The Seattle Seahawks would not have been entirely screwed if they had lost to the LA Rams on Sunday, but the difference in their position right now by winning compared to losing is still very significant. Instead of being two games back with a loss to LA, they are tied for first with a head-to-head victory.
That’s a pretty cushy place to be in already, but let’s look around and see what’s ahead for Seattle because as things stand, there are a number of great reasons to be optimistic about their current position and how things are falling in their favor.
Let’s start with the basics. The Seahawks are in a good position right now because they’re in first place in the division, tied with the Rams, a team in which they have now beaten in their first head-to-head matchup. The best that LA can do at this point is beat Seattle (in Seattle) and tie up the season series, forcing the next tie-breaker, should it come to that. That’s also the worst that the Seahawks can do, but as long as they can beat the Rams at home (they are 11-1 against the Rams in their last 12 meetings in the city that throws fish), then the city that throws fish will have swept LA and hold the head-to-head advantage.
Seattle is also now 2-0 in division play and 2-1 in conference play, compared to 1-1 and 2-2 for the Rams. It’s an early advantage for the Seahawks in both the first, second, and fourth tiebreaker scenario against Los Angeles. (Third is record in common games.)
NFC-wide, the Packers are 4-1 and hold the clearest advantage because they already beat the Hawks. The Eagles are 4-1, but Seattle still gets a shot at beating them and the game is at home. The Falcons are 3-1 and again, the Seahawks get their shot at them this season, also at home. The Panthers are 4-1 too, with unbelievably enough, no game scheduled between the two teams. There is no undefeated team in the NFC left so it could definitely be a lot worse; as things stand, the Hawks could definitely catch up, especially to a two-seed situation.
The Cardinals are terrible
One of the other main foundations of Seattle being in a strong position in the division is that the Rams seem to be their only serious competition, not the Cardinals team that most people expected to be said competition. (There were several writers at Field Gulls who did not see it that way, and we pointed to this coming as early as last year.)
Arizona is 2-3 and both of their wins came in overtime — one over the 0-5 San Francisco 49ers and one over the Un-Lucky Indianapolis Colts. They lost by 12 points to the Lions, 11 points to the Cowboys, and on Sunday, lost by 27 points to the Eagles.
At this point, Carson Palmer (59.9% comp, 6 TD, 5 INT, 6.9 Y/A, 80.5 rating) has to be considering how much longer he can really go out there, and Bruce Arians has to be questioning the same thing. In other words, another NFC West team could be turning to Blaine Gabbert soon.
Chris Johnson has 34 carries for 70 yards in the last three games.
The defense became the first team to allow Carson Wentz to throw three touchdowns in a game — then allowed a fourth too. The Cards are two OTs away from being 0-5, and are not even close to a single quality win. There’s a chance that 4-12 is a realistic finish for Arizona, and I can’t see any way that the team we’ve seen for five weeks could pose a threat to Seattle, LA, or anyone else.
The Seahawks get through their first five games at 3-2, which is at least par for Pete Carroll up to this point in his Seattle career. The Seahawks were 4-1 last season, but then 4-2-1. They were 2-4 and 4-5 in 2015. They were 3-3 in 2014. And they were 4-4 and 6-5 in 2012. In all of those seasons they made the divisional round. In one of them, they made the Super Bowl.
Even bigger now is that Seattle hits their bye week, giving players a little extra time to hopefully get healthy in time to return soon. Luke Joeckel will undergo knee surgery and could miss a couple of games, but one less than normal. Cliff Avril, C.J. Prosise, and Jeremy Lane could potentially return for the Giants game in two weeks. Though it is unrelated to the bye week, this is also a good reminder that DeShawn Shead seems on track to come back for the second half of the season, and Malik McDowell may still play this year, as could Dion Jordan.
But those injuries pale in comparison to what the Seahawks next two opponents are dealing with.
Seattle travels to New York on October 22 to take on the Giants, an 0-5 team that just lost its best player in Odell Beckham to a broken ankle. They scored 13 points total over the first two weeks with Beckham out for one game barely able to play in the other. Even when he returned they only averaged 23 points per game, which is fine, not great. Not enough for a defense that has forgotten how to tackle. Eli Manning had one touchdown, two interceptions in those first two games, compared to seven touchdowns, three interceptions in the last three. Which is a good time for us to remember that Manning’s numbers went way up when Beckham arrived and that he was consistently Eli (not great) in his long career before that. The Giants also lost kick/punt returner Dwayne Harris to a broken foot.
Paul Perkins has 32 carries for 61 yards. Orleans Darkwa has a much higher average but hurt his calf this weak and is still probably not great. Brandon Marshall has been a sunk cost signing (8.6 yards per catch). Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon have combined for 3.5 sacks. New York just lost at home to the previously-winless Chargers.
The Colts recently transitioned from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, one first overall to another, and the Giants could be headed towards replacing his brother Eli Manning with a different first overall pick in 2018.
The Seahawks next game after that is at CenturyLink against the Houston Texans, another team that has to re-evaluate everything after an injury Sunday. The Texans lost this week, giving up 42 points to the Kansas City Chiefs and losing two major components to their front-seven for the rest of the season: J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. The Texans were supposed to compete to win the division again because of their front-seven and almost for that reason alone. Watt will now end up missing 24 of a possible 32 games over the 2016-17 seasons.
Houston is 27th in net yards per pass attempt allowed, 27th in points allowed, and 12th in yards per carry allowed. Remember, this is a team that already decided not to re-sign cornerback A.J. Bouye, who is among the top corners in the game this season but now playing for the Jaguars. Brian Cushing is serving a 10-game suspension. And on offense, they’re still without left tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out.
In spite of DeShaun Watson’s impressive rookie heroics (nine touchdowns over the last two weeks) and an offense that can somehow sustain itself while pouring its entire energy into DeAndre Hopkins (his 61 targets are 45 more than any other Texans player), Houston look like a bad team. And yeah, I say this a week after they beat the Titans 57-14. If Richard Sherman can take away Hopkins — and I dare say he can — then what’s left? It seems like a riddled defense and a one-dimensional offense situation. Not that I’m writing down the final score already, but certainly this is a favorable matchup at home for Seattle.
I’m not gonna evaluate Washington at Washington quite yet because they still have to play three more games before playing the Seahawks and a lot could change, but the game after that is the Cardinals and I already told you how I feel about them. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which Seattle is 6-3 or 7-2 after nine games, in large thanks to the schedule. Also, there are slightly more home games (six) left than road games (five).
Russell Wilson has always been better in November, December
The first half of the season has always seemed to be “survival mode” for Wilson before turning it up as the temps turn down. Wilson has a passer rating of 91.4 in September, 94.6 in October, 106.9 in November, and 103 in December. (Tack on a 108.7 for two regular season January games.) The Seahawks are 34-9 under Wilson after October.
Wilson also turns it up in primetime, and Seattle still has a Thursday night, Monday night, and Sunday night (against the Eagles, so probably won’t be flexed out) game remaining. I could be wrong about the rules, but the Seahawks Week 15 game against the Rams also seems like it could be flexed into primetime if they’re both still fighting for the NFC West — or their Week 16 game against the Cowboys.
If you were already feeling positive — as you should — hopefully this info just doubles down on that positivity. As it should.