NFL Power Rankings: The Seahawks need Russell Wilson to look like himself again
The Seattle Seahawks obviously aren’t going to sit Russell Wilson for a game or two. It’s not like they have a reliable backup. And, teams don’t sit a great player like Wilson if he can play.
But it seems like he could use some time to heal. This isn’t the Wilson we’re used to seeing. And without any time off to get healthy, it might be a while before he looks right again.
Wilson was bad on Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals, in a weird 6-6 tie. He was 5-for-14 for 34 yards in the first half. He had just 121 yards by the end of regulation. Wilson rarely moved around, and was a standing target for Arizona’s pass rush behind a leaky offensive line. He added 104 passing yards in overtime, but Sunday night was a reminder that Wilson doesn’t appear anywhere close to 100 percent healthy, something he refuses to admit.
“I feel fine. You guys keep asking me, I feel great honestly,” Wilson said in his postgame news conference. “There’s some games I run and scramble and make a play, some games I don’t, and that’s when I’m healthy or not. I feel great.”
Injuries have sapped his ability to move, and he’s not the same quarterback without his mobility. Wilson suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1. He suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee in Week 3. A bye in Week 5 didn’t heal everything. Wilson played well from the pocket when he got red hot in the second half last season, but injuries have caused him to become entirely a pocket quarterback this season. He had 2,430 rushing yards his first four seasons. He has 33 rushing yards this season, on 22 attempts.
He’s not just a running quarterback. Wilson doesn’t just look to escape the pocket and run; he has an uncanny ability to move away from the rush and buy time while still trying to pass the ball downfield. It’s unusual in the NFL, but Seattle’s pass game built in part around Wilson being able to move around and make plays. He can’t move much now, and that’s making him a lot easier to defend.
At some points this season, like when he was shredding the New York Jets, it didn’t seem like there was a problem. But three of his five touchdowns this season came in that Jets game. The Seahawks have scored 12, 3 and 6 points in other games this year.
And all of this uncertainty about how healthy Wilson is, and if he’ll get significantly better as he plays, makes the Seahawks a tough team to rank. At his best, Wilson is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. But if Wilson isn’t really that hurt, as he says, maybe this is just what he and the Seahawks offense will be the rest of the season.
Perhaps the retirement of Marshawn Lynch screwed everything up, but Lynch wasn’t much of a factor last season and the Seahawks offense was still very good. Here is Seattle’s annual offensive rank since 2012, Wilson’s rookie year, in Football Outsiders’ DVOA per-play metric:
A team that has finished among the NFL’s top seven offenses every season with Wilson shouldn’t just fall off the map overnight. Injuries would explain the inconsistency (Wilson isn’t Seattle’s only offensive player dealing with injuries), and no matter what Wilson says, we all can see he’s limited this season.
The track record is why I’m still buying the Seahawks. It’s why I had them at No. 2 the last couple weeks despite arguments from Minnesota Vikings fans, and it’s why they’re still No. 2 this week (though part of that is due to a lack of great teams this season). The defense is championship quality. It was very good on Sunday night, and has been very good most of this season. And the offense will get healthier and come around. Wilson is too talented and Seattle’s history with him is too strong to think otherwise.
It’s very, very hard to find a team with a great offense and a great defense in the NFL this season. The Seahawks might be the the only team that could end up with a top-five unit on both sides of the ball. It just depends on Wilson looking more like his old self at some point.
Here are the power rankings after Week 7 in the NFL:
32. San Francisco 49ers (1-6, Last week: 32)
If the 49ers hadn’t won in Week 1, we’d have to start talking about the 0-16 possibility. They’re that bad.
31. Cleveland Browns (0-7, LW: 31)
Speaking of 0-16, there aren’t many obvious spots for the Browns to get their first win this season. Sunday against the Jets might be one of the best chances they’ll get the rest of the way.
