The Seattle Seahawks kick off the 2014 NFL season attempting to repeat as Super Bowl champions — a task that is anything but easy. While Pete Carroll has built a powerhouse in the Pacific Northwest, here are the three reasons why you should still look elsewhere to find your eventual Super Bowl XLIX champion.
When the Seahawks won the title last year, they took advantage of a regular season slate that didn’t rank among the top 10 in the league in schedule strength. This year, no such luck. Seattle will face the sixth most difficult schedule (according to teams’ 2013 winning percentage). The ‘Hawks’ opponents combined to go .561 a year ago, as compared to the .516 teams the Seahawks faced en route to the Super Bowl.
What makes the schedule so tough? Each NFL franchise plays all four teams from a division in the other conference, and this year Seattle happens to be paired with the AFC West. Of the four AFC divisions, only one had more than a single team with a winning record in 2013, and — you guessed it — that’s the West. In fact, three of the four AFC West teams finished above .500 in 2013, including AFC champion Denver. (Get ready for that Week 3 Super Bowl rematch!)
Of course, the Seahawks also play each team in their own division twice, which includes multiple dates with 12-4 San Francisco and 10-6 Arizona. The NFC West was the only division in football boasting three teams with double-digit wins in 2013.
Incorporating home-field advantage and other data, FiveThirtyEight concluded after crunching the numbers that Seattle actually has one of the five most difficult schedules in the NFL this year. That won’t make a repeat easy.
No NFL team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the New England Patriots a decade ago, so the odds of repeating are obviously not in the Seahawks’ favor. Every year, a champion’s star players enjoy (or survive) a whirlwind offseason, the team comes into camp with all of the confidence in the world and more than enough talent to get back to the Big Game (at least on paper), and some other franchise ends up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy less than seven months later. So even if the Seahawks look unbeatable, it won’t be that simple.
The MMQB takes it a step farther. Forget repeating — since the Patriots (the only team in this millennium to repeat) won those two consecutive Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005 — the next eight champions have combined to win a startling total of zero playoff games the next season. Read that stat again. Recent history says the Seahawks won’t even win a single playoff game this season, let alone play into February.
Repeating doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not just a question of whether the Seahawks are good enough to win the Super Bowl again. The other teams in the league will have something to say about Seattle’s chances as well. In an era with star (and future Hall of Fame) quarterbacks all over the NFL, including Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers, there are plenty of teams that have the talent to knock Seattle from its championship perch.
The latest Vegas odds have Denver (11-2), not Seattle (6-1), as the favorite to win the title this year, despite a lopsided scoreline when the teams played in MetLife Stadium in February. With the Patriots (8-1), 49ers (8-1), Saints (9-1), and Packers (9-1) close behind — to say nothing of a surprise team that could make a jump in an age of NFL parity — don’t be surprised at all when Seattle ultimately comes up short in a quest to win a second straight Super Bowl.