Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks affirm their place at the top of the NFL

The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos have been the two odds-on Super Bowl favorites since August, but it seems like the Seahawks have asserted themselves as the kings of the league. Don’t get me wrong, teams like the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are great and aren’t too far off from the Seahawks, but it would be a disservice not to dub the Seahawks has the best team in the league. It’s been a long time since they suffered their only loss of the season, which was an extremely narrow one to the Indianapolis Colts. Heck, the Broncos lost to those guys, too, and they don’t even have a better record than the Seahawks. I think the world of the Broncos as a football team this year, but the Seahawks put themselves in another class.

Sure, it was one game, and it sure, the New Orleans Saints once lost to the New York Jets this year. But rarely do you ever see the sort of butt-whooping between two elite teams that transpired on Monday night between the Saints and Seahawks (well, save for the last two meetings between the Seahawks and the bitter rival San Francisco 49ers, and they will meet again this upcoming week). Beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-7 is nice, and beating the Arizona Cardinals 34-7 is very impressive. But beating the Saints 34-7 and holding a prolific offense to just 3.4 yards per play (!)? That’s the stuff of legend.

The name of the game is depth, and I think it’s safe to say that the best teams in the league right now have deep 53-man roster. The Denver Broncos are deep, the New England Patriots are so deep that they have inexplicably triumphed over a myriad of brutal injuries, the 49ers are so deep that they have had to release legit players this season, but the Seahawks depth just might trump them all. It’s an extremely tough call, but, regardless, the Seahawks have oodles of depth.

Probably the place where the Seahawks depth stands out the most is at the cornerback position, because they have had to move past injuries and suspensions levied against No. 2 and 3 corners Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, who was the team’s No. 2 CB in light of Browner’s groin pull. Thurmond is no “true” No. 3 CB either, as he could even be a No. 1 corner for teams like the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, or Atlanta Falcons (just to name three). But even without those guys, the Seahawks still have two underrated, top-notch backups behind them in Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell. I am willing to bet that both of those guys impress us as the year goes on, as they were so good in training camp that the Seahawks released Antoine Winfield. They’ve contacted him since due to the situations with Browner and Thurmond, but they wouldn’t even truly need him.

If you were to pull up the Seattle Seahawks depth charts on their official site, you would see just how deep this team is and how incredible their backups are at becoming the “next man up”. Offensive tackle Michael Bowie was forced to start due to key injuries to starters Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini, and Bowie looked like a legitimate starter during the last couple of weeks out there. He wasn’t the only guy to impress while replacing an injured player, and that’s been the mark o this Seahawks team. Heck, that’s a mark of a true Super Bowl contender.

Pro Football Reference’s SRS (Simple Rating System) takes into account point differential and strength of schedule in order to rank the best teams, and the Seahawks excellent SRS of 13.3 is good for tops in the league (two full points higher than the 11.3 Broncos). If you break down their other statistics, you’ll see that the Seahawks have one of the best offenses and one of the best defenses in the league, particularly when it comes to the all-important passing game. The Seahawks allow a measly 4.8 net yards per pass attempt on defense (that is ridiculously low), which is good for tops in the NFL. But on offense, they are third in the league with an average of 7.6 net yards per pass attempt. They also average a solid 4.4 yards per carry thanks to All-Pro back Marshawn Lynch, and they allow just 4.1 yards per carry against.

So not only are the Seahawks deep, but they are also star-studded and are great at just about every unit. I mean, they are also tough to top on special teams with great returners like PR Golden Tate, and they also have one of the best kickers in the league in Steven Hauschka. Punter Jon Ryan is solid, and his ability to help the Seahawks avoid having to defend returns back is an invaluable weapon.

It always amazes me how deep the Seahawks secondary is and how good Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are. While I think Darrelle Revis is the better player since he’s get burned less often, there’s no doubt that Sherman is an amazing player. If you think he’s the best CB in the league, then I’m definitely cool with that statement. But you can never neglect Thomas, who is one of the fastest and most instinctive players in the league. Again, while I think there is a better FS (Devin McCourty), Thomas is an indispensable part of the Seahawks league-best defense (sorry, Kansas City Chiefs, but the Seahawks have you there), because he quickly diagnoses plays in coverage and can literally cover sideline-to-sideline. He isn’t the best tackler out there, but he’s fast, holds the ball-carrier in order for “help” to get there, understands angles in coverage very well, and his closing speed is just off the charts. Simply put, you don’t burn Thomas deep, and he has covered for the Seahawks corners a few times this year.

There are other players I could laud over, because this Seahawks defense is just stacked. I mean, the personnel really stands out. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, an insane defensive line (Tony McDaniel, Red Bryant, the finally-getting-his-due-as-an-elite-DE Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons, and Brandon Mebane), Bruce Irvin, and Kam Chancellor are all very talented players.

And even though the Seattle Seahawks defense is spectacular and deserves all the adulation it gets, the Seahawks have a great offense well-worth recognizing as well. It almost feels as if the Seahawks offense gets sold short at times, because they have plenty of stars, too. Offensive linemen Russell Okung and Max Unger are two of the best players at their positions. And while the offensive line is actually the weak point of this offense, it isn’t bad, and the rest of the offense makes up for the offensive line when they do struggle.

Russell Wilson has blossomed into one of the best QBs in the league, and it’s clear that he’s better than both Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. While I had Kaep as my top-ranked QB of the three before the season and still believe in him as a great QB in this league (I also don’t blame RG3 heavily for his struggles), Wilson has just been on another level this year. He needs to do a better job of showing pocket awareness and not sensing pressure that isn’t there, but that’s the only complaint I have when it comes to Wilson. He’s a top ten QB in every sense, and he simply does it all at the position. Wilson runs well, he has incredible vision, he’s very accurate, he makes good decisions with the football and doesn’t turn it over, he’s efficient, he has more than enough arm strength, he leads receivers, he works well with receivers, his intangibles are off-the-charts, and he has plenty of running ability.

It’s also been impressive to watch some of his receivers break out this season, and Doug Baldwin seems to be one of the most underrated receivers in the game. He’s not great, but he’s brutally efficient and can play as a position receiver or a field-stretcher. He has solid hands, he runs clean routes, and he’s a guy who deserves plenty of targets. Golden Tate has banked on all the preseason hype, and fellow wideout Jermaine Kearse has been one of my favorite success stories. And with Percy Harvin in the fold, the Seahawks are downright scary as a passing offense. I mean, it’s scary enough that they don’t even need Harvin, since they are already the best team in the league even without him. They need to be, too, since Harvin has proven too unreliable due to a second aggravation on his offseason hip injury.

Coming into last night’s game against the Saints, I thought the Seattle Seahawks were the best team in the NFL due to solid coaching, amazing depth, star talent, rising players, and an excellent guy leading the team at QB. After that 34-7 drubbing in which Wilson lit up the Saints defense, Drew Brees was lit up by the Seahawks pass defense, and the Saints looked helpless, I am even more steadfast in my belief that the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL. But will that talent and depth translate into a Super Bowl win? That remains to be seen, because we’ve learned over the years that anyone can win it if they get hot at the right time in the playoffs (see the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens as recent examples). Plus, teams like the Broncos and Patriots are elite teams in their own right. However, when I look at the statistics, the actual players, and the entire body of work of the Seahawks, I can’t help but feel that this team is the best in the league right now. It was one game, but it was a very impressive win and, in my eyes, seals the ‘Hawks place at the top of the list.

Tags: Notes And Analysis Seattle Seahawks

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