Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season has arrived, and the Seattle Seahawks did not start off the season in the manner which many fans had hoped. Dropping the home opener to the division rival Los Angeles Rams has left the Hawks in last place in the NFC West (by virtue of the division record tiebreaker with the Arizona Cardinals) while facing a tough road trip to take on the Detroit Lions.
The Lions enter the matchup well rested, having defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening Thursday game of the year, meaning they will have three extra days of rest compared to Seattle. What that means for the outcome, and what it will mean for the Seahawks as they look to get their 2023 season back on track won’t be known until the two teams take to the field Sunday afternoon in a game that could potentially see eight of the first 52 players selected in the 2023 NFL Draft active. Those players include:
- 1.5: Devon Witherspoon
- 1.12 Jahmyr Gibbs
- 1.18 Jack Campbell
- 1.20 Jaxon Smith-Njigba
- 2.34 Sam LaPorta
- 2.37 Derick Hall
- 2.45 Brian Branch
- 2.52 Zach Charbonnet
As always, Field Gulls teamed up with Pride of Detroit to preview the matchup, and after answering five questions about the Seahawks, Ryan Mathews took the time to answer five questions about the Lions. So, without wasting any further time, here are the questions and answers.
1. The Lions absolutely shredded the Seattle defense last season, but the defense couldn’t stop the Seahawks offense. What changes, if any, should Hawks fans look for when the Lions are on defense that allowed them to improve as the 2022 season went along, and then come away from a road trip to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 with a victory?
You won’t have to squint to see the additions made to this Lions defense in the offseason because they’re all over the place—and one of them, in particular, is going to be the loudest, most talkative player on the field in C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Gardner-Johnson was such a difference-maker in that first game against Kansas City, both in run defense (two defensive stops) and coverage (two pass breakups), and he’s really emerged as a bona fide leader for this young defense. Add in Cam Sutton and the potential for Emmanuel Moseley to make his Lions debut this week after missing all of training camp, this trio was—and still very much is—the biggest question mark surrounding this defense. There were some communication issues on the backend last week that resulted in a red zone touchdown and an explosive play in the passing game, but there’s reason to wonder if this group just needs more time together. A lot of teams are in that same boat in terms of working through the issues of plugging in new pieces, and since it’s literally across every spot at cornerback—rookie Brian Branch is the team’s nickel cornerback after an incredibly impressive training camp and a pick six from Patrick Mahomes in his rookie debut.
2. Jahmyr Gibbs was the 12th overall pick in the draft, and then played just 19 snaps in the season opening win over the Chiefs. Is this a point of worry or concern among fans, or was an upset victory on the road against the defending Super Bowl Champions enough to quell any complaints about how the pick was used?
For the most part, it seemed like a lot of the bellyaching about Gibbs’ usage was coming from a few different loud subsects on social media: fantasy football managers and positional value truthers. In reality, it was more or less the kind of debut I expected from Gibbs given this coaching staff’s track record. In David Montgomery, the Lions other backfield acquisition this past offseason, Detroit knows they have their tone-setting, battering ram of a running back they can rely on and lean on early this season. They’re going to bring Gibbs along on a schedule that keeps his long-term availability in mind, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be adding more to his plate each and every week. I’d expect to see a lot more of Gibbs in Week 2 because the coaching staff said as much earlier this week.
3. Seahawks fans know all the big names - Jared Goff, Jahmyr Gibbs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Aidan Hutchinson, etc - so who are a couple of the lesser known players that fans should be aware of heading into the game?
It’s a moral obligation of any person who watches Lions football to tell other people about who defensive lineman John Cominsky is and what he does for Detroit’s defense. Cominsky was a waiver claim by the Lions in the 2022 offseason, one of eight teams that put in a claim for the former fourth-round pick. Cominsky had a breakout season last year, totalling a career-high 44 pressures, and he’s off to a similar start after recording three pressures (two hurries and a QB hit) against the Chiefs last week on just 18 pass rushing snaps. He’s always good for at least a play or two each week on defense that leaves you saying, “Yeah, he’s really every bit of 6-foot-5, 285.”
4. On the tails of a highly successful season for the 2022 draft class, Seahawks fans were stoked about the potential for the 2023 draft class of the team. That optimism fizzled somewhat after the group combined to play just 70 offensive and defensive snaps in Week 1. The draft class of the Lions for this season, though, was on the field for 146 offensive and defensive snaps, in spite of the aforementioned Gibbs playing just 19 snaps. What seems to be the consensus regarding the 2023 draft class one week into the season?
Each of Detroit’s top four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft made at least one impact play against the Chiefs in Week 1 and the game wouldn’t have been nearly the same without them. Branch had the aforementioned pick six, linebacker Jack Campbell had a very impressive pass breakup, Gibbs had the longest run of the night (18 yards) on the most critical drive of the night, and Sam LaPorta was way more involved than I had anticipated him being from the jump. He was featured in the passing game (five catches for 39 yards) and was a serious factor in the run game—look at him erase Nick Bolton, the Chiefs best run defender, on the game-winning touchdown run by Montgomery. There’s a lot of reason for optimism, but it’s also going to be a process. It wasn’t all pretty from each of these players. Gibbs slipped on a red zone carry that would’ve been a surefire touchdown, Branch and Campbell weren’t perfect in all phases of their game by any means, either. So while there’s a lot of excitement, it’s still just one week of football in an 18-week regular season.
5. The 2022 matchup between these two teams was one of the highest scoring games of the entire NFL season. Do you expect an encore performance from the offenses, or will the defensive groups bring their A game? What’s your prediction for the outcome of the game, and should we be betting the over or the under, which is currently at 47.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook?
These two teams combined for 93 points and over 1,000 yards of offense last season, but it’s going to be a bit different this year. Seeing as the Seahawks look like they’ll be without their starting offensive tackles, that could pose a major threat to Seattle’s approach to the passing game, so they can’t afford to fall behind early. Detroit most certainly would welcome another track meet because they feel like their defense has taken a step in the right direction, and if Goff continues to be a turnover-averse quarterback, Seattle will need to set the tone for this game and hope they don’t punt twice in a row. If Detroit gets out early, I could see it compromising how Seattle executes their offense. I’m going with Lions -5 and UNDER 47.5.