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NFL explains Seahawks' schedule

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There was plenty of grumbling from Seahawks fans far and wide this week when the NFL schedule revealed that (1) Seattle would host only one prime-time game, (2) they didn’t even get the maximum five nationally televised night contests, (3) they are among the first set of byes in Week 4, (4) they don't play the 49ers until Week 13, (5) they play the Niners twice in 17 days and (6) they finish with five rugged division games in the final six weeks.

But, hey, at least the Hawks avoided the dreaded three-game "road trip" -- as explained by Peter King at MMQBSI.com.

To pile on to all of those oddities and perceived slights, word emerged that the NFL was wary of sending teams to Seattle for prime-time games because Pete Carroll's dominant home team does not make for good national TV.

The Seahawks are 7-0 in night games in Seattle under Carroll, and six have been double-digit wins (the notorious 14-12 Monday night win over Green Bay in 2012 is the lone exception).

It's unusual for the Super Bowl champs to host just one night game. Last year, the Baltimore Ravens were in an odd spot when they had to play the opener on the road due to a conflict with the Orioles; they ended up hosting just one prime-time game because of that. But most reigning champions get to host two or three spotlight games the next season.

On Ross Tucker's podcast, Michael North, NFL senior director of broadcasting, admitted that Seattle's home dominance did factor into the lack of prime-time games in Seattle.

"This project is part art and part science. Somebody's gotta be the artist. Somebody's gotta pick which game they think makes sense for prime time," he said. "For (lead schedule maker) Howard Katz to look at the Seahawks' schedule and think to himself, 'Oh, I'm wary of that particular game in a national window where it could be noncompetitive,' does it enter into his thought process? Absolutely."

North said they didn't outright eliminate Seattle from consideration, though.

"You don't necessarily want to tell the computer, 'Hey, under absolutely no circumstances will we play a prime-time game in Seattle this year because we don't think anybody can go in there and play with them,'" he said. "First of all, that's crazy. Arizona went in there and beat them last year. Tampa Bay went in there and had them on the ropes (21-0 before Seattle rallied to win 27-24 in overtime). … So, to think that nobody can go into Seattle and play with them is not necessarily accurate."

North said they considered putting the Thanksgiving game between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle.

"We absolutely considered Thanksgiving night in Seattle," he said. "We looked at schedules with that game in Seattle instead of San Fran. Just didn't end up being our best one."

That was the only night the 49ers could host any prime-time games next season due to agreements with the city of Santa Clara to not play any night games on non-holidays in their first season at Levi's Stadium.

Of course, that wouldn’t have precluded the Hawks from hosting the 49ers on another night. But perhaps the 29-3 wipeout on Sunday night in Week 2 of 2013 did.

North also said they considered having the Arizona Cardinals go to Seattle for Sunday night football "right up to the last minute." But they had the Hawks go to Arizona instead.

In the end, they chose to let CBS and FOX pretty much have the Seahawks' home games for national doubleheaders. North argued that the Hawks are not being marginalized because they play five national afternoon games (they did avert a 10 a.m. start in Philly because of that).

"I understand the disappointment about not having (home games) in prime time," North said, "but to think we’re wary of not having them at home on national television (is) clearly not the case, because look at all of the Seattle home games that are in the national doubleheader window on CBS and FOX (1:25 PT).

"That's our highest-rated window; 4:25 Eastern time on Sunday is when more fans than at any other time watch NFL football. You've got Dallas at Seattle, you've got Denver at Seattle, you've got Giants at Seattle, you've got San Fran at Seattle. Those are all going to be essentially nationally televised games.

"If we were that wary of somebody being able to go into Seattle and play with them, we wouldn't have committed so much of what really amounts to our most viewed window … to Seahawks home games" North said. "They're the Super Bowl champs. Somebody's going to have to go in and play with them at some point, whether they do it on Sunday afternoon or Sunday night or Monday night. It's all going to even out over the next few years."

As for the season opener, the NFL didn't even consider a Super Bowl rematch with the Broncos -- not after that uncompetitive 43-8 dismantling in New York.

“We thought there were three likely possibilities for the opener: San Francisco, Denver and Green Bay,” Katz told King. “I guess we could’ve played Dallas, but we really liked Dallas for the FOX doubleheader for Week 1. Dallas also had Texas Rangers conflicts the first month of the season. Putting them on the road in Week 1 might have doomed them for four or five road games in the first few weeks. I thought we had a better place to use the San Francisco-Seattle game, because it has become such an incredibly great rivalry game. It seemed to us that saving that game for later in the season on NBC was probably a smarter move. Green Bay felt right (for the opener).”

That debunks the thought that FOX and CBS "protected" the San Francisco and Denver games for their audiences, as John Clayton posited on 710 ESPN radio Thursday.

The fact is networks cannot protect what they don't have, so that is not possible before the schedule even comes out. The protection rule pertains only to flex scheduling. The networks can protect five games each during the season from being flexed to Sunday night.

The Hawks still might end up playing a fifth night game due to the flex -- although now FOX and CBS do have the right to keep any of their good matchups from going prime time.

So, it looks like the Hawks will have to blow out all of their home opponents during the day next season.

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