Seahawks vs Buccaneers: A closer look

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A Retrospect

Goodness gracious, what a game. I would say that this is the ugliest game I've seen in a while, but I recall the Seahawks lost 3-0 to the Browns behind the righteous, cannon arm of Clipboard Jesus. In my time watching the NFL I've learned that there are just some games that are completely bonkers. I feel safe saying that this game was pretty wonky. Still, I have a prediction piece to write. This section is about accountability, and if I'm going to be accountable, then I've got to lay it all out - even if I end up looking the fool.

As always, this piece will rely heavily on stats, mostly from football outsiders. You can read more here.

Where I was right! (This is not going to be pretty...)

Where I was wrong. (Oh boy...)

  • Marshawn was bottled up, and rarely made it to the line of scrimmage unscathed.
  • Russell Wilson wasn't "just fine" in the passing game.
  • Zac Stacy ran through our defense like a hot knife through butter. (He looks really good.)
  • The Seahawks did not come close to my margin of victory (24 points)

Somewhere in between.

  • The punting game wasn't significantly better, but the Rams had long fields all day.

At a Glance

Dumpster fire, calamity, catastrophe, train wreck - these are all descriptions of the Bucs' season. When looking at that kind of organizational dysfunction, Seahawks fans should be grateful for their front office and management. Still, my descriptions might be hyperbole. The Bucs are bad, ranking 27th in team DVOA (all rankings through week 8), but they've played a few teams very close this season and are really a few plays away from two or three wins.

27th may not sound formidable, especially with the Seahawks ranking 2nd (to Denver), but we've seen how a few wins can change the outlook of a team. If the Bucs win a few of those close games, is Josh Freeman still the quarterback? I think he is, and I think he's superior to Mike Glennon. This team still has talent at wide receiver, running back, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback and safety. In fact, the Bucs remind me quite a bit of Kansas City last year. Obvious talent, and even more obvious mismanagement. To me, the Bucs are more frightening than most teams because they represent a time bomb without a clock. At some point the pride of this team is going to kick in, and their team is going to beat someone bad. I just hope it's not the Seahawks.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense

Tampa Bay's offense has not been good this season ranking 31st in offensive DVOA. That's likely one of the largest drop-offs from last year to the present. Last year the Bucs ranked a solid 14th in offensive DVOA behind their 10th ranked rush DVOA. This year? The rush offense is now ranked 27th. With a wholesale decrease like that there's likely blame to spread around. In this case both Carl Nicks (MRSA) and Doug Martin have been injured. Compounding the injury problem is less than stellar play from their other big money guard - Davin Joseph. As a result of these problems Doug Martin has rushed for only 3.6 yards per carry. With the rush offense being a problem, perhaps the Bucs could turn to their passing game.

The Bucs do have talent in the passing game, particularly at receiver. Vincent Jackson has 623 receiving yards ranking 12th in the NFL and Mike Williams had 996 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last year. The Bucs are not afraid to throw the ball either with Mike Glennon throwing an average of 45.25 times a game. The results of the passing game haven't been completely terrible either with Mike Glennon possessing a quarterback rating of 78.0 (QBR - 37.7). Fortunately for the Hawks', all those stats still make up just the 26th ranked passing offense.

Why is their ranking so low? A few reasons. First, Glennon's yards per attempt are a meager 5.51 (ranked 32nd) - behind such luminaries as Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder and Chad Henne. Second, despite mediocre stats, the Bucs have faced a few poor defenses the last few weeks with Glennon at the helm: Philadelphia (ranked 29th in pass defense DVOA), and Atlanta (ranked 31st). Against Arizona, the third ranked pass DVOA, Glennon played his worst game: 193 passing yards, 55.8 completion percentage, 4.49 yards per attempt, 2 interceptions, and a rating of 55.7 (18.3 QBR). In sum, their passing offense is weak.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense

Say what you want about Greg Schiano and his offense, but his defense isn't half bad. The problem of course, is that it shouldn't just be half bad - it should be pretty good. The rushing defense is great ranking at 3rd in defensive rush DVOA. Behind Gerald McCoy (who has lived up to his draft status) and some feisty linebackers (Mason Foster, Go Huskies!), rushing offenses have had enormous trouble running the ball (aside from Philly). Despite ranking 3rd overall in rush DVOA, their adjusted line yards rank 11th. Why the disparity? Tough to say, but the evidence points to good play from their surrounding players. The ancillary advanced stats surrounding the rush defense suggest that the Bucs have no weakness: the linebackers, the secondary, and the line all seem to work well in unison to stop opposing rushers.

