In the span of about 72 hours, the Seahawks prospects for both the playoffs and the draft turned really crappy.
It all started on Thursday afternoon, when Matt Barkley announced that he would remain with USC for one more year. Living in the Los Angeles area, the sports broadcasters were practically dancing in the streets at the news, since it represented a genuine shot at a BCS championship next year, but it bummed me out as a Seahawks fan. Not necessarily because we expected Matt to fall to us in the draft - I think we all figured he was a top-5 pick already - but because that's one less QB for all the other teams to pick from. The top tier of eligible quarterbacks now consists of only two names: Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III. Others may have their favorites - and I'm sure we'll be bringing them up in the thread here - but clearly there's a big dropoff between those two players and whoever else is mentioned.
That night, the Colts won their second game of the season against the locked-in Texans. (Locked-in meaning they're in the playoffs but can't improve their seeding any.) That, combined with the Rams losing against the Steelers on Sunday, and the Vikings defeating the Redskins, means that the two teams are now tied with two wins apiece.
Although the Colts still lead by a country mile in terms of strength of schedule (the Rams actually ended up with the toughest schedule in the league), that can very easily change next week: the Colts have what now looks to be a very winnable game at Jacksonville on Sunday while the Rams host the 49ers - who are still gunning for a first-round bye. If both teams have the same result next week, the Colts will have officially choked away the #1 pick in the draft to the Rams in almost Red Sox-esque fashion. Not to say the Rams would forsake Sam Bradford and draft Luck if they had the top pick - they may end up taking someone like Matt Kalil or someone else to plug one of their many holes - but the possibility would be there, and it's not pleasant.
And then, of course, our playoff fate was sealed in Detroit when the Lions trounced San Diego, clinching their first playoff berth since 1999 while simultaneously all but shutting the Seahawks out of the picture. The loss against San Francisco made it official, and the draft has now become the consolation prize.
Let's take a quick look at the draft standings now before we get into the nuts-and-bolts talk regarding Week 17:
1. Colts (2-13, 128-112 SOS)
2. Rams (2-13, 141-99 SOS)
3. Vikings (3-12, 134-106 SOS)
4. Jaguars (4-11, 121-119 SOS)
5. Browns (4-11, 127-113 SOS)
6. Buccaneers (4-11, 132-108 SOS)
7. Redskins (5-10, 114-126 SOS)
8. Dolphins (5-10, 123-117 SOS)
9. Panthers (6-9, 120-120 SOS)
10. Bills (6-9, 124-116 SOS, 1-4 Div.)
11. Chiefs (6-9, 124-116 SOS, 2-3 Div.)
12. Cardinals (7-8, 114-126 SOS)
13. Eagles (7-8, 117-123 SOS)
**14. Seahawks (7-8, 121-119 SOS)**
15. Chargers (7-8, 124-116 SOS)
16. Bears (7-8, 128-112 SOS)
17. Titans (8-7, 112-128 SOS)
18. Cowboys (8-7, 113-127 SOS)
19. Jets (8-7, 118-122 SOS)
21. Broncos (8-7, 124-116 SOS)
22. Giants (8-7, 125-115 SOS)
23. Bengals (9-6, 116-124 SOS)
TEAMS THAT HAVE CLINCHED:
(Strength of Schedule is the combined win-loss record of every opponent the team has played thus far. Divisional opponents are counted twice since they appear on the schedule twice. If SOS is tied, divisional record serves as the tiebreaker. Teams that clinch a playoff spot draft in order of their postseason finish.)
I went this whole season not realizing that a few teams had traded away their first-round picks (most notably the Raiders for Carson Palmer); the standings now reflect the actual recipient of each pick.
Now for the ramifications of next week. Since every game of the final week of the regular season is a divisional game, every team will automatically add 6 wins and 6 losses to their final SOS: 4 wins and 4 losses will come from the two divisions that each team faces, while 2 wins and 2 losses will come from the two divisional foes who are playing each other and not the team in question. (For example, the SF-STL game will account for 2 wins and 2 losses for both us and the Cards.) That leaves just four games of wiggle room for each team: the two conference opponents of the same standing from last year, and two games from the team's opponent that week. (Remember, divisional rivals count double for SOS.) All of this assumes there are no ties, but unless it's one of those two teams of the same standing, it'll balance out anyways.
Here's the takeaway as far as the Seahawks are concerned: depending on who wins in our game against Arizona, and whether or not Atlanta (vs. TB) and Chicago (@ MIN) win their games, the Seahawks will finish with a SOS no worse than 127-129 and no better than 131-125.
On that note, here's a brief look at the best- and worst-case scenarios regarding the draft next week. (Note: this is purely from a draft-order perspective. Obviously we all want the 'Hawks to win next week even if it hurts our draft position.)
BEST CASE: Seahawks draft 10th
- ARI beats SEA
- PHI beats WAS
- SD beats OAK
- MIN beats CHI
- BUF beats NE
- KC beats DEN
- TEN beats HOU
- NYJ beats MIA
- CIN beats BAL
- TB beats ATL
- DAL beats NYG
WORST CASE: Seahawks draft 19th
- SEA beats ARI
- NE beats BUF
- DEN beats KC
- WAS beats PHI
- OAK beats SD
- NYG beats DAL
- HOU beats TEN
- MIA beats NYJ
- ATL beats TB
- GB beats DET
- CIN beats BAL
- iND beats JAC
- CHI beats MIN
Essentially, we're hoping that whatever the outcome of our game is, we don't end up in a big crowd of teams with the same record. Thanks to have the AFC North on our schedule and having all of the 49ers' wins count against us twice, we're not going to win many tiebreaks.
That'll pretty much do it for DraftWatch this year; next week, the final draft order will be set. I'm pleasantly surprised that this thing got such a great reception over the course of the season, even though these sort of discussions by their nature take a pessimistic look at the team's situation. I never like making promises too far ahead of time since circumstances can change at the drop of a hat, but thanks to everyone for their support and a big thanks to the admins here at Field Gulls to find this stuff worthy of front-page coverage. See you next time!