So, you don’t have to paint your face today, scream your guts out, or throw bricks at your TV over a bogus pass interference call against the Seahawks.
But if you’re compelled to tune into the NFL anyway with the Seahawks off on their bye, here’s a few thoughts.
Carolina visits Miami at 10 a.m. The Panthers’ 6-game winning streak matches the Seahawks’ for the best in the league right now. At 7-3, they’re only one loss behind New Orleans in the NFC South and the two play each other twice in the last month of the season. Stunningly, those two are the only teams within 2 losses of the Seahawks in the NFC, relevant with respect to playoff positioning.
Indianapolis can do the Seahawks a favor by knocking off the Cardinals in Arizona this afternoon. The Cards have sneaked up to 6-4, the same record as the Niners, and have won three straight against weak sisters (Atlanta, Houston and Jacksonville). Still, Indy fell apart two weeks ago against St. Louis, and a Cardinal win would sustain their momentum.
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The Niners visit struggling Washington on Monday night. San Francisco’s last two losses have been close games to good teams (10-9 to Carolina and 23-20 at New Orleans). A loss would drop them to 6-5 and realistically out of the division race, but still with a wild card chance. I still think this can be a dangerous team.
Pro Football Talk filed a story about the decision the Niners are going to have to make about the status of receiver Michael Crabtree.
--I think one of the posters might have linked to this earlier, but in case you missed it, it’s Pro Football Focus’ ranking of special teams. The Seahawks, as they say, are in a class by themselves.
It’s such a large part of who the Seahawks are. Both Steven Hauschka and Jon Ryan are having another spectacular season. The coverage and return units are so good, in part, because it’s a real focus for this staff. So much so that stars like Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are on kick coverage, and Richard Sherman is a jammer on punt return. Jeremy Lane is one of the best gunners on punts in the league. I did a column on this earlier, when Seahawks cited the No.1 factor in having good special teams: Effort.
In case you missed it, I also had an interesting visit with Hauschka recently, and found him a very cerebral athlete who is a real student of the kicking arts.
--ESPN.com’s Terry Blount posted his picks on five Seahawks flying under the radar. Given the attention this team has drawn, I’m not sure anybody’s having a stealth season, but some certainly deserve some added attention. His entry for Best Rookie is Luke Willson. Actually, there's very little to choose from among rookies. But I agree he’s one who has played above expectations. There was a sense that his speed would make him a good receiver, but when he showed up he was clueless on how to block … and seemingly lacking in the bulk it would take. But he has turned into an asset in the two-tight sets, and has developed a nice technique with those Wham blocks, where the TE pulls back into the formation and traps a D lineman.
--Bleacher Report has an examination of the improved pass protection for Russell Wilson. I can break it down a little more simply: Russell Eking, Max Unger and Breno Giacomini.
-- Associated Press’ Tim Booth has a story about the Seahawks heading into this final month of the season.
-- I hadn’t seen this Richard Sherman video, with him being mic’d for the Vikings game. He’s always entertaining, although I didn’t hear anything out of him after getting beaten for the TD.
-- Catching up on unseen videos, here’s another one this week with Russell Wilson on SportsNation
On the topic of Wilson, he turns 25 on Friday. Ten more years before he can run for president.