Analysis: 5 Key Questions for Seahawks' Offense Coming Off Bye Week
Fresh off their bye week, the Seahawks stand as one of just three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL and alone atop the NFC standings with a 5-0 record.
At the center of the best start in franchise history, Seattle currently ranks first in the NFL averaging 33.8 points per game, posting at least 35 points in three of their victories. Leading the offensive onslaught, quarterback Russell Wilson has already thrown 19 touchdown passes, while star receiver DK Metcalf ranks third in the league in receiving yardage and first in yards per reception.
With 11 weeks left in the regular season, will the Seahawks be able to maintain their hot start offensively? Here are five key questions that will need to be answered over the next several weeks as the team pushes for a division title and the NFC's top seed.
1. What are the chances of Wilson maintaining his torrid pace?
Through five games, Wilson finds himself just one touchdown pass off of Peyton Manning's pace during his record-breaking season back in 2013. Considering the weapons he has at his disposal, including DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, he's certainly well-positioned to make a run at the 55-touchdown mark, and a suspect Seahawks defense will likely force him to sling the ball a lot down the stretch to win high-scoring shootouts.
If there's a factor that could prevent Wilson from getting to 55 touchdowns, it's the potential for poor weather at Seattle's remaining five home contests. This time of year, it's rare to see a game at CenturyLink Field not impacted by rain and wind, which could have a significant impact on his passing numbers. It's also worth noting the Seahawks play road games in Buffalo and Philadelphia, which could present further opportunities for weather-related elements to be an issue.
2. Can a surprisingly good offensive line maintain its stellar play?
Going into the 2020 season, as it has been for most of the past decade, Seattle's offensive line remained one of the team's biggest question marks. Breaking in three new starters without the benefit of a normal offseason program, including an untested rookie in Damien Lewis at right guard, nobody knew what to expect coming out of training camp.
But through five games, the unit has been one of the NFL's biggest surprises, doing a superb job protecting Wilson while also creating holes in the ground game. All five of Seattle's starters have at least a 67.0 grade from Pro Football Focus, with Duane Brown and Lewis both receiving stellar grades exceeding 75.0. Considering the group has only played five games together and has proven itself to have capable backups ready when needed, they seem to be just hitting their stride, which is great news for the Seahawks heading towards the midway point.
3. Where does Rashaad Penny fit into Seattle’s backfield plans?
To this point, the Seahawks haven't had to lean much on their ground game through five games due to Wilson's brilliance, ranking 26th in total rushing attempts. As a result, starter Chris Carson's overall production is down compared to the past two seasons with just 289 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, while Carlos Hyde has only 57 rushing yards in three games and Travis Homer has averaged less than four yards per carry in a third-down role.
In the second half of the season, however, there will be games where the run game will be critical and Penny's impeding return could make a dangerous offense even better. Before tearing his ACL last December, the third-year back broke out with a 129-yard performance against Philadelphia and had 100-plus all purpose yards the following week versus Minnesota. While he won't be replacing Carson as the starter, his ability to throttle up to an extra gear out of the backfield will add a different dimension to Seattle's rushing attack that none of the backs on the roster currently offer.
4. Will we see Josh Gordon at any point this year?
With three receivers producing at least 170 receiving yards and two touchdowns through the first five weeks, adding another receiving weapon to Seattle's arsenal isn't a top priority necessarily. But the Seahawks re-signed Gordon, who is still serving an indefinite suspension, for a reason. Wilson built a strong rapport with him in five games last season before receiving his latest suspension and the organization hopes the former All-Pro can still contribute at some point.
Unfortunately, for right now, the Seahawks can't do anything about Gordon's status. His appeal is in the league office's hands now and until they decide to give him conditional reinstatement, he won't be able to do anything with the team. It's not out of the question he could become eligible at some point in the near future, but for now, the team will have to settle for Phillip Dorsett returning from a knee injury to further bolster the receiving corps.
5. Will the Seahawks improve upon their awful third down rates?
If there's been one Achilles heel for the Seahawks offensively through the first five games, it's been atrocious production on third downs. Coming off a stunning 0-for-7 performance against the Vikings, the team now ranks 31st out of 32 teams in third down conversion rate at 32.6 percent. The only team that has been worse is the Jets, who have been historically inept on offense amid an 0-6 start.
There's a caveat to this, of course. Seattle is the only NFL team averaging less than 10 third down opportunities per game, an indicator of the immense success the team has had on early downs this season. The team has also converted 80 percent of fourth down tries, the fifth-best mark in the league. But at some point, the inability to consistently sustain drives with better third down efficiency will come back to bite the Seahawks and this remains a vital area of improvement rolling into the final 11 games.