I've been trying to think of things to write about here in June in regards to the Seattle Seahawks, so naturally writers block sets in. It's June, so therefore, it's swoon. It's doom. It's gloom. We can jibber jabber about what we hear on practices, OTAs, minicamps, and whatnot, but we don't have many cold, hard facts. We don't know who the quarterback is and we won't get a whole lot of good information regarding who is "winning" that battle. We can only speculate.
What's really easy to do is write during the season because we have results and previews to discuss and dissect for hours on end. Everybody has an opinion on a play that they saw with their own eyes, but there's just so much less to debate about in the middle of summer.
"Did you see Okung playing with that butterfly?"
"Yeah, he did a great job of catching it in the net and then releasing it back into the wild!"
These are the types of things we can talk about between May and July because there's not a lot of football tape to watch, there's very little new to learn besides the coach speak, and even here on FieldGulls we become quiet or talk about non-football things. "Hey, who else watched Executive Decision on AMC last night? I miss Steven Seagal."
"Steven Seagal isn't dead."
"No, I just mean in general."
So how do we kill the summer blues and start talking about Seahawks news that you can use, if you so choose? Skip ahead and start talking about the 2012 season anyway. When we get closer to the season, after more practices, injuries, pre-season games, etc., of course we will re-visit season previews but I am just going to give a brief synopsis of our 2012 season schedule based off of my knowledge and opinions of our opponents. I'll try to keep it as unbiased as possible and let the facts speak for themselves, but certainly I'll evaluate the teams somewhat based on what I think because at this point the future success of every team is just an opinion.
It wouldn't be interesting to just say: "We are playing Cardinals. They are football team." That would be stupid. Some of my opinion will be in there. So let's get started with week one:
We are playing Cardinals. They are football team.
Week One: at Arizona Cardinals
Going into this season, I think that the football fans of this nation will be split on whether or not the Cardinals or Seahawks will step up to challenge the 49ers for the division title. Maybe it will be the Cards. Maybe it will be the Hawks. Maybe it will be both and maybe it will be neither. Last season, Seattle opened up against San Francisco and nobody outside of the bay area thought that the 49ers would be as good as they became. Both of these teams have the potential to be the next version of that.
Also, both teams are having a QB battle and so we can't even name a single starting quarterback for this game yet. Whether it's Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, I think that Arizona will be in capable and unspectacular hands. I'd say that at this point, neither team has an advantage in that area but the Cardinals do have a passing game advantage with Larry Fitzgerald. The real test to watch this year and potentially for many years to come is Richard Sherman versus Fitzgerald. If Sherm can hold his own against the All-Pro WR, contain him just enough, then Seattle will have a major advantage and force the Cards to use other weapons to score.
Of course, Arizona also has a budding star cornerback in Patrick Peterson and so the matchup is broken down more into the supporting cast of the offense versus the stars. Marshawn Lynch versus Beanie Wells is a Seattle advantage but on some days, Wells can really light it up. Doug Baldwin is one of the most productive non-number one wideouts in the NFL, but the Cards just added Michael Floyd in the draft.
Arizona fans will tell you that the Cards are ahead of the Seahawks in the dynasty-building process. Seattle fans will tell you the opposite. This is just the nature of the beast and it's fair to say that both teams are fairly even in many areas right now. I am obviously biased and will tell you that Seattle is ahead, but I can also see where Arizona could be dangerous for a long time and that they have several elite players. The most important aspect of this matchup however is the location.
Good teams win on the road. Good teams get wins in the division.
The 49ers were 6-2 on the road last year and 5-1 in the division, their only loss being at Arizona. The urgency of winning in week one is nothing like the urgency of winning in week 17 if the playoffs are on the line, but the game result is just as important. If you win week one at Arizona, it's like winning game one of an NBA playoff series on the road. You've stolen one and you've got the advantage of sweeping the season series and racking up divisional wins and road wins. There's nothing harder in the NFL than winning on the road and no team will play you as tough as a division opponent will.
This isn't a "must-win" game by any means, but it is a "God, it would feel good to start the season 1-0 at Arizona" game. This is a tougher team than we expected last year and starting on the road puts you in a difficult position, but I believe that Seattle will give Arizona all that they can handle.
(Marking wins and losses this early, and oftentimes marking them more than a week in advance of any game, isn't a good habit and not one that I like to get into. You'll probably be wrong on your predictions far more than 50% of the time if you start marking Ws and Ls in June. I'm just taking an early look at each opponent.)
Week Two: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys and DeMarco Murray gave us more than we can handle last season and though the score was close towards the end, Dallas was the superior team that day. It's easy to forget that the Cowboys were a really solid football team for most of last season until Murray missed the final three games and Dallas went from 7-4 to 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Otherwise, on paper, they've got one of the most talented offenses in the NFL and a very good defense that just added Morris Claiborne, probably the most talented defensive player in the draft.
