Updated Aug 27, 2013 - 4:17 pm
NFL 2013: Super Bowl the expectation for Seahawks
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) - Pete Carroll loves slogans.
Whether it's "Always Compete," "I'm In," or "Win Forever," Carroll's mantras are plastered all over the Seattle Seahawks facility.
But the most important motto for his 2013 Seahawks didn't come from the head coach. It was the idea of his players, tired of the team getting more notice for its problems with suspensions than the talent the Seahawks display on the field.
The idea of "Leave No Doubt," is all encompassing: stop with the off-field distractions; try to continue what started last season; and prove that the best team in the NFC resides in the Pacific Northwest.
"From the starters down to the guys on the practice squad, there's chips on our shoulders," wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "I think that's because of the atmosphere that we built here. We have young guys who are enthusiastic and passionate about football, and they've come in with some kind of a chip on their shoulders."
The Seahawks aren't just upstarts looking to make the playoffs. Anything less than being among the elite of the NFC will be underachieving.
There are no longer questions at quarterback with Russell Wilson's emergence his rookie season. The secondary might be the best in the NFL with All-Pros Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, and Seattle has the most formidable home-field edge in the NFL.
Here are five things to watch as Seattle gets ready for its season that starts Sept. 8 at Carolina:
• BEING RUSSELL WILSON: Wilson is now a star. He's not a novelty. He's not mocked for his lack of height outside the NFL mold. He's not overlooked because he was a third-round pick. Wilson's rookie season was so impressive his achievements take up an entire page in the Seahawks' weekly game release. Whether it was tying the rookie record for touchdown passes or winning a road playoff game, Wilson's rookie season proved he belonged.
Now he has to back it up.
"I knew that my rookie year was going to be a journey, and that I was going to learn some, go backward some, and hopefully not go backward too much," Wilson said. "I wanted to keep taking steps forward, and I've done that so far. so the main thing is if I can continue to do that day in and day out."
• SURVIVE THE SUBTRACTIONS: No Percy Harvin. No Chris Clemons. No Bruce Irvin. Three expected starters will begin the season on the sidelines. Clemons is continuing his recovery from major knee surgery and no one has given a firm timeline when he'll be back on the field. Harvin had hip surgery at the start of training camp and is expected to miss at least half the season. And Irvin won't be eligible until Week 5 while serving a four-game suspension. Seattle knows what it can do offensively without Harvin. The Seahawks also know how they struggled getting to the quarterback in the playoffs against Atlanta without Clemons.
• BEAST MODE: Perhaps lost in Wilson's rise and Sherman's mouth, the Seahawks are foremost a team that relies on the bruising running of Marshawn Lynch. He's coming off an All-Pro season when he rushed for a career-high 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns. The reason Seattle was able to implement the zone-read run game and open up the playbook to make Wilson more of a passing threat was the reliability of Lynch.
Seattle believes it can be just as dynamic offensively as in the final half of 2012. Continuing that trend means Lynch needs to be effective to that level in the running game.
"We are going to need him. He's our workhorse," Wilson said. "It all starts with the offensive line, though. But, he can make a lot of holes and do a lot of great things for our football team."
• PASS RUSH PROWESS: Getting to the quarterback is going to be Seattle's biggest question entering the year. Free agent signing Cliff Avril has battled hamstring problems during training camp to the point that Seattle has used O'Brien Schofield and undrafted rookie Benson Mayowa as its rush defensive ends. Seattle hopes Michael Bennett can provide pressure from the inside in passing situations, but rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill has also been limited by injury. It's Seattle's one glaring weakness.
• FREQUENT FLYERS: Seattle was given no favors with its schedule. Division rival San Francisco gets Indianapolis and Houston at home, while Seattle goes on the road to face the Colts and Texans. The Seahawks have road trips to Carolina, Atlanta and the New York Giants – in December no less – while the 49ers get the Panthers and Falcons at home. Seattle has proven to be the best home team in the NFL, going 8-0 last season and 17-7 since Carroll took over in 2010. Be perfect at home, decent on the road and Seattle could get some coveted home playoff games.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
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