The only way tonight’s NFL matchup between Philadelphia-Seattle (8:15 ET, NFL) is remotely interesting is if there’s some way for a 9-7 team to make the playoffs out of the NFC. Both the Seahawks and Eagles are already at 4-7. Since the issue of a 9-7 entrant affects not only these two teams, but fellow 4-7 squads in Washington and Tampa, the Notebook takes a brief look at the leaders in the NFC playoff race to see who might fade…
Atlanta (7-4): The Falcons are playing well right now and it’s not realistic to think they’ll fold up now. A potentially tough road game at Houston on Sunday turned easy as the Texans are down their #3 quarter. Atlanta has home games with Jacksonville and Tampa. For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume they’ll grab one wild-card berth (and perhaps catch New Orleans for the NFC South).
Chicago (7-4): With Jay Cutler out for the season the road suddenly got interesting. Caleb Hanie was out of his element in Oakland, throwing three interceptions and now the Bears get a Chiefs defense that’s playing well and nearly upset Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Bears also have to go to Denver and Green Bay and even a Week 17 date in Minnesota has spoiler game written all over it. The Bears are in trouble. Is it wrong to hope they call up Brett Favre and set him up for Christmas night in Lambeau? Yes, I thought it was.
Detroit (7-4): The two-game suspension of Ndamakong Suh for his dirty play in Thanksgiving Day’s game against Green Bay was justified and delivers a big blow to the Lions, who rely on their defensive front. They still have Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch on the edges, but gut pressure won’t be coming these next two games. One of them is Sunday night in New Orleans. Detroit also visits Oakland. In the season finale they go to Green Bay, who may play everybody if they have a chance at 16-0. The Lions are in trouble.
NY Giants (6-5): Any team that’s 6-5 at this point can certainly settle for 9-7 and this whole discussion actually might be more relevant to the Giants than the two teams playing tonight. New York’s coming off three straight losses, their defense looked terrible in New Orleans on Monday and now they have Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming to town. New York still has two games with Dallas and they still go to play the Jets. The two games with the Cowboys mean that if the Giants surge they’ll likely win the NFC East and get out of this whole discussion.
What it all adds up to is that it looks like a 9-7 team can make it to the #6 seed in the NFC. Of course even when you settle that, there are still tiebreakers (Atlanta and Chicago both beat Philadelphia). And there’s that other factor which asks how a team that’s taken 11 weeks to win four times is suddenly about to win five times in five weeks. Which brings us back to tonight’s matchup.
Vince Young is expected to start again tonight for Philadelphia, but he is missing receiver Jeremy Maclin. Seattle will be missing its top threat in Sidney Rice, who’s been sidelined for the year with a concussion. The Seahawks have shown some signs of life, but lost a home game on Sunday to the Redskins. Philadelphia’s defense looked terrible in the loss to New England, but tonight Trent Cole and Jason Babin should be able to generate enough pressure, force Tavaris Jackson to throw three interceptions and enable the Birds to win an ugly game that in no way is worth turning off college football to watch.