The 2021 NFL regular season kicks off tonight as the defending champion Buccaneers square off against the Cowboys. That means the Seahawks' first game of the year is also right around the corner, which will pit them against the Colts in Indianapolis.
Naturally, it's a very exciting time for football fans around the globe—perhaps even more so than in years past. With stadiums back to full capacity, the NFL will be in its most "normal" state since Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020. Additionally, for Seahawks fans, Sunday's game will be their first chance to see quarterback Russell Wilson and Seattle's No. 1 offense under new play-caller Shane Waldron.
But with head coach Pete Carroll at the helm, the first game of the year hasn't been too kind to the Seahawks. In 11 games, they're 5-6 with only two of those wins coming on the road. So how can they get Carroll to .500 as they face Jonathan Taylor, Darius Leonard, DeForest Buckner and company? Let's go over three "best-case scenarios" that would push them over the top.
1. No preseason? No problem. Wilson and Waldron knock first performance out of the park.
After sitting out the entire preseason, Wilson and several other key Seahawks will finally make their 2021 debut on Sunday. This is especially important because it's the first time Wilson and Waldron will work together in-game. While some growing pains are expected for the rookie coordinator, the offense could quickly alleviate any concerns fans have about its ability to be one of the most efficient units in the league.
It certainly has the talent to accomplish just that, though it still remains to be seen how it all comes together after Waldron played things close to the vest this summer. At the very least, Sunday should provide more answers on the meaning of "tempo" to Waldron and how it will all be executed this season.
2. Seahawks' pass rushers take advantage of potential golden opportunity
Making a slew of moves along the defensive line this offseason, the Seahawks look to be much improved up front, particularly off the edge. The LEO defensive end position could be especially crucial to the team's success in this one, considering quarterback Carson Wentz's entire blindside protection has wound up on the injury report this week.
Even if Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles/COVID-19) and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson (foot/back) are able to suit up, neither will presumably be 100 percent on Sunday. That could leave Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa and company licking their chops, especially with Wentz making his Colts debut following foot surgery last month.
3. Overhauled cornerback group gets much-needed confidence boost
Seattle's competition at left cornerback failed miserably this summer, leading to the abrupt departures of Ahkello Witherspoon, Pierre Desir and Damarious Randall. As a result, 2020 breakout D.J. Reed has been moved over to the left side while Tre Flowers reclaims his starting job on the right.
There's a relatively thick layer of anxiety filling the air of the Seahawks' fanbase right now over how Reed's relocation could impact his play, as well as the return of the historically inconsistent Flowers to the starting lineup. But the good news is: they have a fairly soft landing spot to start the year, facing a Colts receiving corps missing its No. 1 target—T.Y. Hilton (neck).
While there's still plenty of talent to find with the likes of Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell, this group is certainly nowhere near as daunting as the next few on Seattle's schedule. With matchups against Julio Jones, A.J. Brown, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and several other upper echelon receiving threats on the docket, taking care of business against the underwhelming trio Indianapolis will put forth on Sunday could be a nice shot in the arm.