In this weekend's most anticipated game, the Seattle Seahawks square off against the Indianapolis Colts in a battle between two teams filthy with young talent. Both are lead by second year quarterbacks, Russell Wilson for the Seahawks and Andrew Luck for the Colts, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft. On Defense, the Seahawks star player is third year cornerback Richard Sherman, Luck's teammate at Stanford.
So there are similarities and some familiarity between the two squads. And while the Seahawks defense has looked like the NFL's best unit through the season's first four weeks, Indianapolis is no slouch either. They've held their opponents to just 10 combined points over the past two games and, like the Seahawks, they shut down the San Fransico 49ers dangerous offense in a surprise win in week 3, all the more impressive as they were on the road at Candlestick park.
For the Seahawks to pull out the win and improve to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history, they'll need another fine performance from Sherman, who was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month on Thursday. Sherman has two interceptions thus far in 2013, including a crucial game-tying pick six last weekend against the Houston Texans. His assignment this week is even more tough, as he'll likely be covering Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Wayne is off to another strong start in in his 13th season, as his 13.6 yards per catch are his most since 2008. Sherman will need blanket Wayne as he did Anquan Bouldin in week 2 if the Seahawks hope to slow the Colts offense.
Richardson's week 2 trade from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2014 first round pick gave the Colts two of the top three picks from the 2012 draft. Although he scored a TD in his first game against the 49ers, he's off to a slow start with the Colts, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry since joining Indianapolis. Although this is understandable given that he's still becoming familiar with their system, he needs to start producing soon or risk being labeled a bust, particularly since his former team is now 3-0 since the trade.
Marshawn Lynch knows something about that label. After a rough start to his career in Buffalo, Lynch was traded to the Seahawks in 2010 where he resurrected his career en route to becoming one of the franchise's star players. His numbers (3.9 per carry) are down a bit this season, but he's still an explosive runner who can get loose and shake off defenders with the same power he showcased his unforgettable playoff performance against the Saints three years ago.
Russell Wilson has also seen his numbers fall off somewhat compared to the fantastic second half of his rookie year, but as he proved in last week's gutsy comeback win, he's got an uncanny knack at making big things happen when they count, using his breathtaking elusiveness to create plays with his arm. Although he's generally viewed as a traditional pocket passer, Andrew Luck has a surprisingly similar skill-set as Wilson; Luck may not be percieved as a running QB in the mold of Wilson or Washington's Robert Griffin III, but he's already rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns this season and can make nice gains out of broken plays with his underrated quicks.
It's generally accepted that Seattle has the NFL's biggest home field advantage, but the Seahawks have been playing well on the road recently as well. With come-from-behind wins in their first two road games this season, Seattle has proven they have the mental fortitude to withstand deficits and rally their players.
Sunday's game will be their biggest test.