Are the Seattle Seahawks in Trouble?
I've lived in Seattle now for three years. For someone who grew up in the midwest and moved here from Los Angeles, it definitely has been an adjustment. For starters, I don't drink coffee - just never took to drinking warm beverages. I also have never liked salmon, and I don't try to hide the taste with barbecue sauce like the jettisoned Percy Harvin.
While the good people of Seattle would seem to think of me as a "bad fit" like Harvin was, I do like it here based on the fact that not everything in Seattle is what it seems on paper. That definitely extends to the 2014 Seahawks as well, who find themselves at a low-confidence 5-3 through nine weeks of the NFL season (compare this to, say, the euphoria of a 5-3 Browns team for their fans).
Let's do some fact or fiction with Seattle and the Seahawks, using our numberFire Net Expected Points metrics. This hopefully should help you, the reader, ascertain whether or not you want to visit the city of Seattle in the future and whether you think the Seahawks are a good NFL team at this point in the NFL season - or will be going forward.
Defense: Fact or Fiction?
Seattle is the rainiest city in the United States
Fiction: There are several cities in which it rains more than Seattle, in both total rainfall and number of days raining, headed by Rochester, New York.
The Seahawks 2014 Defense is Pedestrian
Faction: This is partially true. Against the pass, the Seahawks are really struggling, already allowing 14 passing touchdowns on the season in 8 games. For context, the "Legion of Boom" only allowed 16 touchdown passes in all of 2013. They've also allowed 2 separate 100-yard receiving games to Emmanuel Sanders and DeSean Jackson thus far, whereas they allowed a total of 3 for the entire 2013 season. While there have been a few close calls, only Peyton Manning has eclipsed 300 yards passing versus the Seahawks through 8 weeks.
In terms of run defense, the Seahawks fare much better, allowing three rushing touchdowns on the season thus far. They did, however, only allow 4 rushing touchdowns for all of 2013. They've allowed only a single 100-yard rushing performance: DeMarco Murray, who had 115 rushing yards and a touchdown in a Week 6 loss to the Cowboys at CenturyLink Field. You'd still want to bench most of your fantasy running backs against the Seahawks, especially in Seattle.
In terms of Defensive Net Expected Points, here is how the Seahawks stack up, adjusted for strength of schedule/matchups vs. the rest of the 32 NFL teams:
|Team||Adj D NEP||Adj D PNEP||Adj D RNEP|
|Seahawks||20.41 (9th)||49.46 (24th)||-29.57 (3rd)|
So what gives with the Seahawks on the defensive side of the ball? They seem stout against the run, with the third-best Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP, but they are 24th against the pass with one of the best cover corners in the game in Richard Sherman and one of the league's best safeties in Earl Thomas.
While nobody expected the Seahawks to live up to last season's defensive effort, there have been three major things that have caused the Seahawks defense to be ineffective in 2014, as highlighted in the chart below:
|Season Thru 8 Gms||Passing Yds Allowed||Rush Yards Allowed||Turnovers||Sacks|
For starters, the Seahawks aren't getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. At this point last season, they had 26 sacks and 43 for the entire season, compared to 11 sacks in 8 games in 2014. This can be partially explained by key free agent defections and salary cap casualties on the defensive line so that the team could offer Sherman and Thomas contract extensions. The Seahawks are a team that likes to rotate its defensive linemen, and they haven't been able to do so with less talent in 2014, leading to less pressure on the quarterback.
Next, the team simply isn't causing turnovers on defense or special teams. The Seahawks barely missed a pick-six late in the game versus Oakland last week that certainly could have had an impact in your fake football game and on the Seahawks' Defensive Passing NEP because the Raiders scored a few plays later. This has been par for the course this year.Lastly, the Seahawks have shown a penchant on defense for giving up the big play or not being able to stop their opponent on key downs and distances. Injuries to key players like Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, and Byron Maxwell certainly haven't helped matters for the Seahawks. This will dilute NEP in a hurry.
