Seattle is back to its badass self, the Vikings' $84 million problem and the NFL's alarming GM imbalance. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.
1. They're back...
There was a time, not so long ago, whenever we described the Seahawks, we used words like scary, frightening, hard-hitting, badass enough to make opponents pee their pants.
We might want to start using them again.
No, the Seahawks aren't perfect, and yes, their flaws are larger than most of the legitimate Super Bowl contenders. But as one NFC assistant coach whose team has played them told me: "They are one of the scariest teams in football because they are so physical. They intimidate people."
Yes, the nasty Seahawks are back. They are "the team no one wants to play" in the playoffs.
"The Seahawks are doing things that you need to do down the stretch of an NFL season," analyst Ryan Clark said on ESPN. "They're running the football...and they are playing stout defense. And if you're an NFC team, the Seattle Seahawks are a team you don't want to face because you don't want to go against teams that can play defense, run the football and have experienced Super Bowl-winning quarterback play, which the Seattle Seahawks have."
Seattle, much like Dallas and Chicago, is winning the old-fashioned way—by running the ball and playing defense. The Seahawks go counter to a league obsessed with scoring. They are analog. They are dial-up. But it works for them.
On Monday night, that formula worked well enough to punk a good Vikings offense, shutting it out until the fourth quarter. Seattle's 21-7 win was classic Seahawks, filled with suffocating defense, big hits and athleticism.
What should really scare people about this team, people around the league say, is its diversity. The Seahawks have won four straight games, and in the first three, quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 749 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions and had a passer rating of at least 110.3 in each.
Against a good Vikings defense, he struggled, going 10-of-20 for 72 yards and an interception. His passer rating was 37.9. But the defense, which ranks sixth in the NFL in points allowed per game, picked him up, as did a running game that is first in rushing attempts per game (35), rushing yards per game (153.9) and tied for second in rushing first downs (109).
It all makes for a pretty dynamic threat.
If Wilson struggles, the Seahawks can lean on the running game. If the running game slows down, they can rely on that defense. If the defense has issues, they can go to Wilson.
Looks like many of us were a little too quick to bury the Seahawks earlier this season, but they are back and will be trouble in the playoffs.
2. Right on time
Russell Wilson didn't have a great game against the Vikings, but he still did what he usually does at this time of year: win.
I know what some of you are saying: Quarterback wins aren't a stat, dude. That's true. But they're what matter most, and few players in the league raise their games more than Wilson. And in turn, so have the Seahawks.
3. Nothing to smile about
The Jets won for the first time in seven games by beating Buffalo 27-23 on Sunday. Before anyone starts thinking that might save head coach Todd Bowles' job, though, check out the effort level of defensive lineman Leonard Williams on this Josh Allen touchdown run, via Whistle Sports' Joe Caporoso:
It's possible he's injured, but to the naked eye, it seems a lot more like another example of the consistent lack of effort we've seen from the Jets for most of the season.
4. The record speaks for itself
The Vikings were a playoff team last year and a damn good one. Then Kirk Cousins was brought in to make them even better and propel them to the Super Bowl.
That hasn't happened. Instead, the Vikings have regressed, and after Monday's loss in Seattle, they stand at 6-6-1. Minnesota could still make the playoffs, but sneaking in was never the plan.
The team apparently felt offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was to blame and fired him Tuesday, but to me, the biggest issue has been Cousins.
He was paid $84 million guaranteed to win big games. Instead, Cousins has extended his woeful Monday Night Football losing streak to 0-7. He's lost to the Rams, Saints, Bears and Seahawks in nationally televised night games this season.
All good teams, sure, but the reason the Vikings paid him all of that guaranteed cash was to help beat those teams.
Oh, and if that isn't enough to make the Minnesota front office squirm, there's also the fact that Cousins is now 4-24 in his career against teams that are above .500.
5. Malpractice, NFL style
If you don't believe by now that Colin Kaepernick was blackballed by the NFL for his peaceful protests against police brutality and racial injustice (his collusion grievance is still active), you are a fool. But if you need more proof, I'd like to bring your attention to the Washington football team.
Not surprisingly, Sanchez, who started Sunday in the wake of a second-ending injury to McCoy, was awful, going 6-of-14 with two interceptions, including a pick-6. His quarterback rating: 10.7.
