Seattle Seahawks 2017 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

Since drafting Russell Wilson in the 3rd round in 2012, the Seahawks have gone 56-23-1 and won 8 playoff games. Wilson doesn’t deserve all the credit, as he’s always been supported by a strong defense, but this team could not have had the success they’ve had without strong quarterback play. Wilson has made every start in his career and has completed 64.7% of his passes for an average of 7.98 YPA, 127 touchdowns, and 45 interceptions in 5 seasons in the league, while adding another 2689 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground on 483 carries (5.50 YPC). He’s been a top-6 quarterback on Pro Football Focus in 4 of those 5 seasons.

Wilson wasn’t quite himself in 2016 and multiple nagging numbers were the culprit. The most serious injury was a knee sprain he suffered early in the season. Ordinarily an injury that keeps players out for 4-6 weeks, Wilson played through it, but was not himself, especially on the ground. In the first 7 games of the season, he completed 65.6% of his passes for an average of 7.52 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, while rushing for just 44 yards on 25 carries (1.76 YPC). The Seahawks moved the chains at a mere 31.14% rate in those 7 games, 29th in the NFL over that stretch.

In the Seahawks’ final 9 regular games and their two 2 playoff games, he looked much more like himself, completing 64.4% of his passes for an average of 7.82 YPA, 20 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, while rushing for 261 yards and 1 touchdown on 56 carries (4.66 YPC). The Seahawks moved the chains at a 37.02% rate in those 11 games. Unfortunately, the Seahawks lost safety Earl Thomas for the season with a broken leg week 13 and were not nearly the same defense after that, which significantly hurt their chances of making a deep run in the playoffs.

They were 3rd in the NFL with a 31.52% first down rate allowed at the time when Thomas was injured, but allowed opponents to move the chains at a 39.55% rate in the 6 games (4 regular season, 2 post-season) they played without Thomas. They went 4-1 in the 5-game stretch where Wilson looked healthy and Thomas was on the field, but, all in all, last season was probably their worst season in the Russell Wilson era, as they finished the season 8th with a 1.25% first down rate differential, impressive for most teams, but subpar for the Seahawks. They have a good chance to be better in 2017, but Wilson staying healthy is a necessity, especially since only veteran journeyman Austin Davis is behind him on the depth chart.

Grade: A

Running Backs

It wasn’t just Russell Wilson’s relative struggles that hurt this offense. They also couldn’t move the ball on the ground, which has always been a huge part of this offense. They finished the season averaging 3.95 YPC, 24th in the NFL. Part of that was because Wilson wasn’t as effective running the ball, but the running backs themselves also deserve a fair amount of the blame. In their first season without Marshawn Lynch, issues at the running back position weren’t a huge surprise, but the Seahawks were counting on Thomas Rawls, who averaged 5.65 yards per carry on 147 carries as an undrafted rookie in 2015, to fill Lynch’s shoes as the lead back and that didn’t happen.

Rawls ended up averaging just 3.20 yards per carry on 109 carries thanks to injuries. Rawls’ 2015 season ended with a broken leg and then he re-broke it again in the 2nd game of the season in 2016. When he returned, he did not look like himself. Third round rookie CJ Prosise flashed in his absence, but was limited to 6 games by injuries of his own. He finished the season with a 5.73 YPC average on 30 carries and 17 catches for 208 yards. With Rawls and Prosise both hurt, Christine Michael actually led the team in yards and carries with 117 and 469 (4.01 YPC), but he didn’t even finish the season with the team, getting cut mid-season and ending up in Green Bay.

If the Seahawks are going to get back to being a top level team, they will have to run the ball better. Wilson threw a career high 546 passes last season and, between pass attempts, sacks, and quarterback runs, Wilson was used on 659 plays last season, easily a career high. They will want him to run more this season, but they probably don’t want him throwing the ball that often and they definitely don’t want him to take all those sacks (41), so this offense needs to get back to being two-dimensional. They finished last season just 19th in first down rate.

