Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for Seattle in 2012:
Dream scenario (12-4): Matt Flynn's fourth-quarter comeback victory over Green Bay in Week 3 serves notice in prime time that Seattle made the right move in signing the Packers' former backup. Sure, Russell Wilson lit up opponents during the preseason, but everyone figured coach Pete Carroll would go with Flynn heading into the season. Seattle hadn't been able to finish games on offense previously, but the vibe is completely different now. Flynn isn't perfect, of course, and he doesn't have to be. He has the NFL's most physical running back in Marshawn Lynch, two viable tight ends, a healthy Sidney Rice and a downright nasty offensive line.
Finally healthy, left tackle Russell Okung joins fellow 2010 draftees Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in the Pro Bowl. Second-rounder Golden Tate won't be making the trip, but preseason rumors of a potential breakout season weren't far off.
With the defense allowing only 16 points per game, Flynn doesn't have to be a hero most weeks. By midseason, it's all Carroll can do to refrain from gloating over the team's then-controversial decision to draft Bruce Irvin in the first round. Irvin's two-sack game at San Francisco on Thursday night in Week 7 gives him 5.5 for the season, matching what the 49ers' Aldon Smith had at the same point in 2011. Irvin doesn't quite equal the 14-sack total Smith posted as a rookie, but he's not far behind. The national pundits learn the hard way what should have been evident already: Carroll and the Seahawks' personnel department know what they want on defense.
A trip to Green Bay for the NFC Championship Game leaves the Seahawks thinking big.
Nightmare scenario (6-10): Flynn isn't the answer, Wilson isn't ready and Carroll pays a high price for failing to seriously address the quarterback position until his third season with the team. It's hard for some to believe the Seahawks would miss Tarvaris Jackson, but that is the case as Flynn predictably struggles in his first full season as an NFL starter. No one cares about the division title Carroll won a couple years ago. Critics cite his 7-9, 7-9 and 6-10 records in building a case for his dismissal. They also gloat over the growing pains Irvin experienced while transitioning from West Virginia to the NFL.
Lynch's diminished production makes him an easy target for those suggesting a big contract led to complacency. Some recall Shaun Alexander's post-contract demise. But there are other reasons. Another injury-plagued season on the offensive line becomes a primary culprit. Okung, James Carpenter and John Moffitt were coming off season-ending surgeries. Rice, the team's most talented receiver, had procedures on both shoulders. Banking on so many injured offensive players was understandable after the Tom Cable-coached line worked near-miracles in 2011. But every staff has its limits. Giving some of fullback Michael Robinson's snaps to new tight end Kellen Winslow also might have affected the ground game.
The defense does enough for Carroll to keep his job, but the team heads toward the 2013 draft needing to find its next quarterback -- or else.