Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Are we finally better than we think we are?
On Monday I wrote about making sense of the senseless. That sports are - by nature - exciting because of their unpredictability. The Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs this season and nearly upset the Yankees to advance to the ALCS after flip-flopping their record from 69-93 in 2011 to 93-69 in 2012. Manny Pacquiao got knocked-the-f-out. John Skelton won a starting quarterback job.
All of these things might seem nonsensical in the moment, but they happened. Well, look now (not don't look now, because then what would be the point of writing this article? You need to look at it!) because the Seattle Seahawks might be the best team in the NFC. Hell, as of today, they are making their argument for being the best team period.
Football Outsiders came out with their post-Week 14 playoff odds this morning for the NFC and the Seahawks are overwhelmingly favored to make the playoffs at 93% odds. Not only that, but after the debacle on Sunday, Seattle is ranked #2 overall behind the New England Patriots in Weighted DVOA at 43.9%. The Patriots, huh? Who was the last team that they lost to?
Now, it would be easy to say that the Seahawks moved up so far because the Cardinals simply gave up, but it still takes two to tango and in this case, that tango was Brian Boitano and Elaine Benes on Dancing with the Stars. In addition to just beating the Cards though, you don't skyrocket up to #2 based off of a single win. The Hawks have beaten: The Bears in Chicago, the Vikings, the Patriots, the Packers, and the Cowboys. Additionally, Seattle is the most balanced team in the NFL, and when the full rankings come out later today I expect that they will be a top five team in offense, defense, and special teams and be the only team to do that. (Last week they were 5th in offense, 6th in defense, 3rd in special teams. Yeah, they might be top 3 in all of those now actually.)
The Patriots still have defensive issues. The Broncos are close but fall a bit behind in special teams. The 49ers, as of last week, were ranked 23rd on special teams for DVOA. The Bears have a terrible offense.
The fact of the matter is that there are four teams right now that Football Outsiders ranks as the four best teams in the NFL by a significant margin: The Pats, Broncos, 49ers, and can-you-freakin-believe-it Seattle Seahawks. If FO decided on a Super Bowl right now without going to the playoffs, it would be the Pats and Hawks. Not the 49ers anymore, but the same team that just three weeks ago had a lot of people forgetting about the playoffs after a loss to the Miami Dolphins. I said I was far from giving up then and so of course I'm not going to give up now. Every week this team proves a little bit more and really their fate is in their own hands. They've got the talent to beat anybody, the only question that remains is if they will.
Seattle bounced back from two straight losses to dominate the Vikings and Jets at home. They bounced back from the loss to Miami by beating the Bears in Chicago and then proved that they have some of that "killer swag" by putting together the biggest beatdown of the season for any team, the third-highest single-game DVOA rating since 1991.
Honestly there should be little doubt that the Seahawks are one of the best teams in the NFL and yet, do you not feel that sense of doubt anyway? I know that I do. Can this really be happening? Could our window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl actually be starting to crack open this season and if so -- wait, wait, wait, we might be Super Bowl contenders?? This doesn't happen to us good sirs, please direct your good fortune to another city like New York haha no worries these mixups happen. The other day (this is actually a true story, sad but true) a very, very attractive girl "Chose" me on a dating site. Do you know what I did? Nothing because there's clearly a catch there and I'm not biting. Frankly my confidence in regards to that part of my life is somewhat akin to my confidence in Seattle sports; where is the catch and how hard is it going to bite me in the ass?
Even when the Hawks had their five-year playoff run in the mid-2000's, the only season that I had confidence in was 2005. That was the year that I went into it thinking - no, believing, pre-season - that Seattle was headed to the Super Bowl. I didn't have confidence past that but I had confidence that no team in the NFC could beat us. However, I never considered it a "window" that lasted longer than that. This seemed to be the best opportunity, and like the Sonics in the 90's while Jordan was "retired" and the '95 or 116-win Mariners, opportunity passed us by. Except I have a bit of good news...
This is the opening of a window that should last for at least a few years. If this isn't our year, then I am absolutely certain that there will be others. Matt Hasselbeck was 30 in 2005, Russell Wilson is a rookie. Walter Jones was 31, Steve Hutchinson was out-the-door. Russell Okung is Russell O-young and the rest of the offensive line is also young and under contract. Shaun Alexander was 28, Marshawn Lynch is 26. I could go on like this, but you get the point, yeah? There aren't going to many holes along the way, the team is incredibly younger at key positions of their best players and also immensely more talented on defense than they were in 2005.
This window is actually better, in my opinion, than any window we had under Mike Holmgren and I say that being fully aware of how good this team was or could have been under Holmgren. (Fun Fact: Holmgren obtained his franchise QB, Hasselbeck, in year three. Same as Carroll-Wilson. However, it wasn't until the fifth year of that marriage that they went to the Super Bowl and had their most perfect season. I don't believe we are waiting five years for that to happen again.)
So here we sit at 8-5, thirteen games in, the same year that had a lot of bickering and argument over how good this team was after a loss to the Cardinals, or a loss to the Rams, or a loss to the Lions and Dolphins, with the second-highest DVOA in football and almost certain to finish no worse than fourth in that category with a 93% chance to make the playoffs and a real opportunity to still win the division. I went with my instincts in 2005 that Seattle would make the Super Bowl. I have a gut instinct about what's going to happen this year, but won't share it right now.
All I know is that right now we are good and I'm going to have to start altering my attitude a little bit about just how good we are. We might be better than I think, even if that's just so unlike what I'm used to.