Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks Prediction: Russell Wilson's Denver Debut Comes in Seattle on Monday Night Football – Athlon Sports

"Monday Night Football" kicks off its slate of games for the 2022 NFL season with what should be an intriguing contest with Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos visiting the Seattle Seahawks. The scene should be fantastic as the "Bronco Busters" shirts will be back in force. In addition, the 12s get a bonus Super Bowl and Christmas rolled into one with the return of Wilson to Seattle. The reaction should be wild and place Wilson safely as the most hated superstar to leave Seattle, surpassing Alex Rodriguez by a significant margin.
Related: NFL Predictions for Every Game in Week 1
Denver heads into the 2022 season with heightened expectations following the blockbuster trade for Wilson, since the rest of the team is set up well to go to war in the loaded AFC West. The receiving corps should be good enough for Wilson to operate the passing game without too many issues. The offensive line will see its scrutiny level go up, as Wilson probably won't have a ton of patience if he gets hit a lot. If key guys like Bradley Chubb play up to their capabilities, the defense is talented enough to keep the Broncos in every game. The division is loaded, so the math will not work for every team, even if there are three wild-card spots. Someone has to finish last, after all. So, it will be vital for Denver to win the games it is expected to; the margin for error in the division, and AFC as a whole, is very slim.
Seattle is in a rebuild/reload hybrid scenario entering this season. There are talented players in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Quandre Diggs, and others. But the quarterback position battle didn't go quite as planned. In the preseason, Geno Smith beat out Drew Lock due to his experience in the offense and ability to take care of the football. Smith did not have a turnover in the preseason, while Lock gave the ball away four times, including three interceptions against the backups for the Dallas Cowboys in the final preseason game. On a more positive note, the rookie class has three guys listed as starters, starting with left tackle Charles Cross, right tackle Abraham Lucas, and cornerback Tariq Woolen. These guys will play a massive part in the reboot of this team, along with running back Ken Walker III, when he gets healthy. Coby Bryant (CB) and Boye Mafe (LB) also will see playing time on defense to bring additional speed and overall athleticism that was missing last season.
Kickoff: Monday, Sept. 12 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Broncos -6.5
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1. Will Denver "Let Russ Cook" on offense?
New head coach Nathaniel Hackett appears to be ready to tailor the offense entirely to the needs and wants of Russell Wilson. This is a brilliant tactical move by Hackett, and he has no choice, at least from the start of the season, but to turn Wilson loose and see if he can still carry a team on offense by throwing the football. He certainly has an intriguing group of pass catchers, which includes Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler at wide receiver and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. But the Broncos also are seemingly equipped to run the ball with the tag-team duo of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III. It will be interesting to see what sort of balance Denver's offense shows, considering the unique circumstances of this game. Wilson also will be on the receiving end of the onslaught of noise from the Seattle fans (12s) in Lumen Field, so we'll see if he opts for a no-huddle offense to counter.
2. How will Seattle respond?
This game is the Super Bowl for Seattle this season, as the Seahawks are not a bona fide playoff team in the NFC unless true chaos unfolds. Expect to see a concerted effort to run the football early to establish a physical mentality and to relieve pressure on the young offensive line. Rashaad Penny finished strong down the stretch last season and should have plenty of yardage opportunities if he can get to the second level. The emergence of a solid running game will allow Smith to get some easy completions to Metcalf and Lockett, provided they can win their battles with cornerback Pat Surtain II and the rest of the Broncos' solid secondary. Taking care of the football also is vital for Smith, as this team is not good enough to overcome games with multiple turnovers.
3. Seahawks defense
A lot remains to be seen about the Seattle defense since most of the starters didn't play a ton during the preseason. The pass rush must be a significant factor, even if they don't register a ton of sacks on Wilson. Darrell Taylor looks to build on his sack total of 6.5 from the 2021 season, and his opportunities should increase under the new 3-4 alignment the Seahawks are running with new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt calling the shots. Linebacker Jordyn Brooks is tasked with filling the leadership role vacated by Bobby Wagner, the former cornerstone who's now with the Rams. Last season, Brooks finished second in the NFL with 184 tackles, to go along with a sack, fumble recovery, and five passes defended as he took a massive leap in his second season. Jamal Adams needs to get back his havoc-causing ways of flying all over the field because he is at his best when he does a little of everything on defense. Forcing turnovers and limiting explosive plays are other keys to victory. The best chance to beat Wilson in this scenario is to make him have to produce long drives that go the length of the field.
This game will be a roller-coaster ride because, as the Bills-Rams kickoff game on Thursday night showed, early-season play can deteriorate at times due to the starters not seeing many reps during the preseason. Also, despite some wishes of a portion of the fan base who want Seattle to tank for quarterbacks C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young in the 2023 NFL Draft, they will be disappointed, as that's not in Pete Carroll's DNA; you will see the Seahawks put together a spirited effort, energized by the raucous support of the 12s in Lumen Field. The bottom line is for Smith and the offense to take care of the ball so Seattle can hang around into the second half. The pressure on Wilson will then increase and set up the Seahawks' defense to get a late turnover that Smith will convert into a touchdown, giving Seattle a satisfying upset win to start the season.
– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.
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