The Seahawks face the Raiders in their first-ever game across the pond Sunday at 10 a.m. Will the running game's resurgence continue? Will Sebastian Janikowski be called on for a game-winner against his former team?
Here’s a look at the Seahawks’ game against the Raiders on Sunday in London.
Seattle’s first regular-season game overseas (the Seahawks did play Buffalo in Toronto in 2012 and also have played preseason games in Tokyo in 1990 and in Vancouver in 1998) also marks a really key point of the season. The Seahawks fell to 2-3 last Sunday with a 33-31 loss to the Rams that in many ways marked a step in the right direction but still, ultimately, was a defeat that realistically also relegated Seattle to playing the rest of the season battling for a wild-card spot. Get to 3-3 and Seattle can rest next weekend and be assured it’ll be right in the thick of things when it returns to action Oct. 28 at Detroit. Lose, and at 2-4 Seattle might have a better record than only maybe the Giants in the NFC after the bye.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Marshawn Lynch vs. the Seahawks run defense.
Seattle’s ranking as the fourth-worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 129 yards per game, feels a little deceiving (take out the 56-yard run on a reverse last week and Seattle’s yards per game allowed drops to 117 and average per rush allowed from 4.7 to 4.36). But you know the Raiders are going to try to exploit that, and that Marshawn Lynch will be gently nudging them (OK, likely encouraging loudly) to get him the ball at every turn. And you also know you’d love to see the Raiders with a first-and-goal situation from the 1 to see what will happen (the Raiders infamously threw a pass from the 1 last week that was picked off, helping the Chargers seal a 26-10 win).
PLAYER TO WATCH
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Right guard D.J. Fluker.
The transformation of the running game the last few weeks can’t be as simple as just adding Fluker to the lineup three games ago. But the stats are stark. After rushing for just 138 yards combined in the first two games when Ethan Pocic played right guard, Seattle has averaged 158 the past three games with Fluker at right guard (and J.R. Sweezy moving to the left side). Fluker’s block last Sunday on Ndamukong Suh that paved the way for Mike Davis’ 6-yard touchdown run was cited all week by coaches and players as a symbol of what the Seahawks want to be offensively. The Raiders, meanwhile, are one of the worst run-defense teams in the NFL, allowing 4.9 yards per carry — only four teams in the NFL are allowing more.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
Will the Seahawks stick with their liberal use of the zone read?
Another key to the Seahawks’ resurgent run game the past two weeks has been their use of — and success with — their zone-read attack (plays in which quarterback Russell Wilson has the option to hand the ball off or keep it and run it himself). According to numbers from Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks called the zone read only 13 times in the first three games. By comparison, Seattle called the zone read 13 times last week against the Rams, rushing for 89 yards on those plays, an average of 6.85 per attempt (Davis was particularly effective, with 49 yards on five zone-read runs). Seattle had 101 yards on its other 19 attempts, a still solid average of 5.32 per attempt. Given that success, the Seahawks figure to stick with it. But one thing to watch is if Wilson begins running more out of it. Wilson didn’t keep once on a zone-read run last week and didn’t have an official rushing attempt in a game for the first time in his career. Wilson said the only reason he didn’t is the way the Rams defense played the Seahawks, taking the outside run away and making it so the correct read for Wilson was to hand off.
Jet lag and an early start.
The London trip presents some obvious logistical challenges that at least are mitigated from a competitive standpoint by the fact that the Raiders have to travel the same distance and battle the same time-zone changes. Seattle actually got a 25-hour head start on the Raiders on adjusting, arriving Thursday afternoon while Oakland didn’t show up until Friday. The game is Seattle’s first 10 a.m. start since the 2016 season, though in this case maybe that stat doesn’t really matter since Oakland is also playing a 10 a.m. body-clock-time game. For what it’s worth, the Seahawks have been pretty good in 10 a.m. starts of late, going 8-6 since 2013 compared to a 25-17-1 overall record on the road in that time.
WILD-CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
Can a kicker have a revenge game? There are actually more than a few players in the game with ties to each team (Janikowski and Neiko Thorpe are each former Raiders as well as safety Shalom Luani and offensive lineman Jordan Simmons, with Lynch and defensive end Bruce Irvin former Seahawks turned Raiders). Janikowski hasn’t been boring this season in his first year with Seattle after playing for the Raiders from 2000 to 2016 before sitting out last year with a back injury that led to his release. Janikowski already has three field goals of 50 yards or longer but he’s also missed two kicks inside the 50 — he’s 3-4 from 50 or longer, 3-5 inside the 50. The Seahawks are hoping this one doesn’t come down to a field goal. But the drama if it does will be fun to watch.
That’s the turnover margin for the two teams, the Seahawks tied for second in the NFL and the Raiders tied for 28th. The Raiders have nine turnovers, including an NFL-high eight interceptions tossed by quarterback Derek Carr. Seattle, meanwhile, is second in the NFL with nine interceptions on defense, getting two or more in four of five games. Oddly, Seattle is just 1-3 this season when picking off two or more passes and last week lost for just the 12th time in 64 games under Pete Carroll when winning the turnover battle. Two or more interceptions this week, though, should be good enough for a win.
THE FINAL WORD
Seahawks 27, Raiders 21
Beating the Raiders in London figures to be easier than it would have been to beat them in Oakland. Especially if Seattle remembers to pack the running game that was so effective last week for the trip overseas. Oakland’s passing game could cause problems and so could Lynch. But the Seahawks appear to be re-establishing their identity and if they play as they did last week against the Rams, that should be enough to get a win against the Raiders.