The strength of the NFC West division is on full display around the NFL, as the upcoming NFC championship game features the Rams hosting the 49ers. The Seahawks are very familiar with both of these franchises, going 2-2 against the two teams competing for a conference title with a sweep of San Francisco and a sweep suffered at the hands of L.A. Seattle went 3-3 overall in NFC West play, which was a better record than Arizona's 2-4 mark.
Despite going 7-10 and finishing last in the NFC West, does the overall strength of the division—and Seattle's moderate success against those teams—suggest that the Seahawks aren't as bad as fans and pundits think?
When seeing that question, certain games pop into the minds of fans where the Seahawks played down to inferior competition. The losses to the Bears with Nick Foles, the Cardinals without Kyler Murray and the punchless Saints on Monday Night Football at home certainly stick out. However, the NFL is full of examples of better teams playing down to their opponents, such as the Bills losing to the Jaguars and the Titans, the AFC's No. 1 seed, losing to the Jets.
First, this is a quarterback-driven league. You don't get very far in the NFL without a capable quarterback; and your chances of winning a Super Bowl are extremely slim unless you have one of the best passers in the league—just look at what happened in Kansas City this past Sunday with the Chiefs and Bills.
The Seahawks have the quarterback. Russell Wilson is a proven commodity, despite the down year. He finished on a high note, with seven touchdowns and a 123.0 passer rating in the final two games, ranking second and fourth, respectively, during that time. Towards the end, Wilson looked much more like himself. While there is a possibility Wilson leaves Seattle, odds are No. 3 is taking snaps behind center as a Seahawk in 2022.
It's absolutely vital to have a quality head coach-quarterback combination. In Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll, Seattle still has it. Despite recent criticism, Carroll is still one of the most respected and successful coaches in the NFL. Carroll has more wins than Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Mike Ditka and more playoff wins than Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson.
This is not to say the Seahawks can just stand pat and expect better results next season. They have some serious work to do to this offseason. From bringing back pending free agents possibly leaving Seattle to bringing in others from outside the organization, to drafting well this spring, there is plenty of room for improvement. However, the level of competition Seattle faced—and occasionally succeeded against—should be encouraging to fans.
The Seahawks are closer to the Bills and Titans than they are the Jets or Jaguars—teams that defeated the aforementioned contenders. While the NFC West will be tough once again in a year's time, the fact that the Seahawks were competitive in most of their matchups in the best division of football should give way to optimism that they will be better and perhaps get a few more breaks, leading to a return to the playoffs.