It's 9:20 PM. My friend from Portland just crossed the $10,000 lifetime mark raising money for a local children's hospital. And the Seattle Seahawks are 3-3.
Welcome to Week 8 of The Watch.
A season that began with a very satisfying blowout win over the Packers has gone a bit sour in recent weeks. The Seahawks lost two games in a row for the first time since 2012, and still find themselves in third place in the NFC West, with a six-game record they've had 12 times in franchise history and only parlayed into three playoff appearances. While the 49ers got blasted by the Broncos on Sunday night, the Cardinals are still finding ways to win and have extended their lead in the division to 1 1/2 games (plus the tiebreaker) over San Francisco and two games over Seattle.
Elsewhere in the conference, the Cowboys finally played a division game, and their win over the Giants coupled with the Eagles being idle means that Dallas isn't just atop their division, they're the #1 seed in the NFC right now.
Here are the current standings as of Week 7:
(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.)
Not a lot of ties in the conference right now, but there is a 3-way towards the bottom of the stack. Here's an explanation on all of it:
1. Detroit and Green Bay are still tied atop the NFC North, which the Lions continue to hold the tiebreaker for on account of their Week 3 head-to-head win over the Packers.
2. The Bears and Giants tie with a 3-4 record, but as the Bears are 2-2 in the conference while the Giants are 2-4, Chicago wins the tiebreaker.
3. Three teams - the Rams, Vikings, and Saints - are all tied at 2-4. Since the three teams do not all play each other, head-to-head results do not apply. Instead, we begin with conference record - which causes the Rams to fall by the wayside, as they're 2-4 in the NFC while New Orleans and Minnesota are both 2-3. With St. Louis out of the way, head-to-head comes back into the equation, and the Saints' victory over the Vikings gives them the top ranking of the three.
4. The Falcons and Redskins are both at 2-5, but since Redskins are apparently capable of only being AFC teams, they bottom out in conference record allowing Atlanta to rank ahead of them.
5. LOL Tampa Bay.
There's optimistic news on the divisional front. Since the Seahawks have still only played one divisional game, they still control their destiny to a large degree. They'll need to win in Glendale and Santa Clara to do it, but if the Rams loss last week ends up being the only blemish on the division record, the Seahawks would own the tiebreakers against everyone else in the west if they didn't win the division outright. Of course, there's pessimistic news as well: all five of those divisional games will come in the last six weeks of the season - meaning that the team is going to have to get in gear in order to make sure those games are meaningful.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have never had the first pick in the NFL draft. After Sunday's game against the Browns, they may have blown another chance at it this year.
I guess we should've seen it coming - God does hate Cleveland, after all - but the victory by the Jags on Sunday, as well as wins by teams that only had one to that point, has shaken things up in the draft order quite a bit. Oakland now has possession of the #1 spot, with the Jets in the bridesmaid seat. Jacksonville drops to third, and the Rams and Redskins drop out of the top 5 thanks to their wins last week.
Here's the current draft order as of the end of Week 7:
(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. Ties count as half a win for SOS purposes. Divisional record breaks any ties, followed by a coin flip.)
For those in the mood for some schadenfreude, you might get a kick out of knowing that after granting the Jaguars their first win of the year, the Browns host the Raiders in Week 8. Can lightning strike twice? Can the Browns avoid the ignominy of being the team that allows the '08 Browns to pop the Yoohoo? Does God really hate Cleveland that much? I guess we'll find out Sunday.
The Seahawks rooting interest remain in survival mode this week, as we still have two teams we need to climb over if we want to crawl back into the playoff picture. Fortunately, one of the teams is the 49ers, who are on a bye this week and would give the Seahawks a chance to draw even with them record-wise (although the Niners would hold the division record tiebreaker on us). There's only one NFC West/AFC West battle this week, so you're not going to have the same moral quandry that seemed to afflict some users last week. (Remember, this part of the article doesn't deal with personal vendettas or historical grudges - we only care about what team helps the Seahawks the most by winning.) Here are the pertinent matches coming up, and who we want to win:
Sunday morning: Lions (5-2) at Falcons (2-5)
If the Seahawks were leading the division right now, I'd be more concerned about a playoff matchup against the Lions, who are still tied for third in the league with 21 sacks. But Detroit leading the NFC North means the Packers are in second place, and the Seahawks have the tiebreaker over the Packers, while a tie over the Lions would likely come down to conference record where the Lions are currently way ahead. If reaching the playoffs this year means we have to face the Lions at some point, then so be it - better that than have them potentially knock us down to #7. Go Lions.
Sunday morning: Rams (2-4) at Chiefs (3-3)
This might be the one matchup between a divisional opponent and an AFC West team that doesn't cause people around here to retch internally. Go Chiefs.
Sunday morning: Vikings (2-4) at Buccaneers (1-5)
It's important to note that 2-4, as bad as it sounds, is still just a game behind where the Seahawks are. Now is not the time to lose any more ground. Go Bucs.
Sunday morning: Bears (3-4) at Patriots (5-2)
Much in the same vein, Chicago's only half a game behind. Go Patriots.
Sunday afternoon: Eagles (5-1) at Cardinals (5-1)
We may have to face the reality that if the Seahawks do win the division, it probably won't be as the top seed. Dallas and Philly are likely to fight to a draw when they finally encounter each other, but until then we're going to need the NFC East to remain inexplicably dominant. Go Eagles.
Sunday night: Packers (5-2) at Saints (2-4)
A Packers loss and a Seahawks win would leave Seattle just half a game back of the #6 seed. Go Saints.
Monday night: Redskins (2-4) at Cowboys (6-1)
This is a tricky matchup seeing as the Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker against us. Granted, Dallas is currently 2 1/2 games ahead of us anyway, but we've seen how this team operates in December. The best bet is for Dallas and Philly to stay close until they start going at each other, just so we can see how that situation shakes out and we can work accordingly. Right now, Dallas being in front is better for us. Go Cowboys.
So ends another week of The Watch. The Seahawks are treading on dangerous ground right now - a loss to the Panthers on Sunday drops them to 3-4, puts them at risk of falling into last place in the division (remember, the Rams are a game behind with a tiebreak) and puts them in a hole that historically has proven impossible to dig out of. (Seven times in franchise history have the Seahawks started a season 3-4; not once did they reach the playoffs.) In the grand scheme of things there's still some margin for error, but with the season approaching the halfway mark the team needs to find whatever spark they've been missing since returning from the bye week, before other teams begin to leave us in the dust.
(Incidentally, if you'd like to help out my friend Jon raise money for the Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, you can contribute to his Extra Life page here.)
I'll see you guys next week, hopefully with better news on the horizon. Until then, GO HAWKS!!