When: 10:00 a.m. PT Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Rogers: Talk about hot and cold. No, I’m not talking about the Seahawks. I’m actually talking about their opponent this Sunday, the Jets. After watching recycled running back Matt Forte rejuvenate his career against the Buffalo Bills on national television with three touchdowns (Thursday Night Football in week two), the workhorse running back could only muster a scant 65 yards and no scores against the Kansas City Chiefs in week three.
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was even more schizophrenic. After achieving a career night against the Bills (70.6 completion %, 374 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs) he had a nightmare performance in his next outing: 45.5 completion %, 188 yards, 0 TDs, 6 INTs. Forgive me if those statistics gave you whiplash.
Forte’s and Fitzpatrick’s struggles were emblematic of the Jets struggles as a team. Now, the reeling Jets need to hold serve at home against the NFL’s toughest defense … and an offense that finally found its rhythm. At home, that is. The Seahawks, when Russell Wilson had only one good leg, could only muster three points on the road in week two. Now that he has zero good legs, how confident are you that the blue birds can travel east, kick off early and keep the offensive revival going?
Ridpath: First, I just have to say that you called it weeks ago, Julian — pointing out the dangers of the Seahawks’ lack of depth at the quarterback position in our training camp preview. With two Wilson injuries in three weeks, your concerns were obviously valid.
No matter what we learn about Wilson’s knee (or his ankle) later this week, I think it’s clear that back-up Trevone Boykin should get the start. I don’t care how much Russ believes he can do it … he’s still human. And humans need time to heal. Pete Carroll needs to put his foot down.
Even with Boykin under center, I’m confident Seattle can put this game away. Here are two reasons why:
1. In the short time Boykin was on the field last Sunday, he completed seven of nine passes, including a 16-yard touchdown to Doug Baldwin. He looked calm and composed and was praised by Carroll for being easy to communicate with. Despite the ugly pick he threw directly to 49ers linebacker Nick Bellore, it was a competent performance that garnered him a 94.2 quarterback rating.
2. Still, context is important. Stepping up to the plate when your team has a comfortable lead at home is nothing compared to the pressure Boykin will feel starting an away game. Good thing the Seahawks are playing the Jets — who logged almost three times as many turnovers as points last week, sending coach Todd Bowles on a curse-filled rant. Seattle’s defense is surely taking note of their opponent’s many weaknesses as they prepare to pounce. Even if Seattle’s offense sputters, the scales tip decidedly in the Seahawks’ favor overall.
What do you think, Julian? Do the beleaguered Jets have a prayer against Seattle’s stifling defense?
Rogers: If they play like they did against the Bills in week two, then yes. If they play anything like how they played last week, then the Seahawks defense will eat them up. There is no telling how they will bounce back at this point.
After watching Boykin turn in a serviceable performance to close out last week’s game, I’ll take a stand with you for Boykin being the Seahawks’ best option for this Sunday’s game — and for the Seahawks’ continuing success. Wilson should take this time to heal and not be sent out on two bad wheels in front of a top front seven (Pro Football Focus ranked them 10th before the season started; Seattle 2nd).
The Jets have more than their front seven to their credit. The Jets average 5.6 yards per play compared to the Seahawks’ 5.3. They also average .305 points per play compared to Seattle’s .255. They convert third downs at a rate of 48.72% vs. Seattle’s 41.86%. (stats via teamrankings.com) Summing up: both teams are flawed but do a few things better than each other.
Here’s a factor that might tip things in the Jets’ favor: honesty. Wilson is lying. He said his ankle “feels great” in post-game comments. No, it doesn’t. He may have improved, but any eyeball test flunked him for honesty. He moved better than he did at the end of the Miami Dolphins game or throughout the whole L.A. Rams game, but he’s still far from his usual sprightly self.
I don’t care how many Nanobubbles he is consuming. His right ankle and now his left knee will make him a sitting duck.
Switching gears … Jess, Baldwin is in the discussion of elite wide receivers now. Can Boykin help him continue on his trajectory?
