Unlike the Baltimore Ravens of a year ago, the Seattle Seahawks will be the favorite to win next year’s Super Bowl, defending their current crown. That prediction isn’t unwarranted either. With a young roster that has seemingly yet to peak, it’ll be tough for anyone to knock off the current NFL champions.
Still, the Seahawks won’t be heading into the 2014 season without some staunch competition. In the AFC, the Broncos are sure to continue to field an elite team, despite a blowout loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl, and as long as the Patriots have Tom Brady, a trip to the Super Bowl is never out of the question. Even within the Seahawks’ own division, the San Francisco 49ers could push Seattle past their breaking point.
With respect to the high-octane offenses of the AFC’s best teams, the 49ers pose the greatest challenge to the Seahawks moving forward. Like Seattle, the 49ers are a fiery team led by a young, athletic quarterback, a staunch defense and a head coach with more energy than some of his players. San Francisco nearly earned a second straight trip to the Super Bowl by knocking off the Seahawks in the conference championship, and there’s little to indicate next season’s rivalry will be any less intense.
In fact, since Jim Harbaugh took over as the 49ers’ head coach, the team has never missed the NFC title game. The 49ers have won their division twice under Harbaugh, only failing to do so this past season despite winning 12 of 16 games. In other words, Harbaugh knows how to coach a good football team, and that’s exactly what he’s working with in San Francisco.
To topple the Seahawks, the 49ers don’t even really have to alter anything they’re doing. Had it not been for a fortunate bat of the ball in the NFC championship, the 49ers, not the Seahawks, may have been playing the Broncos for the Lombardi Trophy.
What may be more important, at least as far as the 49ers are concerned, is winning the NFC West. There’s no doubt the Seahawks play better at home than they do on the road, and meeting Seattle in San Francisco in the playoffs may be enough for the 49ers to move past the conference title game next season.
Colin Kaepernick also has to be able to take care of the ball against Seattle. In their regular season loss to the Seahawks this season, Kaepernick threw three interceptions and completed less than 50% of his passes. There doesn’t seem to be a cookie cutter formula to beating the Seahawks, but turning the ball over is a sure way to put the game out of reach in a hurry; just ask the Broncos.
In the NFL, almost any team has an opportunity to make a big splash in the regular season or the playoffs. There’s no telling how the offseason will affect the Seahawks as a team, but at this moment, their biggest competition moving forward remains in the NFC West. The 49ers were a play away from the Super Bowl this year, and that’ll just make them want to top Seattle that much more next season.