Seattle Seahawks 2021 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The Seahawks started the 2020 season 6-1 and, even though they won four of those games by one score, including a pair that came down to 4th down stops, and even though they ranked just 12th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +1.37%, there was reason to be optimistic that the Seahawks could keep winning. Their offense led the league in first down rate over expected at +3.52%, with the team primarily being held back by a defense that ranked 26th in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.15%. Normally teams with a profile like this are good bets going forward because offensive performance is much more consistent week-to-week than defensive performance, meaning it was much more likely their defense would improve going forward than it was that their offense would drop off.

Their defense did improve going forward, in fact significantly so, to the point where they finished 11th in first down rate allowed over expected at -0.19%, despite their horrendous start. Better health was a big part of the reason for their improvement, particularly the re-addition of top safety Jamal Adams and top cornerback Shaq Griffin, but the Seahawks also added veteran edge defender Carlos Dunlap in a key trade deadline deal with the Bengals. 

However, the Seahawks’ offense did not hold up their end of the bargain, falling to 9th in first down rate over expected at +1.46%, leading to the team finishing 9th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +1.65%, which is good, but not the high ceiling the Seahawks would have had if their offense had continued playing at a high level. The Seahawks finished at 12-4, but relied on a 8-3 record in one score games to get there and were one and done in the post-season, losing at home to the Rams in the first round.

It was an all too familiar finish for the Seahawks, who have made the post-season in eight of Russell Wilson’s nine seasons with the team, but who haven’t played in an NFC Championship since their back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2013-2014. The key difference was Russell Wilson was on a cheap rookie deal back then, allowing the Seahawks to spend significant money on his supporting cast on both sides of the ball, while Wilson is now highly paid, first signing a 4-year, 87.6 million dollar extension and then adding a 4-year, 140 million dollar deal onto that which now takes him through the 2023 season.

If anything, Wilson has gotten better since his Super Bowl appearances, transitioning from more of a game manager to a legitimate franchise quarterback, but his increasing salary has made it very tough for the Seahawks to add enough talent around him to get back to the Super Bowl. Since the start of the salary cap 27 years ago, only 7 teams have won the Super Bowl with their quarterback taking up 10% or more of the cap and all 7 of those quarterbacks are Hall of Famers. By comparison, more than half (14 of 27) have taken up less than 7% of the cap while a third (9 or 27) have taken up less than 5% of the cap, including Wilson when he won. Now Wilson’s cap hit takes up 17.5% of this year’s cap, which would dwarf the current record of 13.1% (Steve Young) if Wilson somehow managed to win it all again in 2021. 

Wilson and the Seahawks winning it all seems unlikely given the rest of this roster, which isn’t drastically improved from a year ago and overall doesn’t seem to give Wilson as much help as he needs to take this team all the way again. The one hope the Seahawks might have is for Wilson to play as well as he did to start last season, when he looked like the MVP of the league and led an offense that was arguably the best in the league. Over his first 7 games, Wilson completed 71.5% of his passes for an average of 8.40 YPA, 26 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, as compared to 66.6% of his passes for an average of 6.82 YPA, 14 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions in his final 9 games, coinciding with this offense’s second half decline.

Wilson is likely to be better this season than he was in the second half of last season, but it would be a big surprise to see him keep up his first half pace from last season for a full year. We’ve seen a lot of Russell Wilson as an NFL quarterback (144 starts) and, while he is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, we haven’t seen him consistently play at an MVP level for a long enough stretch to seriously contend for the award. That’s unlikely to change for him, now in his age 33 season.

In total, Wilson has completed 65.1% of his passes for an average of 7.83 YPA, 267 touchdowns, and 81 interceptions in his career, while adding 5.61 YPC and 21 touchdowns on 803 carries. On PFF, he’s finished in the top-15 in all 9 seasons in the league, in the top-10 in 7 seasons, and in the top-7 in 6 seasons, including a career best 3rd ranked finish in 2019 and a 6th ranked finish in 2020. Quarterbacks have shown the ability to play at a high level into their mid 30s without decline and, while Wilson is a little more reliant on athleticism than most quarterbacks, which is usually the first thing to go, he’s definitely a good enough passer to make up for becoming a little less effective with his legs if his mobility does start to decline.

Wilson has also been highly durable, never missing a start in his career, playing through serious injuries on multiple occasions. Because of that, his backup quarterback is never really been needed and the Seahawks haven’t invested in that position as a result, but needless to say the Seahawks would be in big trouble if they lost Wilson for an extended period of time, as they would have to turn to Geno Smith and his 72.9 career QB rating in 31 starts in 8 seasons in the league. As long as that doesn’t happen, Wilson should remain one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but probably not good enough for the Seahawks to be a high level team, which could be a big problem for a team that plays in the toughest division in football. 

Grade: A

Receiving Corps

The best thing Russell Wilson has going for him is probably the presence of his top-2 receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who were one of two wide receiver duos to both surpass 1000 yards receiving in 2020. Part of that is because they got to play with a quarterback like Wilson and, without other consistent options in the passing game, Metcalf and Lockett received a massive target share, combining to be targeted on a whopping 46.8% of the Seahawks pass attempts. However, Metcalf and Lockett both played well in their own right, finishing 18th and 32nd respectively among wide receivers on PFF.

For Lockett, it was his 2nd straight 1000 yard season and he came close to making it three in a row with a highly efficient 57/965/10 slash line on 70 targets in 2018. Overall, he’s averaged 80/1025/9 over the past three seasons, while playing all 48 games and finishing 23rd, 21st, and 32nd among wide receivers on PFF. Still in his age 29 season, he should remain a similar player, but he doesn’t nearly have the upside of DK Metcalf, who seemed to clearly take the #1 receiver role away from Lockett last season. A 2nd round pick in 2019, Metcalf flashed with a 58/900/7 slash line and 1.69 yards per route run as rookie, but he took that to another level in year two, finishing with a 83/1303/10 slash line and 2.06 yards per route run, while Lockett saw his yards per route run average drop to 1.68, his lowest since 2017, with Metcalf becoming more of a focus in this passing offense. 

Lockett remains a high level #2 wide receiver, but he’s not the #1 option anymore and if the Seahawks are able to find more consistency in other parts of this receiving corps, those targets would likely come from Lockett before they came from Metcalf, who has the upside to be one of the top wide receivers in the league for years to come. Development isn’t always linear and Metcalf is no guarantee to be better or even as good in 2021 as he was in 2020, but he’s already proven himself to be one of the better wide receivers in the league and he doesn’t even turn 24 until later this season.

The biggest move the Seahawks made trying to find a consistent third option in this passing game was signing ex-Rams tight end Gerald Everett to a 1-year, 6 million dollar deal in free agency. A 2nd round pick by the Rams in 2017, Everett only started 11 of his 61 games in four seasons with the Rams, who also preferred to start the more well-rounded Tyler Higbee. Everett has never shown much as a blocker, but he’s been a better pass catcher than most #2 tight ends, averaging 1.42 yards per route run, and deserved a shot like he’s getting in Seattle to prove himself as a starter. I wouldn’t expect a big breakout year from him, but he could have a solid receiving total if he gets enough opportunity.

The Seahawks gave three tight ends, Greg Olsen (429 snaps), Jacob Hollister (374 snaps), and Will Dissly (557 snaps) all about equal passing game opportunity last season, but only Dissly remains. He will likely slot in as the #2 tight end behind Everett and could still see somewhat significant action, especially as a blocker, which is where he has an edge on Everett. As a receiver, Dissly flashed a lot of potential in his first two seasons in the league, as the 2018 4th round pick averaged 2.43 yards per route run, but that came across just 10 games total in two seasons, due to back-to-back devastating season ending leg injuries. 

