Wacky NFC West keeps Seahawks a contender

Whatever happens to the Seahawks in New Orleans this weekend, let’s all agree on one thing right now.

Win or lose, let’s not read too much into it.

Maybe the Seahawks will surprise everyone and knock off the defending Super Bowl champs, or maybe they’ll be humbled on the road as they have so often been in recent years. But whatever occurs, it’s safe to say the Seahawks won’t be defined by this weekend’s result. We’ve seen impressive wins this season, and we’ve seen head-scratching losses, and at this point it’s futile to try to figure this team out based on either.

Having watched nearly every minicamp, OTA, training camp session, regular season practice and game this season, I can say with the utmost confidence that I have no idea what this team is going to do this weekend or just about any other.

Some Sundays, the Seahawks are a team than can win convincingly at Chicago and at Arizona. On other days, they’re the team that gets dominated at the line of scrimmage in blowout losses to Oakland and the New York Giants.

Common sense says the 5-4 Seahawks will be overmatched when they go to New Orleans, but common sense also said the Seahawks had no chance in Chicago, that they couldn’t win in Arizona after being so thoroughly dominated in two straight games, and that they own St. Louis, both here and in the Edward Jones Dome. The fact is, the Seahawks are a still developing team under a new coach that, through nine games anyway, is incredibly difficult to figure out.

“Well, we’re going to go about it and try to put things in order again and perform like we’re capable,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s all we’re ever shooting for, and sometimes we don’t get to that point. … We’re just going to be our best and play the way we’re capable of playing, and that’s all I’m hoping for. If we do that, then we’ll have a chance to win the football game.”

Carroll is absolutely right. When the Seahawks do what they’re capable of — shut down the run, force turnovers, get big plays on special teams, protect Matt Hasselbeck and take care of the ball on offense — they’re good enough to win most weeks. The problem has been an inability to do that every week.

And that’s probably to be expected. This is a team that won five games last year, a total they reached Sunday in Arizona with seven games left on the schedule. The Seahawks are playing under a new coach for the second time in as many years, and have made 251 roster moves (as of Tuesday afternoon. It’s probably changed by the time you’re reading this) since Carroll formed his coaching staff in February.

The reality is, for all of their ups and downs, the Seahawks are better than just about anyone could have expected.

Even so, it can be maddening to figure out how a team that started off good by building a 4-2 record and was dubbed the best team in the NFC by former Super Bowl champion coach and current analyst Tony Dungy, could also be a team bad enough to lose its next two games by a combined score of 74-10.

And then, how could that same team go on the road and dominate the Cardinals in a stadium in which Seattle has never won?

But if the truth of this up-and-down season is that the Seahawks are, as their record indicates, a mediocre team that wins when things click and can lose ugly to when they don’t — well, that’s not entirely bad news for Seattle.

In the NFC West, which features the 5-4 Seahawks and three teams with losing records, mediocrity likely will be rewarded with a playoff berth.

And remember Seahawks fans: If you have no idea what’s going on with your team this season, at least take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Even by the standards of a league known for unpredictability, this has been a wacky year. Just past the midway point of the season, football fans have witnessed all sorts of crazy in 2010, and that doesn’t include the allegations that a certain 40-something quarterback text-messaged photos of …

Actually, let’s not go there.

For example, who could have possibly imagined that Cleveland would roll over the New England Patriots by 20 points two weeks ago; or that at this point in the season the Chiefs and the Broncos would be tied for first place in the AFC West?

Who could have imagined that the Vikings would be 3-6 and a total mess; or that the Cowboys would start the year 1-7, then win in New York after firing their head coach?

Who ever would have thought that LaDainian Tomlinson would find the elusive running back fountain of youth with the Jets; or that, so far anyway, the two highest quarterback rankings in the league would belong to Michael Vick and David Garrard?

The list goes on, but you get the point.

Anything is possible in the NFL this season, and as a result, any outcome is possible in New Orleans on Sunday. Just don’t read too much into it either way.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog

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