Could the Seahawks go all the way to the Super Bowl this year? Well… maybe!

A couple days ago, I hinted that the Super Bowl would be decided between the Broncos and the Patriots in the AFC championship.  And I still believe the Broncos are the best team in the league right now; really, the only team that could knock them off would be the Pats.  On the other hand, the NFC is a lot more wide open.  It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say the Seattle Seahawks could win the conference championship–or that they could lose in the first round.  But as a Hawks fan, I must say I like their chances.

Seattle is certainly one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now.  Not only did they end the regular season on a five-game winning streak, they swept through December in style, putting up a whopping 193 points while allowing just 60.  That’s an average margin of victory of 26.6 points per game, which is more points than most teams even score.  Not only does Seattle boast a top-10 scoring offense buoyed by the third-ranked rushing attack, they also allow fewer points per game than any other NFL team.  The SeaFense is 10th against the rush, sixth against the pass and fourth in fewest total yards allowed.  Hey, you know what they say, defense wins championships, right?

And like I said, there really is no clear cut favourite in the NFC.  The first-ranked Atlanta Falcons had the benefit of playing in a weakened NFC South division, with the added bonus of facing the AFC West in their non-conference schedule.  Aside from the Broncos, no AFC West team had a winning record this season, and the division boasted two of the NFL’s worst five teams in the Chiefs and Raiders.  Is it any wonder the Falcons went 4-0 against the AFC?  Meanwhile, the Seahawks have already beaten both San Francisco and Green Bay this season, although the latter win was highly questionable, to put it mildly…

Sooooo, what’s standing in Seattle’s way, then?  Well, how about the Washington Redskins?  The Skins had an even more impressive finish than the Hawks, winning seven straight games to take the NFC East title.  Along the way, they put up at least 28 points in all but one of those contests, beating the playoff-contending Giants, Ravens and the Cowboys.  In fact, they beat Dallas twice, including a 28-18 Week 17 whuppin’ to win the division.  Washington boasts a top-five offense, both in points and total yards, while rushing for more yards than any other team in the league–including Seattle.  But if defense wins championships, the Redskins’ 24.2 points and 377.7 yards allowed per contest just ain’t gonna get the job done.

Mind you, if Seattle were to win today–and I certainly think they will–they’d then hafta travel to Atlanta.  And while the Falcons did drop a couple questionable contests on the road, their only home loss this season came in Week 17, when they had nothing to gain by winning.  Along the way, they sent Denver, Dallas, New Orleans and New York home in defeat, shutting out the Giants 34-0 in Week 15.  Atlanta also boasts a top 10 offense, both in scoring and total yards, while their sixth-ranked passing attack would challenge the Seahawks’ sixth-ranked pass defense.  Meanwhile, the Falcons defense can stop ‘em when it counts, allowing the fifth-fewest points this season despite finishing in the bottom 10 in rushing, passing and total yards allowed.

As you can see, it won’t be an easy road for Seattle just to get to the NFC championship, where a rematch would loom, on the road, with either the Packers or the Niners.  The Hawks would definitely have some confidence going up against a San Francisco team that they disassembled 42-13 just two days before Christmas, but going up against the Packers in Green Bay, well, let’s just say that the regular officials probably won’t make the same mistake. ;)

In any case, while I might have predicted a Denver-Atlanta Super Bowl, I’ll still be cheering for Seattle every step of the way…

LET’S GO HAWKS!!!!

UPDATE 01/06: Well, Seattle took their first step towards the Super Bowl today.  Playing in a hostile environment, they dispatched the Redskins 24-14, earning the franchise’s first road playoff win since 1983!  It got off to a bit of an ugly start, Washington scoring TDs on their first two drives–but then the SeaFense clamped down, holding the Skins to just 69 yards of offense over the final three quarters.  Although they didn’t capitalize on all their drives, the offense played well enough to win, putting 380 yards on the board.  Marshawn Lynch had another Beastly playoff game, rushing for 132 yards on 20 carries, including the go-ahead TD.  Of course, you could say Seattle was helped by a gimpy RG3, who went down for good in the fourth–but hey, a win is a win…  Now, bring on the Falcons!

UPDATE 01/13: Although I had picked Atlanta to win beforehand, I was still cheering for the Seahawks all the way.  Great second-half effort to take a one-point lead with 35 seconds to play, but the SeaFense couldn’t keep ‘em outta field goal range.  30-28 Falcons.  That comeback leaves Seattle with nothing to hang their heads about, but the way the game ended is sure to leave a bitter taste in the mouths, both of the team and of Seahawks fans, myself included.  But hey, like I said in my prediction post, we’ll get ‘em next year, though…

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Here we go… My 2012 NFL playoff predictions!

