It’s a Thursday night showdown with first place on the line… Where’s Bocephus when you need him?

The insanity of this Seahawks season continues, what with that crazy last-minute comeback to beat New England last week.  The Seattle team that would lay down against top competition IN the past couple years (2010 Wild Card notwithstanding) now boasts wins over Dallas, Green Bay and New England–all at home, mind you.  The flipside is that their only road win thus far has come against the lowly Carolina Panthers, while they’re also 0-2 against the NFC West.  That makes tonight’s matchup against the Niners in San Francisco a reel big fish for the Hawks.  A win today could see them with sole possession of first place almost halfway through the season, and with Arizona fading (back-to-back losses against St. Louis and Buffalo), the division could very well come down to the head-to-head record between these two teams.  Of course, we’re only in Week Seven…

Last week, while the Hawks pulled off a big comeback victory over the perennial Super Bowl contenders, the Niners found themselves in tough against the defending champs.  After kicking an early field goal, the San Fran offense stalled, going scoreless for three-and-a-half quarters, while their usually-stout defense gave up 26 points.  Of course, the offense gave the Giants pretty good field position by tossing three picks, which probably didn’t help.  Still, the Niners team that went 13-3 last year didn’t get embarrassed like that on their home turf, so perhaps that leaves the door open for Seattle this year.

Of course, the Hawks do it all with defense, giving up the second-fewest points and rushing yards in the league.  The tall, rangy Seahawks secondary has also led the way in racking up five picks, while the D-Line has posted a whopping 17 sacks on the season.  That certainly doesn’t bode well for Alex Smith and his sprained middle finger, he who’s been sacked 16 times and picked off on four occasions thus far, while posting a paltry 214.5 passing yards per game.  For what it’s worth, his Seattle counterpart, Russell Wilson has thrown six picks and 185 yards a game, but he’s coming off a performance (293 yards, three TDs) that was every bit as good as Smith’s last outing was bad.  It might be worth noting, however, that all six of Wilson’s INTs were thrown on the road.  This will definitely be the rookie’s toughest test away from home, no doot aboot it!

In any case, this is likely going to be a knock-em-down, drag-em-out type effort between two tough Ds and elite RBs Marshawn Lynch (549 yards, two TDs) and Frank Gore (470 yards, four scores).  As per custom, I’ve benched both Gore and TE Vernon Davis, who I’m in the process of trading, on my fantasy team this week.  I’ve also partaken this evening in another one of my Seahawks winning rituals: the halibut burrito!

I know it may sound strange, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look–and taste–delicious!  I usually go for one of these after every Seahawks win, but because the game doesn’t start till 8:30 tonight, I had to grab one before kickoff.  I’m hoping it’ll bring the team luck; hey, it sure seemed to work on Monday Night Football against the Packers! Seahawks 14, Niners 12. ;)

LET’S GO HAWKS!!!!

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So, which Seahawks squad shows up this afternoon?

As a long-time, die-hard Seattle Seahawks fan, if you had told me a month ago that the Hawks would head into October at 2-2, I would have believed you, no problem.  After all, they had a couple winnable divisional games against the Cardinals and the Rams, whereas they played host to the powerhouse Packers and Cowboys.  A .500 record through four games was certainly a realistic achievement–albeit how they got there was somewhat unexpected.

By far the best performance of the season came in Week Two, when the Hawks got up on the Cowboys early due to turnovers, then put together a couple long drives in the second half to seal the deal, 27-7.  This, coming off a season’s opener in Arizona where they couldn’t move the ball, and had about six shots at the end zone in the dying seconds without completing a pass–and suddenly, things didn’t seem too bad in Sea-Town going in to the Monday nighter against the Packers.  Of course, we all know what happened in the Scab Ref Bowl, but controversial Hail Mary aside, it was an outstanding defensive effort against Aaron Rodgers and the Pack.

There’s no denying it, the Sea-Fense has been solid: they’re second in the league in points, yards and rushing yards allowed, and a very respectable ninth against the pass.  This team has not given up more than 20 points in a game this season–and yet, they’ve lost two of them.  That’s because when the coin lands on tails, you get their offensive rankings: 28th in points and yards, dead-last in passing yardage–and a solid sixth in rushing.  Marshawn Lynch has carried at least 20 times for no fewer than 85 yards in each of the first four games, but it’s becoming apparent that he can’t carry the team to victory every week.

