Suffering a heartbreaking defeat to the Titans last week, the Seahawks look to bounce back against a very familiar foe in the Vikings. After hosting them for each of the past three seasons, Seattle will reverse roles and travel to Minnesota for its very first regular season game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
For the second week in a row, head coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson aim to secure their 100th career win together. Wilson and the Seahawks' offense as a whole will look to get back on track following a disastrous second half last week, while the defense gets set to face a Vikings offense led by quarterback Kirk Cousins and a trio of stellar playmakers: running back Dalvin Cook (questionable, ankle) and receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
Here are three best-case scenarios for Seattle to avoid disaster and get back over .500 in this Week 3 battle.
1. Seahawks mask secondary deficiencies by getting consistent pressure on Kirk Cousins
The elite receiving duo of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown posed quite the threat against the shaky cornerback combo of D.J. Reed and Tre Flowers last week. And while Reed played fairly well, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill slung the rock around at will for most of the afternoon, thanks in part to an inconsistent pass rush from the Seahawks. While they were able to sack Tannehill thrice, the 10th-year passer had a relatively clean pocket to work from more often than not. That cannot be the case against Cousins and company, especially with Flowers expected to start again. Given his lateral weaknesses, Thielen and/or Jefferson, both route running technicians, could be a massive problem for him if Seattle can't force the ball out of Cousins' hands quickly. If that's the case, Minnesota will extend drives and dictate the flow of this game.
2. Jamarco Jones holds up against Danielle Hunter, Vikings' pass rushers
After injuring his ankle late against the Titans, right tackle Brandon Shell has been ruled out for this Sunday's game. As a result, Jones will now step in his place with a daunting matchup against All-Pro defensive end Danielle Hunter ahead of him. Hunter will roam around the Minnesota defensive line but it's likely that Mike Zimmer's defense will prominently feature him on the right side—Jones' side—as much as possible. In his last start back in Week 13 of the 2020 season, Jones had a strong performance in pass protection versus the Giants, allowing just one pressure in 52 snaps. But Hunter and the Vikings are a different animal and should be able to give him issues all day long. It shouldn't come as a surprise if tight end Will Dissly is constantly stationed on Jones' right hip to help the backup tackle along. But if he can somehow survive the onslaught of elite talent coming his way, the Seahawks should be in a good spot in this one.
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks offense control pace of play for all four quarters
Explosive plays are effective and downright fun, but that cannot be an offense's entire identity. That, however, appeared to be the case for the Seahawks last week as they struggled to manufacture a drive of four plays or more just once in the second half against the Titans. Their last four drives of the day combined for just three minutes and 36 seconds time of possession, keeping a gassed defense on the field against Derrick Henry and others. It, of course, did not go well. And the Vikings are stocked on offense to punish the Seahawks in a similar fashion if they fail to correct course. Shane Waldron's offense must get back to what made them successful against the Colts in Week 1, methodically working the ball down the field and mixing in those explosives when the time calls for them. Utilizing pre-snap motion more often and involving Dissly and Gerald Everett in the passing game would be a good start to getting things back on track.