If you're a Seattle Seahawks fans looking at the bookends of the 2017 schedule released Thursday, you might groan a little bit. The Seahawks open the season with a third trip in three years to Green Bay. They finish the season at home against the Arizona Cardinals, who they've gone 5-4-1 against since 2012, including three losses at CenturyLink Field.
If you look in the middle, there is a lot to be encouraged about.
While there are no gimmes against division opponents, you can't do much better than opening your home schedule against the San Francisco 49ers, who are breaking in their fourth head coach in four seasons and may have a rookie at quarterback.
There is only one 10 a.m. kickoff for the Seahawks. That's in Jacksonville on December 10, facing a team that's also breaking in a new head coach and last went to the playoffs a decade ago.
You know that rumor that the NFL doesn't like primetime games in Seattle because they are usually blowouts for the Seahawks? So much for that. Three of Seattle's four games under the lights will be at CenturyLink Field against the Colts, Falcons, and Eagles. The lone road game will be a Thursday nighter against the Cardinals, so not an easy task on a short week.
And here's a nugget you might have missed. The Seahawks do not play back-to-back road games in consecutive weeks. Their only two consecutive road games are at the L.A. Rams on Oct. 8 and at the N.Y. Giants on Oct. 22. Those are separated by a bye week. A home game sandwiches every other road game during the season.
On the flip side, that also means no long stretches at home. Seattle has two back-to-back home games against the Texans on Oct. 29 and the Redskins on Nov. 5. Other than that, it's a flip-flop between home and road.
No, there is no perfect NFL schedule -- unless you can schedule all 16 games at home against the Cleveland Browns who haven't won more than seven games in a season since 2007. But this one isn't too shabby.
Here is a way too early prediction about how the Seahawks will do this season. This all assumes that cornerback Richard Sherman is not traded. That would change the conversation.
Opening at Green Bay, when both teams are relatively healthy, is going to be tough no matter what. The Seahawks have lost the last two times at Lambeau and got thumped 38-10 last season. I don't see this as a win for Seattle.
That's followed up with a home game against the aforementioned 49ers, who have been a mess since Jim Harbaugh left. Then they go visit the Titans who showed signs of improvement last year, but fell just short of the playoffs.
The first quarter of the season ends with a Sunday night game at home against the Colts. Indianapolis quaterback Andrew Luck has shown problems staying healthy the last couple of seasons and his offensive line is no help. The Colts' success rides on Luck's arm.
At the quarter pole, I say the Seahawks will be 3-1.
The Seahawks face the Rams in L.A. next. Like the Niners, the Rams have a new head coach and an unproven signal caller in second-year quarterback Jared Goff. They still have Todd Gurley at running back and a fearsome defensive front. This game last season ended in a 9-3 win for the Rams, but Jeff Fisher is no longer the head coach, and he somehow had the Seahawks' number at home. This should be a win for Seattle heading into the bye.
The Giants got to the playoffs last season, but then got blasted by the Packers 38-13. The Giants' defense was impressive down the stretch and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is dangerous anywhere on the field. But the Seahawks have won the last three matchups by a combined score of 97-42, including two wins at MetLife Stadium. With the week of rest behind them, I say this is a win.
The Texans then head to Seattle and they are smarting after going all in to try to land quarterback Tony Romo, but ending up with nothing. They may also be breaking in a rookie quarterback this season. But with J.J. Watt coming back healthy, the Seahawks' offensive line will be severely tested. In the end, this should be a win.
The first half of the season ends on a short week with a Thursday night game at the Cardinals. In the past few years, the Seahawks seemed to have played the Cards better in Arizona than in Seattle. But with little rest, it might be too much for them this time. I see a loss here.
At the halfway mark, I have the Seahawks at 6-2.
After 10 days off between games, the Seahawks host the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. A lot of prognosticators see the Falcons suffering a Super Bowl swoon, especially after how they just threw away a 25-point lead in the second half to lose Super Bowl LI. And Atlanta will be coming off a tough game against the Cowboys. With a little extra rest on their side and playing at home, I think the Seahawks win a tight matchup.
Next is a road game against the Niners that should be another win for the Seahawks, followed by a Sunday Night game against the Eagles. Philadelphia's second-year quaterback Carson Wentz was solid as a rookie, but the Eagles couldn't capitalize on a strong start in 2016 and missed the playoffs. They've brought in some help for Wentz at receiver, signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. But in Seattle, under the lights, I am picking the Seahawks here to bring the record to 10-2 at the three-quarter point.
The last part of the season starts well. The road game against the Jaguars should be a win. Then a home game against the Rams which should also be a win. L.A. has lost 11 of the last 12 matchups in Seattle.
Then it gets rough. The Seahwks head to Dallas to face the Cowboys. Both teams could be playing for playoff seeding, so this game could be critical. It could also be moved to a primetime slot as part of the flex scheduling. In Dallas, I have to give this to the Cowboys.
That takes us to the season finale at home against the Cardinals. Again, this could be for the NFC West crown and playoff position. And Arizona has managed to win fairly consistenly in Seattle under head coach Bruce Arians. As odd as this might sound, I could see the Cardinals sweep the season series here.
Final prediction: Seahawks go 12-4. Definitely in the playoffs. Likely the NFC West champion. Maybe home field advantage in the playoffs, but more likely the No. 2 seed.