The Seahawks were an incredibly different team at home and on the road last season, going 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. At home, they outscored opponents by 18.5 points per game (30.4-11.9), beating 4 eventual playoff teams, and on the road, they outscored opponents by just 2.3 points per game (21.1-18.8), despite playing just 1 eventual playoff team (a loss in San Francisco). It wasn’t just one unit getting significantly worse as their defense and their offense each essentially went a touchdown in each direction when they went on the road.
Things got better on the road as the Seahawks got better as the season went on (7-1 in their final 8 games) and Russell Wilson really came into his own, but only 3 of their final 8 games were on the road and while they beat Chicago and Buffalo, they also lost to Miami. In the post-season, they could have easily lost to the Redskins in Washington if Robert Griffin hadn’t gotten hurt up 14-0 and they followed that up with a loss in Atlanta the following week.
This isn’t a new thing. Going back to 2007, they are 15-37 on the road, getting outscored by 6.63 points per game, and 32-18 at home, outscoring opponents by 6.32 points per game. For that reason, I think the Seahawks aren’t as good talent wise as they appear. It’s not that they are an elite team that has issues on the road. I think that they’re a very solid team that plays like an elite team at home and shows their true colors on the road. Their incredible home crowd and home field advantage is a huge part of the team and makes them appear better than they are.
Fortunately for them, that crowd isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, it’s only going to get louder and more powerful now that the team is in contention. They’re attempting to break a world record for stadium volume in their home opener week 2. On top of that, they appear to be a more talented team than the one that won 11 games last season.
They’re a young team that should be improved with another season of experience, especially Russell Wilson, who set the world on fire in the 2nd half of last season (albeit playing just 3 road games and 2 eventual playoff teams, both at home). They’ve added Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield and might now have the best slot cornerback and slot receiver in the NFL. An injury to Chris Clemons on their defensive line hurts, but they’ve added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to help make up for that. Home field advantage taken into account, this looks like one of the most talented teams in the league on paper.
Also, despite their 11 wins, they still didn’t meet their Pythagorean Expectation last season, outscoring opponents by a total of 167 points and posting a Pythagorean Expectation of 12.4 wins, tied with the Patriots for best in the NFL last season. Given that they played a tougher schedule than the Patriots last season, you could easily make an argument that this was the best regular season team in the NFL last season and DVOA would agree. Not only were they DVOA’s top rated team last season, they were the 6th highest ranked team in DVOA’s history, dating back to 1991, behind the 1991 Washington Redskins (Super Bowl Champs), the 2007 New England Patriots (Super Bowl runner ups), the 2010 New England Patriots (eliminated in the divisional round at home by Mark Sanchez…wait what?!), the 1996 Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl Champs), and the 1995 San Francisco 49ers (eliminated in the divisional round).
So they were probably the best team in the NFL last season, despite being one of the youngest teams in the NFL, and they’ve added more talent in the off-season. So what’s the problem? Well, it’s fourfold. The first issue is that they were ridiculous lucky in terms of injuries, ranking just 4th in the NFL in adjusted games lost. This type of thing tends to be more luck than anything. For example, the previous season they were 27th.
They’ve already lost Chris Clemons for an undisclosed amount of time and Percy Harvin, who they added in the off-season, is one of the more injured prone stars in the NFL and already may need hip surgery. Sidney Rice also has a history of injury problems, as does left tackle Russell Okung, and I don’t have to tell you how much it would hurt if something were to happen to Russell Wilson or Richard Sherman. I’m not saying something will, but history suggests the injury bug won’t be as friendly to them this season as it was last season.
They also benefitted from a turnover margin of +13, with 31 takeaways and 18 turnovers. That tends to be unsustainable on a year-to-year basis. For example, teams with 20 or fewer turnovers on average turn the ball over 25.5 times the following season, while teams that turn the ball over 35 or more times turn the ball over 28.1 times the following season. Teams with 20 or fewer takeaways take the ball away an average of 25.3 times the following season, while teams with 35 or more takeaways take the ball away an average of 27.3 times the following season. Teams with a turnover differential of +15 or higher have a turnover differential of +3.6 the following season, while teams with a turnover differential of -15 have a turnover differential of +1.5 the following season.
