Gallant: How the Seahawks stack up against the NFC’s 5 other best teams
Let’s get the forced reference out of the way quickly. I’m really excited that the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” is back for a second season. And in the first episode, one of the most popular characters in Star Wars history made a brief cameo at the very end. His name? Boba Fett.
Fett reminds me of the Seahawks in a way. He’s not scared of anything. He’s got some cool looking armor, an unbelievable arsenal of weapons, and a reputation for disintegrating his prey. Sounds like the Hawks’ offense in a nutshell.
“YOU ARE SUCH A NERD, PAWL.”
But we all know how the Star Wars universe works. If you can’t use the force, you’re bantha fodder. And no matter how cool Boba looks, without the force he can be taken out by a blind man’s hip check and eaten in embarrassing fashion by a giant hole in the sand. He’s just a man. And while the Seahawks’ offense was a force to be reckoned with in the first half of the season, it shielded us from the truth: their defense is historically bad. Meaning Russell Wilson and company are mortal.
The good news? The NFC has no chosen one. No matter how shaky that Hawks’ defense may be, Seattle is on a level playing field with the rest of the conference’s contenders.
Let’s look at how the rest of the best in the NFC stack up with the Seahawks.
• 6. Philadel-just kidding lololol
• 5. Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
DVOA: Offense 9th, defense 10th.
Last 4 games: Beat Jets 30-10; beat Cowboys 38-10; beat Seahawks 37-34 (OT); lost to Dolphins 34-31.
Next 4 games: vs. Bills; at Seahawks; at Patriots; vs. Rams.
The Cardinals have been a difficult team to gauge this season. They beat the Seahawks and were a short field goal away from playing overtime against the frisky Dolphins. But how the heck did they lose to the Lions and Panthers?
Strength: Kyler Murray is the NFC’s scariest dual-threat quarterback. He’s more of a threat to run than Russell Wilson with 543 yards rushing and eight TDs through eight games. On top of that, he’s been incredibly accurate over the last two games. The more he develops, the more dangerous he’ll get.
Weakness: It’s got to be their head coach Kliff Kingsbury. You know, the guy who iced his own kicker against the Seahawks. His game management leaves a lot to be desired. The latest example? Down three with two timeouts facing a fourth-and-1 at Miami’s 31, Kingsbury chose to kick a field goal. And his kicker was short. From 49 yards. You’d think a team with a quarterback who’d run for 106 yards might try to run the ball. Go figure.
How do they match up against the Seahawks? The Seahawks didn’t have the horses necessary to contain Kyler Murray in Week 7. But even with their defensive struggles, the real reason they lost to ‘Zona was the careless interceptions that Wilson threw against them, especially the one at the end of overtime. The question for the next matchup between these two: Did Arizona stumble on to a defensive scheme that can confuse Russ?
• 4. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
DVOA: Offense 5th, defense 8th.
Last 4: Beat Washington 30-10; lost to 49ers 24-16; beat Bears 24-10; lost to Dolphins 28-17.
Next 4: vs. Seahawks; at Buccaneers; vs. 49ers; at Cardinals.
I’m a little biased seeing as I proclaimed the Rams dead last year, but they might have the least impressive résumé of any NFC contender. Wins over the entire NFC East and the quarterback-less Bears? Congrats, I guess. We’ll see if they’re capable of beating a team of consequence like the Seahawks on Sunday because their previous tries against the Bills, relatively healthy Rams, and Dolphins didn’t go so well.
Strength: Aaron Donald is the scariest defender in the NFL. And given the clobbering that Russ took Sunday, Donald will get his fair share of chances to do the same this Sunday.
Weakness: Sean McVay’s offense isn’t as potent as it was with a healthy Todd Gurley. Still, it sure has weapons. Cooper Kupp. Robert Woods. A stable of running backs AND tight ends. Unfortunately they’re quarterbacked by the decidedly average Jared Goff, who turned the ball over four times in the first half of LA’s last game.
