NFL Offseason Review: Seattle Seahawks
Published on March 13, 2017
The New England Patriots’ historic come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl 51 is rapidly fading from the cultural consciousness, and the rest of the 2016/17 NFL season that it was attached to is similarly becoming only a distant memory.
For several teams, this past season is something they want to forget, and no franchise can lay greater claim to this than the Atlanta Falcons, whose surprise loss after many people watching had already turned off the TV, thinking the outcome decided, will likely sting for many, many years to come.
Another team that has good reason to try and forget about the 2016/17 season is the Seattle Seahawks.
Not only did their season end in disappointing fashion in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Atlanta Falcons, giving them the belief that they could have potentially fared better in the Super Bowl if they had been able to make it there, but they also had a host of problems throughout the year – particularly with injuries – that they would be happy to forget.
And the state of the Seattle Seahawks isn’t just important to fans of the franchise, either. Former head coach and media personality Tony Dungy said it best during a 2016/17 Sunday Night Football broadcast, when he stated, simply and confidently, that the Seattle Seahawks are no longer an elite team.
While fans of the Seahawks may fight against this claim tooth and nail, the important thing to note is that whether Dungy is right or wrong, at the very least it is a matter of discussion. It’s no longer incontestable that the Seattle Seahawks are among the best in the business.
And for teams across the league hoping to make the jump into this elite category and to compete for a championship, it would behoove them to take note of the situation in Seattle, in order to determine whether they can expect to meet the Seahawks in the postseason next year, and if so, what type of team they’ll find at that point.
In this edition, we head out to the northwestern corner of the nation to Washington state, to take on the Seattle Seahawks.
To provide some context, since the start of the Pete Carroll era in 2010/11, the Seahawks had been perennial playoff contenders. Even more than that, after making it to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013/14 and 2014/15 (the first of which they won), Seattle fans had begun to expect that the team would be able to compete for a championship each and every year.
After losing in the divisional round in 2015/16 playoffs to the eventual NFC Super Bowl representative Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks felt themselves ready to head back on the field and mount a successful 2016/17 campaign.
It must be noted, however, that the team’s character was certainly starting to change, if only ever so slightly. On the offensive side of the ball, the retirement of star running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch after the end of the 2015/16 NFL season was a looming question mark that needed to be addressed directly in 2016/17.
And on the defensive side of the ball, the departure of star linebacker and leadership presence Bruce Irvin in the offseason was also the first of many changes to the defensive roster that would occur throughout the season, necessarily changing the Seahawks’ style of play if only slightly.
It was with these high hopes and looming changes that the Seahawks began their season.
Seattle started out the season very strong, going 3–1 in their first four games leading into their Week 5 bye week.
Given that Seattle fans had become accustomed to Pete Carroll’s teams improving significantly over the course of a season to ultimately peak late in the year, the fact that the team started out so strong provided a great deal of excitement, and even had fans abuzz with Super Bowl talk heading into the bye.
After opening the season with a 12–10 win over the Miami Dolphins, the Seahawks failed to continue their momentum into the second game, losing a low-scoring game to their division rival L. A. Rams during the Rams’ first home game in their new city and new stadium.
While it was a little disconcerting to see their offense fail to score a touchdown against the Rams, fans’ concerns were largely alleviated by ripping off two strong wins in Weeks 3 and 4, putting up 37 points against the San Francisco 49ers, and 27 points against the New York Jets.
The most encouraging sign for Seahawks fans was that the offensive line seemed to be holding up adequately despite the fact that three new starters had been added to the unit. When comparing their performance in the first four games to the comparable stretch the year before, the O-line had allowed one half the number of sacks, giving fans a feeling that the offense had already “clicked.”
Additionally, the Seahawks seemed to be simply swimming past adversity without really being touched by it in this early portion of the season. Despite the fact that star quarterback Russell Wilson was dealing with injuries in both legs that severely limited his mobility, the Seattle offense was still creating big plays during the first four games of the season.
Jimmy Graham was a big part of this early success in the passing game. After being traded to the Seahawks in the offseason preceding the 2015/16 season, Graham missed almost half of the regular season with a torn patellar tendon.
