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The 6: Seahawks’ unlikely heroes and a real championship opportunity

Shaquem Griffin has had an increased role on defense for the Seahawks in recent weeks. (Getty)

Fans of the Seahawks, Mariners and all other Seattle sports are aware that The Blitz at 6 with Lydia Cruz is where to go to learn what they need to know every weekday morning. But what about when there is no Blitz at 6 on weekends and holidays on 710 ESPN Seattle? Introducing The 6, Lydia’s new column for 710Sports.com that will get you ready for the weekend in Seattle sports.

Click here for podcasts of The Blitz at 6

1. Hello, unlikely heroes.

Marquee heroes win Super Bowls, sell jerseys and sign hefty endorsement deals. But the thing about Captain America is we expect him to do Captain America things. Opponents know this and adjust their game plan appropriately. Captains also stumble on occasion, leaving room in the 16-game regular season storyboard for improbable protagonists to swoop in and save the day. For the majority of the 2019 season, the Seahawks relied on unnatural feats of strength from their Captain America, Russell Wilson, and without the safety of his indestructible shield at times, the Hawks floundered.

Recently however, new heroes have emerged.

Jadeveon Clowney flashed his Thor-like strength on Monday Night Football against the Niners. Ziggy “Hercules” Ansah rediscovered his own superhuman agility against the Eagles. Rashaad Penny transformed into Quicksilver overnight. But there have been even bigger surprises. New recruit Quandre Diggs steadied the secondary with his veteran presence and soul-crunching hits. Jacob Hollister elevated himself from practice squad potential to red zone reckoner in the span of a few weeks. Shaquem Griffin played 33% of defensive snaps and recorded two QB hits last week after contributing exclusively on special teams for the first nine weeks of the season.

If and when the team’s stars struggle, unlikely heroes rise to carry their mantle. And while they might not receive top-billing, they are an integral part of the villain-vanquishing squad nonetheless.

2. This meeting of the Insane Clowney Posse has been temporarily postponed.

Back in October, the inaugural meeting of the Jadeveon Clowney appreciation group (Seattle Chapter) was called to order.

In the organization’s infancy, I acted as CEO, COO and CFO. I was also in charge of snacks.

But along with Clowney’s presence on the field, our ranks blossomed.

Maybe due to heart-warming moments like this.

Or numbers like this.

Clowney solidified a home in our hearts by bull-rushing his way into opponent’s nightmares and applying enough QB pressure to cook a holiday turkey 10 times over.

After a thrilling overtime win and a bye week that barely settled our blood pressure, we watched as Clowney missed every practice leading up to the Eagles game with a knee/hip issue. Word spread that he flew to Philly ahead of the team to consult with Dr. William Meyers before being scratched last Sunday. Pete Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday that, “They had to evaluate whether they were going to give him a particular treatment, and the treatment that they gave him made him uncomfortable, even more so. But should have a positive impact moving forward.” Carroll added a safeguard that, “We’ll see what happens this week though, we gotta see how he returns.”

Carroll elaborated in his Monday press conference: “It’s related to that, you know, the sports hernia stuff, and that’s what he was treated for and, so, we’ll see how the treatment took hold.”

The head coach said Wednesday that Clowney will not participate in practice, but Carroll also reiterated his positive outlook.

“Yeah we are, we’re counting on him getting back, but he’s still gotta make it. So that’s a little twinge of optimism there again. But he feels good about it, he wants to go, and he’s gonna try to make it.”

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed’s status is also questionable as he continues to deal with a sprained ankle.

“He’s determined to practice, and to play at the end of the week,” Carroll said Wednesday of Reed. “He was out at walk-through doing his stuff today, so we’ll see. It’s gonna be day-to-day for us to figure it out. We won’t know until probably game time.”

If Clowney and Reed are both sidelined for Monday’s game against Minnesota, the defensive line will be holding out for a hero. Ziggy, Ziggy, Ziggy, can’t you see, sometimes your presence is just necessary.

