As a football handicapper, I believe Week 2 is important. A single game is not enough for someone to come off prior beliefs entering a season. If what you believed about a team does not present itself, it does not mean you should give up entirely on that theory.
But if those beliefs do not play out in some form by Week 2, it is time to reshape your views. Here are two teams I’m looking at.
Seahawks’ pass-coverage problems
Coming into the season, my research led me to believe Seattle would be a poor defensive team. In 2020, the Seahawks finished 16th in defensive DVOA and 20th against the pass. They were graded as the 17th-best team in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, and no additions of merit were made to address that problem. Seattle also did nothing to address a pass rush that depended on safety Jamal Adams. In Week 1, none of those things came to fruition in a win over Indianapolis. The Seahawks harassed Carson Wentz, pressuring him on 20 of his 44 drop-backs and holding him to a PFF passing grade of 57.1 on traditional drop-backs with no play-action. For one game, it seemed Seattle had a defense that was the a10ntithesis of what I believed it to be. Sure enough, however, everything I believed about the Seahawks’ defense proved true last weekend.
Tennessee torched Seattle’s pass coverage Sunday. Ryan Tannehill was masterful on the surface, completing 27 of 40 for 347 yards and 8.7 yards per attempt. But the Titans’ success through the air goes much deeper than that.
When Tannehill faced no pressure, he picked apart the Seahawks’ secondary, completing 23 of 31 for 307 yards and 9.9 yards per attempt. He posted a 93.1 PFF passing grade on those drop-backs and completed three Big Time Throws (a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window, as defined by PFF).
Cornerback Tre Flowers was abysmal in coverage, allowing four receptions and 108 yards on six targets. Ugo Amadi, Quandre Diggs and Jordyn Brooks posted PFF coverage grades of 59.0 or lower as well. Seattle might have led Tennessee 24-9 at halftime, but the final box score indicates how much trouble the Seahawks had on defense. The Titans finished with 16 more first downs, 532 total yards and six red-zone possessions. It was a game the road team thoroughly dominated.
Now Seattle will hit the road to take on a Minnesota team coming off a brutal loss at Arizona and consecutive road games to open the season.
The betting market had the Seahawks as road favorites as of Thursday, but should this type of team be favored on the road? Seattle will continue to have problems with its secondary and the Vikings are not devoid of talent in the passing game. Kirk Cousins obliterated Arizona’s secondary last weekend. Not much really separates these teams, and Minnesota should be favored at home. Expect this line to flip by the time we reach kickoff, and expect another poor performance from the Seahawks’ secondary.
Chiefs’ Achilles’ heel
Despite a Super Bowl appearance in 2020, the Chiefs quietly had one of the worst run defenses in the league. In fact, by DVOA standards, they were the second-worst team against the run, and that trend seems to have continued.
Through two games against quality running attacks, the Chiefs’ defensive front has been trampled for 404 yards and 6.03 yards per attempt. PFF has them graded as the worst rush defense in the league (29.5), and Football Outsiders has them last in adjusted line yards allowed per carry (5.76).
The Chiefs allowed Cleveland to convert all of its power situations (percentage of runs on third or fourth down, 2 yards or fewer to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown, plus runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the 2-yard line or closer), and Baltimore went 4-for-5 in those situations Sunday night. If Kansas City’s run defense were the only problem, this would barely be a topic, but that is not the case. Through two weeks, the Chiefs rank 20th in pass coverage and 27th in tackling by PFF standards. It should be no surprise, given their problems against the run, to find Kansas City has greatly struggled in defending pass attempts off play action.
The Chiefs’ two lead interior linemen on defense, Khalen Saunders and Tershawn Wharton, have never graded higher than 63.9 by PFF in run defense, and Chris Jones is now playing along the edge. They seem to lack a path to improve as much as they need to.
In Week 3 they will face the Chargers, who have not exactly lit it up with their running game. The Chiefs can certainly put forth a better effort in defending a lesser running attack, but this problem will persist, and the market has not factored this into its power rating of Kansas City. Kansas City is 1-11-1 ATS in its last 13 games because of its status as a public favorite, but also because of a defense that struggles immensely against strong running games. Will this poor cover run continue Sunday?