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Assessing the Seattle Seahawks’ Playoff Chances: Fan View
The Seattle Seahawks, left for dead a month and a half ago, have gone on an improbable 5-1 run over the past six weeks and are still alive for the NFL playoffs. How likely is it, though, that we'll see the Seahawks in the postseason again?
What Must Happen
The Seahawks (7-7) have to win out and get some help to make the playoffs. With the NFC West already clinched by the San Francisco 49ers (11-3), the 'Hawks will have to get in as a wild card. They currently sit on the outside looking in, but at least they sit on the top rung of the ladder, thanks to head-to-head tiebreakers against the New York Giants (7-7) and the Chicago Bears (7-7), a better division record than the Arizona Cardinals (7-7), and a better overall record than the Philadelphia Eagles (6-8).
Standing in Seattle's way are the Detroit Lions (9-5) and the Atlanta Falcons (9-5). Seattle lost to Atlanta at home, 30-28, earlier in the season, so Atlanta would win the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning that there is no way for the Seahawks to oust the Falcons from the playoff picture.
The Seahawks and Lions, however, have not played against each other. By NFL rule, the next tiebreaker is the teams' records within the conference. Seattle is currently 6-4 within the NFC, while the Lions are 6-5.
This, then, is the way for the Seahawks to get into the playoffs: Seattle must beat the 49ers at home and the Cardinals on the road, while the Lions must lose to the San Diego Chargers at home and to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. It makes no difference what the Giants, Bears, and Eagles do.
In that scenario, both Seattle and Detroit would finish with 9-7 records, and the Seahawks would win the tiebreaker by virtue of an 8-4 record within the conference to the Lions' 6-6 record within the NFC.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, what they have to do in Week 16 is likely to clinch a playoff spot for Detroit in Week 17, no matter what Seattle does against Arizona.
How Likely It Is to Happen
The 49ers clobbered the Seahawks, 33-17, back in the opening week of the season in San Francisco, and while Seattle is currently on a hot streak, the Niners are nothing to sneeze at, either. San Fran has a suffocating defense, allowing the fewest points per game (13.2) and the fifth-fewest yards per game (311.1) in the league. Against the run—Seattle's forte on the legs of Skittles-fueled Marshawn Lynch—the Niners allow the fewest yards per game (71.5) and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
To be quite honest, I don't think the Seahawks' chances are very good against San Francisco, even though the game is at CenturyLink Field. The oddsmakers have the 'Hawks at two- or three-point underdogs in this one, but I'll be surprised if it's that close. San Francisco simply matches up well against Seattle. In addition to the impact of the 12th Man, though, it's somewhat encouraging that the 49ers have lost their last two road games—at the Cardinals and at the Baltimore Ravens.
Detroit has to deal with a Chargers team that has won three in a row and finally seems to be hitting its stride. San Diego's wins against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills were nothing to write home about, but its demolition of the Ravens last week raised some eyebrows. Of some concern is the fact that the Chargers' only road wins this year have been against the lowly Jaguars and against the Denver Broncos—a game in which Tim Tebow only came in after halftime and nearly rallied the Broncos to victory. Detroit is currently a one-point favorite in this one.
So as hard as it may be for those Seahawks fans who remember their AFC West days, we need to become big Chargers fans on Christmas Eve. Both games will be played at the same time.
The Double-Edged Sword
An unfortunate side effect of beating the 49ers, however, will be that San Francisco's loss will clinch home-field advantage for the Packers, regardless of how they fare against the mortally wounded Chicago Bears on Christmas night or against, unfortunately, the Lions in Week 17. The Packers, with no undefeated season on the line and home field advantage already sewn up, would have absolutely no motivation to send Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the starters out there against the Lions in a meaningless game for them.
I think surviving Week 16 is a tall enough order for the Seahawks. Surviving Week 17 with Detroit likely to be playing against the Pack's B-Team will be Mission: Impossible. It could very well be all over for the 'Hawks before they even take the field against the Cardinals. While a 9-7 finish would be nice, especially since Seattle was 2-6 at the midpoint of the season, I'm afraid that I'm not terribly optimistic that it will be enough to send them to the playoffs.
Of course, underestimating the Seahawks is a mistake that the New Orleans Saints made last season, and we all know how that worked out for them. Let's hope that Seattle proves this doubter wrong, too.
The author grew up in Washington State and is a lifelong fan of the Seahawks. He is also a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.
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