The master schedule for the 2016 NFL season has been finalized. The league will reveal the 256-game slate on Thursday night. For most fans the schedule release is a mundane affirmation that we are one more step closer to football season. For others such as myself, the NFL schedule release is arguably the most exciting day of the offseason because we pin down which weeks the Seahawks will play at home as well as starting to think about booking trips to see the Seattle play on the road. The Seahawks continue to be a Super Bowl contender and they are coming off their fourth straight season in which they made the playoffs. With this resume, we will certainly see our fair share of the primetime spotlight in 2016. I believe the Seahawks will receive four games scheduled in primetime this season. Here are the games I think are primed to be aired under the lights.
Home vs. Carolina Panthers
In 2015 the Panthers came to Seattle and stole a victory in the final minutes. That game was a 1:05pm start on FOX. Carolina enters 2016 as the defending NFC champions and with the Seahawks lackluster slate of home games, this is by far the most appealing game to a national audience. This matchup features the last two teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and there is a nice little rivalry brewing between the Panthers and Seahawks. I believe this game is a perfect fit for Sunday Night Football.
Home vs. Los Angeles Rams
Get ready for a “lemon and lime” color rush game if this prediction becomes reality. Over the last few seasons the NFL has reserved the grand majority of Thursday Night Football games for division rivalries. Seattle has only hosted TNF twice since it came into existence in 2006, and most recently in 2011. This season with the Rams having relocated to the west coast, this is the perfect opportunity to feature a fierce up-and-coming rivalry. This game is good for the Thursday Night spotlight for two main reasons. First, the Rams swept the season series with the Seahawks last season, the first time since 2004. The Rams always play Seattle tough and that will only continue to be the case moving forward. Secondly, this matchup gives the NFL another opportunity to feature the Los Angeles market in primetime, something that I believe will be a common occurrence in 2016.
Away at New England Patriots
This seems like a no-brainer doesn’t it? The rematch of Super Bowl XLIX will be one of the most anticipated games of 2016. I imagine NBC and ESPN had a fierce bidding war to obtain the broadcast rights to this game. NBC likely prevailed. I would be stunned if this game is not on Sunday Night Football.
Away at Arizona Cardinals
Much like how the Seattle/San Francisco rivalry was the marquee rivalry in the NFC West from 2012-2014, the Seattle/Arizona rivalry has now topped it. It is certain one of our dates with the Arizona Cardinals will be in primetime. The question is which one? In 2014, our matchup with the Cardinals in Arizona was scheduled for Sunday Night Football. In 2015, the Seahawks/Cardinals game in Seattle earned the Sunday Night spotlight. To continue this alternating pattern, I expect the 2016 matchup in Arizona to earn primetime honors. Sunday Night Football is the likely landing spot but I would not be surprised to see this game go to ESPN and Monday Night Football.