New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks (-10, 45 o/u)
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks (5-3, 2-2 road) will look to keep pace with the Arizona Cardinals (7-1) in the NFC West as they travel to Rutherford to face Eli Manning and the New York Giants (3-5, 2-2 home) today at 4:25 p.m. Eastern.
The defending Super Bowl champions are learning how hard it is to build a dynasty in the NFL. After taking top spot in the NFC last season and running through their conference opponents en route to a Super Bowl title, the Seahawks have hit some road blocks in their quest to repeat. Back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Rams in weeks 6 and 7 have them two games back of the Cardinals in the race for the division title. Though back-to-back wins in weeks 8 and 9 put them right in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race.
The running game has been reliable for Seattle all season, averaging 148.5 yards per game (second-best in the NFL). However, with limited options on the outside, the passing game has suffered; Wilson and the Seahawks are averaging under 200 yards per game, and have the third-worst passing offense in the league. The inability to move the ball through the air has translated into one fewer point per game versus last season. On defense, the Seahawks have been good against both the run and the pass, sitting fourth and sixth in the league respectively. The scoring defense has taken a serious hit from last year, though, giving up 21.8 this year versus just over 14 last season. The regression was to be expected, as the Seahawks turned opponents over at an unsustainable rate in 2013 and then lost several key players in the off-season.
For the Giants, this year has been a tale of three seasons. In the first, they struggled to learn new OC Ben MacAdoo’s new system and dropped their first two games, failing to score more than 14 points. In the second, they looked comfortable on O and motivated on D, winning three straight and averaging 35.5 points per game. In the third, they regressed and dropped three straight, with the offense and defense taking turns letting the team down: in week 7, the Giants were shutout by division rival Philadelphia; in week 9, the defense gave up 40 at home to Indianapolis.
Now, with their playoff hopes already hanging by a thread, the Giants will try to find the magic elixir that led to three straight wins. For Eli Manning and company, that magic elixir may have been the running game. In their three wins, the Giants put up 198, 154, and 124 rushing yards, respectively. On the season, however, the Giants average just 110 yards on the ground. It doesn’t take a math wiz to figure out that an increase in rushing yards has a correlation to wins for the Giants. Unfortunately for the G-men, the Seahawks have the second-best rush defense in the NFL. Adding to their dilemma, leading rusher Rashad Jennings is listed as doubtful for today’s game with a knee injury and, even if he does go, won’t be at 100%.
The Giants may become victims of their own game plan. The Giants struggle to stop the run (giving up 119 yards per game) and, with the passing game in a funk, Seattle will be pounding “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch up the middle with regularity.
The odds-makers recognize that this could be a match-up nightmare for New York and have the Giants as double-digit road dogs (+10). That said, Seattle looked poised to cover a 14-point spread against the hapless Raiders last weekend – taking a 24-3 lead into the half – but took their foot off the gas in the second half and were somewhat lucky to escape with a six-point win (30-24).
(Photo credit: Larry Maurer [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)