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12 Thoughts as the Seahawks prepare for their Week 10 battle against the Commanders

A collection of FTR thoughts that weren’t turned into their own articles ...

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There are a few times each season when I’m glad that 12 Thoughts isn’t a weekly piece. This week was one of those times (for an obvious reason). And yet, here we are.

Let’s dive in.


Thought No. 1

On paper, the Seattle Seahawks are the better team this week.

We all know that NFL games aren’t played on paper though, and overlooking the Washington Commanders would be a mistake.

Aside from the massive playoff probability leverage that’s on the line, which JPG wrote about on Friday, there’s also the need to keep pace with our Santa Clara rivals atop the NFC West.

More importantly though, the Seahawks need all the momentum they can get heading into “the gauntlet” that was universally recognized the moment the schedule came out:

A loss against the Commanders would make that gauntlet much more daunting - at best, Seattle would be 6-4 heading into it; at worst, they’d be 5-5 . . .

Neither option is good.

7-3 sounds (and is) soooooo much better.


Thought No. 2

Speaking of 5-5 . . .

A few weeks ago, I said that the first game between the top teams in the NFC West “could feature the 8-2 Seahawks vs. the 5-5 Niners” . . .

Sadly, Seattle dropped their ball on the 8-2 part of that quasi-prediction.

The Niners could still do their part though.

Yes, the Whiners are favored (by 3) over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday - in large part because they’re expected to get WR Deebo Samuel and LT Trent Williams back after both missed multiple games during the team’s glorious 3-game losing streak.

I’m taking the Jaguars in this one though.

And not because the Jaguars beating the Niners would be good for the Seahawks - although that is most assuredly the case.

No, I’m taking the Jaguars for 2 simple reasons:

One. The AFC’s best teams are better than the NFC’s best teams this year. - More on this in Thought No. 5

Two. The Jaguars currently have the league’s longest active win streak (5 games) whereas the Niners have the 3rd-longest active losing streak.

Fun Fact: Three of the four longest active losing streaks belong to NFC West teams: the Santa Clara Whiners and Los Angeles Rams Lambs have each lost 3 straight games, and the Arizona Cardinals have lost 6 straight.

Were it not for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 4-game losing streak, which should have ended last week, it would be a clean sweep of the Current Loser Awards for our NFC West rivals.


Thought No. 3

Speaking of the Buccaneers . . .

Usually, when a team scores the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute to play, they go on to win the game.

Even more so when that go-ahead touchdown gives them a lead of more than 3 points.

And even more so more so (not a typo) when the opposing team is led by a rookie quarterback.

Apparently no one gave the Houston Texans that memo.

Last Sunday, the Buccaneers went to NRG Stadium to take on the Texans. Tampa Bay led 17-10 at the half, then added two field goals and a touchdown on their first four possessions of the second half.

That gave them 30 points.

Unfortunately (for them), Houston scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half.

Normally, that would put Houston’s total at 31 (10 + 7 + 7 + 7), but . . .

Houston’s kicker had suffered a quad injury in the second quarter which left him unavailable for extra points (or field goals - more on that in minute), so the Texans went for two on each of their second half touchdowns.

Somehow, some way, the game was knotted at 30 with roughly 12 minutes to play.

Houston took a 3-point lead with a field goal; Tampa Bay answered with a touchdown to take the aforementioned 4-point lead with less than a minute to play.

Enter C.J. Stroud, the league’s best rookie quarterback (R1.02), with rookie wide receiver Tank Dell (R3.69) in a supporting role.

Starting at the Texans’ 25-yard line with 46 seconds to play and only 1 timeout, Stroud marched his team methodically down the field:

  • 14-yard completion to TE Dalton Shultz
  • Another 6 yards to Schultz
  • Final timeout
  • 14-yard completion to WR Noah Brown
  • Spike to stop the clock
  • 26-yard completion to Tank Dell from the Tampa Bay 41
  • Stroud to Dell again with 6 seconds to play . . . TOUCHDOWN!

C.J. Stroud ended the day with an NFL rookie record-setting 470 passing yards and a rookie record-tying 5 touchdown passes.

Heckuva game!


Thought No. 4

Remember me saying that Houston’s kicker suffered a quad injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay?

That injury led to the Texans attempting 2-point conversions after each of their first three touchdowns in the second half - which I mentioned in Thought No. 3.

They went 1-for-3 on those attempts.

Somewhat more significantly, their kicker’s injury led to this . . .

In all my years, I had never seen a running back kick a field goal . . . until last Sunday.

I had, however, seen a non-kicker make a field goal . . .

Way back in 2004.

