Are tough rivals good for the Seattle Seahawks?


The NFC West has been the toughest division in the NFL since 2012, and 2016 doesn’t appear like it is going to be any easier. Is playing against such tough rivals actually good for the Seattle Seahawks?

NFL rivalries are often short lived. It wasn’t long ago that the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have the fiercest rivalry in the league. Now the 49ers are an afterthought and they are looking at the possibility of another top-5 draft pick next year.

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Seattle is now enjoying a very competitive rivalry with the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona took the division last season and made it to the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks weren’t far behind, and actually blew out Arizona at the end of the regular season.

This raised the question on whether the Seahawks are better off with tough divisional rivals as opposed to have a fairly easy intra-divisional schedule. One Cardinals blog came to the conclusion that having two good teams like Seattle and Arizona in the same division was detrimental to both teams.

There is certainly merit to the idea. The New England Patriots’ dominant run in the AFC over the last decade or so has been largely aided by playing six games against AFC East teams every season.

For the most part, the other teams in that division have been terrible. The Patriots get to cruise into the playoff, and often a first-round bye, every year. The result has been multiple Super Bowl appearances.

On the other hand, the Pete Carroll is fond of saying that iron sharpens iron. Playing against San Francisco in 2012 and 2013 help him get the most out of the Seahawks’ talent, and prep them for deep runs into the playoff and to the Super Bowl.

To get a feeling for how Seattle Seahawks fans felt on this, I threw a quick poll up on twitter.

I was a bit surprised that the almost 2 to 1 preference for the tougher schedule. Especially since being in the same division as Arizona clearly hurt the Seahawks last season. If Seattle had been in almost any other division, they’d have been playing playoff games at home.

The same was true of 2012. In both cases, had they avoided played an early game on the East Coast, there’s a good chance they they’d have advanced further in the postseason and perhaps brought home another title.

Fans though wanted nothing to do with the easy road, at least for the most part.

Not everyone was excited about the extra difficulty though. The idea of a clear path to the playoffs every year and a chance at multiple titles is definitely an enticing idea.

Ultimately, both answers to the question might be wrong. A war of attrition to win the division isn’t ideal, but you also cannot say the Colts and Texans benefitted from their soft division once the playoffs arrived either.

Ultimately, division strength goes through cycles. Few divisions are perennially terrible like the AFC East is. It also wasn’t long ago that the Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record. The division hasn’t always been tough like this, and Seattle is one Carson Palmer injury away from being able to coast into the playoff with ease.