Sunday, December 18, 2005

NFC Report: Week 16
By Zach

With just two weeks left things appear to be taking some semblance of shape in the NFC. You've got one team who's clinched their division (Seattle) and two more who have taken control of their divisions (Chicago, New York). You've also got a couple of teams who need a lot of help to have a chance to get into the playoffs.

You Didn't Want to be Around Me During the Game, I Promise.

Seattle Seahawks (12-2)

Outlook: So after absolutely pounding two lowly teams, it seems fitting that Seattle would struggle with the Titans. For all the injuries, Steve McNair remains a very good quarterback, and the Seahawks always struggle playing early games on the East Coast. The good news is they won, and also that they were able to effectively integrate Darrell Jackson back into the offense. Shaun Alexander had another big rushing day, and the defense, while poor most of the time, did manage to generate a huge stop on 4th-and-1 to propell them to the win.

I promised a preview of the Colts-Seahawks matchup last week, so here you go:

I'm assuming that Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, and Co. will only play a half. As for the Seahawks, the starters should stay in the game for a while, probably the whole way through unless it's a blowout. With the Bears winning on Sunday night, the Seahawks still need a win to clinch homefield throughout the NFC playoffs. What I'm trying to say is that we probably won't get a good feel for the relative strength of the two teams.

For the Seahawks, the keys will be:

1) Just like the Chargers, they must generate pressure, especially up the guy, with their front four. If they do blitz, it must be effective. Manning will pick apart single coverage, but when you put guys in his face he'll struggle. If you can do it without blitzing, you can force turnovers on Peyton.

2) They must be able to stop the run with the front seven. Again, you can't afford to take guys out of coverage against Peyton. The good news is that Edge has not run well in a while. His yards-per-carry each of the last five games? 3.7, 4.3, 3.8, 3.1, 1.9. The Colts offensive line is banged up and has struggled to create holes at times.

3) Offensively, they can not turn the ball over. They must be able to run the ball, especially on first down. They must mount time-consuming drives.

Remaining schedule: IND, @GB

Division Titles In Sight

Chicago Bears (10-4)

Outlook: This is the team that worries me the most as a Seahawks fan. We all know about their defense, but with Grossman under center they've become a mediocre offensive team. I know, not exactly awe-inspiring, but considering how bad they were under Orton it changes the whole dynamic. Now, you have to worry that the Bears can drive down the field on you, plus you know they're gonna beat up on you with the defense. May Kyle Orton (and his neckbeard) rest in peace.

Remaining schedule: @GB, @MIN

New York Giants (10-4)

Outlook: You want the good news or the bad news first? The bad? Eli Manning is really playing poorly. He's making bad decisions and bad throws. They got away with it for another week, but at some point his play under center is going to cost them a game. The good news? Tiki Barber is very, very good. He's right up there among the top running backs in the game, just a notch below Alexander and Tomlinson. The other bit of good news is that the Cowboys lost, so all the Giants need is to win one of their remaining two games (or have Dallas and Washington each lose once) in order to clinch the divison.

Remaining Schedule: @WAS, @OAK

Some Much-Needed Seperation

Carolina Panthers (10-4)

Outlook: So they beat the Saints. Big deal. This team still has massive problems, most of all their utter inability to run the ball, not even against that porous Saints D. They'll get into the playoffs, but they don't scare me.

Remaining schedule: DAL, @ATL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5)

Outlook: Yeah, they got killed by New England. But because everyone behind them lost, they're still in control of their own destiny. With two home games left, they should get to 11-5, and have a legit shot at the NFC South. No matter what, they should be in.

Remaining Schedule: ATL, NO

One Of Us Will Go

In order of liklihood

Washington Redskins (8-6)

Outlook: Despite being left for dead, they're back, and have the best shot at 10-6 out of this group. The Giants suck on the road, and the Eagles plain suck, so those are two winnable games. The defense is really playing well right now, and Portis is running strong as well.

Remaining schedule: NYG, @PHI

Minnesota Vikings (8-6)

Outlook: They've got a pretty good shot to get two more wins. You've got to figure they can beat the Ravens, even on the road, and if they Bears get locked in to their playoff slot after next week they might be able to win that game.

Remaining schedule: @BAL, CHI

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

Outlook: Wow, that was pathetic. I don't see them winning at Carolina, so they're probably out. 9-7 just won't get it done. Maybe they should try and find a QB.

Remaining schedule: @CAR, STL

Atlanta Falcons (8-6)

Outlook: No way they win both games. I'd be surprised if they won either, unless Carolina has nothing to play for. Mike Vick is the most overrated player in the league, and in all honesty they really lack talent throughout that offense. Warrick Dunn is a nice player, and Alge Crumpler is good, but their receivers are bad and their line is a joke. They've got a nice defense, but it's not good enough to make up for the flaws on the other side of the ball.

Remaining schedule: @TB, CAR


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