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NFL: Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks preview

Russell Wilson rides back into Seattle to face his former Seahawks teammates with the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.

Last spring, Wilson jumped at the chance to leave what he felt was a crumbling organization, taking his elite quarterback play to a franchise that needed a refined passing game.

If any extra motivation were needed, this season-opening game offers those he left behind an opportunity to show that they can still play good football.

And, after enjoying a successful preseason, Wilson's journeyman replacement Geno Smith could give Seahawks fans something to really squawk about on Tuesday morning.

WhatDenver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks
WhereLumen Field, Seattle
When01:15, Tuesday 13th September 2022 / (US) 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 pm PT Monday, September 12th
How to watchSky Sports NFL, NFL Game Pass & Channel 5 / (US) ESPN, ABC, ESPN2
OddsDEN Broncos 10/29, SEA Seahawks 47/20

Smith goes to work as Seahawks starter

Smith, who tore his ACL and subsequently lost the starter's role at the New York Jets in 2016, has bounced around a few different teams in the last few years.

But it was telling that the Seahawks didn't follow the crowd of teams entering the quarterback sweepstakes once it became clear that Wilson wanted out - they believed they already had a capable deputy.

In 2021, Smith inherited a tough gig when Wilson injured his finger in a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The 31-year-old ran the Seahawks offense well in three-and-a-half games as the starter, earning pretty much the same Pro Football Focus grade as Wilson, despite facing defenses that were among the best in the league.

His play was graded highly in preseason too as Smith led all quarterbacks with five 'big time' throws and he recorded no turnover-worthy plays on 45 dropbacks.

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His adjusted completion rate went up to above 80% when drops from receivers were factored in and with two elite WRs on the field for the whole game here in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the Hawks have some big-play potential.

Broncos D had an easier ride than most in '21

Denver's defense was better than solid in 2021, finishing third in points allowed (322) and second in defensive points allowed as the Broncos offense and special teams accounted for five of the 36 TDs scored against them last year.

They ran a 'bend not break' type of scheme that produced fairly balanced outcomes against the run and pass, as the defense finished eighth in yards allowed (5544), sixth in passer rating allowed (85.0), 15th in average yards allowed per carry (4.29) and third in red zone TD percentage allowed (48.8).

However, the 2021 Broncos only faced four teams that finished in the top ten in scoring, so the defense wasn't tested as much as some others were.

Russ will need to shake off the rust

It was on offense that Denver had their biggest problems again as they finished 22nd or worse in scoring for the sixth consecutive season.

Most of the blame for that fell on the former head coach Vic Fangio and 14-game starter Teddy Bridgewater - hence the rush to appoint the man who led the Green Bay Packers to becoming the league's best scoring offense in the 2020 season - Nathaniel Hackett.

They wanted his QB buddy Aaron Rodgers too, but Wilson was not a bad fall-back position for them and he will surely lift them into the top ten in most offensive categories this season if the protection holds up and run support is there.

The question for this game is how much rust will there be for a player who did not play a snap in preseason. Wilson is 13-16-2 against the spread as a road favorite of over 3 points in his career - hardly encouraging for anyone backing the visitors on the -6.5 line.

Third downs the key to Seattle's survival

The Broncos will need to make some inroads on the ground to set Wilson up for play-action passes and they at least seem to have two dependable rushers in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, who are back to give Denver a 1-2 punch out of the backfield.

The key to the game will be how the Seahawks' defense fares on third down as Wilson's playmaking ability could make it a long night for that unit.

Last year it ranked a respectable 14th in the league on third down conversion percentage and, even with a fifth-round rookie substituting at cornerback and another in the nickel package, it ought to hold up well.

The game could be closer than the spread suggests and with a noisy atmosphere guaranteed from the home fans, who are split on whether to boo Wilson, the Broncos won't have it all their own way.

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