As the Seahawks prepare to start a season without Russell Wilson for the first time in 11 years, they are not expected to win more than four or five games.
In the Wilson years, the Hawks would have been favored to beat Denver, Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Carolina and the Giants and Jets while splitting their division games. That would equal 10 wins, with New Orleans, Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City the wild cards.
With no dependable quarterback, though, the Hawks currently are favored against only the Falcons, Panthers and the New York teams. Vegas has the over/under at 5.5 wins. The combined career winning percentage of Geno Smith and Drew Lock is .382, which would translate to six wins.
Is that really the best this team will be able to manage without Wilson?
It all depends on the running game, special teams, takeaways — and more takeaways. And probably putting Lock at QB.
The Seahawks are at or near the top of the NFL mileage log every season, simply by virtue of the fact that Seattle is farther away from the rest of the league than any other NFL city.
Thanks to their trip to Munich to play Tampa Bay, the Seahawks will travel over 29,000 miles in 2022. That was recently contrasted against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will travel a mere 6,442 miles for their away games.
Some say that is unfair, but it is simple geography and has long been a challenge the Seahawks and other West Coast teams have to overcome. Like the 49ers and Raiders, the Seahawks often travel more than 28,000 miles in a season.
The NFL’s schedulers actually were kind to Seattle in plotting this European getaway. Tampa Bay was the only East Coast game the Hawks had on their schedule, so they really are traveling just 5,000 more miles (round trip) than they would have.
We already knew the Seahawks are going to play almost two-thirds of their games against top-10 defenses next season, so it’s no surprise that half of them will come in the first two months.
In their first seven weeks, they will face five of the top seven defenses (by DVOA) from 2020. It will be a tough early test for Shane Waldron and Russell Wilson, but it’s the cost of doing business in the NFC West, where all four teams typically feature pound-you-down defenses, and facing the NFC’s top teams every year as well.
The Seahawks had a rare on-field respite in Week 14, but now it’s back to work: Three NFC games to determine their postseason position.
After improving to 9-4 with a 40-3 win over the New York Jets, the Seahawks sit one game behind Green Bay and New Orleans in the race for the top seed and accompanying bye. They also have a huge game against the Rams (9-4) in Week 16 that will help determine the division winner; Seattle needs to win that to have a chance at the division, though Week 17 still would loom large.
If the Seahawks don’t fix their offense this week, they are in deep trouble the rest of the way. As in, they could go 1-4 in December and January, finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
Washington’s upset win over erstwhile undefeated Pittsburgh on Monday showed the team formerly known as Redskins will be maybe the toughest of the NFC Least clubs the Hawks face. WFT has perhaps the best defensive line in the league, and comeback QB Alex Smith has gone 3-1 as the starter.
The Hawks will go to DC after hosting the winless Jets this week. Then come the tough division games against the Rams in Seattle and the 49ers in a place to be determined (the 49ers are playing this month in Arizona). Those last three games will be challenges for a Seattle team that has been struggling on defense all season and has lost its offensive power over the past month.
A third of the way through one of the most bizarre seasons ever (and we’re not just talking about the pandemic), the Seahawks are 5-0 and among the favorites to win the Super Bowl. And that’s despite having the league’s worst defense (by the standard measure: yards).
The Packers (4-0) have been more impressive so far, but the Seahawks might be more dangerous because they are a big-play team on both sides and should get better on defense as the season goes.
By DVOA, the Hawks are considered the No. 3 team in the league, behind Baltimore and Tampa Bay (buoyed by the No. 2 defense). Los Angeles is fourth, Kansas City fifth and Green Bay sixth. Those teams look to be Seattle’s biggest competition for a Super Bowl title.
Tennessee’s virus outbreak is no surprise. It was inevitable that teams would have problems as the NFL pressed to play. It’s why we thought the NFL should sit out 2020.
But, the season has started, made it to the quarter pole with only one game (TEN-PIT) pushed to another week, and now the league has to figure out how to finish. While Tennessee faces TBD consequences for breaking league COVID rules, along with an uncertain playing future this week and beyond, the schedule is starting to become a topic that needs to be addressed (it should have been before the season started, but the reactive NFL doesn’t work like that).
Due to issues in Tennessee and New England, those teams’ games tentatively have been bumped to early next week – with next Thursday’s game also possibly affected.
This is just the first major issue of what always figured to be a significant concern. And the question is now at hand: What happens if teams end up playing different numbers of games due to the inevitable cancellations?
As this oddest of NFL seasons begins, the Seahawks look strong enough to contend for the Super Bowl again – assuming (1) they aren’t hit by a bunch of COVID afflictions, (2) their lines hold up and (3) they learn how to play offense in the playoffs.
After adding Jamal Adams, Quinton Dunbar, Greg Olsen, Carlos Hyde, Phillip Dorsett and Jordyn Brooks, the Hawks look very solid at DB, TE, RB, WR and LB – and of course QB. But their pass rush is still a major question mark, they look really thin at defensive tackle and center is a big unknown.
As states begin to reopen, the NFL and players association are discussing ways to safely bring teams back together and eventually stage games — and, while we doubt there will be minicamps in June, it seems like training camps might be able to begin on time in July.
With teams limited to virtual meetings (see the Seahawks’ tight ends) this offseason, coaches are missing out on key on-field prep time. The lack of physical work is putting everyone behind their usual timelines, and those adding new elements (e.g, coaches, quarterbacks and receivers) will find themselves even further behind once camps begin.
So, teams that have few major changes should have a jump on the rest — which could help in the first few weeks of the season.