The season is upon us. And now we’ll find out who is right about the Seahawks.
Are they a four-win team? (Guffaw)
A seven-win club? (Chuckle)
Or, are they headed back to double-digit wins and a playoff spot for the sixth time in Russell Wilson’s seven seasons as the franchise quarterback? (Grin)
If the Hawks can keep their heads above .500 during a two-month swim through shark-infested enemy waters, they should be in good shape to get back to the playoffs. They play five of their first seven on the road, including Denver this Sunday and Chicago on Week 2’s Monday night.
On the bright side, all of the teams they have to visit in those first two months have new coaches, new quarterbacks or (in Arizona) both. So they all will be feeling their way through even bigger change than the Seahawks have undergone this year. And that, coupled with Seattle’s own expected improvement on offense, is what might give the Hawks a shot at winning most of those.
This is the third time since 2011 that the Hawks have started with two straight road games. They opened 0-2 in both 2011 and 2015, so they need to find a way to at least split this time.
Once they get past midseason, the road will be easier because, well, it will be mostly at home (four of the final five).
We seem to be in the heavy minority, but we’ve put the over/under on Seattle’s wins at 10 (Vegas says eight) and projected the over. Here’s our updated look at the schedule as the season looms:
Week 1: At Denver
Last season: 5-11
The storyline: These teams have changed a lot since the Seahawks blew out the Broncos in the Super Bowl five seasons ago. The Hawks have two defensive starters left (and K.J. Wright won’t play). The Broncos are on to their fourth QB since Peyton Manning retired, with John Elway hoping Case Keenum can replicate his breakout year in Minnesota. Gone is Paxton Lynch, the QB the Broncos drafted after trading with the Seahawks to get back into the first round in 2016. The Broncos, led by second-year coach Vance Joseph, also replaced C.J. Anderson with rookie Royce Freeman and will ride him and Devontae Booker. They still have a good defense, even after trading Aqib Talib — they drafted Bradley Chubb to go with Von Miller. If Keenum can get synced up with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos will be tough to beat in Denver. Pete Carroll’s Hawks are 1-7 in the first road game each season.
Prediction: Broncos, 21-18
Week 2: At Chicago
Last season: 5-11
The storyline: The last time these teams met in Chicago, in Wilson’s rookie year, the QB keyed an overtime win that showed Carroll he could take the restraints off Wilson. Then the rookie led the Hawks to the playoffs. Last year, the Bears found their franchise QB, they hope, in No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky. This year they switched coaches, with Andy Reid disciple Matt Nagy replacing John Fox. Then they brought in a bunch of new weapons for Trubisky: WRs Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and TE Trey Burton. And they topped that off by trading for star pass rusher Khalil Mack. This is an odd game to place on Monday night, but it helps Seattle avoid a 10 a.m. start. The Seahawks are almost impossible to beat in prime time, which should offset their early-season road struggles.
Prediction: Hawks, 24-17
Week 3: DALLAS
Last season: 9-7
The storyline: The Cowboys come to Seattle this year after losing 21-12 at home last season in Justin Coleman’s “Kettle Jump” game. The Cowboys have scored 12 points in both recent losses to Seattle, including a 13-12 defeat in 2015. The Earl Thomas trade rumors will be hot and heavy during the lead-up to this one, assuming he hasn’t been traded beforehand. The Cowboys will have a new look on offense, with Jason Witten retired and Allen Hurns replacing Dez Bryant as the No. 1 receiver. The offensive line has had a lot of injury/illness issues — Travis Frederick’s return date from a rare condition is unknown. Seattle is going to be very stout vs. the run, so the Cowboys figure to have trouble on offense.
