Last week, with the Seattle Seahawks weakened by injuries and the NFL’s best team coming to town, Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright uttered the phrase that might ring through the final stages of this NFL season.
"Don't sleep on us, man," he told The Seattle Times.
“This team is still good,” he continued. “We are still talented. We can be the best of the best. We are the best of the best. And so just because we have injuries don’t mean that things will change.”
On Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles came into Seattle on a run few teams ever experience. Their offence had been so explosive, their defence so intimidating they were looking to be the first team in 18 years to win five straight games by 20 points.
They hoped to leave with the NFC East title wrapped up a month early. Given the way they had been playing and the way the Seahawks were limping, it seemed a logical conclusion both would happen.
By now the NFL should know the Seahawks might be the league’s grittiest team, surviving more on belief than talent these days. Instead of winning by 20, the Eagles only scored twice, losing 24-10.
Carson Wentz, assumed by many to be the 2017 MVP, was harried all night. His 348 yards passing were mostly garbage yards. When Seattle's defence needed to make a stop, Wentz was pressured by swarms of players in blue, sacked three times and knocked to the ground several others.
Even his two best throws - in the Eagles’ only touchdown drive - came under great duress. It was as if the Seahawks were the Seahawks again - if only for a night.
Injuries have been especially cruel to Seattle. Their famed Legion of Boom has been torn apart. Richard Sherman, their great defensive star, watched from under a blue jacket, his season done with a torn achilles.
Kam Chancellor, their biggest intimidator, wore a hat instead of a helmet. They have pieced together an offensive line and are on their sixth running back.
Even with Russell Wilson having an MVP-level season of his own, there has been little about these Seahawks to say they can make another Super Bowl run.
Except that they won’t go away.
“They didn’t waver,” Wilson said about his team’s defence after the game. “We can’t waver. This is playoff football, you can’t waver.”
This is probably the biggest question as the season heads into the final month - and many of the NFC’s top teams lack the Seahawks’ playoff experience.
The Vikings (the new top seed), Eagles and Rams are unaccustomed to being good this time of year. They have all been on magnificent runs but much as the Eagles discovered in Seattle, they may not be prepared for nights like Sunday when an experienced team comes at you with a frenzy you’ve never encountered.
Seattle have now played themselves into a wildcard spot with four games to play. They are 8-4 and just a game behind the Rams who come to Seattle in two weeks. Given the way the defence rattled Wentz and the Eagles and the way Wilson keeps making plays when no plays seem possible, there is every reason to believe Wright.
Don’t sleep on the Seahawks.
They may just be waking up for their time of year.
Patriots 23 Bills 3
Tom Brady went 21-of-30 passing for 258 yards en route to his 27th career victory over Buffalo as New England (10-2) won their eighth straight game. Brady also broke Brett Favre's NFL record for most wins against a single opponent. New England's Rex Burkhead rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns and Dion Lewis added 92 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose late hit in the fourth quarter may net him a fine or suspension, caught nine passes for 147 yards.
Vikings 14 Falcons 9
Minnesota shut down Atlanta's Julio Jones and stretched their winning streak to eight games. Case Keenum threw two short touchdown passes and the Vikings (10-2) held the Falcons (7-5) to three field goals. Keenum completed 25-of-30 passes for 227 yards as the Vikings all but locked up first place in the NFC North. Jones had just two catches for 24 yards.
Saints 31 Panthers 21
Rookie running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 126 yards and scored two touchdowns to power New Orleans past Carolina. The win lifted the Saints into sole possession of first place in the NFC South. In sweeping the season series with the Panthers (8-4), the 9-3 Saints took a one-game lead in the division, using a powerful running game to gain 148 yards against the league's third-best rushing defence.
Rams 32 Cardinals 16
Jared Goff passed for two touchdowns and linebacker Alec Ogletree returned an interception for a score in Los Angeles' win at Arizona. With their sixth victory in seven games, the Rams (9-3) strengthened their hold on first place in the NFC West and all but assured the Cardinals (5-7) of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Dolphins 35 Broncos 9
Miami’s swarming defence held Denver out of the end zone and scored twice as the Dolphins (5-7) ended a five-game losing streak. Denver (3-9) lost their eighth straight match and haven’t won since October 1st.
Packers 26 Buccaneers 20
Aaron Jones rushed for a 20-yard touchdown with 5:59 remaining in overtime as Green Bay improved to 6-6 and broke a three-game home losing streak. Tampa Bay fell to 4-8 as quarterback Jameis Winston returned after missing the past three games with a shoulder injury.
Jets 38 Chiefs 31
The Jets (5-7) ended a stretch of five losses in six games as quarterback Josh McCown plunged in from a yard out for the deciding score. Kansas City (6-6) have now lost six of seven, including four straight.
Chargers 19 Browns 10
New San Diego kicker Travis Coons equalled a career high with four field goals, and Keenan Allen added a touchdown catch in the victory over winless Cleveland. The Chargers (6-6), tied for first in the NFC West, won for the sixth time in eight games. The Browns (0-12) lost their 27th game in their past 28 contests. Their lone win over that span came against the Chargers last year.
Raiders 24 Giants 17
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 101 yards with a 51-yard touchdown and Derek Carr threw for 287 yards and a score in Oakland's win over New York. The Raiders (6-6) moved into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West with Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers. Quarterback Geno Smith started in place of Eli Manning and completed 21 of 34 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown for the Giants (2-10).
49ers 15 Bears 14
Robbie Gould made all five of his field-goal attempts, including the winning kick with four seconds to go, and San Francisco rallied to defeat Chicago. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 26 of 37 passes for 293 yards in his first start with the 49ers as San Francisco (2-10) won for the second time in three games.
Ravens 44 Lions 20
Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes and Alex Collins ran for a pair of scores to lead Baltimore by Detroit. Baltimore improved to 7-5 and boosted their chances of a spot in the post-season. Detroit (6-6) trailed 20-0 at half-time, but Matthew Stafford completed 20 consecutive passes to help the Lions get back in the game.
Jaguars 30 Colts 10
Quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 309 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions as Jacksonville defeated Indianapolis. The Jaguars (8-4) remain tied for first place in the AFC South with Tennessee.
Titans 24 Texans 13
Rallying from an early 10-0 deficit, Tennessee (8-4) defeated Houston (4-8) to keep pace with Jacksonville atop the AFC South. Quarterback Marcus Mariota accounted for both Tennessee touchdowns, going ahead with three seconds left in the third quarter.
Guardian Service (additional reporting Reuters)