Well dear readers, we’re shaping up for a wild finish in the NFL playoff picture. Even though there are still three weeks to go, most divisions are nearly wrapped up and the wild card teams just need to figure out seeding. There’s still time for some surprise moves, but barring a few meltdowns along with a team or two making an unexpected surge, things will mostly stand as is. Not very wild perhaps, but it should still be a lot of fun.
In the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers find themselves in a mid-season(ish) skid, and while it may still be early, there could be cause for concern that this team as constructed is not going to perform like an elite contender over the course of a season. At least we’ve never seen this topic come up before (EVER!). Should be a fun new concept to discuss and dissect.
Without further ado, we present this week’s lightning round, with our weekly contests Casey Mabbott and Bryant Knox. Make sure to watch for this week’s episode of the podcast, delivering on Friday.
Please feel free to submit lightning round questions to our producer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Holidays from all of us at Fireside Sports, a subsidiary of OSN!
1. Barring a major setback, Seattle is locked in to the #5 seed in the NFC. Assuming that is the case, which potential division winner do you want to see them draw in the wild card round (Bears, Cowboys, Rams, Saints)?
(CM) On paper, I think the Seahawks match up best with the Bears and Cowboys. They didn’t beat the Rams in either matchup, but came close, and I have no idea how they would do against the Saints. They played Chicago in week 2 and Dallas in week 3, and none of the above knew who they were yet. Now that all three are peaking, I’d love to see a rematch.
(BK) Which one do I want to see? The Rams—no doubt about it. The Seahawks played at a level we thought was just “playing up to the competition” when facing LA this season, but as it turns out, those contests were actually previews of what was to come the rest of the year. Seattle proved it could hang with one of the league’s best teams twice, as maybe, as they say, third time will be the charm.
2. Are there any potential playoff teams you feel would be a bad matchup for the Seahawks?
(CM) I think Seattle lines up well with any playoff team and they are a roster built for winter football, but if I have to pick one it’s the Saints. The Seahawks know the Rams well enough and the weather would be favorable, whereas going from sea to shining sea to play the Saints on the road sounds dicey. I think they can win but the odds would not be in their favor.
(BK) The same way there’s no great matchups, there’s also no terrible ones. That’s kind of what you get when you go from playoff longshot to near-postseason lock—you get a lot of time to watch flaws, hot streaks and everything in between. That said, one of the higher-octane offenses could prove to be problematic if the Hawks defense can’t shut them down early. Playing catch-up against a team like the Saints is asking for trouble.
3. It’s not unheard of but increasingly rare for a coach-GM combo to successfully move on from a star studded roster. How impressed are you with how quickly Seattle reloaded after departing from the “Legion Of Boom” era?
(CM) Extremely impressed. I think the Patriots are the only other team I have seen do this in recent memory. Unloading multiple stars on both sides of the ball and reloading is never easy, but Seattle has made it look that way. Count me among the people that called Pete Carroll crazy for thinking this would be a quicker transition than most expected, and he was right. It’s been less than a season and this team already looks ready to take a leap forward next year.
(BK) I’m impressed, mostly because you typically find that a team “overachieving” surprises opponents from the start of the year, not after a cold start. It’s rare that a team figures it out mid-season and shows legitimate improvements. That’s far more impressive, if you ask me, because it means the team truly overcame adversity, not that the media simply got it wrong.
4. The Portland Trail Blazers are not winning as many games as they were at the start of the season, and they aren’t losing due to giving players games off. Is this just a mini-slump, or does this raise concern if they really can compete in the West?
(CM) It is just a mini slump, but I don’t know that they have enough firepower to compete with the elite teams long term. This is a promising roster, but they’ve been that way for a while. Not sure what gets them over the hump but they aren’t there yet. They can put together entertaining seasons, but this isn’t a team built to win in the late spring.
(BK) The good news: The way they’re losing is actually a good sign because they’re mostly keeping things close and they’re struggling to shoot efficiently. Yes, the latter is a good thing because it’s something you can bet will fix itself soon enough with the current roster construction. The bad news: We’re approaching “not so mini” slump status. In their last 15, the Blazers are just 5-10. Fifteen games out of an 82-game season is nearly 20 percent of the 2018-19 campaign; worse, 15 games out of the 28 contests they’ve played so far is a whopping 53.5 percent. This mini slump is now more than half of the year up to this point. It seems like it’s not a big deal because we have recent memories of Portland occupying the No. 1 spot out West, but that stay in first was only long enough for a cup of coffee as far as the season at large is concerned. The Blazers need to figure this out quickly, otherwise we’ll go from saying “there’s still 60 games left” to “there’s still 30 games left” to “there’s still a week left” to “whoops.”
5. Here we go again – the nation wants to point at the Warriors breaking up Steph Curry and Monta Ellis to try to break up Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Can you see a scenario where this is the right move for Portland?
(CM) Take a look at Toronto and tell me what you think. It’s still early but they broke up their backcourt duo, traded for Kawhi Leonard, and now look like the team to beat in the East. If Portland had landed Leonard or Jimmy Butler I think they have a better chance but until they roster a legitimate two way player, they will be on the outside looking in when the conference finals roll around.
(BK) I’m on record as saying the Blazers need not trade Dame or CJ just for the sake of swinging a deal. Unless you’re going into a full-blown rebuild, you’re not going to break up arguably the league’s second-best backcourt without making significant improvements in the process. But that last part is important. I’m also on record as saying if there’s a deal out there that makes sense, you (Neil Olshey) can’t let hubris get in the way of business. If the Blazers had been able to get a Paul George or Kawhi Leonard for McCollum, they should’ve jumped at the chance. Going forward, though, it’s difficult to picture anyone of that caliber becoming available. Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the big names most expect to be next to join the “I want out” club, but in an era where players dictate where they land, the chances of getting either would be…well…don’t hold your breath.