The rest of the NFL has been put on notice.
With Sunday’s 38-7 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings, the Seattle Seahawks are sending a clear message to the rest of the league: It’s on.
Winning ball games and scoring points in bunches is becoming a new norm for these birds of prey, as they are beginning to put distance between themselves and the rest of the wild-card field. At 7-5, Seattle now embarks on one of the NFL’s easiest remaining schedules: @ Baltimore (win) Cleveland (bigger win) St. Louis (win) and @ Arizona (Pick em, at this point.) 11-5 isn’t out of the question, but 10-6 looks like the most likely outcome, firmly locking up a wild-card spot, possibly hurdling towards the fifth seed due to the newly acquired head-to-head tiebreaker with the Vikings. This would be a welcomed development, as the fifth seeded gets the honor of squaring off against whoever wants to emerge out of the NFC East.
They’re doing it in a way we aren’t accustomed to seeing. Traditionally a defense-first team over the past decade, the Seahawks are getting it done with a somehow prolific offense, averaging over 30 PPG in the last 5 contests. It all starts with Russell Wilson, who is playing at a level we haven’t seen from him so far in his career. This past Sunday was his third straight game of 3+ touchdowns, the only other Seattle quarterback to do that was Dave Krieg in 1983. With efficiency and smart decision-making, Wilson is putting his receivers and offensive line in good, manageable situations, which is in turn resulting in points.
What’s different? Possibly the absence of two stars, as hard as that is to believe.
It comes as a surprise that this fantastic run by Seattle has come even though star running back Marshawn Lynch and Tight End Jimmy Graham have both been sidelined with injuries, Lynch recovering from a hernia surgery and Graham out for the year with a patella injury. Their back ups have more than stepped up: Free agent signee Thomas Rawls has clearly outplayed Lynch, proving to be a steady force on the ground to compliment Wilson’s air attack. Second Tight End Luke Wilson fits more into offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s system as a block-first tight end, who goes out into the seam and can make big catches. Seattle isn’t trying to force the ball to him, and it’s working. Defenses for the first time this season line up against Seattle and don’t know where the ball is going to go.
Speaking of defense, Seattle’s unit is back from the dead after it was considered gone for good. After limiting Minnesota (NFL’s best rushing attack) to 31 yards, and Hall of Fame Running Back Adrian Peterson to a measly 18, you could say a corner has been turned. They have their edge back, causing turnovers, flying around, shades of what we have grown accustomed to seeing over the last few years. It’s a scary sight.
It would be a stretch to say that Seattle can catch Arizona, but stranger things have happened. After a rough start, it is nice to see some continuity being built, and a wild card berth looking more and more like it will be clinched after a few weeks of uncertainty. This team has a championship mentality, and knows what it takes to make a run once their ticket has been punched.
Top seed, last seed, make no mistake: The path to the Super Bowl runs through Seattle, until proven otherwise. Be wary, fans in Carolina, Green Bay, and Arizona.
The giant has been awoken.