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3 players to watch in Seahawks’ Sunday night matchup versus Chiefs

Seahawks DT Poona Ford signed with Seattle as an undrafted rookie this year. (AP)

The Seahawks once again have a chance to clinch a playoff spot this weekend, but this time they’ll need some help from another team and strong performances from a few young players.

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Here are three players to keep an eye on when the Seahawks face off against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night:

DT Poona Ford

Rookie defensive tackle Poona Ford should see more snaps in Week 16. That’s not just a prediction following his six-tackle performance last week – that’s straight from the mouth of head coach Pete Carroll.

“He’s been really aggressive,” Carroll said Monday. “He’s shown really good instincts to get a feel for taking advantage and making plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He’s going to get some more playing time.”

Ford played a career-high 31 defensive snaps last Sunday (50 percent of all defensive snaps), up from his play in just 23 percent of defensive snaps in Week 2. His six tackles, including three for loss, were his most in a single game.

“That’s just Poona being Poona, man,” defensive end Frank Clark said of Ford’s performance in Seattle’s 26-23 loss to the 49ers. “We watch him make these same plays 100 times in practice. And he’s just making the plays when they count. At the end of the day, he’s been consistent as a young guy in there in the game and he’s just creating a whole bunch of havoc. As an older guy, that’s one thing you want to see. You want to see the younger guys step up into these roles and make those big plays.”

The Seahawks’ defensive line will need to put together one of its best games against the Chiefs’ offense. Patrick Mahomes is compiling an MVP-caliber season and leads all quarterbacks in total passing yards (4,543), passing yards per game (325) and touchdowns (45).

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S Delano Hill

Safety Bradley McDougald has been on of Seattle’s most consistent performers this season, but his status for Sunday night appeared to be in doubt after Carroll’s Wednesday press conference. If he’s inactive, expect second-year safety Delano Hill to get the start.

“He’s going to be in rehab all week, kind of like K.J. (Wright) or a couple of our guys have done,” Carroll said of McDougald, who has been playing through a patellar tendon issue this season. “He’ll be out of the area working on his stuff, but we’ll see him back on Friday.”

Asked if McDougald would be able to play Sunday night, Carroll said “possibly.”

Seattle has turned to Hill as a backup for McDougald this season. Last week, Hill played a season-high 83 percent of defensive snaps after McDougald was forced out of the game.

“I thought both those guys did a nice job,” Carroll said of Hill and fellow safety Shalom Luani. “With Bradley getting banged up, we needed those guys and we had to keep our special packages alive. They jumped right in there and did a nice job. They prepared really well. Both guys made some nice plays in the game. That’s just helping us move ahead with confidence that those guys can go in and we can use those guys if we need them this weekend.”

Safety Maurice Alexander, who suffered a concussion in Week 14, was able to return to practice Thursday and will also provide additional safety depth.

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The right guard position

Starting right guard D.J. Fluker suffered a hamstring injury in Week 13 and has been sidelined ever since. On Tuesday, the position saw more turnover when the team announced guard Jordan Simmons, who had been filling in for Fluker, would be placed on the injured reserve list with a knee injury.

Fluker hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday night’s game, but Carroll said he will need to wait until Friday to try to get some work in.

“He’s going to try to find out what he can do at the end of the week,” Carroll said. “We’re not going to know until the end of the week. That’s why all the questions are still out there about what we’re doing at guard.”

The Seahawks have a few options at the position, including guard Ethan Pocic, who filled in for Simmons last week.

Seattle will certainly be tested against the 11-win Chiefs, but Kansas City’s defense is a bit of a mixed bag: the unit ranks last in the league in passing defense and 26th in rushing yards allowed per game (127), but has 46 sacks (second overall) and 13 interceptions (tied for ninth with the Texans and Jets).

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