Previewing & Predicting The 2013 Seattle Seahawks

Last year, I got to my predictions column late.  Past week 1 late.  It was kind of a sorry development, but what are you gonna do?  The season was already started by this time last year.  Anyway, I didn’t think very highly of the Seahawks heading into the 2012 season.  I didn’t think very lowly of them either, which is how you get to an 8-8 record.  Honestly, I would’ve predicted 9-7, but since I got to my post a week late – and the Seahawks crapped the bed in Arizona that first week – I downgraded to 8-8.

The Seahawks, as everyone knows, finished 11-5, going 7-1 over the second half of the season, and 1-1 in the post-season, ending up in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  Those last 10 games were as epic of a run as you can get without actually making it to the Super Bowl.

But, enough about last year.  That was damn near a year ago, for Christ’s sake!

This year, the sky is the limit.  At worst, the Seahawks will be 11-5.  At best, I’m sorry, but at best you’ve gotta say 16-0.

Before we get into official predictions, let’s take a look at the make-up of this team:

Part 1 – Roster

How do the Seahawks differ from this time last year?  Well, for starters, our backup quarterback is new (or old, I can never tell).  Tarvar takes over for Matt Flynn, and to be honest with you, it’s probably a downgrade.  Obviously, we don’t know how good Flynn can really be (and, reports indicate that he can’t even win the fucking starting job on the RAIDERS of all teams), but I guess that’s the point.  We know what Tarvar is – he’s a near-.500 quarterback – and we don’t know what Flynn is.  Flynn could be great in small doses, Flynn could be great in large doses, or he could be terrible no matter the serving size.  If you’re a salary cap-head, then you like Tarvar because he saves you money.  So, maybe in the long run this is an upgrade?  Whatever, who cares, moving on.

At running back, Lynch and Turbin return, ostensibly in the same roles they occupied as last year.  Christine Michael replaces Leon Washington, which is an improvement at our #3 running back spot, but hurts us in the return game, as Michael is not a returner.  Derrick Coleman takes over for Michael Robinson, which is a soul-crushing blow.  But, on the flipside, he’s younger, cheaper, and under team control for longer.  Considering Robinson only played somewhere around 30% of our offensive snaps in 2012, I can’t imagine this one little move at fullback is going to make that much of a difference.  Finally, Spencer Ware is either going to be a special teams replacement for Robinson, or he’s going to spend the bulk of the season on the Inactive List on gameday.  We’ll see.

Rice, Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse are all hold-overs from last year.  Kearse, of course, spent most of 2012 on the Practice Squad, but came on late in a special teams capacity.  I wouldn’t expect a TON out of him, but then again he is going to be our starting kick returner, so buttons.  He did, after all, return that one kick in the pre-season for a touchdown.  If he turns out to be a monster in that aspect of the game, I might cream in my pants.  Harvin starts out the season on the PUP list and will hopefully return sometime in November.  Stephen Williams – the pre-season phenom – is holding his seat for the time being.  It’s hard to see this team keep five active receivers going every game (remember, you can only play 45 of your 53 guys every gameday), but then again, can you really keep this guy off the field?  I’d like to see the Seahawks throw one long bomb jump ball to him every half; I bet he comes down with half of them, and in so doing earns his weekly paycheck.

This year, we’re only keeping the two tight ends, instead of last year’s three.  The lone holdover is the uber-talented Zach Miller.  He’s our starter and our muse (our flame).  Anthony McCoy, as you’ll recall, is lost for the season on IR.  Evan Moore, thankfully, is no more.  In his place, we actually have a guy worth a damn in Luke Willson.  Even though Willson is a rookie, he looks like the real deal and the future at the position we’ve been trying so hard for so long to draft.

Our starting O-Line remains intact, which is probably the most important thing outside of quarterback you want to remain intact.  Okung, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy, and Giacomini are the guys, with James Carpenter getting worked in (over time, to be the full-time replacement at left guard).  Lemuel Jean-Pierre returns as our backup center, Mike Person returns as our backup … something.  Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey are a couple of rookie projects who came on strong this pre-season.  Gone is John Moffitt, traded to Denver for being not worth the time or effort.

