1. Will Christine Michael seize his huge chance?
For the first time since Seattle drafted him in the second round in 2013, Michael has the starting tailback job all his own – at least for Sunday. Seahawks lead back Thomas Rawls is likely out with a strained leg muscle three games after Rawls returned from a broken ankle. Michael averaged 6 yards a carry last week at Los Angeles. But he rushed only 10 times. He is likely to surpass his career high of 17 carries Sunday against San Francisco. Coach Pete Carroll thinks Michael is ready for 20-plus rushes. If Michael romps, there could be an unexpected, 1-1A arrangement in the backfield after Rawls gets healthy.
2. Will the Seahawks finally go to Jimmy Graham in the red zone?
Carroll said his $40 million tight end is, after 55 snaps last week, now full go for games in his return from knee surgery. So will Russell Wilson again not even look to Graham’s side of the field when he has one-on-one coverage alone at the goal line, let alone target him? That’s what happened last weekend on third and goal from the 2, and the Seahawks blew their only real chance at a touchdown in a 9-3 loss. If Graham is indeed fully ready, it’s beyond time he gets fully used inside the 20-yard line. Especially when there are mismatches – which, given Graham is 6 feet 7 and 260 pounds, is just about every time.
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3. The Rams and 49ers are currently tied with Arizona and Seattle. Are they going to make the NFC West a four-team race?
No. The Rams seemingly can only beat the Seahawks. The 49ers scored 27 points in a 19-point loss at Carolina. But they had just two scoring drives of more than 11 yards, after the Panthers gave them four turnovers. San Francisco cannot win consistently with Blaine Gabbert’s scattered passing aim and Carlos Hyde not going much of anywhere in the running game. Los Angeles has the even more inaccurate Case Keenum throwing balls all over the place, but Todd Gurley could eventually rescue that offense with his rushing. Whatever. The slow-starting Cardinals and Seahawks are the class of the West. They will eventually be fighting for the division title and the NFC’s top seed by the end of December.
4. Is Bill Belichick the best game-prep coach ever? At least in the last 25 years?
How else to explain Tom Brady being suspended, backup Jimmy Garoppolo leading the Patriots to an unexpected win at Arizona, then Garoppolo getting hurt and rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett leading New England to a 27-0 win over Houston (a playoff team last season) to send the Patriots to 3-0 without Brady? C’mon! I mean, Brissett wasn’t even good enough to start for his chosen college team, the University of Florida. Belichick and his staff prepare his starters and backups for every possible scenario before games, then puts them in optimal positions during games – Brissett on short, quick, comfortable passes outside on Thursday, for instance. All the while they decisively exploit each opponent’s weaknesses. Though no one around Seattle likes to admit it, Belichick’s Patriots are the league’s most-prepared team each week. They don’t always play the best. But they prepare the best.
5. Have the Seahawks had a more remarkable two days between games than Wednesday and Thursday?
Not that I know of or have witnessed. Richard Sherman on Wednesday and Doug Baldwin on Thursday turning their weekly press conferences into national calls for law-enforcement officials to act and change for better relations with our country’s citizens was extraordinary. How many other athletes demand all 50 of the nation’s state attorneys general review their police practices and training? In the middle of a preparations for a game? Zero. How many pro athletes meet with police chiefs, get offers from his state’s attorney general to meet and ask for more meetings with sheriffs’ departments? Agree or disagree with their messages, their approaches, and their platforms, but what Sherman and Baldwin said and are doing towards action are undeniably unique in our society. And go so far beyond football.