Prediction: Hawks, 20-12
Week 4: At Arizona
Last season: 8-8
The storyline: As Larry Fitzgerald enters his 15th and perhaps final season, he will be playing for his fourth coach and catching passes from yet another QB. Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer retired, replaced by Steve Wilks and Sam Bradford. And the Cardinals drafted Josh Rosen to be their next franchise QB. They also have QB Mike Glennon, and it will be interesting to see which of the three ends up throwing to Fitzgerald in this one. The Cards also shuffled their O-line, trading Jared Veldheer and signing Andre Smith and Justin Pugh. And they get David Johnson back after he missed most of 2017 with an injury. The Cards’ defense should remain strong, even after they cut Tyrann Mathieu. Ex-Arizona WR Jaron Brown should be up for this one for Seattle, which has not lost in Arizona since 2012.
Prediction: Hawks, 19-13
Week 5: L.A. RAMS
Last season: 11-5
The storyline: Sean McVay had a stellar debut as Rams coach, leading them to the NFC West title as Todd Gurley had a resurgent season and Jared Goff took a big step forward. The Rams look even stronger this year, after loading up with defenders Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh and receiver Brandin Cooks. And then they paid Aaron Donald just in time for the season. The Rams destroyed the Hawks in a big game in Seattle in Week 15 last season, basically knocking the Hawks out of the playoffs and kickstarting this offseason of upheaval in Seattle. Wilson is 4-2 against the Rams in Seattle, but that 42-7 debacle last year is hard to forget.
Prediction: Rams, 26-23
Week 6: At Oakland (in London)
Last season: 6-10
The storyline: The NFL has been playing in London for 11 years, and now the Seahawks finally are being forced to take their turn. This will be Jon Gruden’s sixth game back in the NFL after a decade in the TV booth. But the NFL’s oldest roster lacks enough talent — and got weaker when Mack was traded to Chicago — and the Raiders could well be 1-4 entering this game. The Hawks should see a couple of very familiar faces in Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irvin, who figure to lose to their old team.
Prediction: Hawks, 24-13
Week 8: At Detroit
Last season: 9-7
The storyline: The Seahawks will see a couple more former teammates — Luke Willson and Golden Tate — in this one. New coach Matt Patricia brought in a couple of ex-Pats, RB LeGarrette Blount and backup QB Matt Cassel, and obviously will try to mimic the Patriot Way. The defense was horrible in 2017, and Patricia tried to upgrade the front seven with three new guys. The Lions seem unlikely to be able to run, as usual, so the Hawks just need to stop Matthew Stafford, Tate and company. And keep Ziggy Ansah off Wilson. Seems doable.
Prediction: Hawks, 24-20
Week 9: L.A. CHARGERS
Last season: 9-7
The storyline: Anthony Lynn seems to have the Chargers going in the right direction — last year’s team was maybe their best since 2010. If Philip Rivers can keep going strong at age 36, the Chargers might be able to win the AFC West. When these teams met in 2014, Rivers and Antonio Gates burned the fatigued Seattle defense for three TDs on a scorching day in San Diego. With Hunter Henry out for the season, the Chargers just brought back the 38-year-old Gates. This game should be much cooler than that 2014 affair, but the Hawks always have trouble with Rivers, who will help former Hawks Russell Okung and Brandon Mebane chalk one up against their former club.
Prediction: Chargers, 23-21
Week 10: At L.A. Rams
The storyline: If the Rams return as strong as everyone expects, the Hawks will have a tough time keeping up with them. Wilson is 2-4 at the Rams, including 1-1 in L.A.
Prediction: Rams, 31-21
Week 11: GREEN BAY
Last season: 7-9
The storyline: The Seahawks will play the Packers, their adopted division brothers, for the seventh time in seven years. The Seahawks will be happy to be home for this one — they have lost eight straight in Green Bay, including last season’s opener. Too bad the NFL put such a great matchup on Thursday night. This game will feature the return to Seattle of Jimmy Graham, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Packers. Graham figures to pick up the production of Jordy Nelson, the longtime Green Bay receiver who was released. If Aaron Rodgers stays healthy, the offense will be dangerous, as usual. The defense has been bad the last few years, and the Packers replaced Dom Capers with Mike Pettine this year. The personnel is largely the same though, so the Packers will be relying on Rodgers, as always. The home team has won each of the five games since Wilson became Seattle’s QB, so Graham probably won’t get any satisfaction against the club that misused him for three years.
