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Preseason power rankings: No. 24

If PFT’s power rankings prove correct, perhaps an East Coast bias is justified.

Three AFC West teams landed in the bottom seven, and now the Seattle Seahawks will join two NFC West teams in the bottom nine.

On paper, the Seahawks have the best chance to emerge as a playoff contender out of this group because they have a solid quarterback, a forgiving schedule, and a group of players returning from injury.

In reality, Seattle will cross their fingers every time Matt Hasselbeck gets hit as he returns from a serious back injury at age 34. The preseason has been highly encouraging for Hasselbeck, but less so for the rest of the roster.

The injury bug that plagued Seattle last year is back. The team’s best cornerback by far, Marcus Trufant, could potentially miss the beginning portion of the season. Future Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones underwent another knee surgery after undergoing a microfracture procedure in the offseason. His future is a total mystery and the team also lost starting center Chris Spencer for the next 4-6 weeks.

The team’s leaky front line was their undoing last year, and early signs on a rebound aren’t promising. The team’s improved wideout group, with T.J. Houshmanzadeh aboard and others healthy, won’t have time to get open if the line can’t block.

There is a massive transition underway with coordinator Greg Knapp taking over for Mike Holmgren as the offensive architect. Knapp has a long history of successful running games, but the backfield screams mediocrity. Signing Edgerrin James and dumping T.J. Duckett was a recognition that the team’s original plan wasn’t working.

If the Seahawks are going to improve, new coach Jim Mora will have to lead a renaissance on defense. The front seven has talent, but experienced a dramatic decline in 2008. The team will need a rebound season from defensive end Patrick Kerney and hope that top-five pick Aaron Curry can make a big immediate impact.

Mora will need to create pressure or Seattle’s back end could be exposed as one of the league’s worst without Trufant.

In fantasy football parlance, this is a “boom or bust” squad. Healthy seasons from Hasselbeck, Jones, Kerney, and Trufant could lead them back into the playoff mix with some luck. It’s more likely that some of the players above will miss significant time, and the Seahawks will tread water, even if that means rising to second in a bad division.

Key Player: Walter Jones. If he doesn’t make it back, the rest of the offensive line could struggle, with right tackle Sean Locklear changing sides.

Rookie to watch: Curry. He hasn’t practiced much at training camp. If he lives up to the hype, he’ll be part of one of the best linebacker groups in football with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill.

Best veteran acquisition: T.J. Houshmandzadeh was overpaid, so we’ll go with defensive tackle Colin Cole. Cole, Brandon Mebane, and trade acquisition Cory Redding will try to solve a trouble spot at defensive tackle.

Key game: Week Ten, at Arizona. The Seahawks play the Cardinals twice in a four-game stretch, this being the second game. A win on the road will greatly help their chances of staying in the division race all year.