You would think that a superior rush defense would help bolster a pass defense but that doesn't seem to be the case here. The Bucs rank just 24th in pass defense. This low ranking is particularly mystifying because of their offseason additions - Darrelle Revis, and Dashon Goldson and last year's promising rookie, Mark Barron. Part of the low ranking is likely the coaching. Despite my praise of his defensive mastery, Greg Schiano hasn't made use of his talent very well. The players have played well all things considered, but imagine if Browner and Sherman were asked to play zone.

The situation is obviously more complicated than just that, but clearly the staff haven't been using their talent efficiently. Not helping the pass defense is pass rush. The Bucs have mustered 17 sacks this season ranking 22nd and their adjusted sack rate is just 23rd. Strangely, despite their average pass rush efficiency, the Bucs seem to bother quarterbacks quickly ranking 4th with 2.3 seconds as their average time an opposing QB has to operate before pressure. The biggest culprit is the Bucs propensity to blitz, and their biggest threat to blitz is Lavonte David with 5 sacks. Unfortunately, that propensity tends to leave their poorly schemed secondary out in the cold.

The Seattle Seahawks

Seattle retains its 2nd overall ranking despite a lackluster showing in the last game. The defense has stayed at first overall in defensive DVOA while offense has moved down to 14th - decidedly average. The biggest drop lately has been in the passing offense which ranks 12th in passing DVOA. The rushing offense is still top 10 but has fallen to 9th in rushing DVOA. I'm not going to add any commentary about the offensive line at this point. It's pretty clear how poor they've been playing and it's safe to say that their folly can undermine the entire offense against certain teams. The Hawks' will just have to deal until the reinforcements come back.

Before moving on, I'd just like to address the Rams game once more. People who are skeptical of stats might use the game against the Rams as evidence of weakness, but I would point out that even the non-stats experts predicted this game poorly. Chance is lumpy, and the Seahawks were on the wrong end.

I don't generally make these kinds of arguments either, but the Rams seem to match up well with the Seahawks. Furthermore, Jeff Fisher coached teams generally play better in division games. By my thermometer, the response to the game on Fieldgulls has felt like a loss. As a guy who understand the NFL best through numbers, I have to say, that game just seems funky. My advice? Chalk the game up to strange circumstances and focus on the next opponent.

The Matchups

Buccaneers' Offense vs Seahawks Defense

The Bucs' offense is much like the Seahawks: they want to run the ball to set up the pass. Unfortunately for the Bucs, their offense isn't likely to run successfully against the Hawks' defense. The Bucs ranking of 27th in rushing DVOA may be underestimating them when at full strength, but the Bucs are dealing with injuries (Carl Nicks, and Doug Martin).Injuries coupled with inferior play from some other contributors should leave Hawks' fans confident that last week's play against the Rams shouldn't repeat.

After all, I believe the rush defense ranking of the Seahawks (14th) is underestimating their strength. Last week's game sent us down the rankings, but as any Hawk fan would tell you, that game was a strange one. I'm confident the Hawks should contain Mike James, or any other back the Bucs use.

A likely consequence of the Bucs' rushing game's struggles would be struggles in the passing game. Of course that's a general statement - one without regard to the strength of the opponent's secondary. It stands to reason therefore, that against a superior secondary, the Bucs' struggles should magnify. As of now, the Seahawks rank the very 1st in pass defense DVOA. Part of that ranking comes from a great secondary, but another certainly comes from the pass rush. Seattle is now up to 6th in adjusted sack rate.

The Bucs' pass protection is pretty decent ranking at 8th, but the Clink is something special. Playing at home makes the Seahawks line downright terrifying and they should have a field day against the slower Mike Glennon. The Bucs like to pass frequently, and they probably will, but they shouldn't have success doing so. Their offense should be contained on Sunday.