Turnovers and takeaways are incredibly hard to predict on year-to-year and even a game-to-game basis (teams with a turnover differential of +4 or higher and teams with a turnover differential of -4 or lower both average a turnover differential of +0.0 in the following game). I’m not saying that Russell Wilson is going to suddenly start throwing a bunch of picks, but, for example, Richard Sherman had 8 interceptions last season. That could easily be cut in half this season.
Interceptions are very unpredictable for defensive backs. A cornerback can have 8 interceptions in a season and 3 in another and not play any worse. That’s just the nature of the position and the pitfall of judging a cornerback purely on interception numbers. Darrelle Revis is one of the best cornerbacks in the game and since a 6-interception season in 2009, he has 5 total in 31 games. Part of it is teams will just throw away from him more. I know he has Brandon Browner opposite him, but Revis had Antonio Cromartie opposite him. Part of it is he’ll just get fewer good balls to pick off. Either way, he should have fewer interceptions and the Seahawks, overall, should have a less impressive turnover margin in 2013.
The third issue is just that teams that have significant win improvements tend to regress about half of that amount the following season. It’s just an average, but it’s just a rule of thumb in the NFL to note. The fourth issue is their schedule and the fact that they play most of their tough opponents on the road. Of the 6 games they play against reigning playoff teams from last season, 4 of them are on the road. They also go to Carolina and the Giants and have two nationally televised games against divisional opponents in Arizona and St. Louis that won’t be easy. Remember, those two teams beat them last season and, while the Seahawks are improved, so are they. Also, 4 of those games are 1 PM ET starts on the in the Eastern Time Zone (Indianapolis, the Giants, Carolina, and Atlanta).
There could be 4 or 5 losses on that road schedule so even if they go undefeated at home against (not unlikely considering they don’t face any tough teams outside of San Francisco and maybe Minnesota or a sucks on the road New Orleans team), they might not win more than 11 or 12 games. In any other division, that wouldn’t be a big deal, that might mean 2nd place in the NFC West behind the 49ers, which would mean winning the Super Bowl would once again require winning 4 games away from home. I don’t think this team can do that. If they’re going to win the Super Bowl, I think they’re going to have to win the division. The circumstances with the schedule and with San Francisco being in their division I think will prevent them from doing so.
As I mentioned earlier, Russell Wilson set the world on fire in the 2nd half of the season and even into the playoffs. After a 4-4 start in which he completed 61.4% of his passes for an average of 7.0 YPA, 10 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions (with 36 carries for 128 rushing yards), leading the team to 17.5 points per game, he went 8-2 the rest of the way, completing 66.1% of his passes for an average of 9.1 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions (with 488 yards and 5 touchdowns on 73 carries), leading the team to 32.4 points per game.
However, he’s just not as good on the road. He completed just 63.6% of his passes for an average of 7.5 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions on the road, a QB rating of 86.1. That’s opposed to 64.6% completion, 9.2 YPA, 17 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions at home, a QB rating of 123.6. And I already mentioned the Seahawks scored about 9 fewer points per game on the road than at home. Wilson was better on the road as the season went on, completing 65.1% of his passes for an average of 8.7 YPA, 8 touchdowns, and an interception, a QB rating of 107.6, but it wasn’t as good. He still went just 3-2 (would have been 2-3 if Griffin hadn’t gotten hurt), and while he did score 29.2 points per game, that was down about 6 points from his 2nd half home stats.
