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What To Watch In The Seahawks' Week 17 Game vs. The Jets

Players, matchups and storylines to watch when the Seahawks host the New York Jets on Sunday.

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The Seahawks and Jets head into a Week 17 showdown with matching 7-8 records and needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt. It's the first of two home games for Seattle to close out the regular season.

"It's huge," Seahawks coach Carroll said of the opportunity facing his team. "We've known it all year long that it is going to come down to these games. Nothing has changed in that regard. The urgency is obviously there, but it would have been there no matter what the situation was. So, we want to go out and play really well here and finish up and get ready. We have to get ready to keep playing. That's what this is all about."

Here are five things to watch in Sunday's game:

1. Can Geno Smith make it 3 for 3 against his former teams?

In an odd scheduling quirk, Geno Smith's first season as a starting quarterback since 2014 featured games against all three of his former teams, the New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, and now the Jets.

Smith and the Seahawks already beat the Giants and Chargers, and now Smith will try to make it three-for-three against his former teams, though his focus is not on getting revenge over the team that drafted him, but rather just on helping the Seahawks win the game to stay in playoff contention.

More than beating his former team, Smith and the entire Seahawks offense are looking to just play a more efficient game after slow starts caused the Seahawks to fall behind in losses to the 49ers and Chiefs.

"He can be cleaner," Carroll said of Smith. "He knows. He can be a little bit cleaner on stuff and it is really just technical stuff that can make a difference. I liked that you've always heard me say that we need to play better around him to help him in all ways. He knows he can clean a few things up. He's been really strict about it, and he's really on it. He's making sure to give his best opportunity to function at a really high level. There's just been a few plays here and there, a little footwork thing, and stuff like that, that we're talking about. It's really minor stuff, but it may have an impact. We need everybody to be sharp."

2. Which struggling team gets back on track to keep its playoff hopes alive?

In October, the Seahawks and Jets were two of the surprises of the NFL, emerging as playoff contenders with 6-3 records. That's not to say that both teams didn't have high expectations internally, but to a lot of pundits, neither were seen as playoff contenders. Since then, for a myriad of reasons, both the Seahawks and Jets have struggled at times, with losing five of six since that 6-3 start, including four straight losses for the Jets.

The Jets will hope that the return of quarterback Mike White will bolster their offense and get them back on the winning track, while the Seahawks are looking to build off of some of the progress they made in last week's loss to the Chiefs, most notably a big performance from running back Kenneth Walker in the second half, and a strong defensive effort that held the Chiefs to a season-low 297 yards and forced a season-high six punts.

Whichever team can get back on track this week will keep their playoff hopes alive.

3. Does either Pro-Bowl rookie cornerback strengthen his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year?

While Tariq Woolen and Ahmad Gardner won't line up across from each other on the field on Sunday, plenty of people will be watching to see how the rookie cornerbacks perform in relation to each other. The two frontrunners to for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Gardner and Woolen took different paths to get to the NFL, with Garner being the No. 4 overall pick while Woolen was a fifth-rounder, but both have been outstanding all season long. Woolen is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions, including a pick-6 against Detroit, is tied for fourth in passes defensed with 14, and was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in October, while Gardner leads the NFL in passes defensed with 16 and has two interceptions.

Both players are were selected to the Pro Bowl earlier this month, and if either can have a standout game on Sunday, it could not only help their team win an important game, but also sway a few Rookie of the Year votes.

4. Can the offense start faster?

Yes, the ability to finish will always be what matters most for the Seahawks, but it also wouldn't hurt to get off to better starts, particularly for the offense. Early in the season Seattle's offense came out of the gate humming in most games, but during a three-game losing streak, a lack of execution early has led to the Seahawks playing from behind.

Against Carolina in Week 14, an interception on Seattle's first offensive play set up a Carolina touchdown and a 10-0 lead, while against the 49ers the Seahawks punted on their first four possessions while picking up only one first down. It was a similar story in Kansas City last week with the offense getting only one first down on its first five possessions before a field goal drive to end the half. 

Moving the ball won't be easy against a loaded Jets defense, but the Seahawks could really help their chances by settling in on offense earlier in the game.

Moving the ball won't be easy against a loaded Jets defense, but the Seahawks could really help their chances by settling in on offense earlier in the game.

5. Does the familiarity between the coaching staffs end up favoring one team or another?

It's a common scene before an NFL game to see players and coaches sharing a hug and a quick conversation with players or coaches from the opposing team with whom they previously played or worked. In Carroll's case, their may not be enough time for all the reunions during pregame warmups.

Led by head coach Robert Saleh, who was a defensive quality control coach in Seattle from 2011-2013, the Jets have six coaches on their staff who either coached under Carroll or played for him: defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, defensive backs/safeties coach Marquand Manuel, special teams assistant Leon Washington, assistant defensive line coach Greg Scruggs, and defensive assistant Ricky Manning Jr.

Add to that the players on New York's roster who recently played for the Seahawks, a group that includes cornerback D.J. Reed and tackles Duane Brown, George Fant and Cedric Ogbuehi, and there will be a ton of familiarity between these teams on Sunday.

"There are a lot of guys on that team that have played with us in the past, coaches that have been here, and all that kind of stuff, so there is a lot of familiarity," Carroll said. "One of the things that they do really well is that they play really hard, and they are really consistent about that. That is something that I would like to think that has always been what we have hung our hat on. There's nothing earth changing about that thought, but they definitely play like crazy and that's why we have a lot of respect for them coming in here."

The Seattle Seahawks take on the New York Jets, the 21st meeting between the two teams, for Week 17 of the 2022 season. Take a look back at some of their previous matchups.

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