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2007 Season Previews
Seattle Seahawks (Last Year: 9-7)
Veteran Additions:
TE Marcus Pollard, DE Patrick Kerney, S Deon Grant, S Brian Russell.
Draft Picks:
WR Courtney Taylor, WR Jordan Kent, G Mansfield Wrotto, DE Baraka Atkins, DT Brandon Mebane, OLB Will Herring, CB Josh Wilson.
Major Subtractions:
WR Darrell Jackson (SF), TE Jerramy Stevens (TB), C Robbie Tobeck, DE Grant Wistrom, DE Joe Tafoya (ARZ), DE Kemp Rasmussen, OLB D.D. Lewis (DEN), CB Kelly Herndon, CB Jimmy Williams, S Ken Hamlin (DAL), S Oliver Celestin, KR Josh Scobey (BUF).

Offense This Year: With all the jinxes, curses and voodoo the Seahawks had to evade last year, it was a miracle they reached the postseason. If the Madden Curse wasn't enough, the Super Bowl Loser Jinx also threatened to keep Seattle out of the playoffs. The team managed to advance to the second round, but it didn't get there unscathed. Both Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander both missed extensive playing time during the course of the 2006 campaign.

Hasselbeck and Alexander will be returning for another season together, although I'm a bit concerned about the latter. Alexander, who turns 30 in August, saw his yards-per-carry average drop from 5.1 in 2005 to 3.6 last year. In fact, prior to 2006, Alexander had never been below 4.0. We can attribute part of that to injury, but that doesn't matter if he's still hurt. There have been reports that Alexander is still banged up and won't be 100 percent this season. If that's the case, the Seahawks are in trouble.

Another reason for Alexander's declining statistics could be the fact that the Seahawks lost guard Steve Hutchinson a year ago. The offensive line obviously wasn't as strong with rookie Rob Sims and Pork Chop Womack in the lineup; Maurice Morris' numbers were also down, while the number of sacks the group allowed increased by 22. Every starting member of the front will be back, although Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, like Alexander, could struggle in 2007, given that he just turned 33.

Speaking of struggling, Jerramy Stevens is finally off the team. Stevens, an unrestricted free agent this spring, signed with Tampa Bay, meaning Seahawks fans will finally be free of his bad attitude and severe pass-catching problems. I'm shocked, however, that general manager Tim Ruskell didn't find a reliable tight end to take Stevens' place. Ruskell signed 35-year-old Marcus Pollard, who caught just 12 passes with the Lions last year. Also gone is Darrell Jackson, who was traded to the 49ers. Mike Holmgren plans to go with Deon Branch (53 catches, 725 yards, 4 TDs) and D.J. Hackett, who really came on at the end of the season. Hackett registered 19 receptions, 291 yards and two scores the final four weeks of the 2006 campaign, after notching only 11 catches in September and October. That said, neither Branch, Hackett nor Bobby Engram is cut out to be a No. 1.

Defense This Year: While Tim Ruskell didn't find a substitute for Jerramy Stevens, he was able to upgrade a defense that yielded more than 27 points on six occasions last season. Ruskell's most prized acquisition was defensive end Patrick Kerney, who will be taking Grant Wistrom's spot on the line. Kerney figures to be a huge upgrade over Wistrom; he had more sacks (4.5 to 4) than Wistrom in seven fewer games last year. Kerney will fit right in with the Seahawks; they accumulated 41 sacks in 2006 but permitted a whopping 4.6 yards per carry to opposing running backs. That's where he'll be of assistance. Of course, it'll also help if defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs doesn't spend three quarters of the season on injured reserve.

The man responsible for most of those sacks was outside linebacker Julian Peterson, who managed to obtain 10. Peterson, along with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, comprise one of the greatest linebacking corps in the NFC. Unfortunately for Seattle's divisional foes, the unit can only get better; Tatupu and Hill are both entering their third NFL season.

A major reason why the Seahawks surrendered so many points last year was because of the lack of depth in their secondary. At one point, Seattle was signing people off the street to play defensive back. To counter this, Ruskell signed safeties Deon Grant - an improvement over free-agent Ken Hamlin - and Brian Russell, and drafted cornerback Josh Wilson in the second round. As long as the Seahawks stay healthy, they should be able to defend the pass with great efficiency. Grant, Michael Boulware, Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings could be dominant if the team's sack total is in the 40s again.