How do they match up against the Seahawks? I have little faith in the Seahawks’ defense, but I do have faith in Jared Goff folding under pressure. If Seattle sends the same blitzes they sent after Jimmy Garropolo a few weeks ago, Goff will implode.
• 3. Green Bay Packers (6-2)
DVOA: Offense 2nd, defense 21st.
Last 4: Lost to Bucs 38-10; beat Texans 35-20; lost to Vikings 28-22; beat 49ers 34-17.
Next 4: vs. Jaguars; at Colts; vs. Bears; vs. Eagles.
Green Bay beats up on bad teams and it gets pummeled by the NFL’s best. Luckily for them, they have just one challenging matchup the rest of the season: a week 16 home game against the Titans. There’s a strong chance they’ll be the NFC’s 1 seed.
Strength: Aaron Rodgers looks better than he did last season. Considering the Packers did nothing to surround him with talent this offseason or at the trade deadline, that’s surprising.
Weakness: Just like last year, Green Bay cannot stop the run. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry might run for 200 yards against them in a Week 16 Sunday night showdown.
How do they match up against the Seahawks? Very well. Remember last year? Seattle’s defense is now worse. This is the absolute last team I’d want the Seahawks to face in the playoffs.
• 2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
DVOAs: Offense 13th, defense 1st.
Last 4: Beat Packers 38-10; beat Raiders 45-20; beat Giants 25-23; lost to Saints 38-3.
Next 4: at Panthers; vs. Rams; vs. Chiefs; vs. Vikings.
Tampa Bay has a BRUTAL stretch ahead of them.
Strength: This is the NFL’s most balanced team. They can get after the passer, cover, stop the run, run the ball, and have a solid passing attack.
Weakness: Tom Brady is 43 years old, and I saw signs of that age towards the end of last season. It wasn’t to the same degree as Drew Brees, but it makes me wonder how he’ll look in the last month of the season.
How do they match up against the Seahawks? They have the weapons to throw all over the Hawks, especially with Antonio Brown in the building. They also have one of the league’s best defenses, if not the very best. But who are the Bucs? Are they the team that looked like a juggernaut against the Packers and Raiders? The team that needed help from officiating to barely beat the Giants? Or the team that didn’t even show up against the Saints(!!!) for Sunday Night Football?
• 1. New Orleans Saints (6-2)
DVOA: Offense 6th, defense 7th.
Last 4: Beat Chargers 30-27 (OT); beat Panthers 27-24; beat Bears 26-23 (OT); beat Buccaneers 38-3.
Next 4: vs. 49ers; vs. Falcons; at Broncos; at Falcons.
The Saints wish they could play the Bucs every week. They’ve beaten Tampa Bay twice this season, each time in convincing fashion. The rest of their W’s? All one score victories. They didn’t look good in losses to the Raiders or Packers, either. Still, they’ve won five straight and have a great chance to keep that streak leading up to a Week 15 matchup at home against the Chiefs.
Strength: Alvin Kamara is the NFL’s best all around running back and the Seahawks had no answer for him last year. Kamara had 25 touches for 161 yards and two TDs in Seattle despite game manager Teddy Bridgewater being under center. Against the ’20 Hawks defense, he might be even better.
Weakness: Multiply everything I said about age catching up to Tom Brady by 10. Drew Brees will struggle to throw the football downfield at the end of the season – he’s struggling to do it now – and I’m convinced it’ll cost New Orleans.
How do they match up against the Seahawks? Any team with a future Hall of Fame quarterback is going to have a chance against the Seahawks’ defense. New Orleans’ chances in a theoretical playoff matchup depend on the locale. If they play it in the Superdome, Brees will be hard to stop. In Seattle? I’m having a hard time seeing Brees be accurate in cold, wet conditions.
It’s hard to imagine that the Seahawks will be able to beat three of these teams consecutively and make it to the Super Bowl. But would you count them out against any of the teams above?