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Commanders stats of the week: Sam Howell is hitting his stride

After a win over the New England Patriots, the Washington Commanders (4-5) are one victory away from .500 and a game out of a playoff spot, which is surprising given their poor play for much of October. They cross the country this week to face a 5-3 Seattle Seahawks team that is back home and probably eager to move on from a 37-3 defeat in Baltimore, Seattle’s most lopsided loss in six years.

If the Seahawks play like they did last weekend, Washington could have plenty of areas to exploit to earn a win. But should quarterback Geno Smith appear more like he did in Week 2, when the Seahawks defeated the Detroit Lions on the road, Washington’s defense will get its first significant test since the team traded away star pass rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young.

Let’s dig into the stats to learn more about the matchup.

The Commanders are the NFL’s (regular season) kings of Seattle

In the past couple of weeks, after Washington altered its interior offensive line, with Tyler Larsen taking over at center and Chris Paul filling in at left guard, Sam Howell has seemed to come into his own. No quarterback had more passing yards across Weeks 8 and 9 than Howell’s 722. On the season, he is second in the NFL with 2,471 passing yards. Only Kirk Cousins, who threw for 2,716 in 2016 and 2,474 in 2017, had more yards through the first nine games of a season for Washington.

Howell is the only quarterback in NFL history to have a 66.0 competition percentage or higher, throw for at least 2,600 yards and rush for at least 190 yards in the first 10 games of his career.

20.9 rushing attempts per game

Washington’s gaudy passing numbers require context. Howell has thrown the ball more than any other quarterback through Week 9 (353 attempts, 39.2 per game). No team has averaged fewer rushes per game than the Commanders (20.9 attempts), and no team has rushed at a lower rate on early downs (32.5 percent), per the website TruMedia.

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But when they do run the ball, the Commanders can be efficient. Their average of 4.3 yards per carry ranks ninth in the league. In short-yardage situations (three or fewer yards to go), the Commanders have converted 26 of 33 rushes into first downs for a league-best rate of 78.8 percent.

30th in third-down conversion rate

The Seahawks are coming off one of their worst performances in years on both sides of the ball. Against the Ravens, Seattle was especially dreadful on third down, converting 1 of 12 attempts to bring its total over the past two weeks to 5 of 24. On the season, the Seahawks have converted only 31.9 percent of their third downs to rank as the third-worst team in the league.

That bodes well for the Commanders’ defense, which is coming off a strong showing on third down against the Patriots. Washington allowed only three conversions on 12 attempts and, through Week 9, ranks 16th in the league in opponent third-down conversion rate at 39.5 percent.

Also good for the Commanders: The Seahawks are just as bad defensively on third down, also ranking as the third-worst team in opponent conversion rate (45.3 percent).


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