Dissly returned in 2020 and actually played all 16 games, but he didn’t seem to be as explosive as previously and he did not translate the promise from a limited role into a larger role, averaging just 1.15 yards per route run on the season. He’s a still solid blocker and he could be better as a receiver in 2021, now another year removed from those injuries, but he should remain the #2 tight end at best regardless and he could just as easily suffer another injury and not make it through a full season. His primary competition for the #2 job will be Colby Parkinson, a 2020 4th round pick who played sparingly as a rookie (51 snaps), but who the Seahawks still have hopes for in year two and beyond.

The Seahawks also used a 2nd round pick on Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge to replace middling veteran David Moore as the #3 receiver. Moore played just 482 snaps, had just a 35/417/6 slash line, and averaged just 1.38 yards per route run, while earning a middling grade from PFF, so he won’t be hard to replace, but Eskridge is still a rookie who could have some growing pains in year one. The flip side of that, however, is that Eskridge possesses an upside that Moore never had and could easily prove to be an upgrade, not just in the long-term, but in year one as well. 


Eskridge’s primary competition for playing time will likely be 2020 6th round pick Freddie Swain, who played 351 snaps as the 4th receiver as a rookie last season, but struggled mightily and isn’t a guarantee to be any better going forward. Lockett and Metcalf still lead this receiving corps, but their depth looks like it should be better than a year ago with the addition of Everett in free agency and Eskridge in the draft. If they can find a consistent #3 option, this could be one of the top receiving corps in the league.

Grade: A-

Running Backs

When DK Metcalf was added two off-seasons ago, it began a shift for the Seahawks, from just 427 pass attempts in 2018 (32nd in the NFL) to 517 pass attempts in 2019 (23rd in the NFL) and 563 pass attempts last season (17th in the NFL). For all the #LetRussCook talk in recent years, when you add the 158 carries that Wilson has had over the past two seasons and the 96 sacks he has taken, Wilson’s usage rate is up there with other high level quarterbacks and this team is not nearly as dependent on their running backs as they used to be prior to Metcalf’s arrival. 

That being said, the Seahawks do still have a solid stable of running backs, led by lead back Chris Carson, who was somewhat surprisingly retained on a 2-year, 10.425 million dollar deal in free agency this off-season. Carson seemed like he might be greeted by a relatively strong free agent market and the Seahawks didn’t seem to have the financial flexibility to commit big money to a running back when they had intriguing replacement options behind him, but Carson’s market didn’t develop as expected and he returned to the team he has led in rushing in each of the past three seasons.

Carson was only a 7th round pick of the Seahawks in 2017, primarily due to his injury history and limited playing time in college, and in year one injuries remained a concern, limiting him to 49 carries. However, he flashed potential with a 4.24 YPC average and 61.5% of his yardage coming after contact, leading to him taking over as the starter in 2018 and keeping the role ever since. In total, he’s rushed for 4.57 YPC on 715 carries with 21 rushing touchdowns and a whopping 73.9% of his yardage coming after contact. He hasn’t shown much as a receiver (1.07 yards per route run in his career), but he’s still finished 6th, 9th, and 17th respectively among running backs on PFF in the past three seasons respectively. Still in his prime in his age 27 season, I wouldn’t expect a significant drop off in 2021.

Injuries have remained a concern for him as he’s never played all 16 games in a season, but he still managed 278 carries and 315 touches in 15 games in 2019, so he’s proven he can handle a heavy workload. He saw just 141 carries and 178 touches in 12 games in 2020, but the Seahawks parted ways with veteran backup Carlos Hyde (97 touches in 2020) this off-season, rather than letting Carson walk, and all of the Seahawks other backup options are inexperienced, so Carson should get an uptick in touches per game. 

The leading candidate to be the #2 running back is Rashaad Penny. Penny was actually a first round pick, 27th overall, in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he spent his first two seasons playing sparingly behind Carson, managing 150 carries in 24 games, before tearing his ACL late in the 2019 season. That injury extended into 2020 as well, as he saw just 11 carries in 3 games, and the Seahawks unsurprisingly declined his 5th year option for 2022, making 2021 his contract year. However, if he’s healthy, he has a clear path to seeing at least some action as the backup to Carson, who has his own injury history, which could lead to Penny seeing some starts. Penny was a reach who was never good enough to be a first round pick, but his 5.11 YPC average on 161 carries is pretty impressive and he could still have untapped upside.

Other reserve options include 2020 4th round pick Deejay Dallas, 2019 6th round pick Travis Homer, and 2016 5th round pick Alex Collins, who is in his second stint with the team. Dallas and Homer both have some upside, but haven’t shown much on 43 carries and 34 carries respectively. Collins, meanwhile, is by far the most proven of the bunch and actually rushed for 973 yards and 6 touchdowns on 212 carries (4.59 YPC) as the Ravens’ lead back in 2017, but he’s combined for just 3.76 YPC on 163 carries in his other four seasons in the league and has seen just 18 carries over the past two seasons combined. He may have some bounce back potential, but he could just as easily not make this final roster. Led by Chris Carson, this is a solid stable of backs overall with some intriguing backup options, but their lack of experience beyond Carson is a bit of a concern.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line

The biggest issue on this offense in recent years has been their offensive line, but they actually got off to a good start last season, in part why this offense played so well at the beginning of the year, before finishing as a middling unit at best. The problem was they were never healthy, with their expected starting five offensive linemen not playing together once after week 4. Their most notable injuries were right tackle Brandon Shell and Mike Iupati, who earned above average grades from PFF, but missed 5 games and 6 games respectively and saw their backups play at a significantly worse level. Center Ethan Pocic also missed a couple games.

Iupati opted to retire this off-season ahead of what would have been his age 34 season, an understandable decision given how banged up he’s been in recent years, but Shell returns as the starting right tackle, veteran Gabe Jackson was added this off-season to replace Iupati, and the rest of this offensive line remains from a year ago, so, at least on paper, they have the ability to be a solid unit if they can stay relatively healthy.

Left tackle Duane Brown was one of two Seahawks offensive line to make all 16 starts last season and he played at a high level, finishing as PFF’s 6th ranked offensive tackle, but there is some concern over whether or not he can do that again. Brown has been a consistently above average offensive tackle across an impressive 13-year career in the NFL, including seven finishes in the top-10 among offensive tackles on PFF, but his finish last season was still the 2nd best of his career and, now going into his age 36 season, it would be a surprise to see him repeat that performance. 

Brown obviously hasn’t shown any signs of decline yet, but at his age, there is a strong possibility of that happening this season and the possibility that he drops off significantly exists as well. He also isn’t guaranteed to play all 16 games again as, even though he’s been relatively durable in his career, he’s missed at least some time in 6 of 13 seasons, including 4 of the past 6. Given how well he played last season, if he shows his age or misses significant time, that will have a noticeably negative effect on the rest of this offensive line and the offense as a whole.

Damien Lewis also made all 16 starts last season and figures to play next to Brown at left guard in 2021. Lewis mostly played right guard as a 3rd round rookie in 2020, with the exception of a brief stint at center in place of the injured Ethan Pocic, but right guard is Gabe Jackson’s natural position, while Lewis has the versatility to move to left guard. In addition to his versatility, Lewis didn’t play like a rookie in 2020, especially not one who fell to the 3rd round, finishing the season as PFF’s 16th ranked guard. He’s not guaranteed to be as good again in 2021, but he also could keep getting better and seems likely to develop into a consistently above average starter long-term. 

