Coach Carroll has constantly reiterated that the most important part of the regular season is winning the division title. Winning the division title is key, primarily for home-field considerations in the playoffs, but also because head to head and divisional records are the first two tie breakers in playoff seeding, and winning the divisional title means losses for divisional opponents; now lossess for divisional opponents are not always necessary for playoff seeding, but when you have 4 serious playoff contenders in your division, every single loss for your divisional rivals is vital.
I'm taking a few minutes to review what our schedule against divisional opponents looks like, because all things being equal, we really have no control over the non-divisional games of the other NFC West teams, but if we go 6-0 in division, we are essentially 3 games ahead of them for the remaining 10 games, a lead that would essentially be insurmountable.
WEEK 2, 49ers at Seahawks
Seattle will be returning early Sunday from a week 1, 10 am PST game at Carolina, and will likely return to the Seattle area before the end of week 1 Sunday night football.
SF will be coming off a Sunday afternoon home game against the Packers.
Absolutely huge game for both teams. Home opener in the Clink, first primetime game for both teams, and a heated rivalry from coaches to players to fans. Both teams will have nearly equivalent time for rest and practice. Travel time for SF should have minimal effect on the Niners. Seattle will be pressed the week before with an early start time and a game against a much stronger than it looks by record Panthers team (4th in team efficiency by ANFLS, 13th by DVOA), and the Niners will be coming off of a game against perennial powerhouse. Worst case scenario is that the Hawks enter 0-1 and Niners enter 1-0. Even in that worst case situation, a Seattle win gives a half game advantage in end of the season tie breakers.<
WEEK 7, Seahawks at Cardinals
EDIT: A wise soul below points out that I read the schedule wrong, that Seattle plays Tennessee in Seattle on Sunday in week 6, making much of the commentary here about prior week travel time irrelevant and the game less of a travel disadvantage for Seattle.
Seattle returns late Sunday from Tennessee, a good 5 hour flight after a 1 pm PST start, likely to arrive in Seattle well after 9 pm on Sunday night.
Arizona will be coming from a similarly timed game in San Francisco.
EDIT: I still think the following:
Probably the single biggest screw job the Hawks received in their schedule this season. Return from east coast roadtrip from a late game seems horribly unfair; on a short week leading into a Thursday night game, the 10am PST game seems more beneficial, as the team would be at home and in bed easily by 9 pm. Instead, the players will have to travel late into the night Sunday, struggle through film review and physical therapy Monday, gameplan and walkthroughs for only 2 days, and travel Thursday for the game. I am of the opinion that Thursday night teams should not play the Sunday before or after. It would allow the NFL to extend the season by one more week without increasing the number of games played, and spreading out the season one more week would mean more ad revenue.
There are a ton of unknowns about this Cardinals team, new QB, new coaching staff, pending draft selections. I could say we will be facing an elite defense, but even that may change radically by the time this game arrives. Nonetheless, they have the talent on defense to shut down just about any team in any location. Carson Palmer is the epitome of wild card, willing to air the ball out at any time with little regard for risk of interception, a daunting proposition with a WR like Fitzgerald.
WEEK 8, Seahawks at Rams
Primetime again, on Monday night football. Seattle has an extra-long week, playing Thursday night in Arizona during week 7 (above), giving a full 10 days of rest and practice, not counting a travel day to the Lou'.
The Rams, in the meantime, have an away game against Carolina in week 7, so a bit of travel and a challenging team the week before, advantage nullified by late start on MNF.
Seems like a long time since StL has hosted a MNF game, or maybe it's just been a long time since an even remotely decent Rams teams has hosted one. These Rams are no joke, however, in year 2 of Coach Fisher's Ovisian reign. The Rams had a flock of draft picks last season, and thanks to their fleecing of the Redskins, will benefit from a Niners-type oughts in the early teens; the shear number of picks the Rams received as a result of the RGIII deal negates any PC/JS draft advantage. Despite losing Gibson and Amendola in the preseason, the Rams have two extremely promising WRs in Quick and Givens, and the opportunity to double down in the first and second round - imagine the Rams picking Patterson in the first round and Ryan Swope in the second - makes for a scary proposition. Steven Jackson has never had a stellar game against the Hawks, but the loss of the slightly aged RB doesn't seem like much of a setback with Richardson and Pead both demonstrating a bit of talent last season. Seattle should have the rest/preparation advantage, offense contintuity advantage, and general awesomeness advantage, but the Rams have the homefield advantage and a raucous crowd to try to balance it out.
WEEK 14, Seahawks at San Francisco
Seattle travels to SF on another short week, after a bye in week 12 and a MNF game against the Saints in week 13, and has the added disadvantage of safety concerns for their families back in Seattle following beastquake2.
SF will be coming off a lazy week 13 game against the Rams, with a full week of rest before a home game.
Advantage San Francisco. Seattle might be a little healthier, just two weeks removed from the bye, vs. SF's week 9 bye. Seattle faces a short week, SF gets a relative extra day of rest. Seattle spends half a day travelling, and the Niners spend half a day coming up with new homophobic and mysogynistic tweets. I don't think our players will wilt under the "Seafags" and "Shehawks" chants of derision coming from Chris "ME HATE (S)HE" Culliver but Candlestick is a hostile place to play, and a Week 14 game is sure to have the home crowd riled up enough to affect the game.
WEEK 16, Cardinals at Seahawks
Seattle will return from a 10am, and potentially cold-weather, game against the Giants. Unfortunately, the Sea/NY game is one of a handful that might be flexed to the SNF game, which would put our team at a disadvantage, returning after midnight on Monday morning, and throwing off the normal start of the week. Barring a move to Sunday night, the team should have a full week of rest.
Arizona will also be returning from an early east coast game against the Titans.
I guess it's possible that this game gets flexed to SNF instead of Hawks/Giants, but it's almost a certainty that this game will not be moved to Sunday night.
Seahawks start their two game season ending homestand against the first of two division rivals. Presumably the Hawks will be in the playoff hunt, and it will be a raucous Clink filled with holiday cheer. I haven't looked at the rest of the schedule for the Cardinals, but this has to be one of the toughest 2 games on their schedule all year.
WEEK 17, Rams at Seahawks
Seattle plays it's second of two season closing home games against divisional rival Rams. Should have a full week of rest. Bye in week 12, the latest possible, maximizes the chance of having a healthier team.
Rams have a full week of rest after playing Tampa Bay at home, and travel 3 hours to Seattle for an afternoon game.
In the second of two season closing home games, the Hawks will baaattle with our horned and hairy foes. This game has the potential of all week 17 games to be a snoozer with important players sitting/resting, or a game to decide playoff seeding or even the divisional championship. Not much of an advantage in terms of travel/rest for either team, but I'll take the homefield advantage here for sure.
The Seahawks face a few disadvantages in the divisional schedule, the worst being a paltry 4 days
to travel back from after Tennessee for rest, preparation, and travel to Arizona for the week 7 Thursday night game. We give up an extra day of practice time in up to two more games in the divisional schedule. In the meantime, our 4 day rest/practice advantage vs. St. Louis in week 8 is all but nullified as the Rams will still have 6 full days between games and play at home instead of travelling. Ultimately, a good team should be able to overcome a few stumbling blocks, and even this slightly disadvantageous divisional schedule doesn't feel, to me, like it will derail the Seahawks playoff run.