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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

December 17, 2014 at 6:30 AM

Updated: Seahawks continue climb to top of media’s NFL power rankings

Seahawks safety Jeron Johnson gets the CenturyLink crowd and his teammates going during Seattle's game with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.  Mike Siegel / Seattle Times staff

Seahawks safety Jeron Johnson gets the CenturyLink crowd and his teammates going during Seattle’s game with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Mike Siegel / Seattle Times staff

Defense is pushing the Seahawks near the top of the NFL power rankings by national media and major newspapers.

Only the New England Patriots, the top team in nearly every poll this week, stand between Seattle and being the consensus No. 1 heading into Week 16.

First, though, the Seahawks have to beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to clinch the NFC West title. And they have to do it on the road.

The Seahawks rank second in more than half of the media ratings I checked this week. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Detroit Free Press and Business Insider each rate Seattle first, and no one put the Hawks lower than No. 5.

Nearly all of the the experts who size up the NFL are impressed by Seattle’s four straight wins, particularly the bruising defense that is shutting down every offense in its path and yielding only 6.8 points per game during that stretch. And most expect that trend to continue Sunday in Phoenix.

“Is the bully back?”asked NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison of the defending Super Bowl champions. “It appears that question has been answered.”

The Cardinals (11-3), one game ahead of Seattle (10-4) despite losing to the Seahawks 19-3 Nov. 23 in the game that triggered the Hawks’ current streak, are fifth or sixth in most rankings. Most of the experts are citing the Cardinals injuries at quarterback – third-string QB Ryan Lindley will start Sunday – for dropping them lower.

Said CBSSports.com’s Pat Kirwan of Sunday’s showdown: “With Seattle’s defense reaching similar heights to last season and the Cards riding their third-string QB, the Seahawks’ outlook is pretty favorable. And if they manage to wrest NFC home field away from the Cards and the Packers – losers Sunday at Buffalo – well, we’re all well aware of the advantage the 12th Man can bring in the Pacific Northwest.”

The consensus top four? Patriots, Seahawks, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers.  After that, the Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas  Cowboys and Detroit Lions are in the mix for No. 5.

Here is a roundup of power rankings entering Week 16. We’ll update later this week with other rankings, including those by Jayson Jenks of The Seattle Times.

SEATTLE TIMES

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Cardinals rank: No. 7 (up 1)

Top 10: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Colts.

SI.COM (Don Burke)

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: Surprised by the number of folks chalking up Seattle’s recent defensive uprising as simply being the product of playing against, in order, Drew Stanton, a struggling Colin Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez and Kaepernick again. That’s like pointing out an editing mistake in Die Hard. It might be right, but that movie is still straight awesome.

Cardinals rank: No. 9 (no change)

Cardinals comment: The last time Ryan Lindley fired a touchdown pass he was playing Louisiana-Lafayette in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl, so … scoring might be a bit of a problem here. Arizona has to rely on its other options: a playmaking defense, a solid run game and, if someone’s available, possibly a little witchcraft.

Top 5: 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Lions.

SI.COM (Peter King)

Seahawks rank: No. 2

Seahawks comment: After the Niners showed some life in the first half, the ’Hawks crushed it out of them in the last 30 minutes. For the past two seasons it appeared Seahawks-Niners was becoming a rivalry for the ages. Still might be. But the two mismatches in 2014 have pretty much killed that for now.

Cardinals rank: No. 5

Cardinals comment: It’s hard to have any more respect for the job Bruce Arians and staff have done coaching this team, and for the job Steve Keim and staff have done in personnel management of this team. They should write a book on coping with crap. I just gave them the title! Coping With Crap: The Life and Times of the Resilient 2014 Arizona Cardinals.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Cardinals

NFL.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 3 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: Everyone wants to know: Is the bully back? It appears that question has been answered. The offense might not have reflected the glory days of Krieg-Warner-Largent in Sunday’s 17-7 win over the rival 49ers, but going 8-for-14 on third down is huge, particularly in this kind of offense, and especially with a defense that needs nothing but occasional rest in order to dominate.

