The buzz about Week One is well underway now, and the first real test of the new-look Seattle Seahawks is soon to be met.
Months of planning, training and adapting to myriad changes -- with regards to both the players and the coaching staff -- will be launched into battle Sunday afternoon at Qwest Field when the St. Louis Rams come to town.
And though the expectations for 2009 are riding high for a team that is out to show that its 2008 struggles were an aberration, head coach Jim Mora really put it all in perspective during a press conference earlier today.
"What we're trying to do as a team ... is concentrate on winning one game," Mora said. "And winning that game, one play at a time. We're not trying to win the division or get home field this week. That's not our goal. Our is to just win one game."
Really, there's no better way to put it. This is the first game of the year, and while it will be played against a franchise that hasn't won in Seattle for the past several seasons, St. Louis has seen almost as many changes as the Seahawks have, starting with the head coach. There are plenty of question marks going into this game on both sides of the field.
Despite those question marks, the Seahawks absolutely must come roaring out of the gates on Sunday, firing on all cylinders. The failures of 2008 must be nothing more than a fading memory, and the team has to give the 12th Man every reason to revitalize itself. If the team elects to receive on the opening kickoff, the offense must pound the ball down the Rams' throats and move downfield faster than their secondary can keep up. If they elect to kick, the defense will have to take advantage of rookie RT Jason Smith's inexperience and QB Marc Bulger's injuries. Aaron Curry's pass rush ability will be utilized to the fullest, and Brandon Mebane and Colin Cole will have their hands full trying to plug up RB Steven Jackson in the trenches.
The importance of the 12th Man will be paramount this season from the very first time the Seahawks run onto the field. Last year, as Danny O'Neil notes, the energy in the stadium began depleting as quickly as the team's starting lineup fell to injuries. That can't happen this year. Even if injuries do occur, it seems that the depth in many areas (WR, DT, DE, CB, S) has significantly improved, and the weaker links have mostly been dealt with accordingly.
But more importantly, a strong start agains the Rams will not only bolster the team's confidence coming out of the gates, but it will re-energize the most dangerous fanbase in the NFL. Mora acknowledged the same thing during the press conference:
"It's a suffocating experience to come in (to Qwest)," Mora said. "With our fans, what we like to do is create an environment where a team ... doesn't feel safe. Where they say, 'I don't want to be out here. I want to be in the locker room and on the bus home.'"
If the Seahawks emerge not only victorious on Sunday, but with a blowout victory, the morale and momentum alike will climb sky-high heading into San Francisco for Week 2 -- especially if Walter Jones returns to the lineup. But the fact remains that a strong showing through four quarters of home-field football on Sunday is nothing short of necessary for a promising 2009 season.
Predictions for Sunday's final score?