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O’Neil: This year’s Seahawks carrying something new into matchup vs Chargers — expectations

Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson posted a perfect passer rating in Seattle's win against the Lions. (AP)

The Seahawks are carrying something new into Sunday’s game against the Chargers.

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Something that was noticeably absent when Seattle opened training camp and certainly wasn’t part of the team’s 0-2 start.

Expectations.

The Seahawks didn’t have any when this season began. At least not around the league, which made it the first time in six years that Seattle did not begin the season among the half-dozen or so teams pegged as the most likely Super Bowl participants.

But after three straight road wins, the Seahawks have gone from a team seen as being potentially, maybe, possibly OK to one that can be considered downright good. They’re 4-3 despite having played five of their first seven games on the road, the defense that was supposedly gutted is allowing fewer yards than all but four teams in the league and the offense that couldn’t get out of its own way last year is running over opponents.

They’re going to do it again Sunday, and they’re going to do it against a team with a better record: the 5-2 Chargers who are formerly of San Diego.

Seattle has played so well that people are going to start expecting things. Like, right now. Or at least Sunday.

And yes, the Seahawks are expected to beat a Chargers team that has won four in a row. The Seahawks are favored for two reasons, the first being they’re at home and CenturyLink Field provides one of the biggest advantages in the league. The second reason is that none of the five teams the Chargers have beat currently holds a winning record. In fact, those five teams are a collectively putrid 10-29-1 after Thursday night’s Bay Area toilet bowl between the 49ers and Raiders, both of whom have provided padding in the Chargers’ record.

It’s not that Los Angeles is bad. Quarterback Philip Rivers is actually very good, and has been picked off just three times in seven games. Former first-round pick Melvin Gordon is more than a respectable running back, currently ranking 12th in the league in rushing yards.

The Chargers rank 10th in the league in both running yards per game and passing yards per game. The Rams are the only other team in the league that ranks among the top 10 in both categories.

Maybe that will be enough to make the Seahawks look like the team that many expected to be in the bottom half of the league. Rebuilding. That was the label some tried to hang on the Seahawks even though this was a team with a franchise quarterback right in his prime and a coach whose team has won at least one playoff game in six of his eight seasons in town.

It took the Seahawks less than half a season to find themselves. They’re back to running the ball the way their coach likes, and their quarterback, Russell Wilson, is showing that there is no one in this league more ruthlessly efficient while throwing fewer than 30 passes.

And unlike the past couple of seasons, you can reasonably expect the Seahawks to get better as the season progresses given the youth on their defense and the confidence they’re building on offense.

So maybe the expectations that these Seahawks are now carrying won’t turn out to be a bad thing at all, but rather a sign of the success that Seattle is going to enjoy on Sunday during a 27-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.