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…