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From an average 4-4 team to the best team in football, all in the same season? It certainly appears that way.
It would be easy for me to sit here and tell you why the Seattle Seahawks should win the Super Bowl. It would be easy, pleasurable, and exciting because in full disclosure, the Seahawks are "my" team. I'm 30-years-old and I've never known the joys of rooting for a championship team of any kind. (Well, one of my little league teams won the league title once and I contributed one whole single that year, so I guess you could say I'm basically the Yankees when it comes to winning.)
I'm previewing all twelve playoff teams and giving an explanation of why that team "will win the Super Bowl" or why they won't. I will try to be as objective as possible when writing about Seattle, but also must admit that it's like my son getting into a car accident and I am the doctor and I can't operate on him because he's my son and also I am a woman wow this riddle shows that we are all sexist jerks. I love the Seahawks and I hope like hell that they win it all, it's just surprising that after falling to 6-5 following a loss to the Dolphins, that not only do I want them to win, but that they actually have a really good shot at it.
Mike Holmgren will always be honored in Seattle for taking the Seahawks further than they had ever gone before in 2005, but he left on a low note in 2008, when the team finished 4-12. The note got even lower (think Chocolate Rain) when "heir apparent" Jim Mora disastered the team to 5-11 but sometimes a Seattle cloud has a silver lining. The team was not good at anything and there was no hesitation to fire Mora (and President of Football Operations Tim Ruskell) and bring in perhaps the best tandem at GM and coach that Seattle has ever had:
Pete Carroll and John Schneider.
The two have worked together more beautifully than an Avatar alien and one of those flying Avatar aliens with their tails forming together, creating symbiotic magic. They drafted players that were good above all else and took low-risk options in finding a franchise quarterback. Not every high draft pick has panned out as expected, but finding Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the fifth round, or Doug Baldwin in no round, helps ease the burden of a 7-9 team using their first round pick on James Carpenter. But the quarterback would come when the quarterback was ready, and he'd have a pretty solid team around him either way.
Even if you couldn't find him in the first round... even if you found him in the third.
Russell Wilson has been the major difference between 2011 and 2012, as Seattle has vaulted from a slightly below-average team to a very good one. The defense had been worked on for three years, nearly every player brought in by Pete and John (Chris Clemons, Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin, K.J. Wright, Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas to name a few) and there was no longer the burden of Tarvaris Jackson not being able to keep the D off of the field.
As the year has progressed, so too has Wilson, Pete, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. They didn't stick to their laurels of what had been worked on all offseason and preseason. They noticed what the Redskins were doing with Robert Griffin III and they turned the read zone option into a significant part of their offense. They added the pistol at times when it looked like the pistol would work too. The athletic ability of Wilson in combination with his excellent decision-making is what makes the offense work. An offense that has moved up from the bottom third in the beginning of the year, to one that has helped the team score 170 points in their last four games.
Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Sidney Rice, and Golden Tate have become major threats that complement the defense more than we could have thought possible after scoring 20+ points only twice over the first seven games. They haven't scored less than 20 points since.
The Seahawks have had their best regular season in franchise history. Only the 1984 and 2005 teams really rival what Seattle is doing this year, but neither was this complete. Neither faced a schedule so difficult. The NFC West is a defensive gauntlet and the Seahawks fell just short of a division title over the 49ers, but still finished 3rd in points differential on the year. But the regular season is just that. Regular. How can they make the 2012 season, special?
Why the Seahawks win the Super Bowl
Well-Rounded like Dolph Lundgren
Smart, fit, and I will break you.
No other team in the NFL rates so well on all three units of football. The Patriots might have a better offense. The Bears might have a better defense. The Ravens might have better special teams. But the Seahawks are very-good-to-great in all three. Football Outsiders, as a matter of fact, ranks Seattle in the top four of all three categories by DVOA. No other team ranks in the top ten in all three of those categories. A big reason why the Seahawks ranked as the top team in overall DVOA and Weighted DVOA, which takes into account recent performance with more weight than performance back when Wilson was just a wee lad in Week 1.
Seattle finished 1st in scoring defense and was the only team to not allow 30 points in a game this season. The Seahawks allowed 23 offensive touchdowns all season, and have scored 26 offensive touchdowns in the last seven games alone. (Not counting their multiple special teams and defensive touchdowns over those seven games. They allowed 3 touchdowns between Weeks 14, 16, and 17, and scored four non-offensive touchdowns in that same span.)
The Seahawks only finished 17th in total offense, but the defense leaves you with shorter fields, etc., and they were actually tied for 5th in yards per play at 5.8 per. They were also 8th in passing touchdowns, 9th in rushing touchdowns, and tied for 7th in giveaways.
Defensively, the Seahawks allowed the 2nd fewest passing touchdowns and the fifth fewest rushing touchdowns. If there was any area that Seattle struggled in, it was their 4.5 yards per carry allowed, but they never let it burn them too bad. It helps that they forced the 5th most turnovers in the NFL.
Yes, this team is as complete as they've ever been and the most complete in the league.
Unstoppable like Denzel Washington
As previously noted, no team comes into the playoffs quite on the high that Seattle comes into the playoffs. The Broncos may have a longer winning streak, but the Seahawks put a beatdown on their opponents like Big Boi puts a beat down. (Hard.)
Seattle did struggle to put the Rams away in Week 17, winning 20-13 with a Wilson rushing touchdown near the end of regulation, but the Rams are a much better team than the Rams you remember and Seattle played much better than you might expect. Wilson was 15-of-19 for 250 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT. Lynch ran for 100 yards on 18 carries. Sam Bradford was held to 25-of-42 passing, 252 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Steven Jackson to 52 yard on eleven carries.
