I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Sando. Sure, he wears the ESPN logo these days, and that company tends to be rather clueless on Seattle sports, but Sando is different. He covered the Seahawks for the TNT for years. He gets Seattle, gets the Seahawks, and is one of the few national guys who actually give the Seahawks a fair shake. So when he put together predictions for the NFC West, I was sure to take a look.
I’d love to just post then entire thing, paragraph by paragraph, and comment as I went, but I think that would violate plenty of plagiarism laws. Instead, here’s the link to his article, and keep the quoting to a minimum. I highly recmomend clicking that link and giving his article a read.
Dream scenario (12-4): Matt Flynn’s fourth-quarter comeback victory over Green Bay in Week 3 serves notice in prime time that Seattle made the right move in signing the Packers’ former backup. Sure, Russell Wilson lit up opponents during the preseason, but everyone figured coach Pete Carroll would go with Flynn heading into the season.
He also goes on to talk about Marshawn Lynch and the defense both dominating team’s physically, and how Bruce Irvin becomes a major force rushing the passer. The topper is the prediction for a trip to Green Bay for the NFC Championship.
I had a difficult time disagreeing with anything Sando said in this part. 12-4 seems about right, even if everything breaks Seattle’s way. This team is going to be much better than it was last season, but this isn’t a team with a large margin for error that could win more than that. It’s getting there, but the offense isn’t there yet.
Nightmare scenario (6-10): Flynn isn’t the answer, Wilson isn’t ready and Carroll pays a high price for failing to seriously address the quarterback position until his third season with the team. It’s hard for some to believe the Seahawks would miss Tarvaris Jackson, but that is the case as Flynn predictably struggles in his first full season as an NFL starter.
He also throws in Lynch pulling a Shaun Alexander and tanking it after getting paid, and suggests that Pete Carroll’s job might be at stake if this happens.
This is where I disagree greatly with Sando. If Flynn isn’t the answer, then Jackson will still be one the team. The only way Jackson gets cut is if Flynn and Wilson both show they are better right now, otherwise Jackson sticks around as a safety net.
Even in a nightmare scenario, Lynch’s drop in production should be outweighed by improvements to the O-line, receivers and TEs. Its hard to imagine the Seahawks offense being worse than last season. I think the worst-case scenario is that it is about the same, and doesn’t improve the way it should.
Plus, this defense is scary. Even if Irvin doesn’t make a seamless transition and requires more time to adjust to the NFL, the Seahawks will still be better on defense since they have better linebackers, more experience in the secondary, and an interior pass rush.
You also have to factor in that the Seahawks, especially on offense, were among the most-injured teams in 2011. There’s simply no way that injuries can play a factor in making the Seahawks worse than they were last year.
This is also where it begins to show that Sando is no longer in the Pacific Northwest. Even if the Seahawks go 6-10 in 2012, there’s no way Pete Carroll’s job is in jeopardy. Carroll has the complete backing of Paul Allen to overhaul the roster according to the original plan that was laid out when he was hired, and that includes 2 more seasons before the roster re-shaping should be complete. Until that time, there’s just no use even considering Carroll’s job status.