And of course, I don’t expect him to keep up his 2nd half stats into the entire 2013 season because that would be ridiculous. He’ll still be a great home quarterback and I don’t expect him to lose a home game, but there’s no denying that he’s a noticeably worse quarterback on the road, no matter how well he’s playing. If he were drafted by any team other than the Seahawks, even if they had the same supporting cast, playbook, and coaching staff, he would not be as good of a quarterback. He wouldn’t be bad, but it would be noticeably worse (though you could say the same thing about Drew Brees). And I think there are at least 4 or 5 road games he’ll lose next season and I don’t think he’s capable of winning 4 straight away from Seattle to win the Super Bowl.
Marshawn Lynch has completely revitalized his career in Seattle. He was acquired from the Bills for just a 4th round pick in 2010 because he hadn’t lived up to his potential and because he had a history of off the field problems. He struggled in his first season in Seattle, with the exception of the beast mode run in the post-season against the Saints, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, but in 2011, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry on 285 carries with 12 touchdowns.
In 2012, he improved that to 5.0 yards per carry on 315 carries with another 11 touchdowns as Russell Wilson’s arm and rushing ability took the defense’s attention off of Lynch. Everything has gone about as well as the Seahawks could have hoped when they acquired him in 2010, with the exception of a DUI last off-season. It looks like a change of scenery was all the 2007 1st round pick needed. His only real flaw is he’s caught just 51 passes in the last 2 seasons.
I don’t see why Lynch can’t do something similar again in 2013, though he may see slightly fewer carries heading into his age 27 season as the Seahawks used a 2nd round pick on a running back in Christine Michael. This marks the 2nd straight draft they’ve brought in a running back and 2012 4th round pick Robert Turbin isn’t exactly a poor runner either, rushing for 354 yards on 80 carries and adding 19 catches as Marshawn Lynch’s primary backup and a passing down specialist.
Michael just adds another talented back to their stable. With Russell Wilson adding 94 carries of his own, no team ran the ball more often than the Seahawks in 2012, who ran 536 times to 438 pass plays (including sacks). That means they ran on 55.0% of their offensive plays. Even with Wilson going into his 2nd season in the league, I don’t expect that to change this season and Michael’s addition only adds to that likelihood.
Even when Wilson broke out in the 2nd half of last season, he passed just 22.5 times per game, which was actually less than the 26.25 times per game he passed in the 1st half of the season. Part of that was they were playing with a lead more, but the point is, I don’t expect the Seahawks to pass much more than they did last season. They’ll still be a run heavy team with Lynch leading the way, two talented backups, and Wilson’s own scrambling ability. They’re a solid bet to lead the league in rushing.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Another player who will add to their ground game production is Percy Harvin, their big off-season addition. The wide receiver Harvin has rushed for 683 yards and 4 touchdowns on 107 carries in 4 seasons with the Vikings and the run heavy, read option loving Pete Carroll could give him upwards of 30 carries this season. Of course, Harvin’s biggest asset will be his receiving ability, but those projecting big time numbers for him this season are mistaken.
Harvin has been very efficient on a per snap basis over the past 2 seasons. 1652 receiving yards on 651 routes run, which is among the most efficient in the NFL. And yes, he was doing that with mediocre quarterback play, but he was also his team’s only option and targeted relentlessly, which won’t be the case in Seattle. He was targeted 199 times on those 651 routes run, 30.6% of the time. With Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Zach Miller, and all them in Seattle, he won’t be targetted nearly as frequently and they also won’t pass nearly as much.
And, of course, he’s a solid bet to get hurt. While he’s only missed 10 games in his 4 year NFL career, he’s coming off a 9-game season last year, which also happened to be the first time in his career he was an every down player and not just a slot specialist. He’s never played more than 623 snaps in a season. He has serious durability issues and there’s already concern about his hip, as of this writing, on the first day of Seahawks Training Camp. He may need surgery.