Despite all of the hype surrounding the team at this early stage in the season, it’s important to note that there were also some negative signs. One example was the injury to linebacker and role player Mike Morgan, who while not an every-down player was nonetheless an important part of the defensive scheme, particularly given the fact that the team was still adjusting to the loss of Bruce Irvin
After starting off hot, the Seahawks headed out of the bye at 3–1 looking to solidify their reputation throughout the league as one of the 2016/17 season’s teams to beat.
Ultimately, the result over the middle portion of the season – specifically, the five games from Week 6 to Week 10 – were a mixed bag, with the team starting off slow and then seemingly pulling things together around mid-November.
Coming off of the bye week, the Seahawks took on the Arizona Cardinals at home and ended up winning the game 26–24. While on paper this game looked like a strong win, it was actually a significant warning sign for two reasons: First, because Russell Wilson failed to throw a touchdown pass, the first game in what would ultimately be a three-game stretch without a touchdown; second, because the Falcons were able to score three consecutive passing touchdowns in a single quarter, a worrisome sign for the Seattle defense.
This performance led directly into the bizarre game to follow, in which the two teams that had been ranked #2 and #3 in both points scored and point differential over the 2015/16 NFL season (the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals) ended up stymied at 6 points apiece after 75 minutes of football.
Fans of both franchises had reason for concern due to this performance, and for the Seahawks it seemed that the wheels truly were started to come off when Russell Wilson once again failed to score a touchdown in the Seahawks’ next game, a loss against the New Orleans Saints.
Fortunately, Wilson finally went off in the next game against the Bills, and scored both his first rushing touchdown of the season as well as his first passing touchdown in over a month of real time. This gave fans back a modicum of confidence that the injury situation, the struggles of the offensive line, and the inconsistent play in the run game were steadily starting to reverse itself.
The next game probably served as the highlight of the season: Week 10 against the New England Patriots – in Foxborough – the Seahawks managed to hold on to their 7-point lead with a dramatic goal-line stand with less than a minute left on the clock. Seattle had handed the Patriots what would end up being their only loss of the season with Tom Brady at quarterback, and they surged with confidence.
Another important trend during this period of the season was the running back situation of the Seahawks. After bringing back inconsistent veteran Christine Michael and featuring him in the first year without Marshawn Lynch, various injuries in the backfield enabled Seattle to give undrafted second-year back Thomas Rawls and rookie third-round draft pick C. J. Prosise extended looks.
Ultimately, despite seeing flashes of brilliance from various players at various times, the inconsistent play of the offensive line and the lack of a strong commitment to the run game made it difficult for the team to truly evaluate each back’s performance, which would influence their decision-making later on.
After the emotional high of their Week 10 victory over the New England Patriots, the Seahawks headed into the final seven games of the season at a mark of 6–2–1, leading their division and surging in confidence despite having weathered some rather throughout the course of the season.
When the team won its next game, at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, fans likely believed that the three-game win streak they had embarked on could potentially continue throughout the rest of the season, leading them into the first overall seed in the NFC and the first round bye.
In reality, what happened was a seven-game stretch in which the Seahawks alternated between wins and losses, a feat that is as statistically unlikely as it is mentally damaging to a team.
Their first loss – the second game of this seesaw pattern – was on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and marked the third game of the season in which the team was unable to score a touchdown. Importantly, Russell Wilson was sacked five times in this game against the Bucs, with three of those sacks immediately ending a Seattle offensive drive.
In keeping with the hot or cold feeling of this end of the season stretch, the Seahawks completely went off against the team that had ended their playoff run the prior season – the Carolina Panthers – scoring 40 points, their highest total of the season, and allowing Cam Newton just 7 points.
Ultimately, though, despite the fact that this was an excellent win for the team, the biggest emotion that came out of the matchup wasn’t one of excitement, but rather one of dread, as star safety and defensive team leader Earl Thomas went down with a nasty leg injury in this game and tweeted out before the game had even finished that he was considering retirement.
