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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

New era in NFC West: Seahawks looking up at Rams

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) breaks a tackle by Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Terence Garvin, left, in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Seattle. Gurley scored three touchdowns in the Rams’ 42-7 win. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) breaks a tackle by Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Terence Garvin, left, in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Seattle. Gurley scored three touchdowns in the Rams’ 42-7 win. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Asked similar versions of the same question this week — did they think there was anything to learn from the Rams’ 42-7 win over the Seahawks in Seattle last December? — Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner delivered similar answers.

“That was last year,’’ Wilson said. ”That was 2017. I think it’s a new year and we’re looking forward to the opportunity of playing a great football team.’’

Said Wagner: “They beat us. That was 2017. It’s 2018.’’

They said that as if it was a good thing.

And sure, 42-7 isn’t likely to be easily replicated, as Wagner confidently predicted.

“You’re not going to do it again,’’ Wagner said. “That’s kind of my mindset.’’

But the general perception is that 10 months after a game in which the balance of power in the NFC West emphatically swung from Seattle to Los Angeles the gap between the two teams has only grown.

Evidence of that arrived in the point spread for Sunday’s 1:25 p.m. kickoff at CenturyLink Field, with the Rams installed as 7.5-point favorites (a line that stayed firm throughout the week).

It’s the biggest spread against the Seahawks in a home game since the 2010 divisional playoff against the Saints. So maybe that’s a good omen — a certain Marshawn Lynch run you may remember keyed a 41-36 Seattle win.

The Seahawks were 10-point underdogs for that game. The following year they were a six-point underdog in a home game against Atlanta.

Since then, they haven’t been a home underdog of more than 3.5 points until Sunday.

And in the Russell Wilson era, Seattle has been a home underdog just five times — three coming in the first three games of his rookie season in 2012 against Dallas (three-point underdog), Green Bay (three) and New England (3.5).

Seattle won all three games in kickstarting the most successful era of football in Seahawks history, and the point spreads that followed reflected that success — the Seahawks were a favorite in 42 straight home games from the win over New England in 2012 (the “you mad bro?’’ game) until last Dec. 3, when Seattle was a 3.5-point underdog against the Eagles.

Seattle won that game, too, making them 4-0 in home games to that point when an underdog in the Wilson era (and at that point, 34-8 in games at home when favored).

But two weeks later, Seattle was again a home underdog — by a lone point — against the Rams. Los Angeles’ resulting 35-point win not only seemed a seismic power shift in the NFC but also dealt a blow to Seattle’s relative invincibility at home — Seattle’s eight previous home losses since 2012 had come by a combined 40 points.

Now, in its second home game of the season, Seattle is again an underdog — and for the third time in four home games dating to last season.

And any objective view of the numbers back up Seattle being as big of an underdog as at any time in the Russell Wilson era (the only other times Seattle this big of an underdog for any game since Wilson became QB in 2012 were at San Francisco in 2012, a 13-6 loss, and at New England in 2016, a 31-24 win)

The Rams — who are 4-0 and can take what would seem an insurmountable three-game lead in the division with a win Sunday — are on pace to set an NFL record for yards in a season, averaging 468.5, and are second in the league in points scored (35.0 per game) and passing yards (343.3).

Some of their defensive numbers seem more pedestrian, but only by comparison — a unit bolstered in the offseason by the additions of the likes of free agent lineman Ndamukong Suh (who was heavily pursued by Seattle before taking an offer the Seahawks couldn’t come close to matching with the Rams) and former Husky cornerback Marcus Peters (expected to play Sunday despite a calf strain) ranks fifth in points allowed (16.8) and ninth in yards allowed (333.5).

As every coach and player will remind you, the games aren’t played on paper.

“Who cares,’’ Wagner said this week of Seattle’s underdog status. “I mean, it doesn’t matter. As long as the group in here believes that we can win, it’s fine. It don’t matter — we’ll just upset people like we usually do.”

The reality is, though, Seattle hasn’t really had to do all that much upsetting the past few years – the Seahawks were an underdog of any kind in only 14 of 80 regular-season games from 2013-2017, going 6-7-1 straight-up.

But Sunday will be the third time already this season Seattle has been an underdog, losing the two previous occasions at Denver and Chicago.

So if for years — as Wagner’s comment indicates — Seattle thrived on quieting the doubters and shutting up the naysayers, even when there really may not have been all that many, the Seahawks can now legitimately claim that the odds are against them.

Now to try to prove that the perception isn’t reality.

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