Offense: Fact or Fiction?
Do People Really Throw Fish at Pike Place Market?
Fact: If you buy your fish from the market, fishmongers will throw it to you (or them if you prefer) before packing it for you.
Do The Seahawks Have a Problem on Offense?
Faction: When the Seahawks realize that they are most effective running the football, they are one of the more efficient offenses in football. They rank first in Adjusted Rushing NEP thus far through eight games.
|Team||Adj Total NEP||Adj PNEP||Adj RNEP|
|Seahawks||40.08 (14th)||5.03 (26th)||43.45 (1st)|
The fiction has been in the passing game as the Seahawks have lacked rhythm in their last two games between quarterback Russell Wilson and his receivers and tight ends, who have dropped some passes and made some miscues in addition to Wilson missing them when open. Wilson has just one passing touchdown in his last two games total, and his Passing NEP of 17.28 is 21st among quarterbacks. Considering that Wilson is incredibly efficient (11 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions on the season), he's not getting much out of his passing plays on a NEP basis, and his banged-up offensive line certainly can be one reason for the lack of production of late.
Wilson compensates for his Passing NEP with 2 100-yard rushing performances on the season and 3 rushing touchdowns, which results in his 35.34 Rushing NEP, first among quarterbacks by a wide margin. On a Total NEP basis, Wilson ranks 11th among quarterbacks, which means he's a weekly play in your 12-team fantasy leagues, although you were more confident about this a few weeks ago than now.
While Doug Baldwin has his moments in the passing game, the only other offensive player worth serious mention from a fake football perspective is Marshawn Lynch, who is ranked 6th overall among running backs with a 22.98 Total NEP. Lynch has eight total touchdowns on the season, including three in the receiving game. When he is featured heavily, he has produced and the team has won. In games during which Lynch carried the ball at least 20 times, the Seahawks are 3-0, and Lynch has scored all 5 of his rushing touchdowns in these games. All, coincidentally, were home games. Handing Lynch the ball seems to be the "secret sauce" to the Seahawks being effective on offense, but sometimes they've been a victim of game pace which has deterred their plans.
Are the Seahawks' Special Teams to Blame?
Fact: The Seahawks special teams play has been poor, and that's putting it nicely. They've lost fumbles, not recovered them, been faked out by the Rams on the special teams play of the year - basically the "banana in the tailpipe" of the season - and then, later in the same game, with a fake punt from the Rams' 20-yard line. While only the fake punt that factors as a pass figures into Defensive NEP, all of these plays impact you if you're starting the Seahawks defense for fantasy football.
What's worse about these special teams gaffes if you are invested in the Seahawks as your favorite team or for fantasy football purposes is that they disrupt the team rhythm on offense and defense. On defense, it erodes confidence and forces the team to press to make plays, which they frankly haven't. On offense, it forces the team to run the ball less, which is what they are best at doing. It also takes Wilson, who is very much a rhythm quarterback, and throws his game off.
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
The best news if you're a Seahawks fan is that the team has won two straight in spite of these issues, all of which seem to be correctable. Over time, their players will get healthy on the offensive line and in the defensive secondary. The team has already dialed up more pressure recently with 5 of their 10 season turnovers in the past 2 games as well as 4 of their 11 sacks.
The increase in turnovers and defensive performance will get some swagger back for the team and lead to more rushing attempts for Lynch, even against a tough remaining schedule in terms of defenses played starting in Week 12. That is the identity of the team and will result in more success and efficiency for Wilson in the passing game, with Baldwin figuring to be the prime beneficiary there. Our team rankings project the Seahawks to go 4-4 the rest of the way, finishing with 9 wins.
I personally am a little more optimistic, thinking that the team goes 5-3 the rest of the way to finish 10-6 on the season, and maybe with a little luck, 11-5, which should put them in the playoffs. At that point it would be anyone's game because not everything about this Seahawks team is about what's in the papers or on paper.