Fann: Seahawks focus shifts from tanking to playoffs in wide-open NFC

It’s hard to fathom how the 2022 NFL season unfolded in seven weeks.

Rost: Seahawks overturned big questions to become one of the NFL’s greatest stories

The Seattle Seahawks are 4-3 and are alone in first place atop the NFC West. Suddenly, after a pair of resounding wins over the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Chargers, the focus in the Pacific Northwest shifted from the search for a top five to a potential playoff team in the NFC.

FiveThirtyEight currently gives Seattle a 42% chance of making the playoffs, up from 39% after Sunday’s 37-23 win at Los Angeles. And that seems conservative when looking around NFC. Only five teams in the conference have a winning record (31.2%), including three in the NFC East. The entire NFC South is under .500 and the Packers, Rams and 49ers are all playing terrible football right now.

Right now, the Eagles are the only NFC team that I would tell you is unequivocally better than the Seahawks. I would also suggest the Cowboys are a better team, but I wouldn’t die on that hill if you meant otherwise. And if you think there’s a bias or overstatement of these Seahawks, consider that Seattle is currently favored in Week 8 with the New York Giants 6-1 coming to town.

The overall mediocrity in the conference has opened the door for the Seahawks to be one of the best overachievers this season. It was a remarkable change from what most people expected (or even hoped for) at the start of the season. I posted a poll on Twitter after Seattle’s Week 3 loss to the Falcons and 80% of the 3,222 people who responded were either “indifferent” to the loss (42.1%) or felt “good” about it. this topic (37.9%).

Surely that wouldn’t be the case today if you gave everyone the chance to vote again. That’s because attention is rightly on that unexpected playoff run. At 4-3 and with so many teams significantly worse off than the Seahawks, any hope of tanking is out the window. Any bitter feelings about that reality are automatically drowned out by the fact that the Broncos are 2-5 and trending down, and Seattle own Denver’s 2023 first-round pick who could very well be in the top five. .

It’s important to note how the Seahawks got here and how likely they are to sustain their current success. I’ve already told you how poor NFC is. This is a very relevant factor.

But other teams’ obvious shortcomings don’t diminish the well-deserved credit we should be giving the Seahawks. Seattle’s offense ranks fifth in points and 12th in total yards. Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s group ranks first in rushing yards per attempt and seventh in net yards per pass per attempt. Beyond efficiency numbers, Pro Football Focus ranks Seattle’s offense eighth and Football Outsider has it in the top 10 in DVOA.

Geno Smith was a huge factor in that success at quarterback. He was much more than a game manager with an ever-improving deep ball and the ability to navigate tight windows on the pitch. Smith ranks seventh in passing yards (1,712), sixth in passing touchdowns (11), third in quarterback (107.7), fourth in QBR (66.8) and first in completion percentage (73.5%). Pro Football Focus ranks him third among NFL starters behind only Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. He was objectively one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFC along with Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts.

Seattle’s rookie class is also worth mentioning. General manager John Schneider appears to have had an all-time draft based on early returns.

Rookie tackle Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas rank 14th and 22nd, respectively, in ESPN’s pass block completion rate on 64 qualifying tackles, by ESPN’s Seth Walder.

Running back Kenneth Walker III has three consecutive games with at least 88 yards rushing and a touchdown, including Sunday’s 168-yard rush and two touchdowns. He could end up being Offensive Rookie of the Year this year after Jets running back Breece Hall tore his ACL.

Cornerback Tariq Woolen is up for Defensive Rookie of the Year, although Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is the favorite.

Coby Bryant (nickel corner) and Boye Mafe (pass rusher) have each been respectable in important roles.

Finally, and most importantly in terms of the potential sustainability of Seattle’s current trajectory, there has been the improvement in defense. The Seahawks started the season with five horrible defensive performances in six games. The latter two were considerably better, allowing the Cardinals and Chargers a combined 26 points. Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt deserve kudos there.

I’m confident saying the Seahawks will make the playoffs if they can sustain this latest defensive shift. The demand is small: just be competent. That’s all it would take in a conference full of incompetence. Avoid blatant mental errors, failed missions, and gratuitous explosives. This offense, especially considering DK Metcalf avoided a serious knee injury, should be good enough to give Seattle a chance to win games as long as the defense doesn’t lose them outright.

The Seahawks’ surge coupled with the Broncos’ turmoil is forcing league teams to steer clear of the idea that they wouldn’t have to worry about Seattle in a planned multi-year rebuild. years. This team is winning now and equipped with the resources to stay successful and relevant without ever visiting the NFL basement.

Learn more about the Seahawks

• Salk: The top three reasons the Seahawks fought their way to the top spot
• What about this? Seahawks led by Geno Smith in first place in NFC West
• Recap: Walker and Goodwin lead Seahawks against Chargers 37-23
• Seahawks Instant Reaction: Seattle Sports on the 37-23 win over the Chargers

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