I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t think a team that started the season 5-0 would need a tune up game in week 14 against an 0-12 team to solidify their chances to get to the playoffs. But that 5-0 team has gone 3-4 in the last several weeks so here we are.
The defense had either no identity or was known as an easy out for the first several weeks of the season, and after a couple of really good weeks, they are right back against the wall being asked to prove it. For a team that used a Monday Night Football matchup to terrorize Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz two weeks ago, it’s a bit of a head scratcher that that same defense couldn’t do the same to New York Giants QB Colt McCoy – who arguably hasn’t played in a meaningful game since January of 2011.
McCoy dropped back 22 times on Sunday, he was sacked just twice. He only threw for 105 yards and had both a touchdown and an interception, but he should have been hit a little more. He should have been harassed into mistakes, or at least made less comfortable. The dude may as well have been lounging in a rocking chair smoking a pipe for how comfortable he looked. I don’t think McCoy has been this comfortable since he was Vince Young’s backup at Texas.
So the Seahawks made a career backup in his first start this year (and just 29th in a decade in the NFL) for his 4th team look awfully cozy. Ok, fine, we’re on to Cincinnati. Wait, no, that’s not their opponent this week, though it may as well be. This week the Seahawks draw the winless New York Jets, and they get to play them on their home field, the recently re-named Lumen Field (previously known as Seahawks Stadium, CenturyLink Field, and Qwest Field).
Before we get into what Seattle needs to do (win, for starters), let’s take a quick look at the Jets. They are rolling out an offense featuring QB Sam Darnold, who no one seems to know if he’s actually any good. Darnold has had some bright spots here and there, but he has trouble staying healthy, and when he is in good shape, his supporting cast is either injured or just not talented when compared to their NFL counterparts. Darnold has only started 34 games in his young three year career, but the results have not been great – 7317 yards, 41 TDs, and 37 interceptions with an 11-23 record. Now before some of you clamor for his rushing stats, yes he does have a few hundred yards and a few touchdowns – but also 14 fumbles lost. So the guy does about as much damage to other teams as he does to his own. He may still turn the corner, but if the supporting cast (and coaching) around him doesn’t shift dramatically in the next couple of years, he’ll be just another high draft pick on a bad team that didn’t make it.
The skill players around Darnold? Well, there aren’t many. Running backs Frank Gore and La’Mical Perine have 725 yards combined and just three touchdowns. Their leading receiver is Jamison Crowder, who has 503 yards on 40 receptions and 5 touchdowns. From there you have Breshad Perriman with 374 yards and three touchdowns on 23 receptions, and Denzel Mims with 324 yards on 19 receptions – and zero touchdowns. The offense as a whole has just 18 touchdowns, which is pretty depressing. By comparison, Russell Wilson has 33 (32 passing, one rushing) to himself.
On defense, the Jets’ motto is “you can have it all”, they allow 29.4 points per game and give up 398.8 yards per game. Seattle is actually closer to the Jets than you might like to think on defense, giving up 26.8 points and 407.4 yards. The Jets are -1 in turnover differential, while the Seahawks are +1. So both teams are bad at protecting the ball and almost as bad at taking it away. They’re actually tied with 16 possessions ending in a turnover, and the Jets have 15 takeaways while Seattle has 17. Will those two extra turnovers over the course of a season be enough to turn the tide in this game? We’ll see.
Two weeks ago, Seattle was near the bottom of the league in pressuring opposing QBs, where as now they are ranked 7th with 33 sacks. The Jets were also near the bottom of the league two weeks ago, and there they stay – ranked 25th with just 20. Seattle only had two last week but seven a week before that, so if not for the burst of pressure in week 12, who knows where they would be today. Usually teams that are bad at applying pressure to the QB are bad at giving up passing touchdowns, and that’s true here. Seattle has allowed 21 scores through the air, the Jets have given up 24 – the league worst being 27.
So Seattle might be better than the Jets on defense or they might not be, we’ll have to see which version shows up this weekend. Safety Jamal Adams was traded to Seattle from the Jets this summer and has been a very valuable asset, but he hasn’t quite had that showcase game yet. Will we see a classic revenge game (even though Adams wanted out of New York), or will this be the Jets’ chance to prove they were better off without Adams even though the numbers don’t show it?
In his last seven games, Seattle QB Russell Wilson is 3-4, with 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, can he finally turn the corner this week? In his 5-0 start, Wilson tossed 19 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions, how does he get the offense back to that pace? The running game is almost back to full strength, that should help the passing game stay balanced rather than forced, which is where a lot of Wilson’s mistakes happen. Since a 20 target, 15 catch, 200 yard, 3 touchdown performance in week 7, Tyler Lockett has not been as explosive. Some might look at DK Metcalf ascent in that same stretch as the reason why, but Metcalf has been putting up great numbers all season. Something is up with Lockett, and it could be a reason Wilson has not been performing as well in the weeks since.
The offense is getting healthy, the defense is mostly healthy, and the playmakers are all on the field. The difference now needs to be the outcome. Seattle lacks a quality win over a good team in the last few weeks, and while they won’t get there this weekend, they can get back on track. The defining qualities of a great team are they beat the teams they are supposed to and don’t lose to teams they aren’t supposed to lose to. Seattle has played some great games this season, but they have been bad in others, and we need to see this team figure out who they are. The division lead hangs by a thread, and it doesn’t belong to Seattle at the moment. They were gifted one of the easiest schedules to close out the season in the league, and they need to take advantage of it.
It may just be the Jets, but this could be the most important game of Seattle’s season. It isn’t good that it came to that, but it’s a good thing if Seattle uses it as fuel to get back to the top of their division and solidify their spot in the race for the playoffs. As things stand today, Seattle would be travelling to play the winner of the NFC East in Wild Card weekend. That was where they landed last year, and while they are competitive in most locations, they are best when hosting.
They get to host the game this Sunday, and if they have any interest in hosting games after week 17, they had better start playing like it.
That starts this Sunday, you can catch all the game action on FOX at 1:05pm.