Any argument that the '12 Seahawks are better than their '05 predecessors should be neither made nor heard until this team equals (and hopefully exceeds) the latter's postseason accomplishments.
But as they try and do just that a couple of items to keep in mind.
THE 2012 SEAHAWKS ARE COMPLETE IN ALL THREE PHASES:
In total offensive production there is scarcely a comparison between the two. The '05 NFC Champions led the NFL all year on the strength of MVP Shaun Alexander racking up yards and touchdowns with Matt Hasselbeck making defenses pay with cruel efficiency when they sold out to stop Alexander.
This year's offense has not come close to matching the volume of that output. They weren't built to. Where they have compared to '05, especially in the 2nd half of the season, is in efficiency. Football Outsiders gives them a weighted DVOA of 31.2%, #1 in the NFL. The '05 offense finished with a 26.2% weighted DVOA, good for 4th in the NFL.
There is scarcely any comparison between the respective defenses. The '05 squad ranged from average to opportunistic, reflected in their dead-in-the-middle 16th defensive DVOA ranking. This year's team ranged from dominant to very good, ranking 4th in defensive DVOA. They also finish the season tops in the NFL and in franchise history in scoring defense.
The '05 teams special teams unit was satisfactory, ranking 20th with a DVOA of -.08%. This year's special teams unit is elite, ranking 3rd with a DVOA of 5.7%. Their respective coverage units rank in the top half of the league, Jon Ryan pins opposing offenses deep within their territory as a matter of course, and Leon Washington is a threat to turn every punt and kickoff into six points.
The 2012 Seahawks surpass the 2005 team in everything but total offensive proficiency, a chasm bridged by both unit's comparable efficiency ratings. On defense and special teams there is no comparison -- '12 clearly surpasses '05. All three units of this year's team rank among the top five in the NFL. The '05 offense is the only unit on that year's team that could make the same claim.
The 2012 Seahawks finished the season with a DVOA of 38.3% and a weighted DVOA of 46.6%, good not only for the top ranking in the NFL but the sixth best DVOA rating ever. The 2005 Seahawks finished with a meager-by-comparison team DVOA of 28.4% and weighted DVOA of 26.2%, the third and fourth best finishes that year respectively.
THE 2012 SEAHAWKS PLAYED A TOUGHER SCHEDULE:
Aside from the usual disrespect given to the Seahawks, the '05 squad's seamless run through the regular season was almost universally discounted because of the ease of their schedule. Their opponents had a .457 winning percentage. The 'Hawks beat the 11-5 Giants thanks in no small part to three missed game-winning field goals. They beat a 14-2 Colts squad that rested some of their starters (most importantly Peyton Manning) for a majority of the game.
The Seahawks' opponents this year had a winning percentage of .500 with wins against the 12-4 Patriots, the 11-5 Packers, the 10-6 Vikings, the 10-6 Bears (on the road), and the 11-4-1 49ers. They went 5-1 against teams that finished the season with a winning record and they owned the highest strength of victory in the NFL.
The main disparity between the two strength of schedules is the strength of the NFC West. None of the three other NFC West teams in 2005 finished with more than six wins. The 'Hawks basically picked on the handicapped, going 6-0 against divisional opponents.
In 2012 the NFC West was arguably the toughest division in football. The 49ers, a preseason favorite to make the Super Bowl, went 11-4-1 a year after going 13-3 on their way to the NFC Championship game. The 8-7-1 Rams showed exponential improvement under Jeff Fisher and finished with a 4-1-1 record against the division. The 5-11 Cardinals jumped out to a 4-0 start on the strength of a Top-10 defense before succumbing to historically porous quarterback play.
The difficulty in playing the NFC West was reflected in the Seahawks' 3-3 record, splitting the home-and-home season series with all three of their divisional opponents.
The 2012 Seahawks finished with a worse record than in '05, but they played a markedly tougher schedule and performed better against teams that finished with a winning record.
THE '05 SEAHAWKS WERE A VETERAN TEAM:
In 2005 the Seahawks entered their seventh year under Mike Holmgren and were at the very top of their win curve. Matt Hasselbeck entered the year as the teams' starting quarterback for the third consecutive season. Steve Hutchinson was entering his prime, offensive veterans Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, Mack Strong, Darrell Jackson, Joe Jurevicius, and Bobby Engram were on the outer fringes of theirs. Ditto Grant Wistrom, Chartric Darby, Bryce Fisher, Andre Dyson, Kelly Herndon, Marcus Trufant, Marquand Manuel and Michael Boulware on defense. Linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill would never again match the success they enjoyed that year in their rookie seasons.
The 2012 Seahawks were among the league's youngest. Obviously there was Russell Wilson, a rookie 3rd Round pick that started all sixteen games at quarterback. They ended the year with a third-year left tackle, fourth-year center, rookie right guard (a converted defensive tackle out of the seventh round), and a third year split-end.
Youth was especially prevalent on defense. Starting safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were in their third years; starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman their second. At linebacker a rookie started 16 games at middle-linebacker, a second year player started fifteen games at strong-side linebacker, and sophomore Malcolm Smith earned a preponderance of the reps at weak-side linebacker by season's end. Rookies Bruce Irvin, Gregg Scruggs, and Jeremy Lane played meaningful roles as well.
The youth of this roster is surpassed only by its talent, reflected in the fact that they went 4-4 in the first-half of the season, 7-1 in the second. Struggling to find consistency in September and October, a young Seahawks team led by a rookie wunderkind at quarterback began impressing its will upon opponents in November and December. They now enter the playoffs having posted the third best regular season record in franchise history and are winners of five straight. Given no choice but to acknowledge what is happening, national analysts are universally declaring the Seahawks to be "the hottest team in football" and "the team nobody wants to play in the playoffs".
In comparing regular season performances, the 2012 'Hawks compare very favorably to '05, especially when considering their youth and strength of schedule. The regular season is not where legacies are made though.
The post-season is.
Seven years ago the 'Hawks proved their doubters wrong by besting the Redskins (that year's "hottest team" entering the playoffs) in the divisional round and by dominating the previously iron-hot Panthers in the NFC Championship. (I won't put any 12 through reoccurring pain by mentioning subsequent events.) In so doing they immortalized themselves in franchise history and in the hearts and minds of every 12th Man.
To reach equal and hopefully greater heights this Seahawks team will have a much steeper climb. They won't enjoy the benefit of a first-round bye or home-field advantage. They will have to win at least two, most likely three games on the road. They will ultimately have to beat teams with elite quarterbacks and rosters at the top of their win curves. Essentially, to surpass the 2005 Seahawks they will have to beat teams that fit the same profile of the 2005 Seahawks: Elite, veteran, in-their-prime rosters at the top of their win curves.
A daunting task, but this team has the talent and determination to not only earn the recognition they deserve, but seize it from the unwilling clutches of everyone across the country that has discounted them when they haven't been ignoring them altogether.
Do that and they surpass the '05 team without question.
Do that and they leave the football world sputtering and stumbling as they try to explain what they never took the time to foresee.
Do that and they become immortal.