The 32 NFL teams have gone through free agency, the draft, mini-camps, organized team activities, training camps and pre-season, all in preparation for fielding a competitive product and reaching the playoffs.
While all this blood, sweat, and hard work will definitely go a long way toward determining the 2007 playoff field, when you strip away the injuries, incompetent refs, turn-overs and bad weather, getting to the playoffs is really a simple 4-step procedure. Having the coaches and players to accomplish these four steps, as Chris Bermans says ad nauseum, is why they play the games!
The 2006 Seahawks followed this recipe for the most part, and wound up making the playoffs. They went 5-3 in the division, sweepign the Rams, splitting with the Cards but getting swept by the 49ers, which put them one game behind the worst case scenario. They went 3-2 at home against non-divisional opponents, keeping pace with the worst case. They won the ONE game they were SUPPPOSED TO, by barely beating the Lions, and split 2-2, as the worst case predicted, of the four games where they were NOT.
And now, The 2007 Recipe for Success!
Step 1: Take Care of Your Divisional Games - Divisional games comprise roughly one-third of each team's schedule, and a divisional crown equals an automatic play-off berth, so these games are most important. While everyone would like to see a 2005-esque divisional sweep, that doesn't seem probable given the improvements made by the Cards, Rams and 9ers. However, the Seahawks should at least sweep one divisional opponent and split with the other two. Personally, I see them sweeping the 49ers and Rams, and splitting with the Cards.
(Best Case: 6-0, Alba's Call: 5-1, Worst Case: 4-2)
Step 2: Win Your HOME Games - Not only does the team owe it to the fans to play their best football at home, but a consistent winning record on your home field builds a league-wide reputation for your franchise, as well as creates a waiting list for season tickets! Not counting the three home games against divisional opponents, there are five other teams that will be visiting Qwest: The Bucs, Bengals, Saints, Bears and Ravens. Again, the ideal situation is to go 8-0 at home, but at the very least the team should have a winning home record against non-divisional opponents. The Bears and Saints probably will give the Seahawks the most trouble at Qwest, but I can see the 12th man helping with each, especially since they're NFC opponents. I'm predicting a loss to the Bengals in a shoot out, and a late season loss to the Ravens in a meaningless game featuring the backups.
(Best Case: 5-0, Alba's Call: 3-2, Worst Case: 3-2)
Win ALL the games you're SUPPOSED TO... - Like college football, there's usually a few "cup cake" games on the schedule, but as Appalacian State just proved, sometimes the "cup cakes" can bite you in the ass. Looking at the line-up, I see a Hostess Two-Pack, the opener at the Browns and the final game against the Falcons, as the easiest to pencil in the "W" at this point. Teams that drop games to inferior clubs rarely make the playoffs, or make an early exist if they do, so there is no other option than to dominate and win these games.
(Best Case: 2-0, Alba's Call: 2-0, Worst Case: 2-0)
...and a Couple that You're NOT! - It's hard to tell before the season starts, which games the Seahawks will be favored in, and which they'll be underdogs, but given the XL Debacle, we'll probably be getting points at the Steelers, and possibly at the Panthers and Eagles too. Loosing to the Steelers is not an option, and the team needs to prove that it can dominate a Donovan McNabb-lead Eagles team in Philly the same way it did two December's ago. The late season game with the Panther's may not mean much, or perhaps the cross-country travel finally takes its toll, but they should win against Pittsburgh and at least one of the other two.
(Best Case: 3-0, Alba's Call: 2-1, Worst Case: 2-1)
So there you have it. A Zagat-rated recipe for the best holiday dessert, another dominant Seahawks team threatening to go deep into the playoffs and return to the big dance. The best again is the improbably undefeated season. Alba's Call is a respectable 12-4 and possibly home field throughout. Even the worst case of 11-5 possibly brings a first round bye.
Now all the players and coaches have to do is mix the ingredients properly, pre-heat the oven, and for heaven's sake, don't let the batter burn!
I Yeild to the Chair
Hard As Nails
Hot Cross Buns
Linguini With Breasts