There’s a pretty wide range of possible outcomes for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, maybe more than we all think.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about all the ways this season might be sunk, but for now let’s look on the bright side. I’m on record as believing this is around a .500 football team; on more than one occasion I’ve pegged them as being anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7. On the high end, that’s a wild card team; while the floor is being on the outside looking in with a disappointing mid-round draft pick.
But, can this team be even better than 9-7? Can the Seahawks actually compete for a division title and maybe even make some noise in the playoffs?
Well, there’s a lot of “if’s” involved in that scenario. I think the Seahawks would have to get extremely lucky and have a tremendous record in 1-score games (kind of like how the Mariners have a tremendous record in 1-run games). Stuff that’s unsustainable long-term, but can certainly run in a team’s favor over the course of an anomalous season.
Included in that, the defense is going to have to be much better than expected. That’s going to involve our best guys staying healthy all year (Wagner, Shaquill Griffin, Frank Clark), that’s going to involve some other guys stepping into more prominent roles and really breaking out compared to their career stats (guys like Dion Jordan, Naz Jones, Bradley McDougald, and Jarran Reed), and it’s going to require a lot of luck. Fumble luck, the defense holding teams to a high percentage of field goals over TDs compared to the rest of the league, and maybe even some good fortune on third downs compared to what we’ve seen so far this pre-season. A lot of that is hard to predict. I can sit here and look at past numbers and project that this defense as it’s currently constructed (without the help of Earl Thomas for most of the regular season) is going to be pretty mediocre. But, all the variables I’ve talked about go a long way towards projecting actual wins and losses. If the Seahawks are good against the teams they’re supposed to beat, and win more of those 50/50 matchups than they lose, I could certainly see this as a wild card team (if I squint really hard, maybe even a division winner … if the team somehow finds a way to beat the Rams at least once).
Just know that a lot has to break right for this team to be taken seriously. Wild Card teams take care of business against teams inferior to them (the Bears, the Cardinals, the Cowboys at home, the Raiders in London) and they have to do pretty well against other potential Wild Card teams (the Broncos, the 49ers, the Lions, the Panthers, the Chiefs). Divisional champs not only have to do well in those games (which comprises 11 of our 16 games), but they have to win about half of the games against other potential division champs (the Rams, the Packers, the Vikings, the Chargers). The good thing about this time of year is that we really don’t know how difficult this schedule is going to be. Some of the teams projected to be elite will fall on their faces, either due to injuries or because they’re over-rated. Likewise, some of the potential bad teams will be a lot better than projected, due to luck or being under-rated. You’d like the Seahawks to be perfect against the bad teams (5-0), really good against the Wild Card teams (4-2), and win around half of the games against the good teams (2-3 or 3-2). That’s the mark of a division champ. Thankfully, it looks like the early part of the schedule is pretty reasonable, so even though the Seahawks start with a lot of road games, if they come out on fire, it could set things up nicely down the line.
So, let’s talk about what’s right about this team; it starts with the offense.
Make no mistake, the offense MUST carry the load. Fortunately, I think that’s well within our grasp.
If the offensive line stays healthy, I’m just gonna say it: we will be GOOD. I think the left side of the line will be rock solid, I think Fluker is a great addition to the team, and I think Ifedi will make great strides towards not being the very worst in all of football. The bar for him to clear appears to be Breno Giacomini. I think a lot of Seahawks fans remember him fondly, as he was the right tackle of the last really good O-Line on this team. Well, if you REALLY think about it, he wasn’t super amazing. He was just okay. He made a lot of boneheaded plays – including a lot of personal foul penalties – that would set this team back. But, since the team liked to run Marshawn Lynch behind him an awful lot – and we had success doing it – Giacomini sort of gets a pass. Well, I believe Ifedi can be as good or better than Giacomini. If he is, and the rest of the line holds, we could be looking at the best offense of the Russell Wilson era.
