The Seahawks righted the ship last week by systematically dominating the lifeless and hilariously awful Santa Clara 49ers, 20-3. It improved the Seahawks record to a castor oil-flavored 3-4 on the year.
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While this win was much needed and necessary for the team to achieve if they want to earn a trip back to the playoffs, it should be put in perspective considering the weak, feeble nature of the opponent. The 49ers, a team now without Justin Smith and Aldon Smith on the defensive, still managed to sack Russell Wilson five times, continuing a trend that simply won’t improve much this year because – let’s be honest – the men that make up this offensive line are just not good enough.
As has been the case in many other contests this year, the other aspects of the team are playing playoff-quality football. The run defense gave up 61 yards, the pass defense gave up 124 yards, Wilson hit rookie Tyler Lockett on a beautiful bomb for a touchdown and Marshawn Lynch ground out 122 yards rushing. Steven Hauschka made all of his kicks and Jon Ryan averaged 47 yards on four punts.
In other words, everyone is doing their part except the O-line, which threatens to ruin the fun for everyone.
This week, Seattle travels to Dallas to take on the 2-4 Cowboys in a game both teams need, but only one will get. Big D (as in Dysfunctional) is reeling due to injuries to their major players on offense – quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant, as well as knuckleheadedness from demoted running back and pout machine Joseph Randle. Bryant, out since week two due to a foot injury, has been practicing this week and is expected to suit up. He is needed badly, as Dallas has lost four in a row and has predictably gotten rotten quarterbacking from Brandon Weeden and now Matt Cassell.
Even if Bryant plays, I expect him to be far less than effective, having no rhythm with Cassell and not yet being back in football shape. However, just the mere presence of this dynamic wideout may be enough to create space for the running game, now in the hands of Darren McFadden. The return of Bryant is welcome news for tight end Jason Witten as well, who looks especially slow and old when he doesn’t have good players around him to draw a defense’s attention away.
The strength of this Cowboys team is undoubtedly the offensive line, and Seahawks fans everywhere vividly remember them coming into the C Link last year and imposing their will on a defense that eventually succumbed, leading to the Seahawks first loss at home in 2014. I imagine payback for last year’s drubbing is a popular thought in practices this week.
Lastly, Sunday marks the first time Seattle will face Christine Michael as a member of the enemy. Hopefully on a run to the left side he will get the ball stripped out of his inside hand since he is humanly incapable of carrying a football in his left arm. Way to never learn or evolve, Chris.
The Cowboys defense is a hodgepodge of experienced vets, promising young players, and one despicable human being. Well, two. Both Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain have seats reserved next to Mephistopheles whenever they depart this world. Sean Lee, Brandon Carr, and Barry Church lead on the field through experience and smarts. Demarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, and Randy Gregory represent the future of the defense, along with a very impressive player on the defensive line that no one outside Dallas seems to know a lot about, but will soon.
Tyrone Crawford signed a 5-year, $45M extension with the team for a reason. He’s really good, both against the pass and in run support. He represents a clear and present danger against Seattle’s overmatched interior. Darrell Bevell will have to find a way to scheme Crawford away from the action to find success this week. Pay close attention to the scrimmage battles between Crawford and the O-line, because they will go a long way toward determining the winner in this one.
Now to the good stuff. The line on this game is Seattle -5.5 with an over/under of 41. Las Vegas still seems reticent to setting Seahawk game lines to the number that reflects this year’s team. I feel as though this line a bit too high, considering Seattle’s troubles on the road, 4th quarter foibles and the fact that Dallas manhandled them a year ago. Nevertheless, we play the hand we’re dealt.
The Seahawks defense has had its share of success over the last few years against the best quarterbacks this league has to offer. However, where it really excels is in feasting on the soft underbelly of below average signal callers. Thankfully, the league offers plenty of quarterback chum and one chum’s name is Matt Cassell – the starter in Dallas until Romo returns later in November.
Last week Cassell was intercepted three times against the Giants and looked like, well, Matt Cassell. Because of what happened in that game, I firmly believe the Cowboys will take a much smarter approach to this game, meaning they will rely heavily on the running game and on their offensive line to bleed clock and keep the game close enough to try to win late. This would be the wise thing to do considering Seattle’s propensity to Heimlich leads in the fourth quarter this year. What I don’t know is whether is Dallas is wise enough to take this rather obvious route to success in this game.
Because of last year’s beatdown, I think Seattle – especially the defense – is going to play this game angry and really look to flip the script on Dallas. Looking to double down on last week’s running game success, another impressive showing from Marshawn Lynch could be in the cards with the Cowboys seeming distracted with off-field shenanigans and drama. Dallas circling the wagons and rallying around owner Jerry Jones’ ridiculous crazy talk seems unlikely.
It also feels like a strong game from Russell Wilson is due. I like his chances to make several big plays on the move against this Cowboy defense that will be keyed on Lynch and lacks the speed to contain Ciara’s boyfriend.
In addition, I like that the game is in Dallas. The Cowboys are one of the rare NFL teams that I believe plays better on the road and has absolutely no home field advantage. It feels more like a neutral site game and I expect Seattle to be quite comfortable in Jerry World.
I look for Seattle to win this game and though the spot is a bit high, I’m laying the 5.5 points and look forward to this team entering the bye with some positive vibes, setting up a lot of fingernail biting in the second half of this season.
Prediction: Seattle 24, Dallas 13.
Wager: 100 credits on Seattle -5.5
Season to Date: -50 credits