Seattle Seahawks fever runs rampant in our latte-sipping, rain-bicycling, socks-with-sandals-wearing Pacific Northwest communities. You may be able to get a flu shot to ward off seasonal illnesses, but there is little you can do to inoculate yourself from this most enthusiastic and virulent strain currently infecting the Pacific Northwest.
Case in point: Yesterday, I spoke with a good friend of mine who historically eschews all manner of team sports. His own athletic endeavors are more akin to the Hemingway-ian stripe, believing professional team sports to be slightly more trivial than band camp candy drives. He relayed his just-completed fatherly duty of acquiring a Russell Wilson jersey for his daughter and expressing concern about his son who had to settle for a Richard Sherman jersey because they did not have a Marshawn Lynch jersey in his size.
And now, somebody needs to stencil a #12 on my sister-in-law’s yoga mat. Despite scarcely knowing what a Seahawk was a mere eight weeks ago (apart from those people that make a lot of noise and cause a lot of traffic about 10 – 12 times a year), she is now freely stealing my niece’s Seahawks T-shirt for her own adornment. Fortunately, my niece was one of the lucky kids at Kimball Elementary granted a free Seahawks jersey — for the good of the community spirit — so my niece can spare her extra Seahawks garb.
Seahawks fever is real and it is happening.
This community is all-in on the success of the Seahawks. I fear for what will happen to the hearts and souls of millions of twelfth men — new and longstanding — should the Seahawks come up short in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Fear not, bird-brains. Here are three reasons why the Seattle Seahawks will win their first NFL Championship this Sunday.
The Seahawks’ pass defense
The juiciest match-up for Super Bowl XLVIII is without question the NFL’s No. 1 offense (Broncos) squaring off against the No. 1 defense (Seahawks). It is the ultimate showdown of an irresistible force against the NFL’s most immovable object.
The Seahawks boast the No. 1 overall defense in terms of yards allowed and scoring allowed. They also field the seventh-ranked rushing defense and most importantly, the No. 1 passing defense. It’s true, there is no bigger test for the Seahawks’ pass defenders than the record-setting Denver Broncos. The nature of the way Seattle likes to play pass defense is the key.
Peyton Manning may have set NFL records for yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) but he did not do it against the Seahawks. When faced with otherwise evenly matched teams, the Seahawks fare best against pocket passers — of which Manning may be the best the NFL has ever seen.
The key is this: while Seattle does face issues containing mobile quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick (11 rushes for 130 yards in the NFC Championship January 19), the Seahawks are brutal against QBs that are far less of a threat to run. Only three quarterbacks threw as many as two touchdowns against the Seahawks in the regular season. The Seahawks won two of those games. Only one quarterback had a 300-yard game against the Seahawks (Matt Schaub). The Seahawks won that game.
With the security of knowing the Seahawks’ front seven can control stationary quarterbacks and an average-to-good rushing game (a la the Broncos), the Seahawks’ defensive backs can focus on man-to-man coverage assignments. As good as the Broncos’ top four receivers are (Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas) the Seahawks’ defensive backs are across-the-board equal or superior to them in terms of athletic ability, skill sets and aggressiveness.
Three of the four starting defensive backs suiting up for the Seahawks on Sunday have multiple Pro Bowl and some All-Pro honors. Safety Earl Thomas may very well be voted the Defensive Player of the Year. The Broncos never faced this deep of a secondary in 2013. Until now. Expect the Seattle defense to play mostly man-to-man coverage and to excel at limiting big plays in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos live off of scoring touchdowns through the air. Every field goal attempted by Matt Prater is a victory for Seattle. If the Seahawks win this match-up, as expected, the Broncos will be hard-pressed to score enough points to win.
Adjusting for the correct PH
Despite the many laments that Percy Harvin was unavailable for the vast majority of the 2013 regular and post season, it turns out the Seahawks didn’t need him after all. They’re in the Super Bowl.
Now that Harvin is ready for Sunday’s game, the questions of how he will be used and how effective he can be loom large. Harvin’s single regular season game against the Minnesota Vikings on November 17 ended in just one catch for 17 yards. Harvin’s lone playoff appearance against the New Orleans Saints saw Harvin ushered out early once again with a concussion.
The dynamic, play-making Percy Harvin of legend has yet to be seen wearing Seattle blue. While Seattle managed their offensive output well enough to get them this far, Harvin’s return to action augments the one major deficiency the Seahawks have: passing offense (26th-ranked overall).
Expect the Seahawks to continue to rely heavily on Marshawn Lynch to control the game — until they can’t. The Harvin factor may very well be the boost the Seahawks will need to outpace the Broncos. Remember, the Broncos are only allowing 64.5 yards per game against opposing rushers in the playoffs. If the Broncos are able to come close to matching that level of success against the Seahawks’ running game, Harvin will need to earn his megabucks contract all in one game.
Who is more fresh, determined to prove his worth and a bigger unknown X-factor to game plan against than Harvin? Expect Harvin to see the ball early and often split wide, in the slot, around the edges and even from the backfield, especially on third-and-medium / medium-plus. Seattle’s middling (17th-ranked, 37.3%) third down conversion percentage will see a major step forward, with Harvin on the field.
Follow the bouncing ball
Turnovers determine many an NFL game. Seattle led the NFL in turnovers collected with 39 (including a league-best 28 interceptions) giving them a turnover differential of plus-20. The Broncos suffered through a different trend, with Manning responsible for 10 fumbles — the most he has ever sustained in a season. In total, the Broncos gave as much as they took, equaling 26 takeaways and giveaways throughout the season.
The Seahawks hold onto and steal the ball at a much more effective rate than the Broncos. Two factors combined that point to a Seahawks victory.
There you have it, Seahawks fans. You can put away your torches and pitchforks over last week’s column. There are three good reasons why the Seattle Seahawks will make you loud and proud on Sunday.