When: 1:05 p.m. PT Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
- Seahawks 12–4
- Cardinals 11–5
- Rams 7–9
- 49ers 5–11
- Seahawks 12–4
- Cardinals 12–4
- Rams 7–9
- 49ers 4–12
Now that we’ve digested a full slate of practice games and the typical flurry of roster machinations, do things look any different? If anything, I am tempted to raise my predicted wins for the Seahawks and Cardinals due to the ongoing quarterback problems in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I won’t, but I will downgrade my predictions for the California teams to 6–10 (Rams) and 3–13 (49ers).
Jess, how would you revise your predictions for the Seahawks’ NFC West competition, if at all?
Ridpath: I hate to start off the regular season by agreeing with you. But if I were to make any changes, I’d also downgrade the Rams and 49ers a bit. For the official He said / she said record, however, I’ll stick with my earlier predictions. If for no other reason than to have something to brag about when I’m right at the end of the season.
Outside of diehard Dolphins fans, I don’t think we’ll find anyone picking Miami over Seattle this Sunday. Yet I can’t help but wonder if Adam Gase’s crew won’t make it a tougher fight than expected. According to Dolphins owner Steve Ross, quarterback Ryan Tannehill finally has a coach who believes in him. He also has an offensive line that might actually be able to protect him, having been sacked only once during the preseason. Russell Wilson took far fewer snaps than Tannehill, but found himself in the dirt four times.
Julian, would you give Miami the o-line advantage? And if so, how will Seattle make up for it?
Rogers: If we are comparing the Seahawks’ offensive line to anyone’s, the advantage goes to the anyones. Until proven otherwise, they are the 32nd-ranked line in the league. But when comparing the offensive line to the front sevens they’ll face, the blue birds have a chance to change that ongoing perception as early as this week against the Dolphins’ spotty (22nd-ranked, according to Pro Football Focus) front seven.
The Seahawks actually get to go up against some of the softest front sevens at the outset of the season: The 23rd-ranked San Francisco 49ers in week three and the 28th-ranked Atlanta Falcons in week six, in addition to the Dolphins. They will face much stiffer tests in week two against the pesky, 4th-ranked Los Angeles Rams and the 10th-ranked New York Jets in week four. Week five is a bye.
I expect Russell Wilson will have many opportunities to wow us again with his ability to evade rushing linemen and linebackers. That’s a concern. The Seahawks have put all their quarterback chips on the health of Wilson. Undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin is the only other quarterback on the roster. The 12s may look upon Boykin as one of the preseason’s darlings — and he was a nice story — but the numbers say “we still have Tarvaris Jackson’s phone number, right?”: 52 percent completion rate; 68.9 QB rating.
For what it’s worth, the anointed preseason darling quarterback for 2016 was … Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins.
Jess, let’s play a little rapid-fire word game. Fill in the blank: Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael will …
Ridpath: … make the most of the squishy front sevens you mentioned (including the Dolphins, who allowed 4.3 yards per rush in the preseason). 12s have been eagerly awaiting Rawls’ return, but it’s Michael who will get the start in week one. I think that’s a good call.
Leading up to the 2016 season, all eyes had been on Rawls (who has been rehabbing a broken ankle). But this is shaping up to be an unexpected battle for the role of Heir to the Beast. While Rawls made but a token appearance at the very end of the preseason, Michael logged an impressive six yards per preseason carry and has momentum on his side. He’s in a good position to give Rawls a run for his money — and that can only be a good thing for the Seahawks.
Word games, eh Julian? How about a little free word association: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Seahawks receiving corps (namely Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett)?
Rogers: This is the year of Lockett. In terms of offensive focus and productivity, I expect him to quickly surpass Kearse this season. Ultimately, he may even surpass Baldwin by the end of the season. Although it won’t be easy. According to Pro Football Focus, Doug Baldwin averaged 10.3 yards per target, the most by any player with more than 100 targets in 2015.
Baldwin and Kearse have developed great chemistry with Wilson — something the two most outwardly talented receivers on the Seahawks’ roster (Jimmy Graham, Lockett) lack — but this should be the season where both get in lock-step with their quarterback, barring injury. Speaking of injury, it appears Graham won’t be available for this game.
The wild card is Paul Richardson. This should be the year (his third) where he puts his injury history behind him and stakes a claim as a weapon of note. Richardson and Lockett bring the speed element that can help stretch defenses for the running game and Wilson’s short-to-intermediate timing passing, which blossomed late last season in the blue birds’ 6 –1 closing stretch.
Jess, the Dolphins are traveling a long way to play in Seattle on Sunday. What about them concerns you?
Ridpath: My biggest concern is something you already mentioned: keeping Russell Wilson healthy. The Dolphins have two particular assets that make me nervous for Russ in game 1:
- Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh has the potential to make life difficult/painful for any quarterback — whether by breaking through for sacks or taking on the double team and thereby freeing up his teammates for the sack. Seahawk Justin Britt is taking on a new role at center and is bookended by a rookie (Germaine Ifedi) and newbie with one career start (Mark Glowinski). No doubt Suh is eyeing them like a lion eyes fresh meat. Plus, having been criticized for not playing with the same “unfiltered aggression” that he had when he was a Lion (of the Detroit variety), I expect he’ll view Sunday’s game as an opportunity to show he’s still got it. Fingers crossed that he doesn’t intentionally try to hurt someone.
- Former Seahawk cornerback Byron Maxwell, who landed in Miami by way of Philadelphia, knows what makes Wilson, Carroll, and the rest of the Seattle squad tick. This insider knowledge could prove to be an advantage — not to mention that facing his former teammates will likely put some extra fire in his belly. You know he wants this game bad.
Miami receiver Jarvis Landry (110 catches for 1,157 yards in 2015) is a legitimate threat on the offensive side. But his supporting cast is a bit thin. Four-year-pro Kenny Stills showed some spark in the preseason (8 catches for 124 yards), but still has a long way to go to prove himself in his second year as a Dolphin. DeVante Parker only had four preseason catches and has been plagued by injuries since being drafted in the first round last year. The rest of the Dolphins receiving corps includes names I’d never heard before: Justin Hunter (slightly more than 1,100 receiving yards in three years as a pro), Jakeem Grant and Leonte Carroo (both rookies).
This leaves Landry with a heavy load to carry, and I expect the Legion of Boom will have no problem making it even heavier.
Time for predictions, Julian. I’m going to graciously give you the last word. Don’t get used to it. Although Miami poses some challenges, Seattle should win this one handily. Prediction: Seattle 27, Miami 13.
Rogers: You said “Leonte Carroo.” I think you’re just making up words. Former Seahawk Maxwell may know the Seahawks’ offense, yes. But that’s quite different from being able to do anything about it. I can’t think of a bigger possible upset in the first week of the 2016 season than if the Dolphins manage to come away from Seattle with a win. They won’t.
There is no greater mismatch on paper than the Seahawks at home against the Dolphins, who haven’t finished above .500 since 2008, and are now breaking in a new coach & regime. For that last reason, they’re a bit of a wild card. Despite the potential surprises from an unfamiliar opponent, the talent differences between the two teams are stark. Prediction: Seattle 30, Miami 16. Bonus prediction: Seahawks get a cushy start to the season. They will go, at a minimum, 3–1 — a huge contrast to last year’s 2–4 start.
© Julian Rogers & Jessica Ridpath | @thehitjob