Naturally, this was not a good sign for fans who were hoping to get their team back on track, rather than see additional injuries and locker room issues unravel their identity. In the following game, fans’ worst nightmares came true, with the team laying a goose egg against their rival Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field, allowing the Packers 38 points in the worst statistical game of Russell Wilson’s career.
The ensuing win, loss, and win would ultimately be enough to give Seattle the win in the division, but wouldn’t be enough to earn the coveted first round bye, as the steady success of the Atlanta Falcons ultimately outlasted the Seahawks and snatched up the #2 seed.
In hindsight, the memory of the postseason win over the Detroit Lions and the subsequent loss against the Atlanta Falcons will likely not linger nearly as long as the images of team division that endure from these last few games of the season; for example, when defensive front seven teammates Jarran Reed and Frank Clark got into a during the Week 17 victory over the Seahawks.
Ultimately, the team was changing, and while they competed at a high level throughout the entire season, in the end fans couldn’t help but wonder whether or not they had left opportunities on the table, and more importantly whether the championship sunshine that had been shining on Seattle had been covered over by clouds in that rainy city.
In reviewing the story arc of the 2016/17 season for the Seattle Seahawks, several important pieces of information came to light that gives us insight into the struggles that the team faced throughout the year, which ultimately prevented them from chasing after their perennial goal of a Super Bowl.
In particular, new and constantly changing rotations along the offensive line and injuries on the defense seemed to cause a systemic inconsistency on the Seahawks’ team, which in turn appeared to have a fundamental impact on the team’s overall identity.
But while this was the picture that emerged from a flyby view of the team’s 2016/17 campaign, it’s important that we take a closer look at the team, and break down both their strengths and their weaknesses for each unit. This type of holistic understanding of the team will give us the ability to forecast what needs Seattle will need to address in the offseason roster moves.
First, in looking at the offense globally, we see that the team was ranked only 18th of the 32 teams in the National Football League in terms of points scored. Seattle managed 354 points over the course of the regular season, or 22.1 points per game.
Interestingly, the amount of points that they scored was actually lower, relative to league average, than the amount of yards they gained, with their 5715 yards on the season (387.2 per game) ranking out at 12th in the league.
A discrepancy between yards and touchdowns of this sort generally points towards turnovers, particularly red zone turnovers. If an offense is able to receive the ball in its own territory, march down the length of the field, but then fails to put points on the board, this often means that it gave the ball away before it could punch it in the end zone. And indeed, we see that the Seahawks were ranked 11th in the league in total turnovers, based on the 14th-most interceptions and 5th-most fumbles lost.
Their offensive production came primarily in the passing game despite the fact that they were very even-handed in their division of play-calling between run and pass. Seattle earned the 10th-most yards in the league off of the 18th-most passing attempts, and yet only earned the 25th-most yards in the league off of the 20th-most passing attempts.
This difference is reflected in the offensive efficiency numbers:
This reflects not only the departure of star running back Marshawn Lynch, but also the struggles of the offensive line throughout the year in run blocking.
Also contributing to the decreased rushing yards was the slow start to the season for quarterback Russell Wilson. While Wilson’s ability to scramble and make plays with his legs is generally a staple in the Seattle offense, in the beginning of the season Wilson’s mobility was severely limited due to multiple injuries, and it wasn’t until Week 9 – well past the halfway point of the season – that Wilson scored his first rushing touchdown.
Despite his decreased rushing numbers, though, and the considerable amount of pressure he faced, Wilson somehow still found a way to be effective in the passing game, and the receiving corps was a big reason why. In particular, tight end Jimmy Graham was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl and his first as a Seattle Seahawk for his effectiveness last year, and undrafted #1 wide receiver Doug Baldwin also turned in another stellar performance.
These kinds of stellar performances from the wide receiving group were absolutely crucial for the team to have any sort of success on offense, considering the fact that the running back group was essentially a big mess throughout the year, primarily due to injuries.
Going into the season with the intention of trying to find a suitable replacement for superstar Marshawn Lynch, the team was excited to see a strong start to the season from starter Thomas Rawls, who was working his way back onto the field from an ankle injury that he sustained in the 2015/16 season.
