There’s a lot riding on this game. Frankly, there’s a lot riding on ALL of the remaining games on the schedule, thanks to a couple of bumbling home losses to the Redskins and Falcons. The Seahawks are a game back of the Rams, and if they want to hold out any hope of winning the division – or even a remote hope of getting a top 2 seed, which is highly unlikely, but still – they almost certainly need to run the table. Winning out at home is a must, and is very do-able (so long as the Seahawks don’t lose any more key starters to injury), and that road game against the Cowboys doesn’t look nearly as imposing as it did before the season. But, here, this week, against the Jags, is where I’m most afraid.
I don’t need to tell you that the Jags have the best defense in the league. Their secondary is second to none, and their D-Line is as ferocious as any in football. They lead the league in fewest total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total points allowed. By a pretty considerable margin, I might add! They lead the league in sacks, are tied for second in interceptions, are tied for fourth in forced fumbles, and tied for first in fumble recoveries, as well as lead the league in turnovers returned for touchdowns.
In other words, they lead all of football in just about every important defensive statistic. Where they’re middle-of-the-road is in rush defense, which just so happens to be the area of the Seahawks offense where they struggle the most. Yay.
I’ll say this, apropos of nothing: the Seahawks picked the worst possible week to have their most significant victory of the season. Coming off a game where they thoroughly destroyed the best team in football, you just know the Seahawks will have spent this week sniffing their own farts and reading their own press clippings, to the detriment of the on-field product this Sunday. Sure, the Jacksonville defense will have something to say about it, but when the Seahawks’ offense comes out flat and we’re all mashing our respective Twitter keyboards in frustration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The problem is, a loss like the one I’m predicting this Sunday is often seen as a “wake-up call” for a good team. Better to get that unexpected defeat out of the way now, before the playoffs, when that type of performance will end your season. But, here’s the thing: the Seahawks don’t NEED any more wake-up calls! They’ve had 4 already this year! The next wake-up call will send us hurtling to a Wild Card spot, and the wake-up call after that will keep us out of the playoffs entirely. WE’RE AWAKE! And, if you don’t see this Jaguars team for what it is – a real, legitimate threat to your 2017 season – then you might as well go the fuck back to bed.
To spin it another way, though, it’s not like all hope is lost. The Seahawks CAN win this game, but they have to tread lightly. The Rams and Cardinals both put 27 on them; the Titans earlier this season put up 37. The Jags’ defense isn’t infallible. But, I don’t think we can afford a slow start and a big 2-score early deficit.
Thankfully, the Jacksonville offense is absolutely nothing to write home about. Led by Blake “The Bort” Bortles, we’re talking about a 4-year pro who is just the worst, most bustiest bust who is somehow still starting for an NFL team and not a car dealership’s sales team. They’ve effectively chopped his balls off this season, which is absolutely the correct call, in making this a run-first, run-second, and run-third offense. The beneficiary of that move is rookie Leonard Fournette, who started his career absolutely on fire, in looking like Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 through six weeks. But, then an ankle injury and a suspension set him back. Over his last four games, he’s averaged only 2.94 yards per carry, with just the 1 rushing touchdown (after 6 in the first 6 weeks). He’s coming into a game against the Seahawks, who are 7th in the league in rush defense. So, it’s appropriate to believe we should be able to hold their ground game in check.
And, if we can do that, we should have no trouble whatsoever in holding The Bort in check, L.O.B. or no L.O.B.
So, ultimately, the question is: can the offense go out there and do its job?
That doesn’t necessarily mean we need Mike Davis to rip off 100+ yards, or Russell Wilson to go out there and continue his MVP pace. I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here! How about:
- Can Russell Wilson avoid turnovers?
- Can the O-Line avoid free rushers at the quarterback?
- Can our receivers and running backs hold onto the football?
- Can we all limit our penalties?
The way to lose this game is to cough up the ball and put our defense on its heels with short fields. I don’t expect the Jags to score a bunch of touchdowns or have a bunch of lengthy, ball-control drives. But, they might have one or two. So, I wouldn’t expect to hold them to single-digits (if we do, our odds of winning this game goes up tenfold). But, if we give them those short fields, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Jags to score 20+ points, in which case it’s going to be VERY difficult for the Seahawks to win this game.
I don’t expect the Seahawks to look very good on third down. Likewise, I don’t expect to see a lot of big plays out of our offense. It’s not hopeless, but it’s going to mean taking advantage of our limited opportunities. Touchdowns instead of field goals. Hitting long field goals instead of punting, or worse.
