Seattle @ San Francisco
Power rankings: Seattle 29, San Francisco 16
When Seattle has the ball:
The story line in the offseason was, quite correctly, that a quarterback battle between Geno Smith and motherfucking Drew Lock was a combination of pathetic and sad. I almost felt bad for the 12s, but then I stopped feeling bad because they call themselves the 12s. Now here we are, one measly week into the season, and I'm asking you this -- what if Geno Smith doesn't suck ass?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming that Geno is even an average quarterback. But what if he's viable? What if he's a top 32 QB in the league, making him very much deserving of a starting job. Smith had just 121 dropbacks in 2021, but he had a 68.4% completion percentage, gained 7.4 yards per attempt, and had a PFF grade of 73.9. After a solid preseason, he was the third best quarterback in week 1 by PFF grades while defeating the Denver Broncos. I'm not trying to jump to crazy conclusions here, but we need to at least start entertaining the thought that the guy can play at a level far above what he showed in his Jets days. It is worth noting that the situation around him, despite having DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as receivers, is far from ideal. The offensive line is maybe the worst in football. They are starting two rookies at both tackle spots, including 7th overall selection Charles Cross. Cross had a tough start to the season, surrendering 4 pressures on 35 pass blocking snaps. Abraham Lucas, the right tackle who the Seahawks took in the third round, gave up 3. The running game will feature Rashaad Penny, the 27th overall selection from 2018 who broke out last season, where he averaged an absurd 4.52 yards AFTER contact. Penny managed to up that number to 4.67 week 1, his ability to break tackles is of the utmost importance given the offensive line. The 49ers defensive line is led by a strong pass rushing duo of Nick Bosa (edge) and Arik Armstead (tackle). It's a position where they also have a lot of depth, giving them the ability to rotate in fresh legs. It's a matchup where the 49ers certainly have an advantage -- it's almost certain that Smith will need to get rid of the ball faster than he prefers -- Smith averaged 2.9 seconds to throw last year and 2.73 seconds in week 1. The 49ers also have a strong linebacking core, led by Fred Warner, who covers, stops the run, and rushes the passer at elite levels. The weakness is the secondary, which is far more middle of the road. Metcalf and Lockett will have an advantage over corers Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley. Uther, the 49ers best safety, Jimmie Ward, is on IR with a hamstring injury.
When the 49ers have the ball:
I can buy into the idea that we're supposed to largely ignore the 49ers upset loss to the Bears last week -- the weather conditions were truly horrendous, and they were without George Kittle. Although the weather won't be an issue (fingers crossed), Kittle did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. What I wrote about Trey Lance's lack of experience is still true. Lance dropped back just 306 times in college and has 118 career prop dropbacks under his belt. He hasn't performed well over as an NFL quarterback, either, and it's safe to assume that he'll continue to struggle until we see otherwise. I'm not doubting the prospect, but since we're handicapping week by week, it's fair to treat him as a below average quarterback. Which naturally leads to my question: is Geno Smith the best quarterback in this matchup? IT'S JUST A QUESTION, but I'm asking it -- and if it's the case, the better QB is getting 10 goddamn points.
Without Kittle, the 49ers leaders in routes run were Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jauan Jennings, which still gives Lance plenty of options. Jennings was arguably the teams best receiver last week, as he led the team in targets (6), catches (4), and yards (62). Deebo Samuel still has his running back role -- he had 8 carries to Jeff Wilson's 9 and Eli Mitchell's 6. Mitchell will be out with a knee injury, so I'd expect Wilson, Samuel, and Lance to be the main ball carriers. The offensive line features an incredibly strong tackle duo of Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, but the interior is a lot more middle of the road. It's worth noting that guards Aaron Banks (2021 2nd round) and Spencer Burford (2022 4th round) both played well last week. The Seahawks defensive line looked to be an issue coming into the season -- they have a few decent players along the interior in Poona Ford, Shelby Harris, and Al Woods, but it was tough to imagine where the pressure was going to come from. It was only one game, and both are veterans who haven't been productive players in their career, but Quinton Jefferson and Uchenna Nwosu did both have 5 pressures last week. Their interior may lack some depth as Harris didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday (back). Although the linebacking core no longer features Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks (2020 27th overall) had a quality sophomore season and should build on that in year 3. The secondary is an absolute dumpster fire apart from safety Quandre Diggs. I expect the 49ers to have a big advantage there, but we only need to keep it within 10.