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Seattle Seahawks

What to watch for when the Seahawks take on the Detroit Lions in Week 17

By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – A visit by the downtrodden Detroit Lions may not seem like much right now.

But here’s one thing it is – a reminder of the Seahawks’ last home playoff win, which came against Detroit following the 2016 season, a 26-6 victory in the wild-card round.

Thomas Rawls led the way that day, rushing for a Seahawks playoff record 161 yards – he rushed for only 157 yards the rest of his career.

Seattle has hosted just one playoff game since – a loss to the Rams last season – and won’t this year after being eliminated last week.

And the way this season has gone, who knows when there will be another one.

Ah memories …

On to our weekly keys.

Matchup to watch

Detroit’s running game vs. Seattle’s run defense

One of the main tasks for the Seattle defense will be to contain Detroit receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the reigning NFC Rookie of the Month after catching 35 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns in his past four games. But that may be a little easier to do now that Tim Boyle is expected to start at QB with Jared Goff unlikely to play due to a knee injury. That could make the battle of Seattle’s run defense vs. Detroit’s running game that much more pivotal. Detroit has been trying to “establish the run” under first-year head coach Dan Campbell. Despite the team’s 2-12-1 record, it has been fairly successful, averaging 4.5 yards per carry this year, 10th in the NFL. Leading rusher D’Andre Swift is expected back after missing the past four games with a sprained shoulder. Seattle, meanwhile, is allowing just 3.7 yards per carry, second in the NFL. “It’s best on best and we’ll see what happens,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said.

Player to watch

WR DK Metcalf

It started so well for Metcalf last week against the Bears – two catches for 41 yards and a touchdown by the first play of the second quarter. Then, nothing again the rest of the game and just one target in the second half. The TD was Metcalf’s first since Oct. 31 – he has nine for the season – and he doesn’t have a 100-yard game since getting 107 against Minnesota on Sept. 26, his only one of this year. He had five in 2020. This game lines up as a good chance to break out as the Lions are allowing 7.3 yards per pass attempt, 31st in the NFL, and Detroit’s current listed starters at cornerback are a pair of rookies – A.J. Parker, an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State, and Ifeatu Melifonwu, a third-round pick out of Syracuse.

Coaching decision to watch

Going for it on fourth down

Campbell may come off as old school in temperament. But when it comes to the new age coaching strategy du jour – going for it on fourth down – no one has been more of an advocate than Campbell as the Lions are on pace to set the NFL record for fourth-down attempts in a season. Detroit has gone for it 36 times, just off the record of 39 by the Patriots in 1995. Detroit has hit on 18, tied for fifth most in NFL history just off the record of 20 by the Bears in 1996. That’s in the starkest contrast possible with the Seahawks, who are last in the NFL in fourth-down attempts (10) and makes (three). But with neither team having anything to play for, maybe this is a game to truly never kick.

The X-factor

Getting off to a fast start

Seattle had chances to put the Bears away last week and didn’t do it. The Seahawks will try again this Sunday, having seen last week what happens when you let an underdog hang around. Seattle has been starting OK of late – while the Seahawks are averaging 4.3 points per game in the first quarter this year, 14th in the NFL, they have scored at least one TD in the first quarter of four of their past five games and averaging 6.2 points in the first quarter, which would be sixth in the NFL for the season. Detroit is averaging just 2.2 points in the first quarter this year, tied for 30th.

Player who could surprise

LB Jordyn Brooks

OK, so Brooks producing at this point isn’t a surprise. Still, few might have expected he would do as much as he has this season – Brooks has 156 tackles this season, third in the NFL, and with 12 more would pass what had been the team record of 167 set by Bobby Wagner in 2016 (Wagner has already broken that with 170). More crucially, Brooks has shown improved coverage skills as the season has gone on, if showing there is still room for improvement – he has a coverage grade of 46.7 from Pro Football Focus after turning in a 29.8 mark as a rookie a year ago. Brooks will get tested a lot Sunday by a Detroit team that likes to throw to its running backs. Detroit’s running backs have 95 receptions, third most of any running back group in the NFL, for 681 yards and two touchdowns.

Key stat

Third-down percentage

If you want proof of the value of converting on third down in the NFL, this game is for you. It features the two teams that are the worst at getting that done in the league. Seattle has converted just 57 of 169 third-down attempts (33.73%). That’s the worst in the NFL, just below the 33.85% of the Lions (85 of 192). The Lions have been better of late, converting 6 of 13 in their 30-12 upset of Arizona two weeks ago and 7 of 16 in their near-miss against the Falcons last week. The Seahawks were just 3 of 10 last week against the Bears but 0 of 4 in the second half as they blew a 10-point lead. That included failing on two third-and-4s when Seattle had leads of 10 and seven points, which each proved critical in keeping the Bears in it.

PredictionSeahawks 23, Lions 10

The Seahawks can’t really lose back-to-back home games against two of the worst teams in the NFL, can they? Well, they’ve shown that anything is possible this season. But the view here is no, they can’t and won’t. In one of their most disappointing seasons, Seattle will at least give the home fans a little something to cheer about one last time.