I am using the FAQ format to organize some loose thoughts. This one covers the playoffs. I started this FAQ believing one thing and am surprised what I found.
Do you want the Seahawks to make the playoffs?
Yes and no.
Do you want the Seahawks to win this Sunday?
If the Seahawks made the playoffs, would you root for them to win?
Why do you want the Seahawks to make the playoffs?
Because I always want the Seahawks to win and there is still a chance for this team to improve over the last two weeks of the season.
Why don't you want the Seahawks to make the playoffs?
Because the playoffs are a single elimination tournament designed to pit the best teams in the NFL against each other. Seattle has not earned its way into the playoffs, is extremely unlikely to be competitive in the playoffs and will lose substantial draft value by making the playoffs.
Why do you think Seattle has not earned its way into the playoffs?
I don't have any problem with how the playoffs are populated. Though the NFC West is very weak, it should still have a representative. That a bad team might enter into the playoffs over a more deserving team does not break the system. I also do not give a damn if fans of other NFL teams ridicule the Seahawks and Seahawks fans if Seattle makes the playoffs. Screw them.
What I care about is the spirit of the playoffs. If Seattle is not one of the best teams in the NFL, and if Seattle is making the playoffs mostly because of the failure of other teams in the NFC West, then Seattle did not earn its way in. And, personally, I do not like charity and I do not like achievement through loopholes and technicalities. If I were on the Seahawks, and I knew my team was very bad, and my team was in line to make the playoffs but only because the historical weakness of other teams in my division, I would not want to make the playoffs. It would be hollow, like an award for participation.
Why is Seattle unlikely to be competitive in the playoffs?
The Seahawks rank 29th in point differential. That despite playing one of the easiest schedules in the league. The Seahawks have not been competitive in any of their eight losses. The run defense is collapsing. The Seahawks are a bad team actively getting worse.
People want to compare the Seahawks to other long shots that made good like the 2008 Cardinals, but the 2008 Cardinals would destroy the 2010 Seahawks. Remove a huge blowout loss to the Patriots that was played in a snow storm (and warm weather teams historically have struggled in extreme cold) and the Cardinals would have had a +41 point differential. The 2008 Cardinals were a close to average team, maybe a little better, and the 2008 Cardinals are still a standard bearer for one of the most improbable playoff runs in NFL history.
How much draft value will Seattle lose by making the playoffs?
We can approach this two ways: broad and specific.
For point of clarity, let's say whether the Seahawks make the playoffs or not, Seattle finishes 7-9. The Rams finish 6-10 and the 49ers finish 7-9 and make the playoffs. Seattle can not leapfrog Carolina, Denver, Cincinnati, Arizona, Detroit or Buffalo. The Seahawks are currently slotted at 13 and with Dallas, Houston, Washington, Minnesota, and Cleveland all 5-9, 13 is a pretty good bet for where the Seahawks finish.
So Seattle has a first, a second and no third. The Seahawks have no control over the value of their fourth, but thankfully Denver is tanking so that should be an early fourth round pick. Two fifths, one from Baltimore; one sixth from Detroit, which should also be good; and two sevenths, one from Cleveland.
If we assume the 13-21 dichotomy, making the playoffs only costs Seattle about 10 AVR.
|1st: 35 AVR||1st: 41 AVR|
|2nd: 23 AVR||2nd: 25 AVR|
|5th: 10 AVR||5th: 11 AVR|
|Total: 74||Total: 84|
Not a whole ton of difference there. Ten AVR is like adding another fifth round pick. Much ado about nothing?
Maybe. Let's get into specifics. Seattle really needs a quarterback and typically that means drafting a quarterback in the first round. It doesn't have to. Half of all Super Bowl winning teams in the last 20 years were led by a quarterback that team had drafted in the first round, but there are alternatives like signing Drew Brees, trading for Steve Young and drafting Tom Brady in the sixth. I don't mean that sarcastically so much as a point of fact. If Seattle has an ace up their sleeve to acquire a young franchise quarterback like Vince Young, then more power to them, but I will avoid wishcasting for now.
So, let's assume Seattle needs to target a quarterback in the first round of the draft. Which quarterbacks might be available?
In the mix:
The best case scenario is that Newton, Luck and Mallett declare and Locker and Ponder get first round grades. Luck said before the season that he wants a degree, and after this season and especially in light of Bradford's first overall selection, it is unlikely he would significantly hurt his draft position by returning, and so I assume Luck will not declare. So let's say the pool of quarterbacks is Newton, Locker, Ponder and maybe Devlin and Gabbert, if Devlin really shows up at the Senior Bowl and Gabbert declares. You can swap Gabbert for Mallet if you'd like, but I doubt we see both. It seems unlikely that either Stanzi or Kaapernick sniff a first round grade.
Now, which teams need a quarterback?
1. Carolina (2-12): Maybe
2. Denver (3-11): No.
3. Cincinnati (3-11): Maybe.
4. Arizona (4-10): Yes.
5. Detroit (4-10): No.
6. Buffalo (4-10): Maybe.
7. Dallas (5-9): No.
8. Washington (5-9): Maybe.
9. Houston (5-9): No.
10. Minnesota (5-9): Maybe.
11. Cleveland (5-9): No.
12. St. Louis (6-8) No.
Carolina is impossible to forecast because we do not know who the new head coach will be. Some of this is conditional. If the Bengals drop Palmer, they enter into the race but Palmer is able to fill some other team's needs. Despite the recent rash of scorn for Palmer, he has not played that poorly and on a fairly talent poor offense. If the Redskins drop McNabb, it's the same story: one opening/one position filled. Let's just say half of the maybes draft a quarterback and half don't, and that Donovan McNabb leaves Washington and signs with the Vikings. The Vikings are too old for a rookie quarterback, and Mike Shanahan has publicly alienated McNabb.
Buffalo: Fitzpatrick (cheapskates)
Seattle picks from: Ponder, Devlin or Gabbert.
Conveniently enough, all three roughly fit what Seattle wants in a quarterback.
Now, how about if Seattle falls to 21?
13. St. Louis (6-8) No.
14. Tennessee (6-8) Maybe.
15. New England - from Oakland (7-7) No.
16. Miami (7-7) Maybe.
17. San Diego (8-6) No.
18. Jacksonville (8-6) No.
19. Tampa Bay (8-6) No.
20. Green Bay (8-6) No.
21. Seattle (6-8) Yes!
And wouldn't you know it, it doesn't make much of a difference. If Tennessee does draft a quarterback, Young becomes available. Now this isn't definitive, but it is interesting. I had assumed Seattle making the playoffs would a) cost more in overall draft value, and b) hurt them more in the pursuit of a franchise quarterback, but instead it seems like a) it doesn't impact either that much, because b) much of the damage is already done. Seattle is not likely to get one of the two top quarterbacks, and from there, it has a pretty equal shot of landing an also ran at 13 or 21.
What if more than half of the maybes select a quarterback?
Then Seattle is out of the running either way.
How about trading up?
This complicates matters, of course, and it would be easier to trade up from 13 than 21, but we're far enough out that it would be very hard to anticipate the likelihood of trading up or what it would cost.
Do you want the Seahawks to make the playoffs?
I guess so.