Then-Seahawk-now-Raider Marshawn Lynch rushed for two touchdowns and then-Seahawk-now-Raider Bruce Irvin had an interception return for a touchdown as Seattle just edged winless Oakland 30-24 on Nov. 2, 2014, at CenturyLink Field. Then-Raider-now-Seahawk Sebastian Janikowski kicked a field goal in the game. Once bitter AFC West foes, these two teams are as intertwined as it gets in the NFL.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Seahawks vs. Jet Lag
Lag may be the best defender for the Raiders on Sunday. No he doesn’t rush the passer, but the pesky force of nature could be a factor for both teams for this game played in London. “We have chosen our options after a long study and feel really good about what we’re doing,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carrol said this week about the team’s plan to battle jet lag. Long study? Who knew this would be so complicated? The good news is that both teams have to deal with the issue, and after years of problems the Seahawks have at least improved at playing early games on the East Coast. This one’s a bit tougher, so get some sleep fellas, you’ll need it.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Bags of Skittles
One of the more fascinating developments to follow in any game Lynch is playing in is how many bags of Skittles he crushes on the sideline. According to a thorough study, Lynch finishes 2.3 packs of the fruity treats per game, tops in the league. (Skittles stats may or may not be fabricated). In all seriousness, Lynch has been very good for the Raiders so far this season, and he likes to reward himself with some candy after scoring a touchdown. At 32-years-old, he’s ninth in the league in rushing and has three touchdowns. Plus, he’s insanely fun to watch. The Seahawks need to limit Lynch’s effectiveness and force the Raiders to win in other ways.
Tre Flowers vs. Jordy Nelson
Rookie cornerback Flowers has been quite the revelation in the Seahawks secondary after converting from safety in the offseason. Last week against the high-powered Rams, Flowers did not allow a single reception and also broke up a pass that ended up in Frank Clark’s hands for an interception. And to top it off, Flowers has been terrific against the run this season. Flowers is likely to be tested by crafty veteran receiver Jordy Nelson on Sunday. At 33-years-old, Nelson is still an effective player, having caught 20 passes for 317 yards so far this season. Nelson doesn’t create much separation these days (just 2.9 yards on average according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats), but he still catches over 70-percent of the balls thrown his way. Expect Nelson to use his veteran savvy when lined up against Flowers.
6 — The number of sacks the Raiders have so far this season. After trading all-world linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears before the season, Oakland has struggled to get to the passer. And the Seahawks finally get a break. Seattle’s first five oppenents sacked the quarterback an average of over 13 times over the first five games of the season. According to FootballOutsiders.com, a football analytics website, the Raiders’ adjusted sack rate of 3.7-percent is second worst in the NFL. Seattle’s pass protection has improved in recent games, so it would be nice to see quarterback Russell Wilson with some time in the pocket this week.
Most fans probably know that Lynch and Irvin, former favorites in Seattle, now suit up in Silver and Black. But the connections don’t stop there. Snohomish High School legend Tom Cable is back coaching the Raiders’ offensive line after seven seasons with the Seahawks. Cable’s assistant offensive line coach is former Seahawk Lemuel Jeanpierre. Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson is a native of Richland, played and coached at Central Washington, and also coached at Washington State. And remember Clinton McDonald? The Oakland backup defensive tackle racked up over 100 tackles and 5.5 sacks for Seattle from 2011-2013. Former Seahawks starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin is on injured reserve for the Raiders. Also on injured reserve for Oakland: Chris Warren III. Ring a bell? It should for longtime Seahawks fans. He’s the son of former Seahawks Pro Bowl running back Chris Warren.
And, the connections go the other way as well. Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was in charge of the Raiders defense from 2015-17. Seattle backup safety Shalom Luani played in 16 games with Oakland last season. Seahawks backup defensive back Neiko Thorpe played in 28 games with the Raiders from 2014-15. And of course Janikowski kicked for Oakland for 17 seasons before signing with Seattle in the offseason. Intertwined.
A term that might come up in this game is “zone blocking.” Cable used a zone-blocking scheme while coaching in Seattle, and continues to do so in Oakland. New Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari uses more of a man-to-man, or power, scheme mixed with some zone blocking. In a zone-blacking scheme, offensive lineman generally disregard who lines up in front of them and instead focus on a “zone.” The idea is twofold. First, zone blocking takes away any confusion from the defense switching positions before the snap. Second, zone blocking creates holes by initially using double-teams, then one lineman peels off to block a linebacker or any other second-level defender. In general, zone blocking is pretty easy to spot. Teams that pull their guards (keep an eye out for D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy when the Seahawks have the ball) generally aren’t using a zone scheme. Zone-blocking linemen tend to be more athletic (why do you think Cable kept insisting on converting from other positions?) because they have to move their feet more, while man-to-man linemen are more on the big and strong side.
It’s a morning game in London, so english muffins? Not a chance. It’s time for an english fry up. Sausage links, bacon, eggs, toast or fried bread, fried potatoes, and the ingredient that sets it all apart — baked beans. Cook every ingredient to your liking and enjoy. Morning games are too early for beer, right? No. Go with Bass Ale for a taste of the United Kingdom. Imported from Great Britain, Bass is readily available at most local grocery stores as a regular pale ale, an IPA or a stout.
Seahawks 27, Raiders 20
Oakland has struggled thus far in head coach Jon Gruden’s return to the sideline. The Raiders defense is near the bottom of the league in most categories, while Seattle’s offense seems to be coming into its own. Adjusting for the craziness of a trip across the pond, the Seahawks win this one by a touchdown.