It’s Black Friday, and for the Seattle Seahawks that means a few more days until their Week 12 game against the Washington Football Team. The two teams will take the field in a Monday Night Football showdown that sees both teams enter the game with faint playoff hopes that could be all but extinguished with a loss.
As of Friday morning the DraftKings Sportsbook has the Football Team as slight favorites over the Seahawks, who are listed as one point underdogs while the market appears to anticipate a defensive battle, with the Over/Under currently at just 46.5.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
In any case, as Field Gulls does each week, five questions were sent to Andrew York of Hogs Haven who provided the following answers in advance of the game Monday. So, without wasting any further time, here are his responses to those questions.
1) The defense for the Washington Football Team was top five in points allowed during the 2020 season, but is bottom five so far this season. What’s led to such a drastic change?
At this point, I think the biggest change is where we are in the season. The team may have finished top 5 in points allowed last year, but here are the points we allowed in our first few weeks: 17 to the Eagles (with an imploding Carson Wentz), 30 to the Cardinals, 34 to the Browns, 31 to the Ravens, 30 to the Rams. It wasn’t until around week 7 or so (when we held the Andy Dalton-led Cowboys to 3 points) that the defense really seemed to gel. Something similar seems to be happening this year. The defense has been terrible for the first few weeks of the season, but has really started to solidify in the last few weeks, holding the Packers to 24 points, the Broncos to 17 points, the Bucs to 19 points, and the Panthers to 21 points (as opposed to allowing 30+ points to 5 of our first 6 opponents earlier in the season).
I think this coaching staff and this group of players just seem to take a long time to gel (longer than they should). Most of the problems earlier in the season were problems with communication, understanding/passing off assignments, and busted coverages. Those are basic things that teams should have ironed out once the season starts, but now they seem to have been mostly ironed out. There were some changes in personnel in the secondary between seasons, but no more than most teams have in an offseason. The defensive line was never the problem, but the secondary was allowing quick passes for easy completions that negated our pass rush.
2) Who is a player on each side of the ball that Seahawks fans may not be familiar with who could have an impact on the outcome Monday?
On defense, you should know about safety Kam Curl (number 31). He was a 7th round pick in the 2020 draft, but was forced into a starting role due to injury. He has shined since then, flying to the ball with great instincts and making sound tackles to prevent 1st downs. He’s got a 70.8 PFF grade on the season and made a critical tackle that forced a turnover on downs last week.
On offense, you should know about LT Charles Leno Jr (number 72). He was released by the Bears this past offseason as a cap casualty, but quickly signed by Washington and has flourished under OL coach John Matsko. He currently has a 77.5 PFF rating and you can see highlights of his protections here. He was only signed as a 1-year stopgap, but I expect he’ll be extended this offseason.
3) J.D. McKissic was a fan favorite who didn’t get the opportunity that a lot of fans hoped to see him have during his time in Seattle, but who has seen the field a lot more for the Detroit Lions and WFT since leaving the Seahawks. How is he looked at by Washington fans? Is he a favorite they’d like to see more of? Or is he one of those guys fans would tend to like to see less of in favor of other guys on the roster?
Washington fans see him as an excellent complementary back, but not a workhorse able to handle all 3 downs for a full game. He reminds us a lot of our former RB Chris Thompson in that respect. He is a great pass catcher and is explosive and has great change-of-direction ability, so he’s great on runs to the edge, but he’s only 194 lbs and nobody is expecting him to take many runs up the middle or push a pile. I think he’s perfectly used right now as a 3rd down/change-of-pace RB who can be trusted to do his job and breaks quite a few explosive plays when we need them, like this game-winning play against the Falcons.
4) Washington enters Week 12 two games under .500, but just a game out of the Wild Card race and on a two game win streak following the bye week. Is there anything specific that changed during the bye, or has the change simply been a product of the “Any Given Sunday” nature of the NFL?
The team has definitely been playing better since the bye on both sides of the ball. As mentioned before, I think the defense took a while to gel, but is finally doing so. However, the defense was starting to improve before the bye, but the offense fell apart after the first few weeks. The difference now is that the offense is also starting to click largely due to improved play from QB Taylor Heinicke, so the team as a whole is playing complementary football. The improvement in the secondary is keeping gamescripts manageable, so Heinicke doesn’t feel the pressure to play hero ball and throw risky passes to keep us in the game. Likewise, Heinick being able to play a more efficient game is allowing the offense to maintain time of possession and keep the defense rested. I also think there has been an intangible quality that the team seems to be playing less selfishly and maintaining their assignments better. I had the impression that many of the blown plays before were due to players abandoning their assignments to get stats for themselves, but they have been playing more disciplined since the bye week.
5) What’s your prediction for the outcome on Monday night?
I think Washington wins a hard-fought game, maybe something like 27 - 23. I’m always nervous to predict a Washington victory because this team has an ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but I think we’ve had a real trend of improved play the last couple of weeks. I think the key to victory for Washington will be limiting big plays to WRs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Big plays were the glaring weakness of our defense early in the season, but one of the biggest areas we’ve improved in the last few weeks.
Now all that’s left for Seattle fans is to wait out both Black Friday and Cyber Monday until game time late Monday.