The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks square off on Sunday, and while the rivalry is not what it was a couple years back, there is still plenty to play for in Week 3. The teams are tied at 1-1, and with both showing various issues, an upset is certainly at least a little bit of a possibility.
The Seahawks have been a little bit all over the place through their first two games. To get a better handle on the team, I took a few minutes to chat with Field Gulls editor Kenneth Arthur. I answered his questions as well, which you can read here.
Niners Nation: What is the deal with the first two weeks? And why does this seem to be a bit of a pattern for the Seahawks?
Field Gulls: Right now, it's basically injuries. Russell Wilson's been hobbled for 1.5 games. Tyler Lockett missed most of the second game. Doug Baldwin was hobbled in the second game. First round pick Germain Ifedi has missed both games. Third round tight end Nick Vannett has missed both games. Jimmy Graham is coming back from a significant knee injury. Thomas Rawls missed most of game two and was coming back from a significant broken ankle. Rookie third round pick CJ Prosise, the primary third down back, has missed 1.5 games. Injuries are a part of the game but outside of maybe the Minnesota Vikings, I don't know if another team has suffered this many blows to the offense. In a rational world, I think the offense is at least average if not good (they were GREAT last season) and the defense is as good as it's been since 2013. It's easy to overlook the one touchdown allowed when you've only scored one touchdown. Also, the Rams are assholes in the NFC West, as you know. The Seahawks have troubles with elite defensive tackles like Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald. I think as long as they aren't facing a top-six pass rushing defensive tackle, they'll be a lot better on offense.
Is it a pattern? Yes. I think Pete Carroll is more of the type to adjust for the second half, both in games and in-season. He's not going to give away his entire bag of tricks. He's not going to panic either. They were 2-4 last season and he didn't panic. They were 6-5 in 2012 and they didn't panic. Made the second round of the playoffs both times. I think ideally they squeak out more wins than losses in the first half of the year and then go another hot streak into the playoffs. Ideally they win 13 games. But realistically maybe they only win 11. I have no concerns unless they lose to the 49ers.
NN: Is the "Awakening" with Christine Michael legit, or are Seahawks fans holding their breath? Football Outsiders ranks the Seahawks ground game No. 28 through 2 weeks. Where does it stand at this point following the retirement of Marshawn Lynch?
FG: Thank you for not asking if Marshawn Lynch is returning to football.
I think it goes back to the problem facing Suh and Donald. Rawls had nowhere to run against the Rams and was hit way behind the line of scrimmage. I don't have too many concerns about him. I think Michael has earned a second chance in Seattle and has shown nothing but positive moments since the end of last season. He looks great and like he could be a legitimate number one back for a team, if that even still exists. He'll be a free agent after this season and it will be interesting to see what the Seahawks do there, but it's too soon to speculate. He was discarded three times in 2015. However, he had a fumble at the end of the Rams game that ended the Seahawks comeback attempt, so that's not good either. On the other hand, he's shown the explosiveness that made him a second round pick in 2013 and I think he could have some big gains against the 49ers. He might frustrate both fanbases on Sunday.
NN: How is the injury situation looking, particularly for Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Thomas Rawls, and Tyler Lockett?
FG: This could all change by Sunday...
I think Wilson is fine overall, things could be worse as evidenced by Teddy Bridgewater, Tony Romo, RGIII, and Josh McCown. The problem is that he lost a bit of that elite escapability in the pocket against LA due to his ankle sprain. He's just a little bit off, but he's still really dangerous. Baldwin got good injury news in that his MRI came out "negative" but will he be at 100% by Sunday? Maybe not. He's the second-most important player on offense, maybe. So that's an issue. I'm nothing but hopeful for Rawls and Lockett and I'm encouraged by the fact that none of the injuries seem to be super serious. Lockett nearly caught a game-winning touchdown at the end of the Rams game but was caught by his shoelaces.
NN: The defense appears to be clicking once again. Are there are notable weaknesses for this group?
FG: There aren't many weaknesses on the defense. Deshawn Shead looked kinda bad against the Rams, getting beat often by Kenny Britt, but he was also perhaps the best player on defense in Week 1. (Shead is the starting corner opposite of Richard Sherman. He's been with the team a few years and moved off of safety to corner.) Other than that and other than a few lapses by guys you can almost always trust like Earl Thomas, the defense has been exceptional, even for a Pete Carroll defense. Frank Clark has three sacks in limited snaps and looks really incredible. Like the best pass rusher the Seahawks have had in a long time, maybe. Jarran Reed is a rookie second round pick defensive tackle out of Alabama and he's been a monster in the middle of the line. They've given up one touchdown in two games and I would be a little surprised if they didn't force San Francisco into field goals most of the day.
NN: We know about the big name players, but who would be a player on each side of the ball that is emerging as a presence for an otherwise veteran unit?
FG: I don't know if I have any answers that aren't already mentioned. Is Michael a big name player? Paul Richardson was a second round pick in 2014 that missed all of 2015 basically and he's not a consistent receiver but he might break off the biggest play of the game. He's just so fast and they draw up a huge play for him each week, but hasn't really connected with Russell yet. The center Justin Britt has moved from right tackle to left guard and now center in three seasons and he's perhaps finally found a home. If running back C.J. Prosise is healthy enough to play, he can be a dynamic player in the passing game.
On defense, Clark is becoming a force to be reckoned with and he may threaten double-digit sacks in his second season out of Michigan. Cassius Marsh almost had a huge sack in Week 2, but was called for a facemask that he vehemently disagreed with. He's perhaps one of the best special teams players in the NFL also.
Bonus: How is the Seahawks form of demonstration going over with the fans?
FG: I'm not sure. We reported it in the first week, but I think there's only so much you can say about it. There are probably less people upset about a demonstration like linking your arms together than there are when you sit or kneel during the anthem. There are probably some fans who don't support Jeremy Lane anymore. But I think fans will consistently lean towards supporting players who are good and help the team than they are players who are either bad or not playing in the games. In the preseason, some fans were really upset with Lane and said they'd not root for him anymore. If he intercepts a pass (like he did in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, breaking his arm and tearing his ACL on the same play for the Seahawks), I'm not sure how many of those same people would ask him to give the ball back to the other team because of what he decided to do pregame. People are people so why should it be you and I should get along so awfully, as I always say.