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Thiel: Seahawks Will Kick Off Season Strong; Playoffs A Different Story

Seahawks2016Kickoff.jpg
Stephen Brashear
/
AP Photo
Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka, right, kicks a field goal as Jon Ryan holds, in the second half of a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle.

The Seahawks open the regular season at home on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins.

Knkx sports commentator Art Thiel talked with 88.5's Kirsten Kendrick about the pros and cons for the team this year.

Roster Full Of Rookies

"They have 15 rookies [on their 53-man roster]. They have eight draft choices and seven undrafted free agents. That is remarkable," Thiel said. "Most teams add five, six, seven rookies each year.

"The Seahawks have never had so many rookies. Except for the first year back in 1976 when they came into the league and you could only populate the roster with draft choices and a few veterans.

"This is a remarkable development. I'm a little surprised that Coach Pete Carroll went this far but there's a real, practical motivation and that's the NFL salary cap."

8 Big Paychecks

"The Seahawks are paying eight players a lot of money and it doesn't leave a lot for the middle class on the roster or the free agents and rookies at the bottom," Thiel continued.

"[Quarterback] Russell Wilson is the best example. Russell went from $7 million salary against the cap last year to $18 million this year. So, somehow something had to give in the roster makeup.

"The rookies and free agents are the cheapest hires they can make. And Coach Pete Carroll said that he likes it that way because he has a demonstrated track history here in Seattle of being able to 'coach up' young players to point where, by mid-season or thereabouts, they are not rookies."

Key Veterans

In addition to Wilson, Thiel said there are some other returning players who are Carroll's 'go-to guys.'

"These guys are all still in their prime. We're talking about Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor. And these guys are still at the top of their games. They're in their middle/late twenties, which still is considered prime in the NFL.

"And I think that's where Pete gains his confidence. These are his leaders. These are his top players.

"They are effective at the height of their games and they're not dwindling as often is the case when NFL teams play a lot of players in the downside in their thirties," Thiel said.

Prediction On The Season

Based on what he's seen in the preseason, Thiel offered an early prediction on the team's regular season and postseason chances.

"The Seahawks' schedule is ranked fifth most difficult in the NFL given the number of quality teams they're playing based on last year's records," he said.

"But I see it as a little bit easier because they start with three opponents that are not very difficult. And that's going to give these rookies a chance to break in.

"I see only three difficult games for them on the schedule. They play at Arizona. They play at Green Bay. And they play at New England. I don't think they're going to prevail there. They also have another road game in New York [against the Jets] later this month that I think will be tough. Those three are probably losses; maybe the Jets, but that's about it.

"I can see the Seahawks running the table at home, going 8-0, splitting on the road and finishing with a 12-4 record.

"That will put them in the playoffs. But I also think that if they meet their NFC West rival Arizona in the playoffs, I think Arizona is going to probably prevail.

"I see the Seahawks splitting the two regular season games with the Cardinals. But the Cardinals are loaded this year. They are the most formidable adversary in the NFC, in my view.

"I think if the teams meet in January, I'm afraid the Seahawks' train to Houston, where the Super Bowl is going to be this year, is going be stopped."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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