*Note that while the calendar currently reads 2013, the league considers this a continuation of the 2012 season, and thus, for all intents and purposes, these are the 2012 playoffs.

Looking at the NFL playoff picture, one thing is certain: We will not have a repeat champion this year.  Although the New York Giants matched last season’s record of 9-7, that wasn’t enough to make the playoffs in the NFC this season, thanks to Week 17 wins by the Vikings, Bears and Redskins.  That said, I really think the National Conference is up for grabs this year–and not just due to New York’s absence.  The NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons came from the conference’s worst division–one whose second-best team finished 11th–and still managed to lose to the Panthers, Saints and Bucs.  Meanwhile, the pack behind them couldn’t be much tighter, as the only thing separating a first-round bye from a Wild Card spot was a Patriots comeback that came up seven points short against the Niners.  If New England wins that game in Week 15, Seattle finishes second.  As it stands, they ended up fifth–but I don’t think anyone’s sleeping on the Seahawks after their red-hot December finish…

Over in the AFC, we seem to be heading towards a showdown between Peyton Manning’s Broncos and Tom Brady’s Patriots.  The Houston Texans, who stormed out of the gate at 10-1, ended up without a bye by finishing the season with ugly losses to New England, Minny and Indy.  Frankly, I don’t think they’ll even make it out of the first round.  But I also don’t see anyone else who can challenge the Broncs or the Pats, not if their Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks come through in the clutch–something both have a habit of doing.  So, who ends up across the sidelines from each other in Super Bowl XLVII?  Read on to find out!

NFC

WILD CARD

Vikings @ Packers, January 5th: This matchup is particularly interesting considering that the Vikings had to beat the Packers in Week 17 just to earn a playoff berth–and they did so in dramatic fashion, hitting a last-second field goal to walk off 37-34 winners.  Mind you, that was within the friendly domed confines of the Mall of America Field, not the frozen tundra of Lambeau, where they must travel for the rematch.  And Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is another one of those QBs who comes through when it counts; in fact, he threw for 365 yards in last week’s near-comeback loss, which cost the Bay a bye.  On the other side of the ball, the Packers defence could barely hold Adrian Peterson below the single-season rushing record, giving up 199 yards–but let’s see how AP runs in the snow.  I think the Packers squeak this one out, but it’ll be closer than you think.  28-27 Pack.

Seahawks @ Redskins, January 6th: Of all the teams in the NFC playoff picture, the Skins are the one I least wanted my Hawks to face.  After all, the only National team with a longer season-ending streak than Seattle’s five wins is Washington, with seven.  Both sides boast explosive rookie quarterbacks and top-three rushing offenses, but the biggest difference is on D, where Seattle allowed the fewest points and fourth-fewest yards in the league this season.  The Skins finished 22nd and 28th in those respective categories, giving up nine more points and 70 more yards per game than Seattle.  But Washington is most vulnerable against the pass; in fact, their 96 rushing yards allowed are seven fewer than the Seahawks.  The biggest question is probably whether Seattle can win on the road, as they were just 3-5 away from CenturyLink.  But statistically speaking, the Redskins have the worst homefield advantage of any NFC playoff team, dropping three games at FedEx Field this season.  Methinks that’s a good omen.  Seahawks 24, Redskins 20.

SEMI-FINALS

Packers @ 49ers, January 12th: In the very first week of the 2012 season, the Niners traveled to Green Bay and pulled off a stunning 30-22 upset en route to a 4-1 start.  But they sorta stumbled down the stretch, tying the Rams once and losing in OT a second time, getting starched by the Seahawks and nearly coughing up a 28-point lead to the Pats.  The Pack fared a bit better, winning four straight up to that Week 17 loss, although in their toughest post-bye-week test, they got crushed 38-10 by the Giants.  But with a few key Niners a bit banged up, the biggest question is at quarterback, where second-year player Colin Kaepernick makes his first playoff start.  The man across the field from him, well, you could say he’s done this before.  Advantage Rodgers and Green Bay, 32-23