Ridpath: Baldwin is definitely owning the role of premier Seahawks receiver this season, thanks in part to the excellent chemistry he’s developed with Wilson. If Carroll puts Boykin under center this Sunday (which he should), I think the real question is: Can Baldwin help the rookie quarterback build some confidence and some momentum in his first start as a pro?
His stats suggest that he can. From Pro Football Focus:
- Baldwin went 8 of 10 for a career-high 164 yards against San Francisco — catching passes against seven different defenders.
- When targeting him last week, Seattle quarterbacks had a 152.1 quarterback rating.
- On the season, Baldwin ranks third among receivers, with an overall grade of 84.8
Perhaps even more poignant than these impressive numbers is the diving, one-handed catch he completed in the first quarter last Sunday. If Baldwin continues to bring that level of sheer athleticism, he’ll give Boykin the gift of a little wiggle room in his targets.
Speaking of athleticism, Julian, how about Jimmy Graham’s recent performance (4 of 5 for 85 yards and one touchdown)? Is the superstar tight end finally coming into his own as a Seahawk?
Rogers: Yes, I think he is. I think he was hitting his stride last year when he suffered the torn meniscus injury. It’s a nice story to see him coming back so strongly from that reputedly tricky injury to overcome. For the Seahawks, it’s great news. Graham is now poised to be the matchup nightmare the Seahawks need that can not only produce in the passing game, but take focus away from the running attack.
Speaking of the rushing attack … the Seahawks are experiencing a bit of an ongoing sea change at the position. Thomas Rawls, whose lower leg injury was first reported to be “not serious,” is now expected to be out for multiple weeks. Fortunately, Christine Michael has more than capably taken over the starting role (232 yards, 5.2 YPC and 2 TDs). Even if Rawls were healthy, it’s hard to make a case for him being the starter over the resurgent Michael.
Jess, are you on the C-Mike bandwagon? With either a gimpy quarterback or an undrafted rookie quarterback taking the snaps against the Jets, the running game is going to have to produce in ways it hasn’t yet this young season.
Ridpath: Michael is proving to be one of the few pleasant surprises of the Seahawks’ season so far, and this week, he finds himself atop the list of players whose fantasy football stock is rising. He’s been more than just a suitable replacement for Rawls; if he continues to perform as well as he did last week, Rawls may have a hard time getting his job back.
But whether or not Seattle’s running game produces depends primarily on the performance of the offensive line.
For the first time this season, they showed up and played well last week — resulting in 85 yards before contact for C-Mike (second most of any back in week 3).
Playing that well again against the Jets’ 3rd-ranked rush defense will be a tall order, even if first round draft pick Germain Ifedi returns to his starting position at right guard.
Julian, while we’ve been waxing philosophical about backs, receivers, and tight ends, word on the street is pointing to Wilson as Sunday’s starter. If that’s the case, then Seattle’s o-line needs to play like their season is on the line. Because it just might be.
I’m not super confident they’ll deliver. But I am banking on another ton-notch performance from Seattle’s defense. Combine that with a hunch that the Jets won’t fully bounce back from last week’s embarrassing performance, and I’m giving the edge to the Seahawks. Prediction: Seattle 20, New York 13.
Rogers: I’m going to play contrarian this week. The Seahawks dropped a steamer in their only other road performance this season and this week’s trip is a lot farther than L.A. The early start in the Eastern time zone is tough on all West coast teams. To make matters worse, the Seahawks are going in to this game with a quarterback deficit — either with a compromised Wilson or an inexperienced rookie. I figure the Jets will bounce back from last week’s debacle and find more ways to score than Seattle will. Prediction: New York 24, Seattle 20.
Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.
What he got right: The game winner. Although the Seahawks scored many more points than I thought they would, I did suggest this could be the game where they put it together. I’m 2–1 on the season.
What he got wrong: I was confident that Rawls would play. Nope. I stated that the 49ers were a top-third offense. Not any more, they’re not.
What she got right: The game winner, bringing me to 2–1 on the season.
What she got wrong: I predicted a close, low-scoring game. Seattle blew San Francisco away and had the game in hand early on.
© Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath