Though it's only Week 2, Lumen Field should offer a playoff-like atmosphere when the Seahawks host the Titans and play in front of their loyal, boisterous fans for the first time in a regular season game in two years on Sunday.
With a sellout crowd expected, the 12s will be treated to an intriguing battle between two postseason-tested teams boasting talented rosters, particularly on the offensive side of the football.
Despite getting smoked by Arizona 38-13 in the season opener, Tennessee has a dynamic trio of skill players in All-Pro running back Derrick Henry and stud receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. The defense has a handful of standouts as well, including safety Kevin Byard and defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. After capturing an AFC South title last season and reaching the AFC Championship Game in 2020, coach Mike Vrabel's squad will be aiming to extend their eight-game winning streak coming off of 10-plus point defeats.
On the flip side, Russell Wilson got off to another fast start with four touchdowns in a 28-16 victory over Indianapolis and has a bevy of weapons at his disposal in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Chris Carson. Tennessee will also have to worry about a defense that looks far better than the unit that was on a historic pace for all of the wrong reasons early in 2020. A win on Sunday would push Pete Carroll's team to 2-0 for the third straight season, keeping them atop the gauntlet that is the NFC West division.
With the Titans seeking a resounding rebound after last week's debacle and the Seahawks looking to stay undefeated early in the season, which five matchups will have the greatest impact on which team escapes with a Week 2 victory?
--Titans running back Derrick Henry versus Seahawks linebackers Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, and Darrell Taylor: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that No. 22 is the heart and soul of Tennessee's offense and historically, he's done well rebounding from tough games like the 57-yard outing he had last weekend. In 2020 alone, he averaged 168.5 rushing yards per game in weeks after being held under 100 yards, including three games with over 200 rushing yards. Seattle can't allow him to have that type of a game on Sunday and the trio of Wagner, Brooks, and Taylor will need to bring their hard hats to contain the bruising 247-pound runner. As Carroll noted earlier in the week, wrapping Henry up will be critical and the Seahawks must avoid tackling him too high, as he will easily break arm tackles and fall forward every time otherwise. There's a reason he nearly won a rushing title on yards after contact alone in 2020. Once King Henry gets rolling, the play action game opens up for Ryan Tannehill and suddenly this offense becomes very dangerous, so keeping him in check remains priority No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3.
--Seahawks tight ends Gerald Everett and Will Dissly versus Titans linebackers Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown: Dating back to last season, the Titans have allowed only four touchdowns to tight ends in their past 10 games, so this may not seem like a position where the Seahawks will find much success. However, those numbers are misleading in part because opponents have had so much success attacking Shane Bowen's secondary outside of the numbers. From a big picture perspective, Tennessee has been plenty vulnerable against athletic pass-catching tight ends, as the team allowed 840 yards and eight touchdowns to the position last season. With the Titans focusing so much on DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Everett could be in for a big game matched up against their linebackers and safeties, while Dissly seems to be a perfect complementary weapon at the position in Shane Waldron's scheme and looks like a potential fantasy sleeper this week.
--Titans receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones versus Seahawks cornerbacks Tre Flowers and D.J. Reed: Going into the new season, no positional group may have been under more scrutiny for the Seahawks than their cornerback unit. In the opener in Indianapolis, Flowers and Reed turned in decent games, with none of the Colts receivers surpassing 50 yards on the afternoon. With that said, Reed allowed five receptions for 60 yards and all three targets against Flowers were completed for 28 yards and a touchdown. Now, the two starters will truly be tested for the first time by Brown and Jones, who have combined to produce nine 1,000-yard seasons and 80 total touchdowns. Both receivers can win as a vertical threats, have the quickness and route running savvy to create problems in the quick passing game, and possess quality after the catch skills. For better or worse, Seattle should have a clearer idea where its cornerback group stands after this game and if either Reed or Flowers struggles, it wouldn't be surprising to see Sidney Jones get a shot at some point on Sunday. If that does happen, it could be a long, long afternoon for the home squad.
--Seahawks receivers DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Freddie Swain versus Titans cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Kristian Fulton: Primarily a man coverage outfit defensively, the Titans haven't been good at their base coverages for a couple of seasons now. Last year, per Pro Football Focus, they finished 28th in EPA allowed per play against the pass in man coverage looks. Then last weekend, Deandre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and rookie Rondale Moore torched their cornerback group for 221 yards and four touchdowns. Jenkins, now 32 years old and past his prime, allowed six receptions on seven targets for 69 yards and a touchdown. Fulton was far better, surrendering one catch on five targets for four yards and producing two pass breakups. But neither player should be able to lock down Metcalf or Lockett, with the former having a major size/speed advantage and the latter being a pristine route runner who will eat up man coverage if the Titans dare to play it. This matchup screams big fantasy points for both star wideouts.
--Titans tackles Taylor Lewan and David Quessenberry versus Seahawks edge rushers: Playing in his first game back from a torn ACL that ended his 2020 season prematurely, Lewan may have played the worst game of his NFL career in Week 1, allowing five pressures and a pair of sacks while receiving a dismal 24.1 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. Cardinals star Chandler Jones gave him the turnstile treatment and feasted on him all afternoon. The three-time Pro Bowler will eventually right the ship, but this may not be the game where it happens. With the most depth they've had along the defensive line since 2013, as the Colts learned the hard way last week, the Seahawks can send rushers at opponents in waves. After struggling mightily against Chandler Jones, the athletic trio of Darrell Taylor, Benson Mayowa, and Alton Robinson won't be a fun draw for Lewan, while Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder, and Rasheem Green should be licking their lips about rushing against Quessenberry, who allowed three sacks and 16 pressures in just 208 pass blocking snaps in 2020. Rotating all six of those defenders to keep them fresh, Seattle should have a major advantage against an offensive line that couldn't block anyone a week ago.
Update: Lewan suffered an undisclosed injury during warm-ups and the Titans deactivated him before kickoff. Ty Sambrailo is expected to replace him in the lineup at left tackle.