Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Watch out, North America!
After years of taking their game intra-national, the Seattle Seahawks are finally headed over the border for a Canadian Football League matchup against the Buffalo Bills. No longer will we deprive our septentrional* neighbors of Seahawks football, and they're lucky enough to see a very good team take on the Bills. I'm sure that when Torontonian's saw that Buffalo was playing Seattle they said, "Another boring game, what is this about**?" but they are going to see a team that's in the playoff hunt and on a hot streak unlike we've seen in at least five years.
This is a game where one team has a lot riding on it. It is significantly important.
*Thanks Word-a-day email! Septentrional is a Latin word for northern, so rare and unused that the editor still believes that it is a misspelled word. Sorry little red swiggly line, this time it's your fault.
**No need for stereotypes.
As has been pointed out and is quite obvious, this is a pivotal game for the Seahawks. In actuality, all three remaining games are highly important for Seattle. Though Football Outsiders has our playoff odds at 93%, that number is going to drop by a lot if the Hawks drop this weekend's game in Toronto. That number assumes that Seattle should beat Da Bills*** and even though losing to an AFC team wouldn't be as bad as losing to the 49ers or Rams, it could drop Seattle into a tie with the Redskins and fall behind the Bears, putting them in dangerous territory headed into Week 16.
***Everyone remembers that great running skit Bill's Superfans on Tuesday Morning Pre-Recorded where Chaz Forley, Don Markroy, and Mick Meyer go "Daaaaa Bills" or "Levy. Wings. Levy. Wings." in regards to former coach Larry Levy.
I can not even begin to tell you what my loins are going to do, however, if the Seahawks win and the 49ers lose to the Patriots on Sunday night, setting up the biggest game this team has had in a very long time. Much bigger than our Week 17 game for the division title in 2010 and right to go to the playoffs at 7-9. More important than beating the Saints that same season in the playoffs. Week 16 has the potential to be a game between two title contenders for the division lead with one game left, but that is only if Seattle does not fall into a trap this weekend. Trust me when I say that the trap is set, even though it would be a mildly-large (22 ounces?) upset if the Bills won. Though I picked Buffalo as a playoff team pre-season, they are still in the middle of rebuilding. They are not very good right now. I was very wrong and short-sighted.
The Bills are 5-8 and have actually only lost to two teams this season that currently have losing records: The New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans. After several early blowouts (48-28 to the Jets, 52-28 to the Patriots, 45-3 to the 49ers) the defense has settled down and allowed only 16.75 points per game and 254.25 yards per game over their last four games. They've also played the Dolphins, Colts, Jaguars, and Rams during that time, not the most intimidating schedule. That's where the Bills have really benefited, their five wins have come against five bad teams: The Chiefs in Week 2. The Browns in Week 3 before they were actually playing well. The Cardinals in Week 6 when they knocked Kevin Kolb out of the game (and out of the season) and John Skelton threw a game-losing interception in overtime. The Dolphins in Week 11. And the Jaguars in Week 13.
Combined record of those teams: 18-47.
However, thanks to our "Ask-A-Bills-Fan" post, we gain a little more insight into the team we are facing this weekend and really just how improved they are as the season has gone on. Going back to a 4-3 defense and adjusting under a new defensive coordinator (Dave Wannstedt) with a proven track record is going to take time. Mario Williams dealing with a wrist injury that is apparently much better now is going to help. (Apparently had surgery during the bye week and improved play shows: Williams has seven sacks in six games dating back to that operation.) Cornerbacks notoriously take time to adjust to the NFL but often show improvement week-to-week and tenth overall pick Stephon Gilmore might be a much-improved version himself come Sunday than what the full season numbers bear out.
Buffalo will be without running back Fred Jackson for the remainder of the season, but C.J. Spiller is perfectly capable of demoralizing a defense. Even worse news for Seattle is that they will be without Brandon Browner and it seems increasingly likely that Walter Thurmond is back to a familiar place: The sidelines in a hoodie because he's hurt again. Also on the injury report this week: Marcus Trufant, Kam Chancellor, Red Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, and Sidney Rice. (Lynch is on the injury report every week.)
When the Bills play a team as good as Seattle, they typically lose big. Unfortunately, we don't know what iteration of the Seahawks we will see on Sunday afternoon when they take their 2-5 road record into Toronto, which luckily is a place that the Bills don't call "home." It's like a half-home game for Buffalo, which is fortunate for us, and they are 1-3 all-time in Canada. We have never lost a game in Canada, so suck on that.
As fans we are allowed to look ahead or behind because we are not the ones that have to prepare each week. I mean, we might prepare ourselves by getting drunk and hopefully binging for five days so that we can just wake up at 1 PM on Sunday as though we time-traveled via two half-gallons of Jack Daniels because we can't wait for the next game or to forget about the pain, but we don't have to prepare for the games. It would be easy to look back and see a 58-0 drubbing or to look ahead and see the San Francisco 49ers and think "Hey cool, another Bye week!!" but the fact of the matter is that this is going to be a difficult game.
Short-handed, away from home, emotionally-high, against a team on the rise with nothing to lose. Maybe I am building the Bills up to be more than what they are, after all I spent the first part of this article telling you why they are not good, but the Cardinals are not good. The Dolphins are not good. The Lions are not good. I half-expect Russell Wilson to be the difference-maker in this game, the player that helps Seattle overcome their deficiencies this week, but what if that does not happen? How many times this year does the team need to bring us back to reality? What is reality? Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in.
Let's hope that everything works out just perfectly and then we can celebrate next week with a major party up until a Sunday Night game that leads right into what could be the best Christmas present I've gotten since I was slammed with a Sega Dreamcast: A legitimate division lead.
First, we need to take care of international business before we can think about domestic threats. I can't think of any really good way to end this article other than to continue the new meme that appears to have popped up on this site in recent days.
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