Jim Moore Predicts: Seahawks season opener vs Cincinnati Bengals
The Seahawks will unleash their new pass-rushing combination on the Bengals – or at least half of it – Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Jadeveon Clowney is expected to play, and fellow new defensive end Ziggy Ansah might too, but he’s listed as questionable with a shoulder injury so we might have to wait until next Sunday at Pittsburgh to see them both on the field.
Nevertheless, the Bengals figure to be overmatched – they’re 9 1/2-point underdogs, and it might not be that close. The Seahawks have won their last 10 home openers by an average score of 24-7.
Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion) has been ruled out of the game, weakening an already suspect Cincinnati offensive line. The Bengals will also play without their top offensive weapon, wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle).
Running back Joe Mixon, who rushed for more than 1,100 yards last year, gives the Bengals the best chance at pulling off the upset. But I suspect that a subpar Seahawks’ run defense will be dramatically improved this year with defensive tackle Poona Ford anchoring the middle of the defensive line and an All-Star cast backing him up at linebacker.
The Bengals’ solid defensive line will undoubtedly pressure Russell Wilson, and this part of the game bears watching. If Wilson is constantly harassed for 60 minutes, it will make it even more difficult to establish a passing connection with Jaron Brown and rookie receivers DK Metcalf and John Ursua. I still think that No. 1 receiver Tyler Lockett will have a big day, somewhere along the lines of seven catches for 100-plus yards.
Keep in mind that as good as the Seahawks’ offensive line was last year in blocking for the running game, it was less than stellar at protecting Wilson – he was sacked 51 times in 2018.
So the Bengals’ strength goes up against one of the Seahawks’ biggest weaknesses, offering Cincinnati some hope at least. Mixon does too. And if the Seahawks don’t generate pressure on Andy Dalton, the veteran quarterback is certainly good enough to take advantage of what I’d call an average secondary going into the season.
But I’m guessing the setting will be too much for the Bengals – you can expect three false starts or more from a Cincinnati offensive line that will find it hard to cope with noise from the 12s.
With the addition of Clowney, I’ve got the Seahawks going 11-5 this season and winning the NFC West, up from 10-6 and a wild-card berth.
The Seahawks appear to be 9 1/2-point favorites in this game for good reasons with a punishing running game and one of the best defensive front sevens in the NFL. They will also have a significant home-field advantage. I think they’ll sputter a bit on offense but still win in decisive fashion in a low-scoring game.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Bengals 13.
More from Moore: Seahawks should consider bringing in Antonio Brown