If the Seahawks are going to win this one, it’s going to have to be in that 20-17 range, and it’s likely going to require a last-minute drive for go-ahead points. There is a universe where I can imagine that happening.
But, there are also plenty of other universes out there, where I see the Seahawks losing 15-9, or 16-6, or 10-9, or 11-8, or 23-12. In those games, I see Russell Wilson getting sacked 6 times and suffering a safety. I see a couple fumbles and a pick. I see the Jags moving the ball at will early in the game and the defense needing to adjust on the fly. I see Fournette – against all rational thought – having a monster game and making the likes of Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner look foolish on his cutbacks. And, I see that Jags defense dancing on our grave.
Look, I want to be there with you guys. I want to BELIEVE! I want to cast off the shackles of this Haterade I’ve been drinking and sail the Good Ship 12 into the Harbor of Positivity, but as a Seattle sports fan, I’ve been beaten to a pulp over the years. Granted, a lot of that was from the Mariners, who continually get my hopes up, only to pull the rug out from under me, but the Seahawks of the last couple seasons have played their part.
I will say this, if you allow me to put on the rose-colored glasses:
The offensive line is as good as it’s been since 2013/2014. That’s not hyperbole. With Duane Brown healthy and getting healthier by the week, we’ve already seen the dividends being paid. With Luke Joeckel healthy and getting healthier by the week, the left side of that line is terrific! With Ethan Pocic taking over for the revolving door of Mark Glowinski/Oday Aboushi, the right guard spot is no longer a total bust. And, as he continues to get more comfortable at the right tackle spot, I no longer find myself cursing the name Germain Ifedi on a play-by-play basis.
In short: the offensive line IS good. I’ll say it! Come at me, brothers and sisters!
It’s going to take a while before they get the credit they’re due, but I’m charging through as conductor of this bandwagon, and there’s plenty of room if you want to come along for the ride!
I’ll also say this: the depth on this team is what we thought it was. Heading into the year, after bemoaning our fate vis-a-vis the O-Line, the depth on this team was all I could talk about. When our 2016 season was so thoroughly derailed by the loss of Earl Thomas, and the thinning of our D-Line, 2017 is going a long way towards subsiding those concerns.
A year ago, the thought of losing Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, AND Cliff Avril would’ve brought about a rash of suicides among the 12’s. Yet, aside from some tough times against the Falcons, we’ve largely looked okay. Getting Byron Maxwell back, and watching him play his ass off like he never left, could prove to be the luckiest move of the year. Having Shaq Griffin grow into a bona fide starter, signing Bradley McDougald as Kam-insurance, Jeremy Lane failing his physical with the Texans, snatching Justin Coleman from the cornerback-starved Patriots (at the time, anyway; they’ve since improved their secondary play as guys got healthier), all of these events – along with the impending return of DeShawn Shead (fingers crossed!) – has helped this secondary not miss much of a beat, and could be critical going forward, as we look to face the likes of the Rams, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles in the playoffs.
Then, there’s the depth along the D-Line. Sheldon Richardson coming over via trade, Frank Clark taking that next step, Naz Jones coming alive as a rookie, Jarran Reed becoming an every-down monster in the middle, the Dion Jordan flier actually turning into a useful rotation piece, the return of Quinton Jefferson, the production we’ve gotten out of the likes of Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith, on top of the fact that Michael Bennett is an ageless wonder who still thrives on playing just about every single defensive snap against all rational thought. We’re not only super deep in this all-important area of the football field, but we’re also improving as the season goes along and these guys learn one another’s strengths and tendencies.
Finally, I’ll say this: Russell Wilson has arrived. Yes, he’s been great since he came into the league in 2012. Yes, we would never have reached the heights we reached in 2013 & 2014 without him, and he’s carried this team on his back (particularly late in 2015 when Lynch and Graham were lost with injury). But, he’s putting it all together now, in 2017, with the running game being what it is and this team NEEDING him to be The Man. It’s what the all-time greats do, they pick their games up when their teams need them. This is the difference between Pro Bowl quarterback, All Pro quarterback, and Hall of Fame quarterback. Russell Wilson is playing like a Hall of Famer in his prime. All he needs now to make that Hall of Fame a reality is time. Continue playing like he’s playing for the next 5-8 years, and slowly fade into his 40s, and he’ll be a lock for the golden jacket.
If anybody can lead this team across the country, against a young, hungry defense, and come away victorious, it’s Russell Wilson. In Russ We Trust. Time to go out and take care of business.