So, here the Seahawks are, right where we all thought they would be about five seconds after we watched them lose a heartbreaker in Atlanta one year ago.
Even before Super Bowl XLVII was played, the Seahawks were basically the favorites to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
That was before they even touched their roster. Then, in a span of three days in mid-March, they shocked everyone by adding Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. And they suddenly looked almost unbeatable.
It turns out they were, going 13-3 with their three losses by a combined 15 points. Avril and Bennett replaced Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin as their top pass rushers, combining for 16.5 sacks as they helped the Hawks become the league's undisputed No. 1 defense.
But the Hawks hardly saw Harvin, who had offseason hip surgery and played in just one game.
Now, as the Seahawks stand poised at the starting gate ready to make what many consider their destined Super Bowl run, they finally will regain the services of the superstar playmaker who cost so much yet has done so little. But will he do anything to help them?
Harvin Watch has been a weekly topic at Seahawks headquarters all season, as media and fans alike have relentlessly wondered if and when the mercurial playmaker would return to the field and show why the Seahawks gave up three draft picks, including their first-rounder last year and their third-rounder this year, and guaranteed him $25.5 million.
Harvin played in just one game, a 41-20 blowout of his old Minnesota Vikings in Week 11, and then missed the rest of the season.
By Week 17, Harvin seemed destined for injured reserve so the Hawks could use the roster spot to fortify for the playoffs. In fact, coach Pete Carroll was ready to make the move after the season finale against the Rams but changed his mind after talking to Harvin on Dec. 30.
"I had to look him in the eye … and say, 'This is the time, this is it, we have to make the call,'" Carroll said.
Harvin's response: "Coach, I'm ready to play ball."
So, to add to the pomp and circumstance of Seattle's first home playoff game in three years -- yes, since the Beast Quake upset of these same Saints on Jan. 8, 2011 -- Seattle fans and media who have been craving another Harvin sighting for two months will get it.
Carroll said this week that if Harvin plays he will not have any restrictions. That means he figures to return kicks as well as contribute on offense.
Of course, he hasn't played in two months and has played just one game all season, so they obviously will pick their spots in using him. In Week 11, he was in for 21 plays, and he came up big on two of them: a 58-yard kick return and a sweet one-handed, 17-yard catch to convert a third down.
With the Vikings, he didn't have much success against the Saints. In three games (2009-11), Harvin caught just nine passes for 58 yards, ran six times for 16 yards and returned five kicks for 102 yards. He did not score.
Of course, no one in Seattle cares about that, especially with expectations for this game and season so high whether Harvin is here or not.
The Seahawks have gotten this far without him, and -- led by the No. 1 defense and quarterback Russell Wilson -- they surely are capable of winning the Super Bowl even if he isn't ready.
But he says he is.
"It’s been a fantastic group led by No. 3 (Wilson)," Harvin said, "so I’m just looking to fit in anywhere I can … I’m just looking to jump on the bus and enjoy the ride.”
THREE AND OUT
**Carroll said tight end Luke Willson had a miraculous recovery from the high ankle sprain he suffered in the final vs. the Rams. "Something happened because they checked him out right off the bat and it looked like he had a broken leg," Carroll said. "They checked him out again that night and he didn’t. So all I can tell you is that it was remarkable whatever happened in there. There was a laying of hands or something. I don’t know what happened, but he jumped right back and he had terrific work and he’s ready to play.”
**The Seahawks are 8-6 in rematch games over Carroll's four seasons, but they are 7-2 when the second game is at home. That includes the 2010 season, when the Hawks avoided a big blowout loss in New Orleans, losing 34-19, and then stunned the entire league with the 41-36 upset of the Saints, who were the reigning Super Bowl champs that season.
**Much is being made of the fact that the No. 1 seed has lost to the No. 6 seed in six of eight meetings since 2005 (including the No. 6 seed Steelers beating the No. 1 Seahawks in Super Bowl XL). But none of those teams had the No. 1 defense in yards, points and takeaways and were playing in front of the 12th Man in Seattle.