In The NFC West, One Game Can Change Perceptions

The big Mo.

Passing the eye test in a major way.

Whatever you want to call it, right now it looks like the Seattle Seahawks are the strongest team in the NFC West.

And that’s a perfect example of how much one game can change perceptions.

Yes, of course we’re talking about the Seahawks’ titanic win over the San Francisco 49ers in this past week’s Monday night game.

It was probably the best NFL game of the season thus far.

It might have been the Seahawks’ biggest win in several years.

And while the 49ers are still in first place in the NFC West standings, their hold on that spot looks tenuous at best. At least right now.

The 49ers have their toughest stretch of the season coming up with a home game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night (Nov. 24) followed by road games against the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints the following two weeks.

It’s not inconceivable that they could lose all three of those games.

Worse yet, when it comes to the eye test, Jimmy Garoppolo looked downright rattled against a surging Seahawks defense led by monstrous defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Poona Ford.

They need to get injured tight end George Kittle back with a quickness. The 49ers’ offense doesn’t look nearly as menacing when he’s watching the game from upstairs, as he was on Monday night.

During that same three-week stretch, the Seahawks play the Philadelphia Eagles on the road and then host the Minnesota Vikings—and then travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams.

While not an easy stretch for Seattle, it’s not hard to imagine them going 2-1 or even 3-0 during that time, which means that in less than a month, Seattle could overtake San Francisco for first place in the division.

If that happens, the Seahawks will have an easier road in the playoffs—though getting to a first-round bye and passing the Packers and the Saints feels like a stretch, especially if those teams win the majority of their remaining games. 

(The Packers’ final five games are against the Giants, Redskins, Bears, Vikings, and Lions; they could relatively easily win out. Aside from playing the 49ers, the Saints face the Carolina Panthers, twice, the Tennessee Titans, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; it’s a tossup trying to decide whether that slate is easier or harder than the Packers’).

Now, this is all a pretty rosy outlook for Seattle.

But let’s play the devil’s advocate for a moment.

The Seahawks are still in second place in the division and currently look like the number five seed in the NFC playoff picture. That’s an unenviable spot to be in. It means having to fight your way to the top, and to do so on the road with potentially bad weather and definitely hostile opposing fan bases making it as hard as they can to hear snap counts and such.

The Seahawks have often had to go right down to the wire to win many of their games, including against some otherwise bad teams such as the Cleveland Browns and the Buccaneers.

On the flipside, the 49ers could get Kittle back, figure some things out, and show people that the close, three-point loss to the Seahawks was but a blip, an aberration.

The final team to consider is the Rams. They went to the Super Bowl last year, though they got embarrassed by the Patriots. More and more, it’s looking like the Rams didn’t belong in that game—most notably considering the way they got there, which included an absolutely horrible call by the officials in the NFC Championship game against the Saints.

The Rams are currently the first NFC team out of the playoffs. They have ample opportunity to prove their mettle in coming weeks, with games against the Ravens, the Seahawks, the 49ers, and the Dallas Cowboys, among others.

So where does that leave things? We simply don’t know, and as fans we are forced to wait it out, to speculate. To trot out the old football cliché, that’s why they actually make them play the games.

Is the second half of the NFL season, plus the playoffs, the most exciting time in all of sports?

Some might say that NCAA basketball’s March Madness wears that crown.

Luckily, for us, we can have our cake and eat it, too, in spite of what old, illogical, English proverbs might claim.

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About Paul Redman 122 Articles
Paul Redman is a writer and chef in Seattle who grew up in the Midwest. His work has appeared in print and online, including San Francisco magazine, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Contrary. He eats too many chicken wings and cracks way too many dad jokes and food puns. Follow him on Twitter @predman.