Friday 18 August 2017 / 03:11 PM

Three teams poised for second-half moves

With week 9 in the books some NFL fans are already throwing in the towel for 2015.

While Browns supporters are long since used to the midseason good-bye…

…other clubs (such as the 49ers) are newcomers to halfway-mark futility.

San Francisco celebrated their lost season in interesting fashion – they benched Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Never mind that the Niners are now (1-0) with Gabbert under center. This team is headed for the NFC West toilet and everyone in the organization knows it.

But which teams currently on the bubble aren’t out if it? Who is ready to stage a thrilling second-half comeback from now through week 17?

I bet you’d like to know.

But first, let’s take a peek at what our playoff seeding would look like if the season ended today:

AFC

1. New England Patriots

2. Cincinnati Bengals

3. Denver Broncos    

4. Indianapolis Colts    

5. New York Jets    

6. Pittsburgh Steelers    

Compared to last year there’s quite a few familiar faces here with just the Jets making the jump. They’d slide in to replace the Baltimore Ravens, a team that’s lost just as many games midway through the campaign (6) as they did in 2014.

NFC

1. Carolina Panthers    

2. Green Bay Packers   

3. Arizona Cardinals   

4. New York Giants    

5. Minnesota Vikings    

6. Atlanta Falcons    

Half the field changes out here with the Lions, Cowboys and conference champion Seahawks watching from home and the Giants, Vikings and Falcons returning to the postseason.

Of course with 8 games still left to play in all likelihood it won’t play out that way. Not if these three teams has anything to say about it.

The Seattle Seahawks Control their Own Destiny

They say to never count out the champs until they are mathematically eliminated and at (4-4) Seattle is in a great position to not only eke into the playoffs but to once again snatch the NFC West crown out from under the Cardinals.

While sweeping any divisional series is never easy, two wins against Arizona would make up the current gap and hand them the tiebreaker. The Seahawks get their first crack at closing the distance this Sunday in Seattle when Carson Palmer and CJ2K roll into town for SNF.

Out of all the .500 clubs Seattle is the only one to have held a 4th-quarter lead in each of their losses, which is both disconcerting and a sign that the team is better than their record indicates. While a pair of wins over the hapless Niners and depleted Cowboys is hardly surefire proof the Hawks’ 4th-quarter woes are over, it’s a start.

Here are three reasons to believe Seattle will overcome their Super Bowl hangover:

1. Five of their eight remaining games are at home, a place where Russell Wilson is (24-3) over the course of his career.    

2. They still have the #2 defense in the NFL in both yardage (249.5) and points per game (17.5).    

3. Their offense is finally starting to click. Now that Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson have developed a rhythm, expect Marshawn Lynch to find more open running lanes.

The biggest challenge for Seattle is still a shaky offensive line. While the O-line finally kept their QB upright against Dallas, they’ve given up the most sacks in the NFL with 31.

And now, a unit that appears to be gelling is getting a new face at center:

Win this Week and Things Get Interesting for Buffalo

It’s been a wild ride for Bills fans during Rex Ryan’s inaugural campaign but without question fans in Buffalo are loving every minute of it. It’s been a while since upstate New York has seen this much excitement and the club’s PR peeps are jumping all over it.

But all this fabricated fury is for naught if the Bills can’t find a way to beat the Jets at least once, the team they’ll need to pass to get into the playoffs.

Although Buffalo plays five out of eight remaining games on the road (one in Foxborough) they do enjoy a five-week stretch of very winnable games (Chiefs, Texans, Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys).

My concern is that should they go oh-for over the next two weeks (at Jets, at Patriots), the psychological damage of being (4-6) so late in the season would be too much for such a young team.

But with Tyrod Taylor back, Sammy Watkins taking off and LeSean McCoy finally finding his groove in the new uniform, there’s still reason to believe Rex Ryan just might get it done.

Oh, the Misery of the AFC South

If there’s one (3-5) team that’s in a position to make the playoffs it’s the Houston Texans.

They’re not that good – but the rest of the South is just that bad. Particularly with this news coming out of Indy:

Forget about Luck’s less than stellar stat line. This is shitty news for the Colts who must now turn to the NFL’s oldest quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck.

While Houston is unlikely to wind up with a winning record with games at Cincy, at Buffalo and against New England at home, (8-8) or even (7-9) could win this division.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer has looked impressive over the past three weeks, notching two wins with 8 touchdowns to just 1 interception. Believe it or not he’s the 10th-ranked quarterback in the league.

Should JJ Watt and the Texans defense finally get their ducks in a row who knows what might happen?

Still in the Hunt

Three more (4-4) teams with a realistic shot of reversing their fortunes include the Raiders, Rams and Eagles.

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Michael Airhart

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