Recent history has shown successful NFL teams have two things in common: a quarterback that refuses to turn the ball over and a defense that forces turnovers. The past Super Bowl champion quarterbacks have featured Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, all future Hall of Famers. The Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and New York Jets have been successful lately, even with a lack of quarterback star power, because of the tenacious, blue-collar defense that has become customary in the locker rooms.
The Seattle Seahawks proved last year its defense is solid, allowing 19.7 points per game and just over 320 yards per game, good for seventh and ninth best, respectively, in the NFL. The offense hampered the team, however, and the Hawks placed 28th in yards per game and 22nd in passing yards per game. Aside from Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 12 touchdowns by himself, the team’s offense was virtually non-existent. Tarvaris Jackson is not the future of the franchise and, as much as we hate to believe, Charlie Whitehurst turned out to be nothing more than a failed experiment.
The Seattle Seahawks will win the NFC West next season. The San Francisco 49ers are set to regress. With a confusing offseason including the signing of free agent running back Brandon Jacobs to pair with Frank Gore, the signing of Randy Moss and missing out on Peyton Manning, Jim Harbaugh’s squad will have a difficult task repeating to claim the division championship. The Arizona Cardinals still have Larry Fitzgerald and pairing him with their first round draft pick of Michael Floyd, another wide receiver, will make him even more dangerous. The St. Louis Rams had a disappointing season with Sam Bradford under the helm yet again, but with an easier schedule and a healthier team, a brighter future is on the horizon. Pete Carroll’s team stands out amongst the others in their division. Even with the questionable drafting of Bruce Irvin, the Seahawks have a better combination of quarterback and defense than anyone else in the division.
The signing of Matt Flynn gives the team its first solid option at quarterback since the early days of Matt Hasselbeck. Flynn started the final game of the season for the Green Bay Packers last season, notching 480 yards with six touchdown passes, both setting franchise records for the storied organization. Flynn was able to learn and watch Brett Favre’s apprentice, Aaron Rodgers, his first few years in the league, allowing him to translate the speed from the college game to the professional game. Matt Flynn will come in to Seattle to “compete” with Jackson, although the decision should be rather easily and Flynn will be handed the starting gig early out of camp.
Another factor that is getting more and more respect around the league the Seahawks made was drafting 5 foot 11 inch tall Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin in the third round of this year’s draft. Pete Carroll has already claimed the competition between Jackson and Flynn could easily become a three player race. Wilson’s stock fell dramatically due to his stature, coming in much smaller than the ideal starting quarterback. Drew Brees, however, is only six feet tall, proving height can be overcome in a league dominated by players standing much taller than the average person. Wilson has proven he has a cannon of an arm, the right mentality towards the game and a winning history at Wisconsin, and the Seahawks gamble will pay dividends for both their rookie quarterback and their team in general.
Seattle’s stadium is the most difficult to play in in the league, as CenturyLink Field’s fans are often known as the 12th man. The Seahawks were 4-4 at home last year, but three of the four losses were by six points of less, including two point losses to both the Atlanta Falcons and the division rival San Francisco 49ers. Seattle beat up on their winged counterparts, defeating the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles at home as well. With a schedule bringing the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets to the Pacific Northwest, the outlook does look a bit like Seattle’s weather–dreary, cold and disappointing. Road trips to Carolina, Buffalo and Miami lighten the mood, and solid displays from Flynn, Lynch and the defense will secure a division championship and a playoff berth in 2012.
Every season, teams predicted to end in the lower portion of the league make the jump to the upper echelon. Last year, Cincinnati and San Francisco were made relevant once again. The previous season, Kansas City and Tampa Bay stood out. Before that, Green Bay and New Orleans made the leap. The Seattle Seahawks will be 2012’s breakout team.