Michael Bennett was asked to analyze where the Seattle Seahawks stand, halfway through defense of their first title and already having to play from behind in the NFC West.
Bennett wasn't interested in playing along. But he does believe the Seahawks are getting closer to the form that made them champions a season ago.
"I'm not a (general manager) so I don't assess the team in that kind of way," Bennett said. "I just go out there and do my job. But I would say we're on the up and up."
The Seahawks (5-3) get another chance to show they're rounding into contention on Sunday, hosting the struggling New York Giants (3-5). Because of a brutal upcoming schedule, facing the Giants is essentially a must-win game for the Seahawks. They still have two games remaining against both Arizona and San Francisco, but already trail the Cardinals by two games in the division.
"You can never run a race looking at someone else and watching them run their race, trying to do what they do," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We're going to run our race, and at the end of the day, people are going to have to come in here and deal with us regardless, so it doesn't matter what they do_if we control what we can control, we'll be where we want to be."
In a similar regard, the Giants can't afford dropping any further behind Philadelphia and Dallas in the NFC East if they have aspirations of contenting. The Giants have the added challenge of flying across the country to play Seattle after a Monday night home game against the Colts.
"A win can do a lot of things for you and put you back on track," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Certainly the challenge is there for us this week, but nevertheless we look forward to it."
Here are other things to watch as the teams meet for the fourth time in five seasons:
GIANT INFIRMARY: Injuries have left New York's secondary signing nearly anyone with a pulse.
Prince Amukamara was the latest defensive back to land on injured reserve with a torn biceps suffered against Indianapolis. His replacement Zack Bowman was taken to a hospital on Thursday to be examined for abdominal pain. Even before Amukamara's injury, the Giants are without Walter Thurmond III and Trumaine McBride at cornerback, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been playing through injuries.
"We're trying to put together a bunch of no-name guys so there isn't any way anybody can prepare for them," Coughlin joked.
WAYWARD WILSON: Russell Wilson was far from his best last week against Oakland. For the first time this season, Wilson completed less than 50 percent of his passes and for a change lacked answers for why he was so off-target against the Raiders.
"It was just an off day," Wilson said. "You get back to the basics and the fundamentals of the game of football and keep growing ... and keep doing whatever it takes to win."
Seattle's passing offense has been in transition since the trade of Percy Harvin. Wilson has not topped 200 yards in the air in three of Seattle's past four games.
PICK PARTY: Manning has not thrown an interception in the last four games, a streak of 145 pass attempts. It's the longest string of Manning's career. But in his last two games against Seattle, Manning has thrown eight interceptions. Manning threw five picks last year in Seattle's shutout victory, and three in a 2011 loss to the Seahawks.
"They don't have to blitz a lot to get a good pass rush and they rely on their front four to get pressure on the quarterback, and their secondary to mix up coverages," Manning said. "They are a talented defense and they have a lot of good players, and they play well."
BECKHAM vs. SHERMAN: Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off the best game of his rookie season with eight catches for 154 yards against the Colts. While it won't be a constant matchup, he'll now be facing off against Sherman after the two-time All-Pro grabbed his first interception of the season last week.
"These are the games you live to play for, the moments you live to play for, to go against the best of the best," Beckham said.
HEALTHY CHOICE: Seattle is about to get a first wave of players back from injuries. Center Max Unger, left tackle Russell Okung, strong safety Kam Chancellor, defensive tackle Jordan Hill and safety Jeron Johnson are expected to return Sunday. Seattle is hopeful of cornerback Byron Maxwell, linebackers Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith, and tight end Zach Miller returning in the coming weeks.
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