Are Seahawks Truly A Super Bowl Contender With That Defense?

Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

By Jake Arians

Do you feel, like most of the power rankings out there indicate, that the Seattle Seahawks are a Super Bowl favorite? I am going to tell you why I wouldn’t bet the house or even the Camry on it. 

Why does everyone feel like they are one of the league’s best teams? It all starts with MVP candidate Russell Wilson. Follow that up with Wilson’s best arsenal of weapons: D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Chris Carson and improved offensive line play, and it’s easy to get lured into thinking the entire team is this good. You can also add in that most people think, because head coach Pete Carroll is still there, that they still play great defense. 

This Seahawks team has a very interesting dynamic. They have a phenomenal offense, led by Wilson, but this defense is breaking all-time bad records. It is an older narrative now but one that still shocks me: Wilson has never received a single MVP vote. I bring this up to make a point about how good Wilson has to be for this team to win games. He has shown how incredible he can be, but if he doesn’t play at that level 100% of the time, this team can’t win. See last Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, for example.

Wilson had three extremely costly interceptions and, as good as he played most of the game, those turnovers cost the Seahawks the game. It wasn’t that long ago a terrible Minnesota Vikings team went to Seattle and gave Wilson and this offense all they could handle. In that game, Wilson was the reason they won, but you can see the theme that the margin for error is so thin it is tremendously hard to come out on the right side of it 100% of the time. 

Don’t get me wrong, Wilson is unbelievable and is definitely not the problem with this team. It is that this defense is so bad that “letting Russ cook” means he has to be a Michelin Star chef on every play. 

So how bad has this defense been? The best stat I could find for them is defensive efficiency, where they rank 28th. They are dead last in yards per game, averaging 479.2 per game allowed—55 yards worse than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who rank 31st. They rank last in passing yards allowed per game (368.7) and are giving up 28.7 points per game. This is not a small sample size at this point and, really, it goes back to last year and beyond. 

Those stats tell you part of the story, but the real story is what you see when you watch this team play. They absolutely cannot rush the passer, forcing them to blitz more than they want to in order to get pressure on the quarterback. They also really struggle to cover in the secondary, lacking that shutdown corner enormously. Yes, Jamal Adams made a difference when he was healthy and playing, but he can’t play every position. Adams, a safety, was leading this team in sacks before getting hurt. This isn’t ideal for many reasons, mostly because all the time he spent in the box also caused him to look tired in coverage at times. In other words, he can only do so much. 

Give them credit for making the trade for Carlos Dunlap, but how much impact can he really have? He wasn’t getting a lot of playing time on a bad Cincinnati Bengals defense. An older player now, mostly playing in pass-rush situations, he should be a better pass-rush option than what is currently out there, but by how much?

Let’s look at the teams Seattle has beaten so far. They have wins against the 2-6 Atlanta Falcons, the 2-4 New England Patriots, the 2-5 Dallas Cowboys, 3-3 Miami Dolphins, and the 1-5 Vikings. The Cardinals are the only team they have played with a winning record and the Seahawks lost to them in overtime. Now add the fact that they play in the best division in football and are already 0-1 in the brutal NFC West. 

So, can you see my conundrum with this Seahawks team? The variance of how good this offense is and has to be compared to how bad this defense is may be the biggest differential in the NFL—in fact, it is. This is not a Super Bowl-winning combination. You could see this team win a lot of games right now, but when the weather changes and the playoffs get here, I wouldn’t bet on them getting to Super Bowl LV.

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