NFC West: Nathan Scheelhaase
ESPN.com Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers
All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Denver Broncos
The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Washington Redskins
Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams
Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win
Week 10: New York Giants
The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win
Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 13-3
They did not address every need, however. Arizona was the only team not to use at least one draft choice for a defensive lineman or linebacker, one reason Vonnie Holliday and Clark Haggans are expected to return for another season.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says there's no rush to bring back either player. Somers: "Haggans, 35, started all 16 games last season but, if he returns, it will be as a backup. Holliday, 36, backed up Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett last season. He played in all 16 games and finished with 16 tackles, 15 of them solo. The coaches were pleased with his production and think he could provide a similar level of play this season." Noted: Re-signing Haggans in particular would buy time for the Cardinals at outside linebacker, a position where the team has promising young players, but few established options.
Also from Somers: catching up with Matt Ware.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com revisits defensive coordinator Ray Horton's philosophy on cornerbacks. Horton: "Covering is the main job, but you want the physicality, get guys out of their game and let them know they will get it every play. As a defense, you have to have the tough guy mentality regardless. We don’t want an offense pushing us around, and if they get some calls, we have to live with that sometimes."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com sizes up the team's wide receivers and says competition is running high. Farnsworth: "In fact, Ben Obomanu, Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette were so hungry during the players’ extended break following the season that they traveled to Alabama to work out with Tarvaris Jackson."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune takes a position-by-position look at the Seahawks' roster and has this to say about letting linebacker David Hawthorne leave in free agency: "Even with a nasty front that does a nice job of keeping the linebackers clean, someone has to scrape, fill the right gap and make the tackles. Along with doing that the past three seasons, Hawthorne was considered one of the more cerebral players on the team. And he also made game-changing plays, evidenced by his seven interceptions and six sacks in three years as a starter. Second-round draft choice Bobby Wagner has some big shoes to fill." Noted: Hawthorne's health had to be a key variable. The injury he played through last season affected his ability to move effectively.
Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues what Rams coach Jeff Fisher will be watching most closely during the upcoming rookie camp. Jim Thomas: "About two-thirds of the players on the field will be undrafted rookies, but Fisher obviously will have his eyes on the 10 draft picks, particularly cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. Are both capable of competing for a starting job right away? That seems to be the expectation. Ditto for wide receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens. The sooner they get the playbook down, the sooner they help QB Sam Bradford. This will be their first taste of NFL football, albeit in a minicamp setting."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch supports Kurt Warner's recent comments about player safety.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Frank Gore is anxious to see new 49ers running back LaMichael James in action. Maiocco on Gore: "Gore, who turns 29 on Monday, enters his eighth professional season. He has 7,625 rushing yards -- the most for any 49ers player since the club became a member of the NFL in 1950. And he is just 33 rushing attempts behind the club's all-time leader Roger Craig."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers archivist Jerry Walker, who is collecting memorabilia for display in the team's Hall of Fame, set to open at the new stadium in Santa Clara. Barrows: "The hall of fame will be at least 15,000 square feet, and the team wants items from ticket stubs all the way up to big-ticket items like a trolley car or even perhaps a portion of the 'Niner Liner' aircraft that flew Montana and teammates to their first Super Bowl in Pontiac, Mich. The hall of fame is sure to be popular on game days. But, like recent hall of fames built in Green Bay, Foxboro, Ma. and elsewhere, the intent is to make a year-round destination, especially one for school field trips."
Taylor Price of 49ers.com says safety Donte Whitner expects the defense to play faster this season. Whitner: "This year you can expect guys to fly around a lot faster without hesitation and really understand what the scheme is and what we’re trying to do to offensive football teams. And I believe that we’re going to be the No. 1 defense in the National Football League this year. The guys believe it and we just have to go out there, work and prove it."
Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says Alex Smith and the 49ers' offense are trying to close the gap with the team's defense.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a closer look at 49ers first-round draft choice A.J. Jenkins. Branch: "Jenkins had 90 catches as a senior. The Illini’s second-leading receiver had 26. The disparity had something to do with the trust quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had in Jenkins, an exacting route-runner."