Seahawks @ Falcons, January 13th: Assuming they beat the Redskins in the Wild Card round, Seattle will have vanquished every NFC playoff team this season–except for the Falcons, the lone great unknown.  And while Washington was barely batting above .500 at home this season, the Falcons only lost once in their roost–a meaningless Week 17 setback to Tampa.  Atlanta lives and dies by the pass, finishing fourth from the bottom in rushing, and while they give up a lotta yardage on defense (365.6 ypg), they finished fifth in fewest points allowed (18.7 per).  Of course, the Hawks led the league in the latter category, while surrendering a meagre 203 passing yards per game as the NFL’s sixth stingiest team in that regard.  While not evenly matched, the two teams appear to match up well on paper.  But again, it might come down to the quarterbacks.  As much as Russell Wilson has improved this year, he put up much-better numbers at home than on the road.  And while Matt Ryan has never won, or even been to, the big one, he had a steady season of 4,700 yards and 32 TD passes.  Given the homefield advantage over a team that lost to Miami and Detroit on the road, I think he and the Falcons will prevail, handing Seattle another close, disappointing loss.  Falcons 28, Seahawks 24. (We’ll get ‘em next year, though!)

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

Packers @ Falcons, January 20th: Last year, I had the Pack beating the Saints in a high-scoring, 52-48 affair.  As it turns out, the Pack only put up 20 points–and lost by 17 to the Giants.  But this year’s NFC championship has all the makings of another shootout, as the fifth- and seventh-highest scoring offenses do battle, led by the sixth- and ninth-ranked passing attacks.  Matt Ryan may have put up some 325 more yards than his Green Bay counterpart on the season, but I hafta give the edge to Rodgers’ scintillating 39-8 TD-to-INT ratio.  Which doesn’t necessarily mean Green Bay wins, mind you.  In a game like this, you gotta look for an X-Factor, and I’m looking at Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez.  The all-time leading pass catcher at his position, he’s pretty certain that this will be his last season.  Remember when the Steelers went into “Win it for Bettis” mode in the ’05 playoffs?  As a Seahawks fan, I’d rather not–but I think the inspiration, if not the refs, will factor into this one.  Did I mention that Atlanta hasn’t lost a meaningful home game all year?  Falcons 37, Packers 32.

AFC

WILD CARD

Bengals @ Texans, January 5th: Oddly enough, these two teams met at the same stadium in the first round last year.  Circumstances were slightly different, however, as Houston was stuck with T.J. Yates at quarterback and they stumbled down the stretch with three straight losses–yet they went on to spank Cincy 31-10.  And while the Texans did struggle again this December, at least they’ve still got Matt Schaub.  But they’re also facing a better Bengals team in 2012, one that finished with back-to-back signature wins over Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  Thus, I am once again picking Cincy, hoping that this time, I’ll get it right.  Bengals 28, Texans 20.

Colts @ Ravens, January 6th: The Ravens are another team that backed its way into the playoffs, losing four of their last five games to playoff contenders Cincy, Denver, Washington and Pittsburgh (the Steelers ended up in seventh place).  While those other teams had to win down the stretch to get in, Baltimore did so by losing–though they still managed to capture the AFC’s most competitive division.  That said, the vaunted Baltimore defense took a step back towards the middle of the pack this year, giving up 351 total yards (17th) and 123 rushing yards (20th) per game.  On the other hand, you have the exciting young Colts, a team that parlayed a 2-14 finish a year ago into the number one pick, and have turned things all the way around to 11-5 under Andrew Luck.  The Stanford product didn’t have stellar statistics, with 23 TDs and 18 INTs and a 76.5 QB rating–but he did set a new rookie record for passing yards.  What’s more, he always seemed to find ways to win, leading his team to several dramatic victories (albeit over mediocre competition).  Against a team that’s hardly done anything but lose in December, I think Luck will add to his legacy.  Colts 27, Ravens 23.

SEMI-FINALS

Bengals @ Broncos, January 12th: Let’s face it, if Cincy makes it to this point, they’re probably just happy to be here.  This is a team that has had little in the way off playoff success since the days of Ickey Woods, Cris Collinsworth and Boomer Esiason.  And with their 22nd ranked offense (in yards per game), this year’s edition isn’t bound for postseason glory, either.  On the other side, you’ve got a Broncos team that put up the second-most points and fourth-most yards per game this season, all while giving up the third-fewest yards against both the run and the pass.  The top seed in the AFC has not been defeated since the first week of October, and their only three losses came to teams with a combined record of 37-11.  Cincinnati is simply not in that category.  Broncos 31, Bengals 10.

Colts @ Patriots, January 13th: Now, this should be a good one, The Chosen One against The Next Big Thing.  Or so CBS would have you believe.  The reality is that when Indy went down to Foxboro in Week 11, they got their asses handed to them, 59-24.  And forget about a fourth-quarter comeback–the Pats outscored Indy 35-7 in the second half!  As they showed in that game, the Colts’ 26th ranked defense simply can’t stop Tom Brady, while Luck finished 27-for-50 with three interceptions.  Like the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Colts QB will walk away from 2012 with an impressive rookie record, but tis not the time for playoff domination just yet.  Patriots 35, Colts 14.

