The Seahawks and Titans are both in winning mode now, but they’ve done it in different ways
RENTON – It’s only week two of the NFL season and the Seahawks may already be facing the most desperate opponent of the entire season.
Maybe that sounds like hyperbole.
But Sunday’s regular-season home opener, the Tennessee Titans, won 11 games last season to take on the AFC South before losing a home playoff game to the Baltimore Ravens. . They then spent big on free agency trying to take the next step.
The Titans, in fact, have handed out $ 160 million, the seventh-highest number in the NFL – and that doesn’t include trades for wide receiver Julio Jones and the remaining three years of his contract.
The point of it all was to win now, which Tennessee decidedly didn’t do last Sunday.
In what has been one of the most revealing games of the NFL opening weekend, the Titans were blasted at home by Arizona, 38-13, putting on a performance filled with mistakes and slow too. bad as the score looked.
And any team that starts 0-1 spends the next week looking at what the historically long playoff odds are for teams that start 0-2.
Of 118 teams since 2007 that started 0-2, only 12 have made the playoffs, including the 2018 Seahawks.
The 11 teams that started 0-2 last year have missed the playoffs despite adding an extra playoff team in each conference.
Tennessee are fortunate enough to be part of a division comprising Houston, Jacksonville and Indianapolis that looks tough so far, meaning if there is a team that could start 0-2 and win a division, it will be maybe the Titans this year.
Still, in a winning season now, this is a must-play for Tennessee.
Or, as Seattle coach Pete Carroll said this week, “All the build-up and top guys (Tennessee did), it’s a really exciting game for us.”
The Seahawks, of course, are also in a win-now mode.
And that’s exactly what Seattle did last Sunday, in stark contrast to the Titans entering Indianapolis and beating the Colts with surprising ease, 28-16.
Seattle’s offseason contrasted with the Titans’ offseason as well, although each team appears to be essentially in the same condition as a franchise.
Each have a highly paid franchise quarterback who turned 33 this year and was selected in the 2012 Draft – Ryan Tannehill of Tennessee was eighth overall and Russell Wilson of Seattle 75e.
But while there was speculation that the Seahawks could restructure Wilson’s contract to free up space for this year and push it back into future seasons, the Seahawks resisted. One of the reasons was to keep so much cap flexibility for 2022 and beyond and not fully sell this season at the expense of years to come.
Tennessee, however, took the opposite view, restructuring Tannehill’s deal to guarantee the full $ 29 million of his salary in 2022 – Wilson, on the other hand, has no guaranteed money beyond this season.
This allowed the Titans to take Jones’ salary and sign free agents like Bud Dupree. And at the end of the madness, Tennessee had eight players who had hit a cap of $ 10 million or more in 2022. Seattle only has three – Wilson, Tyler Lockett and Bobby Wagner – after spending just $ 60 million. dollars in free agency this year, less than all but eight teams.
And without getting too deep into the numbers, that essentially means that if this year doesn’t go well for the Titans, they’ll either have to get rid of high-profile players to renovate their salary structure to start over or hang on to a squad of. well-paid aging veterans and hopefully it gets better – a situation the Seahawks have generally tried to avoid, and a philosophy they would no doubt attribute to why they’ve made the playoffs nine times in 11 seasons since 2010.
Which brings us back to Sunday’s game when Tennessee’s key player may not be Tannehill but running back Derrick Henry.
The 27-year-old ran for 2,027 yards last season, but did so on 378 carries. Football Outsiders detailed what he calls “The Curse of 370 since 2000,” noting that most running backs who get that many runs in a season see their careers decline rapidly in a year or two, including former Seahawk Shaun Alexander, who set a Seattle record with 370 races in 2005 and was out of the NFL in 2009 never to come close to the same highs of his MVP season again.
Anyone who wanted to panic about Henry got some ammo last week when he was limited to 58 yards on 17 carries. But it would be risky to read much in it given the complete failure of Tennessee’s offensive against Arizona.
“It was a tough day for Tennessee to start,” Carroll said. “That’s not how they want to play, they lost 17-0 in the first quarter. You have to give the Cardinals a lot of credit, they looked great. “
So did the Seahawks, as their new attack coordinated by Shane Waldron helped Russell Wilson reach four touchdown passes. The defense dominated the Colts so much early on that the Seahawks were able to sit largely on four-man fronts as the game went on and still pressured Carson Wentz all over the place, finishing with 10 hits from the quarterback. of seven different players.
The Seahawks are hoping to put the same kind of pressure this week on a Tennessee team that is already feeling a lot of it.