When the Seattle Seahawks traded Russell Wilson, it was widely expected that the 2022 team would be awful. DraftKings Sportsbook had placed the over/under on wins for the season at 5.5, which Seattle exceeded by early November. Now the Seahawks sit at 7-7 and on the cusp of collapsing out of the postseason after such a bright 6-3 start.
Don’t get me wrong here! Seattle has provided a lot of thrills and reasonable optimism moving forward. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett continue to be one of the better WR duos in the NFL, Kenneth Walker III has been a sensation when the offensive line actually creates holes for him, rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas have done quite well as Day 1 starters, Tariq Woolen has been one of the best man coverage corners in the NFL already, and Geno Smith has put up genuinely quality numbers a whopping eight years removed from his last season as a full-time starter.
And yet something about this 7-7 record feels a bit... inflated.
The premise that the Seahawks would have a terrible win-loss record was primarily based off of two things:
1.) The quality of the roster or lack thereof, particularly at quarterback.
2.) Playing a schedule consisting of ten games against the heavily hyped AFC West and the vaunted NFC West, which in 2021 qualified three teams to the playoffs and featured a Super Bowl champion. Vegas certainly expected the worst of both worlds.
We will soon get lines for every game to do this in a more granular way, but the win totals and prices alone are already enough to compute how good each team is supposed to be (favored by how many points against an average team on a neutral field) according to the betting market pic.twitter.com/ARaLWh4D3W— Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo) May 11, 2022
I think it goes without saying that Geno’s play and the ability to get valuable snaps out of several rookies has helped raise the ceiling of this team. But the schedule that was supposed to be so difficult to maneuver? Yeah that never materialized.
The Kansas City Chiefs have maintained their usual excellent standards, but they may very well be the only team to get into the postseason out of the AFC West. The Los Angeles Chargers do control their own destiny at 8-6, but the Las Vegas Raiders need several miracles and the Denver Broncos are already out.
As for the NFC West? The 49ers are 10-4 and look like a Super Bowl contender, but the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams are both 4-10.
Then there’s the NFC South, which was never going to be any good but at least a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers team would be formidable, right? Nope. And the Seahawks got swept by a quartet that is 8-26 against teams outside their division.
Using the simplistic approach of ranking by win percentage, the Seahawks have played the third weakest set of opponents of any team in the NFL. Only the Raiders and 49ers have had an easier schedule, and funnily enough three of the 49ers’ four losses have come against sub-.500 teams.
If you go by Football Outsiders’ DVOA efficiency metrics, Seattle’s past schedule (up until last week’s 49ers game) ranks 29th. A whopping 10 of the Seahawks’ 14 opponents are currently in the bottom half of the league in weighted DVOA, a metric which lessens the importance of early season performances. The current Team Tiers on RBSDM.com shows you how many Seahawks opponents fall in either quadrant 2 or 3 (good defense but bad offense, or bad offense and bad defense) by EPA/play.
At the moment this is the lowest ranked schedule by DVOA the Seahawks have played since 2010, which is self-explanatory considering they played six games against their historically bad NFC West foes, none of whom ranked higher than 25th in DVOA. Five of Seattle’s seven regular season wins came against either their divisional rivals or the Carolina Panthers, who finished with the league’s worst record at 2-14.
For perspective, six of the Seahawks’ seven wins in 2022 are against foes whose DVOA ranking is no better than 20th (Denver). Their other win was against the 9th (!!) ranked Detroit Lions, who didn’t have Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark, D’Andre Swift, or Jonah Jackson and still put up 45 points.
DVOA does account for strength of opponent, so that the Seahawks still rank 11th indicates that they are to be respected. But with a schedule this incredibly easy this also underscores that if the Seahawks were truly ready to be a playoff team again, they wouldn’t have gone 0-4 against the NFC South or allowed the Raiders to score their season high in points and put up almost 600 yards of offense. The harsh reality is that they’re still pretty damn far away from real contention, which is okay! But two things can be true at once:
1.) The Seahawks have been far more entertaining and competent looking than many had anticipated, making this season more enjoyable than the tedium of 2021.
2.) With a large enough sample size, it’s clear that Seattle has benefited from the perfect storm of opposition mediocrity and ineptitude, such that even a moderately tougher schedule may have yielded the win-loss total that they were initially expected to have.