Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer will face off for the first time as NFL head coaches on Sunday afternoon at Lumen Field in Seattle. The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) will take on the Seattle Seahawks (2-5) in a game that could be an epic struggle if both teams aren't mentally ready to play or end up being surprisingly dramatic if both teams decide they are all-in mentally for 60 minutes.
Jacksonville is coming off a bye week and will be looking to pick up a second straight win after defeating Miami 23-20 in London two weeks ago. Matthew Wright blasted a game-winning, 53-yard field goal as time expired for the Jaguars and had to take a random drug test two days later. Trevor Lawrence completed 25-of-41 passes for 319 yards and a touchdown to lead the offense. Marvin Jones Jr. had seven receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. James Robinson provided 73 rushing yards on 17 carries and a score as he is well on his way to a 1,000-yard season with 460 after six games.
Seattle continued its free fall, looking lifeless for much of its 13-10 home loss to New Orleans on Monday night. Geno Smith and the offense got off to a promising start when he threw an 84-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf in the first quarter. The bad news is the rest of the game was a disaster for the offense. Smith totaled just 83 more yards through the air, and the normally reliable Jason Myers had a tough night kicking, as he missed two of three field-goal attempts, albeit in less-than-ideal conditions.
On a positive note, the Seahawks' defense put together another good performance, holding Jameis Winston to 222 passing yards. But they couldn't contain Alvin Kamara (179 total yards, TD catch) and also played undisciplined football at crucial moments. With less than seven minutes left to go in a tied game, safety Marquise Blair was flagged for roughing the passer on a sack on third-and-9 that would have given the ball back to Seattle. Then later in the same drive, defensive tackle Al Woods was ruled offside on fourth-and-5 when New Orleans was preparing to kick a 41-yard field goal that was certainly no gimme given the conditions and the fact that Brian Johnson, who was signed off of Chicago's practice squad on Oct. 12, was the one tasked with making it. Instead, the penalty gave the Saints a first down, and four plays later, Johnson connected from 33 yards out.
The Seahawks got the ball back with 1:56 on the clock, but a pair of costly sacks sandwiched by two incompletions resulted in a turnover on downs and sealed their third straight loss.
Jacksonville (1-5) at Seattle (2-5)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 31 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' defense
The last couple of games have been a step forward for Seattle on defense, which has had to do more to help keep the team in games. The Seahawks limited Pittsburgh and New Orleans to 649 total yards, compared to the 451 they were surrendering on average over their first five games. One reason for this improvement has been getting off the field on third down. Seattle is limiting opponents to a success rate of less than 22 percent on the critical down over the last four games.
Sunday will be an interesting test against a Jacksonville offense whose yardage (356.0 ypg, 15th in the NFL) doesn't jibe with what shows up on the scoreboard (19.3 ppg, 27th). The Jaguars have yet to score more than 23 points in a game, but maybe this attack will look differently following their win two weeks ago and extra rest and preparation from the bye. This matchup also is intriguing because offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer previously served under Carroll in Seattle. It will be interesting to see if this familiarity benefits the Seahawks' defense or if it doesn't matter considering they now work for a new boss (Meyer) and the difference in personnel (namely a rookie quarterback).
2. Trevor Lawrence
With his first NFL win under his belt, Lawrence has a golden opportunity to take another step in his development by coming to Seattle and winning in a tough environment. The Seahawks certainly haven't been invincible at home this season, starting 0-3 for the first time since 1992. (For a history lesson for younger 12s, the early '90s were the dark ages of Seahawks football under the ownership of Ken Behring and playing in a declining Kingdome.) As for Lawrence, the No. 1 overall draft pick has experienced his share of growing pains, which is to be expected, but he's also showing visible signs of growth with each game. Over the last three, he's completing 66.3 percent of his passes for 796 yards with four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) and just two turnovers (INT, fumble).
The key on Sunday will be for Lawrence to be content with what Seattle's defense gives him. He needs to get the ball in space to Jones or fellow wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. or tight end Dan Arnold. The game plan also needs to involve plenty of touches for Robinson, who is eighth in the league in rushing (460 yards) even though he's averaging just 18 carries per game. Even with the recent improvement, the Seahawks are 30th overall against the run (134.1 ypg).
3. Seahawks' offense
Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has no choice but to protect Smith by using the run to set up the pass, instead of the opposite approach if it was Russell Wilson at the helm. Alex Collins is clearly not 100 percent, but he needs to get the carries to try and help set the tone early. Rashaad Penny may also be ready for a larger role after playing in his first game on Monday night since injuring his calf in Week 1. The offensive line also will need to do its part when it comes to both run blocking and pass protection. One of the group's goals will be to contain Josh Allen, who has been trending upward with his pass-rushing effectiveness. After a slow start, Allen has come on strong over his last couple of games in this respect.
The good news for Seattle's offensive line is that center Ethan Pocic is expected to return to the rotation, which will improve the depth and give the Seahawks more bodies to use in keeping Allen and the other Jaguar pass rushers at bay. Pass protection has certainly been an issue with Smith getting sacked 10 times in his two starts since taking over for an injured Wilson, but he also must do a better job of getting rid of the ball when the pocket starts to break down and there's no open receiver available.
Weather shouldn't be near the factor for this game as it was Monday night when Seattle felt the effects of the "bomb cyclone" that impacted the entire West Coast. If anything, that should make things easier for a pair of offenses that could use a break or two (not to mention take some pressure off of the kickers and holders). This will be Meyer's first NFL coaching visit to Lumen Field, one of the loudest environments in the entire sports landscape. The noise will certainly rival, if not surpass, what he experienced on the road when his Ohio State and Florida teams played against the likes of LSU, Alabama, and Penn State. The same goes for Lawrence, who is no stranger to playing on the big stage during his highly successful tenure at Clemson. So communication will be the key, from the staff to Lawrence and then from the quarterback to the rest of the offense, especially as it relates to getting the ball snapped.
A fast start would be of great benefit to the Jaguars, as it could help take the crowd somewhat out of it, as the 12s are well aware that their beloved team is 0-3 at home this season. Likewise, the Seahawks need to make something positive happen early to help keep the crowd engaged. They also need to play clean football and avoid the stupid undisciplined penalty or self-inflicted mistake at the wrong time. Look for Seattle to win a close one and head into the bye at 3-5 with the hope that Wilson will be able to return in Week 10.