Game Preview: Seahawks at Bills

Game one of the final season with Mike Holmgren at the helm kicks off Sunday in Buffalo against a solid Bills team that is rebuilding after some tough seasons. Seattle needs to get off to a fast start this season and getting a win in upstate New York would be just what the doctor ordered…

Who: Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills
What: First game of the regular season
When: Sunday, September 7th, 10:00 a.m. (PST)
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, New York

Overview: The 10th and final season of the Mike Holmgren era begins in Buffalo as the Seahawks take on the Buffalo Bills. Holmgren has led Seattle to four-straight NFC West Division titles as well as the Super Bowl and the hope of many Seahawks fans is that he'll take them to the to their first league championship this season before handing over the reigns to Jim Mora who has already been named his successor.

Seattle rarely begins the season on a high note, going 11-21 on opening days, but they beat Tampa Bay last year 20-6 and they've won four of their last five, including three of those coming on the road, so this team knows how to win.

Will they send Holmgren out on a winning note? We'll know what this team is made of a little after 1 o'clock Sunday afternoon.

Key Matchups

Seattle wideouts vs. Buffalo secondary: Everyone in Seattle knows the Seahawks wideouts are young and, other than starting flanker Nate Burleson, they have very little in the way of experience because of the loss of both Deion Branch and Bobby Engram for most likely the first month of the season. Burleson has to be a threat down the field and he'll have Buffalo's top cover man – Terrence McGee – shadowing him most of the day. The receivers can really help out QB Matt Hasselbeck a lot by getting open so he doesn't take too many hits on his suspect back.

Seattle C Chris Spencer vs. Buffalo DT Marcus Stroud: Spencer played very little in the preseason and it remains to be seen whether he can hold up with his injured lower back still a nuisance at times. Stroud is a big and very physical defensive tackle that was brought in during the offseason by the Bills' front office. Over the past three years his starts have dropped from 16 to 11 to nine last year in Jacksonville. He'll be the focus of a retooled Buffalo defensive line that will need to be much better against the run this year in order for the Bills to be successful – they ranked 25th in the league last year allowing 125 yards per game on the ground.

Seattle S Deon Grant and S Brian Russell vs. Buffalo QB Trent Edwards: Edwards has been the most consistent of the Bills quarterbacks, but because of a deep thigh bruise he only threw 16 passes during the preseason, completing 10 for two touchdowns while amassing an outstanding 125.5 rating. He's entering only his second season as a pro quarterback, so disguising coverages will be a key in disrupting his rhythm. Grant and Russell really shored up Seattle's deep middle last year totaling 143 tackles and three interceptions between them. They are both like coaches on the field, helping to make sure the secondary is aligned correctly while making the adjustment prior to the snap.

Seattle RT Ray Willis vs. Buffalo DE Chris Kelsay: This will be Willis' first NFL start and Kelsay will be a nice test for the fourth-year pro. Kelsay doesn't have a lot of moves and he's not a dynamic pass rusher, but he's solid against the run and he's a good athlete, so he could cause Willis trouble on pass plays. Willis isn't a great athlete, but he's a hard-worker. The key with this match-up will be if Willis can handle Kelsay on his own. If he can, the Seahawks can release TE John Carlson and the running backs into the pattern, if not, that will limit what Seattle can do in the passing game.

Seattle DE Lawrence Jackson vs. Buffalo LT Langston Walker: Seattle's first-round draft choice gets the start against Walker who is stepping in for Jason Peters who is in the middle of a bitter holdout with the Bills. Walker enters his seventh season who signed as a free agent with Buffalo in 2007 and started all 16 games at right tackle last season. If Jackson, who had an excellent preseason, can get some pressure on Edwards, it will cause some serious problems for the Bills' offense because on the other side will be Patrick Kearney facing Kirk Chambers. Jackson is also stout against the run, but it's asking a lot of a rookie to come in and be dominant, so really, all Jackson has to do is hold his own and that will allow LB Leroy Hill and LB Julian Peterson to run free on blitzes and stunts.

Notable Notes: Players across the league will wear a commemorative patch honoring former NFLPA president Gene Upshaw who passed away early last month; Seattle leads the series 6-4, but Buffalo has won two of the last three including their last meeting a 38-9 win at Qwest Field in 2004; Seattle is 11-21 on opening day, but they are 5-4 since Holmgren took over in 1999; Since 2003, Seattle has a 51-29 record, best in the NFC; LT Walter Jones ranks seventh on the Seahawks' all-time games played list with 168 and he should be able to jump into fourth if he starts the entire season;

Key Rankings: Seattle's offense ranked 9th in 2007 while their defense ranked 15th overall. Buffalo's offense ranked 30th and their defense finished 31st in the league.

Injury Report

PROBABLE: QB Matt Hasselbeck (back); C Chris Spencer (back)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Deion Branch (knee);LB Lofa Tatupu (knee)
DOUBTFUL: DE Baraka Atkins (back); OT Sean Locklear (knee)
OUT: WR Bobby Engram (shoulder); DT Rocky Bernard (suspension); DB Jordan Babineaux (suspension)

PROBABLE: DT Spencer Johnson (back)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Paul Posluszny (ankle)
OUT: TE Derek Fine (hand); TE Matt Murphy (shoulder); LB Angelo Crowell (knee); TE Derek Fine (hand); TE Matt Murphy (shoulder)

Prediction: Buffalo 24 – Seattle 21

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Feel free to contact him at Top Stories