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O’Neil: Seahawks’ 5-game stretch, starting with Lions, will tell us whether this team is actually good

The Seahawks' game against the Lions kicks off a tough stretch of contests. (AP)

The start was unambiguously awful. Two straight losses.

3 players to watch in Seahawks-Lions

But over the past four games, the team has gained both a measure of success and an identity and it enters Sunday’s game with a record of 3-3 and the belief that it’s on the right track.

But enough about the Detroit Lions.

Oh, you thought I was talking the Seattle Seahawks? Well, the fact that Seattle and Detroit have followed similar paths to this point is just part of what makes Sunday’s game so very interesting and why the Seahawks’ victory will be so important.

The Seahawks and Lions are both .500, smack dab in the middle of an incredibly muddled NFC where you have one clear favorite in the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, three bona fide contenders in New Orleans (5-1), Carolina (4-2) and Minnesota (4-2-1) and a Washington team that is somehow 4-2 in the God awful NFC East. Then there are eight different teams with three victories. Yes. Eight teams. Exactly half the conference. At least one of those teams is going to reach the postseason. Could be two, but almost certainly not more than three.

And while Sunday’s game isn’t some make-or-break moment that will define Seattle’s season, the outcome will set the tone for the final two months.
This is a “Wiggle-Room Game” in that the outcome will go a long toward determining whether Seattle will have any.

Beat the Lions and Seattle is 4-3 with six of their remaining nine games at home. They can feel really good about their chances to make the playoffs. They’ve got the wiggle room if Philip Rivers goes off next weekend with the Chargers in town or Aaron Rodgers comes to Seattle and rains down terror from the sky on Thursday night.

Lose to the Lions, though, and Seattle is going to be white-knuckling it through the rest of this season, knowing that one false step and they’re going to fall behind the pack. Next week’s game against the Chargers will become pivotal.

And more than anything, Sunday’s game starts the five-game stretch that will decide whether Seattle is actually any good.

We know the Seahawks aren’t bad. They’ve been in every game they’ve played this season, holding the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead in each of the three games they’ve lost. They also have a pair of thoroughly convincing victories.

But now the Seahawks will be facing a Detroit team that has shown it isn’t bad, either. And it will be on the road. And it starts a run of five straight games against opponents who have established, franchise quarterbacks starting with the Lions and Matthew Stafford.

I believe the Seahawks are ready for this. I believe that Seattle’s run game will control the tempo of the game while the Seahawks’ secondary won’t be perfect, but it will be adequate.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be pretty, and I think it’s going to come down to a field goal on the Seahawks final possession: Seattle 24, Detroit 23.

And with that, the Seahawks will earn themselves some wiggle room.

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