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Seahawks vs Chargers Preview: Highlighting 4 key matchups

Los Angeles Chargers v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Seahawks are now 3-3 following a strong 19-9 victory over a division rival in the Arizona Cardinals. Seattle entered the game as a 2.5-point underdog on DraftKings Sportsbook, but they looked like the far better team on Sunday. The Seahawks enter their week five matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers as a 6-point underdog meaning if they want to get back over .500, they will have to once again pull off the upset.

The Chargers are off to a shaky start despite being 4-2. Even though they are a team that has been ravaged by injuries losing the likes of Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles still has some of the most talented players in the league on their roster. In order for Seattle to leave Los Angeles victorious it is going to be imperative for them to contain those four players.

Mike Williams vs Seattle’s Secondary

Mike Williams is one of the more physically gifted receivers in the league. He has some of the best body control when having to adjust to make the catch as well as being able to high point every pass with ease. That combination makes Williams deadly down the field but also on short yardage throws like back shoulders and curls within 15 yards. Despite the first play being a seven-yard hitch, it showcases a lot of what makes Williams so difficult to cover. He gets his hips turned quickly to locate the football, uses his size to box out the defender and then is able to go up and attack the football making it an easy completion.

The second play is exactly who Mike Williams is a receiver. Denzel Ward is able to blanket him perfectly on the play running step for step with the former Clemson Tiger. When Williams gets his head around, he is able to quickly locate the football, turn his body completely to put himself in a position to make the grab, high point it and then survive the ground. There is a very short list of receivers who can make catches like this, and the former 7th overall pick is one of them.

The edge - Mike Williams- Despite slow improvements over the course of the season (and the rise of Tariq Woolen as a star in the making) the Seahawks secondary is still susceptible. It is currently unknown whether or not Keenan Allen is going to play for the Chargers but no matter what Williams is going to be a vertical threat throughout the game. He is likely to come down with one or two long balls from Justin Herbert on the day which gives him the slight edge in the matchup.

Austin Ekeler vs Seattle’s Linebackers

The first play is a representation of what the Chargers love to do with Ekeler which is to throw him the football. Through six games this season the former UDFA already has 41 receptions, which is tied for sixth in the league, on 49 targets. For comparison’s sake D.K. Metcalf leads the Seahawks in targets with 50, but he only has 30 catches.

The Chargers do a great job of drawing up screen passes for Ekeler to put the ball in his hands with blockers out in front of him. It is something we can expect repeatedly come Sunday and if Seattle wants to win, they are going to have to shut down the screen and quick passing game to Ekeler. The second video is a great Baldy Breakdown which highlights just how strong of a runner Ekeler is and how difficult he is to bring down. He is contacted at the six-yard line but has enough of a lower leg drive to power his way into the endzone. The sixth-year pro is one of those running backs that requires two or three defenders to bring him down.

The edge - Austin Ekeler- With how bad Seattle has been against defending the running game this season (last week aside) as well as containing running backs in the passing game, it is difficult to envision Ekeler not having a big day this Sunday. Seattle has allowed the fifth most rushing yards to backs, have the second most rushing first downs and they’ve also allowed the third most receiving yards to running backs.

Khalil Mack vs Seattle’s Offensive Line

Khalil Mack might not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the better edges in the NFL. The first play highlights both Mack’s football IQ as well as his ability as a pass rusher. This play is designed to prevent the left tackle from being left on an island by chipping Mack with Melvin Gordon lll. The former Las Vegas Raider and Chicago Bear recognizes what the offense is trying to do, so he takes the tackle head on rather than going wide. He seamlessly coverts his speed into power by driving right through the offensive lineman which gives him a relatively easy sack on Russell Wilson.

On the second play, Mack does not come up with a sack, but he still is very impactful. The former Buffalo Bull is lined up as the left edge on the play. He starts his rush up field then cuts it in once the right tackle commits enough to the outside. Mack is able to get himself right in front of Davis Mills which both prevents him from stepping up in the pocket to make a better throw, as well as it speeds up his mechanics which forces the inaccurate ball.

The edge - Khalil Mack - Mack is going to be the most impactful defensive player in this game. He is tied for second in the league with 6 sacks as well as tied for fifth in tackles for loss with 7. Abe Lucas and Charles Cross have been put through the gauntlet having already faced the likes of Bradley Chubb, Nick Bosa, J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan this season and the rookies have fared well. That will be a difficult trend to continue this week as Mack is one of the best at his craft.

Derwin James vs Seattle’s Offense

Derwin James is one of the best players in football. The Chargers use him both near the line of scrimmage as a blitzer and run defender, but also deep down the field as a deep third or half safety in zone coverage. On the first play James disguises his blitz until the last second and then he just shoots the B gap with an uncontested lane right to Wilson. If James had shown earlier that he was coming the offensive line likely would have slid their protection to the left or Wilson would have called an audible at the line. Instead, the Chargers picked up an easy sack on third and long.

The second play shows just how impactful James is in the running game. As the tweet says there are very few players in football who can bring down Chubb with an arm tackle, but James is one of them. The former Florida State Seminole comes from the other side of the field to make the tackle as he is extremely patient letting the play develop in front of him which allows him to work down the line of scrimmage and make the tackle on Chubb.

The edge - Derwin James - I honestly do not know if there is an offense in this league that has an edge over Derwin James. Outside of Justin Simmons he is my favorite safety to watch, and I expect him to make his presence felt all day Sunday. The Chargers have been one of the worst defenses in football against the run this season as they are tied for the most yards per carry against at 5.6 whilst allowing the sixth most rushing yards to opposing running backs. James might regularly be playing at or near the line of scrimmage this weekend in order to help try and stop the potent Seattle rushing attack.

Predicted score

Chargers 24 Seahawks 21

Week 6 recap

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown vs the secondary

Predicted edge - Hollywood Brown - Actual edge - The secondary

Despite getting injured late, Brown caught 5 passes for 68 yards on 9 targets with a long of 26. The former Oklahoma Sooner was bottled up for the most part as 50 of his yards game on two catches. Hollywood Brown is the type of offensive weapon who can take over a game down the field which the Seahawks prevented for the most part which is why their secondary had the actual edge.

Kyler Murray vs the front 7

Predicted edge - Murray - Actual edge - Seahawks’ front 7

Despite Murray running for 100 yards on 10 attempts I give the edge to the Seahawks front 7 as they were able to pick up six sacks and force two turnovers, plus hold the offense to just 3 points.

J.J. Watt vs the offensive line

Predicted edge - Offensive line - Actual edge - Offensive line

Despite having a big third down tackle in the game, Watt did not bring much to the table on Sunday as despite posting 2 tackles for loss he did not make nearly the impact he is capable of. He did not get home to quarterback as he posted zero sacks and quarterback hits.

Budda Baker vs Geno Smith and the run game

Predicted edge - Budda Baker - Actual edge - Geno Smith and the running game

Baker did register five solo tackles and 1 QB hit Sunday, but like Watt he did not play up to his capabilities which gives the running and passing game the edge over one of the better safeties in the league.

Score prediction

Seahawks 30 - Cardinals 27

Right result, but very wrong on the score.

(All advanced stats cited provided by Pro Football Reference)