Rost: Breaking down NFC West-leading Seahawks’ 7 remaining games
The Seahawks have a weekend off as they wrap up the bye and head into the final stretch of the season. Their return from the bye will bring a welcome sight: five of Seattle’s remaining seven games are at Lumen Field, and their first two will be against fourth-place teams.
Here’s a detailed look at the rest of the Seahawks’ season.
Week 12: Raiders – Nov 27 at Lumen Field
• Current record: 2-7 (4th in the AFC West)
• Last game: 25-20 loss to Colts
• What you need to know: The score of their last game may have been summary enough for this team. The Raiders entered the game badly needing a win; instead, they left with a loss to an interim head coach, Jeff Saturday, with six days of experience (and who gave them some good bulletin board material) and a team that was among the worst in the NFL. Quarterback Derek Carr was visibly emotional after the game and hinted at a lack of drive and care from some in the locker room. You’d think head coach Josh McDaniels would be in the hot seat, but he was publicly backed by owner Mark Davis this week.
The Raiders’ two wins have been over the 3-6 Denver Broncos and the 1-4-1 Houston Texans. They’re not completely hapless: six of their seven losses have been within one score, with the lone exception being a 24-0 shutout loss to the Saints. They’re averaging slightly more passing yards per game (228) than the Seahawks, they’re just doing less with it. They have 13 passing touchdowns to Seattle’s 17. Their run game is in the bottom third, but they’re also second to last in total attempts. The defense isn’t much better, allowing the fifth-most yards per game (376) and points per game (25).
• Something to keep in mind: The Derek Carr-Davante Adams marriage hasn’t been seamless, but Adams still has five 100-plus yard performances and eight touchdowns through nine games.
Week 13: Rams – Dec. 4 at SoFi Stadium
• Current record: 3-6 (4th in the NFC West)
• Last game: 27-17 loss to the Cardinals
• What you need to know: There’s a Super Bowl hangover, and then there’s whatever’s happening to the Rams. L.A. on paper seemed perfectly set for another deep playoff push in 2022. Still there are all of their biggest contributors, including Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. The Rams had been a thorn in Seattle’s side and one of the best rosters in the conference for years. That’s not been the case through 10 weeks this year. One of their biggest issues has been the run game — in that they still don’t have one. They’re last in yards per game (68) and attempts. They tried to compensate for that with the connection between Stafford and Kupp, which remained just fine through the first half of the season; Kupp has 812 yards already and accounts for nearly a third of Stafford’s targets (the next closest pass catcher is their tight end Tyler Higbee, who has 385 yards). The problem? Kupp just landed on the injured reserve. Head coach Sean McVay hasn’t ruled out a return for his top weapon, but it wouldn’t be by this first meeting with the Seahawks.
• Something to keep in mind: The Rams may be struggling, but they’ve had the upper hand against Seattle in this rivalry during McVay’s tenure.
Week 14: Panthers – Dec. 11 at Lumen Field
• Current record: 3-7 (3rd in the NFC South)
• Last game: 25-15 win over the Falcons
• What you need to know: The Panthers weren’t expected to be great heading into the season but there was at least some hope former Browns No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield could resurrect his career there. That didn’t happen. Not only did Mayfield not work out, but they’re now without their top offensive playmaker, Christian McCaffrey, whom they traded to the 49ers earlier this season (don’t worry, Seattle will still see him). Don’t count them out, though, because they’ve had a few surprising performances, including a huge win over the Bucs (who beat Seattle) and a rally to send the Falcons (who also beat Seattle) into OT. They have the second-fewest total yards per game and the fourth-worst offensive DVOA.
• Something to keep in mind: The Panthers have played ugly at times but Seattle has been swept by the rest of the NFC South with losses to New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta.
Week 15: 49ers – Dec. 15 at Lumen Field (Thursday)
• Current record: 5-4 (2nd in the NFC West)
• Last game: 22-16 win over the Chargers
• What you need to know: The 49ers are behind Seattle in the standings, but it’s probably because of this: through 10 weeks their defense is the only unit better than Denver’s in limiting yardage (280 per game). They’re allowing just 18 points per game and have a top 10 defensive DVOA. Nick Bosa has 9.5 sacks and 24 quarterback hits. Safety Talanoa Hufanga has four picks. The offense is the weaker side of the ball right now, but it can be deadly. They added McCaffrey at the trade deadline and still have Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Their struggle has been with turnovers. In each of their four losses, they turned the ball over at least twice (with three turnovers in each game to the Broncos, Falcons and Chiefs).
• Something to keep in mind: The Seahawks’ best chance here will be with those takeaways, which they’ve been significantly better at corralling compared to 2021. But this will be one of three huge tests to close out December.
Week 16: Chiefs – Dec. 24 at Arrowhead Stadium
• Current record: 7-2 (1st in the AFC West)
• Last game: 27-17 win over the Jaguars
• What you need to know: Patrick Mahomes is the front-runner for MVP for a reason. He’s leading all passers in yards (2,936) and touchdowns (25), and his QBR is second only to Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa. The loss of Tyreek Hill hasn’t slowed him much; tight end Travis Kelse remains his top target but Juju Smith-Schuster isn’t far behind with 615 yards. The result? The Chiefs are the league’s top-scoring offense, averaging 30 points per game. Their only real stumbling block has been a lack of production and usage from running back and former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who played just four snaps against the Jags.
• Something to keep in mind: The Chiefs have an exceptionally young secondary. There’s talent but also room for mistakes. Can Geno Smith and the Seahawks take advantage of miscommunication and rookie mistakes there?
Week 17: Jets: Jan 1 at Lumen Field
• Current record: 6-3 (2nd in the AFC East)
• Last game: 20-17 win over the Bills
• What you need to know: Robert Saleh’s name will find itself among the candidates for Coach of the Year after the Jets have become one of the league’s biggest surprises in 2022. That’s in part due to production from a great rookie class. Leading the charge is third overall pick Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner; per PFF, he’s allowed just 97 yards in coverage since Week 4 and a 44.6 passer rating. Their defense is top 10 in just about every category, including points and yards allowed. One of their weakness may have been at quarterback, where the NFL world is still trying to find out whether Zach Wilson is the answer for a team that’s spent decades trying to find their franchise passer. He quieted critics a bit with a performance against the Bills that saw him outshine Josh Allen.
• Something to keep in mind: Wilson may have silenced critics for a time, but he’s still had turnover problems. If ever there was a time for Seattle’s pass rush to be at its best, it would be this one.
The Seahawks wrap up the season in Week 18 with another matchup against the Rams, this time at home on Jan. 8.