My way too early guarantee for this year: I think the Mariners, Seahawks, and Huskies football teams will win more games than they did in 2015. I could also see the Huskies basketball team improving in 2016-2017 due to a huge number of freshman on the current team. And WSU football is going to stay relevant, though topping 9 wins will be tough.
First the Mariners. The Mariners last year were one of baseball's biggest underachievers. Since then, there has been a huge overhaul. New GM, new manager, and many, many new faces in the dugout. But in terms of pure talent, the Mariners are still roughly one of the 10 most talented teams in baseball and one of the top 10 payrolls.
While I didn't love every move Dipoto made (Roenis Elias and Carson Smith for Jarrod Washburn 2.0 was almost as bad as the Fister trade), I generally liked that Dipoto was willing to make the team older to pursue value signings. In just one offseason, Seattle has gone for a young team to a veteran team. It was a very Pat Gillick-esque offseason. Veteran teams can implode suddenly without warning due to age, but they generally don't underachieve when they stay healthy. And the Mariners are probably a couple years away from needing to worry about the age of their players.
The Mariners lineup has five players with a projected WAR above 2.0. And that list doesn't count Adam Lind (a perennial .800+ OPS bat), Franklin Gutierrez (amazing bat when healthy), or Seth Smith (he's been worth 2+ WAR every year but doesn't quite make it in the projections due to age bias and playing time concerns). Seattle's breakout shortstop, Ketel Marte, was on pace for a 4 WAR season in 2015.
Overall I think this lineup, in terms of offense plus defense, will be the best lineup the Mariners have had since Edgar was playing. The batting is going to be really solid 1-9 and the defense has a better than not chance to be top half of baseball.
Pitching is where I think the Mariners will run into issues. Felix has to rebound from a tough 2015 season, Iwakuma has to prove that he can buck the trend of Japanese pitchers declining early in their careers, and also erase doubts about his failed physical. And those are the studs. The rest of the rotation is full of "luck based" pitchers who will live and die based on BABIP, defense, and homer luck. I guess you could argue that Walker has 'potential' to be an ace but I don't see it personally. I think the Mariners are going to end up with an average-ish rotation when it's all said and done.
The bullpen should be the weakest link for the Mariners. They basically have three trustworthy relievers: Joaquin Benoit (age 38), Steve Cishek, and Charlie Furbush. I think James Paxton could be a good reliever too but he's not been delegated to the bullpen as of yet. Behind those 3-4 solid relievers is a whole lot of bad/hopeful options. It's widely projected to be a bottom third bullpen.
The good news is that bullpen performance by its nature has huge year-to-year variance and is highly luck based. Look no further than the Mariners' bullpens from 2014 to 2015. And the other bit of good news is that it would be hard for the bullpen to be worse than last year's, which wasn't just among the worst in runs allowed, but also blew 24 saves, compared to just 12 the year before. Even if the bullpen is a disaster again, it wouldn't be worse than last year's. So even though the bullpen looks weak on paper, the irony is that it is one of the Mariners' greatest potential areas of improvement - if they get a bit of luck on their side.
The Mariners current 2016 projection at Fangraphs is 83 wins, which is 7 wins better than the Mariners 2015 record. Its worth noting that Fangraphs projected last year's most dominant team, the KC Royals, as a 79 win team, showing that variance and luck are huge factors in baseball, even in a 162 game schedule.
I don't think Seattle is going to win 116 games this year, but I do think they will very likely win more than they did in 2015 (76). I really like the "honda civics" approach to filling out the roster that Dipoto has taken, it might not give Seattle a bright future but it should lead to a pleasant 2016 season.
WIth the Seahawks, it's definitely too early to predict much. But I do think that a 10 win season should be a career low point for Russell. The Seahawks are still the league's most talented team, and played well enough to earn 12.5 "estimated wins" last year, but unfortunately had some terrible misfortune at the end of games early in the season. It's hard to say how much weighted DVOA translates from season to season, but Seattle just put up the 3rd best weighted DVOA number ever recorded in Football Outsiders' database, and the last time Seattle rocked such an insane weighted DVOA they went on to win the SB the following season.
And like 2012, Seattle's hot finish in 2015 was not random luck or a simple hot streak. Seattle's hot play stemmed from a huge philosophy shift on offense that had the team using the spread as its staple, with an emphasis on getting the ball out of Russell's hands quickly. In 2012, Seattle's hot play stemmed from Seattle implementing the read option.
While I kinda doubt that Doug Baldwin ever sees a 14 TD season ever again, I do think that Russell Wilson could easily threaten 40+ passing TDs next year with a full year under the spread. Wilson's numbers with Thomas Rawls in the backfield were especially impressive (129 passer rating). If Rawls can stay healthy for 16 games, I would expect Russell Wilson to win the 2016 MVP.
Rawls 5.7 YPC average felt too good to be true, but he did pass the eyeball test with flying colors... I don't see why he couldn't be a upper 4's producer on a regular basis.
Even without improving the OL, I expect Seattle to be neck and neck with Pittsburgh for the best offense in the NFL next season.
My concerns come on defense, particularly in pass coverage. Seattle allowed too many easy completions last year, despite getting a good season from the pass rush and an elite season from the run defense. Some of that is on the talent, and some of that is on our coaches. My concern is that not enough will be done to address this issue in the offseason and Seattle will lose a couple games they shouldn't because of it in 2016.
But still, I look at this team, pre-draft and pre-FA, and see a team that should win 13+ games next year with average luck. Or at the very least, win more than 10.
The Huskies I won't talk about too much, but I think they are the team that will make the biggest leap of the three. Towards the end of the season they were either blowing teams out or losing only because they shot themselves in the foot a thousand times. Over their final eight games, the Huskies averaged 39 points scored per game, which would have ranked near the top of the conference. Their defense ranked #1 in the Pac-12 and added a very strong defensive recruiting class while losing very little to graduation. They also return John Ross, a big time playmaker. And personally, I'm very excited for true freshman Sean McGrew, who reminds me of De'Anthony Thomas.
But I hate making this kind of argument for UW, because it is an "on paper" argument. Rather, I like UW so much because of the intangibles, how they "clicked" at the end of the season. There is a ton of chemistry on the defense and the offense started to show some real chemistry towards the end as well. This is a different team than anything Sark ever had. I'll be honest and say that I wasn't as hyped for Chris Petersen as some others were, I just thought he was a solid coach, not a great one. But now I'm starting to think I massively under-estimated the guy's ability to develop a team on the fly.
I think it is safe to say UW will do better than 7-6.
As for WSU, I think they will be really good as well. The WSU defense plays the run tougher than their stats suggest. They play with attitude. And the passing game is special when Falk is in there. It wouldn't shock me in the slightest if the Apple cup decided the Pac-12 North next season, with Stanford and Oregon still being good, but dealing with new QBs.