30. Chicago Bears (1-6, LW: 30)
The Bears have to turn back to Jay Cutler now that Brian Hoyer is on injured reserve. That’s not uncomfortable or anything.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4, LW: 25)
It was funny to see the headlines on Monday that the Jaguars aren’t going to bench Blake Bortles. When was that a legitimate option? They have to stick with Bortles, though at this point I can’t imagine there’s too much optimism about him becoming a top-10 quarterback. They’d probably settle for top 16.
28. Carolina Panthers (1-5, LW: 27)
Crazy note from Greg Cosell last week: In their loss to the pass-happy Saints in Week 6, the Panthers didn’t play a snap of nickel defense. Their three linebackers played the entire game. It’s amazing that of all things, a lack of functional cornerbacks is the biggest reason Carolina’s season is on life support.
27. New York Jets (2-5, LW: 28)
Ryan Fitzpatrick played well in relief Sunday, and with Geno Smith out and the Jets’ season not over yet, Fitzpatrick will likely start again. But after Fitzpatrick’s salty comments about being benched after Sunday’s game, it’s clear that when his offseason holdout reached a certain point, both sides would have been better walking away. Even if we didn’t know it at the time.
26. Miami Dolphins (3-4, LW: 29)
In the history of the NFL, the running backs with back-to-back 200-yard games: O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams … Jay Ajayi? This is an unbelievable breakthrough we’re seeing.
25. Los Angeles Rams (3-4, LW: 20)
I buy Charles Robinson’s explanation on why the Rams won’t start Jared Goff now. As he wrote, “If there are some significant cracks found in Goff’s game, someone is losing their job.” So we’ll continue to wait. We forget that real people make these decisions, and self-preservation is going to be more important to them than what’s best for the franchise in the long term.
24. Tennessee Titans (3-4, LW: 22)
Sunday was a huge missed opportunity. The Titans led the Colts in the fourth quarter, and could have moved to 4-3 and sent the Colts to 2-5. The Jaguars are 2-4. A win Sunday would have gone a long way toward making the AFC South a two-team race with Houston. But Andrew Luck dragged the Colts back for the win. That loss will sting for a while.
23. New Orleans Saints (2-4, LW: 24)
Rookie receiver Michael Thomas is looking like a home-run pick. The second-round pick had 10 catches for 130 yards on Sunday, and has 437 yards and three touchdowns in six games.
22. Indianapolis Colts (3-4, LW: 26)
How badly did the Colts need that comeback win? Three of their next four games are against the Chiefs, Packers and Steelers. They’re still breathing though, for now.
21. Baltimore Ravens (3-4, LW: 17)
It has been a long time since the Ravens had two straight bad seasons. But after four straight losses, it looks like the Ravens are in quicksand.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3, LW: 21)
Jacquizz Rodgers has 56 carries for 255 yards in Tampa Bay’s past two games, with Doug Martin and Charles Sims out. I bet nobody saw that coming.
19. Houston Texans (4-3, LW: 15)
One person must be happy with Brock Osweiler’s struggles: Scott Mitchell. We’re close to replacing Mitchell’s name with Osweiler’s when we talk about the worst free-agent contract for a quarterback in NFL history. If nothing else, it seems like Osweiler made a mistake leaving a comfortable situation in Denver.
18. San Diego Chargers (3-4, LW: 23)
What to make of Melvin Gordon’s season? He looks a lot better, and he leads the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns. He also has just a 3.3-yard average. His line on Sunday – 22 carries, 68 yards, two touchdowns – is fairly standard for him. Is that good?
17. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4, LW: 18)
Rodney Harrison went on NBC and said A.J. Green’s Hail Mary catch was luck. We must have been watching different plays.
16. New York Giants (4-3, LW: 16)
The Giants’ team rushing totals the past four weeks: 78, 43, 38, 36. It shouldn’t be this difficult to put together a competent running game in today’s NFL.
15. Washington Redskins (4-3, LW: 11)
The NFL is harsh. If Washington could have gotten one more stop, with the Lions taking over on their own 25-yard line with 1:05 remaining, we’d all be talking about how the Redskins are 5-2 and on a roll.
14. Detroit Lions (4-3, LW: 19)
Matthew Stafford for MVP? If he keeps playing like this, it’s not crazy.
