Can the Seahawks take advantage of the Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints and get to 3-0 for only the seventh time in franchise history?
And can they win what would be their 13th regular-season game in their last 17 dating to the same weekend a year ago?
Here’s a look at the keys to getting it done.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Seattle’s secondary against Saints receivers.
The Seahawks could be starting a third different secondary quartet in three weeks if right cornerback Tre Flowers, who sprained an ankle in practice this week, doesn’t play. That likely means larger roles for Jamar Taylor and Akeem King. The assumption is Lano Hill will remain the starting strong safety for a second week in what would be only his fourth career start. The Saints don’t have Brees and are without Tre’Quan Smith, the team’s fourth-leading receiver, sidelined with an ankle injury. But Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are a challenge for any defense, and Teddy Bridgewater will have had a week to prepare for having to play.
PLAYER TO WATCH
DE Ziggy Ansah.
OK, this time we mean it that Ansah will make his long-awaited Seahawks debut. Ansah’s return means the Seahawks finally have all defensive-line hands on deck (other than the suspended Jarran Reed), with Jadeveon Clowney getting more acclimated by the week, Poona Ford back and first-round pick L.J. Collier seeing his first action last week. Still, Carroll preached some caution Friday that all the new pieces may take a little while to jell. “We’re getting closer,’’ Carroll said. “When you get your guys back, it doesn’t mean you’ve got it. It means now you can start growing with him and figuring out the way they all fit together and all that. That’s kind of where we are.”
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
To stay or not to stay with the quick passing game?
The Seahawks’ second-half success with the quick passing game leads to the obvious question of will they continue to emphasize it? As offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer noted this week, Russell Wilson is such a good deep passer and the play-action such a big part of Seattle’s offense that it’s not going to go away. “We like to throw our deep, big-play passes,’’ Schottenheimer said. “It was great for us last year.’’ But this feels like another matchup where the quick game might work well. The Saints have a good line — they have nine sacks as a team, second in the NFL — with a secondary that includes some well-known names but has had some struggles.
New Orleans QB Teddy Bridgewater.
A rare time we’re going with a player on the other team for this category. But the word early this week that Brees would be out shifted the perception to this being a game many think the Seahawks should — and will — win. Bridgewater is about the best backup QB an NFL team can realistically hope to have as a player with experience and some success — a 17-12 record and leading the Vikings to a division title in 2015 when he made the Pro Bowl. But a horrific knee injury altered his career. He has just one start and 55 attempted passes since 2015. He didn’t look great last week against the Rams, but that was a tough situation coming in on the fly. How the Saints use Bridgewater and backup Taysom Hill — each likely to run more than Brees — is one of the great intrigues of this game.
WILD CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Seahawks backup tailback Rashaad Penny suffered a hamstring injury late in Friday’s practice that has him listed as questionable. That could elevate Prosise to the role of backup to Chris Carson — who has had two fumbles in the first two games and was part of another. Prosise struggled to stay healthy his first three seasons but showed in the preseason why the team kept him and could be on the verge of seeing significant action for the first time since his second season. He hasn’t had more than three carries in a game since Sept., 2017.
One reason the Seahawks’ offense has seemed disjointed so far — and had to depend on the quick pass last week — is that the Seahawks have not been productive running on first down. Seattle has gained just 52 yards on 29 runs on first down, 1.8 yards per attempt, which has obviously meant a lot of second-and-longs. The Seahawks are 9-25 on third down because more than half of those — 13 — have been 10 yards or longer, an average of 6.5 per game, converting just two. Seattle averaged just 3.4 third downs of 10 yards or longer per game last season when it also averaged 4.4 yards per attempt on first-down runs. The Seahawks won’t be able to keep winning trying to convert a lot of third-and-longs.
THE FINAL WORD
Seahawks 23, Saints 19. It’s hard to know what to make of the Saints without Brees. Bridgewater is more-than-competent, and with Sean Payton having a week to prepare an offense around him, the Seahawks will need to play well. But the guess here is the home field and the edge in the QB battle will be enough to get the Seahawks to 3-0.