3. Lamar is literally running the MVP race.

Russell Wilson did little to progress his MVP campaign in the Seahawks’ 17-9 victory over the Eagles last Sunday – aside from making NFL history, that is. Russ became the only QB in the history of the league to lead his team to a winning record in each of his first eight seasons. He also threw a 33-yard TD to Malik Turner off a flea flicker, just to remind us that he makes the improbable look easy.

But the NFL’s MVP race is about one man right now: Lamar Jackson. The 22-year old QB threw five touchdown passes and ran for 95 yards as the Ravens embarrassed the Rams 45-6 at the Coliseum Monday night.

You hate to see it.

With five games left, Russell’s campaign is far from extinguished, but as of now, consider it a stubborn ember smoldering abreast Lamar’s open flame.

4. More like NFC Best, AMIRITE?

The Arizona Cardinals are retooling. The LA Rams are, at least temporarily, out of fashion. But the two teams at the top of the NFC West are two of the most formidable in the conference.

The 49ers (10-1) dominated the Packers (8-3) on Sunday to stay one game ahead of the Seahawks (9-2) in a tight divisional race, and both teams face a tough stretch of games to close out the regular season. The Niners travel to Baltimore this Sunday, then New Orleans the following week before getting a two-game stretch at home versus the Falcons and Rams. Meanwhile the Seahawks get the Vikings at home, then hit the road against the Rams and the Panthers. They’ll face the Cardinals at home in Week 16, and both SF and Seattle wrap their regular seasons at CenturyLink on Dec. 29 in a rematch that will assuredly provide fireworks.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo predictions, the Seahawks currently have a 97% chance of making the playoffs. SF is favored to win the division, with Seattle’s odds at a respectable 41%. Football Outsiders is less generous to the Hawks in its Playoff Odds Report, giving Seattle a 38% chance to claim the top spot in the NFC West.

But here’s where things get interesting. Let’s assume the Hawks win Monday. It’s not an unreasonable stretch of imagination considering the team’s .714 all-time winning percentage on the day most of us don’t even want to get out of bed ranks first all-time in NFL history.

Oh, and since 2010 the Hawks are:

• 28-5-1 in primetime
• 9-2 on Monday Night Football
• 18-2 at home in primetime

SO YES, GO WITH ME ON THIS FAR-FETCHED HYPOTHETICAL.

If the Seahawks win Monday night against the Vikings, their chances to win the division bump up to 55%, according to FiveThirtyEight. If the Niners lose to the Ravens – who are winners of seven consecutive games and have outscored their last three opponents 135-26 – the Hawks become 63% favorites to win the West. Their shot at a first-round bye also leaps from 33% to 62%.

Pete Carroll constantly reminds us that each game is a championship opportunity, but this week, well it feels especially true.

5. Rivalry! Rivalry! Rivalry!

The 112th iteration of the Apple Cup is on our doorstop, situated squarely on the other side of tryptophan and pumpkin pie.

This year’s meeting of Washington and Washington State provides less anticipatory buzz than in recent years when the teams were battling for the North, a spot in the Pac-12 Championship and even playoff consideration.

At 6-5, both UW and WSU fell short of their own high standards this season, but you may as well toss 11 games in the nearest receptacle when Apple Cup arrives. It’s a one-game season now. And pride, sweet pride is on the line.

6. Lydia’s school of journalism

My plan was to wrap up my inaugural six with news about the Mariners moves this week: the unprecedented Evan White contract, a trade with the Evil Empire, and the signings of starting pitcher Kendall Graveman and former Cardinals infielder Patrick Wisdom.

But then the Seahawks announced what uniforms they are going to wear on Monday Night Football.

THE UNDEFEATED ACTION GREEN.

A good reporter knows when to scrap their plans and focus on the hard-hitting storylines that matter. Like colors. That’s Journalism 101.

DID I MENTION 4-0 ACTION GREEN?

Have a safe, joyous holiday weekend my friends! I’m thankful for each and every one of you.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Lydia Cruz on Twitter.

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