The Seahawks are off to a franchise-best 5-0 start, but when it comes to reaching their goals this season, which always start with winning the division, they know they have a long way to go before they've accomplished anything.
Yes, the Seahawks have done a lot of things well in their fast start, including scoring a league-high 33.8 points per game, as well as posting a plus-six turnover differential that is tied for the NFL lead, but they also know that there are three other very good teams in their division, and so far they haven't played any of them. That changes this week when the Seahawks travel to Arizona to face the 4-2 Cardinals, the first of four NFC West games in a five-week span for Seattle.
"It's time to get rolling now," defensive tackle Jarran Reed said. "This is when the real ball starts."
In terms of record, stats and playmakers that can keep opposing coaches up at night, the Cardinals represent the toughest challenge the Seahawks have faced thus far. Arizona's offense, which is averaging 402.5 yards per game, fifth best in the league, is led by second-year quarterback Kyler Murray who is a big-play threat with his arms and his legs, and that unit also features the NFL's leading receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, and an explosive running back, Kenyan Drake, who has rushed for 478 yards. On defense, the Cardinals have allowed just 18.7 points per game, the second lowest total in the league, and have playmakers at all three levels, including safety Budda Baker, a former Husky who just earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
And things don't get any easier for the Seahawks going forward now that they're heading into this run of NFC West games. Sunday's game against Arizona is the first of four NFC West games in a five-week span, with the Seahawks hosting San Francisco in Week 8, traveling to Buffalo in Week 9, then to Los Angeles to face the Rams in Week 10 before playing a Thursday night game at San Francisco.
Heading into the season, a lot of pundits thought the NFC West could be the league's toughest division, and six weeks into the season, it's hard to argue with that assessment. Both the Cardinals and Rams sit at 4-2, while the defending NFC champion 49ers, who have dealt with a ton of early-season injuries, are 3-3 after an impressive win over the Rams on Sunday. With the NFL adding an extra wild card team to each conference this year, three NFC West teams making the postseason seems very possible, and its not out of the realm of possibility that all four get in depending on what happens in the NFC North and South.
"I think this is as tough as it gets," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of his team's upcoming schedule. "I don't know that anybody's got to play a row of teams like this. A month from now, we'll have a pretty good feel for how everything's fit."
While it's par for the course for the Seahawks to be in contention—since Carroll and John Schneider took over, the Seahawks have made the playoffs eight times in 10 seasons—this year looks like it's shaping up to be a unique year in terms of top-to-bottom depth in the division. Since 2012, the NFC West has sent two teams to the playoffs six times in eight years, the only exceptions being in 2016 when the Seahawks won the division and everyone else finished with a losing record, and 2017, when the Seahawks missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record. But in all of those years, there was also an NFC West team or two that struggled, and given the starts we've seen from all four teams, with the defending division champions being the "worst" team at 3-3, it's hard to envision any of the teams falling off too dramatically.
"It's exciting to see the division come back around like this," Carroll said. "We've seen it go kind of up and down over the years, and it always seems to keep coming back strong, and we're strong again—everybody can play football. Injury factors have entered into some of the play of the teams, and as everybody kind of finds their way gets back to balance, it's a really difficult schedule for us. So we'll take them one week at a time, and we're going to play every one of them like it's the only game in the world and go for it, and that's what we're doing this week."