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Seahawks vs. 49ers preview: What to watch for in this weekend's division matchup

The Seahawks (1-0) are looking to remain No. 1 in the NFC West with a win Sunday over its divisional rivals.

SEATTLE — Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith won the heart of fans immediately in the aftermath of Seattle's victory over Russell Wilson's Denver Broncos. 

"They wrote me off," Smith said following the Seahawks' 17-16 upset victory on Monday night. "I ain't write back though."

Smith's viral postgame remark epitomized the story of the 2022 Seahawks, a football team widely expected to be one of the league's worst.

Instead, for one night at least, the Seahawks bested its former franchise quarterback that once defined its most successful run in team history. 

Smith, too, has faced a similar pathway full of naysayers. He was once a young quarterback prospect with an opportunity to lead the New York Jets. He failed after two years. It took him six entire seasons of toiling away as a backup quarterback just to get another shot at redemption.

Now the unlikely pairing hopes to continue thumbing their noses at the people that wrote them off – one game at a time. 

Let's get to the Seahawks' game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. 

Game info 

  • Matchup: Seahawks (1-0) at 49ers (0-1) 
  • Time: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. 
  • Location: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California 
  • Key Seahawks: Geno Smith (QB), DK Metcalf (WR), Jordyn Brooks (LB) 
  • Key 49ers: Trey Lance (QB), Deebo Samuel (WR), Nick Bosa (DE) 

No. 1 in the division (for now)

I'll take "things you didn't think would happen in real life" for $500, Alex. It probably won't last long given the collective strength of the NFC West, but the Seahawks are the top team in the division with a pristine 1-0 record.

Now the question, of course, is whether the Seahawks can move past an emotionally draining Monday night victory and re-position its focus to a division rival just six days later. 

RELATED: Game-by-game predictions for the Seahawks 

If the Seahawks can steal another game as big underdogs, the possibility for a 3-0 or 4-0 start to the season is suddenly a real possibility. A home game against the Falcons and a road meeting against the Lions are next. 

Geno Smith, the game manager

Credit: AP Photo/Stephen Brashear
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith passes during warmups before an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, in Seattle.

The Seahawks threw on nearly 60% of its plays in the season opener, a surprising figure considering the Seahawks were leading for most of the game. 

The higher pass rate, however, didn't really mean the Seahawks were expanding their offense.

The average depth of target on Geno Smith's 28 throws was just 5.1 yards, meaning the Seahawks were focusing on short-yardage pass concepts. 

Smith finished the game with 195 passing yards, two touchdowns and a pedestrian 7.0 yards per attempt – right in line with his career mark. He was respectable and good enough to capitalize on a Broncos team that seemed content to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Can this model be sustainable for winning football? It would take an elite defense and excellent coaching to consistently win this way. 

This conservative approach particularly hurt DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who combined for just 64 yards on 10 catches. 

The good news for Metcalf at least: He was targeted on 25% of his pass routes run in the opening game, which is still an elite figure and in line with his efficiency when Russell Wilson was his quarterback.

Lockett was targeted on just 15% of his 27 routes run, however, and he struggled with the quarterback change. He was earning a target on over 20% of his routes run under Wilson for the past three seasons, according to Player Profiler. 

Kenneth Walker III's debut

Credit: Jimmy Bernhard, KING 5
Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker III (9) signs autographs for fans during training camp on July 27, 2022.

Coach Pete Carroll said Walker III will play in Week 2 after he missed the season opener with a hernia injury sustained in the preseason. 

Rashaad Penny led the backfield last week, playing 38 of 54 snaps (70%) and running 19 routes, according to Pro Football Focus. Travis Homer ran the other third of the Seahawks' routes as a pass-catcher.

Now Walker III, the second running back selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, will throw a wrench into the Seahawks' running back hierarchy. 

The Michigan State product may require a slow ramp-up in his first game from injury and play fewer snaps as a result. But his claim to Penny's lead role is undeniably a priority for the Seahawks in their long-term plans. 

How the Seahawks divvy up the running back snaps will be a key area to watch Sunday afternoon. 

Injury report 

The biggest injury to monitor is 49ers tight end George Kittle, who missed the season opener with a groin injury. At this moment, the 49ers said Kittle will be a "game-time decision."

Kittle practiced for the first time Friday, after starting the week with several DNPs.

When healthy, Kittle is one of the few tight ends in the league that can alter entire game plans. 

Kittle caught nine passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers' last meeting against the Seahawks in 2021. 

Game prediction

49ers 24, Seahawks 17. 

   

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