When the Seahawks agreed to move from the AFC West to the NFC West in 2002, it was accompanied by a realignment refrain: Where have all the rivalries gone?
Don’t look now, but the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have since developed one of the better rivalries in the NFL. With the arrival of Pete Carroll as the Seahawks’ coach in 2010 and Jim Harbaugh taking over the 49ers in 2011, it has become the league’s best rivalry.
Says who? Mike Freeman at CBSSports.com for one. In writing about the best-rivalry games after the 2013 NFL schedule was released on Thursday, he listed both Seahawks-49ers games and offered: “Maybe the premier team rivalry game in the NFL now. It replaces Washington and Dallas or Pittsburgh and Baltimore as the best rivalry matchup. Not even close.”
Clark Judge went that one better – one entire story, that is. Also writing at CBSSports.com, Judge opened with this: “The most attractive game on this year's NFL schedule is so good the league will play it twice, and, no, it has nothing to do with Peyton Manning, Baltimore, Sean Payton or the Atlanta Falcons. This one's all about Seattle vs. San Francisco – which meet in Seattle Week 2 – and here's why. They're not just the two best clubs in their division. They're the two best clubs in their conference and might just be the two best clubs, period.”
Now that is saying something, but Judge has the historical perspective to support his assessment. He was a beat writer for the San Diego Chargers when they were in the AFC West with the Seahawks from 1977-2001 (the expansion Seahawks spent their inaugural 1976 season in the NFC West). Judge also was covering the 49ers when they were reunited with the Seahawks in the 2002 realignment.
But wait, there’s more. In compiling his list of 17 must-see games for 2013, Don Banks at SI.com puts the Seahawks’ game against the 49ers in San Francisco on Dec. 8 at No. 4.
“I know Baltimore won the Super Bowl, because it was in all the papers, but toward the end of the season and for most of the playoffs, nobody in the league wanted to play either the Seahawks or the 49ers, with both teams looking like beasts from the NFC West,” Banks wrote. “San Francisco won the division by a half-game over Seattle last season, but only because the Rams couldn't kick a field goal and found a way to tie away a certain victory over the 49ers. This should be a tremendous rivalry in the years ahead, with two tenacious defenses, bruising running games and talented, outside-the-box thinking quarterbacks.”
As for the prowess of these rivals, the Seahawks, 49ers and Denver Broncos are the only teams to appear four times on Banks’ must-see list – he also includes the Seahawks’ games against the New Orleans Saints (No. 10), Minnesota Vikings (No. 13) and Atlanta Falcons (No. 15). The Ravens, Falcons, Saints and New England Patriots each made the list three times.
In the past two seasons, with Carroll coaching in Seattle and Harbaugh in San Francisco, the Seahawks have lost two close games (19-17 at CenturyLink Field in 2011 and 13-6 at Candlestick Park last season), lost another that was close until the final four minutes (33-17 at Candlestick in 2011 opener) and won convincingly (42-13 at CenturyLink last season).
Here are some other morning-after schedule factoids to ponder:
Taking their game inside – The Seahawks will play four games in domed stadium in a five-week stretch, and five in seven weeks: at Houston (Week 4), at Indianapolis (Week 5), at Arizona (Week 7), at St. Louis (Week 8) and at Atlanta (Week 10).
In three seasons under Carroll, the Seahawks are 3-8 in domes, including playoffs.
Early wakeup calls – Five of the Seahawks’ eight road games will kickoff at 10 a.m. PT: at Carolina (Week 1), at Houston (Week 4), at Indianapolis (Week 5), at Atlanta (Week 10) and at the New York Giants (Week 15).
In three seasons under Carroll, the Seahawks are 4-8 in 10 a.m. starts.
A short week – The Seahawks will play the Tennessee Titans (Week 6 at home) and Cardinals (Week 7 in Arizona) in a five-day span, with the game against the Cardinals on Thursday night.
The Seahawks have had this Sunday-Thursday turnaround only twice under Carroll, and they are 1-1 on each end – beating the Patriots at home last season before losing a Thursday nighter to the 49ers in San Francisco; and losing to the Washington Redskins at home in 2011 before beating the Philadelphia Eagles in a Thursday nighter at CenturyLink Field.
Tough down the stretch at home – Four of the Seahawks’ final six regular-season games will be played at CenturyLink Field: against the Vikings (Week 11), Saints (Week 13), Cardinals (Week 16) and Rams (Week 17).
In three seasons under Carroll, the Seahawks are 17-7 at home, including an 8-0 record last season. Playing at home in the final six weeks of the season, they are 7-4, including a 3-0 record last season.
As pedestrian, and even sub-pedestrian, as some of these statistics might appear, the Seahawks have made strides of improvement in all categories under Carroll.
And, as Judge offered in looking at the Seahawks-49ers rivalry, “Hey, like the man said, anything worth doing is worth overdoing – because if there's one team out there that I know can beat San Francisco, it's Seattle ... and if there's one team out there that I know can beat Seattle, it's the 49ers. The question, of course, is: Which is better? All I know is that we have two chances to find out, and hallelujah.”