The Seahawks certainly did not face fierce competition in Super Bowl XVLIII. Without question, Seattle was responsible for the worst blowout in Super Bowl history. Given the parameters of a legendary quarterback anchoring a record-breaking offense, the Denver Broncos were expected to make the match-up more entertaining by the very least. The Seattle Seahawks did not just assert their will, they ruthlessly enforced it. Moving forward from this bludgeoning, here is a look at three teams to watch in 2014. Any of these three teams may give the defending Super Bowl champions, a run for their money.
3. New York Jets (8-8) – Maybe you smell a faint whiff of favoritism, or you may feel the author of this article is deluded. There may be some authenticity in that claim. However, the New York Jets have always been giant-killers. In 2013, the Jets handed a one-loss New Orleans Saints their second loss of the season. This Jets team also defeated the New England Patriots, whom played in the AFC Championship. The Seahawks may fall prey to this fierce competitor as well. A casual football fan may be unaware that the Jets were a top five defense in the NFL, in 2013. The Jets sported a top rushing defense at one point in the 2013 season. Gang Green also competed with Carolina and Kansas City in the sack department. The Jets’ appeared almost unbeatable, when their offense was efficient and did not turn the ball over. The Jets need to draft well and upgrade their offensive line in free agency. Landing a true number one receiver to complement Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill, will be the missing piece to the puzzle. If the Jets can put the pieces together, they have playoffs written all over them.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – The Steelers missed the 2013 playoffs by a miniscule technicality. Despite starting their season 0-4, the Black and Yellow won 75 percent of their remaining games to finish at 8-8 in 2013. The Steelers defeat of rival Cleveland in week 17 opened the door for a potentially unimaginable playoff berth. If the Chargers had lost their overtime thriller to a Kansas City team who started their reserves, the Steelers would have been the second ever 0-4 team to enter the playoffs. The Steelers return in 2014 with a healthier team and offense that has meshed in to an efficient scoring machine. Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown, is an all-purpose freak. He led the league with total receptions and, yards from scrimmage as a receiver in 2013. Tight End Heath Miller, along with Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be nursing injuries. Finally, the emergence of powerful runner Leveon Bell adds a new dimension to a potent Pittsburgh offense. Then there is the fabled Steelers 3-4, which is always a malevolent threat to contend with. A healthy Steelers team is a sure playoff qualifier in 2014.
1. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) – Perhaps it is cliché to place the 49ers at number one. Still, it remains irrefutable that the Bay Area bandits are Seattle’s greatest adversary. In 2013, the Seahawks and 49ers faced off three times. These fierce divisional rivals each won once against each other, when the game was played in their respective cities. The rubber-match was the best game of the NFL playoffs, set in Seattle. The 49ers were less than 20 yards away from vanquishing the Seahawks’ Super Bowl bid. The “Legion of Boom,” came through in the clutch and the rest is history. However, it is a new season yet again. With a new season, comes new hope. San Francisco has been to the NFC Championship Game for three consecutive years. The brutal Gold Rush defense, which features four pro-bowl linebackers are the most effective at stopping the run. The dynamic read-option offense led by Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore, can procure great quantities of points. The 49ers will remain a perennial heavyweight. On a neutral field or even in their own backyard…no one is eager to face this aggressive and vicious team.
There are of course, other teams not mentioned which can threaten the Seahawks in 2014. As we reflect on the close of the 2013 season, we rejoice knowing kickoff will be here soon enough.
By Keith Fuchs