Friday, January 31, 2014

If You Ever Wondered About Me...

The Bellevue Reporter and Issaquah Reporter did a feature story on me, and the growth of HawkBlogger.com. Thanks for Josh Shuman for coming to our house and spending some time capturing the story of something very dear to my heart. You can read the story here.

HAWK BLOGGER JOURNAL: Build-Up To Blue Friday

Thanks, in large part, to a wonderful group of readers who helped sponsor my tickets to the big game, I am in New York City enjoying the lead up to what we all hope is the first championship in Seahawks history. I will take time out when I can to share a few thoughts and experiences on the trip. I wish you all could be here. You deserve to be.

It is Friday morning, two days since my last journal entry. A good friend asked me last night on Twitter if I was in heaven. Two days of walking the streets of New York City, eating great food, meeting new people, doing fun things, and it all is building toward a day of days on Sunday. This is the time of my life. And I don't think I am alone.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Candid Interview With Marshall Faulk

Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk sat down with HawkBlogger.com

Blogging is a weird deal. You spend hours, days, years, writing on a topic, and get accustomed to writing regardless of whether anyone is going to listen. People are listening lately, and that has afforded me with some unique opportunities, including a chance to sit down with Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, courtesy of SAP.

Many Seahawks fans consider Faulk to be strongly biased against Seattle, but I entered the conversation with an open mind and nothing but respect for one of the best players I have had the pleasure of watching play the game of football. I left the interview with far more questions about his objectivity. Let's just say Faulk won't be one of the smart people placing bets on the Seahawks at SportsBettingOnline.ag.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

HAWKBLOGGER SUPER BOWL JOURNAL: Touchdown In NYC

Thanks, in large part, to a wonderful group of readers who helped sponsor my tickets to the big game, I am in New York City enjoying the lead up to what we all hope is the first championship in Seahawks history. I will take time out when I can to share a few thoughts and experiences on the trip. I wish you all could be here. You deserve to be.

My friend Aron and I landed in Newark around 5PM EST. The airport is nice enough, and the people were friendly. I had my eyes on this game for a long time, and so Aron and I have been making decisions all along about the best way to get here. We bought our plane tickets right around when the season started.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Final Days Of Daniel Zottman

There is a national perception that Richard Sherman's outburst after winning the NFC Championship defines who this Seahawks team is. Some have dubbed the Super Bowl The Virtuous vs. The Villainous. This short series will describe the Seahawks as I, and others, have come to know them. If you have a story to share, please email me.



The Final Days Of Daniel Zottman 

NFL football was not alive in Seattle back in 1959. Daniel Zottman would become one of the franchises most passionate fans after the team was born in 1976, but on the day of his birth back in 1959, he lied motionless on the hospital next to his twin sister, Diana. The two were born 10 weeks prematurely, and combined to weigh five pounds. Daniel had no heartbeat. He was not breathing. He was not yet of this world. Doctors revived him, but there was irreparable harm done. His future would include mental and physical challenges that included a degenerative heart valve. It would include kids stealing his lunch money. It would include an undying love of Seahawks football that he shared with his family. That love, with help of the people in the Seahawks organization, made his last few days of life ones to cherish instead of ones to fear.

Monday, January 27, 2014

SUPER BOWL: Projecting Peyton Manning Vs The Seahawks

Peyton Manning is a master of his trade. Nobody plays the quarterback position better. He identifies and exploits defensive weaknesses better than anyone who has ever played the game. His mental acuity is so great that he is setting league records even as his physical abilities are on the decline. Everyone wants to see how he will match up against the best defense in the NFL and a secondary that some believe deserve to be mentioned among the greatest of all-time as well. Of course, playing the game is the only way to know for sure, but we can have a little fun looking at some clues beforehand.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

SUPER BOWL: Seahawks Players Who Stand To Gain The Most


Everyone in America has probably heard the name Richard Sherman by now. A similarly sized population knows the name Russell Wilson. Name recognition on the Seahawks starts to drop off after those two. Marshawn Lynch is well known among NFL fans, but less so outside that group of people. There is some irony that the only guy with Lynch's level of name recognition on the Seahawks, Percy Harvin, is better known outside Seattle than in. Seahawks fans have not even seen him play a full game in the green, gray and blue. Nobody else on the roster comes close to those four. That will change over the next week. Careers will change. Free agent contract values will grow or shrink. Let's look at the Top 10 Seahawks players who could put their stamp on this game and turbocharge their careers.

