Analysis: The 5 Best 'Xs and Os' Matchups on Seahawks' 2021 Schedule

Matty F. Brown looks at the 2021 NFL schedule release from a tape-addict's perspective. Which Seahawks games are going to throw up the best All-22, the best scheme, and the best NFL football overall this year? Brown gives you his top five!
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The Seahawks' schedule is upon us. Thinking like a tape-obsessed, sleep-repressed, caffeine-stressed maniac, here are the top five Seattle games that should be fun to watch on gameday and afterwards in the 'Xs and Os' machine of coaches film. NFC West games have been excluded because they are a class above ordinary fixtures, carrying a different level of consequence and subsequently raising the tension. Instead, the focus is on the out-of-division play that should create some excellent schematic match-ups, teaching us lots about Seattle’s 2021 ability.

Week 8: vs. Jaguars

On Halloween, things may get spooky in Seattle. The revenge game aspect of this one is obvious. Former Seahawks offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer return to Seattle as OC and quarterbacks coach, respectively. It will be interesting to see their schematic blend with the spread offense of new head coach Urban Meyer. The pair will also have input on a defensive gameplan designed to slow Russell Wilson given their intimate knowledge of the quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses.

The payback nature of the game doesn’t stop at Bevell and 'Schotty.' Cornerback Shaquill Griffin, running back Carlos Hyde, receiver Phillip Dorsett, and former offensive assistant Sanjay Lal are out for blood against their former team too. Add in the factor of No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence being the opposing quarterback and this looks to be a cracking match-up before Seattle’s Week 9 bye (nice having a mid-season bye). The Jags will want to prove they are genuine.

Week 16: vs. Bears

Russell Wilson versus Justin Fields. Oh? You need me to sell it more? Well... It’s crazy that these quarterbacks’ teams could have been flipped given the Wilson-Chicago drama and upset earlier in the offseason. Instead, we should get to see new talent battle old franchise.

If Fields is starting, and playing well, there’s a real chance this game is flexed given the marquee quarterback duel. On the other hand, if Fields isn’t playing or struggles as a rookie, this looks more like a gift-wrapped, late Christmas present for the Seahawks to ‘get right’ heading into the playoffs. Sorry, Andy Dalton.

It will be fascinating to see Matt Nagy scheming for a QB without the grave restrictions that Mitch Tribusky brought to the Bears’ offense. Can Nagy rekindle the play-calling promise that saw him described as an offensive protégée?

Week 2: vs. Titans

This is the first of just two games the Seahawks host through the first six weeks of the season, in what is a road-heavy start to 2021. They last played the Titans in 2017 and will be looking to avenge that 33-27 defeat in Nashville.

The Bill Belichick-tree defense tends to capitulate in trying to scheme for the talents of Russell Wilson, never quite getting the balance right—even if Mike Vrabel will have his guys playing hard. However, the Seahawks’ run defense is going to be tested to the extreme by the talents of Derrick Henry and a beefy, physical, nasty offensive line. Despite Tennessee adapting to the playcalling of new OC Todd Downing, this figures to be a serious test.

Seattle’s front seven looks good apart from at the crucial three-technique defensive tackle spot. We will be better able to gauge the impact of Jarran Reed’s departure after this game. Following the clash, the Seahawks have to face more dominant run games and backs, so they better be ready early.

Week 10: at Packers

The Packers have run the kind of disguised defense that has really troubled Russell Wilson and the offensive line in previous years (Thanks to Mike Daniels, Za’Darius Smith, et cetera). Yes, Mike Pettine has departed; however, new defensive coordinator Joe Barry spent three years as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach at the Rams, so he's very familiar with Wilson and company. They also have rostered a bunch of good corners.

On the offense, the obvious conversation is whether Aaron Rodgers is the QB. Focusing on the Xs and Os throws up interesting scenarios for Seattle though. Matt LeFleur worked the Seahawks' defense last time these two met, in the 2019 NFC divisional round. Since that point, Seattle’s defense has figured out a few things.

With Green Bay running a similar offensive scheme to Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers, this is the perfect mid-season preparation for finishing out division play while also holding potential home-field advantage implications. Seattle hasn’t won at Lambeau Field since 1999. If this build-up wasn’t enough, imagine if it snows despite the game's mid-November date. 

Week 12: at Washington

Do not sleep on the Washington Football Team. Stop laughing. Washington could legitimately have the best defense in the entire league. In one of the five prime time games on Seattle’s schedule, a joint-league high, the Shane Waldron year-one offense is going to be tested. The Football Team threw some troubling coverage at Russell Wilson in Week 15 of 2020. The offensive line will be in for a tricky day too, facing a starting quarter of Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, and Montez Sweat. What Ron Rivera has worked is remarkable.

Looking at the other side of the ball, new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can turn on his Fitzmagic to cause some problems. It’s always fun seeing him sling it around without fear. Seattle’s fresh cornerback group is also going to be tested, given they are facing Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Kelvin Harmon, and rookie Dyami Brown—plus Antonio Gibson out of the backfield. That’s versatile, explosive, receiving ability, which also includes J.D. McKissic getting another shot at vengeance. And, of course, don't forget about the rough playing surface of FedExField either. That could most certainly - and unfortunately - come into play.

Honorable Mention

The games at the Texans (one of the Seahawks' two 10 a.m. starts this year) and versus the Lions deserve special mentions. Bad football is never enjoyable; watching it is more a case of morbid curiosity. It’s weird to see NFL coaches, limited in their creativity for a variety of reasons, attempt to scheme around a bad roster. While a poor standard of NFL isn’t fun to watch, it can be funny. Both of these games have the potential to re-energize the Seahawks with a blowout.

Or we may see Deshaun Watson play and manage to elevate the worst roster in the league—again. Worse, could Jared Goff still manage to dissect Seattle away from Sean McVay? At those hypothetical points, the fixtures become engaging for more competitive reasons. Root for disaster class, however.