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

Patriots @ Broncos, January 20th: CBS scored the prime-time Sunday night slot for the AFC championship, and this here’s the reason why.  It doesn’t take a whole lotta hype to sell an audience on a matchup of the two highest-scoring teams in the NFL, particularly with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady at the helm.  But while the Broncos matched their offensive output with an almost-equally impressive defensive showing this season, the Patriots D gave up the fourth most passing yards in the league.  Uh-oh.  Does it even need to be mentioned that Manning had an MVP-caliber season, racking up 4,659 passing yards and 37 TDs?  I don’t think this game will be as ugly as, say, Patriots-Colts Week 11, but with the homefield advantage, methinks Denver will avenge its Week 5 setback.  Broncos 37, Patriots 24

SUPER BOWL XLVII

Broncos vs. Falcons @ New Orleans, February 3rd: Super Bowl 47, should things play out as I anticipated, would not be the first matchup between Denver and Atlanta in The Big Game.  Super Bowl XXXIII, way back in 1999, saw a Denver team quarterbacked by John Elway win its second straight championship over a Dirty Bird Atlanta squad whose tight end was a Canadian kid outta Kent State by the name of O.J. Santiago.  Now, Santiago’s career numbers of 1,041 yards and nine TDs would be considered a pretty good season for Tony Gonzalez, the current Atlanta TE and Jerome Bettis of Super Bowl XLVII.  But hey, the refs aren’t gonna screw Peyton Manning, are they?

In any case, they probably won’t have to.  With their high-powered offense and stifling defense, the 2012 Broncs could very well repeat Elway’s 34-19 butt-kicking of Atlanta in ’99, a game that was over by the time Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (remember when swing was back in?) took the stage at the half.  That one also featured another future Hall-of-Famer, record-holding tight end in Shannon Sharpe, although he was also on the winning side.  Of course, with his second-straight Super Bowl victory, Elway rode off into the sunset, but methinks Peyton probably has another one left in him.  So does Matt Ryan, perhaps, some day.  But not so for Tony G–unless the refs whistle Manning for a low block after he throws a pick.

(No, I will not ever get over that call.  I am taking it to my grave, along with “We want the ball, and we’re gonna score” and the ghostly spectre of Rick Mirer!)

Wait, where was I?  Oh yeah, Broncos 34, Falcons 19 for old time’s sake. Hey, it’s the other Manning who wins those close championship games–and his team’s not even in the playoffs…

UPDATE: 01/07: Well, my Wild Card predictions didn’t go so well.  I blew both AFC games, big time, and the Packers-Vikings wasn’t nearly as close as I predicted.  Of course, had I known that Christian Ponder wouldn’t play, I might have bumped up Green Bay’s margin of victory…  The only game I did get right was the Seahawks and Redskins.  As it turns out, I nailed Seattle’s final point total, but I gave six points too many to the Skins, calling it 24-20.  Oh well, I can live with that.  Interestingly enough, 24 turned out to be the magic number of the first round; three of the four winning teams scored exactly 24 points this weekend.  That’s quite the trifecta!

UPDATE 01/12: And with a field goal that barely squeaked past the upright in double overtime, my Super Bowl champions have been eliminated in their first playoff game.  Peyton Manning showed some flashes of brilliance, but he definitely didn’t look like a young Peyton Manning out there.  That loss-inducing pick was almost Tebowesque–except Tebow tends to complete that pass in overtime.  Anyways, I expect he’ll be fired up to give it another go next season, but on the other hand, after today’s performance Champ Bailey might wanna go ahead and announce his retirement.

Anyways, since I need to make a new Super Bowl prediction now, I gotta go with Ray Lewis 28, Tony Gonzalez 17 in the goodbye game… ;)

The agony of missing the playoffs in fantasy football…

Early in the season, my fantasy football team was following the same path as the Seattle Seahawks.  Coming off a big Week Seven win, the Calgary Seahawks (yes, that’s the name of my fantasy team!) were 5-2 and near the top of my league.  But as Seattle headed into its bye week with two straight wins, my Hawks were hitting rock-bottom, registering four straight losses from Weeks Eight to 11.  The last two setbacks were by three points apiece, which only made matters worse.

In Week 10, with Aaron Rodgers and the Pack on a bye, I turned to Ben Roethlisberger in the Sunday nighter–and he just happened to get hurt early in the third quarter after a mediocre first half, leaving me just short of victory.  The following week, I had Frank Gore in the Monday nighter, while my opponent had Vernon Davis.  My four-point lead was erased as Gore didn’t score, rushing for 78 yards, while Davis caught passes for 83 and a TD.  And just like that, I was 5-6.

