A big part of a team’s success against a schedule is recognizing the strength of that schedule by quarterback play. Sometimes teams do catch breaks (the Patriots) by strength of opposing QBs being weak (the non-Patriots AFC East teams) and therefore making their defense (the New England Patriots) look better by default (the AFC East is a default division) and really, who cares if you are always gifted a spot (the Patriots are) in the playoffs every year? Nobody is really paying enough attention to ding you (the Patriots) for a weak schedule.
I’ll take a weak schedule where I can get it, and if the Seattle Seahawks do catch a break to open the season it may be from a less experienced slate of opposing quarterbacks.
The Seahawks must go on the road in each of their first two, three of their first four, five of their first seven, and seven of their first 11 games of the year. This puts them at CenturyLink in four of their final five games, but it’s still a challenging amount of travel to open the season. They might however catch a break from QBs who are inexperienced, or QBs who are transitioning under new coaches, or QBs who weren’t all that good last season.
Here’s a preview of Seattle’s slate of opposing QBs, if all goes to plan for these organizations, and we know that won’t happen either:
Week 1 - Case Keenum’s debut with the Broncos
Week 2 - Mitchell Trubisky’s second game under Matt Nagy
Week 3 - Dak Prescott tries to turnaround from second half of 2017
Week 4 - Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen?
Week 5 - Jared Goff
Week 6 - Derek Carr
Week 7 - Bye
Week 8 - Matthew Stafford
Week 9 - Philip Rivers
Week 10 - Goff
Week 11 - Aaron Rodgers (in Seattle)
Week 12 - Cam Newton
Week 13 - Jimmy Garoppolo
Week 14 - Kirk Cousins
Week 15 - Garoppolo
Week 16 - Patrick Mahomes
Week 17 - Bradford or Rosen ... or Mike Glennon?
1 - Keenum has had one good season and now he’s playing with a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new teammates all around him. This will be his first ever real start as “the guy” for a franchise and the Broncos have not proven to provide adequate offensive support for the last couple of “the guys” at quarterback. Keenum may turn out to have a great career ahead of him but as of this game, we’ll have no idea and he still lacks a lot of experience as a starting NFL QB.
2 - Trubisky wasn’t actually terrible for a rookie in his circumstances, but he wasn’t good either. I have high hopes for his future personally but this will be just the second game under the new coaches.
3 - Prescott had six touchdowns, nine interceptions, was sacked 22 times, had 6.52 Y/A, and a rating of 74 over the final eight games of 2017. He did play much better on the road than he did at home and this will be a road game for Dallas. The Seahawks also typically play better at home.
4 - It’s all new pieces for Arizona’s offense and we can’t even be sure who the starter will be by Week 1, let alone Week 4. But it’s probably going to be one of these two guys and the Cards are likely to have one of the worst starting QBs in a stacked NFC.
5 - Goff has a lot more to prove, that’s all.
6 - I don’t know if he could become so bad that the Raiders release him after next season, but he’s certainly been overpaid and Carr will be playing under a new head coach, offensive coordinator, and without Michael Crabtree, who had a team-high 25 touchdowns over the last three seasons.
8 - I think Stafford is the first opponent of the season who is really an established veteran that could concern a defense before this season starts. None of the QBs I’ve mentioned so far are in that level with Stafford, and Stafford is still steadily outside the top-5 in the league.
9 - Rivers is right there among the greats. He was especially great down the stretch last season outside of a loss to the Chiefs.
10 - Goff again.
11 - If Rodgers is healthy by this point, he certainly represents the best QB Seattle will face next season. He, and the Packers, were definitely worse on the road last season. Rodgers went 3-0 at home and 1-3 on the road in 2017. In 2016, he was 6-2 at home and 4-4 on the road.
12 - Newton is a great weapon but a poor passer. I think Carolina could really underperform expectations next season.
13 - One of my biggest questions of the year: What will Jimmy Garoppolo really be? Acceptable answers are all over the place. The Seahawks could either have a tough challenge or a reasonably-winnable slate at this point, as they play the 49ers twice in December. We do know that as of today, Garoppolo is still quite inexperienced as a starter.
14 - Cousins’ first year with the Vikings. Another transition, some more unknowns.
15 - Garoppolo again.
16 - Mahomes’ first season as starter for the Chiefs.
17 - By this point, it could be one of the two expected starters, or even Glennon. Or it could be a fourth, totally-unexpected QB, because it’s Week 17 and I think Arizona’s going to be bad.
Overall, that’s the slate of QBs we’re expecting the Seahawks to face next season. It’s not 100% accurate and we don’t know which of these guys will do better or worse than expected, but I certainly think it’s a more manageable and beatable slate than it could have been. Imagine having to face Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Newton six times. Imagine having to face Rodgers, Stafford, and Cousins six times. Imagine a schedule where you face Brees, Ryan, Newton six times, then Rodgers, then Russell Wilson, then Carson Wentz, and an AFC team with a good, established QB (there aren’t many). That’s a schedule a team could possibly have but I think that since the season hasn’t started, facing the inexperience of Garoppolo, Goff, and Rosen really seems more appealing than concerning. That could change quickly, but as of now, it’s a tiny relief.