By Dave Thomas
As the first full weekend of the 2015 NFL season kicks off this weekend, the Seattle Seahawks come into the year in a familiar role.
To many pundits, the Seahawks are the odds-on favorite to capture the NFC crown, then head to Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50 in February. Should the Seahawks accomplish that feat, they undoubtedly do not want a repeat of the previous Super Bowl, a game in which they saw their hopes of back-to-back titles crushed in the final minutes against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
For Seahawk fans, the taste of this most recent disappointment has hopefully left their mouths, leaving them with a bright outlook on the 2015 campaign.
Rams Provide First Test
In hopes of kicking the season off on a high note, the Seahawks travel to the nation’s heartland this Sunday for an early afternoon (St. Louis time) encounter with NFC West Division rival St. Louis.
A year ago, the two teams split their games, with the Seahawks going on to the big game and the Rams finishing 6-10 and watching the playoffs from home. So, could the Rams potentially put the brakes on Seattle’s hopes of getting out of the gates fast?
According to a report from Seahawks.com, much of the focus for the Seahawks will likely be on new quarterback Nick Foles.
A member of the Philadelphia Eagles the past three seasons, Foles came over to the Rams in the off-season in the deal that sent Sam Bradford to the Eagles. While some people may have been scratching their heads over the move, Rams management and head coach Jeff Fisher appear to be happy to have the young gunslinger in blue and gold.
It was just two seasons ago that Foles threw for 27 TD’s and only a pair of interceptions for the Eagles; this prior to taking a step backwards last season in the green and white. With a new setting for him, could Foles find his success from the 2013 campaign once again?
St. Louis also drafted highly-touted Georgia running back Todd Gurley with its first pick in the draft this past spring. While Gurley is not going to reportedly play against Seattle, he is said to be making progress in getting healthy once again (torn ACL last season at Georgia). St. Louis also reported that last year’s top running back, Tre Mason, is likely a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury.
Defense Is Seattle’s Calling Card
If Seattle is to emerge from the Edward Jones Dome with a victory, it will have to be against a defense that is not nearly as good as that of the Seahawks (Seattle allowed a league-best 15.9 points per game last year) in the league, but is still capable of shutting down opposing offenses for the better part of a game.
A season ago, the Rams finished just around the middle of the pack when it came to defensive units, allowing 22.1 points per game. St. Louis outscored Seattle 28-26 in the first meeting in Missouri, then fell to the Seahawks 20-6 in the regular season finale in the Pacific Northwest.
With Gurley out and Mason a last-minute decision for the Rams, could all the pressure of moving the ball against Seattle fall on the shoulders of Foles?
While that may be the case for St. Louis, don’t look for Seattle QB Russell Wilson to have to shoulder all the burden on the offensive side of the ball.
Stellar running back Marshawn Lynch, the just recent addition of former Buffalo running back Fred Jackson, and the off-season acquisition of former New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham gives the multi-dimensional Wilson a number of weapons to work with.
According to head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks are all but ready to go this Sunday.
In his press conference earlier in the week, Carroll noted that despite a tough off-season for the team, the guys are ready to go this Sunday.
Finishing 2-2 in the pre-season, the Seahawks will field a very competitive roster, according to Carroll. Keep in mind that roster is still waiting to add six-year strong safety Kam Chancellor officially back to the mix (sitting out in a contract dispute).
It all kicks off in St. Louis on Sunday, a season where the Seahawks hope to fly all the way to Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.