Fann: Seahawks playing with house money vs Russell Wilson, Broncos
For the better part of the last decade, we analyzed the Seahawks through a singular lens: “Is this team good enough to win the Super Bowl?”
Those championship aspirations came with immense expectations, a short leash from the fan base and even a critical evaluation of wins. The benchmark was always to be among the NFL’s elite, and anything short of that mark would be considered a disappointment.
This season, one mostly devoid of playoff hopes, will be much different. Nobody anticipates the Seahawks being in the NFC wild card picture, and the expectations for their season is 5.5 wins. But there’s a freedom in the entire football world thinking Seattle will be in the league’s cellar in 2022. Put simply, the Seahawks will be playing with house money all year, Week 1 included.
And what better way to open this campaign than by welcoming Russell Wilson back to Lumen Field in his first game with the Denver Broncos? The entire country will tune into Monday Night Football expecting to see Wilson carve up Seattle’s defense in a comprehensive drubbing, evidenced by the Seahawks being 6.5-point home underdogs.
That’s why all the pressure lies squarely on Wilson’s shoulders. There will be no honeymoon period for Wilson in Denver. There will be no grace from Broncos fans, nor should there be. Denver just traded two first-round picks and two second-rounders in order to acquire the 33-year-old QB. The franchise then promptly gave him a lucrative five-year extension featuring $165 million guaranteed before he even played a snap.
So yeah, to reiterate, patience will be nonexistent in Denver.
That means Seattle has the chance to play spoiler. There won’t be a single national talking head who crowns Wilson for winning on Monday night against his former team. The Broncos are a team with Super Bowl dreams while the Seahawks are a candidate to be picking in the top five of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Conversely, can you imagine if the Seahawks find a way to win? Or even if it’s a narrow defeat and Wilson struggles? Every hot take show would torch the Broncos while local talk radio in Denver would be smashing the panic button. That’s the inevitable nature of the business.
There are no silver linings to be found in the Broncos’ AFC West. The Chiefs remain one of the best teams in football and the Chargers might not be far behind. The Raiders were a playoff team last season and could be again this year after adding Davante Adams and Chandler Jones. That’s not to mention how loaded the AFC is with the Bills, Ravens, Bengals, Dolphins, Colts and others figuring to be in the postseason mix.
Wilson will, in all likelihood, have a tremendous first season in Denver. But it’s not a foregone conclusion he’ll come out of the gates firing on all cylinders while operating a new offense with new teammates and a first-time head coach. Wilson didn’t play a single snap in the preseason, and no amount of training camp reps can fully prepare you for live game action.
Growing pains are a real possibility.
Additionally, nobody knows Wilson better than Seattle. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his staff understand the quarterback’s limitations and will do everything possible to create a game plan that exploits those shortcomings.
Wilson isn’t a flawless quarterback. His struggles to throw over the middle in the short and intermediate passing game are well documented. He has always relied heavily on his legendary off-script magic, an aspect of his game that could very well be on the decline given his diminishing speed and athleticism. The back-breaking, drive-killing sacks will hit different for Seahawks fans if Wilson takes one on Monday.
Maybe this will all end up being hogwash. Maybe Wilson and this high-powered Broncos offense, one headlined by Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Javante Williams, will be as advertised. Maybe the Seahawks, and the defense in particular, will be as woeful as some expect.
What I know for sure is that I can’t wait to find out.