The Seahawks are heading back on the road in Week 15 for a matchup at FedEx Field against the Washington Football team. Washington is one of the hottest teams in the NFL as winners of four-straight games and the current leader in the NFC East.
Here are five storylines I’ll be following closely on Sunday.
1. Who will play?
There’s a “big five” of unknowns on the Seahawks roster. You have Brandon Shell (ankle) and Carlos Dunlap (foot), both of whom are listed as questionable to play. Shell didn’t practice all week and feels like a longshot. Dunlap did practice on Friday and appears to be a true game-time decision.
Then you have a trio of injured players who could be activated this weekend: Quinton Dunbar, Rashaad Penny and Greg Olsen. All three practiced during the week, but Pete Carroll wouldn’t commit to any of them playing against Washington. All we know is that each has a chance.
We’ll find out on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT whether or not any of that trio will be activated. Jamarco Jones, Phil Haynes and Travis Homer could be moved to IR in order to make space on the roster.
2. Did the Seahawks learn their lesson from the Giants game?
We heard from Brian Schottenheimer and Russell Wilson that the Seahawks offense didn’t adjust well enough or quick enough against the Giants. They’ll be facing a more highly-touted defense on Sunday. Washington ranks fouth in DVOA, sixth in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed.
Point being, there’s a good chance that Washington has a solid answer for Seattle’s initial game plan offensively. That will once again put the spotlight on Schottenheimer and Wilson’s ability to adjust on the fly. Hopefully if they’ll have learned that stubbornly sticking to an ineffective game plan is no solution at all.
3. Can Seattle contain Terry McLaurin?
For as scary as Washington is defensively, the WFT’s offense is remarkably limited. McLaurin is the lone threat with stud rookie running back Antonio Gibson (toe) likely to miss his second-straight game. McLaurin has been limited to just 38 yards over his last two games. It’s no coincidence that Washington’s offense has struggled in those two games.
Quite simply, Seattle can’t let McLaurin beat them on his own. Forcing Washington to dink and dunk its way down the field should end well for the Seahawks defense.
4. Can the Seahawks force multiple turnovers against Dwayne Haskins?
Washington playing without Alex Smith (calf) isn’t the same as Seattle missing Wilson, but Haskins should be a step down nonetheless. Whereas Smith is the ultimate game manager and usually takes care of the football, Haskins will likely give Seattle a few more chances at takeaways.
The Seahawks defense dropped three interceptions against Jets last week. Those missed opportunities didn’t cost Seattle because, well, the Jets are horrible. But the Seahawks can’t afford to let those chances slip through their fingers this weekend against a vastly superior opponent.
5. How will Cedric Ogbuehi hold up?
My guess is that Shell won’t play, which means it’ll be up to Ogbuehi to start at right tackle. That won’t be easy against Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan. Seattle should plan on some protection issues on the right side of the offensive line when dialing up long developing routes. As long as Ogbuehi doesn’t single-handedly sink the Seahawks offense, Seattle should be OK. The biggest thing is to account for Shell being out and not approaching things business as usual. A drop-off should be expected. Anything otherwise would be a pleasant surprise.