But then Rawls went down with a broken leg, missing seven games, so the team turned to its rookie third-round draft pick C. J. Prosise. And while management was sufficiently impressed with Prosise to give him an extended audition, various injuries kept him off the field as well.
In the absence of their #1 and #2 options, the team was left with hothead Christine Michael, who performed at a very high level when given the opportunity. However, Michael’s volatile personality made him a liability, and so when Prosise looked poised to return to the field the Seahawks actually released Michael; when he signed with the Packers that week he was still the Seahawks’ leading rusher.
To add insult to injury, just when the Seahawks had made this irrevocable commitment to move forward with Prosise, he went down with a shoulder injury that would ultimately keep him out for the rest of the season. At one point, the Seahawks were so thin in the backfield that undrafted rookie backup quarterback Trevone Boykin ended up taking a few snaps in the backfield.
Ultimately, second-year player Thomas Rawls was able to carry the bulk of the workload throughout the year despite dealing with injury, but the long and the short of it is that after years of consistently dominant production out of Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, the Seahawks are in dire need to enter into “Rebuilding Mode” with the run game.
And of course it isn’t just the running back position that’s in sore need of health and consistency, but also the offensive line, which managed to receive the of any team in the NFL.
Accepting the fact that the season included a constant carousel of young and inexperienced linemen rotating in and out due to injuries, it’s still safe to say that even if the original five starters had remained healthy for the entire season, the offensive line still would have likely been in very rough shape, as the unit started out the season with three new starters, none of whom graded out positively compared to the field.
In summary, the 2016/17 production of the Seattle Seahawks on the offensive side of the ball occurred primarily through the passing game, with Russell Wilson and the receiving group somehow managing to make plays in spite of the marked difficulties of the offensive line and the drastic injury issues in the running back group.
On the defensive side of the ball – for which Seattle is most famous – the team fared much better throughout the course of the 2016/17 NFL season compared to the offense. Their 292 points given up on the season (18.3 per game) was good for 3rd-best in the league, and their yards given up only lagged slightly behind at 5th in the league (5099 over the course of the year; 318.7 per game on average).
When we look more closely at the aggregated statistics for the defense, however, we get a very interesting picture of how opposing offenses played the Seahawks, and what this says about their defensive abilities.
The Seahawks fielded the 8th-fewest rushing attempts in the league, while also being thrown at the 5th-most. On so few running attempts, the team managed to give up the 11th-most rushing touchdowns, and yet only the 7th-fewest yards, giving them the best yards per rushing attempt average in the league.
Simultaneously, their passing defense told the opposite story. Despite the fact that they were thrown at a very high percentage of the time, the Legion of Boom did manage to allow only the 3rd-lowest amount of passing touchdowns, despite being ranked #21 out of 32 in interceptions, and being in the middle of the road for net yards given up per passing attempt.
Part of these seemingly random numerical patterns for when the Seahawks are able to play tough on defense is explained by the fact that the Seahawks had one of the stoutest red zone defenses in the entire league last year.
Additionally, Seattle’s efficiency in pass defense – and specifically in keeping opposing offenses to a low number of net yards per pass play – was due in large part to the explosiveness and athleticism of their front seven, which was . Opposing offenses were generally unable to move the ball effectively in the short passing game against the Seahawks.
And they generally don’t have any more luck in throwing the ball deep downfield, as well. The Seattle secondary was , even after considering the fact that safety and team leader Earl Thomas was lost for the latter part of the season.
While it’s true that opposing offenses had considerably more success in the downfield passing game in the absence of Thomas (with the opposing passer rating jumping from 61.3 to 112.0 on throws down the field after his injury), with Kam Chancellor receiving the #2 grade among safeties and Richard Sherman one of the few remaining lockdown corners in the league, the Legion of Boom is still strong.
In addition, though the defense and special teams are two different units, the two complement each other, and it is worth noting that the Seahawks had five specialists included on the Pro Football Focus , including kick returner Tyler Lockett, who averaged a full 26.3 yards per kick return on his 23 returns over the course of the year.
