Taking An Early Look At Seahawks’ Strength Of Schedule

The narrative for this year is forever going to be:  It’s So Super Hard To Repeat As Super Bowl Champions, You Guys!

Nevermind the fact that most of these idiot pundits out there pick the same teams to win the Super Bowl every year, and a lot of them keep predicting the same two teams who played last to go back, because they don’t know any better than what they’ve seen most recently.  You’re either in two camps in this thing:  those who believe the Seahawks are at the beginning of their dynasty, and those who believe that dynasties don’t exist anymore, what with free agency and whatnot.  And, the overwhelming majority this year seem to be on the side that the Seahawks won’t repeat as champions.

They cite recent precedent:  there hasn’t been a repeat champion since since the 2004 Patriots.  So that’s, like, 9 Super Bowls in a row where we’ve had a different champion; ergo, this trend must continue forever.

They also cite the difficulty of the NFC West:  the Seahawks have to go through the next-best team in the NFL, and a couple of strong up-and-comers.  Every team in the NFC West has an elite defense.  Surely, the Seahawks won’t be able to make it through that gauntlet two years in a row!

Finally, they’ll have us take a look at strength of schedule:  8 of our 16 games are against teams who made the playoffs in 2013, with two more against Arizona who won 10 games and just missed out.

Look, it’s hard to argue with recent precedent.  Winning just ONE Super Bowl is a pretty daunting task!  You’ve got to make the playoffs, you’ve got to win 2-3 playoff games, and then you’ve got to beat the best (or the hottest) team from the other conference in the most hyped specacle of the year.  It’s HARD!  Why do you think it took the Seahawks so long to win their first one?  A lot of shit had to go right at the exact same time.  And even then, the Seahawks faced their share of adversity.

Which leads me to the second point, about the difficult NFC West.  Yes, it was the toughest division in football last year.   Yes, it’ll probably be the toughest division in football this year.  All four defenses have elite talent and all four offenses have what it takes to compete in just about every game.  Yes, the teams have improved, but I wouldn’t say that one team has dramatically improved over any other.  Each team scares me for different reasons, but no team has done enough to be better than the Seahawks.  I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but then again, it wasn’t easy last year either, and we still managed to go 13-3 and lock up the #1 seed.

So, ultimately, it’s going to come down to the schedule.  And yes, it looks scary on paper.  The AFC West might be the second-toughest division in football.  They sent three teams to the playoffs last year, but you have to figure that feat won’t be repeated again.  Injuries and regression appear to be in order.

So, let’s go through the list of games.

We kick off on Thursday, September 4th, in a nationally televised game at home against the Green Bay Packers.  I’m not saying they’re a bunch of push-overs, but come on.  The fans are going to be out of their MINDS for that game.  It always seems difficult to play elite teams – and the Packers figure to repeat as NFC North champions, so long as Rodgers can stay healthy – but catching them at home, in the first week, when our last game of significance was a Super Bowl championship?  I’d say that’s got walk-over written all over it.

Then, 10 days later, we go to San Diego.  I’ll admit, this game is a little troubling.  I could see the Chargers dinking and dunking it up and down the field on us; succeeding where the Broncos failed in the Super Bowl.  The Chargers don’t take too many chances down field like they used to, they’re a young and hungry team on the rise, and I fully expect this game to come down to a final possession.  Not the type of game you want to see early on your schedule.  Having the extra few days to prepare might make all the difference, but I could easily see us dropping this one.

The following week, we have the rematch with Denver on our home field.  Again, it’s a game you don’t like to see early on in your schedule.  If you’re like me, you get the nagging feeling that injuries are going to overwhelm the Broncos in 2014.  But, week 3 is probably too early in the season for those injuries to really break them down.  Either way, you like seeing your toughest opponents at home, so the Seahawks probably shouldn’t have much trouble in this one.

