This started off as a best-on-best position group preview, but something better emerged in the research. The most intriguing battle in the upcoming opener for the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons is who’s going to catch the ball and how often they’ll do it.
Furthermore, this will be the best battle of wide receiver talent the NFL has to offer in its first week.
But no, if you want to see the best quartet of wideouts in the same game, this is it.
Setting the Stage
Everybody knows Julio Jones’ name, and even at 31 teams must plan for his dominance. But for those who didn’t pay attention to the Falcons last year, Calvin Ridley is actually really good. He was the second best receiver in the league last year by DVOA, behind only Chris Godwin. These guys are studs, and it’s going to be really energetic in the passing game for both teams on Sunday.
For the 12s, this will essentially be the first time that we’ll get to see a fully recovered Tyler Lockett and a DK Metcalf after a year of bonding with Russell Wilson. Take Metcalf’s playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles and put it with Tyler Lockett’s game against the Buccaneers and these two are also playing in the stratosphere.
Lockett memorably had the perfect passer rating season back in 2018, and Metcalf set both franchise and NFL records for a rookie receiver in that playoff game against the Eagles last season.
The nerds agree as well; Jones, Ridley, Lockett and Metcalf are all ranked in ESPN’s top 25 for fantasy football receivers this year. It’s the only foursome anywhere near that this week. Production expectations are high on all these guys.
What’s especially interesting about this matchup is the drop off after those elite options at receiver. Atlanta will be rolling out Russell Gage, a third-year sixth-round selection with 49 receptions last year. Seattle, anxiously awaiting the savior’s heralding when Josh Gordon arrives, has Phillip Dorsett listed as questionable for this week. I’ve already said this team doesn’t have a WR3 and doesn’t need one, and it seems we’ll certainly find out this weekend.
Fortunately, the Seahawks are not out of weapons, and that could be the big offensive advantage they need.
The Other Pass Catcher
Tight end is the big unknown in this game. It very well may be the position that swings the game this week. This is a prove it opener for both teams. The Falcons just let Austin Hooper go for some $40 million to the Cleveland Browns. Hayden Hurst is new to the team but was a first round draft pick in 2018.
On the other side, Seattle has to prove whether they have an overpriced backup in Greg Olsen or a dynamic two tight end set. We don’t know if Olsen still has it, or if Dissly has regained it after consecutive injuries. Meanwhile, the Falcons don’t know what they have in Hurst, who has a fantastic y/c average but never more than 30 receptions. This is the discovery position on offense.
Will Dissly had already gone down by this point last year, and Wilson only got three receptions out of his tight ends against Atlanta. You can see Jones went off, Ridley had huge yards per catch, and Hooper was used extensively.
Shut it Down
Though I would give the talent and experience edge to the Falcons wide receivers, Seattle’s secondary is on a different planet than when these teams faced last year. The defensive backs last year were not named Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, or even Tre Flowers. It was Jamar Taylor and Akeem King in the top-five for tackles against Atlanta.
I am fully hoping, expecting and excited for the Falcons receivers to struggle mightily in an intense battle against Seattle’s secondary. I am equally hoping that Atlanta’s DBs can do absolutely nothing against Lockett-Metcalf-and-tight-end-to-be-determined. They simply won’t have the manpower to keep up with a third weapon, and if this goes well it will be a fantastic day for Russell Wilson’s 2020 opener.