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Team Analysis

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 Seattle Seahawks Team Analysis:

INSIDE SLANT
It's the kind of matchup that in a usual time might lead one to wonder if the Seattle Seahawks would be in danger of overlooking the woebegone Oakland Raiders.

But this has not been a usual time for the Seahawks, who have been in the center of the NFL storm the past few weeks, dogged by media reports of locker room strife and portrayed as a team on its way down after last year's Super Bowl title.

Seattle, though, feels as if it got back on track with a 13-9 win at the Carolina Panthers last Sunday that snapped a two-game losing streak and restored some good feeling in the locker room.

Still, they know the worst thing that could happen now would be to stumble against the Raiders.

When he met the media Wednesday, Seattle coach Pete Carroll rattled off all of the reasons the team has to be concerned with Oakland despite its record -- its competitiveness on the road, a run defense allowing just over 3.7 yards per carry.

But then he said this is a game that is as much about the Seahawks as the Raiders.

"It's really us getting ready," Carroll said. "We take care of today and then we move to the next one. If we do that right, then we'll be ready to play this game."

That's a pretty urgent task right now for the Seahawks, who are at 4-3.

Seattle trails Arizona (6-1) by two games, but now has two winnable home games against the Raiders and the New York Giants before beginning a tough stretch of the schedule that features six games in six weeks against teams that all won 10 or more games last season -- including two each against the Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

The Seahawks, though, sound as if they think they are ready to get back to normal after the win at Carolina, decided with an 80-yard march in the final minutes of the game.

It wasn't a pretty win as the Seahawks had just 310 yards, and never led until scoring the winning touchdown with 43 seconds left. But coming from behind and doing so with a defensive performance that was similar to those of a year ago made the game feel like a back-to-normal performance for the Seahawks.

Still, the Seahawks are far from whole. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner remains sidelined with a toe injury and rookie Brock Coyle is expected to get the start in his place this week. Tight end Zach Miller also remains out, and cornerback Byron Maxwell also is still hobbled with a calf injury.

"I think we're getting close to where we are," said cornerback Richard Sherman. "But I mean anytime you're as banged up as we are, it's going to be hard to have continuity. Guys are playing hard. Guys have been playing hard all season."

The hope will be that that's good enough against an Oakland team that has lost 13 in a row dating to last season and is starting rookie Derek Carr at quarterback.

Carr won the starting job in part due to a performance in the preseason finale against Seattle when he threw three touchdown passes in a 41-31 Oakland win. Neither side is putting much stock in that game other than the fact that it has made the Seahawks aware of Carr and the pass-happy offense they are set to face Sunday -- the Raiders have thrown the ball 67 percent of the this season, the highest percentage in the NFL.



SERIES HISTORY: 52nd regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 28-23 but Seattle has won two of three since moving to the NFC West. Oakland won the last meeting, 33-3, in Pete Carroll's first season as head coach in 2010.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Seattle signed former 49ers fullback Will Tukuafu. Tukuafu has also played defensive end and might also get some plays on that side of the ball for Seattle, as well. But Seattle needs a fullback after losing Derrick Coleman for the season to a broken foot prior to the St. Louis game. Tukuafu played from 2010-13 with the 49ers before being waived in September with an injury settlement with a concussion.

--Seattle also promoted L.J. Fort from the practice squad as a linebacker. Fort was signed last week and initially tried as a fullback but will now help add depth at linebacker with Malcolm Smith now joining the injury list. Fort played 16 games for the Browns in 2012.



BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Seattle's interceptions this season. The Seahawks had 28 last season to lead the NFL.



QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I think we're fine. We are a confident bunch. I think we're in the same spot we were last year and the year before. Guys treat it 1-0 every week. That's all you're trying to do. You're trying to be 1-0 this week, 1-0 next week and not letting the past games influence how you play this game. I think that's what guys are doing and that's our mindset." -- Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman on the state of the team this week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
OFFICIAL FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

OAKLAND RAIDERS

--Out: TE David Ausberry (foot), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin)

--Doubtful: CB Carlos Rogers (knee)

--Probable: CB T.J. Carrie (back), RB Jamize Olawale (shoulder), RB Marcel Reece (quadricep), WR Kenbrell Thompkins (not injury related), DE Justin Tuck (knee)

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

--Out: DT Jordan Hill (ankle), S Jeron Johnson (concussion), CB Byron Maxwell (calf), TE Zach Miller (ankle), LB Malcolm Smith (groin), LB Bobby Wagner (toe)

--Questionable: S Kam Chancellor (groin), T Russell Okung (calf), G Stephen Schilling (knee), C Max Unger (foot)

--Probable: DE Michael Bennett (toe), G James Carpenter (back), RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related), CB Richard Sherman (back), CB Tharold Simon (knee), WR Bryan Walters (concussion)



PLAYER NOTES

--C Stephen Schilling sat out Thursday with a knee injury, leaving Seattle with just one healthy center -- third-teamer Patrick Lewis, who joined the team Oct. 8. Starting center Max Unger has missed the last three games with a foot injury and was listed as limited.

