No Earl Thomas, no problem
Sunday’s clash between the Seahawks and Buccaneers pits two scorching hot teams against each other. The Seahawks, winners of their past three, will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Bucs, who are back to .500 after upsetting the Chiefs on the road last week. This is a huge game for both teams, but particularly for the Buccaneers, considering the game is at home.
If they can upset the Seahawks and get some help from the Cardinals, who are taking on the Falcons, the Buccaneers could move into a tie for first place in the NFC South. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. The Seahawks are likely to be without Earl Thomas and Deshawn Shead, but they have Richard Sherman (25), who will play a huge role in this one.
Here’s why the Seahawks will beat the Buccaneers and move to 8-2-1.
Richard Sherman will take away Mike Evans
There’s absolutely no doubt that Mike Evans is Winston’s favorite receiver. He’s been targeted 121 times in just 12 games, quickly approaching his 2015 total of 148. The reason for that is because the Buccaneers don’t have a really reliable No. 1 receiver, and Evans is simply outstanding in jump-ball situations. There’s just one problem with this offensive game plan: Richard Sherman will line up across from Evans.
Sherman has traveled with receivers this season, and he’s likely to do so against Evans this week. If that’s the case, Evans could struggle and have one of his worst games of the season. His targets will be down, big plays will be taken away and 50-50 balls won’t be as easy to come down with given the size and length of Sherman.
If Evans is limited by Sherman, Winston will likely struggle to move the ball. This season, 65 of his 228 completions have gone to Evans, which is a very large number.
Russell Wilson is on fire
Russell Wilson got off to a slow start this season, as did the rest of the team. He’s since turned on the jets now that he’s healthy, throwing 10 touchdowns and just one interception in his past eight games. More impressively, he’s thrown six touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past three games. In that span, he’s averaged 301 yards per game, is completing 67 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 119.2.
Simply put, he’s been the best player in the NFL over the past three games. The Seahawks are 3-0 in that span, and so long as he continues to play the way he has, the Buccaneers will have no shot. Not to mention, Tampa Bay has allowed 20 touchdown passes this season, the seventh-most in the NFL. Wilson, now that he’s healthy, will feast on the Buccaneers’ struggling secondary and have a huge day. The Bucs simply don’t have anyone to match up against the bevy of weapons Wilson has at his disposal.
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Jameis Winston struggles to protect the football
Winston came into the NFL as a big-play quarterback with all the tools to be a successful pro. He also entered the league with questions about his ability to protect the football. Those concerns have shown through in his first two seasons, throwing 25 interceptions and fumbling it 13 times in 26 games. He’s improved that in the past few weeks, throwing just two interceptions in his past six games, but his loose style of play is still there.
The Seahawks are one of the best teams at creating turnovers. They’ve picked off nine passes (tied for ninth) this season, and that number is likely to climb after Sunday’s game against the Bucs. Their relentless pass rush will get home against Winston, and when they do, they’ll strip him of the football as so many have done throughout his career.
Carson Wentz showed the consequences of throwing deep against the Seahawks last week, throwing two interceptions and two touchdowns. If Winston tries this secondary – albeit a depleted one – it’ll make him pay.