Schedule strength isn't always a reliable indicator as teams improve or worsen from one season to the next.

We should keep that in mind while discussing how the 2013 schedule could shape expectations for teams nearly five months before the regular season.

I do think it's interesting to note that the 2013 schedule could work against the Seattle Seahawks on two fronts while favoring the San Francisco 49ers on at least one.

Could these differences help decide the NFC West race in 2013? Lets walk through them.

Kickoff times

Having five kickoffs at 10 a.m. PT works against the Seahawks simply because it's tougher playing so early in the day immediately after traveling West to East. We've discussed this subject several times over the years, usually pointing to won-lost records for road games based on start times. I'm not sure that's a great way to measure the impact of travel. Anyone who has traveled West to East knows it's tougher, and that should be enough whether or not on-field results appear to line up.

In the Seahawks' case, they've been outscored by 4.6 points per game in the first halves of 10 a.m. PT kickoffs since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The deficit was 2.1 points per game in first halves of road games kicking off between 1 p.m. PT and 1:25 p.m. PT.

I've singled out first halves on the theory that a team traveling West to East for an early game could need a half or so to get going. Some thought the Seahawks appeared to play that when when falling behind by 20 points to the Atlanta Falcons in an early kickoff during the playoffs last season. They were much better after halftime.

The deficits after halftime for Seattle in these games were much smaller (1.6 points per game in the early kickoffs and a half-point per game in the later ones).

The chart at right breaks down the won-lost record by kickoff time for the five teams either on Pacific time or, in Arizona's case, aligned with Pacific time part of the year.

Again, I'm not certain that type of evidence is compelling. There aren't very many games. Many other factors could come into play for specific games. However, I do know traveling West to East can be tough on the mind and body. Seattle has five of these 10 a.m. PT games. The 49ers have one of them. Advantage, 49ers.