Seahawks’ blown opportunity puts the Rams in the NFC West driver’s seat

Seahawks’ blown opportunity puts the Rams in the NFC West driver’s seat

The Seattle Seahawks played one of the strangest games of the 2017 season Sunday.

Seattle racked up 437 yards of offense at 5.8 yards per play. The Seahawks outgained Washington by nearly 200 yards, gained six more first downs and won the time of possession battle by over five minutes. They held Kirk Cousins without a touchdown pass, yielded only 2.35 yards per carry to Washington’s running backs and recorded six sacks. 

Of course, the Seahawks also converted just five of 14 third-down opportunities, committed two turnovers, missed three field goals and took an unfathomable 16 penalties that cost them 138 yards. Though they got into scoring position six different times, the offense was largely impotent for much of the game, with Russell Wilson throwing too erratically to prop up a typically punchless rushing attack. 

They allowed Cousins to march Washington down the field with a four-play, 70-yard drive to snatch the lead away after coming back from a fourth-quarter deficit, then proceeded to mismanage the hell out of the clock on their attempt at a last-ditch game-tying drive. And so the Seahawks lost 17-14. 

But Seattle lost more than just the game. Coupled with the Rams‘ dominant win over the Giants, this loss dealt a huge blow to the Seahawks’ chances of winning the NFC West. The Seahawks are now 5-3 while the Rams are 6-2, putting Los Angeles firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to winning the division. 

Here’s how SportsLine’s Stephen Oh has things shaking out based on his simulations. The Rams are projected to finish just about one win ahead of the Seahawks, and they have a 58.6 percent chance of winning the division. Seattle has just a 40.3 chance of taking the NFC West.

TEAM

WINS

NFC WEST

PLAYOFFS

NFC SEED

Rams

10.8

58.6%

84.1%

4

Seahawks

10.0

40.3%

66.7%

5

Had the Seahawks managed to not screw things up so badly and actually beaten Washington, the projections would have looked much different. In that scenario, Seattle would have been more likely to win the division, with a 56.8 percent chance; and also would have wound up with a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the NFC (as owners of the tiebreaker, they would be ahead of the Rams even if the two teams had the same record). Los Angeles’ chances of winning the division would have dropped to 42.6 percent, and they would be the ones heading on the road in the wild-card game. 

IF SEA BEAT WAS

WIN

NFC WEST

PLAYOFFS

NFC SEED

Seahawks

11.0

56.8%

86.5%

2

Rams

10.8

42.6%

86.3%

5

So, that one loss diminished Seattle’s divisional chances by 16.5 percentage points and their playoff chances by 19.8 percentage points, dropping their projection from a first-round bye to a wild-card berth. That’s a massive swing. 

SEATTLE

WIN

WIN DIV

PLAYOFF

NFC SEED

Current

10.0

40.3%

66.7%

5

If it beat WAS

11.0

56.8%

86.5%

2

Impact

-1.0

-16.5%

-19.8%

-3

It’s not difficult to see why the Rams would be considered the favorite, even if only by an approximately 60-40 margin. They have a one-game lead, and they have an easier schedule over the remainder of the season. 

WEEK Seahawks L.A. Rams
10 Cardinals Texans
11 Falcons Vikings
12 49ers Saints
13 Eagles Cardinals
14 Jaguars Eagles
15 L.A. Rams Seahawks
16 Cowboys Titans
17 Cardinals 49ers

The teams have three opponents in common (Cardinals, 49ers, Eagles). While the Rams’ remaining schedule (Texans, Vikings, Saints, Seahawks, Titans) is actually slightly tougher based on current record than that of the Seahawks (Falcons, Jaguars, Rams, Cowboys, Cardinals), those numbers don’t account for the fact that A) the Texans no longer have Deshaun Watson; B) the Titans somehow have the same 5-3 record as the Jaguars despite a point differential that is 101 points worse; and C) the Rams will definitely play the Cardinals without both Carson Palmer and David Johnson, while the Seahawks might possibly have to play them with both players. 

The Seahawks also have arguably the toughest four-game stretch any team will face all season when they host the NFL-leading Eagles in Week 13, travel to Jacksonville in Week 14, play the Rams at home in Week 15 and head to Dallas to take on the surging Cowboys in Week 16. Those four teams have a combined record of 24-9 as of this writing. 

Worse yet, all four feature elite pass-rushers, which means they’re well-equipped to take advantage of Seattle’s greatest weakness. Can we really expect the Seahawks to adequately deal with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford for four consecutive weeks? Wilson might not make it out of that stretch alive.  

The Week 15 matchup between the two teams will obviously hold great importance, and the fact that the Seahawks won the first game between them helps for tiebreaker purposes. But the likelihood of them finishing with the same record as the Rams seems remote at this point, even if they get that Week 15 win. The offense has been inconsistent and the defense has shown surprising vulnerability at inopportune times, and the schedule is tough the rest of the way. 

Assuming the Rams are as good as they appear to be (and both the eye test and more advanced metrics back that up — they’re No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA this week, they’re one of two teams in the top 10 in offense, defense and special teams, and they lead the league in point differential), it sure seems like the Seahawks will have to go 3-0 in this Cardinals-Falcons-49ers stretch over the next few weeks in order to put themselves in range, given the difficulty of the four-week stretch that follows it. That’s a tall order, especially for a team that has been as inconsistent as these Seahawks. We’ve seen them go on second-half surges in the past, so the possibility shouldn’t be discounted, but it’s hard to consider it the most likely result at this point. 

Source: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/seahawks-blown-opportunity-puts-the-rams-in-the-nfc-west-drivers-seat/

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