I think 1000 yards receiving is incredibly optimistic for him. I think the best case scenario is the Seahawks run 500 pass plays (62 more than they did last season), Harvin plays 450 of those pass snaps (28 more than any Seattle receiver did last season), is targeted 100 times and catches 80 passes for 1000 yards (12.5 yards per reception, almost a full yard above his career average). More likely, he is somewhere below that, though, assuming he stays moderately healthy, he’ll save his fantasy value (if you’re into that kind of thing) with his rushing yardage and the fact that he should surpass his career high of 6 touchdowns.
Sidney Rice will line up opposite him. Rice played all 16 games for the 2nd time in his 6 year career last season and, while you wouldn’t know it from his stats, he played very well. He caught just 50 passes for 748 yards and 7 touchdowns, but he did that on 422 routes run (includes sacks). If he had been on a more pass heavy team like he was in 2009, his breakout season when he ran 547 routes for Brett Favre, he would have had 65 catches for 970 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was ProFootballFocus’ 13th ranked receiver last year. He’s a very solid #2 receiver, but with Harvin coming in and his history of injury problems (23 games missed in 6 seasons), the smart money is on him not matching even the 50 catches for 748 yards and 7 touchdowns he had last season.
Golden Tate also had a very solid year last year, as the 2010 2nd round pick broke out in his 3rd season in the league the way so many receivers do. Again, the stats didn’t show it as he caught just 45 passes for 688 yards and 7 touchdowns, but he did that on just 378 routes run, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 24th ranked wide receiver overall. However, with Harvin coming in, like with Rice, the smart money is on his production going down as he’ll be the 3rd receiver. The Seahawks ranked 26th in the NFL in 3-wide receiver sets last season, which shouldn’t significantly go up this season. His best shot at statistical and fantasy relevance is a Rice or Harvin injury, though that’s not unlikely at all.
Doug Baldwin will be the 4th receiver and while he’s talented, he’s unlikely to come anywhere near the 29 catches for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns he had last season. Still, he’s a more than capable 4th receiver and the Seahawks have come a long way from 2011, when Baldwin actually led the team by catching 51 passes for 788 yards and 4 touchdowns out of sheer necessity as an undrafted free agent rookie. Add in Zach Miller, a solid all-around tight end, and this is a talented bunch. 5th round rookie Luke Willson will serve as the 2nd string tight end, in place of the injured Anthony McCoy, who is already on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. Willson wasn’t a great blocker in college, but he has great natural receiving ability and can serve as more of a move tight end with Miller capable of serving as an inline tight end.
The Seahawks’ weakest unit on either side of the ball is their offensive line and it isn’t really that close. While left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger are coming off very strong seasons, the rest of their offensive line is a mess and Okung and Unger might not even play as well this season. Okung graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 15th ranked offensive tackle in 2012, as the 6th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft allowed just 1 sack all season (partially due to Russell Wilson’s mobility but still) and run blocked well, though he committed 13 penalties, 2nd worst at his position.
However, he has a history of injury problems, as he was limited to 556 snaps as a rookie and then struggled mightily through injuries in 2011, grading out below average on 799 snaps. He could have a 2nd straight strong season, but he could also get hurt again. Unger, meanwhile, was ProFootballFocus’ 3rd ranked center last season, but was largely a league average player before that. I don’t doubt he can have another strong season, but I’ll need to see it again before I can consider him a top level center.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends on the offensive line for the Seahawks. Breno Giacomini will once again line up at right tackle, where the mediocre career backup as ProFootballFocus’ 69th ranked offensive tackle out of 80 eligible last season. At right guard, Paul McQuistan is in a similar career situation, though he wasn’t quite as bad last season and he has the ability to play both right and left guard depending on where he’s needed. Still, he’s a below average player.
Opposite McQuistan at guard, the Seahawks tried 3 different players last season, James Carpenter, John Moffitt, and JR Sweezy. Carpenter was a first round pick in 2011 and the surprise pick looks well on his way towards being a bust. Injuries have limited him to 352 snaps in 2 seasons and he didn’t play well at all during those snaps and he’s already been moved inside to guard from right tackle, where he was originally supposed to bookend Okung.
