This Sunday, the New York Jets travel to the west coast to take on the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are currently 2nd in the NFC West with a record of 5-4. This is not the Seahawks team that snuck into the playoffs two years ago with a 7-9 record. Instead, they are a very young, very exciting team led by former Jets head coach Pete Carroll. They are, in many ways, what Rex Ryan wants the Jets to be; a strong running game backed up by an imposing defense.
There are several story lines that follow this game. Pete Carroll vs. his former quarterback, Mark Sanchez (you may recall Carroll saying that Sanchez left college too soon and should have stayed an additional year), along with the return of Braylon Edwards and Leon Washington.
Let’s take a look at the Seattle Seahawks, and see what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Generally speaking, the Seahawks do not have a very good offense. They are currently averaging 18.9 points per game, along with 312.1 yards per game, good for 24th and 29th in the league. Despite the attention they’ve gotten, having beaten the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots, their offense is not, in general, as strong as one might otherwise have thought.
Their passing offense naturally runs through Russell Wilson, a young, exciting, and rapidly maturing quarterback. However, Wilson has thus far in the season led the passing offense to an average of only 173.2 yards per game, good for 31st in the league. Their leading receiver is Sidney Rice with 32 receptions for 421 yards and four touchdowns. Their second best receiver is Golden Tate, he of infamous fame from the Packers game, who has 24 receptions for 283 yards and five touchdowns. Our old favorite, Braylon Edwards, has just 8 receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown.
Clearly, the Seahawks do not have a dominating passing attack or any special wide receivers that truly need accounting for on every single snap.
The Seahawks rushing offense, on the other hand, will be a more significant challenge than their passing game. Marshawn Lynch is the key figure here, who rightly deserves his nickname of "Beast Mode." Lynch is exceedingly hard to tackle and regularly breaks off with big, hard fought runs. The Seahawks are averaging 138.9 rushing yards per game, good for 7th in the league. Although the Jets have improved on their tackling and run defense from early in the season, bottling up Lynch and bringing him down might be their toughest task of the game. If they try and arm tackle Lynch, this will be a very slow, painful game.
On the other hand, the Seahawks defense is very good. They are 3rd in the league in points allowed with 17.1 per game, and 4th in total yards allowed with 309.2 per game. They’ve bottled up two of the best offenses in the league in the Packers and the Patriots. The most amount of points they’ve given up this season was against the Detroit Lions, to whom the Seahawks surrendered 28 points. It’s a very young, passionate, and aggressive defense that is sure to cause the Jets a number of issues.
Bruce Irvin, their first round draft pick that many believe Rex Ryan wanted, is a speed demon out of West Virginia and is a much better version of our Aaron Maybin. He currently has five sacks on the season. If he is lined up against Austin Howard, he will likely have a field day and make whomever is in the backfield, quarterback or running back, miserable. The Jets will be much better off if he is against D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who, as a finesse tackle, is better equipped to handle the rookie.
The other pass rusher that must be accounted for is Chris Clemons, a defensive end that has seven sacks on the season. Irvin and Clemons are the two that must be accounted for, or they will tear the Jets' offensive line apart.
The run defense of the Seahawks is also good, although not as great as their secondary. They are currently 11th in the league in rushing yards allowed, with 102.4 per game. Their strength is in their defensive line, as they do not have many household names in their linebacking corps.
The passing defense of the Seahawks is currently 7th in passing yards allowed with 206.8 per game. Their secondary is very big, very physical, and among the best in the league. Led by Richard Sherman (6’3") and Brandon Browner (6’4"), they are a very young, but confident group. Sherman most notably shut down the great Megatron, Calvin Johnson. Their safety pair is arguably second to none, with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, both of whom are among the best at their position. If I had to find one weakness in their secondary, it’s by smaller, shiftier players like Randall Cobb and Wes Welker. In that respect, Jeremy Kerley could have a big day over in Seattle.
The Final Word
The Seattle Seahawks are a tough, gritty team. They're young, and they are passionate. And at home, with the help of the "12th Man" at home, they are dangerous. The New York Jets are not in a position that they can lose very many more games. If the Jets lose this one, and thus five of the last six, the season will be all but over. This is not a team you can make many mistakes against and hope to survive.
Early Prediction: 17-14, New York Jets.