Its must-win Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears as both teams are off to 0-2 starts. The Seahawks had a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field last Sunday against Green Bay, but they just could not slow down Aaron Rodgers late, as the Packers pulled away for a 27-17 win. Consequently, Seattle now has its back against the wall moving forward this season if Pete Carroll's team is going to get one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs.
The Bears are in a transition season for first-year head coach John Fox and are looking to find their way defensively as they have allowed 79 points in two games. Then, on top of that they will be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who is out for multiple weeks due to a hamstring injury. Backup Jimmy Clausen will be under the center at CenturyLink Field. This creates a very ominous uphill battle for Chicago to try and send the Seahawks to 0-3 in front of an angry group of 12s.
Chicago at Seattle
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Seattle -15 O/U 45
Three Things to Watch
1. Kam Chancellor returns
Common sense finally prevailed in the ongoing Chancellor saga, as he finally reported to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center and got back to work. For Chancellor, the mission is going to be plain and simple - he needs to go out and make plays and act like the leader that he thinks he is. It is also going to be very fascinating to see what type of reaction he gets on Sunday from the crowd if the defense is introduced first. The odds are that Chancellor will get a mixed reaction from the crowd if the Seattle sports radio caller sample size is any indication, as callers were not so quick to forgive Chancellor right away.
2. Getting Jimmy Graham involved early
After only targeting the All-Pro tight end just twice last week in the loss to Green Bay the question has to be asked why go out and acquire an elite pass-catching playmaker like Graham if you are not going to use him. On Friday, Graham did his part to downplay reports that he is frustrated with his role in the Seahawks' offense in response to a report earlier in the week he was “pissed off” about his role. It would be a wise decision by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Carroll to get Graham touches early on in this game, especially in the red zone. Otherwise, the Seahawks will run the risk of this becoming a potential chemistry issue within the locker room if they don’t take a proactive approach to use Graham properly as a pass catcher.
3. Seahawks' running game
With Marshawn Lynch battling a calf issue that puts him as a game-time decision, it will be a great opportunity to turn Fred Jackson loose if Lynch is unable to go. Jackson has the ability as a runner and especially as a pass catcher out of the backfield to help keep the chains moving if Lynch can’t play. Russell Wilson also needs to continually be let loose with the read-option packages. The Seahawks offensively started to get into a nice rhythm in the third quarter against the Packers when they scored 14 points as a result of Wilson using his legs more with the zone-read element of the offense. Also, a concerted effort to pound the football down the throats of a suspect Bears defense should give some confidence to a Seahawks offensive line that needs to continue to grow as a unit and running the football is the best recipe to jumpstart that.
This should be a very straightforward type of home opener for Seattle, as Chicago just simply does not have the horses to stay with the Seahawks over the course of 60 minutes. An ideal start would be to put together an opening, 10-play, 75-yard drive that's finished off with a Jimmy Graham touchdown to put the Bears down early. Then defensive coordinator Kris Richard needs to allow his charges to go aggressively after Clausen, who will be making just his second start in the last five seasons. The end result of this game if it goes to plan should have Tavaris Jackson getting some playing time in the fourth quarter and Seattle should easily cover the 15-point spread on Sunday with a confidence-building win.
Prediction: Seattle 41, Chicago 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow him on Twitter @scottwhittum.