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Next four weeks are a huge opportunity for Seahawks defense to show it’s turned a corner

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks may very well have to beat the Los Angeles Rams in order to win the NFC West, but before their Week 16 rematch at home, they get the benefit of playing three NFC East teams and the New York Jets.

I’m less concerned about Russ cooking than I am about the defense. In fact I’d rather these games be so easy that Wilson doesn’t have to do so much cooking and they can even let Geno Smith fiddle with the oven in garbage time. If the Seahawks have seemingly turned a corner based on their performances against the Arizona Cardinals and the 2nd half of the Rams game, they need to show it against actual bad offenses.

Right now the Seahawks are 23rd in defensive DVOA but the rest of their overall schedule ranks 31st. Here’s a gander at the offensive DVOA rankings of their next four opponents:

Philadelphia Eagles - 30th
New York Giants - 24th
New York Jets - 31st
Washington Football Team - 28th

Bad bad bad bad. And if we isolate it to pass defense, where the Seahawks’ weakness is most pronounced, none of those four teams ranks higher than 26th. All of the teams I’ve mentioned rank in the bottom ten in points scored. The New York Jets have scored 55 over the past two weeks and are still last in scoring by 42 points.

Carson Wentz is literally the most sacked quarterback in the league, while Daniel Jones is 4th. Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco have been sacked a combined 26 times, which would otherwise rank in the top-10 for a single player. Alex Smith’s comeback story has been equal parts inspiring and horrifying, but his ANY/A is 5.00. Dwayne Haskins got benched with 4.92 ANY/A. Smith’s intended air yards per pass attempt is lower than Drew Brees. Smith’s completion percentage is high but he’s barely trying to push the ball down the field... which frankly describes a lot of pre-leg break Alex Smith’s career.

I think it’s fair to say that the Seahawks defense is just not going to be elite this year. As long as the offense remains elite, I think even league-average performance from the defense is enough to make the Seahawks serious Super Bowl contenders. That means they should be able to drop the hammer on the objectively awful offenses.

Shaquill Griffin is returning next week. Carlos Dunlap has been outstanding in just three weeks of playing time. DJ Reed has been a hidden gem. Darrell Taylor is soon to make his team debut. Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright remain one of the best linebacker duos in the league, and Jordyn Brooks has shown promise as part of the next-gen defense.

We’ve given this unit a hard time for almost two full seasons. It’s been thoroughly deserved both for players and coaches. But they’ve genuinely looked better for six quarters now against two potential playoff teams. Starting this Monday, the chance to feast on the league’s least threatening offenses has to be taken. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have completely relaxing 4th quarters for a change.