It's 9:42 PM. I just bought a brand new desktop computer, and the very first thing I did with it is download a piece of malwarepretending to be Google Chrome. And the Seattle Seahawks are 3-2... and out of the playoff picture.
This is Week 7 of The Watch.
This past week could not have gone much worse for the Seahawks. Most notably, the Seahawks have lost their second game of the season to the Cowboys, who looked like a punchline to start the season but are the ones laughing now at 5-1 (and yet, still second in the NFC East somehow). The Cardinals maintain their position at the top of the division, after defeating the hapless Redskins. And the Rams turned an early 14-0 lead on Monday night into a 31-17 loss to the 49ers, allowing San Francisco to vault over the 'Hawks to take second place in the division as well as the second Wild Card spot that Seattle had spent the last couple of weeks hanging on to.
Reactions to last Sunday's loss and the Seahawks' predicament have varied from "No worries, we got this" to "CUT EVERYBODY". Regardless, it's becoming clear that this year is not going to have the fairy tale luster that we enjoyed in the past.
Here's the full rundown of the NFC standings, with the "Red Line of Doom" now in effect:
(Divisional tiebreakers take precedence, and are handled in the following order: head-to-head, division record, common opponents, conference record, strength of victory, strength of schedule. Conference tiebreakers are handled in the following order: head-to-head, conference record, common opponents, strength of victory, strength of schedule.)
Much of the tiebreakers in the conference are the same ones that were in effect last week, but here's a recap of how everything shakes out:
1. As it's been the last few weeks, the only reason the Eagles continue to lead the NFC East over the Cowboys is because Philly has played (and won) the one division game they've played, and the Cowboys don't play a division game until next week.
2. The Lions have a head-to-head win over the Packers from week 3, thus they get the tiebreaker for the NFC North lead.
3. The 49ers and Packers are knotted at 4-2 for the sixth seed and final wild card spot. The two teams will not meet each other, so conference record is the pertinent tiebreaker here. The 49ers are 3-2 in the NFC against the Packers at 2-2, thus they get the nod while Green Bay is stuck at #7.
4. The Giants and Bears tie for ninth place in the conference at 3-3, and much like the 49ers, New York has a 3-2 conference record while Chicago is 2-2.
5. The idle Saints are tied with the Vikings at 2-3, but the Saints win out thanks to their week 3 head-to-head win over Minnesota.
6. Sitting in the cellar are the Bucs and Skins, and strength of victory over the Steelers continues to be the only thing keeping Tampa Bay from rock bottom. If the Redskins want to get out of the 16-spot, they'll either have to win another game (slim chance of that happening) or the Jaguars are going to have to start winning (fat chance of that happening... hey, wait a minute).
So obviously the bad news is that the Seahawks are not in the playoffs at the moment. The good news is that nobody else is, either - it is week 7, after all. And with all six division games still ahead of us (the first of which is happening Sunday morning), the 'Hawks aren't even in the position where they need "help" to get back in the race. So even though we just got done watching one of the uglier games that the Seahawks have played in the Russell Wilson era, things are still very much in our reach.
It's definitely premature to be looking at this season solely from a draft pick point of view, but we can still entertain ourselves with a very competitive race for the top of the draft board.
Jacksonville continues to have the pole position for the #1 pick, as their winless record and relatively weak division gives them a significant advantage over the other winless team, the Raiders. (And Oakland nearly scored an upset, too, although I bet a lot of that was your typical "getting fired up to pay for your new coach" enthusiasm that will wane over time. Of course, there are four 1-win teams, three of whom (STL, TB, WAS) are going to see each ther on the schedule on account of them being so bad last season as well. (The Jets miss out - not only are they the only team in the AFC at one win, but their NFC schedule involves the NFC South, the one division that doesn't have a 1-win team.)
This is how the draft order looks after six weeks of play:
(Strength of schedule is found by totalling the win-loss records of all 13 opponents on a team's schedule. Divisional opponents are given double weight. Divisional record breaks any ties, followed by a coin flip.)
If the Cowboys game put you in a sour mood, here's a silver lining for you: there are six teams in the NFL that have one win or fewer. Be glad you're not a fan of one of those teams.