Speaking of, Wilson had one of the more prolific fantasy football seasons last year, as he basically WAS the offense for the Seahawks. Now that we have a competent O-Line, and a running game that should carry its share of the load, there might be cause for concern that Wilson’s fantasy numbers will taper off. I’m here to tell you: rest assured, he’ll be fine. If the defense is as shaky as I expect it to be, then I anticipate the Seahawks will be behind in its share of games and will therefore need a lot of second half scoring to come back. On top of which, with a unified play-calling situation, I fully expect that we won’t get off to so many slow starts. Ergo, I think the Seahawks will be scoring early AND often, and Russell Wilson’s numbers will surge accordingly.
I think Chris Carson is a 1,000-yard back, with conservatively 8 rushing TDs, though I could easily see him get into the double-digits. It shouldn’t take people long to realize they were asleep at the switch in ignoring this guy in fantasy drafts, and if he’s somehow out on waivers in your league, I’d snap him up in a hurry.
Behind Carson, as I’ve said before, I think this is the deepest running back room we’ve seen in Seattle in quite some time. Mike Davis is a man. Rashaad Penny will be available as a change of pace. Prosise will be around whenever he’s not nicked up. And, McKissic should be back after Week 8 to provide a nice boost.
Moreover, this team is BUILT to feature the run. The tight end room is strong, with Vannett and Dissly getting the bulk of the snaps, though Darrell Daniels is a good third guy to have until Ed Dickson comes off the PUP.
As teams gear up to stop our run game again, that should open things up in play-action, which is Wilson’s specialty. It’s so huge, for both the deep AND intermittent passing range. We’ve got Lockett and Jaron Brown who are solid deep threats (as well as Baldwin and maybe even David Moore on occasion). While Baldwin’s knee injury is concerning, the fact that he’s giving it a go and feels he can manage it is encouraging. I would expect him to miss quite a bit of practice time, but he’s got a good rapport with Wilson and is one of the best receivers in football, so if anyone can succeed with this thing, it’s a super tough guy like Baldwin. And, on top of Baldwin and Lockett, we’ve got Brandon Marshall in the red zone who should make some noise.
If you asked me to craft the perfect receiving situation for the Seahawks, this is it. No-nonsense football players; not a diva in the group. The closest thing would be Marshall, but he’s on a veteran 1-year prove-it deal and is really in no position to be disrupting things in the slightest. He’s also – much like our Offensive Coordinator – playing with the best quarterback he’s ever had, so he should have plenty of opportunities to make plays. The fact that he’s produced everywhere he’s been (while healthy) gives me great encouragement. And, even if he gets hurt, we have enough behind him to pick up the slack.
The only concern I have about this group is probably execution on 3rd down. There will be plenty of down-field chunk plays to get into scoring position, but you’re still talking about a team that plays loose and sloppy with the penalties. That’s not going away under Pete Carroll; it’s just not. So, we’re going to see this offense “behind schedule” more than the national average, which means doing well on 3rd down is a high priority. If this team fails in that regard – or if it really hasn’t gotten over its early-game struggles we all bemoaned under Bevell – then we could see this team fall behind in a lot of games, and not have enough in the tank to overcome those deficits.
Bottom line: the offense needs to be Top 5 for this team to be really good. And it has to start in Game 1; we can’t sustain any more growing pains with this side of the ball, because the defense won’t be there to pick up the slack.
The most fun part of this team could be its Special Teams. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this unit decide 2-3 games this year. That’s including, obviously, our All Pro punter shifting field position. That’s figuring we’ll be in a lot of close games, which means a field goal here and there could make all the difference (not to mention those all-important extra-long extra points). And, who knows? Maybe our returners play a bigger role in affecting these games, either with TDs scored or with long returns that put our offense in prime real estate. I think there’s a lot to like about all facets of the Special Teams, but also a lot of opportunities for luck to play a heavy role. A field goal kicker making an insane percentage of kicks; our blockers on these returns not getting called for holds or blocks in the back every fucking time. It’s all going to play a huge role in how many games this team wins this year.
While it’s ultimately hard to see this team seriously contending for a Super Bowl (as I’ll get into tomorrow), this should nevertheless be a fun team to watch. We should see plenty of offense and plenty of young guys stepping into prominent roles on defense. If it all breaks right, we could be talking about one of the true sleepers in the league this year: a team that no one is expecting anything from, who comes out of nowhere to take the league by storm. While not probable, it IS possible, and that’s all you can ask for this time of year.