The Seahawks look like a mediocre, inconsistent team heading into the playoffs at the moment, with a defense that desperately misses its foundation and an atrocious offensive line.
For the most part in this space, I’ve been an optimist. I always try to find the bright side, the glass-half-full perspective. But after nearly a week of digesting the Seahawks’ Week 16’s 34-31 loss to Arizona and reading hand-wringing tweets like this:
It’s time to look in the mirror and see the hard truth: the Seahawks are a mediocre team right now.
The Seahawks haven’t been mediocre all season. They won the NFC West and nine games so far, including a victory in Foxborough, one of only two losses on the year for the Patriots. They didn’t just beat a mediocre Panthers team, they stomped them on national television.
The Seahawks overwhelm opponents on both sides of the ball when they’re playing well. Their star-studded defense suffocates opponents while Russell Wilson throws bombs and Thomas Rawls runs people over. Normally, around this time, the Seahawks are forgetting their early-season struggles and steamrolling opponents into the playoffs.
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But this time around, Seattle has dropped three of five games heading into Week 17. We’ll get to statistics in a minute, but did the team that took the field in the first half of the Cardinals game look like a team headed for the Super Bowl? Did the defense that allowed 20 points in the fourth quarter against Arizona look like the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens, or 2013 Seahawks?
Cian Fahey’s excellent article for Football Outsiders details how much the Legion of Boom misses Earl Thomas (with GIFs and words). It’s clear the Steven Terrell is no ET3. Then again, there is no equivalent to Thomas in the NFL in terms of sheer talent and skill, as well as the difference he makes in the entire Seattle defense.
The defense dropped from fifth in the league in DVOA to 26th without Thomas. And the offense has been wildly inconsistent all year due to Tom Cable’s offensive line. Last week, and in multiple games this year, the o-line couldn’t block anyone. They managed to pull it together for a fourth-quarter comeback attempt against Arizona. They wouldn’t have been in that situation if they could protect Wilson and open running lanes for Rawls and company.
To recap, the Seahawks enter Week 17’s matchup with the hapless 49ers an ordinary team. They aren’t the scary team that overwhelms people right now. They have to figure out how to run an offense with the line they have and defend the pass better with Steven Terrell replacing the irreplaceable quickly. Making these adjustments will be a bit easier if the Saints defeat Atlanta on Sunday and give Seattle a bye week to figure it out. But there’s no guarantee a home crowd and an extra week to prepare will fix their averageness. This postseason might be the biggest challenge in Pete Caroll’s NFL coaching career.