Prosise and Rawls both have upside going into 2017, but the Seahawks didn’t feel that was enough, so they added veteran Eddie Lacy in free agency. Lacy has strong upside as well, but he also has considerable downside. A 2013 2nd round pick, Lacy rushed for 2315 yards and 20 touchdowns on 530 carries (4.37 YPC) in his first 2 seasons in the league and finished in the top-5 among running backs on Pro Football Focus in both seasons, but he was out of shape in 2015 and rushed for just 758 yards and 3 touchdowns on 187 carries (4.05 YPC). In 2016, he was in better shape and averaged 5.07 yards per carry on 71 carries in the first 5 games of the season, but then went down for the year with an ankle injury.

Going into his age 27 season, Lacy should still theoretically be in the prime of his career and could have a big season if he can stay healthy and stay in shape. His contract is heavily incentivized and he needs to meet certain weight goals at certain points to get bonuses, so the Seahawks are protecting themselves against risk. If all goes well, Lacy should be their lead back, with Prosise working as the passing down/change of pace back. Rawls’ path to playing time is blocked by Lacy, but he could finish 2nd on the team in carries and would take over as the lead back if Lacy were to struggle or get injured. Overall, there’s obvious upside here and the arrow is pointing up at running back for the Seahawks.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

A big part of the reason why Wilson took so many sacks last season was simply that they couldn’t block upfront. The Seahawks have never really invested in the offensive line in the Russell Wilson era, always believing a good offensive line was less important because of Wilson’s scrambling ability and also trusting the ability of legendary offensive line coach Tom Cable to coach players up.

For the most part, that strategy has worked, as they’ve been able to invest at other positions and still have offensive success without strong offensive line play, but they took things a little too far last season. They had easily the cheapest offensive line in the league and had no proven starters. Cable was only able to do so much and Wilson’s injury turned him into more of a pocket quarterback and often left him a sitting duck when protection broke down. That led to more injuries, so it’s very important that they keep Wilson upright this season. Better offensive line play should help their running game too.

It wouldn’t be hard for them to be better upfront this season, but they’re still not very good on paper. Their two off-season additions were Luke Joeckel, signed from the Jaguars, and Ethan Pocic, drafted in the 2nd round out of LSU. Pocic made 27 of his 37 collegiate starts at center, but that’s the one position where the Seahawks got good play last season, as Justin Britt finished 10th among centers in his first season at the position.

A 2014 2nd round pick, Britt struggled mightily at right tackle as a rookie, finishing 74th out of 84 eligible offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus, and then wasn’t any better at right guard in his 2nd season in the league, finishing 75th out of 81 eligible guards. He seems to have found a home at center, though he is a one-year wonder, so I’d like to see him prove it again. If he does, he could be well-paid in free agency next off-season.

Pocic could end up at center in 2018 and beyond if Britt isn’t re-signed, but, for now, he will either play right guard (where he made 9 starts in college) or right tackle (where he made just 1 start in college. Pocic is a big lineman, but doesn’t have long arms, so right guard seems like a better fit for him, especially since he barely as any experience at right tackle. The Seahawks also seem to want to move last year’s first round pick Germain Ifedi from right guard to right tackle.

According to the Seahawks, Ifedi playing right tackle in his 2nd year in the league was always their plan and that was his collegiate position, but he struggled mightily at right guard last season, finishing dead last at the position on Pro Football Focus. Ifedi came into the league super raw and with a lot of bad college tape, so he was probably a reach in the first round. They need him to deliver on his upside quickly. He’s only going into his age 23 season. Veteran free agent Oday Aboushi is also an option at both right tackle and right guard, but he wouldn’t really be an upgrade at either spot. The 2013 5th round pick has made 18 career starts, but has never finished above average in a season on Pro Football Focus.

Luke Joeckel, their other off-season acquisition, was actually the 2nd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but was a massive bust in Jacksonville. As a rookie, he played just 5 games at right tackle before missing the rest of the season with an ankle injury. He then moved to left tackle, where he struggled mightily, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ 50th ranked offensive tackle out of 77 eligible in 2014 and their 67th out of 84 eligible in 2015. He then moved to guard in 2016 and was a little bit better, but missed the final 12 games of season after tearing his ACL.