Washington said it picked him over Kaepernick because Sanchez knew the offense. (Narrator: Sanchez did not know the offense.)
Then they brought in Josh Johnson from the Alliance of American Football for added depth. Before coming on in relief of Sanchez against the Giants, Johnson had gone six years and 363 days between NFL passes, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info):
Johnson likely will start this Sunday, though the results likely will be the same—bad. Kaepernick may not have been able to save Washington, but he sure couldn't have been worse than what the team has out there lately.
It's a joke, a total joke.
6. The great player with the common name
Kansas City defensive end Chris Jones doesn't have the same high profile as some of the NFL's other top pass-rushers, like Khalil Mack. Nonetheless, he is having a remarkable season. Heading into this Thursday's duel with the Chargers, Jones has had a sack in nine consecutive games, the first time that's happened since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, according to the NFL.
The Chiefs defense hasn't been a bright spot in an otherwise sunny season, but it's been just good enough to allow Patrick Mahomes to make his superstar turn count most weeks. And Jones is a big reason why.
7. A new-age Tarkenton, or is it Montana?
The difficulty level of the no-look pass Patrick Mahomes threw Sunday is hard to explain in writing. As the sorry-ass, double-emergency backup quarterback in high school, I used to try it, and the football would just end up in the dirt. It was impossible.
That Mahomes did it with such ease got me wondering which other quarterbacks in history could throw that type of pass. The list is short:
• Joe Montana: Underrated athlete and highly accurate thrower who had a historic throwing touch.
• Brett Favre: Threw all kinds of incredible passes from all types of weird angles.
• Aaron Rodgers: Can do almost anything with the football.
• Steve Young: One of the best athletes to ever play the position.
• Mike Vick: Ditto.
• Randall Cunningham: Any quarterback who can do this can do anything.
• Ken Stabler: Could make any throw, anywhere, anytime.
• Russell Wilson: He's already done it.
• Derek Carr: He's done it too.
• Tony Romo: This may seem like an odd choice, but Romo made numerous absurdly good plays throughout his career.
• Fran Tarkenton: Maybe the best overall comparison to Mahomes there is.
• Doug Flutie: Vastly underrated and has a history of making wild plays.
8. Dwindling representation
When Baltimore Ravens exec Ozzie Newsome retires at the end of this season, there will only be one African American general manager remaining in the NFL, as ESPN's Josina Anderson recently pointed out: That's Chris Grier in Miami.
I can tell you the league office has noticed the dwindling numbers and is concerned.
This is setting up to be a huge topic in the coming months (or, at least, it should be). The NFL, for years, has tried to make the league more diverse. In some ways, it's succeeded. In this instance, it's failing.
9. Slow and steady wins the race
Of the great Cowboys offenses through the years, from Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett to Troy Aikman/Michael Irvin/Emmitt Smith, it's astonishing that never before had any combination of stars done what Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper did this past Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
The Cowboys had 576 yards of total offense vs the Eagles today, their most in a game since 1978 and the 4th-most in franchise history. Today was the first time in team history the Cowboys had a 400-yard passer, 200-yard receiver and 100-yard rusher in the same game. https://t.co/MURtATcHBN
It's remarkable, in many ways, that since the arrival of Cooper, the entire mentality of the team seems to have changed. This isn't to say Cooper is the sole reason. Maybe the Cowboys were always calm and focused because of Prescott, and we just didn't notice.
Whatever the reasons, the Cowboys quickly have become one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC and, like the Seahawks, the kind of club no one wants to play in the postseason.
10. Santa's Sleigh
The magnificent play call the Bears used to score Sunday night's only touchdown in their 15-6 win over the Rams was called "Santa's Sleigh," as the recipient of the play, offensive lineman Bradley Sowell, told ESPN's Michele Steele.
One of the remarkable things about the play wasn't just Sowell's dance but also the fact that it was only installed the Friday before, two days before the contest.
Not only did the quick pass to Sowell help give the Bears control of a game over a team they may have to meet in the playoffs, but it also likely helped build a bond between head coach Matt Nagy and his locker room.
Players need to have fun. They are professionals, sure, but they need to feel like they are more than just drones. Nagy gets this, and in letting his players have a little fun, he allowed them to feel like they have some agency in the team's decision-making. It's what anyone with a job wants and why Nagy has been as successful as he has been so far.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.