Here is our weekly look at five things to watch for the Seahawks. Seattle takes on the Giants Sunday at 10 a.m. in East Rutherford, N.J.:
1, Turnovers: There is no starker stat about this game than turnover differential — the Seahawks rank No. 3 in the NFL at plus-12 while the Giants are 30th at minus-13. New York’s number includes 20 interceptions by Eli Manning, tied for the most in the NFL. Seattle meanwhile, has 17 interceptions on the season. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, however, have each been shut out on interceptions the last five games. Given the percentages, though, it won’t be a surprise if that skid ends against the Giants.
2, Tuck and Breno: New York doesn’t have an imposing pass rush with 25 sacks this season (Seattle has 36 by comparison). But veteran defensive end Justin Tuck (above in an Associated Press photo) is suddenly having a good year with 8.5 sacks, six coming in the last two weeks. Asked this week how Seattle’s strategy against Tuck, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said simply enough “we’ve got to block him.’’ Tuck typically lines up on the left side, meaning the task of blocking him will go primarily to right tackle Breno Giacomini. Seattle coaches have been pleased by the improvement in the pass protection since Giacomini and left tackle Russell Okung each returned on Nov. 17.
3, The running game: The Seahawks and Giants also have vastly contrasting running games — Seattle ranks third in the NRL at 141.5 per game and the Giants 27th at 88.0. New York’s running attack, though, has been better of late thanks to the return of Andre Brown, who has 424 yards in the last five games. Seattle, meanwhile, has been held to 93, 127 and 86 in its last three games, averaging 3.7 or less in each. Seahawks coaches don’t sound too worried about it, citing penalties and getting few attempts last week when the Seahawks had just 23 carries, the second-fewest of the season. But with weather possibly being a factor, getting the running game going at its usual clip could be even more critical.
4, First quarter: Opponents have done a nice job jumping on the Giants early this season, outscoring them 185-113 in the first half (compared to 334-251 overall). That includes 17-0 by the Chargers last week in San Diego en route to a 37-14 win. It’s unfair to say the Seahawks have been a consistently slow-starting team, especially on defense — Seattle has allowed just 22 first-quarter points all season, second-fewest in the NFL behind Carolina. But Seattle also has just 59 points scored in the first quarter this season, by far its fewest of any quarter (77 in the third is the next fewest) and the Seahawks have been shut out in the first quarter six times (the most of any quarter) including last week at San Francisco. Almost goes without saying the value of a quick start in this one against a fading Giants team with nothing left to play for.
5, Penalties: We all wrote about this a ton this week after Seattle was flagged nine times for 85 yards against San Francisco to up its total to 104 penalties for the season — second in the NFL behind the 106 of Tampa Bay. And if you’re wondering if it’s really true that the Seahawks get flagged more on the road, the answer is a definitive yes.
Here’s the breakdown:
That’s an average of 9.1 penalties for 80.5 yards on the road compared to 6.6 penalties for 67 yards at home. Seattle, in fact, has been fairly, well, consistent in getting flagged on the road, getting either either nine or 10 in all but one game, when it was flagged just seven times at Indianapolis. But that’s one trend the Seahawks would love to break tomorrow.