The last time I felt this good about the Seahawks, they were going to the Super Bowl. Lofty praise, I agree, but today on 12/19/2011, it's how I feel.
This is the NFL and it might not be how I feel next week, but on this Monday that's how I'm going to feel and I'm prepared to defend it. The more I look at this team and what they've accomplished in the second half of the season, the more sure I am that if Seattle somehow managed to make the playoffs, they'd make some noise.
In that hypothetical, unlikely scenario, in which I slide to another dimension with Jerry O'Connell (or Charlie O'Connell depending on the season) and the Hawks make the 2011 playoffs, I wouldn't be surprised to see them pull a big upset or two.
Beating the Packers would be a huge upset. Beating the Saints would be a rather large upset. But which team left in the NFC would be a major upset? Which team is definitely better than Seattle?
The Niners? San Francisco is strong on defense and hasn't made many mistakes on offense, but they are beatable. Alex Smith has only thrown 5 interceptions, but he didn't face this version of the Seattle secondary.
The Cowboys? Dallas is probably one of two teams to really handle the Hawks rather easily this season. But that team had DeMarco Murray. As strong as Dallas looks on paper, they lost by 27 to the Eagles. They needed OT to beat the Redskins. They beat Miami by one point. They lost to the Cardinals and Giants. One or two of those could be a fluke, but five examples of Dallas being flawed are enough to prove they are flawed. Even though they handled Seattle with relative ease, the Hawks were still in the game in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons? I might actually put the Falcons ahead of the Niners and Cowboys right now as the third team in the NFC. They have a talented and balanced offense and a very good defense. Still, Seattle was maybe 10 yards closer on a field goal attempt to winning their game. Atlanta has proven vulnerable to good rushing attacks. I think the Falcons are better than the Hawks as of today, but not a huge upset if Seattle beat them in the playoffs.
The Lions? Detroit is talented but they're still figuring out how to win without either starting the game in a big deficit or blowing a lead. The Lions could match up with any team in the NFC based on talent, but they're still figuring out how to put it all together for four quarters. Seattle could generate the turnovers necessary to beat Detroit. (And mathematically, they can't both make the playoffs. But is Seattle better as of today? In many ways, yes.)
So, right now, the argument could be made (as any argument could, whether right or wrong. I argue that Diet Coke is better than sex, but I've had way more Diet Coke so I'm biased.) that Seattle is the third-best team in the NFC as of today. I think it would be a very strong argument that they're the fourth best. And I would be shocked if you could prove to me that there are six teams in the conference better than Seattle.
That's pretty amazing, considering this team was 2-6 at the midway point. Considering they were 7-9 (and lucky to be 7-9) last season. Considering this team has been turned over more times in two years than Kim Kardashian. Considering the injuries suffered. Credit to Pete Carroll, John Schneider, Tom Cable, Gus Bradley and the unsung heroes. Credit to the players stepping up. But how much do we get excited and how much do we temper expectations for the rest of the year and next season? Should we start unbuttoning pants, removing said pants, and do a dance? Pants on the floor, pants on the floor?
Let's play "Pants off, Pants on" and try to figure out a proper balance, shall we?
Remove Pants Because Marshawn Lynch is a Beast
Beef Moe Skittle-Skittle Money Man (as I call him, or Bee-Mo-Skitty-$ for short) is the Seahawks first 1,000 yard rusher since Shaun Alexander in 2005. We've dealt with watching Zombie Alexander, T.J. Duckett, Justin Forsett, and Julius Jones try to be the main ball carrier for the last four seasons and it's been terrifying.
I'd rather watch All-Star-Cast-Romantic-Comedy-Movies and Spoof-Movies-After-2003 than watch that again.
It's been greatly publicized over the last two months just how awesome Lynch has been since week four and the formula of "successful rushing attack, great defense" has been a key to Seattle's hotness lately. There's no doubt that Lynch is a key component of Seattle getting back to the playoffs and further, or at least, some version of being able to run the ball this well.
Slowly Put Pants Back On Until Lynch is Re-Signed
It's not that I doubt that Marshawn will be retained, but I don't know it for a fact either. None of us do. I mean, it's not a fact. Here are facts:
- The human head weighs eight pounds.
- Donnie Wahlberg was the best New Kid on the Block.
- 30 is the new 20.
- You will die of dysentery.
It's not yet a fact that Lynch is a Seahawk for next season or beyond because he does not have a new contract. Franchise tag? Sure, but then you're paying him a rather large salary, and then you're not using the franchise tag on Red Bryant
. Going off of spotrac.com
, and hoping that it's updated and correct, Leroy Hill
, David Hawthorne
, Brandon Browner
, and Red will all have to be addressed. This entire roster will not be back next season. It's very possible an important piece will leave. The price of Browner goes up every week. Contracts aren't something I pay a whole lot of attention to during the season, so some of you probably know more on this situation than I do, but I know that Lynch is a free agent and the franchise tag will probably go to somebody and leave somebody else up for grabs.
