This is not where the Seattle Seahawks expected to be in 2021.
Even in the highly competitive NFC West, the Seahawks were a team who had playoff hopes and beyond. A 5-10 season under head coach Pete Carroll is unheard of, as Seattle hasn’t even had a losing season in 10 years. The last time they lost 10 games or more in a year, Matthew Stafford was a rookie in this league.
So this team must be pretty horrible, right? Well, not exactly. Despite their 5-10 record, their point differential is just a single point. And it’s not like their roster is full of scrubs, either. They had two players make it to the Pro Bowl this year (Bobby Wagner and a guy named Quandre Diggs) and four additional alternates.
So what exactly went wrong this year for the Seahawks? Are they really this bad? And can the Detroit Lions send them even further into a spiral this week?
Let’s take a closer look in our Week 17 scouting report.
2021 season thus far (5-10)
Week 1: Beat Colts, 28-16
Week 2: Lost to Titans, 30-33 (OT)
Week 3: Lost to Vikings, 17-30
Week 4: Beat 49ers, 28-21
Week 5: Lost to Rams, 17-26
Week 6: Lost to Steelers, 20-23 (OT)
Week 7: Lost to Saints, 10-13
Week 8: Beat Jaguars, 31-7
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Lost to Packers, 0-17
Week 11: Lost to Cardinals, 13-23
Week 12: Lost to Football Team, 15-17
Week 13: Beat 49ers, 30-23
Week 14: Beat Texans, 33-13
Week 15: Lost to Rams, 10-20
Week 16: Lost to Bears, 24-25
- 20th in points scored (20.4 PPG), 7th in points against (20.5 PPG)
- 15th overall in DVOA (11th on offense, 25th on defense, 6th on special teams)
- Offensive DVOA: 12th in pass offense, 7th in run offense
- Defensive DVOA: 28th in pass defense, 9th in run defense
These aren’t the kind of stats you’d expect from a 5-10 team. The Seahawks are playing less than the sum of their parts right now. You can see from the results above that most of their losses have come by a razor’s edge margin. In fact, four of their losses have come by three points or fewer, including two overtime losses.
That being said, they’ve lost to some bad teams this year, including the Steelers, Saints, and Bears. They’ve also swept the 49ers and beaten the Colts, so they’re still capable of contending with decent teams.
Overall, it’s tough to see what exactly is going wrong. Offensively, they are ninth in yards per pass attempt (7.6) and fifth in yards per carry (4.7). Yet they only rank 20th in points scored. It’s not a poor red-zone offense, as they’re scoring touchdowns 62.2 percent of the time, which is seventh-best. The problem, offensively, appears to be just inconsistency. Despite all of the other good metrics, they rank dead last in punts per drive, with nearly half (49.4 percent) of their drives ending in a punt (league average is 36.3), and only two teams (Jaguars, Texans) go three-and-out more frequently.
However, they match up particularly tough for Detroit. They can run the ball well, and the Lions haven’t done particularly well against good rushing attacks (see: Eagles, Browns, Broncos). They also have a pair of extremely talented wide receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, which is trouble for a Detroit secondary that will feature a rookie (Ifeatu Melifonwu) and a converted safety (Will Harris) both starting in just their third career game at cornerback.
Defensively, they just aren’t very good. They give up a ton of yards and time of possession. In fact, they rank dead last in time of possession. So if the Lions want to play their normal game of eating up clock, limiting possessions, and hoping to win a low-scoring game, that sort of thing could be possible this week.
The only problem is that the Seahawks, ironically, are pretty good at stopping the run. Teams are only averaging 3.7 yards per carry against Seattle, which ranks first in the league.
That said, the Seahawks don’t pressure the quarterback very efficiently (21.6 pressure percentage, 27th), which could give Jared Goff some time to dink and dunk his way down the field.
Key injuries: S Jamal Adams (IR), CB Tre Brown (IR), RB Chris Carson (IR)
Aside from the injury to Russell Wilson earlier in the year, it would be hard to blame injuries for the Seahawks’ struggles. Their key players have mostly stayed healthy for the year and they’ll enter Week 17 as healthy as you could possibly expect this deep into the season.
COVID list: DE L.J. Collier, CB D.J. Reed, CB Bless Austin, DT Bryan Mone
All four of these players were placed on reserve/COVID on Monday or earlier. That means, given the NFL’s new policy, they have enough time to clear COVID protocol by Sunday, provided their symptoms are gone or improving.
Biggest strength: Run defense
As noted earlier, the Seahawks run defense ranks first in yards per carry allowed. They’re also very good in short-yardage situations, allowing conversions on just 58 percent of opportunities, which ranks fifth in the league (average is 66 percent).
This unit is led by veteran defensive tackle Al Woods, whose 80.6 PFF run defense grade ranks fifth among all interior defenders.
Biggest weakness: Pass protection
It’s an annual tradition to talk about how poor the Seahawks offensive line is. And while they have been run blocking fairly well, the pass protection has been god awful this year. Here are just a few eye-opening stats:
- 27.2 pressure rate allowed (29th)
- 44 sacks allowed (28th)
- 53.8 PFF pass blocking grade (29th)
But do the Lions have someone other than Charles Harris that can take advantage? Will defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn dial up more pressure as he did against the Cardinals?
Vegas odds for Sunday: Seahawks by 7