SUPER BOWL: Early Thoughts On Broncos


Oddsmakers continue to list the Broncos as slight favorites to win the Super Bowl. I entered this week with some lightly informed perceptions of what Denver was good at on both sides of the ball. After a week of researching their season, watching a number of their games, and checking the numbers, I have a better feel for what Seattle will be facing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

SUPER BOWL: A Thought On Red Bryant's Role Versus Denver


Red Bryant has had an uneven career in Seattle. A disappointment at defensive tackle, he was a revelation after being moved to the 5-technique defensive end by then defensive line coach Dan Quinn in 2010. He battled injuries that year, but dominated when on the field. His finest season was in 2011 when he stayed healthy and earned a lucrative free agent contract. His season last year was again impacted by health issues, but he rebounded with another great year this season. He is a key part of the Seahawks run defense. He is a central leadership figure on the team. And he may not play as much in the Super Bowl.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

SUPER BOWL: Do Not Count On Sacks

Seattle signed some great pass rushers this off-season with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Clinton McDonald has upped his pass rush game, and a slew of other Seahawks have contributed to a much improved pass rush. Expecting them to get to Peyton Manning during the Super Bowl is probably asking too much.

Seahawks Co-Favorites To Win Super Bowl Next Year

We are still more than a week away from playing Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. It is biggest betting event of the year, and the Seahawks continue to be slight underdogs. It is incredibly difficult to get to this point, even with a talented roster, that the Seahawks would be wise to win now instead of expecting to make it back. Oddsmakers, like the ones over at sports.bwin.com/en/nfl, have already installed the Seahawks at 5/1 odds to return to the big game next year.

Seahawks Training Camp Heroes Continue To Wear Their Capes

Photo by Anthony May
Sunshine and sunscreen seem like a distant memory as we barrel toward what may be the coldest Super Bowl in history. The Seahawks kicked off training camp in late July and enjoyed one of Seattle's best Summers. Lombardi trophies were already on everyone's mind. The berm was packed each and every practice after the team sold out the entire training camp for the first time. Percy Harvin watch quickly turned into disappointment. Chris Clemons was injured, and people were guessing when he might return. Sidney Rice was flying off to Europe for knee treatments, and Will Blackmon was playing at a starting cornerback level while sitting sixth on the depth chart. This is where it all began.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SUPER BOWL: Broncos Can't Run From Their Deep Dark Secret

Peyton Manning versus Richard Sherman will get top billing. Manning versus Russell Wilson will get plenty of attention as well. Next, might be the return of Percy Harvin. All are fascinating and deserving story lines, but they also may be less important in determining the outcome of this game than Marshawn Lynch versus the Broncos defense, and Knowshon Moreno versus the Seahawks.

PODCAST: Talking With Softy About NFC Championship and the Super Bowl







Softy and I discussed the transformational win over the 49ers and why I am entering the Super Bowl with more confidence about the outcome than the NFC Championship game.

Trading Places: Seahawks WRs On Broncos, And Vice Versa


Expect football stories to begin making their way back to the Super Bowl lead-up as the Richard Sherman discussion mellows. One such football narrative will be that the Broncos have a decided advantage at the receiver position. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker will be described as world beaters, and Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will be called average. Percy Harvin will be brought up as a possible savior for the unit, even though he was not needed to get here. The truth is receivers, more than any other position, are a product of the offense they play in. Knowing just how different these two offenses are, I decided to see what the receivers numbers would look like if they switched places.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Planning Your Trip To The Super Bowl

Lots of Seahawks fans chose to pass on a trip to Detroit back in 2005. I was one of them. Not this time. New York City was in my sights from the moment the season started. I bought plane tickets three months ago, and have been arranging a place to stay with friends and family. Car is rented. All I need now are tickets.

Handy Super Bowl Odds Site

The line for the game opened in favor of the Seahawks slightly, but quickly switched over to the Broncos because of money coming in on that side of the ledger. The line will continue to move over the next two weeks, and while I do not normally discuss betting much here, I know a lot of you like to make it part of your Super Bowl parties. This site, Sportsbook Review, has real-time odds for the Seahawks vs. Broncos match-up across a variety of sports books. I find it a handy reference and thought you might as well.