If he left, Seattle could possibly go grab another former player of Cable's in Michael Bush, but I don't see nearly the same abilities in Bush as I do in Lynch. There's something special going on with Lynch and Seattle, so let's keep that going.
Purchase Rip-Away Pants Because the Defense is Great
As it stands right now, Seattle is 6th in scoring defense and 8th in total defense. Their highest finishes in franchise history are 5th in scoring defense (1982 and 1984) and 6th in total defense (1984.) I was a couple of weeks old when they finished 5th in 1982 and I can remember telling my dad "Gaga googoo, waaaaahhh!!! Seafense!"
Seeing the Hawks young and exciting secondary this season, I'm still going around saying "Gaga googoo Seafense."
Seattle is fourth in the NFL in takeaways, 2nd in interceptions, 11th against the run, and 4th in yards per carry against. This is a team that forced 0 turnovers in their first three losses of the season and has forced a whopping 27 in their last 10 games.
Even Red Bryant has two picks and a touchdown.
Football Outsiders won't update their rankings until tomorrow, but going into the Bears
game, Seattle ranked 10th in the NFL in DEFENSE DVOA. I would think that's going to go up after yesterday's domination.
Don't Rip Away Pants Yet for Next Season
Don't get me wrong, I am pumped up for next season, but also sad that our fate still lays in the hands of the Lions in terms of this season. So much can change and I'm scared that our window could be now and not 2012. It's not that I'm not hopeful (I'm VERY hopeful) but the defense is playing amazing NOW, not necessarily amazing next season.
Red Bryant has been critical and must be re-signed. He should make the Pro Bowl.
Remember only two games ago when Jon Gruden called Brandon Browner a "Pro Bowler" and everybody laughed? Well, Browner is probably a Pro Bowler. He has 6 interceptions, 2 touchdowns, 20 pass deflections, and 220 interception return yards. He could not play another snap and should still make the Pro Bowl.
And if my earlier statement is correct, then HE also needs to be re-signed. This was a guy that cost nothing, that should have cost nothing next season, and he's going to be expensive now. And that's also kind of scary because there's not nearly enough evidence to support a huge contract. It's going to be a risk.
Also, turnovers tend to be volatile and rely heavily upon quarterback mistakes.
Five turnovers generated against Caleb Hanie. Four turnovers generated against the Ghost of Vince Young. It's good to take advantage of those opportunities, but those opportunities won't come as often when you make the playoffs. You have to also be a defense that shuts down, or at least contains, a Pro Bowl quarterback.
How many high-level QB's have the Hawks faced this year?
Ben Roethlisberger: 22 of 30 for 298 yards, 1 TD/0 INT
Matt Ryan: 28 of 42 for 291 yards, 1 TD/0 INT
Eli Manning: 24 of 39 for 420 yards, 3 TD/3 INT
Tony Romo: 19 of 31 for 279 yards, 2 TD/0 INT
Seattle went 1-3 in those games. I don't consider Joe Flacco to be very good, but if you do: 29 of 52 for 255 yards, 1 TD/1 INT. Again, I don't think he's that good anyway.
You can gently remove pants considering that all four of those games came in the first half of the year. How would Seattle fair if facing those teams and quarterbacks today? I would think better, but can't say for sure.
There's also a matter of re-signing or replacing two starting linebackers. Linebacker doesn't seem like our "strong suit" this season, at least being overshadowed by the secondary, but we definitely don't want it to be a "weak suit" either.
Ask Your Family For Gift Cards to the "Pants Store" Because You'll Need to Buy a Bunch After Seeing Tom Cable Work Magic on the Offensive Line!
It's been so encouraging to see this line and this offense not go to pieces after injuries to Russell Okung, James Carpenter, and John Moffitt. The no-names and cast-offs have done a good job lately of not being noticed very often for large amounts of sucktitude.
I've always believed in building a strong line first and foremost, and that's what the front office has done in free agency and the draft in the last two years. It's been good to watch, but hard to watch almost just as often because of injuries and mistakes.
Right now the addition of Cable looks like maybe the best in the 2011 free agency period.
Don't Ruin Those Pants Yet, Because Injuries Are Still Concerning
It's cool to see McQuistans and French guys open lanes for Lynch and protect Tarvaris just long enough for him to hold the ball for too long and get sacked, but sad to know why they are playing in the first place.
It sucks that Moffitt played so-so, got hurt, and then got suspended. How high are expectations for him next year?
It sucks that Carpenter played so-so, got hurt, and is missing critical development time.
It sucks that Okung got hurt, seriously hurt, and is a question mark going forward because he has played elite at times.
