This Sunday morning, 6-1 Seattle travels to face 6-2 Buffalo in a game that could help either franchise cement itself as a contender in their respective conference. With both teams at or near the top of their side of the league, another win would force them into the conversation of playoff contenders, while a loss could add weight to the burden of lingering questions about their true ability, despite a great start to their seasons.
To be honest, this year’s Bills remind me a lot of Seattle in 2018. Russell Wilson was the undisputed leader of the team and had defined himself as a passer and a runner, they had a declining Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett just hitting his prime, a talented but unproven second year running back Chris Carson, high upside rookie Rashaad Penny, and a patchwork defense trying to find its identity. They were winning games, and they were likely to make the playoffs, but not many had them on their short list of legitimate contenders. They went 10-6 and lost in the wildcard round, and big part of that was their inability to manufacture offense when it counted, or to create stops on defense when they needed to catch up.
Buffalo features third year QB Josh Allen, who is playing at a high level, but makes a lot of mistakes, which many young QBs do. So far this season, Allen has 2,172 yards with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Allen only tossed 20 touchdowns all of last season, and he’s only four off from matching that total and he still has several games left. It’s fair to say he’s on pace to shatter his career highs across the board, and the kid has an absolute cannon for an arm. Second year (and unproven playmaker) running back Devin Singletary is their primary ball carrier, but high upside rookie Zack Moss is back from injury and appears ready to be a great change of pace option. Declining underrated veteran receiver John Brown has been banged up, but can still contribute and runs a full route tree. The Bills traded for Stefon Diggs, and Allen quickly established Diggs as his go-to receiver, with Diggs on pace to establish new career bests in receptions and yards. There is talent on the defense, but they have not established themselves as a force in the league, let alone their conference. They will get a great test this weekend as they take on one of the most high powered offenses in the league.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson has been filling the stat sheet and terrorizing defenses. With 2,151 yards to go with 26 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions – Wilson is extremely close to Peyton Manning’s numbers through seven games in 2013 (2,565 yards, 25 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) – considered by many to be the finest single season by a QB in NFL history. Name a Seattle RB, they are either banged up or struggling right now, but the good news is that each of them has looked solid when able to get on the field. Last week looked a little too much like the end of 2019 for most fans, as the team was forced to start Deejay Dallas as Penny is still rehabbing and Carson was not ready to return from a foot injury that has been bugging him. That left Dallas and Travis Homer as the primary ball carriers, and while they didn’t need much support on the ground due to the massive effectiveness of the passing game, what running work they did get left much to be desired. Had the game come against a mostly healthy and competitive team, it may not have been enough.
This week, Seattle is expected to debut their new additions to the defense, tackle Damon Harrison, and “LEO” end/linebacker Carlos Dunlap. Bruce Irvin most recently flourished in the hybrid pass rushing end/linebacker role, and a veteran like Dunlap should be very comfortable in the role, after spending the last several years as a traditional rusher lining up and coming off the edge. It will give both Dunlap and the defensive scheme as a whole time to adjust to each other, while taking advantage of Dunlap’s athleticism.
On defense Seattle is 24th in the league, allowing 28.4 points per game, and dead last in yards allowed at 460.9 per game. Seattle is last in passing yards allowed at 358.7, but there is hope as they have the 9th ranked run defense, allowing 102.1 yards per game. It’s possible that teams are merely just throwing more against Seattle knowing they can be beat through the air, but regardless of how and why, they are a top ten unit against the run. Buffalo is 14th in scoring allowed at 24.9 per game, and 16th in yards, allowing 358.1. The Bills are 11th in passing yards allowed with 223.6, and are 26th in rushing yards allowed at 134.5 per game.
Seattle currently has the number one scoring offense in the NFL, and is 3rd in yards. The Seahawks are number three in passing yards, and 12th in rushing yards. The Bills have the 19th best scoring offense, and are 13th in yards. They have the 10th most passing yards per game, and are 20th in rushing yards per game. Seattle is +7 in turnover differential, Buffalo is -1, so the Seahawks are taking care of the football at a much higher level.
What you will see on Sunday is one team (Seattle) that can score against virtually any team in the league and moves the ball seemingly at will, but selflessly allows their opponent to do the same to them. Then you have Buffalo, who is perhaps more methodical almost to a fault, and moves the ball at a slower pace and struggles to finish drives. They are 12th in the league in time of possession, while Seattle is 21st. That may seem like a large disparity, but it actually only amounts to about 1 minute per game. That could be meaningless, or since Seattle has been in contests that were decided in the final minute of the game five of seven weeks this season, it could mean winning or losing.
Can Seattle keep the ball moving against an above average defense? Can Buffalo keep up on the scoreboard with Seattle and their league leading offense? Will the additions of Dunlap and Harrison on the defensive line coupled with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr’s willingness to call for more blitzing help contain and attack Josh Allen? The 49ers were blown away by Seattle’s blitzing last week, but when the more mobile Nick Mullens relieved the statue-esque Jimmy Garoppolo, the game went a little differently. San Francisco still lost, but they were able to pick up ground and made the score more respectable. Allen is perhaps the fourth best dual-threat QB in the league behind Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson, and the defense will need to make sure they are prepared to chase after him for four quarters.
So far this season, Patrick Peterson is the only cover corner that has been able to contain DK Metcalf for an entire game. Sooner or later, against lesser mortals, Metcalf always breaks free for a big play. Can Bills all-pro corner Tre’Davious White have similar success against Metcalf? Many have tried, many have failed. Metcalf had the best game of his very young career last weekend, catching 12 passes for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those are monster numbers, and that’s exactly what Metcalf is – a matchup monster. White had better bring a few pairs of gloves if he’s going to cover Metcalf all game.
This game really comes down to who you believe in more – Russell Wilson, or Josh Allen? The new look of Seattle’s defense, or the tried and true of Buffalo? Personally I’ll take Seattle in this one, but it’s probably going to be close, seems like every game Seattle plays this year is. It will be a thrilling shootout, but Wilson will win in the end and head into week nine with his team at 7-1.
You can catch all the action this Sunday morning at 10am pst on FOX.