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Seahawks fall to 6-4: Where do they go from here?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
we are pensive
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Now what?

We know where the coaches, the players, the Seattle Seahawks themselves, go from here. They feel the sting of a 34-31 home loss to the Falcons for a time, which is likely short, and then they begin to maniacally prepare for the 49ers, because that’s the team whose name pops up for Week 12. They rest, they game plan, they compress a month’s worth of game film into five days and six nights — all as a prelude to the expectation of victory at Levi’s Stadium.

They’re the Seahawks. It’s what they do.

But for us, the team’s metaphorical shareholders (“metaphorical” is still better than the delusion consuming certain cheese-adorned fans that their stake is real), for us, the die-hard Seattle fans since 1976 or 2012, how do we approach what remains of the season?

What now?

Do we hold out an audacious hope for the NFC West crown, for a playoff home game that would serve as a trampoline to postseason relevance, or even to Super Bliss? Do we dare to dream that in a league populated with flawed teams, that the rapid growth of Seattle’s youngsters, combined with the existing/remaining talent, could possibly be enough to carry the Seahawks deep into the playoffs, or even all the way?

Or do consecutive home losses to a couple of a-ight teams accelerate an arrival at the dispiriting destination called It Just Isn’t Our Year?

Somewhere in between is a perfectly valid answer, too. You’ll fall into one of the three categories listed below. Or with one foot firmly planted in a couple different ones. Or lying across all three scenarios, limbs splayed in a Twisterian pretzel, covering all your bases for another week at least.

Face it, you are the fan of a team that is sometimes hard to figure out. Sometimes hard to even root for! So how do you expect the rest of 2017 to go?

Scenario A: Russell Wilson and the crew go on a tear.

tl;dr — They fuck up the league in the same way they did two years ago.

Inside of Wilson lives a 24-TD, 1-INT demogorgon. We know this because we witnessed it possess RW for the final seven weeks of 2015. Hey, stranger things have happened in Sea-Hawkins.

In terms of bounces, the recent lousy interception luck flips. The Eagles and Rams drop their golden opportunities to pick Wilson off, but the Seahawks hang on to their crucial chances and convert those takeaways into points. Sort of the opposite of Monday Night Football’s latest installment. Or the Skins game. You could say that karma evens out, you could cite regression, but I’m just talking here about getting the kinds of bounces we didn’t against Atlanta. Like if Desmond Trufant drops the ball in his hands, but Jeremy Lane comes away with some goal-line thievery.

Seattle doesn’t clean up its penalties completely, because that’s unrealistic, but the timing of the flags improves, with fewer third-down calls that keep the defense on the field, and penalties do taper off somewhat.

Earl Thomas stays healthy, the middle of the field continues to be verboten for even the best quarterbacks

and you get just enough production out of Shaquill Griffin, Byron “The Prodigal” Maxwell, Justin Coleman and a burgeoning Neiko Thorpe to defend the pass while stopping the run. Explosives stay down.

Tyler Lockett builds off the success against Atlanta and becomes the return demon he was in 2015, his All-Pro year.

Bobby Wagner continues to exist.

Dion Jordan and Dwight Freeney terrorize tackles while everyone is worried about containing Michael Bennett and Shledon Richardson, and most importantly, nobody gets hurt anymore. Enough already with the season-ending stingers and the arrow straight to Richard Sherman’s heel, his body’s only vulnerability.

Five wins in six games gets Seattle to 11-5. It’s worth the three seed. Detroit or Carolina visits for the annual playoff spanking at the CLink.

The Seahawks claim the division, help send the overrated Los Angeles Rams offense sputtering to a 9-7 finish, pull out a divisional victory in the Superdome against an improved but overmatched Saints defense, and head to meet the Eagles in a season that is suddenly one step from Super. 2017 turns into a year to remember, not one to forget.

Scenario B: Yay, draft position.

There was no shortage of pundits, tweeters, commenters, writers, nasayers, and rival fans who were more than ready to pronounce the Seahawks’ collective time of death as Thursday, November 9, when Sherman and Kam Chancellor’s 2017 seasons ended in Arizona.

With no Legion of Boom to speak of, no running game outside of Wilson’s darting through and around linebackers, special teams lacking in any special skill, and a too-green offensive line, Seattle is toast. Or so goes their collective “wisdom.”

Usually I’d laugh them off. In Scenario B they’re right.