For those with some morbid curiosity, the upcoming schedule for the Stinky Six looks like this:
JAC: CLE, MIA, @CIN, DAL
OAK: ARI, @CLE, @SEA, DEN
TB: Bye, MIN, @CLE, ATL
NYJ: @NE, BUF, @KC, PIT
WAS: TEN, @DAL, @MIN, Bye
STL: SEA, @KC, @SF, @ARI
The most likely team to drop in the draft looks to be the Buccaneers, with two sub-.500 opponents at home in the next four weeks. The Rams, however, have three straight road games after going up against what we all hope is a very ornery Seahawks team looking to bounce back. They may be 1-8 after all this if they can't make some magic happen.
As much as we'd like to stay optimistic about the team's chances going forward, the reality as it stands right now is that if the playoffs started next week, the Seahawks would not be a part of them.
For this reason, rooting interests this week are a little bit more critical. We can worry about homefield advantage and other such luxuries later on, but right now the priority is getting back above that red line.
Just to remind everybody, this is a purely stoic take on the games coming up next week. Long-standing grudges are not taken into account. That said, let's hope we have better results this week than we did last week with the games not involving us:
Sunday morning: Falcons (2-4) at Ravens (4-2)
One of the lingering effects of not being in the playoff standings is that we have to pay more attention to the bottom of the board just to make sure they don't suddenly vault over us. Here's hoping that the Falcons stay bad for the time being. Go Ravens.
Sunday morning: Vikings (2-3) at Bills (3-3)
Like the game above, Minnesota is not a playoff threat at the moment, but another loss will make sure they aren't. Go Bills.
Sunday morning: Dolphins (2-3) at Bears (3-3)
This is another game where the rooting interest changes base on where the Seahawks are in the conference. Normally I would lean towards a Bears win here to promote attrition in the always-tumultuous NFC North, but with them being just half a game behind Seattle we really can't afford that. Go Dolphins.
Sunday afternoon: Panthers (3-2-1) at Packers (4-2)
There was a lot of controversy last week over my decision to back the Packers over the Dolphins. Given the choice, I'd rather see Green Bay win that division over Detroit, on account of the Lions' pass rush (20 sacks already) and notoriously chippy defensive line. Well, those of you who took issue with that pick will be happy to see that I'm rooting against Green Bay this week, seeing as they're ahead of us in the standings and the Panthers are already on cruise control in their division. Go Panthers.
Sunday afternoon: Cardinals (4-1) at Raiders (0-5)
About as unlikely as they come, but maybe Oakland will have just enough spark left from last week to pull off the upset. One thing's for sure - between the Redskins last week and the Raiders this week, this is the wrong part of the schedule to hope for the division leaders to stumble. Go Raiders.
Sunday afternoon: Giants (3-3) at Cowboys (5-1)
The fact that there's a one-loss team hogging a Wild Card is mildly annoying. At least if Dallas loses one (and a divisional game at that), they'll look more like a Wild Card team. Go Giants.
Sunday night: 49ers (4-2) at Broncos (4-1)
Remember how the 49ers were supposed to implode this year, with Harbaugh and Baalke fighting with each other, the dark cloud of Ray McDonald looming over them, Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman being out for various reasons, and this finally being the year that Frank Gore starts to fade? Yeah, it doesn't look like that's happening. (Clearly the only team capable of falling off a cliff after going toe-to-toe with the 'Hawks over a season is the Rams - and by the looks of things, they're still falling.) The only real hope we have right now is that good teams beat the Niners while we rebound, because I really don't want the current NFC West standings to remain as they are for any longer than necessary. Go Broncos.
With that, another week of The Watch has come and gone. Last week went about as poorly for Seahawk fans as you could imagine, and while it's foolish to think that things will swing completely in the opposite direction next week, a win over the Rams would go a long way in soothing the bruised egos and regaining some of the swagger that's been left on the field the past couple of weeks. Historically speaking, the Seahawks have been 3-2 on 15 occasions, and made the playoffs nine times as a result.
A win on Sunday brings us to 4-2, which has happened 10 times in the past and resulted in 8 playoff berths. A loss drops us to 3-3, where the chances of reaching the playoffs drop precipitously - Seattle's been 3-3 twelve times, and only got to the playoffs in three of those years. Even this early in the season, this game coming up could prove crucial in the long run. If the past five games have taught us anything, it's that you can't look at anything on the schedule as a gimme win, and even though the Rams are traditionally a weak team, it's a divisional road game played in the morning, and the margin for error is not what it was in the past.
I'll see you guys next week. GO HAWKS!!