A funny thing happened on the way to picking up a top 5 pick for the Seahawks. They just won too many games and by week 14 they could realistically have played themselves out of the top 10.
Prior to the season, projections may have sat around six wins on average, and maybe eight or nine on the high end because of the state of the NFC West. After starts of 0-2, 1-3, and 2-6, one could reasonably expect at different points of the season that because of bad play at quarterback, no running game, and injuries to the secondary, that grabbing the second best quarterback in the draft was still a viable option.
A win over the Ravens, a "W" that was not expected to be there, may seriously re-adjust those expectations. Per Danny O'Neil, the Hawks are one of five teams in the NFL to have beaten two teams with a minimum of six wins currently. (Along with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Green Bay.)
Don't get me wrong. I always hate this moment. The moment when a person tries to make a prognostication of a win total and then people who sorely disagree say that person is "too optimistic, living in a dream land" or "too negative, we're better than that."
Nobody knows for sure if the Seahawks will finish with three wins, with 10 wins, or with something in between. Commonsense tells us the total will be somewhere in between. The possibility of 10 wins is probably less than 1%. I would guess the probability of three wins isn't quite that low, but not very high. My only point is that most of us believed the Hawks would be 2-7 before Sunday. Now we have to account for an extra win. And the next four games setup in a very interesting way.
If I've learned one thing in my life from betting or survivor pools, it's that you can go broke very quickly if you don't take homefield advantage seriously.
After the trip to St. Louis this week, the Seahawks play three straight at home. The combined record of those teams: 8-19. Don't be fooled by the fancy speed and big names of the Eagles. They've earned every bit of their 3-6 record.
Take the next four games, coupled with a week 16 game against a Niners team that will have locked up the division by then and a week 17 game against the Cardinals, and the Seahawks might (might) wind up with 7-8 wins. (This is the time when you call me a moron that needs to go back where he came from. But that would be silly because that means I'd be closer to you in Seattle, not further away.)
That would mean no top 10 pick. Last season the 7-9 teams were St. Louis and Miami and they picked 14th and 15th. The 8-8 teams were Jacksonville and Oakland and they picked 16th and 17th (sorry for explaining the obvious.) The difference between six wins and eight wins will have a significant impact the draft standings. Robert Griffin III could move his draft stock up to being the solid #2 QB and that could be good news if you're a Matt Barkley fan or bad news if you're an RG3 fan, but either way, the Hawks could very well play themselves out of the top two QBs.
A lot will be learned this week in a game that shows just how much better, or equal, we are to the Rams.
Also, I'm not ignoring the losses of James Carpenter or John Moffitt, the concussions suffered against the Ravens, or the possibility that the Hawks could just completely fall apart over the last seven games. I'm just guessing that three wins is the minimum amount of games the Hawks win down the stretch.
A win on the road in St. Louis would be the birth of a new attitude for Seattle fans this year. I think people are kind of expecting that the Hawks lose this game. The last time we pulled a major upset was in week five, and then coming off of the bye we played our worst game of the season and lost to Cleveland.
Of course, we were without four starters on offense in that game. Again, we will be without at least two parts of our offensive line in St. Louis, and potentially more important pieces of our offense. If they lose, we'll say "of course." If they win, we'll say "Of Course! That's what men do!" and the Hawks will return home for three games feeling good about the improvements that they've made.
We'll be welcoming home a new breed of Hawk. One that can turn this season around and salvage some dignity in the 2011 season. I welcome this baby Hawk and courtesy of this nugget from thelilbee.com, here are my Wishes for Baby:
I hope you learn... to gel on the offensive line fast
So we officially say farewell to the rookie season that was James Carpenter. I think that Carpenter experienced more lows this year than he did highs, but I also believe that he was making strides in the right direction. I didn't expect him to be some dominating right tackle from the get-go. I don't think people should have expected that.
He made too many mistakes and they often negated the good work that he did. At least, from the fans perspective when we hear your number called by the refs more often than we hear your name called by the announcers.
And farewell to the rookie year of John Moffitt. I feel I didn't get to know you as well as I did Carpenter, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. You did have struggles, but the closer a player gets to the middle of the line, the more unnoticed you go. It's tackles that take the most credit and the most blame for their play. Your injury isn't as publicized as Carpenter both because of his first round draft status and his position, but both of your losses are important. How important?