Ethan Pocic is the shakiest of the Seahawks starters, as the 14 starts he made last season were actually a career high and his 24th ranked finish among centers, while mediocre, was actually the best finish of his career, as the 2017 2nd round pick had earned only well below average season long grades from PFF in his first three seasons in the league, across 16 combined starts. He’s a former high pick who is only going into his age 26 season and the Seahawks believe in him enough to bring him back as a free agent on a 1-year, 3 million dollar deal, but he could easily be a below average starter.

Brandon Shell and Gabe Jackson also come into the season with some concerns. Shell finished 36th among offensive tackles on PFF in 11 starts last season, but he had previously never earned more than a middling grade for a season from PFF in 51 starts in 5 seasons with the Jets to begin his career, after being selected in the 5th round in 2016, and he’s also never made all 16 starts in a season, so it might be wishful thinking to expect him to play the whole season. 

Jackson, meanwhile, was almost released by the Raiders this off-season ahead of a 9.6 non-guaranteed million dollar salary, but the Seahawks offered the Raiders a late round pick when they found out he was available and restructured his deal to a 3-year, 22.575 million dollar deal. Jackson’s original contract was 55 million over 5 seasons, which the 2014 3rd round pick signed after his 3rd season in the league, when he was coming off of finishes of 11th among guards on PFF in 2015 and 27th among guards on PFF in 2016, but he never quite lived up to that contract.

He finished 14th among guards in 2018, but has otherwise been just a slightly above average starter since signing that deal, signing a 43rd ranked finish in 2020. Injuries have been a concern for him in recent years, missing 9 games in 4 seasons and being limited in others and, now going into his age 30 season, his best days are almost definitely behind him, but if he can stay reasonably healthy, he should be able to be at least a capable starter for the Seahawks with the upside for more, so he wasn’t a bad addition.

If injuries strike, the Seahawks’ depth options are limited. Jordan Simmons led all Seahawks reserves with 593 snaps played last season, making 6 starts at guard, but he finished 75th out of 86 eligible on PFF and the 2017 undrafted free agent also struggled in his only other career action in 195 snaps in 2019. He might have the best chance of any of their reserves to find himself in the starting lineup because, if Ethan Pocic struggles at center, they could shift Damien Lewis back there and plug Simmons into the starting lineup at guard.

Other reserve options include swing tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who has mostly struggled in 29 starts in 6 seasons in the league, 2019 4th round pick Phil Haynes, who has seen just one offensive snap in two seasons in the league, 2018 5th round pick JaMarco Jones, who has struggled across 509 career snaps, and 6th round rookie Stone Forsythe, who is unlikely to make a positive impact if forced into action in year one. The potential is there for this to be a solid offensive line for the first time in a while, but the downside is there as well with several inconsistent starters, a dominant left tackle who might find it tough to be quite as dominant now in his age 36 season, and shaky reserve options.

Grade: B

Edge Defenders

Along with better health as the season went on, one big reason for the Seahawks’ offensive turnaround in the second half of the season was their trade for Carlos Dunlap of the Bengals. A 2nd round pick by the Bengals in 2010, Dunlap was one of the Bengals’ best players of the past decade. From 2010-2019, Dunlap finished 35th or better among edge defenders on PFF in all 10 seasons, including three finishes in the top-5 and a 4th ranked finish in 2019. Also a strong run stuffer, Dunlap combined to total 81.5 sacks, 149 hits, and a 12.1% pressure rate in 148 games over that stretch.

The 2020 season was Dunlap’s age 31 season, so some drop off was to be expected, but when Dunlap struggled early in the season, he was benched by the Bengals, playing just 12 snaps in week 7 against the Browns, and as a result the long-time Bengal demanded a trade, which led to him going to Seattle mid-season in what amounted to a salary dump. However, Dunlap proved to have something left in the tank in the second half of the season, earning an above average grade overall from PFF and totaling 5 sacks, 10 hits, and a 12.1% pressure rate in 8 games. 

Dunlap still didn’t have as good of a season as he was used to in his time in Cincinnati and now he’s another year older in his age 32 season, but the Seahawks opted to bring him back this off-season on a 2-year, 13.6 million dollar deal and he figures to continue factoring into the Seahawks’ edge defender rotation. One reason for that is simply that the Seahawks don’t have many other good options at the position. They are, however, reasonably deep and are hoping to find productive rotation players through competition. 

Benson Mayowa led this group with 571 snaps played last season, despite only playing 13 games, but the Seahawks would probably like to avoid him seeing such a big role again in 2021. Mayowa managed just 6 sacks, 6 hits, and a 9.0% pressure rate and his snap count was actually a career high for his 8 years in the league. His career pressure rate of 8.9% isn’t any better, he’s mostly earned middling grades from PFF as a rotational player, and now he heads into his age 30 season. He would also definitely be a below average option if relied on for a significant role again.

The Seahawks also have hybrid interior/edge players in Rasheem Green (365 snaps) and LJ Collier (559 snaps), who will continue seeing some action on the edge, particularly on early downs. Collier was a first round pick by the Seahawks in 2019, but he struggled mightily through 152 rookie year snaps in an injury plagued first season in the league and in 2020, even though he was healthy and played all 16 games, he still struggled, finishing 86th out of 139 eligible interior defenders on PFF. In total, he’s managed just a 5.3% pressure rate in his short career, which would be underwhelming even if he played all of his snaps on the interior. He still has some upside, but he was considered a reach when the Seahawks selected him and he hasn’t done anything to prove the Seahawks right yet.

Green was also a high pick, selected in the 3rd round in 2018, but he also hasn’t shown much, earning below average grades from PFF in each of his three seasons in the league, while averaging 370 snaps per game and managing just a 7.2% pressure rate. He’s still very young, only going into his age 24 season, so it’s possible he could be better going forward, but thus far he’s yet to show any signs of being a solid starter or even rotation player.

Alton Robinson, a 2020 5th round pick, also saw 336 snaps as an edge defender last year, but, while he held his own, it came in very limited action and he wasn’t a high draft pick, so he has an uphill battle to become a consistent rotational player long-term. Robinson wasn’t even the first edge defender the Seahawks took in 2020, taking Darrell Taylor in the 2nd round, and, while he didn’t play a snap as a rookie due to injury, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him earn a significant role if he’s healthy in 2021. He has the most upside of the Seahawks’ young edge defenders, although that says more about the rest of the bunch than it does about him because he’s yet to even make his NFL debut.

The Seahawks also added veterans Aldon Smith and Kerry Hyder in free agency and both figure to see significant action if they can. The reason I say if they can is because Aldon Smith is yet again in off-the-field trouble. Smith was originally selected 7th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and burst onto the scene early in his career, totaling 47.5 sacks, 46 hits, and a 14.6% pressure rate in 59 games in his first 5 seasons in the league, but then off-the-field issues led to him being out of the league completely from 2016-2019, before he resurfaced with the Cowboys in 2020.

Smith didn’t quite show his old form in 2020, but he did have an impressive season, staying out of trouble, playing 809 snaps in 16 games, earning an above average grade from PFF, and doing his best work as a pass rusher with 5 sacks, 10 hits, and a 11.3% pressure rate. He signed with the Seahawks this off-season, but another off-the-field incident surfaced shortly after and now has his long-term future in limbo. It’s possible we could see him suit up for the Seahawks in 2021, but it’s also possible that comes only after a long suspension. 

