Seahawks Soar to Top of NFC West
Written by: Quintin Bentley Crevling
The perennial powerhouse Seattle Seahawks have clawed their way to yet another division title.
The Hawks have clinched the NFC West for the fourth time under head coach Pete Carroll and for the third time in four seasons.
The Hawks are the only team in the NFC West that posted a winning record in the 2016 campaign, the Cardinals being their most respectable competition finished with a 7-8-1 record.
Both the Rams and 49ers struggled mightily throughout the season both placing in the bottom five teams at seasons end.
The Seahawks 10-5-1 record was enough to crown them the 2016 NFC West champions.
They were again anchored by their elite defensive unit, most notably All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner who was a terror on the turf posting a league best and team record: 167 tackles finishing with 18 more than any other player.
Wagner’s job was made easy due to the dominance of the defensive line. Cliff Avril was a bulldozer racking up a career high 11.5 sacks. Fellow defensive ends Michael Bennett and Frank Clark were both at the top of the league in tackles for a loss.
The offense was lead by Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, and Russell Wilson. Doug Baldwin had a career year hauling in 94 receptions for 1,128 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Baldwin, capitalizing from his breakout year last season, has asserted himself as the best slot receiver in the league. It seemed like every game he was making acrobatic one handed catches after juking his would be defender out of his cleats.
Jimmy Graham returned to dominance after tearing his patellar tendon last season and looked like the All-Pro they traded for posting 65 receptions for 923 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The season’s hopes were almost crushed multiple times as the offensive line was the fourth worst this season giving up 111 hits to the quarterback. Russell Wilson suffered three injuries (ankle, knee, pectoral) in the first quarter of the season alone. Wilson continued to play through his injuries, but his limited mobility made him unable to evade pursuers throughout the year.
The highlight of the season came after Russell Wilson severely sprained his MCL in his left knee and returned to the game on the very next series to lead the Seahawks to a huge 37-18 victory, spurring their best streak of the season.
From weeks 3-11 the Seahawks posted a 6-1-1 record, beating the Falcons and the Patriots who will both represent the NFL in this years Super Bowl.
Every Seahawks fan’s heart stopped when All-Pro Safety Earl Thomas fractured his tibia late in the season. In the games that Earl Thomas started, the Seahawks gave up almost 15 points per game. Without him the defense averaged nearly 25 points a game.
This injury proved to be costly for the defense and morale of the team as the Seahawks finished weeks 12-17 with a 3-3 record.
The Cardinals finished last season at 13-3 and many people expected them to rule the division for the second straight year. They failed to show up at all.
Injuries to All-Pro’s Tyrann Mathieu and Evan Mathis made huge impacts on the team’s morale. The Cardinals may want to reconsider if they want to stick with Mathieu after being placed on injured reserve for the second straight year.
The offense was powered by All-Pro running back David Johnson who had a dominant campaign with 1,239 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He also dominated in the passing game hauling in 80 passes for 879 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Johnson set an NFL record of having 15 straight games with over 100 yards from scrimmage.
Heading into the last game he was hoping to become the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving, but on an awkward tackle his leg bent at a ninety degree angle outward while a defender fell on him. He was carted off the field and diagnosed with a severely sprained knee.
The good news is that the ligament will not require surgery and he will be ready to go by training camp.
The NFL has returned to Los Angeles!
The Rams used their number 1 overall selection in the draft to pick up a highly lauded quarterback out of California, Jared Goff.
The Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003, but with a new city comes a chance at redemption. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher announced the team wouldn’t have another 7-9 and boy was he right.
The Rams opened the season with a fierce 3-1 record. Over the next following five weeks the Rams completely dropped off the map posting a 1-4 record.
Case Keenum was one of the worst passing quarterbacks in the league and the fans began chanting for Goff during games. Jeff Fisher finally gave in and played the rookie quarterback.
Goff started the remaining 7 games and didn’t record a single win. He barely completed half of his passes and threw more interceptions than touchdowns to finish the season with a 63.6 passer rating.
The Rams finished the season at 4-12 and fired Jeff Fisher.
The 49ers are struggling to find their momentum after being a super bowl contender just a few seasons ago. The most attention the team received all season was from quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting on a bench during the national anthem.
The team is obviously still rebuilding after the most epic single season sports collapse in recent memory.
The 49ers won their first game of the season against the Rams, but unfortunately for them the season has 16 games. The team went on to lose 13 straight weeks until their week 15 matchup when they beat the Rams for the second time.
The 49ers finished the season as the second worst team in the NFL. They fired general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly despite it being his first year with the team.