By Paul Dottino
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The standings tell you that the Giants have been eliminated from postseason contention. So how many players will follow the lead of players such as Jon Beason, Justin Tuck and Antrel Rolle when they say that upsetting the Super Bowl-favorite Seattle Seahawks would be a significant accomplishment in an otherwise disappointing season?
The answer will determine how well the Giants (5-8) compete against a hungry Seahawks team (11-2) that lost a seven-game winning streak in San Francisco last weekend. Seattle is trying to grab the NFC’s top seed and what many think will be a sure path to the Super Bowl, which coincidentally will be played at MetLife Stadium in two months.
Here are three key matchups:
1. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. MLB Jon Beason — Lynch has earned the nickname “Beast Mode” for his physical play — often initiating contact and breaking tackles before turning on the jets and racing into the open field. He’s put up his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and is a throwback in that he thrives on being the focal point of his team’s rushing attack — no need for any 1-A backs in the Seattle backfield. Last weekend, San Diego’s Ryan Matthews became the first 100-yard back against the Giants since Beason became the starting middle linebacker. Beason said too many guys got caught out of their run gaps, insisting that game was a blip on the radar screen. He will try to get the rushing defense back in line.
2. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Giants cornerbacks — Wilson has thrown 23 TD passes and only seven interceptions — in other words, he’s been smart and accurate. He’s also fourth among QBs with 458 rushing yards and the Seahawks are skilled at moving the pocket for him in either direction. Wilson usually takes off with the thought that he’s going to make a play through the air. He would prefer not to run, but he’s not afraid to carry the ball. When he throws, he’s looking to the outside rather than over the middle, where the safeties can clog the field.
Giants RB Andre Brown vs. Seahawks front seven — Ok, you asked for it and you got it — there is a dent in Seattle’s fender. The Seahawks’ defense ranks among the NFL’s elite in almost every category — yet their rush defense is 14th in the league at 112 yards per game. They allowed 200-plus rushing yards in back-to-back wins over St. Louis and Tampa Bay in Weeks 8 and 9. Brown has two 100-yard outputs in the five games he’s played this season after returning from a fractured leg. The Giants will need Brown and Peyton Hillis to rumble for at least 150 yards — the Giants eclipsed 200 against Dallas a few weeks ago — to give themselves the best chance to win.
PREDICTION: Seahawks 31, Giants 10.
Prediction vs. the spread: 8-5.
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