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.