The Seahawks took an expensive flyer on him this off-season, giving him a 1-year, 8 million dollar deal, making him easily their highest paid offensive lineman. He was once a highly touted player and is still only going into his age 26 season, but it’s becoming less and less likely that he’ll ever deliver on his upside. His durability is also a concern. The Seahawks think he played better at guard than tackle, so they will try him at left guard to start, but he could also end up playing left tackle for this team because that was a huge hole last season.

Undrafted rookie George Fant made 10 starts at left tackle last season, a position he had never played at any level. Fant was a basketball player and tight end at Western Kentucky University, but the Seahawks decided to try to turn him into an offensive lineman. The results were not pretty in year one, as he finished dead last among offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus. He truly did not look like he belonged and was responsible for multiple big hits on Wilson. The Seahawks still seem to like his upside and he is currently penciled in as the starting left tackle, after bulking up from 296 to 321 this off-season, but he’s likely to struggle again.

If the Seahawks move Joeckel from left guard to left tackle, Mark Glowinski, who made 16 starts at left guard last season, would move back into the starting lineup. Glowinski, a 2015 4th round pick, did not play well in the first significant action of his career, finishing 61st out of 72 eligible guards on Pro Football Focus, but he played better than Fant did at left tackle. Rees Odhiambo, their 3rd round pick in 2016, is also an option at both left guard and left tackle, but he played just 75 snaps as a rookie and is completely unproven. The Seahawks will likely use a bunch of different combinations upfront to find their best 5. Center is the only position that is solidified. This could easily be the worst offensive line in football again.

Grade: D

Receiving Corps

The good one thing Russell Wilson had going for him last season was this receiving corps. He got better play from his receivers last season than he ever had in his career. Not only did Doug Baldwin repeat his 2015 breakout season, but tight end Jimmy Graham made a miraculous recovery from a nasty torn patellar tendon injury suffered in November of 2015 during his first season with the Seahawks. Graham, who the Seahawks traded talented center Max Unger and a first round pick to acquire from New Orleans two off-seasons ago, seemed to be 100% returned to form in 2016.

Jimmy Graham didn’t match his 89/1099/12 season average from 2011-2014, but that’s mostly because the Seahawks are not as pass heavy as the Saints. He still caught 65 passes for 923 yards and 6 touchdowns and finished 5th among tight ends on Pro Football Focus, his 6th straight season in the top-15 among tight ends. He also had arguably his best run blocking season in 2016, which is very significant, given the type of offense this team likes to run. Now going into his age 31 season, there’s some risk he might decline, especially given his injury history, but he could easily have another couple strong seasons left in him. His numbers will likely fall if this team becomes more run heavy in 2017 though.

Doug Baldwin will remain Russell Wilson’s #1 target. A 2011 undrafted free agent, Baldwin had a breakout season in 2015, catching 78 passes for 1069 yards and 14 touchdowns on a run heavy offense and finishing 7th among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus. It was the first 1000 yard season of his career, but it should not have come as a shock because he was productive on a per route run basis through the first 4 seasons of his career, averaging an impressive 1.84 yards per route run and finishing in the top-27 among wide receivers in all 4 seasons.

In 2015, he just took it to another level and then he maintained that level of play into 2016, when he caught 94 passes for 1128 yards and 7 touchdowns and again finished 7th among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus. Going into his age 29 season, Baldwin should still be in his prime and is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Like Graham, his numbers could go down if this team doesn’t pass as often this season, but he still has a good chance at a 3rd straight 1000+ yard season.

Jermaine Kearse has been their #2 receiver over the past 3 seasons, making 45 starts over that time period, but he is coming off of arguably the worst season of his career, finishing last season 110th out of 115 eligible wide receivers and managing just a 41/511/1 slash line. He caught just 45.6% of his targets and led the league in offensive pass interference penalties. He was a league average starting wide receiver in 2014 and 2015, so he has some bounce back potential, but he could also easily lose his starting job to Tyler Lockett.

