Football / Sports

Defending champion Seahawks have a tough schedule ahead

It's part of the fun of the NFL offseason to take your favorite team's schedule and then start making predictions.

Put W's by some (or most) games, L's by a few others (preferably, as few as possible) and "maybe ?" by a couple more. Then tally it up for a hopeful projection of the season.

Inevitably, though, some games that look tough now won't look so rugged when kickoff arrives in November or December. And just as inevitably, some games that look like relative breathers now will turn out to be real slugfests.

Consider Seattle's 2013 schedule.

The opener at Carolina, which at the time wasn't billed as having any more import than simply being the first game of the season, ended up determining homefield advantage through the playoffs.

Meanwhile, games at Atlanta and the New York Giants -- which each looked like potential blockbusters in August -- turned out to be among the easiest wins of the season for the Seahawks. The two projected playoff contenders were by that point playing out the string on disappointing campaigns.

So what to make of Seattle's schedule as the 2014 season nears, with training camp beginning Friday?

By the most common objective measure used -- the combined won-loss record of 2013 opponents -- it ranks among the most difficult in the NFL.

In fact, the 2013 won-loss record of Seattle's 2014 foes was 143-112-1, a winning percentage of .561. That ranks sixth among 2014 NFL schedules. Some of that is due to the NFL scheduling philosophy, which is designed to create parity and calls for the good teams in 2013 to play harder schedules than the not-so-good.

By winning the NFC West, for instance, Seattle has to play the winners of the NFC North (Green Bay) and NFC South (Carolina). That resulted in one of the real quirks of Seattle's schedule -- a trip to Carolina for the third straight year after having played there only once previously since 2000.

The scheduling formula also calls for the NFC West to this year play all four teams in the NFC East and the AFC West.

The second part of that equation helps contribute to Seattle's high opponent winning percentage as Denver (13-3), San Diego (9-7) and Kansas City (11-5) all made the playoffs in 2013.

The real meat of Seattle's schedule, though, is the six games it plays against the NFC West, home and road contests against the 49ers (12-4 in 2013), Arizona (10-6) and St. Louis (7-9).

The NFC West went a combined 42-22 last season, best in the NFL, including 30-10 outside its division (the Rams bringing up the rear at 6-4).

And that's why every team in the NFC West has a schedule that, based on last year's combined opponents' record, ranks among the top eight in the NFL.

The Seahawks, though, will have to wait awhile to see any of their division rivals, as they don't play their first game against the NFC West until Week 7 at St. Louis (which is the sixth game for Seattle as its bye comes in Week 4).

Seattle, in fact, plays just one of its first 10 games against the NFC West, but then closes in a rush against the division with five of its last six against the West, including both games against Arizona and San Francisco.

But Seattle isn't alone in having a schedule backloaded in division games. The 49ers also play three of their last six against the NFC West and Arizona four of its last six.

That will put a premium on each to again take care of business outside the division to set up what could be a pretty dramatic finish for NFC West supremacy.

Also worth considering is that facing the AFC West this year means playing some of the best passing teams in the NFL. Specifically, Denver and Peyton Manning (first in the league last year in passing) and San Diego and Philip Rivers (third).

A year ago, Seattle played the AFC South, featuring teams largely more run-oriented or with uncertain quarterback situations.

That could force Seattle to play more nickel defense, something that could factor into how it sets up its roster for the season.

That's what we think we know now, anyway.

As always in the NFL, it's subject to change, and likely will.

(c)2014 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus