Don’t talk about playoffs. Actually, let’s talk about the playoffs. We could get all hung up on tie-breaker scenarios and the what-ifs, but if the Seahawks can get to 10-6 they should be in the playoffs. As everyone knows, to do that the Hawks will need a 6-2 record in the last half of the season. Well, two Ws are down (the Vikings and Jets), so there are four Ws left to go. A win in Miami after the bye week would help immensely.
The Thursday night game on NFL Network this week should be of particular interest to Seahawks fans because it involves two of their upcoming road opponents, the Bills and Dolphins. While neither matchup will be a cakewalk, both of those games are winnable. The Monday night game should also be of interest, because the Seahawks also have upcoming games against the Bears and 49ers.
The Seahawks will be well-rested when they face Miami after the bye week, but because they play on Thursday this week the Dolphins will play the Hawks after a couple of extra days off as well. The Titans, who are not exactly a juggernaut, went into Miami last week and put a pretty good whooping on them. I like Seattle’s chances of flying out of the sunshine state with a W (and maybe some fresh-squeezed orange juice, too). Joe Philbin, Miami’s coach, said that the Titans “played well, they played fast, and they played decisively.” Does that remind anyone of a certain football team’s defense? (I’ll give you a hint: they play in a place called the Clink.)
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill threw three picks against Tennessee, and the Hawks’ secondary is much better than the Titans’. Tannehill is also very mobile, but so was Cam Newton in Carolina and the Seahawks roughed him up quite a bit. There has been much written about Russell Wilson’s road woes, but he played very well on the road in Detroit. The defense lost that game, and I wouldn’t expect that to happen very often. Wilson has also been getting better every week. If the Hawks can minimize mistakes and play well, fast, and decisively they should beat Miami.
The toughest games should be against San Francisco and Chicago. If the Seahawks are truly a playoff team they should be capable of beating both of those teams, but going 1-1 for those two games would be just fine. If the Hawks can win out at home, including against the 49ers, they would only need to win one of the three remaining road games to get into the playoffs. Doing even better and going 5-1 in the remaining six games for an 11-5 season record isn’t that far out of the question.
The tie between the 49ers and the Rams could make for a very tight finish for the division this year. If the Seahawks can beat San Francisco (the division title and possibly a first round bye could be on the line in that game), they could be in position to win the NFC West. Stranger things have happened. It’s nice to have the Hawks back in the conversation.
Miscellaneous Notes and Observations
Man, can Golden Tate catch and jump or what? The guy’s playing like a madman, much less like an excellent late 2nd round draft pick. He had a huge impact in both of the last two wins. His leap for a touchdown reception against Minnesota and his pass for a touchdown against the Jets were both top ten plays of the week, and it was his catch earlier this season against the Packers that wound up settling the referee’s strike. I don’t know how common it is for one player to catch a TD pass and throw one in the same game, but Tate got ‘er done [According to Pro Football Reference.com, Tate's performance on Sunday is the 49th time it's been done since 1960. Who knew? -Ed.]
His leap on 3rd and 5 for a first down was a thing of beauty. With all of his leaping over defenders, I hope Tate doesn’t end up getting injured like Leonard Weaver did in Philadelphia, but if he keeps playing at this level for the rest of the season the guy could wind up in the Pro Bowl. [The last player to go to the Pro Bowl for Seattle as a wide receiver was Brian Blades in 1989. WR Alex Bannister went in 2003, but he was chosen as a special teamer. –Ed.]
Darrell Bevell’s play calling is evolving nicely. He’s grown from ultra-conservative (i.e. always run on 1st down, always run on 2nd down) to having wide receivers throw touchdown passes. I’m down with that. Of course, his play calling early in the season was conservative because he had a rookie quarterback starting, but the way in which he and Pete Carroll have brought Russell Wilson along is a masterstroke in the making.
I wouldn’t say that Richard Sherman is a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback, I’d say he’s an all-pro cornerback and sack specialist. Against the Jets, he had a 100% sack and forced fumbler rate per blitz. Not bad for a 5th round pick. I cannot think of any corner in the league that I would trade straight across for Sherman. Besides, he gets the Seahawks in the national news with some regularity. Are you mad?
Penalties have been much less of a problem the last four games. The physical play hasn’t let up, but the bubblehead penalties have. Nobody wants to see the Hawks lose their nasty edge, but it would seem that penalty rates are like setting the idle on a finely-tuned engine. If there are too many penalties, it’s like setting the gas mixture too rich; the engine burns too much fuel, becomes inefficient, and its performance is affected.
Likewise, too weak a gas mixture causes an engine to sputter the same way too few penalties makes a team soft and in need of a dirtbag infusion. If the players aren’t exploring the grey areas in the rules, they’ll never know how much they can get away with. I liked that earier in the year the Patriots’ receivers were worried about getting hammered, which caused a lot of dropped passes. Receivers should always be worried about the Seahawks’ defenders, and Kam Chancellor and company will make sure that they are.
For now, I guess we’ll have to endure the bye week. Maybe I’ll go shopping with my wife or something. But after that, the next stop is the playoffs.