Kickoff between the 49ers and Seahawks is scheduled for 1 p.m. for the home opener at Levi's Stadium. Besides being a heavy favorite, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Niners as 9-point favorites, what else is there to know about the new version of these old rivals. To help us prepare for the first matchup with the Seahawks, we reached out to Field Gulls to give fans an early scouting report. Big thanks to John Gilbert for the informative responses!
1. The 49ers had the tremendous (mis)fortune to somehow catch Russell Wilson on either side of his first major amount of time missed due to injury in his career in 2021. This means they also missed playing against Geno Smith, who performed admirably in the starter's absence and has now taken on the first string gig. What do Niner fans need to know about Geno Smith before going up against him on Sunday? How different does this offense look compared to when Russell was cooking?
The biggest difference appears to be that the offense plays within structure far more often and turns to the sandlot scramble drill a lot less often. It's obviously a sample size that is all of a single game, but at least in the opener, that helped the offensive line appear far more competent than in seasons past, while the offense also appeared far less reliant on the big play.
In short, it looks more like an NFL offense. While Geno Smith is not going to be mistaken for Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, if he can consistently perform similar to how he did on Monday against the Broncos, it will be a pleasant surprise for a lot of fans who were expecting an absolute dumpster fire of a performance from him this season.
2. The 49ers have dropped four straight to the Seahawks since the season finale showdown that ended with a stop on the one-inch line by Dre Greenlaw in 2019, which decided both the division winner and ultimately NFC seeding. Seattle always seems raring and ready to go to take on their rivals to the south. However, are you concerned after the Russell Wilson Revenge game that the team might suffer from a bit of letdown just facing the Niners and not their former QB? (Let's ride)
I certainly have concerns about an emotional letdown, especially given they will be playing on the road without the benefit of a crowd that was as loud, and as amped up as any I can remember in recent seasons, on top of the fact that it's a short week.
That said, Pete Carroll seems to like to play physical when it comes to division games, and I will not be surprised at all if this is a low-scoring affair with both teams relying heavily on the running game and with the outcome still up in the air late into the fourth quarter.
3. It was announced that Jamal Adams will have season-ending surgery for his torn quad. How do you think this changes the Seahawks' defense?
As much as it hurts to say, I'm not sure it will truly change it all that much. Adams certainly has certain skills that the players behind him on the depth chart did not, which is why the team gave him a contract that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL at the time it was signed. However, even when Adams missed time during training camp with a broken finger, the new defensive scheme made use of three safety packages, and between Josh Jones and Ryan Neal, the dropoff won't be as massive as it could be.
That's not to say there won't be any change at all, as they are likely to miss Adams' skills as a blitzer, and the energy he brings will, without question, be sorely missed. Though, to be honest, with two rookie cornerbacks likely to see significant time in Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, Adams's absence may not even be the biggest worry for the secondary.
4. Given the big turnover when it comes to the roster, how does the fan base feel about Pete Carroll and John Schneider as the team's brain trust? How hot are their hot seats? Do they need to perform this year to get an honest shot at a rebuild, or could this be their last rodeo together?
This is one of those loaded questions on which the fanbase seems pretty evenly split. Many are convinced that Russell Wilson was the problem, while there is a significant contingent who believe that Wilson did all he could with the roster that Carroll and Schneider built around him. There is zero question that for several seasons, the drafting was less than ideal, and that left a roster that had a lot of holes, and then after trading two firsts and a third for Jamal Adams in 2020, that left the team with minimal draft capital with which to address those holes.
With that in mind, de facto owner Jody Allen spent Draft Day 2022 in the War Room with Pete and John, and owners don't tend to spend draft day in the war room in order to congratulate the coach and general manager on having done a great job in recent seasons.
Given the amount of roster turnover and how young the Seahawks have gone this season, it would be a surprise if Pete and John were let go unless the wheels absolutely come off and the team quits on the coaching staff and finishes 2-15 or 3-14. Given that gaining buy in and getting his players to play hard is Carroll's specialty, that seems unlikely, so most expect the pair to at least be back in 2023, and that if improvement isn't seen next year that changes could be made ahead of 2024.
5. What's your prediction for the game?
I'd guess it's a relatively low-scoring affair as both teams look to work the ground game and take what the defense gives them while waiting for the other team to make a mistake. Keeping that in mind, my guess is that at some point in the second half, Kyle Shanahan will dip into his offensive bag of tricks and scheme a coverage bust that leads to a big play to put the Niners ahead.
That is where things could get dicey for the Seattle offense, as Geno was able to play from ahead for the entirety of the opener, while he's had issues playing from behind throughout his career. I think in the end, the 49ers come away with the win, but it's a lot closer than the betting markets expect. My prediction is for a 19-13 49ers win.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.