The Seattle Seahawks have been a team that has dominated in the second halves of seasons the last three years, going a combined 20-4 between 2012 and 2014 in games nine through sixteen. After defeating the Vikings in Minnesota on Sunday 38-7, Seattle appears to be following the same script in 2015.
That the Seahawks dominated the Vikings was surprising. The Vikings are a good team with a great running back in Adrian Peterson and have a good chance of winning the NFC North this year. Most predictions had the game close, even if Seattle was the choice to win for many. At halftime, the Seahawks led 14-0. But it felt much more like 35-0.
Sure, by the end of the game the Vikings were missing several key defensive players to injury, but the main issue was that Seattle defense overwhelmed Minnesota’s offense. The Vikings offense was not missing any important players due to injury; they were simply dismantled. Peterson ran for only 18 yards on eight carries. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, under constant pressure the entire game, looked nervous as he overthrew several receivers on short passes. He finished the day 17 of 28 for only 118 and an interception. His quarterback rating was 55.4. The Seahawks outgained the Vikings 433 yards to 125.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, on the other hand, was brilliant. He completed 21 out of 27 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 146.0. In the last three weeks, Wilson has completed almost 77 percent of his passes and has thrown for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He is simply playing the best football of his professional career.
Running back Thomas Rawls ran for 101 yards and a touchdown. Rawls once again showed that he seems to have the skills to be a number one back and that Marshawn Lynch might have difficulty holding on to his starting position if he returns in 2016. Rawls not only has power, but he adds an element of speed that Lynch no longer has.
The Vikings did not lose to the Seahawks because of defensive injuries. If Seattle had only kicked three field goals, they still would have won. Seattle beat Minnesota because they were the superior team.
That should be the case again this Sunday when Seattle travels to play a banged-up Baltimore Ravens team, though the Seahawks still need to play focused football. The Ravens have lost numerous important players for the season, including quarterback Joe Flacco. Still, the Ravens have not lost any games by more than eight points. They have not won by more than six points in any of their four wins. In other words, the Ravens have kept every game close, much like the Seahawks do most of the time.
Seattle has lost by more than a touchdown and a conversion exactly once (and that was by nine points against the San Diego Chargers in 2014) since Wilson has been the quarterback. Sunday’s blowout over the Vikings is a bit of an outlier as well. Expecting such a point-spread with the Seahawks and Ravens playing is probably not wise.
The Seahawks should win, however. The Ravens struggle against the pass, and if Wilson remains as locked-in as he has been the last three games he could throw for well over 300 yards. Receiver Doug Baldwin has caught five touchdowns in the last two weeks. Tyler Lockett gets better, and more comfortable, every week, including catching all seven of his targeted passes against the Vikings. The Seahawks are 21st in passing yards per game, but second in the National Football League in yards per attempt at 8.5. Perhaps the best chance of offensive success for Seattle against Baltimore is throwing against the Ravens 25th ranked pass defense in terms of quarterback rating (97.4).
The Ravens are much stouter against the run, ranking eighth in yards per attempt at 3.8. The Seahawks still like to feature the run (though this season has seen several games of more pass than run), so Rawls should get 18-22 carries and grind out tough yards. The Seahawks are number one in the NFL in rushing offense. The offensive line is improving every week. Against the Ravens an effective rushing game should help set up the pass.
Defensively, the Seahawks appear to be figuring things out. Saying that seems ridiculous in some ways, as the Seahawks are second in yards allowed and third in points scored against. No defense will ever be the 2013 version of the Seahawks – perhaps the greatest defense in the history of the NFL. The 2015 defense is not as good as even last year’s, but since DeShawn Shead replaced cornerback Cary Williams (Williams was in his first season with Seattle has since been released altogether) they have played better. As coach Pete Carroll told NBC Sports, “We feel more comfortable with the guys that have been with us.” Plus a defensive shutout of a good team like Minnesota (the Vikings only points came on a kickoff return for touchdown) can increase team confidence an untold amount.
A Ravens team that is missing Flacco and whose replacement, Matt Schaub, is turnover prone should not be able to generate many points. Even if Baltimore’s defense plays its best game of the season, the Seahawks should win.
The Vikings play the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals on the road this Sunday in a tough matchup. The Vikings still play the Green Bay Packers on the road as well. The Seahawks appear to have an easier schedule with only a trip to Arizona in the last game of the season being a matchup they may not be favored in. If the Seahawks can overtake the Vikings for the top seed in the NFC Wild Card standings they would have a favorable matchup in the first game of the playoffs. The Seahawks currently trail the Vikings by one game, but have the head-to-head lead in case of a tie after defeating Minnesota. The Wild Card team with the best record would most likely face the winner of the NFC East. Every team in the NFC East currently has a losing record.
The Seattle Seahawks seem to be putting together another excellent second half of the season record. They are 5-1 in their last six games and have won three in a row. If the key players can stay healthy, the Seahawks should at least be able to win three more in a row; after the Ravens, the Seahawks play the 2-10 Cleveland Browns and 4-8 St. Louis Rams (who have lost their last five and have not scored more than 13 points in their last four), both at home. It has been a tougher season than most expected for Seattle as they have five losses, but is another Super Bowl appearance out of the question? No.