The Seattle Seahawks headed into the 2012 season with a question mark at quarterback. They ended the season with an 11-5 mark, a playoff victory and a new face of the franchise in Russell Wilson. A dominant defense and solid running game combined with Wilson's dual-threat ability created one of the most exciting teams in football. And that was before the offseason, when they kept almost all of their talent and signed veteran reinforcements on the defensive line.
So, congratulations to the 2013 world champion Seahawks? Not quite -- they have a gauntlet of a schedule to get through, including three trips to the East Coast. The defensive line already has injury concerns, promising young pass rusher Bruce Irvin is facing a four-game suspension and their top offseason pickup, Percy Harvin, is out until at least Thanksgiving. Still, the Seahawks boast one of the most talented squads in the league and were rewarded with four primetime appearances. They will have plenty of chances on national television to show last year wasn't a fluke.
Here's the complete schedule for the 2013 season.
|1||Sept. 8||@ Carolina Panthers||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|2||Sept. 15||vs. San Francisco 49ers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|3||Sept. 22||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sept. 29||@ Houston Texans||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|5||Oct. 6||@ Indianapolis Colts||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|6||Oct. 13||vs. Tennessee Titans||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|7||Oct. 17||@ Arizona Cardinals||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|8||Oct. 28||@ St. Louis Rams||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|9||Nov. 3||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|10||Nov. 10||@ Atlanta Falcons||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|11||Nov. 17||vs. Minnesota Vikings||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|13||Dec. 2||vs. New Orleans Saints||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|14||Dec. 8||@ San Francisco 49ers||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|15||Dec. 15||@ New York Giants||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|16||Dec. 22||vs. Arizona Cardinals||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|17||Dec. 29||vs. St. Louis Rams||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
Toughest out: Atlanta Falcons (away)
The two games with the 49ers will get all the headlines and hype this year, but Seattle shouldn't sleep on Atlanta, the team that knocked it out of the playoffs. The Falcons return most of the same squad that made it to the NFC Championship Game and also signed Steven Jackson to bolster the running game. Jackson is a familiar foe of Seattle, having spent most of his career with the Rams. The game is also starting at 1:00 p.m. on the East Coast. More on that below.
Must win: St. Louis Rams (away)
The Rams are a popular sleeper pick this year after going 4-1-1 against the NFC West in 2012. If the Seahawks want to quiet that buzz, they need to take care of business on the road. The Rams are perfectly built to give the Seahawks fits, with a stout pass rush and upgraded weapons on the offense. Rookie Tavon Austin could make the Seahawks miserable this year if they don't properly game plan against him.
Don't overlook: Carolina Panthers (away)
The Seahawks do the most traveling out of any team in the league, and don't typically do well in 1:00 p.m. games on the East Coast. Unfortunately, they have three trips to the Eastern time zone this year and another 1 p.m. ET game in Houston, but the regular season opener against the Panthers could give them the biggest trouble. The Panthers quietly built one of the league's better front sevens over the offseason, drafting Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short to team up alongside Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. They also boast defensive captain Luke Kuechly, who might be the NFL's best linebacker people aren't talking about.
Carolina's offense is facing a transition to a more traditional run-first game under Mike Shula, but the team will be without Jonathan Stewart after he started the season on the PUP. The good news is that the offense still has Cam Newton, who could take off in his third season. The Panthers have quality talent and could surprise people this year, including the Seahawks themselves.