The consensus among most NFL pundits and fans is that the Seahawks are playoff — and possibly Super Bowl — contenders. The first step on that journey is winning the NFC West. Here are a few reasons why the Seattle Seahawks will return to the top of the NFC West standings in 2013.
Defense, defense, defense
For as much notoriety as the San Francisco 49ers defense gets, Seattle's defense is actually higher ranked. Not only did the Seahawks' defense lead the NFC West in fewest yards and points allowed, it also led the entire NFL in both categories. According to NFL.com, the 2012 Seahawks allowed an average of 310 yards per game. The mighty 49ers did not even crack the top 5 in defensive rankings with their 398.7 average yards per game. Seattle's average of 15.3 points allowed edged out #2 San Francisco's average of 17.1 points per game.
By leading the league in the top two defensive categories, Seattle's defense is indisputably for real. Looking ahead at 2013, stability is on their side. The Seahawks opted to not invest any top draft picks on the defensive side of the ball but does return 10 starters from last season.
By many accounts, Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider had a very productive offseason. Clearly, this organization was not content to rest on their Wild Card laurels. The rival 49ers were also very active this offseason, acquiring key veterans to augment their top-ranked offense and top 10-ranked defense. Seattle needed to keep pace.
Seattle's big offseason acquisition, Percy Harvin, is expected to lift the passing game to the level of the Seahawks' already formidable running game. Harvin may be just the missing piece Seattle needs. Carroll and Schneider also spent their highest draft pick on second round running back Christine Michael from Texas A&M.
A surprise to some, the Michael selection makes sense — running back is a young man's game. With his Earl Campbell-esque running style, seven-year veteran Marshawn Lynch may only have one or two highly productive seasons left in him. The presence of Christine Michael and second year running back Robert Turbin are not only insurance for the future — both will likely see significant opportunities in 2013.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Seahawks waited until the third round of the NFL draft to pick up a defensive tackle, Jordan Hill of Penn State. Hill figures to be a key rotational player on the line. Seattle made a few other important acquisitions on the defensive line in acquiring former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Michael Bennett and former Detroit Lion Cliff Avril. Both veteran defensive ends are poised to add quality snaps to Seattle's line, in addition to last year's sack leader, defensive end Chris Clemons, second year speed rusher Bruce Irvin, and defensive tackles Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane. Starters for their respective teams last year, Avril and Bennett join the top-ranked Seahawks defense as backups.
Stability at quarterback
Russell Wilson's surprise rookie season bodes well for the future. Given the re-tooled passing personnel and league leading rushing attack, the second year starter's continued development is the single biggest key to Seahawks success in 2013. In Wilson, the Seahawks have every reason to believe they have their current and future quarterback on the roster — the number one priority of any NFL franchise.
The backup slot is another matter. Until the June return of former Seattle starter Tarvaris Jackson, the No. 2 role was in the hands of newly imported Brady Quinn. Quinn's 4 – 16 record as a starter and scant 12 career touchdowns raised questions about Seattle's ability to withstand an injury to the undersized Wilson.
The return of Tarvaris Jackson provides an experienced, capable veteran to step in for a short period of time should Wilson go down. By bringing in the former Seahawks offensive captain to vie for the backup job, Seattle has taken a potential major deficit and turned it into an asset. Jackson's 7 – 7 record as a 2011 starter doesn't guarantee him the job, but at the very least it elevates the competition for this crucial role.
For Seahawks fans, these are three solid reasons for optimism. Of course, these favorable factors guarantee nothing. "That's why they play the games," as they say.