NFC West predictions: Seahawks ‘in the middle of something really special’

NFC West predictions: Seahawks ‘in the middle of something really special’

Credit: Getty Images

Byron Maxwell #41 of the Seattle Seahawks intercepts a pass intended for Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers at the one yard line in the third quarter on December 8, 2013 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.

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by Jim Corbett, USA TODAY Sports

KING5.com

Posted on April 24, 2014 at 6:11 AM

Asked if he studied why no Super Bowl winner has repeated since the 2004 New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll offered a self-confident response suggesting his team is unfazed by history or the vulnerabilities that tripped up previous defending champions.

“I haven’t studied it particularly. I’m well aware of it. I think everybody else is very aware of it – but that doesn’t have anything to do with us, what happened before to other teams or whatever,’’ Carroll told USA TODAY Sports at the March owner’s meetings.

Carroll also knows any chance for a Super Bowl title defense begins — and likely ends with winning the ultra-tough NFC West, the new black-and-blue division.

Related: Sehawks 2014 schedule

That dynasty quest begins when the Seahawks host the annual kickoff game Thursday night Sept. 4 against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks went 7-1 last season. Their challenge continues with a Week 3, Sept. 21 Super Bowl XLVIII sequel also at home against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

The NFC West will likely come down to a 17-day span beginning with Seattle’s Nov. 27 Thanksgiving night showdown at San Francisco’s Levi Stadium followed by what could prove the NFC West championship game — Dec. 14 when the Seahawks host the 49ers.

Sandwiched in between those two titanic contests, the Seahawks face a Dec. 7 cross-country trip to face Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles.

“This division makes it better for us — we have to play, we have to learn to stay up week after week after week,’’ Carroll said. “That’s the best thing about our division, it calls for us to be at our best constantly. Because this whole thing is about consistency. And there’s absolutely no chance that you can get by any other way.
“One of the hallmarks is that we have those type of matchups so our division is as good as it gets making us as good as we can get.’’

Heck, Carroll might be just the against-the-grain, ever-positive leader to inspire his team to buck long odds and the grinding challenge of wearing a bulls-eye each week.

While the rival San Francisco 49ers have been embroiled in offseason turmoil, the Seahawks re-signed free-agent pass rusher Michael Bennett and receiver Sidney Rice.

Now imagine if the defending Super Bowl champions get a healthy regular season out of home-run threat Percy Harvin, whose 87-yard kick return touchdown against the Broncos cemented Seattle’s 43-8 Super Bowl throttling. Harvin played just 19 regular-season snaps following preseason hip surgery.

Carroll said playing what amounts to six regular-season playoff games against divisional rival 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams is Seattle’s built-in sharpening tool for their repeat quest.

“Every game is a championship. Every game has a chance to determine if you make it or you don’t make it,’’ Carroll said. “We absolutely try to discipline ourselves to expect that is what we’re going to see every single week.

“It’s guaranteed now. So I don’t have to do a lot of selling on that one.

“That’s part of the makeup of handling this challenge — understanding the reality of that.

“That’s why our division is so crucially important to give us the best chance of where we can play at that level of consistency.’’

Carroll, 62, believes the Seahawks are just getting started.

“We’re in the middle of something really special here,’’ said Carroll when he signed his three-year extension this month. “We don’t want to just get a ring. There’s so much more to get done. Russell (Wilson) and the fellas are ready to go.’’

MORE: NFL schedule released|Top-10 games of the 2014 season|Team-by-team schedules

Here is how the division is expected to finish, from first to worst.

1. Seattle Seahawks

Why they will finish first: See above.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Colin Kaepernick continues to improve as a quarterback who led his team to the Super Bowl two seasons ago and that down-to-the wire, NFC Championship game against Seattle. Vic Fangio orchestrated the league’s fifth-ranked defense, but continuing legal problems have troubled pass-rushing linebacker Aldon Smith’s 2014 season and 49ers future in question.

4. St. Louis Rams

The Rams are still waiting for fifth-year quarterback Sam Bradford’s breakout. Only everything rides on it happening this season. Unfortunately, Bradford is coming off a season-ending knee injury suffered in Week 7 with his blind-side protector Jake Long not expected to be ready for the start of the season coming off his own knee surgery.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians coaxed 10 wins out of the Cardinals and appears poised for better in Year 2. The return of last year’s first-round pick — guard Jonathan Cooper will help keep Carson Palmer protected. Arians spoke of utilizing second-year tailback Andre Ellington as a Jamaal Charles-type weapon. “They’re very, very similar. When they get out, they’re gone,’’ Arians said.

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