Hi kids, and I hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving. Today is Black Friday, and I know you don’t want to be out engaging in Hand to Hand Combat for the newest video game, do you? Of course not!
But if you are, keep your head on a swivel, take no prisoners, and kickoff the season of peace, love, and harmony, by kicking in some teeth to get that big ass TV if you have to.
As is always the case, I answered five of his questions for Field Gulls, and you can find my answers over there. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee and a turkey sandwich, or if you’re looking at some serious felony assault charges, read this real quick before the cops show up and take your phone, and see what Kenneth has to say.
DN: Seattle is an impressive 9-2, but they’ve escaped with some close wins this year. Six of your wins have been within four points, including that big win over San Francisco, and the biggest point margin victory was a 27-10 win over Arizona. We all know how good Russell Wilson is and he’s definitely part of the equation, but he can’t be the only answer. What are some other things that factor in to Seattle’s ability to win so many close games this year?
FG: That’s a good question. The ability to force turnovers is a big one. The Seahawks are first in fumble recoveries and third overall in takeaways. Fumble recovery is a “luck” thing maybe, but Seattle is all over the field forcing the ball out and giving themselves opportunities. So I think people see 21st in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed and think “bad defense” but what’s the net value of a team that has forced a turnover in all but one game? Those turnovers have helped mitigate the losses of players like Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and others over the last couple of years.
Some other good numbers are that the Seahawks are 5th in red zone % and 6th in average starting field position. When you’re winning a lot of close games, those advantages matter. I also think it’s been a pleasant surprise to see rookie receiver DK Metcalf play well ahead of schedule, gaining 630 yards and five touchdowns so far, which is monumental for a team that lost Doug Baldwin in the offseason and Will Dissly after six games. He had some big drops last week though, so hopefully that doesn’t pop up again very often.
DN: Looking at the team statistics, the Seahawks defense doesn’t appear to be as stout as the days of the Legion of Boom, while the Vikings offense has developed into one of the better units in the NFL this season. Who on defense do the Vikings need to be aware of and account for on every play, and what’s the main weakness you think Minnesota can exploit?
FG: The defense has improved as the season has gone on, especially with what was supposed to be their strongest unit going into the season -- the linebackers. Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, and Mychal Kendricks seem to have picked it up as of late, which is important because Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed are both currently dealing with injuries. That pass rush unit has been weaker than expected so that could be something for the Vikings to monitor, especially if Clowney misses another game.
The player who has probably improved the most is cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who has quietly become one of the better corners in the league. He struggled a bit taking over the Sherman role in 2018 but now looks very comfortable and is a dangerous corner to target. Opposite of him is Tre Flowers, another underrated corner and one who didn’t even start playing the position until he was drafted by Seattle last year. I’m not sure how often they’ll get the better of players like Stefon Diggs, but I would say they’re more capable than fans probably realize. Same with safety Bradley McDougald, who has one of the lowest passer ratings allowed of any player this season. Pete Carroll is a genius when it comes to developing defensive backs and these players seem to be no exception. They added a safety you may be familiar with, Quandre Diggs formerly of the Lions, and he’s had some nice moments for the Seahawks so far.
I would say the run defense hasn’t been spectacular, so Dalvin Cook may have a nice day.
DN: Chris Carson is your top runner, and is currently eighth in the NFL with 879 yards. Is Carson a better runner between the tackles or on the edge, and how do you expect Seattle to attack the Vikings run defense?
FG: Carson between the tackles, Rashaad Penny on the edges. But Carson has seven fumbles credited to him, the most by any running back through 11 games since Steve Slaton in 2009. That’s the main concern with Carson. I am curious to see how much more PT they give to Penny this week as he led the team in carries and had a career-high in yards last week vs the Eagles. I imagine that Penny’s going to continue to get run, but Carson has been a more complete back, especially in pass protection. That may tip Seattle’s hand more often than they’d like: how often is Penny going to be in there when they’re passing it? Carson and Penny were meant to be a dynamic duo when the Seahawks took Penny in the first round last year but so far they haven’t been much of a duo at all. Not until Carson was fumbling every other play. Now it seems Penny’s more forced in there than anything, but he’s had a propensity for big plays in his short career.
DN: Early in the season, Tyler Lockett seemed to make a highlight reel catch every week, but rookie D.K. Metcalf has really come on in recent weeks. That’s not to say Lockett has tailed off, but he did suffer that shin injury against San Francisco, and only had one catch for 38 yards last week in Philadelphia. Is that because he is still limited with the injury, and are there any other key injuries that we need to keep an eye on?
FG: Yes, that is because he was still limited with the injury. Lockett is a fantastic receiver. It would be great to see him at full strength again because Seattle doesn’t have many other receivers or tight ends to speak of. Jacob Hollister has come on of late at tight end and has a good relationship with Russell Wilson already. They’ve connected on three touchdowns in six games and nearly had a fourth -- and I think even maybe a fifth. That seems to be his favorite red zone target right now. I would actually say Metcalf is coming off of a bad game. Lockett is the clear number one, Hollister is an interesting one to watch, then Metcalf. Past that, Malik Turner and David Moore have made a few plays and can factor in now and again.
Clowney and Reed are gametime decisions. Tight end Luke Willson will fight to return this week. Fullback Nick Bellore is probably out. Lockett sounds much healthier than he was vs Philadelphia.
DN: The outcome of this game is huge in terms of how it impacts the NFC Playoff picture. A Seahawks win pretty much gives you a hammer lock on the five seed over Minnesota, but a Vikings win means Minnesota leapfrogs Seattle to take the five seed and drops the ‘Hawks to the six seed. That said, winning their respective divisions is still a very realistic scenario for both teams. When the regular season ends, do you think both teams make the postseason, and if so where do you see Seattle and Minnesota seeded for the playoffs?
FG: There’s no question that the Seahawks and Vikings are both making the playoffs. This game is really just for seeding, as you say. Not to get ahead of myself with the Rams, but they look very bad right now. I am going to predict a victory for Seattle just because they are a solid team in all of these scenarios: at home, on Monday Night Football, in December, and against the Vikings. Pete Carroll is 5-0 against Minnesota, including that frigid shank in 2015. (Don’t worry, Blair Walsh had his revenge vs the Seahawks by playing for them.)
With that, I expect the Seahawks to keep pace with the 49ers, who have @ Baltimore and @ Saints in the next two weeks, plus @ Seattle in Week 17. I also think the Vikings are better than the Packers, but maybe a bit of an easier schedule for Green Bay. I would love to see the Seahawks grab a bye week but if they lose this one, that puts a damper on those hopes and really boosts Minnesota’s odds of the same. It’s not a rematch I’d like to see in Minnesota in the playoffs somehow, so this win does seem crucial as far as who gets more home games in January.
Thanks Kenneth, and here’s to a good game Monday night with no injuries.