Seattle will provide stirring theater again this season, playing the league’s fourth-toughest schedule.
Pete Carroll has survived enough football controversies to see this coming. Almost from the moment the Seahawks lost Super Bowl XLIX in the most torturous and questionable manner possible, the coach started anticipating the drama to come. He knew the Seahawks would be the biggest story of the entire offseason and 2015 campaign.
Do they recover? Or do they wilt? Are they still a burgeoning dynasty? Or will one ill-fated play cause them to succumb to NFL parity?
The Seahawks’ recovery provides great intrigue, the best this popular league has to offer, and Tuesday’s grand unveiling of the 2015 NFL schedule served as a reminder. Seattle received the maximum five prime-time games, which is a franchise record. The Seahawks had four in 2014 after they blew out Denver to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
Related: Seahawks’ 2015 schedule breakdown
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This isn’t just about buzz. The Seahawks have had that for several years. They’re an elite team, and their aggressive, physical style of play is among the most enjoyable in the league. But now they have a story that transcends football.
Carroll admitted it two months ago at the NFL combine.
“We’re a very unique team right now for people to watch,” Carroll said then, less than three weeks after the 28-24 Super Bowl loss to New England. “You saw us win it all. And now you saw us go all to the last moment and not get what (we) want. What are we going to do then? What are we going to do now?
“How we respond, we’ll find out.”
The redemption narrative is universal. Everyone can relate. The difference is, the Seahawks must attempt to redeem themselves amid international curiosity and scrutiny. Their schedule indicated just how eager television executives are to chronicle the aftermath of that shocking Super Bowl loss.
Nearly every time the Seahawks are on the 1-yard line, Malcolm Butler’s interception of Russell Wilson’s pass to Ricardo Lockette will be referenced. Carroll’s decision to approve Darrell Bevell’s play will be second-guessed. And if Marshawn Lynch doesn’t get the ball again in that situation, his body language will be read way too closely.
In the Carroll era, the Seahawks have thrived in the spotlight, including a 13-1 prime-time record during the regular season. Because of how well they prepare and how hard they practice, the Seahawks can make the so-called big moments feel normal. And because they have an ornery collection of previously unheralded players, the players are always motivated to prove their greatness.
Even if the Seahawks had finished Super Bowl XLIX properly, this season would be a great challenge. Over the past three seasons, they have a 36-12 record. Include their 6-2 playoff mark, and that record is 42-14. They have played a league-high 38 games over the past two years in making back-to-back Super Bowl runs. It’s hard to stay at this level for a long time, with injuries and the salary cap and the challenge for players to keep their edge.
The Seahawks also will play the fourth-toughest schedule in the NFL, based on the records their opponents posted last season. The Seahawks’ opponents posted a .559 winning percentage a year ago. They play nine games against teams that made the playoffs last season. Five of their eight road games feature foes that posted double-digit victories. Though the balance of power shifts from year to year in the NFL, a good portion of their opponents qualify as built to sustain success, or they are on the rise, or they rank high on the list of sleepers.
Fortunately, the Seahawks have become one of those great NFL teams that doesn’t need to fear the schedule. They’re capable of beating anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances. There is no game on the schedule that you can mark down as a definite loss, not even the Week 2 visit to Green Bay, which will want to avenge its heartbreaking NFC Championship Game loss to Seattle.
Remember last season, when the Seahawks were 6-4 and facing a brutal final six games? The way they were playing, you thought they would be lucky to win four of those six. You feared they’d win three or less. Instead, they won all six, roared into the playoffs and made it back to the Super Bowl.
As the Seahawks continue to reward their young stars and try to keep a core together, the cost might be depth. Soon, they will be transitioning to a second phase of this run, one in which they could be more top-heavy and less able to withstand injuries to key players. They’ll still be good, but they will be streamlined. The 2015 season could be the last one for a few years in which they get to enjoy the luxury of star-studded talent and stellar depth.
The Seahawks must make the most of another season with one of the league’s most talented rosters. For certain, there will be plenty watching how they fare.
The schedule doesn’t lie: The 2015 Seahawks will be fascinating theater.