Fortunately, I had a favourable schedule down the stretch, facing two teams at the bottom of the league that weren’t actively managed.  That said, while the top two teams had long locked up playoff positions, there was a real dogfight going on for the third, and especially the fourth, postseason spots.  Come Week 14, we had two teams at 7-6 and two more at 6-7, though only one of them could make the playoffs in our 10-team league.  Luckily, I was going up against the worst team in fantasy-football history, one whose owner had logged in once since the start of the season to trade Chris Johnson for the aforementioned Davis (clearly, I was asleep at the switch when that trade was accepted) and failed to replace him with another RB in his starting lineup, going with just one back from then on out.  This guy also kept Peyton Manning on the bench all year, while starting Andy Dalton, and had Greg Jennings and Randy Moss at receiver, despite the fact that the former had been injured and the latter invisible for most of the season.  Suffice to say, I laid down the fantasy equivalent of Seattle’s 58-o Arizona beatdown, winning by a league-record 86 points.  But even then, I needed some help to get in…

As it turns out, one of the 7-6 teams was going up against the top team in the league, who proceeded to put up even more fantasy points than I did (151 to my 142), with the likes of Brandon Marshall, Brandon Lloyd, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch all having huge days.  (For the record, I passed on Lynch to pick Rodgers in the first round, and have been plagued with injuries and inconsistency at the running back position ever since!)  Interestingly enough, the other 7-6 squad was facing off against the second 6-7 team, who had fought their way into contention with five straight wins, including that game where Davis bested Gore in Week 11.  They’d also picked up Chris Johnson in the interim, but just when I was counting on them to continue their winning ways, they really laid an egg.  The same team that had beaten me three weeks earlier played so poorly that they would’ve only bested my Week 14 opponent, the worst team in fantasy-football history, by a mere nine points.  Ouch!

Now, I’m not sure how the Yahoo fantasy tiebreaker system works, but thanks to my Week 14 domination (did I mention I had the SeaFence in my starting lineup?  41 fantasy points, baby!), I finished with the third-most fantasy points throughout the season and the third-best cumulative margin of victory, only behind the two teams that ran away from everyone else.  But while on paper, I might’ve been the third-best team in the league, those two three-point losses had me finishing in fifth place in a format where only the top four teams make the playoffs.  Now ain’t that a kick in the head!

In any case, I can’t be too upset at the shortcomings of my fantasy team, because my Seahawks (the Seattle Seahawks, that is) could pretty much clinch a playoff spot by beating Buffalo this Sunday.  A Seattle win, combined with a Redskins loss to Cleveland, means the Seahawks can finish no worse than sixth in the NFC.  (I think the Rams might need to lose too, but Seattle plays ‘em at CenturyLink in Week 17 anyways.)  Now, to their credit, the Browns have won three straight–albeit against KC, Oakland and a Pittsburgh team starting Charlie Batch at quarterback.  But if Robert Griffin can’t go, Washington’s loss could be Seattle’s gain.  In any case, the Buffalo-Seattle game just happens to take place in Toronto, so I’ll be there to cheer on my team, one way or another. :D

LET’S GO HAWKS!!!!

The NFC Wild Card race just got a lot more interesting…

At this time last week, the Seattle Seahawks sat at 6-5, tied with Minnesota and Tampa Bay for the last playoff spot in the NFC.  Fortunately, they pulled off a big road win in Chicago last Sunday, just as I had hoped, while both the Bucs and the Vikes were unlucky losers.  Now, heading into this week, the Hawks find themselves a game ahead of Tampa and Minny–but also the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, who are both very much alive in the NFC East.  Furthermore, the St. Louis Rams, by avoiding a second tie against San Fran this season, are only a game and a half back, with a win over Seattle in their back pocket.

Alas, while St. Louis did defeat the Seahawks way back in Week Four, Seattle has a chance to even the score in Week 17–should the Rams somehow still be in the hunt by then.  The Hawks also boast wins over Minnesota and Dallas, effectively putting them two games ahead of each team.  But they won’t meet the Bucs or the Skins this season, so we could very well be in for a three-horse race.  In fact, with four games remaining, I wouldn’t put the Vikes or the Cowboys out of the picture, either.

