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O’Neil: To beat Packers, Seahawks have to re-establish advantage at home

The Seahawks are hoping to avoid their first losing season in seven years. (AP)

The home stretch of the season is more than a metaphor for the Seahawks this year.

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It’s a fairly literal description of a schedule that skews heavily toward CenturyLink Field over the next month and a half. Five of the Seahawks’ final seven games will be played in Seattle, starting with Thursday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

There was a time – not so long ago – that would be considered a prohibitive advantage. A reason to think that Seattle – even at 4-5 – would have a fairly good chance of winning all five of those home games.

That time was four years ago, however. The Seahawks have lost six of their past eight home games, matching their worst eight-game stretch at home since the franchise moved into the stadium in 2002.

That was unthinkable back in 2014 when Seattle was so overwhelmingly dominant that some people actually speculated that the TV networks didn’t want prime-time games scheduled in Seattle because the wallopings the Seahawks administered were so consistently one-sided. They smoked the 49ers 42-13 in December 2012 and followed that up with a 26-3 pasting of San Francisco in Week 2 the following season. Throw in a 34-7 victory over New Orleans on Monday later in that Super Bowl season of 2013 and league networks started to think that it was maybe best to stop scheduling ritualized slaughters for prime-time dates. The only prime-time game the Seahawks hosted in 2014 was against Green Bay in Week 1, which is the home debut the NFL bestows upon the previous year’s champion.

So what happened to that advantage?

Good question. There are several working theories from the fact that opponents know better what to expect in Seattle to the questions of whether Seattle’s 12th Man has perhaps become a little complacent to the reality that Seattle’s defense is certainly no longer as dominant as it once was. The Seahawks have given up more than 30 points in four different home games since last year began. Compare that to the three seasons from 2012 through 2014 when the Seahawks allowed 30 points only once in 24 home games.

But it’s more than just the quality of the team. Because in this eight-game span in which Seattle has gone 2-6 at home, the Seahawks are 6-4 on the road.

And it’s not like the Seahawks have been blown out, either. Well, they did get smoked by the Rams last December, losing 42-7. But the other five home losses in the past eight home games have all been by a single possession. Four have been by three points or fewer, and twice the Seahawks have missed a field goal in the final minute that would have either won the game or forced overtime.

But that’s part of a much bigger problem for this Seahawks team. They’re good enough to stay in every single game they’ve played this season, but not strong enough to pull it out late.

That has to change down the home stretch if Seattle is going to avoid its first losing season in seven years. That will start to change on Thursday with a convincing victory over the Packers: Seattle 27, Green Bay 17.

No time for Seahawks to recover with Packers waiting on Thursday