There was supposed to be three full days of previews – befitting the excitement level of going into yet another Championship Season in this current Championship Window – but my dad picked up a cold over Labor Day weekend, which remained dormant in my body until Tuesday afternoon, when it revealed its presence, dragging down my fragile frame in the process.
The subsequent two days were spent in various states of repose, between my couch and my bed, filling my body with a steady diet of bananas and Vitamin C while I filled carefully folded bundles of toilet paper with mucus from my ever-running nose. I’m still nowhere near 100%, but season previews don’t write themselves! So, here goes nothing.
As you could probably tell from this post, I’m pretty high on the Seahawks getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it yet again. In fact, I’m higher on the Seahawks THIS year than I was last year, when we were essentially the same starting units on both sides of the ball less a couple key components. Where the 2014 Seahawks really bought the farm was in the loss of Golden Tate. Had we never made the trade for Percy Harvin, and instead focused on giving Tate the deal he deserved, the rest of the receivers on this team would’ve slotted out where they were supposed to be, and we wouldn’t have been throwing a goalline pass to Ricardo Lockette of all people on our final offensive play of the Super Bowl. But, it’s not fair to lay all the blame on one guy (or lack thereof), when the real culprit of 2014 was a lack of quality depth.
That’s where 2015 comes on to shine. Harvin and Tate have been replaced by rookie Tyler Lockett. Turbin and Michael have been replaced by Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls (two steadier and more capable backs). Willson and Helfet get knocked down to the second & third tight end spots with the trade for Jimmy Graham. Our pass rush that was – by season’s end – pretty much just Bennett, Avril, and Irvin, gets bolstered with the addition of rookie Frank Clark, and the growth and maturity (and hopefully health) of Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill.
2015 should also offer additional gains out of our already-established stars. Guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tharold Simon should all see considerable improvements in play as they enter the primes of their careers. And, while guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are coming off of significant injuries, it’s still fair to expect their very best play, as we would with veterans like Bennett, Avril, Okung, Mebane, Lynch, and Chancellor if/when he ever shows up again.
If you assume everyone will be healthy all year (which, I understand, is ridiculous), then on paper the only real weakness we’re looking at is the offensive line. You could make an argument for secondary depth being the primary weakness, but as long as the rest of the defense is able to stay on the field, it should more than make up for what’s going on opposite Richard Sherman. The O-Line is truly the problem area, but I also feel that’s a bit unfair.
For starters, when you compare the O-Line to the other position groups on this team, OF COURSE it’s going to rank dead last! But, more importantly, I would argue this position group has always been a little bit neglected from a talent perspective, and they’ve made up for it by employing one of the very best O-Line coaches in the league. AND, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have gone to two straight Super Bowls with two pretty sub-par offensive lines, and it hasn’t prevented us from winning yet.
They tinkered with it in the pre-season and came away with a starting five that’s as good as it’s going to get (since we can’t really afford to bring in quality outside help). But, that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it’s ever going to be. We’ve got three guys – Britt at left guard, Nowak at center, Gilliam at right tackle – who are getting their first professional starts at their respective positions. Will it be a struggle early? I think, from what we’ve seen of the running game this pre-season: yeah, it’s going to be a little ugly. This O-Line is going to struggle against the better D-Lines in the league (which makes it utterly horrific that we have to play the Rams in week 1), but it’s going to look downright competent against the lesser D-Lines. And, I think these guys have a real chance to mature and gel, to where by season’s end, we’ll be looking at a solid group of guys on an offense that’s humming along with the best of ’em.
When even your weakest point is still good enough to be argued into a strength, you know you’ve got a great team on your hands. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that this team has the potential to be better than their 2014 counterparts, with a ceiling being at the 2013 level (which is really saying something, because I’ll always believe the 2013 Seahawks were one of the all time greatest teams in the history of the league).
