I reckon that nine wins will be enough for a team to secure the NFC West. For the Seattle Seahawks, that means that at 4-2-1, they will need to go 5-4 the rest of the way. (As long as they avoid ties and whatnot.) Looking at the schedule, there are plenty of tough games left, including against the Patriots, Eagles, Panthers, Packers, Rams, and Cardinals. Their best opportunities to win, I believe, will come against the Bucs and 49ers.
So if they get two wins against those teams, and let’s say wins over the Panthers and Rams, then they’ll need one more win to ensure at least 9-6-1. That’s why beating the Buffalo Bills on Monday night would go a long way towards taking pressure off of a potential 4-3-1 start to the first half of the season. And obviously if they want to get the 12 wins it might take to get a bye week, there will be no margin for error if they lose to the Bills, a team in the middle of it’s own playoff chase at 4-4.
To find out more about what kind of Buffalo team Seattle will be playing on Monday, I sent five Qs over to Chris Trapasso of Buffalo Rumblings. He sent me back five As that corresponded to the Qs. I now present them to you for enjoyment and knowledge.
Q: This game will feature the AFC and NFC Defensive Players of the Month for October with Seattle's Cliff Avril and Buffalo's Lorenzo Alexander. What's the main catalyst behind Alexander's breakout season at age 33 and do you expect it to continue to the point of him leading the NFL in sacks by year's end?
A: Two catalysts, well, let's say 2.5 catalysts, or reasons, why Lorenzo Alexander is leading the NFL with nine sacks right now: Rex Ryan's scheme has afforded Alexander a few free-run-at-the-quarterback sacks. He's also had a few blatant coverage sacks. Also, Alexander legitimately has a non-stop motor. I will give him credit though, he at least has three quarterback takedowns in which he showcased some really impressive -- and, yes, surprising -- speed and bend off the edge against a few starting left and right tackles. I can't say I envision him finishing with 18 sacks, but I do think he'll get at least four or five more.
Q: Do you think that Rex Ryan and Greg Roman set out with the intention of making Tyrod Taylor "the next Russell Wilson" and has the strategy on offense made notable changes in the passing game since Roman was fired?
A: Given their very similar skill sets, I think that Rex and Roman could have viewed Wilson as the ideal "prototype" for Taylor. Since Roman was fired, the most glaring difference has been the prioritization of the short passing game. During the four-game win streak, Taylor was a master in the short passing game and it considerably boosted the Bills' offensive efficiency. Over that month, Taylor only hit on one downfield shot, and he wasn't throwing as many deep balls as he did in the first two games of 2016. Roman had become obsessed with the vertical passing game -- which wasn't crazy, seeing as though Taylor was one of the NFL's best shot-play QBs in 2015 -- but the routes were simply taking too long to develop and defenses were ready for them. In the last two games -- both losses -- the vertical element has become more prevalent, and although Taylor connected with Marquise Goodwin for a long TD against in Week 7 and drew two defensive-back penalties on shot plays down the field in Week 8, overall, Buffalo's offensive efficiency waned. I imagine the Bills will look to get back to emphasizing the short passing game against a team like Seattle that prides itself on not giving up the big play.
Q: I actually have more confidence in the Seahawks' run defense than I do their pass defense at this point, but the Bills rush offense is first in the NFL in yards per carry. It should be a fascinating matchup against LeSean McCoy, Taylor, and Mike Gillislee. But does Seattle have a single Buffalo receiver or tight end that they need to worry about? How do the Bills attack the Seahawks through the air successfully?
A: I agree. Seattle's run defense against Buffalo's ground game will be fascinating, especially if LeSean McCoy plays. To answer your question bluntly -- no. Unless you want to count Percy Harvin. Charles Clay is kinda/sorta a mismatch at tight end, but he, for some reason, hasn't been a foundational part of Buffalo's passing game this year. Or last year, for that matter.
Q: How would you rank Buffalo's cornerbacks? That seems like a very interesting situation with all three having some significant advantages and I have no idea which of those guys is now the best.
A: Right now, Ronald Darby is the Bills' best cornerback. He's smaller, but he’s a super athlete and typically is aggressive playing the ball in the air. Stephon Gilmore suddenly isn’t a bum, but he's had awareness issues and has the reputation of being a grabby cornerback, so he is penalized relatively often. Nickell Robey-Coleman is probably one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the league because of his twitchiness and ball skills. Kevon Seymour is an intriguing rookie but hasn't shown much in the regular season in limited action after making some plays in training camp and the preseason.
Q: It can be difficult (we know) to evaluate an offensive line's ability to protect the QB when he's a scrambler, or mobile. The QB may just like to move around a lot and then a "pressure" could be coming sooner than it would for most QBs simply because the QB is comfortable moving around, or he gets antsy. I think Wilson often bails too quickly because in the past (not so much this year) his speed and mobility was perhaps working against his proficiencies as a passer. So how good is Buffalo's offensive line at pass protection? Which lineman do you feel the least comfortable about?
A: You and I are certainly in the same boat regarding offensive line evaluation given the exemplary mobility of Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo has a pretty good pass-protecting offensive line. At times it's great. Other times it dips close to average. I re-watch each Bills game and grade each player PFF-ish style and right tackle Jordan Mills is my lowest-graded lineman thus far. He's big and has a mean streak but struggles when he deals with a rusher with refined hand use. He won't get pushed back by many bull rushes but is susceptible to counter moves. Cameron Wake had a day against him two weeks ago. Veteran center Eric Wood has struggled anchoring the past two weeks. Left tackle Cordy Glenn is reliable. Richie Incognito hasn't been as dominant as he was last year but is still a Top 10 offensive guard in my mind. Second-year right guard John Miller has taken a big step after a poor rookie campaign. He's currently my highest-graded Bills' offensive lineman.