The Seattle Seahawks came within one victory of capturing back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Although the New England Patriots ended that dream in the final moments, the Seahawks return most of their key contributors and are once again among the top contenders heading into the 2015 season.
In fact, the biggest move involving Seattle this season was an addition. It was able to acquire superstar tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints in a trade that also included offensive lineman Max Unger and draft picks going both ways.
One question that's going to linger heading into the new campaign is how the Seahawks will respond after the excruciating way they lost the Super Bowl. One yard away from taking the lead and an ill-fated play call led to a Russell Wilson interception and sealed the deal for New England.
"The mindset doesn't change. The focus doesn't change. The belief that I'm going to get there again and we're going to do it better than it's ever been done. That's never going to change for me," he said.
If the other members of the Seahawks maintain the same self-belief and focus on the future rather than what could have been, they should be perfectly fine.
Let's check out how their schedule sets up for the 2015 season after Tuesday's release. It's followed by some analysis and a look at the key games.
2015 Seattle Seahawks Schedule
|Seattle Seahawks' 2015 Regular-Season Schedule|
|1||9/13||at Rams||1 p.m.||Fox|
|2||9/20||at Packers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|3||9/27||vs. Bears||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|4||10/5||vs. Lions||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|5||10/11||at Bengals||1 p.m.||Fox|
|6||10/18||vs. Panthers||4:05 p.m.||Fox|
|7||10/22||at 49ers||8:25 p.m.||CBS|
|8||11/1||at Cowboys||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|10||11/15||vs. Cardinals||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|11||11/22||vs. 49ers||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|12||11/29||vs. Steelers||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|13||12/6||at Vikings||1 p.m.||Fox|
|14||12/13||at Ravens||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|15||12/20||vs. Browns||4:05 p.m.||Fox|
|16||12/27||vs. Rams||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|17||1/3||at Cardinals||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
Although the Seahawks must figure out how to replace Unger in the middle of the line, the arrival of Graham should be quite a coup. He should provide the passing game with the stability it has been missing despite the team's dominance the past few years.
It's no secret Seattle likes to win games with an old-school approach of running and defense. Thanks to the "Legion of Boom" led by Richard Sherman and the presence of Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, it's worked out extremely well.
Yet, there's always been a feeling the team could be even better. That's mostly because the weapons at Wilson's disposal in the passing game have been marginal at best. Graham is going to give him a marquee target to work with.
Dave Mahler of Sports Radio 950 KJR passed along comments from the tight end about building chemistry:
If the line holds up without Unger and Graham stays healthy, it's almost hard to imagine how good this team may be. The defense will once again be among the league's elite, and the offense would take another leap in a positive direction.
The NFC West is still a tough division, so it won't be a stroll in the park by any means. That said, the pieces are in place for the Seahawks to put together another memorable season. The fanbase will just hope it ends on a happier note than last time Seattle was on the field.
Right now, the Seahawks seem like the class of the NFC West. None of the other teams present the gimme wins that some cellar-dwelling teams in other divisions provide, though. So despite their relative strength, the margin for error isn't as large as they would like.
The Arizona Cardinals remain the one team that stands out. They went 11-5 last season, which is even more impressive when you consider their extreme quarterback struggles after Carson Palmer got hurt. If he stays healthy, those will be the two key games.
Will Brinson of CBS Sports notes Arizona fans aren't too thrilled their rivals got Graham:
Outside of the division, there's no doubt the biggest contest is the one with the Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks edged them in overtime in last season's NFC Championship Game and could very well end up battling them for the top overall seed this year.
All told, it's a schedule that should safely produce 10 wins. Barring some terrible injury luck, that seems like the floor given the Seahawks' talent level. They could push for 14 wins on the high side and lock down home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.