This Sunday I got to work post-game in the Seahawks locker room for the first time in my career. It did not disappoint.
One thing that I noticed was that while most of the players won't say that they care about what other teams are doing or where they stand in the playoff races when the only thing they can control is what they do, some are more candid. Doug Baldwin was aware that the Packers had lost to the Bills and did a little "fist pump" when he saw that news. I asked KJ Wright if he knew that Green Bay had lost going into the game and he said he hadn't, and wanted to know if that meant Seattle was in first place now.
Not quite, KJ. But you're close!
By winning their next two games, the Seahawks can do no worse than the two seed in the NFC. That would at least give them a bye week and leave them one win away from an NFC Championship game. In the only scenario where Seattle could win out and not get a number one seed, the Dallas Cowboys would be getting top billing in the NFC instead. How worried should you be about the possibility of that happening?
As Jerry Jones might say: "As worried as a porcupine in a balloon-popping contest against a turtle!"
The Cowboys did beat the Seahawks this season, of course, but they are also 3-4 in Dallas this year. They have also won just one playoff game in the last 19 years, and Russell Wilson won three of those gosh darn thangs just a year ago. The Cowboys have their number a bit lately, having beaten the Seahawks in four of their last five meetings, but if we're going to point to history, one may point no farther than that magic un-holdable football in that one playoff game that these two teams have ever played against each other in.
A player saying, "We can only control what we can control' might be cliche, but in this case it's also really all that matters. The idea that Dallas's record will affect Seattle in any way is a stretch for right now. First the Seahawks have to win their next two games, then the Cowboys need to win their next two games, and then the Packers and Lions both have to lose their next game in Week 16. And if all that happens, then Seattle and Dallas both need to win their division round games and then, and only then, will the Seahawks travel to a playoff destination where the home team is 4-4 at best, and the road team would be 5-3.
You're worried because the Cowboys beat the Eagles on Sunday night, and did so only after they blew a 21-0 lead? You have anxiety problems.
Last Man Stanton
Wright may not have been aware that the Seahawks couldn't have ended Sunday in first place, but most fans had already worked that out after seeing the Arizona Cardinals beat the St. Louis Rams 12-6 on Thursday night. Though they scored six more points than the Rams by the time the clock said all zeros, this was hardly a "Win" for the Cardinals.
Quarterback Drew Stanton suffered an MCL sprain that will keep him out this week against Seattle, meaning that either Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas will literally be attempting passes against the Legion of Boom. How's that gonna go?
I believe it was the Arizona poet Wile E. Coyote that once opined, "Yikes!"
Lindley was 4-of-10 for 30 yards in relief of Stanton on Thursday, and that might actually be his upside. When he started four games as a rookie in 2012, Lindley had arguably the worst season by QB in modern NFL history, even by small-sample-size standards: No touchdowns, seven interceptions, 46.7 QB rating, sacked 12 times, three fumbles. The alternative, Thomas, completed an 81-yard touchdown pass this season.
He did not complete any of his other seven attempts.
It doesn't matter if they are technically down to their third or fourth-string quarterback right now, Arizona is scratching the bottom of the desert floor at QB. The only positive takeaway right now is that despite playing Lindley for significant time, they still won in St. Louis by six points. The defense is still good and the running game has actually improved since the loss of Andre Ellington.
They had 143 rushing yards against the Rams, their highest rushing total of the season, eclipsing their 141-yard mark the week prior.
The Cardinals aren't going away. But they do need to figure out how to beat the hottest team in the NFL without attempting a pass.
As a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, so must you become Derelicte!
If the entirety of the playoffs is just Derek Anderson starting against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then the Carolina Panthers are your next Super Bowl champions.
The Panthers were forced to start Anderson for the second time this season, after Cam Newton suffered a back injury in a car accident this week. Anderson passed for 277 yards and a touchdown and beat the Bucs, just as he did in Week 1; he now has five touchdowns and no interceptions on the season with a 2-0 record, while Newton is 3-8-1 and has posted a passer rating of 81.8.
Is it crazy to think that the Panthers are better off with Anderson? They might be if the Seahawks end up having to go to Carolina in the playoffs.
Newton is 0-3 in his career against Seattle with a passer rating of 70.6, and all three losses came at home. The Panthers lead the NFC South at 5-8-1, and will stay atop the division this week if the New Orleans Saints lose to the Chicago Bears on Monday. The Seahawks could still end up as the five seed and face a taste of their own medicine if they have to play the part of defending champ on the road to a losing team in the playoffs, and Anderson is actually a scarier "wild card" proposition than Newton at this point.
So hot right now.
Did I hear a "Niner" in there?
San Francisco was eliminated from playoff contention. These will be the first two games in Jim Harbaugh's pro career where nothing is on the line for them. They might also be the last two.
"You blew it!!"
As noted earlier, the Packers just had to go to Buffalo and beat Kyle Orton to keep their lead in the NFC but they couldn't even get that right. I've been saying that for as good as Green Bay looks at times, this is also a team that has been blown out twice and can play poorly in a way that Seattle and New England and Denver rarely do. Not "never do," but rarer, indeed.
Aaron Rodgers was 17-of-42 for 185 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. I've been trying to convince myself that JJ Watt is da real MVP ... Watt had two more sacks on Sunday. Not that Jordy Nelson dropped a 94-yard touchdown pass or anything.
So there you have it. The 11-3 Cardinals lead the NFC, the 10-4 Cowboys hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle, if necessary, but Philly drops to 9-5 (out of the playoffs) and the Packers actually drop to the six seed because the Detroit Lions won and took first place in the NFC North.
Cardinals (clinched playoff berth)
Other than a smorgasbord of bullshit in the NFC South, only Philly really has a shot left to upset any current playoff teams from making the playoffs, and it would take a massive upset for that team to be Seattle. Things are much more complicated in the AFC, but three teams just won their division:
1. Patriots (clinch AFC East)
2. Broncos (clinch AFC West)
3. Colts (clinch AFC South)
In addition to the playoff races, the Titans and Jaguars play each other on Thursday night and the loser of that game will have a heavy serious beat on the number one pick in the draft. I don't think teams ever really try to lose, but as a fan, you'd be pretty pissed off if your team won that game.
The Eagles are at the Redskins.
The Packers are at the Bucs.
The Falcons are at the Saints.
The Lions are at the Bears.
The Panthers host the Browns.
The Cowboys host the Colts.
And of course on Sunday Night Football, in only the latest edition of "Game of the Year," the Seahawks travel to Arizona. The last time they played there, Seattle won 34-22 with Lynch rushing for 91 yards and a touchdown (just like he did on Sunday) and Wilson threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions (just as he didn't do on Sunday, oh man, how eerie!)
What will happen?? Well don't just look-around... Stick around!