Last Thursday night at Safeco Field, did the Seattle Mariners finally decide they needed to make a serious upgrade to their starting rotation?
Honestly, when I saw Richard Sherman on the mound, I will confess that a small part of me hoped he would be available if necessary for the M's, who are off to a somewhat disappointing start to the season.
Once it became clear that neither Sherman nor his teammates Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor would be sticking around, my thoughts drifted towards a time not too far off when they will be taking the field just around the block at CLink Field.
Understand it's not that I'm ready to give up on the Mariners so much as the fact that what the Seahawks have going for them is too exciting to continue to patiently wait for over the next few months, especially with the release of the 2013 NFL Schedule (via NFL.com).
With the NFL releasing the entire regular-season schedule on Thursday, I figured it might be fun to rank each game on the Seahawks schedule (via NFL.com) from the easiest to the toughest as a means of helping us as fans mentally prepare for what may be a truly special season in Seattle.
Welcome back, Gus Bradley.
The former Seahawks defensive coordinator will have his work cut out for him in taking over the Jaguars this season, and coming back to face his old team should be no picnic, especially this early in the season.
At the same time, could Bradley's inside knowledge of the Seahawks help him?
I wouldn't rule it out, and while a lot can change between now and the time this game is actually played, for today I'm ranking this as the easiest matchup for the 'Hawks this season.
Let's just hope the emotional roller coaster of facing the 49ers during the team's home opener the week before on Sunday Night Football doesn't leave the 'Hawks looking flat for this game.
When you look at the Titans roster, there are some decent players such as running back Chris Johnson and receiver Kenny Britt, yet beyond them there are more questions than answers.
Honestly my biggest concern is Bernard Pollard. Given that he has a bad habit of hurting mostly New England Patriots, I still hope he doesn't ruin whatever karma the 'Hawks have going for them at this point in the season.
With this game sandwiched between two sets of tough road games, the 'Hawks cannot afford to lose here.
Here's a question: Which Cardinals will show up for this game?
The one that made Russell Wilson look like a frazzled rookie in his Week 1 debut last season or the one that lost 58-0 at CLink?
While I doubt the 'Hawks will win by the same margin again, I still see the Cardinals as the weakest team in the NFC West.
Beyond Larry Fitzgerald and a defense that could potentially make life miserable for Russell Wilson, do the Cards have anyone else the 'Hawks should be worried about?
What happens at quarterback will be telling, but right now the battle between Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton doesn't send chills down my spine.
Finally, when you factor that this game is right before Christmas, the festive atmosphere at CLink Field mixed with the potential to either secure or improve the team's chances at a playoff berth should have the fans especially pumped up.
Raise your hand if you're tired of the Darrelle Revis drama with the New York Jets.
Honestly it's sad that the Jets will likely trade their best player in a week's time, but such is life for anyone who has suffered rooting for Gang Green through the years.
Ultimately, what's New York's loss should be Tampa Bay's gain, and the fun could trickle down to fans in Seattle during Week 9 as the war of words between Revis and Richard Sherman may cause Twitter to explode.
Yet beyond the pillow fight between the two talented cornerbacks, this should be a game that the 'Hawks can handle at home, provided they're not looking ahead to the next week and their matchup in Atlanta.
Otherwise, this game could be a trap.
Keep in mind that Tampa does have a few offensive weapons in quarterback Josh Freeman, running back Doug Martin, and receivers Mike Williams (no, not the Mike Williams you're thinking of) and with Vincent Jackson.
On the flipside, the defense isn't bad either, assuming Revis in fact does go to Tampa and is reasonably healthy.
After this point, there really are no more "easy" games on this schedule.
Just like last season, the Vikings will be coming to Seattle, but this time Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield will be wearing blue.
Beyond that I'm hoping for similar results, minus of course Adrian Peterson bulldozing his way through the 'Hawks defense.
If the 'Hawks can keep him in check, this should be a relatively straightforward win before the team heads into its bye week.
It seems that the 'Hawks will be going back to Carolina this season, this time to kick off the season.
To be honest it's kind of hard to tell if the Panthers and by extension Cam Newton will rebound in his third season as a pro.
Two years ago Newton burst on to the scene and gave the impression that anyone talented enough could simply take over an NFL offense and run roughshod over the entire league.
Last year though Newton suffered the dreaded sophomore jinx, and though the Panthers record technically improved compared to the year before, the season was considered a disappointment given the high expectations going in to 2012.
