It is a tribute to the overwhelming dominance of the NFL that the unveiling of its schedule has become an annual day of breathless anticipation and nonstop debate. All for the thrilling payoff of learning on what days, and at what times, your favorite team will be playing opponents that had already been revealed months earlier.
And for the Seahawks, the schedule revealed Wednesday is apparently a tribute to their overwhelming dominance at CenturyLink Field.
Horror of horrors, the Seahawks only get one of their four prime-time games at home. According to Curtis Crabtree’s report in Pro Football Talk, this is the result of the NFL’s fear that the Seahawks playing in Seattle is likely to produce a blowout, thus causing an audience exodus.
In some quarters, this is being perceived as an inexcusable slight to the Super Bowl champions. How dare the league deprive the nation the exhilarating sights and sounds of Seahawks fanatics strutting their stuff, and decibels, in prime time?
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But it leaves the 12s with a weird dilemma. On the one hand, there’s nothing we perpetually aggrieved folks out here in South Alaska like more than venting with righteous indignation over such injustices as lack of respect, geographic isolation, and East Coast bias.
This schedule provides the trifecta, and many fans have been vocal in displaying their displeasure. They have, after all, been indoctrinated into the realm of shoulder chips by the Seahawks’ players themselves. From Russell Wilson to Richard Sherman to Doug Baldwin and beyond, the Seahawks have been fueled by the seemingly perpetual belief that they have not gotten the proper respect. It’s not surprising that fans want to tap into that energy as well.
The problem is that the very notion, if accurate, of denying Seahawks home games because they’ll win them too handily is, perversely, the ultimate sign of respect. It’s hard to get too hot and bothered as a Seahawks fan when their ability to influence the outcome of a game — the thing 12s pride themselves on above all else — is being validated by the league.
My feeling is that this is much ado about little. It’s not as if the league is taking home games away from Seattle. They’ll still get eight of ‘em, just like always. It’s just that, for now, seven will be played in the afternoon – which, when you get down to it, is much more convenient for all involved. Rest assured that the television audience for attractive Seahawks games at the Clink will still be vast, even outside of prime time. Unless a blowout develops, of course.
I say, for now, because by virtue of the league’s new “flex scheduling” policy, games can be switched into Sunday Night Football as early as Week 5, as opposed to Week 11 in previous years. That means Seahawks home dates against the Cowboys (Oct. 6), Raiders (Nov. 2) and Giants (Nov. 9), as well as three after that, could become prime-time home games, making this discussion moot.
Besides, the Seahawks have more to worry about than the number of prime-time home games. They were saddled with an unusually early bye (Week 4), leaving them with a finishing stretch of 13 straight weeks without a break. They open with three straight games against 2013 playoff teams, and close with five division games over the final six weeks. Throw in the quality of opponents – sixth toughest, according to last year’s records – and it’s a potentially brutal slate.
But it could have been worse, as Peter King’s fascinating look into the machinations of making a schedule reveals. Writing in Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback, King reported that the NFL’s runner-up schedule, which very nearly became reality, had the Seahawks playing a three-game road trip. And not only that: One of those trips would have occurred after a Monday night game, something the league tries to avoid at all coasts.
Imagine the hue and cry if that schedule hadn’t been surpassed by a better one that spat out of the NFL computers. It had the Seahawks playing at St. Louis on a Sunday, at Washington the following Monday night, and at Kansas City the next Sunday.
Scheduling maven Howard Katz told King he could have reluctantly lived with that schedule. If commissioner Roger Goodell had approved it — and Katz told King, “I think we would have had an interesting discussion with Roger about it” — then any and all howling by the Seahawks and their fans would have been fair game.
But as it is, I think it’s far more pertinent for Seahawks fans to focus their attention on navigating toward a prime-time game that can’t be denied by anyone: the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, 2015, in Arizona.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146