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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Seattle can be best of the West at Wembley

Fit-again Doug Baldwin could add to impressive touchdown tally

Doug Baldwin has scored 29 touchdowns since 2015
1 of 1

Week Six
BBC Two and Sky Sports Action, 6pm Sunday

The Seahawks and Raiders are a long way from home as they prepare to face off in the first west-coast NFL showdown at Wembley on Sunday.

Home comforts have been a crucial indicator to the outcome when these sides have met in the past, with the hosts winning their last 11 regular-season clashes.

Oakland are the official home team on this occasion, but that is in name only and Seattle can add to new Raiders coach Jon Gruden's worries.

The shock pre-season trade that saw star pass-rusher Khalil Mack depart for Chicago has left the Oakland defence struggling to make big plays and they have earned just five turnovers this season.

Their quarterback Derek Carr has thrown eight interceptions, the most in the league, and their inability to win the turnover battle has been a key factor to their 1-4 record - their only win was a 45-42 overtime success against Cleveland that they might easily have lost too.

It's been a tough return to coaching so far for Jon Gruden

Jon Gruden’s side certainly have the players to be a competitive team, and an offence boasting the likes of former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper deserves respect.

But their second-half slumps have been a huge issue, and losing their opening three games after leading each at half-time is a problem that urgently needs addressing.

The Seahawks have not been flying themselves this season. They have a 2-3 record but they have posted some creditable performances, notably pushing the unbeaten Rams to the limit last week before being edged out 33-31. They have also suffered close defeats at Denver and Chicago.

Pete Carroll’s side looked to be facing a period of decline at the start of the year, but they could yet establish themselves as wildcard contenders if they continue to play to the standard they have been showing.

However victory in London is imperative in keeping those aspirations alive, and the return of star receiver Doug Baldwin from a knee injury could prove to be a difference-maker.

Baldwin's contribution to the Seattle offence is often overlooked as they are a run-heavy team, But the undrafted 30-year-old is a regular in the end zone and currently has the third-most receiving touchdowns since 2015, headed only by Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins.

The Seahawks practice at their training camp in Watford on Thursday

Having him back is a huge boost for Russell Wilson and the offence, and Baldwin may be worth backing to earn his first score of the season against a Raiders defence who are ranked 30th in the league.

Seattle have proven to be dangerous front-runners over the years, and with Oakland’s second-half struggles in mind they can punish the Silver & Black if they get off to a hot start.

Recommendations
Seattle
2pts 3-4 Betfair
D Baldwin to score a touchdown
1pt 6-4 Sky Bet


The lowdown
Venue Wembley Stadium, London, England
Surface Grass
Weather Light rain, 13C
Vegas handicap Seattle -2.5
Vegas points line 48.5

Team news
Seattle
Linebacker KJ Wright (knee) and defensive end Rasheem Green (ankle) have been ruled out. Defensive end Dion Jordan (knee) and tight end Nick Vannett (back) are rated questionable.

Oakland
Guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (neck) are doubtful. Safety Karl Joseph (hamstring) is rated questionable. Offensive tackle Kolton Miller (knee) is another injury concern.

Key stat 
Seattle have won the last 48 games which they led by four or more points at half-time.


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The undrafted 30-year-old is a regular in the endzone and currently has the third-most receiving touchdowns since 2015
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