Lockett was supposed to take Kearse’s job last off-season, after finishing 32nd among wide receivers on 664 snaps as the #3 receiver in 2015, as a 3rd round rookie. However, Lockett was limited by knee issues for much of the season and then broke his leg in week 16, ending his season. He finished 60th among wide receivers on 558 snaps and made just 9 starts. Still only going into his age 25 season, Lockett has much more upside than Kearse and is probably the favorite to start opposite Baldwin. Lockett could easily have a breakout 3rd season in the league if he can stay healthy.

Kearse is not even a lock for the #3 receiver job. He’ll be pushed for the job by Paul Richardson, a 2014 2nd round pick who flashed down the stretch last season with Lockett injured. A 2014 2nd round pick, Richardson hasn’t played much in his career, but that’s largely because he tore his ACL at the end of his rookie season and was buried on the depth chart by the time he came back. Still only going into his age 25 season, he’s flashed in limited action throughout his career and has plenty of talent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he beat out Kearse for the #3 job. Amara Darboh, a 3rd round rookie, could also be in the mix for snaps.

The Seahawks will also use a lot of two tight end sets with Luke Willson, who was re-signed this off-season. Willson is an underwhelming player and has never caught more than 22 passes in a season, but he’s an adequate #2 tight end and a solid blocker. He won’t be needed much in the passing game though, because the Seahawks will probably pass fewer times this season and because they have other good options in the passing game like Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett, and CJ Prosise.

Grade: A-

Defensive Line

Despite needs on offense, the Seahawks spent their first pick on a defensive tackle, trading down three times from 26 to 31 to 34 to to 35 select Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell at the top of the 2nd round. He fills an immediate need at defensive tackle and will play at least in sub packages as a rookie. McDowell has first round talent, but was off some team’s boards because of concerns about his work ethic.

The Seahawks clearly think they can get the most out of him. As a rookie, he’ll likely split snaps with last year’s second round pick Jarran Reed (49th overall pick), who struggled on 477 snaps as a rookie, but could be better in his second season in the league. In contrast with the 6-6 296 pound McDowell, Reed is a big run stuffer at 6-3 311 and will play primarily in base packages, with McDowell coming in for him in sub packages.

Reed will play next to Ahtyba Rubin in base packages, although Rubin is arguably their worst starter. Rubin finished last season 113rd out of 125 eligible interior defensive lineman on 602 snaps and has finished well below average in 3 straight seasons on Pro Football Focus. Rubin was a solid player in his prime, but is now going into his age 31 season and is unlikely to get any better going forward. Owed a non-guaranteed 3.8 million in the final year of his contract in 2018, he could easily be let go this off-season. McDowell and Reed are the future at this position.

In sub packages, hybrid defensive lineman Michael Bennett moves from defensive end, where he plays in base packages, to defensive tackle. The 6-4 274 pounder has been one of the best defensive linemen in football in that role over the past several seasons. He’s been a top-7 4-3 defensive end in 6 straight seasons. He doesn’t always post huge sack numbers, but that’s partly because he usually lines up inside in passing situations and partly because he’s more of a disruptor than someone who finishes off the quarterback.

He takes on double teams, gets hits and hurries, makes it easier for other guys to get sacks, and plays the run at a high level as well. He’s going into his age 32 season, so there’s some reason for concern, but he still isn’t someone you want lining up in front of you as an offensive lineman. He finished last season 5th at his position, but did miss 5 games with injury, his first missed games since 2011.

With Bennett playing inside in passing situations, Frank Clark and Cliff Avril are their top edge rushers. They also rotate heavily in base packages and played 682 and 830 snaps respectively in 2016. Those roles could be flipped in 2017 because Clark is one of the best young edge rushers in the league, going into his 3rd season in the league (age 24), while Avril is a bit on the decline, going into his 10th season in the league (age 31).

