After narrowly escaping with an ugly 12-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks (1-1) head back on the road to take on the Tennessee Titans (1-1) in a battle of two potential playoff teams.
Seattle ran 79 offensive plays for 312 total yards against a 49er defense that is not what you would call elite. The inability to create big explosive plays in the both the running and passing game has hurt this team a great deal. Also, the inability to use players like Jimmy Graham effectively and not spending wisely on the offensive line has created this mess. Now, the question is what can head coach Pete Carroll and the offensive staff do about it as the season could get away from the Seahawks very quickly if they don’t get the inconsistency of the offense addressed.
Tennessee took care of business last week on the road at Jacksonville in a 37-16 win to even its record on the season. Marcus Mariota completed 15 of 27 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. Derrick Henry led the rushing attack with 14 carries for 92 yards. Turnovers were another difference-maker for the Titans against the Jaguars, as they forced three to help break the game open in the second half. This matchup at home with Seattle is arguably a must-win for Tennessee who will play three of the next four on the road.
Seattle at Tennessee
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 24 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Tennessee -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks’ defense against the Tennessee running game
Look for Tennessee to try and wear down the Seattle defense by pounding the rock repeatedly in the running game. The 49ers broke off some big runs with Carlos Hyde against the Seahawks, as San Francisco finished with 159 rushing yards at 8.4 yards per carry. Derrick Henry should get the bulk of the carries even if DeMarco Murray, who is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, plays. Discipline is going to be very important for the Seattle defense as the players must execute their assignments and not let Henry get into the second level. In addition, containing Marcus Mariota in the pocket and not letting him get out on the perimeter will give the Seahawks a great shot to win. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are going to have to step up and have huge games as the Titans have a quality offensive line that can take over games.
2. Dick LeBeau’s defense against the Seattle offense
The Seahawks’ beleaguered offensive line is going to have another fun challenge on its hand as Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau is going to throw every look imaginable at them. Russell Wilson is going to have to do an excellent job of changing plays when necessary to lower the chances of blown assignments up front. Running the football at a high level also will be important to keep the Titans’ defense honest. Chris Carson was one of the bright spots for Seattle last week with 93 rushing yards on 20 carries. If he can replicate that type of production on Sunday it should help the Seahawks find their rhythm. It also will set up Wilson to go to work in the passing game and get that going as that element of the offense has been underwhelming so far in 2017.
3. Taking care of the football
For both Seattle and Tennessee to make a Super Bowl run each team is going to have to do a great job of taking care of the football and cause some turnovers. The Seahawks and Titans are plus-one and plus-two, respectively, in turnover margin so far in 2017. When Seattle has been truly it has dominated the turnover battle, and set the offense up with short fields. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the rest of the Legion of the Boom will be looking to get off the mat and have a huge game against Mariota. Offensively, for Tennessee look for the Titans to take what the Seahawks’ defense gives them to lower their risk of unnecessarily turning the football over on Sunday.
A fast start would benefit Seattle a great deal on Sunday as temperatures will are forecast to be hot and humid. If the Seahawks must stay on the field defensively for 80-85 plays then they will be in big trouble. Thus, consistency on both sides of the ball and winning the field position battle must happen for Seattle to pull out a victory. In the end, it will be more of the same as the defense will play well for the Seahawks, but not well enough as the offense needs to prove it can put together 60 quality minutes. Marcus Mariota and the Titans will do just enough to win a tightly contested battle.
Prediction: Titans 19, Seahawks 17
— 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.