As auspicious an opener as the Seahawks have Sunday in Green Bay, the New England Patriots opened the NFL season Thursday night with a suspicious one. Suspicious, in that if the one true thing that was known about the season was false, what else is at risk?
The Pats aren’t likely to remain as bad as they looked in the 42-27 loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. My guess is that coach Bill Belichick is already on the phone to the Boston Red Sox, seeking to borrow their Apple watches.
But since the defending champions stand no taller at the moment than a legless Corgi, the rest of the NFL has to be 31 Labrador one-year-olds after the car door opens.
In Seattle, optimism has little to do with the failures of the Pats and most everything to do with a depth of talent that rivals the 2013 outfit that scorched the NFL portion of the earth.
Nevertheless, the fact that the Seahawks felt compelled to make an NFL-high five trades after the final preseason game suggests two things: It’s not a complete team, and there’s an urgency to get another Super Bowl before the Legion of Boom becomes the League of Ordinary Gentlemen.
After nine months of re-loading following another desultory post-season exit, coach Pete Carroll still has four guys whose past production has been either limited or erratic, yet upon whom much is suddenly expected.
Here’s the Fearful Foursome that has to break through if the Seahawks are to avoid a Pats-style breakdown:
The team’s one emergency replacement — for George Fant (knee surgery; done for the season) — played only 33 snaps in eight games a year ago in his rookie year and now must protect QB Russell Wilson’s slimmed-down backside in a place, Lambeau Field, where the Seahawks haven’t won this century.
A third-round pick from Kenya via Boise State, Odhiambo has the smarts and athleticism to succeed, but thinks too much and has had too little time with LG Luke Joeckel, who is also new to the team and has only five games experience at his position.
The Packers will be the first of many to send predators to this side of the line.
Absent the traded Jermaine Kearse and with Tyler Lockett still in late recovery from his double leg fracture, Richardson has to turn his good previews into a feature-length production.
Entering his contract year, the second-rounder from Colorado has played only 31 of 48 regular-season games (six starts) with 51 catches, 599 yards and two touchdowns.
There’s no doubt about his speed and hands, but he’s had pitiful luck staying healthy. Three catches for 35 yards in the preseason provided scant evidence that he is ready for the No. 2 spot behind Doug Baldwin. Rookie third-rounder Amara Darboh is after his job.
Entering his sixth season, Lane is established enough to have received a second contract from the Seahawks. But with 15 career starts, two interceptions and 17 passes defensed, he’s not so established that he won’t be picked on, because he isn’t Richard Sherman. Nor is he so established that he won’t be supplanted in favor of the impressive rookie, Shaquill Griffin.
Griffin and Lane may share the outside spot and the slot in nickel coverage, but wherever they line up, QB Aaron Rodgers has had them in his crosshairs the day after the schedule was announced.
After practice Friday, Carroll gushed about Lane’s progress: “Jeremy has really had just a tremendous off-season. I’m really excited about him fitting in.”
Perhaps the most mysterious among the newbies, Lacy is coming off ankle surgery and chubbiness. Carroll said this week Lacy is ready, if needed, to carry 20 to 25 times against his old team. But Lacy admitted that for the first two exhibition games, he was fearful of re-injuring his repaired ankle.
“The preseason definitely helped out a lot because in the first two games, I was real nervous about it,” he said. “I didn’t know how I would respond. But I felt a lot better my last two games than the first two.”
Carroll insisted that apprehensions about Lacy’s fitness are misguided.
“He’s done everything we have asked of him, for weeks and weeks now,” he said. “We’ve seen him for years; we know what kind of player he is. He’s had enough glimpses of the look in preseason that you can see him get to rumbling with the football.”
Asked whether Lacy met his latest contractual weight-loss goal, Carroll wouldn’t answer directly.
“Eddie is doing great,” he said.
Whether Carroll is covering for Lacy’s penchant for pastry will begin to be known abruptly Sunday, when the Seahawks draw at the outset perhaps their toughest long-term opponent.
The last time Seattle won at Lambeau was 1999, in coach Mike Holmgren’s return after leaving Green Bay. The only other road wins over the Packers, in 1984 and 1990, were at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.
Since 2002, the Seahawks have road wins over every other NFC team except for Green Bay. The streak will continue.
Sunday prediction: Packers 23, Seahawks 20
Season prediction: Seahawks 12-4, as well as a return to the NFC Championship and a re-match with the Packers in Lambeau. The football gods would have it no other way.