Sunday, September 18, 2005

Gotta love the NFC
By Zach

So the Seahawks won a football game today. The Hawks looked utterly dominant in the first half, shredding the vaunted Falcons defense for three touchdown drives, and keeping Mike Vick and Co. off the scoreboard. The defense was excellent, and for once was keeping the other team out of the end zone by getting stops, not forcing turnovers.

It's not that I have any problem with teams forcing turnovers. But they're both hard to count on and tend to induce a team to try and gamble. The Seahawks don't have the talent on defense to make up for those risks, and this are better served in playing conservatively. Their offense is usually good enough to score 20-30 points, and I think their D can hold teams under that number if they just play solid and fundamental defense: mixing up zone and man coverage, blitizing occasionally (but not on third and longer than seven), and stopping the run first.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Mike Holmgren-coached Seahawk team unless they tried their damndest to give the game back. It was clear that the team was convinced they'd won the game in the first half. How Holmgren and crew could let them think that after the many debacles last year, I don't know. But it was obvious. The offense was lethargic, and the defense seemed so intent on not giving up big plays that they let the Falcons drive the ball right down the field.

In fact, it got so bad that there were several times I was fairly certain the Seahawks would lose. The worst moment was after the Falcons scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-16 with about four minutes left. The Falcons went for two. Now, anyone who's watched the Falcons over the last couple of years might be able to tell you who their number one target in the red zone is. That's right, Alge Crumpler. So let's see if you can guess how many Seahawks were assigned to cover him on the conversion attempt. Three? Naw. Two? Almost. One? Oooh, just off. Try none. Guess where the throw went. That's right, to Alge Crumpler.

Long story short, the Seahawks managed to pull out a 21-18 win, mainly on the strength of the fact that the Falcons are limited on offense.

Which (finally) brings me to the point of this post. The NFC is anyone's league to win. I know the Eagles looked dominant today, but they were playing the woeful 49ers at home. This is the same Eagles team that lost on the road to the Falcons last week. Are the they best team in the conference? Maybe. But it's hard to argue that they're far and away the best team. And they're 1-1.

The Panthers had the best win of any NFC team today, beating the two-time defending champion Patriots in Charlotte. The Panthers looked pretty good today. They forced the Pats into a ton of mistakes, forcing 3 turnovers and inducing New England into numerous penalties. But they also lost at home last week to the Saints and struggled to move the ball for most of the game. They're also 1-1.

In fact, right now the only 2-0 team in the NFC is the Buccaneers. This is a team I've really liked so far this year. Their defense is its usual tough self, Cadillac Williams has looked like an All-Pro in his first two career games, and Brian Greise hasn't killed them. Their win today over the Bills showed what they can do to mediocre offenses.

Of course, two more NFC teams will move to 2-0 tomorrow, when the 1-0 Saints play thre 1-0 Giants, and the 1-0 Cowboys play the 1-0 Redskins. But the truth of the matter is, no matter which of those teams goes to 2-0, they're clearly not the best teams in the league.

For the Seahawks, the best news is that the NFC West looks like it might be as bad as last year. The Rams beat the Cardinals, putting everyone's sleeper pick in the divison at 0-2. Furthermore, neither team has looked even decent this season. The Rams lost to the 49ers last week (the 49ers might not win again this year), and the Cardinals were blown out by the Giants last week.

With today's win, the Seahawks at least have the chance to start thinking about getting another division crown, and maybe some sort of home field advantage. They host the Cardinals next week, and only have a couple of tough matchups left on the schedule. They play at the Rams, of course, a game they haven't managed to win since they've been in the NFC West, and they play at Philadelphia. They also host the Colts, but perhaps they can pray for bad whether on Christmas Eve.

Right now, it's anyone's guess as to who will win the NFC, and who the best team is. I'm not saying it's the Seahawks, but I'm also not saying it can't be.


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