Our 2015 NFL preview series ranks every team, from worst to first. Today: the No. 10 Seahawks.
2014 Record: 12-4 (lost Super Bowl)
Head coach: Pete Carroll (sixth season, 50-30 regular season, 7-3 playoffs)
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Key arrivals: Jimmy Graham (tight end), Cary Williams (cornerback), Will Blackmon (cornerback)
Key departures: Max Unger (center), James Carpenter (guard), Malcolm Smith (outside linebacker), Byron Maxwell (cornerback)
2015 Schedule (ET):
Sept. 13: at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 27: Chicago, 4:25 p.m.
Oct. 5: Detroit, 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 11: at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Oct. 18: Carolina, 4:05 p.m.
Oct. 22: at San Francisco, 8:25 p.m.
Nov. 1: at Dallas, 4:25 p.m.
Nov. 8 BYE
Nov. 15: Arizona, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 22: San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Nov. 29: Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.
Dec. 6: at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Dec. 13: at Baltimore, 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 20: Cleveland, 4:05 p.m.
Dec. 27: St. Louis, 4:25 p.m.
Jan. 3: at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
TRAINING CAMP QUESTION: Who will be snapping the football to Russell Wilson?
Acquiring tight end Jimmy Graham from New Orleans cost the Seahawks a 2015 first-round draft pick and center Max Unger, a two-time Pro Bowl selection during his six seasons in Seattle. The Seattle Times reported that the Seahawks worked five potential replacements at center during offseason work led by Lemuel Jeanpierre, a spot starter during his first four NFL seasons. Seattle also will have a new starting left guard in Alvin Bailey with Bobby Carpenter having split in free agency for the New York Jets. Both positions will be under heavy fire right off the bat with Seattle opening its season in St. Louis against the Rams' ferocious defensive front.
IF EVERYTHING GOES RIGHT:
Jimmy Graham gives Russell Wilson the red-zone and middle-of-the-field threat they sorely lacked last season, and it does wonders for the fourth-year quarterback. Teams can't load up the box in the red zone against Marshawn Lynch, as well. Graham gives the Seahawks the threat on offense they lacked last year when Percy Harvin ultimately turned into a bust -- especially in the red zone. They go to the Super Bowl and change the ending this time, maybe even against the Patriots.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WRONG:
Let's be real. Seattle was one play away from being two-time defending champs. They weren't the second-best team by much, if at all. Last season, they started out 6-4 after a slew of injuries had the defense in shambles. They got healthy, jettisoned Harvin (who was thought to be ruining team chemistry) and reeled off six wins in a row to get homefield advantage. The only way Seattle falls off the map this year is if they, once again, get banged up early in the season. Or if Lynch decides to retire in training camp.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Outside linebacker Cassius Marsh
Marsh was being developed as both an every-down end and inside pass-rusher along the defensive line in a 2014 rookie campaign cut short by a foot injury suffered during a mid-October practice. The Seahawks are now giving Marsh practice snaps at outside linebacker where he could become the heir apparent to Bruce Irvin, who is in the final year of his contract.
CIRCLE THIS DATE ON THE CALENDAR GAME: at Dallas in Week Eight (4:25 pm ET/November 1):
The Cowboys were one of four teams to defeat the Seahawks in the 2014 regular season -- and in Seattle, no less. This matchup is even juicier with both teams now fully established as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
ALEX MARVEZ'S PREDICTION: 10-6, second place
More than two decades have lapsed since the NFL had a team return to the Super Bowl after losing in the title game the previous season. The same goes for a franchise making three consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Despite a bumpy start to 2015 (more on that in a minute), Seattle has enough talent to make another championship run. The defense should remain among the NFL's stingiest and the offense received a major boost with the trade that brought Jimmy Graham from New Orleans, which filled a long-standing weakness at tight end. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the Legion of Boom secondary (minus cornerback Byron Maxwell, who signed with Philadelphia) are back as well. Yet there are reasons for concern entering this season. Among them: 1) An offensive line that needs position coach Tom Cable to work his magic more than ever; 2) A locker room that could be combustible considering the offseason griping from some key players about their contracts; 3) The challenge of moving past the "Second-and-Dumb" play call that cost the Seahawks victory in Super Bowl 49; 4) A brutal schedule that opens with road games against NFC West rival St. Louis followed by a trip to Green Bay where the Packers will be amped to try and avenge last season's NFC Championship Game loss.