Seahawks X-Factors Who Could Make a Difference in Week 13
The Seahawks battled the elements and a struggling offense, but found a way to win against the Eagles last weekend. Contrary to past victories, the Seahawks rode the defense in a 17-9 road triumph.
Fortunately for the Seahawks, regardless of the elements, a strong defense and running game always travels well. On deck, the 9-2 Seahawks return to CenturyLink Field for a monumental matchup against the 8-3 Vikings. A victory on Monday night would move Seattle into first place in the NFC West and position the team for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Here are three Seattle X-factors to watch closely against Minnesota in prime time.
Offensive X-Factor: Josh Gordon
Vikings All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes has struggled this season with penalties, but I imagine matching up with D.K. Metcalf could keep the laundry off the field. With both players trying to out-muscle each other, referees are less likely to throw pass interference on contested balls. Also, with Tyler Lockett still working to get back to full speed, Trae Waynes may be able to hold up covering him on the outside. I like the possibility of Josh Gordon being matched up against cornerback Mike Hughes from the slot. Gordon can still take the top off of a defense as a vertical threat on the outside, but is also able to win on intermediate routes in the middle of the field and isn't an easy matchup for smaller nickel cornerbacks. With Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin coming off of the edge, the Gordon could be the quick safety blanket that Russell Wilson needs to succeed in this game.
Defensive X-Factor: Poona Ford
Despite the flashy quarterback rating from Kirk Cousins, the Seahawks are likely more concerned with stopping Dalvin Cook in the run game. Cook offers a great blend of size and speed, setting the tone for the entire Vikings offense. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski runs a similar offense to offensive advisor Gary Kubiak that consists of a dominant zone run game and is complemented by play action bootlegs. The Seahawks will need to win the game in the trenches and make Cousins beat them.
Despite the fact that Jarran Reed is likely to play, he's going to be playing at less than 100 percent with an ankle sprain and could be on a snap count. Given Reed's status, Poona Ford will be heavily leaned on to help control the line of scrimmage. Playing the three-technique position, Ford will likely take on double teams from rookie center Garrett Bradbury and guards Josh Kline or Pat Elflein. It'll be up for Ford to hold serve against those doubles to create easy opportunities for Bobby Wagner and company to make plays. And when he's not doubled, he'll need to show off his penetrating ability to get into the backfield and disrupt run plays before they get started. This will make Minnesota one-dimensional, and with Adam Thielen ruled out, the scales would be tipped largely in Seattle favor.
Special Teams X-Factor: Travis Homer
With Lockett transitioning out of return specialist duties, Travis Homer appears to be the man to step into the role. Homer has earned his stripes on special teams as the up-back on punts, serving as the last protector in front of punter Michael Dickson. He's also made several plays in kick coverage, earning the trust of Seattle's coaching staff. Eventually, Homer may see time in the backfield, but he's proven invaluable in the third phase of the game and could have a chance to make even greater contributions for Seattle as a kick returner in the final month.