Being two games behind the Arizona Cardinals three weeks into the regular season puts the Seattle Seahawks way ahead of schedule.
Seahawks fans hardly have had time to start the Carson Palmer Ligament Watch yet.
Fans will be tempted to fret with the Seahawks at 1-2 and Arizona 3-0, giving the Cardinals an early cushion on the NFC West Division standings.
But fresh in most fans’ memories should be last year’s six-game win streak to finish the season while the Cardinals slipped from 9-1 to 11-5 — with two losses compliments of the rallying Seahawks.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Seattle trailed Arizona by three games as late as Nov. 23 last season when the Cardinals visited CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks won that game and tacked on another in the desert in January to repeat as division champs.
So, as coaches like to say, nothing is won or lost in September.
However, if the games were so meaningless, the coaches wouldn’t draw paychecks, and fans wouldn’t have to pay full price for tickets.
So we’re going to go ahead and evaluate the conference and division as the calendar flips to October.
A couple early impressions are fair. For one, there aren’t many really good teams in the conference. Six NFC teams are 3-0 or 2-1, while 10 are 1-2 or winless.
How much do the records mean, anyway? The three teams the Cardinals have beaten are a combined 1-8, while the Seahawks’ lone win is over winless Chicago, the worst team in the NFL.
Of those six teams with early winning records, the Hawks lost to the best of them, Green Bay (3-0), in a defeat that could be a lingering obstacle.
Of the other winning teams at this point, though, the Hawks play all of them — with the chance to gain ground in head-to-head matches — except 3-0 Atlanta.
Carolina (3-0) comes to CenturyLink, and the Hawks have to travel to Dallas (2-1) and Minnesota (2-1). They also face Arizona home and away, in Seattle on Nov. 15 and at Arizona on Jan. 3.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked about the early division results and he graciously avoided mocking the question for its prematurity.
“Obviously, the Cardinals are running right now,” Carroll said. “We watched their film (of their 48-23 win over Chicago), and they didn’t just do it all on offense. … They’ve done all kids of good stuff already. (They’re) really kind of like they were last year. They’re off to a great start.”
The fulcrum of Arizona’s rise and fall last season was the torn ACL of quarterback Palmer. The Cards won all six of the games he started, but ended up relying on backups Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley the rest of the way.
Finishing with 11 wins and a wild card berth under those conditions was an honorable accomplishment, particularly when considering the Cards finished ranked 24th in both offense and defense.
But with Palmer ambulatory and acclimated to coach Bruce Arians’ offense, the Cardinals have scored a league-high 126 points in three 2015 games while holding opponents to 49 for a showy differential of plus-77 points.
Palmer’s passer rating is fourth-best in the league (117.8) with nine touchdown passes against two interceptions.
Against San Francisco, the Cardinals’ defense stung quarterback Colin Kaepernick with two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The four total picks of Kaepernick give the Cards the league lead with seven interceptions.
The schedule seems to favor another strong Seahawks’ second half, though, as they enjoy three consecutive home games in November.
And December features games against the Ravens (0-3), Browns (1-2) and Rams (1-2). They already lost on the road to the Rams, but that’s still a stretch of games that could facilitate a streak toward the final regular-season game at Arizona.
The Seahawks are as vulnerable as all the other teams to the effects of injuries. But with some blessings of good health and production reaching their potential, the Seahawks easily can be back to the top of the division.
To overcome that loss to Green Bay and dislodge the favorite to claim the conference’s No. 1 seed, though, they’re going to need some help.
Otherwise, October isn’t too early to start shopping for a warm parka for a mid-winter trip back to Wisconsin.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440