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Seahawks Mailbag: Pleasant Surprises, Appreciating Bobby Wagner & More

You had Seahawks questions; we have answers.

The Seahawks are coming off a third straight victory, a 43-16 win over the 49ers that improved their record to 7-5 and kept them in control of their playoff destiny with four games remaining. Next up is a Monday Night Football showdown with the Minnesota Vikings, another NFC team fighting for a playoff berth. Before we turn our attention to Seattle's Week 14 game at CenturyLink Field, it's time once again to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked a question this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.  

@vgsrini asks, "Does the Eagles win over Washington affect Seattle's playoff chances?"

A: There's not an easy answer to that one, because with the NFC East turning into a three-team race between Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, it's hard to know what team/teams the Seahawks are fighting for a wild card berth and what team will win the division. As of kickoff Monday, Washington was ahead of Philadelphia, so in theory that's a good result for the Seahawks, but the Eagles tend to be trending in the right direction, while Washington is currently down to its third-string quarterback, so perhaps when the dust settles Philadelphia could be a bigger concern for Seattle than Washington. But again, we've got to wait and see how things shake out to really know what that game meant from a Seahawks standpoint. 

But overall, the last few weeks have been good for Seattle's playoff chances, especially because the Seahawks have taken care of things on their end, winning three in a row. Carolina's Week 13 loss to Tampa Bay only strengthened Seattle's playoff odds. And at this point, if the Seahawks keep winning, it won't matter what other NFC teams do down the stretch.  

Overall, the analytics crowd is very high on Seattle's playoff chances at this point. Football Outsiders gives the Seahawks a 92.2 percent chance at earning a playoff berth, while FiveThirtyEight is only a bit less optimistic at 88 percent. And using its Football Power Index, has the Seahawks at 93.5 percent to make the playoffs.

Of course none of those numbers matter if the Seahawks don't take care of their own business down the stretch.

@angeldoxie asks, "Is Mychal Kendricks going to play on Monday?"

A: All signs do point to Kendricks returning to action on Monday night, which could give a boost to the defense with K.J. Wright's status still up in the air because of a knee injury. Kendricks was reinstated from suspension and placed back on the 53-man roster this week, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said that Kendricks, who played in three games earlier this season, is in good shape and has looked good since returning to practice two weeks ago. 

"Mychal has been with us for two weeks, and he's ready to go," Carroll said. "Like I told you last week, he was preparing on the (scout team) defense like he was playing a game, and he took it very seriously. He was very effective in a short amount of time when he played for us before, and we're anxious to get him back out there. He's really hungry to get out and do something to help us. 

"He practiced really hard the last two weeks, he stayed in shape going into it, and he looked great in the last two weeks, so we don't have any hesitation that he can play a full game."

@gnarlyraddad asks, "Most surprising player of the 2018 season?"

A: Over the course of the season, I'd go with Tre Flowers, who has been the starter at right cornerback since Week 1 and played quite well. Flowers hasn't been perfect, but he's mostly avoided big mistakes, and he's had his hand in several turnovers either by breaking up passes that were intercepted by teammates, or by forcing fumbles. For any rookie to come in and start right away at cornerback is no small feat in Carroll's defense—he demands a lot of his corners—but it's especially impressive what Flowers has done when you consider that he played safety in college and was a fifth-round pick.

While his season-long body of work hasn't been as noteworthy, I'll also mention undrafted rookie defensive tackle Poona Ford, who made his first start on Sunday and made an impact, recording four tackles—though Carroll said coaches came up with six while studying the film. That performance should earn him more playing time going forward, even when Shamar Stephen returns from a foot injury.

