The Seattle Seahawks are looking to take the next step from a surprising upstart team to a Super Bowl contender in 2023. Seattle’s 9-8 finish in 2022 was unexpected, but head coach Pete Carroll has quickly taken advantage of his team’s talent and avoided a rebuild. With the 2023 NFL schedule released, the Seahawks will have the chance to make a strong playoff push at the right time.
The Seahawks’ Schedule Will Help Them Peak
The Seahawks were one of the NFL’s best feel-good stories of 2022. After trading franchise icon Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, expectations were for Seattle to tank for the 2023 NFL Draft in hopes of landing a new face of the organization. Despite the Seahawks putting quarterbacks Geno Smith and Drew Lock into a preseason battle, Seattle already had a franchise passer in Smith on the roster.
The 32-year-old Smith won NFL Comeback Player of the Year after shocking the world with his play. He completed 69.8% of his passes for 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The Seahawks surged with the ninth-best scoring offense with Smith under center and rookie running back Kenneth Walker III quickly becoming a star.
After their Week 9 win against Arizona, Seattle was 6-3 and appeared headed to the postseason. However, despite their schedule offering games they should’ve won against the Buccaneers, Raiders, and Panthers, the Seahawks sputtered down the stretch. A 1-4 drought almost cost them their Wild Card seat, but they made it with an overtime win against the lowly Rams in Week 18.
In retrospect, the Seahawks left some meat on the bone last year, but they were a young team. Smith hadn’t been a full-time starter since 2014, and the defense ranked 25th in scoring despite producing the 11th-highest turnover rate and finishing 13th in passing yards allowed. It was a flawed team that had the talent to be decent but not the experience to be better.
That description doesn’t apply as much to the 2023 season. Now a season wiser and an offseason stronger, Carroll has been able to build a roster more suited for what the team needs.
Seattle added veteran defensive tackles Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed, linebacker Bobby Wagner, center Evan Brown, and safety Julian Love. Carroll is “optimistic” that star safety Jamal Adams and star linebacker Jordyn Brooks could return by training camp. Seattle also added an excellent draft class with wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, cornerback Devon Witherspoon, “grown man” nose tackle Cameron Young, and others.
Seattle Is a Sneaky Team in the NFC
If the Seahawks are healthier than not, they have the star power on both sides of the ball to be a major problem in the NFC. There’s pressure on Witherspoon and second-year cornerback Tariq Woolen to play at a high level, but the pieces are there for the Seahawks to far exceed their 8.5-win line. Their schedule plays into that.
The Seahawks’ schedule has some tough matchups through the first 11 weeks, including going to Cincinnati in Week 6, hosting Cleveland in Week 8, and traveling to Baltimore in Week 9. However, it’s not an especially difficult run for a team that should be able to take advantage of their chemistry early in the season.
Playing the “schedule game” where we count wins and losses is difficult, but it’s not unreasonable to think the Seahawks will enter their Thanksgiving Day game against San Francisco with seven wins. If that’s the case, then the Seahawks will hit the toughest stretch of their season at the right time. They can test their mettle against the 49ers twice, at the Cowboys, and at home against the Eagles within a month.
This will be a proving ground set of games. Playing two prime-time games in a row against top NFC competition can be a moment of growth for Seattle. It could also be a devastating reality check if the Seahawks aren’t ready for the stage.
After hosting Philadelphia, Seattle has three very winnable games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, and Arizona before the postseason arrives. This couldn’t have worked out better for Carroll, who can use the easier games to apply the lessons he’s learned against top foes.
Maybe I’m crazy, but the Seahawks will remain my top sleeper pick to win the NFC. The conference has suffered several major losses throughout this offseason, and the mixture of internal growth and new additions for Seattle could produce the right storm for the Seahawks to make a deep run.