I mentioned in my week 13 picks column that there was almost no chance of me actually writing something for the usual recap this week. I probably saw less football on Sunday than in any other week over the past five years. For the early games on Sunday, I went to a bar in Boston to watch the Patriots. One thing I’m not used to is having almost every TV in the bar tuned to the same game, as was the case this time. That was particularly annoying. When I booked my flights for Thanksgiving way back in May, I chose to fly out of Boston on Sunday at the exact wrong time…I spent the entire second half of the late games on Sunday waiting in a security line and deciding between McDonald’s or Sbarro’s for my disgusting dinner. And when I finally got back to my apartment well after midnight on Monday morning, I really didn’t have the mental strength or energy to watch the Sunday Night Game that I had DVR’d…an NFC East “classic” between the Giants and Redskins.
So you could understand my excitement throughout the day on Monday as I anticipated watching a football game in my natural environment later that night. And not just any football game…a legitimately good game that could easily be an NFC Championship preview.
Except New Orleans forgot they were supposed to be one half of that awesome matchup.
What a waste…I can guarantee this coming Thursday’s Houston @ Jacksonville tilt will be more exciting (after all, the 1st overall pick in the 2014 draft could be at stake).
But one huge positive did come from last night’s game: We officially have our villain for the 2013 playoffs.
It’s not just that Seattle is impossible to beat at home (they’ve outscored opponents by 19 points per game at CenturyLink Field this year). It’s that they’ve been almost impossible to beat anywhere. And it’s not just that my least favorite football player on the planet, Richard Sherman, is the biggest shit talker who’s never won anything. It’s that the entire team apparently falls into that category that LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers created about 10 years ago…that mentality of talking and acting like you’re the best without actually being the best (Golden Tate and Earl Thomas are the 2nd and 3rd biggest offenders on the team, respectively). And it’s not just that the entire football media is convinced that the NFL should award this year’s MVP to the Seattle fans. It’s that those fans actually believe they can alter a game significantly. And finally, it’s not just that Pete Carroll is an obnoxious sideline cheerleader (probably his biggest contribution as a coach). It’s that he’s a known scumbag who left his job at USC right before they were about to get slapped with a multi-year bowl ban. And that pompous grin that he wears on his face 24/7….fucking disgusting.
So maybe it was a good thing that the Seahawks have crushed almost every opponent this year. Maybe the general public will get behind my push for Seattle to be our honorary “most hated team” for the rest of the season…Or maybe people are so bitter at long term success that they’ll continue to pretend my Patriots are the common enemy (even though they quietly go about their business like they’re a team that hasn’t won anything yet…which, in my opinion, is the right way to operate).
But no matter how you feel about the Seahawks, one thing is undeniable: They will be playing football at home in January until they either lose or fly East for the Super Bowl. They guaranteed that with last night’s win. But I’ve been thinking all year long that eventually some team would trip them up at home. With remaining home games in the regular season against Arizona and St. Louis, it’s likely going to have to happen in the playoffs.
Now seems like a perfect time to check in on each potential opponent’s chances at knocking Seattle off their stupid throne at home in January:
7. Dallas – The most mentally weak team with easily the worst coach of all the NFC playoff teams and some particularly fragile offensive players (Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray)…combined with a quarterback who’s legendary meltdowns have followed him from 8-8 season to 8-8 season…against this Seattle team? HA! Let’s say the Cowboys squeak out a 9-7 record and face the Seahawks in the 2nd round, how high would they have to make the line for you to even think about backing Dallas? Thirty-three? Sixty-four?
6. Arizona – The poor Cardinals still have to go to Seattle later this season while battling for a wildcard spot. I wonder if they’ll even think making the playoffs was worth it if they end up drawing the Seahawks in the 2nd round. Carson Palmer in any road playoff game scares the shit out of me…and this wouldn’t be just any road game. A guy like Richard Sherman could, in theory, limit Larry Fitzgerald, and I just don’t see how the Cardinals keep up if he’s a non-factor all game. They wouldn’t win by nearly as much as in the fictitious matchup with Dallas, but it would be a major blowout if these two teams faced each other.
