Are you sure the Seattle Seahawks are coming off their bye week?
Bye weeks are supposed to be dead periods in the NFL. Players and coaches jet themselves across the country during the one moment during the season they’re able to get away. The day-to-day minutiae of the news cycle transforms into an information desert. Sure, it’s an opportunity for dinged-up players to rest and recover, perhaps for coaches to use the extra time to make tweaks to the scheme. But for the most part the bye is about taking a break while the rest of the league goes about its business, allowing the headlines to migrate elsewhere.
But that’s not how the past two weeks played out for the Seahawks. Seattle faces the New York Giants on Sunday in New York after getting last weekend off. But for a team that spent the past 13 days idling its time away, the scope of the Seahawks’ season sure seemed to take a turn, and it’s yet to be determined whether that turn was for the better or worse.
Seattle headed into its Week 6 bye amid mixed reviews. The Seahawks finished off the first five weeks on a high after beating the Los Angeles Rams 16-10 on the road to improve to 3-2, but questions remained about about an offense that’s struggled to run the ball and protect the quarterback. The narrative coming out of the bye was expected to follow the same path, with something needing to change for Seattle to get back among the NFC frontrunners.
But a lot of things happened during the bye that yanked the discussion off its predetermined course.
First, the Seahawks learned they’ll be without Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril for a while, perhaps the remainder of the season. Seattle placed Avril on injured reserve Friday because of a neck injury suffered during Seattle’s 46-18 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 1. Early reports said the injury had Avril contemplating retirement, though he has since disputed those reports. Avril’s absence diminishes a Seahawks pass rush that already had issues, as Seattle is tied for 28th in the NFL with just 11 sacks.
Seattle also saw further turmoil on its offensive line. The Seahawks’ o-line was already under fire after allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to be hit 43 times, which through five games was the second-most of any QB in the NFL. Now Seattle is without starting left guard Luke Joeckel, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee during the bye. As of Saturday morning it was yet to be revealed whether Mark Glowinski, who lost the right-guiard battle with Oday Aboushi, or rookie Ethan Pocic would fill in for Joeckel. The Seahawks also flirted with signing former Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert during the bye, indicating Seattle believes upgrades on the offensive line may be necessary.
But the biggest developments during Seattle’s bye week didn’t even involve the Seahawks, as events across the NFC changed the entire landscape in the race to the Super Bowl.
The biggest moment came during the first quarter of the Green Bay Packers’ 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone which may end his season. Green Bay entered the season as co-favorite in the NFC with the Seahawks. But without Rodgers, who maybe the best player in the league, the Packers’ chances may be sunk.
Then there was the stunning loss by the defending NFC-champion Atlanta Falcons, who dropped an inexplicable 20-17 decision at home against the scandal-ridden Miami Dolphins. Atlanta has lost two straight, looking nothing like an NFC contender in the process.
Suddenly the NFC race, which appeared the Seahawks would be chasing from behind, is wide open, with the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that was little more than a curiosity two weeks ago, leading from the front. Without even playing a game Seattle saw its Super Bowl odds go from solidly behind the Packers and Falcons to being essentially a dead heat as favorite with the Falcons and Eagles.
Heck, even circumstances with Seattle’s first opponent after the bye have changed. Before the bye the Giants were a moribund winless team that looked like it would put up marginally more resistance than the bye. But after New York went into Denver last week and beat the Broncos 23-10 through a combination of running the ball (148 yards) and stopping the run (46 yards), even that assumption is gone.
All of which means the landscape of Seattle’s season looks far different now than it did when the Seahawks’ bye week began. And it’s a good reminder that the bye week isn’t just a matter of hitting the pause button on the season. There’s no telling how what twists and turns may happen, even when a team isn’t playing.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.