Look, man, we’ve been talking about this Week 17 matchup since the 49ers improbably became the last undefeated team of 2019 and the Seahawks – in defiance of all that is holy – started the season by winning an unsustainable number of close games. We’ve CERTAINLY been talking about the Week 17 game since the Seahawks went into Santa Clara and knocked off the 49ers, giving them their first loss of the season and putting us ever-so-briefly in the driver’s seat for the NFC West. And, that fervor has only intensified as the Seahawks have scrambled into the inside track for the NFC’s #1 seed, while the 49ers have (somewhat) come down to Earth.
In between that MONUMENTAL showdown and today is a home game against the Arizona Cardinals, a 4-9-1 team in rebuild mode, working in a rookie phenom at quarterback, just trying to make it through the season without any further injuries while maybe playing a little spoiler along the way. This game could not mean any less.
And yet, if you believe the Seahawks have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl, it still obviously means a great deal.
As I outlined earlier in the week, if the Seahawks, Saints, and Packers all win out, the Seahawks get the #1 seed by virtue of a 3-way tiebreaker. The iffiest team in that group is probably the Packers, who have to go to Minnesota this week, while the Vikings still harbor delusions of winning the NFC North. The strongest team in that group is probably the Saints, who go on the road twice, but face a couple of very beatable teams in the Titans and Panthers. Stuck in the middle (with you) are the Seahawks, where it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they go 2-0, 1-1, or even 0-2 the next two weeks. Hell, throw any number of ties into that list of possible outcomes and I wouldn’t be VERY shocked!
The Seahawks NEED this game! But, how do you blame them not looking ahead to the game that REALLY matters? The game that decides hosting at least one – if not two – playoff games, vs. being a 5-seed and going on the road throughout the post-season. I mean, THAT’S your season right there. I know the Seahawks are 7-1 on the road this year, and that will DEFINITELY be the main talking point heading into the playoffs when the Seahawks have to go to Dallas before probably facing the 49ers in a rubber-match down in Santa Clara again; but do you really want to roll those dice? The playoffs are already stressful enough; wouldn’t you feel at least a little more at ease with a first round BYE followed by back-to-back home games?
Winning this game is vital. And, frankly, the Seahawks SHOULD win this game easily. The Cards – before beating the up-and-down Browns last week – were on a 6-game losing streak where they only sometimes looked competitive.
But, the Seahawks are banged up, especially on defense. Quandre Diggs – the guy who is certainly the most important mid-season addition anyone in the NFL has made this year – won’t play, leaving us with one of the scrubs we were trying our damnedest to forget about (at least Tedric Thompson is out for the year, so the lure of starting him won’t doom our season). On top of that, Shaquill Griffin has a hamstring and could probably use another week to rest; even if he plays, he’ll be at less than 100%, and could risk re-aggravating it. Then, there’s Bobby Wagner – the heart & soul of the defense – who is apparently going to play with a sprained ankle; the chances of him either sucking or making the injury worse far outweigh him actually playing to his usual abilities. On top of all that, whither Clowney and Ansah? If our pass coverage is this weakened, we better figure out some sort of pass rush!
Offensively, the hammer fell a little earlier than we expected with Josh Gordon. He wasn’t a HUGE part of our offense, but you could point to pretty much every game where he made at least one big play. A third down conversion here; one of the best diving, fingertip catches of the season there. The drop-off is Jaron Brown or Malik Turner or David Moore; enough said. Getting Luke Willson back this week is a fairly big deal, but come on.
Look, I’m having a hard-enough time believing that all of this is REALLY for real. Gun to my head: I don’t think we beat the 49ers next week. I think we’re definitely going on the road for the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cowboys or Eagles found a way to take us out in the Wild Card round. I keep coming back to the point differential (+26, equal to the Rams, who just murdered us btw), but also just the eye test. We’re BARELY beating these teams. The 49ers and Saints CLEARLY look like the class of the NFC and we’re these pretenders who have the best quarterback and that’s about it. Sometimes, teams like the Seahawks can come from nowhere and delight the world, but most of the time water finds its level.
The Seahawks are hanging on by a THREAD with all of these injuries. The depth just isn’t there at the most important posititons. If you asked me before the Carolina game where we could LEAST afford to downgrade, I would’ve said the safety position. Not far behind that: middle linebacker (I say this, of course knowing that quarterback is the most important position, so let’s just take that for granted and move the fuck on with our lives). Downgrading at probably both spots, with all the questions around our defensive line, brings our odds down to zero that we’re actually going to make an impact this post-season.
I hope I’m wrong! But, at this point I want to continue with the illusion as long as possible. Just having these conversations, and dreaming about scenarios where the Seahawks could shock the world and earn a first round BYE is truly giving me joy this holiday season. Beating the Cardinals – by any means necessary, even if it’s the ugliest game we’ve ever seen – will at least afford us the opportunity to keep this wild ride going another week.
Losing, on the other hand, will only serve to bring REALITY crashing down on top of our heads. This close to Christmas? Let’s not be a Grinch this Sunday, Seahawks. Grow that heart three sizes and let’s enjoy some roast beast!