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Seahawks schedule: Packers first, NFC West last

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When it comes to the NFL schedule, the Super Bowl champions typically get two perks: (1) They get to host the first game of the season for the whole country to see and (2) they get four more prime-time games throughout the year.

Well, the Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seahawks got one out of two, according to the NFL schedule released Wednesday. And they got a brutal finish to the season on top of that slight.

Seven months after embarrassing Denver 43-8 to win their first league title in front of the largest TV audience in U.S. history, the Seahawks will start their journey to a Super Bowl repeat on Thursday night, Sept. 4, against the Green Bay Packers in Seattle. It will be a rematch of the 2012 Fail Mary Monday night game (see more below).

The Hawks were scheduled for just four prime-time games – one short of the maximum. Nine teams got five: Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh. The Eagles and 49ers also got four.

Seattle's other scheduled prime-timers are at Washington in Week 5, at San Francisco on Thanksgiving and at Arizona in Week 16. That's surprisingly only one prime-time game at home for the Super Bowl champs. The league reportedly is wary of poor ratings due to blowouts by the Hawks at home.

The NFL has the right to flex two games between Weeks 5 and 10 and a game each week in Weeks 11-17, so the Hawks could end up in prime time again. But for now, they got dissed.

The Hawks and 49ers don't meet until Week 13, which is the latest they will have played their first game since the Hawks were moved to the NFC West in 2002. The teams will meet on Thanksgiving night in the 49ers' new stadium on Nov. 27 and then play in Seattle 17 days later.

The Hawks play five of their six division games in the final six weeks – a brutal stretch against physical teams that starts against Arizona in Week 12 and ends with the finale at home against – who else? – the Rams. It's the fourth time in Pete Carroll's five years in Seattle that the Hawks will finish the season with the Rams. Seattle has won all three so far.

The run of physical contests could have the Seahawks limping into the playoffs.

As for the early slate, they play two of their first three at home before sitting on the first bye week (along with Arizona and St. Louis). It's the earliest Seattle has had a bye since 2008, when the Hawks also sat out Week 4. The last two years they have gotten late rest: Week 11 in 2012 and Week 12 in 2013.

The Hawks play just three 10 a.m. games, not that they really care about that old bugaboo anymore. After going 3-6 in early starts in 2011 and 2012, they finally solved that perennial problem in 2013, winning four out of five 10 a.m. starts.

Two of their early games come back to back: at St. Louis in Week 7 and at Carolina in Week 8. That completes a stretch of three road games in four weeks.

Then they are home for three of the next four: Oakland in Week 9, the Giants in Week 10, at Kansas City in Week 11 and vs. Arizona in Week 12.

Then they hit the road for three of the next four: at San Francisco, at Philadelphia, home vs. the 49ers and at Arizona. If the Eagles game or home 49ers game is flexed to prime time, they could end up playing three of those four at night.

Here's a game-by-game look, with predictions:

Week 1: vs. Green Bay, Thursday, Sept. 4, 5:30 p.m.

It's a little surprising that the NFL is willing to open the 2014 season with this controversial rematch, which surely will evoke league-bashing stories about the 2012 replacement referees and lots of trash talk between the Packers and Seahawks who were part of that 2012 game. That seems like a long time ago, though. Russell Wilson is far removed from what was just his third game then, and Golden Tate – the man in the middle of the controversial final play -- is no longer with the Hawks. Neither is Chris Clemons, who had four of Seattle's eight sacks of QB Aaron Rodgers in that game. But it won't be surprising if this one once again comes down to the end.

Prediction: Seahawks, 27-24

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 2: At San Diego, Sunday, Sept. 14, 1:05 p.m.

The last time Philip Rivers faced Pete Carroll's defense, he shredded it for 455 yards – and Leon Washington returned two kicks for touchdowns to ruin his day. Rivers will face a much superior defense to that motley 2010 crew this time. And rather than Washington, the Hawks hope to have Percy Harvin just in case.

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 3: vs. Denver, Sunday, Sept. 21, 1:25 p.m.

Some thought this matchup might be the Thursday opener or make another prime-time time slot, but the Super Bowl score probably marked this as an unappealing matchup. The Broncos seemingly have improved their defense this offseason, but they didn't do much to help an offense that scored just eight points against Seattle in the Super Bowl. The Broncos got a very slight taste in that game (remember the first play?) of what it's like to play in front of the 12th Man; just wait until they are actually in Seattle.

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 4: Bye

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 5: At Washington, Monday, Oct. 6, 5:30 p.m.

Dan Snyder dumped Mike Shanahan and hired Rah-Rah Jon Gruden's brother, who figures to help QB Robert Griffin III a little better. But Richard Sherman will be motivated big time in this one after Trent Williams smacked him after the 2012 playoff game and DeAngelo Hall got into a Twitter chirping contest this offseason with Sherman about which cornerback is better. The bad blood is the undercard to the Griffin-Wilson rematch, which is surely why the league chose this one for Monday night. Coming off their bye last season, the Hawks pounded the Saints 34-7 on Monday night. They'll probably be ready for this one, too.

Prediction: Seahawks, 34-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 6: vs. Dallas, Sunday, Oct. 12, 1:25 p.m.