Cardinals rank: No. 7 (down 1)

Cardinals comment: It was ugly. It was costly. But it was a win. One thing Cards fans had to take away from the defeat of the Rams — besides the feeling of, “Oh, @#$%, how are we going to win with Ryan Lindley?” — is an appreciation for the unbelievable job coordinator Todd Bowles continues to do with the defense. He won that game Thursday night.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Broncos; 3, Seahawks; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

ESPN.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 3 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The two highest rushing yards and yards-after-contact totals allowed by the 49ers’ defense this season have come in the two games against the Seahawks.

Cardinals rank: No. 5 (no change)

Cardinals comment: They’re in. Ryan Lindley hasn’t posted a QBR above 22.5 in four career starts, and there’s a good chance he will start a playoff game this season.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Broncos; 3, Seahawks; 4, Packers; 5, Cardinals.

USA TODAY

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: They’ve got full head of steam now, allowing 27 points in past four weeks. Looks like Super Bowl road will indeed wind through Seattle.

Cardinals rank: No. 7 (no change)

Cardinals comment: If Bruce Arians completes march to the NFC West crown with Ryan Lindley and/or Logan Thomas, just make him coach of the decade.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

YAHOO.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: It’s almost strange how the defending champs have been so good the past few weeks to relatively little fanfare. And they’ve been dominant.

Cardinals rank: No. 9 (down 3)

Cardinals comment: It’s an incredibly hard team to rank. I respect what it’s done. And if Ryan Lindley is out a while (ESPN reported that injured QB Drew Stanton (knee) could miss four weeks, but Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM there’s no timetable, via ESPN.com), then I don’t see them being good enough elsewhere to compensate for that. The list of teams that could keep rolling with their third quarterback is incredibly small. It’s not their fault, it’s just very bad luck. Even with Stanton being ineffective since taking over for Carson Palmer, if I knew he’d be back before their first playoff game this team would probably be a few spots higher. But Lindley will be its starter, so I had to move them down a bit.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

FOXSPORTS.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seahawks have once again become the league’s model for elite defense. Rookie Paul Richardson is emerging as a top target for Russell Wilson, but in the immediate future, the Seahawks are riding Marshawn Lynch in a run-first offensive approach.

Cardinals rank: No. 8 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: The Cardinals continue to win football games, but they also continue to rack up key injuries. With Drew Stanton set to miss several weeks, they will need to consider getting creative at the quarterback spot.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

CBSSPORTS.COM (Pete Prisco)

Seahawks rank: No. 4 (up 1)

Seahawks comment:  The defense has allowed seven points per game in the past four. That’s even better than any stretch last season. That’s saying something.

Cardinals rank: No. 3 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: This team has fought through so many injuries, and now is down to a third-team quarterback. Can they beat the champs at home this week with their defense?

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Broncos; 3, Cardinals; 4, Seahawks; 5, Cowboys.

CBSSPORTS.COM (Pat Kirwan)

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seahawks have beaten the Broncos, Cardinals and Packers – limiting them to a combined 40 points. If they get home field throughout the playoffs, watch out! … S

Cardinals rank: No. 4 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: Never count out the Cardinals, the only NFC team to clinch a playoff berth. The problem is they are down to their third string QB and injuries have mounted across the roster. The division title is on the line Sunday when Seattle visits for a rematch.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Cardinals; 5, Packers.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC/AZCENTRAL.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 5 (no change)

Seahawks comment: Can run their winning streak to five if they come to Arizona and topple the Cardinals in the Sunday night game of the week. The defense has been stifling and Russell Wilson isn’t making any mistakes.

Cardinals rank: No. 6 (no change)

Cardinals comment: They’re down to their third starting quarterback but if they can find a way to beat the Seahawks, they’ll not only win the NFC West, but secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Can the Cards continue to defy the odds? This will be their biggest regular-season game in their Arizona history.

Top 5: No. 1, Broncos; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Colts; 5, Seahawks.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 2)

Seahawks comment: Beast, D in playoff form.

