The toughest thing about playing in the NFC West is just how tough the division has become.
In 2013, the Seahawks not only won the division title, they won the title in the best division in the NFL. The four teams combined for a league-best 30-10 record outside the division. The NFC West also was the only division to have three teams post double-digit victories – the Seahawks (13-3), San Francisco 49ers (12-4) and Arizona Cardinals (10-6). That also made the Cardinals the only team with at least 10 wins that did not advance to the playoffs.
Of the Seahawks’ three losses, two came in the division – and in December – to the 49ers in San Francisco and the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field. Four of the Cardinals’ six losses came against division opponents – the 49ers twice, the Rams in St. Louis and the Seahawks at home. Five of the Rams’ seven losses came against NFC West rivals – the Seahawks and 49ers twice and the Cardinals in Arizona. One of the 49ers’ four losses came against the Seahawks, in Week 2 at CenturyLink Field.
You get the picture; the once-laughable NFC West is getting the last laugh. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in February, but only after outlasting the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. And the 49ers won the NFC Championship in 2012 and made it to the conference title game in 2011.
That after the Seahawks became the first team to win its division with a losing record (7-9) in 2010, when the other three teams finished 7-9 (Rams), 6-10 (49ers) and 5-11 (Cardinals).
The NFL obviously took notice of this impressive turnaround when the 2014 schedule was announced on Wednesday. The four NFC West teams have a combined 13 primetime games, and eight feature matchups between NFC West teams. The discrepancy comes in where those games will be played – the Rams have two, both at the Edward Jones Dome; the Cardinals will play two of their three at University of Phoenix Stadium; the 49ers have two of their four at Levi’s Stadium; and Seahawks get one home game in four primetime appearances.
Here’s a look at the road each team in the division must travel in 2014:
Tough task: From Nov. 16 through Dec. 7, the Seahawks have three road games in four weeks – at Kansas City (Week 11), at San Francisco (Week 13) and at Philadelphia (Dec. 7). Their lone home game during the stretch is against the Cardinals in Week 12. Those four teams were a combined 43-21 last season, when the Eagles won the NFC East and the 49ers and Chiefs were wild-card playoff teams.
Pivotal stretch: The Seahawks will play five of their final six games against NFC West teams – including home-and-home against the 49ers and Cardinals, with a regular-season finale against the Rams at CenturyLink Field for the third consecutive season and fourth time in the past five seasons.
|Sept. 4||Green Bay Packers (Thu)||5:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at San Diego Chargers||1:05 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Denver Broncos||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||at Washington Redskins (Mon)||5:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Dallas Cowboys||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at St. Louis Rams||10:00 a.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Carolina Panthers||10:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 2||Oakland Raiders||1:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||New York Giants||1:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||at Kansas City Chiefs||10:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 23||Arizona Cardinals||1:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 27||at San Francisco 49ers (Thu)||5:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 7||at Philadelphia Eagles||1:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 14||San Francisco 49ers||1:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 21||at Arizona Cardinals||5:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 28||St. Louis Rams||1:25 p.m.|
Tough task: The 49ers will take their considerable show on the road four times in a five-game stretch between Weeks 6-11. And it’s actually a two-plus-two equation to get to that foursome. After playing the Rams in St. Louis on “Monday Night Football” in Week 6, the 49ers travel to Denver to play the defending AFC Champion Broncos in a Sunday night game on Oct. 19. Then comes their bye and a home game against the Rams, which will be followed by games at New Orleans and at the Giants in Weeks 10 and 11. The last time the 49ers faced back-to-back road games in the Eastern Time zone, they practiced during the week in between in Ohio.
|Sept. 7||at Dallas Cowboys||1:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||Chicago Bears||5:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Arizona Cardinals||1:05 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Philadelphia Eagles||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||Kansas City Chiefs||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||at St. Louis Rams (Mon)||5:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Denver Broncos||5:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||St. Louis Rams||1:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||at New Orleans Saints||10:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 16||at New York Giants||10:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 23||Washington Redskins||1:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 27||Seattle Seahawks (Thu)||5:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 7||at Oakland Raiders||1:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 14||at Seattle Seahawks||1:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 20||San Diego Chargers (Sat)||TBD|
|Dec. 28||Arizona Cardinals||1:25 p.m.|
Tough task: The Cardinals will play their final three games against division opponents, with trips to St. Louis on Thursday night (Dec. 11) and to San Francisco for their finale (Dec. 28) on either side of a game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field (Dec. 21). The Cardinals also have two other NFC West games in the second half of their schedule – Nov. 9 against the Rams and Nov. 23 at Seattle.
Pivotal stretch: The flipside to the Cardinals’ down-the-stretch schedule is the first half, when they play only one NFC West opponent – Week 3 against the 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium. But that first half also includes games against three other teams that advanced to the playoffs in 2013 – the San Diego Chargers on the first Monday night of the season; the Broncos in Denver on Oct. 5; and the defending NFC East champion Eagles in Philly on Oct. 26.
Schedule (times are MT)
|Sept. 8||San Diego Chargers (Mon)||7:20 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at New York Giants||10:00 a.m.|
|Sept. 21||San Francisco 49ers||1:05 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Denver Broncos||1:05 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Washington Redskins||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Oakland Raiders||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||Philadelphia Eagles||1:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||at Dallas Cowboys||11:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 9||St. Louis Rams||2:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||Detroit Lions||2:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 23||at Seattle Seahawks||2:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 30||at Atlanta Falcons||2:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 7||Kansas City Chiefs||2:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 11||at St. Louis Rams (Thu)||6:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 21||Seattle Seahawks *||6:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 28||at San Francisco 49ers||2:25 p.m.|
Tough task: Following their bye in Week 3, the Rams play five road games over the next eight weeks – including back-to-back-to-back trips to Kansas City (Oct. 26), San Francisco (Nov. 2) and Arizona (Nov. 9). Those teams won 11, 12 and 10 games last season. The other road trips start the stretch – Oct. 5 at Philadelphia; and end the stretch – Nov. 23 at San Diego. When not on the road, the Rams will host the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos.
Pivotal stretch: Unlike the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals, the Rams play only two division games in the final seven weeks of the season – Dec. 11 against the Cardinals and Dec. 28 at Seattle. This will be the third consecutive season, and fourth time in five seasons, that the Rams play their finale against the Seahawks in Seattle. They have lost the previous three 16-6 (2010), 20-13 (2012) and 27-9 (2013).
Schedule (times are CT)
|Sept. 7||Minnesota Vikings||Noon|
|Sept. 14||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||3:05 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Dallas Cowboys||Noon|
|Oct. 5||at Philadelphia Eagles||Noon|
|Oct. 13||San Francisco 49ers (Mon)||7:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||Seattle Seahawks||Noon|
|Oct. 26||at Kansas City Chiefs||Noon|
|Nov. 2||at San Francisco 49ers||3:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||at Arizona Cardinals||3:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||Denver Broncos||Noon|
|Nov. 23||at San Diego Chargers||3:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 30||Oakland Raiders||Noon|
|Dec. 7||at Washington Redskins||Noon|
|Dec. 11||Arizona Cardinals (Thu)||7:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 21||New York Giants||3:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 28||at Seattle Seahawks||3:25 p.m.|