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Heaps: Why 1st half of season is biggest challenge in Seahawks’ schedule

The Seahawks face the 2020 AFC North champion Steelers in Pittsburgh in 2021. (Getty)

The 2021 NFL schedules were released this week and we now know when the Seahawks will be playing each of their 17 opponents.

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

The Seahawks are tied for 11th in strength of schedule for the 2021 NFL season according to CBS Sports, and according to former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps, the first half of the season figures to be quite a challenge for Seattle.

Heaps explained why that’s the case on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Thursday.

“When you look at it before the bye week, it’s going to be tough,” he said.

In the first-ever 17-game NFL season, the Seahawks have a bye week in the middle of the year in Week 9. But before that, they play eight games, and Heaps says that nearly every one of Seattle’s opponents ahead of the bye are extremely tough.

“You look at the Colts, the Titans, the Vikings, San Francisco, L.A., Pittsburgh, the Saints – these are very physical teams,” Heaps said. “These are teams who on defense or with the way they want to run the football, they are going to get in your face, they’re going to be physical and they’re going to make you earn it.”

Of the Seahawks’ first eight opponents, five went to the playoffs in 2020, including the Seahawks’ first two opponents – Indianapolis and Tennessee. In 2020, the Titans won the AFC South, the Steelers won the AFC North, the Saints won the NFC South and the Rams and Colts were both Wild Card teams, with L.A. beating Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.

And with the other three teams, at least two of them figure to be much better than last year in San Francisco and Minnesota. The 49ers were one of the most injured teams in the NFL last year after making the Super Bowl in 2019, and the Vikings nearly beat the Seahawks in Week 5 of 2020, and it took a Russell Wilson touchdown pass with 15 seconds left for Seattle to come away with the victory.

“I think that’s going to be the unique challenge for the Seahawks right out of the gate,” Heaps said. “They’re not going to really have any breathers in terms of physical slugfests. They are going to have to earn it every single week for the first seven weeks of the season, and then they get a nice game versus (the Jacksonville Jaguars), which is interesting, before they go to the bye. But those first seven weeks of the season, I’m looking at it going boy, that’s going to be a real, real tough part of the schedule.”

You can listen to the full second hour of Thursday’s Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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Jake & Stacy