Seattle set for season, Raiders have QB question
Nothing that happened during the preseason damaged the notion that the Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl contenders.
And nothing the Oakland Raiders did persuaded anyone into thinking they won't finish near the bottom of the league.
The Seahawks wrapped up a perfect preseason Thursday night with a 22-6 victory over Oakland, where Seattle's starters made a brief cameo appearance and then relaxed on the sidelines and let the backups get their chance.
Meanwhile, the Raiders still have questions at the most important position on the field, quarterback, with the season about to begin.
The Raiders (1-3) will open the season at Indianapolis, while the Seahawks (4-0) travel to Carolina for their opener.
Here are five things we know about the Raiders from the preseason:
PRYOR'S PROGRESS: Terrelle Pryor capped an impressive preseason of growth where he turned the quarterback situation into a true competition. Pryor got better with each appearance before struggling in the finale against Seattle. It's still up in the air who will be the starter for the opener, but if Pryor is bypassed, coach Dennis Allen knows he could turn to him later on for an athletic spark.
FLYNN'D AGAIN? Matt Flynn was supposed to be the starter in Seattle, only to see Russell Wilson race past him. He was supposed to get a fresh start in Oakland and be the starter for the Raiders. Now he's left wondering what decision Allen will make and if he'll get overtaken again, this time by Pryor.
RUN DEFENSE: If there was an area for the Raiders to be pleased about, it was their run defense. They limited Seattle to 1.7 yards per carry on Thursday and limited opponents to 3.2 yards for the entire preseason. If the Raiders can carry that into the regular season, it'll give them a chance to stay in games.
HAYDEN'S DEBUT: D.J. Hayden has a chance to be a very good cornerback for the Raiders. He just needs more time on the field, like he got Thursday night in his second preseason game. Remember Hayden had follow-up surgery in May after a near fatal practice injury cut short his college career. The rust will eventually evaporate, but the Raiders will need to be patient.
LEAKY LINE: The Raiders are still scrambling to solidify their offensive line. They're scrambling at left tackle with Jared Veldheer out due to surgery. They are set at center with Stefen Wisniewski, but questions remain about both guards and whether Khalif Barnes can be a serviceable right tackle.
And five things we know about the Seahawks:
RUSSELL'S READY: A year ago, Russell Wilson was fighting to prove he should be the starting quarterback. He closed out this preseason the unquestioned leader and face of the franchise. Wilson was smooth and steady in his four appearances. He also has a solid backup in Tarvaris Jackson who would not call for a drastic offensive change if the Seahawks needed to use him.
BEAST MODE: Marshawn Lynch carried just five times for 9 yards in the preseason. The Seahawks averaged 1.7 yards per carry in the finale against Oakland. The Seahawks' run schemes were very basic in the preseason, but the numbers were not on par with what they would like, averaging 4 yards per carry. Seattle did get plenty of work for rookie Christine Michael, who showed speed getting through the line and shiftiness in the open field. But the run game will be worth watching in the opener to make sure the preseason wasn't a sign of things to come.
DEEP AND DEEPER: The amount of depth the Seahawks have built is impressive. Their backups easily outmatched San Diego, Denver and Oakland and were the equal to Green Bay. No position is more impressive than the secondary where Seattle's backups would almost be certain starters for other teams.
DEFENSIVE LINE BREAKDOWN: The defensive line is the biggest concern heading into the regular season. Before camp started, the question was whether Seattle could improve its pass rush. They leave the preseason just concerned about having enough healthy bodies. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Jordan Hill have all been slowed by injuries during camp, as has defensive end Cliff Avril. With no timetable set on when defensive end Chris Clemons returns, the depth on the line is a huge worry as Week 1 approaches.
HANDLING EXPECTATIONS: Seattle was visited by every national media outlet. They were pasted on the cover of multiple magazines and picked by many to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. For the most part, the Seahawks handled all the attention well. The real test will come when they face adversity during the regular season.
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org