Clark was a 2nd round pick in 2015 and appears to be a good one. After flashing on 364 snaps as a rookie, Clark broke out in 2016, finishing 12th among 4-3 defensive ends on Pro Football Focus. Avril, meanwhile, finished around middle of the pack, though he did finish 13th at his position in pure pass rush grade. Both he and Clark had double digit sacks last season. Avril has always been a much better pass rusher than run stuffer, finishing above average on Pro Football Focus 8 times in 9 seasons as a pass rusher, but just once as a run stuffer. The undersized 6-3 255 pounder would be best as a pure nickel rusher at this stage of his career, with Bennett and Clark as every down players. It’s a talented defensive line, even if their defensive tackles are underwhelming.

Grade: A-

Linebackers

The Seahawks also have a very talented linebacking corps. Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright are arguably the best linebacking duo in the NFL. Wagner is the better known player, but Wright has had just as good of a career. A mere 4th round pick in 2011, Wright has made 88 starts in 6 seasons in the league and has finished in the top-17 among 4-3 outside linebackers on Pro Football Focus in all 6 seasons, including 3 straight seasons in the top-6. Last season was his highest rated season, as he finished 3rd at the position. Still only going into his age 28 season, Wright is a do everything linebacker in the prime of his career and is criminally underrated on this Seattle defense.

Wagner, meanwhile, is also in the prime of his career, as the 2012 2nd round pick is just going into his age 27 season. He’s been a top-18 middle linebacker in each of his first 5 seasons in the league, including 3 seasons in the top-5. One of those 3 seasons was last season, when he finished 3rd among middle linebackers. Both players should have strong seasons again, as every down linebackers on this defense.

Cassius Marsh was the 3rd linebacker last season, but the 2014 4th round pick and ex-defensive end didn’t fare well in his first season at linebacker and will face competition from free agent acquisition Michael Wilhoite. Wilhoite has made 34 starts over the past 3 seasons at middle linebacker in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense, but has finished in the bottom-10 among middle linebackers in all 3 seasons on Pro Football Focus. He might fare better as a base package outside linebacker in Seattle’s 4-3, but he’s definitely an underwhelming option and might not be an upgrade on Marsh. Fortunately, this role doesn’t play many snaps, as the Seahawks are often in sub packages. Marsh played just 387 snaps last season. This is still an incredible linebacking corps.

Grade: A

Secondary

The Seahawks’ secondary is probably the group that gets the most attention, led by the Legion of Boom, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor. However, they have a big problem at cornerback behind Sherman on the depth chart. DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane were their #2 and #3 cornerbacks respectively last season, but Shead tore his ACL late last season and is unlikely to play at all in 2017, while Lane struggled mightily, finishing 94th out of 111 eligible cornerbacks on 769 snaps.

To upgrade the position, the Seahawks used a pair of draft picks, first taking Central Florida cornerback Shaquill Griffin in the 3rd round and then taking Cincinnati safety Mike Tyson in the 6th round, who they will convert into a cornerback. Those two will compete for playing time with Lane. Lane is a solid slot cornerback, but he has struggled in the past when he’s had to play outside and he only has 15 starts in 5 seasons in the league, so either Griffin or Tyson could be the favorite to start outside opposite Sherman. They could be easier to pass on this season than they have been in recent years.

Fortunately, they still have Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor, who will help mask their depth issues at cornerback. Sherman is coming off of a bit of a down year though, finishing 13th among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus, after finishing in the top-5 in each of the previous 4 seasons. He reportedly wasn’t 100% all season, as he played through a knee injury, so he could easily bounce back in 2017, his age 29 season. He’s still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

Chancellor and Thomas also dealt with injuries in 2016. Chancellor missed 4 games with a groin injury, while Thomas missed the final 4 games of the season and their 2 playoff games with a broken leg. Chancellor has missed 7 games with injury over the past 2 seasons, which is a bit of a concern, but he’s also going into his age 29 season, so he’s in his late prime like Sherman and could easily have another strong season. In fact, he finished last season a career best 3rd among safeties on Pro Football Focus. He’s been a top-22 safety on Pro Football Focus for 6 straight seasons. The Seahawks did draft a pair of safeties for depth purposes, Delano Hill in the 3rd round and Tedric Thompson in the 4th round, so the Seahawks might not bring Chancellor back as a free agent next off-season.

