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The Seahawks are still feisty and not quite ready to step aside for the Rams in the NFC West

The Seahawks celebrate a touchdown last Sunday at the Meadowlands (Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Opening Thought

The rapid ascent of the Los Angeles Rams has been one of the best stories of this NFL season. Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in modern league history, has come in and immediately made a difference. McVay is turning second-year quarterback Jared Goff into a player worthy of the top overall selection in the NFL draft a year ago. He has transformed the Rams into winners and, at the moment, the leaders in the NFC West.

The Seattle Seahawks are, by comparison, yesterday’s news. They have won the division four times in Coach Pete Carroll’s seven seasons. They went to back-to-back Super Bowls. But it is going on 2-1/2 seasons since the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, which came the year after their Super Bowl triumph over the Denver Broncos, and they have not returned to the NFC title game since.

Time for a passing of the NFC West torch?

Slow down there, say the Seahawks.

“We never concern ourselves with other teams,” cornerback Richard Sherman said after last Sunday’s win over the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. “We concern ourselves with our building and what we do, what we execute. We just played the Rams two weeks ago. So we’ll leave that up to you guys. We just go out and try to win every game that’s in front of us. We don’t worry about other teams or catching up because every year it’s somebody new.

“When I was young, when I was a rookie and second year, it was San Fran. San Fran was the big, bad wolf and Seattle was the up-and-comer. And then the next year, it’s us. And then the next year, you’re saying Arizona is better than us. And now it’s the Rams. It’s always somebody new. So we don’t worry about things like that. We just continue to play our game and do what we’ve got to do.”

The Seahawks still have a chance to be the last team standing in the NFC

The Seahawks’ game, when it is on, remains pretty good. They lead the league in scoring defense and are ranked eighth in total defense. The core players on defense — Sherman, safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, defensive lineman Michael Bennett — are so familiar that the Seahawks’ act might feel old and tired. But it’s not.

This remains a marquee defense, fortified up front by the addition of Sheldon Richardson before the season and this week’s signing of veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney to offset the loss of Cliff Avril, who is on the injured reserve list because of a neck injury that reportedly has him pondering retirement. Since a 33-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans dropped their record to 1-2, the Seahawks have yielded a total of 35 points while winning three straight.

“We didn’t really feel like we needed to rebound,” Sherman said. “That [Tennessee] game was just a few mistakes, three plays that we made mistakes on. … Things like that happen in football. But we just kept staying the course. We are who we think we are. So we just keep playing how we know we can.”

The Seattle defense completely overmatched the Giants last weekend, limiting them to 177 total yards in a 24-7 victory.

“They didn’t let me get involved very much today, obviously,” Sherman said after rarely being tested by Giants quarterback Eli Manning. “I was out there. It was like being part of a great dance group and you’re just a side dancer. … We just played great all-around team football. And that’s what it is. Nobody’s being selfish. Nobody’s trying to be greedy. Guys are playing within the scheme and taking the plays that are there. The times you get kind of beat are times where guys are getting greedy. Guys are getting stat-hungry, trying to hunt for stats. And then you jump out of your gap and you give up a big run. You let your teammates down. That’s what you can appreciate about our guys. They try not to do that. Guys are unselfish. And we appreciate that.”

Turns out the Dolphins aren’t better off without Jay Cutler after all

The Seahawks beat the Rams in L.A. earlier this month before having their bye week and then beating the Giants. If they prevail Sunday at home against the Houston Texans, the Seahawks will tie the Rams, who are 5-2 and idle this weekend on their bye, atop the division.

NFL officials are supposed to eject players for hits like Kiko Alonso’s on Joe Flacco

The issue, as usual, remains whether the offense will be good enough for Seattle to be a Super Bowl contender. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw three second-half touchdown passes against the Giants. But that was only after a frustrating first half by the offense that included wide receiver Doug Baldwin having a heated sideline exchange with offensive line coach Tom Cable (more on that a bit later).

“We’ve got so many young guys,” Baldwin said after the game. “They haven’t really felt what it feels like to be a Seattle Seahawks’ offense yet. We were kind of getting on the verge of that when [now-injured rookie running back] Chris Carson was in there. Unfortunately we lost him. So emotionally that kind of set us back. Finding our rhythm again, finding our identity as an offense takes time, again, with the young guys. But we’ll get there. I think we’re on the verge, for sure.”

The Seahawks are ranked 13th in the league in total offense, 14th in scoring offense and, most troubling to them, 18th in rushing offense. There is no clear No. 1 running back. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy each had 11 carries last Sunday.

