The Seahawks host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. The Saints will be without star quarterback Drew Brees. As KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick, the game could contain some surprises.
WHO DAT? SAINTS QB ROLE UP IN THE AIR
"Saints coach Sean Payton has tried to draw a little drama into this whole thing by not necessarily identifiying who the starting quarterback is," Thiel said.
Teddy Bridgewater is the Saints backup quarterback. He came into the game last week against the Los Angeles Rams after starter Drew Brees hurt his thumb.
"The numbers were mediocre," Thiel said. "So Payton decided he would try to fake the Seahawks a little bit this week by saying, 'Well, we're not sure we're going to start Bridgewater because we have a third-string quarterback, a young guy named Taysom Hill.'"
Thiel said Hill is a very good athlete who had a great career as a quarterback at Brigham Young University.
"But as an NFL player, he's been a tight end, he's been a wide receiver, he's been on special teams, and he's thrown only seven NFL passes. I think he may wind up throwing a couple of passes, but it's going to be out of exotic formations.
"All of this is very amusing, but it does leave the Seahawks fans giddy that it's at least not Drew Brees, who is 40 years old and this may be the last time he could have played here. The fact that he won't, I think, maybe they're a little overexcited because Bridgewater may be better than they think."
BRIDGEWATER COULD SURPRISE
Bridgewater was the quarterback for the Vikings in a 2016 playoff game against the Seahawks in sub-zero temperatures in Minnesota. Thiel said Bridgewater outplayed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in that game, but the Seahawks won 10-9 on a missed field goal by then-Vikings kicker Blair Walsh.
Bridgewater made the Pro Bowl that year. Eight months later, a non-contact injury in practice resulted in several torn ligaments and knee damage so extensive that doctors thought Bridgewater would lose his leg. He recovered and was acquired in free agency by the New York Jets, who traded him to the Saints. Thiel said Saints coach Payton sees the 26-year-old as a possible successor to 40-year-old Brees.
Staring down the Saints quarterback will be Seahawks pass rushers Jadaveon Clowney and Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah. The defensive ends will be playing together for the first time on Sunday, with Ansah now recovered from shoulder surgery.
"Whoever is back there (for the Saints) is going to be harassed by two of the best in the game," Thiel said. "So the drama in this game, with the 2-0 Seahawks and the 1-1 Saints, is very high and it could have playoff implications here, already, in September."
WILSON'S BEST YEAR YET?
Thiel noted that, with a lot of quarterbacks going down this season, Russell Wilson is "standing tall." He was designated the NFC Offensive Player of the Week this week. It was his eighth such award, the most in team history.
"These first two games indicate that he might be on his way to the best season of his career," Thiel said. "And that's saying something."