Could the Panthers rebound?
Sure, and that's what concerns me. Last season the Seahawks managed to narrowly escape with a win, while still ironing out the kinks in Week 5, but this season I'm a bit concerned. With the game scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on opening day with a huge Sunday Night Football game at home the next week against the 49ers, should we consider this game a must win?
Maybe, maybe not, yet as much as I'd love to pencil in a "W" here for the 'Hawks, I can't shake the notion that the Panthers might be a far tougher opponent than we can anticipate today.
When it comes to the NFC West, I really believe the Rams will be better.
So while it may seem like the Seahawks and 49ers are in a two-horse race to win the division, do yourself a favor and try not to sleep on the Rams.
Whether or not Sam Bradford is anything special at quarterback remains to be seen, but overall this is a team that even last year managed to give both the 'Hawks and 'Niners serious trouble.
Remember how close the season finale at CLink was last year?
This year the Rams will return in Week 17, and let's hope this time the Seahawks take care of business from the start while avoiding any drama.
Out with the old, in with the new in Indianapolis.
Strange to think the Colts didn't miss a beat in letting Peyton Manning go and drafting Andrew Luck No. 1 overall last year. With Luck at the helm, the Colts made the playoffs. Not bad for a rookie, right?
Funny thing is that 74 picks later the Seahawks would draft Russell Wilson and he too would enjoy a fair degree of success in his rookie season.
In many ways I look forward to this matchup, as I think it will be interesting to see if Wilson can once again go up against a contemporary on the road and step up to the challenge.
Granted, the stakes aren't nearly as high as they were during last year's playoffs in Washington against Robert Griffin III, but I do believe it would send a message if he were to win in Indy. That message being that Russell Wilson is very much for real and not some one-hit wonder or fluke.
What's good about this matchup is that it's inside.
What's bad about this matchup is that the 'Hawks will be playing their third 1 p.m. ET game in the span of five weeks to start the season.
Let's just hope the good outweighs the bad with this visit to Indy.
Initially I was tempted to rank this game lower, given that I don't hold the Cardinals in high regard right now, but having to travel to Arizona with only four days' rest for a Thursday-night game is a bit problematic in my mind.
I'm already having flashbacks of the game at San Francisco last season in which the 'Hawks looked completely gassed in the second half after going toe to toe with the 'Niners the first 30 minutes.
Speaking of bad flashbacks, remember the first game of the season last year?
Remember Russell Wilson being chased the entire game?
Remember Kevin Kolb coming off the bench and torching the 'Hawks?
Remember all of the missed opportunities in the end zone during the final drive?
I do, and I'm sure you do, too.
If the 'Hawks intend to contend, what any other week should be a textbook beatdown in the desert instead will simply turn into a game of survival, which we can only hope the team escapes unscathed with a win.
It seems that the scheduling folks have a lot of love for the Seahawks this year when you consider the number of prime-time games on tap.
This one at CLink could be higher or lower in priority depending on how both teams are doing at this point in the season, but following their bye week, let's hope the 'Hawks look strong enough to make a serious charge down the stretch, with this game being the catalyst.
As for the Saints, I'm not sure what to think.
Will they rebound after last year, or was it the beginning of the end of the Drew Brees era in New Orleans?
Right now I'm not sure anyone knows, but to be on the safe side, I will continue to consider the Saints a tough matchup, even in Seattle in prime time on Monday Night Football.
Meanwhile, this game will also be the first time the two teams have met since the NFC Wild Card (or "Beast Quake") Game during the 2010-11 playoffs.
Strange to think how much both teams have changed since then, but hopefully the home team will emerge victorious once again with enough momentum for its big matchup in San Francisco the following week.
Looking back, I'm still annoyed that the 'Hawks lost this game last year.
Coming off the team's controversial "win" against the Packers on Monday Night Football in Week 3, it seemed as if karma blew up in Seattle's face against the Rams.
Initially it seemed the 'Hawks would make quick work of the Rams, as they easily scored a touchdown during their first offensive series, but from there one mistake after another tipped the balance in favor of St. Louis.
Making matters worse was the fact that rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein inflicted most of the damage along with the rest of the Rams special teams.
Perhaps the 'Hawks have grown quite a bit since that early-season matchup last year, yet this game still leaves me feeling a bit uneasy, even with ample time to rest following their game at Arizona more than a week before.
Jeff Fisher and his team may not win the division this year, but they are a very dangerous opponent, and at home on Monday Night Football, I could see the 'Hawks taking a loss here if they're not on point for all four quarters.
