The Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1) look to close out the first half of the season on a high note after losing to the New Orleans Saints 25-20 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last Sunday. Russell Wilson completed 22 of 34 passes for 253 yards with zero touchdown passes and one interception. Defensively, the Seahawks were on the field for more than 36 minutes as they could not get themselves off the field. The Saints were 9-of-15 on third down, which is a recipe for disaster in any football game.
In addition, the loss of defensive end Michael Bennett (knee) was big as New Orleans also ran the ball well behind Tim Hightower’s 102 rushing yards on 26 carries. With the specter of a three-game winless streak staring the Seahawks in the face heading into Monday night, it’s clear that this game against Buffalo is a must-win situation.
The Bills (4-4) are also stumbling a bit heading into this game with two straight losses. Last week, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots shredded the Bills’ defense en route to a 41-25 victory in Buffalo. Offensively, the Bills are 24th in the NFL at 333.5 yards per game. On the other side of the ball, Buffalo is the dictionary definition of average, checking in at No. 16 (360.2 ypg) in total defense. The Bills also have had their own issues getting off of the field as the opposition is in possession of the ball for a little more than 32 minutes per game. Thus, something has to give for both of these teams on Monday night.
Buffalo at Seattle
Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Seattle -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Seattle stay on the field and get a running game going?
A stark inability to run the football consistently has hurt the Seahawks all season long, as multiple issues are the cause of this problem. First, Russell Wilson only has 44 rushing yards on 25 attempts over seven games, which is far from normal. Christine Michael is averaging 4.2 yards per carry, but he is not a running back that will strike fear into Rex Ryan’s defense this week. Another big problem is the amount of holding penalties that the Seattle offensive line has accumulated. With 24 such penalties to this point, the Seahawks are pace for 37, which is too much for a team looking to make a deep playoff run.
2. Buffalo’s offensive approach against the Seahawks’ defensive line
The blueprint to attack the Seattle defense seems clear — be patient and stay balanced with a nice mix of running and passing. Tyrod Taylor is a very mobile quarterback and it will be interesting to see if Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will try to get Taylor out on the perimeter with some designed quarterback runs. In addition, you also can expect to see a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy, assuming he’s able to return from a hamstring injury that limited him two weeks ago against Miami and sidelined him in last week’s loss to New England. He’s listed as Questionable for tonight’s game. Buffalo also may have Percy Harvin back on the field. The wide receiver came out of retirement earlier this week and the Bills are hoping he can provide a boost to a receiving corps that has been decimated by injury.
3. Seahawks’ downfield passing attack against the Bills’ secondary
Pete Carroll and Wilson have been insistent that Seattle’s quarterback is getting healthier. If so will Seattle take their shots down field against a Buffalo secondary that is vulnerable to getting beat by the deep ball? Tom Brady burned the Bills on a critical 3rd-and-13 last week for a 53-yard touchdown pass on play where Stephon Gilmore did not even bother to try to make a tackle. So look for Wilson to try to get the ball to Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett and possibly even Jimmy Graham in space down the field to test the Buffalo secondary early and often. If the Seahawks can connect on a few deep balls early, it will help open up the running game too.
This is going to be a tough challenge for the Bills to fly across the country and win at CenturyLink Field. The 12s will be on fire as they always are for national primetime games and the Seahawks tend to feed off of their energy and take full advantage of their home-field advantage. The key for Buffalo will be to keep this a tight game into the second half by taking care of the football, causing a few turnovers and run the ball with enough success to sustain some drives. That said, look for Seattle to get things going on Monday night on both sides and right the ship to snap a three-game winless streak.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Bills 14
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.