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Seahawks gearing up for gauntlet after playing NFL’s easiest strength of schedule by DVOA

Next up: The No. 1 ranked Baltimore Ravens.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks have raced out to a 5-2 start and the NFC West lead as we near the midway point of the 2023 NFL regular season. Within the context of the injuries along the offensive line and the generally inconsistent play of the offense (and the usual slow start by the defense), I suspect most fans are satisfied with the win-loss record given pre-season expectations.

Well now it’s time to turn up the difficulty, because the Seahawks have played the absolute easiest schedule in the NFL based on opposition DVOA. (Why yes, DVOA still exists and you should check out FTN Fantasy for that!)

What’s to come for the rest of the season? The third-hardest schedule by DVOA, starting with the current No. 1 overall Baltimore Ravens.

Via Aaron Schatz:

Seattle has faced only one top-10 team by DVOA this season (Detroit Lions) and played three of the five worst teams (Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, and New York Giants). The Cincinnati Bengals were in the 20’s at the time they played the Seahawks, but have now risen to 13th after thumping the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile the Los Angeles Rams have fallen heavily and are now in the 20’s, and Seattle lost to them badly in Week 1. As for the Cleveland Browns, they were 11th entering last week and remain 11th today, one spot behind the Seahawks. We’re generally at the point of the year where there’s a large enough sample size to take DVOA more seriously, too.

With ten games to go, the Seahawks have half of their schedule against the current top-10:

at Baltimore Ravens (No. 1 by overall DVOA)

2x vs. San Francisco 49ers (No. 2)

vs. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 9)

at Dallas Cowboys (No. 8)

The “weaker” teams are the Tennessee Titans (No. 18), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 20), Los Angeles Rams (No. 21), Washington Commanders (No. 24), and the rematch with the Arizona Cardinals (No. 28).

Last season the Seahawks were pretty fortunate that what was initially a difficult schedule on paper turned out to be a big nothingburger. The Rams and Cardinals collapsed, the NFC South was entirely under .500, and the heavily hyped AFC West pretty much was a bust. Even the New York Giants, a playoff team, were much worse than their record and had a negative point differential. This season is not the same.

Now if I can point to some optimism for this year’s team: Seattle dropped a lot of games to bad teams in 2022, including the whole of the NFC South and the Las Vegas Raiders. So far, their only “bad” loss is to the Rams, and divisional games (especially against the Rams) tend to produce some crazy outcomes. If they can hold serve against the less daunting part of a difficult schedule—keep in mind the Titans could be revived if Will Levis’ debut is a sign of things to come, while the Commanders are probably packing it in after trading Montez Sweat and Chase Young—that should be enough to see Seattle through to another postseason.

But if the Seahawks want to be taken seriously as actual Super Bowl contenders? They have to be a lot more competitive and win at least one of these games against the 49ers, Cowboys, Eagles, and Ravens, because last year’s team wasn’t particularly close against the only two serious contenders they faced all season (49ers and Kansas City Chiefs).