The Seahawks last week pulled off their second road win of the year in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion over the Texans. They’ll continue their tour of the AFC South in Indianapolis, where Seattle will put their road skills to the test again. The Seahawks have been winning on the strength of a defense that’s near the top of the leaderboard in every category outside of penalties.
The Colts will return to the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium after dominant road wins in San Francisco and Jacksonville. Led by Andrew Luck, who happens to be our fifth-highest graded QB, and the second-best rushing grade in the league, the Colts hope a balanced attack can overcome the stout Seattle defense.
There are plenty of interesting matchups in this one, as each team looks for its next statement win.
Trent Richardson vs. Seahawkss Front Seven
Trent Richardson hasn’t faced a defense quite like Seattle’s this year. The Colts ran the ball all over San Francisco’s sixth-ranked run defense in Week 3, as the 49ers turned in their worst defensive day on the year — but Ahmad Bradshaw won’t be healthy this time around. That means Richardson could have another heavy rushing day. He strung together a few nice efforts with Cleveland before he was traded, but has gotten off to a slow start in Indianapolis. Richardson’s Elusive Rating was 101.9 with Cleveland, which is the highest mark in the league for backs with at least 25 carries. Middling performances with Indianapolis have produced just a 32.1 Elusive Rating so far, including an average performance against a Jacksonville defense that missed a tackle every 4.4 attempts.
After the luxury of strong run blocking in his first two games for Indianapolis, Richardson may need to create more on his own this week to get the Colts’ going. Through four games, no team has posted a positive run blocking game against Seattle. Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, and Bobby Wagner all sport Run Stop Percentages higher than 10%, but Mebane is the true anchor. His +10.3 run defense grade is among the best in the league, and the Colts’ interior offensive line hasn’t exactly blown defenders off the ball this year. Samson Satele’s –3.2 run blocking grade should return at center this week, meaning Mike McGlynn will join Hugh Thornton at guard. Only Thornton has turned in a positive run blocking grade on the Indianapolis interior this year, and McGlynn has historically struggled with run blocking.
Robert Mathis vs. Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie
Robert Mathis’ hot start this year has him tied for ninth in Pass Rushing Productivity for edge rushers. A majority (55.3%) of Mathis’ pass rushes have come from the right side of the line of scrimmage, where his 14.7 PRP ranks fourth for pass rushers who spend a majority of their time on the right side. Especially effective when he goes to the outside of his blocker, Mathis is a bona fide speed rusher who has benefited from the move to outside linebacker, where he’s applied pressure on 23% of his pass rushes.
He’ll face both tackles on Sunday. Paul McQuistan’s -7.9 pass blocking grade is a big dropoff from the injured Russell Okung. McQuistan has shown a weakness to Mathis’ strength, giving up 10 of his 15 pressures to his outside on his way to a 85.6 Pass Blocking Efficiency. On the other side, rookie Michael Bowie will continue to fill in for Breno Giacomini. His 88.0 Pass Blocking Efficiency hasn’t been much more impressive, and he shares a weakness on the outside with McQuistan. Bowie and McQuistan will have their hands full with Mathis.
If the tackles can’t contain Mathis, Russell Wilson is in for a tough day at the office. Wilson is the third-most pressured QB this year, as he has seen pressure on 44.6% of his drop-backs. When pressured, he has taken sacks 24.1% of the time, also third-most in the league, and has completed just 38.2% of his passes on pressured snaps.
Michael Bennett vs. Anthony Castonzo
While Mathis might create problems for Seattle, Anthony Castonzo will have his hands full with our second-best pass rushing 4-3 defensive end in Michael Bennett. Bennett applies pressure on 19.4% of his snaps, taking a bit of a hit when he moves to the inside (where he takes 50% of his pass rushes). When he’s lined up at defensive end in four-man fronts (47.5% of his pass rushes), he gets pressure 26.5% of the time. He’s winning on outside moves, accounting for 10 of his 16 pressures.
On paper, Bennett faces a stiffer test than Mathis. Castonzo had a rough time with Lamarr Houston in Week 1, but has given up only four total pressures since. Castonzo has given up pressure on outside moves only three times, but surrendered pressure on inside moves five times and on three bullrushes. This matchup may call on Bennett to change up his strategy in favor of more inside moves if he’s going to beat Castonzo with much frequency. The Seahawks have rushed Bennett from both ends, but Cherilus Gosder has been similarly stingy on outside moves, and more susceptible on the inside.
Like Wilson, Luck has had his issues with pressure this year. Taking pressure on 42% of his drop-backs, Luck is the seventh-most pressured QB in the league. He’s avoided sacks slightly better than Wilson, going down on only 15.9% of pressured snaps, but has completed just 43.5% of his throws under pressure.