When: 1:05 p.m. PT, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Rogers: There’s a lot of talk this week about the Seahawks’ annual second-half surge. They’re not wrong. At this stage of the season, it will be a shock if the Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys don’t meet for the NFC Championship game after being gifted the conference’s first-round byes.
In the meantime, there’s still a lot of football left to be played before we coronate the blue birds. Clearly, Russell Wilson is past his early-season mobility issues. What’s also clear is that the new-look Seahawks offense that used to anachronistically rely on ground-and-pound, can no longer count on that as the team’s offensive identity. Instead, the Seahawks are an offense that features an elite-level quarterback, №1 receiver (Doug Baldwin has 19 touchdowns since the start of 2015 — top in the NFL) and top tight end. This is not your grandpa’s Seahawks of way back in 2014.
While Thomas Rawls’ return yielded good-but-not-great results, his ability to pound the Buccaneers’ 26th-ranked defense will be a welcome change of pace. As a second option to C.J. Prosise, uh, I mean Christine Michael, um, Troymaine Pope … ooh. That’s two injured men and a waive-y. I think the Seahawks might want to keep Thomas Rawls in bubble wrap until the playoffs. The passing offense is going to continue to lead the way.
Jess, pop quiz: With the Seahawks’ offense now transformed they must have an advantage over the also-ran Buccaneers’ offense, yes? I mean it would be crazy to think the Buccaneers have a higher performing offense than the Seahawks, right?
Ridpath: Gee, could this be a trick question?
Given their respective records, it would certainly be logical to conclude that the Seahawks are performing better offensively. But the stats don’t bear out.
Ranked 11th on overall offense, Tampa Bay has been superior to the 16th-ranked Seahawks in every category on the NFL offensive stats page — every category except yards per play (5.2 versus 5.8), 4th down conversions (43% versus 50%), and fumbles (14 versus 13). Not only is Seattle’s advantage minute in these areas, it’s not usually these particular stats that make or break a game.
One thing we need to consider, however, is that the current incarnation of the blue birds’ offense can hardly be compared to their early-season selves. Seattle scored five touchdowns in its first three games (3 passing, 2 rushing) — and double that amount in its last three (7 passing, 3 rushing). Looking at passer rating, the difference is even more dramatic: Wilson’s average of 89.3 in the first three games jumps to 123.8 in the last three.
But stats only tell part of the story. Let’s talk about what probably matters more: momentum. The Seahawks look to be on fire after three impressive wins, including a shocker in New England two weeks ago. (Well, some of us were more shocked than others about that one. In fact, I seem to recall that someone said it was downright “crazy” to pick the Seahawks in Foxborough. Ahem.)
Editor’s note: The above cheap shot was brought to you, unprovoked, by Jessica Ridpath, vindictive person.
The Buccaneers are probably feeling pretty hot themselves after steamrolling the Bears and stealing one from the Chiefs in Kansas City. Plus, they’ll be playing at home. Julian, all things considered, which team do you expect will give a superior performance on offense this week?
Rogers: Easy: The Seahawks. With Rawls being none the worse for wear after this game, I feel confident in the Seahawks’ rushing attack. The Buccaneers have effective weapons, as you noted. But they haven’t played the Seahawks’ defense yet. Conversely, the Seahawks’ offense will be facing the NFL’s 26th-ranked defensive unit (yards) / 24th-ranked (points allowed). That’s a far cry from the Seahawks defense, who are first in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed.
Even if I didn’t buy your argument that the latter-season Seahawks are a different animal than the September Seahawks (but I do) the real difference in this game will come down to the defenses the two offenses will do battle with. The Seahawks have the numbers to back up their strength.
However, they don’t have the healthy horses that they’re used to. They did get back Kam Chancellor, which was huge. They may be down or playing with compromised defensive backs Earl Thomas (hamstring) and DeShawn Shead (hamstring) this week. If so, I think the Seahawks will struggle to adequately cover Bucs receiver Mike Evans (65 receptions for 916 yards, 8 TDs) and tight end Cameron Brate, who is quietly having a breakout year (37 receptions for 393 yards, 5 TDs).
The Seahawks may get back Michael Bennett from his knee injury, but I wouldn’t count on him being full-go, if he plays. I’m tempted to pick an upset for the home team in a close one, but I can’t. It comes down to the quarterbacks. Russell Wilson is significantly better than Jameis Winston at this stage of their careers. Prediction: Seattle 27, Tampa Bay 21.
Ridpath: While I agree that Wilson is the better quarterback right now, Winston looks to be hitting his stride this season. After throwing eight picks in his first four games, he has only given up two since week five. He’s on pace to top 4,000 yards in the air again this year and is coming off two 300+ yard passing games in a row.
His favorite target, the six-foot-five-inch Evans, is also experiencing a hot streak: 23 catches for 321 yards in his last three games.
Julian, you’re absolutely right that Seattle’s defense needs to bring it if they want to come home from Tampa with a win. Good thing it’s November. Prediction: Seattle 31, Tampa Bay 27.
Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.
What he got right: I was in Maui last week. I got the whole last week right.
What he got wrong: Jess wants to talk about two weeks ago. Fine. I picked the Patriots. Add it to my list of November regrets.
What she got right: In my own version of a post-election Hail Mary, I threw caution (and reason) to the wind and picked the Seahawks for the win in Foxborough, nailing the blue birds’ final score of 31 points.
What she got wrong: I talked Julian into owning up about our predictions two weeks ago — simply so I could gloat a little bit (more). That will surely come back to bite me later in the season. (Editor’s note: Whatever gave you that idea?)