SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks, idle this weekend, are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Now comes the hard part.
The Seahawks, with designs on their first division title since 2016, begin their march through the NFC West on Oct. 25 against the upstart Arizona Cardinals.
That kicks off a stretch of four games in five weeks against divisional rivals, with a trip to Buffalo to play the 4-1 Bills sandwiched in there in Week 9.
Those next five opponents enter Sunday’s games with a combined record of 13-7. Seattle’s first five opponents’ combined record stands at 6-13.
So, yeah, the schedule is taking a dramatic turn for the Seahawks, who certainly know a thing or two about dramatic turns. The latest example came in Sunday’s last-second, 27-26 victory against Minnesota, and coach Pete Carroll said those kind of hard-fought games will benefit his team the rest of the season.
“The experience that these guys have, it just fortifies why they believe,” he said. “It just adds on, adds on, adds on to why they should keep hanging and fighting tough and outlast the people that you’re playing. Because when you finish you’ve got outlast the other guys, and that’s what our guys understand — they know it, and they’re developing a discipline based on the experience and the confidence they’re getting, because that’s all we’ve been doing for five weeks now.
“And it’s just going to make us that much stronger facing whatever the odds are (and) the issues are coming down the road.”
The NFL’s new playoff format — which expanded this season to include seven teams from each conference — means the No. 1 seed is more important than ever. Only one team from each conference will earn a first-round bye and guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
As many expected, the NFC West has emerged as arguably the NFL’s toughest division — with the Seahawks (5-0), Rams (4-1), Cardinals (3-2) and 49ers (2-3) combining for a 14-6 record. The AFC North teams have a 13-5-1 record.
During the past five years, the NFC West champion has averaged 12 wins. San Francisco won the division last season at 13-3.
FiveThirtyEight.com projects the Seahawks to finish 12-4, tied with Green Bay for the best record in the NFC, and gives Seattle a 64 percent chance to win the division and a 35 percent chance to earn the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
The Seahawks are expected to win 10 of their final 11 games, according to FiveThirtyEight projections. The one game in which they currently are an underdog is Nov. 15 at the Los Angeles Rams.
That’s a game that figures to play a significant role how the division shakes out.
Overall, the Seahawks have the easiest remaining schedule of any of the NFC West teams, based on remaining opponents’ winning percentage (.445).
They have three games to play against the hapless NFC East — the Eagles, Giants and Washington are a combined 2-12 — plus a Week 14 game against the New York Jets (0-5), the league’s most dysfunctional team.
The Rams and 49ers play a key divisional game Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif., and the Rams still have out-of-division games against Chicago, Tampa Bay and New England.
Arizona’s toughest out-of-division games are at Dallas (Monday night), Buffalo and New England.
San Francisco has the NFL’s toughest remaining schedule, with remaining opponents’ posting a .698 winning percentage through Week 5.