The Seahawks are so good right now. They beat the Baltimore Ravens 35-6, in a game where the scoreline didn't quite show how dominant the Seahawks were. As pictures of Pete Carroll standing on top of the lockers in Baltimore for his postgame remarks to the team came out after the game, there's an inescapable feeling that this team is the best team in football right now, despite the news that running back Thomas Rawls is out for the year.
The Seahawks are the best team in football. And unlike years past, when Pete Carroll's pragmatic philosophy dictated the team be built from its running game and pass defense, this year's success starts with the passing offense. Not to get too technical, but good passing is good because it's cool and fun. The Seahawks are currently both the coolest and the funnest around.
Receiver Doug Baldwin is second in the league in touchdown receptions, and is torrid right now. Remember that monster season Golden Tate threw down with the Lions the year after he left the Seahawks? Baldwin is throwing down his version of that year right now. He has eight receiving touchdowns in the past three games, which puts him in a class that exists with only Jerry Rice, Jerry Rice again, and Drew Bennett. That's a weird class. Rookie receiver Tyler Lockett is also becoming a premier option, both as a speed threat down the sideline and as a reliable pass-catcher on intermediate routes. The return of Luke Dubstep Willson notwithstanding, the Seahawks are, despite losing Jimmy Graham, Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Rawls, and Paul Richardson, throwing the ball better than they have at any point in franchise history.
Oh yeah, Russell Wilson. RUSSELL WILSON. Russell Wilson. It's no exaggeration to say that Wilson is on a run over the past four games that is the best in NFL history. He has 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Cool! He's posted a completion percentage of at least 70, and a QB rating of at least 138.5. Fun! This despite losing his best receiver. The big change? Time in the pocket. Wilson is no longer getting destroyed by two or three rushers on each play. Now it's one or sometimes even none. It's been incredible. A tweet from Dave Mahler summed up his newfound protection best:
Seahawks after 7 games were on pace to allow 73 sacks. Now on pace to allow 48— Dave Softy Mahler (@Softykjr) December 14, 2015
Everything is different.
Where does the credit go? Well Garry Gilliam is suddenly an elite right tackle in a league bereft of even decent right tackles. He drew the short straw of going up against Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore's lone remaining healthy player, and dominated the matchup. Patrick Lewis at center has been a revelation insofar as he hasn't been a greased-up turnstile as everyone who had suited up at the position this year had been. In fact, he's been pretty good. And the easiest way to get better is to take total catastrophes and replace them with pretty good players. Also, Russell Okung at left tackle has been good, J.R. Sweezy has limited his bad moments to the sort of brainfarts you'd expect from a man named J.R. Sweezy, and Justin Britt... well... four out of five really ain't bad.
As good as the offense has been, the defense has just thrown down back-to-back road games with no defensive touchdowns. This despite aspects of the defense (interior pass rush, non-based-god-Richard-Sherman cornerbacks) looking less than sharp. Also, there's the obvious Jimmy Clausen caveat that comes from playing a team forced to start Jimmy Clausen. That said, the linebacker play has been incredible after Bobby Wagner looked only okay through the first few weeks of the year, and the pass rush and interior-run defense have been disruptive even if the sacks aren't there. Once again it's Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Brandon Mebane running the show up front, and while the Seahawks used to have a list of like nine guys doing big things, the fact that they still have three is pretty good. The Seahawks remain vulnerable to great quarterbacks who can deal with pressure and still make throws within a limited non-Sherman-filled slice of the field, but any team except for maybe the 2013 Seahawks and the 2003 Bucs struggle against quarterbacks of that caliber.
In fact, I'm willing to say right now that the 22 that the Seahawks could run out for the playoffs (which is to say their starters today, plus the presumptive return of a functional Marshawn Lynch) is easily the best team in football. Is this due to injuries some other great teams have taken? Yup. And what's scary is how much of the depth the Seahawks had in the past has eroded due to injuries. Two years ago at this time it was maybe as few as four guys on the roster who did not have comparable backups. Now? God. Who has a backup I'd be comfortable watching step up? No one? The team preaches next man up, but those men are up, and the next-next man is a scary proposition. We saw that with Thomas Rawls this week. His replacements were a marked step down in a way that Rawls himself had not been when Lynch got hurt.
But that's the horrible deal with football. Teams like this Seahawks team don't come around very often because it's all but impossible to be the best team in football four years running. Injuries and union busting mean that teams fall back to .500 unless they are very special. Look at the Ravens! That's an incredible franchise with two Super Bowl titles over the past 15 years, and they had to play Jimmy Clausen at quarterback.
The good news for the Seahawks is that with three weeks left in the season, one win likely gets them a playoff berth, and two wins likely gets them a first-round matchup that does not take place in Lambeau Field. And this week they can cash in one of those wins on the hapless Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, the Browns have stopped being crazy people and are allowing Johnny "The Football Man" Manziel (that's his nickname, yeah?) to play quarterback for them. Manziel isn't great, but he is a wild card, and raises their status from total walkover to nuisance that must be taken seriously. That said, with the way this Seahawks offense is rolling, I would be surprised to see anything other than another double-digit win this coming weekend.