SEAHAWKS // LIONS OVERVIEW
The 3-3 Seahawks and the 3-3 Lions will square off in Detroit, carrying an early-week Over/Under of 49.5 — a high-total game that is likely to go somewhat overlooked with all the “better” games on the slate. The surprise story of the Lions this year is that they rank 15th in pass play rate, after ranking top three in three consecutive years. The story of the Seahawks is similar, of course, as they rank dead last in the NFL this year in pass play rate — a trend that may shift slightly over the next few weeks, with Russell Wilson hopefully healed up a bit since the bye, though with Brian Schottenheimer calling the plays for the Seahawks, this will remain a run-heavy team through the remainder of the year.
The weakness of each defense has been on the ground, with the Lions allowing the most yards per carry in the league, and with the Seahawks allowing the eighth most yards per carry. Each team is above-average in preventing opponent plays (Seattle ranks 10th in fewest opponent plays per game; Detroit ranks fifth), while Detroit has faced a pass play rate of only 56.5% (this would rank 24th in the NFL on offense), and Seattle has faced a pass play rate of 57.9% (this aggregate pass play rate would rank 20th if it belonged to a single offense). With each team also playing at a middling pace (Seattle ranks 18th and Detroit ranks 16th — though the Lions rank all the way down at 31st in situation neutral pace), a true shootout is unlikely in this environment, and if this game leans any direction, it leans toward the Under. Seattle, in particular, has been steadily improving on defense — now ranking third in DVOA against the pass and 12th in DVOA against the run.
SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE
Detroit has not been a shy-away matchup for opposing passing attacks, but the Lions have been so bad against the run and have done such a strong job limiting opponent plays, they have actually faced the fewest pass attempts in the NFL. Considering that the Seahawks have 31 fewer pass attempts than any other team in the league this year (with an impossibly low 27.5 pass attempts per game), it will be very difficult to get excited about this passing attack. In his last four games, Russ has pass attempt totals of 26 // 26 // 21 // 23. He has topped 200 yards in only one of his last four games.
Even with the low passing volume, the Seahawks have managed to spread the ball around, with Tyler Lockett seeing a disappointing 20.8% of the available targets on this team over his last four games, and with Doug Baldwin mixing in target counts since his return of 7 // 1 // 8. David Moore has seen nine total targets across his last three games (popping with three touchdowns in that stretch — but failing to top 47 yards in any of those games), while Brandon Marshall has seen five wasted looks in Seattle’s last three matchups as well. Ed Dickson projects to return this week at tight end, further adding bodies for Russ to spread the love to in this low-volume attack.
No team in football has allowed fewer receptions to wide receivers than the Lions, and only the Jaguars and Seahawks have allowed fewer yards.
If you feel compelled to go here, Baldwin is the best bet for valuable volume — but we should keep in mind that he only topped 100 yards twice last year, on a team that was passing the ball a lot more often (Baldwin had four games of double-digit targets in 2017). His main value comes from touchdowns (eight scores last year), and Detroit has been middling in touchdowns allowed to wide receivers, with seven. A bet on Baldwin is a bet on him adding a touchdown to his volume — not an awful bet, as long as the seven to nine targets are there. Baldwin is at least priced down at 11% or less of the salary cap on all three sites.
SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE
The fear in rostering Seattle pass catchers is that this offense will continue to pour all their attention into the ground game, with this team carrying an unbelievably low 42.1% pass play rate over their last three games. To put that in perspective: no team has finished below 50% in the last two years, and only Buffalo in 2015 (49.9%) has finished below 50% in the last three years. This team wants to run the ball — and that is exactly how teams have attacked Detroit throughout the year.
Detroit has recognized this, of course, and they went out and traded for Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the Giants — one of the premier run-cloggers in the league. But Snacks is one guy, and this unit as a whole comes into Week 8 ranked bottom two in all three of adjusted line yards, yards allowed per carry, and rushing yards allowed per game.
The reliable good news may end there. While Detroit has been beatable across the entire defensive line, the Seahawks have only been above-average when running right up the gut — where Snacks will make a difference directly. The bye week (and everything we know about Pete Carroll) also introduces some concern that this team will indeed turn into a three-way timeshare with Rashaad Penny more involved (or even some concern that Penny will unexpectedly take over for Mike Davis or Chris Carson; when it comes to Carroll, who really knows?).
All of that is simply speculation, of course. The likeliest scenario is that the Seahawks run the ball around 30 to 35 times, and that roughly 18 to 22 of these carries go to Carson while Davis cleans up the rest. Carson is not schemed targets in the pass game and is unlikely to top two or three looks in any given week, but if he indeed sees 20+ carries in this spot, he does warrant low-floor, solid-upside consideration as a yardage-and-touchdown back. There is at least some chance that Sunday ends and the masses find themselves saying, “Wow, the Lions were allowing the third most rushing yards per game to running backs; how did I not consider Carson?”
