What should we know about the Seattle Seahawks before they face the New York Giants this Sunday? Let’s find out in this week’s ‘5 questions’ segment. Mookie Alexander of Field Gulls answers our questions.
Ed; Even without the 12th man the Seahawks are unbeaten at home this season. Can you identify a reason for that?
Mookie: Well I think the schedule has helped more than anything else. Their home wins are against the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals. That’s four sub .500 teams and then Arizona could be .500 by this weekend. Last year they had the Ravens, Vikings, Saints, and (obviously) 49ers all come into town and all of them made at least the divisional round. But I do believe not having to travel still matters when we talk about home field advantage, and the familiarity of playing on your home field is just human nature, especially if you’re at least a decent team. Russell Wilson’s home/road splits have been very pronounced this year in terms of turnovers and touchdown passes thrown. Seattle has had some blips in recent years playing at Lumen Field (yeah, that’s the new name), but overall it’s still a very hard place to play whether there’s a crowd or not.
Ed: ‘Snacks’ Harrison is a former Giant. He’s obviously not the dominant force he once was, but why did Seattle want to bring him in and how has he been playing?
Mookie: Seattle is pretty thin on the interior. Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, and Bryan Mone make up the usual defensive tackle rotation and Mone is out for a good while with an ankle injury. Sometimes they’ve lined up Reed on the outside, so really it’s just Ford and Mone who are DTs and DTs only. The Seahawks’ run defense was a massive problem last season and by DVOA it was the worst they’ve ever been in the Pete Carroll era. Harrison needed some time to get into football shape so he was on the practice squad for a bit before getting elevated to the active roster. I’d give an incomplete grade because Harrison has only had 63 snaps total. Ultimately he’s still behind Reed and Ford on the depth chart so he’s really just rotational depth at this stage of his career, but that rotational depth can be quite valuable down the stretch.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants roster and put him in Seattle’s lineup, who would it be? Why?
Mookie: I miss Golden Tate ... but he’s not the answer. It’s definitely James Bradberry. Despite the recent improvements to the Seahawks defense, outside corner remains a glaring weakness. Shaquill Griffin is clearly the best of the bunch but not only has he been injured, he’s a free agent in 2021 so there’s no guarantee he stays on the team. Quinton Dunbar has also been battling injuries and really I don’t have a strong opinion on him either way outside of his dreadful showing against the Bills, which prompted the team to shut him down for a few weeks because of his knee problem. Tre Flowers has been better as of late but his overall body of work has been more liability than quality asset. Bradberry at the very least would be a valuable CB2 on the Seahawks defense, and it’d probably shift Dunbar back into the slot where he usually played in Washington.
Ed: We know how awful Seattle’s defense was during the first part of the season. Has there been enough improvement that you think the Seahawks can win a Super Bowl with this group?
Mookie: I think an important caveat with the defense is that it’s almost entirely their pass defense that was rotten and broken. The run defense ranks 12th by DVOA at the moment and they’ve only allowed 3.7 yards per rush attempt on the season. That’s a big distinction to make. Why? Because passing is way more valuable than running and the Seahawks have been bad at defending the one thing that’s more valuable. I really believe the Carlos Dunlap trade has done wonders for the Seahawks’ pass rush. He has 3.5 sacks in four games and while he might not play this weekend due to a foot injury, it’s nothing serious evidently. By getting Dunlap on the defensive line they don’t have to blitz as often to generate pressure, which means less time for the secondary to play man coverage, something they very much struggle with. It also reduces the risk of the worst combination of a coverage bust off a failed blitz, which we’ve seen far too often this season. Jamal Adams is healthy again and while he’s better playing downhill than in coverage, he’s been really good over the past two games. Hopefully the continuity among key starters will lead to fewer miscommunications and more assignment correct football, because this defense has the talent to be much better than it has been up to this point.
Is the improvement good enough to win a Super Bowl? No. The Chiefs would crush ‘em pretty bad. The Titans’ play-action heavy offense could bring nightmares both through the air and on the ground. Getting to a Super Bowl is a different story. This is not a particularly strong NFC this season, so if the defense is even average instead of “worst in the league” bad, they have as good a shot as anyone (except the NFC East teams ... sorry about that) to represent the NFC in Tampa this February. The Seahawks offense is elite and as long as Russell Wilson is healthy, they’re a playoff team. They just need to sustain this level of defensive performance to have a legit shot at making the Super Bowl.
Ed: The Giants are a heavy underdog, especially if Daniel Jones isn’t healthy. If they are going to win, what is the path? What are they going to have to accomplish?
Mookie: Well it doesn’t look like there will be rain, which has historically and bizarrely been the enemy of this Seahawks offense way too often, so scrap that factor. If the Giants pull off the upset it’s going to have to involve forcing the Seahawks into big mistakes and capitalizing on any self-inflicted mistakes Seattle does make. For example, the Eagles game last week really should’ve been a blowout but it was within reasonable reach thanks to Seattle’s two fourth-down failures in Philly’s half of the field. Philly scored no points and lost anyway. If the Giants can turn those errors into points then the upset is in the cards. What’s been pretty crazy is the fact that the Seahawks have only allowed one offensive touchdown off of a turnover this season, so all of this is easier said than done. Another wild card factor I suppose is how well the Giants can run the ball. I’m not expecting Colt McCoy to do much (even less so if Shepard and Slayton are not 100 percent), so really it’ll be up to your defense and special teams to come through.