The Seahawks had field goals when they should have scored touchdowns. There were flags like you've never seen before. Maybe these guys were just tuckered out. I'm not going to make excuses for a close win over the Rams at home, but I just did, so I guess I'm a liar?
I think it was good for this team to struggle a bit going into the playoffs. A reality check that they probably aren't going to drop a "50-burger" on anyone in the postseason. But going 7-1 in the second half, taking a 5-game winning streak into the playoffs, and scoring 170 points in your last four is a good way to start a Super Bowl run.
Russell Wilson is Limitless like Bradley Cooper
I could break out into hyperbole and cliche about Wilson and end it with a "Go Hawks" but what else needs to be said? Statistically, Wilson put together one of the best rookie seasons for a quarterback ever. He threw the same number of touchdowns as Peyton Manning The Rookie, but with 18 fewer interceptions, on 182 fewer attempts, with four more rushing touchdowns and an ability to rush.
Really, there's little reason to compare two players with such different styles in different eras and against different opponents. I didn't watch Manning for 16 games as rookie, but I did watch Wilson. I have seen the progression from a player who was limited in the early-going as Seattle struggled to score, to one that has blossomed into a player that I trust more than I've ever trusted a quarterback. I give him the other half of my heart keepsake necklace.
Wilson has thrown only four interceptions in his last 11 games, compared to 21 touchdowns. He just has not made very many mistakes that I can remember. Many of his interceptions, from what I can recall, were not the bad decisions you would see from a "Tony Romo" that make you think, "What the hell is he doing?" The only thing that keeps me from thinking he is the best rookie in the NFL by a mile is that Robert Griffin III is just as phenomenal, if not moreso by a touch.
Every week Wilson gets better. He's surprised us from day one to preseason to the first week and he just keeps on doing more than you would expect. I don't know that Seattle will win the Super Bowl, but I would be shocked if Wilson was the cause of them losing.
Why the Seahawks won't win the Super Bowl
Road "Woah's" like Joey on Blossom
I would say that Seattle's struggles on the road are overblown but still aren't something that can be ignored. If someone tells you that they are flat out "bad" on the road, I'd ask them to cite examples because every team is worse on the road than they are at home. It just so happens that Seattle is GREAT at home, and below-average on the road, but that's another area they've improved on. It doesn't mean that it won't greatly reduce their odds of a Super Bowl.
The Seahawks can't ignore losses at Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami. They had opportunities to win, especially against the Lions and Dolphins, but the defense seems to lapse away from CenturyLink.
The bright side is that Seattle hasn't lost by more than a touchdown all year and their five road losses came by a combined 24 points, but they still had five road losses and the Dolphins loss hurts the most even if they are an AFC team. A great team should beat the Dolphins. They'll need to make sure that those road problems are behind them though, and perhaps wins over the Bears in Chicago and the Bills in Toronto are steps numero uno y dos.
Because any trip to the Super Bowl will definitely include Washington, and might also include Atlanta, San Francisco, or Green Bay. Not pretty, any of them.
(The Seahawks haven't won a playoff game on the road since 1983. In fact, that's the only time they have, a 27-20 win over the Dolphins.)
Inexperience Like a 40-Year-Old Virgin
The Seahawks find themselves headed into the postseason as one of the very youngest teams in the NFL. A rookie starting quarterback. A rookie starting middle linebacker. Ten seasons of combined experience at four secondary positions. Five regulars that are at least 30 years old, and that includes your punter, kick returner, nickel cornerback, and an outside linebacker that plays sparingly.
Most of the important players in Seattle will be playing in their first ever playoff game, and they might find it a bit different than any game they've played before, because it is different.
Even Carroll, for as old as he is, has yet to prove that he can win it all as a head coach. (2-3 playoff record in six prior seasons.)
There's something to be said for the benefit of youth, the benefit of perhaps not understanding that "you're not supposed to win yet," and this team seems to play better when they're expected to lose, but facing off against Matt Ryan, or Aaron Rodgers, or the 49ers, or Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning, in the biggest stage of all, will they know what to do in that moment?
Seattle is Sadder than Mary & Max
If you haven't seen Mary & Max, you really should. Solid movie, but sad.
Like I said in the beginning, 30 years of life and I have no idea what it feels like to say you root for a champion. I mean, the Storm were fun with Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, but it's not like I actually watched many of their games. The Sonics were the best team in the NBA during the two mostly-not-Jordan years and losing to the Nuggets in the first round pretty much sums that up. Then when they finally did make the Finals, Jordan and the Bulls were better than ever.
The Mariners had Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson at the same time. Do you remember that? No World Series. They won 116 games without any of them and again, no World Series.
The Seahawks broke through finally in 2005 with the best offensive line you'll ever see, an MVP running back and a Hall of Fame coach, but could only muster one truly dominant season and could not overcome the Steelers or the refs. I know that the ref story gets old, but it will never not go hand-in-hand with us and Super Bowl XL. Which might be the point. Seattle just feels doomed. Cursed. A foreboding rain cloud that won't go away.
There are plenty of logical reasons as to why the Seahawks won't win Super Bowl XLVII, but I can't help but focus on the mythos behind Seattle sports. Is it ever really going to be our time? Can we ever really have this weight lifted off of our collective shoulders?
I don't want to sound cynical. I am eternally hopeful. In fact, if the Seahawks did win the next four games, I'm not even sure what I'd do with myself. What would there be left to complain about?
Oh yeah, the Mariners.