Cardinals rank: No. 8 (down 2)

Cardinals comment: Give them credit for still getting it done. Love Bruce Arians.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Broncos; 3, Seahawks; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin celebrates after sacking 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sunday.  Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times staff

Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin celebrates after a sack of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sunday.
Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times staff

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seattle Seahawks (10-4) got the other three first-place votes and moved up a spot to No. 2 after their 17-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks face NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals (11-4) on Sunday night.

Cardinals rank: No. 3 (up 1)

Cardinals comment:

The Cardinals moved up a spot to No. 5. “The Cardinals have played four quarterbacks this season, and their defense has been ravaged with injuries, but they still sewed up their first playoff berth since 2009. Bruce Arians is a lock for Coach of the Year,” said Jenny Vrentas of SI.COM’s The Monday Morning Quarterback.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cardinals.

MLIVE.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seahawks defense has given up more than 300 yards just once in the past nine games. That’s domination.

Cardinals rank: No. 7 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: This team just keeps finding ways to win, but a loss to Seattle next Sunday and the Cardinals will lose their grasp on the NFC West.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

TAMPA TRIBUNE

Seahawks rank: No. 2

Seahawks comment: Heading into a defensive showdown in the desert Sunday night.

Cardinals rank: No. 3

Cardinals comment: A win against Seattle should clinch coach of the year honors for Bruce Arians.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Cardinals; 4, Packers; 5, Broncos.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: Can overtake Cardinals in division with a victory at Arizona and still have a shot at No. 1 seed in NFC.

Cardinals rank: No. 5 (no change)

Cardinals comment: Their quarterbacks keep getting injured and Bruce Arians keeps winning. Has to be a cinch for Coach of the Year.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots;  2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cardinals.

MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE

Seahawks rank: No. 1

Cardinals rank: No. 4

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Broncos; 4, Cardinals; 5, Cowboys.

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Seahawks rank: No. 3 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: After 3-3 start, defending champs have won 7 of 8. In their 4-game winning streak, they’ve surrendered 6.7 points a game.

Cardinals rank: No.  4 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: Cardinals are 2-2 in last 4 games but still have NFC’s best record. If they lose at home to Seattle, Seahawks sweep the series.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Broncos; 3, Seahawks; 4, Cardinals; 5, Cowboys.

NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE/NOLA.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 2)

Seahawks comment: Just like that, the Seahawks are the hottest team in NFC, with No. 1 playoff seed in sight.

Cardinals rank: No. 6

Cardinals comment: Hard to imagine Cardinals remaining top seed without a quarterback.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Cowboys.

DETROIT NEWS

Seahawks rank: No. 4 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: After a 3-3 start, they’ve won seven of eight and crept back into the playoff picture. They can make things interesting with a win over the Cardinals this week before finishing against the Rams.

Cardinals rank: No. 3 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: After a huge road win over the Rams, they are in the driver’s seat to get the top seat in the NFC playoffs. Drew Stanton is out and Ryan Lindley will have to get touchdowns instead of field goals this week against Seattle.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Broncos; 3, Cardinals; 4, Seahawks; 5, Packers.

DETROIT FREE PRESS

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (up 3)

Seahawks comment: They’re back. Seven wins in 8 games, lockdown defense, lockdown running game, you name it. They’re my pick to win the Super Bowl… that is, until they lose in Arizona this weekend. 

Cardinals rank: No. 7 (down 1)

Cardinals comment: Speaking of “finding ways to win,” the Cardinals are going with Ryan Lindley next weekend. It’s touch-and-go with this team and it won’t last long in the postseason. 

Top 5: 1, Seahawks; 2, Broncos; 3, Patriots; 4, Colts; 5, Packers.

WASHINGTON POST

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 2)

Seahawks comment: The defending champs are 7-1 in their past eight games and are playing at an extremely high level now. The Seahawks probably are the favorite in the NFC West even though they trail the Cardinals by a game, given Arizona’s mounting injury issues at QB. The two teams meet Sunday night in Arizona after the Seahawks won their earlier meeting in Seattle.

