SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-3) vs OAKLAND RAIDERS (1-4)
Sunday, 10 a.m., Wembley Stadium, London
Line: Seahawks by 2 1/2.
TV: FOX, Ch. 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
The series: The Seahawks’ first-ever game outside the United States is the first of three NFL matches in London on England’s famed footy pitch this season. This is the 53rd meeting in this series between old AFC West rivals. Oakland leads the series 28-24. Seattle won the last game between these teams, 30-24, on Nov. 2, 2014, at CenturyLink Field.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Hit the ol’ bloke: Bobby Wagner says he can’t wait to hit former Seahawks teammate Marshawn Lynch. And the All-Pro linebacker is promising to come up Lynch high, maybe, he said, with a forearm. Expect smack talk and smacking shoulder pads when Lynch comes through the line at the only member of Seattle’s defense playing Sunday that was a teammate of the running back when he was a Seahawk through 2015. If the Seahawks contain Lynch running like the Chargers did last week (when he had nine carries for 31 yards), Derek Carr is going to have be better than his seven touchdowns and eight interceptions so far this season to beat Seattle. Carr is the first Raiders quarterback with more interceptions than touchdown passes through five games since JaMarcus Russell in 2009 (1 TD, 4 INTs), according to my friend Josh Dubow of The Associated Press.
Baldwin having a cracker of a game: Doug Baldwin had one, unintended target last week when the Seahawks ran 32 times and had just 21 throws in the two-point loss to the undefeated Rams. Afterward, the Pro Bowl wide receiver was less than thrilled.
I asked Baldwin this week if he’s prepared for fewer targets if the Seahawks’ offense is going to keep running the ball more than throwing it.
“Honestly, I am not,” Baldwin said.
He and coach Pete Carroll say the 30-year-old’s knees that kept him out of the preseason then two games last month are not the reason he wasn’t involved last weekend. And I counted three times Baldwin was open down the field behind a Rams defender but Russell Wilson threw instead to Tyler Lockett (twice) and David Moore (for a touchdown). Expect Wilson to target Baldwin early and often in this game, if only to keep Baldwin from further, um, displeasure.
Keep running the bloody ball: You may have noticed the Seahawks’ offensive line has done better the last three games while Seattle has run the ball more and been less reliant on Wilson throwing on just about every down. The way this line is constructed (adding massive D.J. Fluker) and skilled, run blocking suits it far better. Passing less means the line doing less of what it does worst, and it sets Wilson up for more effective play-action passing like last week against the Rams. This is an approach the Seahawks need to stick with against Oakland’s 30th-ranked defense, and the rest of this season, whether it’s for big yards or not.
The pick: Seahawks, 24-14. Expect something out of the ordinary from Lynch—a visit to the Seahawks’ locker room at Wembley, perhaps? But Seattle’s offense versus Oakland’s sagging defense is the decisive advantage in the Seahawks’ favor.
Two 100-yard games in the last three weeks, with the exception being when he missed the Arizona game with a hip injury.
One, unintended target last week. Look for at least six times more chances to have an impact in this one, especially on third down.
Flat-out said here in London this week he can’t wait to hit the trash-talking Marshawn Lynch, and up high even if it’s a penalty.
Ex-Seahawks icon still beloved in Seattle’s locker room. He’ll have something in store for his old team.
If Seahawks stop Lynch as they plan to, the QB has to be far better than he has been (7 TDs, 8 INTs) to win this one.
Ex-Seahawks LB has sacks in each of his last two games, three on the season. Still tight with Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who was Oakland’s defensive coordinator from 2015-17.