Yet, we also say that about Dallas every year and every year they seem to find a way to disappoint or lose games that "they shouldn't lose."
I find it to be a very positive thing that we play Dallas in week two for a number of reasons. First of all is that the defensive line and linebackers should be a lot more fresh to face Murray this time around, and that never hurts. Second of all is that rookie corners usually take awhile to adjust to the NFL and so Claiborne might not play a huge part in the game. And most importantly, that it's the home opener. Well, most importantly that it's at home, but the Hawks should be a little extra fired up for the home opener.
The Cowboys are never an easy matchup but this is one of the softer blows you can get as far as scheduling tough opponents goes. Hopefully the end of the Cowboys 2011 season will carry over into the beginning of 2012.
Week Three: Green Bay Packers
This game might not be nearly as kind.
The Hawks third game of the season comes against the champions of two years ago and the team with the best record in the NFL last season. Green Bay scored 35 points per game last year behind Aaron Rodgers and will be an early litmus test for a secondary that many describe as the best in the NFL. These are the kinds of opponents that will truly test that theory.
Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, James Jones and Randall Cobb will give corners, safeties and linebackers all that they can handle and annoy the hell out of you with completion after completion, and sometimes those completions will go for 70+ yards just when you thought you've made a stop deep in their territory. Jones, Jennings, Nelson and Ryan Grant all had receptions of 70 or more yards in 2011 while Rodgers put up the best statistical season for a quarterback in NFL history.
However, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Sherman, and Brandon Browner will have so much more experience working together by that time than what they had last season when they were still shutting down many offenses in the air. I just have a hard time envisioning Thomas allowing large gains at this point in his career. Yes, he can stop them with sheer will because he's that good. The symbiotic relationship between these four guys plus having a former Pro Bowl corner as your nickel that can act as mentor, is one of the biggest advantages the Hawks will have in 2012.
Another advantage, maybe, is that the game is on Monday night where the Hawks are an NFL-best 17-8 (in terms of winning%) and will have this Monday night game at home. The Packers are 27-28-1 on Monday nights. The Seahawks have put forth extra-good efforts on Mondays for whatever reason and the electricity in the air is a bit more palpable when the Monday night crew throws fish at Pike Place Market. (ie, when the game is in Seattle.)
Add to that the facet of the game that everyone will be talking about: Matt Flynn.
Whether or not Flynn is the starter isn't as relevant as what aspects of the game that Flynn will definitely have control over: giving Seattle some extra intel on Green Bay's offensive attack, something he should have as much knowledge about as anybody. Sure, there will be differences to the offense compared to when he ran it in so many practices, but they should be subtle. The "Angry Birds" secondary will be a little extra prepared on Monday night.
The Dallas game is a soft blow for a good opponent. The Packers game is an even softer blow for an even better opponent. Neither game will be an easy win, not even close, but Seattle drew a little luck in the scheduling department. I couldn't even imagine a win if this game was in Green Bay and I have total control over my imagination.
Week Four: at St. Louis Rams
The tougher half of the first quarter of games is at home and then the easier half is on the road, which has it's advantages and disadvantages. Either way, the Rams and Cardinals may draw first home game but they still have to come to CenturyLink and grab a win, too. We don't have to go to Dallas or Green Bay later in the year, so that part is awesome.
The Rams are not a team that Seattle should lose to, especially not if they are going to be considered a great team on the rise, but road games are road games. The 2-14 Rams beat the 13-3 Saints in St. Louis last year. You don't get "gimme" road games. Also, this is a much different Rams team on paper.
The Rams added five players in the top 65 picks in the draft: DT Michael Brockers, WR Brian Quick, CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Isaiah Pead, and CB Trumaine Johnson. They also hired Jeff Fisher and signed good free agents like CB Cortland Finnegan and C Scott Wells. This isn't the same team.
However, I wouldn't expect the Rams to become a playoff team or even a .500 team overnight. They were a 2-14 team that didn't even add a top 10 pick in the draft because they kept trading back. It gives them great assets in the future, but week four of the 2012 season isn't that far into the future. The most futuristic thing about that time of year will be retina display, which isn't even a flying car.
Winning divisional road games is difficult but this is going to be one of the Hawks best chances to pick up a win in the first half of an unforgiving schedule and set the precedent for the remaining twelve games. Lose, however, and you've got some 'splaining to do to a very upset fanbase as to why you couldn't beat the Rams.
Thus concludes the preview of the first quarter of the 2012 season. It's relevance may only last for this little moment in time, so savor it.