Last week Jim Harbaugh made some comments in regard to the courtship, or evaluation, or whatever you want to call it, of Peyton Manning by his San Francisco 49ers. The comments that Harbaugh made struck me as very un-Harbaugh like. I am as big of a fan of Jim Harbaugh’s coaching as anybody. Harbaugh and his team(s) are, and will continue to be, a force in the NFL. Maybe not in 2012, though?
Harbaugh’s recent comments to me signal that for Harbaugh and his Niners the 2011 season was quite possibly too much, too soon? I do expect the Niners to be formidable this season. However, they are not going to be formidable enough to win the NFC West. This distinction will go to the Seattle Seahawks.
Ironically, I expect the 2012 Seahawks’ season to progress very similarly to that of the 2011 Niners. The Seahawks, like the Niners did in ’11, will secure home field advantage, and this is significant when we are talking CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks playoff opponents will succumb to the CenturyLink environment, and the Seahawks and its fan base will ultimately find themselves celebrating on Bourbon Street in early February 2013.
Pete Carroll’s teams have shown flashes of brilliance in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. However, the teams have also been inconsistent at times. I expect Carroll’s team to put it all together in 2012. The catalyst for this transformation will be Matt Flynn.
Matt Flynn, in my opinion, has the potential to become one of the top quarterbacks in the League, and I expect him to thrive in Darrell Bevell’s offense. I will go so far as to say that the Seahawk offense will resemble the offense that you saw from the 2009 Minnesota Vikings. I am not trying to compare Matt Flynn to Brett Favre. However, my point is that like he had with the ’09 Vikings, Bevell will have a more than capable quarterback to lead his offense.
Similarly, although Bevell will not have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, and Flynn will not have targets such as Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe, Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawk receiving corps will serve as an adequate supporting cast for budding superstar Matt Flynn. In fact, I like the consistent and balanced attack that receivers Ben Obamanu, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will provide, in addition to tight ends Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow. Consequently, I will maintain that it is not far-fetched to compare the personnel at the skill positions that Bevell had to work with in 2009 to what he has today in Seattle. I am not as keen on the offensive line, but under the tutelage of Tom Cable I expect the unit to improve consistently as the year progresses.
The Seahawks defense is, in my opinion, capable, but it is not going to be recognized as one of the top defenses in the NFC. Be that as it may, we are still talking about a Pete Carroll coached team. Consequently, I do not see this Seahawks defensive unit being a liability to the overall success of the team. Further, I am one of those in the minority who liked the First Round pick of Bruce Irvin to the extent that I can see Irvin being an immediate factor. I expect Irvin to provide with his speed and athleticism some much needed pass rush for the nickel defense this fall. Irvin will be a difference maker as early as this season.
Irrespective of my opinions, I recognize there are many out there who on paper do not, and will not, recognize the Seattle Seahawks as a legitimate threat to win the Halas and Lombardi trophies. How many of you foresaw at this point last year the San Francisco 49ers as coming up a few plays short of winning those trophies? I raise this point because I see this year’s Seahawk team as being in a similar position to last year’s 49er team. The Seahawks have the advantage of being the “hunter” this season and the schedule sets up well for them in this regard.
The Seahawks open the season with a road game against divisional foe Arizona. A win in Glendale to start the season would be monumental for this team, especially given that Dallas and Green Bay come into CenturyLink on consecutive weeks including a big Monday night showdown against the Packers. If the Seahawks can pick up that crucial win in Glendale, do not be surprised if Seattle finishes the month of September with a 4-0 record given that the Seahawks wrap up the month on the road in St. Louis.
A 4-0 start is just what this team may need given that the October schedule is treacherous with Carolina on the road, New England at home, followed by road games against San Francisco and Detroit. Achieving a .500 record for the month of October would be a major accomplishment. Fortunately, the schedule in November and December is much more favorable. The Seahawks travel to Chicago in early December, a venue they have fared reasonably well as of late. Other non-divisional foes in November and December are home games against the Vikings and Jets, and road games at Miami and Buffalo.
The key for this team will be wins in the NFC West. I think it is realistic for this Seattle team to sweep the Rams and Cardinals, and split with the 49ers. If the Seahawks can accomplish these tasks within the division it will not be out of the realm of possibilities for this team to win 12 or 13 games in the regular season. That number of wins will go a long way toward securing the home field for a portion or all of the Playoffs, and we all know that CenturyLink is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
I have had a good feeling about this Seattle Seahawk team since their acquisition of Matt Flynn. Harbaugh’s comments last week led me to further conclude that San Francisco is not going to be the same team it was last year, and this is all the better for the 2012 Seahawks. Pete Carroll, Matt Flynn, and a 49er decline could mean some good things will be coming out of Seattle this fall. It seems like there is always a team that rises up out of nowhere every year exceeding all expectations. The Seattle Seahawks will be that team in 2012.