Tony Dungy said on NBC two weeks ago that the Seahawks might be the best team in the NFC, but things have changed dramatically since then as Seattle got drilled 33-3 at Oakland while the Giants won their fourth straight with a 41-35 victory at Dallas.
The rebuilding Seahawks could make a big statement by beating the Giants at home, but that’s going to be a tall order given Seattle’s growing injury concerns and some difficult matchups.
Keys for the Seahawks
• The Seahawks’ battered offensive line will need to protect quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (making his first NFL start) and give him time to operate, something that didn’t happen last week when Matt Hasselbeck was sacked eight times vs. Oakland. That, however, will not be easy against a Giants’ defense that has knocked out five quarterbacks this season. Both of Seattle’s starting guards (Max Unger and Ben Hamilton) are now on injured reserve, and first-round draft pick Russell Okung has missed most of the season, so the Seahawks will go with their fifth different offensive line combination.
• Injuries have also ravaged Seattle’s defensive front, with two of the front four (Red Bryant and Colin Cole) out this week and Brandon Mebane trying to come back after missing three games. Thus Seattle’s run defense slipped from No. 2 to 10 in the NFL after Oakland piled up 239 yards. Now comes Ahmad Bradshaw, the league’s third-leading rusher, and a potent Giants’ offense.
Keys for the Giants
• Coach Tom Coughlin is stressing “poise in the noise” as his team heads to Qwest Field, where the loud crowd caused headaches in the past. The Giants committed 11 false start penalties in a 24-21 OT loss in 2005 and fell behind 42-3 on the way to a 42-30 loss in 2006. Seattle is 3-0 at Qwest this season and has 12 takeaways in those games. The Giants will need to take care of the ball as well as the fans.
• Defensive end Osi Umenyiora should be licking his lips as Seattle likely will be down to its third left tackle. Okung has played just two games because of ankle injuries and backup Tyler Polumbus hurt his knee last week. If neither can go, veteran Chester Pitts will step in for his first start in 14 months since undergoing microfracture knee surgery. Umenyiora is second in the NFL with eight sacks. And, yes, Hasselbeck went down eight times last week in Oakland.
About the only thing the Seahawks seem to have going in this one is the home-field advantage, but that won’t be enough to cover up Seattle’s issues — a first-time starter at quarterback and concerns on both lines. The Giants are shooting for a fifth straight win and should get it. Giants 30-14.