Hyder doesn’t have the same upside as Smith, but he’s a reliable option. He missed most of 2017 and 2018 with injury (153 snaps total), but in his last three healthy seasons, he’s earned average or better grades from PFF, he’s averaged 608 snaps per season, and he’s been at his best rushing the passer, with 17.5 sacks, 23 hits, and a 11.6% pressure rate, while playing all 16 games in each of his three healthy seasons. His age is a minor concern in his age 30 season and he is unlikely to be any better than he’s been, but he could remain a solid starting option. He’ll rotate heavily with several other options and this is an underwhelming edge defender group overall, but they could mostly decent play if they manage their rotation correctly and get improved play from some young players.

Grade: B-

Interior Defenders

With a couple Seahawks edge defenders lining up on the interior frequently in sub packages, the Seahawks don’t have as much need for traditional interior defenders, only giving significant action to three players in 2020, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, and Bryan Mone. Reed was traded to the Chiefs this off-season in what amounted to a salary dump and, while he was a middling player last season, he leaves behind a lot of snaps (847) to replace. The Seahawks have a few candidates to replace him, including returning opt-out Al Woods, free agent acquisition Robert Nkemdiche, and third year holdover Bryan Mone, who could earn a significant uptick in playing time with a strong off-season. The Seahawks could also play their edge defenders on the interior more often. 

Woods has been in the league since 2010 and has generally been a solid run stuffer in his career, but he’s another year older after the opt out, npw going into his age 34 season, he’s never surpassed 564 snaps played in a season, and he really leaves something to be desired as a pass rusher, with a career 3.9% pressure rate. Mone, on the other hand, has only played 317 snaps since going undrafted in 2019 and he’s struggled across that playing time, but he’s likely to see a larger role in year three by default, even if he’s likely to struggle if counted on for extended action.

Nkemdiche, meanwhile, is only worth mentioning because he’s a former first round pick (29th overall by the Cardinals in 2016) who is still relatively young, going into his age 27 season, but he’s been a massive bust and was out of the league entirely in 2020. Even before sitting out 2020, Nkemdiche had shown very little through 4 seasons in the league, playing 776 snaps total with the Cardinals and Dolphins and earning below average grades from PFF in all four seasons. There’s a chance he could make this roster and make an impact, but it seems more likely that he doesn’t make the team at all, which could possibly end his chances in the NFL.

Poona Ford is still locked into one starting role and, with Reed gone, it’s possible he sees an increase in snaps as well, although the 670 snaps he played last season were already a significant amount. It was also a career high for the 2018 undrafted free agent, but he wasn’t phased by the heavy workload, as he finished the season as PFF’s 12th ranked interior defender on the season. That didn’t come out of nowhere either, as Ford was PFF’s 29th ranked interior defender across 231 rookie year snaps in 2018 and their 8th ranked interior defender across 506 snaps in 2019. 

The 5-11 310 pounder only looks like a big run stuffer, which is where he excels, but he’s not a bad pass rusher either, with a career 5.5% pressure rate, including 2 sacks, 8 hits, and a 6.7% pressure rate in 2020, justifying his every down role. Only in his age 26 season, he should remain at least an above average starter, even if he doesn’t quite match last season’s performance, and it’s possible he could be even better going forward if he continues to develop his pass rush game, which took a big leap in 2020. Heading into the final year of his rookie deal, locking him up seems like a priority for a Seattle team that otherwise lacks high level players on the defensive line and will be relying primarily on heavy rotations to try to get decent play upfront.

Grade: B-

Linebackers

The last remaining member of the dominant Seahawks defense that led this team to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances early in Russell Wilson’s career is linebacker Bobby Wagner and, even now going into his age 31 season, he’s arguably their best defensive player. That’s in part due to all the talent that has been lost around him over the past few years, but Wagner is also still playing at a high level, finishing the 2020 season as PFF’s 3rd ranked off ball linebacker, while playing all but 11 snaps for the Seahawks. 

A 2nd round pick in 2012, Wagner has earned an above average grade from PFF in all 9 seasons in his career, including seven finishes in the top-12 and five finishes in the top-4. He’s also been very durable, missing just 9 games total, while playing an average of 63.1 snaps per game. Even if he starts to decline in 2021, he should remain an above average starter, although any sort of significant drop off from him would be a huge blow to this defense.

Bobby Wagner’s long-time running mate at linebacker, KJ Wright, was not retained this off-season and, while he remains a free agent, it seems unlikely that the Seahawks will bring him back for his age 32 season, especially since they drafted his replacement a year ago in the first round, taking Jordyn Brooks 27th overall. Wright still played at a pretty high level in 2020 though, despite his age, as he finished 8th among off ball linebackers on PFF, while Brooks struggled across 367 rookie year snaps. Given that, it’ll be tough for Brooks not to be a downgrade, even if he takes a big step forward in his second season in the league. 

The Seahawks will also have to replace Brooks as the third linebacker and their only choices are a pair of 2019 draft picks who have hardly played in two seasons in the league, 3rd round pick Cody Barton (266 snaps) and 5th round pick Ben Burr-Kirven (15 snaps). This group has some young players with potential, but they’ll be relying on Bobby Wagner to once again play at a high level and they’ll likely miss veteran KJ Wright, even if his age made him unlikely to repeat last season’s performance even if retained. 

Grade: B

Secondary

The Seahawks’ secondary getting healthy was a big part of why this defense was better down the stretch, but unfortunately they won’t have the same unit as a year ago after some off-season losses. One was Quinton Dunbar and, while he came to Seattle with expectations last off-season, he struggled across 397 snaps in an injury plagued season, so he won’t be missed much. However, the Seahawks also lost cornerback Shaq Griffin, who earned an above average grade from PFF in 12 starts and had been the Seahawks’ #1 cornerback in recent years, before leaving for a 3-year, 40 million dollar deal with the Jaguars this off-season.

The Seahawks added ex-49er Ahkello Witherspoon in free agency and also used a 4th round pick on Tre Brown, but the latter is unlikely to make much of an impact in year one, while the former is an underwhelming starting option, as he was very inconsistent throughout his 4 seasons with the 49ers, who selected him in the 3rd round in 2017. Witherspoon showed flashes of brilliance, but also struggled mightily for stretches and missed 17 games in 4 seasons. He has good size at 6-2 195 and the Seahawks tend to get the most out of taller cornerbacks, but it’s not like he was poorly coached with the 49ers, who run a similar coverage scheme to the Seahawks. Witherspoon may still have some untapped potential, only in his age 26 season, but he could also remain frustratingly inconsistent. 

Witherspoon will likely start, but the Seahawks could have a pretty open competition for roles at cornerback. With Griffin missing some time and Dunbar missing even more, DJ Reed (560 snaps), Tre Flowers (578 snaps), and Ugo Amadi (552 snaps) all saw somewhat significant action, with varying levels of success, and all are back to compete for roles. Flowers was the worst of the bunch, finishing 93rd out of 136 eligible cornerbacks on PFF. He is also the most experienced, but his struggles weren’t surprising as the 2018 5th round pick has earned below average grades from PFF in each of his first three seasons in the league (37 starts in 42 games), so his experience doesn’t work in his favor. The Seahawks still love his size at 6-3 203, but he isn’t guaranteed to continue seeing a significant role.

