2016 Seahawks Opponents, NFC South
While the Atlanta Falcons have no significant history with the Seahawks, their head coach is former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Qunn’s first year with the Falcons was a bittersweet one. Fueled by players like Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, Quinn was brought in to give the Falcons the defense it needed for the team to take the next step. Instead, the defensive took a giant step backward. Its regression aided in a competent offense falling off the wheels. Ryan threw only 21 touchdown passes, the lowest amount since his rookie season. Twenty-two NFL teams scored more passing touchdowns than the Falcons in 2015, while the Falcons shared a three-way tie for 12th place among rushing touchdowns. If that sounds like an 8-8 team, guess what the Falcons record was? Without a great offense, the Falcons scored five fewer touchdowns, losing five games by less than a touchdown. Bottom line, the Falcons tools for success lie in the offensive side of the ball, and while this team needs major improvement defensively, it appears the Falcons will need to score to win in 2016. Enter the Seahawks… A defense whose allowed the fewest points for four straight seasons running.
Geez, I can’t imagine why playing the Carolina Panthers will be a big game. After years of sending the Panthers home in tears, the Seahawks were swept by the Panthers in 2015. It’s a nice chance at revenge, but it is difficult to understand what type of Panthers team the Seahawks will face. While going an astonishing 15-1 for their 2015 campaign, the Panthers went 7-8-1 the year prior. The year before that they went 12-4. The year before that they went 7-9. Hardly a legacy of winning. If history holds, the Panthers are in for an off-season. Plus, their plus-20 turnover ratio for 2015 was the best in the league, and a whopping plus-17 in comparison to their 2014 campaign. Predicting what the Panthers will be in 2016 is difficult because it is hard to understand what they Panthers were in 2015. Looking up and down the roster, it is hard to believe the Panthers have a solid foundation for future success; however, Cam Newton is an incredible quarterback, and he can turn mediocre players into major contributors. If any theme holds, it’s that the Seahawks and Panthers play close games—expect a nail biter.
Another team with a recent rich history with the Seahawks, the New Orleans Saints get to have the game on their turf. Being on the road is never a disastrous proposition for the Seahawks, but when you consider how solid their home record is, it’s a drop-off anytime the Hawks go on the road. At Clink, this game is a Seahawks win. On the road, the questions become slightly more complicated. The Saints are still recovering from salary cap hell. One of their moves to alleviate their cap woes was to offload their superstar tight end Jimmy Graham to…the Seahawks. If a fast moving offense, with great timing, still puts some fear in the LoB, so they play a bit on their heels, then Drew Brees will certainly have an opportunity to put on a show. Any year now, Brees will regress, and 2016 could be that year, but for now, he is still to be respected. Look for this to be a potential QB battle, especially if Wilson replicates the second half of 2015.
Coming into his second year in the league, Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still has a lot to prove and doubters to put to rest, but his rookie campaign was hardly disastrous. He threw for 4,000 yards in his first year and logged 20 touchdowns, not too shabby. If he continues to improve, it wouldn’t hard to imagine 4,200 yards and 25 touchdowns if he can get that completion percentage up over sixty. What would be hard to imagine is the Buccaneers defeating the Seahawks. This team isn’t ready to beat a seasoned team like the Hawks, even if they might be able to make it close for a few quarters.