The Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders wrapped up their preseason schedule against one another with the Seahawks winning 23-21 in the mop-up game. (This was less than three weeks ago and I have absolutely no memory of Ryan Robinson having a 42-yard interception return for TD or Troymaine Pope.) (FYI: Pope has not even played for the New York Jets yet.)
Since then, the teams have gone in opposite directions.
While Seattle scored three times in that game with their backups against the Raiders’ backups, the Seahawks have scored just once when they managed a touchdown to Doug Baldwin with less than a minute left in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, Oakland has scored eight times. The Raiders, a team that was 31st in scoring and 32nd in total yards just two seasons ago in Derek Carr’s rookie season, are now 3rd in scoring and 1st in total yards.
Think about that. Carr is now in his third season, they replaced Darren McFadden with Latavius Murray, Denarius Moore with Amari Cooper, James Jones with Michael Crabtree, added Kelechi Osemele to the offensive line, and suddenly they’ve gone from being ... well, the Raiders ... to the New Orleans Saints. But somewhat shockingly, it’s the defense that’s letting them down.
Oakland, with Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith, Sean Smith, Jihad Ward, Reggie Nelson, etc., are 31st in points allowed and 32nd in total defense. It’s not a good start for Ken Norton’s crew while Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave can brag that they’re going above and beyond on offense.
As you know by now, Seattle is having the opposite problem.
Through two games, the Seahawks are 31st in scoring and 26th in total offense. Only the LA Rams, their Week 2 opponent, have scored less (the 9 they scored against Seattle). But the Seahawks are also buoyed by a unit that’s doing exceptionally well; Seattle is first in total defense and first in points allowed, having surrendered just one touchdown and 19 points through two games. The pessimist could argue that the Seahawks have only had to face Ryan Tannehill and Case Keenum, but there are plenty of counterpoints.
Like that Tannehill threw for 389 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 2 against the New England Patriots; his performance against Seattle was much, much worse. Or that they contained Todd Gurley with no issues and might have the best run defense in the NFL. The Seahawks are currently second in yards per carry allowed and seventh in net yards per pass attempt allowed.
Offensively, the injuries to C.J. Prosise, Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, and Germain Ifedi have put a hitch in Pete Carroll’s plan, while they slowly ease Jimmy Graham back into the gameplan as well. These aren’t issues that anyone can guarantee will improve, but it seems likely that they will. I think it’s a totally fair argument to say that it’s easier to get better on offense as the season goes on than it is to get better on defense.
Right now, the Seahawks don’t seem to be as complete of a team as the Arizona Cardinals, but I also don’t think there’s a 2-0 team in the NFC (Eagles, Giants, Vikings) that’s better than them.
I just find it interesting that Seattle and Oakland are almost polar opposites of each other in terms of how unbalanced (or you could say “balanced”) they are through two games. The great offense/terrible defense and the great defense/terrible offense. I think both of the “terrible” units are somewhat surprising, and should improve, but will they continue to balance themselves out by getting slightly worse on the other sides? And then again, maybe the great units are so great that these two teams meet again this season.
Though the Raiders would rather forget how it worked the last time they made the Super Bowl with the number one offense vs the number one defense.