As the Seahawks began practice this week, they did so focused on preparing for the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the NFC's top teams. But the Seahawks also head into their week of preparation knowing that this game, like every remaining game on their schedule, is crucial for their playoff hopes.
The Seahawks currently sit at 6-7 having lost four in a row for the first time in 14 seasons under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and for the time being at least that leaves them outside of a playoff spot. With a huge cluster of wild card hopefuls all clustered at 7-6 and 6-7, however, the Seahawks know they are very much in the hunt if they can get back on track and finish the season strong.
"There is so much at stake from this point forward," Carroll said. "There's so much. With five other teams that are vying for this spot, it's a run to the finish, and see who wins the race. It's exciting, and we've got to make the most of it and be tuned into it. Everybody is well aware, we haven't missed that point from the other night, so everybody knows what's going on. We've got to put together a great week to prepare and make sure we get this done. It's going to be a great challenge, this is a fine football team with a winning mentality and all that, but that's the kind of challenge we've got to take on to get there. It hasn't changed much. It's been kind of like this for a while, so I'm not concerned about our ability to take up the challenge and do the things we need to do to get it done. We just have to come out with a W, that's the big challenge."
The Seahawks feel like they're battled-tested having played the 49ers twice and Cowboys once in the past three weeks, but despite showing signs of improvement in the last two games, particularly on offense, they haven't been able to pull off a victory over that stretch. If they're going to make the playoffs, the Seahawks know they need to start piling up wins to close out the season. As Carroll noted, there are several teams all battling for wild card spots with four games left to play.
Detroit and San Francisco have big leads in their divisions, and the NFC East will come down to the Cowboys and Eagles, who are both currently 10-3, meaning those four teams are all likely in the playoffs as division winners or, for the NFC East runner up, the No. 5 seed as the top wild card. And one of the three 6-7 NFC South teams will win that division. The other two wild card spots, however, look wide open, with Minnesota at 7-6, and the Packers, Rams, Seahawks and top three NFC South teams all 6-7.
"The way I'm looking at this thing, with five other teams that are in the same situation we're in, basically, the tournament is on," Carroll said. "Here we go. It's one week at a time; we've got to fight our way out of this thing. We can still get better, and there's areas we're working on and parts of our game we hope we can improve, and take better advantage of our guys and all that kind of stuff. This is still a really wide-open opportunity. I don't know how the other guys are looking at it, but I'm looking at it like it's playoff time all the way down the stretch here. Every game is going to make a difference, as they always do, but it's even more amplified now."
To take advantage of the opportunity, the Seahawks know they need to play more consistently and put together a more complete game. There have been plenty of positives, on both sides of the ball, in recent losses, but whether it was big plays being allowed on defense, or the offense's ability to cap a great game with one more score to win in Dallas, it just hasn't been enough against some of the league's best teams.
"I think in a lot of the games we played we've showed spurts of that," receiver DK Metcalf said when asked how close the Seahawks are to being the team they want to be. "I think we're just losing the consistency aspect of being the team we want to be because if you turn on a lot of the games we are scoring, we're stopping teams, and our special teams are rolling. But we just got to do it at a more consistent basis."
Asked a similar question, linebacker Bobby Wagner said, "I would say we're a couple plays and a couple penalties away. I feel like there's a lot of moments in certain games where penalties hurt us, where certain plays that don't get executed right hurt us. I feel like we got to go back to the basics, got to go back to the foundation and make the plays when they need to be made and turn this thing around a little bit."
And while the losses have been too frequent in the second half of this season, what Carroll has not seen is infighting or a lack of accountability.
"In this room, these guys are great about it," Carroll said when asked about accountability. "We talk about our stuff in the individual rooms, in the defense and offense, and in the big room. I love these guys. I love the way that they have approached this thing. They're all in, they want to get it done, they'll do whatever they can, they're really consistent about helping their teammates, so the mentality is really good."
The Seahawks and Eagles face off on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Eagles.