The Seattle Seahawks appeared to have a favorable stretch in the schedule, but their most recent game showed that might not be as easy as it seemed.
Being short-handed at wide received likely won't make it any easier.
The Seahawks will be without both Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin on Sunday against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Seattle (7-1) is in the midst of four games against opponents that are all below .500, but it had to fight for a 14-9 win in St. Louis in the opener to that stretch Monday night. The Seahawks stuffed Rams running back Daryl Richardson at the 1-yard line then forced an incomplete pass on the game's final two plays.
Seattle's seven first downs were the fewest in a victory in franchise history, and its 135 yards of offense were the least since gaining 128 in a 27-3 loss to Arizona on Oct. 18, 2009.
"I think championship teams are able to win the ugly games, where things aren't going right, ball isn't going their way, and they are still able to stand up when they need to," cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Russell Wilson was sacked a career-high seven times but managed to throw a pair of touchdowns, including an 80-yarder to Golden Tate in the third quarter. Wilson has been playing in front of an offensive line that's missing tackles Russell Okung (toe) and Breno Giacomini (knee), and Seattle has given up 27 sacks, four more than any other NFC team.
The Seahawks' offense became even more short-handed after Rice suffered a season-ending knee injury Monday. They were hoping Harvin would be able to make his season debut this week, but he is continuing to recover from August hip surgery.
Coach Pete Carroll said the team rested Harvin this week after he became sore after returning to practice a week ago. Harvin went for a follow-up MRI that confirmed there are no complications from the surgery and that he just needed to be dialed back a bit in his recovery.
The loss of the 6-foot-4 Rice means the Seahawks won't have a wide receiver taller than the 6-2 Ricardo Lockette, who was elevated from the practice squad Wednesday to take Rice's spot.
Seattle, however, might not need much help to outduel one of the league's worst offenses.
Tampa Bay's averages of 14.3 points and 297.7 yards rank only ahead of the other winless team in the league, Jacksonville (10.8 and 286.5). With leading rusher Doug Martin out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, the Buccaneers (0-7) were held to a season-low 48 yards on the ground in a 31-13 loss to Carolina on Oct. 24.
Mike James had 39 yards on 10 carries in his first career start. The Buccaneers are also missing guard Carl Nicks and receiver Mike Williams, who will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery.
Even before Williams' injury, coach Greg Schiano was planning on tweaking the offense to help rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.
Glennon has thrown more passes than any player in league history in his first four games (181) but is averaging less than 250 yards. He had career highs of 30 completions, 51 attempts and 275 yards in last week's defeat.
Glennon, though, couldn't get Tampa Bay into the end zone until he connected with Tim Wright on a 10-yard pass with 2:53 remaining.
"When you're 0-7 you look at every single thing, and I'm sure we're going to be stronger for it moving forward," Schiano said. "I think we've put Mike in a bad spot. He's thrown too many passes. ... We shouldn't put him in that spot as coaches. We've re-evaluated that and we're going to try to play a little more balanced."
Tampa Bay will seek to avoid its worst start since losing its first nine games in 1985 by earning a fourth straight victory over Seattle. The Buccaneers won 38-15 at home in the most recent matchup Dec. 26, 2010.
Seattle won seven of the first eight meetings between the teams, who both came into the league in 1976.