The same parity-driven league that gave the Seattle Seahawks their hellacious 2014 schedule befitting Super Bowl champions is now giving them the only postseason chance they have left.
Seattle (6-4) has already lost more games than it did all last season while winning it all. The Seahawks are three games behind the Arizona Cardinals (9-1) in the NFC West with six weeks remaining in the regular season.
The way the NFL scheduled Seattle’s final six games is suddenly a blessing. It will either propel the Seahawks into the playoffs or plummet them out of the race depending on whether they improve their play.
Two of those remaining games are against the soaring Cardinals, the first one Sunday at 1:05 p.m. inside CenturyLink Field.
Seattle also plays division-rival San Francisco (6-4) twice and is at Philadelphia (7-3) in December. The final regular-season game is Dec. 28 against St. Louis.
That’s five games inside the NFC West for the Seahawks’ last, increasingly desperate push.
“You like to finish in the division. I think the league set it up that way,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We have a chance to still impact the division with some great teams coming up.”
Really great. The combined record of the Seahawks’ remaining foes: 41-19. The only opponent with a losing record is St. Louis (4-6) — and the Rams already have beaten the Seahawks, last month in St. Louis.
The combined records of Arizona’s remaining opponents is 27-23. Those for San Francisco, Dallas and Green Bay are 30-30. The 49ers, Cowboys and Packers are directly in front of the Seahawks in the NFC playoff race, with Green Bay and Dallas currently holding the two wild-card spots.
So, no, it’s not the most optimal road for Seattle to get back to the postseason to defend its Super Bowl title. But coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are looking at this the only productive way they can: They are embracing it as a huge opportunity to leapfrog the playoff race.
“I’m really excited about the way this thing sets up. I think most of the people should be, with all of the drama still out there about the division,” Carroll said. “I don’t know if everybody’s schedule worked out this way, but we’re as loaded as you can get down the stretch. And it’ll be exciting for everyone.”
On Tuesday, Carroll and the Seahawks took what they hope are two steps toward fixing gaping holes in their chances.
They saw enough Sunday in Kansas City, when the Chiefs steamrolled them for 190 yards rushing and the Hawks went nowhere on offense after center Max Unger got hurt. Less than 48 hours later they brought back Lemuel Jeanpierre, Unger’s backup the previous three seasons, from a September injury settlement to replace Unger. They also signed 304-pound Travian Robertson off the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad onto the active roster, to try to help fill the huge void of Brandon Mebane being injured at nose tackle.
Robertson hasn’t played this season but played in 12 games over the previous two years for Atlanta. He will go into the spot where Mebane was starring until he tore his hamstring two games ago.
In their first game without Mebane stuffing blocks over the center, the Seahawks’ top-ranked run defense was overpowered by Kansas City. ESPN.com’s Terry Blount found 118 of the Chiefs’ 190 yards rushing came between the tackles, right at fill-in nose tackles Kevin Williams and Jordan Hill — right through where Mebane had been putting up brick walls.
“We have been so steady with Brandon for so long that that allowed other guys to play in their spots,” Carroll said. “We needed to fit the whole running game better than we did, but you can’t not miss a guy like that. He’s just that special of a player.”
Seattle intends for Robertson to help prevent that from happening again, though Arizona is not Kansas City. The Chiefs are fourth in league in rushing at 141.9 yards per game. The Cardinals have averaged just over half that, 79.8 yards per game. Arizona is tied for 30th in the league in rushing offense.
Of the Seahawks’ other remaining opponents, San Francisco is seventh in the NFL in rushing (124.8 yards per game), Philadelphia is 14th and St. Louis is 20th. So that, plus Robertson’s arrival and the possible return this week of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner from a turf-toe injury that’s sidelines him for five games, could and should help.
But Robertson can’t expected to be a run-stopping savior. He hasn’t played in a game this season. He played in 12 games over the previous two seasons for Atlanta.
All-Pro safety Earl Thomas had a season-high 11 tackles against the Chiefs last weekend, 10 of those solo as linebackers missed tackles on running plays and got blocked more than they had all season with Mebane out.
Thomas remains confident the Seahawks can rally back into the postseason over these next six weeks.
“We are a great team, I don’t care what anybody says,” he said. “It’s come down to the last drive every game that we’ve lost.
“It’s football, man. Everyone is trying to put this weird spell on why this is happening or why this is not happening. It’s the way the ball works. It’s human nature out there. People don’t understand.
“All we can do is keep fightin’.”