Being Richard Sherman


You may not have heard, but the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night to win the NFC title and earn a trip to their second Super Bowl. It was kind of a cool game, too. Lead changes, big hits, breath-taking plays in all phases of the game made this a game to remember. Yet, mere seconds after the game ended, all anyone wanted to talk about was how Richard Sherman handled himself. The controversial cornerback is the best in the game and a fascinating person. People continue to try to fit him into a box, but he is not one thing. He is abrasive. He is intelligent. He is brash. He is caring. One thing he is not, is selfish. What he did on Sunday is being described as a selfish act. The outcome certainly supports that assertion, but the responsibility for that outcome is shared.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Morning After: Seahawks Claim NFC Throne, Beat 49ers 23-17


Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead 

Confidence is born of experience and result. It can be faked with tricks of the mind, but its true form must be earned through a crucible of moments where belief is truly tested. Beating the meek and the weak fills you with a false sense of your worth. Taking on the mighty, feeling their blade glance by your neck, and tasting triumph, transforms hope into faith and belief into certainty. Seahawks players entered with well-earned confidence from regular season success. They exit with the certainty that their greatness is not limited to division titles and home-field advantage. Facing a team most outside this city consider the toughest in the NFL, playing the best football in the league, questing for their sixth Lombardi trophy, and allowing them to take a 10-0 lead, this Seahawks team fought their way out of the corner, and did not stop punching until their opponent lay broken and beaten before them. The mighty have fallen. A phoenix is rising in Seattle, emerging from the ashes of broken dreams of years past. Its wings are broad enough to carry a city as it soars higher. The ride is exhilarating, and it is not yet over.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We Are 12





Meant to be read with audio playing, and speakers on.

It is time. Let them come. Let the talking heads fawn over the visitor. It is the way this moment was destined to be written.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP PODCAST: Great Seahawks Discussion With Scott Enyeart

This might be my favorite hour of football talk all week heading into the game tomorrow. Scott Enyeart was one of my original guests on the podcast back in 2010, and has been a major contributor to my understanding of what goes into Pete Carroll's philosophies. This was a great change to close the loop ahead of such a big game. If you like Seahawks football, I think you'll love this podcast.

Friday, January 17, 2014

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION: Hawk Blogger Weekly

CLICK COVER TO OPEN!
Hawk Blogger Weekly Issue #10 is now available! Game day approaches. Get informed. Get psyched. Read HBW!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

PODCAST: Talking NFC Championship with Softy On-Air

Softy and I talked about the Seahawks opportunity to secure the biggest win in franchise history.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Seahawks Father And Son Tandem Continue To Haunt Jim Harbaugh

Familial bonds are not always genetic, as we know. There are foster parents, step-brothers, and adopted sisters. There are best friends that you consider a brother or sister. On the flip side, we know that genetic ties do not bind on their own. Parents can leave and siblings can hate each other. You learn over time that what makes someone family is an unbreakable bond that all involved parties are committed to. Seattle, unbeknownst to many, has one of, if not the only, Father-Son duo playing key roles for their NFL team. Their bond is strong, and their impact this Sunday is sure to be felt.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: The Role Of Special Teams

Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore will get plenty of attention all week. They will all play in big role in the outcome on Sunday, but fewer people seem to be aware of how important the plays will be when none of them are on the field. Special teams has played a significant role

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: How Many Points Will It Take?


Seahawks and 49ers fans may disagree about many things regarding their rival team, but one thing nobody disputes is two of the best defenses in football will take the field this Sunday. A seven-point deficit against these teams can feel like twenty. Most are expecting a low-scoring game, but there is reason to believe that will not be the case for at least one team.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Birth Of A Champion


Those of us over the age of 30 know the San Francisco 49er franchise as one of the most successful in the history of the NFL. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have won more Super Bowls than the 49ers five. Names like Bill Walsh, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young are just a sampling of the NFL legends that called San Francisco home. An entire generation of offensive philosophy was born there. But they were not always at the center of the NFL universe. They, like the Seahawks, had to endure an extended stretch without a ring before breaking through for their first. It took a home game against their most bitter rival to do it; a game that ranks among the best in NFL history.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Just The Facts: Seahawks vs 49ers

There is going to be no shortage of bull piped over every air wave this week about the upcoming title bout between the two best teams in football, Seattle and San Francisco. Not here. At least not in this article. This is where myths come to be exposed.

