Monday, November 27, 2017

Playing Down to the Competition-- Seahawks 24 @ 49ers 13

It's Monday morning and Seattle has a record of 7-4.  Respectable, but far from intimidating.  Playoff projections show the NFC South claiming both Wildcard spots with the Seahawks on the outside looking in.  Only 5 games remain, but a lot can happen in the final month of the regular season.

In their final 7 games of this season, Seattle will face 4 of the projected playoff teams.  They already lost to Atlanta and will next face the Eagles in Seattle, who possess the NFL's best record, on Sunday Night Football.

We now find ourselves 12 weeks into the season and it's pretty clear what team's identities, strengths and weaknesses are.  If you haven't figured yourself out by now, you're not going to this year.

 After yesterday's convincing-yet-somehow-challenging victory, here's what we know about our team as they prepare for this season's 4th quarter:

  • This team lives and dies with Russell Wilson.  Despite his apparent one-stupid-turnover per game quota of the past few games, Wilson is having another spectacular season. With Wilson, Seahawks are never out of any game, no matter the opponent.  However, Wilson isn't without his flaws.  Wilson will end up as either the MVP or the scapegoat for this team's failure to win the Super Bowl.  Fair or not, there is no in between.
  • Seattle cannot run the football.  Period, end of discussion.  The Seahawks knew coming out of last year that this was a problem and they took a gamble on the potential solution.  They opted to address the offensive line in free agency with Joeckel, Aboushi and Tobin.  They drafted Pocic  in the second round but didn't draft a running back until the seventh.  Before all of that, they signed Eddie Lacy and gave him the cap resources that might have better been served resigning Steven Hauschka.  The only bright spots in their run game were seemingly afterthoughts in solving their rushing inefficiencies-- McKissic, who just doesn't have the frame to be the workhorse, Carson, who went out for season with a bad leg injury and Mike Davis, who promptly hurt his groin after getting his shot.
  • We have a kicking problem.  Wouldn't it be great if Blair Walsh made the kick that sends this team to the Super Bowl?  That'd be a wonderful redemption story.  Unfortunately, what's more likely is that he misses the kick that ends our season.  We're blessed with a quarterback that will always keep us in games, but sometimes that means getting the team in position for a game winning/tying field goal.  If Walsh hits it-- he'll be a hero.  If he misses it, we'll be second guessing every personnel decision that is made this offseason, which could quite possibly lead to a breaking up of the band when it comes to the team's core group of players.

  • The defense can hang.  Look-- with Chancellor, Sherman, Griffin, Avril and so many other key personnel out or otherwise banged up-- you're not going to see the pure, shutdown defensive performances we've all been spoiled with the past few seasons. That should be expected.  But as we've seen the past two games, these backups are no slouches. We saw some of the young bucks like Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith get home for sacks against the 49ers.  We'll need more of the youngsters to step up down the stretch.  If history is any indicator, we should expect this to continue. Pete Carroll's teams have always sprinkled in youth early in seasons to prepare them for a more expansive role as the season progresses.  We've seen tremendous results in the past with this process.
  • If you're getting paid, earn your keep.  This is not an indictment of any of these guys, but December is where you need to earn your paycheck.  Wilson, Thomas, Graham, Brown, Britt, Baldwin, Wright, Wagner and Bennett need to play like the players we know they are. I would include Lacy in that list, but to paraphrase Denny Green-- he is who we think he is.

San Francisco certainly appears to be heading in the right direction.  Their rebuild will continue for another season or two, but I expect this rivalry to heat up like it used to be. Kyle Shanahan isn't nearly as annoying as Harbaugh, but it could still return to being a preeminent rivalry in the NFL.

Seattle will need to win, at minimum, three of these next five games if they have any hopes of a post season birth.  It's still entirely possible that they could win the NFC West by beating the Rams and closing the gap in their records. Either way, the path to the Super Bowl will more than likely be a road trip for the Seahawks.  They will need to start making their case for respect by taking care of the Eagles next week. 

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