With the eighth week of NFL in the books, the season is half over and the Seattle Seahawks are 6-2. What better time than now to look back on how we got here and look forward at the games to come and make a playoff prediction or two.
Last weekend, the Seahawks flew down to Atlanta to play the floundering Falcons and returned home with yet another road win. To be fair, the Falcons are terrible and there was almost no way the Hawks were going to drop this one, but it didn’t go exactly as expected. While the first half exhibited the most dominant brand of shutout football we’ve seen in 2019, with the Seahawks up 24-0 at halftime, they seemed to take their foot off the gas in the second half, allowing the Falcons to climb back into the contest before ending the day with a 27-20 victory.
But a win is a win, and I’m not complaining.
Looking back, the season has been an unquestionable success, but it’s not without blemishes. Being halfway through the year with six wins and two losses is great. Not perfect, obviously, but great, nonetheless. And how have the Seahawks achieved such a record? To me, there are three no-brainer reasons: Russell Wilson, effective offense, improving defense.
Russell Wilson has been nothing short of extraordinary this year, completing 68.4 percent of his passes for 2127 yards (8.5 Y/A), 17 touchdowns and only 1 interception. Those MVP-caliber stats place Wilson first in the NFL in passer rating and touchdowns, and he’s tied for first in pass/interception ratios. Since entering the league in 2012–and never missing a game–Wilson is arguably playing the best football of his career, either pacing or bettering his statistical achievements through eight games. And even top-tier stats like that don’t really do a player like Wilson justice considering how much “magic” he displays on the field. His elusiveness, vision, adaptability, competitiveness and touch on the prettiest deep ball in the league are all hard to measure, but undeniable when witnessed.
As an extension of Wilson, the Seahawks offense this season has felt mostly cohesive and effective. With Chris Carson healthy, the team’s rushing attack has provided a powerful counterpoint to when, where, and how the Hawks move the ball through the air. Carson’s early season fumbles have been replaced by top 5 running back rankings in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and overall touches. He’s a genuine workhorse back, a rare find in today’s NFL.
From the Seahawks wide receivers, multiple players have caught multiple touchdowns. Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Will Dissly (RIP) each have 4 touchdowns, while Jaron Brown and Chris Carson both have 2 touchdowns. That kind of receiving diversity and volume is evidence of Wilson’s ability to make quick reads on the field in real-time. Clearly, he’s working deep into his progressions to identify not his favorite receiver, or even the team’s best receiver, but rather, the best ball-catcher in each unique moment. And the successes speak for themselves.
The Seahawks defense has been okay. In a season with history-making defenses on both coasts (The New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers) creating lop-sided rankings, I find it’s more helpful to trust what my eyes can see. And they see issues.
To be fair, the Hawks have had tough injuries to work around, and I believe that defenses take time to start working together. But overall, it’s been underwhelming. I like our pass rush, but not the lack of sacks and pressures. I like our linebackers but miss the consistent wrap-up tackling. I like our secondary, but not the blown coverages.
Again, this could all clean itself up in time, but eight weeks into the season, I need to see more.
Recent Detroit Lion and now Seahawk safety, Quandre Diggs helps, but I think we’re still coming up short. We aren’t dominating the easy teams, nor are we holding the harder teams in check, instead we’re too often relying on Wilson to pull another rabbit out of his hat (helmet?), and that won’t hack it in the playoffs. More than a player, I think we need to bring in a new defensive coordinator. Is Dan Quinn available?
Now, like the coaches and players themselves, we must look ahead at the games to come.
This week, the Seahawks welcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to town in what should be a winnable game. The Bucs’ strength is their passing game, with two dangerous wide receivers that will challenge the Hawks down field, but if we can pressure their quarterback, Jameis Winston, and limit his decision-making time, he will make mistakes. If not, we might need Wilson to drop more than his average number of bombs.
The next week, however, is a different animal altogether. The Seahawks will go on the road to face the currently undefeated San Francisco 49ers for the first time this season. Not only do the 49ers have an imposing defense, featuring a staggering pass rush, but they have a small fleet of running backs who provide fresh legs to power their ground game. And at the helm, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throws the ball just enough to keep the defenses from completely stacking the box. But that’s also the way to beat them, stop the run and force Jimmy G to throw. If he throws a lot, he’ll make mistakes and the Hawks can take advantage.
This contest will define the narrative for both teams (and any potential rivalry rebirth) going forward. If the Hawks can squeak out a win, they’ll vault to frontrunners to win the NFC West. If the Hawks lose a close one, they’ll pace the 49ers and be the frontrunners for a Wildcard spot. If the Hawks take a blowout loss, they’ll tumble out of the playoff discussion for a few weeks, with critics turning to the Los Angeles Rams for their division predictions. And, it’s worth saying, if the Hawks somehow blowout the 49ers, they’ll be instantly thrown into the kind of discussions that currently surround the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. Also, Wilson’s MVP will be a lock.
After the 49ers, the Hawks have a much-needed BYE week, offering rest, rehabilitation, and a reset for the team. Depending on how they fair over the next two weeks, the week 11 BYE will be good news. Coming off a win or a loss, it’s extra time to review what happened and prep for the weeks ahead–which includes: At the Philadelphia Eagles, home for the Minnesota Vikings, at the Los Angeles Rams, at the Carolina Panthers, home for the Arizona Cardinals, and home for the 49ers again.
Now, that’s not an easy slate of matchups, but if we can just go .500 for the eight remaining games (likely beating the Bucs, Eagles, Cardinals, and 49ers), we’ll finish the regular season at 10-6, which I believe will earn the Seahawks a wildcard spot in the playoffs. But, those games will all be tough, so we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out. Injuries can change a team’s trajectory in a heartbeat, so predicting things this far in advance is just speculation.
Now, about the 49ers, who are currently 7-0 and play the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football. After that, they play the Hawks and Cardinals again. Assuming they win all three of those (and the Hawks could upset), they’ll be 10-0, which is incredible, but then they face the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens, and they could easily lose all three of those games, sending them into their final stretch (Falcons, Rams, Hawks) with a good record but maybe a broken spirit. Additionally, they had their BYE week in September, so they might also be all gassed out. That might be wishful thinking on my part, but it’s one thing to make the playoffs and it’s another to make the playoffs with something left in the tank. The Seahawks have been here before, and as impressive as the 49ers have been, they may struggle on the home stretch. Right now, I think they’ll win the division but lose in the opening round of the playoffs.
And won’t that be something to behold. Go Hawks!