Sweezy, meanwhile, saw 311 snaps last season as a 7th round rookie who played defensive tackle the year before at NC State and he played about as well as you would expect, grading out 71st out of 81 eligible guards despite the limited playing time. John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made a lot of smart decisions, but I have to make fun of them for that one. Sweezy said he hadn’t played offensive line since middle school. How did they decide to convert him to offensive line? Did they watch his middle school tape?
Moffitt, a 3rd round pick from that same draft as Carpenter, has been absolutely awful thus far in his career, grading out as the 3rd worst guard in 2011 despite playing just half the snaps. He was only slightly better in 2012. Carpenter will get the first crack at being the starting left guard, but it looks like a position of major weakness, much like right guard and right tackle.
As I mentioned, Chris Clemons tore his ACL in the playoff win over Washington. He’s a very strong candidate to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he’ll be just 8 months removed from the injury week 1. That would cost him 6 games and even when he returns, it’s hard to imagine the 32-year-old playing as many snaps per game as he did last season, especially with Cliff Avril being added to the mix.
An absolute steal in a trade from Philadelphia (he arrived as a throw-in in a deal that send Darryl Tapp to the Eagles for a 4th rounder), Clemons has been a top-11 4-3 defensive end on ProFootballFocus in all 3 seasons as a starter with the Seahawks, playing the Leo role in Pete Carroll’s defense. Last season, he had his worst season with the Seahawks, grading out “just” 11th overall at his position, though 4th in terms of rushing the passer with 11 sacks, 11 hits, and 37 hurries on 511 pass rush snaps, a 11.5% pass rush rate. However, his poor run grade (5th worst at his position) hurt his grade. He’ll see mostly pass rush snaps this season when he does play.
Clemons not being at 100% will hurt, but, as I mentioned, the Seahawks did add Cliff Avril to the mix this off-season. Avril is undersized, but was a natural fit in a wide nine scheme in Detroit and is a perfect fit for the Leo role in Seattle. He’s not the same pass rusher Clemons is when healthy, grading out well above average, above average, and average in the last 3 seasons in that aspect, and he also struggles against the run as well. He might be at his best and most efficient when he doesn’t play a full set of snaps (like he did in 2010, his best season, when he played 649 snaps), which is good because the Seahawks do have a lot of defensive end depth, especially when Clemons returns.
On the other side, Red Bryant will start in base packages. Bryant doesn’t get any pass rush, but that’s not what he’s out there for. He’s out there to hold down the edge against the run and he usually does a great job of that. However, last season he actually graded out below average in that aspect and because of his poor pass rush ability (0 sacks, 0 hits, and 11 hurries on 343 pass rush snaps, 3.2% pass rush rate), he was ProFootballFocus’ 3rd lowest ranked 4-3 defensive end, despite playing just 641 snaps. That’s part of the reason why the Seahawks ranked 23rd in YPC allowed. He played through a foot injury all season though, so maybe he’ll bounce back. He did get off to a great start to the season in the first 3 weeks of the season.
In sub packages, Bruce Irvin will continue to come in and rush the passer. A surprise pick as the 15th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Irvin had 10 sacks as a rookie as a part time player. However, he wasn’t as good as that would suggest. To go with those 10 sacks, he had just 12 hits and 20 hurries on 344 pass rush snaps, an impressive 12.2% rate, but not as impressive as 10 sacks as a part-time player would suggest. He graded out above average as a pass rusher, but struggled against the run, grading out average overall. He especially struggled against the run in his one start against Atlanta, with Chris Clemons out. Michael Turner, who hadn’t done anything all year, trampled the Seahawks for 98 yards on 14 carries and Irvin was a big part of the reason why.
