1. ASKIN’ FOR HASKINS
Alex Smith’s remarkable return has played a huge part in Washington’s four-game win streak, but he will not play Sunday because of a calf injury. That turns the spotlight back onto Dwayne Haskins Jr., who was benched for his inconsistency after starting the season’s first four games. Now, injuries to Kyle Allen and Smith have given him another chance. He didn’t produce any points in relief of Smith in last week’s win over the hapless 49ers, but he’ll need to produce against the NFL’s worst pass defense—especially if top rusher Antonio Gibson can’t play. Has Haskins stayed engaged and prepared enough to exploit this chance? His future with the franchise may depend on it.
2. DANGER, RUSS
His blistering MVP-track pace has slowed, but Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can still wreak havoc with his arm and his legs. Washington’s defensive front, led by rookie Chase Young, has dominated recently and will try to put pressure on Wilson, who has been sacked 41 times. Another key, though, is Washington’s improving secondary, which will try to contain DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, one of the NFL’s best receiving tandems. Rookie Kamren Curl has been a pleasant surprise, but he and fellow safety Troy Apke will stay busy all day defending against the deep ball. Wilson has thrown 12 interceptions, so turnovers may be available.
3. VIEW FROM THE TOP
For the first time since the season’s opening week, Washington holds sole possession of the NFC East lead. And a franchise that has gotten very little positive press over the past two decades is suddenly basking in praise. How will Ron Rivera’s team handle prosperity? Rivera’s experience reaching Super Bowls as a player and coach should help keep this team grounded, but there are challenges ahead—particularly is Smith can’t return soon. Still, a win over the Seahawks would put Washington in control with two remaining games against sub-.500 teams (Carolina and Philadelphia).
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE:
Seattle 24, Washington 16