Russell Wilson (3) and the Seattle Seahawks are looking to find a way past the Los Angeles Rams to finish first in the NFC West this season. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Russell Wilson (3) and the Seattle Seahawks are looking to find a way past the Los Angeles Rams to finish first in the NFC West this season. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

POLL RESULTS: Voters are confident in the Seahawks

Nearly half the responders picked Seattle to finish first in the NFC West this season.

It seems confidence is high heading into the Seattle Seahawks’ season.

The Seahawks open their 2019 campaign when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Seattle is coming off a season in which it went 10-6 and finished second in the NFC West, snagging a wild card playoff spot. Then during the offseason we saw the departure of the likes of defensive end Frank Clark and receiver Doug Baldwin, the re-signing of the likes of quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, and the late addition of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Therefore, this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll asked readers to predict where the Seahawks would finish in the four-team NFC West this season. Here’s how you voted:

Add it all together and nearly half the voters — 48 percent — predicted the Seahawks will win the division this season. Another 43 percent say Seattle will finish second, while a minuscule number expect either a third-place (6 percent) or fourth-place (3 percent) finish.

Seeing more than 90 percent of the voters predicting a top-two finish is no surprise. Seattle hasn’t finished lower than second in the division since 2011, which was the season before Wilson joined the team. Last season the Seahawks finished second, and there was a six-game gap to the third-place San Francisco 49ers. Predicting the Seahawks to fall to third or worse requires a leap in faith that there will be a drastic change in fortune, either in the negative for Seattle or in the positive for the 49ers or Arizona Cardinals.

But seeing more voters pick the Seahawks to finish first than second is interesting. Seattle is in a division with the Los Angeles Rams, who were the NFC champions last season and are among the betting favorites to return to the Super Bowl this season. The Rams finished three games ahead of the Seahawks last season, and the Rams certainly didn’t downgrade their roster during the offseason.

I suspect part of this may be what can be described as the “Clowney high.” The pass rush was Seattle’s biggest concern heading into the season, considering that leading pass rusher Clark was traded to Kansas City and free agent signing Ziggy Ansah is recovering from shoulder surgery. Last weekend’s trade with the Houston Texans for Clowney, the former first-overall selection in the NFL draft, not only addressed that issue, it clearly energized the fan base.

Clowney is a three-time Pro Bowler, recording 9.5 sacks in 2017 and 9.0 sacks last season, so he’s been productive. But it should be pointed out that the man he’s replacing, Clark, had 13.0 sacks last season, and he had 10.0 sacks in 2016 when he wasn’t even a starter. So Clowney is going to have to up his game a bit to fully replace what Seattle lost.

But the beginning of the season is always a time for optimism for any team, and there’s doesn’t seem to be any shortage of that in the Pacific Northwest heading into this NFL season.

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