Seahawks vs Bucs; 3 Burning Questions

The Seahawks travel to Tampa Bay today in search of their 8th win against the 5-5 Buccaneers.

The Seattle Seahawks get a bit of a break today as they play a rare 1:00 PST game on the east coast, but face a resurgent Tampa Bay team. The Bucs have won two straight and are in the NFC South race.

So let’s take a look at 3 burning questions as the Seahawks get set to take on the Buccaneers today:

1) HOW WILL THE UNDERSTUDY’S PERFORM?

This is the clear-cut biggest question of today’s game. As many as 11 key players missed all or parts of practice this week for Seattle. Starters Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and CJ Prosise are definitely out, while DeShawn Shead and Justin Britt will be game-time decisions.

It’s the first game Thomas will miss in his career, and could have the biggest impact on the defense. Long-time backup and special teams ace Steven Terrell played well after Thomas was hurt against the Eagles, and Kelcie McCray can play both safety spots. We will likely see both of them at times today.

Prosise’s latest injury accelerates the return of Rawls. After missing 7 games due to a leg injury, he looked quick, physical and determined to make up for lost time against the Eagles. He’ll get plenty of touches today, while rookie Alex Collins serves as the primary backup.

If Britt can’t go, rookie 6th round draft pick Joey Hunt out of TCU will get his first NFL start, and that would significantly impact Burning Question #2.

2) WILL THE OFFENSIVE LINE CONTINUE TO IMPROVE?

After massive (and justified) consternation the first third of the season, the line’s improvement has quietly become one of the key storylines of 2016. Undrafted rookie left tackle George Fant appears to be a potential revelation, and Garry Gilliam has looked better at right tackle after a poor start. Meanwhile, Britt has gone from potential camp cut to a guy who’s looked at as the anchor of the position group, and might be putting himself in line for a generous contract extension.

The team is high on Hunt, and made him a draft priority. He’s undersized, but played well in the preseason. He’ll have his hands full if pressed into service today, facing Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.

3) CAN THE SEAHAWKS PRESSURE JAMEIS WINSTON?

Winston has shown improvement under first year head coach Dirk Koetter. After throwing 8 interceptions in his first four games, he’s only been picked twice in the six weeks since. The return of running back Doug Martin appears to agree with him also. In leading the Bucs to wins in their last two games, Winston has thrown for 643 yards and 3 TD’s.

But while Winston is more mobile than your average quarterback, he prefers to stand in the pocket and has taken 23 sacks on the season. If Frank Clark, Cliff Avril and company can pressure the young QB, they should return home with a nice win over a resurgent young team.

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