He must have proved to the coaching staff that he could never be a starter on the defensive line because the Seahawks converted him to linebacker this off-season. He’ll play the Von Miller role, playing the run as a two-down linebacker on running downs in base packages and then moving to the line to rush the passer as a defensive end in sub packages. It’s a better role for his skill set, but it could take him a little bit to adjust to playing linebacker and he’s also suspended for the first 4 games of the season for Adderall.
With Irvin and Clemons out early in the season, free agent acquisition Michael Bennett will probably play more end early in the season, though he was signed to be a situational rusher at defensive tackle, coming over from Tampa Bay. Bennett is incredibly versatile and well rounded, lining up at two positions (end and tackle) with the Buccaneers and grading out well above average both against the run and as a pass rusher.
In 2011, he graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 7th rated 4-3 defensive end in a more limited role, excelling against the run at 6-4 274, but also accumulating 4 sacks, 6 hits, and 28 hurries on 338 pass rush snaps, a 11.2% pass rush rate. In 2012, he led the Tampa Bay defensive line in snaps, grading out 7th among 4-3 defensive ends again. Along with Cameron Wake and Greg Hardy, he was one of three 4-3 defensive ends to grade out in the top-10 as a run stopper and pass rusher and he accumulated 9 sacks, 14 hits, and 48 hurries on 600 pass rush snaps, a 11.8% pass rush rate.
Along with him at defensive tackle, the Seahawks have Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane. Mebane is a consistently above average starter who can rush the passer and stop the run. He’ll lead the position in snaps. McDaniel will take over Alan Branch’s old run stuffing role. Branch was a one dimensional player, but exceled in that role, topping out as ProFootballFocus’ 3rd ranked run stopping defensive tackle in 2011. McDaniel, a mediocre career backup, won’t do as well. He’ll face competition from Clinton McDonald, another career backup, and Jaye Howard, a 2012 4th round pick who played just 22 snaps as a rookie.
As I mentioned, Bruce Irvin will be moving to linebacker and playing the 3rd linebacker role in base packages, a role vacated by veteran LeRoy Hill, who did alright in that role last season. In the 4 games Irvin will miss with suspension, Malcolm Smith will start in that role. The 2011 7th round pick has flashed in 236 career snaps in reserve, but he’s still a mystery. Fortunately, it’s not that important of a position.
KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner will continue to play the every down linebacker roles. Wright graded out above average in his first season in that role and the 2011 4th round pick also played well in the two-down linebacker role as a rookie. Wagner, meanwhile, played incredibly well as a 2nd round rookie last season, grading out 2nd on ProFootballFocus among middle linebackers. He finished 2nd in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind Luke Kuechly and actually played better than Luke Kuechly at the same position. The Seahawks are in good hands with these two young every down linebackers.
I mentioned Richard Sherman in the opening. After Russell Wilson, he’s their most indispensible player. In his 2nd year in the league, the 2011 5th round pick allowed 41 catches on 87 attempts for 634 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, while deflecting 14 passes and committing 5 penalties. He was ProFootballFocus’ 2nd ranked cornerback last season and, though he ranked below average against the run, he was by far their top cover cornerback. He might not pick off 8 passes again, but as I mentioned, that won’t necessarily mean he has a worse season. He played well as a rookie as well, grading 16th in more limited action and the 25-year-old might not have peaked yet. He’s arguably the top cornerback in the NFL. Darrelle Revis is more proven and has had better seasons than Sherman had last year, but he’s also coming off a torn ACL and 3 years older.
Brandon Browner does a solid job opposite him, grading out 22nd among cornerbacks, allowing 34 catches on 63 attempts for 421 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while deflecting 5 passes and committing 7 penalties and missing 4 games with suspension. He improved over a solid first season in the league in 2011, coming over from the CFL, and he’s a young and very capable #2 cornerback opposite Sherman. Opposing quarterbacks will probably throw away from Sherman more this season and Browner looks like he can hold up to extra attention.