DJ Reed was the best of the bunch last season and the 2018 5th round pick has generally made a positive impact when relied on for significant playing time in his career, but those opportunities have been limited, as he’s made just 10 career starts and has averaged just 348 snaps per season. He’s a projection to a larger role, but there is some upside there. Amadi, meanwhile, was a 4th round pick by the Seahawks in 2019 and, after hardly playing as a rookie (76 snaps), he held his own in a larger role in his second season in the league. He’s also pretty unproven and could struggle in a full-time role, but he definitely has upside and he’s not a bad option to have even if he doesn’t take a step forward in year three.

The Seahawks also took a flyer on veteran Pierre Desir, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if he didn’t even make the final roster. Continuing this organization’s love of bigger cornerbacks, Desir is 6-1 198, but that might be the primary reason the Seahawks are giving him a chance, as he hasn’t earned it with his play in the past two seasons, finishing below average on PFF in both seasons, including a 116th ranked finish out of 136 eligible cornerbacks across 519 snaps in 2020, a season in which he was cut down the stretch by the winless Jets. Desir was PFF’s 18th ranked cornerback across 903 snaps with the Colts in 2018, but never lived up to that and otherwise was never more than a middling cornerback who never topped 683 snaps in another season. Going into his age 31 season, he could be completely at the end of his line.

The Seahawks have good depth at safety with Marquise Blair returning from injury, so they could use three safeties together somewhat regularly in sub packages to mask their lack of proven depth at cornerback. Both Blair and starting safety Quandre Diggs have experience as slot cornerbacks, although the Seahawks seem to prefer Blair there more than Diggs, whose slot experience is primarily from earlier in his career with the Lions. Blair was a 2nd round pick of the Seahawks in 2019 and showed a lot of potential across 230 rookie year snaps, only to see his second season ended by injury after just 63 snaps in two games. The upside is still there for him to develop into at least a solid sub package option for the Seahawks, though the injury and his overall lack of experience hurt his projection.

Diggs, meanwhile, is plenty experienced and should remain a starting safety. A 6th round pick in 2015, Diggs was a solid slot cornerback earlier in his career, but he’s been better at safety, where he has been an every down player, averaging 62.6 snaps per game in 42 games (all starts) over the past three seasons. Diggs was more of a middling starter in 2020, but he finished 35th among safeties on PFF in 2018 and 18th among safeties on PFF in 2019 and could easily bounce back in 2021, still only in his age 28 season. 

Along with Diggs likely being a little better in 2021, the Seahawks will especially be hoping from a bounce back year from fellow starting safety Jamal Adams, which is more important for a variety of reasons. For one, the Seahawks simply have a lot invested in Adams, who they traded a pair of first round picks to acquire a year ago from the Jets and, now in the final year of his rookie deal, a lucrative extension is almost definitely looming on the horizon. 

On top of that, Adams is one of the top safeties in the league at his best, which is why the Seahawks gave up as much as they did for him in the first place, and he’s still only in his age 26 season. Selected 6th overall by the Jets in 2017, Adams was an above average starter from the word go and took a big leap from year one to years two and three, finishing as PFF’s 3rd ranked safety in 2018 and their 4th ranked safety in 2019. However, after being traded, he fell all the way to 47th among safeties in his first season in Seattle, while missing four games with injury. 

Adams’ 9.5 sacks jump off the stat sheet and that’s not a fluke, as he has a 24.9% pressure rate for his career as a blitzer, but he only rushed the passer on 19.0% of his pass snaps and was a liability in coverage, while not being particularly good against the run either, so his effectiveness as a blitzer wasn’t enough for Adams to be worth the investment in year one and the Seahawks didn’t acquire him to only be effective when taken out of coverage to blitz. Adams was never really healthy all season and has a very good chance to bounce back in his second season in Seattle if he can be healthier, but his long-term projection is shakier than it was a year ago. They’ll need him to play at a high level to compensate for an otherwise underwhelming secondary.

Grade: B

Conclusion

It was a tale of two seasons for the Seahawks in 2020, as they started out with strong offense and mediocre defense, only to see their offense drop off significantly in the second half and their defense to start playing at a high level. Their offense dealt with some injuries down the stretch, while their defense was missing key players earlier in the season, but overall their first and second half splits seem like the result of random variance more than anything and, even if injuries were the driving factor, they can’t necessarily depend on better health in 2021, as they ranked a middling 20th in adjusted games lost and injuries are part of the game.

Overall, the Seahawks finished last season 9th in first down rate differential at +1.65%, which is about right for how they played across the season as a whole. They managed to go 12-4, but needed to win 8 of their 11 one score games to do so and just based on that being unlikely to repeat, they could see their win total drop by a couple, with a roster that overall seems about as talented as their squad a year ago, without major changes being made overall.

The Seahawks are one of the better teams in the league, but they’re not one of the top few teams in the league and, in a division where all four teams look like strong playoff contenders, the Seahawks could have a tough battle to even make the post-season. Ultimately, they seem more likely to get in than be left out, but their schedule doesn’t have many breaks. I will have a final prediction for the Seahawks at the end of the off-season with the rest of the teams.

Prediction: TBD

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 NFC Wild Card Round Pick

Los Angeles Rams (10-6) at Seattle Seahawks (12-4)

The Rams’ offense had serious injury issues last week against the Cardinals, but things seem to be getting better quickly. Running back Cam Akers, who struggled while playing at less than 100% last week, was not listed with an injury designation this week and, while fellow running back Darrell Henderson remains out, Akers should be healthy enough to be an effective lead back, with Malcolm Brown being a capable running back behind him. 

The Rams will also get #1 wide receiver Cooper Kupp back from one-game COVID absence and, probably even more importantly, they’ll get stud left tackle Andrew Whitworth back from a 7-game absence. The big question though is the health of quarterback Jared Goff, who sat out last week after thumb surgery. Goff reportedly practiced this week and threw the ball well, but he should be considered less than 100% even if he does suit up and there’s a possibility we’ll see unproven backup John Wolford for some or all of this game. 

The quarterback situation is a concern because the Rams haven’t been a particularly good offense this season overall, even with minimal injuries beyond the absences mentioned above, only one of which (Whitworth’s) was longer than a game. On the season, the Rams rank 21st in first down rate over expected at -0.36% and I would expect them to be even more below average now, given their quarterback situation. 

The Rams’ defense has been dominant, leading the league with a -5.05% first down rate allowed over expected, but defensive performance is much less consistent week-to-week than offensive performance. If the Rams’ don’t get a dominant performance from their defense, they could be in a lot of trouble and there’s no guarantee they’ll get one, given the inherent game-to-game inconsistency of defensive performance.

The Seahawks, in many ways, have been the opposite. Their defense struggled mightily earlier in the season, but they’ve been significantly improved in recent weeks, due in part to the inherent inconsistency of defensive play, but also due to the return of top cornerback Shaq Griffin and top safety Jamal Adams, as well as the addition of top edge rusher Carlos Dunlap at the trade deadline. Now they rank 15th in the league in first down rate allowed at +0.28% and they’re more talented than that suggests when Griffin, Adams, and Dunlap are on the field together

That gives the Seahawks a great compliment for an offense that has remained strong throughout the season, ranking 6th in first down rate over expected at +2.05%. They’re also getting healthier on offense, as left guard Mike Iupati and right tackle Brandon Shell will return, giving the Seahawks’ their full offensive line healthy together for the first time since week 4. I’m going to leave this as a low confidence pick at -3 for now, but only because I want to see what happens with this line when Goff is announced as the starter, which seems like it will be the case. If this line drops below 2.5, the Seahawks are an easy bet and, even if it stays put at 3, I could be talked into betting Seattle.

