Countdown to kickoff

OAKLAND – Ghoulish greetings from Oakland Coliseum, the closest thing in the NFL to a haunted house. It is against this backdrop of macabre-costumed Raiders fans that the Seahawks are preparing to play a Halloween game which has definite trick-or-treat trappings.

The Seahawks are looking to win three games in a row since the second half of the 2007 season, and start 5-2 for first time since 2005. They finally broke their road bugaboo by beating the Bears in Chicago two weeks ago – the first time they had beaten a team with a winning record in a game that started at 10 a.m. Seattle time since winning at Minnesota in Week 14 of the 2004 season.

“I think that’s a huge confidence boost for us, doing that,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said during the week. “But I don’t know that it’s ever been a big issue when we stayed on the West Coast. I thing the issue or the drama came in when it was that early game and everyone was talking about it, and talking about not talking about it and all that kind of stuff.”

No, the spooky aspect of today’s game is playing a Raiders team that is brimming with confidence after slapping a franchise-record 59 points on the Broncos in Denver last week. Remember, the Seahawks lost to the Broncos 31-14 in Denver in Week 2.

With the Raiders, there’s all that speed, all that talent and all the potential distractions – starting with the festive fans who dress like it’s Halloween for every game, and revel in being able to get inside the helmets of opposing players.

“We don’t want that to be any factor at all in how we play,” coach Pete Carroll told his players during their Saturday morning meeting.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on, when the TV cameras aren’t showing those potential distractions in the stands – especially the Black Hole, as the stands in the south end zone is known.

Nnamdi Asomugha vs. Mike Williams: One school of thought is that you just don’t throw at the Raiders’ Pro Bowl cornerback, who has allowed five completions in seven games. But that goes against the Seahawks’ favorite line all week: “We just have to worry about what we do.” What Hasselbeck has done best in the past two games is get the ball to Williams – a club-record 21 times for 210 yards. Rather than shy away from the receiver the 6-foot-2 Asomugha is covering – and you can expect it to be the 6-5 Williams – go at him early to see if he really is up to the task against a receiver who can match his length and size. You can read more about Williams vs. Asomugha here.

John Carlson vs. Zach Miller: Miller isn’t just the Raiders’ leading receiver, he ranks fourth among tight ends in the league in receptions (33) and second in touchdown catches (four). He will be a handful for strong-side linebacker Aaron Curry, strong safety Lawyer Milloy, nickel back Jordan Babineaux and whoever else gets matched against him. Carlson has been the flipside at tight end for the Seahawks. He was the team’s leading receiver through three games with 13 receptions. But he has caught only four passes in the past three games. Carlson had a solid week of practice, and now needs to carry that over to the game. As Hasselbeck put it when asked about his tight end, “He’s another guy where he just needs to maximize his opportunities and then you’re going to get more opportunities.”

The Seahawks’ No. 2-ranked run defense vs. Darren McFadden: The Seahawks allowed season highs of 113 rushing yards and 5.7 yards per carry against the Cardinals last week, but they still rank second in the league in both categories (77.5 and 3.3). McFadden is coming off a 165-yard, four-touchdown effort against the Broncos, and he presents a combination of size and speed that the Seahawks have not seen this season. For more on McFadden vs. the Seahawks’ run defense, click here.

Marshawn Lynch vs. the moment: The Seahawks’ “Beast Mod” running back grew up in Oakland and played at Cal. He played here once in high school, but this is his first time as a pro – and his whole family will be watching. Getting his physical presence going early will help everything the Seahawks are hoping to do this afternoon. For more on Lynch’s homecoming, click here.

The injury list: Expect the Seahawks to be without first-round draft choice Russell Okung, who sprained an ankle against the Cardinals. But they’ve played without him already this season, with Tyler Polumbus stepping in at left tackle in the first three games and again in the second halves against the Rams and Cardinals. But cornerbacks Kelly Jennings (hamstring) and Walter Thurmond (head) also sat out practice all week. So Roy Lewis could get his first NFL start at right cornerback. For more in the Seahawks injury situation, click here.

It’s a gorgeous fall day here, and we’ll be back later with the inactives …


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