Seattle Seahawks @ Oakland Raiders: Lynch's motivation won't be enough to save the Raiders
The International Series rolls back around this week with the Seahawks flying in to take on the Raiders at Wembley, and Seattle should be able to rise to the occasion, writes Mark Kirwan....
"It’s hard to know where to start with this team. They've no pass rushers because they traded away one of the best in the game in Khalil Mack two months ago. Amari Cooper, surprising no one outside of the Bay Area team's orbit, still isn’t playing like a #1 receiver. QB Carr, an MVP contender in that 2016 season, is so close to being thrown under the bus by Gruden he can smell the petrol fumes."
Seattle Seahawks @ Oakland Raiders
Sunday, 18:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Action and BBC Two
It's the first London game of the season and two teams whose bright futures of the recent past have turned into something much less pleasant meet. Maybe they can console each other on this transatlantic jaunt and collectively figure out where it all went wrong?
Both will likely look at moments in the not too distant past as marking the start of their downward slide.
For Seattle, many will trace their decline back to what could've easily been the high point for the franchise. Instead, they chose to pass on second-and-goal at the one yard line in Super Bowl XLIX and Malcolm Butler snaffled the Lombardi trophy along with the interception that decided the game in the dying seconds.
Now, nearly four years later, the Legion of Boom are a distant echo. In recent times, any thunderous hits have more likely been delivered by an opposing pass rusher clattering into a scrambling Russell Wilson.
A perennial contender under coach Pete Carroll, Seattle now look like they could be in line for a total overhaul - coaching staff included - if their QB gets hurt in the coming months.
Given how low expectations were looking at the players they've lost - Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson, and now Earl Thomas, just to mention those missing from last season - there have been some positives this year.
Chris Carson and Mike Davis both look good running, making the Rashaad Penny selection all the more difficult to explain in the 2018 draft. Part of that is down to the offensive line, which has improved on last year, and protects Russell Wilson better too.
The defence is working towards a solution too, with Frank Clark and Jarran Reed providing encouraging signs from the pass rushing unit.
And they ran the Rams mighty close last week. The twelfth man of their home crowd may have made some of the difference in that game, but who cares, you take what advantages you get, and Seattle were a big play away from beating the league's hottest team.
How they react to that disappointment will be key. You'd expect Carroll to make it a net positive.
Chucky's horror show
Speaking of disappointment, I doubt anyone can feel let down by Jon Gruden's Raiders so far, can they? Holy Al Davis this mess is living up to our very highest hopes.
Oakland's decline isn't from as high a level as their opponents - if you talk about Super Bowls around Mark Davis he'll probably think you're complimenting his haircut it's been so long since the Raiders were near the big time - but many silver and black hearts were broken along with QB Derek Carr's fibula on Christmas Eve 2016, and Oakland's hopes of making a run as the AFC West winners were wiped. Coach Jack Del Rio was fired a year later.
And now they've got Chucky back. I'll let you make your own joke about Child's Play, sequels and horror shows. Gruden has nine-and-a-half years left on his $100m contract.
It's hard to know where to start with their team. They've no pass rushers because they traded away one of the best in the game in Khalil Mack two months ago. Amari Cooper, surprising no one outside of the Bay Area team's orbit, still isn't playing like a #1 receiver. QB Carr, an MVP contender in that 2016 season, is so close to being thrown under the bus by Gruden he can smell the petrol fumes.
There's even talk of AJ McCarron starting!
For those stunned into a temporary loss of their faculties, yes, that is AJ "I stunk so bad in buffalo they decided to start Nathan Peterman ahead of me" McCarron. Seriously.
Now they've to travel to London at 1-4. And they're very lucky to have that solitary win, as many see it as a grand larceny, coming as it did via some very controversial calls against the luckless Cleveland Browns.
They were handily disposed of by the Chargers last week, a game that was like an extra home game for the Raiders due to San Diego's still tough to explain relocation to LA when no one wanted them there.
Travel for these International Series games has become a major factor in assessing the likely winner, but I'm reluctant to overthink this game. For what it's worth, the Raiders arrived on Friday, where Seattle hit London early in the week, but the Seahawks look the better team by a distance here. They should turn that very close loss to the Rams into a positive, and I would take them -2.5 here at [1.86].
There's also a tendency for these London games to turn into blow outs, but I'm not sure this can make the 49 points needed to hit the over on the Total Points market. Seattle's strength in recent weeks has been its running game. That'll let them wind the clock down if they're ahead here. I'd look at the under 48.5 points at [1.93].
One thing the Raiders have going for them is Marshawn Lynch. While he may be having flashbacks to that lost Super Bowl due to his recent red zone usage, there's no reason to think he'll hold back against his old team. He's one positive amid a sea of negativity flowing from the Raiders. I'd take the over on 64.5 yards for his rushing yards at evens given the motivation he's got, and he could be worth alook in touchdown markets too..
1pt on the Seattle Seahawks -2.5 on the Handicap market @ [1.86] on the Exchange
0.5pt on Under 48.5 on the Total Points market @ [1.93] on the Exchange
1pt on Marshawn Lynch Over 64.5 yards @ Evens on the Betfair Sportsbook