That said, Seattle has a pretty favourable schedule down the stretch, with three games at home, and one at a neutral site.  Granted, there will probably be more Bills backers than Seahawks supporters at Rogers Centre next Sunday, but if Buffalo loses today, their slim playoff hopes will go up in smoke.  Toronto Series aside, the Hawks host three divisional opponents this month, as St. Louis, San Francisco and Arizona all come to town, with the Cards already in the Emerald City.  They may not be down to their third-string quarterback anymore, but Arizona’s passing attack is still pretty whack, and they haven’t been putting points on the board all season.  This is a very winnable game for Seattle, especially with the 12th man behind them.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys head to Cincy to face a 7-5 Bengals squad still battling for a playoff spot in the AFC.  This is almost a must-win game for both sides, but coming off four-straight wins–including a 31-13 shellacking of the New York Football Giants–I’d put my money on the home team.  Likewise, the Redskins face a tough test against their in-state rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, who lead the AFC North.  The Skins are on a hot streak of their own, but can they break through the stingy (20.2 points allowed) Ravens D?  That remains to be seen…

Minnesota, for their part, hosts the Chicago Bears squad that’s coming off a loss to Seattle.  With the Bears and Packers tied atop the NFC North, Chicago won’t take this one lightly, and I expect their ball-hawking defense to give Christian Ponder fits all afternoon.  But if there’s one 6-6 team with a reasonable shot at victory, it’s Tampa Bay, who hosts the 3-9 Eagles.  Philly’s down to its backup QB and RB, and without its top receiver, but they still managed to put up 423 yards and 33 points at Dallas.  I certainly wouldn’t sleep on Nick Foles or Bryce Brown–especially since the latter burned my fantasy football team last week. :(

So there you have it, the Seahawks could come into Toronto with a two-game lead in the NFC Wild Card race, whereby beating Buffalo would pretty much wrap up a playoff spot.  Incidentally, the Bills are playing host to the Rams today, so one of those teams will be out of their respective playoff picture by 4 o’clock or so…

LET’S GO HAWKS!!!

UPDATE 6:15 PM: Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned.  Minnesota, Dallas and Washington all won, the last two in the dying seconds or OT.  But the Bucs blew it against Philly, and with Chicago losing to the Vikes, Seattle’s all set to take over the fifth seed.  Did I mention the Hawks are leading 38-0 at halftime?  Now that’s what I call a statement game! :D

If the Seahawks were to ever win a road game, this would be a good time to do it…

I gotta say, 2012 has been a step forward so far for the Seattle Seahawks.  The SeaFense is shutting teams down, Marshawn Lynch is running over people, Russell Wilson is starting to come into his own–at least at CenturyLink Field.  The Seahawks are a perfect 5-0 at home this year, including wins over Dallas, New England and Green Bay (even if that last one probably should’ve been a loss).  But on the other hand, the 6-5 Hawks have won just once on the road, against the lowly Carolina Panthers.  They’ve got three home games left, so 9-7 isn’t out of the question, but will that be enough to land them a Wild Card berth?

Well, if the Hawks miss the playoffs this year, their last two road losses will come back to haunt ‘em.  Last week, they held the Miami Dolphins at bay for the better part of three quarters, but a couple crucial defensive mistakes cost ‘em late, as they lost 24-21 on a last-second field goal.  Likewise, they had largely kept the Detroit Lions offense in check in Week Eight, but gave the ball back to Stafford and co with a couple minutes on the clock, giving up a game-winning drive in the dying seconds to fall to 4-4.  Now, the Hawks have just two road games remaining–one of which is right here in Toronto–and they need a big statement game to avoid being one-and-done in the playoffs.  Lest we forget, a Wild Card team doesn’t get any home games in the postseason…

Now, I really think Seattle should beat Buffalo in a couple weeks.  It’s a pretty favourable matchup on paper, and the 4-7 Bills are just another loss away from kissing their playoff hopes goodbye.  On the other hand, the Hawks should still be in the thick of things come Week 15–but they might be on the outside looking in come the 16th if they don’t get a win this week.  And you can bet they won’t be looking ahead to the Bills when they’re up against a playoff-caliber opponent, the type of team they could meet in a first round game…  the 8-3 Chicago Bears.

Now, the Bears don’t really light it up on offense.  In fact, they’re dead-last in the league in passing yardage (the only team behind Seattle!), and 30th in total yards.  But if they still score 25 points a game, it’s because their defense is usually good for a touchdown or two.  In fact, they’ve scored eight of them this season, with 20 picks and 13 fumble recoveries.  For a rookie QB like Wilson, this ought to be his toughest road test yet.

