The season is just a couple of hours away. Seahawks fans from coast to coast are getting geared up for what looks to be quite the year. Here at 12thmanrising it means there is time to squeeze in one more season preview before this team kicks off the 2013 season. We figured we’d invite friends of the blog, editor Paul Novak and writer Mike McDonell of Emerald City Swagger down to talk a little football in what we are hoping could become a regular feature. Emerald City Swagger is a blog covering all things Seattle sports that you should definitely visit, unless that would make you visit 12thmanrising less. If that’s the case stay far away. Mitch and I sat down with Paul and Mike (figuratively speaking) and to answer a couple of questions about the upcoming season:
1. How far do the Seahawks have to go for this season to be considered a success for the team? Is anything less than a Super Bowl a disappointment?
Nick Ashbourne: I don’t really think the concept of “Super Bowl or bust” makes much sense. Maybe if you had a Hall of Fame quarterback who was on the brink of retirement a closing window would necessitate that kind of attitude, but that’s not where the Seahawks are right now. Although there could be some salary cap issues on the horizon, this team is set up for sustained success and I’m not sure this season is of particular significance compared to next season. More players on this team are on the upswing than in decline so I don’t see how you could say 2013 is a Super Bowl or bust year. That being said, the Seahawks have a definite opportunity to win a championship this year and one shouldn’t be dismissive of that. This is a very good team and I’d like to see them at least go farther than last year. I would consider an appearance in the NFC championship game a success. I’m sure if they actually got to that point I’d be wanting more, of course.
Paul Novak: Ultimately, I do think that if the Seahawks don’t reach the Super Bowl this season it will be a disappointment. That’s not the same thing as saying that the season wasn’t successful if they don’t. The Seahawks have to reach the playoffs and I’d imagine win at least one game for me to consider 2013 a “success.”
Mitch Quesada: In order for the Seahawks to have a non-disappointing year, they need to make it to the NFC Championship game in January. Anything short of that is disappointing for a team that has the potential that the Seahawks do. The Hawks flew under the radar last year, but now with so much spotlight on the team, they will be expected to play at a level higher than any other in the NFL. Losing in the NFC Championship game would certainly be disappointing but it would show the world that Seattle has a team that is here to stay and is a force to be reckoned with in future seasons. If the team does make it to the Super Bowl, it will be for just the second time in the franchise’s history, so even if they lost, how could that season be considered a disappointment?
Mike McDonnell: For the Seahawks to have a successful season they need to go to the playoffs and either make it to the NFC Championship or Super Bowl. If they don’t make it past the first round I still see success. If the Seahawks were to fail in making the playoffs or making it past the first round then that would be a failed season in my opinion.
2. Who is a lesser known player who could really break out this year?
NA: This is a tough question to answer because the Seahawks are returning so many players from last year. I think that Malcolm Smith has a chance to be an impact outside linebacker for this team. Smith showed well in a couple of starts last year and he’s got a chance to build on that this year. He is undersized but he can fly (4.44 seconds in the 40 yard dash). I don’t think that Smith is likely to pile up sacks or interceptions but I do think that by the end of the year people will be considering him a solid starter rather than a question mark. There are a lot of guys on this team who quietly do their job very well and Smith has a chance to join that group.
PN: Seahawks fans are so involved in their team that I can’t imagine anyone on the roster is really a “lesser known player.” In my 2013 Seahawks Award Prediction post on Emerald City Swagger, I picked Golden Tate as my breakout candidate since he’s a favorite of Russell Wilson’s and he’s in a contract year. I also had Christine Michael as my most valuable rookie. If Marshawn Lynch gets hurt and misses significant time, Michael will be the breakout star for the Seahawks.
MQ: CB Brandon Browner. Although he is known to the 12th Man, he is relatively unknown outside of Seattle. Teams may try to test him to avoid throwing the ball anywhere near Richard Sherman, who will be playing corner on the opposite side of the ball. That being said, Browner could be set up to make some huge plays as more balls will likely be coming his way this year. If he does this successfully, it could be tough for an opposing team to throw the ball, which may cause them to run the ball more. That won’t be an easy task against the Hawks big defensive line.
MM: The lesser player that will have a breakout season for the Seahawks will have to be Jermaine Kearse. Kearse has shown Hawks fans that he has the ability to break tackles, make great catches, and has amazing speed to return kick and punt returns
3. Who is a player who might fall short of expectations?
NA: I think the obvious answer here is Russell Wilson because some of the expectations for the young quarterback are starting to get outlandish. However, I do think that Wilson is in for a solid year so it would harsh to label him as a potential disappointment. I’m going to go off the board a little bit here and say Russell Okung. I have no doubts about Okung’s talent but his body tends to betray him and just because he managed to start 15 games last year it doesn’t mean that his durability ought never to come into question again. He has never started 16 games and while he isn’t a Darren McFadden type you always have to be concerned about his health. This will be a big year for him to prove he can stay be durable especially given the lack of a proven 2nd string tackle.
