After a rather tumultuous week and a disappointing result in Kansas City, Green Bay returns now to face a long-time foe in the Seattle Seahawks. At this point in time, it is unclear if Aaron Rodgers will return for the game, though coach Matt LaFleur has said that he will play if he is cleared. Rodgers is eligible to return on Saturday, and at this point, I am assuming he will play, even though it is not a guarantee. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gave away the whole plot early in the week with this, uh, overly dramatic video.
For real, Russ, it was a broken finger, you didn’t beat cancer. Anyways, with the starting quarterback returning for Seattle, how do they stack up offensively?
They Are Who We Thought They Were
We know what the Russell Wilson Seahawks are at this point. They’re going to run the ball too much and they’re going to push the ball down the field with moon balls. Well, the former is less true this year as their rushing rate over expected is actually right around league average. The latter remains true though, as Russell Wilson’s aDOT ranks third highest in the league. The weapons this year remain the same as they have been over the past couple of years. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf make up over 55% of the team’s targets this year, and no other player is even close to those two in target-share. With a heavy reliance on their wide receivers, it’s no surprise that Seattle spends the majority of their time in 11 personnel, at 65%.
In order to get a feel for how Seattle’s normal offense functions, it’s appropriate to filter out the Geno Smith games. As we saw last week with Jordan Love, backup quarterbacks fundamentally alter your offense. In the five weeks that Russell Wilson played, the Seahawks were a good but not elite offense, ranking tenth in EPA-per-play and twelfth in passing EPA-per-play. The passing game in particular, was a far cry from what the Seahawks has been for much of the past half-decade. The efficiency was not being pumped up through an elite passing attack that they just failed to utilize enough.
Speaking of inefficiency dragging down an offense, the Seahawks running game continues to not be a net benefit. Compared to the rest of the league they’re somewhere between average and slightly above, ranking fourteenth in rushing EPA-per-play and eleventh in rushing DVOA. The big problem in the running game is the run blocking, which by both PFF grading and ESPN’s win rate metrics ranks out as quite poor.
On KC's run blocking, fwiw pic.twitter.com/plcMJ4ENy2— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 10, 2021
Starting running back Chris Carson has been above average in terms of his ability to make more out of what his line has created, as he is posting a solid +.46 rushing yards over expected this season, but it is unclear if he will play this week coming off a neck injury that landed him on IR. Instead, Green Bay is likely to face backup Alex Collins, who has been much less dynamic posting a -.37 rushing yards over expected. Collins is posting a strong DVOA, however, but the underlying numbers seem to suggest that is less to do with Collins and more to do with a couple of fortunate situations he has gotten. Collins has landed on the injury report as well for this week, so now it’s very uncertain who Green Bay will face at running back.
With Russell Wilson unlikely to be a full 100%, an offensive line that is no longer the disaster it once was, but certainly wouldn’t be described as good, and a rushing game that despite Pete Carroll’s wishes has not become anything more than decent, this isn’t the elite offense Seattle has had. They are still incredibly dangerous though, especially down the field, with both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf being absolutely terrifying on those moon balls Wilson loves to throw. If Seattle can exploit the matchup with Green Bay’s corners, things could get hairy, so we should expect plenty of two-high looks to try and keep the lid on their potent deep passing attack. If Green Bay can muck it up up front to allow them to stay in that two-high shell, it could be another good performance for the defense.
The Legion of Milquetoast
Turns out calling cover-3 almost every play doesn’t work as well when you don’t have a rotating cast of productive pass rushers and two Hall of Famers in your secondary, huh? The days of the Legion of Boom are long gone, and so is the fright of playing against their defense. Now, the Seahawks defense isn’t bad, per se, but meh about describes it. They rank 16th in EPA-per-play allowed and their defense ranks 23rd in DVOA.
As one would expect in an organization that has an ethos of placing a strong priority on the running game, the Seahawks run defense is pretty solid, coming in as an above average unit, while their passing defense is a big question mark. As seems to be the case with almost everything on this defense, the pass rush is pretty mediocre. Their front ranks 17th in pass rush win rate and they’re 23rd in pressure rate. Jamal Adams, traditionally utilized as an overhang/EDGE defender throughout his career, and a player whose best trait is rushing the passer, has yet to tally a sack this season, as he’s been playing more as a traditional safety.
Where the Seahawks front does shine is in the running game, where they are tied for second in run stop win rate. Despite this though, Seattle aren’t forcing a ton of tackles for loss. Their run defense ranks 23rd in the percentage of rushes that end at or behind the line of scrimmage. Where Seattle does shine a little is that they are above average in preventing chunk plays in the running game (10+ yards).
Seattle isn’t presenting too many issues from a statistical perspective in terms of game planning. Their run defense is pretty stout, but nothing like the vaunted 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and if David Bakhtiari returns, Green Bay should be able to run the ball reasonably well. In the passing game, this is a unit that has not created a lot of pressure, which is problematic when facing Aaron Rodgers, who ranks first in the league in QBR from a clean pocket.
Green Bay is a better team than Seattle and this is a home game, so the Packers should come away with the victory. Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have the Packers favored by three points. The biggest swing piece is of course Aaron Rodgers. If Love plays, I think you can make a very reasonable case that Seattle should be favored. Russell Wilson’s play is also a major wild card as if that finger isn’t truly 100%, his accuracy could wane, especially on the high-velocity throws down the field where he has traditionally shined. The Seahawks are forbidden from playing normal football games, though, so it’s really anyone’s guess as to how Sunday turns out.