Despite sitting nicely atop the NFC with an 8-1 record, the Seahawks don’t necessarily feel like a team of destiny.
Not recently, anyway.
I’m not sure how many Super Bowl champions have looked the part in early November. This time last year the Baltimore Ravens were 7-2, but were two weeks removed from a crushing 43-13 beat-down in Houston.
They got hot at the right time — aka the post season. And then they became a team of destiny. The pieces fell into place and story lines emerged. Ray Lewis’ final dance, Joe Flacco’s ever growing contract demands.
The Seahawks could just as easily catch fire, especially if they secure home field advantage in the playoffs. Teams who don’t face many obstacles during the season usually drown in their own self satisfaction by January.
Those that are challenged usually see the benefit down the road.
Yet the Seahawks still face what seems like a particularly crucial week — starting in Atlanta tomorrow.
What actually looked like a very easy part of the schedule has turned into a war of attrition.
The game in St. Louis against Kellen Clemens and a home meeting against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers was supposed to be a cake walk. It was the opposite. No cake. Just mountains and rain.
This ‘easy’ run was supposed to continue into the Falcons game and move into the pre-bye encounter with Minnesota.
10-1. Bring on the Saints and Niners.
Not so fast.
The horrible struggles that emerged in the last two games were a warning shot. Not a catastrophe or even a reality check like some have suggested. Just a little nudge.
If Seattle can keep rolling with the punches and get into their bye at 10-1, they’ll be well positioned to go for home field advantage and the NFC West title. They won’t necessarily have to rely on winning in San Francisco.
Atlanta hasn’t run the ball well this year. In fact, they rank #32. Yet St. Louis and Tampa Bay haven’t run the ball all that well either. The Rams and Buccs got a huge statistical boost against the Seahawks but are still only 23rd and 18th respectively when it comes to running the ball.
If the Falcons are looking for a kick start, this could be it.
The run defense needs to improve. Losing Red Bryant to a concussion won’t help matters — but it could be argued the main problem lies beyond the defensive line. The linebackers just haven’t done a good enough job filling the gaps. The defensive ends — undersized as they are — are never going to be great edge setters.
I genuinely wonder if we’ll see a more orthodox four man front on Sunday, with Michael Bennett playing mostly end. Pete Carroll suggested they’d worked on a formation to cover Bryant’s absence. Maybe the most creative defensive line in the NFL will go back to basics?
They need to do something, because while Atlanta has struggled to run this year — they ran all over the Hawks in the playoffs. With Michael Turner at running back. The same Michael Turner who is now out of the league. They managed 167 total yards.
Things don’t get any easier next week with Adrian Peterson in town — and he gashed the Seahawks last year for a half before Minnesota bizarrely took the ball out of his hands.
It’s only two weeks removed that Seattle were shutting down the run in Arizona superbly. More of that and you have a great chance to win the next two.
One other issue they face this weekend (not so much against the Vikings) is a good quarterback. However well Clemens and Mike Glennon played, they couldn’t finish the job. Matt Ryan will not go cold. He won’t need four downs to get into the end zone from a yard out. And he can be incredibly clinical.
It’s a little bizarre how badly Atlanta has folded this year, but most of their problems are on defense. They still have their franchise quarterback.
If there’s a week to bring the pressure and really bring it, this is it. Ryan cannot be allowed to pick apart this defense like he did at times last season. Of course, he’s also one of the more generous quarterbacks out there and can be good for at least one head scratching pick. He had three last week.
There’s no doubt this team will be far better after the bye. Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini will return. Hopefully Percy Harvin will be back too — and boy does that offense need a playmaker at receiver.
Right now they need to try and limp home, battered and bruised but still winning.
Max Unger’s absence will mean we get to see the same line that was abused by Houston in week four. Once again, only one of Seattle’s five offensive line starters will feature in his intended position (J.R. Sweezy).
The Falcons have the 21st best rush defense and the 21st best pass defense. They only have 18 sacks for the year.
Even with another patchwork line, there’s nothing to fear there. But can they get the job done?
More than anything it’d be nice to see a completely boring victory.
Every win apart from the walkover against Jacksonville has had it’s moments. Some games have been more stressful than others. The Arizona win is a great example of what was actually a pretty emphatic victory, but they still managed to turn a 14-0-with-the-ball waltz into a 17-13 battle to start the second half.
If it has to be stressful on Sunday, so be it.
If it can be dull, dull dull and 20-3 Seattle instead, I think we’d all appreciate the break.
But this is a big two weeks. The Seahawks are hurting and might just run out of luck after testing it several times in the last two weeks. If they are flying back from Seattle a home game away from 10-1 and then the bye — maybe this is a team of destiny after all?