If last week was pretty much a must-win given the historical odds against 0-2 teams making the playoffs, then this week is truly the real thing. Beat writer Bob Condotta outlines what it'll take for a Seahawks victory.
Here is our weekly look at the upcoming Seahawks game, with Seattle hosting Dallas on Sunday at 1:25 p.m. at CenturyLink Field.
If last week was pretty much a must-win given the historical odds against 0-2 teams making the playoffs, then this week is truly the real thing. Just five teams since 1980 have started 0-3 and made the playoffs, and none since 1998. The Seahawks also simply need to get a win to remember what that feels like. Seattle has lost three straight regular-season games dating to a win at Dallas last Christmas Eve — Seattle hasn’t lost three straight regular-season games at any time since the 2011 season. Seattle has also lost five of its past six regular-season games. And throw in an 0-4 preseason and the Seahawks have gone a while since being able to celebrate anything. Dallas is hoping for a road win in a tough environment to get to 2-1. Dallas won the last time it was in Seattle in 2014, a defeat that precipitated the trade of Percy Harvin the following week.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Seattle MLB Bobby Wagner vs. Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott.
OK, so no running game matchup is ever quite as simple as one player against another. But Wagner is one of the best MLBs in the NFL and Elliott has been one of the more productive backs in his two-plus years in the league. Elliott has yet to have a 100-yard game this season — his 147 yards rank seventh in the NFL — and vowed this week that a breakout game is coming. Wagner returns after missing the Bears’ game, when he was more-than-ably replaced by Austin Calitro. Given Dallas’ anemic passing attack (30th in the NFL at 149 yards per game), stopping the run — Elliott as well as Dak Prescott, who has 64 yards in two games — looms as the key for the Seattle defense.
PLAYER TO WATCH
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QB Russell Wilson.
Let’s not overthink this one. Wilson is off to a subpar start in a season in which a new offensive coordinator was brought in to smooth out his game some, and in which changes around him mean he’s being counted on more than ever to be a consistent force. But Wilson has had some uncharacteristic moments so far — running into a couple of costly sacks at Denver, the pick-six that turned the game last Monday at Chicago — and has yet to really look like his old self for more than a few flashes here and there. True, he doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of help. Opponents seem to be keeping the receivers in check not having to worry about Doug Baldwin and the running game. While there’s plenty of blame to go around Seattle can’t win consistently without Wilson playing better than he has. A close second on this list is safety Earl Thomas, who mysteriously sat out practice Friday amid some rumblings that maybe he was “protecting himself’’’ and letting the team know that the disrespect is not being forgotten. But if Thomas is unhappy behind the scenes he hasn’t shown it on game day, and the big stage of a game against his favorite team growing up may again bring out the best in him.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
Are they going to run the damn ball?
After an offseason spent talking about reviving the rushing attack — and making coaching changes with that goal in mind — Seattle ranks 29th in both attempts (38) and rushing yards (138) after two games. That Seattle is also 27th in yards per carry (3.6) may explain in part why Seattle hasn’t been able to stick with it as much as it wanted. But the Seahawks have also made curious decisions on the usage of Chris Carson (13 carries for 75 yards) and at some point they are going to need to just hand the ball to Carson a bunch and see what happens. Maybe that finally happens Sunday.
Kris Richard’s knowledge of the Seahawks.
Richard was Seattle’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons, and a secondary coach for five years before that, before being fired last January as part of the Seahawks’ coaching purge. Now he’s in Dallas, officially the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, but last week given increasing responsibility to call most of the defense in a 20-13 win over the Giants in which the Cowboys had six sacks. Richard obviously knows all there is to know about the Seahawks, which offensive coordinator Scott Linehan — a Sunnyside grad and also a former UW assistant and offensive coordinator — tapped into this week. “He’s got a great grasp of what they’re doing on defense and their personnel and kind of how they look at us,” Linehan told the media in Dallas about Richard. Richard was not made available to the media this week, apparently hoping any statement he had to make about his firing by the Seahawks will come on Sunday.
WILD CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Free safety Tedric Thompson.
The Seahawks used a three-safety, or dime defense, for 12 snaps last week against the Bears. They did it in part to mitigate the learning curve for weakside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who had arrived four days prior. Kendricks came off the field in those sets, with Bradley McDougald typically moving into a linebacker spot and Thomas usually moving up to play basically strong safety with Thompson deep. While Kendricks now has another week in the system — though he’s listed as questionable with an ankle injury and could be replaced by Austin Calitro — Carroll said he liked the three-safety look and hopes to see more of it. The Bears weren’t really able to test Thompson. But it will be interesting to see if opponents — who now have some film of that look — might try to target Thompson when they see the Seahawks go to that alignment. Thompson has played 23 snaps in two games this season and just 31 as an NFL player.
9 and 12
That’s the number of sacks the Cowboys have in two games — tied for second in the NFL — and the number allowed by the Seahawks, which is the most in the NFL. The Cowboys are calling their defensive front the Hot Boyz and it hardly needs stated the challenge they will pose for the Seahawks, especially end Demarcus Lawrence, who leads Dallas with two sacks. The Seahawks will also have a different look up front with Joey Hunt likely starting at center for Justin Britt and J.R. Sweezy at left guard for Ethan Pocic.
THE FINAL WORD
Seattle 23, Dallas 20
The Seahawks opened the week as a three-point favorite. But the line was down to one or 1.5 points by Friday, illustrating well the increasing skepticism about the Seahawks. But Seattle is in true desperation mode and at home. Dallas’ defense is statistically one of the best in the NFL through two games so there could be some ugly moments for the offense. But the thought here is that Seattle can win this game with defense (Dallas’ passing attack has been anemic so far) and special teams (maybe a Michael Dickson punt or two that flips the field) and keep hope alive for another week.