On the D-Line, Clemons, Bryant, and Mebane all return.  Clemons avoided the PUP list, as he is a specimen of the gods and will hopefully start practicing within the next couple weeks.  Everyone else is brand new.  Avril & Bennett are our two big free agent splashes.  Both are kinda hurt, but both should be okay to play out of the gate (if not, then expect one or both to be Inactive right along with Clemons for Week 1).  Tony McDaniel is a less-heralded signing, but his impact will be just as important as he will be our starting 3-technique defensive tackle.  Jordan Hill is a rookie who survived pre-season mostly healthy.  He’ll get regular playing time in the defensive tackle rotation.  Jesse Williams, unfortunately yet predictably, landed on IR with his bum knee.  O’Brien Schofield and D’Anthony Smith are cast-offs from other teams who we know little about.  Schofield spent most of the pre-season in Seattle and was fine, I guess.  Smith came over after the cut-downs to 53 and has been injured most of his career.  Questionable move to say the least, but obviously John Schneider and Pete Carroll know something we do not.  Rounding out the group, we have Benson Mayowa, an undrafted rookie out of Idaho who led the team in sacks in the pre-season.  He looks like he’s got some real moves, but unless injuries deplete this team early, it’s hard to see him getting a lot of playing time.

At Linebacker, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner return, ready to kick some more ass.  Malcolm Smith also returns and figures to get some playing time at the strong-side spot.  Bruce Irvin has converted to the strong side, but of course he’s suspended for the first four games.  It’ll be interesting to see – A. whose spot he takes upon returning in week 5, and B. how he fares as a pass-rushing linebacker.  The team found room for special teams lord & savior Heath Farwell, so look for that unit to continue demolishing other teams.  Allen Bradford was around last year, but never played.  Now, he’s our backup middle linebacker and might find a way to work himself into a rotation if he keeps up the good work.  Rounding it out, we have John Lotulelei, who will probably never play unless he stands out on special teams.

In the secondary, Marcus Trufant has been replaced by Walter Thurmond, who was injured for most of his career.  Antoine Winfield was let go because our younger guys were just plain better.  Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell could be starters for other teams, which is what makes this unit the best in football.  At safety, Winston Guy was let go.  He was kinda flashy, and he blitzed a lot last year, but he didn’t really do a whole lot and shouldn’t be missed.  Chris Maragos is super fast, so he shouldn’t be too much of a step back if Earl Thomas can’t play.  Kam Chancellor and Jeron Johnson round out the group of safeties; Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman complete the set.

Kicker, punter, and long snapper all return.

Part 2 – Analyzing The Roster

Working our way backward, the Special Teams looks as good as it ever has.  Steven Hauschka, as I’ve mentioned before, has been a man possessed this pre-season.  Jon Ryan is Jon Ryan, putting in consistent MVP-quality work.  Clint Gresham hasn’t botched any snaps that I can recall, so bully for him.

In the secondary, you can’t help but be excited for Walter Thurmond.  He’s finally healthy and finally able to show what he can do for this team.  He’s a HUGE upgrade over an aging Marcus Trufant, and that’s important because nickel corner was one of our main areas of concern going into 2013.  To be fair, this team could play a Dime package all day every day and I wouldn’t lose sleep.  Maxwell looks like he could make the Pro Bowl THIS year if he was given a chance to start.

At linebacker, you have to believe this team also improved.  Leroy Hill is gone and they’ve done some shuffling.  K.J. Wright moves to his old spot at the weak-side, so that’s great.  You always want more speed, especially at the linebacker position.  Wagner, with a year under his belt and a chip on his shoulder to prove he doesn’t belong in Luke Kuechly’s shadow, also looked like a man possessed this pre-season.  I expect a huge jump in his play in 2013, rivalling the jump Richard Sherman made from his rookie to his second year.  On the strong side, replacing Wright, we’ve got the combo of Malcolm Smith and eventually Bruce Irvin.  It looks like the team wants the strong side ‘backer to be more of a pass-rush threat, hence the Irvin move.  I love the idea.  Any way this team can get more pressure on the QB that isn’t just sending a safety on a blitz that takes forever to materialize, I’m all for it.  The depth at this position is infinitely better than it was last year too.  Bradford could start on almost any other team, and Lotulelei looks like he could develop into a force if given the chance.

