The Seahawks’ 2020 regular-season schedule breaks down nicely into thirds.
There were the first five games of the season before they had their bye, which — while more dramatic and injury laden than the team would have liked — ended in the best possible record at 5-0.
Then there is the next stretch of five games, beginning Sunday night at Arizona and concluding with a Thursday night home game on Nov. 19 against Arizona.
The Seahawks have a “mini-bye’’ — an 11-day break before a Nov. 30 game at Philadelphia. The Eagles game starts a season-ending stretch of six more games.
The Seahawks, of course, hope there will be a “fourth third,’’ if you will — an extended playoff run they hope will begin with another bye.
Whether the Seahawks can get that bye may be determined by the stretch that begins Sunday. Remember: Only the top team in each conference this year gets a bye the first week of the playoffs.
As has been a storyline all week, the Seahawks’ game against Arizona is their first this season against an NFC West rival. The NFC West has proven the preseason talk that it could be the best in the NFL is true, as it is the only division in which each team has a record of .500 or better, a combined 20-5.
The Seahawks will play their division rivals as least once during across 25 days, a stretch that always loomed as the toughest in the Seahawks’ season and looks no easier now.
After Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, who have a somewhat surprising 4-2 record, comes a home game against 3-3 San Francisco (overlook them based on some of their struggles at your own risk), a trip to 4-2 Buffalo (rugged, no matter how erratic the Bills have looked), a trip to Los Angeles to play the 4-2 Rams and back home to play Arizona. Those teams are a combined 15-9, all with three or more wins.
In starting out 5-0, the Seahawks have beaten just one team with a .500 record — Miami, at 3-3 — with two wins coming against 1-5 teams (Atlanta and Minnesota), the others against two-win Dallas and New England squads.
As an aside, who would have imagined a Miami team that just decided to bench its starting quarterback to go with a rookie would so far rank as the best win of the Seahawks’ season?
The final stretch of the Seahawks’ season could hardly be more divergent from what they are embarking on Sunday.
The trip to Philly starts off a quartet of games against teams that are currently a combined 3-20-1 — the Giants, Jets (both at home) and Washington following the Eagles — before the season ends with a home game against the Rams and at the 49ers.
Of course, everyone in the NFC West gets the benefit of playing the NFC and AFC East this year — two divisions that, at the moment, feature only one team with a winning record in Buffalo — one reason the division figures to look strong all season.
The NFC West is a combined 12-3 against both East divisions so far, including the Seahawks’ 3-0 record.
But that only heightens the importance of the division games.
While Green Bay (4-1), Tampa Bay (4-2) and Chicago (5-1) also loom as legit threats for the top seed, the first step to getting that top seed is to win the West.
Do things right and the Seahawks could all but put the division away by the end of this next third of season, then use that last stretch of the year to create separation from the rest of the conference. Consider that Green Bay and Chicago play each other twice starting Nov. 29, while Tampa Bay has to play the Rams and Kansas City the final two weeks of November.
So yes, win the West, and the rest of the NFC may well come with it.
For the Seahawks, the next 25 days figure to tell how hard of a task that will be.
- The Seahawks on Saturday downgraded guard Mike Iupati to out for Sunday’s game with a back injury. Jordan Simmons figures to make his second straight start at left guard in his place. Simmons played all 54 snaps against Minnesota two weeks ago.
- The Seahawks also elevated linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong off the practice squad. The eight-year veteran figures to see action on special teams.