Merry Christmas to everyone. For those needing something to read to enable them to move on from the Arizona game, I hope this helps.
Even playing as poorly as they have been recently, the chance to get the #2 seed offered some cause for optimism for Seahawks fans.
That situation has changed massively in light of the Arizona game.
Just look at the difference between the two scenarios:
By claiming the #2 seed…
— Win one home game against a wildcard opponent
— Play the NFC Championship game possibly in Seattle (depending on Dallas’ result)
By settling for the #3 or #4 seed…
— Win one home against a wildcard opponent
— Go on the road against the #1 or #2 seed
— Go on the road in the NFC Championship game
It wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that even this disjointed version of the Seahawks with so many injuries and issues could win one home game and pull off a win in the NFC Championship game.
Are they capable of winning two road playoff games, after negotiating the wildcard weekend?
So far they’re 0-4-1 on the road in the NFC and in the last five weeks they’re 2-3, including their worst defeat in five years.
There’s no point in giving up on the season completely. This is a weird year in the NFL. On Christmas Eve, Oakland fans woke up dreaming of the Super Bowl. On Christmas Day, they were grieving for their quarterback’s broken leg.
The Tennessee Titans, one of the hottest teams in the NFL, started Christmas Eve with a great chance to make the post season. By Christmas day, that wasn’t possible and their bright, young franchise quarterback also has a broken leg.
The 9-7 Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011 in a year that included a four-game losing streak between weeks 10-13. In week 15 they were well beaten at home by a 5-11 Washington team 23-10.
They got hot at the right time. If you want a reason to believe Seattle still has a chance, there’s your ammunition.
Yet it still feels unlikely, or perhaps more pertinently, it needs to be seen to be believed. We’re at week 16 and there’s no signs of improvement on the O-line. The glass cannon theory rings truer than ever. The defense is streaky and missing a generational safety.
And it means, sadly, there’s little cause for optimism.
This is one of the key issues:
Russell Wilson games of 30+ pass attempts by season (including playoffs):
— Good King Mikecelas⭐ (@Michael_Sawyer) December 25, 2016
An offense that was at its best based on ball control, physicality and putting the team in a position to win the game in the fourth quarter is now highly dependant on the passing game.
Seattle’s offense between 2012 and 2014 could be defined as conservative plus. They often played for field position. A punt was not their enemy. Yet this was offset by the most creative point guard quarterback we’ll ever see and a punishing ground game.
The Seahawks were explosive and modest in equal measure. And with a stern defense, it was a classic winning combination.
In the last two seasons, that has completely changed. They’re more like every other team in the league with a franchise quarterback. They throw to try and win. Except unlike a lot of other teams, this is a much more volatile proposition.
I’m going to reference the glass cannon again. When things work, this offense is extremely entertaining and prolific. The collection of talent — Wilson, Graham, Baldwin, Lockett — is ideal for an explosive, attacking passing game. Yet because the O-line and running game is so poor, it’s been boom or bust all year.
The cannon can fire away with reckless abandon but one chip or chink and it cracks.
Teams know the Seahawks will abandon the running game if they get behind. And they get behind because teams also know they can sell out defending the pass, attacking the O-line to rush the passer without worrying about putting eight in the box.
Opponents appear to be saying, ‘we’re prepared to give up yards in the running game because we don’t think you can sustain that side of your offense — plus you’ll give it up if things get rough’.
If the Seahawks are going to get back to being a serious contender, this has to be addressed. They’ve regressed from a consistent top-five running offense to a team currently ranked #21 in the NFL (and they could fall further down the list depending on what happens in the remaining games over Christmas).
This was an interesting Tweet by ESPN’s Josina Anderson today…
2017 #NFL Free Agency is going to be way more interesting than 2016, especially from the things I'm hearing early. Adversity brings change.
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 25, 2016
Perhaps it’s Josina’s profile picture — a selfie with Ciara — that makes me wonder if she’s talking at least partly about the Seahawks here.
This is a team that was built aggressively. Multiple roster moves. Big trades. Hosting players like Brandon Marshall on a seaplane. Star names, big splashes.
When they lost that Super Bowl, they traded for Jimmy Graham a few weeks later.
Facing an identity crisis on offense and a clear, festering problem that is an absent running game and a poorly performing offensive line — the idea that the Seahawks will cross their fingers and hope for the best seems unrealistic.
In discussing free agency, Josina Anderson references adversity. That’s what the Seahawks are facing right now. “Adversity brings change“.
She might as well have added the teams hashtag: #weare12
The Seahawks have money to spend. Not as much as some others, but there’s some room. Do they go after someone like Ron Leary? Or Chance Warmack? Or Kevin Zeitler? Or Riley Reiff? That’s just four names to start with.
Will they find a way to make a creative trade as we’ve seen them do in the past?
Will Le’Veon Bell test free agency? It seems doubtful but right now he hasn’t got a contract for 2017.
Or will the Seahawks focus on another area of need — interior pass rush — and make a play for Calais Campbell or Kawann Short or Dontari Poe?
They haven’t really made splashes in free agency since 2013. They haven’t paid big money since 2011. This has a feel of 2011 to it — trying to establish something. Trying to get things going.
They might be aggressive in the draft too. Whether it’s getting after someone like Garett Bolles to provide an injection of talent at tackle, one of the better interior D-line disruptors or a stud running back. Being aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean trading up — but it’s an option. Picking later in the first round hasn’t provided the Seahawks with a great draft pick in the Carroll/Scheider era. It feels like this team needs a spark, on top of a few solid acquisitions.
They might even trade their #1 or #2 pick for a veteran. They’ve done it before.
Either way, this is the absolute three crucial priorities:
— Repair the broken running game
— Improve the O-line
— Improve the interior pass rush
The good news is, they won’t need to focus too much on the safety position:
I'll def be back next year..
— Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) December 25, 2016
That was a nice little pre-Christmas pick-me-up after the Arizona game. Earl will be back. Probably more amped than ever before. They can focus on trying to acquire someone like Shalom Luani possibly in the middle rounds, instead of needing to go after one of the top safety’s in round one.
Here’s a silver lining to focus on for now. If this team doesn’t find a spark to go on a great playoff run — we might be just a few weeks away from the most interesting Seahawks off-season in a long time.