Call it an elimination game in the NFC playoff chase.
Two teams on the very fringe of that playoff conversation — the Seahawks and the Washington (D.C.) Football Team — will meet Monday night at FedEx Field. The loser loses any realistic path to the postseason.
Details on this week’s matchup:
Seahawks (3-7) at WFT (4-6)
Time: 5:15 p.m. PT Monday at FedEx Field
TV: ESPN (Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters)
Radio: 710 ESPN Seattle
Betting line: Seahawks are a 1-point underdog, after opening as a 3.5-point favorite.
Series history: WFT leads the regular-season series 12-6. Seahawks defeated the WFT last season, 20-15, in D.C.
They’re starting to believe
In the span of seven days, the season took a dramatic pivot for the Team From D.C.
WFT orchestrated one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season with a 29-19 victory over Tampa Bay in Week 10.
A week later, WFT followed that up with a 27-21 victory over the Panthers on Sunday in coach Ron Rivera’s return to Carolina.
“I think they’re starting to play together,” Rivera said Sunday, via The Washington Post. “They’ve become resilient. They do the things they need to. They rely on each other.”
After a 2-6 start to the season, WFT is suddenly one of the hottest teams in the league. It has follow a similar script from 2020, when WFT rebounded from a 2-7 start to finish 7-9 and win the NFC East.
“I feel like it’s coming together,” WFT safety Kam Curl said, via The Post.
Hope in Heinicke
Not coincidentally, WFT quarterback Taylor Heinicke has played the two best games of his NFL career the past two weeks.
Combined, he has completed 42 of 54 passes for 462 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in those two games, good for a passer rating of 127.0. He had a rating of 84.3 in the first eight games of the season.
“I’m not saying this guy is going to be a Hall of Famer, but again, if this guy continues to manage and direct and then make plays when we need them, that’s what I’ve always said we’re hoping to get out of this — a guy that can do that,” Rivera told reporters this week. “… We were fortunate where we got a lot of that last year, and we’re hoping to build off of what we got right now, and we’ll see what happens.”
Heinicke was slated to be the team’s backup this season, after WFT signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason. But Fitzpatrick was lost in Week 1 to a hip injury, and Heinicke has started every game since.
WFT has a solid running game behind Antonio Gibson — the Football Team rushed for 190 yards at Carolina — and Heinicke has one of the NFL’s best young receivers in Terry McLaurin.
You can tell (Heinicke) has a rhythm out there,” McLaurin said, via ESPN. “He’s very comfortable with the guys that are out there, he’s comfortable with the play-calling. And when things don’t look the greatest out there, he does a great job of improvising and keeping plays alive.”
After throwing nine interceptions in the first eight games, Heinicke hasn’t committed a turnover in the past two weeks.
“What is interesting for Taylor after what he did last year, for the most part guys have gravitated toward him because they felt with this guy that we have a chance,” Rivera said. “I think now you not only see him giving these guys hope and believe that we have a chance, but he is leading them.”
WFT’s defense has perhaps been the most disappointing in the NFL this season, after finishing the 2020 as one of the league’s best.
The WFT defense ranks 24th in yards allowed (368.5), 28th in pass defense (270.0) and 28th in points allowed (26.7).
Even worse, it is now without two of its best players — edge rushers Chase Young (knee) and Montez Sweat (broken jaw).
But, again, the defense has been better of late. It intercepted Tom Brady twice and held Tampa Bay to 273 yards in that Week 10 upset.
“You’re getting an opportunity to play against the defending champs and have them play the way they did, play the emotional inspired type of game they did, speaks a little bit about to what we’re learning and developing and growing,” Rivera said after the win over the Bucs. “It’s still a process. We’re not where we want to be, but very, very pleased with the guys.”