The Seahawks host the winless Jets at Lumen Field on Sunday, and while this season has been a struggle for the Jets, the Seahawks, who are coming off a Week 13 loss to the Giants, know they can't be taking anyone lightly. The Jets are still playing teams tough, as was evident in last week's last-minute loss to the Raiders, and as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll always says, the goal is to treat every game like a championship opportunity, regardless of the opponent.
"Getting back on track is a big deal for us," Carroll said. "We got to get ourselves ready to start this fourth quarter (of the season), getting off on the right foot. It's a really important week for us to do that. It takes all of the focus and all of the consideration that you would normally think for a championship matchup and that's what we're doing, that's how we're going to go about it."
If the Seahawks are indeed going to get back on track against the Jets, these are three key matchups that could make the difference in Sunday's game:
1. Seahawks S Jamal Adams vs. Jets QB Sam Darnold and the rest of his former teammates.
Jamal Adams facing his former team is the big storyline surrounding this game, but Adams is significant in this game not just because he's facing the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2017 draft, but because Adams has a chance to have a big impact on this and every other game.
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and company are familiar with Adams and his blitzing ability, but that doesn't mean he'll be easy to stop, as is evident in his 7.5 sacks in eight games.
"Obviously, Jamal presents a challenge for everyone, for our tight ends, our receivers, our line, myself, our running backs," Darnold told reporters this week. "He's a really, really good player, physical player, super smart as well. So, we've got our hands full there and we're excited to obviously not just face him, but face a really good Seattle defense."
Darnold and the Jets, meanwhile, are looking to build off of a promising performance in last week's loss that saw them match a season-high with 28 points and gain a season-high 376 yards. Darnold, who has missed four games this year with a shoulder injury, had one of his better games last week with two touchdown passes and a touchdown run, so it will be important for Adams and company to keep Darnold and company from getting early momentum that could help them build more confidence coming off of last week's performance.
2. Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett & Company vs. a young Jets pass defense.
The Seahawks offense has cooled off from its torrid early-season pace, and is coming off of a tough outing in last weekend's loss to the Giants.
As Chris Carson gets healthier, the running game should become a bigger part of the offense, but the Seahawks also want get back to making big plays in the passing game after seeing that element of their game cool off.
The Seahawks had five explosive passes (16-plus yards) in last week's game, which by itself isn't a terrible outing, but the longest of those five was a 28-yard Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Chris Carson, meaning there were no successful deep balls to DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett or any of Seattle's other pass catchers.
If the Seahawks are going to get that element of their game going, this could be a good week to do it. The Jets, who have a lot of young players in their secondary, rank 31st in pass defense, have allowed 69 explosive passes, the fifth most in the league, and are allowing a 104.1 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks, the fourth-highest total in the NFL.
The Seahawks haven't lost confidence in the offense that for much of the season led the NFL in scoring, but as the end of the season approaches, they'd like to get back to playing like the early-season version of themselves, and Sunday could been a good chance to do just that.
"We're still one of the best offenses in the NFL," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "(Wilson) is still one of the best players in the NFL. There's no doubt that we are extremely dangerous and explosive and well-rounded."
3. The Jets running game vs. Seattle's run defense.
The Seahawks have played very good run defense for almost the entire season, but had a notable letdown last week, allowing the Giants to put together two third-quarter touchdown drives behind their running game, a stretch that included a 60-yard run.
The Jets haven't run the ball particularly well throughout the season—they rank 19th in rushing offense—but are coming off of a huge outing, rushing for 206 yards against the Raiders last week. New York could be without starting running back Frank Gore, who is listed as questionable with a concussion, but they did that damage last week without Gore, including 104 yards on 22 carries from Ty Johnson, a running back who had only eight carries all season before last weekend, and 74 more yards from Josh Adams on just eight carries.
"They hit the hole really fast, and you can tell they're definitely learning under Frank," said linebacker Bobby Wagner. "Frank has been an amazing player—I've been fortunate enough to play him this long in my career, so you can definitely feel and see their running style kind of emulate some of the things that he does. He's got guys looking and seeing the holes right, so it's going to be a fun matchup to go against them and hopefully (Gore's) out there."