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Players, matchups and storylines to watch when the Seahawks host the Raiders on Sunday.John Boyle
The Seahawks are back from their bye and return home to Lumen Field to host the Las Vegas Raiders. At 6-4, the Seahawks are looking to keep pace in in the NFC West with the 49ers, who are also 6-4, while the Raiders are hoping to build some momentum after last week's overtime win that ended a three-game losing streak and improved their record to 3-7.
While the Raiders record isn't what they'd like it to be, they are still a dangerous team, featuring dangerous weapons on both sides of the ball, and six of their seven losses have been by one-score margins.
Here are five things to watch in Sunday's clash between former AFC West rivals:
1. Will the Seahawks and the 12s make the most of a closing stretch featuring five home games in seven weeks?
The Seahawks' 6-4 start has been impressive for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they have played only four of those 10 games at home, winning three of them. The payoff on the back end of their schedule, however, is that the Seahawks get five of their last seven at Lumen Field, starting with Sunday's game, which will be the first home game in nearly a month for Seattle.
After a season without fans in 2020, then a disappointing 2021 campaign, Seahawks fans have seemed particularly energized this season, starting with a season-opening win over Denver, and the team has fed off of it, winning three of four at home so far this season. With the Seahawks locked in a tight battle at the top of the NFC West, a raucous homefield advantage down the stretch could be just what the team needs.
"The opener, I think kicked us into full go," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Fortunately, we got the win and all of that. We are counting on everyone feeding-we have to feed them, and they have to feed us. The 12s have been incredible, even when we have been on the road. I hope that there is a lot of energy for this finish because we certainly have it here in the building."
2. How will Tariq Woolen and the secondary handle arguably their biggest test yet?
The Seahawks have gotten great play out of their cornerbacks this season, with rookie Tariq Woolen leading the way with five interceptions, the second most in the league and tied for the most by a rookie in franchise history.
With Woolen, Mike Jackson, nickel corner Coby Bryant and the safeties all pitching in, the Seahawks have fared well against some of the best receivers in the NFL, including Arizona's DeAndre Hopkins (four catches, 36 yards, 1 TD) Tampa Bay's Mike Evans (five catches, 54 yards) and San Francisco's Deebo Samuel (five catches, 44 yards). But for as good as those players are, the test this week is arguably the toughest yet as two-time first-team All-Pro Davante Adams comes to town.
The Seahawks know Adams well having faced him often when he was with Green Bay, and after being traded to the Raiders this offseason, the veteran receiver is just as dangerous in a new uniform, having piled up 64 catches for 925 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games. Adams has been particularly dangerous of late, catching 26 passes for 413 yards and five touchdowns as Derek Carr has looked his way early and often, targeting his former Fresno State teammate 44 times in the last three weeks, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime last weekend.
When Carroll was asked what kind of challenge Adams presents to a defense, he quickly responded, "Every challenge that a guy could bring, he's an incredible player. He's so gifted and such a great competitor where he seizes the moments all the time, the catches, the opportunities, the big plays. Just look what he did last week. It was just classic, and an incredible route that he ran, and the concept to get open. But he just came through again, and you can see why if he's on your team and he leaves, you're going to have a space that is hard to fill. I think they've targeted him 40-something times in the last three weeks. He's deserving and capable. He can tell you I'm running the route almost and could still be effective. He's a great player. He's the top guy we've seen."
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Bid On The Platinum Poster Now MORE INFO 3. Can Geno Smith and his weapons in the passing game take advantage of the Raiders pass defense?
One of the best things about Geno Smith's resurgent season has been how consistent the Seahawks quarterback has played. He ranks among the league leaders in just about every statistical category not because he has a few one-off huge games inflating his stats, but because he has played at a high level in nearly every game, as is evident in the fact that he has the most games of any quarterback in the league with a 100 or better passer rating (7), and is tied for the most games with multiple touchdown passes with eight such games.
"Geno has been steady all year long," said offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. "... Geno has done that through the highs and the lows of every game this season showing that ability to be steady, and to be that calming presence on offense, on the sideline, and on the field."
