NFL Week 12 Preview: Seahawks vs. Bucs
I really want this game in Tampa Bay to be one where I can comfortably set solid expectations for the Seahawks on either side of the ball, but it’s not. They will very likely be without valuable guys such as Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, DeShawn Shead, Brock Coyle, and Troymaine Pope, among others. Justin Britt has appeared on the injury report with an ankle, and has missed practice thus far. Also not good. This has the makings of a trap game. The Bucs are coming off of an improbable victory at Arrowhead Stadium, where they managed to stifle the Chiefs, 19-17. To keep the Seahawks from taking their third loss of the season, these are the areas I will especially look for them to compete in:
TRENCH PLAY: This is admittedly a vague, but all-encompassing term. It’s also a very key point. Seattle could be without their best offensive lineman this season in Justin Britt. If he can’t go, that leaves rookie Joey Hunt at the center position. The Bucs have Gerald McCoy. McCoy is a top interior defender in this league, not just disrupting against the pass but the run as well. He is the engine of that Bucs pass rush, and failure to contain him could lead to disaster on offense. Former Seahawk Clinton McDonald will be someone else to watch out for, as we know how damaging he can be rushing from the inside. The offensive line play has been gradually improving, and this will be another big test for the front five.
I’m sure Michael Bennett would have loved this chance to take on his former team, but it seems he will be out for another week. In the meantime, it will be on Frank Clark and Cliff Avril (Avril has been nuts lately) to keep the pass rush going. Damontre Moore had a pretty rough game against the Eagles, and he shows on the injury report with a foot problem. It won’t be too nice if he can’t go either. Jameis Winston isn’t your prototypical “mobile” quarterback, but he is very much capable of extending plays and getting some yards on the ground. It would be great for the front four here to keep that from happening.
TURNOVERS: The Bucs aren’t exactly an impressive team on defense. They’re lodged in the middle of the pack. They also have a positive turnover margin in all but one of their wins. Basically, to come away with a win, the Seahawks need to turn the ball over fewer times than the Bucs. This team has committed one turnover over the last seven games. Let’s try to make that eight.
The Seahawks have forced six turnovers in their last four games. Winston is a very talented quarterback. He is also prone to making the big mistake (risky throws that lead to interceptions). With Earl Thomas and DeShawn Shead out, it will not be an easy task to accomplish, but forcing turnovers would be huge for the defense. Get those guys off of the field for a bit and let the offense do the heavy lifting for once.
THE RUN GAME: The Bucs are very committed to the run, ranking sixth in rushing attempts. However, they are not very successful with it, ranking 26th in yards per carry. This could be a feel-good game for the Seahawks’ run defense.
The Seahawks have not been very good at running the ball. Thomas Rawls had a good showing in his first week back, but now the burden will mostly be on him, considering C.J. Prosise is lost for the season. I’m sure Rawls can do his part. The question is whether or not the guys playing behind him will be able to do theirs.
P.S. It’s going to be interesting to see how the guys tasked with filling in for Earl Thomas and DeShawn Shead will be deployed. Jeremy Lane should fill in capably for Shead, but the cornerback matchup gets interesting once in nickel. For Earl? Steven Terrell will likely get the start, and while he is very much a speedster like Earl, his ability to diagnose and react to plays as quickly as Earl remains to be seen. If he can’t react to plays with reasonable smarts and quickness, this could force the Seahawks out of the single high (one safety deep) looks that they love to roll with. While Richard Sherman gets all of the hype (which he certainly deserves), Earl Thomas, with his range, intelligence, and bone-crushing hits, makes the Seahawks’ coverage scheme work at a high level. This ride could be a bit bumpy until he gets back, folks.