The Seahawks desperately need a win, because they're not looking like the championship-caliber team we all thought they'd be entering the season. In their past three games, the Seahawks have gone 1-1-1.
They beat the Falcons by two points thanks to the officials' refusal to throw a flag for pass interference. They tied the Cardinals because all of the kickers involved forgot how to kick a football -- and because Earl Thomas made another one of those unbelievable plays that only Earl Thomas is capable of making. And a week ago, they dropped a five-point road game to the Saints when they called a jump-ball to Jermaine Kearse on the game's final play.
So, it's been a bad few weeks for the Seahawks and, making matters worse, they're banged up. Michael Bennett is out a few weeks after undergoing knee surgery. Kam Chancellor is still sidelined with a groin injury. Bradley Sowell is questionable with a bad knee. Most importantly, quarterback Russell Wilson is still dealing with multiple ailments.
Here's the good news for the Seahawks: They still sit atop the NFC West at 4-2-1 and the banged-up Bills are coming to town for a showdown on "Monday Night Football."
If the Seahawks thought their recent slide was bad, they should take a look at the Bills, who have lost two straight games. At 4-4, the Bills certainly aren't a bad football team -- especially not when they're healthy. But they're not healthy. Perhaps LeSean McCoy will play through his hamstring injury (he's officially questionable), but even if he's at full strength, the Seahawks are equipped to stop the Bills' pounding running game. And if that happens, the Bills will be forced to lean on Tyrod Taylor -- on the road, in the noisiest stadium in the country, against one of the best defenses in football.
This isn't complicated. The Seahawks and Bills are both banged up. The Seahawks are the better team. They have more depth. They have the better defense. They have the better quarterback. They're at home. And they're going to win. With that being said, the Bills are good enough to hang around and give the Seahawks a scare.
The prediction: Seahawks 23, Bills 17.
Now, let's look at five statistics behind that prediction ...
1. Home-field advantage
The Seahawks are 3-0 at home this season. Since Russell Wilson joined the Seahawks in 2012, they're 30-5 at home in the regular season.
Again, let's not over think this. If the Bills were hosting this game, I'd consider picking an upset because a cross-country trip is never easy. But it's the Bills who are traveling to arguably the most difficult environment for opposing teams to survive in.
The Seahawks don't lose games at home and they don't lose games at home to bad teams -- except if those teams are coached by Jeff Fisher, of course.
2. The Bills' biggest strength is banged up
If the Bills have a shot at upsetting the Seahawks, they'll need their running game to put up the kind of numbers they racked up during their four-game winning streak earlier this season. In those four wins, the Bills averaged 212 rushing yards per game. In their four losses, they've averaged 96.25.
Of course, when teams are winning, they run the ball to kill time, so those statistics are certainly skewed a bit, but there's no doubt the Bills' success on offense comes down to their running game. They're second in the NFL with 154.1 yards on the ground per game and first in yards per attempt (5.5).
Their success is largely dependent on LeSean McCoy, who's racked up 589 yards on 112 carries. Unfortunately for the Bills, McCoy is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. Ryan indicated that McCoy has a decent chance to play, but keep in mind he tried to play through that same injury a couple weeks ago and ended up making it worse. He missed the Bills' loss to the Patriots last week.
McCoy's replacement, Mike Gillislee, did fine with 85 yards on 12 carries, but he's not McCoy. If McCoy isn't 100 percent, the Seahawks should be able to limit the Bills' success on the ground. If McCoy is at full strength, the Bills might be able to hang around.
3. The Seahawks are equipped to stop the run
The Seahawks are damn near impossible to run on. They're allowing 89.7 rushing yards per game. By Football Outsiders' more advanced metrics, they're the second best unit against the run.
David Johnson might be the best all-around back in the NFL not named Le'Veon Bell and the Seahawks held him to 3.4 yards per carry a couple weeks ago. Of course, he ended up gaining 113 yards on the ground, but that's only because he was handed the ball 33 times over the course of the overtime game.
That's the worst part for the Bills: Their only strength on offense is actually the Seahawks' strength on defense, which means they might be forced to let Taylor take on a larger role.
4. Turnovers and penalties
To this point, the Bills have protected the football. They've given the ball away just four times this season -- the lowest total in the league. One reason for that? They don't throw the ball very often.
Taylor's attempted 230 passes this year, which ranks 21st in the NFL. If he's forced to throw the ball more Monday night, which is what I suspect will happen, the Seahawks might be able to capitalize. The Bills simply don't have a receiver who can win against a player like Richard Sherman. Marquise Goodwin burned Darrelle Revis earlier this year for a big play, but Sherman has not declined like Revis. It's worth noting: The Seahawks haven't had much success this year in taking the ball away -- they're tied for 24th in the NFL with seven takeaways -- another reason why the Bills might be able to hang around.
One area the Seahawks have a clear advantage in: Penalties. According to NFLPenalties.com, the Bills have been called for 61 accepted penalties this season, tied for the sixth-most in the NFL. You don't beat Seattle on the road by giving away yards.
5. The Seahawks' options on offense
Russell Wilson's injury woes might be the one thing that prevents them from journeying deep in January. Without his mobility, Wilson hasn't been able to overcome his shoddy offensive line.
Still, there's hope he's healthier than he's been in recent weeks. Wilson said Friday, "I'm feeling the best I've felt since Week 1."
Even if Wilson is limited, I think the Seahawks offense will be able to move the football. The Bills are down two defensive linemen in Marcell Dareus and Corbin Bryant. And linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who leads the league in sacks, is questionable with a hamstring.
If Alexander plays, the Seahawks can turn to their struggling running game (they're averaging 81.4 rushing yards per game), because the Bills are not only banged up inside, they're also bad at stopping the run. The Bills are allowing 118.4 rushing yards per game. That's the eighth-worst total in the NFL.
Look for the Seahawks to get Christine Michael involved. He carried the ball just 10 times a week ago. He's been struggling lately and has only hit the century mark in one game this season. With Wilson still ailing, the Seahawks need to commit more resources to the ground game. I think they could have some success in this game by doing that.
But -- again -- I just don't see a way the Seahawks blow out the Bills, not with their offense banged up. Unless they can snag a few turnovers, this one might come down to the wire.