Seahawks looking to prove they’re no fluke as they host another surprise team in the 6-1 Giants – The Seattle Times

Seahawks looking to prove they’re no fluke as they host another surprise team in the 6-1 Giants – The Seattle Times

RENTON — Consider Lumen Field to also be a proving ground Sunday afternoon when the Seahawks host the New York Giants.
Each team ranks as one of the surprises of the first half of the NFL season with a chance Sunday to only further validate their success.
The Giants, behind one of the league’s best rushing attacks led by quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley, are 6-1, the second-best record in the league behind the 6-0 Philadelphia Eagles.
The Seahawks are 4-3 behind the surprising-to-everyone-but-him play of Geno Smith and the quickly improving play of a half-dozen rookies. The Seahawks find themselves as the leaders of an NFC West that also includes the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, considered a Super Bowl favorite this year.
In a game that could further elevate their status as a legitimate NFC West contender, the Seahawks may be at close to full strength as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday night that DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett — both listed as questionable — are expected to play.
Metcalf suffered a patella tendon injury last Sunday against the Chargers and was carted off the field, an image that appeared to indicate a serious injury.
Tests revealed Metcalf suffered no serious damage and he practiced Friday on a limited basis with coach Pete Carroll saying he would be a game-time decision. Schefter quoted a source Saturday night saying Metcalf will play.
Lockett was also listed as questionable with hamstring and rib injuries and also considered a game-time decision. But Scehfter reported that Lockett also is “expected to play.’’
Consider that a much-needed late dose of good news for the Seahawks as they try to continue to defy expectations against the Giants, who are one of the few teams that may be a bigger surprise than the Seahawks.
The Giants’ odds to win the Super Bowl were 100-1 on March 8, the day the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos and saw their odds plummet from 33-1 to 80-1, via BetOnline.
Only five other teams had odds as long or longer than the Seahawks and Giants on that day.
The Giants’ odds have since dropped to 40-1, indicating they have begun to convince some people they are for real. The Seahawks are still at 75-1, indicating there is still a lot of belief to be won.
The Seahawks were a whopping 500-1 just two weeks ago, following a 39-32 loss at New Orleans, tied with the Bears, Panthers and Texans for the longest odds in the NFL.
That game was the fifth straight to start the season in which the Seahawks gave up at least 373 yards, ranking last in the NFL in total yards allowed and rushing yards.
The Seahawks were 2-3 at that point, avoiding an 0-5 start due almost solely to Smith and an emerging running attack.
The Seahawks have beaten Arizona and the Chargers since then, with the defense allowing just three touchdowns and holding each to 329 yards or fewer and a combined 197 rushing yards, barely more than the 170.2 per game they allowed to the first five opponents.
The key has been a few personnel shifts, such as Ryan Neal emerging as a full-time starter at safety and using more nickel and dime packages. Schematic decisions have also allowed the linemen to be more aggressive, essentially playing one gap and attacking instead of playing two gaps and reading-and-reacting. It’s something the Seahawks went with more early in the year as part of the switch to a predominantly 3-4 defense under first-year coordinator Clint Hurtt.
Have the Seahawks truly turned a corner with their defense?
“Well, we are going to find out,’’ coach Pete Carroll said this week, assessing a Giants’ team that is averaging 173.4 rushing yards per game, second in the NFL. Barkley accounts for 103.7 per game all on his own, second in the NFL, and Jones rushes for 49.0 more per game in New York’s intricate rushing attack installed by first-year coach Brian Daboll.
“We have a lot of room to grow and get better,’’ Carroll continued. “We have made legitimate, significant strides, so we are going to keep doing the stuff that we do, see if we can keep getting better, and show the consistency. One or two games, we’ll forget about that if we don’t keep it going. We started it a couple of weeks ago, there is no doubt. (But) this is the ultimate challenge, this is as good as a running team that we will ever go against. We will find out where we stand.”
Even with Metcalf and Lockett expected back, the Seahawks may rely heavily on their ground game Sunday due in part to predicted rainy weather, as well as a Giants defense that is allowing more yards per carry (5.7) than any in the NFL.
That could mean the game will simply come down to a battle of what are two top-10 rushing attacks in the NFL against what are two of the bottom-four defenses in terms of rushing yards allowed.
“It’s going to be won in the trenches,’’ said Seahawks defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, who seemed to embrace the prospect.
Jefferson has benefited as much as anyone from the switch to a more attacking style at the line, something that coaches have said the team will continue with as long as it is working.
“They gave us the keys, so we have to take full advantage of that and so we don’t go back to where we were,’’ Jefferson said.
And if they can do that, they can also keep the Seahawks on their current path to going somewhere no one expected this year.
“It’s a great matchup for us,’’ Carroll said. “And these are the kind of matchups that you have to get through if you are going to have a good season.”
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

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