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Key Matchups In the Seahawks Week 4 Game At The New York Jets

Taking a look at three matchups that could help determine the outcome of Sunday’s game at New York.

The Seahawks travel to east this weekend to face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, Seattle's first game in that building since a certain 43-8 victory over the Broncos a couple years ago. But while the Seahawks have happy memories from their last game in New Jersey, they know their focus has to be squarely on a talented opponent—and one that is eager to bounce back from a tough outing last week—and not on their Super Bowl XLVIII triumph. 

"Obviously great memories winning the Super Bowl, not too many people win the Super Bowl," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "To win one there, to have that experience and those great memories, the teammates and the people and the fans, it's a special thing. But it's a new year, it's a new game, a new situation."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called the Jets, "An interesting team, a really interesting team. (Jets coach Todd Bowles) did a great job with them last year and they've got all kinds of fire power and stuff that makes you work late and hard to try to figure it out. Explosive players, highlighted players in a really tough system. This is a good challenge for us, and we're really looking forward to putting together another week. We want to build off of last week, I thought we made some progress and we'd like to continue to find a formula and feel it. We'll stay after it and see if we can keep moving ahead."

If the Seahawks are going to improve to build off of the improvement they showed last week and improve to 3-1 ahead of their Week 5 bye, they'll need to overcome plenty of challenges presented by the Jets, most notably a talented defensive line, which leads our three key matchups in Sunday's game at New York.

1. The Seahawks offensive line vs. a loaded Jets defensive front.

No, it's not your imagination, Seattle's O-line against a very tough D-line has been a key matchup almost every week this season. The Dolphins and Rams have two of the most talented lines in the NFL, but also in that conversation is a powerful Jets line featuring what offensive line coach Tom Cable describes as "pocket crushers."  

"They're really good," Carroll said. "They're stout, and I don't know how many number one (draft picks) there's over there but there's a bunch of them. They all can play, we've seen nothing but really good front play the whole season so far. These guys have their own style and their own way about them. They've adjusted their defense a little bit from last year to this year, to take advantage of their front four. It's a legit group, they're really strong, they're really hard to maintain blocks on, they're really playmaker oriented. They come off and make big plays and stuff, so it's a tough group."

The good news for the Seahawks is that their line has shown progress three games into the season, and there's also value in being tested by lines like Miami's and Los Angeles' ahead of this week's game. Seattle also is getting rookie Germain Ifedi back at right guard after the first-round pick missed the first three games with an ankle injury. The Seahawks ran the ball well last week, and their protection of Russell Wilson continues to improve—and that will be a big focus again this week with Wilson playing with a sprained knee—but building off of that progress will be a challenge against Muhammad Wilkerson, Steve McLendon, Leonard Williams and company.

"This is a really good month for our offensive line specifically," Cable said. "You think about who we've played. They've all been fine defensive lines and this is just the next one. So you have big, strong and powerful people in there—pocket crushers in terms of their power and athleticism. Not necessarily based on speed in terms of rush, but based on power. They don't give up many yards rushing the football."

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2. The turnover battle.

Three games into the season, the Seahawks have just one takeaway, a number that is far from satisfactory in the minds of Carroll and his players. Some of that is out of their control, and more team play conservatively against Seattle's defense, but as Carroll notes, they could help themselves by getting ahead in games earlier, forcing teams to take risks.

Because the Seahawks have only one takeaway, their turnover ratio of minus-4 is tied for 26th in the NFL, but one of the five teams worse than Seattle in that key statistical category is New York, which sits at a league-worst minus-8 following last week's six-interception game by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Jets have a strong rushing attack, led by veteran back Matt Forte, but if the Seahawks can continue to stop the run like they have the past three weeks—San Francisco's last two drives notwithstanding—they'll get their chances to improve on that takeaway number against an aggressive Jets passing game.

The Jets will be without receiver Eric Decker because of a shoulder injury, but their passing game will still be dangerous. Through three games, the Jets have 29 explosive plays (runs of 12-plus yards and passes of 16-plus), second most in the NFL, including 20 explosive passes.

"You're talking about one of the most explosive offenses in football," defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. "We are well aware of that and we know what we're up against."

And speaking of explosive plays…

3. The Seahawks deep passing game against New York's secondary.

The Jets have talent in their secondary, to be sure, including All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, but early this season, they have been susceptible to the occasional big play, allowing six pass completions of 40 or more yards, the most in the NFL.

The Seahawks aren't quite to where they'd like to be in the explosive-play department, but they were better last week, and over the past two games, the deep ball has worked for Wilson and his receivers. With Wilson possibly limited in his mobility, what he is able to get done from the pocket will be as important as ever, and if the line can give him time, look for the Seahawks to take their chances down field.

As always, a successful running game would open things up for those big pass plays, which is why the Seahawks will try to get Christine Michael going again like he did last week on his way to a career-best rushing performance. Last week the Seahawks put an emphasis on the running game and converting on third down, and took a step forward in both areas. If the big plays are going to continue—Wilson connected on three pass plays of 34 or more yards last week, including a 59-yarder to Doug Baldwin and a 40-yarder to Jimmy Graham, both on third-and-long—building off of those successes will hopefully open things up for the offense.

"We have some stuff to be able to build on," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "We talked last week about third downs, so that ended up to be huge in that game, I think we were 9 of 14. We did make it hard on some of them; we had a lot of long yardage on some of them. We really went for those and were able to convert some really big ones, so that was a big part of the game. It kept us on the field, kept the 'Niners defense on the field, then obviously that was able to lead to more points. We like that and want to continue to build."

The Seahawks and Jets have played each other a total of 19 times, with Seattle winning 11. They'll meet again for Week 14 of the 2020 season at Lumen Field. Take a look back at previous matchups between the two teams.

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