December was rough, but Hawks are contenders

Logo -- San FranciscoFor a half Sunday night, it looked like the Seahawks’ 11-win season might really be a mirage (as some had argued) and they might just be the lucky version of the 2017 Seahawks — you know, the team that crumbled in December amid defensive injuries and poor offensive play and failed to make the playoffs.

But — in their stymied comeback against the 49ers — erstwhile MVP candidate Russell Wilson, rookie Travis Homer and returning legend Marshawn Lynch gave us renewed hope that Seattle can indeed compete with the NFC’s best as these playoffs get under way.

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Lynch on his return: ‘We got unfinished business’

Logo -- San FranciscoMarshawn Lynch said he is coming back to the Seahawks because he has “unfinished business” and simply wants “to help them go ahead and get the Super Bowl that they should be playing for.”

The 33-year-old knows he is not going to be able to do the things he did for Seattle during their Super Bowl runs in 2013-14. But he also still feels the sting of not winning Super Bowl XLIX and wants to try to rectify that major miss.

“We got history there. We got unfinished business,” he said in a YouTube video posted by Beast Mode Productions on Monday.

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Hawks have made Week 17 rebound before

Logo -- San FranciscoThe Seahawks just got upset by a bad division rival at home and now face a big finale against a playoff-bound division foe. Sound familiar?

The same thing happened in 2015. In Week 16, they lost to the 6-8 Rams (Seattle’s offensive line played poorly in that one, too) and then (missing a bunch of key players) blew out 13-win Arizona 36-6 in the finale.

On Sunday night, the Hawks (11-4) will face the 49ers (12-3) for the NFC West title — and they will do so without Chris Carson and Duane Brown (and previously injured Rashaad Penny, Justin Britt and Will Dissly) and also still might be without defenders Jadeveon Clowney, Quandre Diggs and Shaquill Griffin (though Pete Carroll sounded optimistic about Clowney on Monday).

Marshawn Lynch is returning to replace Carson for a game or two (or however long the Hawks are in the playoffs) — and Lynch certainly could provide a big emotional lift to a downtrodden 11-4 team, even if Travis Homer carries most of the running load.

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More injuries mean Hawks face tough road

logo-arizonaInjuries caught up to the Seahawks in their 27-13 home loss to Arizona, and now we have to hope they don’t cost Seattle a playoff bye — which it could sorely use.

The Hawks, already missing offensive starters Duane Brown, Justin Britt and Will Dissly and backup running back Rashaad Penny, lost Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise against Arizona. That meant an offensive line of Jamarco Jones, Mike Iupati/Ethan Pocic, Joey Hunt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi — and that five was not good enough against Chandler Jones & Co. Jones had four sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble as the Cardinals held the Seahawks to a season-low 224 yards.

Pete Carroll thinks Carson (hip) and Prosise (arm) are out for the season; Brown, who is having knee surgery, could be back after a couple of weeks (adding more importance to getting a bye).

The defense was without Jadeveon Clowney, Quandre Diggs and Shaquill Griffin (and suspended Al Woods), and Bobby Wagner, Ziggy Ansah and Mychal Kendricks all played injured. That led the Hawks to allow 253 rushing yards — the second-most in Carroll’s 10 seasons in Seattle.

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Will top 11 defenders play together again?

Logo -- At CarolinaFor some (many?) people, it strains credulity that the Seahawks are 11-3 and sitting in the No. 1 position in the NFC with two weeks to go.

Those folks think the Hawks simply aren’t good enough to beat New Orleans or Green Bay or San Francisco, citing Seattle’s historically low margin of victory and inability to beat any team handily.

But they did beat the 49ers already — and they did it with the defense Pete Carroll hoped he would have. The big question: Will he ever have it again this season?

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What’s up with the offense? Same as 2013

Logo -- At CarolinaThe Seahawks have built a 10-3 record largely on the strength of the league’s fifth-ranked offense (fourth in DVOA), but we just saw what happens when that unit does not play well enough against a good team and the defense does not get the takeaways.

Outside the win over Minnesota, Russell Wilson and the offense have struggled for the past month. The defense set up the wins over the 49ers and Eagles but then had its usual trouble against the Rams, and the offense scored a season-low six points in a 16-point loss that was Seattle’s third-worst margin of defeat in Wilson’s eight seasons.

The loss brought up the season-old question: Are the Hawks really the contender their record says they are?

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Hawks lose margin for error, but goals still within reach

At Los Angeles logoEverything was set up for the Seahawks to take command of the NFC, but the offense failed to score and a 28-12 loss to the Rams means Seattle probably needs to win its final three to claim the division title.

This game was not imperative for any of the Hawks’ goals, but losing it just means they have little to no room for error to claim the spot they want for the postseason.

The Hawks still can win the NFC West by winning out — at Carolina, vs. Arizona and in a big home finale against San Francisco. A 13-3 record also would net them a bye. And they still could get the No. 1 seed if the Packers are involved in a 13-win tie with Seattle and New Orleans.

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Three more wins should net bye, possibly top seed

Week 14 playoff pictureThe Seahawks are nearly a lock for the playoffs, but they have their sights set on bigger goals — and those might be easier to attain than you think.

The Hawks can clinch a playoff spot Sunday night by beating the Rams, but — believe it or not — that game is not nearly as crucial as it once seemed.

Sure, it would be great for Seattle to run the table against Los Angeles, Carolina, Arizona and San Francisco. But the Hawks probably won’t — and they probably don’t need to.

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Sick and tired, Hawks take control of No. 2 seed

Minnesota logoThe Seahawks are a sickly, battered bunch who still can’t win by more than one score. But they’re also 10-2 and in total control of the No. 2 seed in the NFC — with sights set on No. 1.

The Hawks did it as they usually do — getting behind, then looking like they might pull away, only to win in a nail-biter.

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