That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. There are always reasons to worry, especially early in the season. Will Earl Thomas be back to his usual self? Will Kam Chancellor ever end this idiotic holdout? Will Richard Sherman make it through the full season? Will the offense mesh well with Jimmy Graham, or will they try to force it to him too many times, stalling too many drives? Will the O-Line be able to open holes for Lynch? Will Russell Wilson be a better pocket passer? And, most importantly, in an overall sense: will the key players and key positions be able to stay healthy?
Health is the ultimate X-Factor. I say it every year, and ever year it’s no less true. Poor health can take a championship team and prevent them from even making the playoffs. It can rear its ugly head at any time – and often at the worst of times – leaving you grasping at straws for a solution. Did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because of the one goalline play? Or, did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because our entire fucking secondary was injured, and Cliff Avril had a concussion that reduced our pass rush to nothing, thereby allowing the Patriots back into a game we were controlling? You can make compelling arguments for either, but the fact remains the same: if the Seahawks were mostly healthy in that game, it probably doesn’t come down to a goalline pass in the first place.
So, that’s what you’ve gotta do: pray for health and let the chips fall where they may. Let this be the last word on health for the rest of this preview.
The first half of this season is fairly tough. Five of eight on the road, five of eight against 2014 playoff teams, and not very many soft landings. Let’s run through the schedule to see where we are.
Week 1, at St. Louis, 10am
Honestly, I have my doubts about this one. I know I probably shouldn’t; I know they’re going through something similar on their offensive line as we are, and I know their starting two running backs are both injured, but I can’t help but look at this game and see our offense struggling. I see Lynch getting bottled up, I see growing pains with Graham, and I see the Rams doing just enough on offense to kick one more field goal than us. I’m putting my life savings on this game being within one score either one way or the other, and if you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you the Rams come out on top in this one, 16-13.
Week 2, at Green Bay, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)
Bounce back game, and one the Seahawks desperately need (with tie-breakers and whatnot). I know the Packers will be fired up, and I know their fans will be insane after a day’s worth of tailgating, so it probably won’t be easy coming out of the gate. After a sluggish first quarter, I expect the Seahawks to move the ball with regularity and defeat the Packers with ease in the second half. Somewhere along the lines of 31-20.
Week 3, vs. Chicago, 1:25pm
This one should be a walk-over, but I expect the Bears to put up a bit of a fight, as they’ve got some nasty, talented guys in Jeffery and Forte. But, given that this is Seattle’s home opener, I’d look for the home team to jump out to an early lead and keep it pretty comfortably in the 1-2 score range the rest of the way. 33-27.
Week 4, vs. Detroit, 5:30pm (Monday Night)
The return of Golden Tate! There’s no way he doesn’t make a big play or two in this game. But, with Seattle back home for a primetime game, I’m expecting another win for the good guys. Maybe not quite the blowout we’re used to, but we’re going to scratch it out. 27-24.
Week 5, at Cincinnati, 10am
I’ve been wary of this game from the moment I saw it on our schedule. Something about road AFC games in the morning, teams we rarely get to go up against, and them having just enough talent to get by. I’m on record as hating on Andy Dalton pretty hard, but I think he’s going to go into this game with extra focus in not turning the ball over. Combine that with the fact that this game isn’t in primetime and I think you’ll see Good Andy Dalton on this day. Plus, their running game is legit, and they’ve got enough talent at receiver to move the ball on us if they want. I see an upset here, with Cincy taking us down 20-13.
Week 6, vs. Carolina, 1:05pm
Notice we can’t help but beat on Carolina every damn year and no one ever talks about them getting fired up for us like they do about the Packers getting up for us. Pretty much, Carolina is Seattle’s younger brother, and we can’t help but hold them down, rub our asses in their faces, and fart repeatedly until they call mom to get us to stop. No change here. I expect something along the lines of 27-14.
Week 7, at San Francisco, 5:25pm (Thursday Night)
The 49ers are going to be terrible this season and I expect them to look terrible whenever we play them. Without Gore, I expect their running game to be non-existent. Without Harbaugh, I expect their offense to be pathetic and their overall output to be among the worst. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a cakewalk, in a long line of ugly, unwatchable Thursday Night Football games. Seahawks 38, 49ers 3.
