NFL News & Analysis

Monson: Can the Seattle Seahawks still make the NFL playoffs after Russell Wilson's injury in loss to Rams?

Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) stands on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson’s finger wasn’t the only casualty of the Seattle Seahawks‘ defeat to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night — their playoff aspirations took a real beating as well.

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In a brutal NFC West, the Seahawks now sit with a 2-3 record, staring up at the rest of the division and wondering if Wilson’s finger is going to heal fast enough to give them a chance going forward.

Defensive shortcomings

More than ever before, the Seahawks are reliant on Wilson to overcome the team's shortcomings — and they have a lot.

Their defense was once credited with carrying Wilson to places he wouldn't have been without it. The Legion of Boom is long gone, replaced with a collection of misfits being repeatedly mashed together in an attempt to stumble into some kind of combination that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.  

It’s not working.

So far this season, only four teams are allowing more than the Seahawks' 6.2 yards per play. They are 24th in EPA per play against, coming in below the likes of the Houston Texans. They rank 28th in pressure rate and are allowing a passer rating to opposing quarterbacks of 114.7.  What’s more disturbing than the raw numbers, though, is the endless sequence of bad personnel matchups they seem to keep finding themselves in.

At one point in the game against the Rams, Marquise Blair — a hard-hitting strong safety in college — was covering the slot and running down the sideline in man coverage with DeSean Jackson

It isn’t just that Seattle’s personnel on defense isn’t great, it’s that it actively doesn’t seem to fit in terms of roles and responsibilities. 

Oct 7, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) stands on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field. Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Even after facing the Rams — the team that runs with the most three-receiver packages in the league — Seattle leads the NFL in using base personnel at 44.3% of the time. They do this in part because they haven’t been able to find a quality slot cornerback for years. Ugo Amadi has been tasked with that role the most over the past couple of seasons, but he has an overall PFF grade of just 44.3 this season and is allowing a passer rating of 115.0 when targeted.

You could make the case that the player with the most natural skill set to play the slot on the roster is D.J. Reed, but he is currently their No. 1 corner because the depth chart is as bad on the outside as it is in the slot. Reed is just 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, but he’s having to go one-on-one with elite receivers on the outside because he’s the best option. Reed’s 64.7 coverage grade is the best of any cornerback on the team this season, and at 53.6% he is also allowing the lowest completion rate when targeted.

Tough division, easier out-of-division schedule

The good news for Seattle is that they face the AFC South and NFC North this season, so there are several likely wins penciled in over the remainder of their schedule. The fact that their division is so tough is also a double-edged sword: They face more tough games than most teams because of it, but that means they can make up for a lot of mistakes by beating the teams in their division — and they still have four such games to come. 

Heading into Thursday Night Football, the PFF Power Rankings gave the Seahawks a 52% chance to make the playoffs and just a 15% chance to win the division. Those numbers certainly went down after the loss to the Rams. There’s now a greater chance they miss the playoffs than make it, even with a seventh seed to shoot for.

PFF's NFL and NCAA Power Ratings are updated weekly, incorporating remaining strength of schedule and projecting total wins and playoff odds.

Wilson's health

The great X-factor is how long Wilson’s finger will keep him out: whether he can play in next weekend's game against Pittsburgh and be as productive as usual. Geno Smith isn’t a terrible backup option, but his overall PFF grade has remained consistently in the 60s for his career, while Wilson’s hovers consistently around 90.

Wilson has a 90.3 overall PFF grade for the season, and only two other players of consequence — one on offense and one on defense — have even earned grades above 80. More than ever before, this is Wilson’s burden to shoulder, and the team may come up short even if he is able to carry the group as far as he can. 

If Wilson has to miss time or can’t play to his usual level because of the finger injury, the Seahawks simply have no shot at making the postseason. 

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