In summary, despite the fact that the Seahawks’ defense became slightly volatile towards the end of the season, with a potential lack of leadership left after the injury to Earl Thomas, the unit still performed at a phenomenally high level throughout the course of the season, and has very few holes going into the 2017/18 season.
In taking an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Seattle Seahawks team unit by unit, we saw that, in general, the team is not very far at all from the goal of remaining a Super Bowl contender year after year.
The defense and special teams units have very few holes, and suffered almost exclusively from a few poorly-times injuries, such as the loss of Earl Thomas. The offense, too, is not nearly as far away as many people believe, with the quarterback and receiver group really getting in sync by the end of the season. In addition, the running back talent is there, only consistency lacked, which leaves the offensive line as really the only unit on the entire Seattle team truly in need of work.
For this reason, when we look at the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl odds for the 2017/18 season, listed at the Bovada sportsbook, we find that at +1200, the odds-makers have really hit the nail on the head.
The Patriots are currently the favorite to win Super Bowl 52, listed at +375, and the Cowboys have the next lowest odds at +800. After that, there are three teams listed with the third-lowest odds at +1200: The Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, and Seattle Seahawks.
While the Seahawks generally receive a lot of action, and thus the low odds are in part an incentive to push gamblers away from betting on the Seahawks, we nonetheless believe that the team merits this much attention from odds-makers.
Let’s now turn our attention to the moves Seattle can make in the offseason to receive even more attention from the gambling public going into the 2017/18 NFL season. After we discuss the potential roster moves that could ensue in Seattle, we’ll close with our predictions for how their season will turn out, using all of the available information to make our decision.
The general offseason position of the Seattle Seahawks under general manager John Schneider has been to build his team through the draft, a philosophy that he owes to his time spent in the Green Bay front office under draft guru Ted Thompson.
This general philosophy combined with the fact that the team is in the bottom third of the league in terms of cap room, with only roughly $26 million in cap space and thus only roughly $15 million available to spend in free agency, leads us to believe that there will not be very many splash plays made in free agency coming out of the Seattle front office.
However, this probable lack of urgency in free agency is balanced by the fact that Seattle does not have very pressing needs in terms of players that must be resigned. Despite the fact that the Seahawks entered the offseason with 19 players set to hit free agency – 13 of which are unrestricted – in our estimation really only four of these players deserve to be resigned: defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, fullback Marcel Reece, backup safety Kelcie McCray, and backup safety Jeron Johnson.
In addition, the decisions that the Seahawks make about the remaining 15 free agents are, to a certain extent, irrelevant, for purely financial reasons. Kicker Steven Haushka is the most expensive free agent currently pending for the Seahawks, and he only made $2.85 million last season. None of the other free agents made more than $1 million, meaning none of them are indispensable.
This is particularly true considering the fact that the Seahawks generally opt to let young players – particularly players acquired through the draft – compete for a roster spot. They are more likely to sign inexpensive draft picks or undrafted no-name players than they are to go out and fill roster spots with established free agents.
So far, as of the time of this writing, the only real move that the Seahawks have made in the offseason (other than the standard practice squad maintenance that every team undergoes immediately following the season) was to sign kicker Blair Walsh, who Seattle fans will forever remember as the man who missed in the Wild Card round of the 2015/16 playoffs.
It’s highly unlikely that the Seahawks intend to keep Walsh, and instead signed him merely as a part of the negotiation process with Hauschka, who is a respected and admired member of the franchise. Having a kicker already on the roster and ready to come and participate in the preseason work gives the front office leverage that they wouldn’t otherwise have should the negotiation drag out long term.
In this way, we expect that the only real changes to the roster forthcoming for the Seahawks will be coming through the draft, and luckily for Seahawks fans, they have been given a great gift.
Due to the fact that Russell Okung and Bruce Irvin both left in free agency before the 2016/17 season, the Seahawks are likely to be awarded two 3rd-round compensatory draft picks, which, in addition to their #26 pick in the first, second, and third rounds, will give them the amazing opportunity to select a total of 5 players from among the best 100 or so available.
