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Seahawks LB Cody Barton
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Clayton’s Observations: Why playoff win is huge for Seahawks’ future

Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton had a strong game in place of Mychal Kendricks. (Getty)

The Seahawks’ playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles is certainly good for the present. It keeps the Seahawks alive in the NFC Divisional Round with their meeting with the Green Bay Packers.

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The victory also had a major impact and offered optimism for next year and the future, plus it sets up interesting scenarios for the postseason.

It’s also interesting that the Seahawks are facing the Packers, who like Seattle are considered to be a playoff contender every year. They have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, a stable franchise and plenty of talent. No one expected them to win 13 games. Few expected the Seahawks to be an 11-win team, too, let alone one that had a chance to be the NFC’s No. 1 seed had it won its final two home games.

Several things came together in the Seahawks’ victory over the Eagles. Let’s study what it could mean for the future.

• First, it was important that the Seahawks win at least one playoff game to show they are advancing toward a future trip to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks are a young team. Young players need to learn how to win.

The victory was important for Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Cody Barton, the young defensive linemen and other young players on offense. A loss would have kept them in the same mode as last year when they lost the Wild Card game to Dallas. To think Super Bowl, you’ve got to think getting a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Winning three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl, which Seattle may have to do this year to make it to Miami, is extremely hard.

Even though the Seahawks’ point differential for the season was small, they did put themselves in position to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed toward the end of the year. The win in Philadelphia helped build the process for now and more importantly next year.

• Quandre Diggs continues to show his importance to the team for now and the future. He came back from a high-ankle sprain and not only played the entire game, but he made big plays and settled down the Seahawks defense.

The team has a 5-1 record when Diggs plays. He came to Seattle with an injury that caught the Seahawks off-guard. They could have failed him in the physical and cancelled the trade, but that would have been as bad of a mistake as the Detroit Lions trading him to Seattle.

Diggs and Bradley McDougald solidify the Seahawks in the middle of the field at safety. Both players are smart. Both players are physical. Both players are play-makers. It will be interesting to see how Diggs plays next Sunday against Green Bay.

Against the Eagles, Diggs was calling out some of the plays as they were happening to defensive teammates. Having played in the NFC North with Detroit, he knows the Packers and can help with communication and execution of the defensive plays.

• DK Metcalf’s continued growth makes the Seahawks’ passing offense formidable. His 160-yard game against the Eagles was a culmination of how he continues to grow as a receiver. What will be interesting to see is if he will now start drawing some double coverage. That would open up more things for top wideout Tyler Lockett, tight end Jacob Hollister and whoever is the third wide receiver on the field.

For the future, Metcalf’s development could result in the Seahawks having two 1,000-yard receivers. Lockett is already there. Despite being a rookie, Metcalf is pretty close to that level.

• Rookies Cody Barton and Travis Homer offer hope for the future.

It was a major setback to lose three running backs to serious injuries that could last until training camp, but Homer at least gives them a player who can fill in as a starter and offer the chance to be a solid No. 2 for the next couple of years.

Barton once again had the look of being a very good strong side linebacker. That’s important because Mychal Kendricks has a torn ACL and his contract is up at the end of the season. Barton appears to be set as next year’s starter.

• We all know Jamarco Jones struggled when filling in for Duane Brown at left tackle, but he looked pretty good filling in for Mike Iupati at guard Sunday with George Fant at left tackle.

Jones could end up getting one of the starting guard spots next year, and with Germain Ifedi in the final year of his contract, the Seahawks may opt to sign Fant to a long-term deal and let Ifedi walk unless he can come back at a decent price.

• For several years, Rodgers and Tom Brady have battled it out each year to be rated the top two quarterbacks in the league. For years, in my ratings I’ve usually had Russell Wilson and Drew Brees battling for No. 5 and No. 6.

Sunday’s game could create an interesting transition. The AFC now has Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson as the top new quarterbacks. If Wilson can beat Rodgers on Sunday, it could be argued that he has passed Rodgers as the top quarterback in the NFC.

If he does win, he’s still pretty close.

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