Teams facing the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers tend to focus on containing those teams' strong running games. This could be opening up first-down opportunities for quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Alex Smith. Seattle's Wilson is completing 69.9 percent of his passes on first down. Smith is completing a league-high 76.1 percent. Each quarterback has five first-down scoring passes. Only Peyton Manning (94.6) ranks higher than Wilson (84.92) and Smith (84.86) in Total QBR on first down this season. Wilson faces a Jets defense ranked 11th in first-down QBR allowed (56.2). Smith faces a Rams defense that ranks sixth in that category (50.5 allowed).
Leon Washington, with a career-high 29.1 yards per kickoff return, will face his former team for the first time.
A horrific leg injury derailed Leon Washington's promising tenure with the Jets in 2009. Washington, now in his third season with the Seahawks, gets a shot at his former team for the first time Sunday. He is averaging 29.1 yards per kickoff return, which would be a career high for a single season. He owns seven career kickoff returns for touchdowns, but hasn't taken one all the way back since 2010, before the NFL moved kickoffs back to the 35-yard line to facilitate touchbacks in the name of player safety. The Jets allowed a 104-yard kickoff return for a score to New England's Devin McCourty this season, but they still rank a respectable 14th in yards allowed per kick return.
This is a big week for St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long. He's coming off subpar games against Green Bay and New England. The Rams will need him at his best against emerging 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis. Two years ago, when Davis was a rookie, Long schooled him memorably. Davis is the one getting acclaim lately, showing up on various midseason all-star lists. Long had 13 sacks last season. He has four through eight games in 2012. The Rams are counting on him to show up Sunday. They gave him a contract extension worth more than $12 million per season because they thought he could win matchups like the one he faces against Davis.
The Rams-49ers game is one of two this week featuring quarterbacks drafted first overall. Peyton Manning and Cam Newton square off in the other. Manning has a 27-9 starting record against teams featuring No. 1 overall picks in the lineup, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Only Terry Bradshaw has a better record in such matchups among No. 1 overall quarterbacks with at least five matchups. The 49ers' Smith is 5-3 in these games, fourth-best behind Bradshaw, Manning and John Elway among qualifying top picks. The Rams' Sam Bradford hasn't faced the 49ers since 2010, when he went 1-1 against them. Troy Smith, not Alex Smith, started those 2010 games for the 49ers.