There's nothing like the NFL schedule release. I love it. The event drips with anticipation, excitement and, of course, hyperbole. You truly start getting revved up for the upcoming season -- just over four months before it begins. It's beautiful.
Not so fast.
Have you seen Seattle's schedule? Have you studied other NFC contenders' schedules?
Some observers discount the merits of scrutinizing the schedule in April. I believe the schedule really matters.
Seattle seeks an encore in 2014, but the Seahawks' slate is chock full o' roadblocks that will take a toll on the defending champs. So allow me to explain, Schein Nine style, why the 'Hawks won't even make it back to the big game:
1) An immediate threat to the throne
The league picked an unbelievably delicious opener for fans, with the game's best quarterback facing the game's best defense. Aaron Rodgers returns to Seattle for the first time since the "Fail Mary." And while I respect Seattle's defense -- especially when the unit is playing at home, in front of the rabid inhabitants of CenturyLink Field -- Rodgers is unstoppable. Rodgers' midseason injury last year meant we didn't really get to see this offense reach full throttle. Running back Eddie Lacy got better as his Rookie of the Year campaign went on; just think how well Lacy will complement his all-world quarterback in Year 2.
2) September looms for Legion of Boom
Before their Week 4 bye, the Seahawks will face the Packers, Chargers and Broncos. That brutal stretch presents three teams that made the playoffs last year -- and three quarterbacks who obviously can sling it. Rodgers and Peyton Manning are two of the greatest of all time, while Philip Rivers is fresh off a resurgent season that saw him enter the MVP discussion. And that Chargers game is in San Diego.
Yes, the Seahawks manhandled Denver in the Super Bowl, and yes, Seattle is hosting the Week 3 rematch. But with the additions of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward -- plus a clean bill of health for Von Miller -- this is a completely different Broncos defense. And do you think Peyton will be focused for this one?
Seattle easily could start 1-2.
3) Double(-digit) trouble
Difficult start, meet difficult finish. From Nov. 16 through Dec. 21, the Seahawks play six straight games against teams that had 10 or more wins in 2013:
» Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
» Week 12: vs. Arizona Cardinals
» Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers (in prime time on Thanksgiving night)
» Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
» Week 15: vs. San Francisco 49ers
» Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals (on Sunday Night Football)
Tell me: Which of those teams isn't primed to win 10-plus games again in 2014?
4) A road to perdition
Have you gazed at the Seahawks' road schedule as a whole? I've already mentioned the Week 2 trip to San Diego, as well as the roadies against the Chiefs, Niners, Eagles and Cards. In between, Seattle also must travel to play the vastly improved Redskins (on Monday Night Football), the developing Rams and a Panthers team that went 7-1 at home last year.
Seattle is a different team away from its raucous fanbase. I think the Seahawks go 4-4 -- at best -- on the road. Especially playing in the NFC West ...
5) Don't sleep on Arizona
The Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Seattle last year. That's no small feat. These Cards are ready to dance.
Seattle is locked and loaded with supreme talent, depth, coaching and upper management. Having said that, the fact is, there isn't much separating the Cardinals (who have enjoyed a stellar offseason) and the Seahawks.
Seattle's upside is to win the Super Bowl again, but the downside is finishing third in the NFC West. Arizona will be a factor in this division. It needs to be discussed.
6) Rams revival?
The Rams were a popular wild-card pick in the buildup to last season -- and then Sam Bradford got hurt. St. Louis has two of the top 13 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, including No. 2 overall. Jeff Fisher is a great coach. St. Louis isn't that far away.
On paper, every team in the NFC West looks like it should win at least eight games. But the six divisional bouts will be a challenge for everyone. (In fact, going 4-2 within the division must be considered success.) If you take the Rams lightly, they will bite you.
7) That team by the Bay
It would make no sense to start adding up wins and losses and projecting division standings before the draft. But that doesn't mean I won't do it now. I'm just that kind of guy.
I think the Niners, so close to capturing the NFC West last year, can do it in 2014. Thus, even with a wild-card bid, the Seahawks would be hitting the road for the playoffs. Again: Different team away from CenturyLink.
8) An absolutely loaded NFC
It isn't just the NFC West that presents viable threats. Look at the talent across this conference. And then look at the talented teams' schedules.
You could easily sell me on each of the following teams having 10-win potential: the Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, Packers, Bears, Eagles, Saints, Buccaneers, Falcons and Panthers. That's more than half the conference.
9) It's tough to repeat
For the record, I think the "competition at every position" mantra espoused by coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider does keep guys hungry. And Carroll's unbridled enthusiasm obviously helps. But frankly, it's human nature to get complacent after winning a title.
I think the Seahawks are currently one of the best teams in the NFL. They also might be the second-best team in their division in 2014.
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.