You guessed it, it’s rivalry week! And not just in the state of Oregon or the state of NCAA football, but in general. Think your relatives won’t pull you in to a debate on politics while you’re watching the game or stuffing your face? Think again! It’s a classic rival move by your drunk uncle. We here at Fireside Sports (a proud sub-division of OSN) hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and hopefully one of the things you’re grateful for when all is said and done, is being around good people, and perhaps more importantly, being on the winning side of all of your rivalries.
Without further ado, we present this week’s lightning round. Our co-hosts Bryant Knox and Casey Mabbott go five rounds (because that’s how long lightning takes these days) to debate this week’s greatest rivalries – the Seahawks versus playoff pressure! The Blazers versus the road! And the Ducks versus the Beavers!
Eat up, drink up, and most importantly – buckle up. This is the lightning round, where no topics are out of bounds, and no arguments are out of reach. And no one is safe.
- Seattle travels to Carolina this Sunday for a showdown with Cam Newton and the Panthers. How do you expect Russell Wilson and co to play going coast to coast after a 10 day break?
(CM) Seattle is going toe to toe with every team they face, and is clawing their way back into the playoff picture. On the other end of the spectrum, Carolina is on a two game skid and needs a win badly to stay in the wild card race. It’s fitting that these teams play on opposite seaboards since they are going in opposite directions. A win for Seattle puts them in the driver’s seat regarding their postseason chances, whereas a loss for Carolina puts them in the back of the pack and will make an uphill climb even steeper as they hope to turn around their fortunes. Wilson and the offense should be able to move the ball on Carolina (hell if Detroit can do it) and the defense will find some success slowing down the Panthers’ rushing attack. Can Newton win the game with his arm? He’s done it before but I don’t like his chances this week and he doesn’t have a very good track record versus the Seahawks no matter where the game is played.
(BK) Doesn’t it feel as if these two teams—who happen to be about as geographically separated as any two franchises in the NFL—play in the same division at this point they see each other so often? With that in mind, it’s actually quite fitting that the Panthers’ coaching blunder this past week—along with Seattle’s clutch win over the Green Bay Packers—has helped set up the Seahawks for an improved playoff push. The Hawks are 3.5-point underdogs entering this one, but Russell Wilson can smell blood. He’s facing a Panthers team coming off a bad loss and he knows his own group has a chance to set themselves up for the once-unthinkable. The key is more on the defense to force Cam Newton into uncomfortable situations, but Wilson will face many of those himself if the line can’t hold up. I trust Wilson far more than I do Newton in those scenarios; I trust a hungry Seahawks team more than the Panthers.
- At 5-4 with six games left and their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, can Seattle afford to lose a game the rest of the way? They have big matchups against Minnesota and Kansas City still to come.
(CM) They can maybe lose one game, which hopefully doesn’t happen soon because I don’t want to see what the pressure of having to win out does to a team. They have a rough upcoming schedule but most of those games are winnable. The games against Minnesota and Kansas City could go either way, and three of their next six games are against the 49ers and Cardinals, which aren’t “gimmes” but they are as close as one can get. If they 6-1 the rest of the way I like their chances a lot, if they go 5-2 or worse they are going to join a logjam of 9-7 and 10-6 teams vying for a playoff spot and may be on the outside looking in.
(BK) The Hawks don’t need to go undefeated over their final seven games (including Thursday’s win over Green Bay); that would be unheard of for most franchises, even those originally in contention. But this group needs to get close. This time last week, FiveThirtyEight had Seattle with just a 28 percent shot at a playoff berth. That number has since spiked to 48 percent. That’s an impressive jump, but it still puts them behind seven other NFC teams.
- Portland has three games left on their six game road trip, and are 1-2 so far. This week they are at the Knicks, at the Bucks, at the Warriors, before closing the week at home against Clippers. They played sloppy last week, how do you expect them to play this week?
(CM) I had them going 4-2 in this road trip, I’m going to amend that to 2-4. I thought they would struggle more this week after a hot run last week, but it looks like they’re going to struggle more than I expected on this trip. Matchups at the Bucks and Warriors will be brutal, and the Blazers will probably lose both. They should win their game at the Knicks giving them a two game win streak before a couple of tough losses and then a chance to right the ship at home on Sunday.
(BK) A lot of the same, actually. This road trip, despite having a healthy mix of vulnerable opponents and teams playing well, was always going to be a test. It’s just the second time all season the Blazers have had to play a stint away from the Moda Center. The Knicks, in theory, will be an easy win; the Bucks will be looking for revenge; and the Warriors…well, who knows what you’re going to get from Golden State these days. I have the Blazers winning that game if Curry is still out with an injury, but if the team’s undisputed leader in back in action, the Dubs will be ready to flip the script.
- As of Monday morning, the Trail Blazers were number one in the West. Feel free to overreact as this probably won’t last.
(CM) It’s been a long time since Portland was #1, let’s enjoy it! How many years of the Lakers, Spurs, and now Warriors have you all endured? Let’s raise this one to the rafters and never look back. Raise a glass, raise a banner, raise the roof! This team is unstoppable. And you have to laugh at the Damian Lillard trade rumors coming out of nowhere in the middle of their hottest start in years. Golden State nearly comes apart at the seams over a meaningless loss early in the season, but Portland is going to trade their superstar point guard as they win game after game.
(BK) You can’t put too much value in a No. 1 seed this early in the season, especially when only 2 games separate you from the No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans. (There are only 7.5 games between No. 1 Portland and dead-last Phoenix.) There is, however, one reason you can buy into it, and that’s if the team itself is paying attention. We hear too often in sports that guys are taking it “one day at a time” or “only focusing on what they can control.” What we don’t hear, and probably should hear more of, is players giving themselves a healthy dose of positive reinforcement. If the Blazers are into, you should be too. We just don’t know if they’re willing to toot their own horns at this point in the season.
- Oregon and Oregon State face off this Friday in the 122nd Civil War. The game will be played in Reeser Stadium in Corvallis, and Oregon State opens as a two touchdown underdog. How do you think this game will go?
(CM) I think this game will be closer than the experts are giving it credit, in the first half any way. I mean if Citadel can hold Alabama for two quarters, anything can happen. And unless my eyes deceived me, THE Ohio State nearly lost to Maryland, in OT no less. I blame the awful blinding uniforms that look like something out of A Knight’s Tale, but that’s just my opinion. I think the Ducks win this one, even on the road, in what could be the end of Justin Herbert’s college career. We’ll know more about his long term plans in the coming months, but right now, let him enjoy a win and we’ll see if the team can win him back for one more year and take a shot at a title and who knows, maybe even a Heisman.
(BK) I think the Ducks end up getting the win, but Oregon State is going to make life difficult on them early. Justin Herbert has taken a clear step in the wrong direction, and although Dillon Mitchell has been a breakout player worth watching, passing efficiency is something that both the offense and defense (opposing passing efficiency) have left a lot to be desired. The Ducks will likely play sloppy football in the first half; expect plenty of passes above the heads of receivers and don’t be shocked if the ball finds its way from a carrier to the turf at some point. Oregon State will need a whole lot of that to come away with a win straight up, but a victory against the spread is well within their reach if they can capitalize on Oregon’s inefficiency early.