We used to be in there, now we’re out here
Last season, the Seahawks became the first team in league history to make the playoffs with a losing record, but for two loser-out weeks, they didn’t play like a losing team. They beat the Rams to get into the playoffs and then knocked off the Saints in one of the NFL’s all-time playoff upsets.
So, the big question in this lockout-stunted year: Are they better than that team?
Are they better than the 7-9 squad that ranked 28th on offense and 27th on defense and got blown out nine times last season? Will a new offensive system, a new quarterback, a new offensive line and a handful of free-agent additions make this team any better this year?
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have continued the roster makeover they started last year, when they tallied around 280 personnel transactions. With Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu (among others) gone, just 10 players remain on the roster from before Carroll and Schneider took over, and over half the players (27) were not on the team at this time last year.
The Seahawks have gotten a lot younger, especially on the offensive line, in the secondary and at quarterback.
The offense is a major work in progress and will not be anywhere near completion this season. Due to injuries to the starting left side of the line and the top three receivers, plus a hard learning curve for the rookies on the right side of the line, the unit is completely out of sync as the season is about to begin.
Really, it’s the same story as it has been for three years now – new scheme, bad line, injuries – plus the added issue of a new, mostly inexperienced quarterback.
The defense is in basically the same position it was in last year. Depth up front is still an issue, the secondary has only two veterans with any notable NFL experience and the linebacking corps is also very young.
So, to answer the question: No, this team is not any better than it was last year. It’s probably about the same. And with the schedule the Hawks have, that won’t even get them to seven wins. Not when they face seven playoff-caliber teams and play five 10 a.m. games.
No, they’re looking at about five wins.
Here’s a look at how the Hawks will go 5-11:
Week 1: At San Francisco
The 49ers are learning Jim Harbaugh’s way, but many of the key players are the same – QB Alex Smith, RB Frank Gore, LB Patrick Willis. The Hawks split with the Niners last season, losing 40-21 in San Francisco in December thanks to five turnovers. This is the fourth straight year the teams will play in the first two weeks, and it figures to be pretty ugly as both teams adjust to new offenses, with the home team having the edge as usual.
The pick: 49ers 17, Hawks 13
The record: 0-1
Week 2: At Pittsburgh
The Hawks were supposed to host the Steelers this year, but a rule introduced in 2010 limits teams playing the Western division teams to one West Coast trip. (Boy, sure wish they would make that kind of rule for West Coast teams traveling east.) The Steelers are playing at San Francisco, so the NFL swapped the Seattle and Arizona locations. The Seahawks got screwed by the NFL for this one, and they will get hammered by the reigning AFC champs, who are better than the Hawks at probably every position.
The pick: Steelers 31, Hawks 6
The record: 0-2
Week 3: vs. Arizona
If Kevin Kolb plays as well as I think he’s going to, the Hawks will rue not pursuing him more aggressively. The Hawks swept the QB-less Cards last season, but Kolb will change that dynamic, and Larry Fitzgerald should once again dominate the Hawks’ secondary. The questions are whether Beanie Wells will be able to run against the Hawks and then whether the Cardinals’ defense will be any better. After a tough start on the road, the Hawks should be able to win their home opener.
The pick: Hawks 24, Cardinals 17
The record: 1-2
Week 4: vs. Atlanta
The Falcons are loaded and ready to challenge for the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Harry Douglas and rookie Julio Jones will put the pressure on the Hawks’ young defense. If the Hawks can’t run the ball against a defense that ranked 10th against the run last season, the Falcons will run up the score like they did last year, when they used three takeaways to win 34-18 in Seattle.
The pick: Falcons 38, Hawks 17
The record: 1-3
Week 5: At N.Y. Giants
The Giants’ offense is almost as potent as the Falcons’, so the Hawks’ defense will face another big test. Last time they played the Giants in New York, in 2008, the Hawks were blown out 44-6. This won’t be as bad, largely because the Giants already have so many injuries, but the Hawks still will be overmatched in their second 10 a.m. start.
