4 key matchups in Seahawks home opener versus Cowboys

Seattle once again must deal with a dominant edge rusher and will face one of the league's most athletic quarterbacks.

The Seattle Seahawks will try once again to pick up their first victory of the 2018 season against a talented Dallas Cowboys squad at CenturyLink Field.

Unlike Seattle's prior two opponents, these two franchises know each other very well after playing in Fort Worth last December, as the Seahawks knocked the Cowboys out of playoff contention in the NFC with a 21-12 road win. This particular contest remained a topic of discussion throughout the offseason thanks to trade rumors swirling around safety Earl Thomas, who went into Dallas's locker room after the game and told coach Jason Garrett to "come get me."

Seattle didn't give into Thomas's trade demands and he returned from a holdout only a few days before the regular season opener in Denver. Now, he'll have a chance to impress his potential future employer while roaming Seattle's secondary against a Cowboys team looking to avenge last year's defeat.

Which matchups will ultimately decide who wins this ever-so-important Week 3 battle in the Pacific Northwest?

--Seahawks RT Germain Ifedi vs. Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence: Seemingly every week, Ifedi has had to square off against one of the best pass rushers in football and this week will be no different, as Lawrence posted a career-best 14.5 sacks in 2017 and already has 2.0 sacks this season. The 265-pound defensive end can win matchups versus opposing linemen in a myriad of ways, as he possesses the athleticism and bend to quickly turn the corner on tackles while also being capable of bull-rushing and using hand fighting techniques to discard blocks. He’s guaranteed to be a problem for Ifedi and it’ll be imperative once again for Seattle to provide extra support for the beleaguered tackle with chipping tight ends and running backs.

--Seahawks CB Justin Coleman vs. Cowboys WR Cole Beasley: The Cowboys still are sorting out their 31st ranked passing game after cutting ties with WR Dez Bryant and losing TE Jason Witten to retirement, leaving Beasley as Prescott’s most-trusted remaining target. The diminutive 5-foot-8, 180-pound Beasley has made quite the career for himself working out of the slot, and though he had a down season in 2017, he’s only two years removed from catching a career-high 75 receptions in Prescott’s rookie campaign. He’s been kept relatively quiet in Dallas’s first two games and historically hasn’t fared well against the Seahawks, but his precise route running skills and reliable hands will provide quite the test for Coleman on Sunday. If outside receivers struggle to get open against Seahawks corners Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers, Prescott will lean on Beasley as his go-to option.

--Seahawks TE Will Dissly and TE Nick Vannett vs. Cowboys linebackers: It’s no secret Seattle has struggled to get the football to its receivers during the first two weeks of the season. Consequently, Russell Wilson has leaned more heavily on tight ends than expected, with Dissly putting on a clinic with over 140 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the Seahawks first two games. The Cowboys defense has been flying all over the field and shutting down opponents, but they did have some trouble covering Giants TE Evan Engram last week, giving up six receptions for over 70 yards and a touchdown. Neither Dissly nor Vannett has the same athletic talents as Engram, but they’re both respectable athletes with superior size and quality hands as receivers. Seattle should be game planning to try to take advantage of mismatches created against Dallas’s linebackers in the passing game.

--Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner vs. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: Pete Carroll created plenty of noise with his latest comments on why RB Chris Carson didn’t log a carry in the second half on Monday night as well as admitting his “impatience” caused Seattle to abandon the run game in the third quarter. But he’s clearly concerned about Prescott’s ability to impact Sunday’s game with his rushing ability, as he should be. The third-year quarterback has rushed 12 times for 56 yards so far this season and Carroll pointed out the biggest difference he’s seen in the Cowboys’ offense compared to when the two teams met last December has been incorporating designed runs for him. The Seahawks had some issues with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky when he extended plays with his legs last week, as he rushed five times for 24 yards, including an impressive 17-yard scramble to pick up a first down. Already dealing with one of the best running backs in football in Ezekiel Elliott behind respectable Dallas offensive line, Seattle will likely have Wagner play spy coverage at times against Prescott to try to limit his effectiveness escaping the pocket as a runner.

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