I already know what you’re thinking, how can an 8-1 team have critics? Honestly, it’s hard to wrap your head around the notion that the Seattle Seahawks have naysayers with one measly loss to their name, but they are out there. For whatever reason, more than a few pundits from around the league are not completely sold on head coach Pete Carroll and Co. Why? Because six of their nine games have been decided by seven points or less.
Sure, a few of the Seahawks wins, especially the last two weeks against the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, haven’t been pretty, but a win is a win no matter how you slice it. Unfortunately, not everyone believes in this theory. Fans and media members alike expect a talented team like Seattle to blow the opposition out on a weekly basis.
Based on the Seahawks rise to greatness at the end of the 2012 season and the preseason forecast placed up upon the organization, the expectations may not be fair, but they are warranted. Yet, it’s funny to see the results when one takes the time to examine two teams who both sport four-game winning streaks and similar styles of play.
For example, like the Seahawks, the Carolina Panthers are currently sporting four wins in a row. And even though the Panthers haven’t beaten a team with a winning record this year, analysts have been quick to peg them the hottest team in the NFL over the course of the last four weeks.
Yes, quarterback Cam Newton is doing a good job of protecting the football, and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s defense is playing at an absurd level, but are they really the hottest team in the league right now? Absolutely not—you can’t take anything away from what they have done with the hand they have been dealt, yet their last four wins came against the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Rams and Buccaneers.
Those four teams have a combined record of 7-27; that’s not exactly playoff contender material. Nonetheless, they are the feel good story being passed around the NFL at the moment, because head coach Ron Rivera is finally starting to churn out victories and live up to his four-year, $11.2 million contract.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, aren’t garnering the same respect as the Panthers despite the fact they have tallied victories over teams who have a better combined record than the Panthers’ opponents. Yet, that’s ok, because Coach Carroll loves when his team is being slighted and viewed as the underdog. It allows him to use the insults as motivation tactics.
By doing a basic Twitter search that contains the words “Seahawks” and “worried,” you began to realize that people only see what they want to see, and those with an agenda will try and downplay what the ‘Hawks have done through nine games.
It’s easy to understand why some have a problem and would want to attack the Seahawks. Coach Carroll isn’t for everyone, they are one of the three best teams in the league right now and a number of players come off as arrogant by the way they carry themselves on the field.
This, in turn, means the Seahawks will have to continue their winning ways if they want to silence the detractors. Luckily, their first crack at subduing the masses will come this Sunday at a venue that hasn’t been very friendly to Seattle in recent memory.
Regardless of the Falcons 2-6 record heading into Week 10, let’s not forget Atlanta crushed Seattle’s shot to play in the NFC Championship game less than a year ago.
Certainly, this Falcons team isn’t the same team they were a year ago, thanks in large part to injuries on the offensive side of the ball, yet that doesn’t mean they don’t have the necessary ability to hand the Seahawks their second loss of the season.
Similar to the Falcons, the Seahawks are banged up on the offensive side of the ball, they have to travel all the way across the country and their run defense has been downright atrocious the last two weeks. Nevertheless, there are always two ways to look at a story.
When you put a positive spin on the perspective, you could highlight the fact that the Seahawks sport the 13th-best offense in the NFL in spite of injuries, and they have only lost one game all season in the Eastern time zone. Yet, all the trivial statistics will go out the window when both teams take the field on Sunday at 1pm EST.
The NFL is a league based on parity, and on any given week, the worst team in football could beat the best team in football. Which is exactly why preseason predictions mean nothing. Different sets of variables come into play and change games week in and week out.
Still, it’s fun to predict the outcomes and analyze how one particular team can beat the opposition.
With that being said, let’s take a look at what the Seahawks need to do if they want to leave the Georgia Dome with a “W” in the win column.
First things first (I alluded to it earlier), Seattle needs to find a way to stop Atlanta’s rushing attack dead in its tracks. The Seahawks can’t just assume they will walk into the building and shut Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson down. Even though Jackson hasn’t put up the numbers he is accustomed to putting up, he’s a player who has the skill set to will his team to victory at moment’s notice.
A lot of the Seahawks' inefficiencies against the run have less to do with their talent level and more to do with their lack of scheme discipline. They went through a similar lull last season, so this may be the game this team needs to get back on track after a couple of troubling weeks.
The second thing Seattle needs to do is muzzle All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez. Wide receiver Roddy White will be back in the lineup, which will make it hard for the Seahawks to watch Gonzalez as closely as they would like to, yet the 17-year veteran will need to be kept in check if they want to limit the Falcons’ scoring drives.
There’s no 100 percent fool proof way to eliminate Gonzalez, but one has to think defensive coordinator Dan Quinn turned on the Week 7 tape from the Buccaneers game. Tampa Bay limited the future Hall of Famer to 30 yards on two catches by covering him with rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks.
|Tony Gonzalez's Numbers From the Last Three Weeks|
|Opponent||Thrown At||Receptions||Yards||Yards After Catch||Touchdown|
|Pro Football Focus|
Expect the Seahawks to cover Gonzalez with cornerback Walter Thurmond and safety Kam Chancellor.
The Final point of emphasis will be the Seahawks ability to run the football. Last week at home versus the Buccaneers, the only reason they were able to get back in the game offensively was because of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s relentless approach to force feeding tailback Marshawn Lynch.
With a makeshift offensive line in place, the last thing Seattle needs is quarterback Russell Wilson dropping back to throw 30-plus times. Instead of waiting until the second half, Bevell needs to script plays for Lynch right from the get go. His involvement early on in the contest will open up the most explosive element of the Seahawks game plan, the play-action pass.
All of these things may sound simple enough on paper, yet that won’t be the case when the game is underway. Winning on the road is no easy task. Don’t let the Falcons record fool you; they are a better team than the numbers portray. Quarterback Matt Ryan is still a first-class signal-caller, and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s defense does an incredible job of effectively stopping the run.
By no means will it be a walk in the park, yet that’s nothing new for Seattle. The ‘Hawks know what they need to do, but it will all come down to execution. A lack of execution would not only hurt the Seahawks Week 10 chances as whole, but it would hurt their hopes of running away with the NFC West crown for the first time since 2010.