Saturday, January 2, 2016

NFL Week 17: The End of the Regular Season

The New Year arrived cold and clear here. Usually on days when I don't have to work I like to be out on the road for a run before 8:30 AM, but the below-freezing temperatures kept me indoors. I finally made it out around 10:00 AM. On my way out the door I dropped off my rent check in the building super's mail slot. On the outside of the check envelope I jotted a note about the dire circumstances in which the home team finds itself at Week 17.

The building super, like so many men and women in this city, is a Seahawks junkie. Whenever I run into him at the entrance to the apartment building we hash out the team's state of affairs. The last time I saw him I believe was prior to the Cardinals-Seahawks Sunday night game in Week 10. Since that loss and up until last week's shellacking administered by the Jeff Fisher Rams, Seattle had gone on a Russell Wilson-fueled winning streak; the result of which, thanks to the synchronicity of losses by other teams competing for a wild card berth, is that the Seahawks had secured a playoff spot at the end of Week 15.

But now, the day before the last game of the regular season, things are not looking good. The Seahawks visit the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday afternoon with a roster decimated by injury: Jimmy Graham out for the season; Thomas Rawls gone for the year; the great Marshawn Lynch, heart and soul of the team, missing since the Week 10 Cardinals loss because of an abdominal injury that required surgery; Kam Chancellor, absent since the game in Baltimore with an injury to his pelvis, will be a pale shadow of his former self if he does return to active duty; Michael Bennett and Jordan Hill both slowed because of toe injuries; Russell Okung hobbled with a bum calf. One could go on, but you get the idea. The Seahawks are not the team they once were. When they take the field the vibe is different.

Which was the gist of my note to the building super: Never before in the Russell Wilson era has Seattle been so vulnerable.

My fear is that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has a beat down planned for the Seahawks, payback for the humiliating defeat Seattle dealt to Arizona at the end of the season last year. But not just payback, also a statement. The statement being that the Seahawks are finished, kaput. There will be no more Super Bowls for Seattle.

As I think I have mentioned before, football, National Football League football, is important in the United States because it provides an ersatz form of community in this era of peak neoliberalism, in this age of possessive individualism run amok. Yes, it is a corporate product that serves as a public relations foil for U.S. militarism (which comes pretty close to a good definition of fascism), but it binds people together, gives them a way to relate to one another in what is otherwise a benign way. Because underneath the layers of commercialism, the billions of dollars in advertising and the excessive violence is the athleticism, the basic element of human effort. For a Seahawks fan when Marshawn Lynch rushes for a touchdown at the goal line the feeling is "All is right with the world." Or for a Jets fan, what it must have felt like when Eric Decker caught the touchdown that beat the Patriots last Sunday in overtime. It is sad to say but this is what represents exuberant, collective fulfillment for us in the West now that neoliberalism has bankrupted our politics.

After I dropped off my rent check I headed out the front door to the trash and recycle bins. I had a green biodegradable bag full of kitchen compost -- banana and grapefruit peels, coffee grinds, onion skins -- that I needed to drop off before I began my jog. When I flipped open the compost container I was greeted by the vision of a large carcass of some sort of bird of prey. Hawk or owl I don't know which. I couldn't make out the head, and the body parts were hard to identify. The feathers were white with some gray checks; it could've been the under-wing of an osprey. Probably road kill that some Samaritan scooped up and tossed in the compost. In any event, a very ill omen for Seahawks fans.

It has been a bizarre season. Despite Carolina's flirtation with a perfect record, which came to an end last week thanks to Atlanta, there has been no sense of transcendence or complete domination by any one team. I think injuries have upended a lot of the drama of the regular season. Baltimore has been uncharacteristically turned into an also-ran because of season-ending injuries to Suggs, Flacco and Forsett. Green Bay, once the apple of the tout's eye, is now limping, like the Seahawks, to the playoffs, their offensive line devastated. In the AFC, conference powerhouses New England and Denver (not to mention Cincinnati), are very beatable because of rosters wracked by injury.

If I had to make a prediction I would say the Arizona Cardinals are the team to beat. Nonetheless they are beatable. The Seahawks had them in the fourth quarter in Week 10, but they couldn't hold the lead. It is going to take a team with a stout line and good defensive secondary who can run the ball on offense. That team very well could be the Panthers. The problem with Carolina is that the defense has looked shaky lately.

In the AFC I think it is a toss-up. The Jets could even make a run, assuming they don't shoot themselves in the foot tomorrow against Buffalo. I say this because New York has proven they can beat the Patriots. There has been a lot of talk about the run that the Chiefs are on. My issue with the Chiefs, and the same can be said of the Bengals, is that they have a tendency to underperform in the playoffs.


  1. Replies
    1. It's too bad. I was rooting for the Jets. But they made Tyrod Taylor look like Tom Brady. He completed passes at will on third down. Still, despite the somnambulant play of the New York D, the Jets were in position to win the game in the 4th quarter. Ryan Fitzpatrick's int in the end zone was a killer.