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Jim Moore Predicts: Can Seahawks get past Cowboys, make Super Bowl run?

Russell Wilson could be the difference in a close game between the Seahawks and Cowboys. (AP)

Since they started the wild-card format, 10 wild-card teams have made it to the Super Bowl, and six have won the Lombardi Trophy, including the last four – the Ravens in 2000, Steelers in 2005 over the Seahawks, the Giants in 2007 and the Packers in 2010. The last two teams, the Giants and Packers, had 10-6 records just like the Seahawks this year.

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Can Pete Carroll’s team be the 11th team to make it to the Super Bowl and fifth to win it all? Seems like it’s all set up for that to happen with what appears to be a wide-open NFC race to the championship game that will be played in Santa Clara this year. Most think the top-seeded Saints will be tough to beat in two potential games at the Superdome, but it’s not like it’s an improbable task – the Cowboys beat the Saints 13-10 this year, which suggests three things:

• 1) The Saints aren’t unstoppable.

• 2) The Saints’ offense can be slowed down.

• 3) The Seahawks beat the Cowboys in September, and if the Cowboys were good enough to beat the Saints, the Seahawks should be able to do it too.

Granted, the circumstances and venues have changed. The Saints lost that game in Dallas, and the Cowboys lost to the Seahawks in Seattle. It’s fun to look at the promising road ahead, and if the Seahawks are fortunate enough to beat the Cowboys Saturday night, I’ll be pulling for the Eagles, as six-point underdogs, to beat the Bears on Sunday for two reasons:

• 1) The sixth-seeded Eagles would face the Saints next week, giving the Seahawks a better draw against the No. 2 Rams, a team they’ve lost twice to, but only by five points and two points. Plus the Rams appear more vulnerable than they did when the Seahawks faced them earlier this year.

• 2) If the Eagles and Seahawks win their next two games, the Seahawks would host the NFC Championship Game, giving Seattle a decided advantage with the 12s breaking decibel levels, urging their team to make its fourth Super Bowl appearance.

But Pete Carroll and the Seahawks aren’t looking ahead. They’re focused on Dallas and what shapes up to be a difficult game. Right now the Cowboys are favored by two points, but I suspect the game might be closer to pick ’em at kickoff.

It’s easy to feel like the Seahawks have a big advantage at quarterback with Russell Wilson over Dak Prescott. But it might not be as wide of a gap as you’d think. In the last half of the season in which the Cowboys went 7-1, Prescott completed 72 percent of his passes and accounted for 16 touchdowns. He engineered five game-winning drives and had a 150.5 rating when the Cowboys were tied in the fourth quarter or overtime. So he might be just as clutch as Wilson, who has led the Seahawks to 27 victories in the fourth quarter during his seven-year career.

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A bigger difference might be the pass rush Prescott will face compared to the one vs. Wilson. Prescott was sacked 56 times this year, including five in the Seahawks’ 24-13 victory in September. Only DeShaun Watson was sacked more frequently (62 times). It’s not like Wilson was protected that much better, sacked 51 times, but here’s the difference:

In my own version of a concocted Next Gen stat, I’m going to start charting outcomes based on sack differential, taking the number of times your own QB is sacked and matching that up with the number of times your team has sacked the opposing QB. In this game, the Seahawks hold a considerable edge – the Seahawks registered 43 sacks this year. With Wilson going down 51 times, that’s a minus-8 sack differential. The Cowboys had only 39 sacks, and with Prescott going down 56 times, that’s a minus-17 differential. So in my concocted Next Gen formula, the Seahawks are nine sacks to the good, and this could be the most important aspect to this game.

You might say, what a bunch of nonsense, and I’d say, maybe you’re right, but let’s see how it plays out. Think about it, the Seahawks need to do something positive on defense to compensate for what projects to be a big day for Ezekiel Elliott.

I woke up from an early-evening snooze Wednesday night to see some troubling numbers in ESPN’s breakdown of the game. You probably already know the Seahawks allowed 4.9 rushing yards per carry this season. But they’ve also allowed a league-worst 3.2 rushing yards before contact this season. In other words, Elliott is probably going to see some daylight and have more opportunities to create bigger runs than usual. He rushed for 1,434 yards this season, including 127 at Seattle, averaging 7.9 yards a carry.

According to ESPN, the Seahawks have also allowed 5.9 yards per play overall this year, their worst mark since 2000, while allowing QBs to complete 65 percent of their passes, the worst mark since 2009. Then when you factor in that Shaquill Griffin might be playing on a sprained ankle or replaced by Akeem King, and Tedric Thompson is returning from a two-game absence, those little details don’t make me feel like there will be any positive comparisons to the Legion of Boom Saturday night.

Dallas, as you know, added another offensive weapon after they played the Seahawks the first time, acquiring Amari Cooper from Oakland. That gives the Cowboys a 1-2 wide-receiver punch with Cole Beasley, and don’t forget about Elliott out of the backfield, catching a whopping 77 passes on checkdowns from Prescott.

As much as we want to think Chris Carson will run for more than 100 yards like he did against Dallas and has in the last three games, I’d bet with both hands that he won’t even get to 90. That’s because the Cowboys are fifth in the league against the run (95 yards a game) and even better at home, allowing 70 rushing yards a game. Remember, in that first meeting, it took Carson 32 carries to go over 100 yards.

I’m hoping the team facing the most pressure will feel it as the game goes on, and that’s Dallas. Jason Garrett always seems to be on a hot seat, and the Cowboys’ season will be considered a disappointment if they don’t win at least one playoff game. The Seahawks? They’re playing with house money. Even if they lose, it would still be a terrific season with plenty of hope for the future. Not many thought they’d even make the playoffs.

The more I look at the matchup, I’m starting to lean toward Dallas, but since I’m generally wrong in this space, I’ll go the other way and try the power of opposite thinking. With the pointspread suggesting a really close game, I’ll take the Seahawks in overtime, mainly because of Wilson.

Seahawks 23, Cowboys 20 (OT)

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