The big storyline in this game is Russell Wilson changing sides, being sent from the Seahawks, where he spent a decade as the starting quarterback and won a Super Bowl, to the Broncos, who sent a pair of first and second round picks back to Seattle along with a trio of veteran players. Both of these teams finished with a 7-10 record a year ago and the general consensus is that the Seahawks are way worse this year without Wilson, while the Broncos are way better and, there is some truth to that, as Wilson will be an obvious upgrade on the Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock combination the Broncos started last year, while the Seahawks are forced to turn to long-time backup Geno Smith in Wilson’s absence, but I don’t think that tells the whole story, for a few reasons.
For one, while these two teams had identical records a year ago, the Seahawks were actually a noticeably better team, finishing 16th in overall efficiency, about three points better than the 21st ranked Broncos, and that’s despite the fact that Wilson missed three and a half games with injury and was limited in three others after returning at less than 100%. The Seahawks only went 1-5 in the six full games they played without Wilson at full strength, but they had just a -11 point differential over those six games, with three of their five losses being within the seven points they are underdogs of in this matchup, so they were competitive in most of those games.
The Broncos should be significantly improved on offense over last year’s 18th ranked finish in offensive efficiency, with Russell Wilson and new offensive minded head coach Nathaniel Hackett coming in, but I would expect their defense, which overachieved their talent level to rank 10th in defensive efficiency last year, to regress this season without defensive minded head coach Vic Fangio, whose defenses have almost always overachieved throughout his coaching career. Meanwhile, the Broncos’ special teams, which were 3rd worst in the league in terms of special teams DVOA last season, figure to continue being a problem this season.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, had one of the best special teams in the league last season, ranking 4th in special teams DVOA, and that figures to continue this season. Their offense is likely to struggle without Wilson, after ranking 20th in offensive efficiency even with Wilson healthy for most of last season, and Wilson wasn’t the only veteran loss on this roster this off-season, but they’ve done a good job adding young players with upside and I think this team has more upside than people realize. In some ways, this Seahawks team reminds me of when Pete Carroll first took over, when they went 7-9 with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as their starting quarterbacks in his first season, before finding Wilson in the following year’s draft.
The Seahawks are unlikely to be playoff contenders, but I think they’re going to surprise some people that think they are among the worst few teams in the league and this week they have a good chance to keep it close at home with a Broncos team that is a little overrated, with the public not realizing that their defense isn’t likely to be as good as it was a year ago. The Seahawks also probably have the psychological edge, playing on Monday Night Football at home against their long-time quarterback. I’m pretty confident in taking the Seahawks as touchdown underdogs.
Denver Broncos 23 Seattle Seahawks 20
Pick against the spread: Seattle +7