Adam Chernoff returns with a tasty selection from the Pacific Northwest on Sunday night.
Nearly there! A half point in Oakland v Houston resulted in a split last Sunday at 1-1. The record on the season for this column moves to 6-6 (-0.46x). This week we focus on one side to put things into the green for the year.
Can You Trust Seattle?
The game plan for any offense matching up against Tampa Bay should be a clear focus on passing the football.
The Buccaneers are 19th against the pass and in the last four weeks have given up the seventh-highest rate of explosive pass plays against. The Seahawks on paper – appear to be able to fit that profile to dismantle Tampa Bay. Through eight weeks of play, Seattle ranks sixth in passing success rate and second in explosive pass offense. Russell Wilson is garnering MVP talk on all major media networks and grades out as the highest-rated passer through Week 8.
The problem is that Seattle does not throw the ball frequently.
In fact, they run the football at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL at 48% of all plays. With run/pass splits, it is important to add context to the numbers. The scoreboard will often dictate play calling, so it is important to look at the frequency of which teams run the football trailing, in a close game and leading. When leading by more than a touchdown, Seattle runs the football on 60% of plays (6th most).
When the game is within a touchdown, Seattle runs the football on 51% of plays (3rd most). When trailing by more than a touchdown, Seattle runs the football on 24% of plays (9th least).
Plain and simple, unless the Seahawks are not in desperation mode, the focus of the team is to run the football. Where that becomes problematic against Tampa Bay is when the fact that the Buccaneers are the top-ranked rushing success rate defense.
The margin is not close either.
Just 30% of opposing rushes have graded successfully against Tampa Bay through eight weeks, the Jets at second are 6% worse. The defensive line for the Buccaneers is frightening to oppose. The unit ranks first in adjusted line yards and second in generating negative plays. All of this gets validated by the schedule. To date, the Buccaneers have played the seventh most difficult schedule of opposing rush attacks.
There is nothing that has been said leading up to this game that suggests Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer are going to do anything different from a play-calling situation, which means it is likely that the Seahawks run relentlessly into this Tampa Bay front more than 50% of offensive plays. These play calls are likely to put Russell Wilson in frequent long down and distances. The Buccaneers rank first in pass rush win rate and Todd Bowles blitzes more than any other defensive coordinator in the league.
Wilson negates much of that by being the top-rated passer under pressure, but this Buccaneers front is a different challenge…as is laying six points.
Will Wilson be shut down completely? Absolutely not. But the rate at which he must convert high leverage third down situations against this defensive front to move the ball enough to score the required points to cover is a tall proposition. The opportunity is there if we see a drastically different game plan, but can you trust Seattle? I can not.
The idea of keeping pace becomes a tall proposition for Seattle too.
The Seahawks issues in the secondary do not garner nearly the press they deserve.
Through eight weeks of play, the Seahawks rank 20th in pass defense success rate and 24th in explosive pass defense. These two numbers become even more concerning when factoring in the ease of schedule. The rank of 20th through eight weeks has come against the sixth easiest schedule of opposing pass offenses. Accounting for opposing pass offenses alone, Seattle has faced three teams that rank inside the top 20.
In those three games, they allowed opponents to score 33, 29 and 30 points with a combined scoring margin of -19. Last week Matt Schaub in his first start since 2015 threw for 8.8 yards per pass, 460 yards and a 99.8 passer rating on this secondary.
The Buccaneers identity lies in the deep passing game.
Jameis Winston leads the NFL in intended air yards through eight weeks with an average throw of 10.8 yards. His passer rating on throws more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage is significantly higher than his rating on throws 10 yards or shorter. The big variable in Winston’s game is his decision making under pressure. This week he benefits from two offensive linemen likely to return and the 30th graded pass rush opposing him.
Through eight weeks Seattle grades out higher in pass rush than only Miami and Oakland. This is not only the easiest opposing pass rush Winston has faced all season, but it is just the second unit inside the bottom twelve. The previous easiest opponent was New York, a game in which Winston threw for 380 yards and 3 TDs.
This number is inflated out due to the misleading box score from last week.
Despite the Seahawks getting a comfortable victory, they gave up more than 500 yards of offense and were outgained by 1.3 yards per play. The Buccaneers lost by three but outgained Tennessee by more than 140 yards, 0.8 yards per play, 2.0 yards per pass and 0.2 yards per rush. Based on the performance in-game, both outcomes could have been very different. Now at +6, the number sets up very well for a Buccaneers cover.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers +6 (1.95). Risking 1.25x