It’s December: time to get healthy

“We’re in pretty good shape. We’re hoping to keep on this edge on staying healthy. It will really make a difference for us.” – Pete Carroll

December is here, and there is one thing the Seahawks need to do above all else: Get and stay healthy.

December has been a bad month for the Seahawks since 2016. They just have not been able to stay healthy, and it has cost them playoff position and wins. In 2017, when the Legion of Boom blew up, they missed the playoffs entirely.

We said it before this season started: Health will be a key factor in whether they win in December and advance far in the playoffs. Carroll knows that’s the key, as he told 710 ESPN on Friday.

In the early Russell Wilson/LOB years, with a talented young roster, the Hawks were healthy in December – and it showed. They went 16-3 in December (sometimes January) from 2012 to 2015. They also went 7-3 in the postseason over that time.

Over the past four years, though, injuries have often messed up their push for high playoff seeds. They have gone just 11-9 in December/January since 2016 and are 2-3 in the postseason. Momentum is built on healthy legs, and the Hawks have not had enough of them to power through December and January.

In 2016, they went 3-2 as Wilson played injured all year and Tyler Lockett and Earl Thomas were lost for the season before the playoffs. Thanks to a home loss to Arizona, they missed out on the No. 2 seed by half a game and ended up having to go to Atlanta after beating Detroit in the first round; the Falcons blew them out, 36-20.

In 2017, the Hawks missed the playoffs after a 2-3 December in which they played without Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and Chris Carson. Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner played injured all season, too, and Wilson played terribly in December (Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable were fired after that).

In 2018, the Hawks managed to go 4-1 in December even though the offensive line was banged up and Thomas was out again. It helped them rally from a 4-5 start. They should have easily advanced to the divisional round, but coaching cost them the Dallas playoff game (they stubbornly stuck with the run behind injured guards rather than let Wilson pick apart a suspect Dallas secondary).

Last December, the offense was a M*A*S*H unit. Justin Britt, Carson and Rashaad Penny were lost for the season and Duane Brown and Mike Iupati fought injuries in the final month and playoffs. The defense also played without Quandre Diggs, Jadeveon Clowney and Mychal Kendricks at various points. The Hawks lost three of the final four and the division. They managed to beat the equally battered Eagles in the wild-card round and then predictably lost in Green Bay without some of those key players.

The Hawks have dealt with plenty of injuries already this season. They are fourth in the league in total games missed, per ManGamesLost. They lost both running backs for a month, their starting five offensive linemen have not played together since Week 4, their defensive line has cycled through a bunch of ends, and their starting secondary has not played together since Week 2.

The injury list got lighter during the 11-day mini-bye between Week 11 and Week 12. Quinton Dunbar and Greg Olsen are still on IR, Brandon Shell (ankle) will miss a second game and Carlos Dunlap (foot) could miss this week’s game against the Giants. But Carson, Carlos Hyde, Ethan Pocic, Jamal Adams and Shaquill Griffin are back. So, as Carroll said, they are in “pretty good shape” as the December games begin.

It helps that the Seahawks face three bad teams before finishing with the Rams and 49ers. They should be able to beat the New York teams even without Dunlap, Dunbar and Shell. If those guys are all back within the next couple of weeks and Carson, Adams and the rest stay healthy, the Hawks should make a good run at the NFC bye. They will need to win at least four of the final five to have a shot.

It’s December, and it all comes down to staying healthy.

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