Who Fed It And Who Ate It: 2019 Week 8
Now that the season has hit the median point, both conferences are starting to take shape in the playoff chase. In the AFC, it's the New England Patriots (8-0) a lap ahead of the rest of the field, as every other division leader has five wins, which puts any of them 2 1/2 to 3 games behind the Pats for the top seed in the junior conference. Over in the NFC, it is stacked. The San Francisco 49ers (7-0) lead the way, but the New Orleans Saints & Green Bay Packers (both 7-1) don't trail very far behind. Even two teams in second place in their respective divisions, the Seattle Seahawks & Minnesota Vikings (both 6-2), are within striking distance. It will make the balance of the season an intriguing watch to see who can keep up the pace. Today, we'll look at 3 teams still very much alive in the playoff hunt.
The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Atlanta Falcons 27-20 to go 6-2 overall and remain undefeated on the road When it comes to defining the Seahawks, one of those components is Century Link Field, their home stadium whose noise level has reached world record status when their team plays. As a result, it makes for a tangible advantage for the Seahawks when they host. However, in 2019, the 'Hawks are only 2-2 in those friendly confines, but a perfect 4-0 thus far away from the Emerald City. What's making them good overall is playing well on both sides of the ball, even if the numbers don't jump off the page. Offensively, they're racking up about 383 yards and 26 points per game, ranking them 9th & 11th, respectively. QB Russell Wilson is making a case for league MVP, with an impressive passer rating (115.5) and a eye-popping touchdown to interception ratio (17 TD's to 1 INT). Passers throwing that hot are hard to beat. And while the defense, led by LB Bobby Wagner, doesn't boast lockdown ability in allowing yardage or points, they do two things exceptionally well. First, they generate turnovers, with 15 takeaways to their credit, ranking them fifth in the league. Giving the offense free possessions is a sure fire way to succeed in football. And secondly, Seattle's D gets off the field after third down, as their 3rd down conversion rate is 33.3%, sixth best leaguewide. The Seattle Seahawks remain in the NFC playoff picture because they do the small things right, and look to qualify for another round of January football if they continue to do so. Can they take the NFC West away from the scorching hot San Francisco 49ers? Clear November 11 on your calendar, as those two division rivals will square off at Levi's Stadium for their first meeting of the year on Monday Night Football. That one promises to be a classic.
The Los Angeles Chargers have dismissed offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt after an abysmal display of his unit through half of the season Back in the summer, there were more than a few folks in the football world that the Chargers would win the AFC West. There was a logic to it. The Kansas City Chiefs' offense would regress closer to the mean while the defense was being rebuilt, and the Bolts were more balanced on both sides of the ball. LA's defense has played well, but the offense hit the skids, specifically the running game. The Bolts haven't gained more than 80 yards in six consecutive games. And worse, they haven't even gained forty yards on the ground as a team in four straight (35 vs Denver, 32 vs Pittsburgh, 39 vs Tennessee, & 36 vs Chicago). Something had to change, which explains Whisenhunt's demise. Now, quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen will be the offensive playcaller for the balance of the season. Steichen, a 9 year coaching veteran, will be tasked to turn around the run offense in hopes to keep the Chargers in the AFC playoff chase. They are two games behind the Chiefs for the division lead and a half game behind a resilient Oakland Raiders squad. For Chargers fans (both of you), here's hoping that it's not too late.
The Carolina Panthers were the recipients of the Ass Kicking of the Week, getting mauled 51-13 by the still undefeated San Francisco 49ers This game was supposed to be the marquee matchup for Week 8, with Carolina rolling in with a four game win streak facing a young Niners team that some believe are not legitimate. This turned into a dissection of the Panthers. The Panthers defense, a ballhawking unit who may bend but won't break? The 49er running backs who accumulated 232 yards on the ground would like to have a word with you. Rookie signal caller Kyle Allen, filling in for an injured Cam Newton, throwing zero interceptions in his four starts? Allen got picked 3 times, one by a leaping Nick Bosa, where the rookie defensive end nearly took to the end zone. NFL MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey? Rendered irrelevant, despite his 155 scrimmage yards and 1 rushing TD. It seems like we've seen this movie before; the Panthers look pretty good, perhaps able to challenge the Saints in the NFC South, then gets absolutely wrecked in a road game. As a matter of fact, we have; last year. Carolina was 6-2 playing the Pittsburgh Steelers on a short week on Thursday Night Football, and proceeded to be demolished 52-21. After that, they would dump six of their last seven to finish a discouraging 7-9. Needless to say, this could be a concerning loss in the eyes of Panthers fans. Does this team have the psychological wherewithal to come back after such a demoralizing defeat? There is a whole nine games left to get back on a postseason pace. We'll find out if these players and coaches can rebound to stay afloat in a highly competitive NFC.