We talk about it all the time: the Seahawks are excellent closers. They tend to play pretty well at the end of games, and they tend to play pretty well at the end of seasons.
In futzing around with Pro Football Reference, I discovered that the Seahawks aren’t quite as elite as we think they are in one-score (8 points or less) regular season games in the Russell Wilson era, with a record of 36-32-1. But, nevertheless, Wilson has built his career on end-of-game comebacks, so the reputation is born.
That record is actually more in line with conventional thinking: over the long haul, most teams are usually around .500 in close games (be it the one-score variety in football, one-run games in baseball, or basketball games that finish within 3 points).
This year, the Seahawks are 8-2 overall, and 7-1 in one-score games. So, the fear would be (as they talked about on the Brock & Salk podcast this past week) the dreaded Regression To The Mean. If you expect most teams to be right around .500 in these situations, then you might expect a rash of one-score losses to be coming in these final six games. But, as everyone always talks about, it’s such a small sample size in football of 16 regular season games; therefore anomalies abound. So, if this year the Seahawks are an anomaly, maybe that regression hits in 2020; but of course, there’s so much turnover in the NFL that it’s effectively an entirely new team from year to year, so I don’t really know how much regression will play into this at all.
TL;DR: it’s all a fucking crapshoot.
The more interesting thing is how the Seahawks finish their seasons in the Russell Wilson Era. From Week 11 through Week 17, the Seahawks are 34-13 in this span, which is absolutely phenomenal. I don’t know where that ranks among all the teams in the NFL, but that’s a .723 winning percentage (whereas overall, the Seahawks have a regular season winning percentage of only .674 since Russell Wilson joined the team). So, there’s just no arguing that overall, the Seahawks are a better team closing out the year than they are to start.
Now, of course, 2016 and 2017 weren’t great, but pobody’s nerfect.
Anyway, here we are, closing out the month of November. Coming off of our BYE week. Hitting the road, going to Philly, who’s coming off of a difficult loss to the Patriots last Sunday. Shit’s getting real for everyone. The Seahawks are one game behind the 49ers for the division lead, and we’re tied with Green Bay and New Orleans in the conference standings. How we wrap up these final six games will determine if we’re in the playoffs or not, as well as if we’re division winners, or even in the Top 2 in the NFC. Our very championship hopes and dreams hinge on these final regular season games.
If you thought our game against the 49ers was intense, just you wait.
Which brings me back to the other point made on Brock & Salk: the infamous point differential. The Seahawks are only +21, which is more in line with a 5-4-1 record than it is the one we have now. As we’ve seen with recent Mariners seasons (when they were improbably contending for a wild card spot, not 2019), the chickens come home to roost over the long haul if you’ve got a great record and a mediocre point/run differential. But, again, as I just got done talking about: small NFL sample sizes.
Also: the Seahawks have Russell Wilson and you guys don’t.
If this is the time of year where the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks traditionally start picking things up (which we’ve established that it is), and these 2019 Seahawks continue that trend (which we all pray that they do), then we should start seeing some more lopsided scores in our favor, to push that point-differential out to a more respectable number. So we’re NOT having to rely on all of these close, one-score games!
Unfortunately, the opponents don’t get any easier, and that starts with Philly this weekend. Sure, the Eagles are only 5-5, and their only path to the playoffs appears to be a divisional battle with the 6-4 Cowboys, but they’re a quality, veteran team with good coaching that’s had recent success in the playoffs and Super Bowl; this is a team that also generally finishes their seasons better than they start them.
Kind of an unstoppable force against an immovable object situation.
The 2019 Eagles thus far have been – to my fantasy dismay – pretty underwhelming on defense, particularly in the secondary where they’ve been shredded by most teams they’ve played. Until last week (when I conveniently traded for Tom Brady in fantasy, of course), when they held the Pats in check and generally made life miserable for them on offense. Of course, the Eagles have also been pretty underwhelming on offense this year (last week was no exception), but then again so have the Seahawks on defense.
Until that 49ers game. So, which Seahawks defense will we be getting the rest of the way? Will it be from the first nine weeks? Or, the vastly improved unit we saw in Santa Clara a couple Mondays ago?
If that’s the defense we get, I think this Sunday’s game against the Eagles will be no contest. But, if our defense reverts back to sucking, and the Eagles’ defense keeps up what they started last week (which was, for them, coming off of a BYE, where presumably key guys had since gotten healthy on that side of the ball), then this game is going to be a lot closer – and a lot more difficult to win – than we’ve come to expect.
This game is no sure thing, in other words. Also: what else is new?
The Eagles started out this week as 2.5-point favorites. That line has since moved to 1.5; nevertheless it feels wrong for them to be favored. I don’t think Vegas quite trusts that the Seahawks’ defense has turned a corner, and I don’t blame ’em.
The Eagles are hurting at receiver. Honestly, believe what their fans say when they rant on Twitter about how they let Josh Gordon fall to us, because they definitely could use him (and definitely could afford him). Nevertheless, they’re quite strong at tight end, and that’s where the Seahawks’ defense tends to be weakest. I would expect big games out of both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. They’re also banged up at running back, but Miles Sanders has the potential to be special. Carson Wentz isn’t my favorite fantasy quarterback at the moment, but he’s as capable as anyone (you have to at least put him in the top half of all QBs from a talent perspective, which is plenty good enough to beat this defense, even when we’re rolling).
I nevertheless would expect the Seahawks to win this game. I picked them in my weekly pick ’em contest, and if I were in a sportsbook I’d put a decent amount of money on us to win on the moneyline. I never know what to expect out of a Seahawks game, but this should prove to be a solid indicator of things to come. If the Seahawks win in a rout, then the End Of Season Roll should be in full effect. We should see a drastic improvement in our point-differential, and could make a serious charge at one of the top two seeds in the NFC. If the Seahawks win a tight one, then maybe that’s just who this team is, and they’ll have to continue to pull these nailbiters out of their collective asses to get us to where we want them to be by season’s end.
And, if the Seahawks lose … all bets are off. I don’t want to even think about what might happen if that’s the case. Like a rock n’ roller with no backup plan: it’s either the bigtime, or dead in a ditch; there is no Plan B (which, in this case, would be sneaking into the playoffs as a wildcard and losing in the first round in Dallas like last year).