So regardless of who the Seahawks were facing, you'd like Smith's chances of having a good game on Sunday, especially with weapons to throw to like Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Marquise Goodwin and a trio of talented tight ends. But this week in particular, there could be opportunity for the Seahawks in the passing game against a Raiders pass defense that has given up some big numbers.
Through 10 games, Raiders opponents are completing 71.5 percent of their passes and have a 106.3 passer rating, both the highest numbers in the NFL, and Las Vegas' three interceptions are tied for second fewest. The Seahawks know they can't take any opponent lightly, and the Raiders have playmakers on defense, but based off how Smith and company have been playing all year, there should be opportunities to move the ball through the air.
Of course, for Smith to be at his best, he'll need time to operate, which brings us to...
4. Another tough test for the rookie tackles.
The Raiders have a league-low 13 sacks this season, but that doesn't mean the Seahawks don't have to worry about the pass rush. That's because the one player who has been getting the job done on a consistent basis, defensive end Maxx Crosby, can be an absolute game-wrecker.
In addition to having nine of Las Vegas' 13 sacks, tied for the fifth most in the NFL, Crosby also has a league-leading 16 tackles for loss, 63 total tackles-a huge number for an edge rusher-two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Seahawks rookie tackles Abraham Lucas and Charles Cross have been great all year, handling challenge after challenge, but they'll have their work cut out for them this week when Crosby comes to town. And while he hasn't gotten going yet this season, the Seahawks also know they need to worry about veteran pass rusher Chandler Jones, who has 16.5 career sacks against Seattle in 11 games, by far his most against any opponent.
"With Crosby on the edge where he is flying off of the edge every single snap, it doesn't matter whether it's run or pass, it seems like he's creating some chaos," Waldron said. "He's just an elite player. Again, we talk about this each week with some of the different defensive ends, and you have Chandler Jones on the other side, so it's not like you are saying one or the other. We have to be aware of those guys, aware of their skillset, and aware of the motor that he plays with, Crosby in particular, where he never comes off of the field and he's nonstop. Guys are aware of him, and it will be about effort, it will be about strain, and about matching his intensity throughout the course of the game."
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The Seahawks have been running the ball well for most of the season, with Rashaad Penny leading the way early, and Kenneth Walker III taking over after Penny went down with a season-ending injury. On their way to winning five of six games dating back to the start of October, the Seahawks rushed for 136 yards or more in five of those games, including two games over 200 yards. Facing a tough Buccaneers defense on a slick surface in Munich, however, Walker and the running game never got on track, with the Seahawks gaining just 39 yards on the ground, relying almost entirely on the pass while playing from behind in the second half.
Getting back on track on the ground will be important for the Seahawks this week and beyond, though it's not as simple as just saying Walker needs to do something different or that the line needs to block better. As is usually the case, the Seahawks know it'll take a group effort to bounce back in the running game.
"To me the run game, just when we talk about sacks, at the end of the day, a lot of the times, it's not going to be on one particular thing or area where you can say, 'If we just fix that,'" Waldron said. "It takes all 11, I think, Ken does a good job reading things out, and I think with the way some of the runs played out in that game just didn't go our way, so we are really working to get all 11 on the same page and moving forward with it."
Part of the issue against Tampa Bay was that the Seahawks were 1 for 9 on third down and just didn't have many rush attempts, particularly playing from behind, and the hope is that if they are able to stay more committed, as they did a week earlier against Arizona when Walker had a huge second half, that the result will be there.
"I think from this past game there, just grinding away," Waldron said. "We have had some success in the second half of games where it's not always easy, again, every defense that we are going against has great players, stout players up front, stout inside, fast linebackers, so just finding the way to stay with it, stay with the run game, and then eventually at the end of the game like the Arizona game or the Chargers game, the fourth quarter runs really start to come through. It's really that toughness, that effort, and that ability to finish through four quarters, that's really the main part of the run game. If we can get ourselves in a situation where we are playing even or ahead, then the run game becomes more and more important leaning on that in the second half. Unfortunately, when you do get behind in the game because we weren't good enough on offense in the first half, you find yourself in that trailing position right there and you're trying to figure out ways to really throw your way back into the game."