After Green Bay, schedule is not bad

2017 skedAside from a rough opener in Green Bay, the Seahawks got as good a schedule as they could have asked for as the NFL slate was announced Thursday.

They have no cold-weather games, only one 10 a.m. game and no back-to-back road games. They also play three of their four prime-time games at home and have a decently placed Week 6 bye.

The Seahawks will start the season with a very familiar foe as they head to Green Bay to play the Packers for the sixth time in six years. This one will bring a new twist as Eddie Lacy faces his old Packers teammates to open the season.

The Seahawks have not fared well in Green Bay, losing seven straight there by an average of 18.9 points, including a 38-10 blowout last December in which Russell Wilson played perhaps the worst game of his career.

While the Green Bay opener is not in prime time, it is a 1:25 p.m. national TV game. The Seahawks faced five possible 10 a.m. games but avoided all but one as four of those Central and Eastern time zone games are national games. Call it a perk of being a perennial playoff team.

The Seahawks’ lone 10 a.m. kickoff comes against the worst team of the bunch, Jacksonville. The Seahawks are 10-11 in 10 a.m. starts (playoffs included) since Wilson arrived in 2012, but they have won four of the last six.

The Hawks have four prime-time games, a step down from the five of the past two years. But three of the games are at home — vs. the Colts in Week 4 (NBC), vs. Atlanta in Week 11 (ESPN), and vs. the Eagles in Week 13 (NBC). The Hawks also play at Arizona on Thursday night in Week 10 (NBC) — the fourth time in the last five years the division rivals have faced off in prime time.

Pete Carroll’s Hawks are 21-3-1 in prime time (including playoffs) and 15-1 in Seattle.

Let’s take a look at the schedule by game, with early predictions (we see another 10-win season):

WEEK 1: At Green Bay
The storyline: Wilson played perhaps the worst game of his career (bottom two anyway) in the 38-10 debacle in Green Bay last season. The Hawks have rarely fared well in Green Bay, and starting with the Packers seems like a good way to start in a hole in the race for the NFC’s top seed. The Packers need to fix up their O-line after losing T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter, but they beefed up their passing attack with two tight ends, Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. Michael Bennett missed the game against his brother last year in New England, but he seems likely to face him in this one. Unfortunately for Michael, history is against the Hawks.
Prediction: Packers, 31-17

WEEK 2: San Francisco
The storyline: John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are trying to rebuild a club that was left in tatters by former GM Trent Baalke. They added 15 players in free agency, including QB Brian Hoyer, WR Pierre Garcon and former Seahawks Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle and Garry Gilliam. The defense ranked last in the NFL last season, giving up 166 rushing yards per game. Will Smith, Coyle, Earl Mitchell and rookies be enough to fix that? And will Shanahan be able to run the ball with Carlos Hyde and Tim Hightower behind FB Kyle Juszczyk? Probably not.
Prediction: Seahawks, 27-17

WEEK 3: At Tennessee
The storyline: The Titans are a franchise on the rise. They won nine games in 2016, but QB Marcus Mariota suffered a broken leg on Christmas Eve against the Jaguars and is still recovering. The Titans have a great offensive line and two-headed running attack with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry — the No. 3 rushing game in the league in 2016. They also have a great run defense and tried to fortify their secondary with CB Logan Ryan and SS John Cyprien. The Seahawks will have a tough time in Nashville.
Prediction: Titans, 24-17

WEEK 4: Indianapolis
The storyline: If Andrew Luck is healthy, this Sunday night game will pit the top QBs from the 2012 draft. The Colts were 8-8 in 2016, with Luck playing amid a shoulder injury and the defense ranking a measly 30th. That got GM Ryan Grigson fired, and new GM Chris Ballard spent $87 million trying to beef up the defense — adding Jonathan Hankins, Jabaal Sheard, John Simon and others. The Colts will be counting on the advancement of the defense along with Luck’s recovery from January surgery on his throwing shoulder. It’s hard to see them putting it all together to beat the Seahawks in Seattle.
Prediction: Seahawks, 31-22

WEEK 5: At L.A. Rams
The storyline: Jeff Fisher is gone, and Carroll has to be rejoicing, considering the trouble the non-contending Rams so often gave the Seahawks. With 31-year-old Sean McVay taking over as coach and graybeard Wade Phillips taking over the defense, the Rams will be moving several players around (e.g., Robert Quinn to weakside linebacker in Phillips’ 3-4) in a big transition year. The Rams beat the Seahawks in their first game in L.A.
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-10

WEEK 7: At NY Giants
The storyline: The last two times the Seahawks played New York, they blew out the Giants on the way to the Super Bowl — 23-0 in 2013 and 38-17 in 2014. The Giants are coming off an 11-win season and have replaced WR Victor Cruz with Brandon Marshall. The NFL’s 10th-ranked defense needs to find a way to replace DT Johnathan Hankins, but otherwise this team is largely the same. It really comes down to Eli Manning avoiding interceptions. The Seahawks will be coming off their bye for this one, and they often have stumbled in that game when it’s not on a Monday night.
Prediction: Giants, 23-20