Houston, we have a problem? (Sorry, I couldn't help it.)
Bad joke aside, this game in Houston at 1 p.m. ET in late September against one of the AFC's better teams could indeed be a problem.
The Texans are the kind of team you may be inclined to forget about or perhaps even dismiss; however, when push comes to shove, this is probably the toughest AFC opponent the 'Hawks will face this season, unless of course they make the Super Bowl.
With a tough defense that features J.J. Watt up front and a few offensive weapons like Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, you don't want to mess with the Texans. (Again, sorry.)
For the first half of the season, this might very well be the toughest game on the schedule, at least on the road.
Remember the last time the Seahawks were in New York?
It seems like ages ago that Charlie Whitehurst in relief of Tarvaris Jackson rallied to beat the very same team that would later that season win the Super Bowl.
Say what you want about Eli Manning, but underestimate him at your own risk. While he may not be as popular or as decorated as his older brother Peyton, he does seem to have a knack for winning big games.
Will the Giants as a team step up around Manning this season? It seems that every other season "Big Blue" makes a run at the postseason. Given they missed the playoffs last year after winning the Super Bowl, it would make sense at least in my mind that they would rebound in 2013.
Therefore, if we assume the Giants are legit and making one of their patented late-season charges to the postseason, this game could be a major test in Week 15.
Add yet another 1 p.m. ET start time and whatever inclement weather may or may not be in the area, on top of a cross-country trip one week after playing the 49ers in San Francisco, and I believe the 'Hawks could have their work cut out for them.
On the flipside, if any team can handle bad weather while making a late-season charge, it's the 'Hawks.
Besides, with any luck, maybe the 'Hawks will return to play at MetLife Stadium in February?
Wow, perhaps people east of the Rocky Mountains are paying attention to what goes on out West!
Not only did the powers that be over at the NFL decide to put this game on Sunday Night Football, but they're looking to capitalize on this rivalry right away in Week 2.
Expect this game to be in a word...intense.
The atmosphere at CLink is always crazy, but when you factor in the 12th Man during the home opener against San Francisco in prime time, it's going to be a lot of fun.
Good luck getting a ticket to this game.
While it's certainly exciting to think that the 'Hawks are scheduled to appear in four prime-time games this season, I thought it was curious that the Falcons game wasn't one of them.
Regardless, it won't be easy to head back to Atlanta, especially for yet another 1 p.m. ET start.
Meanwhile, going in to Week 10, I can picture the 'Hawks having at least six wins, but with the second half schedule being as tough as it looks, this game could be critical as teams start to jockey for position in the standings.
Perhaps a loss wouldn't be tragic, but for a team looking to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, this game could later have a significant impact later on.
In other words, it would probably serve the 'Hawks well to go back and finish the job they failed to deliver back in January to help them solidify their spot in the NFC playoff race and give them a boost of confidence to take on their final batch of opponents.
This is the one.
If the stars align, come early December, this game could decide whether the 'Hawks get to determine their own fate or once again find themselves chasing the 49ers for the division title.
That's not to say a win here guarantees much when you consider Seattle's remaining schedule, but it could sure make life a lot easier and put the Seahawks in the driver's seat.
For now if we take a quick look, the 'Hawks should have eight or nine wins going into this game, so this game could be even more critical if the team once again struggles on the road this season.
And really, isn't that the key?
This is a team that should handle its business at home with only its division rivals and maybe a rejuvenated New Orleans team giving them any potential trouble.
On the road, though, it's another story.
In addition to three tough division games, two of which are in prime time, the schedule makers did the 'Hawks no favors by scheduling them five 1 p.m. ET starts. However, it's the brutal stretch from Week 4 through Week 8 that will likely determine whether this team has what it takes to go from a wild-card team to a Super Bowl contender.
It's not so much the quality of the opponents, more the logistics of the situation in having four road games in a span of five weeks.
If they can roll through that portion of the schedule, then I believe that momentum and confidence will carry them into bigger matchups against Atlanta, New York and this game during the second half of the season.
In 2013 the 'Hawks really can't afford to stumble out of the gate playing .500 football for the first half of the season, as it will likely raise a lot of the same doubts as last year, while pulling the 'Hawks down in the standings and forcing them to play catch up.
For the Seahawks to go all the way this season, gaining home-field advantage for the playoffs is the key, but to do so will require the team earns it on the road during the regular season.