Sometimes in life, you just have to learn things the hard way. The key is not to repeat the same mistakes. Pete Carroll taught us a lesson in 2022, and I was as guilty as anyone for underestimating his ability to succeed with Geno Smith at the helm. After the Seahawks sent Russell Wilson to Denver, I became convinced they hit all the milestones of a rebuild. I assigned them last place and even made a small bet on them to not record a road win all season (in my defense the road schedule was tough).
Geno Smith won Comeback Player of the Year while leading a passing attack that finished outside the top 10 in the EPA. The Seahawks were a good surprise, but still far from Super Bowl contenders. They went 9-8 in the regular season and gave the 49ers everything they could in the wild card round before wheels broke in the second half. This season, I like your chances of finishing the job.
The Carroll-Wilson split not only proved that Seattle can win without its former franchise quarterback, it also highlighted Carroll’s ability to build an offense around his quarterback’s strengths. This was constantly called into question during Wilson’s final years at the club, and it’s a big part of why I’m buying the Seahawks in 2023.
What can Carroll do as an encore with Smith at center? I’m banking on 10 or more wins and an NFC West crown.
The Seahawks had one of their best offseasons yet, making significant improvements on both sides of the ball. The defense, ranked 26th in the EPA by play, needed more attention. Seattle lost two games last season when it scored 32 or more points and allowed 7.9 yards per game in a playoff loss to San Francisco. Seattle being able to tackle after the Rams released LB Bobby Wagner was a dream scenario for this defense. Wagner is still one of the best linebackers in the game, and his command and leadership will help young players fit in and contribute at a high level. Seattle also made improvements to its fast passing through free agency and selected DB Devin Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft. Tackling the defense at all three levels is a huge plus for a unit that just needs to be able to make a few big stops while the offense does its thing.
Everyone is focusing on whether Smith can do it again. I’m pretty confident he won’t need it in an attack where less can be more at halfback. By surrounding Smith with an abundance of star players, Carroll can take the weight off of Smith’s shoulders, making it easier for him to pass the ball quickly to his star players in space. Inserting rookie slot receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba into an offense with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the outside equips Smith with one of the most dangerous sets of wideouts in the league. The running game also gets a pass-catching complement to Kenneth Walker III on Zach Charbonnet, allowing Seattle more game-calling flexibility on first downs. Considering it will be Smith’s second year as a starter in Seattle, there should be enough offense dominance to take him to the next level.
I’m convinced the Seahawks are improving to 10 wins. Betting over 9.5 was a bet I had to make considering current odds on BetMGM are +130. It’s a one-game improvement over last season’s 9-8 record without a challenging schedule. Carroll just missed winning totals in four of his 13 years with the Seahawks, according to Clevanalytics.
Seattle Seahawks win NFC West (+195)
I always look to find additional ways to bet on teams that I believe have a higher ceiling than the market. Seattle’s odds of making the playoffs are -120, but I see more value in playing them to win the division at +195. The 49ers were an absolute juggernaut last season. However, the most common reason a team’s season is derailed is because of injuries to the QB position. That’s been San Francisco’s Achilles’ heel since Kyle Shanahan was signed in 2017. There are a number of ways the 49ers QB situation could go south.
In just eight games, Brock Purdy battled an oblique injury before his season-ending elbow injury in the NFC Championship Game. He’s not entirely healthy, and if he goes back to being the player he was in college, the window opens for Seattle to steal the division. If Sam Darnold is the quarterback for a significant amount of time, I’m feeling pretty good about having Seattle at +195 to win the NFC West. The 49ers are the more talented team, hands down, but any favorite at the top of a division with a shaky quarterback situation should be a target for punters. There are enough plausible scenarios for me to bet on Seattle at current odds.
Statistics provided by PFF and Clevanalytics.