Can the Seahawks make a deep run in the playoffs? It seems improbable, but it’s possible if these four things take place.
Finding hope for the Seahawks feels a bit more challenging with each passing week. The idea that these guys can win four straight playoff games when they’ve failed to win four straight regular-season games seems as far-fetched as an imminent Seattle heat wave.
Fans waiting for a late-season breakthrough have been given little reason for optimism. In fact, as far as effort goes, Sunday’s near loss to the 49ers may have been worse than their actual loss to the Cardinals eight days earlier.
And yet … the Seahawks are still a 10-win division champion that gets to host its wild-card game against the Lions on Saturday. Technically speaking, they are in better standing than half of the playoff field.
So can they make a deep run? Well, that seems improbable. But it’s possible if the following takes place.
Russell Wilson plays like a Hall of Famer.
If Wilson is to be considered an elite quarterback, a title he was flirting with toward the end of last season, then he has to deliver in the postseason sans Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. You can make excuses for him if you want — that his offensive line is weak or that he lacks a true No. 1 receiver — but there have been moments in which that stuff didn’t matter.
The two-game stretch vs. Buffalo and New England? He was magnificent — posting a 137.0 passer rating against the Bills and a 124.6 rating the next week, when Seattle gave the Patriots their only loss with Tom Brady at quarterback.
Having said that, there has been far too much inconsistency and, quite frankly, two disasters (Tampa Bay and Green Bay) in which Wilson half looked like a replacement player.
For Seattle to get back to the Super Bowl, Wilson not only has to be at his best, he has to be the best in the tournament.
The Seahawks can find a semblance of a running game.
Let’s get this out of the way: Seattle’s offensive line isn’t very good. If the eye test isn’t proof enough, the guys upfront regularly rank near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ weekly evaluations. But whereas running back Thomas Rawls was once seen as a fix to the rushing woes, he has been a liability of late.
In his past three games, Rawls has gained 56 yards on 35 carries, which is 1.6 yards per run. He is averaging 3.2 yards per carry on the season, which is almost a yard less per carry than Christine Michael gained this season with the Hawks.
Wilson can still be really good if the Seahawks can’t move the ball on the ground, but he can’t be great. And at this point, great is all that will suffice.
Seattle’s D learns to adjust to the loss of Earl Thomas
That hasn’t seemed to happen yet. The Seahawks led the league in fewest points allowed before Thomas went down with a broken leg, but in the star safety’s absence, they gave up 38 points to the Packers, 34 to the Cardinals and 23 to the lowly Niners. This obviously doesn’t fall on one guy, but it’s clear this defense hasn’t been the same without him.
Seattle’s defense was built around the secondary, which makes losing a player of Thomas’ caliber particularly debilitating. When Thomas tweeted his “guarantee” Monday that the Seahawks would have gotten a first-round bye if he were healthy, he said what just about every one of the team’s fans were thinking. You can’t replace Hall of Fame worthy players, but the great teams figure out a way to remain productive (see: The Patriots without Rob Gronkowski). The Seahawks need to figure that out quick.
The football gods are on their side.
This may actually be the most important one of all.
Remember the 2012 Ravens? They lost four of the final five games of the season before winning four straight in the playoffs — including a Peyton Manning-led Broncos team riding an 11-game winning streak.
How about the 2009 Arizona Cardinals? They lost four of their final six regular-season games before reaching the Super Bowl.
The 2011 Giants lost four in a row from mid-November to early December, then won four in a row from early January to early February. The 2010 Packers had a worse record than this year’s Seahawks before knocking off the Steelers for their fourth Super Bowl title.
There is an element of randomness to this game — and there is still an aura about the Seahawks. It’s not a coincidence that they were able to stun New England on national television this year.
Would winning a Super Bowl be a far bigger shock? After 16 weeks of inconsistency, it’s safe to say that it would be.
But if the above four things go Seattle’s way, four playoff games can go its way, too.