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Monday metatarsal musings
Pete Carroll will hate this story.
That’s because the Seahawks’ coach is a one-game-at-a-time guy, and we’re about to examine not only Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami but the team’s entire post-bye stretch.
“We’re just trying to get to the next game,” Carroll said last Monday, just after cutting his players free for the week. “We’re just going to try and take care of Miami first off, and go from there.”
Carroll likely will say something very similar about the down-the-stretch situation after the team’s “Bonus Monday” practice; and again on Wednesday, during his midweek Q&A session with the media in this Thanksgiving Day week.
But it’s just too tempting to take a peek past this week.
If the season ended today (and of course it doesn’t), the Seahawks, at 6-4, would have the second wild-card spot in the NFC. And while two of his colleagues on the Fox pregame show Sunday were discussing the merits of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4) and New Orleans Saints (5-5) as possible postseason party crashers, former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson interrupted them to say that neither team would make the playoffs because in the end the Seahawks would hold that final wild-card spot.
Things then generally fell the Seahawks’ way on the Sunday when they didn’t play. The NFC West rival St. Louis Rams (3-6-1) and Arizona Cardinals (4-6) lost, and the division-leading San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) host the Chicago Bears (7-2) in a “Monday Night Football” matchup where neither team is expected to have its concussed starting quarterback. The Green Bay Packers (7-3) won to hold the first wild-card spot, but the Seahawks have the tiebreaker because of their Week 3 win over the Packers. The Bucs also won, but it doesn’t matter if the Seahawks continue to play as well down the stretch as they have in winning their past two games over the Minnesota Vikings (6-4) and New York Jets by a combined score of 58-27.
Both those games were played at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks’ 5-0 record also includes an upset of the New England Patriots (7-3) – and also where the Seahawks will host each of their division rivals in their final four regular-season games.
But before we can play those what-if games concerning those final-month games, there’s this road demon that needs slaying. After playing the Dolphins (4-6) in Miami on Sunday, the Seahawks will travel to Chicago to play the Bears on Dec. 2. They also have a Dec. 16 date with the Buffalo Bills (4-6) in Toronto.
The flipside of the Seahawks’ 5-0 record at home is their 1-4 record on the road, which includes losses to the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers. They’ve won only one road game because they haven’t been able to make the plays in the fourth quarter that they have in beating the Packers, Patriots and Patriots at home – or jump on their road opponents as they did in beating the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) and Jets at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks need to steal one, if not two, of their remaining road games. While the Dolphins and Bills looked beatable in their Thursday night matchup that the Bills won 19-14, the Seahawks have to start by not beating themselves.
In their unbeaten run at home, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown 11 of his 15 touchdown passes – five in the fourth quarter – and, even more importantly, no interceptions. In their five road games, he has thrown four TD passes and all eight of his interceptions. In going 5-0 at home, the Seahawks have averaged 24.6 points while allowing an average of 13.8. In going 1-4 on the road, those averages are 15.0 and 18.4. At home, they are plus-5 in turnover differential. On the road, they are minus-4.
The disparity in those numbers is the difference between the Seahawks being at least 7-3, if not 8-2.
Then there are those rematches at CenturyLink Field with the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers, teams the Seahawks lost to by a combined 17 points on the road. The Seahawks need to win at least two of those games.
Following these easier-written-than-done scenarios would put the Seahawks at 9-7 or – dare we dream – 10-6. That should be good enough to keep them in the playoff picture as the season plays out and, hopefully, put them there when all is said and done.
Dare to dream too much? Perhaps. But this is more a case of dare to imagine. If the offense can continue to grow under Wilson, the defense can play as well on third downs as it has on first and second downs and the special teams can continue to make timely contributions, well, the Seahawks’ third season under Carroll will include at least one more game for him to focus on past the Dec. 30 regular-season finale against the Rams.
And as the Seahawks showed in their first season under Carroll, anything can happen in the playoffs.