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Clayton: Seahawks’ schedule looks tough, but they catch several key breaks

The Seahawks face the Vikings and the rest of the NFC North in 2021. (Getty)

Based on last year’s schedule, the Seahawks are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the NFL’s 11th-toughest schedule. They face teams with a 2020 record of 139-133.

Seahawks Schedule: 17-game season opens at Colts, 5 primetime games

But they get several breaks that could make that schedule a little easier than expected.

Long-time NFL coach Dick Vermeil taught me years ago that the schedule is everything in this league. Easy schedules lead to Super Bowl chances. Tough schedules could push a team to just be a Wild Card or a non-playoff team. His words came true when his St. Louis Rams had one of the easiest schedules in NFL history and won a Super Bowl with a close victory over the Tennessee Titans.

An example this year is in the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers (.574 opponent winning percentage) and the Baltimore Ravens (.563) have the toughest schedules. That could lead to the Cleveland Browns winning the division after a great offseason of acquisitions. They have the ninth-toughest schedule (.518). That’s manageable.

With the expansion to 17 games, there are three non-common games, or games that are determined based on where a team finishes the previous season. The Seahawks won the division so they face three first-place teams. They were already schedules to play the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Football Team. The 17th game because a tough one because it’s a road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But let’s look at the breaks.

• The Seahawks open the season against the Indianapolis Colts on the road. While it’s tough going with the 10 a.m. West Coast start, Pete Carroll is the best in being able to win those types of road games. The break is that this will be Carson Wentz’s first game. It’s better getting him early in the year while he’s getting to know the Colts, rather than later.

• It may also help opening against the two best teams in the AFC South. The Seahawks play the Tennessee Titans at home in Week 2. If the Seahawks win both games, they could go 4-0 against that division.

• The Seahawks play the NFC North and that division might not be the same if quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t show up in Green Bay. Rodgers says he’s not going to play for the Packers this year. If he follows through, the Packers won’t be a 13-win team. They may struggle to win seven games without Rodgers. They may have to go with the recently-signed Blake Bortles or 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love. Plus, the Seahawks play them in Green Bay Nov. 28.

• The only returning quarterback in the NFC North is Kirk Cousins in Minnesota if Rodgers doesn’t show. Justin Fields or Andy Dalton will be starting for the Chicago Bears. Jared Goff will start for a rebuilding Detroit Lions team.

• The Seahawks drew the Saints as a non-common game. Drew Brees retired. They released Janoris Jenkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Nick Easton and Kwon Alexander to get under the cap. It’s not the same team. By finishing second in the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams drew the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are considered Super Bowl favorites this year. They also landed the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants. As a result, the Rams schedule based on last year’s record is tougher than the Seahawks (.515). That’s the 10th-toughest in the league.

• The closing schedule isn’t bad. They face Houston Dec. 12, the Bears Dec. 26, and the Detroit Lions Jan. 2. The NFC West games will be tough, but the Seahawks have great chance to get a good record outside of the division.

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