When the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders take to the field Sunday afternoon, it will be the first chance for the Hawks to show what they can do after taking an absolute drubbing against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. The loss to the Ravens was a game that saw Seattle dominated in every facet, and the scoreboard accurately reflected that reality.
By the time the game kicks off, Seattle could be back in first place in the NFC West, as the San Francisco 49ers have a tough matchup on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the early slot. However, that’s getting ahead of things, because the most important item on the list for the Seahawks is defeating the Commanders when they come visit Lumen, and that is exactly is predicted in this week’s edition of five questions with Kyle Smith of Hogs Haven.
1. Where is fan sentiment regarding the team and its future after what was effectively a fire sale of talent out of the defensive front at the trade deadline? Are fans still hoping for a shot at the playoffs in a weak NFC in 2023, or are they ready to pack it in, draft a potential impact player in April and build for 2024?
While many outside observers thought the trading of Montez Sweat and Chase Young looked like a “fire sale,” most savvy Washington fans saw it as something else: the team re-couping value on two players who were set to become very high priced free agents this offseason while they could still get something for them. Sweat has already signed a massive contract with the Bears at a number Washington was unlikely to match. I think most Washington fans are probably also pretty realistic about the team’s chances to make the playoffs this year, which are fairly low. Lose to the Seahawks and the odds drop precipitously.
At this point, many Washington fans are focused on the sweeping front office and coaching changes that are likely to come this offseason. The draft talk still hasn’t begun in earnest yet.
2. Most Seattle fans were ecstatic when Cody Barton left in free agency, and from the looks of fan reactions on social media, it appears that many Commanders fans will be ecstatic when he leaves in the offseason. He’s obviously currently on injured reserve, but how has Barton performed for Washington and what do fans make of his on field performance in 2023?
He’s been wretched. When he first came over, I tried to convince myself he might be an equivalent replacement to Cole Holcomb, who Washington lost to the Steelers. He wasn’t, by a longshot. By Week 2, I was calling for his replacement by Khaleke Hudson. As has so often been the case through the Ron Rivera/Jack Del Rio tenure, the defense seems to be improved by key injuries to overestimated players. Barton continues that dubious record.
3. Seattle fans are familiar with the big names on the Washington roster, but who is a lesser known player on either side of the ball who could have an impact on the outcome of the game Sunday?
On the offense, I’m going to assume that most Seahawks fans know Jahan Dotson, Washington’s second year WR who made a splash as a rookie, and seems to be getting into his comfort zone this year. One player who looks like he could be in line for a larger role in the offense is receiver Byron Pringle, who played previously with the Bears and Chiefs. Pringle has gotten additional playing time as a result of Curtis Samuel’s recent injuries and redeemed himself well against the Patriots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play a key role in the game against the Seahawks this week.
On the defensive side of the ball, let’s go with rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes. Early in the season, Forbes had some serious growing pains going up against AJ Brown and DJ Moore (and others). He was roasted, repeatedly. He rode the bench for a week or two as a result, and came out and looked great against New England last week. Admittedly, the Patriots have a beleaguered WR corps, but Forbes seemed to be playing in a more controlled manner than he had been previously. The Seahawks receivers will present another challenge for this young defensive back.
4. This is Ron Rivera’s fourth season as head coach of the team. They snuck into the playoffs as the division winner in 2020, but have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and are currently under .500. How hot is Ron Rivera’s seat? And how bad would things have to get for the team to decide to move on after the season?
Ron Rivera’s seat couldn’t be much hotter. For most of the season, he’s been Vegas’ odds on favorite to be the first coach fired. Obviously, Josh McDaniel won that distinction, but Rivera could easily be the second or third coach fired, and will almost certainly lose his job if Washington fails to make the playoffs for the third year in a row. My opinion is that anything short of at least one playoff victory should be disqualifying for continuing in his current role.
Seahawks’ fans may not realize it, but Rivera is both GM and head coach in one, in the current “coach centric” model, and it’s been a debacle. It was probably a necessity under the prior, toxic owner, but there’s near universal hope that this new ownership group will structure the Commanders like a functional organization, with a proper GM who can hire his own head coach. We’re ready for that new era to begin.
5. What is your prediction for this game? And should Seattle fans be betting the over or the under, which currently sits at 44 at DraftKings Sportsbook?
I’m expecting Seattle to win, something like 24-17. which would mean take the “under.” Washington is a team that is marked by its inconsistency, playing its two best games against the Eagles (both losses), while at the same time playing atrocious games against two of the worst teams in the league, the Bears and the Giants. They’re certainly capable of beating the Seahawks, I just don’t think they will, particularly on the road.