The problem’s plain to see: they’ve got a rookie quarterback.  I know, I know, Russell Wilson put up better numbers than prized free-agent-signing Matt Flynn in preseason, but he’s just not getting ‘er done against first-team defenses.  He’s barely completing 50 per cent of his passes, has only averaged over 10 yards per completion once (a whopping 13.0 ypc against the Pack), and last week set season highs in completion percentage (68 per cent) and passing yards (160)–but he also threw three interceptions, including one that ended a late-game go-ahead drive.  Oh, and did I mention that the Rams defense isn’t all that great?  While the run-game and the Sea-Fense keep this team competitive, it might soon be time to put Flynn in…

Here’s the crazy thing, though.  After beating the Hawks last weekend, the Rams surprised the Cards on Thursday, and now boast a 2-0 record against the NFC West.  The Seahawks, meanwhile, are 0-2 and in danger of becoming the only team in the division with a losing record, should they fall today.  Nobody expected the West to be the best this year, but in a highly competitive race, no less than second place will make the playoffs.  Today’s matchup with the Carolina Panthers is not only Seattle’s most winnable game in a tough October (with trips to Detroit and San Francisco looming, plus hosting the Patriots next Sunday), it’s also become a must-win.  Did I mention the Hawks are 0-2 on the road?

Of course, the Panthers aren’t playing so perfect, either.  Despite residing in the NFC’s weakest division, where only the unbeaten Falcons have a winning record, Carolina is just 1-3 so far, their lone win coming at home over the surprisingly-winless Saints.  Their offense only averages 20 points per game, and they’re middle-of-the-pack in most offensive categories, while giving up 27 points or more to three of their first four foes.  Cam Newton is clearly an outstanding raw talent, but he’s only thrown for 300 yards once this year, and has tossed more picks than majors.  Mind you, his 253 passing yards per game is almost double Russell Wilson’s output–and he’s got a decent ground game behind him, to boot.

That said, if the Sea-Fense can shut down Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, it’s safe to say they could keep Cam Newton in check–if this game was in Seattle, that is.  On the road, well, it might be a different story.  Still, Carolina has been held to 10 points or fewer twice this season, against the less-than-stellar Bucs and Giants defenses, no less.  It will probably take a similar effort for Seattle to win, but hey, they aren’t the second-stingiest defense for nothing.  Seahawks 17, Panthers 10.

Looks like this year I won’t hafta worry about missing a Seahawks game for the Bills in Toronto Series!

Though football is my favourite sport, I’m not one of those geeks who goes wild over the release of the NFL schedule.  I mean, we’re right in the middle of the NHL playoffs, and I’ve still got a full CFL season to worry about.  I’ll start paying attention to the NFL when it’s Labour Day–hell, I haven’t even done the fantasy football thing these past coupla years…

That said, the announcement of this year’s NFL schedule was followed by an email from the Bills in Toronto Series about Buffalo’s opponent for the final(?) installment of an event that I’ve been attending for the past four seasons, and I could hardly believe my eyes when I read that…

THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS ARE COMING TO TORONTO!!!!

As the only die-hard Hawks fan in the T-Dot, this is kinda like an early Christmas present for me.  Well, late birthday present would be more accurate, I suppose.  But damn, the last time I saw the Hawks, I had to travel to the West Coast for the occasion.  Pretty psyched that they’ll be playing the Bills in my backyard–and that’s one less Hawks game I’ll hafta miss on account of the Bills in TO.

From the home team’s perspective, this game makes a lotta sense.  After giving us two key rivalry games in the Jets and Dolphins the first two years, Ralph Wilson et al decided that they might as well put games in Toronto that weren’t gonna sell out at Orchard Park, pitting the Bills against the Bears and Redskins the past two seasons.  There were seemingly more Chicago fans than Buffaloans at that first one, especially in the lower level, which is hardly anything new.  Each game of the series has brought out a large cheering section for the opposition, including exhibition games against the Steelers and Colts (where I finally saw Peyton play–for a quarter, anyways).  Last year was a bit different, with more fans of the then- 4-2 Bills willing to make the trip, while the 3-3 Skins didn’t have too many proud supporters where I was sitting.

