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Senior NFL Columnist

NFL Power Rankings: Saints, attrition in secondary could sink Seahawks

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Why is it when we are ready to say a team is the clearly best in the league right now -- see Seattle -- problems start coming their way?

The Seahawks are atop the Power Rankings for the second week, which they've earned with a 10-1 mark, but as we head down the stretch they have issues in their secondary.

First came word that corner Walter Thurmond, their nickel corner who has been pressed into a starting role because of an injury to Brandon Browner, would be out four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Next we got the news that Browner is allegedly facing a one-year suspension for violating the same policy.

What the heck is going on?

This is a defense built around the corners. With Richard Sherman on the other side, they play a ton of tight, aggressive man coverage. The question now is whether they can do it going forward. Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane have to step up and take over in the secondary.

This isn't exactly how you want to face New Orleans and Drew Brees, which Seattle will do Monday night. Nobody wants to go to Seattle to play the Seahawks in the playoffs, and if Seattle beats New Orleans this week, it's a near certainty that the Seahawks will have the top seed in the NFC.

That has to be a scary proposition for the NFC playoff teams. Seattle will have essentially a three-game lead in the race for the top seed with four to go if they beat the Saints.

A victory would mean they would have defeated both the Saints and the Panthers, the two teams with a chance to wrestle the top spot away from them, and be two games up on both.

That isn't to say this team doesn't have flaws. Aside from the loss of their corners, the offensive line, which is getting healthy, has struggled because of injuries. How will it come together as a unit down the stretch?

If New Orleans does go to Seattle and wins, the Saints still face two games with the Panthers. Seattle has tough games with Arizona and San Francisco.

With five weeks to go, it's hard to argue that the Seahawks are the top team. But a word of caution: Two weeks ago, they sure didn't look like it in the first half against Tampa Bay.

And the mess in the secondary isn't helping.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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