"Poona did a really good job," Carroll said. "He played really well. He was sideline-to-sideline and we had him at six tackles in the game. That's a lot of production for the nose tackle but it was because he was running and chasing the football so well. He's a really instinctive football player. It's not too big for him and he's played a lot of big games in college and he jumped right in there. It was nothing for him to be out there and battling with those guys. (Weston) Richburg is a good center and the guy has played a lot and all that. He did a nice job battling with him, so we're really encouraged about that. I loved to see that he has that much mobility and can go sideline-to-sideline. He missed a couple of opportunities, too. He missed one on a play that broke downfield. He made a great effort and pursuit and just missed a tackle in the open field but it showed a lot of juices getting all over the place so we're really happy about that."

One other name I'll throw in here even though he was very much a known commodity coming into the season is receiver Tyler Lockett. We all knew Lockett was a talented receiver and return man, but the way he has come back fully healthy this year and emerged as Russell Wilson's top target has been very impressive. With four games still to play, Lockett has already established career highs in receiving yards (713) and touchdowns (9), and is averaging a career-best 16.2 yards per catch.

@MaybeRealBrando asks, "Why doesn't Bobby Wagner get the national media recognition and praise he deserves?"

A: At this point I'd say Wagner is pretty much regarded throughout the league, by fans, media and most importantly his peers, as one of if not the best middle linebackers in football. He showed that in a big way Sunday, recording 12 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble that he recovered, and most impressively, a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown. Early in his career, Wagner was overshadowed a bit by fellow 2012 draft pick Luke Kuechly, but the fact that Wagner is a four-time Pro-Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro also suggests plenty of people know how good he is these days.

Now, if you're asking why we're not hearing more talk of Wagner as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, I would say that has more to do with the position he plays than anything else. That award has been dominated of late by players who produce sacks, and as great as Wagner has been again this year, it's going to be hard for anyone to beat out Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who already has 16.5 sacks, an absurd number for an interior lineman.

@ArrDJay asks, "Will Jordan Simmons' role change with Fluker injured?"

A: For those who missed the news on Monday, Carroll said starting right guard D.J. Fluker is likely out a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, so yes, Simmons will have a different role this week, with Carroll confirming that he is the likely candidate to fill in for Fluker. Simmons made his first career start in place of Fluker in Seattle's Week 10 loss at the L.A. Rams, and played well, helping pave the way for a season-best 273-yard rushing performance.

"Jordan jumped in the game and did a nice job this week, again, and he seems to be moving in the right direction to be a really viable option for us," Carroll said. "He didn't get that much practice time, so when he does get the practice time like he did in the Rams week, he did a very good job with it. So we're going to count on him playing and see how that goes."

@bulut_sbulut asks about the big plays the Seahawks are giving up on defense.

A: The Seahawks defense played well in the red zone and forced two turnovers against the 49ers—special teams added a third—so on one hand it was a good day for that unit, which gave up only 16 points. But as this questions points out, there were a lot of big plays, most notably a 75-yard touchdown catch and run by former Washington Husky Dante Pettis. Carroll knows his team has to be better when it comes to stopping explosive plays, but is confident those issues can be cleaned up.

"There's a couple play concepts we didn't play very well in the throwing game," Carroll said. "We missed a couple tackles in open field that really weren't difficult tackles. DB's, really, had three big misses that caused a lot of yards. We had a big bust on the 75-yard play that should never happen. That's about it, that's enough. That's about 250-yards worth right there. We can fix that."

@RyanSchaefer_ asks, "Would we rather see the Hawks play the Rams or Saints?"

A: Whoa, slow down, Ryan. The Seahawks need to take care of their own business before we can begin to think about playoff opponents. I do, however, appreciate your optimism, because as of now the Rams and Saints are in the driver's seat to earn first-round byes, meaning for the Seahawks to face either, it's likely they'd have to not just make the playoffs, but win their first game. It's too soon to even consider the matchups, but can I answer New Orleans just for the food?

Finally, @UnintendedMax weighs in with more of a suggestion than a question, saying, "This needs to be in your wheelhouse right now:"

Max is right, these videos by Cable Thanos, whoever that is, have been fantastic and hilarious. Scroll through their tweets for some of the previous videos.

Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 13 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

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