I don’t have a super great handle on how this game is going to go on Sunday. I’ll say this: I’m glad we’re home; if this game was being played in Texas, I don’t think we’d stand much of a chance.
Ordinarily, if you told me an okay, .500 team was coming into Seattle with a rookie quarterback, I’d tell you to pack your bags because we’re going to Flavor Country! That’s a recipe for a slam dunk if I’ve ever seen one! Except, here’s the deal, Deshaun Watson isn’t an ordinary rookie. He’s almost certainly the top rookie QB of his class, and maybe one of the best rookie QBs of all time!
To recap his progression, he started the season as the team’s backup to Tom Savage. Tom Savage played in exactly one half of football, in the first game of the season, against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that half of football, the Texans punted 4 times, Savage fumbled twice (one returned for a touchdown), and their final drive ended the half without a score.
Watson struggled in the second half of that unwinnable game, was marginally better in a 13-9 victory over the Bengals on a Thursday night. And, ever since he’s actually had a full week to prepare for a game, he’s been off-the-charts great. His first Sunday start was a narrow 36-33 defeat to the defending champion Patriots, where he threw for a career-high 301 yards and 2 TDs. He followed that up with a 4-TD game against the Titans, and a 5-TD game against the Chiefs. Last week was only a 3-TD affair in an easy victory over the Browns. All told, he’s 3-2 on the season, with those two defeats against the two best teams in the AFC: the Pats & Chiefs.
Now, obviously, it’s not all on him, so I don’t want to make this a post about QB Wins. I’d say, more than anything, their defense has been a bigger letdown than he has been a pleasant surprise. I think a lot of us expected the Houston defense to be the biggest strength of this team; I certainly expected a lot more of those 13-9 type games than I have all these shootouts, but it is what it is.
The Texans have the potential to really sling that ball all around the yard. They also have the potential to unleash the beast, as it were, when it comes to the Seahawks’ offense.
I’m not going to say that New England has anything resembling a formidable home field advantage when it comes to their fans. A LOTTA frontrunners in those stands, who will get awfully quiet if the Pats get punched in the mouth. Nevertheless, it’s more than a little intimidating to go up against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and Watson didn’t blink. This kid has stones, and I don’t think a little Seattle noise is going to make him shrink in this game. So, if you were counting on going to the game this weekend and expecting him to roll over at your full-throated screams, I’d think again if I were you.
So, yeah, I’d be shocked if Watson came out and stunk up the joint. But, I’d also be shocked if he totally dominated. He strikes me as a guy who likes to push the ball up the field, and if he brings that mess in this game, he might be in for a rude awakening. Teams with quarterbacks who exhibit a great deal of patience tend to give the Seahawks fits. Teams with quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to check down, who will settle for the underneath route, and most importantly, who are accurate and poised enough to convert those short third downs; THOSE are the teams that beat the Seahawks. And, judging from my perch as a fantasy owner of Lamar Miller, I’ll tell you this: Deshaun Watson does NOT settle for the running back checkdown very often.
What he does do is utilize his two excellent wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, who will go up and get a ball with the best of ’em, and who can also burn past you with the best of ’em. I would expect Richard Sherman won’t be ignored in this one. Any way you slice it, he’s going up against a top notch receiver, so he could be key in this one.
I’ll also say this: safety play is going to be paramount. I have to imagine there will be at least one interception between Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in this game.
What I can’t see is Houston bringing its running game. Lamar Miller is not to be trusted in MOST circumstances, but I have to imagine he’s going to be pretty well shut down in this game. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect D’Onta Foreman will have much running room. If Watson isn’t the Texans’ leading rusher, I’ll be shocked.
Defensively, obviously the big news is how they lost J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the year. Those are two HUGE hits to their pass rush. This week, they’re also dealing with injuries in their linebacker corps which should also limit them. Even with those losses, they still have a lot of firepower, led by Jadeveon Clowney. We have to keep what’s left of their pass rush – and double team Clowney to keep him off of Wilson’s ass – or it could be a really long day.
I think the Seahawks can manage. And, if they do, I could see the Seahawks scoring over 30 points in this one.
There are plenty of reasons why the Seahawks could lose, but I still think they should probably win. Like I said up top, they’re at home, and even if Watson comes in and does okay, it’s still better than the alternative of him being at home. Assuming we keep them one-dimensional on offense, and shut down their deep passing attack, I would expect a victory in the 34-24 range, with the Seahawks scoring a touchdown late to put the game away.