That said, I think the kid might finally be up for the challenge.  In his last two road games, those oh-so-agonizing defeats to Detroit and Miami, he put up a respectable 460 yards passing with 4 TDs and just one pick.  Those costly early-season turnovers have been all but eliminated, and of course, he’ll need to continue to be mistake-free for his team to have a chance.  On the other side of the ball, I don’t see any Bears receivers who’ll pose too much of a threat to the third-ranked Seattle pass defense, particularly if the front seven puts pressure on Jay Cutler and the swiss-cheese Chicago O-Line.  This could very well come down to a matchup between Lynch and Matt Forte, not unlike the Week Nine showdown between Beastmode and Adrian Peterson.  AP might have rolled up more yardage in that one, but Seattle won the game, beating the Vikings 30-20.

Then again, there’s no way I see the Hawks putting up 30 points on the Bears at Soldier Field.  For Seattle to score an upset, this should be a low-scoring contest.  But I think they can do it.  Seahawks 14, Bears 12–a final tally the NFC North isn’t unfamiliar with, either. ;)

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!!!!

As goes Seattle, so goes my fantasy football team…

It’s been a couple years since I actually played fantasy football, though it seems my skills are still pretty sharp.  Through six weeks of the season, my team sits at 4-2, the same record as my beloved Seattle Seahawks.  What’s crazy is not only do we have the same record, but our wins and losses occurred at the same time.  When they win, I win and when they lose, I lose–at least that seems to be the case this season.

Oddly enough, I don’t have any individual Seahawks players on my team, although the top-ranked SeaFense mighta been the best 13th-round pick I ever made.  One rule I have in fantasy football is that I never start anybody on my team when they’re playing my team, ie the Hawks.  That move paid off in spades in Week 3 when I subbed out Aaron Rodgers for Ben Roethlisberger, and the latter put up 32 fantasy points while the reigning MVP was held to just 10.6 against the suffocating SeaFense.  Mind you, that week’s fantasy matchup didn’t come down to a Hail Mary in the dying seconds–I won by almost 40 points.  Otherwise, there have definitely been a few parallels between the team I’ve assembled and the one I gather to watch on Sundays.

In Week One, when Seattle lost to the Arizona Cardinals, coming up shy repeatedly in the dying seconds to lose by four, my fantasy team also fell short, dropping an 11-point decision.  Doug Baldwin, who dropped a potential game-winning TD pass, also dropped the ball for my fantasy team, putting up a mere 0.5 fantasy points–and was dropped by me at week’s end.  (Last time I checked, he was still on the waiver wire…)  But they bounced back with a big win over Dallas, as did my team, winning Week Two by 27.5 fantasy points.  Did I mention that Seattle put 27 points on the board against Big Little D?

After the big win in Week Three, my team came up short against an evenly-ranked opponent the following week, losing by seven-and-a-half fantasy points while the Hawks dropped a six-point decision to the Rams.  After righting the ship in Week Five (my 38-point win was more much convincing than their 16-12 victory, mind you), the eerie similarities kicked in again.  As the Hawks erased a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the Patriots, I found my team down by about 50 fantasy points heading into the Sunday night game.  Spurred largely by Rodgers’ 39-fantasy-point performance, my squad came back to post a margin of victory of 1.66 fantasy points whereas the Hawks won 24-23.  Is that crazy, or what?  (Full disclosure: I still have one WR playing in the Monday night game, so my final fantasy tally should be a bit higher–but still!)

BTW, the name of my fantasy team is the Calgary Seahawks.  I suppose that explains everything, doesn’t it? ;)

LET’S GO HAWKS!!!!!

He led his team in interceptions, scored two TDs (on defense!) and played in the Pro Bowl–but you can’t buy Brandon Browner’s jersey in Seattle!

So, I’m heading to Seattle in a little over two weeks from now.  Gonna check out this AC/DC exhibit, worship at the Church of Misery, pick up a new Seahawks jersey ahead of their date with the Bills in December–and y’know, probably eat some seafood ‘n shit.  I’ve been rocking the Matt Hasselbeck Number 8 since 2005, but now that he’s left town, it’s time to move on.  Not really sold on Matt Flynn yet, but that’s okay, cuz my favourite player on the Hawks lines up at right corner.

