Seahawks Week: How different is Seattle on the road?

Welcome to "Seahawks Week", Rumblers!  In an effort to learn all that we can about the Buffalo Bills' season opening opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, we'll be joined once per day by John Morgan of Field Gulls throughout this week.  John is a superbly knowledgeable blogger when it comes to the X's and O's of the game, and he'll give us some excellent perspective on the Seahawks as a team heading into Sunday's tilt.  To see all posts related to Seahawks Week, click here.

Last season, the Seattle Seahawks finished 10-6, won the NFC West, emerged victorious in a home playoff game and lost to Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs.  It was an impressive season, to be sure, but it was marked with a tendency that many Buffalo Bills fans need to be aware of for season opening purposes: Seattle was a different team on the road than they were at home.

John Morgan joins us for a third consecutive day to discuss his Seahawks' home/road disparity...

Buffalo Rumblings: Last season, the Seahawks were a dominant 7-1 at home, but a not-so-great 3-5 on the road.  Away games have been a hindrance for Seattle in the past.  Is there anything that you think is the culprit for this disparity, and do you see it changing in 2008?

John Morgan, Field Gulls: Well, right off, Seattle faced an easier schedule at home than on the road. Among teams contested at home, only Tampa Bay rated as above average according to DVOA. On the road, Seattle faced Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Philadelphia. So the disparity is probably a little overstated.

Still, it would be foolish of me to say Seattle doesn't play better at home - doesn't every team? Seattle, specifically, seems to benefit from Qwest's crowd noise. Foremost, Seattle's defense is built on team speed, or, rather, team quickness. Seattle isn't necessarily fast, but it's quick off the line and quick in a short space. The front seven's ability to disrupt run and pass plays by getting quick penetration in the backfield, forcing rushers outside or forcing quarterbacks into checking down or into panic throws, defines Seattle's defense. The crowd noise seems to slow an offensive line's ability to get off the snap and that fraction of a second lost allows a good - even great - defense to become outright suffocating. The impact of false starts shouldn't be lost, either. Seattle has forced 69 false start penalties at home since 2005, most in the NFL.

***

Forgive me for saying so, but Seattle's road schedule doesn't start off in the easiest of fashions in Buffalo.  Only one team - New England - has come into Buffalo in the past two years and handled the Bills with ease; the Seahawks are no New England.  Sure, every team is a little worse on the road (save the 2007 New York Giants), but Seattle has turned Qwest Field into one of the toughest places to play in the league; they're beatable game in and game out on the road.

Crowd noise will play its role in this Sunday's game, but as John alluded to, I expect it (or its lack thereof) to impact Seattle's defense more than its offense.  Matt Hasselbeck is a pretty unflappable quarterback, and while Ralph Wilson Stadium will surely be rocking when Buffalo's on defense, the effects on Hasselbeck's offense will probably be negligible.  The home crowd is better for Buffalo than it hurts Seattle, and that's where the real advantage is gained.  Home-field advantage gets my blood up.  I am now more pumped up about this game than I have been at any point this pre/off-season.

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