Thomas, meanwhile, talked about retirement last season after he broke his leg, but that was never a serious consideration. Prior to the injury, he had made 106 straight starts to begin his career and is still only going into his age 28 season. He finished “only” 14th among safeties last season before the injury, but he’s been a top-10 safety in 4 of the last 7 seasons. This is still a strong secondary, but their lack of cornerback depth makes them more vulnerable.

Grade: A-

Conclusion

The Seahawks have obvious issues on the offensive line still, but their key players should be healthier this season and they should run the ball better with the addition of Eddie Lacy. This team should be better than they were last season and should compete for another Super Bowl, though there are a few teams I would rank higher than them. I will have an exact win total after I finish every team’s season previews.

Prediction: TBD

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 NFC Divisional Round Pick

Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1) at Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

This might sound weird considering they finished with the 2nd best record in the NFC and secured a first round bye, but I think the Falcons are an underrated team. In a year with so few top level teams, I don’t understand why the Falcons are not regularly mentioned among the best teams in the league. A lot of the attention fell on the Cowboys in the NFC, and rightfully so as they ran away with the conference’s top seed early in the season, and now the Packers are the hot team in the NFC, but the Falcons actually finished the season with a better point differential than Dallas (+134 vs. 115) and ranked higher in first down rate differential. The Falcons’ offensive line and running game are almost as good as Dallas’ and the Cowboys don’t have anything like the combination of Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. As much attention as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott got leading the Cowboys’ offense as rookies this year, the Falcons scored 119 more points than the Cowboys this season. Their defense doesn’t match up, but this is overall one of the top few teams in the league.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, have probably their worst team going into the playoffs in the Russell Wilson era. That’s not necessarily saying much because of how good the Seahawks typically are, but they finished the regular season with a much less impressive +62 and rank 6th among the 8th remaining playoff teams in first down rate differential, only ahead of Houston and Kansas City. They looked good last week in a victory over a weak Detroit team, but their offensive line and running game have been miserable for most of the season and their defense isn’t quite the same unit with safety Earl Thomas out for the season. This line should be about 6 or 7, but instead this line has fluctuated between 4 and 5 all week. I would take them at 5 if I had to, but 4 and 4.5 are obviously better numbers if you can get them.

Atlanta Falcons 27 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -4

Confidence: Medium

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Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 NFL Wild Card Round Pick

Detroit Lions (9-7) at Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

Detroit made the playoffs with a 9-7 record, despite losing their final 3 games of the regular season, but they’re one of a few playoff teams I don’t think much of (Houston, Oakland, and Miami are the others). They’re the only playoff team that hasn’t beaten another playoff team, entering with a 0-5 record in games against playoff teams (losses to the Texans, the Giants, the Cowboys, and the Packers twice). Even though all 9 of their victories came against non-playoff teams, just one came by more than a touchdown, meaning they were squeaking out victories against non-playoff teams all season to get to this point. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 28th, the worst among playoff teams.

They didn’t get blown out a lot, losing just twice by more than a touchdown all year, but both losses by more than a touchdown came against playoff teams (the Cowboys and the Giants) and both losses to the Packers involved garbage time scoring that made the final score a lot closer. In last week’s home loss to the Packers, the Lions were down by two touchdowns before a meaningless touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game. In their loss in Green Bay, they were down 31-3 in the first half and did most of their damage in garbage time in an eventual 34-27 loss. Aside from those two games, their only loss by a touchdown or less against a playoff team was a 7-point loss to the Texans and the Texans are also a very weak playoff team. In fact, that 7-point victory tied the Texans’ 2nd highest margin of victory of the season.

