The San Francisco 49ers get back into their division schedule in Week 13 when they travel to face the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers have played the Los Angeles Rams once, and the Seattle Seahawks twice, and at this point, it’s a battle for third place with Arizona.
The Rams only need a win or Seahawks loss to clinch the division, which leaves the 6-5 Seahawks focused on the wild card. The Minnesota Vikings hold the top wild card spot at 6-4-1. The Seahawks are tied with Washington and Carolina for the second spot. Seattle and Washington both beat Carolina to eliminate them, and Washington holds the conference record tiebreaker over Seattle.
Entering the 2018 season, Seahawks expectations had sunk for most national media. Significant roster turnover and coaching staff changes had most people thinking they would be on the outside looking in come playoff time. They are on the edge of things right now, but playing better than I think a lot of people expected. They have been inconsistent, but back-to-back wins over Green Bay and Carolina have them moving in the right direction.
The 49ers are a ten-point underdog for this game, which is not exactly shocking considering how they played last week and the Seahawks little run lately. I took a few minutes to check in with Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls to get a sense of this Seahawks team. I asked a few questions, but I opened with a broad question. Given the decline in expectations surrounding the Seahawks, I asked him what about the team’s current situation did he expect, and what has surprised him. Here’s what he had to say.
My prediction for the Seahawks going into the season was 9-7 (same as what I said for 49ers for what it’s worth) with a two-game swing in either direction. So I am not at all surprised by the current record of 6-5 nor do I think that I am caught off guard by them being in the wild card race. I am a little surprised that they were good enough to win these last two games given their 4-5 record leading into those games but I still had them as slightly favored against both the Packers and Panthers; I just figured a letdown was coming. And in both instances they are a hair away from being 4-7 instead of 6-5. Of course, they are also not far away from being 7-4 or 8-3 and having at least one win against the LA Rams. I figured that games like last year against the Rams (42-7) would happen at least once or twice in 2018 and it simply hasn’t; Seattle’s biggest loss is eight points and all five of their losses have come to teams in the top-10 of DVOA, including on the road against the heating-up Broncos, at the Chicago Bears, at the Rams, vs the Rams, and vs the Chargers. I’d also say I’m surprised that they’ve played well on the road recently, winning in Detroit and Carolina, and now they have four of their final five games at home.
Not surprised by: Russell Wilson. He’s a future Hall of Fame quarterback and the second-biggest reason (after or tied with Pete Carroll) why I expected them to continue their streak of posting a winning record. Compared to other NFC QBs, a stacked conference in that regard going into the season, I still felt he was in the top-4. He’s at least that good, and even with a new offensive coordinator, his efficiency is peaking.
Surprised by: Just how good the run game has been. First in rushing yards. Three RBs who’ve had a 100-yard game. Depth and relative health that they haven’t enjoyed since Marshawn Lynch’s last full season in 2014.
Not surprised by: Bobby Wagner. He was the number three reason I believed in the Seahawks to compete. A defense with Wagner is a defense that has a chance to make a stop.
Surprised by: Terrible run defense. Despite Wagner, the team is 32nd in yards per carry allowed and Christian McCaffrey ran all over them on Sunday. The good news is that they held pretty firm in the red zone. They get beat up before the 10 but firm up when backed on their own end zone.
Not surprised by: Jarran Reed and Frank Clark. They’ve combined for 15.5 sacks and Seattle will not likely let either player leave when free agency (Clark, 2019 and Reed, 2020) hits.
Surprised by: Improved play by the offensive line, no longer making them a liability. Wilson would have fewer sacks if he was better at getting rid of the ball sooner. The offensive line is much better with new guard D.J. Fluker and he is a priority after the season.
Overall, I am not shocked that the Seahawks are 78% to make the playoffs as a wild card, but I am surprised by how they’ve gotten there, both because of players doing better than I thought (Fluker, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Bradley McDougald, Tre Flowers) and worse/injured (K.J. Wright, Dion Jordan, Doug Baldwin, Shaquill Griffin, Earl Thomas). I just think any team with Carroll, Wilson, and Wagner has a chance.