Running the Ball: Who Has the Edge?
Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense
Seattle has recommitted to the run game and it has paid dividends for the team. The Seahawks are running the ball on 52.17 percent of their offensive snaps, which is #1 in the league. Seattle struggled in the first two games of the season, running the ball 16 times for 64 yards against the Broncos and 22 times for 74 yards against the Bears. Since then, the Seahawks have run for more than 110 yards in 13 of their last 14 games. The lone team to keep Seattle under that mark since week 3 of the season was Carolina, who limited them to 28 carries for 75 yards. Over the past month, the Seahawks have run the ball to the tune of 193.5 yards per game with a five yard per carry average and six touchdowns.
Chris Carson leads the team on the ground with 247 carries for 1,151 yards plus nine scores. Mike Davis (112 carries, 514 yards, four TD) and Rashaad Penny (85 carries, 419 yards, two TD) are next in line on the ground. Wilson chips in 376 yards on the ground this season. The Seahawks have the ability to rotate their backs, either sticking with the hot hand or going with a true committee to keep everyone fresh. That makes it a challenge to gear up to stop the run since you don’t know if you’re going to see a power back, an elusive one or a combination of the two on the field on any given snap. Seattle has 17 runs of at least 20 yards with Carson leading the way with eight while Penny has four. The Seahawks have moved the chains 133 times on the ground this season.
Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense
Dallas has been pretty consistent in their run defense as they’ve allowed just six teams to break the 100 yard mark on the ground against them this season. In the final quarter of the season, the Cowboys have seen opposing teams run the ball 102 times for 418 yards and five scores. Dallas can’t complain too much about allowing 104.5 yards and 4.1 yards per carry on the ground in the last four weeks. One cause for concern for the Cowboys is that two of the three worst rushing totals against them occurred in the final month of the season. Indianapolis gashed them for 178 yards in week 15 while the Giants put up 143 in week 17. Those totals bookended the 147 yard performance they allowed to Carolina in week 1.
Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has piled up a team leading 140 tackles (102 solo) to go with three tackles for loss. Jaylon Smith contributes 121 tackles (82 solo) with 7.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. DeMarcus Lawrence (64 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, fumble recovery) and Sean Lee (30 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, fumble recovery) are other key pieces in the front seven for the Cowboys. Dallas has given up just nine runs of at least 20 yards this season while opposing teams have moved the chains 89 times via the ground game.
Notable Rushing Statistics
Seattle Seahawks Offense
- 2nd in rushing attempts per game (33.4)
- 1st in rushing yards per game (160)
- Tied for 5th in yards per carry (4.8)
- Tied for 11th in rushing TD (15)
- 14th in longest rush (61 yards)
Dallas Cowboys Defense
- 14th in percentage of run plays against (40.77)
- 12th in run plays per game against (25)
- 5th in rushing yards allowed per game (94.6)
- Tied for 4th in opposing yards per carry (3.8)
- Tied for 10th in rushing TD allowed (12)
- 23rd in longest rush allowed (68 yards)
Who Has the Edge?
This one is going to be a good clash that helps determine how things unfold in the game. Dallas was stout against the run most of the season but they were gouged in two of the final three games of the year. Seattle has pounded the ball on the ground without mercy this season and it was their week 3 win over Dallas that started it all. The Seahawks have a trio of backs and they simply wear teams down. Seattle’s ability to change things up depending on who is on the field is a tough matchup problem. You have to give the edge to Seattle in this one.
Advantage: Seattle Seahawks
Aerial Assault: Who Has the Upper Hand?
Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense
Seattle hasn’t had to rely on the passing game as much as in previous seasons as the run game has really taken hold for the team. That’s a good thing given the issues that the Seahawks have had keeping receivers healthy, not to mention having guys that are capable of making plays in the passing game. Seattle has thrown for 300 yards in a game just once this season: that came in their week 12 win at Carolina where they threw for 339 yards. Their previous high water mark came in the opener against the Broncos when they threw for 298 yards. Of course, the offensive line was rough in the first couple weeks, allowing six sacks in each of their first two contests. Things have been better since as they’ve given up 45 in the last 14 games but the fact remains that with questionable pass catchers and a leaky offensive line, the passing game has suffered. Over the past month, the Seahawks have averaged just 160 yards through the air with six touchdowns against two interceptions while allowing 14 sacks.
is 280 of 447 for 3,448 yards with 35 touchdowns against seven interceptions while adding 376 yards on the ground. He has been sacked 51 times this season. In the passing game, Tyler Lockett leads the team with 57 catches for 965 yards plus 10 scores. Tight end Nick Vannett (29 grabs, 269 yards, three TD), Doug Baldwin (50 receptions, 618 yards, five TD), David Moore (26 grabs, 445 yards, five TD) and Davis (34 catches, 214 yards, TD) are reliable options as well. The Seahawks have totaled 47 pass plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season. Lockett leads the team with 17 such receptions while Baldwin has nine and Moore adds eight.
Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense
Dallas has been fairly good against the pass this season. Only three times in their first 14 games did the Cowboys allowed more than 300 yards through the air. Two of those came in back to back weeks against Detroit and Houston in weeks four and five: the other was when Carson Wentz threw for 360 yards back in week 10 when this win streak started. Things were shaken up in the final two weeks of the season as Tampa Bay threw for 336 yards in week 16 while the Giants racked up 301 yards in week 17 action.
The Cowboys’ pass rush is led by DeMarcus Lawrence, who has 10.5 sacks to go with a pass defense and an interception. Defensive end Tyrone Crawford (34 tackles, two pass defenses) adds 5.5 sacks while Jaylon Smith (two pass defenses) has four sacks. In the pass coverage side of things, Leighton Vander Esch (seven pass defenses) and Xavier Woods (nine pass defenses) each have two interceptions to lead the team. Jeff Heath (85 tackles, four pass defenses, forced fumble), Lawrence, Chidobe Awuzie (71 tackles, 11 pass defenses, forced fumble), Jourdan Lewis (12 tackles, half a tackle for loss, pass defense, two fumble recoveries) and Anthony Brown (44 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, eight pass defenses) each have one interception. All told, Dallas has amassed 39 sacks and nine picks on the year while recording 64 pass defenses. Byron Jones leads the team in that category with 14.
Notable Passing Statistics
Seattle Seahawks Offense
- 16th in completion percentage (65.6)
- 27th in passing yards per game (193.3)
- Tied for 5th in TD passes (35)
- Tied for 2nd in INT thrown (seven)
- Tied for 13th in net yards per pass attempt (6.5)
- Tied for 26th in longest pass play (66 yards)
- 3rd in passer rating (110.9)
Dallas Cowboys Defense
- 13th in passing yards per game allowed (234.7)
- 29th in completion percentage allowed (67.7)
- Tied for 8th in TD passes allowed (22)
- Tied for 26th in INT (nine)
- Tied for 16th in sacks (39)
- 22nd in passer rating allowed (95.7)
- Tied for 15th in net yards per pass attempt (6.5)