With this week's preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders, the Seattle Seahawks faces its third former division rival this exhibition season from the AFC West, where they spent 25 seasons with before 2002 realignment placed them in the NFC West. Now that optimism is at an all-time high; it's apropos to harken back to the AFC West days, particularly the 1980s, when the Raiders played in Los Angeles.
In a recent poll of Las Vegas oddsmakers, the Seahawks were ranked third among NFL teams with the best odds of winning this year's Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos were ranked No. 1, but most unfortunate for Seattle, one of its current division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, were ranked No. 2. The good news is you have legitimate Super Bowl hopes. However, odds are, you won't win the division. Such was life during a most of the 1980s when the Seahawks contended with Denver and the L.A. Raiders in the AFC West. When Seattle reached the playoffs for the first time in the 1983 season, they swept the Raiders during the regular season only to lose at L.A. in the AFC title game. One year later, the Seahawks were a 12-4 wild-card team still in search of their first division crown. Two years after that, they went 10-6 and missed the playoffs altogether. It was anticlimactic in the 1988 season, when the Seahawks finally won their first division title with only a 9-7 record. Still, the lesson of the intense competition between the three division rivals was that they raised the bar for each other. If Seattle can pass San Francisco and win NFC West this year, the playoffs may look like an after show party.
Seattle has not won the NFC West crown since 2010 when they infamously took the division with a losing record. A first-place finish in 2013 would carry a lot more weight, more than 2010 and more than 2004 through '07 when the Seahawks had a free pass in a weak division.
Of course for the current Seahawks and 49ers, the rivalry dates back to Pete Carroll's and Jim Harbaugh's time in the former Pac-10 at Southern California and Stanford respectively. In Harbaugh's first year at Stanford in 2007, his team rallied to a 24-23 win, handing USC its first home-game defeat in six seasons. In Carroll's final season as Trojans coach in 2009, his team suffered a rare walloping at the hand of the Cardinal, 55-21. In between those contests, USC won a game at Stanford in 2008 and Carroll's Seahawks were one of two teams to beat the 49ers in San Francisco's eight regular-season games after the bye week last year.