Part I is here.
The Great Team (Most Likely)
Record: 12-4 to 14-2
Declines or Injury
Russell Okung: Russell Okung is 26 and will turn 27 in about a month. Two years into old age, roughly. A fine age for a writer or director or scientist and for many athletes including left tackles, but not young. He's a good left tackle but maybe just. When he's fully healthy he's a good left tackle. But what he is when he's not fully healthy and what it is he may become if those injuries precipitate early decline is a good-enough right tackle.
The bloom is off the rose a bit where the whole Blindside Fad-craze is concerned. The NFL clearly does not want franchise quarterbacks to be hurt. And there's any number of ways to compensate for a suspect left tackle. But weakness at an important if not paramount position still chips away.
And the specific circumstances of the 2014 Seahawks exacerbate this difficulty. Justin Britt is a bad pass blocker too and it is considerably more difficult to compensate for two weak tackles. Seahawks opponents are, if deficient in other ways, particularly stacked with excellent ends/OLBs.
Packers: Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers
Chargers: Dwight Freeney (?)
Broncos: Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware
Skins: Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan
Rams: Robert Quinn and Chris Long
Panthers: Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson
Raiders: Khalil Mack (?), Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley (?)
Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka (?)
Chiefs: Tamba Hali and Justin Houston
Cardinals: Calais Campbell and John Abraham
[It so happens that Aldon Smith's suspension will be served just in time for]
49ers: Justin Smith and Aldon Smith
...and then the NFC West on over. Injuries will factor. There is no telling what and what, etc. But should even most of those guys remain healthy, that's not just a gauntlet of ends and backers that's a gauntlet of ends and backers working in tag team.
So ... get better Russell Okung, in as many ways as you can think of interpreting that.
Percy Harvin: We're still too near the embarrassing, overlong, media-saturated decline and fall of Brett Favre to remember how good he was. That's fine. And in 2009, his last season of greatness, he probably wasn't that great, actually. Now let's ignore for a second that I can't possibly back up that argument without a belabored and inconclusive snap-by-snap breakdown. His numbers were great. His offense's performance was great. But the 40-year old was at the end, and if I could swap the two season-for-season, granting the 2014 Seahawks the Favre of 2009 for the Russell Wilson of 2014, and were able to swap back Wilson for Favre as soon as 2015, I wouldn't do it. I am adamant that Russell Wilson is already a better quarterback.
So what explains Favre's season if not Favre exclusively: a mixture of good to great prime and near-prime talent at nearly every position on the offense.
That season Harvin played a Weapon X mix of slot receiver, deep threat-specialist and scatback. The Seahawks may anticipate a similar role for him in Seattle. But as player of standout athleticism, speed and evasiveness, what if what if what if ...
What if Harvin has lurked at the fringe of greatness, held back until now by first being a rookie, and then receiving for hasbeens, never-could-bes and whatever kindness we want to affix to Joe Webb? As the last link in a chain of events, wide receivers, even great wide receivers, endure/enjoy dramatic variation in season-to-season performance. There's no denying Harvin's talent, and for the first time in his career, there is no denying his surrounding talent or his place within his team's offense. So what but an imprecise anchoring in past performance stops us from projecting great things from a great player assuming a prime role in a top offense? Nothing.
The Hit Squad: No one calls Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, O'Brien Schofield, Bruce Irvin, Kevin Williams, Cassius Marsh and (???) Brandon Mebane the Hit Squad, but holy corpse of Matthew Bevilaqua, maybe after this Thursday we will.
For the first time in the PC era, Seattle is fielding something reminiscent of a Tampa 2 defensive line. One prime pass rushing spot is not sacrificed for scheme and additional stoutness against the run. Bennett is healed from his shoulder injury and is now a starter. Schofield showed all the motivation one might expect from someone teased but denied a life-changing multimillion dollar contract. Williams is the on-the-verge of decline merc, and should benefit from playing in rotation. Irvin's a bit of a wildcard. Marsh seems to be a quick study. And Brandon Mebane used to be Seattle's best pass rusher relative to position, and flashed-a little hip wiggle running stunts in the preseason.
The Seahawks pass rush has been aided by the CLink. It's been aided by what may be the greatest secondary in NFL history. This season it may be the secondary that reaps the spoils of the rush. Unlike the boom and bust rushes of years past, the Hawks should be consistently disruptive. When Qbs re-holster after seeing a prime target covered, there won't be a second or third read. The pocket will become maelstrom. The panicked passes so many scraps thrown to the wolves.
NFC West Teams That Are Good:
Arizona Cardinals: The difference even a past-prime franchise quarterback makes, as Arizona rebounded from 26th to 10th in DVOA, and 30th to 7th in efficiency from 2012 to 2013. Now it's possible that improvement will be short-lived, and I can't help but wonder how Carson Palmer's UCL is doing, but if the stats are against Arizona (and they are), an impartial assessment of their talent indicates the Cardinals should be at least good.
Not even Richard Sherman would boast to being better than Patrick Peterson without the caveat that "It's all fun," and as Sherman made clear in his elegant assessment of Michael Crabtree, he's got a future in professional talent evaluation. As seems to happen almost by accident now and again in the NFL, the Cardinals have amassed a goodly number of prime-aged talents and probably have half-a season to two seasons before scrapping everything, moving to Ottawa, grabbing the red phone and ordering Slim Pickens to ride an R-bomb into their poutine shakes.
Flow of the Season
Teams of this caliber declare early, and a 6-0 start wouldn't surprise a bit. Hosting the Packers and Broncos tips odds heavily in favor of Seattle in weeks one and three, the Skins, Cowboys and Rams are likely jobber class teams, and only Week 8 at Carolina and maybe Week 14 at Philly represent the dreaded twosome of good opponent at an ETZ stadium. This team's a buzzsaw. Seattle coasts through a long-time fan's fantasy camp of curb stomps and wallet making, with even T-Jack staying limber so often does Seattle blow opponents out.
Home field throughout assured, Seattle likely faces its toughest opponent in the NFC Championship Game (I'm thinking Kelvin Benjamin & Carolina) before embarking on its third go at a Super Bowl. Against who? Either a hot-hand darkhorse or a scrapping for legacy mix of legends and upstarts. Unlike the pure, almost jovial experience of crushing Denver in 48, 2015's Super Bowl is one of those somewhat close until the waning moments of the third quarter games that keeps people around for the halftime commercial barrage before devolving into outright ass whooping. Seahawks win. MVP: Percy Harvin.