It’s time to talk Seattle Seahawks. Kenneth Arthur runs the show at Field Gulls and was kind enough to join us and discuss five questions leading up to Sunday’s game. Let’s get into it.
What is the confidence level for Seattle fans’ heading into Week 17’s matchup against San Francisco? You guys had a good article on Field Gulls about how the Seahawks have struggled in recent years when the team has faced an opponent for the second time in a season. Do you think that matters for a rivalry game?
Not to be overly pragmatic, assuming I have a strong grip on the definition of pragmatic, but every little thing probably matters a little bit in this game, right? If you’re a 49ers fan, you’re hoping that 15 games of evidence that San Francisco is a superior team to Seattle by the majority of statistical rankings matters. If you’re the Seahawks, you’re hoping that home-field advantage matters. If you’re the Niners, you’re hoping that getting back George Kittle matters. If you’re the Seahawks, you’re hoping that beating a team twice in a year does not matter. Millions of variables at play, and we probably overrate or underrate all of them to some degree. The end result is that the 49ers are favored in this game, and given the expected 46-man gameday rosters and recent effectiveness of each team, I would say that is reasonable. If Pete Carroll’s intimate knowledge of Robert Saleh’s defense, or vice versa, matters, that’s an edge either team wants to have. We saw on Monday Night Football that being favored did not help the Niners win the football game. We saw the same happen to Seattle in Week 16 against the Arizona Cardinals. Being favored didn’t matter. I mean, it never “matters,” but ultimately, these teams will take every advantage they can get and hope to mitigate every disadvantage possible.
As to confidence, it is the lowest it has been in a long, long time. After the Cardinals game, FanPulse results dropped to 28%. This is kind of why I came up with the idea for FanPulse, to gauge the minute to minute support from fans, or to challenge beliefs that people claim are bible only to renege on that belief upon the first sign of things heading in the opposite direction. Confidence was sky high after defeating the Niners and dirt low after a loss to the Cardinals, but it’s not like the team or its philosophies changed in a significant way in the matter of a month. (This vote was, of course, before the return of Marshawn Lynch, which I imagine actually did turn around a few fans on the 72% side of that lack of confidence.) This isn’t just true of Seattle fans, we’ve found it to be true for all 32 teams. It’s the passion of watching and following sports. Confidence is at 28% right now, but it could be 82% if they win. Overall, I think fans would just like to see Russell Wilson assert some dominance, Lynch to break a tackle, and the defense to do something other than live and die by the turnover.
It seems like Quandre Diggs has had quite an impact in his time with Seattle. Do you think he plays, and if he can’t go, how big of a loss is he in terms of the Seahawks passing defense? The 49ers have been quite successful through the air over the last month of the season.
Diggs had a good impact in his five games with the team, but I would be surprised if he’s ready to go by Sunday just based on the way Pete Carroll has talked about it in the press from the time of the injury. We really don’t have much of a sample size of where the safety position is at right now at this point in the season without Diggs because it’s just been the end of the game against Carolina and last week vs. Arizona. But in both cases with Lano Hill, it seemed bad. Especially at the end of the Panthers game but even when facing Brett Hundley in the second half of the game last week, the defense left a lot of players wide open. It would be a bit of a “wow” if Diggs plays, and I think they stick with Hill over rookie Marquise Blair. Things are at where they’re at, and maybe that’s not at the best place with regards to the secondary.
What is Seattle’s biggest advantage/disadvantage in this game? They are three-point underdogs, which suggests San Francisco would be even bigger favorites on a neutral site. The Seahawks have the most valuable player in the game, but after Russell Wilson, it’s evident there’s a dropoff in talent.
I think the Seahawk’s biggest advantage is just the familiarity of the two teams as an equalizer. In regards to the NFC West, it’s often felt like you could really lose to any team at any time regardless of the season they were having outside the division. At this very moment, San Francisco has every reason to be confident and to be favorites. My greatest hope for Seattle is that they’ve had this ability to look really bad one week and then look amazing the next week and while that’s not necessarily an ideal advantage in the long run perhaps it at least gives me a track record with which to base the possibility that they won’t look as bad as they’ve looked in the last two NFC West games. The Seahawks have also played well under Carroll and with Wilson when it comes to big moment games such as primetime, Monday nights, playoffs, and so whether that is more narrative that regresses over the long run or not, it gives me a bit more confidence. Their biggest disadvantage is all the gaps in talent? Seattle’s offensive line is heavily outmatched by the 49ers defensive line. Seattle’s defensive line is heavily outmatched by the 49ers offensive line. It would be a bit stunning if George Kittle didn’t have a huge night. There’s no doubt in my mind that San Francisco is the better team, but honestly, that really won’t matter if the Seahawks can win just this one game. If they win the division and potentially even a bye week (highly unlikely though), then who cares if they were the better team? They somehow won the games that they needed to win and obtained the playoff advantage they wanted to obtain. If they lose, I think they simply fall into the wild card position that they probably had earned, to begin with.
Has Pete Carroll been frustrating with his in-game coaching decisions? From going for it on fourth down to giving his team the best chance to win. We always complain about coaches. There are folks here that call for Kyle Shanahan’s head. Nobody is every satisfied, but what’s the thought on Carroll?
A lot of fans are frustrated with it. I don’t mind it as much as others. I think he’s clearly adjusted, adapted, and evolved his coaching over his ten years with the Seahawks, and I think that’s pretty telling for a person who already came into the league as one of the oldest coaches at the beginning. We’ve seen him run trick punts, trick plays on offense, go for it in moments that maybe you wouldn’t have seen him go for it before. I am sure that Carroll has read up on analytics. He wouldn’t let other coaches have an advantage without at least knowing what the advantage was all about. Maybe it’s not the total package for him as it is for many people online. But I’ve noticed changes. Another thing about coaches is that I think we hold them to a standard of “perfection or failure,” and that’s not how they should be judged. I think a coach needs to be allowed some amount of head-scratching moments per game because they’re making countless decisions in that time, trying to win every snap. Or maybe I’m just numb to it. I’ve seen Carroll do weird things from day one, so the weird things he did last week weren’t out of the norm or anything. He has a lot of support because he’s won a lot of games, but there is definitely a growing sect who are skeptical if all his Super Bowl days are behind him. I think with or without him as a coach, though, Carroll has changed the dynamic of the organization in a way that will stick long-term.
In the holiday spirit, if you could have one gift, what would it be? You can have a player return from injury, a trade you may have pulled the trigger on earlier in the year — your call.
It would have been nice to see the Seahawks and Earl Thomas have a healthy long-term relationship. It’s unfortunate that it broke down after many successful years, but maybe some tension started up when Earl broke his leg the first time, and they were more hesitant to extend him. Seattle has always had an obvious disadvantage without Earl, and until Diggs, it didn’t feel like that void would be filled any time soon. I am not even going to pretend like five games of Diggs makes me forget about Earl or think for a second that the Seahawks are just as good with Diggs as they were with Earl. He’s still playing at such a high level with the Ravens. I wish it would have worked out, and he was still with Seattle. They need a player like him.