This all is very relevant because this line is at 8, so if the Lions can keep this within a touchdown again, they’ll cover this spread. The Seahawks are a much better team than the Texans, but come into this game with a lot of questions, given how they ended the season. Aside from a blowout victory over the lowly Rams, who had just fired their coach 3 days earlier, the Seahawks have been very underwhelming for the last month of the season, since losing stud safety Earl Thomas for the year with a broken leg. They were blown out in Green Bay. They lost at home to Arizona. And last week, they barely won in San Francisco. They enter the post-season 8th in first down rate differential, which is solid, but they also had one of the easiest schedules in the league and are not the same team without Thomas. I’m taking the Lions to keep this within a touchdown, but I can’t take them for any sort of confidence.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +8

Confidence: None

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Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-13)

The Seahawks are typically a very good team in the 2nd half of the regular season under Pete Carroll, going 34-12-1 ATS since Carroll’s first season in 2011 in games 9-16 of the regular season. This year they’ve been 4-3 ATS in the 2nd half of the regular season, but that’s largely because they’ve been overrated for most of the season. In the first half of the regular season, they covered the spread in just two games, squeaking out close victories as big favorites against the Dolphins, Bills, and Falcons, losing to the Saints and Rams in upset fashion, and tying the Cardinals in a game that had an even line. They only covered the spread in big victories over the Jets and these 49ers, two of the worst teams in the league. In the second half of the season, they’ve pulled the upset in New England and gotten big victories over the Eagles, Panthers, and Rams, though they’ve also lost as favorites against the Cardinals, Packers, and Buccaneers. Still, they’ve definitely been a better team in the second half of the season again.

After last week’s home loss to the Cardinals, it doesn’t seem like the Seahawks are overrated anymore. The Cardinals are an underrated team that has won the first down rate battle in 13 of 15 games and that could easily be 10-5 or even 11-4 if they didn’t blow 5 close games with special teams mistakes, but that home loss has moved this line 3 points from 12.5 on the early line last week to 9.5 this week, a significant line movement. The 49ers pulled off a close victory against the terrible Rams last week, but that was just their 2nd victory of the season and prior to that win that had lost 13 straight by an average of 15.23 points per game, including 9 losses by double digits. The Seahawks should be able to make that 10 losses by double digits, though there’s not quite enough here for me to bet money on them.

Seattle Seahawks 23 San Francisco 49ers 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -9.5

Confidence: Low

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Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)

The last time these two teams faced each other, it was a defensive matchup that ended in a 6-6 tie. However, the Cardinals actually significantly outplayed the Seahawks in that game, winning the first down battle 23 to 11 and the first down rate battle by 6.26%. They had plenty of opportunities to win that game, missing two makeable field goals and allowing a blocked punt that set up a Seattle field goal at the end of the first half. That game was in Arizona, but this line is at 8.5, so we have plenty of room to work with even if the Cardinals get outplayed this time around.

That tie against the Seahawks was not the only winnable game the Cardinals have blown this year because of special teams. They missed a game winning field goal against New England. They allowed a long punt return to set up the winning score against the Rams. They allowed a kickoff return touchdown in a 6-point loss to the Vikings. And against Miami, in a 3-point loss, special teams cost them 7 points on 3 plays with a missed field goal, a missed extra point, and a blocked extra point that was returned for 2 points. They’ve won the first down rate battle in 12 of 14 games and rank 3rd in first down rate differential on the season, but have been arguably the most disappointing team in football record wise, going 5-8-1 after finishing last season 13-3. The Seahawks, meanwhile, rank 7th in first down rate differential, so we’re definitely getting some line value with the Cardinals.

This isn’t a bigger play for two reasons. One, the Cardinals are pretty banged up at this point in the season. Left tackle Jared Veldheer, right guard Evan Mathis, middle linebacker Deone Bucannon, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, and safety Tyvon Branch are all out for the season, while replacement left tackle DJ Humphries is out this week with a concussion. The Seahawks are missing safety Earl Thomas, but they’re definitely in a better spot injury wise, especially since they were without their other safety Kam Chancellor in their first matchup with Arizona.

