Seahawks vs. Lions: 3 Key Matchups to Watch for Seattle
Hopefully, the 10 day layover will help Pete Carroll's club get that nasty taste out of its mouth from last Thursday's debacle. Seattle had San Francisco right where it wanted them—it played sound defensively all night, allowing only 13 points, but the Seahawks offense couldn't come through in the clutch.
The loss dropped the 'Hawks to 0-3 in the division and 4-3 overall. Winning division games is a must, even if they are on the road. If they even win one of those divisional games, it puts them atop the NFC West right now.
Regardless, Week 8 is a new week with another road game on the horizon. The only road win of the season for the Seahawks came against Carolina, yet they are hoping they can pick up their second win on the road against the reeling Detroit Lions.
The Lions are currently 2-4 and have lost four of their last five games.
Seattle has only traveled to Ford Field once, yet its only appearance resulted in a win. Let's take a look at which three matchups will prove to be the most crucial come Sunday.
Richard Sherman vs. Calvin Johnson
All week, these two teams have been going back and forth throwing jabs at one another. Richard Sherman changed his Twitter name to "Optimus Prime" to rival Calvin Johnson and his "Megatron" nickname.
Depending on which way you view Sherman, you could either say his antics are funny or just plain idiotic. Do you want to really get a guy like Johnson worked up, which in turn, may fuel him to play better?
I personally think Sherman was just being playful and having fun. Whether it riles Johnson up or not, that shouldn't matter.
I'm sure No. 25 is already expecting his best effort, despite the knee injury "Megatron" suffered Monday night. Sherman has to have the same mentality every game—he believes his play is better than his opponent's week in and week out.
And every performance through Week 7 has backed up that mentality. According to the stat gurus at Pro Football Focus, Sherm is the No. 2 rated cover corner. He has only allowed 21 receptions on 41 targets, he has deflected six passes and picked off three passes.
Moreover, no quarterback has snuck a touchdown by him yet.
Johnson isn't quite having the year he had last year, yet the same could be said about Detroit's offense as a whole. He has plenty of yards to speak for, but his touchdown numbers are low this season and he isn't catching as many targets as he did last year.
On the season, his 592 yards place him seventh in the NFL, but his lone score ties him for 50th.
So it begs the question, why the lack of touchdowns? Is Matthew Stafford to blame or are defenses scheming him differently? I think that's a question the Lions would like the answer to sooner rather than later.
There's no doubt the coverage will be tight again on Sunday—it will be interesting to see how Gus Bradley's secondary plays Johnson for the entire 60 minutes.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Detroit's Run Defense
After a week of subpar play against New England, Marshawn Lynch returned to normalcy against the San Francsico 49ers. Lynch entered "beast mode" for the third time this season, as he piled up 103 yards on 19 carries.
It was his first 100-yard game since Week 4.
Unfortunately, No. 24's strong game on the ground proved to be the only offense Seattle could muster. Russell Wilson was continuously let down by his wide receivers, as they dropped four passes by game's end. Lynch, Robert Turbin, Golden Tate and Evan Moore each contributed with one drop.
If it wasn't for center Max Unger, Lynch wouldn't have had the game he had. Unger was escorting him right up the middle of the field to the tune of 6.7 yards per carry when running off his left side and 6.8 yards per carry when running off his right side.
Hopefully, Unger will have a game this Sunday that is comparable to last Thursday night. The Lions' run defense is one of the worst the league has to offer. Look beyond its No. 16 rank and realize that it is allowing 4.1 yards per carry.
It is also in the bottom half of the league in terms of rushes against. Teams have only tried to run the ball at the Lions 160 times this year. I have a feeling that Darrell Bevell will be relying on the run heavily—30-plus carries shouldn't be out of the question.
PFF has given 12 negative grades to members of the Lions defense. Advanced NFL Stats has gone even a step further and proclaimed that Detroit is inefficient against the run based on their grading system.
I smell another big day on the road for Lynch. Don't you?
Alan Branch and Brandon Mebane vs. Stephen Peterman
This may not be the primary or the sexiest matchup when you think of Sunday's game, but it may prove to be the most impactful. The Seahawks defense runs through its defensive line, which directly influences the back end of its defense.
Surprisingly enough, Detroit's offensive line has played better than anyone has expected it to this year. Father Time is not on its side and it has actually shown improvement in terms of pass protection. However, it still doesn't run-block very well, which is probably why the Lions don't run the ball any more than they have to.
Regardless, the offensive line only has one real weak link, and that's right guard Stephen Peterman. He is the only offensive lineman who would be seen as a liability. Through six games, he has allowed four quarterback sacks, two quarterback hits and 11 hurries.
Good news for "big" Alan Branch and Bradon Mebane. Both players are strong interior pass-rushing defensive tackles and both players have combined for three quarterback sacks, four quarterback hits and 12 hurries.
If you break those numbers down even farther, you realize that Branch and Mebane account for a quarterback pressure once every 16 snaps. To get that kind of pressure from not one, but two defensive tackles, is pretty special.
Neither player will ever rush the passer like Geno Atkins or Kevin Williams, but it's important to appreciate the way they dictate the line of scrimmage.
It won't matter who lines up across from Peterman, he will have his hands full all day long. And even if center Dominic Raiola slides over to help out, one pass-rusher will have a one-on-one matchup. An ideal situation for a defensive line that has four legitimate pass-rushers.
With the way Peterman looked Monday night, both defensive tackles should be licking their chops.
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