Myth #1: Michael Crabtree Changes Everything

The Morning After: Seahawks And Lynch Repeat History, Beat Saints 23-15


Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead 

Seventeen games into this 2013 Seahawks season, and there is a lot we still do not know about this team. The offense can operate with deadly efficiency, or teeth-grating ineptitude. The running game can be inspiring or maddening. The passing game can produce 320 yards versus a fantastic Panthers defense or complete two passes in a half against New Orleans. Even starting roles are not set. The #1 seed in the NFC and odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl is still searching for the championship combination on offense. This defense, though...there is little mystery there. One of the most potent quarterback-coach combinations in the National Football League was once again stifled by a defense that is forcing comparisons to the all-time greats. The final totals for the Saints do not begin to tell the story of what the Seahawks defense accomplished.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gameday


You are laying in bed. It is 5AM on a Saturday, and you should be sleeping. Everyone else in the house is fast asleep, as normal, well-adjusted people should be. But you are not normal or well-adjusted, and this is no common Saturday. This mania that grips you is not a burden you bear alone. People across the city, across the region, even across the world, are united in thought so strong, it will bring millions of people into alignment for three-and-a-half hours. It is game day; Seahawks game day. Let normal people sleep. There is a playoff game to be won.

Friday, January 10, 2014

PLAYOFF EDITION: Hawk Blogger Weekly

CLICK COVER TO OPEN!
Hawk Blogger Weekly Issue #9 is now available! It is game day tomorrow. I have been researching and writing all week to get you informed and ready for the big game.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Most Badass Seahawk

Mike Sando wrote a terrific article today about just how badass Kam Chancellor is. Sando details a series of separate occurrences demonstrating just how much of an intimidating force Chancellor is on the field. My favorite of these came in the last game of the season versus the Rams when QB Kellen Clemens was scrambling in the fourth quarter and caught Chancellor out of the corner of his eye. He flashed his hand in the air in Chancellor's direction to wave him off as he quickly dropped into a slide. Chancellor called it a "smart decision," while the Seahawks sideline was in hysterics. That is the kind of team Pete Carroll and John Schneider have built. That is part of why they are so fun to cheer for. I decided to have a little extra fun and grade who exactly is the biggest badass on the roster.

Percy Harvin's Return May Be An NFL First


Walter Jones was named a finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame today. This was a player that was so thoroughly dominant on the field that few doubt his qualifications a player deserving of being inducted the first year he is eligible. Part of his legend was born off the field, and before any games were played. Jones would famously miss as much training camp as possible after the team placed the franchise tag on him, and return just before the season. Most players need camp to get in shape and regain their rhythm. Jones was not most players. Defenders flailed hopelessly against Jones no matter their preparation or his. Seahawks fans are hoping Percy Harvin has a little bit of Jones in his make-up after hearing he will return to the lineup after missing nearly all of the past 23 games due to various injuries. Simply stepping on the field may be a moment never before witnessed in the NFL.

PODCAST: Seahawks vs Saints Playoff Previews With Softy


Softy and I took twenty-plus minutes to go over the match-up with the Saints, what it means to get Percy Harvin back and how the crowd can be an even bigger factor on Saturday. Listen up!

Cross-Talk: Saints Nation Blog Answers My Questions

Andrew Juge, over at The Saints Nation offered to do some Q & A about our respective teams before the big Monday Night showdown. Andrew fired off his questions first, which I answered here. Here are my questions for him and his answers.

HB: What does the loss of Parys Haralson mean to the Saints defense, both run and pass?


TSN: In pass defense it means really no difference as he's not part of the nickel package and he's seldom

Cross-Talk: Brian Answers Questions From The Saints Nation Blog

Andrew Juge, over at The Saints Nation offered to do some Q & A about our respective teams before the playoff game this Saturday. Andrew fired off his questions first. Here are his questions and my answers.

TSN: Will Percy Harvin play? If so, do you think this could actually work against the Seahawks? They've used him so little this year the offense would have to work in a guy they don't really have reps with, and he'd be rusty. Am I stupid to actually hope he plays?

