The 49ers and Seahawks each bucked expectations in Week 1. Despite being heavy favorites, the Niners wasted a dominant first half in a 19-10 loss to the Bears. On the other hand, the Seahawks hosted the Broncos and Seattle's longtime quarterback Russell Wilson for what many expected would be a blowout victory for Wilson. Instead, the Seahawks spoiled Wilson's return in a dramatic 17-16 win.
As the NFC West rivals prepare to face off in San Francisco on Sunday, both fanbases have plenty of big questions.
1. Can Trey Lance bounce back from an ugly Week 1?
Lance had some incredible throws in his first game of the season and had the highest big-time throw rate of any quarterback in the NFL, per PFF. However, he still had some obvious areas where he needed to improve. His inaccuracy cost the 49ers completions (and yards after the catch) at every level of the field, and he thwarted any opportunities for a late-game comeback with a costly interception. The 49ers have said they will stick with Lance through the bumps and bruises this season, but that will be a lot easier if he bounces back with a strong performance.
2. Can a Geno Smith-led offense have consistent success?
Smith was dismissed by much of the NFL as a viable starter since his early-career struggles with the Jets. However, an experienced backup in a far more competent situation, Smith has been efficient but limited in his limited time at the helm of the Seahawks' offense over the past two seasons. He has completed more than 70% of his passes in five games but is also averaging fewer than 200 yards per game. If Seattle needs Smith to produce at a higher volume, will he be able to get it done?
3. How bad is the 49ers' interior offensive line?
The Niners' interior offensive line struggled mightily against the Bears. Lance was consistently forced out of the pocket, and the interior run game seemed unable to get going after the first quarter. Entering the season with just three combined NFL starts from their left guard, center, and right guard, the 49ers were betting on their ability to develop. Already 0-1, San Francisco cannot afford to wait much longer for their line to figure things out. If they do not show any progress this Sunday, it spells trouble for head coach Kyle Shanahan's entire offensive attack.
4. How productive will the 49ers' backup running backs be?
Elijah Mitchell is going to be out for a long time. While the 49ers might simply make star wide receiver Deebo Samuel their lead back in Mitchell's absence, it seems likely that Shanahan is going to rely on some combination of Jeff Wilson Jr., Ty Davis-Price, and Jordan Mason for at least a dozen carries per game. The 49ers rushing attack fell off a cliff after Mitchell's injury. Wilson averaged just 2.4 yards per carry in Week 1 and it'll be difficult for San Francisco's offense to move the ball if they do not get more production from their backs.
5. Will the Seahawks be competitive this season?
The NFC West was expected to be the best division in a weak conference heading into the year. Then, the three biggest favorites looked bad in Week 1 while the Seahawks pulled out a surprising upset. Could Seattle really be a factor in the NFC West this season? A win against the Niners would suggest that the Seahawks belong in that conversation while dropping San Francisco clearly out of the NFC's elite. On the other hand, a commanding 49ers victory would suggest the Seahawks caught lightning in a bottle in Week 1 while the Niners were hamstrung by a combination of bad weather and rustiness.