PN: Fans are expecting so much of Russell Wilson that I can’t help but think that he won’t live up to them. Wilson is still going to have an amazing season for a second-year QB but a dramatic increase in his stats from last season is asking too much. I see something in the 3,900 passing yards and 30 TD’s (3,112 and 26 in 2012) range as a realistic goal for him.
MQ: WR Percy Harvin. He won’t be able to play until the season is already at least halfway through, so what happens if the team plays extraordinarily without him? Imagine this – Sidney Rice gets healthy, so he and Golden Tate share the core of the receptions. But, there will also be Doug Baldwin, Stephen Williams and Jermaine Kearse rotating in, all of which are just as capable of making big plays for big yards. Percy Harvin’s return will automatically make him Russell Wilson’s top target, but if for some reason that chemistry gets thrown off, the whole rhythm of the team could get thrown off as well and that could be costly to a team that was already playing well. But now here is the real kicker – that is only the worst case scenario regarding Harvin’s return. If everything happens the way we think it will, his return will be the icing on the cake of an incredible Seattle offense.
MM: The player that might fall short of expectations I think will be Stephen Williams. Williams has shown us that he can make plays, but he has been in the league for 4 years and only has 9 catches. Sure, he hasn’t been given an opportunity to play much but I think that even if he does he will fall short of the hype that fans have placed on him.
4. What is your honest, unbiased prediction for the 2013 Seahawks?
NA: Although I’ve seen the Seahawks atop many power rankings going into the year I’m not sure that’s where I’d put them. I honestly think the Seahawks and 49ers are so evenly matched that every game between them is a coin flip, and even if Seattle can make it to the Super Bowl they are no lock to beat a Denver, New England or Cincinnati. If the Seahawks could get the top seed that would be huge given their massive home field advantage, but if I’m being honest I see this team finishing as the top wildcard second in the division to the 49ers. I’ll say the Seahawks have their hearts broken by the 49ers in the NFC championship game and hope so very hard to be wrong.
PN: A very tough schedule with games against the 49ers (two), Giants, Texans, Falcons and Saints makes a 11-5 record seem about right. At the very least I would predict the Seahawks to make it into the second round of the NFC playoffs. Crazy things happen in the playoffs and a wild card round loss would be upsetting, but not all that much of a shocker. The wild card Giants beating a Patriots team that was undefeated in the Super Bowl is why I don’t pretend to know what’s going to happen. If I were in Vegas at the Caesar’s sportsbook and had $100 to put on any team to win the Super Bowl, I’d pick the Seahawks.
MQ: I feel that the Seahawks have every opportunity to make the Super Bowl this year as long as they can figure out a way to win on the road. If they do that and clinch home-field advantage heading into the postseason, look out. This team will absolutely make the playoffs and should make it to the NFC Championship game where they will beat the San Francisco 49ers and live to play at MetLife Stadium in February.
MM: 14-2. The Seahawks have a chance to have an undefeated season, if not then go 14-2. They have some tough opponents on the road but I do see the Seahawks getting over the hump and winning 6 of their road games. The toughest ones will be at Houston and Atlanta.
5. What about today? What’s the final score and who is the player of the game?
NA: This is a tougher game than a lot of people think. The Panthers have a dynamic quarterback and a dynamic front seven and as far as building a good team those are fine places to start. Carolina has a pretty awful secondary and I think that will be their undoing today.
Score: 27-20 Seahawks
Player of the Game: Russell Wilson
PN: The Panthers and Seahawks had a close game last season in Week 5. The Hawks won 16-12 in Carolina to go to 3-2. With Wilson having played 13 more games and being one of the best QB’s over the second half of last season, I don’t see how the Panthers can stop the Seahawks. The Seahawks are a complete team and the Panthers are not. Too much would have to go wrong for the Seahawks for them to fly home 0-1. Seahawks 24 – Panthers 10. For the player of the game I’ll take Earl Thomas with a couple picks off Cam Newton.
MQ: The season opener is always tough to predict but I’m fairly confident the Hawks will win it. It won’t be a cake-walk, but Seattle will beat the Panthers 27-17. The player of the game will be Russell Wilson with two touchdown passes and about 150 passing yards.
MM: I see the Hawks winning the game 36-6. Russell Wilson should lead the team by throwing for 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns. The defense will also be a big part of the win, by only holding Newton to 30-40 yards rushing and sacking him multiple times.
Thanks for joining us this week and I hope you tune in as the season progresses. Hopefully we’ll be seeing the guys from Emerald City Swagger stopping by to chat on a regular basis.