Week 8 of the 2013 NFL season is officially a wrap, and what a finish it had. It was a week that saw very few upsets, but quite a few close calls for quality teams. The Patriots and Broncos had to battle back from sizable deficits. The Seahawks escaped St. Louis with a close win, the Chiefs faced a dog fight with the Browns and the Lions won a wild one against Dallas. We got a 49ers win, we didn't get the Rams win, but overall, it was a fun weekend of football.
Seahawks hang on just barely
It wasn't pretty, but the Seattle Seahawks escaped with a pretty huge 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks looked incredibly bad on offense, while their defense benefited from some bad play by the Rams offense. That being said, the Seahawks defense stepped up on that goal to go situation, and got the win.
It is worth noting the team was dealing with injuries to their offensive tackles. Robert Quinn and Chris Long had a field day against that offensive line, but the line should improve in the coming weeks. I think the 49ers can still do some damage against a healthy Seahawks line, but it's still worth noting.
Had the Seahawks lost, they would have dropped into a tie with the 49ers. Instead, they maintain their one-game lead. The two teams square off in December, but before then, the 49ers travel to face the New Orleans Saints in Week 11, and the Seahawks host the Saints Week 13. There are plenty of possible losses for both San Francisco and Seattle outside of that, but it is entirely possible the division flips based on the Saints. If the 49ers can win that game, they have a great shot at winning the division. I the 49ers lose to the Saints and the Seahawks beat the Saints, it becomes that much more difficult with a potential two-game difference.
Next week, the Seahawks host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While anything is possible, I'm not holding my breath for the upset, or even much of a competitive game.
Saints roll Buffalo
While we've been talking 49ers and Seahawks quite a bit here, the New Orleans Saints have quietly climbed out to 6-1 following a thorough beating of the Buffalo Bills. Their only loss was that crazy finish to the New England Patriots at Foxboro Stadium.
The Saints head on the road to face the New York Jets in Week 9. While the Saints only have one loss on the season, they have not been quite as effective away from the cozy confines of the Superdome. They are still a good team, but traveling to face a spunky Jets squad could potentially trip them up. They also still have to go to Carolina and, of course, the Seattle game mentioned above.
Panthers showing things two weeks ahead of their matchup with the 49ers
The 49ers get a bye this week before hosting the Carolina Panthers in Week 10. The Panthers are currently 4-3 following an easy 31-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This actually marks the first time the Panthers have been over the .500 mark since 2008! The Panthers have won three straight, and will host the Atlanta Falcons this weekend. It would not be a shock to see them at 5-3 heading into the Week 10 matchup.
The Panthers have been an extremely inconsistent, but dangerous team during the Cam Newton era. This year, they've boosted their defense, and Cam seems to be settling into a more defined role. He can still make plenty of big plays, but he is not putting it all on his own shoulders. The 49ers are on a roll right now, but the Panthers present a significant challenge, particularly to the 49ers improving offense.
NFC wild card is gonna get a little messy
The 49ers are a game back of the Seahawks, and at 6-2 they hold the top wild card spot. We're only halfway through the season, but it's never too early to break down some of the more detailed playoff implications.
The Detroit Lions secured a monstrous last-second win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys climbed out to a ten point lead in the fourth quarter, but Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson keyed a crazy comeback. The win improves the Lions to 5-3. They sit a game back of the 49ers in the wild card race, and a half game back of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
The Arizona Cardinals are not the most impressive of teams, and yet somehow they are hanging around the wild card race. The Cardinals handled the Atlanta Falcons with a 27-13 win. The Falcons are not particularly good this year, but it's still a big win for Arizona. At 4-4, the Cardinals sit a game back of the Lions who currently hold the second wild card spot. I think the Cardinals slip as the season progresses, but for now they're a slightly dangerous team.
The rest of the wildcard race includes the 4-3 Bears (coming off a bye), the 4-3 Panthers, and I suppose some of the slop in the NFC East.
Chefs Watch slows down
In our lone bit of AFC news, the Kansas City Chiefs won again, improving to 8-0. We already discussed Chefs Watch, but it's still worth a second mention. The AFC West and NFC West have been the two best divisions in the NFL this season. The Chiefs and Broncos are dominating the AFC West, and it's conceivably they could both win 13+ games this season.
Can you imagine a 13 win team having to go on the road for the playoffs? Oh wait, the NFC West could very well see something similar. There is some serious talent in both divisions, which is nice to see after a decade of both divisions scuffling on the bottom end. West coast (-ish), baby!