At the risk of sounding like the shameless promos that networks contrive to pump up viewer interest in a crummy matchup, the Seahawks’ meeting with Cincinnati today at CenturyLink Field is a pivotal game in Seattle’s season.
That’s not empty hype. Drop this one, and the Sea-hawks’ season starts to look like rubble from the Alaska Way Viaduct.
Lose today – as oddsmakers expect – and the Sea-hawks fall to 2-5. If San Francisco defeats Cleveland at home today – as oddsmakers also expect – and the 49ers are 6-1.
The NFC West Division race? Over.
Seahawks’ chances of returning to the playoffs? Biblical.
Major league baseball this fall reminded us that front-runners can collapse as laggards rally, so anything is possible as long as the math still pencils out.
But to fall four games back before the season is half over is inches from the competitive abyss. Beyond that, the Niners still have four games remaining with the division’s bottom-feeders – St. Louis and Arizona (1-11 combined). Four gimmes like that after a win today would get San Francisco to at least 10 wins.
The Seahawks played themselves into this situation by missing so many opportunities to win last Sunday’s stumblefest at Cleveland. Although some of their chances were nullified by dubious penalties, they still earned the loss with so many of their own mistakes.
How different it would look for the Seahawks to be 3-3 this morning instead of 2-4, because it wouldn’t seem like such a giant surge just to get back to .500.
As we’ve seen around here all too often, teams change once a race is over. Most still work to scratch out wins the best they can, but human nature can cause players to approach games differently, and coaches and management start looking more to the future.
And fans? Well, you start thinking about draft picks.
That’s one of the ways the Bengals became suddenly relevant.
They drafted a top-flight rookie battery of quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green, and they also come to Seattle with the second-rated defense in the NFL. How that defense must be drooling after seeing video from the Seahawks’ three-point output at Cleveland.
But the Bengals will be without top running back Cedric Benson (NFL suspension). And Dalton, as mature as he has been thus far, will be in for a new experience at raucous CenturyLink.
Green leads all rookie receivers with 29 catches. He’s a gifted athlete, and at 6-foot-4 he has a size advantage over most NFL cornerbacks. But not Seattle’s.
Whether starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is healed enough from his strained pectoral muscle, the Seahawks will benefit from the return of running back Marshawn Lynch (back strain), tight end Zach Miller (concussion) and center Max Unger (foot).
Really, anybody who’s even close to healthy had better buckle up and get on the field … this one is that important.
Let’s remember that the Seahawks have played at home only twice in seven weeks, and they’re a different team in front of that crowd.
An upset today and they go to 3-4, and after a trip to Dallas, they have five home games in the second half of the season. And two of the road games are at St. Louis and Arizona.
So, for now, the math says they’re not out of anything, but it has to start with a win today in a game that all of a sudden seems so vital.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com