The Los Angeles Rams have already wrapped up the NFC West, but at 7-5, the Seattle Seahawks have won their past three games. If the playoffs started today, they’d be the fifth seed and headed to Dallas for a showdown against the 7-5 Cowboys in the wild-card round.
I don’t know about you, but I’d feel pretty good about that if I were a Seahawks fan. Sure, the Cowboys have been rolling of late, winning four out of five games since they acquired Oakland receiver Amari Cooper (I was one of the few who liked it for Dallas, by the way!).
Even after last week’s stunning win over the New Orleans Saints, a team many believed to be the class of the NFC, the Cowboys have a coach-quarterback combination in Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott that does not compare to the Seahawks’ duo of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson. And conventional football wisdom says that when predicting playoff games, that’s a sound way to pick a winner.
Speaking of Wilson, who is kicking butt and taking names right now, the Seahawks need him to keep rolling if they hope to topple the two remaining tests on their schedule. On Monday night they play the Minnesota Vikings, and in Week 16 they face the Kansas City Chiefs, two teams that rank in the top 10 in the NFL in sacks.
All of which leads us to the first topic on this week’s edition of Things I Enjoyed, which is …
1. Russell Wilson dropping dimes (when he has time)
The Seahawks have surrendered 37 sacks this year, which is too many. That’s tied for the seventh-most in the NFL.
But here’s the thing about that: Wilson holds the football as long as any quarterback in football, which — as we’ve seen with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger over the years — is generally a good thing, as more patience in and out of the pocket often leads to more big plays. A byproduct of this is more sacks, and Wilson takes his fair share because of this trait.
While the Seahawks’ offensive line isn’t elite at pass blocking, it certainly isn’t porous. In the Seahawks’ 43-16 blowout of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, you saw what happens when Wilson is kept clean and given time to work.
In the video above, you’ll see how Wilson had all day to throw and responded by completing 11 of 17 passes for 185 yards and four touchdowns. It was a performance that showed when buoyed by the league’s best run game, this offensive unit is tough to stop.
Seattle will need to keep this up when it faces Kansas City and Minnesota this month, two teams that know how to get after the quarterback. If the Seahawks do, a double-digit win season is possible and so is a playoff berth and maybe even more.
2. Phillip Lindsay’s burst and aggression
What Denver Broncos rookie running back Phillip Lindsay has done this season is nothing short of amazing. Not only has Lindsay, who went undrafted out of Colorado, beat out third-round pick Royce Freeman for the starting job, he has also been really, really good. Lindsay is on track to rush for 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns on a ridiculous 6.1 yards per carry.
While Lindsay was productive in college, averaging roughly 1,363 yards and 15 touchdowns in his final two seasons, he never had a yards-per-carry average higher than 5.1.
So what gives? Well, Lindsay’s speed in college — he ran a 4.39 during his pro day in March — has translated to the NFL; the two don’t always relate. Look at how quickly Lindsay reaches his top gear on the three plays included in the video below:
On Lindsay’s first touchdown, Denver coach Vance Joseph admitted it was “blocked really poorly … but he made it happen.” Lindsay is able to do this because of his quick feet and acceleration, and he’s also super competitive. I mentioned on the Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast that Lindsay, who is listed at 5-8 and 190 pounds, reminds me of former Carolina Panthers star Steve Smith at running back in this way.
I stand by that comment even more now, and when Lindsay improves as a pass blocker — as he almost certainly will, given the anger he plays with — look out. Lindsay already has some receiving chops (25 receptions for 189 yards this year) and at 24 years old, he still has years of top-notch football left.
3. The world’s worst shovel pass
If only because of how much it made me laugh. I mean, seriously guys:
This thing was a complete train wreck that made me cackle with delight as I watched the replay for two full minutes. It starts off well enough, with the right guard down blocking on Michael Brockers (No. 90) and the right tackle enveloping linebacker Cory Littleton (58).
The problem is, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (56) was having none of this foolishness. He remained disciplined in his gap, which put him in the perfect position to light up receiver Bruce Ellington on the shovel pass. It looks like left guard Frank Ragnow (77) should have blocked him while coming around on the pull, but whatever happened, it led to a nasty lick that resembled a “truck stick” hit from “Madden 07” and made me laugh heartily.
4. Matt Nagy’s blast to the past
I know the Mitchell Trubisky-less Chicago Bears lost to the woeful New York Giants on Sunday, and I’m sure Bears fans are quite annoyed at that. Chicago still leads the NFC North at 8-4, and if you could have told Bears fans before the season they’d be in this position with only four games to go, they absolutely would have taken it.
That said, one of the coolest things about rookie head coach Matt Nagy’s offense is the overall creativity. And much like Nagy’s mentor, Andy Reid, the Bears’ coach isn’t afraid to get a little crazy near the goal line, and sometimes that means giving the big boys the football.
That’s what Nagy did Sunday, when he essentially shouted out Bears legend William “The Refrigerator Perry” by handing the ball to 6-foot-5, 332-pound defensive end Akiem Hicks for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal with the game tied at 7 late in the second quarter:
Everything about this play — the formation, the personnel, even the design — is eerily similar to the dive play to Perry the ’85 Bears made famous. It was a really nice touch, a nod toward the Bears’ history that also happened to work. Really cool.
5. The hustle of Jordan Richards
But if you’re also like me, you’ll appreciate the all-out effort Falcons safety Jordan Richards (29) showed to catch up to Beasley around the 15-yard line and do just enough to keep Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson from tackling Beasley before he reached pay dirt:
This is one of those small moments that make football great. Players are capable of making great individual plays on their own, but more often than not, it takes the sacrifice of a teammate — or in this case, all-out effort and a few nudges — to make big things truly happen.
THINGS I ENJOYED ARCHIVE
WEEK 12: Bills QB Josh Allen is changing some skeptical minds
WEEK 11: Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and Chiefs-Rams gave us glorious forecast of the future
WEEK 10: This is why Rams’ Todd Gurley is mentioned in MVP talk
WEEK 9: Here’s how Dez Bryant can make Saints scarier
WEEK 8: How Golden Tate, 3 others dealt at NFL trade deadline can impact their teams
WEEK 7: These Amari Cooper plays can help Dak Prescott, Cowboys soar
WEEK 6: Flying to the football, Steelers’ nasty blocking & Matt Nagy channeling Andy Reid
WEEK 5: A Tale of two Cams (Newton and Erving)
WEEK 4: The juice of Patriots RB Sony Michel and lineman who slowed down Von Miller
WEEK 3: Mahomes magic and Lane Johnson’s acting chops
WEEK 2: Dallas’ deep ball, and the ridiculousness of Mahomes and Saquon
WEEK 1: Andy Reid’s goal-line circus and more