RENTON — If only the Seahawks played defense on the field as consistently well as their coach, Pete Carroll, did this week against the idea that Monday’s game against the 49ers is more meaningful than any other.
On paper, Seattle’s game against the undefeated 49ers at Levi’s Stadium is as appetizing as any in recent “Monday Night Football” history.
To cite one stat, the winning percentage of the two teams (the 49ers are 8-0, Seattle is 7-2, for a combined 88.2%) is the third best in any game in MNF history played in week 10 or later.
It’s also the first time in any game since 2013 that two divisional opponents have played in week 10 and each has two losses or fewer (the last time it happened was 8-1 Denver vs. 9-0 Kansas City in 2013).
There are also the obvious stakes of the game, especially for Seattle.
If the Seahawks win, then they are right smack in the race for the NFC West, especially with the knowledge that the 49ers have to return to Seattle for the regular-season finale Dec. 29.
A Seattle victory also strikes something of a psychological blow at a San Francisco team that is off to one of the best starts in NFL history but is also just months removed from having finished 4-12.
But if the Seahawks lose, their odds of even making the playoffs take a major hit, especially considering the road that is ahead. Monday’s game begins a streak of four of five on the road, all against teams that entered the weekend with winning records and playoff hopes of their own.
ESPN’s playoff leverage calculator assessed that no team in the NFC had more riding on its game heading into this weekend than the Seahawks — a difference of 26% in terms of Seattle’s playoff odds with a win or a loss.
The New York Times’ playoff simulator sees it similarly, giving Seattle an 81% chance of making the playoffs with a win Monday and 53% with a loss (though losses by the Rams and Panthers on Sunday helped).
But Carroll has long lived by the mantra that they all count the same, one that his players — whether they believe it or not — tend to publicly parrot.
“Every game is like that,’’ Carroll responded when asked this week about a win potentially setting up the Seahawks well for the stretch run. “Which game is the one that you needed to get when you look back?’’
Indeed, who knew that the season opener in 2013 at Carolina would prove to be the key to it all?
But if nothing else, what this game could mean for the division and getting home field in the playoffs is significant. Consider that the NY Times calculator gives the 49ers a 94% chance of winning the division.
“Every game is extraordinarily important,’’ Carroll said. “Of course, the obvious is that we’re in the same division, so it’s a big deal in that regard.’’
It also feels big simply for establishing just who the Seahawks really are — legitimate contenders, as their record suggests, or suspect pretenders carried to some unlikely wins largely on the shoulders of a quarterback playing at a MVP level, as many of their stats hint?
The defense has been the primary culprit, Seattle allowing 25.6 points per game, more than all but 10 other teams.
Veterans Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, the only two defensive players left from the Super Bowl teams, each essentially called out the defense this week, saying the discipline and trust in each other and the system need to be better.
“I feel like we have that capability, we have that in us,’’ Wagner said. “We just have to do it consistently.’’
Monday would be an ideal time to start doing that against a 49ers offense averaging 29.3 points per game, third most in the NFL.
Seattle isn’t far behind at 27.6 per game but now faces a San Francisco defense that is first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (241 per game) and second in points (12.8 per game).
But like the Seahawks, the 49ers have largely feasted on losing teams — each, in fact, is 6-0 against teams that entered the weekend at .500 or below.
Wagner this week said he could tell the 49ers were building something, citing the addition last year of former Seahawk Richard Sherman and a line that features a slew of high picks, including rookie end Nick Bosa, the No. 2 overall selection in 2019 who has seven sacks so far.
“You knew that if they were able to put it together it was going to be something special, and they’ve been able to do it so far,’’ Wagner said.
But as Wagner then noted, the 49ers haven’t faced any quarterback yet playing as well as Wilson.
“We’ll see how they fare against Russ,’’ Wagner said.
Indeed, the eyes of an NFL nation that began the year skeptical of the 49ers will tune in eager to see if San Francisco is really ready to be crowned as the team to beat in the NFC, as will a Levi’s Stadium crowd that figures to be as raucous as it has for any game since the 49ers moved to Santa Clara in 2014, ready to again fall fully in love with their team.
Just one of 16, maybe, but one that somehow figures to count for a little bit more.