Update: I don’t expect this line to go down to 2.5 anymore because the news on Goff on gameday isn’t as good as it was earlier in the week, when it seemed likely that he would play. Now reports suggest he may only be active as an emergency backup, meaning unproven backup John Wolford would be likely to play all or most of this game. If that turns out to be the case, this line may shoot back up to 3.5-4.5. I think that’s more likely than a drop to 2.5, so I’m going to lock in -3. Even if Goff is able to play, it would likely be at less than 100% and I like getting the Seahawks as mere field goal favorites against a banged up Goff or his backup Wolford.

Seattle Seahawks 23 Los Angeles Rams 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -3

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: 2020 Week 17 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (11-4) at San Francisco 49ers (6-9)

The 49ers have had a disappointing season at 6-9, but they’ve played significantly better than their record suggests, despite being one of the most injury plagued teams in the league. Their -11 point differential is much more in line with a .500 team, despite the fact that they’ve played an above average schedule. They have also struggled in metrics that tend to be highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and have almost no predictive value as a result.

Turnover margin is the most impactful metric with minimal predictive value and the 49ers rank 2nd worst in the league at -10. That has also led to a -4 return touchdown margin which has cost them at least a couple games (Washington and Philadelphia) by itself, not to mention a loss to Dallas in which they were -4 in turnovers and -24 in points off turnovers. The 49ers won the first down rate battle by a wide margin in all 3 of those games and could easily be 9-6 right now if a couple things had gone differently in those games. 

The 49ers are also -23.44% in 4th down rate conversion differential, another impactful metric with minimal predictive value. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, which is much more predictive, the 49ers rank 4th at +3.78%. That’s not to say they are the 4th best team in the league, but a deep dive into the numbers shows that they have played a lot better this season on a per snap basis than their 6-9 record would suggest.

Unfortunately, now in the last game of the season, the 49ers are even more depleted than they’ve been all season, with several new players being added to the injury report in the past week. On offense, the 49ers will be missing their top-2 quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens, their top running back Raheem Mostert, their top-2 wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, their top-2 centers Weston Richburg and Ben Garland, and their stud left tackle Trent Williams.

Meanwhile, on defense, the 49ers will be without their top-2 defensive tackles Javon Kinlaw and Kevin Givens, their top-2 edge defenders Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, two of their top-3 linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Kwon Alexander, two of their top-3 cornerbacks Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams, and starting safety Jaquiski Tartt. Aiyuk, Williams, Greenlaw, and Williams have been added to the list of absent players just in the past week, after playing significant snaps in last week’s win over the Cardinals. Overall, the 49ers rank just 23rd in my roster rankings, without all of the players they are missing.

That’s a problem because the 49ers are playing a tough Seahawks team. The Seahawks’ offense has played well all season, ranking 5th in first down rate over expected at +2.11%, but it has been the emergence of their defense that has them in a strong position heading into the post-season. After struggling through the early part of the season, the Seahawks now rank 19th in first down rate allowed over expected at +0.72%, leading to the Seahawks winning 5 of their past 6 games, including last week’s win over the Rams to clinch the division and keep the Seahawks alive for the #1 seed in the NFC.

Defensive performance tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance, so it was always predictable that the Seahawks would get better defensively as the season went along, especially with the return of Jamal Adams and Shaq Griffin from injury and the addition of Carlos Dunlap from the Bengals. The Seahawks also have typically played much better in the second half of the season than the first half in the Russell Wilson era, going 45-23-3 ATS in weeks 9-16, as opposed to 34-34-4 ATS in weeks 1-8. This line is pretty high at Seattle -7, but I have them calculated as 10-point favorites, so we’re actually getting some good line value with them against a skeleton crew 49ers team. The Seahawks are worth a bet at -7 and if -6.5 pops up before gametime, I will increase this bet.

Seattle Seahawks 31 San Francisco 49ers 20

Pick against the spread: Seattle -7

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (9-5) at Seattle Seahawks (10-4)

The Rams lost at home in embarrassing fashion to the previously winless Jets, in the biggest upset win in the NFL in the past 25 seasons (17.5 point favorites). Normally big upset losses like that tend to be complete flukes and the team that lost tends to be a smart bet going forward, as teams cover at a 57.0% rate after a loss as favorites of 10 points or more. The Rams’ opponents this week, the Seattle Seahawks, were an example of this, when they rebounded from a shocking home loss to the Colt McCoy led Giants as 11-point underdogs by demolishing the Jets 40-3 the following week. On top of that, the Rams are also in a good spot because they have a winning record and are facing a team with a winning record before facing another team with a winning record (Arizona) next week. Teams cover at a 54.4% rate in that spot. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but good teams seem to be totally focused before back-to-back difficult games.

Unfortunately, even after last week’s loss, we’re not getting line value with the Rams. In fact, with this line being even, we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with the Seahawks. The Rams rank higher in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, ranking 1st at +5.30%, while the Seahawks rank 10th at +1.70%, but the Seahawks are significantly better on offense, which is the more predictable and predictive side of the ball. While the Rams rank just 19th in first down rate over expected at +0.02%, the Seahawks rank 5th at +2.64%.

The Rams have the obviously better defense, ranking 1st in first down rate allowed over expected at -5.28%, while the Seahawks rank 23rd at +0.94%, but defensive performance is much more likely to regress to the mean in the long run than offensive performance and the Seahawks’ defense has been much improved in recent weeks, with safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Shaq Griffin back in the lineup after missing significant time with injuries and defensive lineman Damon Harrison and Carlos Dunlap being added in mid-season acquisitions. I give the Seahawks a 2-point edge in my roster rankings, so, even without fans in the stands, the Seahawks should be favored by at least a couple points in this matchup. We’re not getting enough line value with the Seahawks for them to be worth betting against a team in a better spot, but they should be the right side in a game in which they only have to win in order to cover.

Seattle Seahawks 26 Los Angeles Rams 24

Pick against the spread: Seattle PK

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team: 2020 Week 15 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (9-4) at Washington Football Team (6-7)

I have bet on Washington in each of the past five weeks and they’ve come through every time. They’ve had one of the better defenses in the league all season and their underrated offense has been able to play complementary football in recent weeks, leading to a 4-1 straight up stretch that now has them atop the NFC East. The big reason for their offensive turnaround has been the insertion of veteran Alex Smith into the starting lineup, but Washington’s offensive line is also significantly healthier than it was earlier this season and is playing well and they’ve gotten good production on the ground as well.

Unfortunately, it looks like those days are coming to an end. Featured running back Antonio Gibson got hurt and missed his first game last week, which was a big blow in a game in which Washington won despite a poor offensive performance, and now Smith will join him on the sideline with a calf issue, leaving Dwayne Haskins, the least effective of their three starting quarterbacks from this season, to start this game against the Seahawks. Washington still has a strong offensive line, but without Smith and Gibson, this offense is going to have a much harder time putting together drives.

The Seahawks’ defense has been a problem this season, ranking 20th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.02% and holding back a team that ranks 4th in first down rate over expected at +2.76%, but defensive play tends to be much more inconsistent week-to-week than offensive play and the Seahawks have a better chance than most to be improved going forward, as they are significantly more talented than they were earlier this season, with safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Shaq Griffin back in the lineup after missing significant time with injuries and defensive lineman Damon Harrison and Carlos Dunlap added in mid-season acquisitions. 