It's good to know that this team can win, and win convincingly, without these guys. But the investment in these names was high and any investment that doesn't pay off is not a good investment. It's too early to say that it hasn't paid off, because patience will be key, but as of today it has not paid off. And the future holdings on the offensive line stock are not without doubt. How does the team address it in the draft and free agency? Do they leave it alone because they've already got five supposed starters for next year and some good backups? Do they invest heavily into it AGAIN and look past other areas of need?
I want to believe that o-line is an area of strength for next season. I also want to believe I can fly or that I can touch the sky, but there's a big gap between belief and reality in terms of having a top NFL line for years to come in Seattle as it stands right now.
Remorve Parnts Forr Tarvaris Jarckson Goord Play.. R!
Seattle has won their last three games by a combined score of 99-41. During that time, Tarvaris is 53 of 79 (67%) for 641 yards, 3 TD/0 INT. He's posted three of his best four QB ratings of the season in December. He's been strong on the stat sheet, gaining 8.11 yards per attempt and has not thrown an interception.
No doubt about it, though he holds onto the ball for way too long and is not a great decision maker, he's played well and is a part of what's good about this team during this stretch and not what's bad.
Keerp Parnts Orn, Becaurse Tarvaris is Stirll Tarvaris
Even if he's the best version of Tarvaris we'll ever see, he's still not the quarterback of the future and there should be concern that Pete will stick with him for 2012 and NOT find the next answer at QB. I think that the franchise will address it and there will be an opening at backup with Charlie Whitehurst supposedly gone, but we don't know for sure that Seattle will get a QBOTF.
If Seattle is picking in the middle of the first round, what QB could be available in a best-case scenario? I don't think any of the top three would make it out of the top 10. The Browns
, and Redskins are all guaranteed to be picking ahead of Seattle.
Andrew Luck is a pipe dream.
Matt Barkley is also a dream. I have a dream, that one day our Seahawks and Barkley can live together in harmony, but then I woke up.
Best case scenario is that Seattle is more sold on Robert Griffin III than a team like Washington is, and trades up into the top 10 to select him. And that he declares for the draft.
It's becoming more and more likely that Seattle could go an Andy Dalton/2nd round QB route because of draft status. I'm okay with Seattle winning more and losing ground in the draft, but it still means that the team might have to wait another year to get a true QBOTF. Even then, should we expect to pick higher in 2013? I hope not. As it stands, and the reason for this article, is that I think Seattle could easily win 10 or 11 games next season.
There may not be another opportunity to grab a QB in the top 20 after this season without trading up anyway. It could be Landry Jones. It could be nobody. Who could it be knocking on our door? I don't know, but I sincerely hope it's not Tarvaris, who looks like he will always be a talented but limited quarterback.
Show the World What You're Working With for Beating Good Teams!
Record is not always reflective of how good a team is because strength of schedule is key. But Seattle has beaten Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, and the New York Giants
. Two of those wins came on the road as well.
The losses can be attributed to playoff teams like San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Dallas (potentially playoffs.)
Not too shabby.
Keep It In Your Pants for Not Over-Valuing Name Recognition and Forgetting Bad Losses!
@Chicago? Cool! We'll forget in a year that they had Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber as starters.
Philadelphia? Neat! Vince Young is terrible now!
Baltimore? Awesome! Actually, this is a great win.
New York? Radical! Actually, this is a great win, though the Giants fell off a cliff.
It's actually more impressive when you consider how much better Arizona is than we thought they were and won't be an easy game in week 17.
Seattle is also a team that lost to Cleveland (inexcusable even with injuries and a terrible call on a punt return. The Browns are awful.)
Also lost to the Redskins and blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead.
I would feel good about re-matches of all of those games right now, but fluke losses happen. You just have to be good enough to overcome fluke losses over a 16-game schedule. Is Seattle that good right now? Maybe. They just weren't that good over the course of the entire season so far to overcome and limit bad losses. The window for this season is almost closed.
And that's what I want to finish with.
I am both excited as hell for this team and disappointed. I can't hide the fact that I am sad that Seattle is playing their best football in half a decade and could still miss the playoffs. The Lions are in the way, and Seattle needs to win out and Detroit needs to lose out, or as fans we don't only have to wait another year, we have to wait a year and hope it's still just as magical next season.
That Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, and the offensive line not only get better and stay healthy, but that they don't regress.
That Lynch, Red, Browner, Hawthorne, and Hill are still here or replaced with players that can be just as capable.
That more good comes in than goes out.
I can't help but be strongly encouraged by the progression I've seen from the short Jim Mora term to year one of Pete Carroll, and then an even bigger jump from year one of Carroll to year two. It seems like the trajectory is on pace to have Seattle be an NFC contender, and a strong one at that, as early as next year.
But how things seem and how they are, are never always the same.
The window on this season is almost closed, but the window to an era could just be opening. That's what I hope for. That's why I am as excited as I've been for this team in years. That's why I would like to see Seattle fall further and further in the 2012 draft. I don't want to lose this momentum.
Doesn't it feel good?