You and I don’t think like Richard Sherman. Or Pete Carroll.
It’s not a matter of our pessimism or their internal perspective but of scope. We see the season as a series of static matchups, printed in ink on a schedule.
They know that the schedule is more like a puzzle, made impossible to assess off in the distance because the shape of the pieces keeps changing.
The Arizona Cardinals are suddenly a different team with quarterback Carson Palmer out. San Francisco lost difference-making linebacker Patrick Willis. And who knows who else – on either side of the field – will be sidelined as the season heads into its final weeks?
“I think the public’s and the media’s perception is a lot different than the actual perception of the team and the players,” Sherman said on Wednesday. “I think we look at every game as a tough game.”
They certainly are from this point. But as Sherman would remind, they don’t have to play all seven games at once.
Fans and followers of the Seahawks would view Sunday’s game at Kansas City as a possible tipping point for the season. As it stands now, at 6-3 the Seahawks would be the second wild card for the NFC, and eek into the playoffs based on the head-to-head win over Green Bay in the season opener.
But the record of their next six opponents is a daunting 39-15, and the seventh and final one on the schedule is against St. Louis, a team that already defeated them in October.
Given the Seahawks’ injury situation, exacerbated by the losses this week of standouts Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane, even going 4-3 during this final span would seem a solid finish.
Does 10-6 get them in the playoffs? Some years, sure. And this is a season when it looks as if there are no overpowering teams.
We note that the Seahawks’ current three-game winning streak came over teams with a combined 6-21-1 record. But the Hawks have been talking how the wins have been important in rebuilding their confidence and rediscovering their identity.
Kansas City, however, will provide a much better barometer of the Seahawks’ status — especially in K.C., where they’ve won only twice in the last 21 trips.
“Kansas City is a tough game,” Sherman said. “Every team is an NFL team. They have pros, they have big-time players, so every game is going to be a tough game and it’s going to be a grind. I don’t think we look at any team as more of a challenge than another team.”
Under coach Carroll, the Seahawks have finished the last two seasons strongly, going 13-3 in the second halves of 2012 and 2013.
He has two theories on the pattern. Because he’s committed to playing young guys so early, by the time they get to midseason, they are playing more like veterans than rookies, and the team depth is bolstered because of it.
By stressing the early rotation of young players, the veterans also are better rested and healthier to make the tough push in the second half.
But this season, with three starters on IR, one traded away, and two others missing at least four starts, the depth is being tested to an unprecedented degree for a Carroll team.
Key middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is expected back from injury for the late run, and that should have a significant impact.
While Carroll avoided the big-picture challenge of the remaining games, he noted that the Seahawks still have five of their six NFC West Division games left on the schedule.
“The fact that we have all the division games coming up in the scheduling is really exciting; it leaves everything out there for you,” Carroll said. “We’ll see how that goes when the time comes, but Kansas City is attracting our focus right now – the rest of the schedule isn’t.”