The difference between being 3-3 heading into the bye or standing 2-4 might also be the difference in having a legit shot at the playoffs or already kissing the season goodbye.
LONDON — After taking the proverbial step in the right direction last Sunday, the Seahawks followed this week with a leap across the ocean.
The novelty of a trip to London — the Seahawks were one of the last NFL teams asked to make the trek for one of the annual games here in a series that started in 2007 — might obscure the importance of this game for Seattle.
Simply put, it’s a must-win for the Seahawks if they are to make anything of the 2018 season.
Win it and the Seahawks get to 3-3 and can rest during their bye next week — something they asked for following the long trip to London — and watch the carnage that will inevitably hit the rest of the NFC.
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Lose it, and, well, at 2-4 the playoffs become something that would take a Long and Winding Road — did you know that the Beatles are from here? — to find.
The New York Times’ Upshot playoff calculator assesses Seattle’s postseason odds at 37 percent with a win over the Raiders and 21 percent with a loss, one of the biggest swings for any team in Week 6.
As Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said this week, “I’m not trying to go into the bye week at 2-4.’’
Maybe more importantly, a loss to a middling Raiders’ team — who knew trading away one of the best pass rushers in the NFL the week the season began might impact a team’s pass rush? — would show that the progress evident in last Sunday’s 33-31 loss to the Rams was a mirage.
The Rams game elicited some mixed emotions in the Seahawks’ locker room.
A game in which Seattle was the biggest home underdog it had been since Pete Carroll’s first year in 2010 turned into one the Seahawks felt they should have won. And they might have if not for a couple of ill-timed penalties — and at least one of which in Carroll’s eyes, a hold on D.J. Fluker, didn’t need to be called.
Wagner, one of the few veterans left from the Super Bowl teams, shrugged and said “I’m not into moral victories.’’
But in one of the clearest signs yet that era has passed, there were others who, if not accepting of a moral victory, were at least content to see a silver lining.
“We feel like we’re turning a corner,’’ said left tackle Duane Brown, who has been a Seahawk for less than a year. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be in that game going into it. We did. We expected to win. It came down to just a couple of penalties. The last drive that knocked us out of field-goal range, you get us right there and the game is ours.
“You’d love to win that game, but in saying that, we know what we’re capable of. That’s the best that the league has to offer right there with the Rams. We competed our tails off. We have a lot of football left, and we know the direction that we’re headed in, and we know where we can end when it’s all said and done.”
Carroll seemed almost giddy Friday talking about what he sees as the emerging identity of the team, one featuring an offense that has rushed for 158 yards per game the last three weeks — a total the Seahawks topped only once for a single game all of last season.
Against the Rams, the Seahawks were able to hit some of the trademark “explosive plays’’ Carroll loves so much. It also featured a defense that, if not yet as stout as the Legion of Boom days, is willing and able to lower the boom when it can, having forced 11 turnovers, more than all but one other team (you win a free cup of tea if you guessed the NFL leader in that category is the Cleveland Browns).
“We’re getting better, and they can all feel it,’’ Carroll said. “We have set a style in motion a while back that we have kind of felt like we’re starting to capture now, that makes everybody feel kind of in a good way that we’re moving and we’re getting better. We had two off weeks the first two weeks (losses to Denver and Chicago). We didn’t play well. We’ve come back around, feel like we’re finding a little bit and now we need to see if we can keep going.
“It’s really about playing really tough and physical and running the football well and playing good defense. That’s what we’re trying to get done, and we’re aware of that. We were really disappointed that it didn’t contribute to a win last week, but we still could feel the style, so that’s important to us and we’re going to try and make a big push here through the middle of the season, see if we can get going by the halfway point, and like you said, getting back to .500 is really important right now.’’
The schedule hardly gets easier. Seattle has played just two home games and has just one more before Nov. 15. Following the bye, there’s a trip to Detroit, a home game against a Chargers team that has lost only to the Chiefs and Rams, then another trip to L.A. to play the Rams.
But at 3-3, the Seahawks could truly say they are, well, beginning to Come Together. At 2-4 they could probably just Let It Be.