The NFL regular season is finally here, we can move from speculation into actual analysis. I know I am excited to start watching football played at the highest level. And it helps that we now know that Earl Thomas is back in Seattle and is reporting to the team. This is as unexpected as it is exciting for Seattle. Thomas’ return makes the defense much better and it brings a leader back into the locker room, he is a matchup problem. So, with that, let’s get into some matchups against the Denver Broncos.
Earl Thomas vs Denver Receivers
Denver has good receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have been productive for years and Courtland Sutton is looking like a good big target for Case Keenum. But, Thomas has been keeping the deep ball from being effective against Seattle since he got here. This is going to be a great matchup to watch, Earl will be patrolling the top of the defense and keeping the seams clear. I think he will step in and play almost at his regular All-Pro level because he has been working even though he hasn’t been with the team for much of the offseason. Thomas has the speed to work sideline to sideline and the IQ to get a jump on most plays so there is no play he cannot make. He makes this defense tick and I think his help will hold the Broncos to less than 250 passing yards and they will get a pick.
Seattle O-line vs Denver Pass Rushers
Von Miller is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL year after year. Shane Ray has shown he can get to the quarterback and new addition Bradley Chubb is expected to get double digit sacks for years to come. This is not a great matchup for Seattle, they have Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi on the corners of the line. Brown is a solid pass-protector, but he can only block so many people at once so, Ifedi’s play will be critical to the success of the Seahawks’ offense. If history is any predictor than Miller will be lined up on Ifedi for most of the night and try to take advantage of the line’s weak link. Look for help to slide that way and for running backs and tight ends to help contain the Broncos’ pass rush. I expect Seattle to do a decent job up front in pass protection, but the Broncos will get at least two sacks in this game, with many more pressures on top of that.
Russell Wilson vs Denver Defensive Backs
Denver has Chris Harris Jr, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL the past few years; Bradley Roby, a former first-rounder who has been playing behind Harris and Aqib Talib; Tramaine Brock, a journeyman veteran who can provide quality snaps; Justin Simmons, a versatile free safety who could be in the Pro Bowl this year; and Darian Stewart, the longtime starter who provides a steady presence at strong safety. They are a good group altogether and can cause problems for many quarterbacks, including Russell Wilson. But, Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the business right now and led the league in touchdown passes last year. He has the ability to overcome a lot of what a defense can throw at him, he has shown this time and time again. My biggest concern is if Denver jumps on Wilson early he might have one of his terrible games where he can’t scrape together 150 passing yards. No matter how good he is in the fourth quarter it is going to take a full game from Wilson to beat these guys. I expect Wilson to throw three touchdowns and an interception this week and torch this secondary for the most part.