First off, thanks for being fairly classy from what I've glossed over poring the forums. Big difference from the Aints fans we're used to, in that there's actual football discussion going on over here. About myself - I'm a young gun at 20, became a Falcon fan in 1997 because of my uncle, and I've only been a legitimate football fan since 2000, but I've bled the red and black ever since I watched Vick in 2001...naturally, that's a bit of a sore subject now, as it is with most Falcon fans. I've also always had a soft spot for two other teams in the NFL, those two being the Texans (lovable losers, cool uniforms, impressive what they've done in recent seasons) and the Seahawks (mainly for Shaun Alexander and the cool uniforms). Of course, I've grown up since then, and can form opinions that aren't based off of the uniform a team wears. The Seahawks are the media darlings now, and that's quite a difference from years past - congrats, you guys have earned it.
Now, back to the thread's intention - addressing the argument about strength of schedule. I could just make the same point that's been made by others, about how the 2005 Seahawks are comparable to the 2012 Falcons in terms of respect, but that's an eyeball test, and as such, I'm sure won't be respected a heck of a lot.
However, in our defense, while the strength of defensive opponents being last in the NFL looks bad on the surface, a large portion of that can also be attributed to the strength of offenses in our division. We have the 3rd, 7th, 13th and 18th ranked offenses in terms of points scored, and the 2nd, 8th, 9th and 12th ranked offenses in terms of yardage in the NFC South. When you factor in the fact that we're constantly playing each other as well as having 8 other common opponents in the AFC West and NFC East, it's no surprise that our entire division has an easy SoS when it comes to strength of defensive opponents.
In a way, it's like poking fun at the NFC West offenses for having the 9th, 11th, 25th and 31st ranked offenses in scoring and the 11th, 17th, 23rd, and 32nd ranked offenses in yardage. Sure, it makes them look mediocre to bad as a division when it comes to offense, but it's also due to playing better defenses in the NFC West. I've seen that very argument made right here on these boards. It's a large part of why your strength of schedule is considered tougher, as well.
Our defense has already been shown to be 5th in points scored against, with the 10th ranked SoS, so I won't beat that dead horse. They're underrated by pretty much everyone, but it's interesting to see some of the folks on your boards giving props to us. The difference between our defenses isn't nearly as cut and dry as one would believe. Yours is #1 in points scored against with the 15th ranked SoS. Obviously fantastic, so I won't talk much more on that either.
As another note, in regards to our offense, the fact is, stats are very easily skewed. For example, while the bridge between our offenses doesn't appear to be that great, with Atlanta having a slight to decent advantage (7th in points scored, 8th in yardage) over Seattle (9th in points scored, 17th in yardage), there's something to be said for consistency over inflation. Don't take this the wrong way - as I've stated, I like the Seahawks and keep up with them a decent bit - but your average points scored has been inflated tremendously, whereas the Falcons tend to like keeping the score around 30ish.
To illustrate this, the Falcons were only held under 20 points twice in the year - once against Dallas (19 points), and once in the meaningless last game of the year against the Bucs (17 points). With Dallas, we were playing in a tough environment and had constant failure in the red zone, whereas with the Bucs, we were obviously screwing around with plays, almost treating it like a preseason game, except with the starters in. On one occasion, we ran three screen plays in a row. I sh*t you not. It was testing things out, a very vanilla gameplan besides the fact, since it wasn't trick plays we were running - it was just stuff we wanted to practice.
On the other hand, the Seahawks were held under 20 points SIX times in the year. It did come earlier in the year, so the argument could be made that the Seahawks "clicked" and put it together along the stretch. While I think that's largely true, especially due to Russel Wilson's play, I think it also bears thinking that the stretch was also against their toughest opponents, which could have easily been the cause of the lower point output.
It should also be mentioned that the Seahawks average points per game is inflated by three games down the stretch with 42 or more points. This might be because Carroll likes to kick the weaker teams when they're down - seriously, he only runs up the score on the weaker opponents in the NFL. Conversely, the Seahawks only scored 30 or more points once besides those blowouts.
The Falcons, on the other hand, never scored over 42, despite outscoring their opponents in the first half by roughly 70 points over the season. The Falcons did, however, score 30 or more points five times on the season, and scored 27 three times as well.
This is not to take away from all the good the Seahawks have done - rather, just to provide an opposing fan's perspective, and maybe get some good feedback as well. Can't wait for the game on Sunday...good luck to both teams. Just...a bit more luck to ours.