By Mike Gastineau

There will be an unwanted guest lurking around Century Link Field this Sunday afternoon. From Utah Avenue to the North Lot to the Alaska Airlines Hometown Hangar, as boisterous Seahawks fans fortify themselves against the elements before Sunday night’s tilt with the league-leading Eagles, they’ll have to make room for a troublesome fella making his first appearance at a Seattle game in many years.


For some fans, an afternoon imbibing with friends and bellowing “HAWKS” every time someone yells “SEA!” will be enough to momentarily push doubt out of their mind. But like a child who won’t stop whining until he gets what he wants, doubt will keep returning, louder and more obnoxious.

Savvy fans may have sensed doubt’s presence two weeks ago against Atlanta. But it was easier to push out of the way that night. The Falcons were one point favorites but they had lost four of their previous six games. They didn’t look like an overwhelming obstacle and the Hawks played them tough and would’ve/should’ve won had they not had so many self-inflicted wounds.

This week, doubt won’t be so easy to push out of the way. Don’t let last week’s win at San Francisco fool you. The 49ers have been in disarray for so long they can’t remember what array looks like. It’s the NFL, so a win is a win, but the Eagles present a much more formidable challenge than the Niners. Look to our friends in Las Vegas if you doubt that.

Seattle enters the game as a five-point underdog. That’s their largest such margin for a home game since Veteran’s Day in 2011 when they were seven-point dogs against Baltimore.

That team was much different than this one. The 2011 Hawks entered the Baltimore game having lost three in a row and the Ravens were 6 and 2 and on their way to a playoff season. A touchdown spread against the home team is rare in the NFL but in this case, seven felt like the right number.

The Seahawks team that enters Sunday’s game against the Eagles is better than that 2011 team but so is their opponent. Philadelphia is the consensus choice for best team in the league right now and behind second-year quarterback Carson Wentz they’ve roared through the first 12 weeks of the year with only a road loss at Kansas City.

They’ve won their last three games by 28 points apiece and have pulverized their opponents with a rushing attack that gains over twice as much per game as their defense gives up.

Factor in the Seahawks recent struggles at home and this game really starts to look like a mismatch. In back-to-back close losses in their last two home games the Hawks amassed 25 penalties, had four turnovers, and missed four field goals.

So, again, the Vegas guys seem to have things about right. And given how the Hawks have played, given how banged up they are, and given how good Philly has been, the number could have been higher.

So pardon any Seahawks fan who enters the stadium with a little doubt on Sunday night. For the first time in a long time, it feels like the home team might be set up to take a pretty big beat down.

That might end up being the fun part of this entire exercise.

Sure, on paper, Philly looks much the better team. And at 11 and 1 you could argue they’ve proven they deserve the accolades they’re receiving. But, can they win a night game on the road in one of the most hostile environments in football? This game has the feel of an aging champ preparing to use wisdom to try and slay a cocky new challenger. And before we get too far down that path it’s worthwhile to note that the Hawks still have playoff aspirations of their own. They face a tough slate in December but this is hardly a case of a team just playing for pride. It seems a bit far-fetched but the Hawks could still win 12 games this season.

It is also worth remembering that with a couple fewer mistakes and a little better execution versus Washington and Atlanta, Seattle would come in Sunday night with a 9 and 2 record and we’d be hearing a lot of talk about this being the game of the year in the NFL.

But, what’s done is done. You can’t live in the past even though we’ll return there briefly to wrap things up. In that 2011 game where they came in as touchdown underdogs, the Seahawks rode a steady if unspectacular performance from Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback along with five Stephen Hauschka field goals to a 22 to 17 win.

The Eagles may be favored, but a Seahawks win shouldn’t shock anyone. Even if you do doubt it will happen.


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