Playoffs are great, but Seahawks focus is on NFC West title

RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Meanwhile, the playoffs seem like it should only happen for Pete Carroll's crew.
Nine playoff trips in eleven seasons can generate these expectations.
But the Seattle Seahawks haven't won an NFC West title since 2016. You haven't hosted a playoff game since beating Detroit on a Saturday night in January 2017.
While Seattle's 20:15 win over Washington on Sunday was important to recapturing the Seahawks place in the postseason, what happened thousands of miles away in Los Angeles was even more important.
When the New York Jets stunned the Rams on Sunday, Seattle set the stage to claim the NFC West title this week by beating Los Angeles.
"That was a really big weekend for us," said Seattle coach Pete Carroll on Monday. '' Really happy with the game we put together and the way the whole approach worked well. We got the win we were looking for and we got a little bit of help too, the Jets who got their game. It all adds up and this weekend is a really big opportunity. ''
Another playoff appearance for the Seahawks just continues an unprecedented success in franchise history. Before Carroll arrived in 2010, Seattle made a total of 10 playoff appearances, six of them during Mike Holmgren's tenure.
But Seattle wants the division's title to match that this time around.
"It's pretty cool to win it, but there's a big game coming up next week man and I'll tell you what, I'm looking forward to it," said Jamal Adams, Seattle Security.
WHAT WORKS
Seattle suddenly has a stable of highly talented running backs. Chris Carson is healthy again. So did Carlos Hyde, reinforced by his 50-yard touchdown run on Sunday. And the Seahawks added back Rashaad Penny from the 2018 first round with his two transfers against Washington.
Given that injuries made the Seahawks so thin a year ago that they had to bring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, it's a far better position for Seattle towards the postseason.
WHAT NEEDS HELP?
At the start of the season, Seattle had a big problem closing games after building a huge lead.
It's still a problem after almost a 20-3 lead evaporated on Sunday. Seattle needed a few late sacks from L. J. Collier and Carlos Dunlap to get Washington down for good.
While the defense was regularly to blame at the start of the season, this time it was on Seattle's offensive. After Hyde's TD run in first possession of the second half, the Seahawks went three and three on three of their last four possessions and threw off on the one run on which they scored a first relegation.
INCREASE
D.J. Reed was tossed aside by San Francisco last season because the 49ers believed he couldn't contribute that season due to an injury. It has proven to be one of the best off-season acquisitions by Seattle-based GM John Schneider. Seattle gave Reed time to recover, and since joining the active roster in Week 8, he's made a massive contribution to improving the Seahawks' defense.
Reed had his second interception of the season against Washington in his third straight start on Sunday. Given the injuries that temporarily slowed Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, and Quinton Dunbar, Reed was invaluable.
STORAGE
Dunbar and Flowers may have a very hard time getting key roles back because Reed played so well. Dunbar was held back by a knee injury that Carroll said needs treatment in the off-season but should be healthier when he returns. Flowers was slowed down by a thigh injury. Both Dunbar and Flowers played well, but also had moments of great struggle early in the season.
INJURIES
Again, the Seahawks seem to be getting healthier as the postseason approaches. Tight end Greg Olsen is likely to come out of his injured reserve this week. The right tackle Brandon Shell (ankle) could also return. Carroll also said there is a chance that WR Josh Gordon could play this week now that he is eligible.
The only significant injury that resulted from Sunday's win was rookie RB DeeJay Dallas, who sprained an ankle.
Key number
2 - Since the start of the 2010 season, the Seahawks and Green Bay have become the only NFC teams to qualify for the playoffs in nine of the last eleven seasons.
WHAT'S NEXT
Seattle will have the chance to finish NFC West and win a division title with a win over the Rams for the first time since 2016. Surprisingly, Week 16 has been a problem for Seattle in the past, which has only been 4-6 for the last 10 seasons under Carroll.
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