With both teams desperate for a win, the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders will rekindle their long-time AFC West rivalry at Wembley Stadium in London.
The two franchises haven't played since 2014 and now only meet every four seasons due to divisional realignment, but the Seahawks and Raiders share plenty of commonalities heading into this contest.
Each team has started the 2018 season slow, as Seattle limped to an 0-2 start out of the gate and Oakland has managed to lose several winnable games falling to 1-4. Two of the Raiders most prominent players, running back Marshawn Lynch and linebacker Bruce Irvin, starred for Seattle's back-to-back NFC Championship squads in 2013 and 2014, leaving coach Jon Gruden to say he wants to "try to get more" ex-Seahawks in the future.
Both organizations have also swapped out coaches, as the Raiders brought back former head coach Tom Cable as Gruden's new offensive line coach. Meanwhile, Seattle hired former Oakland defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to the same position as a replacement for Kris Richard.
Heading into Sunday's decisive game, which matchups will ultimately decide who secures a much-needed victory across the pond?
--Seahawks DE Frank Clark vs. Raiders LT Kolton Miller: The Raiders have been dealing with an injury epidemic at the tackle spots offensively, already losing veteran Donald Penn to injured reserve last week. Now Miller reportedly has a Grade II MCL sprain which he struggled to play through against the Chargers. Even with their best pass rusher in Joey Bosa sidelined, the Chargers overwhelmed the first-round pick out of UCLA, as he surrendered three sacks. Oakland has been starting two rookies at the tackle spots and Miller was limited at practice throughout the week. If he’s not close to 100 percent, this could be a nightmare matchup working against Clark, who has 3.0 sacks and five quarterback hits this season so far.
--Seahawks receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett vs. Raiders cornerbacks: Baldwin has been injured most of the year and has only six receptions for 42 yards in three games, but this could be the ideal game for the Pro Bowler to find his groove. 2016 first-round pick Gareon Conley has seen his snap count diminish in recent weeks due to poor play and the return of veteran Daryl Worley from suspension last week relegated him to the sideline most of Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. Veteran Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie appears to be on the downside of his career, while Rashaan Melvin is a journeyman who has played for six NFL teams in six seasons. With the Raiders experimenting to find the right mix at cornerback, both Baldwin and the speedy Lockett could capitalize on the dysfunction with big plays in the passing game.
--Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner vs. Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch: Once teammates for four seasons in Seattle, Wagner will have his first crack at tackling “Beast Mode” out of Oakland’s backfield, though it won’t be an easy task. The 32-year old running back has shown no signs of slowing down, rushing for 331 yards in the Raiders first five games and still bulldozing through opponents on a consistent basis. Wagner remains one of the premier linebackers in football, recording 27 tackles in four games so far this season, and he’s indicated he’s ready to dish the punishment to his friend and former teammate-turned-adversary. Something has to give in this heavyweight battle, which should be one of the most exciting head-to-head matchups to watch at Wembley on Sunday.
--Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Raiders safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson: Stopping the run has been a problem, but pass defense hasn’t been much better for the Raiders. Oakland ranks 23rd in passing yards surrendered per game and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to average 8.9 yards per pass attempt, good for 29th in the league. Wilson hasn’t been throwing a ton of passes with Chris Carson and Mike Davis running the football so effectively, but he torched the Rams with vertical pass plays last week, hitting Lockett for a 39-yard touchdown and later finding receiver David Moore for a 30-yard score. If Seattle’s offensive line continues to play well and limits Oakland’s pedestrian pass rush, Wilson should have sufficient time in the pocket to throw downfield, allowing him to exploit Gilchrist, Nelson, and potentially Karl Joseph as coverage safeties.