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By Marc Lawrence
After what seemed like an interminable wait, the NFL finally unveiled its 2014 schedule on Wednesday. As we await the upcoming draft, here is my first take on the offerings from commissioner Roger Goodell this season...
The Super Bowl Champs Are Up Against It
Most Super Bowl champions are the apple of the public eye the following season. And because they are they generally receive the most exposure (read: nationally televised games). So it is with Seattle this season as they are scheduled to appear in no less than four Primetime games – only one at home - and that’s before the “flex schedule” kicks in earlier than ever, on Week Five, this year.
In addition, the Seahawks will go up three playoff teams out of the gate, before finishing up against division foes in six of their final seven games of the season.
Top that with the fact that from Nov. 16 through Dec. 21, Seattle will play six straight games against teams that won double-digit games a year ago.
Not to mention a lousy San Francisco sandwich after taking on the Niners on Thanksgiving Day and then again two weeks later.
It could have been worse. Word is the runner-up schedule had Seattle, in mid-season, playing at St. Louis on a Sunday, at Washington on a Monday night, and at Kansas City on a Sunday.
The Super Bowl Runner-up Is Up Against It, Too
Not only will the Denver Broncos have to overcome the dreaded defending Super Bowl runner-up curse.
How difficult is it for Super Bowl losers to make it back to the Super Bowl? You have to go back to Super Bowl XXVII and XXVII to find the last teams that returned to the big game.
Initially standing in Denver’s way this campaign: 1) a difficult opening month - first three games versus playoff teams, 2) a three-game trek in 12 days from October 12-23, and 3) squaring off against the toughest division in the loop, the NFC West, in their non-conference portion of the schedule.
FYI: The Broncos are 2-7 SU/ATS versus the NFC West since 2006, 0-4 SU/ATS the last four – including last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks.
For the past two seasons the league has played all 16 games on the final regular-season Sunday within the division. A welcome change, indeed.
This year, the last three weeks of the season will focus heavily on division games - 33 out of 48 games played, up from 26 in the final three weeks last year.
Turkey Day Double Dip
For only the second in NFL history, and the first time since 2007 when Dallas faced Green Bay, the league will feature a Thursday daily double.
This year, Chicago and Dallas will face one another the Thursday after appearing on Thanksgiving Day the prior week.
We know that revenge plays a large part in handicapping NFL games. Certain teams get up for certain opponents.
There are also cases of various coaches and players getting keyed up. That being the case, here are a few of the games that assuredly have been circled on this season’s schedule:
Peyton Manning vs. Seattle – Week 3
DeSean Jackson vs. Philadelphia – Week 3 and Week 16
Steve Smith vs. Carolina – Week 4
Jim Schwartz vs. Detroit – Week 5
Trent Richardson and Rob Chudzinski vs. Cleveland – Week 14
Chris Johnson vs. Tennessee – Week 15
Tough As Leather
Oakland takes on the most imposing schedule this season, facing foes with a combined win percentage last season of .578.
A lot of that is made up from the fact the Raiders face four playoffs foes from the rugged NFC West, plus three other teams inside their division that were also in the post season last year.
St. Louis has a rocky road to hoe when they face seven playoff teams in an 8-game stretch.
And finally, lowly Tampa Bay is forced into a 3-game road trek in Weeks 3-5 at Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New Orleans, thus putting them in almost instant quicksand.
More revelations are sure to arise the deeper we look, but for now we can start to map out the 2014 NFL journey to Super Bowl XLIX.