In what is the only matchup in the NFL this week between two teams with winning records, the NFC West-leading Seahawks (4-3) host the upstart New York Giants (6-1) at Lumen Field Sunday.
Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks host the Giants on Sunday:
1. Can the Seahawks keep the Saquon Barkley and the Giants running game in check?
It's no secret what the Giants want to do on offense. The problem, as the rest of the NFL has discovered, is stopping it.
Led by running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones, the Giants bring to Seattle one of the NFL's best rushing attacks, ranking second in the league with 173.4 yards per game and a healthy 5.2 yard-per-carry average. Barkley, as healthy and explosive as he has been since his rookie season, ranks second in the league in rushing with 726 rushing yards, and he also leads the team in receptions with 25 for 180 yards.
Looking only at season-long stats, this would seemingly spell very bad news for the Seahawks, who rank 29th in the league in run defense, but like just about everything else having to do with Seattle's defense, the Seahawks have defended the run significantly better in the past two weeks, including last week when the Chargers managed just 53 rushing yards.
"We've got a lot of room to grow and get better," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of his team's run defense. "We've made legitimate, significant strides, so we're going to keep doing the stuff that we do and see if we can keep getting better and show the consistency—one or two games, we'll forget about that if we don't keep it going… This is the ultimate challenge. This is as good of a running team as we're ever going to go against. So we'll find out where we stand."
2. Does Kenneth Walker III keep up his torrid start?
Just like the Giants, the Seahawks are going to be looking to get an explosive running game going, one led by rookie running back Kenneth Walker III. After taking over for an injured Rashaad Penny in Week 5, Walker rushed for 88 yards thanks in large part to a 69-yard touchdown run. He backed that up with 97 yards and a score the following week, then exploded for 167 yards and two scores in last week's win, making him the league's leading rusher over the past three weeks.
The Giants have been solid on defense this season in a lot of facets of the game, but they have been susceptible to the run, allowing an NFL-worst 5.7 yards per carry.
With weather very possibly being a factor in this game, the Seahawks would love to be able to beat the Giants at their own game and take over with a potent rushing attack.
3. Can the Seahawks end New York's run of success in close games?
While the Giants have earned their way to a 6-1 start by doing a lot of things well, they are also only a few plays or bad breaks away from having more losses. All six of those wins have been by eight or fewer points, and several of them have gone right down to the wire, including last week's win over Jacksonville that ended with the Jaguars completing a pass to the 1-yard line on the final play of the game before Christian Kirk was stuffed at the goal line by multiple Giants defenders to preserve a six-point win.
"They are going to have the belief, they are going to have the mindset that they know that they can finish a game and win it," Carroll said. "That gets stronger and it feeds off of itself. That's a really tremendous asset to have, when you know that you are going to finish well, and those games are to be had. There is no time when this is over, you have to go. There are 60 minutes plus, so we have to be here for it."
The Seahawks have a pair of close wins themselves, winning by one point in their opener against Denver and by three points in Detroit, and they'll hope that a raucous home crowd can help give them the edge if this one comes down to the wire.
4. Can an improved defense keep forcing turnovers?
The Seahawks defense has turned things around in a big way in their past two games, but one thing Seattle has done pretty well all season long is take the ball away. With rookie corners Tariq Woolen (four interceptions) and Coby Bryant (four forced fumbles, three of them recovered by Seattle) leading the way, the Seahawks have forced two turnovers in six of their seven games this season.
Unsurprisingly for a 6-1 team, the Giants have been pretty good at taking care of the ball this season, especially of late with just one turnover in their past three games, all of them victories, and Jones has thrown only two interceptions through seven games.
5. Can the Seahawks pass rush keep it up?
With the run defense improving, forcing teams into more obvious passing situations, and with the defensive front freed up to play a more aggressive style the past two weeks, the Seahawks have gotten a lot more production out of a pass rush that had been relatively quiet through the first five games.
Against Arizona two weeks ago, the defense piled up six sacks from six different players, then last week against the Chargers and Justin Herbert, who had been sacked only seven times through his first six games, the Seahawks added three more sacks. Uchenna Nwosu, who had a whopping 11 pressures against his former team last weekend, now leads the NFL with 31 quarterback pressures, according to NFL Next Gen stats, and Darrell Taylor is coming on strong of late as well with strip sacks in each of the past two games.
The Seahawks will have to slow down the running game to maximize their pass rush, but if they can put the Giants in some passing situations, they could have some success against a team down two starting linemen do to injury, and against a quarterback who has been sacked 20 times this season, including three or more times in four games.
The Seahawks and Giants face off for Monday Night Football on Oct. 2, 2023. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Giants.