Are the Seattle Seahawks good enough to win their second Super Bowl in three years? Are they good enough to be the first team to make three consecutive Super Bowls since the Buffalo Bills made four in a row in the 1990s?
As a 49ers fan, it pains me to say so, but the answer is yes. I have a putrid feeling for the Seahawks, but I can admit that they have players such that are must-see TV, and as a team they are damn good. Nobody likes the Seahawks when they are at their best; they are the nWo of the NFL. When they are winning, their outspoken players tell you when they are good all while the least spoken player bulldozes over opponents. There hasn't been much talking or bulldozing this season, which is abnormal for them.
This season has been a test for the Seahawks. They have battled injuries and they have played a bad brand of football for the first two months of the season. Now that the Seahawks are done mourning their Super Bowl 49 loss, they are back to playing Seahawks football. As much as I would like to see Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers "dab" their way to a 19-0 season and end as the Super Bowl champions, the rise of the 'Hawks could cast a dark cloud over the Panthers and the rest of the NFL.
Hear me out on why I feel the rest of the NFL should be very afraid of the Seahawks.
The Seahawks Are Battled Tested
Few teams in the NFL have dealt with the pressures of what comes with the territory of being a top-tier team on a consistent basis. Over the past few seasons, the Seahawks have lost in the divisional round of the playoffs and played in two Super Bowls (of course, winning one out of the two). Just last season, the Seahawks were just one yard away from winning back-to-back titles. The agony of losing Super Bowl 49 still stings, and they are clamoring for another opportunity to salvage last February's loss. The feeling of being so close to making history will continue to light a fire under the Seahawks. Despite losing players such as Max Unger, Byron Maxwell, Malcolm Smith, Golden Tate and a host of other players over the past few years the core players have remained in tact. The core players have experienced joy and heartbreak, and they know what exactly to do re-join the ranks of NFL supremacy.
Back to Their Winning Ways
The Seahawks are on a three-game winning streak which puts them at 7-5. At the Week 13 mark, the Seahawks are just one game away from their 8-4 record from last season. For a team that has battled injuries, contract disputes and overall inconsistent play, they are right in the thick of things. Outside of facing the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17, the Seahawks face the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and the St. Louis Rams to close out the season.
I don't expect Bernie Kosar, Ray Lewis, and Kurt Warner to show up in the games, so it should be a strong possibly that the Seahawks will end up victorious. The three teams have combined record of 10-26, plus the Seahawks have the luxury of playing two of the three games at home. Hypothetically, Seattle could be 10-5 barring any craziness setting up a clash for the NFC West title against the Arizona Cardinals in week 17.
The Re-emergence of the Running Game
It may be a bit hard to believe it this year, but Seattle is 1st in the NFL in running yards per game with 144.6.
In the early part of the season, Marshawn Lynch had trouble finding holes behind the offensive line that lost the aforementioned All-Pro Unger via trade. The loss of Unger and lingering injuries to Lynch had put the Seahawks in unfamiliar territory where they could not run the ball. This forced Russell Wilson to play out of character as he had to throw more than usual. With only one game of 100 or more yards, it was obvious that Lynch wasn't himself.
Despite not having Lynch in the lineup, the Seahawks improved at running the ball with the combination of Wilson and Lynch's backup, Thomas Rawls. The Seahawks are one of few teams in the NFL that prides itself on running the ball, and they've done just that with Rawls, Wilson, and a confident offensive line. In the role of the starter, Rawls has had four 100-yard games as well as one 200-yard game against familiar NFC West foe, the San Francisco 49ers. Even with being the backup to Lynch, Rawls is the team's leading rusher with 786 yards which places him 10th amongst all running backs in the NFL. The insertion of Rawls gives Seattle the running game they lacked earlier in the season. When the Seahawks are playing power football, it not only makes life easier on their quarterback, but easier for the defense since long sustained drives give them the rest they need so that they can play at a high level.
Oh, and don't forget that a healthy Marshawn Lynch will be added to the best rushing team in the NFL as the season winds down.
Wilson is back to being the player we all know him to be. After struggling earlier in the season, Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in all of football. In an interview with Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, Richard Sherman had this to say about his quarterback:
“I mean, this streak of games that he’s having is unbelievable,’’ Sherman said. “I think if he continues on this path he’s got to be getting MVP consideration, because that’s the way he’s playing. That’s the level he’s playing at.’’
Over the past three games, Wilson has thrown for 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions. Wilson's passing rating is hovering over 140.0 to go along with a passing percentage of 76%. Those numbers are MVP-like.
While Wilson's passing numbers are up, his turnovers and sacks are down. This is a testament to the players that have stepped up around him. Seattle's offense have been ridiculed for the lack of weapons, but they are doing just fine as they are ranked No.7 in total offense. Wilson has only been sacked 5 times over the three-game winning streak, which speaks to the improved play of the offensive line. That may not seem like great numbers, but Wilson has seven games this season where he has been sacked 4 or more times. Russell is back to being Russell, and that's pretty scary for the rest of the league.
The Seahawks' Defense is Gaining Steam
After giving up 30 points to the Pittsburgh Steelers just a week ago, the Seahawks pitched a near shutout holding the Minnesota Vikings to seven points while on the road. The Legion of Boom has been pretty vulnerable this season, but we know they have the ability to turn it on. Despite the slow start to the season, the Seahawks still bolster the #4 passing defense in the NFL.
Cornerback was a weakness for the Seahawks as teams feasted on Cary Williams. Over the past few weeks, Cary Williams has been a healthy scratch from the lineup. The combination of DeShawn Shead, Jeremy Lane, and Marcus Burley has coincidentally bolstered the Seahawks secondary in wake of Williams' absence. With defensive coordinator Dan Quinn becoming the head coach in Atlanta, it took a while to work out the kinks in the defense, but the defense is gelling at the right time.
Richard Sherman has been excelling in an expanded role as cover corner shadowing opposing teams' top wide receivers instead of playing in his old role when he would just shut down one side of the field. Sherman did a masterful job against the Steelers by hounding Antonio Brown, holding him to six receptions and 51 yards.
Sherman's L.O.B. counterparts, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are still the best safety duo in all of football despite a slow start to the season. While the L.O.B. receives the lion's share of the credit, the Seahawks front seven has been dominant led by the outspoken Michael Bennett. In this past Sunday's matchup against the Vikings, Seattle held the NFL's leading rusher Adrian Peterson to 18 yards. This shouldn't come to a surprise since the Seahawks have the NFL's #3 rushing defense.
Great teams can turn it on when needed, and the Seahawks have done just that. Since losing to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10, the Seahawks have rattled off three straight wins in impressive fashion. In those wins, they have shown flashes of dominance on both offense and defense. Year after year, a team clicks at the right time to carry the momentum into the playoffs, and the defending NFC champions just may be that team. A lot has changed since the start of the season, but I think the Seattle Seahawks are for real. I can feel my clairvoyant thoughts calibrating, but then again, I could be wrong.