Commentary: Seahawks get big boost
The bye into the division round is their reward for winning the NFC West Division title, which the Seahawks now have in the bag well before Thanksgiving.
Go ahead and say it: Oh, wait, Mr. Columnist, aren't you being too hasty? So much can happen before then. That's why you have to play them one week at a time.
The Seahawks have earned this competitive cushion, battling to wins despite injuries and inconsistencies, and moving to 9-1 with a jayvee offensive line and getting nary a single snap out of perhaps their most gifted offensive player: Percy Harvin.
With six games left, Harvin is on the verge of a return, this week or soon thereafter, along with Pro Bowl linemen Russell Okung and Max Unger, and regular starting tackle Breno Giacomini.
Harvin has been activated, but his play date remains TBD. The injured linemen are expected to practice Wednesday with the goal of playing against Minnesota on Sunday.
So, here's the brutal bottom line for opponents: The Seahawks are 9-1 and will receive an infusion of three Pro Bowl offensive studs.
This is like a top BCS college team having a handful of All-Americans transfer in at mid-season.
And four of the games left on the docket are at home, where they never lose.
The last time they lost at home, Christmas Eve 2011, quarterback Russell Wilson was preparing for the Rose Bowl with Wisconsin, and people were predicting the end of the world because the Mayan calendar was set to expire at about halftime.
So let's put it this way: If the Seahawks don't end up winning the division with the lead they've built, it will constitute a major letdown.
I think I'm being conservative, not yet assuring homefield throughout; I'll do that in a couple weeks if they beat New Orleans at CenturyLink again.
Adding rosiness to the Seahawks' outlook is that the conference has slipped while they've avoided the pratfall.
San Francisco, at 6-3, is two behind Seattle in the loss column. And the Seahawks have a game in hand and also a head-to-head win over them in September.
Of the Niners' six remaining games, four are on the road, including at New Orleans (7-2), the team with the second-best record in the NFC.
Asked about his team's enviable position, head coach Pete Carroll on Monday conceded: "It's a very upbeat feeling around the locker room right now."
Although the front-line fill-ins improved in Sunday's win over Atlanta, they're still not Okung, Unger and Giacomini.
"There's a chance all three of those guys could play for us (Sunday)," Carroll said. "The potential of Percy coming back just adds to that."
Wilson, then, will not only have one of the league's most dynamic receivers available to him, he also should have enough protection to be able to get the ball to him.
Since the team soldiered to nine wins with the backups in action, the Hawks now enjoy the luxury of depth among their subs.
"We've come a long way with our (backup) guys," Carroll said. "They can play ... that adds to the depth and options and opportunities to keep guys fresh and, hopefully, be strong during the finish of this season."
Yes, teams with big leads sometimes spit the bit, or maybe aren't at their peak come playoff time.
But it's very easy to suspect that the Seahawks already have been through the worst of it, and found ways to win nonetheless, and are now merely trending toward their potential.
It's downhill now.
Carroll can't take that approach, of course.
"It's a time when the push is really on," he said "It's a very intense time during the season for all the clubs to try to put it together to get situated well here at the end."
Other teams, though, aren't 9-1 with guys like Harvin about to come off the shelf for a seasonal unveiling.
"To have that kind of boost is big for us," he said.
And it's bad for everybody else.
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