This year, the AFC East and NFC West are matched up in inter-conference play, which is probably of more benefit to the former, especially with half of those games in the Eastern Timezone.  However, the Bills are accommodating their visitors by starting the game at 4:05 pm, which certainly benefits the folks watching on TV back in Seattle.  Can’t see too many of ‘em making the trip, though there might be a few Vancouverites in town for this one.  Hey, as long as we don’t talk hockey, I’m okay with that.  Sucks about the Nucks–I was hoping they’d get swept! ;)

Alas, while I’ve always sat in the 500 level for Bills games at Rogers Centre, I’m willing to spend a bit more to be closer to the action for this one–as long as I’m on the Seahawks sideline.  Can’t imagine the atmosphere being anything like Qwest Field, but I hope I won’t be the only one wearing green down there.  I think it’s time to retire my Doug Flutie jersey anyways–that thing barely fit me last year, and Satan knows I haven’t gotten any skinnier…

LET’S GO HAWKS! 12/16/12, BABY!

With a win today, the Niners essentially clinch the NFC West. How the heck did that happen!?

Back in 2005, the Seattle Seahawks ran roughshod over their division, amassing a conference-best 13-3 record en route to an NFC title.  No other team in the NFC West finished better than 6-10 as Seattle lapped the field, with only two out of six divisional wins decided by less than two touchdowns.  If I bring this up now, it’s not because I’m pining for the fjords–well actually, yes I am!–but rather because I see the same thing happening this season, except that the team who’s head, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest of the division isn’t the Seahawks, but the San Francisco 49ers.

That’s right, the same Niners who haven’t even made the playoffs since realignment are now running away with the division, and only the undefeated Packers have a better record than their 8-1 mark.  How the hell did that happen!?  I mean, isn’t this the same team that wasted the first overall pick on Alex Smith, and changes coaches like they change their drawers?  Well yes, but it seems they’ve finally found the right boss in Jim Harbaugh, whose miracle work has magically turned Alex Smith into a winner.  Mind you, Smith has only put up more yards passing than the opposing QB once all season–and that was when he threw for a whopping 201 yards in a 13-8 win over Cincinnati in Week 3.  But they’ve been winning games on the ground and on defence, playing old-school, hard-nosed football, beating teams that might look better on paper, but turned out not to be on the turf.

In fact, if you take away their Week 1 win against Seattle (and yes, Tavaris freakin’ Jackson threw for more yards than Smith in that one!), where they returned two kicks for touchdowns in the last five minutes, the Niners have only topped 30 points once, in a complete 48-3 destruction of Tampa Bay that no one saw coming.  And even in that game, Smith only threw for 170.  But they rushed for 213, with Frank Gore leading the way, as he’s done for years.  It always helps to have a running back who’s a top-tier performer at his position.

On defence, Gore’s counterpart is Patrick Willis, a stellar linebacker who was one missed game last year away from starting his career with four straight 140-tackle seasons (he finished with 128).  This season, he’s on pace for 140-150, has already tied his career high in forced fumbles, and is two passes defended away from doing the same–through nine games.  He leads a unit that hasn’t given up more than 27 points in a game this year, and leads the league against the rush.  You don’t need to score 30 points to win a game when you only give up 15!  (Did I mention that they’re also first in fewest points per game allowed?)

Alas, with the Niners sitting pretty at 8-1, no other team in the division is better than 3-6.  And with Arizona in town this afternoon, the Niners could all but seal up the division today.  Sure, if the Seahawks beat the Rams, they’d be mathematically within striking distance, but at five games back with six to play, they’d hafta go undefeated–and win the rematch in Week 16–to have any kind of hope at a Wild Card berth.  Cuz with four of its six remaining games against NFC West foes, there’s no way San Fran won’t win the division.

Mind you, if they get screwed by the refs in the Super Bowl this year, I can’t say I’ll shed any tears in the process. ;)

Alcohol 1, Liver 0

Well, Sunday didn’t get off to a good start, what with the Stamps giving up 55 points to the Tabbies in Moncton.  Suffice to say that I finished off that sixer of Tiger Beer.  At least the Hawks followed it up with their first win of the season, putting them right in the thick of things in the NFC West.

But since the Seattle-Arizona game wasn’t televised on digital cable TV in Toronto, I had to go to my local sports bar to watch the game, which meant another 5 pints of 50, since they didn’t have any shitty Mexican beer (see update to CFL Drinking Guide post) on tap.

Here’s the final tally:

Beers consumed: 11

Money spent: 50 bucks ($6.20 a pint, plus $10.40 for a sixer of Tiger.  Oh, and a pound of the best Buffalo wings north of the border.  Delish!)

Seattle scoring their first win of the season: Priceless!

Going to work tomorrow: Don’t even mention it…