The Path to the (other) Title: Seahawks DVOA Preview Week 10
By Brad Howell
The Seattle Seahawks DVOA rankings rebounded this week after a strong showing against the Buffalo Bills.
Seattle moved up to 5th in weighted DVOA and 3rd in total DVOA after defeating Buffalo last week. The offense continues to lean heavily on an above average passing attack, while the rushing attack lags behind. Defensively, Seattle is still one of the best units in the league despite recently developing an inability to get off of the field on 3rd down. If this trend continues, I suspect the Seahawks will begin to drop down both the DVOA and NFC playoff standings.
More surprisingly to me is that the Philadelphia Eagles still hold the top spot in the rankings. With New England on the docket this Sunday, this means Seattle’s next two games are against teams in the DVOA top five. Get up for it.
Other notable changes in the top ten includes Oakland and Miami rising to eighth and tenth, respectively. Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins new commitment to the run game has really changed the entire look of this team. Of the teams in the top ten, Minnesota seems the most tenuous to me as they’ve looked just plain bad during their recent three game skid.
As always, head over to Football Outsider’s for the full details on the current DVOA standings.
Week 10 Outlook
The combination of the quality of opponent (they’re great), the disparity in preparation time (short week vs. bye week), and the location (3k mile flight) make this easily the most difficult matchup Seattle will face all season. Seattle will again trot out a well-rounded and strong defense against an elite passing offense. According to DVOA the Patriots possess a below average rushing attack, but that can be deceiving since they are adept at using short, quick passes to supplant a traditional rush offense.
Historically, the most effective way to slow down the Patriots offense is by creating consistent pressure on Brady without blitzing. Think back to the difference in the Patriot’s offense in Super Bowl 49 before and after Cliff Avril left with a concussion. This is where the loss of defensive end Michael Bennett will be felt the most. Avril and Frank Clark will no doubt perform well, but Michael Bennett may be the best defender in the NFL and that loss cannot be overstated.
In the good news department, Seattle will get Kam Chancellor back which should improve the defensive communication, especially on third down. Without Kam, Seattle’s third down defense has become a sieve leading to a ridiculous 324 defensive snaps the past four weeks. Now this certainly isn’t all on Kam or his replacement, Kelcie McCray, but the Legion of Boom plays at another level when Kam, Earl, and Sherm are healthy and playing.
Looking at the numbers, the Patriots are not the opponent you want to face when you’re struggling to get off of the field on third down. Their 3rd down passing DVOA is an insane 119%, almost twice as much as the 2nd ranked team. I expect Brady will target Brock Coyle if he’s on the field and Jeremy Lane when Coyle is not. Lane’s been somewhat of a hothead the last few weeks and I imagine Edelman may get under his skin a bit if he’s not careful. Something to watch out for anyway.
Dion Lewis is the biggest wildcard for Sunday. If he’s fully healthy he is a nightmare to tackle in the open field, even for the sure tackling ‘hawks. Regardless of whether it’s Lewis or James White, I think this shapes up to be a “passing back” day for the Patriots running backs.
On offense, Seattle should be able to move the ball and score on the Patriots defense. Seattle is at its worst when they face teams with above average outside pass rushers because they are so weak at offensive tackle. After banishing Chandler Jones and Jaimie Collins to lesser football teams, the Patriots have the worst adjusted sack rate in the NFL. In theory this bodes well for Wilson’s pocket survival, but Seahawk offensive lines have surprised us in terrible ways before. Fingers crossed.
As long as Wilson isn’t getting destroyed behind the O-line, I think Seattle has too many talented pass catchers for Belichick to scheme out. The biggest threat I can think of is time of possession. If the defense cannot get off of the field and the offense starts the game with a few bad three-and-outs, the game flow could once again quickly turn against the Seahawks. If the defense is pushing towards 80 snaps in the 4th quarter again, I don’t like the ‘hawks chances for holding a lead at the end of the game.
My predictions have gone pretty well so far, as I’ve only missed on the Rams loss (doh!) and that stupid tie. Before the season, and every week up until now, I’ve penciled this Patriots game in as a loss. Well, all week I’ve found ways to convince myself to change my mind and call this game a win. I think the offense will be as strong as ever with Wilson and Lockett almost back to 100% health. I think C.J. Prosise will breakout this Sunday. I think the L.O.B. will give Brady his first interception of the season. I think Avril and Frank Clark will each get a sack. And I think the Patriots will still win. Damnit. Seahawks lose: 24-30.