Finally, something to be excited about.
Finally, something to be excited about. Kelly O

The Seahawks are fun again, huh? In back-to-back weeks, Seattle beat good teams, first squeaking out a win over Pittsburgh, and now dominating the Minnesota Vikings in a 38-7 blowout. The win gives the Seahawks something in the range of an 80 to 85 percent chance of making the playoffs, and a crucial playoff tiebreaker over Minnesota for the all-important—or, well, quasi-important; totally unimportant on the cosmic scale, whatever—final NFC-playoff seeding.

This tiebreaker is crucial (within the realm of football, but not like the Paris climate talks or something) because, if the Seahawks make the playoffs—which looks even more likely than models may suggest given the way they're playing and the soft stretch coming up in their schedule—they'll likely do so as a wild-card team. With Carolina and Arizona running away with the top two seeds, this leaves the Packers, Vikings and NFC East champion as the three potential first-round opponents for the Seahawks. If the Packers win their division, which they look likely to do, this means the Seahawks reeeeeeally want to snag that top wild-card slot to set up a trip to whatever pile of garbage wins the NFC East, rather than a trip to Lambeau in January. Having the head-to-head edge over the Vikings specifically makes that a likely proposition.

An unlikely proposition? Russell Wilson wins the MVP award. Then again, why not? Given the enormity of what he's overcome (in the context of football, that is), he deserves a healthy dose of consideration for the top spot at this point in the year. Wilson is third in the league in traditional passer rating, behind only Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. He's third in yards gained per attempt, behind only Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger. And Wilson is significantly more dangerous with his legs than any of those players, and has nowhere near the supporting cast that Roethlisberger or Dalton has. Weirdly, this exercise that I started in order to make a weird case for Wilson's MVP candidacy has convinced me that somehow Carson Palmer should win the award, but Wilson should be right in the hunt depending on how things go over the next couple weeks.

For what it's worth, presumptive MVP favorite Cam Newton is not in the top-ten of either of those metrics. His team is 12-0 and he's played very well, but the Panthers' record is as much a product of their amazing linebacking corps as it is their quarterback's play. Which is not to say that Newton is bad—he isn't, he's great. But when people say things like, "Wilson's getting carried by his defense and running game," know that people are speaking of the Wilson of the past. The Wilson of the present is a spectacular quarterback on his own merits.

Also, the Seahawks defense is very good. While the non-Richard Sherman portions of the pass defense are not what they were, the run defense looked rejuvenated against a very good Vikings run game. Frank Clark moving to the middle of the defensive line was a beast, amassing two sacks, some pass deflections, and some big hits on Adrian Peterson. Brandon Mebane also looked as dominant in the middle as he has all year. And once that Vikings o-line got a bit worn down late in the game, Michael Bennett feasted upon them like bad Thanksgiving leftovers. In all, the Vikings managed 125 yards, while also amassing 95 yards of penalties. Aside from a Cordarelle Patterson kickoff-return touchdown, the Vikings barely threatened to score. It was pretty great.

Not quite great but pretty good was the Seahawks' offensive line. Patrick Lewis stabilizing the center of the line has been huge, as Russell Wilson hasn't started every play with defenders in his face as he did earlier in the year. Also a return to some more simple zone-read concepts, with interesting intermediate route groupings that have freed Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin within the first three seconds of plays, has allowed Wilson to avoid getting sacked constantly. Instead, he's making largely great choices in terms of when to keep the ball, when to hand it off to legitimate rookie of the year candidate Thomas Rawls, and when to hit his suddenly excellent pair of go-to receivers. Baldwin has never been better, and Lockett is in the midst of a great rookie campaign of his own. All of this derives from an offensive line that is no longer catastrophic and is being set up to succeed.

Oh, also, Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright had himself a game, managing to shut down both Adrian Peterson on the rare occasions he reached the second level of the Seahawks defense, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. The tight end position had been scorching the Seahawks all year long, but Rudolph was held to three catches, none of which went for first downs. It seemed like Wright was right there every time he was targeted. It was cool as heck.

And yeah, okay, there are things to nitpick. The Seahawks benefitted from ludicrous calls, kicker Steven Hauschka looked a little less than confident kicking extra points, the Vikings' front seven on defense were hit hard with injuries, Teddy Bridgewater was able to hit receivers not covered by Richard Sherman on intermediate routes (though the team's tackling was great, minimizing the damage), and the Vikings by any metric were worse than their 8-3 record would have suggested coming in. But come on. The Seahawks outgained the Vikings by 300 yards. They now have the number two defense in the league and the number seven offense. This is vintage (of the past three years) Seahawks. This is insufferable Seahawks football. The next three games the Seahawks have are against backup quarterbacks on bad teams. After a year of not having fun—well, in the very specific context of football in Seattle—all is suddenly right in the world.