RENTON, Wash. -- My top five Seattle Seahawks at the bye week for a team that is 10-1, right where it wants to be:
5. Richard Sherman: He’s gotten burned for a couple of big plays, but that happens when you have a cornerback who plays as much press coverage and Sherman does.
It’s well worth the risk for what Sherman gives the team in return, tight coverage that often forces turnovers and causes the opposing offense to make mistakes. Sherman has four interceptions and leads the team with 11 passes defensed.
He is the best cornerback in the NFL, hands down.
4. Steven Hauschka: He is the best kicker in the NFL this season. Hauschka leads the league with 104 points scored, having made all his PATs and 24 of 25 field goal attempts. And his only miss was the blocked kick at Indianapolis, which wasn’t his fault.
Hauschka hasn’t missed inside the 40, and has made 12 of 13 from 40 yards and beyond, including 3 for 3 from 50 or longer. Only 30 of his 67 kickoffs have been returned, and none longer than 40 yards.
Hauschka will be huge asset for the Seahawks come playoff time. We often shake our heads watching him in practice. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw him miss one in field-goal drills.
But Lynch is getting it done near the goal line. His nine rushing TDs is tied with Adrian Peterson for the league lead, and his 11 TDs overall (two receiving) is tied with Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson for the most in the NFL.
Having Michael Robinson back at fullback seems to be helping Lynch’s production. In the past three games, Lynch is averaging 108 yards rushing per game and has scored four touchdowns. Lynch also had nine receptions in those three games.
The Seattle offense feeds off Lynch’s relentless running style and his ability to make a high percentage of yards after contact. It’s intimidating to watch him consistently run over would-be tacklers.
2. Earl Thomas: The best free safety in football, and a legitimate defensive MVP candidate. Thomas has worked hard to improve any little weaknesses he had in his game, like the knock on his tackling.
He leads the team this season with 75 tackles, and 61 of those were solo tackles. Thomas also has four interceptions, but it should be five. He had one in the Tampa Bay game when interference was called, which the league later admitted was the wrong call. Thomas also has seven passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
What doesn’t show up in the stats is the number of times Thomas gets one of his teammates in the right spot by knowing what’s coming. For example, he warned linebacker Bruce Irvin to watch for a wheel route in the St. Louis game that became an Irvin interception.
And Thomas’ quickness is hard to describe without actually seeing it. His closing rate on a play makes it appear he comes out of nowhere to break up a pass or make a tackle.
1. Russell Wilson: Only 11 games into his second season, Wilson has become the clear leader of the Seahawks, on and off the field. Wilson is so much more to this team that just a talented quarterback.
To a man, his teammates believe in him. They know that whatever the circumstance of any game, no matter how dire it might look, they have a chance to win as long as Wilson is calling the signals. Three times this season, and nine times in his brief career, he has led the Seahawks to late-game comebacks.
Wilson is undefeated at home -- a perfect 13-0 in his two seasons. He also has won eight of his past 10 road game, including 5-1 this season.
Wilson has a lot of seemingly silly clichés he loves to say over and over, like this one: “The separation is in the preparation.” But he truly means it, and his teammates see it in his dedication and how diligently he prepares. Wilson often is the first player to arrive at the team facility each day and the last player to leave.
You can’t outsmart the man. He is ready for any situation, and he has the athletic gifts to make good things happen on the field when other quarterbacks would be in trouble.
What might be his biggest accomplishment this season is that he continued to lead the team to victories while under siege most of the time with a patchwork offensive line that was missing both starting tackles for seven weeks and center Max Unger in three games.
Wilson took a physical beating, but kept getting up and getting it done. That’s the kind of thing that will make your teammates run through a brick wall for you.