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Seahawks' outlook altered with Walter Thurmond out

4-way-to-go-walter pg 600
Cornerback Walter Thurmond's suspension will make the Seahawks' remaining schedule tougher. (AP)

By Jim Moore

Last year it would have been a shame if the Seahawks' season imploded or was somehow diminished by the absence of Brandon Browner after a performance-enhancing drug violation. As it was, the Seahawks won the four games that he missed with the help of the play of his backups, Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell.

Because of that experience, we thought Seattle could withstand Browner's absence for the next four to five games because of a groin injury. But that matter is now complicated by the news that Walter Thurmond will miss four games because he allegedly violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Maybe they'll be fine without Thurmond, maybe they won't. Either way, the Seahawks shouldn't be in a position to find out.

For everyone who says the Seahawks will withstand the losses of Browner and Thurmond, I'd say I hope they're right, but I'd also point out that Maxwell and Lane are backups for a reason – they're not as good as Browner and Thurmond.

When they're on the field, Seattle's secondary is not at full strength, increasing the possibilities for quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints to beat the Seahawks next Monday night.

Thurmond's suspension is alarming on several levels. As someone who was already in the NFL's substance-abuse program, he knew he was subject to being tested eight times a month. So to continue to do whatever he was doing is like driving 90 mph past a state trooper and hoping he doesn't pull you over. Fate doesn't like to be tempted like that.

He should put more time into career and life decisions than fashion choices on game day. This is also a guy who will be a free agent at the end of the season, and the suspension could impact how much he stands to make. If you're an NFL general manager, how much do you want to spend on a player with a history of drug violations and injuries?

But wait a minute, let me guess, he's a Seahawk so you'll cut him all kinds of slack. Will you still feel that way if Maxwell gets beat over and over again Monday night?

As great as this season has been so far, something like this could play a part in derailing the Seahawks' Super Bowl aspirations.

The Seahawks' five remaining opponents have a combined record of 31-23, which equates to a .574 winning percentage.
Week 13: vs. Saints (9-2)
Week 14: at 49ers (6-4)
Week 15: at Giants (4-7)
Week 16: vs. Cardinals (7-4)
Week 17: vs. Rams (5-6)
If I were to leave Fantasy Island, it's not that crazy to picture a 9-2 Saints team beating the Seahawks. New Orleans is a 6-point underdog, and 6-point underdogs win all the time in the NFL, especially one with a quarterback like Brees facing a depleted secondary that has been scorched at times even with all of its starters.

That would be just one loss, but it would give the Saints the tie-breaker in determining the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Then you'd like to be at full strength for the Dec. 8 game at San Francisco. What if receiver Michael Crabtree returns and has a big day at Maxwell's and Lane's expense?

The Seahawks could easily be 10-3 after that game, and San Francisco might be one game back at 9-4, tightening the NFC West race.

Then you head to New York on Dec. 15 to face the Giants, who might be desperately fighting for a playoff berth.

A few weeks ago, you would have thought two things about the last two games at home against Arizona and St. Louis:

• Those should be wins against a Cardinals team you flattened in Glendale and a Rams team you barely beat in St. Louis, but still, their quarterback is Kellen Clemens.

• The Seahawks might be in a position of already wrapping up the NFC West title and No. 1 seed, allowing them to rest their starters for the playoffs.

But now? Arizona is 7-4 and completely rejuvenated behind Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and a salty defense. The Rams are 5-6 and have blown out the Colts and the Bears the last two weeks. They are the best last-place team in any division and almost beat the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field last year.

Point being, the Seahawks could lose four of their last five games and finish 11-5 just like last year. And just like last year, that would likely mean trying to reach the Super Bowl on the road. Plus, in that scenario, they'd enter the playoffs as a suddenly-cold team and not the force they are now.

I don't think that will happen. I still like to think that they'll finish 14-2 or 13-3 and earn the No. 1 seed, home-field advantage and a first-round bye.

But you know how fine the line is between winning and losing from one week and one season to the next. Look at what happened to Houston. The Texans had the NFL's best record after 11 games last year, and look at them now, 2-9 after losing to Jacksonville Sunday.

You could argue that the Seahawks could just as easily be 7-4 instead of 10-1 given their narrow wins over Carolina, Houston and St. Louis.

The loss of Thurmond shouldn't be a season-wrecker, but it could be the difference between a memorable year and one that might have been.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, jimmoorethego2guy.com, and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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