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#HawksMailbag - January 2: Which team poses a major threat to us in the playoffs?

Posted Jan 2, 2014

Answering your Twitter questions about the club on a weekly basis.

Welcome to another edition of #HawksMailbag here at Seahawks.com, our weekly feature where we answer your Twitter questions about the club.

Today we entertain several of your inquiries as the Seahawks come off a 27-9 division-clinching win over the St. Louis Rams. The victory locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs for Seattle, who is enjoying a first-round bye as we enter the New Year. 

On to your questions...

The next one.

The Seahawks won't know their divisional-round opponent until after this weekend's wild-card round, but each team they could potentially face - the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, or New Orleans Saints - poses their own unique set of challenges. Let's take a look:

Packers

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers gives the team a chance to win every week - he's just that good. In his first game back from a collarbone injury in Week 17, Rodgers looked to have the team's passing offense back on track. The Pack also has a solid run game behind rookie Eddie Lacy, who has averaged 89.0 yards per game the past four weeks. It's the team's fifth-straight playoff appearance and that experience can go a long way, especially when playing in a hostile environment on the road (i.e. CenturyLink Field).

49ers

This is a different San Francisco squad than the one the Seahawks topped 29-3 in Week 2 at CenturyLink Field. The Niners enter the playoffs on a six-game winning streak and despite their No. 5 seed in the NFC, the club's 12-4 record is tied for second-best in the NFL. All four of the team's losses came to playoff teams (Seattle, Indianapolis, Carolina, New Orleans). They have eight Pro Bowlers, tied for most in the League with the Kansas City Chiefs. And the the team's offense hasn't turned the ball over since Week 14 against the Seahawks, forcing six turnovers in that span - a formula we know all too well usually translates into wins.

Saints

Back in early December, New Orleans was handled 34-7 by the Seahawks in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football. You know a return trip to CenturyLink Field would carry a little bit of extra motivation to exact revenge. Quarterback Drew Brees is as battle-tested as they come in the postseason. Six-foot-seven, 265-pound tight end Jimmy Graham is a matchup nightmare for any club. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson read, reacted and executed to near-perfection a counter to the blitz packages Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan threw at the Seahawks in Week 13, but would we see the same result a second time around?

While I'm sure we'd all like to see defensive coordinator Dan Quinn - and any other Seahawks assistants up for head coaching gigs around the NFL - stick around, Pete Carroll is very supportive of his staff in their pursuit of higher coaching opportunities.

"It’s pretty fundamental to me that I’m trying to help everybody be the best that they can be," Carroll said. "That goes for the coaches as well. If I can do that and that’s helping people get to where they want to go, where they dream to be, that’s all a part of it."

Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley left the club at the conclusion of last season to work as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Quinn stepped in and didn't miss a beat this year, directing a defense that ranked No. 1 in five categories - points per game (14.4), yards per game (273.6), passing yards per game (172.0), interceptions (28), and turnover margin (plus-20). That kind of success is going to attract attention and Carroll embraces the chance to give his assistants at shot at their dream job.

"The fact that teams want to come talk to any of our coaches is a credit to our program," Carroll summed.

Pete Carroll said most of the guys who suffered an injury in the season-finale against the Rams should make it back in time for the team's divisional playoff game on Jan. 11. Carroll mentioned rookie tight end Luke Willson (high ankle sprain) as the one player whose status may be in question. We should know more on the situation as the club returns to practice this week and early next week.

Over the final quarter of the regular season, Pete Carroll noted opposing defenses have made a concerted effort on taking the read-option run game away from quarterback Russell Wilson. An opposing defender will often sit on the edge waiting for Wilson to run, much like 49ers outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks did in Week 14 at Candlestick Park, when Wilson had just one rush for two yards.

Rarely will Wilson scramble to run - he has said he prefers to throw the football before he'll use his legs. Instead, you'll see Wilson scramble outside the pocket to find receivers down field, something he's proven very effective and efficient at doing.

"Non-injury related" is simply the practice report designation usually used by the NFL and its clubs when a player is held out from the day's work to rest. Running back Marshawn Lynch has held the designation numerous times this season because of the amount of wear and tear his body takes on gameday. The coaching staff is expressing confidence in Lynch's ability to pick up the week's offensive game plan without participating in the day of practice, which in turn saves his legs for gameday. 

We're here to please the 12s. Happy New Year!

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