The Seahawks could also get their other starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar back this week from an extended absence, which would be an additional boost to this defense. Even without Dunbar in the lineup, the Seahawks still rank 2nd in my roster rankings and figure to be a force going forward now that they’ve improved their defensive issues, as they typically are in the second half of seasons, going 44-22-3 ATS in weeks 9-16 in the Russell Wilson era, as opposed to 34-34-4 ATS in weeks 1-8. 

Unfortunately, we’re not getting great line value with the Seahawks, as this line has shifted from Seattle -3.5 to -6.5 in the wake of Smith’s injury and the Seahawks blowout win over the Jets last week. My calculated line is Seattle -7.5, giving us some line value, especially since about 1 in 10 games are decided by exactly a touchdown, but Seattle isn’t in a great spot, with a much tougher game against the Rams on deck, while Washington has a much easier game against the Panthers. Underdogs cover at a 54.4% rate before playing a team with a 40% or worse winning percentage when their opponent will next play a team with a 60% or better, which is the case here. I’m still taking the Seahawks for pick ‘em purposes, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Washington Football Team 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6.5

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-12) at Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

The Seahawks lost last week in shocking fashion, sitting at 8-3, at home facing a sub-.500 team who was starting a backup quarterback. Even more shocking is that, while the Seahawks’ issues this season have primarily been on the defensive side of the ball, the unit that struggled the most in Seattle’s 17-12 loss was their offense. The good news is I like the Seahawks’ chances of bouncing back, for a few reasons. 

For one, teams typically bounce back off of big upset losses like that, covering at a 57.1% rate all-time after a straight up loss as favorites of 10 or more, as big upset losses tend to be flukes more than anything. The Jaguars’ upset of the Colts and the Raiders’ upset of the Chiefs stand out as two fluky results from this season. The Seahawks’ loss to the Giants will likely be remembered the same way as those losses and both of those teams covered fairly easily the following week. 

The Seahawks lso bounced back from losses well in general in the Russell Wilson era, losing back-to-back games just 9 times in about 9 seasons. The Seahawks are favored by 13.5 points in this matchup with the Jets, so they’ll need to win by a lot to cover, but the Seahawks are also 28-12 ATS off of a loss in the Russell Wilson era, including 8-3 ATS as favorites of more than a touchdown, so a huge victory this week to wash away the taste of last week’s disappointing loss is definitely a possibility.

Even with last week’s disappointing offensive performance, the Seahawks still rank 5th in first down rate over expected at +2.11% and, while their defense ranks an underwhelming 20th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.11%, defensive performance tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance and their defense has been significantly better in recent weeks since getting top safety Jamal Adams and top cornerback Shaq Griffin back from injuries and since adding edge defender Carlos Dunlap in a trade with the Bengals. 

The Seahawks’ offense has also gotten healthier. They’ve gotten their top-2 running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde back from significant absences in recent weeks and this week they’ll have their full healthy offensive line together for the first time since 4, with right tackle Brandon Shell set to return this week. The Seahawks aren’t at 100%, but no one is at this point in the season and they’re legitimately healthier right now than they’ve been since the start of the season. In their current state, I have the Seahawks ranked 2nd in my roster rankings, so they should be a force going forward, last week’s fluky result aside.

The Jets, meanwhile, haven’t won a game all season and most of their losses haven’t been close, as 7 of their 12 losses were by 14 or more points, which would cover this spread, and their average margin of defeat is 14.4 points per game, so the Seahawks wouldn’t even need to give the Jets their average margin of defeat to cover this spread. This line was -15 last week on the early line, but it shifted to 13.5 in the wake of Seattle’s fluky loss, which gives us some extra line value. The Jets’ had one of their better performances of the year last week in a near win over the Raiders, but their good health in the receiving corps and on the offensive line lasted just one week and, as a result, my roster rankings suggest there is about a 14.5 point difference between these two teams.

The Jets are also in a tough spot with back-to-back hard road games, with a trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams on deck. It’s very tough for inferior teams to keep up with superior teams when they have another superior team on deck, as teams are 55-91 ATS since 1989 as double digit underdogs before being double digit underdogs again the following week. Everything suggests this should be a blowout, so, even though I don’t love betting on big favorites, this seems like a relatively safe bet.

Seattle Seahawks 30 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Seattle -13.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-3)

Coming out of their bye week last week, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, and they were healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. That lasted about a half, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury that has him week-to-week and will cause him to miss at least this game in Seattle. 

Jones’ numbers haven’t been that impressive this season, but they’re a lot more impressive when you consider the quality of the defensives he’s been facing and their offense immediately became noticeably more stagnant when he went down, with underwhelming backup quarterback Colt McCoy unable to do much of anything against a mediocre Bengals defense in what ended up being a 19-17 win that could have easily turned to a Giants loss had the Bengals not fumbled at midfield at the end of the game on what could have been a game winning field goal drive. 

McCoy will have a full week of practice with the first team this week, but he figures to continue struggling, as he’s a 34-year-old journeyman with a career 78.2 QB rating, who recently threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a brief stint as the Washington Redskins starting quarterback from 2018-2019. With him under center, the Giants rank 29th in my roster rankings (or 28th depending on who is eligible to play this week for Baltimore), only ahead of the Jets, Bengals, and Jaguars. There’s a huge gap between them and the Seahawks.

The Seahawks have not played as well as their 8-3 record would suggest this season, going 6-2 in one score games, with a +37 point differential and a 12th ranked +0.77% first down rate differential, but I expect them to play better than that going forward. There are a few reasons for that, including simply that they’re typically much better in the second half of the season than the first half in the Russell Wilson era, going 43-21-3 ATS in games 9-16 since Wilson’s first season in 2012, as opposed to just 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8.

On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team and offensive led teams tend to fare better going forward because offensive performance is much more consistent and predictive week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 5th in first down rate over expected at +2.54%, but are dragged down by a defense that ranks just 27th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.77%. If they can get even middling play from their defense going forward, they should keep winning games, including some by larger margins than most of their wins thus far this season.

Aside from the inherent randomness of defensive play, the Seahawks are also getting more talented on defense, in large part due to players returning from injury. A few weeks ago, the Seahawks got talented safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence and last week they got Shaq Griffin back also from a 4-game absence. They also added defensive end Carlos Dunlap a few weeks ago in a trade with Cincinnati that gave the Seahawks much needed help on their defensive line, though he is questionable for this game after not practicing all week. Their offense is also healthier than it’s been in recent weeks, with top running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde returning from absences of 4 games and 3 games respectively. My roster rankings have them ranked 4th and they shouldn’t have much trouble with the Colt McCoy led Giants.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting line value with the Seahawks, who have ballooned to 11-point home favorites, despite not having any real homefield advantage without fans. My calculated line is Seattle -11.5, so I think they still have a good chance to cover, especially with without any upcoming distractions on the schedule, with the Jets coming to town next week (home favorites of 10+ are 52-31 ATS since 2002 before being home favorites of 10+ again the following week), but there isn’t enough here for the Seahawks to be worth betting, even if Dunlap is ultimately able to suit up.

Seattle Seahawks 30 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -11

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (7-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)

The Seahawks have not played as well as their record would suggest this season, going 5-2 in one score games, with a +31 point differential and a 17th ranked +0.26% first down rate differential, but I expect them to play better than that going forward. There are a few reasons for that, including simply that they’re typically much better in the second half of the season than the first half in the Russell Wilson era, going 43-21-2 ATS in games 9-16 since Wilson’s first season in 2012, as opposed to just 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8.

