Another long trip to the East Coast awaits the Seattle Seahawks as they will battle the leaders of the NFC East, the Washington Football Team on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Seattle can secure a playoff spot with a victory while Washington will be looking for its second straight win in this series after beating the Seahawks 17-14 back on Nov. 5, 2017.
Seattle (9-4) took full advantage of "Get Right Sunday," annihilating the New York Jets 40-3 at home last week. Russell Wilson was efficient, completing 21 of 27 passes for 206 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Chris Carson ran for 76 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries to pace the ground game. Jamal Adams broke the single-season sack record for defensive backs when he took down Sam Darnold early in the second quarter. The defense as a whole locked down the New York offense all day long, limiting the Jets to 185 total yards. Also, the overall energy of the team was where it needed to be as they took the winless Jets seriously and put the game away very quickly in the first half.
Washington (6-7) picked up its fourth straight win last Sunday with a 23-15 victory over San Francisco at the 49ers' temporary home of State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The defense bent a little, but still did a great job of limiting the 49ers to 15 points on a somewhat quiet 344 yards of total offense. Chase Young was a force to be reckoned with, including a 48-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and Kamren Curl ran back an interception 76 yards for another score. Comeback Player of the Year front-runner Alex Smith left the game in the first half with a calf strain and he's already been ruled out of Sunday's game. This means that Dwayne Haskins will get the start for Washington.
Seattle at Washington
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 20 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Seahawks' offensive line step up and protect Russell Wilson?
This week's battle at the line of scrimmage is for grown men only as it will be one of those games played in a phone booth. Seattle lost right tackle Brandon Shell last week to an ankle injury and his status this week is up in the air. If Shell can't go that will put the offensive line in a tough spot as the group will need all hands on deck to keep Wilson upright. Chase Young will be looking to replicate last week's stat line where he had a sack, a forced fumble, two deflected passes, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. Overall, Young has 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and 24 pressures, making him a strong candidate if not the front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Young doesn't do it all by himself as Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen round out this loaded defensive front that anchors the NFL's fourth-ranked defense that is limiting teams to 313.5 yards per game.
2. Washington offense
Similarly, Washington's offensive line is going to have its hands full with a Seattle defense that has gradually improved its pass rush along with its overall play. Protecting Alex Smith and then Dwayne Haskins was a bit of an issue last week. The 49ers registered just two sacks but were able to consistently pressure the pocket and get a few other hits on the quarterbacks while limiting their effectiveness (combined 15-for-31 for 108 yards, INT) when they threw. With Smith ruled out because of a calf injury, Haskins will make his first start since Week 4. For the season, Haskins is 96-for-158 (60.8 percent) for 990 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He's also been sacked 14 times in five games. The Seahawks could get a boost if Carlos Dunlap II is able to return from his foot injury. The former Bengal gives the defensive front that extra sense of swagger and confidence when the pass rushers are turned loose to go after the quarterback. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson also is working his back from a turf toe injury that caused him to miss last week's game. His ability to make something happen whenever he gets his hands on the football will be a definite key piece of the puzzle for Washington to extend its winning streak.
3. Seahawks' wide receivers vs. Washington's secondary
This should be a fun battle between very talented position groups on Sunday. Washington currently ranks third in the NFL in pass defense, giving up 206.3 yards per game. Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, Jimmy Moreland, and Kamren Curl round out a group of defensive backs that have played well together this season. But they will have their work cut out for them against DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Seattle's other pass catchers. Look for Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to use plenty of bracket type of coverage to keep Metcalf and Lockett from getting behind them for deep balls. It will be up to the Seahawks' top targets to stay patient early, take what is available, and understand that their deep-ball opportunities will come as the game moves on. Likewise, Wilson is going to have to be at his best with his decision-making as he can ill afford to have multiple interceptions this week.
Expect a low-scoring, hard-hitting game between both of these teams as it appears to be an uphill battle for either to get to 30 points this week. Turnovers are going to go a long way towards deciding this one unless Russell Wilson returns to the MVP-caliber form he showed in the first five weeks of this season. Alex Smith's absence, however, could prove to be the difference as Dwayne Haskins doesn't offer the same steady, reliable play at quarterback. The Seahawks clinch a playoff spot with a huge road win.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Washington 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Parler @Scottwhittum.
(Top photo courtesy of washingtonfootball.com)