--CB Tharold Simon missed practice Thursday with a knee injury. It's unclear the severity. He played the last two games after recovering from knee surgery in August. It's unknown if the new injury is related.

--LB Malcolm Smith again sat out practice Thursday with a groin injury and appears unlikely to play Sunday against the Raiders. Brock Coyle is set to start at middle linebacker with K.J. Wright moving to the weak side to replace Smith. Wright started the last three games at middle linebacker after starter Bobby Wagner was injured.

--CB Richard Sherman sat out Thursday with a back injury, but it's presumed that it was mostly a rest day.

--DE Michael Bennett sat out on Thursday with a toe injury, as he also did last Thursday. He played regularly last Sunday and it's presumed this is just Bennett resting.

--Rookie WR Paul Richardson will continue to get work as a kickoff returner after a 47-yarder last week at Carolina in what was his first game handling those duties with Bryan Walters out. Walters is now back but Richardson will also get his shots as a returner. Percy Harvin was the team's kickoff returner before being traded.

--C Max Unger, who strained his foot against Washington and missed the last two games, participated in practice on a limited basis Wednesday and could play against the Raiders. Stephen Schilling has started the last three games with Unger out.

--MLB Bobby Wagner, who suffered a turf toe injury against Dallas, remains out and it's unclear when he will return.

--CB Byron Maxwell, who suffered a calf strain against Dallas and did not play against the Rams, could be back this week but did not participate in practice Wednesday.

--DL Jordan Hill, who missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, did not practice Wednesday and it's unclear when he will return.

--WR Bryan Walters returned to practice Wednesday following a concussion that caused him to miss the win at Carolina and should play Sunday.

--S Jeron Johnson, a backup and key special teamer, suffered a concussion against Carolina and it's unclear if he will play this week.



GAME PLAN:
In the first week without Percy Harvin, the Seahawks put up a season-high 463 yards on the Rams. Last week in game two without Harvin, though, was a fall-back-to-earth 310 yards against Carolina in which the Seahawks were stagnant until an 80-yard drive in the final five minutes that won the game. They'll need to find their rhythm earlier this week to not let the Raiders hang around. Oakland is somewhat better statistically against the run than the pass, and given the different makeup of Seattle's passing game, now, expect the Raiders to try to make the Seahawks beat them through the air.

Seattle's running game has been statistically productive this season (148.4 yards per game) but has been more erratic-looking on the field -- the Seahawks had just 22 rushing yards on six carries in the first half last week, for instance. Expect the Seahawks to force the run early in this game, especially with Marshawn Lynch playing against his hometown team.

Defensively, Seattle's pass rush showed renewed life against Carolina with three sacks and a few other near-misses, which helped result in two turnovers -- Seattle entered the game with just five for the season. The Seahawks unveiled a little more pressure early against the Panthers but for the most part simply did a better job of their bread-and-butter four-man rush coupled with tight coverage. That'll likely be the plan against an Oakland team that has the worst rushing attack in the NFL and a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr.

Seattle will hope it can take care of the run with its base defense and then hurry Carr into a few bad throws and, the Seahawks will hope, a return-to-form in interceptions.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--Seahawks DE Cliff Avril vs. Raiders RT Donald Penn. Avril, entering the final year of his contract, has just one sack this season. But he was close to a couple last week against the Panthers and this sets up as a good matchup for him to get going in a home game against a hapless team that figures to throw it a lot. Despite their record, though, the Raiders have been tough to sack at times, allowing just eight for 50 yards.

--Seahawks CB Richard Sherman vs. Raiders WR James Jones. Sherman usually just lines up on the left side of the Seattle defense. But with Byron Maxwell's injury, he has done a little more matching up of late, including spending most of last week shadowing Kelvin Benjamin. Seattle may not feel it necessary to move Sherman around this week. But if they do, then Jones would be the guy to put Sherman on as he leads the Raiders with 36 catches for 425 yards. Sherman has been targeted 28 times this season and given up 15 receptions. That's on par with his 2013 totals when he was targeted 64 times and allowed 31 receptions.

--Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Raiders front seven. Maybe the most-scrutinized aspect of Seattle's offense this season has been the usage of Lynch, who is getting 15.8 carries and 68.8 yards per game compared to 18.8 and 78.5 last season. He has averaged 16 carries in the two games since Percy Harvin was traded. With a home game against a bedraggled team, though, this seems like the perfect week to get Lynch back to his normal levels of carries and production. But the key will be getting enough push up front to allow Lynch to get some momentum before the defense arrives.

 

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