The Seattle Seahawks have exceeded expectations for the 2018 NFL season. After a year where they finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, the team is playing like a competent football team that looks to contend for the playoffs. I think it is safe to say that few fans and media analysts expected this. After parting ways with several defensive veterans like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett and sporting a seemingly anemic offense and predictable attack scheme, many thought the Seahawks were doomed. After a slow start, Seattle proved all the naysayers wrong with a surprising turnaround.

Perhaps the most unexpected feature of the new-look Seahawks is their vastly improved running game. In the 2017 season, Seattle sported one of the least efficient running games of all time if quarterback Russell Wilson's rushing yards are excluded. They now have three dynamic backs in Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis, but the offensive line's run-blocking is also a huge factor in their success.

New offensive line coach Mike Solari replaces Tom Cable, and it has paid dividends to say the least. One of the primary reasons for Seattle's poor offensive display last season was their offensive line: they could not open holes for the backs to run through and they could not protect Wilson. Solari's arrival resulted in a drastic change in quality: the offensive linemen actually block and open holes now, and to a consistent degree at that.

Meanwhile, Wilson has been more efficient and thorough than in previous years and is having one of the best seasons of his career. The improved offensive line certainly helps, but he is being more confident with the ball and dropping beautiful passes to his receivers more often than usual, which is encouraging for Seahawks fans to see.

Speaking of the receivers, Tyler Lockett looked washed last season, but has reverted to his speedy rookie form and is now a touchdown machine. Doug Baldwin is limited by injury but still produces when needed. Jaron Brown has been a reliable red-zone threat, and David Moore is showing some flashes. Overall, this unit has improved vastly.

The defense has largely been compromised without the stars from the vaunted Legion of Boom squad but has occasionally managed to finish the job when the offense cannot. The special teams unit has improved overall as well, especially with star rookie punter Michael Dickson. The shaky Sebastian Janikowski may prove to be a liability, but he has occasionally delivered when necessary.

Overall, the 2018 Seattle Seahawks are a far better team than many people envisioned, especially in a supposed rebuilding year. What a difference having an altered coaching staff, scheme and roster can make.