Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's still all about the Seahawks

The playoff scenarios are fun now. People are not asking who needs to lose in order for Seattle to get in. Many have set their sights higher, to division titles, home-field advantage, and even a first-round bye. All of these things are absolutely possible, but one thing remains constant--the thing that matters most is how Seattle plays the rest of the year. There is a lot left to prove without spending a second on what other teams do.

Seattle heads back on the road this week to face the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are not as good as the Seahawks. Neither were the Cardinals, the Rams, the Lions or the Dolphins. Seattle lost to each. The stirring victory in Chicago will hopefully be the seminal moment of this season. The team, and fans, will be able to look back and say that was the point where the team proved that it could win on the road. In order for that to play out, Seattle has to go into Buffalo and grab a win. Doing so would leave the team a respectable 3-5 on the road. How they play in the game also matters. The team came out with energy and focus in the Bears game, but there was sub-optimal play on both sides of the ball until that final 97-yard drive, and even then, the defense surrendered a game-tying field goal. The next step after getting that first win against a quality road opponent is to handle your business. Do not let a lesser team challenge for the win. Hold a fourth quarter lead.

Should the team be able to do that, they will have their next test at home against the 49ers. They are 0-3 against Jim Harbaugh coached San Francisco teams. Winning that game officially shows there is no team this Seahawks group cannot beat. The timing could not be better, relative to how it could help the team's confidence into the playoffs. No team in the NFL can say they have beaten the Patriots, Packers, Bears, and 49ers. It is far from a given that the Seahawks will win that game. One school of thought would be that Seattle has been within a single scoring drive of the lead late in each game, and that the 49ers will be featuring a less experienced quarterback while Russell Wilson has gotten much better. The other side would be that 0-3 does not happen by coincidence, and that Colin Kaepernick makes the team far harder to defend than Alex Smith. In any event, the important point is that winning this game is far more important than San Francisco losing to New England.

Wins over Buffalo and San Francisco would get the Seahawks to 10 wins, and make them among the most feared opponents in the NFL heading into the post-season. An added win against the Rams would mean 11 wins, a five-game winning streak, and wins in seven of eight. That matters so much more than the outcomes of other team's games. The division titles, the seedings, even a game at home are all just accoutrements. Seattle beating all comers in all locations...that's what makes a team great.

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