Fresh off back-to-back divisional wins over the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams, the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks travel to Cleveland to take on the 2-3 Browns on Sunday morning with a chance to put pressure on the division-leading and undefeated San Francisco 49ers.
With the Rams hosting the 49ers this week, there is a chance Seattle could be in sole possession of the division lead for the first time this season.
How We Got Here
In Seattle’s victory over the Rams a week ago, the team won with a balanced offense, an aggressive defense, and just the right amount of luck, as Rams’ clutch kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a game-winning field goal with 11 seconds left in regulation.
This was following Tedric Thompson’s unreal interception that appeared to seal the victory, but Seattle was unable to get a first down and was forced to punt, giving the Rams one last shot.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson passed for 268 yards and four touchdowns, RB Chris Carson ran for another 118, while Rams QB Jared Goff threw for 395 yards, a touchdown and one interception. RB Todd Gurley also ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns, and Rams receivers consistently got open against the Seattle secondary.
The pass rush did, however, routinely pressure Goff into throws that just missed the mark and resulted in a lot of missed opportunities for L.A.
Whether you liked the outcome or not, it was a highly entertaining game, and for the moment, the Seahawks have an important advantage over their rival with superior conference and division records.
This week, the Seahawks get a Browns team that has been inconsistent over their first few games, collecting decisive wins over the NY Jets and Baltimore Ravens while losing big to the Tennessee Titans and the 49ers.
Their week 3 loss at home against the Rams was the closest game they have played this season, holding the Rams to just 20 points and forcing three turnovers in a 13-20 defeat.
Browns QB Baker Mayfield has thrown for 1,247 yards in five games (~250 per contest) with four touchdowns and an alarming 8 interceptions while completing just 56% of his passes. In his most recent game at San Francisco, Mayfield threw for just 100 yards with two interceptions in less than a full game of work.
After a lot of offseason hype about what the new-look Browns offense would be capable of with a backfield of Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb teaming up with receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, the current team has shown no signs of being ready for the spotlight they asked for – if not demanded.
On the flip side, Seattle has a top-5 QB in Wilson, who has thrown for 1,409 yards (~282 per contest) with 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing 73% of his passes. Wilson does not have an elite running back or offensive line (yet), but he has still found ways to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers, of which he has several.
The defense has done its part, but this is far from the dominant unit we saw from the Seahawks Super Bowl teams of 2013 and 2014. This defense is capable, with a very good front seven, but the back four might not be able to match the talent up front.
As long as the pass rush gets to the QB when it counts, the secondary may not need to be great; they just need to be good enough to cover receivers for a few seconds.
On The Line
If Cleveland can survive Seattle, it will get a win over a surprise NFC contender, as well as a much-needed bye week next week. The team could also head into their next game at New England with a .500 record looking to have a winning record after a major upset.
If the Browns lose, they will be looking at the possibility of coming off their bye week with a losing record just in time to visit the undefeated defending champions. Not exactly the ideal scenario.
If Seattle can survive Cleveland, it would turn around and head home to host the Ravens next Sunday looking to complete a sweep of the AFC North after defeating Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in its first two games of the season. The team would also have the possibility of building on a small division lead—if the Rams are able to take care of the 49ers this week.
If the Seahawks lose on Sunday, they will be at least a game behind the division leader and needing to make up ground, which does not bode well for them with the schedule they have remaining.
NFC West Implications
Whether the Hawks win or lose on Sunday, their first quarter of the season surpassed expectations, and they appear ready to challenge the Rams for the division crown, even if the 49ers appear ahead of the curve in their own rebuild.
You can catch the game on FOX this Sunday at 10am, live from FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH.