Exactly one fourth of the regular season is over with 64 games in the books. We know there are a lot of teams with significant flaws, and we know there are a couple of good ones out there. Then there are two teams who fall somewhere in between.
You Fail Me: Colts and Seahawks
(I just wanted to fit a Converge reference into the title, to be honest)
Like a lot of people, I had the Colts and Seahawks meeting in Super Bowl 50 with Seattle winning. On October 10, it’s not like this still can’t happen, but it sure as hell looks less likely than it did a month ago when the regular season kicked off.
Both teams are fortunate to not have a losing record right now. The Colts (3-2) needed a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Tennessee, and needed a kicker to miss twice on Sunday against Jacksonville. The Seahawks (2-2) just had that crazy Calvin Johnson fumble/no illegal bat play on Monday night.
Andrew Luck is hurt and has missed the last two games. Marshawn Lynch is hurt and will miss his second game in a row on Sunday.
The Colts are likely going to get their ass kicked next week by the Patriots. The Seahawks may be walking into a perfect storm of a rare ass kicking at the hands of the Bengals tomorrow.
Where has it gone wrong for both?
That damn offensive line.
We may have made the mistake of overlooking the lingering problems up front that each team tried to conceal with sexy skill-player additions. The Seahawks traded Max Unger, who wasn’t a great and healthy starter in 2014, for Jimmy Graham, a TE who may as well be a wide receiver because he can’t block, who played in one of the pass-happiest offenses in NFL history. They also drafted Tyler Lockett, who has definitely made his impact felt on special teams. The Colts brought in Frank Gore and Andre Johnson while drafting Phillip Dorsett in the first round.
I spent actual work time this summer trying to figure out how the loaded Colts were going to disperse their targets with all these receivers. I received agreeable tweets that saw the Seahawks as being an unstoppable force in the red zone with so many ways to beat a defense.
Man, these offenses can’t even consistently score 20 points this season. You are not supposed to add all that skill talent and get worse.
The Colts scored a league-low 21 points thru Week 2. Against the Titans, the offense pitched in 28 points, but got some help from a Mariota interception to set up an 11-yard touchdown drive. The offense only scored 16 points in an overtime game against Jacksonville at home, and were lucky to not lose 16-13 because of the kicker. On Thursday night, perhaps a return to Houston re-animated the corpse of Andre Johnson, and the offense finally perked up against a Texans defense that manages to be terrible despite having the best defender in the world.
The Seahawks scored 31 in St. Louis, but that included two return touchdowns, so the offense only scored 17 points. They scored 17 again in Green Bay before turning the ball over on the final two drives. They had another return TD vs. Chicago, so the offense again was held under 20 points (19). Then on Monday night against Detroit, the offense scored just 13 and even gave up a touchdown on a Wilson fumble. So this offense hasn’t cracked 20 points yet in four games. Scoring 20 has really never been a consistent problem in the Wilson era.
It’s not like these quarterbacks aren’t used to bad offensive lines. Andrew Luck has been the most hit QB three years in a row. Wilson has been the most pressured QB the last two years, including two of the highest rates in FO’s database going back to 2010.
This year, Luck has let the pressure rattle him to the point where he’s throwing more early interceptions in an attempt to just get rid of the ball. Wilson is taking more sacks — already a league-high 18 and an abysmal 12.4% sack rate.
The Colts brought in RG Todd Herremans, but he’s been demoted. They cut RT Gosder Cherilus, which really wasn’t a loss, but there weren’t any significant gains to this OL. The Seahawks continue to struggle up front, and neither guard they drafted in the fourth round is a factor this season.
How are those skill players working out? Andre Johnson really looked like a guy who should retire before this Houston game. Maybe that gets him going. Gore has had two huge fumbles inside the 5-yard line. Dorsett had a big TD in Tennessee, but he’s the fifth-most targeted Colt and was always going to have an uphill battle to relevancy as a rookie. Wilson to Graham has been efficient (18/23 for 174 yards, 2 TD), but not dominant, and the 9.7 YPC is a career-low for Graham. You’re going to tell me they couldn’t get this production out of Luke Willson and save a first-round pick?
Yet myself and many others fell for the skill-player trap. “Oh, these quarterbacks are used to bad OL’s. Give them better weapons and watch them score more.” It’s just not happening that way. To a similar extent, we see what the worst OL of Peyton Manning’s career is doing to his season, but that’s another story for another day.
The trenches are in fact still important with all these athletic defenders out there. They are even more important when you have two quarterbacks who like to hold onto the ball a little longer in Luck and Wilson, while many of the other signal callers are getting it out in under 3 seconds almost every time now. Maybe these offenses just need to adapt, putting the ball more quickly in the hands of the skill players they went out of their way to acquire. On paper, this is the best receiving corps either QB has had in the NFL, yet these are the worst offensive results they’ve experienced so far.
Things still have time to get better, but they may get a little worse this week with the aforementioned matchups to come. We’ll talk Pats-Colts next week, but think about the potential outcome of this SEA-CIN game tomorrow.
It’s a 1 p.m. game, which means a 10 a.m. PST start time for Seattle. The Seahawks are 6-8 in such games since 2012. They are coming off a very emotional and controversial win on Monday night.
The Bengals are playing better on both sides of the ball and Lynch is out. Sure, the Seahawks have been extremely stingy on defense in the two games with Kam Chancellor back, but that was also at home against Jimmy Clausen and the winless Lions. Andy Dalton is 2nd in DVOA and DYAR. No really, true story. Geno Atkins and company should have a good day against that Seattle OL.
The Bengals with Dalton beat Seattle 34-12 in Seattle in 2011. The final score is a little misleading because of two late return touchdowns by the Bengals. Seattle trailed 20-12 and had possession with 4:45 left. That’s why the game is still part of Seattle’s historic 74-game streak that could be in real jeopardy on Sunday (click pic to enlarge)
Sure, this is about the point in the season where the Bengals flop hard at home just when people are starting to take them seriously, but what if this year was different? What if the Bengals do drop the Seahawks to 2-3 with a commanding win?
Then we’ll probably start to hear revisionist history about how Cincy has built their team the right way (“in the trenches”) and the Seahawks have overpaid too many star players with egos. But nothing in Week 5 can diminish what the Seahawks have accomplished. It’s just that we’re starting to see the limitations of this roster show up in 2015 to the point where Wilson and this defense may not be able to overcome them anymore.
2015 Week 5 Predictions
Remind me to never pick a team with Brian Mallett (or Ryan Hoyer if you prefer) at quarterback to beat one of the AFC’s perennial winners. I had Houston on TNF.
Winners in bold
- Rams at Packers
- Saints at Eagles
- Jaguars at Buccaneers
- Bears at Chiefs
- Seahawks at Bengals
- Bills at Titans
- Redskins at Falcons
- Browns at Ravens
- Broncos at Raiders
- Patriots at Cowboys
- Cardinals at Lions
- 49ers at Giants
- Steelers at Chargers
Only three late-afternoon games again? Come on, NFL. And the 49ers in prime time again? With The Walking Dead being a 90-minute episode, I figure you can start watching your DVR recording at about 9:27 p.m. EST and finish commercial-free on time to avoid spoilers.
I was looking forward to the return of Martavis Bryant, but that’s not going to happen on Monday after he tweaked his knee in practice. Looks like I’m getting my DFS target injured early this week. At least this one came early so I have time to swap him out of my lineups.
Philip Rivers is one of the few big-time quarterbacks to not have a history of shredding the Steelers under Dick LeBeau. Oh, he had some good numbers, but a lot of them came in garbage-time moments. The difference with Rivers was that in Norv Turner’s offense, he loved to dump off to running backs or throw deep to his tall targets. That played into the Steelers’ hands and they were able to effectively get pressure on him as he held onto the ball longer. To beat this defense you really need to dink-and-dunk, get rid of the ball quickly and rely on YAC. That’s exactly what Rivers has done under Mike McCoy and especially this year where he is barely getting the ball down the field. That’s why I think he’ll have a lot of success at home on Monday night with the likes of Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Danny Woodhead leading the way. Antonio Gates is also back from suspension. This could have been a really fun shootout with Ben Roethlisberger playing. It still might be, since I don’t trust the San Diego defense yet. However, I expect the Chargers to get the (circadian) win at home.
- Week 1: 10-6
- Week 2: 6-10
- Week 3: 14-2
- Week 4: 11-4
- Season: 41-22 (.651)