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Seahawks striving for repeat championship

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

The NFL kicks off the 2014 season when the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night. Many predict the Seahawks are ready for another Super Bowl run and there are a few reasons to share that belief.

Though they have lost some starters, namely, defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, wide receiver Golden Tate, and cornerback Brandon Browner, during the offseason, the Seahawks still have enough depth to keep playing at the same level as last year.

The secondary, the team’s strongest unit, is set with All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, along with big hitter Kam Chancellor and the speedy Byron Maxwell. Seattle added run stuffer Kevin Williams to a defensive line that includes pass rusher Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

Offensively, third-year quarterback Russell Wilson is poised and confident after leading the team to the playoffs in his first two seasons, while Marshawn Lynch remains one of the most threatening runners in the game.

Winning back-to-back championships, a feat that the NFL hasn’t seen since the New England Patriots achieved it in 2004 and 2005, would begin talk of a dynasty in Seattle.

The Seahawks, however, face a much tougher schedule this season. They face teams that reached the 2013 playoffs in each of the first three weeks — the Packers, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, who they beat 43-8 in the Super Bowl last season. The Seahawks’ open date comes in the fourth week, which means the team will have to play 13 straight weeks to wrap up the regular season.

They also visit the Carolina Panthers, the NFC’s No. 2 seed last season, in Week 8 and travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11 before taking on the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, both division rivals, twice and the Philadelphia Eagles once in the next five-week span.

Speaking of dynasties, the Seahawks are in a tougher position in terms of building one compared to the Patriots, who enjoyed a dynasty in the early 2000s. The Patriots had the luck of playing in the mediocre AFC East. From 2001-07, during which the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl four times and won three titles, New England picked up a remarkable 86 wins. That was 33 more than the second-place New York Jets.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ NFC West is one of the hottest divisions right now. The 49ers have reached the NFC championship game in each of the past three years and played in the Super Bowl two years ago. The Cardinals were the only team that defeated the Seahawks at home at CenturyLink Field last season en route to a 10-6 year.

Building a dynasty is much easier said than done.

Streak continues: Since 2008, at least one rookie quarterback drafted in the first round has started a season opener, but that streak looks to be coming to an end as none of this year’s first-rounders — Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars), Johnny Manziel (Cleveland Browns) or Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota Vikings) — is scheduled to start in Week 1.

However, the streak of a rookie quarterback getting the start in the opening week will probably remain intact with the Oakland Raiders naming Derek Carr, a second-round pick, their opening-day starter against the Jets.

Carr, the younger brother of former Texans quarterback David Carr, won the job in part because free-agent signee Matt Schaub has been suffering from a sore elbow. He will be the fourth quarterback to open the season for the Raiders in as many years.

Whether Carr becomes the long-awaited feature quarterback for the Raiders despite being not a first rounder, just like third-rounder Wilson did for the Seahawks two years ago, is anyone’s guess. But if he does, it means Schaub could lose his job with the Raiders or, in the worst scenario, be without an NFL job entirely.

History repeats itself?: It seems that it shouldn’t be difficult for the team that loses in the Super Bowl to win the title the next season.

But it is, as history tells us.

It has not happened since the 1972 Dolphins did it. If the Broncos win the Super Bowl this year, they’ll be the first team in 42 years to achieve that feat.

Of course, the 1972 Dolphins are known as the only team to achieve a perfect season, and they eventually defended their title to become the second team to win back-to-back Super Bowls. This is an encouraging history lesson for the Broncos.

But let’s not forget the Buffalo Bills, who played in four consecutive Super Bowls and lost all of them from 1990-93.

The Broncos themselves are part of both encouraging and disappointing facets of Super Bowl history. They lost two straight Super Bowls during the 1986-87 seasons before winning back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998. In each instance John Elway, now the team’s general manager, was the starting quarterback.

Which history do you want to see repeat itself?