The Seattle Seahawks' playoff hopes took a few shots to the gut in Week 12.
It was bad enough that they suffered a tough loss on the road to a team they should have beaten, getting burned by Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins late in the fourth quarter and ultimately losing by three points, 24-21.
Then came this shocking news, via ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Filed to ESPN: Seattle CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner facing 4-game suspensions for violating performance enhancing drug policy.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 25, 2012
Both players are appealing the charges (h/t ProFootballTalk.com), but it's rare these days for players to win appeals on PED-related suspensions.
Before Week 12, the Seahawks had the inside track to make the playoffs with the No. 6 seed in the NFC. After these latest events, and assuming Sherman and Browner don't win their appeals, it's looking more and more like this team will be on the outside looking in come January.
The Seahawks feature the NFL's No. 3-ranked pass defense, allowing just 201 yards per game. Even more impressive than the scant amount of yardage conceded is the team's ability to keep opponents from scoring through the air—the 10 passing touchdowns it has allowed ranks No. 2 in the league, right behind the Baltimore Ravens.
Sherman and Browner are two of the biggest, most physical cornerbacks in the NFL, and they're often left alone on an island to defend the two top receivers. Their ability to lock down the NFL's top receivers on a regular basis allows Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to focus on the running game and on crossing patterns underneath.
If Browner and Sherman are out for the next four weeks, Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant will be forced into action, and the team's entire game plan on defense will have to change—not for the better, I'm sorry to say.
Long gone will be the stifling man-to-man coverage schemes that the Seahawks have utilized with amazing success this season. In its stead, will be a zone scheme that doesn't play to the defense's strengths as well.
Furthermore, the team's remaining schedule will be a challenge.
- Week 13: @ Chicago Bears
- Week 14: Arizona Cardinals
- Week 15: @ Buffalo Bills
- Week 16: San Francisco 49ers
- Week 17: St. Louis Rams
Realistically, the Seahawks will struggle to win three of their remaining five games. The Bears should be able to dominate at home, the Bills have a shot to beat the Seahawks (provided Sherman and Browner can't play) and the 49ers will likely win in Seattle.
If we assume the Seahawks win three games, the team will finish with a record of 9-7.
The Seahawks can get into the playoffs in 2012, but it's going to be a difficult task. One thing's for certain: The final five weeks will be exciting with so many teams vying for one spot.