I'm loving where the Seahawks are headed, but the team is not to the point where fans should feel comfortable tallying up any game as a sure-fired win. I'm not so nervous about this game as I am intrigued by the matchup.
1. A Little Recognition is a Dangerous Thing (for a fan base).
Seattle is starting to emerge from the mouths of the national analysts as the proverbial "team to be reckoned with." Achieving that status is when a fan base officially enters the danger zone; that place where they much more easily start counting wins and overlooking opponents. Overlooking an opponent is mostly a fan delusion, as players and coaches are pretty heavily socialized against that.
2. The 'Chess Match' will Be Worth Watching.
Seattle is up to 6th while the NYJs rank a mere 19th in the most recent Football Outsiders DVOA stats. That's a pretty substantial disparity overall. In a vacuum, Seattle is the better team. But, it's worth noting that the overall disparity is largely driven by New York's terrible offense. It's safe to say that we'll ALL be pretty surprised if the Jets can consistently move the ball on long drives. There are two other phases to the game however, and the matchups there--in DVOA terms at least-- are much closer. NY is 12th on defense while Seattle's offense is 14th. NY is 7th in overall special teams while Seattle is 10th.
Of course, a matchup advantage as big as Seattle's defense (3rd) vs. NY's offense (27th) can easily dictate the flow (and outcome) of the game by itself. So the 'chess match' in this game is about who can dictate style. Both coaches are very willing to run three plays, punt, and play defense. Big turnovers aside, NY's best chance is a low-scoring punt fest.
As we saw at Cleveland last season, if both offenses are super-conservative having the "better" defense doesn't matter that much (unless the defense is creating huge field position advantages). Seattle wants to score enough to force the Jets to expose their offense to turnovers. So why might Seattle play a super-conservative offense, especially after the last two games? Well, Rex Ryan can stress blocking schemes in ways that put the onus on the QB to make good pre-snap reads and get out of bad plays. He can draw up some exotic craziness that requires a QB to not execute plays but to execute the playbook. To this point, Carroll has generally gone conservative when faced with that rather than ask Wilson to make many on-field adjustments.
Rex Ryan has to feel like he can win a punt fest. The interesting question is whether Carroll will give him one willingly.
3. Third Quarters are About Coaching and Fourth Quarters are About Depth & Conditioning.
Seattle has done well in the second halves of games because the team is well-coached and pretty deep. If you get past all the bluster and nonsense, I think Ryan's a pretty good coach too. All things equal, I expect Seattle to take a few lumps but to eventually find their sea legs and be the better team at home because Seattle has more good players.
Having said that, with Carp and with K.J. Wright, I think Seattle could play the low score game Rex Ryan wants and feel quite comfortable. Without them, the depth obviously suffers and it shows up in greater variance in performance.