“That’s what our identity is based on,” Baldwin said. “That’s what our whole program of our offense is based on is the run game. We’re going to run the ball down your throat. And then when you come up to try to stop the run, we’re going to be explosive in the passing game behind you. We haven’t been able to do that as effectively as you’d like to. But we’re going to continue to work on that. Again, I think it’s a process and we’re on the verge of it.”

The NFC is wide open. The Philadelphia Eagles are 6-1 and have a league MVP candidate in second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. But they just lost their left tackle, Jason Peters, to a season-ending knee injury. They are not the experienced team that the Seahawks are.

These Seahawks remain a team worth watching very closely. They seem to savor that.

“We’ve had the spotlight for a long time,” Sherman said. “We’ve had the spotlight on us every game, every week. I think a lot of people just look for us to fall and look for us to fail and hope that it comes this game. And they keep watching us hoping that it’s this game or this game or this game. But we’ve had the spotlight on us for a long time. I don’t think the market necessarily matters in our case. I think we’ve turned Seattle into a big-market team. We’ve got a lot of Pro Bowlers, all-pros, a lot of jersey sales. We get a lot of media attention. So I think as small of a market theoretically as it is, we get a lot of attention.”

Around the League

Trade deadline … The trade deadline arrives Tuesday at 4 p.m. The NFL is not the no-trade league that it once was, but the deadline typically delivers very little action. This time around, it will be interesting to see if the Pittsburgh Steelers deal disgruntled wide receiver Martavis Bryant despite their insistence that they won’t accommodate his wishes to be traded. With contenders such as the Seahawks and Eagles in need of help at left tackle, the Texans perhaps could receive a substantial offer or two if they make Duane Brown available after he just ended his holdout.

Baldwin and Cable … Sherman said there was nothing shocking to him about Baldwin’s sideline outburst at Cable. Sherman said he has witnessed such fiery behavior from Baldwin since Baldwin’s freshman season at Stanford.

“You can ask David Shaw about that one day,” Sherman said, “about his freshman year. … He’s been doing it a while. It works out, man. That’s how he plays. You play with everything you’ve got. You play with your heart on your sleeve. Nobody can complain about his effort or his attitude.”

Baldwin said he wasn’t even upset at Cable, although he later apologized to the offensive line coach.

“At that moment, the players needed to realize it’s the players,” Baldwin said. “It’s not the coaches. … Honestly I wasn’t even going at Cable. It was just in that moment, I needed the players to take accountability for what we were doing. … I wish I would have done it differently. … The basic sentiment was, ‘What are we doing? We have all the talent in the world. We have everything we need right here. It’s not the play-calling. It’s not the Xs-and-Os. It’s not the other team. It’s us.’

“All we had to do is settle down and just play our game. We’ve been here before. I’m just trying to instill in the young guys that this is a process. Don’t get too excited. Don’t think that you have to make that block. Just make your block.”

Extra Points

It appears the Eagles will leave Lane Johnson at right tackle rather than move him to left tackle to replace Peters, who was hurt Monday night against the Washington Redskins. It is a tough choice for the Eagles. You want your best tackle on the left side, protecting the blind side of a right-handed quarterback such as Wentz. But Johnson has been playing superbly at right tackle and the Eagles are reluctant to disrupt two positions instead of one. …

If Wentz wins the MVP award in his second NFL season, will the Cleveland Browns consider him a top-20 quarterback prospect yet? …

Someone really needs to get through to Cam Newton. Seriously, it’s time to grow up and act like a mature adult and like a professional on a far more regular basis.

Games to Watch

Cowboys at Redskins … The winner moves into second place in the NFC East. It is, once more, possibly the last game for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott before his six-game suspension potentially is enforced.

Chargers at Patriots … The Chargers enter with a three-game winning streak and a chance to catch the Patriots off guard.

Broncos at Chiefs … The two top teams in the AFC West enter with matching two-game losing streaks. The loser will be in some trouble, particularly if it’s the Broncos.

Games to Miss

Colts at Bengals … The Bengals are back to being irrelevant. The Colts have been there all along.

Should the woes of the Luck-less Colts cost Chuck Pagano his job?

Panthers at Buccaneers … The Panthers have fallen apart and the Buccaneers have not been anything close to the team they hoped and expected to be this season.

Read more from The Post:

The Jaguars — yes, those Jaguars — are a legitimate force in the AFC

The Patriots’ Tom Brady, still evolving at 40, is going deep like never before

Cowboys say release of Damontre Moore was unrelated to his anthem protests

Cam Newton has another problematic moment at a news conference

Colin Kaepernick reportedly gets $1 million book deal

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