Saturday, December 21, 2013

Seattle, Dammit, Will Stroll To The Super Bowl Title




It's over.

Sure, we'll go through the motions and play out the games, but the NFL season is over. There's no more mystery. The commissioner might as well hand the trophy to the Seattle Seahawks now instead of waiting until February. The rest of the season and the playoffs? A mere formality.

This past week of games said it all. Nobody can touch Seattle.

They're real good--scary good.What they did to the New York Giants Sunday, that 23-0 beat-down, bordered on criminal. The Giants, with a paltry 181 yards total offense and five interceptions, never had a chance. The Seattle offense, anchored by QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch,  is among the best, but it's that defense that tortures opposing offensive coordinators. The Seahawks defense is just a notch below the legendary, bone-crushing Chicago Bears' defense of 1985. The Seahawks secondary is not only the best in the league by far, it's also the best of the past decade.

No question that defense is Seattle's primary advantage. But there's something else that solidifies their position in the driver's seat on the road to the Super Bowl--home field advantage. Seattle, which has won 14 straight at CenturyLink Field, is simply unbeatable at home. For the normal team home-field advantage is worth three points. According to some bookies, though, for the Seahawks, it's worth seven. In Seattle, that deafening crowd noise, enhanced by acoustics and sound-system amplification, is incredibly disruptive to opponents and makes it nearly impossible for the opposing QB to call audibles, wiping out a key offensive strategy. For instance, take audibles away from Peyton Manning and he's not nearly as effective.

Seattle, most likely, is at home from now until the Super Bowl, including their final two games, against Arizona and St.Louis, and all their playoff games. All they have to do is win one or both those regular-season games, depending on what happens with their closest NFL competitors. This means that, for the rest of the season and the playoffs, they only play in Seattle, where they never lose, and then in New York--the Super Bowl site--where they just demolished the Giants.

In the NFC, Seattle's only real challengers are New Orleans, Carolina and San Francisco. Scratch the Saints and the Panthers as serious competition, since the Saints suck on the road and Carolina has an exceptional defense but an inconsistent offense that would be smothered in Seattle. The Seahawks' only real competition is the 49ers, who proved they're the second best team in the NFL with a recent, bruising 19-17 victory over Seattle in San Francisco.

When Seattle and San Francisco meet in the playoffs, that's the real Super Bowl. But it's extremely doubtful that the Niners can win in Seattle. It would take a near perfect game--a real long shot. The Niners' defense, which is nearly as good as the Seahawks,' will stifle the Seattle offense, but the Niners' offense will falter in the fourth quarter, due to the unnerving stadium noise and QB Colin Kaepernick's inevitable mistakes. If the 49ers had won more convincingly in San Francisco, Niner fans could be more optimistic about winning the NFC title in Seattle. But that narrow home victory indicates the two teams are neck-in-neck and Seattle's home-field advantage, which is sizable, should boost the Seahawks to the conference championship.

When Seattle clears the San Francisco hurdle, it's clear sailing to a Super Bowl title. That's because the  AFC is a joke. Last week Denver couldn't even beat a so-so San Diego team at home. That Bronco defense was pitiful. So was the New England defense in the Patriots' 24-20 loss to unimpressive Miami. Denver and Miami are the best the AFC has to offer. Neither one, however, has anything close to a championship defense. Besides,  Denver QB Peyton Manning turns soft in the playoffs and the New England offense, without premiere pass receiver Rob Gronkowski, QB Tom Brady's right-hand man, sputters in the red zone.

It's possible, though, that injuries, to QB Wilson, RB Lynch or some key defensive players, could halt Seattle's march to a Super Bowl title. Or horrible weather conditions on Super Bowl Sunday could even the playing field, erasing Seattle's defensive advantage and opening the door to an AFC win.

But we're talking long shots. Sorry, Seattle haters. The Seahawks are the champs. All non-Seattle fans have to look forward to is Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll, an insufferable ass, laughing and celebrating and gloating and talking about how tough that journey to the Super Bowl title really was.

Makes you want to barf.