On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team and offensive led teams tend to fare better going forward because offensive performance is much more consistent and predictive week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 6th in first down rate over expected at +2.30%, but are dragged down by a defense that ranks just 25th in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.05%. If they can get even middling play from their defense going forward, they should keep winning games, including some by larger margins than most of their wins thus far this season.

Aside from the inherent randomness of defensive play, the Seahawks are also getting more talented on defense, in large part due to players returning from injury. A few weeks ago, the Seahawks got talented safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence and, this week, they’ll be top cornerback Shaq Griffin back, also from a 4-game absence. On top of that, they have upgraded their defensive line in recent weeks with mid-season veteran additions Carlos Dunlap and Damon Harrison. Their offense also gets a boost with feature back Chris Carson returning from his own 4-game absence. With all of these players in the lineup, I have the Seahawks ranked 4th in my roster rankings and they definitely could perform at that level going forward if they can stay relatively healthy.

I was always planning on betting the Seahawks confidently once they got reasonably healthy, but they’re also in a good spot in this game for a couple reasons. For one, they’re a west coast team in a night game against an east coast team. Due to circadian rhythms, west coast teams cover at about a 60% rate against east coast teams at night, as east coast teams tend to get tired towards the end of the game and see their performance fall off in the second half. On top of that, while the Eagles have another tough game on deck in Green Bay, the Seahawks get another relatively easy game at home against the Giants. I wish this line was still at Seattle -3, where it was on the early line last week, but it’s understandable the line would move for the Seahawks being healthier (not to mention the Eagles losing top offensive lineman Lane Johnson for the season) and my calculated line is Seattle -6, so the Seahawks are still worth a bet at -5.

Seattle Seahawks 31 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Seattle -5

Confidence: Medium

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-3) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

The Seahawks started 5-0 before their bye, but it wasn’t a very convincing 5-0, as four of their wins came by one score. It was very similar to last season when they went just 1-3 in games decided by more than one score, but made the playoffs because a 10-2 record in games decided by one score pushed them to 11 wins on the season. In total, the Seahawks went 14-2 in one score games over a 16-game stretch of one score games, which was highly improbable and not something that was likely to continue. Even elite quarterbacks like Russell Wilson struggle to win more than half of their one score games on a consistent basis and before that 14-2 stretch Wilson actually went just 30-34 to start his career in one score games.

Sure enough, since their week 6 bye, the Seahawks have dropped 3 of the past 4 games, including an 0-2 record in one score games. Once seemingly the favorite for the #1 seed in the NFC, the Seahawks are suddenly in a 3-way tie for the NFC West lead, ahead of a crucial Thursday Night Football matchup with the Cardinals, who currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a 37-34 victory in Arizona back in week 7. On top of that, of the three teams tied for the NFC West lead, the Seahawks have statistically been the worst, as they have just a +24 point differential and rank just 15th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +0.48%.

There is some good news for the Seahawks though. For one, they typically finish seasons better than they start. They lost last week in the first game of the second half, but since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012, the Seahawks are 42-21-2 ATS in games 9-16, as opposed to 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8. On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team, which is a good thing because offensive performance tends to be much more consistent week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 3rd in first down rate over expected, so if their defense, which has ranked 25th in first down rate allowed over expected, can be even a middling defense the rest of the way, this team is going to be tough to beat.

This is also a great spot for the Seahawks, off of back-to-back losses. Not only does it give us a better line, with the Seahawks shifting from being 5.5-point favorites on the early line last week to being 3-point favorites this week, but they’ve typically done well off of a loss in the Russell Wilson era at 27-12-3 ATS and have been even better off of back-to-back losses, going 7-1 ATS with no 3-game losing streaks in Wilson’s 137-game career. The Seahawks figure to be fully locked in for this game, especially having lost to the Cardinals earlier this season, while the Cardinals could be a little flatter, having already beaten the Seahawks once and coming off an insane last second win against the Bills last week.

All that being said, I was hoping for a better injury report for the Seahawks, as their defense may need to get at least mostly healthy to be a middling unit. They got safety Jamal Adams back a couple weeks ago and have added veterans Damon Harrison and Carlos Dunlap to give them a much needed boost on the defensive line, but they’re still missing both of their cornerbacks, Shaq Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, who will miss their fourth and second game respectively this week. 

On offense, the Seahawks get #2 running back Carlos Hyde back from a 3-game absence, but will be without lead running back Chris Carson for the 4th straight game and, with center Ethan Pocic out, this is their 6th straight game missing at least one starting offensive lineman. Injury problems have been part of the reason for the Seahawks regression in recent weeks, so I was hoping that at least one of the aforementioned absent players would return. 

Without them, it’s hard to justify placing a bet on the Seahawks as field goal favorites, given that they’ll have no real homefield advantage without fans in the stands. This line suggests the Seahawks are about 2.5 points better than the Cardinals, giving them a half point for homefield advantage. I would say 2.5 points is about right, as the Cardinals are in many ways a slightly lesser version of the Cardinals, with a strong offense and a defense that has struggled. I still think the Seahawks should be the right side because I don’t envision them losing three straight games, especially on a short week when the more veteran, better coached team usually wins, but a 1-3 point win wouldn’t really surprise me, so I wouldn’t recommend placing money on the Seahawks.

I am locking in TEN +6 @ BAL and JAX +10.5 vs. PIT now before the lines shift. I will have a full write-ups as usual with the rest of my picks this weekend.

Seattle Seahawks 29 Arizona Cardinals 24

Pick against the spread: Seattle -3

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (6-2) at Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

The Seahawks are 6-2, but four of their six wins have come by one score, including a pair that came down to fourth down stops against the Vikings and Patriots, and they rank just 17th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential. However, there is reason to expect they will be better going forward. The Seahawks have been carried by their offense, ranking 6th in first down rate over expected at 2.38%, but just 26th in first down rate allowed over expected at 2.27%, and offensive performance tends to be much more consistent on a week-to-week than defensive performance. If the Seahawks can even be an average defense going forward, they’re going to be a very tough opponent for anyone.

There are reasons to be optimistic for this Seahawks’ defense, as they got safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence last week and they also added defensive end Carlos Dunlap in a trade with the Bengals, but they may need to be healthier at the cornerback position before they can be significantly improved on the defensive side of the ball, with their top-3 cornerbacks Shaq Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, and Ugo Amadi all out for this one. 

Still, I like their chances of bouncing back this week, purely because losing back-to-back games has been rare for this team in the Russell Wilson era, as they are 27-11-3 ATS and 33-8 straight up after a loss since 2012. On top of that, the Seahawks are also 23-12-3 ATS as underdogs in the Russell Wilson era. The Seahawks have also typically been a better team in the second half of the second with Wilson, going 42-20-2 ATS in games 9-16, as opposed to 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8. They almost always seem to find a way to get better as the season goes on and it definitely wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case again this season. 

This week, the Seahawks play a Rams team that has a significant defensive edge, but is not nearly as good offensively. I have the Seahawks 1 point better than the Rams in my roster rankings even with all of their cornerback injuries, so we’re getting good line value with the Seahawks as 2-point road underdogs in a stadium that won’t have any fans. There isn’t quite enough here for the Seahawks to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line at +115 is a good bet as well, as the Seahawks should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game straight up.

Update: This is a late update, but this line has moved to 3 in some places before gametime. I would bet the Seahawks at that number.

Seattle Seahawks 26 Los Angeles Rams 24 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Seattle +3

Confidence: Medium