More than a million people in the Seattle area lost power two hours after the conclusion of the Seahawks' Thursday night loss to the 49ers a week ago. Gale force winds caused the problems. The Seahawks offense lost power five hours earlier and Mike Holmgren is trying to find a way to get it back. The team has had extra time off to reflect on its offensive problems. It's been one of the most inconsistent stretches for a Holmgren offense in years. Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander have been inconsistent. The offensive line has been inconsistent. What makes matters rough this week is they are facing one of the most dominant teams in pro football. The Chargers are red hot. No one has been able to stop LaDainian Tomlinson this year. The Seahawks held 49ers running back Frank Gore in check for three quarters, but he ran crazy in the fourth quarter to finish with 144 yards. If the Seahawks don't win this game, panic will set in. They still haven't locked up the division and if the 49ers win this weekend, the Seahawks might have to beat the Buccaneers in Week 17 just to make the playoffs. The 49ers swept the Seahawks, so Seattle would lose the tie-breakers if they end up tied. The Chargers have a chance to clinch a first-round bye (with a win) and home-field advantage (with a win and some help) in the AFC.
This looked like it was going to be one of the most anticipated rematches of the second half of the season. Not any more. The Panthers have fallen off the face of the playoff map. Injuries killed their offensive line. The running game has been missing in action for weeks. Jake Delhomme is out with a partially torn thumb ligament. At 6-8, the Panthers have lost four straight games, and are on the verge of playoff elimination. The Panthers can point back to their 20-6 Week 1 loss to the Falcons as the start of a lot of their problems. Offensive tackle Travelle Wharton was lost for the season and the Panthers' line was never the same. A lot is at stake for the Falcons, who are fighting for their playoff lives. Jim Mora is fighting for his job. Michael Vick is going to fight through a groin injury to keep the offense moving. And the defense needs to play better. The loss to the Cowboys Saturday has owner Arthur Blank looking for answers to the Falcons' problems.
Could these be playoff teams next year? Possibly. Heck, it's not out of the question for the 49ers to make it this year if the Seahawks' collapse continues. The 49ers are starting to make a move on the Seahawks in the NFC West and are setting up an interesting race for next year. They've done enough on offense to make themselves competitive and they have enough cap room and draft choices to continue stocking up the defense next year. For the Cardinals, Matt Leinart continues to improve. Leinart and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith should have a lot of interesting battles over the next few years in the NFC West. Gore is emerging for the 49ers as one of the league's hottest running backs. The Cardinals' biggest challenge is going to be trying to stop him. If they try to blitz the 49ers, Gore will gash them with running plays.
Talk about meaningless games. Well, maybe this one isn't actually so bad. The Rams are still trying to get to the .500 mark and have a little momentum after their shutout win against the Raiders. The Redskins are showing a little life with Jason Campbell, who somewhat resembles Doug Williams in the way he throws the deep ball, at quarterback. Although the Rams aren't technically out of the playoffs, there really isn't too much on the line for either team. Both teams love to blitz and if they're aggressive Sunday, it could be a high-scoring, fun game to watch.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.