10 Reasons the Seattle Seahawks Will Win the NFC West in 2012
Following the team's 2-6 start to the season, this would have seemed improbable, yet slowly but surely progress has been made by a team that few saw winning anything more than the chance to draft Andrew Luck.
Regardless of how things turn out this season, optimism should be high next year as the Seahawks head into year three under head coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider.
Can they be the best in the NFC West?
But it won't be easy. Unlike this year the 'Hawks will need to start off much stronger from the very beginning while fighting a few division rivals that could very well contend in their own right.
If the stars align on the following, the Seahawks can win the West in 2012.
Sounds great, but how exactly will this happen?
First we will review the competition.
Then we will dig into the details on what the Hawks will need to do to seal the deal...
The Rams Will Improve, but Not Enough
Working from the bottom up...the competition will be tough, but not impossible to beat.
The St. Louis Rams...the team that some picked to win the division in 2011 season, will continue to improve in 2012.
With Sam Bradford at quarterback, the Rams will continue to build around him, and in time, he should get the hang of Josh McDaniels' offense. Meanwhile, the defense led by defensive end Chris Long will also continue to mature as well.
Yet beyond them and veteran running back Steven Jackson, the Rams simply don't have enough to contend.
As Danny O'Neil at the Seattle Times wrote a few weeks back while discussing the Rams current situation, "There is so much more to building a consistent contender than just the quarterback."
For the Rams to contend next season, they will need to fill a lot of holes on their roster this offseason.
It's a tall task...
The Cardinals Are a Wildcard
Kevin Kolb was brought in at quarterback this past offseason to help run this offense and lead the Cards out of the desert and back to the playoffs.
So far, though, the results have been mixed at best as Kolb has looked good at times, mediocre at others and injured during parts in between.
Right now this team is the wild card of the division, in my opinion, in 2012. A team capable of winning or losing 10 games next year.
Currently the Arizona Cardinals" target="_blank">Cardinals' record for the moment is identical to the Seahawks at 6-7, and they too are putting together an impressive second-half charge with a 5-1 record across their last six games.
If Kolb can come back strong next year and stay healthy, it could be one more team to give the 'Hawks a challenge.
Otherwise it becomes a two-team race...
The 49ers Will Regress
Next year, though, the Niners probably won't be able bolt out of the gate or sneak up on anyone so easily.
As we've seen in recent weeks, this team is beatable. Just this past Sunday, the Cardinals rallied back from a 19-7 deficit early in the third quarter to beat the 49ers with backup John Skelton at quarterback in the place of an injured Kevin Kolb.
While I certainly don't expect the Niners to drop to the bottom of the division, I can't see them dominating quite so easily with what will likely be a tougher schedule given to them as division champions.
Expect the 'Hawks to battle with the Niners next year for the division lead from beginning to end, but here's what will need to happen for boys in blue to come out on top...
Boys to Men
Next year for the Seahawks to capture the NFC West, this crew will need to not only stay healthy, but step up as well.
After a rough start early this season, we finally got a glimpse of what this unit could do before injuries took out rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt. The loss of LT Russell Okung to the Eagles a few weeks later only reminded us how fragile this unit can be.
Starting this offseason, the line needs to grow up, and hopefully with a normal training schedule, we will avoid any major issues.
If so, this group can lay the foundation needed for the offense to get to work.
Beast Mode Nets 2,000 All-Purpose Yards
Assuming the O-line comes through, can you imagine what Marshawn Lynch can do over a full schedule?
In short, "Beast Mode" will become a household word, not just for 'Hawks fans, but for fantasy and even casual fans.
Yes the 'Hawks still need to re-sign Lynch this offseason, yet it's becoming crystal clear how much of a force he can be when given the football. (Hopefully nobody else with deep pockets has noticed.)
If Lynch can reach nearly a 1,000 yards behind a depleted line within only a half season firing on all cylinders, is it too much to ask him to raise that total by 50 percent?