Paul McQuistan isn't making his first trip around the block. Familiar with Tom Cable from his days in Oakland, he's been in the league since 2006. No team seems comfortable enough to go into a season with him as starter, but as a backup he's fine. We don't expect you to wow us into winning a starting position next year. McQuistan feels more like a 28-year-old relief pitcher called up to the bigs for the first third time in his career simply because someone was needed.
Breno Giacomini is in his fourth season, most of it spent on practice squads. He'll play a more important role in the offense as right tackle, and maybe their is still potential there to learn something. I don't expect the Seahawks pass protection to struggle as much as it's run blocking.
I just want to see these guys avoid mistakes and glaring "Oh my God Tarvaris is going to get killed!" moments.
Football Outsiders ranks the Hawks as one of the worst performing lines in football, but I would have to assume those numbers have been improving as the season has gone along. Just as you would expect from the youngest line in the game.
Additionally, I want to say that I do see the detriment that two major injuries to our two top picks could bring to the franchise and the offensive line, but in the short-term, I believe it is manageable. The strength of this team wasn't the offensive line to begin with.
I hope you aren't afraid... to run the football
Against the Saints, Marshawn Lynch achieved Certified Legend status. One run to rule them all. But that was last season and this is this season. Lynch is going to be looking for a new contract after the year, and multi-year deals aren't built off of single runs.
In his first four games, Lynch ran the ball 46 times for 141 yards, an average of 3.06 yards per carry.
In his last four games, he has ran the ball 83 times 366 yards, an average of 4.40 yards per carry.
Lynch also hasn't faced very many bad run defenses this year: San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Baltimore. He's been tested and over the last two games he's won the battle. It felt like Lynch willed us to win over Baltimore (let's give credit where credit is due... to everybody) and he's scored a touchdown in each of his last five games.
In those last five games that Lynch has played, the Hawks have averaged 383 yards of offense.
In the other four games: 195 yards.
The Rams have given up the most yards against the run in the league, allowing over 150 per game. It will be interesting to see what happens when the two new guys on the right side of the line and Lynch meet the league's worst run defense. The Hawks probably won't be afraid to give it to Marshawn 30 times, and if that happens it almost certainly means that we won.
I hope you love.... eating Ram for dinner
It's interesting what people have chosen to eat or not eat. I mean, I can only assume that ram tastes terrible, but that would mean that at some point someone had to eat ram.
I had emu once and it tasted like mud scraped off of an old bicycle tire. So why do people in Australia continue to eat it?
But animals will eat anything. I hope that a Hawks favorite delicacy is ram and that they swoop down and take a bite. I hear the horns are filled with Nutella.
I hope you get... Doug Baldwin the ball
Dougie Fresh is one of the major pieces of the future of the Seahawks. I love Sidney Rice more and more each week, but Baldwin as the "other guy" has been exciting to watch. Interestingly, outside of the Giants game, he hasn't been a major factor in our three wins.
He had the 50 yard catch against Baltimore, but the Hawks are still 1-3 in games in which Baldwin gets a minimum of 4 catches and 70 yards.
This isn't a slight on Baldwin himself. He's not only a rookie wide receiver, one of the toughest positions to adjust to from college to the pros, but he's an undrafted rookie wide receiver. I'm just saying, I like it when he's involved. It's personal favoritism. Its greediness on my part that maybe he can Dougie himself up to 900 yards receiving as a rookie.
I find that successful offenses aren't simply built around having a number one wide receiver as much as they are built on having wide receiver depth. The Patriots, Steelers, Saints, Packers, Cowboys, and Giants all have great depth. If Baldwin was unable to build on this awesome start to his career, you'll see a big drop-off in depth when looking at Golden Tate, Mike Williams, and Ben Obomanu.
We need you Dougie.
I hope you laugh... at the Rams mistakes
One thing that the Rams have not done this year is turn the ball over very much.
Sam Bradford has thrown four interceptions over 257 attempts. They've fumbled the fourth most balls in the NFL but two of those belong to A.J. Feeley, one to Cadillac Williams, three to Greg Salas (out) and one to Danny Amendola (out.)
Bradford has fumbled seven times and Steven Jackson twice.
In their three wins, the Hawks have been the benefactors of 10 turnovers by the opposing offense. In their six losses, they've only seen the other team cough it up four times.
