The playoff picture is starting to thicken in the NFL, and there are a handful of fringe teams that should be making late season pushes to earn Wild Card bids.
One team making their last season push are the Seattle Seahawks. After winning their last two games over the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets, the Seahawks improved to 6-4 on the season and they're coming off a bye week.
The Seahawks have upcoming games against the Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals, and all three are must-win games for the Seahawks. Tampa Bay has an identical record and is going to be competing for the same NFC spot as Seattle. It's hard to say at this point which is the better team.
Seattle has one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, but the absolute worst passing game. Marshawn Lynch is already at 1,000 yards this season and has rushed 212 times in 10 games. That high usage rate has rendered the Seahawks as predictable as they are good.
Russell Wilson hasn't done a bad job throwing the ball when he has (62.1 percent completion ratio), but why throw when Lynch can handle that kind of workload?
The issue will be if the Seahawks' offensive attack is diversified enough to thrive in the postseason. The other issue is that they are 1-4 on the road this season, and they'll need to win on the road in the playoffs—if they can get there. Three of their final six games are on the road, and this week's against Miami is the most crucial with regards to the playoff race.
Miami has the rush defense to counteract Lynch. They're 9th in opponent rushing yards, allowing less than 100 per game, and while their secondary is pretty bad, it won't matter against the Seahawks.
Miami's defense has just been pretty solid in general, but the offensive concerns won't go away. They rank in the bottom third of both passing and rushing offense, and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill still has a long way to go as an NFL quarterback. His 58.1 percent completion ratio and 11 interceptions (not to mention the 19 sacks) render the Dolphins a very poor offensive team.
The Minnesota Vikings will also be in the hunt for the NFC Wild Card bid. The Vikings, like the Seahawks, have been very good at home (5-1) and poor on the road (1-3). Their win last Sunday (Nov. 11) against Detroit was necessary, since their next two contests are both on the road against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. It really couldn't be much worse. The Bears and Packers are a combined 8-2 at home and both sit ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North Division.
Again, like the Seahawks, the Vikings are a horrible passing team (30th in pass yardage) and great on the ground, on the strength of Adrian Peterson's 1,128 yards. Peterson has rushed for 20-plus yards 13 times this season and is averaging 112.8 yards per game. While quarterback Christian Ponder has been effective when he has thrown the ball (65.2 percent completion ratio), Peterson is the entire Vikings attack—make no mistake.
The Bears and Packers both rank high in rush defense (5th and 11th, respectively), so Peterson is going to have his work cut out for him to get the Vikings into the playoffs. It's still plausible that the Vikings drop one of these next two games and make the playoffs, but they can't afford to drop both.
The NFC race is thick, and these three teams are all in the hunt. Which do you think will emerge? Or will it be another candidate altogether?
Many are high on the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys...
We'll see how this all plays out over the next six weeks, as it is still too early to declare a victor by any stretch of the imagination. There's so much football still to be played.
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