They might be the best outside cornerback duo in the NFL and they added arguably the best slot cornerback in the NFL this off-season, signing Antoine Winfield from Minnesota. Winfield was actually ProFootballFocus’ top ranked cornerback last season, though he wasn’t quite as good as that would suggest. A lot of that was run grade as he was by far the best run stopping cornerback in the league, but he only ranked 19th in coverage grade, allowing 60 catches on 90 attempts for 575 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while deflecting 6 passes and committing 2 penalties. He also didn’t cover much downfield and he’s going into his age 36 season with a recent history of injury problems, missing 17 games in the last 4 seasons combined.
However, he’ll be a natural fit as a part time player on the slot. He ranked 13th in the NFL in slot coverage QB rating allowed last season. He’s a great fit for the Seahawks physical man-to-man coverage scheme as well and, of course, he’ll help stuff the run. He’ll be a sizeable upgrade on the Marcus Trufant/Jeremy Lane/Byron Maxwell/Walter Thummond quartet who were their primary depth cornerbacks last season.
The Seahawks also have a great pair of safeties who complement each other well, with Kam Chancellor playing up closer to the box, playing 54.4% of his snaps within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage, 7th in the NFL among eligible safeties, and Earl Thomas serving as the deep center field safety. Chancellor, a 2010 5th round pick, is one of the biggest safeties in the NFL at 6-3 232. He didn’t play as well in 2012 as he did in his breakout 2011 season, when he was ProFootballFocus’ 5th ranked safety, as he ranked 21st in 2012, but he is one of the top-10 or so safeties in the NFL.
Thomas, meanwhile, is just a little bit behind that. He’s a little overrated because of his tendency to take bad routes to the ball and miss tackles (17 missed tackles last season, 4th in the NFL, and 29 in the last 2 seasons), but he was ProFootballFocus’ 8th ranked safety in 2012 and their 34th ranked in 2011. He’s clearly an above average safety though and they have one of the best safeties duos in the NFL. This might overall be the best secondary in the NFL. They ranked 3rd in the NFL allowing 6.2 YPA last season, ranking 1st in coverage grade on ProFootballFocus, and they could be even better this season.
Last season, I said in Seattle’s preview that Pete Carroll doesn’t get his name mentioned enough with the best coaches in the NFL, but he should. Now, a season later, he does. He’s rebuilt this team from a 5-11 veteran team to an 11-5 exciting, young team in 3 seasons (going 25-23 and winning 2 playoff games). Along with GM John Schneider, he’s discovered and developed a ton of young talent during his time with the Seahawks.
Chris Clemons was a situational player who he turned into one of the better pass rushers in the league. KJ Wright and Richard Sherman were 4th and 5th round picks respectively in 2011. Brandon Browner was in the CFL. He got Marshawn Lynch for a 4th round pick. Kam Chancellor was a 5th round pick. Bobby Wagner was a 2nd round pick. Russell Wilson was a 3rd round pick. Russell Okung and Earl Thomas were 1st round picks, but they’ve also developed into top level players. He also did a fantastic job at the collegiate level at USC.
As I mentioned in the opening, with their home field advantage factored in, this might be the most talented team in the NFL, but they only get 8 home games and they could have a hard time winning more than 3 or 4 of their tough road games. They could once again run the table at home and still not win the division and have to go on the road throughout the post-season.
I have them going 4-2 in the division, splitting with San Francisco and dropping one in either St. Louis or Arizona, nationally televised games in places they lost last season. Outside of the division, they host Jacksonville, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and New Orleans and they shouldn’t have much problem winning all 5 of those games. They also go to Carolina, Indianapolis, Houston, Atlanta, and New York. That’s three 2012 playoff teams, a Giants team that won 9 games last season, and 2013 sleeper in Carolina, and 4 of those games are on the East Coast at 1 PM ET. They should lose about 3 of those games, to put them at 11-5 for the 2nd straight season.
Projection: 11-5 2nd in NFC West