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2017 49ers opponent preview Weeks 2, 12: Seattle Seahawks

Did the Seahawks do enough in the offseason to remain the class of the NFC West? Can the 49ers steal a win, and reignite this division rivalry?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Seattle Seahawks were not close to the dominant team from the previous year, despite the same total of 10 wins, as evidenced by a drop in point differential from 146 to 62. The team benefited from a decline in competition across the NFC West, as well as facing one of the softest schedules in the NFL, but double digit wins for five straight seasons is still impressive. The Seahawks also won a playoff game for the 5th straight year, before falling to the Atlanta Falcons the divisional round.

The biggest decline came on offense. Perhaps feeling the loss of Marshawn Lynch, the team dropped from 1st in offensive DVOA to 17th. The run game in particular had a poor showing, dropping from 3rd in yards per attempt to 25th. Poor O-line play, and a revolving door at the RB position due to injury, hampered a normally productive ground game. In addition, Russell Wilson was the 2nd most sacked QB in the NFL, and played many games through injury, while contributing the lowest touchdown total of his career.

Given the injuries sustained by Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, who were on the field together for only seven games all season, Seattle’s defensive performance was impressive. On the whole, the defense dropped only one spot from 4th in DVOA to 5th, and allowed the 3rd lowest point total in the NFL. This defensive strength was one reason Gil Brandt named the Seahawks his safest 2016 division winner.

2017 offseason review:

In free agency, the Seahawks lost Right Tackle Garry Gilliam to the 49ers. Although not a great player, Gilliam started 33 games for the team over the past 2 seasons, including the playoffs. The move mirrors the Seahawks signing of Michael Wilhoite, another sub-par player who started 34 games over the last 3 seasons for the 49ers.

Seattle also took fliers on former disappointing first round picks T Luke Joeckel and DE Dion Jordan. Their biggest signing was RB Eddie Lacy. The team also lost kicker Steven Haushka, who they replaced with former Viking Blair Walsh. ESPN gave the Seahawks a “C” in free agency, which seems fair. If reported interest in quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffen III result in a signing, it would do little to impact that grade.

Perhaps the biggest move of the Seahawks offseason was one that didn’t happen. After months of reports that Richard Sherman was being shopped for trade offers, the team now believes that there is zero chance of a trade.

2017 NFL Draft Results

Round 2, Pick 3 (35) Malik McDowell DT Michigan St.
Round 2, Pick 26 (58) Ethan Pocic C LSU
Round 3, Pick 26 (90) Shaquill Griffin DB Central Florida
Round 3, Pick 31 (95) Delano Hill SS Michigan
Round 3, Pick 38 (102) Nazair Jones DT North Carolina
Round 3, Pick 42 (106) Amara Darboh WR Michigan
Round 4, Pick 4 (111) Tedric Thompson FS Colorado
Round 6, Pick 3 (187) Michael Tyson S Cincinnati
Round 6, Pick 26 (210) Justin Senior OT Mississippi St.
Round 7, Pick 8 (226) David Moore WR East Central (OK)
Round 7, Pick 31 (249) Christopher Carson RB Oklahoma St.

For the forth time in five years, the Seahawks traded out of the first round of the NFL draft. In 2017, the team traded three times before making their initial pick, DT Malik McDowell, a disruptive force at penetrating the backfield. They had very busy days two and three, making 11 picks, and trading up and down the draft board.

Center Ethan Pocic could give a boost to an offensive line unit in desperate need of talent. Free Safety Tedic Thompson (selected with the 4th round pick given by the 49ers in the trade up for Rueben Foster) graded as Pro Football Focus’ best player in coverage. The individual players drafted by the Seahawks grade out very well by draft analysts, but the collective group raises questions the question of whether the team added enough help on the offensive side of the ball.

Entirely too early prediction time:

Week 2: Seahawks 31, 49ers 10
Week 12: Seahawks 21, 49ers 20

It’s tempting to predict a split series, with each team winning at home, but the Seahawks remain the superior team by a fairly wide margin. Despite what should be a much better roster, the 49ers still have matchup problems with the Seahawks. Specifically, they lack pass rushers with the speed to chase down Russell Wilson, who excels at escaping the brand of interior pressure that Solomon Thomas and company should provide. While the 49ers offense should be improved, they still lack the firepower to put up enough points against an elite defense. Sadly, the most likely outcome is a sweep by the Seahawks.

Week 1: vs. Carolina Panthers - SF 24 CAR 19 - W
Week 2: @ Seattle Seahawks - SF 10 SEA 31 - L
Week 3: vs. Los Angeles Rams
Week 4: @ Arizona Cardinals
Week 5: @ Indianapolis Colts
Week 6: @ Washington
Week 7: vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 8: @ Philadelphia Eagles
Week 9: vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 10: vs. New York Giants
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: vs. Seattle Seahawks - SF 20 SEA 21 - L
Week 13: @ Chicago Bears
Week 14: @ Houston Texans
Week 15: vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 16: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 17: @ Los Angeles Rams