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Making sense of the Seahawks’ 2021 schedule and the midseason bye

NFL: New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks’ 2021 schedule is out, and it’s a historic one, for sure.

For one, the NFL is now scheduling 17 games per team, rather than the typical 16. This means the Seahawks’ final regular season game will take place on January 9, when fans are used to watching the team compete in the playoffs. Thankfully, the Seahawks’ bye is placed right in the middle of this extended season, in Week 9.

The Seahawks have other things to be thankful about with respect to the schedule. It is rated as one of the easiest, if not the easiest, in the entire NFL.

Of course, knowing the Seahawks, this doesn’t mean that the games will be any less exhilarating, frustrating, or terrifying. Just like the beginning of the 2020 and 2019 seasons, the 2021 season condenses a number of competitive, and likely down-to-the wire games, in the front half of the schedule. Five of the Hawks’ first seven matchups are against playoff teams from 2020, with the lone exceptions being the 49ers and the Vikings, who the Seahawks beat by a single point on Sunday Night Football last year. This stretch includes opening against defensively-minded Indianapolis on the road on September 12th, and facing both San Francisco and Los Angeles in a 5-day stretch in October, a week which could make or break the ‘Hawks’ divisional title hopes.

The first eight weeks of the season make up what is definitely the more difficult half of the schedule, but there is reason to believe the ‘Hawks’ can be successful. It’s expected that they will likely drop one of the divisional games, and perhaps one of the games against either the Colts or Titans, but other than that, there is a clear path to a 6-2 record with four likely wins over Minnesota, the depleted Saints and Steelers, and the lowly (but former Seahawk-filled) Jaguars in Week 8.

The bye is interestingly placed for Seattle, and while on paper having a bye at the midpoint of a season is a good thing, the effect of the timing in terms of matchups is questionable. There are three potential schools of thought on this subject:

  1. The Packers will not have Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback, so the bye placement is irrelevant.
  2. The Packers will have Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback, but the bye will stop the team’s momentum following what is likely to be at least two consecutive wins.
  3. The Packers will have Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback, and the bye will be useful to prepare for the game.

I tend to fall into camp #3 here. The Seahawks have not won at Lambeau Field since 1999, and will need all of the preparation they can get given the struggles there in the Wilson era. It’s also not clear that the bye would kill too much momentum, either; in fact, the bye should give Seattle the opportunity to double down on things it does well during the bye week. The Hawks have made good use of the break during the Carroll-Wilson era, going 6-3 off of the bye (3-1 in the past 4 years). The ‘Hawks have only had the bye in Week 9 once during this era, though, in 2015, and they lost 39-32 to Arizona the week after.

Most of the meaning of the timing of this bye does rest on whether or not Rodgers will remain with the Packers. It’s impossible to predict what will happen, but for now, he’s still on the roster, and I’ll believe a trade when I see it.

After the potential Rodgers matchup in Week 10, the Seahawks have a very favorable slate down the stretch. Only two other 2020 playoff teams (Washington and the Rams) remain on the schedule after Week 10, and the ‘Hawks will face Houston, Detroit, and Chicago in the last five weeks, giving them a great opportunity to improve playoff seeding. Of course, fans will be waiting for the other shoe to drop towards the end of the season, as the Hawks are known to drop one or two “gimmies” late on, whether it be against Colt McCoy or Brett Hundley. The game against the Bears in Week 16 or the game at Arizona in Week 18 are games that could easily haunt the Seahawks as they enter the postseason.

Overall, though, the schedule is very favorable, split right down the middle with four home games on either side. Matchups aside, the bye will also help Seattle recuperate from the first half of the season, which is likely to be tougher than the second half. This weaker second half was beneficial to Seattle in 2020, giving the defense the chance to improve against weaker opponents, and allowing the ‘Hawks to run away with the division title.

The division title may be a tough get in 2021 given the Rams’ strength, but my meaningless May prediction is that the Seahawks’ record is likely to be 12-5, and should Aaron Rodgers leave the NFC, a Super Bowl appearance is certainly on the table. Now we’ll just wait and see what happens the rest of the offseason, and then readjust this baseless projection later on.