The New Orleans Saints came out of the tunnel in Week 5 as the 9th ranked defense by DVOA, and gave up 32 points to
a backup quarterback the Seattle Seahawks offense that’s blindsided the NFL.
Seattle should have won that game.
The point is not to cast blame on external forces that prevented the Seahawks in a game nearly three weeks ago, because while extremely relevant that game, the exercise accomplishes nothing,
The greater point is that to the surprise of every football watcher in America, this team is close enough to competitive that “should have won” is an actual conversation that can take place.
They’re close. Specific plays matter. Certain horrendous laughable penalties matter. The quarterback matters.
An interesting dive this week did reveal that your eyes may not have deceived you: Seattle really, truly is the most affected team by penalties in the entire NFL.
The Vikings have benefited more than any team from penalties in the first six weeks of the season. They've gained a net of nearly 3.0 expected points added per game! pic.twitter.com/90A5EY32K5— Anthony Reinhard (@reinhardNFL) October 19, 2022
Fault of the officials? Well, that’s not something you’d be able to prove from this. 35 penalties called against opponents puts the Seahawks right in the middle of the pack. 49 is second most committed, behind only the Denver Broncos. But that’s more because the team has played rookies every single snap at cornerback and both offensive tackles, plus a whole bunch more inexperienced players at other positions.
Yet consider this: the two most impactful plays in that Saints loss were not official penalties but the overturned/non-calls on DK Metcalf’s fumble and Chris Olave’s touchdown.
In other words, in a rebuild year where many sportsbooks had the team winning at most five games this season, Seattle is not only lightyears more interesting than we thought they had any right to be, they’re currently fighting an uphill battle.
The Seahawks now sit at 3-3 and tied for the NFC West lead. They’ve neither played clean football nor been helped by the officiating. Some of this has already been largely helped by Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant committing fewer penalties. Which was immediately compensated by Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas committing more. If they continue the defense that we saw against the Arizona Cardinals, the ability to be a balanced offense, and stop spotting teams almost three points per game, this is (shockingly) any team’s division.