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O’Neil: Sorry Seahawks, but how you start the season really does matter

The Seahawks had to play catch up in 2018 after losing their first two games. (AP)

Sorry, Pete Carroll, but how you start matters.

It might not be as important as how you finish, but it matters. That’s evident after these past four seasons in which Carroll’s Seahawks have been left to play catch-up after stumbling out of the gates.

Pete Carroll previews Week 1, provides inside look at Clowney trade

Seattle has lost its season opener in three of the past four seasons. The Seahawks are 4-5 in Week 1 under Carroll, and while that doesn’t sound so bad, it’s one of only three of the 17 weeks in the NFL schedule that Seattle currently holds a losing record under Carroll. You know what one of those other weeks is? Week 2, where Seattle is 3-6 going back to 2010.

That’s why I think Sunday’s game against Cincinnati is the most important season opener the Seahawks have played since they raised the championship banner in 2014 before smoking the Packers on Thursday night to start the year.

But if the past four seasons have shown anything, it’s the importance of earning one of the top two seeds in the NFC. The only two times the Seahawks have done that under Carroll are the only two times they’ve advanced beyond the divisional round of the playoffs, and in each of those seasons they started 1-0.

Not only that, but Seattle is beginning this year against a Cincinnati team with a new coach in Zac Taylor whose hiring capped an otherwise unremarkable offseason. The Bengals are also missing their best player, receiver A.J. Green, who is out with an ankle injury suffered in the preseason. Factor in Seattle’s Week 2 trip to Pittsburgh – where the Seahawks haven’t scored a single point during their past two visits – and a loss to the Bengals on Sunday would leave Seattle in danger of falling into a hole. Again.

It’s been a habit for Seattle. Under Carroll, the Seahawks are 7-11 in the first two weeks of the season. That’s a winning percentage of .389. In the other 15 weeks of the schedule, they are 82-43-1, a winning percentage of .650. They have started out 0-2 three different times under Carroll and started out 2-0 only once. That was 2013 when the Seahawks beat Carolina on the road to begin the season before coming home to wallop the San Francisco 49ers.

The schedule hasn’t helped. The Seahawks have played on the road in Week 1 in six of Carroll’s nine seasons in Seattle. Being at home obviously offers advantages. Seattle hasn’t lost a home opener since 2008. In fact, Seattle has won 15 of its past 16 home-openers going back to 2003.

Just don’t expect things to start off fast. The Seahawks often score in the teens in Week 1 under Carroll. A couple of years ago they didn’t even get that high, losing 17-9 in Green Bay.

But even if Seattle doesn’t start fast, they need to start well, because for the past four years the Seahawks have stumbled out of the gate and it has affected where they finish.

Prediction: Seahawks 19, Bengals 13

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

More from O’Neil: If Seahawks were the Titantic, why is Clowney happy?