By Dave Thomas
As the Seattle Seahawks prepare to host the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers this Sunday, thoughts are likely going in two different directions for both the team and its fans.
On the one hand, Seattle (4-5) is still in the hunt for an NFC wild card playoff spot; one could also argue that the Seahawks still have a shot at the NFC West title, though that is becoming longer odds by the day with Arizona (7-2) holding a three-game lead at the moment with nine games remaining. On the other hand, the Seahawks are not the defensive juggernaut that they were even a season ago.
After making it to back-to-back Super Bowls the last two seasons, primarily on the strength of a defensive unit that could simply shut you down, Seattle is struggling at times on that side of the ball in 2015. After holding mediocre San Francisco and Dallas to a mere 15 points combined in a pair of recent wins, the Seahawks were gashed for 39 points in their loss to Arizona last weekend. So, where does a franchise that has prided itself on the defensive side of the ball in recent years go from here?
Niners Proving To Be True Disaster
Do you remember those glory teams of the San Francisco 49ers back in the day? The days of Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and many others seems like an eternity ago. If you do a little history search of the franchise, you will find that the Niners had some really lean years before those great teams under Bill Walsh and George Seifert. Given the team’s recent history, it appears things will get worse before they get better.
Limping into Seattle with a 3-6 mark, the Niners prove a great opportunity for the Seahawks to get back on track following the loss to Arizona. In their meeting in the Bay Area a few weeks ago, Seattle and quarterback Russell Wilson dominated in a 20-3 victory. For Seattle to reassert itself as a serious NFC playoff contender, the Seahawks will have to beat San Francisco and Pittsburgh at home the next two weekends, then go on the road for a tough test in early December against a surprising 7-2 Minnesota team.
With the final regular season game set for Jan. 3 in Glendale against the Cardinals, the goal for the Seahawks and their fans will be to make that game mean something. If Seattle takes care of business the next few weekends, that last game could mean something. If it doesn’t beat the teams it should these next few weeks, Jan. 3 may just be an opportunity to prepare for next season.
Heading into the San Francisco game this Sunday, Seattle will look to get some key players back, though injuries may limit what they can do or keep them out altogether. As of Thursday’s practice, this is what Pete Carroll and the Seahawks were dealing with when it comes to injuries:
Cliff Avril, defensive end (ankle)
Doug Baldwin, wide receiver (toe)
Michael Bennett, defensive end (non-injury related)
Demarcus Dobbs, defensive end (shoulder)
Marshawn Lynch, running back (abdomen)
Russell Okung, tackle (toe/ankle)
Paul Richardson, wide receiver (hamstring)
Cary Williams, corner (hip)
Luke Willson, tight end (toe)
K.J. Wright, outside linebacker (knee)
Bruce Irvin, linebacker (knee)
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.