5. Philadelphia – I give the Eagles a slightly better chance than Dallas and Arizona because they have more weapons and a somewhat innovative offensive scheme. Maybe, just maybe, they get a little lucky and expose some Seattle defensive issues with their up-tempo style of play. It’s doubtful, but unlike those previous two teams, I wouldn’t give them a 0% chance of winning…maybe something like a 1.7% chance.
4. New Orleans – As a 13-point deficit quickly turned into a 27-point deficit for the Saints on Monday night, I tried to convince myself that the game was a little fluky. For example, Drew Brees’ fumble into the arms of a Seahawks’ defensive lineman that was returned for a touchdown, and the 60-yard completion to the tight end that New Orleans randomly forgot to account for. Those are things that probably won’t happen again should these teams face each other in the playoffs. But let’s have an honest talk for a second: Seattle beat the crap out of the Saints on Monday. I doubt there are many teams who have beaten the Sean Payton/Drew Brees combo twice in one season, but this particular group of trash talkers would probably get it done in a similar manner as what we just saw.
3. San Francisco – In a week where almost all of my predictions could best be described as “comical,” claiming that the 49ers were rounding into form was one of my few bright spots. If they can stay incredibly healthy for the rest of the regular season, I wouldn’t automatically bet my dog and girlfriend on Seattle if these teams face off in the 2nd or 3rd round of the playoffs. I would eventually bet them, but not immediately. Of course if Seattle goes down to San Francisco this coming week and pulls off a similar feat to Monday night’s effort (or something similar to their lopsided win against San Francisco earlier this year), then I will quickly change my tune on the 9ers having any chance whatsoever.
2. Detroit – The Lions may stumble to a 9-7 record and win their division due in large part to the unforeseen Matt Flynn era in Green Bay, and yet somehow I like their chances in Seattle over some of these likely 11 or 12-win teams? It’s all because of Calvin Johnson. Yes, the Seattle secondary is good. And yes, unfortunately Richard Sherman is good. But if he was ever going to struggle against a receiver, wouldn’t it be Johnson? I could see Mega giving Sherman trouble to the point that Sherman decides to commit pass interference every time the ball is thrown that way. And maybe the Reggie Bush/Joique Bell combination is just what the doctor ordered to balance out an offense against an aggressive defense like Seattle. And maybe I’m grasping at straws, but I’ll have you know Detroit is one of only three teams that’s beaten the Seahawks in Seattle’s past 21 games. Maybe Calvin goes off for 473 receiving yards and the Lions sneak by Seattle in overtime. Who knows.
1. Carolina – Our one true hope for ending the Seattle dominance before the Patriots get their chance in the Super Bowl. The Panthers are the best defensive team in football and one of the best running teams. Those seem like two areas you might want to be good at when going into such hostile territory. Maybe Carolina wouldn’t score a lot, but they have the best shot of any of these teams at slowing down Russell Wilson’s offense. They also might get the #2 seed in the NFC and have a chance to rest early in January. Oh, and there’s that little thing about them making a deal with the devil, as evidenced by an eight-game winning streak that included a should-have-been loss to New England in week 11. Maybe this is just their year. Maybe Cam Newton’s corny Superman gimmick will turn into a compelling storyline as the “super hero” finally knocks off the villain.
While it certainly seems unlikely that someone knocks off Seattle before the Super Bowl, just remember this: In 2011, the 9-7 New York Giants went into Green Bay and ripped apart the 15-1 Packers by a score of 37-20. Weird, crazy shit happens in the playoffs. And hoping for something completely unpredictable like that might be a better bet than thinking one of the legit NFC contenders can oust Seattle.
Week 14 picks coming on Thursday.