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4 reasons it’s not as bad as it seems for Seahawks after 3rd loss in 4 games

Russell Wilson hasn't been able to hand off to his two best RBs in the last two games. (Getty)

The Seahawks dropped their third game in four weeks Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, dropping them to 6-3 – which, of course, is alarming after starting the year 5-0.

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It seems like a lifetime ago that Seattle was one of the last remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, atop the NFC West and the NFC as the conference’s No. 1 seed. But after losing in Los Angeles, the Seahawks find themselves in third place in the division and holding the conference’s lowest remaining playoff spot.

There’s obviously reason to be concerned with the way the team has played recently, with quarterback Russell Wilson turning the ball over 10 times over the last four games and the defense continuing to give up yards at a record clip. But those suddenly thinking the Seahawks are going to miss out on the playoffs after a tough last few weeks should know there’s plenty of reason not to count them out yet – specifically these four things.

No. 1: The NFL’s 2020 playoff rules

After the loss to the Rams, the Seahawks slid from the top of the NFC West and the NFC’s No. 2 seed to third place in the division and the conference’s seventh seed.

In previous years, that’d be a big problem. But this year, thanks to playoff expansion, it seems extremely unlikely that the Seahawks would miss the playoffs after starting 5-0.

Unlike previous years where each conference had six playoff teams and the two top seeds received first-round byes, the NFL added an additional playoff spot in each conference, leaving only the No. 1 seed in each conference to receive a week off. It’s not even out of the realm of possibility that the Seahawks still win the NFC West and wind up with the top seed or close to it.

But also, it sure seems like the seven teams that currently hold the NFC’s playoff spots are the teams that we’ll see in the postseason. After the Seahawks, the next three teams in the hunt for a playoff berth are the Chicago Bears (5-4), who have struggled mightily on offense with inconsistent quarterback play, the Detroit Lions (4-5), who are poor defensively, and the San Francisco 49ers (4-6), arguably the most injured team in football that is without its quarterback, All-Pro tight end, and best defensive players.

No. 2: Favorable schedule going forward

In two of their three losses, the Seahawks dropped divisional games to the Arizona Cardinals and the Rams. Seattle gets another crack at Arizona this Thursday and will play the Rams in Week 16. Both those games will be at home, and they are easily the toughest games Seattle has left on its schedule.

After the Week 11 game with the Cardinals, the Seahawks play four poor teams in a row in the 3-5-1 Philadelphia Eagles, 3-7 New York Giants, 0-9 New York Jets and 2-7 Washington Football Team. Yep, those four teams are a combined 8-28-1 after Week 10. The Seahawks will close out 2020 with another game against San Francisco, who lost in Seattle 37-27 in Week 8, and as mentioned, the 49ers are beat up and under .500.

With those four games against struggling eastern opponents and the season finale at San Francisco, you’d think the Seahawks will win at least four of those games if not all five. That would give the Seahawks either 10 or 11 wins on the year even if they’re swept by both the Cardinals and Rams, which very well may not happen, and double-digit wins should almost certainly clinch a playoff spot this season.

As far as the Cardinals go, the Seahawks should have beaten Arizona earlier this year – they didn’t trail until Arizona beat them with a field goal at the end of overtime and had multiple chances to put that game away. With the Rams, the Seahawks’ defense showed life in a way it really hasn’t this season, which leads to point No. 3.

No. 3: A defensive turnaround

No, the Legion of Boom isn’t coming back, and no, there’s almost no way this defense finishes the year around league average in total defense or passing defense. But you can see how things could improve. It’s been on display in their losses the last two weeks.

Two weeks after getting just one QB pressure against the Cardinals on almost 50 dropbacks, the Seahawks got seven sacks against the Bills. Pass rush was the team’s biggest weakness heading into the year, so that kind of outburst was a welcome sight.

Then, after allowing the Rams to march up and down the field in the first half, the Seahawks’ defense allowed only six points in the second half of the Week 10 loss, and that touchdown (followed by a missed extra point) came on Los Angeles’ first drive of the half. After that, Seattle held its own against an offense that has given it fits the last three seasons. Instead it was Seattle’s offense that struggled and ultimately cost the Seahawks the game.

There are also the injuries. The Seahawks’ second-half improvement in LA was even more impressive as Seattle was without its top starting cornerbacks, Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar. That duo is injured, and the pass defense, which has been awful this year, did its job for the most part in the second half without them. Getting those two back as soon as Thursday’s game would be a great boost after that second-half performance, but it’ll be interesting to see what a second matchup against the Rams looks like if Griffin and Dunbar are healthy.

Additionally, the Seahawks are without Benson Mayowa, who was the team’s No. 1 pass rusher aside from safety Jamal Adams before they acquired Carlos Dunlap from the Bengals. Pairing a healthy Mayowa with Dunlap and the rest of that defensive line, along with blitzes from Adams and linebacker Bobby Wagner, could really make the pass rush potent heading into the end of the season and the playoffs.

Related: Either Hawks’ D is about to take off or there’s a coaching problem

No. 4: Russell Wilson won’t play like this forever

Wilson’s career-high in interceptions is 11, which he’ll likely pass this year. As noted, he has 10 turnovers and 10 total touchdowns in his last four games. It seems unlikely that Wilson, who has been so protective of the football in his career, keeps up that kind of pace.

Wilson was red hot to start the year and after the Seahawks won five straight, he was the frontrunner for MVP. His play since Week 7 likely cost him that trophy and perhaps even a chance to receive a vote, but with the remaining schedule, you’d think Wilson returns to form as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

The ninth-year QB has been asked to carry this team so far, and that hasn’t worked in three of the last four games. Luckily for No. 3, he should be getting help both from a defense that’s been without multiple key players yet still showed life the last two games, and in the ground game.

Without running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, the Seahawks have essentially been forced to abandon running the football, which may be contributing to Wilson’s turnovers as defenses know he doesn’t have as many usual weapons around him and is likely to pass. Plus, with no running game, the play-action isn’t nearly as dangerous since there’s been nothing to really set it up.

With a better defense and his two top running backs back in action, Wilson should get return to form and get away from the turnover-prone guy we’ve seen of late. The guy started the season too good to have us thinking he’s going to continue playing this way over the last seven games of the year.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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