Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gestures as he walks off the field after a preseason game against the Chargers on Aug. 28, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gestures as he walks off the field after a preseason game against the Chargers on Aug. 28, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

What to watch when Seahawks, Colts clash in season opener

Seattle has plenty of questions and intrigue after an eventful offseason.

  • Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times
  • Saturday, September 11, 2021 5:48pm
  • SportsSeahawks

By Bob Condotta / The Seattle Times

And away we go with the 46th season in Seattle Seahawks history.

It’s the continuation of a journey that started exactly 45 years ago — Sept. 12, 1976.

And who could have imagined all that would follow on that Bicentennial year day when Seattle hosted a team that has long since changed locations (the St. Louis Cardinals) in a stadium that no longer exists (the Kingdome) and took an opponent that would go on to win 10 games down to the final play in a 30-24 defeat?

Will this be another season to remember (I think we could all use another 2013 right about now), or one to forget (and take heart — there’s almost no way anything could ever be as bad as 1992)?

The story begins to unfold Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis at 10 a.m.

Here’s a closer look at Seattle’s season opener.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Seahawks front seven vs. Indy’s running game

The Colts have some injury issues at receiver (T.Y. Hilton is on injured reserve), and it’s unclear exactly how healthy quarterback Carson Wentz will be and if his recent foot surgery might curtail some of his usual mobility. That means the Colts may lean more than ever on their ground game, featuring two players with 1,000-yard seasons under their belts (Jonathan Taylor with 1,169 last year as a rookie and Marlon Mack with 1,091 in 2019). Nyheim Hines is also a threat both running and receiving, capping a trio that Pro Football Focus recently rated as the second-best running back corps in the NFL heading into the season. It’ll be a stern test for Seattle’s remade linebacking group right off the bat. And it may mean a lot of snaps for veteran tackle Al Woods, signed in March to replace Jarran Reed.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Seattle QB Russell Wilson

True, when isn’t Wilson a player to watch? But given the offseason Wilson-inspired kerfuffle, the change in offensive coordinators even after a year when Wilson threw a career-high 40 touchdowns, and the national speculation about his long-term future, Wilson’s every move — and Seattle’s every play call — figures to be scrutinized more than ever. A hot start for Wilson and the Seattle offense would be much welcomed in the upper-level offices of the VMAC.

COACHING DECISION TO WATCH

Just how much up-tempo offense the Seahawks use

The first thing almost every Seahawk mentions when asked how the offense may differ under new coordinator Shane Waldron is a faster tempo. That includes both more use of the no-huddle, which gives more freedom to Wilson to call the offense, but also simply working more quickly overall. Wilson has often been at his best when the Seahawks go up-tempo. But that’s usually been in small doses and in end-of-game or other unique circumstances. One big question is how committed Pete Carroll will be to it when the offense lulls, which is inevitable during the course of a 17-game season.

THE X-FACTOR

10 a.m. starts

But this may not be an X-factor in the way that you think it is. Where Seahawks fans once tuned into early games with dread, Seattle has long since turned that trend around. Seattle is 19-7 in its last 26 10 a.m. Pacific time starts and has won 11 of the last 12 since 2018. That includes a 3-1 mark last year, with wins at Atlanta, Miami and Washington and a loss at Buffalo. It almost makes you wish they had more than two 10 a.m. starts this year, the other coming in December at Houston.

PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE

Tight end Gerald Everett

OK so maybe a player making $6 million this season — the most of any outside free agent signed by the team in the offseason — isn’t really one whose contribution should be considered a surprise. But since he played just 12 snaps in the preseason, exactly how the team plans to use him remains an unknown. Everett has a skill set that will allow him to be split out often if the Seahawks want, with Will Dissly likely to get more of the snaps as the inline tight end. Seattle could also use Everett as an H-back.

KEY STAT

40-23-1

That’s Seattle’s road record since 2013. And while much is rightfully made of Seattle’s success at home, the Seahawks have been almost as good on the road in recent years. Seattle’s 63.3 road winning percentage is second in the NFL the last eight years only to Kansas City, which is 44-20, 68.8. Of Seattle’s seven most successful seasons on the road, six have come since 2013. Seattle is also 12-4 on the road the last two years, better than Seattle’s 11-5 home record in that time. So, the Seahawks should feel right at home at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.

THE PICK

Seahawks 24, Colts 20

Nothing figures to come easy against a Colts team that went 11-5 in 2020 and features a stout running game and dangerous players on the defensive front in tackle DeForest Buckner and weakside linebacker Darius Leonard. But Seattle has the edge at the most important position — quarterback — especially with it unclear just how healthy Wentz is.

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