The pick: Giants 31, Hawks 20
The record: 1-4
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: At Cleveland
The Browns, under new coach Pat Shurmur, are a chic pick as a possible playoff team. While that seems more than a little ambitious for a club that ranked 29th in passing and 27th in run defense last season, the Browns figure to be favored at home against an equally bad Seattle team. You know Mike Holmgren will savor this victory against the team that spurned him in December 2009.
The pick: Browns 24, Hawks 17
The record: 1-5
Week 8: vs. Cincinnati
At 1-5, the Hawks will finally get a game where they will be favored – against a team starting a rookie QB (Andy Dalton) some wanted the Hawks to draft. The most interesting thing about this game might be the potential for face-to-face talks between Bengals owner Mike Brown and Schneider about a possible Carson Palmer trade.
The pick: Hawks 24, Bengals 13
The record: 2-5
Week 9: At Dallas
The Seahawks have not fared well in Dallas over the years. In 2009, they were walloped 38-17. In 2008, they got blasted 34-9. The result could be similar this time as the Hawks face yet another high-powered offense. The Cowboys underachieved greatly last season, but they are expected to bounce back this year. The last time the Hawks beat the Cowboys was in 2002, when Emmitt Smith set the career rushing record against Seattle and Matt Hasselbeck took over for an injured Trent Dilfer and never looked back as he became Seattle’s franchise QB. Nothing so interesting will happen this time.
The pick: Cowboys 31, Hawks 17
The record: 2-6
Week 10: vs. Baltimore
The Ravens are one of the AFC’s powers, and this one figures to be much different than the 2007 December game in which the Seahawks dominated QB Troy Smith and the Ravens 27-6. Joe Flacco is motivated to become a top-10 quarterback – he was on the cusp last season – and he seems poised to do it. So, once again, the Hawks will run into a talented offense, plus a stingy defense. Another recipe for disaster.
The pick: Ravens 27, Hawks 17
The record: 2-7
Week 11: At St. Louis
The Seahawks edged the Rams for the division last year, but Sam Bradford looks like the real deal and the Rams have a very good front four on defense. The Rams ended a 10-game losing streak to the Hawks last season with a 20-3 win in St. Louis. Give them the home win again.
The pick: Rams 24, Hawks 14
The record: 2-8
Week 12: vs. Washington
The Redskins are in lock step with the Seahawks as a rebuilding team under Mike Shanahan. They made over much of their roster in July, including adding former Seahawks Josh Wilson and Sean Locklear. But their QB situation (Rex Grossman and John Beck) is as shaky as the Hawks’, and their defense was the second-worst in the league last season. A lot can happen between now and the 12th week, but figure the Hawks beat their East Coast mirror in this West Coast game.
The pick: Hawks 24, Redskins 20
The record: 3-8
Week 13: vs. Philadelphia
Unless the Eagles fall on their faces, they figure to be explosive on offense with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. And unless the Hawks have gotten a running game going so they can keep the ball away from Vick, the Eagles should have an easy time in Seattle in this Thursday night game. The only chance the Hawks have comes from the fact that they are at home in a short week while the Eagles have to travel across the country.
The pick: Eagles 27, Hawks 17
The record: 3-9
Week 14: vs. St. Louis
The Hawks will have 11 days to get ready for their third straight home game, a Monday nighter. That will be the difference.
The pick: Hawks 20, Rams 17
The record: 4-9
Week 15: At Chicago
This is Seattle’s only cold-weather game, and it will be the Hawks’ third trip to Chicago in 14 months. The Seahawks won in Chicago last season but then failed to help Matt Hasselbeck out in the playoff game, which the Hawks also would have won if everyone on offense had played as well as Hasselbeck did. The Hawks can be competitive in this one, and it’s hard to know what these teams will look like at this point in the season, but it’s a December game in Chicago, so give it to the Bears.
The pick: Bears 20, Hawks 17
The record: 4-10
Week 16: vs. San Francisco
If the Seahawks haven’t given up by this time, Carroll should be able to keep them interested enough to beat the 49ers at home.
The pick: Hawks 24, 49ers 17
The record: 5-10
Week 17: At Arizona
At this point, the Cardinals probably will be jockeying for the division title with the Rams, so this game will mean a lot more to Arizona than it will to Seattle.
The pick: Cardinals 31, Hawks 13
The record: 5-11
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