Along the D-Line, you have to have concern, I’m not gonna lie.  Can McDaniel and Hill make up for the loss of Alan Branch and Jason Jones?  When he was healthy, Jones was fairly effective.  And Branch was a starter for the past couple years.  If they can just maintain and not take a step back, I’d be happy.  Also, how long will Mebane be able to stay healthy?  He’s no spring chicken.  Depth at tackle is also a concern.  The Seahawks gave away a couple of decent depth guys in Jaye Howard and Clinton McDonald.  In their place, we have newcomer D’Anthony Smith, and Michael Bennett on passing downs.  Bennett should be solid, but I just don’t know.

On the ends of the line, it’s just as concerning.  Red Bryant returns, and he looks as healthy as ever, so that’s good.  But, he’s still a mountain of a man, and those guys don’t tend to stay healthy for very long.  Clemons we’ve talked about, but it’s still encouraging that he’ll be back soon.  Avril is a little less encouraging, as he hasn’t played at all in pre-season.  The Seahawks robbed Peter to pay Paul a little bit by moving Irvin out of the LEO end spot.  Unless Clemons and/or Avril return soon, this could be a real weakness for the team.  Remember, Greg Scruggs could play both inside and outside, and he’s gone for the year too.  Unless Schofield or Mike Morgan (who I failed to mention above in the roster section) step up in a big way, I think this team is going to be hurting for sacks.  Then again, the first two games are against Carolina and San Francisco, so we should probably worry less about sacks and more about contain.  Either way, it could be rocky for this unit early.

I’m not worried about the O-Line.  If there’s anything I’m rock solid on this year, it’s that.  Even the injury bug doesn’t concern me, because the depth looks good, and Tom Cable is a wizard.

Seeing Luke Willson perform the way he did in the pre-season makes me a LOT more comfortable about the tight end position.  Let’s see if Zach Miller has what it takes to stay on the field for the full go.  If not, then I’m probably going to spend the rest of the season hyperventilating.

I absolutely LOVE what we’ve done with the wide receivers on this team.  Braylon Edwards was never going to be a player worth having.  I’d take Stephen Williams over him any day.  Ben Obomanu was solid on special teams, but he’s worse than Jermaine Kearse.  And when Harvin returns, he’s like a million billion times better than Charly Martin.  Most improved lineup on the team by FAR.

I just kinda like what they did with the running backs.  In a perfect world, football teams would keep 54 players and Michael Robinson would still be on this one.  But, you know, you’ve gotta move on.  Hopefully Derrick Coleman is the next Michael Robinson.  If that’s the case, then we truly are the king of kings.  Also, look for Christine Michael to supplant Turbin before season’s end.  And in a couple years, when Michael is our starting back and Ware is our big tough guy backup, we’ll continue to suck the dicks of John Schneider and Pete Carroll for their foresight and vision.

Russell Wilson.  All you gotta say about the quarterback position.  Stud.  Winner.  Champion.

Part 3 – The Schedule

Week 1 – @ Carolina, 10am:  This is where it pays off having played Russell Wilson the full season last year.  He (along with some shaky late-game defense) cost us that first game in Arizona.  This year, with that in mind, count on Wilson not letting us lose in week 1.  Honestly, I don’t think this will even be close.  Maybe the offense starts out sluggish early, but I think the defense comes to play and we lean on them all game long.

Week 2 – vs. San Francisco, 5:30pm:  Home opener, Sunday Night Football on NBC, the crowd absolutely fucking INSANE … this is where the Seahawks show the 49ers what power football is all about.  Another one I don’t think is all that close.

Week 3 – vs. Jacksonville, 1pm:  Can you say 3-0?  Anyone who has the Seahawks defense in fantasy football can bank on scoring anywhere from 30-60 points, depending on how you score it in your league.  This is the reason why we all drafted them at least three rounds too early.

Week 4 – @ Houston, 10am
Week 5 – @ Indianapolis, 10am:  I’m lumping these together because I’m a coward.  The Seahawks will go 1-1 in these two games, but I just can’t figure out which they’ll win and which they’ll lose.  If you look at it objectively, Houston has a great running game and an okay passing game.  When you figure that our defense is great against the pass, but only so-so against the run, you have to look at that game and figure it’s the loss, right?  Meanwhile, Indy can’t run for shit and they pass 50 times a game.  Nevertheless, my gut is telling me we beat the Texans and lose to the Colts.  Luck is a gamer, he gets better as the game goes on, and I could see this being one of those games like we had against the Lions last season.  High scoring, little defense, and Indy pulls it out at the end with a late TD.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks win ugly in Houston, something like 14-10.

