The questions were inevitable. As the Seattle Seahawks made their way to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Giants, would Seattle be thinking about the Super Bowl that will be played there in less than two months? But head coach Pete Carroll insisted that his team was all business.
First order of business is winning the NFC West title, which was denied last week with a 19-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. That can be done with a win if the 49ers stumble against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Add a New Orleans Saints loss against the St. Louis Rams, and the road to MetLife will go through Seattle. Although the 49ers and Saints will be big favorites, just a win from Seattle will all but clinch both, as the Seahawks would just need to win one of their two remaining games after this week, both at home.
At 5-8, the Giants have been up and down all year, starting off 0-6 before winning four straight and then splitting their last four contests. New York is coming off an ugly 37-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers that eliminated it from playoff contention. The Seahawks have had some sluggish starts against teams with similar records and trips to the Eastern Time Zone always seem to be an adventure, although they have gone 2-1 in those games this year. All things considered, the Seahawks have a big matchup advantage in this game.
Seattle has a ballhawking defense that has put a lot of pressure on opponents this year. Nobody has even come close to matching the Giants’ 34 turnovers, 21 which have come via interceptions. The Seahawks’ outstanding secondary should be able to force the mistake-prone Eli Manning into at least a couple of turnovers, which typically ends up being the difference in any given game.
The guy to watch on the Giants’ offense is Victor Cruz, who has 22 more receptions and 30 more targets than any other New York receiver. Richard Sherman and company will have their hands full, but if the Seahawks can limit Cruz, the Giants will have a tough time moving the ball through the air.
The Giants do not have good rushing numbers for the season, but Andre Brown has played fairly well in 5 games since returning from injury and at least given New York the option of running the ball. Four of those games have come against below average rush defenses however, so it will be interesting to see how he fares Sunday. We’ll also get a first look at the Seahawks’ defense without K.J. Wright, as Malcolm Smith will start in his place.
New York has played solid defense this season, as DVOA has the unit ranked 10th in the NFL. They have been above average against both the run and pass, but it would be surprising if the Seahawks didn’t lean on Marshawn Lynch in this game. The 49ers front seven punched the Seahawks in the mouth, so they will probably be eager to re-establish their physical power run game.
Seattle should be able to win by a comfortable margin and take a big step towards clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If everything goes right, this will be the last time the Seahawks have to travel before heading back to MetLife in February
-Carroll says center Max Unger should be able to play Sunday
– Percy Harvin won’t play again, and remains week-to-week
-Brandon Browner’s appeal decision will come later this month
Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press
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