By Shawn S. Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks both opened the season as contenders for the playoffs, with only the Green Bay Packers holding better odds. However, after seven weeks, the Cowboys are 2-4 and the Seahawks are 3-4, both teams trying to get back on track. Here is a look at the Seahawks as they head into the big game with their NFC rivals.
The Seattle Seahawks were one yard away from winning the Super Bowl in 2014, but fell short of the New England Patriots. Despite making few changes, the Seahawks have struggled off to a rough start in 2015, with a 3-4 losing record. However, outside of an opening day loss to the St. Louis Rams, the other three losses were to the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers and the dangerous Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks are not as strong as they were in 2014, but three of their losses were nothing to be ashamed of.
Seattle Seahawks on Offense
The Seattle Seahawks added one of the best tight ends in the NFL this past offseason in Jimmy Graham. It was thought he would make a dangerous offense even better. Unfortunately for them, that hasn't happened yet. The Seahawks rank a low 28th place in the NFL in passing offense, with only 214.1 yards per game through the air. The Seahawks won't win a lot of games when they can't air the ball out. Russell Wilson is also not playing up to his pedigree, with only eight touchdown passes and five interceptions through the first half of the season.
Luckily, the Seahawks offense has been playing strong in the running game, with and without Marshawn Lynch. For his part, Lynch has 82 carries for 304 yards and two touchdowns. However, while not the starter, Thomas Rawls has been a huge part of the offense, with 65 carries for 366 yards and one touchdown on the year. Rawls has three runs of over 20 yards this season and is averaging an impressive 5.6 yards per carry.
While Graham got off to a very slow start this season, he has a few games that he clicked with Wilson, which is what the Seahawks need to do to win this year. He has two games with more than five receptions and that is enough to make him the leader in the receiving game for the team. He has 31 receptions for 375 yards and two touchdowns, ranking eighth in receptions and fifth in yards among tight ends in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks on Defense
Whether they are good or bad on offense, the Seattle Seahawks have always lived and died by the play of their defense. They are still solid when it comes to keeping opponents out of the end zone, ranking fifth in the NFL in points against. Overall, they rank ninth defensively, which is interestingly two spots below the Cowboys. They rank ninth against the pass and 13th against the run; and with Matt Cassel at quarterback for the Cowboys, it is the rushing defense that matters against Dallas.
With the turnovers that Dallas committed last weekend against the New York Giants, the turnover battle is where the Cowboys struggle. Seattle ranks 22nd in the NFL in takeaways, which is low for them as they have only three interceptions on the season with five fumble recoveries. Dallas ranks dead last in the NFL in the turnover ratio, so this is where Seattle can win the game.
Seattle Seahawks' Players to Watch
Marshawn Lynch: On offense, it is not Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham that should worry Dallas. With great linebackers and rookie sensation Byron Jones covering Graham, it is the running game that will score against Dallas. The Cowboys are stopping the passing game against most quarterbacks, but they gave up a lot of rushing yards against the Giants committee of running backs. Marshawn Lynch is who can chew up the Cowboys defense; and with Rawls back there too, this is where Seattle should concentrate.
Earl Thomas: Thomas has been a huge part of the Seahawks defense. He has 32 total tackles, 21 solo, as well as two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The Cowboys offensive line is playing well enough to protect their quarterback from Michael Bennett, but Matt Cassel threw three interceptions against the Giants. Earl Thomas could be a difference maker in this game with the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys have lost four straight since Tony Romo went down to injury. With the Seattle Seahawks coming up this week and the Philadelphia Eagles coming up next week, they could conceivably fall to 2-6 before playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seattle can force turnovers and that is where Dallas will lose this game.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.
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