Seahawks the #1 or #2 team in the NFL?
Are the Seahawks turning into an upper-echelon contender? An outrageous suggestion like that would’ve provoked widespread scoffing after the Week 12 defeat to Miami. Yet here they are at 8-5 with two home games to go and a remaining road game to be played at a neutral venue.
Suddenly, it’s not such a ridiculous idea.
Here’s what’s working… They have a quarterback who is performing to a high standard. They have a productive running game. The defense maintains a lot of qualities despite a couple of iffy performances recently. The role of Seattle’s special teams is incredibly underrated. All three units came together in yesterday’s 58-0 massacre of the Arizona Cardinals. And if you can play solid, strong football across the board – you have a shot to win in the post-season.
Aaron Schatz at Football Outsiders claims the win over Arizona was one of the best ever all-round performances. What’s more, FO uses a system called DVOA (explained here) to rank all of the teams in the league. Seattle was #4 overall prior to week 14. Depending on what happens in MNF tonight, they’ll either be #1 or #2 overall going into week 15. So basically, DVOA could have the Seahawks as the league’s best team by the end of tonight. The leagues best team.
Even if they don’t make it to #1, Schatz argues there’s a “huge gap” between the top four (Denver, New England, San Francisco, and Seattle) and the chasing pack. Sure, other teams have better records (Atlanta, Houston) but they’ve also enjoyed much easier schedules. When you actually sit down and think about it, maybe those are the four best teams in the league?
Kerry Byrne argues a similar point at ‘Cold Hard Football Facts’, listing multiple stats to suggest the Seahawks are a legit post-season contender:
“We’re not just reacting to a single game. Carroll’s Seahawks have proven they can hang with anybody, they boast an NFL-best five Quality Wins, and they’ve already proven they can slow down and beat the game’s best quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. And now they’ve proven they can take a bad team out behind the woodshed and mercilessly deliver a gruesome execution the likes of which you see only once or twice in a lifetime.”
Will anybody be ravaged with fear at the thought of facing Atlanta in the playoffs? Probably not. Will anyone shudder at the prospect of having to go to Houston to make the AFC title game? Unlikely. Would they fear the Seahawks or the 49ers? They better do.
These two teams aren’t brittle. They’re two tough teams ready to hit you in the mouth without apology. On home turf Seattle hasn’t just won every game so far, they’ve broken the will of several teams. Dallas, New York and Arizona all flew home banged-up, bruised and embarrassed. The 49ers have done the same to several teams in the last two years. And it’s fitting that when the two meet on December 23rd, there’s going to be a national audience. No other game gets close that week to the magnitude of the meeting at the CLink. And if the Seahawks get the job done in Toronto and the 49ers fall in New England – it’ll be the most intense game of the NFL season so far. Without doubt.
New England and Denver are slightly different animals, based around two legendary quarterbacks. I suspect one will make the Super Bowl. And I think there’s a fair chance they could meet a NFC West opponent when they get there.
There is a cautionary note though, as I touched on yesterday. It’s great to revel in a 58-0 win against a truly miserable Cardinals outfit. We can sit here and wax lyrical about a Seahawks team suddenly on the verge of relevance after a few years poking around in mediocrity. They have found ways to deflate their own balloon this season, though. A truly legit team wins at least two of the next three games. It goes to Toronto and takes care of business. It doesn’t let an upstart Rams team walk away with anything but a dose of reality in week 17. The 49ers game will be a war and could go either way. Nothing short of 10-6 will be acceptable if you want to keep the kind of plaudits being dished out today. No compromises.
And if they win out to reach 11-5, no team will be more feared in the post-season. They could get the #2 bye in that scenario with tie-breakers over Green Bay and Chicago. Atlanta could choke again. Suddenly the road to New Orleans could go through Seattle. It’s still a bit of a pipe dream for now, but it’s not totally impossible. I’m not sure if that possibility is a good or bad thing for this team. Can a young roster handle the weight of growing expectation? Can they do the little things right and limit the errors? I’ll guess we’ll soon find out.
The Seattle Seahawks have a chance to prove they belong. A chance to prove they aren’t a fraud. It’s right there. They just have to take it. Will they do it?
Marcus Lattimore and Johnathan Hankins to declare
Both players will turn pro in 2013. Lattimore is still recovering from a horrendous knee injury and is unlikely to play in 2013. His decision appears to be based around the superior aid he’ll receive from a pro-football medical staff as he works his way back to full health. The big question is, will a team be willing to pay for the long journey it’ll take to get Lattimore back on the field?
Let’s not kid around here, if he plays again it’ll be a major achievement. And even if he can repair that knee, there’s no knowing how much of an impact it’ll have on his performance. Lattimore has superb character and deserves the help, but the NFL is a ruthless business. A lot of people are going to be rooting for him, but he’ll need to hope someone out there really believes in his ability to come back from this. Otherwise he’ll go undrafted and be left in a situation where he can’t prove to anyone he’s back and ready to play again. Either way this was always going to be a tough decision for Lattimore, and it’s one he’ll have given a great deal of thought. Let’s hope this was the right choice.
A lot of people expect Hankins to be an early pick next April, but I’m not convinced. His tape at Ohio State this year was really underwhelming. He has the size (6-3, 335lbs) and as you’d expect, he plays well against the run. But what else does he offer? His effort is so inconsistent it’s untrue. At times you barely notice he’s on the field for long stretches – then suddenly he blows up the line and makes a splash play. When you see Hankins at his best, you wonder why it happens so infrequently. He’s a one-dimensional pass rusher who relies too much on the bull-rush and too often he leans into blockers. His motor runs hot and cold. He’s a really underwhelming prospect in the body of a player you want to really like.
Teams looking for a nose tackle to anchor a 3-4 defense will take a long look at Hankins and Georgia’s Jonathan Jenkins. Personally, I prefer Jenkins. In my last mock draft, I had Hankins dropping to round two. Others – such as Scouts Inc – project he’ll be a top-ten pick. He’s unlikely to make major headlines at the combine like Dontari Poe, which will limit his stock. And as teams really study the tape I think they’ll be equally underwhelmed.
Will Sutton (DT, Arizona State) tape vs Oregon State
Sutton is one to keep an eye on. He’s not a flashy player in terms of physical greatness, but he did manage 10.5 sacks this year. He’s the kind of prospect who goes in that round 3-4 range and in a few years time, you wonder how it happened. He’s undersized for a lot of teams but makes a lot of sense in Seattle’s key-need area of the three-technique. If they want to go in another direction in round one, Sutton provides an alternative later on.
Have a look at the tape below and let me know what you think…