It’s not easy to make the playoffs in the NFL consistently, and the Seattle Seahawks have been one of the better franchises in the league under head coach Pete Carroll. Since Carroll took over in 2010, they have only missed the postseason once, and have really taken off since Russell Wilson became their quarterback. Since Wilson has been their every day signal caller, Seattle has had a record of 62-26-1, courtesy of Pro-football-reference.com. They’ve been a physical team led by a hard-nosed defense and mostly a tough running game, but that narrative has changed in the last few seasons. Although Wilson has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, the defense has not been nearly as dominant, and the running game has been disappointing. With injuries piling up for the Seahawks, it does not look like they are legitimate playoff contenders. The NFC is jam-packed with quality teams, and Seattle’s schedule is not a cakewalk the rest of the way.
Every NFL team has its share of injuries by this point in the season, but Seattle has been really unlucky. The defensive side of the ball has been decimated in recent weeks. The Legion of Boom is right in the heart of those notable injuries, as Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles last week, and now Seattle is likely without Kam Chancellor for the year due to a neck injury, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. The Seahawks are not the same defense without their enforcer in the box, and that puts even more pressure on All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, who Seattle hopes to get back this week from a hamstring injury.
Pro Football Focus rated Chancellor as one of the best safeties this season, and the Seahawks are the only team to boast two top-10 graded safeties in 2017, according to Zach Aulakh of PFF. The cornerbacks are going to need to step up in a big way with the injury bug plaguing their safeties and pass rush. Defensive tackle Jarran Reed (hamstring) and defensive end Frank Clark (thigh), two key pieces on the Seahawks’ front, were banged up after last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, and they greatly impact the success of the secondary.
With the Seahawks having to rely on their young corners, they are going to need to blitz much more, which is not typically how this defense has had success. Shaquill Griffin has played well in press coverage this year, but he’s going to have to be even better with Sherman gone, and whether or not Earl Thomas is going to have his deep help consistently with Chancellor gone underneath remains to be seen as the season progresses. Seattle could get a boost from DeShawn Shead possibly coming back from a torn ACL in January, according to Derek Lewis of 247sports.com, but that’s really reaching. It’s going to be on Russell Wilson’s shoulders to get this squad to the playoffs.
Wilson is having a tremendous season for the Hawks, as he is third in the league in passing yards, and tied for second in passing touchdowns with Tom Brady. He’s also on pace to break the NFL record for percentage of total yards accounted for, according to NFL Research. That would break Jon Kitna’s mark, courtesy of Arthur Weinstein of Sporting News.
Wilson has done that while getting pressured at an extremely high rate. Seattle’s offensive line has given up the fifth-most QB hits, courtesy of nfl.com, and that needs to improve drastically due to their struggles in the running game. The Seahawks gotten barely anything out of their backs, as Wilson leads the team in rushing yards as well. They need to establish some balance in their offense to keep a banged-up defense out of being in unfavorable situations. More than anything, though, Wilson needs to be upright.
Against the Cardinals, Wilson was drilled by Arizona’s Carlos Dansby, and Wilson said “he needed to have his jaw realigned,” reported Brady Henderson of ESPN. He was ordered to leave the field after the play to be in concussion protocol, and then returned just one play later. The NFL is currently investigating the incident, and “the Seahawks could be subject to fines of up to $150,000 depending on the outcome of the investigation, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.”
Moreover, with the Seahawks having QB Matt Ryan and the high-powered Atlanta Falcons coming to town Monday night, the pressure is mounting for Wilson to keep playing at an elite level. With players like Sherman, Chancellor, and defensive end Cliff Avril not in the defensive picture, the Seahawks are going to need MVP-level play from Wilson to make the postseason.
It’s not as if he’s not capable of that, but it’s hard to believe that’s sustainable, especially with a defense that is devoid of two All-Pro players in the secondary. Even with those players active, they had given up some big plays already this year. The Seahawks should have wins coming up against the lowly San Francisco 49ers and the offensively limited Cardinals, but the rest of the schedule will be quite the challenge.
The Falcons have one of the most versatile offenses in the league, and the Philadelphia Eagles are currently the league’s best team. In addition, the Hawks will be playing a suffocating Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense on the road, and they will be playing another tough road test in the Dallas Cowboys with a reinstated Ezekiel Elliot in Week 16. The Los Angeles Rams will bring the league’s fourth-ranked offense in Week 15 as well, and that could be a much different outcome than it was earlier in the season, in which Seattle’s defense was much healthier. Looking at those tests, it’s hard to believe the Seattle offensive line and defense holds up. In a crowded NFC playoff picture, the Seahawks are going to have a really tough time getting in with their running game limitations and notable injuries.
[Featured Image by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images]