"the space shuttle! Woo!"
During the season you're going to hear certain terms thrown around the NFL such as "must-win" or "pivotal" or "Sanchez throws an interception." Not every term is of dire consequence though just because it is cliche. We have to understand that the term "Must-win" is basically a media-driven term that puts fear into the hearts of the viewer. Any news person can tell you the power of fear and ratings. Ask Joe Rogen. (Ask Joe Rogen a decade ago on Fear Factor, not the latest short installment of Fear Factor.)
However, we have to understand that it's week 3. There are no known "must-win" games in week 3. The goal of any football team is to win (almost always) whether it's week 1, week 17, or the Super Bowl. If you finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs, your week 17 loss didn't carry any more weight than the one in week 1. They both contributed to seven losses. So, how important is it to win in week 3?
Pretty much as important as it would have been to beat the Cardinals in week 1. Still, there are other angles to look at this from, and the most important of which is the divisional standings after two games. There is a ridiculously large amount of games left this season, relative to NFL football. Not relative to baseball where having 13 games left on the schedule means that you've already stood in left field that season for longer than it took Curiosity to get to Mars. But even if the Seahawks lose, the team will have the mathematical opportunity to still go 14-2. It's almost completely illogical to assume that they would, but was it completely illogical to assume that the 2005 Seahawks would go 13-3 after a 2-2 start? (Which would have been 14-2 if they hadn't rested players in week 17.) Seattle will still have a good chance at a 2-2 start, even if they lose.
What I will really be watching for this week though is the performance of the three other teams in the division leading up to Monday Night. This week we have the good fortune of knowing where we stand going into the game and that'll be huge since the Cardinals and 49ers are two of six remaining 2-0 teams (four in the NFC.) Seattle would not be in a very enviable situation if they went to 1-2 and Arizona went to 3-0 after having already won one of the head-to-head matchups. That's basically a "2.5" game lead in the division that we would have to make up with a difficult schedule.
(It turns out that the Cardinals logo is wildly easy to draw)
The situation in front of Seattle this week is this:
The Eagles travel to Arizona. For the Cards, they get homefield advantage, which I deem as very important but it's still not an edge that can't be overcome any given week, and is overcome all the time. The Eagles are one of the other 2-0 teams and though they struggled to beat the Browns in week 1, they seemed to get over a hump in beating the Ravens in week 2. Yet, Philadelphia has won two games by a total of two points.
On the other hand, they've won six straight games dating back to last season. This looks more and more like the "dream team" that Vince Young was talking about. He just failed to recognize that the dream team couldn't work while he was there. Young was the ham sandwich in your dream that turns into your parents having sex while wearing Ronald Reagan masks.
If the Eagles can limit their turnovers on offense while applying pressure to Kevin Kolb on defense, they stand a good chance to win this game. By several metrics, they were the best team in the NFC East last season and it's possible that it's finally coming together for them just as long as Michael Vick doesn't keep donating footballs to opposing defenses. You're supposed to donate to PETA, Michael.
A loss this week would be really cool to see because the Cards then face: Miami, St. Louis, Buffalo and Minnesota. As odd as this feels to write: The Cards could be looking at a 7-0 or 6-1 start.
The 49ers are up to their old tricks again, and by old I mean last year. I wish they were up to their mid-2000s tricks instead. San Francisco travels to Minnesota this week to face the Vikings. Now, Minnesota is close to a 2-0 start after a narrow loss to the Colts but it's important to note that they've played the Colts and Jaguars. And they just barely won over the Jags: 23-20 in OT.
The Vikings have a limpy Adrian Peterson, and basically no receiving options outside of Percy Harvin. It will be interesting to see how much the 49ers can shutdown Christian Ponder when their superior run defense takes AP out of the game on only 10-15 carries.
The biggest thing that Minnesota has going for them in this game is playing at home, and "any given Sunday," but this looks like a game that San Francisco should definitely have in the bag going into the fourth quarter. The 49ers also have a relatively easy schedule coming up with the Jets and Bills on slate and then getting the Giants at home before Seattle comes into town October 18th.
Win this week and the 49ers could be looking at 5-1 or even 6-0 going into that game.
Not without consequence are the Rams, who travel to Chicago this week. If the Rams can pull out a win in Chicago, they'd be at 2-1 themselves. Maybe the long-term outlook for St. Louis this season doesn't look as rosy as it does for the other three teams, but we can't know that for sure. Hell, if they beat the Bears in Chicago, then we really can't ignore them. So that's definitely something that we have to take notice of and monitor.
Predicted standings going into Monday night:
That's what I would think would happen, given that the Eagles just seem a little better than the Cardinals right now on an all-around basis. Very possible though is that the division has two 3-0 teams.
Worst case scenario after Monday:
In the absolute worst case scenario, Seattle is two games back of 1st and 2nd and a game back of the Rams, the team that they will face in week 4. That's where it all comes full circle.
Thanks to a divisional-balanced schedule, there is no way that a loss on Monday would be devastating. It would be disappointing and it would be something that Seattle has to work its way back from, but this is also a game that the Seahawks are not expected to win. Rather, we have to look at it from the perspective that Seattle is two games back with two games left against the 49ers and Rams with a game left against the Cards at home.
There is no possible hole that Seattle could not crawl out of if the absolute worst case scenario (Short of that Earthquake 10.0 SyFy movie) comes to fruition this weekend. Many of us saw the Packers on the schedule before the year and though "That's damn difficult" because the Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the league and arguably best pass rusher in the league.
In our favor is the best Monday Night winning percentage in the NFL, the best home crowd in the NFL, the best storyline for Disney's next hit as a movie (12-year-old boy eats magic beans and plays quarterback in the pros) in the NFL, and a secondary that eats lunch for breakfast.
So let's enjoy the game and try to forget potential consequences of a loss. There are many games left to be played. Do I hope that the team with the best record in the division sits at 2-1 by the end of Monday, hell yeah. But this is not a must-win, this is a just-win.