Seahawks X-Factors Who Could Make a Difference in Week 14
Another Seahawk victory, another game in which they played imperfect football.
This Seattle team finds a way to make games interesting, but they certainly won’t complain about a 10-2 record or a spot atop the NFC West. Minnesota made the game close late, but big plays in all three phases of the game were the difference.
Moving into Week 14, the Seahawks travel to Los Angeles to face a Rams team that is talented enough to be dangerous, despite what their record may say.
Keep an eye on these three Seattle X-factors in a prime time Week 14 rematch.
Offensive X-Factor: D.J. Fluker
There is an excellent balance to this Seahawks offense that hasn’t always been present in the past. Many commentators around the league believe that this offense consists of Russell Wilson making the magic happen, yet anyone can look back at the Vikings game and would see otherwise. The Seahawks rushed for over 200 yards against a stout Vikings front that ranked fourth-best defending the run.
This theme will need to continue to allow Wilson to take deep shots down the field. For this game, I think the Seahawks will need a heavy dose of the run game in order to slow an athletic front four adept at getting into the backfield. This is where Fluker comes in to play. Whenever the Seahawks play the Rams, they undoubtedly identify Aaron Donald for his greatness and work to minimize his impact. The goal will be to let Donald over pursue in the trenches, and run the ball right underneath him. That could mean Fluker is a pulling guard to drive him out of the lane. Fluker will need to use his size to his advantage to mitigate the speed and the hand fighting ability of Donald at the point of attack. However, the biggest challenge for Fluker will be in pass protection, regardless of whether he lines up over Donald or Michael Brockers. Fluker’s pass protection has been up and down this season, but he will need to be at his best with either man across from him. Fluker or Mike Iupati will also be responsible for assisting Joey Hunt on double teams against the one-technique for the Rams as well. Ball control and winning the trenches will go a long way towards determining a Seahawk victory.
Defensive X-Factor: Cody Barton
While it is disappointing that the Seahawks will be without strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, it has provided an opportunity to see Barton for extended snaps. The Rams offensive staff will likely to test the rookie in both run defense and coverage. His ability to play any of the linebacker positions on the defense was exactly why the Seahawks took him in the third round out of Utah. His primary focus should be controlling Todd Gurley in the run game. Although Gurley hasn’t quite looked like himself this whole season, the Rams scheme runs through him. The Rams have always presented the same formation look but run multiple plays off of it. The fear of Gurley’s athleticism has always allowed coach Sean McVay to scheme receivers open for Jared Goff. If Barton can work to set an edge, or crash down when plays are run away from him, the Seahawks could make the Rams one-dimensional. The offensive line has regressed from previous seasons and the Seahawks can make Goff uncomfortable enough to force him into turnovers. Barton may be limited in the amount of snaps that he is in if the Seahawks use more nickel this week, but he needs to play well when given his opportunities.
Special Teams X-Factor: Michael Dickson
Dickson looked headed for a sophomore slump early this season. Since then, he has returned to his All-Pro form. His average may not show the improvements that he has made during the season, but keep in mind that many of his punts were from midfield and downed by Ugo Amadi. Forcing teams to drive the length of the field against this ascending defense is exactly what the Seahawks need, and as was proven in the last game against the Rams, every yard of field position matters. With the Rams drastically improving their pass defense, there will likely be a few opportunities for Dickson to make an impact and he will need to continue his recent run of success. His booming punts could be the extra boost that the defense needs slow down a talented offense coming off a 27-point showing against the Cardinals in Week 13.