Week 6 – vs. Tennessee, 1pm:  Another easy win.  This will be the game I attend this year, because tickets were reasonably easy to get, weren’t prohibitively expensive, and honestly I don’t care if I go to any games, so what does the opponent matter?  No reason to expect Russell Wilson to play beyond the 3rd quarter in this one.

Week 7 – @ Arizona, 5pm:  Thursday night game, the bane of my existence.  But, I promise to not bitch about them as much this year (unless the games are so ugly and boring, the NFL forces my hand).  Normally, I’d be concerned, but not this year.  Carson Palmer will spend more time on his back than he will on his feet (if he’s even still healthy at this point in the year).  The Seahawks win ugly, but they win, and the defense scores another touchdown.

Week 8 – @ St. Louis, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football!  Why does the league even schedule the Seahawks to play on the road on nationally televised games?  It’s like they’re tired of showing the rest of the world what real fans look like.  I guess St. Louis could pose a challenge, but I just don’t see it.  Look for something like 24-19, with the Rams scoring late (missing the 2-point conversion) to make it semi-close.

Week 9 – vs. Tampa Bay, 1pm:  I think Tampa looks good this year, but I think they look bad in this game.  Think of it as something like the game vs. Minnesota last year and you’ll be on the right track.  The Bucs are going somewhere, but they’re not contenders.

Week 10 – @ Atlanta, 10am:  Revenge Game!  Still, at this point the Seahawks will be 8-1 coming in.  And Atlanta (and Matt Ryan) just don’t lose at home.  I could honestly see something of a carbon copy of last year’s game, with Atlanta pulling it out at the end.

Week 11 – vs. Minnesota, 1pm:  Total destruction.  No contest.  YOU think YOU can get soup?  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Week 12 – BYE:  finally.

Week 13 – vs. New Orleans, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football #2!  This one is a little scary.  You can’t shut down Drew Brees forever.  Then again, he does take a lot of unnecessary risks, and his receivers really don’t scare anybody.  I think we all get a little nervous for this one, but I think the Seahawks handle them pretty easily.  33-13.

Week 14 – @ San Francisco, 1pm:  Man, what a showdown THIS game will be.  Last year, the Seahawks caught the 49ers at home late.  This year, the tables are turned.  Everyone and their grandmothers are giving this game away to the 49ers, forgetting that the Seahawks last year – in San Francisco – nearly came away victorious.  There were mistakes in the first half that I just don’t think this team makes again.  I think it’s a slug-fest, but I think the Seahawks take the season series and effectively clinch the division right here.  At this point, the 49ers won’t be mathematically eliminated, but they’ll be a couple games back and they’ll have lost the tie-breaker.  Week 14 is where the Super Bowl berth is earned, because week 14 is where the Seahawks make their statement that the #1 seed won’t be denied.

Week 15 – @ New York Giants, 10am:  Another east-coast trip, another 10am start.  Coming after the insane high that was the victory in San Francisco, I see this as a total let-down game.  The Seahawks get off to a slow start and the Giants pull too far ahead.  Russell Wilson tries to engineer a comeback, but too many turnovers seal our fate.

Week 16 – vs. Arizona, 1pm:  At this point, the Seahawks will be 11-3 going into this game.  The #1 seed won’t yet be won, but we’ll have the inside track, at least a game up and also with tie-breaker advantages.  This is a TCB type of game.  It won’t be a massive 58-0 obliteration like last year, but it’ll be comfortable.  We won’t worry for one second about losing this game.

Week 17 – vs. St. Louis, 1pm:  I’d like to say that this has a chance to be flexed, but at this point, with nothing to play for, I just don’t see it.  Russell Wilson will play for a quarter, maybe a half, but then Tarvar will come in and finish it off.  He’s no Charlie Whitehurst, but he’ll do.

Part 4 – Conclusion

13-3.  Number 1 seed in the NFC, with home field all the way to the Super Bowl.  It’s not the easiest schedule in the world, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you don’t necessarily WANT an easy path to the Super Bowl.  The 2005 Seahawks had one of the easier paths to Super Bowl XL and look at what happened when a team finally posed a challenge.  You want a little trial by fire in this league.  If a schedule is too difficult, that means your team wasn’t good enough.  Bottom line.  Don’t fear this schedule.  A famous writer said that the strongest steel is forged by the fires of Hell.  That’s what we’ll be come playoff time, and that’s what we’ll be in the Super Bowl.

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