The NFL season begins Thursday night, but Seattle Seahawks fans will have to wait until Sunday morning to see what their 2020 squad looks like on the field.
The Seahawks first challenge of the year will be against the Atlanta Falcons—a team that has extensive knowledge and familiarity on Russell Wilson and how he runs the Seahawks offense.
Atlanta saw several personnel changes this offseason. Most notably, adding star running back Todd Gurley, to complement Matt Ryan and Julio Jones on the Falcons offense.
As the season gets underway, let’s take a look around the NFL at What They’re Saying about the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons ahead of the two teams’ meeting in Week 1.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal predicts a very close season-opener between the Seahawks and Falcons at Mercedes Benz Stadium. He picks Atlanta to win narrowly 24-23 over Seattle.
"Slow starts have plagued Pete Carroll and his former assistant Dan Quinn," Rosenthal writes. "There's no telling how an actual plague-like virus will impact that, but one of them gets to start 1-0 on Sunday. This will be our first peak at whether the Seahawks have any interest in letting Russ cook with a higher volume of throws earlier in games this season and whether Carroll finally moves off his base defense of three linebackers after a strong camp by expected nickel corner Marquise Blair. The Falcons hope their defensive improvement under coordinator Raheem Morris late last season carries over, with an ideal first matchup to do so. This reconfigured Seahawks offensive line looks like birdseed for Grady Jarrett, Takk McKinley and sneaky good free-agent pickup Dante Fowler."
Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports also picked the Falcons over the Seahawks, noting Pete Carroll’s history on the road when starting the season.
“I truly believe the Falcons, led by Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, have turned things around after the dismal 2019 start,” Jones wrote. “I actually have Atlanta back in the playoffs this year as part of a three-team NFC South group...
One of the most intriguing headlines ahead of Week 1 is whether the Seahawks will be able to generate a pass rush with Jadeveon Clowney no longer in Seattle. The Seahawks ranked dead-to-last with only 28 sacks in 2019.
Here’s what ESPN’s Brady Henderson had to say about Seattle’s defensive additions and the 2020 outlook on the pass rush.
“It was their biggest deficiency in 2019, as they turned in one of their worst defensive performances of the Pete Carroll era,” Henderson wrote. “The Seahawks could have the NFL's best secondary after trading for Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar. They spent a first-round pick on Jordyn Brooks, who joins All-Pro Bobby Wagner in a deep linebacker corps. But their pass rush has a handful of complementary pieces and no obvious primary threat like Jadeveon Clowney. One of those pieces, second-round pick Darrell Taylor, has been hurt.”
Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams were on opposite sides of the NFC West for the past few years, but now he’s the lead back in Atlanta. The 26-year-old former All Pro has struggled health-wise in recent games, but that doesn’t mean the Seahawks are preparing for him any different.
“We know what to expect of him, it doesn’t matter what jersey he’s wearing,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “He’s a great back. I definitely feel like he’s going to open up, whether it’s in the pass game, run game, they’re gonna use him all over the field because he’s that talented. We just have to be ready as far as tackling, that’s our job...
Likewise, the Falcons will have their hands full with Seahawks escape artist Russell Wilson, who can pick apart the middle of the field with anticipation and accuracy to Dan Quinn’s discomfort.
"He's really accurate and makes really good decisions with the ball. I think he might have been 30 touchdowns and a small, single-digit number of interceptions," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said this week. "For a guy that's bold enough to take shots down the field, to have that type of ratio, I think that goes to show you how accurate he is. … A lot of explosive plays come when he's on the move. It's almost like two plays. First one, starts in the pocket. Second one, when he breaks contain."
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast with host Joe Fann and NBC Sports' Peter King]