The last time these teams met in Seattle, in Week 2 of 2012, the Hawks walked away with an easy 27-7 win. That was when Wilson was a rookie. Now he's a Super Bowl champion quarterback. In three-plus years under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have been a .500 team, and they don't look any better this year.

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 7: At St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 19, 10 a.m.

The Hawks escaped with a 14-9 win in St. Louis last season despite playing one of their two worst offensive games of the year. In 2012, Fisher outcoached Carroll for a special-teams-driven 19-13 win. These games are always tight in St. Louis, and the Rams figure to have their best team yet under Fisher.

Prediction: Rams, 17-13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 8: At Carolina, Sunday, Oct. 26, 10 a.m.

Seattle escaped with a 12-7 victory in the 2013 season opener, which featured the two defenses that would finish 1-2 in the league and two teams that would combine for 25 wins. The Panthers' defense figures to be every bit as tough again, but the offense is another story – with QB Cam Newton recovering from ankle surgery and the Panthers completely turning over their receiving corps. Which offense will be clicking by this point in the season?

Prediction: Seahawks, 23-13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 9: vs. Oakland, Sunday, Nov. 2, 1:25 p.m.

Seahawks GM John Schneider and Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie will have a little reunion before this game, in which McKenzie probably will lament the fact that his team is owned by the Davis family rather than by Paul Allen. Schneider will nod his head in sympathy of McKenzie's plight, and then both will watch as the Super Bowl team Schneider methodically built – and is working hard to maintain -- dismantles the sub-.500 franchise McKenzie is desperately trying to rebuild.

Prediction: Seahawks, 38-13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 10: vs. N.Y. Giants, Sunday, Nov. 9, 1:25 p.m.

The Giants started 0-6 but won seven of their final 10 games last season. Of course, one of those late losses was an embarrassing 23-0 shutout by the Seahawks. And that was in New York. What do you think will happen in Seattle?

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 11: At Kansas City, Sunday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m.

Andy Reid started with a bang in KC last year, winning his first nine games. Then his team went in the tank, dropping six of eight – including a 45-44 playoff loss in Indianapolis. Back when the Hawks were in the AFC West, they used to have all kinds of trouble in Kansas City. Of course, they were never a Super Bowl team then.

Prediction: Seahawks, 27-20

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 12: vs. Arizona, Sunday, Nov. 23, 1:05 p.m.

The Cardinals are the only team to beat Wilson in Seattle – an ugly 17-10 defeat last December in which the Hawks' offense was horrendous and Seattle lost despite picking off Carson Palmer four times. No way the Hawks let Arizona win in Seattle again.

Prediction: Seahawks, 24-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 13: at San Francisco, Thursday, Nov. 27, 5:30 p.m.

This is the latest the 49ers and Seahawks will play their first game since the league realigned in 2002, placing the Hawks in the NFC West. In 2005 and 2006, their first games were in Week 11. The league said it wanted marquee matchups on Thanksgiving night, and it should have one here. Tough turnaround for the Hawks, coming off what figures to be a rough game against Arizona. Fortunately, it is just a hop down the coast to play their No. 1 rival. Carroll's Hawks have not won in San Francisco yet (0-4), but they have narrowed the gap every year (19, 16, 7, 2), so maybe this is their year.

Prediction: Seahawks, 20-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 14: at Philadelphia, Sunday, Dec. 7, 1:25 p.m.

Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly faced off once as Pac-10 head coaches: Kelly's Oregon Ducks ran for nearly 400 yards in a 47-20 whooping of Carroll's USC Trojans in 2009. Of course, that was then and this is the NFL. Kelly got off to a shaky start (1-3) in his first year, but his Eagles won seven of the last eight to make the playoffs (they lost 26-24 to the Saints). Most peg Kelly's fast-paced team as the favorite to win the NFC East next season, but Kelly needs to fix his 29th-ranked defense if he wants to beat the Seahawks. It's a bonus for the Hawks that this is FOX's national game and thus an afternoon start.

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-24

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 15: vs. San Francisco, Sunday, Dec. 14, 1:25 p.m.

The Hawks have owned the 49ers in the last three games in Seattle, winning by an aggregate of 94-33. The 49ers played very well in the NFC title game in January, losing 23-17, and they will come off an easy trip across the bay to Oakland in between their Seattle games – while the Hawks trek east to Philly and back. The Niners just might steal this one.

Prediction: 49ers, 24-21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 16: At Arizona, Sunday, Dec. 21, 5:30 p.m.

The Seahawks sacked Palmer seven times in a 34-22 Thursday night win in Glendale last October. Of course, the Cards beat the Hawks in Seattle 10 weeks later and are working to fix their offensive line, so this game could be more like the ones Seattle lost in 2011 and 2012.

Prediction: Cardinals, 20-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week 17: vs. St. Louis, Sunday, Dec. 28, 1:25 p.m.

Carroll's Hawks are 3-1 against Jeff Fisher's Rams, but every game has been a brawl and the Hawks will be coming off a brutal five-game stretch. Still, the Rams have not won in Seattle in 10 years (a 33-27 OT victory in 2004) and the Hawks will be eager to beat the Rams in the season finale for the third straight year and claim the NFC's top seed again.

Prediction: Seahawks, 27-17

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