The Seattle Seahawks will start the 2013 NFL season as one of the favourites to win the Super Bowl.
The NFC West side begin the regular season against the Carolina Panthers this Sunday.
Sports Mole takes a closer look at the team's key players and pre-season form.
Head Coach: Pete Carroll has led the Seahawks to the playoffs twice since taking charge of the side in 2010. However, he is yet to see his side reach the NFC Championship game, losing in the divisional rounds in 2010 and 2012. Carroll made what many considered a bold decision in making rookie Russell Wilson the team's starting quarterback, but the move paid dividends as Wilson tied Peyton Manning's record for most touchdowns passes by a rookie quarterback.
Last Season: 11-5
Review: The Seahawks missed out on topping the NFC West by just half a game, but their 11-5 record was good enough to secure them a wildcard spot in the playoffs. In fact, their record was the joint-best for a second-placed team in the NFL last season. Luck was with the Seahawks early in the season, as a fourth-quarter Hail Mary pass in the final seconds against the Green Bay Packers in week three saw the team awarded a game-winning touchdown, which replays showed should not have been given. As Wilson continued to learn the team's offense, the Seahawks went from strength to strength, winning their final five games of the season, and scoring over 50 points in three consecutive games. Seattle's strong defense saw them through the wildcard round of the playoffs, before a narrow defeat to the Atlanta Falcons ended their season in the divisional round.
The Seahawks made an aggressive start to player acquisition in the off-season, giving up their first-round Draft pick to bring in wide receiver Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. The versatile if temperamental 25-year-old has the potential to make in excess of 1,000 receiving yards per season, but has been injury prone since coming into the NFL in 2009. Indeed, he will miss the first half of the 2013 campaign with a hip injury, but should be healthy by the end of November. The Seahawks were quiet during free agency, but made some promising acquisitions during the Draft, including running back Christine Michael, offensive tackle Michael Bowie and defensive tackle Jordan Hill.
Departures: The Seahawks have been able to keep hold of all of their statistical leaders from last season. Probably the highest-profile departure was that of Matt Flynn, who had been the backup quarterback to Wilson last season. Having missed out on the starting job in 2012, Flynn was traded to the Oakland Raiders at the start of the off-season. Flynn saw little game time for the Seahawks in 2012, but was considered a strong option should Wilson pick up an injury. His departure leaves Tavaris Jackson as the second-choice QB.
Key Player Offense: Marshawn Lynch: The team's star running back posted career-high figures in 2012, rushing for 1,590 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns. With the injury to Harvin, the Seahawks will rely on Lynch and the running game in the early part of the season. The 27-year-old did not play much during pre-season, but has no injury concerns heading into the 2013 season.
Key Player Defense: Richard Sherman: The cornerback has been involved in some controversy during his first couple of seasons in the NFL, but you cannot argue with his figures. In 2012, the 25-year-old made made 64 tackles, eight interceptions, three forced fumbles and a sack. Sherman also possesses the ability to get under his opponent's skin, famously baiting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during their defeat to the Seahawks last season, while Trent Williams punched him during the Washington Redskins' playoff defeat to the NFC West side after being on the receiving end of Sherman's trash talk. If he is able to match his performance's from last season in 2013, the Seahawks will be a hard team to beat.
Rookie to watch: Christine Michael: The rookie running back has been the star of the Seahawks' offense during pre-season, adding 112 rushing yards and scoring a touchdown, as well as taking three receptions for 44 yards. Although Lynch is undoubtedly the running back of choice at the Seahawks, Michael will provide a solid alternative option.
Pre-season form: The Seahawks were unbeaten during their four pre-season games.
2013 prediction: The Seahawks are one of the early favourites to win this season's Super Bowl for good reason. They will face a tough battle for the NFC West title with the 49ers, but last year's narrow defeat to the Falcons in the playoffs will serve as strong motivation. The Seahawks should make the NFC Championship game at the very least in 2013.