- Seattle’s offense ranks first in the NFL in both passing success rate and rushing success rate.
The Seahawks never seem to play a normal game, I don’t expect one here. Seattle’s tendencies are extreme enough that they are more likely to dictate the flow of any game they are in. Their defense has been putrid, particularly against the pass, and while safety Jamal Adams is questionable and could return, cornerback Shaquill Griffin is out. Seattle’s secondary wasn’t playing well early this season with both guys in the lineup, but they are both guys who will be integral to any improvement down the line and the absence of Griffin and potential for Adams to either miss or be at less than 100% only exacerbates Seattle’s issues.
They have far fewer issues on the offensive side of the ball. Seattle is coming off a road loss to Arizona in what was probably 2020’s wildest game, and while their inability to stop the opposition played a role, that was a game they likely should have won. Without Benson Mayowa’s special teams blunder — a personal foul that turned a field goal into a touchdown two plays later with about three minutes left in regulation — Seattle likely gets away with a win. Instead, the Seahawks wound up falling in a game where Russell Wilson threw three interceptions, his first multi-interception game since Week 1 of 2018.
Setting aside the outlier turnover issues, Seattle’s offense has been a revelation in 2020. After years of calling run plays in inopportune situations, the Seahawks lead the league in pass rate above expectation given factors like down, distance, time, and score. Per Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, Seattle specifically leads the NFL in pass rate on 2nd-and-long, a down-and-distance situation that analytics gurus universally agree is the worst time to be calling run plays. Seattle has called pass plays on over 90% of their 2nd-and-long plays this season, while no other offense in football has done so even 85% of the time. These types of extreme tendencies are smartly tilting the odds in their favor.
In part because Seattle has eschewed this low success rate run play, the Seahawks offense is currently first in the NFL not just in success rate on pass plays but also on runs. Entering Week 8, lead running back Chris Carson is highly questionable, while backup Carlos Hyde is doubtful and third-stringer Travis Homer is also questionable. There’s a solid chance Seattle features rookie DeeJay Dallas as their primary back, and their backfield injuries make it all the more likely we’ll see their pass-happy ways continue against San Francisco. A highly efficient passing offense with an elite quarterback that is also making the right situational calls about when to use the run, we should trust that Seattle will continue to put up points.
Of course, we can be almost as sure their defense will struggle. Any matchup of the Seahawks and 49ers calls to mind years of defensive battles between these divisional foes, but while the under is tempting, this is a game that has plenty of potential to shoot out. San Francisco has figured some things out on offense over the past two weeks, and while they too have significant running back injuries, Kyle Shanahan’s creative rushing scheme has produced big rushing yardage for a wide range of backs.
The key for San Francisco will be whether they can pick up key first downs in the passing game. Jimmy Garoppolo has found more success passing the ball the past two weeks largely in a conservative scheme that has featured underneath passing. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel will miss Week 8, but his role over the past two games is instructive in terms of what has gone right — Samuel has caught 11 passes for 131 yards and a score, but the average depth of his targets has been well behind the line of scrimmage. The vast majority of these “receptions” have been on jet motion tip passes that might as well be classified as handoffs.
Rookie Brandon Aiyuk can fill some of that role, but there are likely to be times in this game where Garoppolo will need to do more down the field. I expect him to find plenty of open receivers to throw to, but we haven’t seen him consistently pick apart defenses downfield yet this season. Given the choice between Wilson against a superior pass defense and Garoppolo against an inferior one, I still trust Wilson to make the big downfield plays with more consistency in a game environment that will likely require that type of offensive production.
This game carries a 3-point spread toward the home Seahawks, which is to say the teams are valued as relatively equal. Largely because of the quarterbacks, I like Seattle as the better side, and I think we’re getting some slight value after their recent loss and the 49ers’ recent two-game winning streak that included a dismantling of a crumbling Patriots team last week.
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Seahawks -3 @ +100
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Week 8 is here and we've got some great games in store. The Cowboys visit Philadelphia to face the Eagles on Sunday Night Football and the Bucs end the week by facing the Giants in New York on Monday Night Football. Elsewhere we'll see Tua Tagovailoa's first game as Miami Dolphin's starter, and the Steelers facing the Ravens in a huge test of both team's Super Bowl credentials. The Cardinals, Texans, Jaguars and the Football Team are all on a bye this week.
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