The second reason is the Seahawks are in a good spot with only an easy game in San Francisco on deck, in which they are expected to be road favorites of at least 10 points. Teams are 34-20 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 7 or more and favorites of 7 or more are 58-33 ATS before being favorites of 7 or more again over that same time period. Teams tend to take care of business before easy games, but the Seahawks should have a much tougher time taking care of business than this line suggests against an Arizona team that has been much better than their record and that is a few special teams plays away from a completely different season.

Seattle Seahawks 17 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: Arizona +8.5

Confidence: Medium

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Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-9) at Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)

The Rams finally parted ways with head coach Jeff Fisher after last week’s embarrassing 42-14 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Fisher did absolutely nothing to improve the team in his almost 5 years on the job, so it was a long overdue move, but the timing could not be worse as now interim head coach John Fassel has to prepare a gameplan on a short week for the Seattle Seahawks, who host them on Thursday Night Football this week. The Rams have had success against the Seahawks in recent years, but Seattle is still one of the toughest places in the NFL to play, so Fassel’s first game couldn’t be tougher. Making matters worse, the Seahawks are actually in a great spot this week for a couple of reasons.

For one, they were embarrassed last week in Green Bay, more so than the Rams actually. The Rams were 6.5 point home underdogs against an Atlanta team that’s one of the best in the NFL. They were supposed to lose and lose big. The Seahawks, however, lost by 28 in Green Bay as 3 point road favorites, their first loss by more than 10 points in the Russell Wilson era. Teams are 94-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more, as teams tend to bounce back from embarrassing losses. The Seahawks have a great chance to bounce back in a big way this week, especially since Russell Wilson is 14-6-1 ATS in his career off a loss and the Seahawks are 33-11-1 ATS in games 9-16 of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011).

The second reason is because the Seahawks figure to be big home favorites again next week against the Cardinals and teams tend to take care of business as big favorites before being big favorites again. Since 2012, favorites of 6 or more are 94-52 ATS before being favorites of 6 or more again the following week. It’s tough to stomach putting money on the Seahawks with this line jumping to 15 in the wake of the Rams’ loss and Jeff Fisher being fired, but the Seahawks should win pretty easily and they are definitely the right side in pick ‘em leagues.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Los Angeles Rams 6

Pick against the spread: Seattle -15

Confidence: Low

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Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) at Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Typically, the Seahawks are unstoppable in the second half of the season, going 33-10-1 ATS since Pete Carroll’s first season in 2011 in games 9-16 of the regular season. This year, they got off to a strong start, covering in games 9 and 10, but then they got embarrassed in their 11th game of the season, losing 14-5 as 5.5 point favorites in Tampa Bay. They bounced back in a huge way last week, blowing out a banged up Carolina team 40-7, but that game might have been a case of winning the battle losing the war, as the Seahawks have lost safety Earl Thomas, one of the best in the game, for the season with a broken leg. It’s not that the Seahawks can’t win the Super Bowl without Thomas, especially in a year where all of the top teams have glaring flaws, but it certainly becomes a lot more difficult of a task for the Seahawks and it takes a lot of the air out of last week’s big win.

Despite that, this line has actually shifted from 2.5 in favor of Seattle to 3 in the past week. That might not seem like a huge line movement, but it’s pretty significant considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. We’re getting good value with the Packers at home, just the fourth time in Aaron Rodgers’ career that he’s been a home underdog (2-1 ATS). The Packers are also in a great spot, going to Chicago next week to face the lowly Bears. Home underdogs are 79-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites, which the Packers almost certainly will be next week. The Seahawks have an easy game against the Rams on deck, but it’s in 4 days, which is tough. Favorites are just 57-83 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. Normally I bet on the Seahawks in the second half of the season, but I like the Packers a lot if you can get them as field goal underdogs.

Green Bay Packers 27 Seattle Seahawks 24 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +3

Confidence: Medium

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