John McGrath

Strange new world for Seahawks: Underdogs at home

Fired up for a Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field? Maybe not if the team drops its third-straight home game on Sunday when they host the Philadelphia Eagles.
Fired up for a Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field? Maybe not if the team drops its third-straight home game on Sunday when they host the Philadelphia Eagles. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

The Seattle Seahawks are the latest victims of identity theft. It’s as if their bodies have been snatched, replaced by zombie replicas.

Las Vegas odds-makers installed The Team With The Famous Home Field Advantage as a 6-point underdog Sunday against Philadelphia. The size of the spread is noteworthy because since Russell Wilson took over as quarterback in 2012, the Hawks never have been seen as more than 4-point underdogs at CenturyLink Field.

There are some things around the Puget Sound region we’ve come to accept as inevitable: Orange construction cones on Interstate 5. Delayed departures at Sea-Tac. Jay Buhner blaring “trucks, trucks and more trucks!”

And the Seahawks taking care of business in Seattle, where they are 88-37 – a .704 winning percentage, tops in the conference – since the 2002 relocation to the NFC.

If the Las Vegas betting line turns out to be prescient, it will extend the Hawks’ losing streak at the Clink to three games. The last time Seattle lost three straight at home, their head coach was Mike Holmgren, their primary starting quarterback was Seneca Wallace, and their defense was as soft as the message on a belated-birthday card.

It was 2008, when the only Wilson on the roster was a 5-foot-9 cornerback who answered to the first name of Josh. The Hawks were outscored 392-294, finishing with the kind of record – 4-12 – associated with teams outscored by almost 100 points.

I had forgotten what pushovers the Seahawks once were, but the numbers are documented: They lost six of eight at home. It really happened, just as glass shampoo bottles in the shower really happened and Coca Cola’s remade recipe really happened and leisure suits with bell-bottomed trousers really happened.

It seems like a civilization ago, as does the reality of the Eagles traveling to Seattle as favorites.

A mere 13 months ago, Philadelphia made the same trip to Seattle and lost, 26-15. The score would have been closer had Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor not lined up past the the line of scrimmage, negating Carson Wentz’s 57-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz, but the victory was a no-doubter.

After throwing a touchdown pass to Ertz, Wentz fulfilled every definition of a rookie quarterback. Between the middle of the second quarter and the end of the third, he completed five of 14 passes for 25 yards, and was intercepted twice.

Strong safety Kam Chancellor had one of picks, cornerback Richard Sherman had the other. Connecting some dots here?

The 2016 Hawks were the real-deal Hawks. When the schedule was released, visiting opponents looked at a Seattle road date as the equivalent of three hours of dental surgery.

A year later?

The Eagles opened as 6-point favorites the other day. Enough said.

On the bright side, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks teams have consistently achieved as home underdogs. In September of 2012, the Cowboys were favored by 3 points. (Seattle 27, Dallas 7). The following week found the Packers favored by 3.5 points. (Seattle 14, Green Bay 12.) In October, the Patriots were 4-point favorites. (Seattle 24, New England 23).

It’s not often that Carroll prepares the Seahawks for a game in which they are underdogs, but he clearly relishes the challenge.

“I jumped on this one and got going on them,” he said Monday of the Eagles. “They’re a very, very good football team, all the way across the board, every phase of them. They score like crazy. They have a very aggressive defense. The kicking game is solid. The quarterback is playing phenomenal and they have a host of guys running the ball and big-play receivers, too.

“It’s a really good team. It’s no wonder they are 10-1.”

The wonder concerns the Seahawks and their prolonged reign as the NFC’s most accomplished home team.

If they lose Sunday night, if they drop their third consecutive game at CenturyLink field, it will not be a surprise.

The NFL world turns, typically in a cycle of success and regress, and the Hawks are regressing toward the down side of the cycle.

Underdogs, substantial underdogs, at home.

I am trying to fathom the notion. It’s so 2008.

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