In a game against Bill Belichick and the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, undrafted WR/KR Wes Welker scored the game’s final points by kicking a 29-yard field in the third quarter.

Fun Fact: Bill Belichick would later trade for Welker, in part, because of that kick.

Funner Fact: Wes Welker scored 51 touchdowns over his 12-year career (50 as a receiver, 1 as a returner), but his first points came as a kicker.

Funnest Fact: Welker retired with a perfect record as a kicker: 1-for-1 on field goals, and 2-for-2 on extra points.

Time will tell if Dare Ogunbowale ends his career with a perfect record as a kicker, like Wes Welker did. My guess is yes, because how many more opportunities will Ogunbowale realistically get?

Houston’s kicking situation wasn’t without controversy though . . .

I’ve mentioned a couple times now that Houston attempted 2-point conversions after each of the touchdowns they scored after losing their kicker.

That included a 2-point “attempt” on their final touchdown - and, yes, “attempt” is in quotes for a reason.

Leading by 2, the Texans opted to take a knee on their 2-point try.

Given that the betting line was 2-1/2 points at kickoff, there was naturally a firestorm on social media with a lot of folks saying, “the fix was in”.

But . . .

Houston taking a knee there was the smartest thing they could do under the circumstances.

Yes, one of their running backs had made a field goal from a similar distance earlier in the game so kicking an extra point and making it a 3-point game (and thus covering the line for a lot of bettors) was an option.

And yes, actually running a play was an option - and would have doused the social media firestorm before it started, whether Houston was successful or not.

Here’s the thing though, doing anything other than taking a knee would have given Tampa Bay an opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Had Houston tried to kick an extra point, Tampa Bay could have blocked it and taken it to the house (aka the end zone) for 2 points.

Similarly, had Houston run a play and turned the ball over, Tampa Bay could have scored 2 points by taking it to the house.

How likely was that?

That exact scenario almost happened on the Texans’ first touchdown of the second half with Stroud throwing an interception on the 2-point attempt but Tampa Bay failing to score.

Why take the chance with the lead in hand and only a few seconds left on the clock?


Thought No. 5

In Thought No. 2, I said that the AFC’s best teams are better than the NFC’s best teams this year.

Want proof?

The top 7 contenders in the NFC vs. the top 8 contenders in the AFC:

Currently, the AFC’s top 8 teams are the Kansas City Chiefs (7-2), Baltimore Ravens (7-2), Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2), Miami Dolphins (6-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3), Cleveland Browns (5-3), Cincinnati Bengals (5-3), and Buffalo Bills (5-4)

On the NFC side, the top 7 teams are the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1), Detroit Lions (6-2), San Francisco 49ers (5-3), Seattle Seahawks (5-3), Dallas Cowboys (5-3), New Orleans Saints (5-4), and Minnesota Vikings (5-4)

Note: The fields are uneven (7 vs. 8) because I refuse to consider a team that isn’t above .500 as a “top” team - even if a team with a losing record can win a division and host a wildcard game. (Beast Quake!)

  • Philadelphia: Philly beat the Dolphins in Week 7. They face the Chiefs in Week 11 and the Bills in Week 12.

  • Detroit: The Lions beat the Chiefs (by 1) in the first game of the season and got shelled (38-6) by the Ravens in Week 7. Detroit doesn’t face another top AFC team this season (unless they make it to the Super Bowl).

  • San Francisco: Santa Clara’s finest beat the Steelers (30-7) in Week 1. The Whiners lost to the Browns (19-17) in Week 6 and the Bengals (31-17) in Week 8. They face the Jaguars this week and the Ravens in Week 16.

  • Seattle: The Seahawks lost to the Bengals in Week 6 (grr!), beat the Browns in Week 8 (yay!), and got pummeled by the Ravens last week (sigh!). Seattle faces the Steelers in Week 17.

  • Dallas: The Cowboys haven’t faced any of the AFC’s top teams yet, but they face the Bills and the Dolphins in back-to-back road games in Weeks 15 & 16.

  • New Orleans: The Saints lost to the Jaguars, 31-24, on Thursday Night Football in Week 7 in what was and is their only game this season versus a top AFC team.

  • Minnesota: The Vikings lost to the Chiefs in Week 5. They play the Bengals (on the road) in Week 15. Best case, they finish the season 1-1 versus the AFC’s top teams; worst case, they finish 0-2.

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Let’s add all of that up:

  • NFC Wins: 4
  • NFC Losses: 7
  • Games remaining: 8

Obviously, the best case (from the NFC’s perspective) is a 12-7 record versus the AFC’s top teams come season’s end.

