SEAHAWKS // RAIDERS (LONDON) OVERVIEW
The 1-4 Raiders and the 2-3 Seahawks travel to London this week to face one another at Wembley Stadium. Neither of these teams looks particularly good this year, with red zone scoring (25th in red zone touchdown rate) and “scared quarterback play” being the main issue for an Oakland team that has otherwise moved the ball well (sixth in the NFL in yards per game), and with lack of creativity on offense and a poor run defense (29th in rushing yards allowed per game) the main culprits on Seattle. Because the Seahawks play in the same division as the Cardinals and 49ers, they may be able to pile up enough wins this year to make a run at the playoffs — making this an important game for them as they look to lock in every win possible.
Vegas has the Seahawks installed as early three-point favorites, with a moderate scoring expectation for this game. The likeliest path for these teams to rack up their projected points is on the ground, as Seattle ranks 31st in the NFL in passing play percentage, while the Raiders (13th in passing play percentage) should lean a bit more run-heavy against this Seattle team. Each team plays at a moderate pace and has had trouble sustaining drives (Oakland entered last week ranked 21st in drive success rate, while the Seahawks ranked 28th), and each defense has done a decent job slowing down opponent drives (Seattle is 10th in drive success rate on defense; Oakland ranks 13th). Oakland has been susceptible to big plays, however — allowing the third-most pass plays of 20+ yards and the seventh-most rush plays of 20+ yards — while each team has been poor against the run (ranking 26th — Seattle — and 27th in yards allowed per carry). Barring a boneheaded Brian Schottenheimer game plan, Seattle should lean run-heavy once again, while Oakland should respond by keeping the ball on the ground as well.
SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE
Seattle’s offensive line has been one of the worst pass blocking units in the league this year, but they will match up this week with an Oakland defense that is near the bottom of the league in pass rush efficiency, and that ranks sixth worst in the league in average depth of target allowed. Oakland has also continued their mistake-prone ways, with the most YAC allowed per reception in the league.
Over the last three weeks, Seattle has gone with an interesting style of play — giving 96 total carries to Mike Davis, Chris Carson, and Rashaad Penny (Penny has 12 of those carries — with none last week, when Davis and Carson were both healthy), while asking Russell Wilson to pass the ball only 73 times in that stretch. Russ also has only six total carries across the last three weeks.
We’ll get to the rushing attack in a moment, but first: with Seattle going 2-1 over the last three weeks (and nearly topping the Rams in Week 5) with this approach, it seems likely to continue unless Oakland unexpectedly hops out to a big lead. Since Oakland’s best means of moving the ball will also be on the ground, this seems unlikely to happen — and as such, we can pencil in the Seahawks for a sub-50% pass rate in this spot, which should lead to another 25 to 29 pass attempts for Russ. Even with the deep ball issues on Oakland, Seattle will be difficult to bet on for massive upside through the air. Russ has not topped 200 passing yards in three consecutive weeks.
Most pass plays right now, Seattle is sending two (or sometimes three) guys downfield, while dropping the tight end and the running back into the short areas of the field. With teams having to respect the rushing ability of Russ (and having to respect Tyler Lockett and now Doug Baldwin deep), the running backs (10 catches over the last three weeks) and tight ends (10 catches over the last three weeks) are picking up big chunks of the total available receptions on this offense. With Russ completing only 48 pass attempts the last three weeks, 41.7% of these completions have gone to backs and tight ends.
Although volume is a concern for Seattle wide receivers (as a group, they have an average of only 9.3 wide receiver catches per game over the last three weeks), deep balls should remain part of the game plan against an Oakland team that can be flamed downfield. Tyler Lockett has a respectable aDOT of 13.5, and he is seeing some short looks mixed in with his deep balls. He has target counts across these three weeks of six, six, and five, and he should be in that range again — giving him moderate floor and moderate ceiling.
Doug Baldwin saw only one target last week (a dump-off that went for one yard), but he played 53 of a possible 60 snaps and ran 24 of a possible 26 pass routes. He saw seven targets the week before, and he should return to the “five to eight” target range again in this one. Oakland plays much better defense on the outside than they do over the middle, where Baldwin primarily operates. With the lack of Oakland pass rush, he and Lockett will each have a couple opportunities for big plays deep.
Nick Vannett continues to produce limited upside on limited opportunities. He ran only 14 pass routes last week, but saw four targets. He’s a risky bet with what is primarily a dump-off role. He’ll need a touchdown in order to pay off.
SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE
While you could bet on unexpected game flow (or unexpected game plan) in large-field tourneys and ignore the Seattle rushing attack while loading up on Russell Wilson and his pass catchers, the likeliest scenario here is another run-heavy game for the Seahawks after Chris Carson had 32 carries in Week 3, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny combined for 30 rush attempts in Week 4, and Carson/Davis combined for 31 rush attempts in Week 5. Last week, Carson played 35 snaps to 25 for Davis. Oakland has been most susceptible right up the gut, where the Seahawks have been most effective. Because the secondary has to respect the deep ball and the linebackers have to respect the possibility of Russ keeping the ball on action to the outside, there should be even more space against this run defense than other teams have had. Expect another 30+ combined touches for Carson and Davis, with each guy mixing in fairly interchangeably. Carson should out-touch Davis, but it will likely be close. Only five teams have allowed more yards per carry than the Raiders, and only four teams have allowed more rushing yards per game. Only one team has allowed more touchdowns to running backs.
RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE
Seattle has been strong against the pass early in the year, allowing below-average marks in both aDOT and catch rate — and given the issues Seattle has had on the ground (26th in yards allowed per carry, 29th in rushing yards allowed per game), teams are generally turning to the run against them. Only seven teams have faced more rush attempts per game than Seattle, while only five teams have faced fewer pass attempts per game. (Oakland happens to be one of those teams that has faced fewer pass attempts. Again: this game should skew run-heavy.)
There has been no “clear way” to attack Seattle through the air this year, with only six teams allowing fewer receptions to the tight end position, and with the Seahawks ranking comfortably in the top half of the NFL in yards allowed per game to wide receivers. The best way to beat this team is to hope for time in the pocket, and for a coverage breakdown deep. In a game with tight coverage across the board, we should have concerns about the efficiency we will see from Derek Carr, who plays the quarterback position like a pure cash game player: shying away from risk at all costs. Look for Carr to settle for dump-offs instead of testing deep as often as he should.
With all that said: Amari Cooper posted a strong game against a similarly tough Cleveland pass defense (low aDOT, low catch rate allowed) — putting up 8-128-1 on 12 targets. Part of that was dictated by game flow in a matchup that turned into a pass-heavy shootout, which we should not expect here; but again: if you want to bet on unexpected game flow, he would become an interesting piece. Jordy Nelson has target counts on the year of four, four, eight, eight, and four, and has continued to produce a high catch rate and solid YAC on these looks. Martavis Bryant should see three to five targets downfield, giving him boom/bust potential. In spite of his tough matchup, Jared Cook should remain involved, and is another piece to consider if betting on unexpected game flow.
RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE
There has been a clear pattern in the Raiders’ backfield to date:
Marshawn Lynch sees the bulk of the carries. The Raiders waste a few touches per game on Doug Martin. And when Oakland falls behind, they speed up the pace and turn to Jalen Richard for his pass-catching chops.
Although he saw only 11 touches last week when the Raiders fell behind by two touchdowns before halftime, Lynch saw touch counts across his previous three games of 23, 22, and 20. He has exactly two or three catches in every game this year (he tends to get one designed screen play and two or three dump-offs), and he has 18 to 20 carries in each of those three spiked-usage games. Seattle has allowed four rushing touchdowns to running backs — sixth worst in the league — while only three running backs in the NFL have more red zone carries than Lynch.
If multi-entering large-field tourneys, you could make a case for targeting one of these passing attacks — betting on a scenario in which one team jumps out in front of the other, and pass attempts spike as a result. Because each team has upside when going pass-heavy, this is the sort of bet that could pay off nicely if things go differently than expected — but of course, the likeliest scenario is a fairly close game that yields a run-heavy approach on both sides of the ball, with touchdowns on both teams likeliest to come from the running backs. I could see myself taking a shot on Baldwin or Lockett this week on one of the three teams I will be playing in the $3k Milly Maker — simply because there is plenty of upside for the price — but I can’t pretend that the floor is solid.
I have a lot of interest in Seattle’s running backs, with an expectation of around 32 to 35 total touches between Carson and Davis — with Carson likely to see 18 to 20 touches, and with Davis in line for around 12 to 15 looks. They are unlikely to combine for more than three or four receptions, so yards and touchdowns will need to pile up — but against this Raiders team, there should be a clear opportunity for around 130 combined rushing yards and one or two touchdowns. If betting on one guy, I’ll lean Carson. There is also a case on DraftKings and FantasyDraft — with tighter pricing, and with no “underpriced” high-priced running backs — to play both guys together in classic Cheat Code style. Obviously, your roster will be sunk if Seattle somehow fails on the ground or if they decide to move away from their run-heavy approach; but since Seattle switched to a run-heavy approach, “Seahawks running backs” have posted combined DK/FDraft scores of 23.9 (Week 3), 36.3 (Week 4), and 32.2 (Week 5), and this is the best matchup this group has had in this stretch. Some people will tell you that you limit your roster’s overall upside by playing both guys together — but it’s difficult to average 12 to 18 points per game from a pair of low-priced guys, and these two should provide fairly locked-in points while allowing you to spend up for 30-point-per-player upside in other spots. Pairing these two probably won’t get the job done in massive-field stuff, but it should work beautifully in cash games, single-entry tourneys, three-entry-max tourneys, and any field of around 10k entries or fewer.
I also have interest in going back to the well on Marshawn Lynch after his dud last week. There are several other running backs to consider if I soak up two spots with Seattle RBs, but Marshawn will at least make the list.