The Seahawks are set for their final regular season matchup of the season, a Week 17 road game against the San Francisco 49ers. Sunday’s contest will either carry massive importance or mean nothing at all. There is no in between.
Thus, here are the five storylines you should be monitoring.
1. Will Seattle come out flat?
The Seahawks Week 16 win over the Rams should have eliminated most concerns surrounding the team’s ability to make a run in the playoffs. However, no fan wants to see Seattle snoozing on either side of the football against a depleted 49ers roster.
Pete Carroll said that no player outside of Greg Olsen will rest to open the game, meaning the Seahawks will have no excuse not to be up comfortably at halftime.
2. Will Brandon Shell play?
Shell doesn’t carry an injury designation going into Sunday, meaning his ankle is good to go. The one caveat is that Shell came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Carroll shared on Friday that he wasn’t sure whether or not Shell would be able to travel with Seattle.
3. Will the rest of the starters play the full game?
This is the biggest one. Seattle, like the rest of us, will be scoreboard watching on Sunday. The Seahawks have a chance to earn the No. 1 or No. 2 seed depending on whether the Packers (vs. Bears) and/or Saints (vs. Panthers) lose on Sunday. While both teams are heavy favorites, there have been some recent developments that could make an upset more plausible.
Packers star left tackle David Bakhtiari tore his ACL in practice this week and is done for the season. Saints star running back Alvin Kamara tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s entire running back room is now out for the game due to contact tracing.
Should the Packers and Saints be up comfortably at halftime, the Seahawks would be wise to rest every starter possible in the second half. However, if even one of those games is within striking distance, you’ll see Russell Wilson and Co. play all four quarters.
4. Will we get an extended look at Rashaad Penny?
Even though Carroll vowed to treat this game as business as usual, it still makes too much sense to limit Chris Carson’s workload. There’s a chance that Carlos Hyde (non-Covid-related illness) won’t be able to play, which would make resting Carson a bit tougher. Regardless, this should be the game we get an extended look at Rashaad Penny.
Penny has received just a handful of snaps in his two games since returning from an ACL tear. This is a great spot to get him extra work prior to the playoffs. Brian Schottenheimer said he is anticipating a “breakout moment” for Penny in the near future. We might see it on Sunday.
5. Will Tre Flowers see the field?
D.J. Reed has earned the right to remain the starter at right corner upon Flowers’ return. But Seattle might want to get Flowers a series or two in order to knock some of the rust off following his four-game absence due to a hamstring injury.