St. Louis has turned the ball over at least once in every game, but never more than twice. they also haven't forced more than two turnovers in any game. If their pattern holds true, this game won't be mistake-free but it won't be mistake-heavy either. If our pattern does, than we may see a whole lot of turnovers.
"Winning the turnover battle" is the most obvious goal there is outside of "scoring more points than the other team." Seattle will just need to take advantage of any opportunity they get. If you intercept a pass or recover a fumble, please do whatever you can to take it to the house. We've seen too often what happens in the red zone.
I hope you never forget... we all love you
Win or lose, we won't have to choose
The Hawks are the team we chose
Go out and fight, all through the night
Hawks and 12th man are bros
(I guess I'm just into poetry now.)
I hope you ignore... the non-believers
I'm a believer. Yes, I definitely am.
Not everybody is. I know there are those out there who aren't sure if this team is headed in the right direction, and others that honestly believe that they aren't. Not to say that is the majority, or even a faction of people that even merit mentioning, but I'm going to mention it anyway.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. About how you identify a team that's on the cusp of being good. There are a lot of different ways of thinking about this, a lot of different angles, and no right answer. History is a telling and often accurate way to find answers when looking ahead, but it's not perfect. In fact, it's when history is wrong that we most fall in love with sport.
When I think about teams "on the cusp" I often think about teams like Stanford football. I think about when they were terrible and they beat USC. They didn't win many games, but they won some big games and they held tight. I for some reason also always think about ASU basketball from a few years back before they became a top 25 team for a short time. For a couple of years they were bad but they put a scare in everybody.
Now the Seahawks sit here at 3-6, one year after finishing 7-9. Over the last four seasons: 19-38. Nothing to show for our first round pick after finishing 4-12 in 2008 (Aaron Curry) isn't a good way to start. Russell Okung and Earl Thomas the next year were steps in the right direction. James Carpenters time on the shelf could hold us back again.
But there's still a lot of good:
Ride, Baldwin, Okung, Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Mebane, Richard Sherman, Red Bryant, and Max Unger for starters. Then the next level of good potentially being: Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, re-signing Lynch, re-signing David Hawthorne, LeRoy Hill, KJ Wright, and a healthy return of Walter Thurmond and the lineman. I'm sure there are varying opinions on all of those.
I see a team that has gotten better as the season has gone on. A team that's been competitive for the majority of the year, not a doormat. I mean, look at the AFC West. Would you rather be Kansas City or Denver? I'm not even so sure I'd rather be San Diego. I'm happy with the players we've got and I hope we do add the quarterback of the future, a good one, next year.
I hope you become... one of the meanest defenses in the NFL
I want to see more smashmouth football on Sunday. I want to see players that just plain don't give a darn! People call Ndamakong Suh a dirty player? Give me 11 of him. Bill Romanowski may be a lot of things, he may be a total douche, but in the end he'll just tell you that he won four Super Bowls.
Being a dirty player, being a tough player, playing to win the game and not to avoid fines, doesn't seem to cost teams wins. I'm not calling Kam Chancellor a dirty player, but the way he plays is the way I like to see football players play.
We may all hate the Steelers, for good reason, but in the end they've been to the most Super Bowls recently and they are definitely the dirtiest team in the NFL.
You won't lose any fans by putting stickers on your helmet.
These Hawks are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. At times, they play like it. At other times, I see the potential of a ferocious defense, and an offense that could be explosive with a few adjustments.
This game against the Rams won't make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things. If the Rams win, then both teams will be at 3-7. If the Hawks win, then we'll be two games ahead of St. Louis and two games under .500 with six games left. Many of them winnable.
I know that we need to draft the quarterback that's going to lead us back to the playoffs, but we've already played ourselves out of the top two available. Winning seven or eight games might seem meaningless to some, but if Seattle were to finish the season on a positive note then they'll be more amped up to get back on the field in 2012 and continue that good feeling.
The Lions were 2-10 last season and some fans might have wanted them to lose their final four games in order to secure a top pick. A win over Green Bay in week 14 was the start of a four-game winning streak that hurt their draft order considerably, but also helped change the attitude in Detroit.
We need to change the attitude here. We need to lose the adolescence. We can grow up considerably over the next seven games and that's a good thing. It's a great thing when you consider how not cute a baby hawk is:
Follow me on twitter @casetines