After beating the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, and losing star undrafted rookie running back Thomas Rawls for the season, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves in the first Wild Card position if the playoffs were to start today. It’s an all important position for a team unlikely to win its division, as it means their first round matchup would be against the NFC East division winner, otherwise known as the worst playoff team in the league.
But having no healthy running back with Rawls out and starting running back, Marshawn Lynch nursing an abdominal injury, it's lucky the team faces two easy matchups in the next two weeks (the Cleveland Browns and the St. Louis Rams).
Let’s say the New York Giants win the NFC East (right now all four teams in that division are mathmatically alive, even the 4-9 Dallas Cowboys). The Giants will realistically go 2-2 the rest of the way, bringing their record to 7-9. The 'Hawks should finish 10-6 or 11-5 this season, which should be ahead of other Wild Card contender the Minnesota Vikings (against whom they also hold the tiebreaker).
Assuming Lynch returns, the 'Hawks should beat the Giants, which is a team that ranks 31 out of 32 teams in total defense. Their quarterback Eli Manning can get hot and they have good receivers, but Seattle’s offense has been coming on strong–take a bow, Doug Baldwin and your eight touchdowns in the last three games–despite the fact their top two runners are currently injured.
It’s a wonder the offense is doing so well with Jimmy Graham out, too. Quarterback Russell Wilson chose the right time to be on fire–Sunday was his third game with at least three touchdown passes (he had five TDs in the other two). And the defense is coming on, with the only worry being the team’s secondary. The 'Hawks have a few more weeks against sub-par opponents to get things right before taking on an Arizona Cardinals team that might have everything clinched by Week 17.
It’s too early to do anything but speculate, so let’s do just that! The 'Hawks would likely get past the NFC East winner, take on the undefeated Carolina Panthers who, despite their excellent record, seem to be winning with smoke and mirrors. The Panthers beat Seattle this year, but it was close and the 'Hawks are a different team now. If they could beat the Panthers, then it would be the third matchup of the season between Seattle and Arizona, and anything could happen.
There’s only one real question now: What's going to happen with the run game? Lynch is expected back for the playoffs, but is he the same guy that should have received the carry on the last play of last year's Super Bowl? Is there a backup the team can find and develop in a matter of weeks like they did Rawls? Our guess is the team will patch it together and offseason pickup Fred Jackson will carry the load over the next two or three weeks.
The Seahawks have gone through adjustments all year. They’ve gone through the tough part of their schedule, criticism from the city and multiple injuries and thus far they've come out the other side better than OK. This is the perfect time to start looking like the Super Bowl contenders they've been the past two years, despite Rawls' injury.