Old AFC West rivals meet again in Seattle
Two old AFC West rivals will renew what has been a very competitive rivalry as the Seattle Seahawks (4-3) and the Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) will battle it out on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle continued its winning ways last Sunday at Detroit, dominating the line of scrimmage in a 28-4 win over the Lions. Russell Wilson was nearly flawless throwing the football and the offensive line continued to move develop into one of the better run blocking units in the league. Chris Carson continued to pound the rock and the ground as he rushed for 105 yards on 25 carries and scored one touchdown. Tight End Ed Dickson also made a big impact in his first game back from injury as he had two catches for 54 yards and one touchdown. K.J. Wright’s return only added to a Seahawks defense that continues to get better on a weekly basis. Turnovers were another huge factor for the Seattle defense as they forced three turnovers and always found a way to get them at the most important times.
Los Angeles is coming off a bye week as they last played in London and held off the Tennessee Titans 20-19. The Chargers are led by quarterback Philip Rivers who is playing some of the best football of his career as he has completed 69.1 percent of his passes while throwing 17 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. In addition, Rivers is on track to make his 200th consecutive start on Sunday, which is a testament to his durability over the course of his career. Melvin Gordon has provided a nice level of balance to the offense in the running game so far in 2018. Gordon has carried the ball 91 times for 468 yards and has six touchdowns. The trip up to Seattle is also going to be a great opportunity for the defense to continue its streak of keeping teams under 20 points as the Chargers have done in the last three games.
The Seahawks lead the all-time series 26-24, but the Chargers won the last meeting 30-21 in September 2014 in San Diego.
Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 4 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Playing keep away from Philip Rivers
It's been said over the years that the best way to slow down a potent opposing offense is to play keep away by running the football effectively. For Seattle this approach will be ultra-important as the Seahawks have been averaging over 30 rushing attempts per game so far this season. Carson will need to get the ball early and often to loosen up the Chargers defense. If the Seahawks offensive line can get that done it will set up Wilson in the play-action passing game which has been so effective. Also, getting Tyler Lockett, David Moore and Doug Baldwin in a good rhythm early in the passing game with methodical routes that move the chains will also put Seattle in a great position to control the direction of this game on Sunday.
2. Chargers' patience against the Seahawks' defense
One thing that is for certain on Sunday is that Los Angeles will get a healthy dose of the 12’s bringing plenty of heat with crowd noise. Rivers has been around the block enough to not get phased by a raucous stadium, but it will be intriguing to see if the fans can affect the Chargers offensive line. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is going to have to be patient with the game plan, and if it means staying conservative with high percentage plays then so be it. Another thing that Los Angeles can ill afford to have happen is to turn the football over early in the first half. Seattle is plus-10 on the season in turnover margin, which is good for second in the NFL. They also rank third in opponent passer rating, fourth in points allowed, fourth in pass defense and fifth in overall total defense. The battle between the Chargers offense and the Seahawks defense should be one fascinating chess match for four quarters, especially if there are big plays made to Tyrell Williams in the passing game which would really open up the running game very quickly.
3. Field position battle
Seattle punter Michael Dickson picked up a critical first down on the “Aussie Sweep” fake punt that was supposed to be Dickson taking a safety late in the fourth quarter last week. Dickson is going to get his first real taste of fall weather at Century Link Field on Sunday. It is supposed to be a mix of some wind and rain which can do some funny things with the football during this time of year. So, Dickson’s kickoffs and directional punting will become even more valuable on Sunday and during the remainder of the Seahawks home games this season. Desmond King has done a good job in the return game for Los Angeles, and if Dickson can execute on his kicks by placing the ball, that will neutralize King in the return game. Kickoff and Punt return coverage will be important as well for Seattle as it won’t want to give away too much unnecessary hidden yardage to the Chargers on Sunday.
The over/under for this game is sitting at around 48 points which is just about right as both teams should have some success moving the football and put up a fair amount of points. Then you have the trend of the Seahawks against AFC teams at home in the Russell Wilson era where they are 12-0 including wins over Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Deshaun Watson and Ben Roethlisberger. Thus, you have a Seattle team that has a knack of rising to the occasion at home against elite quarterbacks from the AFC. This game will be a down-to-the-wire contest in a similar fashion to the Rams game earlier in October. Seattle should be able to play just enough keep away from the Chargers offense to improve to 5-3 on the season.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Chargers 24
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.