Last Updated: 2017-08-30
NFL Preseason Week 1
Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers
Date/Time: August 13, 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Spread: Los Angeles -1.5
It’s kind of fitting that such an interesting Week 1 preseason game falls in primetime on Sunday night. The Seattle Seahawks, who are very much set in their ways, take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who have a new head coach and possibly more optimism than they have had over the last several seasons. Even though the Chargers have to contend with a very difficult AFC West, the team is clearly going in the right direction. We’ll see how many glimpses of that are evident as the Chargers look to start the Anthony Lynn era on the right foot as a 1.5-point favorite at DSI Sportsbook for Sunday night’s matchup.
The Seahawks will be paying attention to the details throughout the preseason. Russell Wilson will be ready. Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, and Jermaine Kearse will be ready. Eddie Lacy has been weight requirements and he will be ready. For the Seahawks, it’s about building depth. It’s about fixing the problems that plagued the offensive line last season. The Chargers have different goals this preseason. Obviously they are set with Philip Rivers at quarterback and their complement of skill players, but the defense needs a lot of work and the offensive line could improve as well. That creates some challenging handicapping elements because a veteran team with few questions could be complacent. A team with a lot to work out is certainly motivated, but also mistake-prone with some new schemes and new ideas.
It has been a fiery camp so far for the Seahawks. Frank Clark punched German Ifedi in the face last week. Clark has been out since and Ifedi was held out of practices until Monday. Luke Joeckel has also gotten off to a bit of a slow start, so we could see a very watered-down offensive line from Seattle in Sunday’s game. If that’s the case, we can assume that Russell Wilson will play very little. Wilson has played all four preseason games each of the last four years, so he’ll make a cameo appearance at worst. Trevone Boykin and Jake Heaps are the only other quarterbacks on the roster. Boykin was only 37-of-71 passing last preseason, so the Seahawks could have some difficulties moving the football.
The veteran-laden Seahawks defense will see some reps on Sunday, but most of the burden will fall on the second and third-teamers. That will bring a lot of 2017 draftees into the fold, like Malik McDowell, Shaquill Griffin, Delano Hill, Nazair Jones, Tedric Thompson, and Mike Tyson into the equation. McDowell has missed some practices with an injury, so he could be brought along slowly. The Seahawks do still take defensive seriously in the preseason, holding all four opponents to 21 points or less last year and 22 or less in 2015. Don’t expect the Chargers to march up and down the field, even if a lot of the big names don’t suit up.
Philip Rivers has only played in two preseason games each of the last two years. Head coach Anthony Lynn sat Rivers down for Monday’s practice because he wanted the veteran signal caller to slow it down a little bit. Give Rivers credit for looking to set an example with a new head coach, but we know he’ll be ready for the season irrespective of when he actually takes snaps. Kellen Clemens completed 39 of his 65 throws last preseason and he should get the start here, with Cardale Jones and Mike Bercovici in relief. Bercovici threw five picks in his 44 attempts last year. That means we could see a concerted effort to run the football, especially behind Lynn, who was the offensive coordinator and run game coordinator with the Bills and also the Jets. That means a steady diet of guys like Branden Oliver, Kenneth Farrow, and Kenjon Barner. The torn ACL suffered by Forrest Lamp is a big blow to the Chargers offensive line, so they’ll be looking to figure out some guys to fill in at right guard, hence the potential for a run-heavy game plan.
The Chargers opted to keep Ken Whisenhunt with Philip Rivers and he graciously decided to stay on as the offensive coordinator with the hire of Lynn. The biggest change to the coaching staff is that Gus Bradley is the new defensive coordinator. It clearly didn’t work out in Jacksonville as a head coach for Bradley, but he’s got some talent to work with in this defense. We may see flashes of it depending on how long Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram play. Jason Verrett is an excellent cornerback and Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown are great building blocks at the second level. Injuries have plagued the Chargers for several seasons in a row, so establishing depth is always important. The starting unit is strong and the coaching staff knows that, so expect a lot of backups to feature prominently, like second-year cornerback Trevor Williams and rookie corner Desmond King out of Iowa.
Pete Carroll is 18-10 with the Seahawks in the preseason. Carroll was 4-0 in both 2012 and 2013, but has gone just 7-5 since. Lynn is making his preseason debut. Last season, no rookie head coaches finished with a winning record in the preseason.
Free Pick: Los Angeles -1.5
It’ll take all preseason to call the Chargers the Los Angeles Chargers instead of the San Diego Chargers, but they seem to be in a decent spot here. Pete Carroll is 5-2 in Week 1 of the preseason, but the Chargers have a new head coach and are looking to drum up some excitement in LA for the team. A crisp, efficient showing would help and Whisenhunt is a savvy veteran coordinator capable of putting together a game plan to achieve that goal.