December 17, 2012

FEAR THE OSPREY


One of my fondest childhood memories is the last month of the 1986 Seahawks season. They entered the final stretch of that campaign 5-6, but went supernova in late November/December. Not only did they win their last five games, they won those games by an aggregate score of 147-74. They whipped the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, they stomped the Raiders on Monday Night Football, and they demolished the eventual AFC Champion Broncos on the final day of the regular season. Every Seahawks fan who witnessed that month of football still asks "what if they had gotten into the playoffs?"

I can't stop thinking back to that 1986 team as I watch the 2012 Seahawks grow faster than Genesis-Planet Spock did in Star Trek III- The biggest difference is that 10-6 WILL get these Seahawks a spot in the playoffs. The '86 Hawks never got the chance to see how far their momentum would carry them in the postseason- Barring a stunning, improbable collapse the '12s will open the playoffs with a visit to the NFC East Champs. May the ghost of Pete Rozelle have mercy on their souls, because it doesn't matter if it's Dallas or DC or New York- The Seahawks are coming, and they are going to lay waste to everything in their path.

Of course I'm disappointed that our chances of winning the NFC West evaporated last night at Foxboro, but no Twelves should fret about this team failing to deliver on the road anymore. Yes, they were 3-5 on the road this season, but all five losses were decided in the last 5 minutes, and Seattle actually OUTSCORED their foes on the road this season 130-104. This isn't the same team that lost at Arizona or Detroit or Miami. They've made a qualitative leap, and that's directly attributable to the swift maturation of Russell Wilson.

I'm running out of breathless, fawning praise for Russell Wilson, who ran for three touchdowns yesterday, threw another and generally made the Buffalo defense look gutless and incompetent. The Offensive Rookie of the Year race is indeed a two-QB race, but it's between Wilson and Robert Griffin III. Wilson is clearly having a better season than #1 overall pick Andrew Luck, and I expect the WolfBadger to cleanly separate from RGIII over the season's final two weeks (side note: How awesome would it be if we drew the Pigskins in the Wild Card round? Wilson would take that huge chip from his shoulder and bludgeon DC's defense into submission with it).

Seattle's dominant performances over the past two weeks have paradoxically hurt Marshawn Lynch's statistics- He's run for 241 yards and four TDs in the last two games ON ONLY 21 CARRIES! While that might piss off people who own Beast Mode in fantasy football, it's great for the Seahawks. Lynch should be relatively healthy and fresh for a DEEP Seattle playoff run. Lynch is on pace for a 1576-yard season. If he gets to 1546, he'll own the 3rd best single-season rushing mark in Seahawks history (with only Shaun Alexander's 2004 & 2005 seasons above his 2012 on the leaderboard).  Both Wilson and Lynch's sterling performances owe a great debt to Seattle's offensive line, which is growing more punishing and dominant every week.

Has there ever been a great defense as incessantly maligned as the Seahawks defense is by Seattle fans? Missing multiple starters yesterday, they still only allowed 17 points- Mix in Earl Thomas' heroic pick-six and that's a net of only 10 points allowed. The Hawks defense is on pace to finish in the NFL's top three in terms of points and yards allowed, and they should finish the year as the best defense in franchise history (based on points allowed). It looks like Richard Sherman is probably safe from a suspension until after this season ends, and we will get Brandon Browner back for the playoffs. There's every reason to think that Seattle will field a very dangerous postseason defense, y'all.

Since the start of Overtime back in Chicago, the Seahawks have outscored the enemy 114-17. They are peaking, and ready to tussle again with their most hated rivals: The San Francisco 49ers. The NFC West title is no longer realistically at stake (I'm the most optimistic of Twelves, but there is NO FUCKING WAY the Cardinals win at Candlestick Week 17), but this is still an important game for Seattle. Win, and they are in the playoffs. A win would also be a powerful statement that they're ready to make a Super Bowl run, particularly given that this game has been flexed to Sunday Night Football.

But....

Win or lose next week, the Seahawks will (probably) have to go win a playoff game at Candlestick, either in the divisional round or in the NFC Championship Game. In addition, they would still clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Rams on December 30th- So next week's game is important, but not apocalyptically so. Even if Seattle loses, I will still see them as deadly serious NFC contenders. Their likely playoff path? At the 4th-seeded NFC East champions, then at #1 seed Atlanta in the divisional round, then at San Francisco for a trip to XLVII. 

The 2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants, and 2010 Packers all won three road playoff games on the way to a Super Bowl victory. I no longer see any reason the 2012 Seahawks can't be the 4th team to pull of that sort of feat.

What do you think, sirs?


3 comments:

neurocell said...

The Hawks are qualitatively better. Many will still argue with that, but they can't argue with the fact that the Seahawks are also quantitatively better. Their stats have generally been on an upward spiral since the season began. The receivers dropped more passes in the first game than any other game. Everyone knows how Russell Wilson has improved (Like the WolfBadger, I'll have to use that.), you spoke of the offensive line's improvement (time together is the biggest factor for continued offensive line improvement), and the defense's improvement is also evident, especially when they can plug in players and still play at a higher level.

Over the season, Marshawn Lynch has improved. He might not be getting the yards that he should, because of improvement other where, but his yards per attempt have steadily climbed. he has also become a greater threat in the pass game.

The passing game has improved. The Wolfbadger is the main result of that, but there are other substantial reasons, too. With the improved play of the line, Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy are now free to release, and be more involved in the pass game. The receivers have not only dropped fewer passes as the season has progressed, but they've consistently caught passes that weren't even tried for in the past.

I guess that I am still optimistic. After San Francisco went in and beat a team no one thought that they had a chance with, and Arizona stomped Detroit, I believe that Arizona can win in week 17.

There are more parallels with the '86 season. The one that jumps out though is that the Hawks lost the division to a Denver team with a tie. The Hawks were also the only team to beat both Super Bowl participants (the Giants and Broncos). The Seahawks have already beaten the Patriots and themselves at least three times, so I see that parallel again. This year, no team has scared me. I've only been worried about the Hawks beating themselves. Their maturity level has finally gotten to the point that I don't forsee them beating themselves again.

All in all, this team has improved on so many levels, and right now, I feel that the Hawks are the best team.

Mind of no mind said...

The thing that give me hope is the fact that your two most frustrating losses have come on the road at 10am. I honestly believe that if we had played Detroit and Miami at 1pm pst that we would have beat them both. In the playoffs, I'm pretty sure that there is no 10am games. So if that is true, I think we can beat anyone on the road.

Holy shit, I'm loving this season. Even if we're one and one in the playoffs, we have a top 10 QB for the next 10 to 15 years. This is awesome!

Tanuj Kamineni said...

Great article...I just want Seattle to continue with a dominant conclusion to this season. In my mind, they MUST beat the 49ers this week on Sunday Night Football. Pete Carroll and the seahawks are 0-3 vs. harbaugh's 49ers -so very important for Seattle's psyche to win this game in front of a national TV audience.