Minor needs that we could potentially see Schneider address include tight end, particularly if Luke Wilson receives a 5- or 6-million-dollar paycheck from another team, (which Seattle is not likely to match), and potentially another offensive skill player to continue providing weapons to Russell Wilson.
But of course, the primary need is on the offensive line, which is unfortunate considering that Schneider has a much better track record drafting defensive linemen than he does offensive linemen.
Also, considering the fact that the youth of the line was part of the issue last year, this is certainly not going to be fixed by drafting more young players. as saying that he is interested in adding some veteran experience to the offensive line.
The Seattle general manager has also gone on record to say that he , who the Seahawks brought into training camp but subsequently cut before the beginning of the season. Evans went on to play 98.8% of the offensive snaps in New Orleans, meanwhile the Seahawks consistently struggled to keep any sort of consistency among their offensive line group.
Ultimately, if the Seahawks are going to use their limited cap cash to make any sort of a move going into the 2017/18 season, we would expect it to be for a veteran offensive tackle. Other than that, though, we will just wait with the rest of the Seattle fans to see what John Schneider is able to do in the draft.
In reviewing the Seattle Seahawks’ offseason position, we found the team very unlikely to change its roster appreciably, given that the team has very little cap space to throw around in free agency, that almost all of its key contributors are already locked into long-term deals, and that many of its young players are inexpensive and expendable enough to rotate in and out.
In this way, with little chance for the roster to undergo any major changes, we’re able to predict fairly accurately what we expect out of the Seahawks next season. Though it’s still very early in the offseason, before free agency has even officially begun and well before the NFL draft, we still can use some existing statistical and matchup data to make a determination for which direction Seattle is headed.
The first important statistical factor to consider in predicting a team’s future performance is called Pythagorean expectation.
Pythagorean expectation is a statistical formula originally developed by sabermetric wizard Bill James for use in baseball; it was later modified for the NFL by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The idea behind Pythagorean expectation is to use advanced statistical modeling to more accurately assess a team’s past performance, in the hopes of better predicting their future performance.
Specifically, Pythagorean expectation is a modified version of the original Pythagorean theorem that we all learned back in algebra class, used to deduce the length of one side of a right triangle based on knowledge of the other two sides.
But the NFL’s Pythagorean theorem doesn’t deal with triangles and lengths: Instead the numbers that are manipulated in the theorem are the amount of points scored and the amount of points allowed by a particular team. By plugging these points totals into the formula, the number that ultimately gets spit out is an expected win percentage based purely on points.
The idea behind this is that in the NFL, not all wins should be valued the same amount. For example, when the 2016/17 Indianapolis Colts lost 7–28 at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s a pretty terrible loss. That loss should certainly mean more than when the same Colts lose 23 to 26 in overtime in Houston. And yet, at the end of the season, all we remember is that the Colts were 8–8, with both of these two losses receiving the exact same weight in the loss column.
By the same token, when the 2016/17 Buffalo Bills beat the Cincinnati Bengals 16–12, even though there’s a W on the win column, this shouldn’t impress anyone. However, when those same Bills beat the San Francisco 49ers 45–16, that same lone W should go a whole lot further to tip us off that the Bills could be legitimate contenders. Once again, though, at the end of the season, the Bills are just 7–9.
In this way, utilizing Pythagorean expectation gives us a way to evaluate a team’s performance over the course of a season using statistics that truly capture not just whether a team won or lost games, but how well they won or lost games. We learn more than just how many games a team won; we learn how many games that team should have won.
In the case of the 2016/17 Seahawks, despite the fact that their wins and losses came at a relatively erratic pace throughout the arc of the schedule, ultimately the amount of points they scored and the amount of points they allowed tracked almost exactly with their real-life win total: The Pythagorean Expectation formula spit out the Seahawks winning exactly 9.79 games, and they won 10.
This makes sense when looking at their schedule: Take the back-to-back games in Week 13 and Week 14. First, the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 40–7; the following week, they lost 38–10. Adding these two games together, we see that the total points scored was 50, and total points allowed was 45; this is almost the exact same ratio as their season totals – 354 points scored, 292 points allowed.