Worst case, again from the NFC’s perspective, is an AFC sweep of the remaining games and a rather embarrassing 4-15 imbalance.

From Seattle’s perspective, the Chiefs and Bills could do us a solid by beating the Eagles in Weeks 11 and 12, but the BIG games between the AFC and NFC’s top teams are:

  • This week’s tilt between the 49ers and Jaguars (Go Jacksonville!)
  • Baltimore’s visit to the Bay Area in Week 16 (Go Ravens!)
  • Our game versus the Stealers (obviously!)

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I feel like I’m getting ahead of myself here so let’s circle back to Sunday’s game against the Commanders . . .


Thought No. 6

Raise your hand if you know which quarterback currently has the 2nd-most passing yards this season.

Tua Tagovailoa is No. 1 with 2,609 yards.

No. 3 is Patrick Mahomes with 2,442; No. 4 is Josh Allen with 2,423; and No. 5 is Jalen Hurts with 2,347.

Note: Kirk Cousins had 2,331 passing yards when he went down with a season-ending injury in Week 8.

Who could be No. 2 though?

Spoiler: I gave you the answer with the last line in Thought No. 5.

Through the first nine games of the 2023 season, the Washington Commanders’ 2nd-year quarterback has the 2nd-most passing yards in the league.

As a reminder, Sam Howell was selected in the 5th round of the 2022 NFL Draft, at No. 144 overall.

That means Seattle passed on him five times and while I’m not saying that the Seahawks should have taken a quarterback in last year’s draft, I am saying that if Washington were to offer us Howell for Coby Bryant (our pick at No. 109 last year), I would hope that John Schneider would say, “Yes.”

More to the point though . . .

Don’t sleep on Washington’s passing attack this Sunday.


Thought No. 7

Want another “fun” Sam Howell stat that potentially works against the Seahawks earning a victory this weekend?

Through nine games, Howell has thrown 14 touchdown passes.

That might not sound like a lot.

But . . .

(A) It’s 13 more than Howell had in his rookie season: 1 game, 1 start, 1 TD (and 1 INT).

(B) Fourteen TDs through nine games puts Howell on pace for 26 or 27 TDs for the season (technically, 26.44) - which ain’t bad. By comparison, Geno Smith had 30 passing touchdowns last season.

(C) Tua Tagovailoa leads the NFL with 19 TDs. Kirk Cousins and Josh Allen are tied for 2nd with 18. Patrick Mahomes (17), Russell Wilson (16), and Jalen Hurts (15) hold the next three spots, which gives Sam Howell the 7th-most touchdown passes in the league (tied with C.J. Stroud).

Note: Geno Smith (9) is tied for 20th with Lamar Jackson and Trevor Lawrence.


Thought No. 8

In the interest of fairness, and because I’m definitely rooting for Seattle this week (and EVERY week), I feel like I should mention the one Sam Howell stat that the Seahawks should be able to leverage (repeatedly) on Sunday . . .

Forty-four

That is the number of times Washington’s QB1 has been sacked this season.

Howell’s 44 sacks are a baker’s dozen more than Zach Wilson, who sits at No. 2 on the list with 31.

Daniel Jones is No. 3 with 30.

Interestingly, Sam Howell is No. 2 when it comes to sacks per game since Daniel Jones has only appeared in 6 games whereas Howell has appeared in 9 games . . .

  • 30 divided by 6 = 5.0
  • 44 divided by 9 = 4.9

I won’t go so far as to predict that Seattle’s defense will tally 12 sacks on Sunday to break the record that they tied earlier this season . . .

But I won’t be surprised if that’s what happens.


Thought No. 9

For what it’s worth, Howell’s best game - this year, and for his career - came against the NFC’s best team two weeks ago.

Washington lost by 7 to Philly, but it wasn’t because of Howell.

Here’s his stat line from that game:

  • 39 of 52 (75%) <-- career high in all 3 categories
  • 397 passing yards <-- career high
  • 4 touchdowns <-- career high
  • 1 interception
  • Passer rating of 114.0 <-- second-best mark of his career (best was 119.7 in Week 6)

Thought No. 10

Anyone who’s squeamish should skip ahead to Thought No. 11 because this next bit is truly stomach-turning.

Last warning!

According to “Coach Yac”, a self-described Niners fan who used to contribute to “Fourth and Nine”, ESPN Analytics has a very pro-49ers view on the rest of the season . . .

How pro-49ers?

For those that don’t want to click on the tweet X and/or don’t understand what they’re looking at if/when they do . . .

ESPN Analytics’ predictive models have the 49ers following up their 3-game losing streak with a 9-game winning streak that would leave them with a 14-3 record at season’s end (and quite likely give them the NFC’s top seed).