After the BYE week, we’ve got three of four on the road (@Was, vs. Dal, @St.L, @Car).  The defenses of the Redskins and Cowboys don’t scare me whatsoever.  Those feel like two games where we can really impose our will (and, since it’s still relatively early in the season when we’re playing in D.C., hopefully the field won’t be a sloppy shit-pile like it was the last time we played there).  Going to St. Louis is always a challenge, but I have no reason to believe that they’re better than us.  Here’s to hoping our offensive line can remain healthy and give Russell Wilson a chance back there.  Carolina will take a HUGE step back in 2014, because they’ve lost too many good players and because Cam Newton has zero weapons.  There’s a game you’d think you’re supposed to fear, but I’ll put good money down on the Panthers not making it back to the playoffs.

After that stretch, the Seahawks have 3 of 4 at home (vs. Oak, vs. NYG, @ KC, vs. Ari).  The Raiders are easily the worst team in the AFC West, they should be easily handled here in Seattle.  You’d think the Giants would be better in 2014 (as they can’t get much worse than they were in 2013), but that’s another game you like to see in Seattle.  They don’t have the weapons to hang with us three time zones away from home.  The Chiefs are probably one of the bigger regression candidates in the NFL.  They’ve lost some useful pieces, and had one of the easier schedules in 2013.  Nothing about them – outside of their starting running back – scares me, and Jamaal Charles has shown to be injury prone in the past.  Finally, we get Arizona back here for a rematch of last season’s shocking defeat – our only loss at home.  Like the Rams, I don’t see a reason why we should lose this game.  Because we’re better than them.  But, like the Rams, you can never really count them totally out either.

So far, through the first 12 weeks, I only see a couple games that scare me.  San Diego for sure, and Denver kinda (you gotta think that the Broncos have revenge on their minds; they’ve also got a radically improved defense thanks to free agent pickups in Ware & Talib).  The Rams and Cardinals scare me a little bit, but again, they’re just not better than us, so to defeat us would be a fluke.

Then, the meaty part of the schedule comes into play.  A Philadelphia Eagles sandwich with the 49ers as the bread.  We go to Frisco on Thanksgiving night, so that’s great.  Not gonna lie to you, that one has loss written all over it.  I hate playing them on Thursdays (of course, I hate Thursday games period, but that’s neither here nor there).  Maybe we’ll get lucky and the 49ers will run into a slew of injuries at all their key positions.  Somehow, I doubt that.  Then, we go all the way to Philly.  Again, we get 10 days off, so that’s nice.  This game actually looks pretty solid, as it’ll be strength against strength:  their explosive offense vs. our explosive defense.  In the end, this reminds me of the Super Bowl all over again, as our offense is leaps and bounds better than their defense.  You have to expect regression out of Foles, considering he was somewhat lucky in a lot of his big plays last year.  Also, they cut their best receiver in Desean Jackson; don’t think that won’t bite them in the ass.  We’ll see if they get enough out of Sproles to make it work, but he’s getting up there.  The following week, we play the 49ers again, this time in Seattle.  On a Sunday.  In the afternoon.  I’d gotten so used to playing them on national television, this is going to be a weird experience.  Of course, with the NFL clamping down on Seattle home games at night (because we keep embarrassing our opponents and making the games unwatchable blowouts), it’s to be expected.  I’d like to think the Seahawks could go 1-1 against the 49ers, but as always it’s a tall order.  Thankfully, Kaepernick gets the yips when he comes to Seattle, so it should work out.

Then, we close the season at Arizona and at home against St. Louis.  Two more semi-tough games that we should win.

All in all, there’s only two games outside of the division that really put the fear of God into me.  Every game inside the division puts SOME fear into me, but what are you gonna do?  Is it a tall order to repeat as champions?  Of course it is.  But, it’s far from impossible.

As always, it’ll come down to injuries.  We can’t suffer too many of them.  And, we’ve got to build up our depth to mitigate those that do hit us.  Keeping Russell Wilson alive will be our top priority.  After that, it’s just hoping that one position group doesn’t get hit inordinately harder than the others.  We’ve got the talent – more talent than most.  If we can keep that talent on the field, we should be able to defeat any team put on our schedule.

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