And it’s crucially important to observe this Pythagorean Expectation data while taking into account the second piece of information that clues us in to how well the Seahawks will play next season, and that is the schedule that Seattle played over the course of the 2016/17 regular season.
According to the meticulously calculated “DVOA” value, assembled by the stat gurus at and accounting for every single play of every game individually, the Seahawks played the 6th-easiest schedule in the entire league in 2016/17, likely due in part to the fact that they played six games against division opponents who combined for only 13 wins between them, making the NFC West one of the weakest divisions in football last year.
Understanding the strength of the Seahawks’ 2016/17 schedule thus gives us the opportunity to compare that slate of games against the opponents that they will play during the 2017/18 season, despite the fact that the week-by-week schedule won’t be released likely until April.
This is because each year, the 16-game schedule for each NFL team is composed of the following games: 6 games against division opponents (3 at home, 3 away); four games against teams from a single division within the same conference; four games against teams from a single division within the opposite conference; and finally two games against opponents within the same conference that finished in the same position in their division.
For the Seahawks, this means the following:
In order to determine how difficult this slate of opponents really is, we can consider each team’s performance in 2016/17 in order to get a proxy of how well we think they will do in 2017/18, and how this aggregated performance compares to the opponents of other teams.
For the Seahawks, their schedule does increase in difficulty slightly from year to year, with their opponents combining for the 14th-fewest wins and the 14th-lowest win percentage, as well as the 11th-lowest point differential.
Also notable on the schedule are rematches against the team that beat them last year in the playoffs (the Falcons), this time at the opposite stadium, as well as yet another game against their hated rivals the Green Bay Packers, at the same Lambeau Field where they laid a massive goose egg in 2016/17, and also accomplished the historic .
So in summary, when we combine together all of the various pieces of information that we have learned about the Seahawks offseason, we are able to make a prediction about what we expect from them in 2017/18.
The Seahawks won 10 games last year, and according to their point differential and the Pythagorean Expectation theorem, this was exactly the number of games they should have won. Their schedule increases in difficulty, but not appreciably. Furthermore, their roster is not set to change nearly at all, and if anything their young players (particularly on the offensive line) should hopefully improve.
In addition, the strange injury lightning that appeared to strike multiple times in a single position group is unlikely to happen again in exactly the same way two years in a row, and so we would expect the running back group to be healthier and thus more productive in 2017/18, along with Russell Wilson to log more rushing yards himself. For this reason, we expect the Seahawks’ offense to improve in 2017/18, and with it their record.
Predicted regular season record for the 2017/18 Seattle Seahawks: 11–5
Coming into the 2016/17 season, the Seattle Seahawks were only a few years removed from back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl, and retained that same hunger to climb the mountain each and every year and compete for a championship. And by the time the team reached its early bye week, at 3–1, it seemed well within the realm of possibility that they would be able to do so.
However, the early success they enjoyed against weaker teams – particularly in the positive play of the young offensive line – came to an abrupt end in the middle of the season, and Seattle somehow managed to win games despite going over a month of real time without a touchdown throw from their star quarterback.
After a mountaintop revenge victory against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, a turning point in the season came with the injury to Earl Thomas, a blow that seriously threatened the identity and team unity of the Seahawks. Ultimately, the team would be unable to string together two consecutive wins throughout the last 7 games of the season, and gave away the #2 seed to the Atlanta Falcons.
Ultimately, their early exit from the playoffs to those same Falcons revealed just how in need the team was of improved offensive line play and more consistency at the running back position.
And given the Seahawks’ offseason position, this is a boon. General manager John Schneider has only $25 million in available cap space and no real significant free agents to resign, and yet with compensatory selections he has five picks to work with in the first 100 or so draft positions, and an additional two more to follow. The Seahawks can expect very little to happen in free agency, but should get very excited for what they may be able to pull in the draft.
In the end, we expect the roster to change very little, and we expect the Seahawks to play at a very similar level next year to where they were at in 2016/17. With slight improvement to the young core of role players and ideally a few moves made to shore up the offensive line, we foresee slight improvement from the Seahawks, as they once again ready themselves to try and climb that Super Bowl mountain.