Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants
Site: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)
After failing to clinch the NFC West last week the Seahawks will have another chance to get the job done this week as they take on the New York Giants. The Seahawks are 11-2 while the Giants have struggled throughout this season. The Giants have a 5-8 record and with their loss last week to the San Diego Chargers, New York has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The Giants lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-6 but it was Seattle who was on the winning end of their last meeting; a 36-25 Seahawks victory over the eventual world champion Giants in New Jersey in 2011. Traveling across the country and playing in the 10am Pacific Time slot is always a difficult challenge for the Seahawks but the motivation of coming off a loss last week makes this Seahawks team a group no team would like to get in the way of. In order to take care of business this week this is what the Seahawks need to do, as well as what the Giants need to do in order to upset this Seattle team.
Playing sound defensive football, especially after allowing 19 points in a losing effort last week is the first thing I need to see out of the Seahawks this week. Earl Thomas made it known after last week’s game that the entire team felt angry because they let that game get away from them so I would expect the Seahawks defense to come out completely motivated and they will look to make big plays early. It may be hard for Eli Manning to make deep throws because of the Legion of Boom likely looking to take their anger out by playing a phenomenal game this week. My main focus is something that has been improving on a week-by-week basis and that is the interior pass rush. Eli Manning leads the league in interceptions with 20. The Legion of Boom will make the long passing game hard for Manning this week but if the Seahawks can be consistent rushing the passer this week Manning will surely be forced into making bad throws especially if the Giants are trailing. Brandon Mebane and Clinton McDonald are two Seahawks defenders to watch this week. Mebane is overdue to get involved in the sack department since he has not recorded a sack yet this season, and McDonald was able to make Colin Kaepernick uncomfortable last week, sacking him once. Add effectiveness from Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin as well and the Seahawks defense will spend a good chunk of game clock on the sidelines while they watch the offense work.
Last week against San Francisco Marshawn Lynch ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Lynch has not run for more than 100 yards in a game since playing Atlanta in week 10 so this week it will be very important to keep feeding the beast. There should be a primary focus this week on the run not just because of Lynch but because of the weather forecast which is calling for potential snow during the game. The Giants defense has been improving each week and their passing defense now ranks in the top half of teams in the league in yards allowed per game. Although we will see Russell Wilson make plays this week I think Marshawn Lynch is due for perhaps his biggest workload of the season this week. A 100-plus yard rushing performance by Lynch could send the Seahawks well on their way to a victory this week. 25-30 carries is the range I expect to see Lynch get against the Giants.
Like I stated earlier, Giants quarterback Eli Manning ranks first in the NFL in interceptions thrown and this week poses a daunting challenge for Manning and the New York offense. In order for the Giants offense to be successful against the Seahawks this week I think Manning needs to play similarly to how Colin Kaepernick played the Seahawks last week; by going conservative. Out-routes will be Manning’s best friend this week and I anticipate that he will not try to test the Legion of Boom down the middle of the field, much like the way Kaepernick effectively played last week by throwing along the sidelines. Wide receiver Victor Cruz will be Manning’s most reliable target this week but also keep an eye out for Hakeem Nicks who caught 5 passes for 131 yards against San Diego last week because he may emerge as a dangerous sideline threat this week.
The New York Giants defense is a mystery to me as a unit this season. Although they are one of the older, more experienced defenses in the league they still have playoff caliber talent. Mental lapses, ineffectiveness, and injuries have doomed the Giants all season long. The Giants give up an average of 337 yards per game to opposing offenses and in their 8 losses they allow close to 34 points per game, certainly one of the worst averages among all NFL teams. Justin Tuck continues to be the most well-known and most productive defender New York has to offer. Tuck has recorded a team high 8.5 sacks this season but the lack of production by the rest of his defensive teammates allows opposing quarterbacks to stand in the pocket, make throws, and continue drives. Fundamental tackling and forcing Russell Wilson turnovers will help the Giants prevail with a win this week. Having said this, my X-Factor player to watch for the New York Giants this week is Safety Antrel Rolle. Rolle leads all Giants defenders in tackles with 79; about 6 per game. Rolle has also intercepted 5 passes which also leads all Giants in that category. Rolle has been New York’s best all-around player on defense this week and it will be important for him to tackle smart to prevent big gains of yardage and to fly around in the secondary, similarly to Earl Thomas, in order to confuse Russell Wilson and have a chance to take advantage of any potential Seattle offensive mistakes.
Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. Pant color has become a total crapshoot on the road but if I have to make a prediction, I say we will wear blue pants… The Giants will wear blue jerseys and I would not be surprised to see them wear their new white pants again this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the call for FOX this week and Erin Andrews will patrol the sidelines. It was just announced this week that the Burkhardt/Lynch/Andrews team has earned the right to call one of two NFC Divisional playoff games on FOX on either January 11th or 12th. Good for this team. I would agree that they deserve this opportunity. I have enjoyed their broadcasts on Seahawks road games this season… Expect all questionable calls to go against the Seahawks this week. That’s right friends you guessed it. The referee for this week’s game is Bill Leavy. You know, the guy who helped prevent us win our first Super Bowl 8 years ago. Yeah. That guy… My cousins are going to be at this weekend’s game. I’m jealous. Oh well, maybe I’ll get the chance to go to the next Seahawks game at MetLife Stadium!… This will be the first game of the season that I get to watch with my best friends/roommates from last year. That will be a lot of fun. Looking forward to it Jake, Alan, and Clayton… I would love to see it snow during this week’s game. Not like the Detroit/Philadelphia game from last week but a light dusting would do for me… It’s really cool to think that if things go as planned in the coming weeks this will be the last Seahawks road trip until Super Bowl XLVIII should we make it. Let’s take care of business this week so we can maintain the wiggle room to clinch sooner rather than later. I do not want to see us lose, essentially thrusting our final two games into must-win games.
Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and a first round bye with a win over the Giants and a 49ers loss to Tampa Bay. The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Giants, a 49ers loss to Tampa Bay, and a Saints loss to St. Louis. Here are this week’s games to watch that could affect the entire NFC Playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.
Seattle (11-2) at New York Giants (5-8)
San Francisco (9-4) at Tampa Bay (4-9)
New Orleans (10-3) at St. Louis (5-8)
Philadelphia (8-5) at Minnesota (3-9-1)
Chicago (7-6) at Cleveland (4-9)
New York Jets (6-7) at Carolina (9-4)
Green Bay (6-6-1) at Dallas (7-6)
Arizona (8-5) at Tennessee (5-8)
Baltimore (7-6) at Detroit (7-6)
Prediction: There is a sense of urgency and the team knows it. They let last week slip away and I believe that this week they will not let the Giants get anything going to start. The Seahawks will build a lead and although New York may make it close, this game will be the Seahawks game to lose. Marshawn Lynch will run for a pair of touchdowns and Kam Chancellor will force a fumble which will be recovered by Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks will win but with a predicted San Francisco win, the Seahawks will have to wait one more week to clinch the NFC West at home against Arizona.
Seahawks 26, Giants 17
Check back late Sunday night/early Monday morning for my Giants review. Thanks for reading and Go Seahawks!