Schedule and Intangibles: Josh Brown rebounded from a mediocre 2005 season to hit 10-of-14 from beyond 40 yards, including 3-of-5 past 50 and a few game-winners. Brown's one of the most clutch kickers in the NFL, and I definitely trust him with a game on the line. ... Rookie Ryan Plackemeier impressed last year, punting an average of 45 yards. He didn't allow a return. ... When Nate Burleson took a punt back 90 yards for a touchdown, it marked the first time in three seasons that the Seahawks returned either a punt or a kickoff for a score. I'd like to see them do it more than once in 2007. ... Ask any professional football gambler or handicapper when you should bet against Seattle, and they'll tell you in 1 p.m. East Coast games. The team has four of those (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Carolina and Atlanta) this year. ... The Seahawks' schedule seems somewhat difficult. Some of the tougher foes include Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia, Carolina and Baltimore. I can only spot two cupcake non-divisional opponents: Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

Additional Reading: Endless Banter coming soon.

Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

Divisional Rival History:
Arizona Cardinals: Although the Cardinals beat the Seahawks last year, 27-21 in Arizona, Seattle owns this rivalry; it has claimed seven of the past nine meetings. While a split is certainly possible, history says the Seahawks will sweep.
San Francisco 49ers: Once is an accident, twice is a trend... San Francisco swept Seattle last season, which shocked a lot of people. I'm not sure if the Seahawks took the 49ers seriously or not, but they better start doing so.
St. Louis Rams: The Seahawks have won all four matchups after the Rams knocked them out of the playoffs in 2004. Could be six by the end of this season.

Fantasy Football:
Matt Hasselbeck: A run-in-the-mill starting quarterback in fantasy football, Matt Hasselbeck threw for an average of 3,400 yards per season prior to last year. His injuries restricted him to just 2,442 yards and 18 touchdowns. Could be a spot starter against teams like Arizona and St. Louis.
Projected Stats: 3,350 passing yards. 25 passing TDs. 125 rushing yards. 1 rushing TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 335.

Shaun Alexander: Lots of reasons not to take Shaun Alexander: He could still be injured; his offensive line won't be as great as it was in 2005, so he's a bit over-valued; and his yards-per-carry average was mediocre even before he got hurt. If you take Alexander, make sure you have great backups.
Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 50 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 220.

Marcus Pollard: A forgotten man in Mike Martz's offense, Marcus Pollard registered only 12 receptions in 2006 after garnering 46 for 516 yards the year before. Problem is Pollard is 35. Not sure how much he has left in the tank.
Projected Stats: 350 receiving yards. 4 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 59.

D.J. Hackett: I already mentioned above what D.J. Hackett accomplished the final four weeks of the season. If you multiply those figures by four, you get 1,164 yards and eight touchdowns. Not bad at all. Someone's going to have to take Darrell Jackson's 10 scores. Major sleeper because no one knows about him.
Projected Stats: 1,000 receiving yards. 8 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 148.

Deion Branch: Starting to think the Patriots got the better end of the Deion Branch trade? In my opinion, Branch was a bit overrated because he played with Tom Brady for a few seasons. Brady's capable of making Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell look good. Branch is nothing more than a spot starter in fantasy football.
Projected Stats: 830 receiving yards. 6 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 119.

Bobby Engram: Bobby Engram, a decent backup receiver for years, just turned 34 in January. Look elsewhere.
Projected Stats: 600 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 78.

Josh Brown: I like Josh Brown as a fantasy kicker because he gets a lot of opportunities to hit field goals from beyond 50 yards. He's nailed eight the past two seasons.
Projected Stats: 22-27 FG (4-7 50+). 44 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 125.

Seattle Defense: Lots of sacks should create tons of interceptions - as long as the secondary's healthy.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 10 Defense.

Analysis: The Seahawks are still one of the best teams in the NFC, but winning the division won't be a cakewalk like it's been the past two seasons. San Francisco had one of the best offseasons in the NFL this spring, Arizona will be better as long as Matt Leinart doesn't regress, while St. Louis is always potent because of its offense. The NFC West should be a battle between the Seahawks and 49ers. Both could make the playoffs.

Projection: 10-6 (1st in the NFC West)

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