“Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Pete Carroll. Champions. That team knows exactly how to turn it up and turn it on. They have not wowed anybody yet. They added Sheldon Richardson who we saw against the Rams make a pretty big impact. They have Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner. There are just too many guys on that Seattle Seahawks team who know what it takes to rev it up. I think the Seahawks are the team to beat.”
Those were the words of my longtime friend and associate Mike Silver last Monday afternoon on The Aftermath on the NFL Network. With Heath Evans and Steve Wyche, Silver was discussing the NFC landscape in the wake of the broken collarbone that ended the season for Aaron Rodgers (and presumably the Packers).
Silver’s point is well taken and time will tell if his opinion is accurate. The Seahawks have invested a lot of money into their core superstar players (you could add Doug Baldwyn and Kam Chancellor to Silver’s list) and despite the on-going issues with the offense and the offensive line the idea that the Seahawks championship pedigree might be enough in what looks like an extremely balanced NFC is not all that far-fetched.
That idea can be added to by bringing in the always dicey equation of what looks like a favorable schedule. This being the NFL, players are forbidden by law to do anything other than taking the schedule “one game at a time”. But we have the luxury of peeking ahead.
After a tough road assignment this week against the Giants (more on that in a moment) the Hawks will play four of their next six games at home. The two road games in that stretch are easy (travel-wise) trips to Arizona and San Francisco. It’s not like the Hawks can just roll out and expect to win but this feels like a stretch where they can at least try to build some momentum and at best make some serious hay.
It’s not that hard to build the argument that the Hawks could enter the December 3rd nationally televised night game at the Clink versus the Eagles with a pretty gaudy record. To do it, they’ll have to continue to patch together an offensive line each week while looking for improving consistency on offense (two things that are obviously directly related). That project starts this weekend in New Jersey.
The Giants game certainly looks winnable but there are a few caveats. A series of injuries has decimated the Big Blue’s wide receiver corps. That led to a run the ball mentality that worked last Sunday night against the Broncos as the Giants finally got their first win of the year in an impressive underdog-on-the-road fashion. Eli Manning finished the night 11 for 19 for 128 yards his lowest full game passing numbers since a Giants loss to Minnesota in December of 2008.
Can New York continue to have success on the ground against Seattle? The Hawks certainly watched the Giants win in Denver and realize they’ll be looking at a team determined to ram it down Seattle’s throat. As we’ve noted previously in this space the Hawks defense has been tough and opportunistic this season but they’ve also been susceptible to big plays (both in the air and on the ground).
For the Hawks to come out of this game with a win the recipe will be the same as it’s been for most of this season thus far. The defense will have to get the job done while the offense continues to search for an identity. The Giants defense has been average (at best) this year so maybe the Hawks can succeed in their on-going effort to build some semblance of a ground game which would obviously help on all fronts. They’ll have to do that after yet another change on the line as either veteran Mark Glowinski or rookie Ethan Pocic (or maybe both) will replace the injured Luke Joeckel at left guard.
Silver added one more reason he thinks the Seahawks are the team to beat in the NFC now.
“I believe they still have unfinished business. They were two feet away from back to back championships.”
He’s right about that. The end of Super Bowl XLIX will hang over and haunt this franchise for as long as the current group of players and coaches are here. Last year the still lingering effects of that game led to sideline arguments and picked fights with the media.
Maybe this year, in a horse race with no favorite yet emerging, it can be channeled in a more positive way.