Seattle Seahawks’ Dominance And The Rest Of The NFL Playoff Picture
|Mark Fabrick||Story last updated: at 9:29 am|
The Seattle Seahawks crushed and obliterated the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday Night Football firmly putting Seattle in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The “Legion of Boom” completely flustered the great Drew Brees.
A pressured Brees couldn’t connect with any of his panicked receivers, and Seattle handed the Saints their worst loss in the Brees/Sean Payton era. The Seahawks also brought an end to Brees’ streak of consecutive games with multiple TD passes.
Brees said after the game, “It’s clear the road to the Super Bowl goes through here.” After watching the Seahawks just completely shut down the Saints’ offense on Monday, does anybody want to go up to Seattle to play a game in inclement weather. Throw in the deafening Seattle crowd, which broke their own Guinness World Record for loudest stadium, and it just doesn’t seem like any NFC team can go into the Pacific Northwest and take out the Seahawks.
Who could do it? The Carolina Panthers are tied with New Orleans atop the NFC South, and they just don’t have the offensive firepower to make a dent in Seattle’s D. The Saints are fifth in PPG at 26.0, the Panthers are 10th at 23.8. New Orleans trots out 396 yards of offense per game, fourth in the NFC, Carolina, 327.8 YPG, good for only 12th.
What about the winner of the NFC Least? The Cowboys and Eagles have each given up the most and second most yards in the league on defense, respectively. Brees couldn’t handle the pressure in Seattle, it’s unlikely that Tony Romo or Nick Foles would handle it any better. Although, Foles could secretly be Napoleon Dynamite’s long lost twin, and be the single coolest guy on the planet, just nobody knows it. But seriously, no.
The Detroit Lions are in the driver’s seat in the NFC North, but despite their talent, they are a team that is prone to shooting itself in the foot. I think they’re the one team talent-wise that could bring it to Seattle, but they are often times undisciplined, and I’m not betting that Jim Schwarz will outcoach Pete Carroll in a playoff game.
That leaves the division rival 49ers, who currently hold a one game lead for the final wild card spot. They’ll meet this Sunday at Candlestick Park. The Seahawks trounced the Niners 29-3 back in Week 2 up in Seattle. The Niners have gone 7-3 since and are starting to look like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. They’ll be eager to prove that that performance was a fluke. They also have a familiarity with the Seahawks that the other teams don’t have since they play in the same division.
Are those would-be contenders all locks to make the playoffs? No, but they’re in the driver’s seat and pretty much control their own destiny. The most interesting race to watch will be between the Saints and the Panthers. They’re each 9-3 tied for the NFC South lead. They will meet this Sunday night at the Superdome, and again, two weeks after that, in Charlotte. Obviously, both these teams will want to win their division and home field. To show you how cutthroat the NFC is, the second place team gets the first wild card spot and a road game against either the Lions or Cowboys/Eagles. Although, I’d definitely pick the Saints to upset the Cowboys indoors at Dallas.
The NFC East is also a two team race with Philly and Dallas each tied at 7-5. Dallas has the edge having won the first matchup of the two teams 17-3 in Philly. The two teams meet in the season’s final week in what could be a huge showdown. In between then the Cowboys have games at Chicago, against Green Bay, and at Washington. The Eagles host the Lions, visit Minnesota, and then host the Bears in between. It’s tough to call, and it could go either way, but I like the Cowboys in the NFC Least.
The NFC North also provides some intrigue. The Lions have a one game lead on the Bears, but own the tiebreaker, by virtue of the season sweep. They have a one-and-a-half game lead on the Packers by virtue of Green Bay’s tie with the Vikings two weeks ago. Detroit has two tough games coming up in Philadelphia and at home against the Ravens. After that they have seeming shoo-ins at home against the Giants and at Minnesota to finish up the season. Tough to see the Lions losing this one here.
What about over in the AFC? The AFC is funny, they have two powerhouse teams at the top in the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, (sorry, Kansas City). The rest of the AFC is just a morass of .500 and below teams. Baltimore currently holds the final wild card spot with a 6-6 record, and there are several 5-7 teams still knocking on the door. It’s funny though, no matter how much things change, they stay the same. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are leading the AFC, as always.
The Denver Broncos lead the AFC at 10-2 and have a one game lead and the tiebreaker over Kansas City (9-3). The Chiefs would pretty much have to lose out to fall out of the playoffs. In the race for the number one seed, the Broncos would appear to have the edge. They play only sub-.500 teams the rest of the way. Home games against Tennessee and the Chargers, followed by road games at Houston and at Oakland.
The Patriots aren’t playing world beaters down the stretch, but they appear to have a slightly more difficult schedule. They host Cleveland this weekend in what should be a trouncing, but then they have potentially tougher games on the road at Miami, and at Baltimore. Denver’s got this if you ask me.
The Colts have the AFC South all but wrapped up with a three game lead over Tennessee. The Bengals have a two game lead in the AFC North over the Ravens and they have three of their final four games at home, but the final game of the season is against the Ravens, Cincinnati kind of has to win out. The Bengals will host the Colts this weekend before traveling to Pittsburgh next weekend, followed by another home game against the Vikings.
The Ravens should handle business against the Vikings at home this weekend, but after that they have a trip to Detroit, and a home game against the Patriots before the penultimate matchup with the Bengals. Tough to see the Ravens going 4-0 during this stretch and overtaking Cincinnati, but stranger things have happened, and the Ravens control their destiny for the second Wild Card.
How about that Wild Card? The other 6-6 team is the PR nightmare Miami Dolphins. Yes, those Miami Dolphins of bullying and fractured locker room fame. I told you the AFC was a morass. In this rollercoaster of a season where Miami started 3-0, then lost four straight, and had their entire worlds turned over due to a clubhouse bullying scandal that blew up into a national story, the Dolphins are firmly in contention for the final playoff spot. I know, I’m having a hard time processing that.
The Dolphins travel to Pittsburgh this weekend, and they host the Patriots the week after that. If they go 0-2, the Dolphins are toast. If they stay afloat (ahem, bad pun), they have a road game in Buffalo and a home game against the Jets to finish the season. If things stay the same between now and Week 17, I’d much rather play the Jets at home, than play the Bengals in Cincinnati to finish the season. Just saying.