As the sting of the Seattle Seahawks’ 28-23 Divisional Round loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field begins to subside and the crowning of Conference Champions to meet in Super Bowl LIV looms, many NFL fans, including those in the Pacific Northwest are already pointing their sights toward “next year.” Never mind that year is already here. It’s next season they’re already anticipating.
And so, let’s take a look at the opponents the Seahawks will face in the 2020 season.
While the 2020 NFL schedule is yet to be revealed, the opponents who will comprise that schedule are known years in advance. The unknowns are how good those teams will be In the future and when on the calendar do those teams either come to town or become a travel destination.
In addition to the six contests within the division against the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, and the San Francisco 49ers, the Seahawks will play the AFC East and the NFC East, in addition to the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings.
On the surface, the schedule looks light. The casual fan knows the New England Patriots and may even sense the dynasty is finally crumbling. The Patriots went 12-4 during in the regular season but stumbled down the stretch before losing in Foxboro to the Tennessee Titans. But what the casual fan may not have entirely grasped yet is that when they sit down Sunday to watch some football, the Tennessee Titans are one more road upset away from going back to the Super Bowl. The Bills had a 10-6 regular-season record and have beaten the Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens on their home turf. One more stop: Kansas City.
Oh, but the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins at the bottom of the AFC East should be walkovers, right? Not so fast. The Jets, who preseason everyone assumed would be “tanking for Tua,” finished 6-3, including wins at Buffalo and at Pittsburgh to finish 7-9. Now, instead of looking to draft yet another quarterback, they are looking to add complementary pieces to shore up a team that may very well contend for the playoffs in 2020. The other preseason favorite for the number one draft pick, the Miami Dolphins, also made strides towards respectability by knocking the Patriots out of the two seed and a bye in Foxboro to finish 5-11. The Fins have a truckload of draft picks this year and next and could be poised to make further strides in 2020.
The NFC East was pretty much a dumpster fire in 2019. The division as a whole went 24-40 and was by far the worst in the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles won the division at 9-7, the Dallas Cowboys missed the playoffs at 8-8, the New York Giants came on late to muster a 4-12 record, and the football team in Washington DC managed 3-13. But, at least two of the teams in the NFC East could see bouncebacks into real contention and the other two have to get better.
The Eagles were a walking MASH unit in 2019, down to a third-string, forty-year-old QB with a torn hamstring. The Cowboys were once again hamstrung themselves with the ineptitude of head coach Jason Garrett, dubbed “the clapper” by former NFL executive turned podcaster, Mike Lombardi, for the only activity Garrett could be observed doing on the sideline. Alas, even clapping was taken out of Garrett’s repertoire over the course of the season as Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal seized on the term on Simmons’ podcast and memes of clapping went viral on Twitter. Someone must have told Garrett and he stopped clapping.
It would seem impossible for the Eagles to have as much bad luck in 2020 as they saw in 2019. A healthy Eagles squad may be ready to take flight again in 2020. Look for improvement in Philly. And after a decade of a clapping sideline, the Cowboys finally parted ways with Garrett and brought in former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy. The change may be exactly what the talented but underachieving Cowboys need. Don’t be surprised if the NFC East punches two tickets to the playoffs in 2020.
On the back end of the division (if a 24-40 division can have a back end), the G-Men did win two of their last three games, albeit against Miami and Washington. New York has the fourth pick in the upcoming draft and should be able to address defense with either Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah or Clemson OLB Isaiah Simmons. Maybe incremental improvement in the Meadowlands? Oh, wait. The Giants are interviewing Jason Garrett for offensive coordinator. In Washington, owner Dan Snyder has finally cleaned house in the front office and hired an adult as head coach in the person of Ron Rivera. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins showed some life late but couldn’t keep his team from ending the season on a four-game losing streak. With the number two pick, the franchise could go QB again this season and nab Tua Tagovailoa, but the safer bet is Ohio State DE Chase Young. Perhaps Rivera can make modest improvements in his year one in Washington.
The Seahawks’ other two out-of-division opponents should be good in 2020. The Vikings went 10-6 in 2019, won a wild card game in New Orleans, and lost a division playoff game in Santa Clara against a 49ers team that is currently +165 to win the Super Bowl heading into the Conference Championship against the Packers. The Falcons had a disappointing season at 7-9 but seem confident enough in a bounce-back season that they retained head coach and former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
The divisional opponents on the 2020 schedule are well known to Seahawks fans and, therefore, need less of a preview. The 49ers could be coming into 2020 as the defending Super Bowl Champions. With a full season together under their belt, head coach Kyle Shanahan and QB Jimmy Garoppolo should continue to improve. Another coach / QB combo that shows promise for the future is in the desert. Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury closed out their 5-11 season with two wins in the last three weeks, including a stunning upset of the Seahawks in Seattle that may have ultimately cost the ‘Hawks the division and a bye. With the ninth pick in the draft, the Cardinals could reunite Murray with his Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb, adding a much-needed weapon in the wake of Larry Fitzgerald’s retirement. Ironically, the quarterback in the division who regressed was Jared Goff of the Rams. The league seems to have figured out Sean McVay’s offense and the Rams’ cap situation leaves them little room to adjust. Coming off a Super Bowl loss that they scored just a field goal, the Rams went 9-7 and could be due for an even steeper decline in 2020.
The Seahawks’ 2020 schedule of opponents may prove to be more formidable than at first glance. But it’s safe to say the Seahawks underperformed their offensive talent this season. Granted injuries at running back late in the year probably doomed any deep playoff run, but, once again, Russell Wilson proved himself to be one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. With the emergence of DJ Metcalf as an elite deep threat, the Seahawks could be an explosive offense in 2020 if only Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer would let them. The 2020 season could be a turning point in the Carroll run in Seattle. One thing is for sure. The 2020 schedule won’t be a pushover.