It’s week one, and not much is on the line.
Nothing on the line anyway, except for saving face, proving your status as a contender, and showing your fans and your critics that you can win without one of the game’s best running backs. It all starts with a home contest against Miami and a chance for both sides to prove they have a new identity.
Enough time spent on “small potatoes”, let’s get acquainted with this week’s challenger.
Miami comes to town with a new head coach in Adam Gase, who was the offensive coordinator in Chicago last season, after making a name for himself as Denver’s offensive coordinator in 2013-14, overseeing one of the best offenses in league history. He won’t be working with a legend like Peyton Manning this season, and it remains to be seen if Dolphin’s QB Ryan Tannehill is even on Jay Cutler’s level.
Gase isn’t the only new face in town, as Miami’s entire coaching staff has been shaken up. Clyde Christensen, formerly the QB coach in Indy, will take over as the new OC and help Gase with Tannehill’s development. New DC Vance Joseph, who was the defensive backs coach in Cincinnati from 2014-15, will try bring the Dolphins’ defense back to a respectable level.
A 6-10 team in 2015, Miami will try to climb out of the AFC basement and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when they had Chad Pennington at QB and Tom Brady sat out 15-3/4 games. Miami did little correctly last season under the guidance of former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philben, as they finished 26th in total offense (19th passing, 23rdrushing) and were the league’s 27th worst scoring team.
Defense wasn’t much better, as the Dolphins gave up the 25th most yards overall, and were 21st against the pass and 28th against the run, finishing as the 19th ranked scoring defense. Needless to say, they have plenty to work on, while trying to implement a new scheme on both sides of the ball.
There are new faces on both sides of the playing field as well, as RB Lamar Miller and CB Brent Grimes were replaced by Arian Foster and Byron Maxwell in the offseason, and the early returns do not look promising. Miller is one of the best dual-threat rushers in the league, while Grimes is an elite corner, nearly on the level of Richard Sherman. Maxwell has not shown he can be a shut-down corner without Sherman covering the other side, and will face plenty of scrutiny for chasing a big payday without being able to support his worth as a standalone player. Foster has all the talent in the world, but age and injuries appear to have slowed him down to being an average back, and Foster looks very similar to the way Marshawn Lynch looked last season, lacking burst and lateral quickness.
New defenders Kiko Alonso and Mario Williams should help solidify a defense in dire need of leadership and playmakers, and if 2015 free agent acquisition Ndamukong Suh plays to his ability and gels with the new talent around him, Miami’s front seven could be as scary as Carolina’s, and that’s saying something.
WR Jarvis Landry has talents similar to Odell Beckham Jr and could give the Seattle secondary fits if he has a big day, but Tannehill’s overall accuracy and deep ball placement continue to need improvement, and could hurt Landry as much as he helps him.
On the Seattle side, you could not ask for a better week one opponent. Seattle’s front seven mauled Denver in the 2013 Super Bowl and week 3 of the 2014 regular season, which were both offenses run by Gase and the new-look Dolphins appear to be a very, very poor man’s version of the 2013 Broncos. Miami simply does not have the offensive talent or chemistry going yet, so there could be quite a few drives ruined by three-and-outs and turnovers as the Dolphins lack playmakers aside from Landry, even if Foster is 100%.
On offense, even if RB Thomas Rawls is limited (as recent reports suggest), Christine Michael appears more than ready to handle the role of an every down back. Doug Baldwin is looking to improve on a very impressive 2015 season, and prove his 1000+ yards and 14 TDs was not a fluke.
QB Russell Wilson hit numerous career highs while taking control of a new pass oriented offense last season, and looks primed to have a great day against an average Miami secondary. 2nd year speedster Tyler Lockett could have a big afternoon burning Miami’s second and third corners, and if TE Jimmy Graham is a full-go, it could be a very long day for the Fins.
Based on last year’s final numbers, this contest shouldn’t even be close, as Seattle finished in the top-5 on both sides of the ball and were a playoff team. However, week one is always difficult to predict, especially with so many new faces on the field and the sideline for the opposition.
I expect to see a big day from Seattle’s offense, and a Miami offense struggling to move the ball on a hungry and healthy Seahawks defense. While it won’t be a laugher, Seattle wins this one with room to spare.
Final score: 34-17