Throw him the ball every so often, and he could reach 2,000 all purpose yards before all is said and done.
Sidney Rice: Pro Bowl Wide Reciever
When he's on the field, good things tend to happen, but for the remainder of this year we probably won't see Rice again.
Depending on your point of view, either the glass is half full or half empty with Sidney Rice.
For some reason, I'm leaning towards half full as I think Rice, like a lot of players, will be in better condition next season.
If so, he becomes a very dangerous No. 1 wideout in an offense that needs to go vertical in order to keep defenses honest in combating Marshawn Lynch.
Beyond Rice, there are other options available, but plenty of question marks are attached to each.
Yet, unlike last season, the quality and quantity of pass catchers should be considered an asset going into next season.
With one particular player poised to have a breakout year...
Our Very Own Wes Welker
With each passing week, it would seem that Doug Baldwin is establishing himself as a cult hero in Seattle.
Jerry Brewer at the Seattle Times made Baldwin his Player of the Game after Monday night's win based on the following:
"He had seven catches for 93 yards, blocked a punt that resulted in a touchdown, gained 37 yards on a reverse during the opening kickoff and downed a ball at the 6-yard line while serving as the gunner. It was a complete performance for the undrafted rookie from Stanford."
Not bad indeed for one night's work.
If teams are forced to devote coverage to a healthy Sidney Rice, and either a revitalized Mike Williams or up-and-coming Golden Tate creates trouble on the opposite side, Baldwin can become "that guy" who opposing coaches and fans wonder/curse each and every week next season while working underneath.
The Final Line of Defense Takes No Prisoners
At the beginning of this season, it seemed this crew would have to learn the hard way, but as time has passed, it seems we got it backwards.
Sure, this unit has made its fair share of mistakes (Richard Sherman's taunting penalty Monday night being the latest incident) and suffered some injuries, yet in a strange way the trial by fire this unit has experienced has only made them stronger.
As Danny O'Neil at the Seattle Times wrote a few weeks back, "They are more physical, they are aggressive to the ball, and a team whose cornerbacks for years seemed content to keep opposing wide receivers in front of them is now getting up and challenging opponents."
Sherman, Chancellor and Browner currently lack polish, but next year with a little bit of discipline and a few more reps, this unit could truly morph into something scary, especially with one particular player quietly leading the way...
Earl Thomas Goes to the Pro Bowl
For Earl Thomas, actions speak louder than words as the unofficial leader of the 'Hawks secondary.
In only his second season, comparisons are already being made to reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Safety Troy Polamalu, but Thomas would have none of it...
"I don't like to compare myself with anybody," Thomas said. "I'm always fighting, in my mind. I want to be the best one day."
Next year can't come soon enough...
New Jack City
Face it, you knew we would end up here...a leap of faith, perhaps?
Understand, I still think the 'Hawks need to draft a quarterback.
But is it really that hard to believe Tarvaris Jackson can lead the Seahawks to 10 wins next season?
Having basically walked in off the street following the lockout, playing behind an inexperienced, then depleted offensive line, while nursing a strained pectoral muscle half the season, T-Jack has still managed to keep this team in the hunt for a wild-card spot entering the final three weeks of the season.
Love him or loathe him, the guy keeps fighting week after week.
Imagine for a minute next season that all of the aforementioned pieces come together, especially on offense. How is it possible for this team to regress with a quarterback with one full year under his belt in the organization and all of his weapons intact?
Winning the division won't be easy, and while I'm not predicting the team will win more than 10 games, I do believe that might just be enough to get the job done in 2012.
If the team adds a few key pieces along the defensive line and linebacker positions, things might be even easier. For today, though, I'm working with the assumption that the 'Hawks keep the majority of their roster intact and make sure to re-sign Marshawn Lynch...and hopefully Red Bryant too.
Assuming no major changes come into play with any of the other NFC West rivals, I strongly believe this team has what it takes based on this season's growth to win the West.