13. Buffalo Bills (4-3, LW: 7)
Bad, bad loss at Miami but it was a classic look-ahead game, with a home game against the Patriots on deck. Now Sunday’s game is practically a must-win. If the Bills lose, the Patriots will lead the AFC East by three games with eight to go.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (4-2, LW: 14)
Lost in the excitement of a big win against Minnesota was that Carson Wentz had his worst game as a pro. He had just 138 yards, a short touchdown pass and two interceptions for a 52.4 rating.
11. Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1, LW: 12)
David Johnson is fantastic, but in the past three games he is averaging 32 touches a game. Arizona can’t afford to dig a deeper hole this season, but that’s a hard pace for Johnson to keep up.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3, LW: 8)
Not many teams are going to beat the Patriots with their backup quarterback. But if I was the Steelers I’d feel OK about how Landry Jones looked. Of his 18 incompletions, 11 came in the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh was in catch-up mode. Jones looked good enough that you’d figure the Steelers can win some games with him, before Ben Roethlisberger returns.
9. Oakland Raiders (5-2, LW: 13)
The Raiders are 4-0 in the Central and Eastern time zones and 1-2 at home. Strange. One note: The Raiders are in a tough division and they get only seven home games. One of their “home” games is against the Texans in Mexico City. Maybe they’re the strange team that is much better on the road and giving away a home game doesn’t matter, but having one fewer home game than the Broncos or Chiefs is not fair in what will likely be a close playoff race.
8. Green Bay Packers (4-2, LW: 10)
So is this going to be Green Bay’s offense from here on out? It’s not like they have any running backs they need or want to get involved. Aaron Rodgers had 56 passing attempts last week. If he attempts 49 passes per game the rest of the way, he’ll tie Matthew Stafford’s NFL single-season record of 727. I can’t rule it out.
7. Atlanta Falcons (4-3, LW: 4)
Sunday’s loss was troubling because the Falcons faded after a good start last season. Is that just going to be a trend for head coach Dan Quinn? If you want to be really pessimistic, they got off to a wonderful start with some quality wins and here they sit at just one game over .500.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (4-2, LW: 9)
Look at the Chiefs’ season this way: They are 4-2 (with a 2-0 divisional record, which will help in tiebreakers) and their best player, outside linebacker Justin Houston, hasn’t played a snap. Houston returned to practice last week and will probably play soon. They’ve also gotten just 12 carries and 40 yards from Jamaal Charles, who might be their second-best player when healthy. Who knows if Houston and Charles will ever look like themselves this season, but it’s possible they become huge pieces down the stretch. Also consider that the next time the Chiefs play a game against a team with a winning record will be Nov. 27 at Denver. It wouldn’t be too surprising if they are 8-2 by then, perhaps with Houston and Charles back to full speed.
5. Denver Broncos (5-2, LW: 6)
C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker looked great on Monday night. And Gary Kubiak’s offenses through the years, almost without fail, have run the ball well.
4. Minnesota Vikings (5-1, LW: 3)
While the offensive line looked really bad – and that was the biggest reason Sam Bradford looked bad – there’s no reason to believe the Vikings were exposed. They’re still one of the NFL’s best teams. They just aren’t going 16-0. No big surprise.
3. Dallas Cowboys (5-1, LW: 5)
I’m guessing the Cowboys will probably show up as No. 2 on most other power rankings considering they didn’t lose or tie (Dallas had a bye). I can see the argument. I also wonder if the defense is good enough, especially if Dak Prescott ever slumps. But who knows, maybe Prescott never slumps and has the greatest rookie season ever.
2. Seattle Seahawks (4-1-1, LW: 2)
Another Seahawks injury note: Tyler Lockett is a good receiver and he hasn’t been right most of this season because of a knee injury. He’ll come alive in the second half. And also, running back Thomas Rawls should return sometime in November.
1. New England Patriots (6-1, LW: 1)
It’s a little troubling that the defense allowed Landry Jones to look so good. But there’s no other logical pick for the top spot. The gap between New England and everyone else is still wide.
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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!