We are primed and ready for our Seahawks vs. Falcons Monday Night Football pregame performance at Century Link Field on 11/20. If you are going to the game make sure to join us at the North Plaza stage at 3:45pm as we juice up the crowd for what has become a must win game for a potential Seahawks playoff run.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
As has been the case the past couple of seasons, the Seahawks have found themselves in control of their own destiny at the mid-point of their 2017 campaign, but with an even lower margin for error. They began the 2015 season 2-4 after blowing numerous fourth quarter leads, but won 8 of their last 10 games to represent the #6 seed in the NFC Playoffs. In 2016 they began the season with a decent 4-2-1 record, but were hampered when Russell Wilson suffered a series of injuries that limited his mobility unlike any other time in his professional career, and forced the team to drastically adjust their offensive scheme with an underdeveloped offensive line. They found cohesion on the line, discovered how lethal Wilson can be as an accurate pocket passer, went 6-3 for the remainder of the season, won the NFC West Division title with a 10-5-1 record and represented the #3 seed in the NFC Playoffs.
Tough Sledding Ahead
While the Seahawks currently sit at a respectable 6-3 record, the 2017 season has presented them with numerous challenges both in and out of their control. First and foremost, they did not address the depth of their offensive line in the offseason, tragically lost starting tackle George Fant to a torn ACL in mid-August and guard Luke Joeckel has been out of the lineup since week five with lingering knee issues. These injuries have prevented them from finding continuity up front and contributed to major difficulties establishing any semblance of a running game. Russell Wilson leads the team in rushing 9 games into the season, with 290 yards. The closest active RB on the roster, Eddie Lacy, only has 128 yards, and Thomas Rawls follows with 125 yards.
Russell Wilson has accounted for (thrown or rushed for) 82.1 percent of the @Seahawks scrimmage yards this season.
That's the highest such percentage by a player in any season in the Super Bowl era. pic.twitter.com/OjweQ1NEOK
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 16, 2017
Hope on the Horizon
Due to their lack of a rushing attack and the QB pressures and hits that have resulted from performing one-dimensionally, they went all in at the trade deadline and landed 10 year veteran All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown and a 2018 fifth-round pick from the Houston Texans in exchange for cornerback Jeremy Lane, a second-round pick in 2019 and a third-round pick in 2018. Lane, however, failed his physical with the Texans, so the deal was modified: the Texans ended up with a third-round pick in 2018 and a second in 2019 in exchange for Brown and a fifth-round pick in 2018.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Having Jeremy Lane remain on the Seahawks roster ended up being a godsend after this past Thursday’s brutal game in Arizona where they sustained 9 injuries. Cornerback Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles and ended up on season-ending IR. In addition, Strong Safety Kam Chancellor (stinger) and newly acquired Tackle Duane Brown (ankle) also left the game and did not return. Chancellor’s season is done and stifles an already depleted secondary. Earl Thomas has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury but looks to make his return this Monday. In addition, they signed free agent and original “Legion of Boom” cornerback, Byron Maxwell to add depth and familiarity to the unit, and both cornerback Shaquille Griffin and safety Bradley MacDougald have exceeded expectations and continue to improve. Duane Brown’s injury does not appear to be too serious and there is optimism that both Brown and Joeckel return to the field on Monday according to Pete Carroll.
So many #Seahawks couldn't walk without significant pain after this Thursday night "showcase," abt 10 piled onto an equipment cart outside locker room to get to team bus. Richard Sherman and his crutches. Michael Bennett among them.
— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) November 10, 2017
Eyes on the Prize
Even with a decimated offensive front, they have been able to edge out wins with Russell Wilson making a case for MVP consideration with his miraculous late-game heroics. He was currently 3rd in the league and 1st in the NFC in passing going into the weekend (2543 yds), behind only Tom Brady (2807 yds) and Ben Roethlisberger (2597 yds) – Big Ben played this past Thursday, so he will likely drop in the passer rankings after the full week of games are played. Wilson was also tied with Tom Brady for the 2nd most TD passes in the league going into this weekend (19), behind only Carson Wentz (25), whose team they will face on Sunday night (12/3). In addition, solid play across their wide receiver corps of Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett, and the long awaited redzone reemergence of Tight End Jimmy Graham (6 TDs) have been encouraging signs of a team that can string together chunk plays when needed.
On the defensive side of the ball, and minus a couple of late game breakdowns, their run defense has been as stout as ever, and they have been able to get pressure on the opposing quarterback regularly. Bobby Wagner is having an All-Pro season (2nd in the league in tackles with 84), KJ Wright remains as one of the most consistent and underrated linebackers in the game, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark have been able to get penetration through the gaps and veteran newcomers Dwight Freeney and Sheldon Richardson have not lost a step and have become regular contributors.
The highest graded LBs through Week 9 pic.twitter.com/biMpEZRlTt
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 10, 2017
After being on the wrong side of the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, up 25 points only to lose in overtime 34-28 to the Patriots, nobody knew what to expect of the Atlanta Falcons coming into the 2017 season. The script was familiar: The sensational air attack of MVP Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, arguably the best WR in the league, was set to return. The young two-headed rushing attack of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman was going to keep defenses honest while creating play action opportunities. Head Coach Dan Quinn, Seattle’s defensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl, was going to retain most of their defensive playmakers from their Super Bowl Run, while also making some notable additions like Dontari Poe.
The biggest unknown however, was how they were going to fare after losing offensive coordinator and play caller Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers. Steve Sarkisian, a man who needs no introduction in the northwest, would take over the reigns of one of the most dynamic NFL offenses in recent years. They started out 3-0, which included an impressive victory over the Packers in week 2. However, they lost their next game, had their bye week and then lost two more. Essentially they came out of their break playing uninspiring football and were a complete shell of themselves. Critics pointed to a predictable offense where defenses would pick up on exactly what they were going to do before the ball was snapped.
Since then they have been slowly progressing and stand at a 5-4 record. There have been flashes of the team that caused so many headaches for opposing defenses, but an injury last week to feature back Devonta Freeman is a crucial blow. Some may point to an upward trajectory by handedly beating the Cowboys 27-7 last week, a game where Adrian Claiborn had 6 sacks on Dak Prescott. However, the Cowboys were without All-Pro RB Ezekiel Elliott, All-Pro LT Tyron Smith and LB Sean Lee, their defensive leader, was injured early on in the game. Regardless, they are practically the same team of guys that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl, so they can never be taken lightly.
Another reason that the Seahawks, and the Falcons for that matter, have a tough road ahead, is that the NFC is riddled with talented teams. Aside from the Eagles, who are 8-1 and 4 games ahead of the Cowboys in the East, the Saints and Vikings are 8-2 and the Rams and Panthers are 7-3.
The good news for the Seahawks is that a lot of these teams will be playing each other for the remainder of the season, and so records are sure to fall. This is especially true with the Rams, who are slated to play the Eagles and Saints, and fell to the Vikings 24-7 on Sunday. They also come to Century Link Field on 12/17 for an all-important NFC West showdown. If the Seahawks can grind out some wins starting tonight and into December, especially against the Rams at home, they have a shot at winning the division and home-field advantage for some or all of the playoffs. However, with the way the NFC playoff picture is looking they will need to show the same late-season focus and tenacity they have in years past to prevail.
Depending on tonight’s outcome, the Seahawks would represent the #4 or #6 seed in the Playoffs. However, the Falcons would be the next team up in securing a Playoff spot below the Panthers, so we know this is going to be an all important battle.