That’s more like it.
The past few weeks have been uncomfortable and unfamiliar for the Seahawks, who lost their star QB to a busted finger and then promptly lost three in a row without him.
But they’re back on track now, having rolled through lowly Jacksonville, 31-7, on Sunday afternoon at home. The Seahawks, now 3-5, still have much work to do to get back into the playoff chase, and still have many questions ahead as they enter their bye week.
To help break down some of those, here’s our weekly Four Downs Q&A with beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude:
1. So what’s your read on Russell Wilson’s recovery? Do you think he’ll play against Green Bay?
Condotta: Predicting anything regarding an injury is always tricky from the outside. But by all accounts, Wilson’s recovery is going as well as hoped — and Wilson himself announced Monday afternoon that he’s had the pin in his finger removed, which would seem to increase the likelihood of his return the Nov. 14 game at Green Bay. The complicating part for the Seahawks is the schedule ahead. At 3-5, hope is far from lost for a playoff spot in a top-heavy NFC. But Seattle logically needs to win at least one of its first two games following the bye to stay in the hunt, especially with six other teams in the NFC having two or fewer losses. And those two games are tough ones — at Green Bay and then home to Arizona, each now 7-1. The temptation will be strong for Wilson to play if there’s any chance at all. If I had to bet, I’d put it on Wilson playing in at least the Arizona game.
Jude: Wilson, no doubt, is doing everything he can to get back by next week, and having the pin removed Monday was certainly a significant hurdle to clear. In the meantime, if Wilson has to miss another game, Geno Smith’s performance Sunday had to give coaches and teammates confidence in his ability to run the offense, and run it well. Smith said he’s never lost confidence in himself, and that showed when he completed his first 14 passes of the game, en route to his first victory as a starting QB since 2014. “You’ve seen me throw the ball,” he said afterward. “I’m not trying to be arrogant or anything like that, but I’ve done it for a long time. … I’m never going to listen to anyone else. I have the loudest voice in my head. I know what I can do.” The Seahawks now know too.
2. A year ago, the Seahawks defense was able to turn thing around midseason. Are you convinced this defense is making meaningful strides again?
Jude: No, I’m not ready to declare the turnaround complete. Not yet, and not with Green Bay and Arizona on the horizon. But the Seahawks of course should be pleased with what they’ve done the past three games, holding Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Jacksonville to an average of 319.3 yards and 14.3 points. That’s a vast improvement, and the defense absolutely deserves credit. And even before that, as safety Quandre Diggs noted, “people forget what we did to the Rams in the first half” on Oct. 7. Point is, this defense is capable — capable of being at least solid, and maybe even pretty darn good.
Condotta: Certainly it’s getting better, as allowing just 43 points the last three games indicates. But as always, there are caveats: Ben Roethlisberger isn’t what he once was, the Saints game was played in rough conditions for both teams’ offenses, and the Jags are the Jags (and lost their best offensive player, James Robinson, in the first quarter). Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray (assuming his ankle injury isn’t still lingering by then) will be truer tests. But the changes in the secondary appear to have paid off, as does going consistently with a dime package featuring Ryan Neal. And the run defense of the tackles has been a plus all season. The next steps are to get more sacks and turnovers. Do that and the Seahawks may indeed be able to call themselves an elite defense soon enough.
3. Carroll referenced his team’s standing in the DVOA rankings on Sunday. What do you make of that?
Condotta: For those who don’t know, DVOA is a metric from Football Outsiders that attempts to assess a team’s overall strength on offense, defense and special teams using more than just traditional statistics (as well as individual players). It stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. As Football Outsiders explains: “It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation.” A 5-yard run on third-and-four, for instance, is weighted more heavily than a 5-yard run on first-and-10. As Carroll noted, Seattle’s DVOA numbers are higher than its 3-5 record would indicate — the Seahawks are 12th overall at plus-7.9%, and were seventh in offense last week. FO’s Aaron Schatz wrote Monday: “The Seahawks’ DVOA dropped yesterday from 10th to 12th but they’re still at 7.9% and Coach Carroll is right, that’s pretty good for a 3-5 team and they’re doing more right than wrong especially when they have a healthy Russell Wilson.” So maybe things haven’t been as bad as they seem.
Jude: It was very surprising. That had to be the first time publicly that Carroll put together those four letters in that order, yeah? Across the industry, the Seahawks aren’t known as an analytics-friendly team, but that comment had to make the nerdy faction (I mean that affectionately) of Seahawks fans happy. Perhaps Carroll deserves a bit more credit in that regard. Of course, he could make that faction of fans really happy if he would refer to the analytics a little more often when he’s making his fourth-down decisions.
4. The Rams made a blockbuster move Monday morning to acquire Von Miller from Denver. Do you expect the Seahawks to make a deal before Tuesday’s trade deadline?
Jude: I’m not sure how realistic it is to think the Seahawks could make a splashy move — as they did in getting Diggs two years ago and Carlos Dunlap last year — but they ought to at least try. This team could use another receiver, in particular, especially with the uncertainty of rookie Dee Eskridge (concussion) going forward.
Condotta: Nothing significant, if anything at all. I think Carroll and John Schneider have believed in this roster more from the start of the season than maybe others on the outside have, one reason they brought so much of it back in the offseason — Sunday’s starting lineup featured 18 players who were with the team a year ago. And Carroll’s DVOA comment maybe foreshadowed that he believes in this team, regardless of what the record has been so far. Seattle may be willing to stand pat.