The 2020 NFL season, as I write this in May of 2020, is like a mirage in the desert. As they waste away through months of quarantine, sports fans are thirsting for sports like a man lost in an Egyptian desert searches for refreshment. Never before have we had more time to watch sports, and never before have we had less sports to watch. Earlier this month, football fans found a lush oasis awash with sparkling streams and fruitful palm trees in the NFL schedule release. The only problem: the oasis is four months away, and, once we arrive, the oasis may have been a mirage the whole time. Okay, I’ll drop the dramatics. The reality is that nobody knows when NFL football will really start, so curating calculated schedule analysis about rest days, travel miles, and matchup statistics for your favorite team is a little silly, right? Absolutely. Regardless, it’s a welcome distraction and it helps create a sense of hope as we count down the days until our boys in blue march on the field once again. Let’s take a look at the five most exciting matchups of the 2020 NFL season for the Seahawks, as well as key matchups to watch, early predictions, and other things you might not have noticed about this ever-so-slowly-approaching season.
Schedule Overview: I’ll say it out of the gate: this is the best-looking schedule on paper that the Seahawks have had in years. Facing the AFC East and the NFC East in the same year is a blessing given how tough the NFC West looks to be this year: it’s entirely possible that all four NFC West teams end up with a winning record. Facing the likes of the Jets, Giants, and Redskins between brutal bouts with the peak performance 49ers and the ever-pesky Rams makes competing for the NFC “Best” title sound a little more achievable. Strength of schedule metrics tell us that last year, Seattle’s 2020 opponents averaged a win percentage of .509. This would give Seattle the 13th hardest schedule by opponent win percentage, but most Seahawks fans know previous performance does not necessarily predict future performance, as we watched the 49ers climb from the gutters in 2019 to being one half-decent QB away from a championship. The Seahawks also have the most travel miles of any team, which makes sense given that they’re playing the two Eastern divisions. I have a hard time being worried about the travel, though: the Seahawks were better on the road than at home last year, and they historically perform well with 10am East Coast starts under Pete and Russell’s leadership. The Week 6 Bye may be my least favorite part of this schedule, especially given the team’s injury history. However, they do have a mini-bye (the half-week extra rest between a Thursday night and Monday night game) in November. Overall, the schedule can be viewed as a golden opportunity, of which the Seahawks hope to capitalize upon come football season. Here’s the top 5 can’t-miss games.
Number 5: Los Angeles Rams, Week 10
This will be the Seahawks’ first trip down to the shiny new SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. I always get nervous for matchups with the Rams, as I often emerge from a fist-clenching three hours with a tinge of jealousy as I get an all-too impressive display of what a modern NFL offense looks like. The key matchup here, as it tends to be with the Rams, will be Pete Carroll and Sean McVay. On the bright side, the Rams remain a question mark after releasing Todd Gurley and continuing to maneuver pennies of cap space and their next hundred-odd first round picks in an effort to pry open their fleeting Super Bowl window. Maybe their recent mismanagement will be enough to give McVay a challenge picking apart Seattle’s lax zone system. Maybe.
Prediction: A close loss, 30-27
Number 4: New England Patriots, Week 2 (SNF)
Week 2, Sunday Night Football, the now-headless Patriots come to town as Russell gets another opportunity for revenge, yet this time, the enemy has lost their general. Will Stidham take the league by storm? Will Belichick take yet another lackluster roster to a Super Bowl? I say no, but either way, the Patriots aren’t known for starting out hot. This should be an good time for Seahawks fans, even though I expect a closer game than many would assume. The key matchup here will be Russell and the offense against Stephon Gilmore and the still-supreme Pats defense.
Prediction: A defensive win, 17-9
Number 3: Minnesota Vikings, Week 5 (SNF)
It’s like sheep to the slaughter, as seemingly every year Cousins and the Vikings enter the “Clink” to face the action-green-clad Seahawks in an ugly primetime matchup in which no one on either team plays well and the Seahawks win comfortably. This is the only game on this list which I don’t think will be close. The matchup here, given two fairly similar teams in build and philosophy, is between Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins. Enough said.
Prediction: Big victory under the lights, 31-21
Number 2: Buffalo Bills, Week 9
This game, which will be both Coach Carroll and Russell Wilson’s first trip to Buffalo, stands out as one a lot of fun from a spectator standpoint. A cold, possibly snowy November trench battle in Western New York sounds like a pleasure to watch from the comfort of my warm couch, and the Bills might be the team to beat in the AFC East this year. Everything about them, from Josh Allen, to the young defense, to head coach Sean McDermott, scream underrated. The key matchup here will be, especially in a snow game, the two run games. Can Seattle’s shiny new offensive line (possibly including two young maulers at guard in Phil Haynes and Damien Lewis) get rolling against a tough Buffalo defense which allowed the second-fewest points last season? Can Seattle’s defense toughen up against a strong Buffalo backfield which includes new addition Zach Moss and young riser Devin Singletary? I believe the Seahawks will show up ready for a battle in this one; this should be a great game.
Prediction: A physical win, 20-17
Number 1: San Francisco 49ers, Week 17
It would be a crime for this game not to hold the top spot. Last year, Week 17 in Seattle, the Seahawks missed the top seed in the NFC by mere inches. Because of that game, they watched the 49ers cruise through the playoffs to Miami while they marched a depleted roster to Philadelphia and Green Bay in the dead of winter. Will the 49ers be the same team coming off a spirit-crushing Super Bowl loss? It should be noted that Seattle is 5-1 in Santa Clara. As high as the stakes were in Week 17 last year between these two rivals, it’s entirely possible they’re just as high in 2020. Both of the matchups against San Francisco were fantastic last season, and the day where I get to watch Russell and company enter an airtight who-blinks-first battle against former teammates and bitter nemeses can’t come soon enough. The key matchup here will be measured in inches. In the end, it may come down to which team is healthier, which team has the ball last, and, most importantly, who wants the division title more.
Prediction: A nailbiter win in overtime, 31-28
While it may still seem like an eternity, before you know it, Cris Collinsworth will be sliding onto your screen with a wry smile next to Al Michaels as the NBC jingle plays and the kick is away. Whether it’s with sports or with life in general, there’s a lot to look forward to as we move into the latter part of the year. I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to obsess and deliberate over the ups and downs of the Seahawks’ 2020 schedule. If it does go according to plan, this season should be a fun one for the Seahawks fans, and if it doesn’t, well, football is football. Here’s to a timely, non-delayed season of Seahawks football which, given their schedule, looks to be a lot of fun.