Week 8, at Dallas, 1:25pm
This game would normally scare the bejesus out of me, and scream “Third Loss Of The Season!” But, I dunno. I like the Seahawks with 10 days to prepare. I like the Seahawks a week before their BYE. I like the fact that the Cowboys embarrassed us on our home turf last season. And, quite frankly, I like how Dallas has zero home field advantage to speak of whatsoever. I predict a huge following by the 12’s, I predict a solid day out of our offense, I predict a return touchdown from someone (probably Lockett) and ultimately I predict a Seahawks victory, to the tune of 24-23.
Week 9 – BYE
Week 10, vs. Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)
I’d be shocked if Carson Palmer isn’t injured at this point in the season, but even if he’s managed to stay healthy, I don’t expect the Cards to be as good. This game feels like a gift from the scheduling gods – at home, after a BYE, on Sunday night? Are you kidding me? This has blowout written all over it! 26-9.
Week 11, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm
Just played them three games ago, I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome. Seahawks 30, 49ers 7.
Week 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:25pm
Three home games in a row after a BYE! That’s what I’m talking about! This one looks like a difficult matchup. I like the Steelers’ offense a lot, particuarly their passing game. I don’t care for their defense, but that hasn’t stopped some fringey defenses from coming in here and making us look bad. Ultimately, I think this game will be a shootout, and I think it’ll prove to be the most exciting game of the entire season. And, as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Steelers come in here and steal one. They have JUST the right mix going for them: veteran quarterback, difficult to take down or rattle in the pocket, superstar wide receiver, superstar running back. I just think they’re going to expose us the way no other offense on our schedule will. Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 30.
Week 13, at Minnesota, 10am
I like Minnesota’s rebuilding plan. They’ve got a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, with a hungry Adrian Peterson and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a lot of potential. He might not ever be an MVP of the league, but I think he can lead this team to some winning seasons in his career. In this game, I like the Seahawks to bounce back on defense and make life difficult for the Vikes. Seahawks 17, Vikings 6.
Week 14, at Baltimore, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)
This might be the most hyped non-divisional, non-playoff game on the horizon. Two sterling franchises, two stud quarterbacks, two sound defenses. All the storylines in the world, from Lynch vs. Forsett, to Pete Carroll vs. The Other Harbaugh, to this being a matchup of two of the last three Super Bowl winners. Both teams should be in great positions in the standings by this point (likely leading their respective divisions) and I think we’ll all be talking about how it’s a real strong probability that this is the eventual Super Bowl matchup in February. A lot of people will predict a Ravens victory, but I just like the Seahawks too much in primetime. I see Seattle winning 27-23.
Week 15, vs. Cleveland, 1:05pm
Please, dear lord, give me one chance to see Johnny Football obliterated by the Seahawks in Seattle. It’s all I ask. Seattle 28, Cleveland 0.
Week 16, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm
No tricks, just hardnose football. The Seahawks make up for the week 1 defeat as we almost always do this time of year when the Rams come to town. This game effectively wraps up the division, if not Home Field Advantage, pushing the Seahawks to 12-3 on the season. 20-13, Seahawks.
Week 17, at Arizona, 1:25pm
I don’t expect the Seahawks to need this victory, so I don’t expect many of the starters to play for too long. As a glorified pre-season game, I see the Seahawks going down to the Cardinals 28-17.
12-4 is pretty tame for a #1 overall seed, but with tie-breakers over the Packers and Cowboys, I think it’s just enough. What we have to hope for at that point is that we don’t get stuck playing the Rams, or some other difficult defensive team in the playoffs. As always, I’ll take a battle of offenses over a grudgematch on the defensive side of the ball, as I think our defense is better than most any offense you can put on the field.
Now, all we have to do is play the games. NBD.