Blech!

Per ESPN Analytics, Santa Clara’s closest games will be at Philadelphia (50.3% chance of winning) and vs. the Ravens (52.2%).

Their 3rd-hardest game is this weekend’s contest versus the Jaguars (56.2%)

The Week 12 matchup with the Seahawks at Lumen Field has the distinction of being the 49ers 4th-hardest remaining game, but ESPN Analytics gives them a 68% chance of winning it.

The Week 14 rematch in Santa Clara has a 70.4% chance of ending in the 49ers’ favor.

The rest of their games are even easier (per ESPN Analytics):

  • Week 11: 78.9% chance of beating the Buccaneers (in Santa Clara)
  • Week 15: 78.4% versus the Cardinals (at State Farm Stadium)
  • Week 17: 74.4% in Washington vs. the Commanders
  • Week 18: 70.9% at home versus the Rams

As I said before, BLECH!

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Let’s bring it back to Sunday’s game between Washington and Seattle for the last two thoughts . . .


Thought No. 11

Geno Smith has thrown seven interceptions this season, including at least one in each of the last four games.

Hopefully that terrible streak ends this week.

Toward that end, avoiding third-year CB Benjamin St-Juste might be a good idea.

Or not.

That tweet X sort of makes St-Juste sound better than he is.

I’m not saying he isn’t good (I actually wanted Seattle to draft him in the 2021 NFL Draft) . . .

But . . .

Per PFF, he’s the 41st-best cornerback at this point in the season, among CBs with at least 100 defensive snaps, with an overall score of 69.3 and a coverage grade of 65.5.

Note: I sort of feel like using PFF is a prerequisite for this one since the social media post originated from PFF.

Per PFF’s grading scale, 60 is “average” and 70 is “above-average”, so, again, St-Juste isn’t “bad”, he just isn’t as good as the social media post makes him look.

Here are St-Juste’s season stats (per PFF):

  • 607 defensive snaps, including 373 coverage snaps across 9 games
  • 58 targets with 39 completions (67.2%)
  • Target rate of 15.5%
  • 489 receiving yards allowed (12.5 per reception)
  • 161 yards after the catch
  • 2 TDs allowed
  • 1 interception and 9 pass breakups (PBUs)
  • 5 penalties (2 declined)
  • Passer rating allowed of 97.6

I have a few thoughts about those numbers but what jumps off the page is that 607 defensive snaps through 9 games is INSANE. St-Juste’s lowest number of snaps was 62 in Week 1, and his high was 81 in Week 6.

Note: St-Juste has almost as many coverage snaps (373) as Riq Woolen has defensive snaps (426).

Here’s the other thing that stands out to me about St-Juste’s numbers - or, rather, how they compare to the combined numbers for Devon Witherspoon and Riq Woolen.

  • 918 defensive snaps, including 554 coverage snaps across 14 games (7 each)
  • 73 targets with 41 completions (56.2%)
  • Target rate of 13.2%
  • 389 receiving yards allowed (9.5 per reception)
  • 120 yards after the catch
  • 4 TDs allowed
  • 2 interceptions and 9 PBUs
  • 7 penalties (1 declined)
  • Passer rating allowed of 77.9

Note: Through 8 games, Riq has allowed a passer rating against of 102.3 while ‘Spoon is at 56.7 which ranks 12th overall among CBs with at least 100 snaps.

For grins, here’s the combined numbers for ‘Spoon and Tre Brown:

  • 780 defensive snaps, including 478 coverage snaps across 14 games (7 each)
  • 60 targets with 30 completions (50%)
  • Target rate of 12.6%
  • 363 receiving yards allowed (12.1 per reception)
  • 2 TDs allowed
  • 3 interceptions and 10 PBUs
  • 8 penalties (1 declined)
  • Passer rating allowed of 59.24

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Bottom Line: Geno Smith may want to avoid Benjamin St-Juste, but Sam Howell should probably consider avoiding ALL of Seattle’s cornerbacks.


Thought No. 12

Earlier this week, I wrote about ESPN’s Bill Barnwell naming Devon Witherspoon as his midseason ‘Defensive Rookie of the Year’.

I also wrote about Devon Witherspoon and Anthony Bradford earning spots on The Athletics’ midseason All-Rookie team.

In the Comments section of one of those articles (maybe both of those articles), someone asked where the love was for our rookie (UDFA) long snapper . . .

The answer is PFF.

On Tuesday, PFF published their 2023 NFL Midseason All-Pro Team and the only Seahawk that made the team was . . .

CHRIS STOLL

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Go Hawks!