Making championship forecasts in the NFL might seem fruitless at times. But if one were to look at the Seahawks right now and ask: Are they as equipped as ever to win a Super Bowl? The answer is yes.
It’s the league with the most injuries, the fewest regular-season games, and the most nail-gnawing playoff format in professional sports. It’s the league where the 10-6 Giants beat the 16-0 Patriots, and where tuck-rule interpretations save dynasties.
Making championship forecasts in the NFL — which has produced a different Super Bowl winner in each of the past eight seasons — might seem fruitless at times. But if one were to look at the Seahawks right now and ask: Are they as equipped as ever to win a Super Bowl? The answer is yes.
And it’s because of all the no’s.
For example …
This was the first training camp in three years in which everybody on the roster reported on Day 1. Last year, there was no Kam Chancellor, and the year before, no Marshawn Lynch. Obviously, Chancellor’s holdout was far more damaging, as the Seahawks dropped the first two games in his absence and struggled to sync up the secondary all year. But this season, if there is any lack of cohesion, it won’t be because a star player is playing catch-up.
“It is important, it is really important,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said when asked about the significance of everyone being there from the get-go. “I think there is a real strong message in our locker room. These guys want to be part of this thing; they don’t want to be the one that disrupts it.”
It has now been 23 years since the Super Bowl loser returned to the Big Game the next season, and that isn’t a coincidence. It’s not so much that teams extending their seasons into February don’t have ample time to recover (in that time frame, five winners have returned to the SB the next year) but the psychological ramifications can be damning.
Carroll admitted that coming off a Super Bowl, win or lose, is a “big factor” simply because of the whirlwind surrounding players and coaches in the aftermath. And there is little doubt that falling one yard short of a second consecutive title upgraded that whirlwind to a hurricane.
No gut-wrenching injuries
There certainly are question marks dangling above the Seahawks in the health department. Running back Thomas Rawls, who broke his ankle in early December, and tight end Jimmy Graham, who tore his patellar tendon in November, haven’t played at regular-season game speed in nine months. Rawls played in the final exhibition game vs. Oakland, both have been practicing throughout training camp, and both are expected to contribute this season.
But even if they can’t, backup running back Christine Michael has looked excellent throughout the preseason, and the passing game was fine with Graham out of the lineup last year.
The primary beneficiary of the good health is the defense, which appears to have Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright in top condition. And though Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett is again having toe issues, that didn’t halt his productivity last year.
No Marshawn Lynch
I know that looks blasphemous, but hear me out. From a player standpoint, Beast Mode probably was the most integral Seahawk in transforming this franchise into an incessant Super Bowl contender. However, Seattle was more efficient when he was out last year and often lost when he was in.
When quarterback Russell Wilson was the clear show-runner, the Seahawks had one of the NFL’s most potent offenses. And though he didn’t start when Lynch was healthy, Rawls led the league in yards per carry last season.
No. 24 deserves a place in the Hawks’ ring of honor and perhaps the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But in 2016, this team is better off without him.
No room for error
And I mean that from a long-term standpoint.
It’s doubtful that the Seahawks think about their “window” too much, but many of their stars — particularly on defense — are approaching 30 fast. This season probably isn’t “make or break” when it comes to how this core is remembered, but the Seahawks can’t afford to let many more seasons slip through their fingers if they want to place themselves in the category of the league’s great dynasties.
Carroll said last week that this year’s team is ahead of where it was at this point last year, but that isn’t quite enough. Outdoing themselves won’t suffice when it’s clear they have the ability to outdo the rest of the NFL.