A sneaky-good matchup is on tap for late Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium as the Seattle Seahawks will travel east to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Seahawks (7-2-1) came off of a very physical contest with the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday afternoon as several key players went down with a variety of injuries. However, Seattle was able to get the running game going with the return of Thomas Rawls and a big 72-yard touchdown scamper from C.J. Prosise (before he left the game with an injury). Russell Wilson even got in the act by catching a touchdown pass from Doug Baldwin. All of this balance offensively resulted in a 26-15 victory for the Seahawks and it extended their lead in the NFC West to three games over Arizona.
Tampa Bay (5-5) went on the road to Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday and upset the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 19-17 to get back to .500 on the season. Jameis Winston did an excellent job of attacking the Kansas City defense as he completed 24 of 39 passes for 331 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions. Third down also was huge for the Buccaneers, as they converted 11 of 16 of their tries. The defense did its part by winning the turnover battle with two takeaways, including an interception from Chris Conte kept the Chiefs from taking the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Seattle at Tampa Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 27 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seahawks -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Russell Wilson against a banged-up Tampa Bay secondary
Wilson is starting to find his groove in the passing game as he is becoming more mobile and is taking care of the football with just two interceptions on the season. This is a sign of trouble for the Buccaneers heading into this game as nickel corner Jude Adjei-Barimah begins a four-game suspension and cornerback Brent Grimes left the game last week with a quadriceps injury. That is why offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Wilson will look to go on the attack, throwing the football to Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse early and often. If Wilson can get into a groove in the pocket early then it could lead to a very long afternoon for Tampa Bay’s defense.
2. Jameis Winston vs. Seahawks’ defense
Earl Thomas and Deshawn Shead both left last week’s game with the Eagles with the hamstring injuries that will most likely keep them out for this week’s game. Thus, it will lead to more playing time for Steven Terrell and Neiko Thorpe and opportunities to step up with a chance to make big plays against a very confident quarterback in Winston. It is going to be vital for head coach Dirk Koetter to get Winston into a nice rhythm early in the passing game by getting the ball to Mike Evans and let him go to work to set up the running game. Another key will be the offensive line, as the Seahawks will get after the quarterback behind the NFL’s most productive pass rush. Seattle is tied with Buffalo for the most sacks (31), led by Cliff Avril’s 10.0 (tied for first) and Frank Clark’s 7.5. If the Buccaneers’ offensive line struggles to protect Winston then the lack of depth in the secondary may not matter.
3. Seahawks’ red zone defense
This Seattle defense is going to defend every blade of grass on a football field as if their lives truly depended on it. Consequently, it is expected that Winston will get a fair amount of passing yards on Sunday, but will it amount to a lot of points? The Seahawks are limiting teams to just 2.16 yards per play inside the red zone. In addition, Seattle only allows red zone touchdowns just 42.1 percent of the time to opposing teams. Therefore, if the Seahawks can force Tampa Bay kicker Roberto Aguayo to beat them with field goals then they will be in a fantastic position to win the football game.
Look for a game that should be nip and tuck well into the fourth quarter with the uncertainty that Seattle has on the injury front and the momentum that the Buccaneers have right now as a team. The Seahawks have the experience in big games like this, which will serve them well on Sunday. On the other hand, Tampa Bay is young, hungry and playing with a lot of confidence right now. In the end, Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense will find a way to make enough plays in the passing game to get out of Raymond James Stadium with a hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Buccaneers 23
— 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.