Seahawks projected second-place finish seems so wrong
The Seahawks have been predicted to finish in second place by a few sites. There are several problems with this prediction, and we’ll address them all.
Call me sensitive, call me a homer, but I cannot for the life of me see how the Seahawks will finish second in their division. Okay, if Russell Wilson misses the entire season they won’t win a game. I agree with Michael Bennett on that point. Not really; I’m sure they could squeak out four or five wins without Number 3, but that’s it.
Here’s the projection that made me sit back and say, out loud, “What???” This is from the excellent site – no, I’m not being facetious, it’s a great site – profootballfocus.com. You can read the entire article which projects every NFC team’s finish
"The Seahawks were close to 10-6 last year, and not much has changed for them. They made a few changes on the offensive line but it’s unclear if that will impact the line’s overall quality. Eddie Lacy (77.3) and Bradley McDougald (79.0) were two underrated free agent moves. Since 2013 Lacy has had 169 defenders miss tackles on his carries; a number only topped by Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy. While they might be reasons for optimism, the star players on the roster are either at their prime, or reaching the downside of their career. If the team is able to improve on the last year, they’ll need some of their younger players to take big steps forward."
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Where to start? Because there are a lot of issues here
First, those “few changes” on the offensive line ignores the improvement of every holdover player. George Fant won’t be a power forward playing left tackle this season. That’s just part of the improvement.
Eddie Lacy comes up next, and even has that great missed tackles stat listed. He’s replacing Christine Michael, for the love of Pete Carroll, and yet that’s merely “a reason for optimism”.
Bradley McDougald is set to step in for the All-Pro tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor whenever needed, and will fill the role of a big nickel stopper as well. That’s more than a “reason for optimism”.
It’s quite true that several star players are at their prime. It’s quite true that some young players will need to step up. I’m not at all certain why this situation is unique to the Seahawks, though.
Let’s look at the projection for the Cardinals
Actually, my issue is less about the projected 10-6 record for Seattle than the reasoning behind it. The Arizona Cardinals are also projected to finish at 10-6, but win the tie-break. On the Cardinals:
"In 2015, the Cardinals were a game away from the Super Bowl. They followed that up with a season where they were top 12 in terms of PFF overall grade for the team, and they scored 50 more points than they allowed, but still ended up with a losing record. They will definitely miss longtime veteran Calais Campbell, but many of the lowest-graded players on the roster are either no longer on the roster or will no longer see playing time unless there is an injury. Winning more close games than they lose should get the Cardinals on the right side of .500, and if Carson Palmer or Tyrann Mathieu is able to return to their 2015 form, Arizona should find their way back into the playoffs."
So we start with the fact the Cardinals were a playoff team in 2015. And were a losing team in 2016. Which is more valuable when predicting 2017? Hint: unless a key player was out, it isn’t the season from two years ago. 38 points of that 50 point differential came in the last game of the season against a reeling Rams team. Now that was a team in turmoil.
“Many of the lowest-graded players” have been replaced. Is there some guarantee the unnamed replacements are better? Or would that be a “reason for optimism”? Speaking of optimism, how exactly does a team win more close games than they lose? The only path given is a return to form for Carson Palmer or Tyrann Mathieu.
How will Palmer bounce back but Wilson won’t?
So, the Seahawks have star players at their prime or on the downside. But Carson Palmer will return to his 2015 form. 37 year old Carson Palmer, whose 2015 season was an aberration. That guy, who will be 38 before the season ends, will bounce back, but the Seahawks stars are on the downside of their careers. Right.
Palmer had a great year in 2015, especially for a 36 year old quarterback. Even then, it was only the second time in his career his passer rating was above 96.0. In case you need reminding, Russell Wilson‘s passer rating has never been lower than 92.6. Or to put it another way, Carson Palmer has nine seasons with a lower passer rating than Wilson. And he’s nine years older. Palmer’s average passer rating is 88.0. Wilson’s is 99.6. So at the most important position in football, the Cardinals get the benefit of the doubt, and the Seahawks don’t?
As I said, profootballfocus.com is a great site, and this particular article has some great insights. But it’s off the mark on the predictions for these two teams.