HB: It sure looks like Harvin will play, which is remarkable. All indications were that he was going to be

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Required


Driving along Route 1 in California is among the most beautiful road experiences in the United States. The asphalt curves and climbs beneath your wheels, flanked by a wall of rock that climbs to the sky on one side and a cliff that dives into the sea on the other. Blue ocean becomes white foam, melting into the rocks below. At some point along the journey, you realize just how far down below those rocks are, and how close your car is to joining them. The beauty and serenity is replaced with concern and caution. Any driver's ed teacher will tell you that your car will follow your eyes. Stare at the rocks and ocean at the bottom of a steep cliff , and your car will start drifting in that direction. The very thing that makes the drive so rewarding and enriching makes it risky and dangerous. As Seattle prepares to embark on what we all hope is a historic run to this city's first NFL championship, I find myself thrilled by the heights and keenly aware of the rocks below.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Player News: Haralson, Harvin, Willson, Keenan, and Isa

New Orleans fans got some good news, some bad news and some puzzling news today. Seahawks fan stuck with the good news side of the ledger.


An Early Look: Saints And Seahawks Evenly Matched

Photo by Jeff Marsh

Experiencing the glory that was a 34-7 beat down of the Saints earlier this season can make it difficult to assess a rematch. Seattle so thoroughly destroyed the Saints in nearly all phases of the game that the convenient narrative is that the Seahawks will impose their will once more. Even with the injury issues for the Saints, and the possible return of a player like Percy Harvin, this feels like a game that will be decided in the fourth quarter between two closely matched teams.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Seahawks vs Saints: A Look At What Has Changed

No two games are the same. The teams may be the same. The location may be the same. But football teams morph across a season, and even after just five weeks since the last time the Seahawks played the Saints, there are key differences between the teams that battled that night.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Seahawks Playoff Freshmen

Something happens when the playoffs start. The field is the same. The rules are the same. Yet, every decision, every action is amplified, and the amplification grows with each tick of the clock as the teams hurdle toward the ultimate prize. Some people are wired to thrive in those moments. Others, become lesser men. It is one of the more fascinating elements to this game we love. Seattle features a number of players who will either be experiencing the playoffs for the first time, or will have far more prominent roles than in the past. They will learn along with us whether they have the mettle of a champion.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

PODCAST: Talking Saints, Seahawks, And Playoffs With Jacson and Davis

We have an opponent, Seahawks fans! A familiar one. That was reason enough to spend some time talking with friends and Seahawks experts Jacson Bevens and Davis Hsu. We covered a variety of topics in nearly 60 minutes, including the ailing Seahawks offense, third down efficiency, what the Saints bring to the table, and what we expect from Percy Harvin. Hope you enjoy it!


***DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST***

INFOGRAPHIC: Seahawks Passing Game: What Has Changed?

While working on a season progress report for Russell Wilson, I noticed a change in some numbers around the depth of his throws. Specifically, the ratio of short-to-deep throws changed, as did Wilson's success rate on the longer throws. The infographic in this article captures a few of the numbers to take a look at.

These statistics were compiled week-by-week from ESPN.com splits of Wilson's season. I thought Wilson may have shown some improvement in the last game, but could not prove it because Elias Sports Bureau stats that ESPN relies on did not update for pass depth in either Week 16 or Week 17 for Wilson. That is why you will see four-game splits for the first three-quarters of the season below, but just two games for the final quarter.

Friday, January 3, 2014

NEW ISSUE: Hawk Blogger Weekly - Week 17

Hawk Blogger Weekly Issue #7 is now available! The Seahawks have a bye week, but HBW rolls on. There is a ton of Seahawks reading to do.

Jeff Marsh has a great cover shot this week.

You can contribute to Hawk Blogger Weekly as well! Have an article you'd like to write? Want to see your photo in a magazine that thousands of people see? Shoot me a note.

Speaking of future issues, be sure to click the Subscribe link on the blog or within the magazine to be notified automatically when a new issue gets published.

I'd like to find other ways to make this a place to celebrate the work of other Seahawks fans, not just me. If you are a photographer, a writer, or have another ideas for how you could be featured, drop me a line!

REMINDER: This is primarily designed for tablet and phone viewing, as most of you are now reading my stuff there anyway, but it will work on the desktop. Thanks for your patience as we work out the kinks!

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE LATEST ISSUE


CLICK COVER TO OPEN!





Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Final Seahawks 2013 Regular Season Progress Report

There are plenty of statistical sites on the web. HawkBlogger.com is largely a journal of everything going on with the Seahawks over time. There are times that statistics help to tell that story, and that is why I created this Season Progress Report series a couple years back. A gap in the statistics out there is the ability to freeze points in time, and allow you to rewind and compare how the team has progressed or regressed as the year rolls on. Player splits (e.g., first half of the year vs second half of the year) are common, but team splits are less so, and quarter-season splits can only be found here, from what I know. I track every Seahawks game, and have for years. That allows me to break down trends over any period of time I choose. As this season continues, I will provide a progress report at each quarter point of the year, and highlight other trends I see in-between.