The Seahawks' Offense vs the Buccaneers' Defense

After last week's showing the Seahawks are likely going to want to have success on the ground. Ranking 9th in rushing DVOA would normally give them a leg up on their opponent, but the Bucs shouldn't budge. Ranking 3rd in defensive rush DVOA. Their unit should be enough of a strength to stifle the Seahawks' rush game. Against the Cardinals, the Marsahwn Lynch was able to run like he had no line and it's always possible he'll do that again. Still, despite the possibility, I wouldn't bet on Lynch having too much success on Sunday.

After last week the Seahawks rank just 18th in adjusted line yards for their offensive line. Even if you believe that the line will work well against the Bucs' (and I remain skeptical), you would have to then suggest that Lynch would perform well against the Bucs' linebackers. However, as I pointed out before, the ancillary stats suggest the Bucs' linebackers are pretty effective against the run (which would match more subjective accounts to the same effect). All the quantitative evidence I can find suggests that Lynch should have a poor outing.

If the rush of Seattle is shut down, then Russell Wilson is going to have to carry the offense. This shouldn't be a surprise for Seahawks fans anymore. I mentioned earlier that the Bucs rank just 23rd in adjusted sack rate (defensive), but almost paradoxically they don't give teams much time to throw. I can only suggest that the Bucs blitz a high percentage as a reason, and this statement is backed subjectively by Bucs writers.

I don't have stats for this year, but against the blitz last year Russell was proficient [726 Yards (6.6 Y/A), 55.5% Completions, 7 TDs, 4 INTs, 81.9 QB Rating (Sacked 13 times)]. I don't see any reason to suggest that's changed this year either. If Russell continues to perform well under pressure, then he shouldn't perform too badly in this game. Furthermore, the blitz tends to leave open space to run and against mobile quarterbacks (Cam Newton, and Geno Smith) the Bucs gave up efficient runs (5.7 yards per carry). I would estimate that the Seahawks receivers should be open for an average to nice game, but Russell is going to have to run and scramble to keep the offense afloat. Russell should have a big game on the ground.

X Factors

Vincent Jackson qualifies as an x factor. I tend to think he won't end up being a problem against our defense, but it's not crazy to think he and Glennon could complete a couple passes deep- unlikely, but not impossible.

Lavonte David qualifies as another x factor. I mentioned that his blitzing might cause more problems for the Bucs than the Seahawks, but should he prove up to the task he could cause some real problems - a la the Rams defensive line.

0 wins. This may seem strange, but you never know when a 0 win team is just going to go crazy and the Bucs have talent. This could be a trap game.

If people were wondering, I didn't include Mike Williams because he's on IR at this point. Otherwise I agree that he might be able to give the Seahawks CB's fits with his quickness.

The Narrative

Without the run game, the Seahawks will have to rely on Russell Wilson. Fortunately for him, the Bucs don't have a great way to stifle his production. That production should lead to a good offensive play overall. Furthermore, the offense should have good field position playing against the Bucs who are ranked just 16th in special teams DVOA. The only concern I have that this game will be close is because gaining a lead may make the Seahawks desire to run the clock out. Still, even if the Hawks fail to run the clock out, I have difficulty believing the Bucs offense will be able to do very much.

Prediction: Seahawks win 23 - 6

Recap Stats

Ah, well, there goes my average. As always, this part of the piece is going to be me owning up to my predictions. If you want to contribute, please feel free and I'll add to our information to my average.

Where I was right!

  • Tavon Austin was quiet with two receptions for nine yards. 9 It's strange how little the Rams are using him.
  • Kellen Clemens was shut down. (36.8 QB rating, 16.5 QBR) 8 He looked better than shut down, but he certainly wasn't good.

Where I was wrong. (Oh boy...)

  • Marshawn was bottled up, and rarely made it to the line of scrimmage unscathed. 1 I thought he would go nuts.
  • Russell Wilson wasn't "just fine" in the passing game. 3 I get a bonus point for no turnovers and one bonus point for 2 touchdowns, but yuck.
  • Zac Stacy ran through our defense like a hot knife through butter. (He looks really good.) 1 Bottled up he was not.
  • The Seahawks did not come close to my margin of victory (24 points) 1 They could have even lost!

Somewhere in between.

  • The punting game wasn't significantly better, but the Rams had long fields all day. 6 The Hawks had the better punting game, just not significantly.

This week's average: 4.143

Total Average: 5.056

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