The Seattle Seahawks have made their way by running Marshawn Lynch, getting timely play from Russell Wilson and playing generally suffocating defense. Now, the Hawks will struggle to hold down opposing aerial attacks after losing their starting cornerbacks to four-game suspensions:
Filed to ESPN: Seattle CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner facing 4-game suspensions for violating performance enhancing drug policy.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 25, 2012
This isn't a small problem. This is more like a you're-a-pretty-girl-who-is-babysitting-on-Halloween type of conundrum.
Seattle has gotten off to a 6-5 start, which puts them on top of a heap of 6-5 teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings) in the wild-card race. Thus, there isn't any room for error, especially with the New Orleans Saints and others sitting a game behind.
Let's turn to the schedule and see how this particular issue will affect the team.
December 2 at the Chicago Bears
For starters, this game is on the road. Thus, Seattle's home dominance will not save them from the Bears.
The offense is going to struggle mightily to score on Chicago, both because of the possibility of acclimate weather and the caliber of defense opposite the unit. Unfortunately, the Seahawks are going to need to score quite a few points to have a chance in this one.
Brandon Marshall is a big boy. Browner (6'4") and Sherman's (6'3") size has been an important factor in Seattle's ability to slow down opposing offenses. Without them, this defense won't be able to keep the Bears under wraps, and keep Chicago from putting up a large number.
December 9 Against the Arizona Cardinals
Unless Ryan Lindley is going to grow up in the next two weeks, this game won't be nearly as difficult for Seattle. In his first start, Lindley recorded four interceptions and zero touchdowns.
Luckily, the Cardinals have been a hot mess for two solid months. A trip to Seattle isn't likely to ease those woes. It won't be pretty, but you have to give the home team the edge in this game.
December 16 at the Buffalo Bills
No game will be more important to the season than this Bills game. Sandwiched between two divisional foes is a tougher-out-than-you-think Bills team that is getting sick of losing.
How do you like Seattle's playoff chances without Sherman and Browner?
That could turn in on itself and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or it could become the fire that brings this team together.
This game is entirely too tough to call due to Seattle's terrible 1-5 road record. The Bills don't have the big-time receiver (sorry, Stevie Johnson) to make the Seahawks pay. Therefore, if the offense can raise its game to mediocre, that will give the Seahawks a chance at the postseason.
December 23 Against the San Francisco 49ers
I didn't say it was going to be a good chance. Heck, I didn't even say it'd be a passable chance. But Seattle will get to take the field against the mighty Niners.
To beat San Francisco, the Seahawks need to be at full strength and playing at home. It's extremely difficult to see how they can hang without Sherman and Browner.
Therefore, the importance of the appeal cannot be overstated:
Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are appealing suspensions, insisting they are innocent. Appeal could be heard as early as this week.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 25, 2012
Considering Roger Goodell's resume, it's highly unlikely that the cornerbacks find their way back onto the field in time for the Niners game.
Thus, the answer is no, the Seahawks cannot survive such a devastating blow. Not with so many competing teams in the NFC.