Previous 2013 Progress Reports





CHART GALLERY

Note: The abbreviation "OPP" appears in the charts below to reflect "opponent."

General check-up










Situational play







Focus on pass rush and pass protection




Focus on turnovers




Analysis

An offense that exploded in games 9-12, came back to Earth in the final four games of the season. The Seahawks had stepped forward in each aspect of offense that I measure in the last progress report, and have dropped in nearly all of them this time around. It is no coincidence that 3rd Down % dropped the same time as opponent sacks went up. The opposite was true in games 9-12. It is not as simple as the pass protection is breaking down, so the third downs are not being converted. It has been a struggle to gain yardage on early downs, leading to longer third down situations.

It is remarkable how well the Seahawks did on third down in the first quarter of the season given the long yardage they faced. That stretch included possibly their most amazing third down performance of the season when the Seahawks converted 46% of their third down tries that averaged 9.69 yard to go against a fantastic Carolina defense on the road. That was terrific, but not sustainable. Seattle needs to regain their form on early downs to make third down a more attainable conversion as they head into the post-season.

It is worth noting that while we dislike seeing the downward trend in the offense over four games, the trend becomes much less legible when the season is divided in two. The team averaged 25.6 ppg in the first eight games of the year and 26.5 in the last eight. They averaged 339.4 yards per game in the first eight, and 338.6 in the last eight. Those numbers suggest that the offense has not really grown or regressed much over the course of the season. They had ups and downs, but the overall body of work is pretty darn consistent.

One thing they cannot afford to continue is the drop in red zone play. Scoring a touchdown on less than half their red zone possessions will not cut it. The play-calling has been suspect there, and Russell Wilson's accuracy has been below his standards.

The defense has been making a progress all year. They have lowered their points allowed per game in each of the last three quarters of the year. Opponent explosive plays have gone down every quarter of the season. And red zone defense has been outstanding of late, allowing just 22% of possessions to result in a touchdown.

This is downright stingy stuff. One word of caution is the big uptick in takeaways the last four games. Takeaways are unpredictable, and while they can be influenced by a defense, it is not something they can control. A fair number of those takeaways came in the opponent end zone. Assuming that will continue is playing with fire.

Seattle can be most proud of the progress in the run defense over the last four games. They could have jumped even higher if the Frank Gore 51-yard run was not in there (in addition to all the subsequent runs on that drive). Even with that bust, the defensive line and linebackers have been playing their best ball of the season against the run. Bad news for Seattle's opponent is that run defense benefits more from rest than any other group. Fresh interior lineman are priceless. It is no accident that the Seahawks run defense took a step forward after the bye week.

This Seahawks team is not sprinting into the playoffs the way the 2012 team did, but there is a stability and seasoning to this group that separates them from their predecessor. The defense is spending less time trying to prove something to the outside world, and more time competing with history to see just how great they can be. Their attention to detail and focus on the task at hand is at a championship level. The offense has never quite found it's footing with the ever-changing cast on the offensive line. There were signs of real progress in the final game against the Rams. There is not a player on offense that cannot step up their level of play. The NFC playoff bracket is littered with dominant defenses. Having faced San Francisco, New York, Arizona and St. Louis in the last four games could prove to be the perfect practice gauntlet for the post-season. 

Best Teams Heading Into Playoffs

A reader, Todd Huotari, had a good question about my power rankings. He saw the 1-week difference in team strength and the 3-week difference, but both of those are cumulative numbers. Knowing what Russell Wilson's passer rating was three weeks ago and what it is today can show a trend, but figuring out his passer rating just in the last three weeks tucks away past performance and allows you to see just how he is playing lately. That is what Huotari wanted to know, and he took the time to figure out using the my power rankings formula that I share each week. The results are interesting, and give a different perspective on which teams have been hottest heading into the playoffs.








As you can see, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Cincinnati are all hot in the AFC. Only Philadelphia stands out in the NFC. Surprisingly, with all the hand-wringing about Seattle's slower finish, they have been the second-strongest team in the NFC the last three weeks by this ranking system. Time will tell if the hotter teams are the winning teams this weekend.
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