Seattle Seahawks vs. New York Giants: Starters Return, Upset Looms

The Seahawks were treated to a trick last weekend when they met the Raiders in Oakland and left battered, with their tails between their legs.

The Seahawks are rattled with injuries. Red Bryant (knee) and Ben Hamilton (concussion) are out for the season.  Colin Cole was taken out of the game with an ankle injury. Both Golden Tate and Mike Williams left the grid with mild injuries (both were able to return).  Even Matt Hasselbeck was forced to leave the field with a minor concussion.

This doesn’t bode well for this coming Sunday hosting the New York Giants.

The Giants are 5-2 coming off the bye week with a four game winning streak.  They are averaging 388 total offensive yards per game, most of those coming through the air to a corp of up-and-coming receivers.  The Giants’ defense is the only team in the NFL to have allowed less than 2,000 yards from their opponents.

They are a star-studded team, featuring Eli Manning (whose numbers are on track for a career-high season), Ahmad Bradshaw (fourth in the league for rushing yards), almost-rookie Hakeem Nicks (tied for second in the league with eight touchdowns), and Osi Umenyiora (who is second in the league for sacks with 14).

Even with the dark implications the Giants bring with them to Qwest field, there are some positives which Seahawks fans can look to.

This Sunday marks the return of Walter Thurmond from injury.  He, along with Kelly Jennings, will be at practice Wednesday and should get some field time Sunday.  Nate Ness, who filled in (ineffectively) for the absent cornerbacks along with Kennard Cox, was appropriately cut Tuesday to make room for defensive tackle Frank Okam.

Quinton Ganther, who was hardly present last week at Oakland, was also cut to make room for fullback Michael Robinson’s return this Sunday.

Matt McCoy, the Seahawk leading in tackles on special teams should be back this week as well.

And, to top it off, outstanding rookie left tackle Russell Okung is likely to make a return this week, giving the Seahawks—and dinged up Matt Hasselbeck—a fighting chance against Umenyiora.  Hopefully, Okung’s gimpy ankles won’t keep him from playing this weekend the way he played in Week 6 against Julius Peppers.

The Giants’ biggest weakness plays to the Seahawks’ strength.  Eli Manning has thrown 11 interceptions this season.  The Seahawks’ defense has forced six.

For the season, the Seahawks have deflected 49 passes (tied for fifth in the league).  This Sunday, these deflections will be key to the Seahawks’ chances.  The Giants tend make risky plays up the middle.  When successful, the plays are big and effective.  When not, their opposition benefits in big ways.

Seven of Manning’s 11 interceptions are due to receiver error.  The Seahawks’ secondary needs to take advantage of these young receivers and force them to make mistakes.

Look for Earl Thomas (tied for third in the league for interceptions) to get his hands on the ball.

The Giants special teams are lacking in coverage and feature a rookie punter .

Look for Leon Washington to make big returns and keep the Seahawks in scoring range.

Plus, the Seahawks are 3-0 at home this season.  With most of the starters back in business and some solid replacements in for those who aren’t (let’s see what you can do, Kentwan Balmer), there is no reason the Seahawks can’t bring that to 4-0.

The Giants have lost in their last two visits to Qwest Field and have garnered obscene numbers in penalties, including a combined 14 false starts.  In 2005, the Giants had 16 total penalties for 114 yards and managed to cut that almost exactly in half the following year at Qwest.  They’re coming into this match with a lot of new, young players that haven’t experienced the kind of noise the Seahawks’ 12th man can bring, and many of the veterans that fell victim to it in ’05 and ’06.

Look for these gratifying mistakes to make up for Seattle’s embarrassing ones in Oakland last Sunday and rev up the Seahawks’ offense.

The past two weekends, the Seahawks’ offense has played admittedly subpar football.  If they can break the streak this week, look to see the Seahawks upset the Giants and potentially knock them out of first place in the NFC.