LIONS PASS OFFENSE
Seattle has been strong against the pass this year, ranking third in DVOA and fourth in yards allowed per pass attempt, while facing the fourth fewest pass attempts in the league. Overall, Seattle has had a soft schedule for passing attacks (Denver // Chicago // Dallas // Arizona // L.A. Rams // Oakland), but they have excelled primarily by forcing the third-lowest average depth of target in the league — which is something they have maintained through all matchups. When the Rams faced Seattle, Goff threw only two passes of 20+ yards (one fell incomplete, and one was intercepted). Goff threw five such passes the previous game (completing four, with three going for touchdowns) and threw another four the next game. This is not a defense that teams are testing deep.
So far this year, Marvin Jones has been targeted primarily downfield, with an aDOT of 15.3. He has not topped six targets in any of his last four games, and he and Matthew Stafford have connected on only 19 of 37 attempts (51.4%).
Kenny Golladay has seen erratic usage, with target counts of 12 // 9 // 7 // 4 // 9 // 2, and he has a role that is more “downfield” than would be optimal in this matchup. He does run enough crossing routes to create opportunities for mix-ups in coverage, and he projects to see six to eight looks, giving him some upside to go with his iffy floor.
The guy likeliest to pile up looks is Golden Tate, as Seattle is best attacked on underneath routes, and they have sprung leaks in YAC allowed at times — ranking sixth worst in the league in YAC per reception rate allowed, increasing the league-average YAC/R by more than eight percent. Tate has a surprisingly middling xYAC/R of 5.8, but we know the upside he brings with the ball in his hands. With the Lions trending away from their pass-heavy offense, Tate has seen target counts in his last four games of 8 // 8 // 7 // 6. The Jaguars are the only team that has allowed fewer passing yards to wide receivers than the Seahawks.
LIONS RUN OFFENSE
Since Jim Bob Cooter took over as the offensive coordinator of the Lions partway through the 2015 season, this has been one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league — and they started out that way this year, with Stafford throwing 46 and 53 times in the Lions’ first two games. Part of that was fueled by game flow…but particularly in Week 1 (the 17-48 blowout loss to the Jets), the game flow was fueled by Stafford’s poor play (four interceptions). It seems likely that rookie head coach Matt Patricia made an executive decision at that point that the team would focus more on the run — as the Lions have since shifted, with Stafford building pass attempt totals of only 36 // 30 // 26 // 22, and with the Lions going 3-1 in that stretch (with their lone loss coming by two points at Dallas). Unless this game gets out of hand (which is not the likeliest scenario), the Lions project to continue leaning on the run. And with Theo Riddick set to miss another game, that means we should see another healthy dose of Kerryon Johnson.
Kerryon played 59.4% of the snaps last week (up from 46.8% in Week 5 and 37.0% in Week 4), carrying the ball 19 times and adding two additional receptions. The Lions quietly rank a respectable 12th in adjusted line yards, and they should do fine against a Seattle defense that ranks 14th. The Seahawks have allowed 4.0 yards per carry to running backs (a solid mark), and only nine teams have allowed fewer yards to the position — indicating that this is not quite the slam dunk that Miami was last week (4.5 YPC allowed; the third most yards allowed to the position — with nine RB touchdowns allowed, compared to five allowed by Seattle), but the worst case for Kerryon should still be a solid game for the price, and he has strong upside for the price as well.
The best deal on Kerryon comes on FantasyDraft, where he costs 9.5% of the salary cap (compared to 10.6% on DK and 11.5% on FanDuel).
I don’t expect to have any interest in the Seahawks’ passing attack, though it won’t be surprising if Baldwin posts a solid game for his price. (He’s worth a shot in tourneys. But his usage and floor are less certain than I would optimally like to target.)
As for the rushing attack of the Seahawks: there is a lot more value available this week than there was a couple weeks ago when Carson was worth considering in a similar matchup against the Raiders (a matchup that got derailed by the blowout nature of the game, and by Penny soaking up the garbage time work), so he obviously doesn’t stand out, but it won’t be a surprise if he posts a solid game.
I won’t be interested in the Detroit passing attack, but I’ll absolutely add Kerryon Johnson to my early-week list, and I’ll see where he ends up for me as the week moves along. As of this writing, I only have one “Main Slate” game left to research, so I have a pretty strong feel for the slate, and I suspect I will be looking for a way to pay up for at least two of Gurley // Saquon // Conner // Hunt, and I suspect Lindsay will be my favorite underpriced play (assuming Freeman misses for the Broncos). That would squeeze Kerryon off my main team — but if I’m wrong, and I decide to pay down at multiple RB spots (or Lindsay shifts down my list for some reason), Kerryon will be in the conversation alongside Marlon Mack, and above a couple other guys I “don’t hate” for their lower-floor, solid upside in Adrian Peterson and Chris Carson.
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