Prediction: Hawks, 24-20
Week 12: At Carolina
Last season: 11-5
The storyline: Like the Packers, the Panthers really are a division foe for Seattle. The teams took a break last year after meeting seven times in the previous five seasons, but they get back to it this year. The Panthers have tweaked their offense, replacing Jonathan Stewart with C.J. Anderson and adding receivers Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright as Greg Olsen is back after a broken foot ruined his 2017 season. Carolina had a top-10 defense (No. 3 vs. the run) in 2017, thanks to Kawann Short and the linebackers, and the Panthers turned over almost their entire secondary while replacing Star Lotulelei with Dontari Poe. Wilson is 5-2 (counting playoffs) against Cam Newton, 3-1 in Charlotte — and the Hawks should have found their stride by this point of the season.
Prediction: Hawks, 25-17
Week 13: SAN FRANCISCO
Last season: 6-10
The storyline: Richard Sherman will be looking to make Carroll pay after Seattle unceremoniously dumped him, and he will do it in prime time. Second-year coach Kyle Shanahan and QB wunderkind Jimmy Garoppolo led the Niners to five wins to finish the 2017 season, and they will look to build on that. Some think the 49ers will be better than the Seahawks in 2018; this game will show the truth of that (if the first 12 weeks do not). Beyond Sherman, the 49ers have a few other former Seahawks — Malcolm Smith, Cassius Marsh and Brock Coyle — and the defense is run by former Seattle assistant Robert Saleh. So we’ll see how closely the Niners can simulate the Seahawks’ defense. Wilson is 7-0 at home vs. the 49ers — the first six wins by an average of 16 points. Seattle won by just three last year, and that’s probably how it will go this time, too.
Prediction: Hawks, 23-20
Week 14: MINNESOTA
Last season: 13-3
The storyline: These teams haven’t met since that frigid and fluky playoff game two years ago. Blair Walsh helped lose that game for the Vikings, then he helped lose three for the Hawks last season — and now he’s gone. These teams, who once notoriously “swapped” Steve Hutchinson for Nate Burleson, kept up their odd player exchange this offseason with some defensive tackle moves — Sheldon Richardson signing with the Vikings and ex-Vikes Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen coming to Seattle. The Vikings are expected to be strong contenders in the NFC even though they let their three quarterbacks go; they instead gave Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed $84 million to lead them to the Promised Land. Wilson is 4-0 against the Vikings, and it should help that this game is in Seattle and in prime time.
Prediction: Hawks, 24-18
Week 15: At San Francisco
The storyline: The 49ers haven’t beaten Seattle since 2013, and Seattle has won four straight in the Bay Area. But, if the 49ers are as improved as everyone thinks they will be, they should be able to end that losing streak. The big question: Will either of these teams be in the hunt to win the division at this point?
Prediction: 49ers, 23-20
Week 16: KANSAS CITY
Last season: 10-6
The storyline: The Patrick Mahomes era is about to begin. The Chiefs traded Alex Smith to Washington to make way for their 2017 first-round pick and then brought in Sammy Watkins to be his No. 1 receiver. Meanwhile, KC’s secondary has been revamped, with Marcus Peters traded to the Rams. These teams have not played since Seattle’s controversial loss in Kansas City in 2014 (a no-call on blatant interference vs. Doug Baldwin in the end zone late in the game). At home, the Seahawks should take advantage of Mahomes’ relative inexperience and KC’s remade secondary.
Prediction: Hawks, 30-22
Week 17: ARIZONA
The storyline: The Seahawks have lost at home to the Cardinals three straight years and in four of the past five — Arians much preferred playing the Hawks in Seattle. This is the second straight year these rivals will finish the season in Seattle; last year the Hawks committed 100 yards in penalties and converted just 1 of 12 third downs in a 26-24 defeat. But Seattle should have a much better offense this time — finally putting an end to that odd losing streak.
Prediction: Hawks, 26-20