The Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns will face off in a game featuring two of the most exciting defenses in the NFL so far this season. The Browns defense started the season on an absolute tear before cooling off some in the past couple of weeks, but has the team at 4-2 and is well positioned to compete for a playoff spot in the second half of the season. On the flip side, the Seahawks defense struggled early, but as players returned from injury and gained more reps and experience playing together, the on-field performance has improved greatly in recent weeks.
Joining Field Gulls to preview this Week 8 matchup is Chris Pokorny, Executive Editor of Dawgs by Nature, and there’s no point rambling on because readers are here to see what Chris has to say about the matchup.
1. Coming out of the bye the Browns knocked the 49ers off their unbeaten pedestal and then the Vikings followed suit this past week and handed the Niners a second loss. What have the wins in the last two weeks meant to the team, as well as fan confidence, in the wake of a rough loss to the division rival Ravens in Week 4?
The wins the past two weeks have been enormous, simply because of the record and what it means down the road for trying to secure a playoff spot in the AFC. I know it’s still early, but Cleveland escaped with wins the past two weeks in games that typically the opposition would have been able to put away. Now, they have some more margin for error to where they could lose a game against the Seahawks, for example, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The past two weeks haven’t done anything to provide assurance at the quarterback position. Defensively, the team had a really strong game against the 49ers, and then a polarizing one against the Colts last week — the defense was shredded by Indianapolis, but also generated four turnovers and a blocked field goal. The team does not lack confidence, but fans know that it’s tough to predict wins/losses when your most important position (quarterback) is your biggest uncertainty week in and week out.
2. The Browns have a lot of winnable games coming up, including against the Cardinals, Steelers and Broncos in the coming weeks. How optimistic are fans about the potential for the team to make the playoffs in a crowded AFC?
The optimism is there because our kicker, Dustin Hopkins, has been absolute money from long range (AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for two straight weeks), and our defense is ranked at the top of the NFL. Despite those strengths, the confidence remains pretty tame because of how bad our quarterback position is. How we have won the past two games with P.J. Walker mostly under center is pretty astounding. And although we look forward to when Deshaun Watson can get healthy again, fans really don’t like him. Over the past two seasons, Watson has done nothing to show he was worth the team’s big investment. Cleveland might get by against the likes of Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Denver, but at some point, our quarterback position will come back to bite us.
3. Myles Garrett has been an absolute terror for opposing quarterbacks so far this season, while the Seattle offensive line has struggled to protect Geno Smith in third and long and late game passing situations. Is Jim Schwartz doing something specific to allow Garrett to dominate so thoroughly? Or is it just Garrett being Garrett?
I don’t think Jim Schwartz is doing anything unique with Myles Garrett. I think we’re seeing a combination of Garrett continuing to improve, including how fast his get-off is at the snap. Sometimes, that will lead to him jumping offside, but you try to be OK with that due to the opportunity for generating a big play. I think the biggest help we’re seeing with the defense is that opposing teams can’t just throw double and triple teams at him without consequence any more. On the other side from Garrett are DE Za’Darius Smith and DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, two guys who can generate a sack on any given play if attention isn’t paid to them. When offenses have to account for them, you see more situations where Garrett can go one-on-one with his guy, something that seemed like a seldom occurrence in past seasons.
4. Seattle fans know all the big names on the Cleveland roster, but who is someone Seahawks fans may not know who could have an impact on the outcome of the game Sunday?
On defense, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has had some solid couple of weeks, especially when it comes to taking a chance at rushing the quarterback off of a playaction pass attempt. He’s also fast and good at dropping back in coverage. On offense, I will go with WR Elijah Moore. Moore is probably known enough by Seahawks fans, but the reason I bring him up is that it doesn’t seem to matter who is at quarterback: everyone ends up targeting him. We finally saw Moore catch a pass down the sideline last week for 30 yards, but besides that, Cleveland often feeds him the ball and hopes he can do damage after the catch. He has not been clutch in the forcing of missed tackles department. The team has, at times, utilized Moore as a running back, on swing passes, or screen passes, acting as a bit of a swiss army knife. Despite that utilization, we’re still waiting to see more high-impact plays from him, particularly with respect to generating yards after the catch.
5. As of writing, the Seahawks are favored by 3.5 on DraftKings Sportsbook and Vegas is expecting a low scoring game with the over/under currently at just 38. What is your prediction for the game, and should fans be betting the over or the under?
I am taking a pessimistic approach to this week’s game. Seattle has played pretty well on both sides of the ball, and Cleveland’s offense is a liability due to the quarterback position. The Browns had good moments over the past two weeks, but against the 49ers, they needed a missed field goal to hang on, and then last week against the Colts, the officials gave Cleveland new life with a questionable defensive holding penalty on fourth down. As for the over/under, it probably seems funny that the Browns scored 39 points last week, which in itself would hit the over. I’m not expecting that same level of production, but even a score like 23-17 will hit the over, so that is what I’ll go with.