Entering the most harrowing stretch of their schedule, the Seattle Seahawks take on the streaking Kansas City Chiefs Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium. At 6-3 and two games back of the NFC West lead, Sunday’s game at Arrowhead is the first of six straight against teams with .500 or better records for the Seahawks.
After a 3-3 start, Seattle’s righted its Super Bowl defense with three consecutive wins despite quarterback Russell Wilson’s sliding passer rating. Much of the credit belongs to running back Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson's resilience, leading the NFL’s top rushing attack. In four of Seattle’s last five games Wilson’s posted a passer rating lower than 78 and tossed four interceptions, but has made up for it with two 100-yard rushing games.
Lynch is coming off an incredible performance in last week’s 38-17 victory over the New York Giants. The 28-year-old rocked the Giants for a career-best four rushing touchdowns and 140 yards, while Wilson gained another 107 yards and a score on the ground.
“My confidence never waivers and sometimes you go through a downward slump but as long as you can find ways to win,” Wilson said to reporters Thursday. “That’s all I care about is finding ways to help our football win and then once I get back in my groove which hopefully it will happen this week, I think it’s going to be really hard to stop us because of how our defense is playing and how Marshawn is running the football and so there have been a lot of opportunities.”
With the passing game ranked No. 31 in the league, Wilson and Lynch have steadied the offense, but the re-emergence of Seattle’s defense can't be understated. In the first six weeks of the season, Seattle allowed 12 passing touchdowns and 23.5 points per game compared to only three touchdowns and 16.6 points during the winning streak.
The Seahawks could also get a big boost with the return of safety Kam Chancellor and linebacker Malcolm Smith. Chancellor sat out the last two games with a groin injury but fully participated in practice Wednesday and Thursday. Smith has also missed two straight games due to a bad groin, but should be ready for Sunday.
Despite running the ball so well, Seattle could run into a Chiefs wall that hasn’t allowed a single rushing touchdown all season. Kansas City is No. 20 in the league allowing 115.6 rushing yards per game, but has completely denied opposing rushers end zone access.
The Chiefs, led by cornerback Sean Smith and defensive end Justin Houston, also field the league’s top ranked pass defense and No. 5 pass rush. Smith leads the team with 10 passes defended and Houston accounts for 12 of the team’s 28 sacks.
It’s that kind of defensive dominance that’s powered K.C.’s four-game winning streak, with key victories at San Diego and at Buffalo. The 6-3 Chiefs are one game back of AFC West-leading Denver, and could build more momentum before they close out the season series in Week 13.
After a slow start running back Jamaal Charles headlines the Chiefs offense with five touchdowns in the last four games, but he needs more help from his receiving corps. Quarterback Alex Smith is still one of more accurate passers in the NFL, completing 66.2 percent of his attempts, but no Chiefs receiver has caught a touchdown this year. All 11 of Smith’s touchdown passes have gone to either a running back or a tight end.
Start Time: Sunday, 1 PM ET
TV Channel: FOX
Betting Odds: Kansas City -1
Over/Under: 42.5 points
Prediction: Seattle over Kansas City 24-13