If the Seattle Seahawks are going to play on national TV next season, they are going to have to earn it; because, for the first time since 1983, the NFL shut them out of prime time. That was the biggest disappointment in a good-news-bad-news deal for the Seahawks as the league released the full schedule Tuesday.
Apparently a 12-loss season overshadowed the idea of Jim Mora taking over as coach, because the Seahawks are one of just four teams with new coaches who won't be seen in prime time or on Thanksgiving.
Seven teams with new field generals will be seen, with the Indianapolis Colts and new coach Jim Caldwell appearing in five prime-time contests.
This is only the sixth time in 34 seasons that the Seahawks are not scheduled to play in prime time. They didn't earn a Monday night game until their fourth season, 1979, and they also were shut out in the strike-shortened 1982 season and in 1983.
Of course, with the NFL's late-season flexible scheduling, Seattle could play its way into the Sunday night time slot. And the Hawks would be more than happy to repeat that 1983 season, when Dave Krieg and Curt Warner led them on a surprising run to the AFC title game.
Although it is certainly a slap in the face to be left off a 41-game prime-time slate, the Seahawks can thank the NFL for not making them play any short weeks.
They also do not have to play on the East Coast; the only three-hour time difference is Indianapolis, and the farthest they have to travel is Houston, which is a 1,900-mile trip and only a two-hour difference.
The schedule is set up well early as the Hawks play four of their first six at home. They open at Qwest Field against the St. Louis Rams, who have a new coach in Steve Spagnuolo.
It will be paramount for the Hawks to take advantage of that favorable early schedule because November will be tough, with four of the five games on the road.
But then they go on a three-game road trip for just the third time in franchise history -- with key contests in Arizona, Minnesota and St. Louis. Their performance in that stretch will probably determine whether they win the NFC West or not.
After spending most of November on the road, the Seahawks will alternate home and away games over the last five weeks. Assuming they're in the NFC West race, it could be wrapped up by Dec. 6, when they finish off their division schedule at home against the 49ers.
Then the Hawks go to Houston—their first trip to that city since 1994, when they played the Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). The Seahawks finish the 2009 season with home games against Tampa Bay and Tennessee wrapped around a visit to frigid Lambeau Field for Matt Hasselbeck's seventh game against his former team since 2003.
Overall, it's kind of three schedules in one. A favorable six-game start, a not-so-nice November, and a balanced December.
The Seahawks must take advantage of the early schedule. Assuming they don't lose their entire offense to injuries again, they should be able to win four of those first six.
They'll probably be 5-3 after the Detroit game, heading into a three-game road blitz that could be the key to the season. If they can win one of those games against Arizona, Minnesota and St. Louis to stay above .500, they should be able to win three of their final five, which would give the Hawks nine or 10 wins and the NFC West.
And then the NFL won't be able to keep the Hawks off national TV.
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