Cardinals rank: No. 8 (no change)

Cardinals comment: The Cardinals have the NFC’s best record and are the conference’s lone team to have clinched a playoff berth. But they are a seemingly vulnerable front-runner as they prepare to start their third different QB this season. Drew Stanton has joined Carson Palmer on the sideline and Coach Bruce Arians on Monday named Ryan Lindley to start this weekend ahead of rookie Logan Thomas. Lindley made four starts for the Cardinals in 2012 and has career NFL totals of zero touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Thomas also is to have a package of plays to run against the Seahawks.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Colts; 5, Lions.

BALTIMORE SUN

Seahawks rank: No. 2

Cardinals rank: No. 9

Top 5: 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

NEWS-HERALD AND MORNING-JOURNAL (OHIO)

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seahawks will win the NFC West by beating host Arizona on Dec. 21.

Cardinals rank: No. 7 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: The Cardinals clinched a playoff spot and are aiming for home-field advantage.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

BUSINESS INSIDER

Seahawks rank: No.1 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The defense has been off the charts since Bobby Wagner returned. They’re giving up 6.8 points per game in the last month.

Cardinals rank: No. 7 (down 1)

Cardinals comment: They’re down to their third-string quarterback. It’s hard to see them making much noise in the playoffs with that QB situation.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Lions.

FANSIDED.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 3 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seattle Seahawks are getting hot at the right time which is bad news for the rest of the NFL. With four wins in a row, the Seahawks are starting to regain their top form and two divisional games to close out the season gives Arizona an opportunity to close out the regular season with the NFC West crown.

Cardinals rank: No. 6 (up 1)

Cardinals comment: Every time you think there is reason to be concerned about the Arizona Cardinals, they find a way to win and continue to prove they are among the best teams in the NFL. The Cardinals hold the top seed in the NFC and could very well hold homefield advantage throughout the postseason barring a collapse in the final two weeks.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Broncos; 3, Seahawks; 4, Colts; 5, Lions.

SB NATION

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: Defensive domination pushes Seattle to No. 2 in our rankings this week, its highest spot since Week 5. The Seahawks are winning with the formula they used last year on the way to a Super Bowl victory, and they appear to be peaking at the right time.

Cardinals rank: No. 4 (up 3)

Cardinals comment: As for the Cardinals, they’ll be really, really hoping to get more from their run game and continue to dominate with their attacking, aggressive defense after losing yet another quarterback to injury. With Drew Stanton’s knee injury keeping him out several weeks, the Cards will call on recent Chargers practice squad quarterback Ryan Lindley, a former sixth-round pick by Arizona. Lindley has completed 93 of 171 career passes (51 percent) for 782 yards (4.3 yards per attempt), with zero touchdowns and seven interceptions in four starts, so it’s obviously not an ideal situation for the NFC’s current No. 1 seed and lone 11-game winner. Because of the Cardinals’ situation at quarterback, Arizona only rises to No. 4 on our list.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Cardinals; 5, Packers.

BLEACHER REPORT

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (up 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seattle Seahawks took care of business in beating the San Francisco 49ers for the season sweep in Week 15. Now the NFC’s No. 1 seed is within reach, as long as they win out and don’t end up in a two-team tie with Dallas.

Cardinals rank: No. 8 (down 1)

Cardinals comment: The Arizona Cardinals don’t need superstar quarterback play to win games—which in itself is a stunning development in a quarterback-driven league. But Bruce Arians has his team winning with explosive weapons, opportunistic defensive play and smart coaching. Can it last? We’ll find out soon enough.

I’ve been hesitant to rank the Cardinals too high because of questions at quarterback, and with Drew Stanton out now, it’s even more confusing that they keep winning without a big offense. Against St. Louis in Week 15, all they needed were field goals and a stout defense to win, but it worked.

The playoff hopes in Arizona are settled with the Eagles losing in Week 15, but home-field advantage and seedings are not. Week 16 at home against Seattle will decide the division, but winning against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17 is key too. That the difference between wild-card team and No. 1 seed in the division comes down to one game against Seattle is a perfect kind of NFL harmony.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Lions.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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