After crushing the Denver Broncos to win the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl title, the Seattle Seahawks will look to become the first repeat NFL champion since the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005 during the 2014 season.
However, getting back to the big game will be a tall task for Seattle given a tough 2014 regular-season schedule. According to ESPN.com, the Seahawks' 2014 slate ranks as the sixth-toughest based on opponents' 2013 win percentage (.561).
Below, we'll break down Seattle's 2014 schedule.
|1||Sep. 4||Packers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|2||Sep. 14||Chargers||4:05 p.m.||Fox|
|3||Sep. 21||Broncos||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|5||Oct. 6||Redskins||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|6||Oct. 12||Cowboys||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|7||Oct. 19||Rams||1 p.m.||Fox|
|8||Oct. 26||Panthers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 2||Raiders||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|10||Nov. 9||Giants||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|11||Nov. 16||Chiefs||1 p.m.||Fox|
|12||Nov. 23||Cardinals||4:05 p.m.||Fox|
|13||Nov. 27||49ers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|14||Dec. 7||Eagles||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|15||Dec. 14||49ers||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|16||Dec. 21||Cardinals||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|17||Dec. 28||Rams||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
The key to Seattle's regular-season success a year ago was its fast start in the division, beating San Francisco, Arizona and St. Louis within the first eight weeks to jump to the top of the NFC West.
Seattle stumbled down the stretch but still finished 4-2 against the division. It'll take a similar mark for the Seahawks to finish atop the conference again in 2014. With both San Francisco and Arizona coming off double-digit-win seasons, and St. Louis expected to be much-improved, the Seahawks will have their work cut out for them.
Outside of the division, Seattle's toughest tests will come on the road, where its eight opponents boast a combined 2013 win percentage of .578.
The Dan Patrick Show's Andrew Perloff sums up Seattle's slate:
We're debating who NFL should send to Seattle for Week 1 opener. Brings up point: Seahawks' '14 sked is brutal. http://t.co/fd4aMtWeEu— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) February 4, 2014
In addition to the 49ers, Cardinals and Rams, the Seahawks will play four playoff teams on the road in 2014. Carolina, Kansas City, Philadelphia and San Diego will each be mighty challenges for Seattle.
How will the Seahawks fare in 2014?
Things aren't much easier at home, where the Seahawks will host Green Bay and Denver as well. But matchups against Dallas, New York Giants and Oakland offer excellent opportunities for wins.
There's no doubt the Seahawks have to traverse a brutal path in order to get back to the postseason in 2014. However, if Seattle is able to successfully navigate its difficult regular-season slate, the defending champions will be battle-tested and a favorite to repeat.
By extending head coach Pete Carroll through the 2016 season, the front office has also relieved some pressure heading into what's sure to be a challenging year. After putting pen to paper, Carroll expressed optimism for the future, per USA Today's Nate Davis:
It's a statement of our staying power and our willingness to do something really special with this opportunity here and representing this fantastic fan base and the area and the following that we have. The twelves (12th Man) have been ridiculously fun. We feel really humbled and fortunate to be part of this...A day of gratitude for me.
With the personnel and coaching staff boasting talent and experience, 2014 will come down to execution for the Seahawks. A few lucky breaks wouldn't hurt either.
We know just how dominant Seattle can be inside its home stadium, but the Seahawks will need to prove they can win in hostile territory in case they don't secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs again.
Outside of the Emerald City, there are few tougher places to play than San Francisco. Although the 49ers will have a new home this fall, they've been a consistent force since Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011 and will be out for revenge against the Seahawks following their loss in the 2014 NFC Championship Game.
With both teams likely to be competing for the NFC West crown up until Week 17, this matchup promises to loom large.
Elsewhere, despite coming up short in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver Broncos project to be the AFC's best once again in 2014. Denver added even more talent by signing DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders this offseason, so expectations remain extremely high.
Therefore, the Seahawks will want to beat them at home in order to build some momentum for another potential playoff run. It's a matchup that will not only entice fans but also serve as a true test for the 'Hawks.
Although taking care of business against the NFC West should be Seattle's top concern, winning at home and, more importantly, winning against the NFL's best at home no doubt ranks high on the list as well.
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