Three things to look out for in the Seahawks-Buccaneers game in Munich, Germany, in the 2022 NFL season
Back in May, the schedule makers had no idea what they were cooking up for Germany’s first-ever regular-season NFL game, but the people of Munich are in for a treat.
On Sunday, two division leaders – both surprising in different ways – will square off on the international stage for the first time. It will also be Allianz Arena’s first non-soccer event.
After trading away franchise cornerstone Russell Wilson, the Seahawks were all but declared dead before the season even began. Pete Carroll’s team is thriving in sole possession of first place in the NFC West, thanks to Geno Smith’s career revival and what appears to be a slam-dunk rookie class.
The Buccaneers lead their division as well. The twist is that they entered Week 10 tied for the lead with the Falcons before Atlanta lost on Thursday night, have a 25th-ranked scoring offense in disarray, and are currently losing for the first time in Tom Brady’s career through nine games.
The Bucs’ season hasn’t been easy, but they have a chance Sunday to get back to.500 for the first time since mid-October while also knocking a fellow division leader down a notch. A victory in Munich would be the Seahawks’ fifth straight victory and another step toward ending a two-year postseason drought.
Here are three things to look out for when the Seahawks and Buccaneers meet in Germany on NFL Network and NFL+ on Sunday:
1. Will Smith continue to outperform Brady? It’s getting to the point where the NFL may have to start making up records for Brady to shatter. He became the first quarterback in history to throw for 100,000 yards (including playoffs) last week, and he surpassed Peyton Manning for the most game-winning drives (55). According to NFL Research, the 45-year-old is just 258 yards away from breaking the record for passing yards in international games and is set to become the first quarterback to start a game in three different countries outside of the United States this week. Those accomplishments are predicated on both massive successes and unparalleled longevity, but Brady has recently found the latter difficult to come by. The seven-time Super Bowl champion has struggled through the first half of the season, posting career lows in passing touchdown percentage (2.5) and passing touchdowns per game (1.1), as well as his second-worst passing yards per attempt mark. Meanwhile, Smith has been the season’s biggest surprise in a season full of them. He leads the NFL with a 73.1 completion percentage, a 14.3% increase over his career average prior to 2022. With a passer rating of 107.2, he currently ranks third in the league. Brady’s rating of 90.5 is his lowest since 2019. Only three other quarterbacks have ever faced Brady with a rating of 15 or higher when entering the game: Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning. Even if their combined record in those matchups is 2-4, that’s impressive company to be in. Can Smith continue his sensational season with another victory?
2.You can only hope to keep Kenneth Walker at bay. As much as Seattle’s fourth-ranked scoring offense is about Smith’s comeback, Walker’s addition to the starting lineup has turned the 12s’ excitement level up to 11. The rooking running back has proven to be the ideal combination of speed and tenacity, with a knack for gaining an extra couple of yards even when he appears to be on his way down. In each of his last five games, he has rushed for more than 50 yards and scored one or more touchdowns. That is the longest running streak by a Seahawks player since Shaun Alexander in 2006-2007. He also joins LaDainian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson, and Julius Jones as the only rookies since 1970 to have 400-plus yards rushing and six or more rushing touchdowns in their first four starts. In other words, the Seahawks struck gold with their second-round pick. They are also aware of it. During Seattle’s four-game winning streak with him as a starter, he has averaged 23.5 touches per game. In Germany, expect another heavy dose of Walker. The Bucs defense has a reputation for suffocating opponents on the ground, but that is just one of many aspects of Tampa Bay’s struggling team that has slipped in 2022. The defense has given up 4.6 yards per carry, which is all the space a talented player like Walker requires.
3.Prepare yourself for the Mike Evans-Chris Godwin show. Brady’s cracking has taken the focus off some of the other flaws in Tampa Bay’s bizarre offense. For starters, the running game has historically been abysmal behind a shaky offensive line. With 60.7 rushing yards per game, the Buccaneers have the lowest average of any team in a single season since 1950. The passing game has flaws, such as 19 dropped passes in nine games, but it remains the path of least resistance for sustaining drives. That’s why Tampa Bay has played it 40 times or more in every game since Week 3. Brady will continue to get the majority of his throws out quickly and to his most trusted pass catchers, Evans and Godwin, despite playing behind his worst offensive line since relocating to Florida. In the last three games, the two wideouts have combined for 71 targets, accounting for 47% of Brady’s ridiculous 151 attempts. In Germany, it’s not unthinkable that every other throw goes to one of them. What is less certain is whether they can cause havoc against a resurrected Seattle defense. During their winning streak, the Seahawks have tightened up their defense, allowing only 16.5 points per game, compared to 30.8 PPG in the first five weeks of the season.