare them to all the NFC playoff teams this year, I’d probably rank them fourth behind the Giants as well. Even though we’re mired in the 3-seed, the Seahawks are getting the best draw possible. The Lions were the worst playoff team the NFC had to offer (almost certainly worse than a few of the other NFC teams who didn’t make it as well; much love to the Giants for preventing the Redskins from sneaking in there). The Falcons are the worst remaining opponent – when you compare them to the Packers and Cowboys. And, if we find a way to get past the Falcons – which will certainly be the shootout I was expecting in the Lions game – we’ll either go on the road to play the Cowboys, or come back home to play the Packers.
So, who would I rather see the Seahawks face in a hypothetical NFC Championship Game where we got past the Falcons to get in there?
I was grappling with that decision all morning last Sunday, before the Giants/Packers matchup. Not for nothing, but all of the teams I really fear in the NFC have been on the other side of the bracket. It’s very fortunate for us to avoid the Giants, and it’ll be very fortunate for us to avoid either the Packers or the Cowboys. Having to beat just one of the top three teams in the NFC, instead of all three, is as good as it gets.
But, I digress. I ultimately came to the conclusion that I wanted the Giants to beat the Packers last week. I think either one of those teams could take down the Cowboys if things break right. While the Giants have the superior defense, with a solid secondary and a really good pass rush, I feel like our own defense would’ve had a better time containing Eli and their receivers than we would A-Rod and his.
Now that it’s the Packers at the Cowboys though, I’m having a tougher time. If we just, from here on out, assume a Seahawks win (which, again, I’m not necessarily predicting), then a Packers win would mean the Seahawks host the NFC Championship Game; a Cowboys win would obviously mean we go to Dallas. In a vacuum, I think I fear the Packers more, as they’ve seriously had our number the last two times we’ve played them (and it would’ve been the last three times, had we not engineered that crazy comeback the last time we played them in the NFC Championship Game). I just don’t know how much more magic we have. I think A-Rod has figured out how to throw on our defense, I think their defense has no problem getting to our quarterback, and I think our quarterback has some kind of mental block when it comes to facing their secondary, as he’s thrown (approximately) a billion interceptions in the last three games he’s played against them. I would hope – in any scenario where we play the Packers – that our defensive coordinator has figured out a way to adjust our scheme to make A-Rod less comfortable, because as it stands right now it’s like he’s going up against a defense full of Special Olympians.
But … we’d be at home! I dunno, it’s tough.
Ultimately, I don’t think that’s enough for me to sway my opinion. No one is intimidated by playing in CenturyLink Field anymore, especially the likes of A-Rod. It would be fun for the fans, and for the city I suppose, but it would cease being fun when Green Bay takes another double-digit lead on us and we have to play catch-up.
With Dallas, obviously you have the rookie quarterback, even though he’s looked nothing like a rookie this year. They’ve got the best O-Line in the league, so there’s that to contend with. You’re probably not going to sack Dak Prescott very much. But, let’s face it, you’re not going to sack Aaron Rodgers very much either! He’s obviously got excellent pocket awareness, even if he isn’t the most nimble runner. Plus, I feel like everyone sleeps on the Green Bay O-Line, but it’s pretty fucking good in its own right! So, I’m not calling that as some huge advantage for the Cowboys over the Packers. I think it’s much closer to even, all things considered.
What’s not even is the Cowboys’ running back, Ezekiel Elliott. The Seahawks are among the best in all of football at stopping the run, but I don’t imagine we’d have much success in holding him in check like we have most other teams. But, you know, maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. If we can do an okay job – and force them to pound it on the majority of their plays – they might have good-looking total yardage numbers, but their yards per carry average should be mediocre. Plus, I think we can limit the big plays downfield in their passing game much better than we would against the Packers.
On the defensive side of the ball, there’s nothing about the Cowboys that impresses me all that much. At least with Green Bay, they have Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Julius Peppers, and Clay Matthews. They’ve got studs! They may have holes, but I think the Cowboys have more holes, plus I think we’d be able to run on the Cowboys better than we would against the Packers (even though the Cowboys led the league in fewest rushing yards allowed, I have to think most of that is them being in the lead in most of their ballgames).
There’s also, not for nothing, the fact that the Packers know us so well. We’ve played them five times in the last five seasons dating back to 2012’s Fail Mary game. The Seahawks tend to fare better against teams who aren’t used to seeing us so often. Hence why we keep losing these bullshit divisional games to the likes of mediocre Cardinals and Rams teams. We’ve only played Dallas 3 times since 2012 (not counting pre-season), and never since Prescott became their full time starter.
So, you know, as much as I’d love to see A-Rod come to Seattle and be sent away heartbroken and out of the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons, the odds are he’ll probably beat us and I’ll be stuck looking at his stupid smug face for 3+ hours.
Then again, Dallas has been the clear best team in the NFC all year, and it’s probably just “Their Year”. They’ll host Atlanta and all of this will have been written for nothing. Such is playoff mania in the NFL.