Feelings of excitement, anxiety, and a sense of urgency abound for the Seattle Seahawks and their fans as they head into the home opener against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Both of these teams lost their opening games to Green Bay and Carolina respectively, as they combined for four field goals. That’s one of the reasons why this game has such a must-win feel to it in Week 2 as both teams have to start playing well immediately.
When you go into Lambeau Field and hold Aaron Rodgers to 17 points like the Seahawks’ defense did you need to come out of that game with a win period. Unfortunately, the worst offensive line in the NFL (by a longshot) lived up to its reputation as Seattle could not get anything going offensively, managing just 225 total yards in the 17-9 loss to the Packers. Russell Wilson was constantly running for his life and the running game was ordinary at best. Head coach Pete Carroll did express disappointment in the play of the offensive line and made it clear no one other than center Justin Britt was guaranteed playing time moving forward.
San Francisco had a rough opener last Sunday at Levi’s Stadium as the Carolina Panthers cruised to a 23-3 victory in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s debut. The inability to run the ball hurt the 49ers a great deal as Carlos Hyde had 45 rushing yards on nine carries. Quarterback Brian Hoyer completed 24 of 35 passes for 193 yards with one interception. Defensively, San Francisco is going to have to improve on third down as Carolina was 7-for-13 in those situations. The 49ers are going to have to find a way to get off the field to take a step forward this season.
San Francisco at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 17 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seattle -13.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks’ offensive tempo
Pushing the tempo offensively may be a short-term answer to give the Seattle offensive line a chance to succeed. On the drive that resulted in the third Blair Walsh field goal last week against Green Bay, the Seahawks went to more of a no-huddle approach and moved the ball consistently and avoided negative plays. With the inexperience along the offensive line it might be smarter to just to make the entire offensive scheme as simple as possible so the players can just go out and play without having to overthink everything. In addition, with players like Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, and Tyler Lockett it makes a lot more sense to have a quick-strike offense that lets them go make plays until a truly legitimate No. 1 running back emerges.
2. Brian Hoyer’s first trip to CenturyLink Field
This is going to be fun to watch as Hoyer will be venturing into a hornet’s nest on Sunday as the 12s are ruthless on quarterbacks with crowd noise. It will be important for San Francisco to try to get into a quick rhythm in the passing game by getting the ball to Pierre Garcon. Staying on schedule and not getting behind the sticks with negative plays will help Hoyer as well to keep the Seahawks’ defensive line at bay. Carlos Hyde and the running game also will be Hoyer’s best friend on Sunday as the 49ers can’t get impatient and ditch that part of their offense too soon. Taking care of the football must happen for Hoyer as the catastrophic turnover just simply can’t happen against the Legion of Boom.
3. Seahawks’ secondary vs. 49ers’ receivers
A healthy Earl Thomas makes a significant difference for the Seahawks. Thomas, earned an 85.2 grade from Pro Football Focus in Week 1 as he was all over the place against the Packers. Richard Sherman is battling a hamstring injury, but should be ready to play on Sunday. Sherman should be matched up against Garcon in what will be a tightly contested battle anytime Garcon gets the ball thrown his way. Rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin is going to be tested as well against guys like Marquise Goodwin. The key for Griffin will be to not get burned by the deep ball as I would suspect that San Francisco will take shots deep early in the game to test the third-round pick out of UCF.
Weather could play a role in the outcome of this game as the Seattle area is expected to get some significant rainfall for the first time since June. Consequently, ball security will be something to watch for both teams. Expect some extra aggression by both teams to try and rip the ball out to create turnovers. Personnel-wise the Seahawks have a better overall team than the 49ers. But, with the offensive line being such a question mark for Seattle it should allow this to stay a competitive game into the second half. Look for the Seahawks to wear down San Francisco in the second half and pull away for a comfortable victory to get back .500 on the season.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, 49ers 10
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.