NFC West Preview - Seattle Seahawks
2016 Record: 10-5-1
Head Coach: Pete Carroll (79-46-1 in Seattle)
Greatest Franchise Moment: After a thrilling NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers punctuated by cornerback Richard Sherman’s famous end zone tip of a Colin Kaepernick pass, the Seahawks entered MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to face off against the AFC Champion Denver Broncos, whose offense had been anointed as the greatest juggernaut in history by the national media. After a 37 year journey to a championship, the final step was astonishingly easy. Seattle demolished the Broncos 43-8 for their first, and so far only, Super Bowl title.
Random Trivia: Seattle is the only franchise that has played in both the AFC Championship Game and the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks began in the NFC West in 1976, played in the AFC West from 1977-2001, and returned to the NFC West in 2002. The ’83 squad, the franchise’s first playoff team, lost to the Los Angeles Raiders 30-14 in the AFC Championship Game. The Seahawks have fared better in the NFC, defeating Carolina 34-14 in the 2005 conference title game, knocking off the 49ers 23-17 in 2013, and pulling off a miracle comeback to defeat the Packers 28-22 in 2014.
State of the Franchise: The past five years have been the most accomplished era in Seahawks history. Russell Wilson has developed into the Seahawks’ first true franchise quarterback, the defense has been historically successful, and the roster is loaded with elite talent. But dreams of a dynasty are fading fast and the Seahawks’ window of opportunity to reach another Super Bowl with their current nucleus is closing.
The franchise continues to be plagued by bargain-basement offensive line play. The Seahawks had the most inexperienced line in the NFL in 2016 and they paid a painful price. Their running game no longer struck fear in opponents and Russell Wilson was plagued by nagging injuries after taking an excessive number of hits. The Seahawks signed Jaguars tackle Luke Joeckel and Texans guard Oday Aboushi, but neither player has had a particularly distinguished career. Seattle also hopes for improvement from last year’s offensive linemen. Justin Britt is entrenched as the center, but the rest of the line remains in flux.
Wilson was solid last season considering the circumstances. When he has time to throw, he knows he can count on leading receiver Doug Baldwin to make a play. The Hawks expect to have receiver Tyler Lockett back at full speed after his season-ending injury. Tight end Jimmy Graham is in the last year of his contract and should be motivated to prove his worth.
The Seahawks’ running backs were battered by injuries last season. Thomas Rawls and CJ Prosise are back and the Hawks signed massive former Packer Eddie Lacy. Seattle will likely take a “running back by committee” approach.
Seattle still has plenty of talent in the front seven. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright continue their stellar careers and defensive end Michael Bennett grabs headlines with his play on the field and his outspoken behavior off of it. Cliff Avril and Ahtyba Rubin are mainstays on the defensive line. The Seahawks drafted Malik McDowell from Michigan State to help improve their pass rush. McDowell is a talented prospect but his work ethic is questionable. The Seahawks made a risky draft pick on a defensive lineman two years ago when they selected Frank Clark. So far that looks like it was a smart move. Hopefully McDowell will pan out as well.
The Seahawks’ iconic “Legion of Boom” secondary was plagued by injuries and internal strife last season. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas both missed several games with injuries, while Richard Sherman’s sideline antics became a distraction. Chancellor, Sherman, and Thomas are all back for 2017, but this may be the last season that they are together.
Schedule with Predictions in Parenthesis:
At Green Bay (L) – Seahawks return to the site of the most lopsided defeat of the Russell Wilson era (38-10 in 2016).
San Francisco (W) – Hawks have won five home games in a row over the 49ers.
At Tennessee (L) – Tough road matchup with the improving Titans.
Indianapolis (W) – Andrew Luck takes on the Legion of Boom.
At L.A. Rams (L) – Seahawks fumbled away a chance to win here last year.
At N.Y. Giants (L) – Seahawks have had great success in the Meadowlands, but the Giants appear formidable.
Houston (W) – Looks like an ugly, low scoring slugfest.
Washington (W) – Mediocre Redskins face long road trip, tough environment in Seattle.
At Arizona (W) – Carroll’s Hawks have been surprisingly successful in the desert.
Atlanta (W) – Teams that lose the Super Bowl tend to struggle the next year. The Falcons are unlikely to break that trend.
At San Francisco (W) – Hawks almost lost this game last year, but still look vastly superior to the 49ers.
Philadelphia (W) – Eagles lost in Seattle last year, this year probably won’t be any different.
At Jacksonville (W) – Seattle’s only 10 am game comes against the Jags. Someone in the NFL scheduling office must be a Hawks fan.
L.A. Rams (W) – Seahawks better hope that they have a playoff berth wrapped up by this point, because the last two games are brutal.
At Dallas (L) – On the other hand, someone in the scheduling department must hate the Hawks. Why else would they schedule this game on Christmas Eve?
Arizona (L) – Cardinals ruined any chance of the Seahawks making a serious run at the Super Bowl by beating them in Seattle last year. Can they do it again? Of course they can.
Prediction: If the Seahawks’ offensive line can somehow manage to be decent, and if they have much better luck avoiding injuries than they did last year, Seattle will be in the Super Bowl mix. This is a supremely talented football team in most areas. On the other hand, the Seahawks are one major Russell Wilson injury away from going 6-10 or worse. The best guess is that they will stay at the same level of the last couple of years.
Predicted Record: 10-6
This concludes our preview of the 2017 NFC West. Here are the projected standings.
1. Seahawks (10-6)
2. Cardinals (8-8)
3. Rams (7-9)
4. 49ers (3-13)