3 Seahawks to watch vs 49ers: Will Russell Wilson shake off rough outing?
The 8-5 Seahawks are one win away from clinching a playoff spot.
If you’re a glass-half-empty person, they’re also three potential losses away from finishing with an 8-8 season. Granted, that would require a total meltdown for a team that has won four in a row and is facing a three-win 49ers team led by a third-string quarterback.
Sorry, glass-half-empty people – the chances of the Seahawks missing the playoffs are slim. Really, really slim: FiveThirtyEight gives them 97 percent odds to make the postseason, and that’s with a loss Sunday.
To be fair, though, that pessimism isn’t totally baseless. Thanks to a few injuries this season – particularly at outside linebacker – the Seahawks do have a few questions lingering as they look to close out their season.
Here are three players to watch Sunday.
LB Austin Calitro
The Seahawks have dealt with a rotating cast at outside linebacker all year. The unfortunate trend continued Tuesday with news that Mychal Kendricks would miss the remainder of the season with a knee/leg injury.
The timing is especially dismaying for Kendricks, who had returned Monday to play the Vikings for his first game after an eight-week suspension. Carroll hinted the team would be interested in re-signing Kendricks in 2019, should he be available after his sentencing next month for insider trading (more on that here).
If there’s one silver lining for Seattle it’s that Sunday’s starter, Austin Calitro, already has experience this year starting in place of Kendricks and K.J. Wright, who continues to nurse a knee injury. In fact, Calitro started for the Seahawks in their last meeting with the 49ers on Dec. 2 and recorded a career-high 10 tackles.
To add a bit more depth at linebacker, the Seahawks also promoted Emmanuel Ellerbee to the active roster.
QB Russell Wilson
Fans don’t really need to be reminded to watch the quarterback — and there are no lingering questions about Russell Wilson’s ability — but they’ll certainly be looking for him to bounce back from his uncharacteristic performance against the Vikings (career-low 72 passing yards, no touchdowns and an interception) in Week 14. Watching him respond this Sunday – against an old teammate in cornerback Richard Sherman, no less – makes this an interesting battle.
“I had that bad play – that was bad,” Wilson said of an interception he threw last week while the Seahawks were facing first-and-goal with the clock ticking down just before halftime.
— NFL (@NFL) December 11, 2018
Wilson finished the day with the second-lowest passer rating of his career (37.9).
“Then, I think on a couple deep plays, I think I underthrew David (Moore) on one of them… I think there is a couple other plays here and there,” Wilson said. “Ultimately, we knew it was going to be a battle… What we did to be able to finish the game was all that matters. I don’t worry about all the other stuff except for winning. That’s always been the case.”
Wilson averaged a passer rating of 110 or more in the four games preceding that outing, and has 29 touchdowns this season to just six interceptions. Coincidentally, his best game of the season came against the 49ers two weeks ago when he threw for four touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 140.9. Will he be able to replicate that success against San Francisco’s defense this time around?
DE Jacob Martin
Defensive linemen Frank Clark and Jarran Reed have been Seattle’s most productive pass rushers this year and lead the team in sacks with 11 and 6.5, respectively. Rookie defensive end Jacob Martin had his most impressive game yet last week, however. Martin finished the day with two quarterback hits, one sack, and a forced fumble that resulted in a defensive touchdown.
Martin has a chance to further his development Sunday. San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullens has thrown for 1,479 yards in five starts, including 414 against Seattle, but a disruptive pass rush can take advantage of an inexperienced quarterback.