I’ve been a big fan of Brandon Browner, dating back to his days holding opponents in check for my Calgary Stampeders.  He may not be the first former CFLer to go from All-Canadian to the Pro Bowl, but he’s the only one to have done so for the two teams that matter to me.  I wouldn’t normally buy some scrawny DB’s jersey–albeit at 6’4″, 220, Browner’s taller than I am–but I’m willing to make an exception in this case.  If only I could find somewhere that sells it…

I first looked into grabbing a Browner jersey after his first pick-six went 94 yards to beat the Giants in Week 5–but to no avail.  The same webstore that I bought my Hasselbeck jersey from (believe it or not, but they only had Shaun Alexander shirts for sale on Yonge St leading up to The Super Bowl That Never Happened) told me they’d be in touch with Reebok about some Baldwin and Browner jerseys, but I guess they never got any.  Meanwhile, the Seattle Pro Shop, located at Centurylink Field, has Earl Thomas, Sidney Rice, Matt Flynn, Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor and 12th Man jerseys for sale online–but no Browners.  I figured they’d surely sell some in-store though, right?

Wrong.  Check this out:

They won’t be getting his jersey in this entire freakin’ season!?  What’s the man gotta do, pick off 10 passes, play in another Pro Bowl, before you put his shirt on the shelves?  Câlisse de tabarnak que c’est débile!

Sadly, I got the same response from the Seattle Team Shop, a local chain of sports stores.  This leaves me with little hope ahead of my trip in two weeks’ time.  I might hafta hit up some Hawks message boards to see if anyone’s selling some outta their basement or something–or, if push comes to shove, I’ll just hafta settle for a new Marshawn Lynch jersey.  After all, I’m sure that would piss off Bills fans aplenty… ;)

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!

Seahawks take consolation prize in Peyton Manning sweepstakes, sign Matt Flynn to a three-year deal…

When Peyton Manning first went on the market, there were reports that the Seahawks were ready and willing to open up their wallets to him, but he reportedly didn’t even want to meet with them.  Bummer, man.  Now he’s said to be signing with the Broncos, although nobody’s put pen to paper yet.  I find it kinda funny that after Indy decides to get rid of him and draft a franchise quarterback, Denver is willing to throw its recently-drafted franchise QB under the bus for a few years with Manning at the helm.  I could see the Jets doing so to Mark Sanchez, but isn’t benching Tim Tebow like a sin or something?  Oh well, it gives him more time to work on his God-awful (heh heh) throwing motion, I suppose–perhaps with the Buffalo Bills, if you believe the Toronto Star.

But before the dust settles, Seattle has made sure that it won’t be left out in the cold by signing Matt Flynn, arguably the second-best free agent QB available, to a three-year deal worth a modest (by NFL starting QB standards) 26-million bucks.  If you’re saying “Matt who?” then you obviously weren’t sitting in a dark, dingy sports bar on New Year’s Day when he torched the Lions for 480 yards(!) and 6 TDs(!!!), setting a pair of Green Bay Packers records in the process.  I was, and I gotta say, it was pretty impressive.  Of course, the Lions secondary is about as flimsy as Greg Oden’s knee ligaments (best number one pick evar!!!), but that’s beside the point.  The dude’s in the Green Bay Packers record books, and they’re about as storied a franchise as they come.

Okay, so he carried Aaron Rodgers’ clipboard for four years, but the kid won a national title at LSU, and put up a 92.8 passer rating in his limited action, including that famous performance against Detroit.  Signing a backup QB to a big-money contract has proved perilous in the past–just ask Bills fans about Rob Johnson–but it seems to me that Seattle once had some success with a former Green Bay backup, a kid who charted plays for Brett Favre for a couple years, also named Matt.  In fact, I’ve got his jersey hanging up in my closet. ;)

Last year, I wasn’t a big fan of Seahawks GM John Schneider.  Not offering a new deal to Matt Hasselbeck after he beat the Saints in the playoffs, then scrambling to sign Tavaris “Intersacktion” Jackson as his replacement, doomed Seattle’s season from the start.  There were seemingly a couple months where Jackson didn’t match Flynn’s single-game Detroit totals last year, and if the team finished 7-9, it was largely due to Marshawn Lynch and a Pro Bowl secondary.  This off-season, however, Schneider did the right thing by giving Lynch a new deal that’ll buy him a whole rainbow of Skittles, then going out and getting the QB the team was missing, without overpaying for him.  As Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer points out, he’s getting a lot less guaranteed money that Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel or Matt Schaub got, and a couple of those guys did alright–when they weren’t on IR.

Flynn will certainly have the weapons at his disposal, what with Lynch (and Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson) in the backfield, a pair of deep threats in Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, along with shifty slot receiver Doug Baldwin and big targets in Mike Williams and TE Zach Miller.  If these guys are all healthy, he’ll have plenty of decent players to throw to.  Throw in a defense that was seventh in points and ninth in yardage allowed last season, and I think we’ll see the Seahawks back in the playoffs in 2012, if the new guy’s even half as good as advertised.

LET’S GO HAWKS!!!