Without Sherman on the field, quarterbacks like Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and yes, even Blake Bortles are free to attack both sides. Completions are up, third-down conversions are up. All three of the above QBs outscore the Seahawks offense. Even a remaining mediocre or untested opponent like Jimmy Garoppolo gives the defense more fits than he should since he’s no longer worried about Sherman. He can focus on keeping the ball away from Thomas only, finding the soft Earl-less spots in the zone.

The team misses Chancellor on and off the field. Todd Gurley doesn’t miss him, but we do.

Inuries pile up. Duane Brown aggravates his ankle and is shut down for the year; Mike Davis does not return and Eddie Lacy never finds whatever “it” he had in 2014 and 2015. Cliff Avril and Chris Carson are not rushed back into duty — what’s the use if no playoff run is on the table. Griffin’s concussion keeps him out for weeks, plural, instead of week, singular. The young defensive backs play like rookies and flash potential. But veteran quarterbacks abuse them because they, well, play like rookies.

Wilson continues to do everything, and it continues to be not enough more often than it is enough.

The draft becomes a very active topic of discussion after the Seahawks fall under .500 on Christmas Eve in Dallas, when a fresh-legged Ezekiel Elliott goes off in his first game back from suspension. Desperate for positives, people wonder out loud at what kind of killing John Schneider could make at a draft where he gets to pick in the teens, and not at 26 or 31.

Parity, sloppy play, bad luck, insufficient depth all help send Seattle to a very unfamiliar (in the short term of Seahawks fanhood) 8-8 record. The eighth win comes in front of a very nonplussed home crowd in Week 17, in the form of a funereal 19-13 win over the Cardinals — in overtime. Because the season hadn’t dragged on enough already.

Scenario C: The middle ground

The first thing that needs to be said here is that the middle ground is wide. From 9-7 to 10-6 may not look like a giant gulf, but it is. Likely 9-7 means you’re staying home in January, while 10-6 is a playoff berth most years.

The second thing is that despite consecutive home losses sandwiched around a road win, the Seahawks have done some stuff well in each game. They still stop the run (2.2 ypc the last three games) and Wilson can still perform miracles when called upon (no citation needed).

They still win games when they protect the ball and lose when they don’t (three of the four losses this year came via losing the turnover battle). So, protect the ball better and good things will come.

If you’re looking for reasons to be encouraged by the Monday Night loss, it’s easy. Thorpe might be four or five games away from being a ball-hawking corner. The offensive line is on a upswing, perhaps: Luke Joeckel is set to return, a left tackle has been obtained, and the Ethan Pocic era is beginning with mixed success, which is actual success for a guy just getting his feet wet.

Jimmy Graham is the touchdown machine we all hoped for, with seven scores in his last six games. The receiver talent is strong.

The third thing, though, is that you can count on the 2017 Seahawks to self-destruct for a quarter at a time, for a drive at a time, and unfortunately also on big kicks you need to prevail in close games.

So if you’re looking for reasons to be discouraged, we got those too. No healthy running backs on the roster are worth trusting on 3rd and 2, and as soon as one emerges, he breaks a leg or pulls a key muscle.

No phase of the game is playing crisply or cleanly. The Seahawks are first in overall penalties, we know this, by a margin of 19 flags; their lead comes from a propensity to collect fouls with every last inch of personnel. Seattle is first in defensive penalties, second in offensive flags, and second in special teams infractions.

If the encouraging and discouraging things happen in tandem, evenly matched, then the same edition of the Seahawks we’ve seen so far will show up for the final six games. Their inconsistency is their calling card. Whether they go 4-2, 3-3 or 2-4 could well depend on a bounce, a defensive score, or a great clutch catch.

It used to be that the Seahawks had a margin for error. Wilson’s fumbles and inerceptions weren’t game-changers because you could count on the Seattle defense to return the favor via constant harassment of the quarterback du jour. The offensive line’s deficiencies weren’t crippling because you had a tackle-breaking machine carrying the football, and the offensive line on the other side struggled anyway with Avril and Michael Bennett and Frank Clark causing all sorts of mayhem.

What’s becoming apparent is that the 2017 Seahawks don’t have the same margin for error, given their lack of a reliable running back, their awful injury situation, and points left on the table by special teams.

The question is, will their cardiac ways show up more often in the win or loss column? It’s probably fair to expect some of both, right? But look out for the extremes, they’re still in play. It’s not too late for the season to take a turn for the better, or the worse.