WEEK 9: Washington
The storyline: Dan Snyder continues to prove he’s one of the worst owners in the NFL. His treatment of Scot McCloughan and Kirk Cousins this offseason is the latest reminder. The Redskins beefed up their D-line with Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, and they replaced DeSean Jackson with Terrelle Pryor. But they don’t look any better than the .500-ish team they have been the last couple of years. The Hawks have beaten them the past two times, in the 2012 playoffs and the 2014 season, and might have some extra motivation after the way Snyder and Bruce Allen handled McCloughan, who helped build Seattle’s Super Bowl contender.
Prediction: Seahawks, 27-17

WEEK 8: Houston
The storyline: The last time the Seahawks faced the Texans was in early 2013, when the Hawks rallied from a 20-3 deficit to win in overtime. Houston’s biggest move this offseason was dumping QB Brock Osweiler just a year after signing him. Tom Savage is the heir apparent. The stellar defense will get a boost from the return of J.J. Watt, but the Texans otherwise have not done anything to improve on their nine-win 2016 season. Their defense, which ranked No. 1 in 2016, will keep them in most games, but how savage will their offense be?
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-13

WEEK 10: At Arizona
The storyline: Both teams will be hoping to do better than the embarrassing 6-6 tie in Arizona last season. Chandler Catanzaro and Steven Hauschka both missed simple field goals that could have won the game — and both are now gone. The Cardinals replaced Catanzaro with Phil Dawson, and the Hawks added another recent choke artist, Blair Walsh (who may or may not win the job). This is the fourth prime-time game between these teams in the past five years, and it seems likely to be a key factor in the NFC West race.
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-17

WEEK 11: Atlanta
The storyline: Dan Quinn’s Falcons have turned into a better version of the Seahawks, as proven by Atlanta’s 36-20 playoff win. Quinn has assembled a young defense that essentially mimics the crew he ran in Seattle, and the Falcons added Dontari Poe and Jack Crawford to the club in March. The Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24 in a controversial game in Seattle last season, and this Monday night game figures to be every bit as close. This late-season rivalry game should be an intriguing part of the race for the NFC’s top playoff spot.
Prediction: Falcons, 30-24

WEEK 12: San Francisco
The storyline: If things go as expected, the Seahawks will be rounding into playoff form while the 49ers muddle along once again. Wilson is 6-0 at home vs. the 49ers, with the Seahawks winning by an average of 16 points.
Prediction: Seahawks, 30-14

WEEK 13: Philadelphia
The storyline: The Eagles are in the second year of the Doug Pederson/Carson Wentz era and will come to Seattle for the second straight year. The Seahawks won 26-15 in 2016, in one of the few games C.J. Prosise played in. Wentz started hot in 2016 but quickly faded, and the Eagles faded from 3-0 to 7-9. They added some receiver help for Wentz — Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery — and also tried to beef up their defensive line, adding Chris Long and trading for Timmy Jernigan. The NFC East is always a crap shoot, and the Eagles look capable of contending for the division title. But they seem unlikely to beat the Hawks in a Sunday night game in Seattle.
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-15

WEEK 14: At Jacksonville
The storyline: Former Seattle DC Gus Bradley is gone after a pathetic .226 win percentage (14-48) over four years, including a 45-17 loss the last time these teams met — in Bradley’s third game in 2013. The Jags didn’t stray far to replace him, bumping Doug Marrone to coach and bringing back Tom Coughlin to help run the team. The Jags beefed up their defense, which ranked sixth in the league last year, with CB A.J. Bouye, SS Barry Church and DE Calais Campbell. The bigger issue is QB Blake Bortles, who might be lucky to remain the starter after four subpar years since being Bradley’s initial first-round pick. Another first-rounder who flopped in Jax is Luke Joeckel, who should be Seattle’s left tackle for this game.
Prediction: Seahawks, 26-13

WEEK 15: L.A. Rams
The storyline: Rams QB Jared Goff was 0-7 as a rookie starter, including a 24-3 loss in Seattle in December. He’ll have to take a huge jump to have any shot against the Hawks in his first full year as the starter. Wilson is 4-1 against the Rams in Seattle, including a 24-3 win last year.
Prediction: Seahawks, 22-17

WEEK 16: At Dallas
The storyline: The Cowboys took the league by storm in 2016, led by their star-studded offensive line and rookies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott. The team is officially Prescott’s as Tony Romo was let go (moving to TV for now). The defense took some hits, with six key players gone — four from the secondary. They will need to bolster that spot in the draft (they have been linked to a possible Richard Sherman trade). Carroll is 2-2 vs. the Cowboys, the last game a 13-12 win in 2015. Assuming Dallas fixes up its defense, this will be a tough one for the Hawks.
Prediction: Cowboys, 31-27

WEEK 17: Arizona
The storyline: The Cardinals took a step back in 2016, but that didn’t prevent them from messing up Seattle’s season. It started with the pathetic 6-6 tie in Arizona in Week 7 and ended with a 34-31 loss to Arizona on Christmas Eve — part of a poor six-week finish for the Seahawks. The Cardinals are near the end of their competitive cycle, with Larry Fitzgerald back for his last season and Carson Palmer possibly winding it up, too. The No. 2 defense from 2016 took a few hits: Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger all signed elsewhere. But that’s no reason to write these guys off, especially when Bruce Arians’ team has won in Seattle in three of the past four years.
Prediction: Cardinals, 30-27

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