Playoff & Draft Watch, Week 12: Hopeless, Bleak Despair

Marc Serota

There's not much more that can be said about the body blow that the Seahawks suffered in Week 12 - both the loss in the standings and the potential loss of half of our starting secondary. But speaking on purely mathematical terms, the Seahawks are still in the playoff picture - however tenuous the grip on that Wild Card may be. The real damage to our standing was how the loss, combined with San Fran's win in the Big Easy, gives the 49ers a 2 1/2 game lead over us in the NFC West with just five to play. While the division is not yet wrapped up - in fact, no team in the league has yet clinched a playoff spot, much less a divisional title - things are not looking good for the Seahawks' chances of hosting playoff game. Considering how consistently inconsistent the team has played on the road thus far, many consider a wild card berth to be a de facto elimination from Super Bowl contention.

But, we're still in the hunt, and honestly, that's about as much as we could ask for at this point in the season. I'm sure if someone back in September offered us a 6-5 record and the #6 seeding this far into the season, we'd take it without a second thought.

Meanwhile, here's how the NFC playoff picture looks at this point:

Division Leaders:
1. Falcons (10-1)
2. 49ers (8-2-1)
3. Bears (8-3)
4. Giants (7-4)

Wild Cards:
5. Packers (7-4)
6. Seahawks (6-5, beat MIN, 4-4 Conf.)

Outside Looking In:
7. Buccaneers (6-5, beat MIN, 3-5 Conf.)
8. Vikings (6-5, lost to SEA & TB)
9. Redskins (5-6, beat DAL, 5-4 Conf.)
10. Cowboys (5-6, lost to WAS, 4-5 Conf.)
11. Saints (5-6, 3-5 Conf.)
12. Rams (4-6-1)
13. Lions (4-7, 3-5 Conf.)
14. Cardinals (4-7, 2-6 Conf.)
15. Panthers (3-8, beat PHI)
16. Eagles (3-8, lost to CAR)

Oddly enough, nobody has been mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase yet - another byproduct of Seattle losing, as that (or any other the 6-win teams winning on Sunday) plus a Carolina loss would have shut the Panthers out of the running. As it stands, a loss by either the Panthers or Eagles next week plus a win by either Seattle, Minnesota, or Tampa Bay would sound the death knell for the losing team. The Falcons can clinch the NFC South crown with a win and a TB loss or tie, as well.

Of course, with the playoffs suddenly in turmoil, the draft order becomes more relevant than it has been the past few weeks. Good thing I've been keeping track this whole time!

1. Chiefs (1-10, 90-86 SOS)

2. Jaguars (2-9, 97-79 SOS)

3. Raiders (3-8, 80-96 SOS)

4. Eagles (3-8, 90-86 SOS, 1-2 Div.)

5. Browns (3-8, 90-86 SOS, 2-3 Div.)

6. Panthers (3-8, 92-84 SOS)

7. Chargers (4-7, 80-96 SOS)

8. Bills (4-7, 83-91-2 SOS)

9. Jets (4-7, 88-86-2 SOS)

10. Titans (4-7, 94-82 SOS)

11. Cardinals (4-7, 95-77-4 SOS)

12. Lions (4-7, 100-74-2 SOS)

13. Rams (4-6-1, 93-81-2 SOS)

14. Dolphins (5-6, 87-87-2 SOS)

15. Redskins (5-6, 88-87-1 SOS)

16. Saints (5-6, 89-86-1 SOS)

17. Cowboys (5-6, 92-84 SOS)

18. Bengals (6-5, 78-98 SOS)

19. Steelers (6-5, 80-96 SOS)

20. Buccaneers (6-5, 82-93-1 SOS)

21. Seahawks (6-5, 86-86-4 SOS)

22. Vikings (6-5, 94-80-2 SOS)

23. Colts (7-4, 82-94 SOS)

24. Giants (7-4, 89-86-1 SOS)

25. Packers (7-4, 91-83-2 SOS)

26. Broncos (8-3, 82-94 SOS)

27. Patriots (8-3, 88-86-2 SOS)

28. Bears (8-3, 89-85-2 SOS)

29. 49ers (8-2-1, 86-88-2 SOS)

30. Ravens (9-2, 84-92 SOS)

31. Falcons (10-1, 72-104 SOS)

32. Texans (10-1, 89-87 SOS)

(Strength of Schedule is found by adding up the total win-loss-tie records of all 13 opponents on a team's schedule. Divisional opponents are counted twice since they are played twice. Ties count as "half" of a win for SOS purposes. Divisional record breaks any SOS ties, followed by a tiebreak.)

As far as draft position goes, it's still pretty murky where the Seahawks will draft, not just because they're still in the playoff rankings but also because they're in that bottom-12 zone where the playoff teams will ultimately make their selections. Barring an outright collapse, we can probably pencil the 'Hawks into the late teens if they fall short of the postseason.

With five games left in the season, there are currently seven teams fighting over two Wild Card berths; the Packers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Vikings, Redskins, Cowboys, and Saints are either in the playoff picture or no more than one game out. Since the playoffs are still very much a possibility, the rooting interests will still be made with the goal of locking up a wild card. As you'd expect to see when everyone is hovering around the .500 mark two-thirds of the way into the season, every team has shown to be as threatening as they have been vulnerable, and a lot of it will come down to which games each of the teams win and which ones they lose. On that note, here are the games to keep an eye on for Week 13. Bear in mind, these assessments are all based on the premise that the Seahawks beat the Bears next Sunday:

NO @ ATL: The Falcons would love to lock up the division next week, and in doing so would push the Saints even further back down the wild card standings. Go Falcons!

SF @ STL: While the hopes for a division title might be fading away, we can always hope for an upset here. Hey, they almost did it last time. Go Rams!

NYG @ WAS: The Redskins are suddenly on the Wild Card radar after rattling off two straight wins. Time to brush them off. Go Giants!

MIN @ GB: Whether the Seahawks knock off the Bears next week is going to have a lot to do with how important this game is. A Packer win preserves status quo, with the Vikings getting knocked back down to .500 while the Packers would regain control of the division. If the Vikings win, we could see a four-way tie at 7-5 between the 'Hawks, the Bucs, the Pack and the Vikes, and if my interpretation of the loquacious tiebreaker procedures is correct, Seattle would still prevail because of Tampa Bay's inferior conference record and Seattle's sweep over Green Bay and Minnesota. Thus, Root however you like, but be aware that whichever team you pick this time around, you're probably going to want to root for the other team when these guys face off again in Week 17. (Note: If the Seahawks lose on Sunday, we would very much prefer to see the Packers win, as it prevents the Vikings from leapfrogging us in the standings.)

TB @ DEN: This will hopefully be the game where we start to see the Buccaneers fall by the wayside. Go Broncos!

PHI @ DAL: I still don't see the Cowboys realistically threatening for any playoff spots, but no sense in taking any chances. Go Eagles!

The past 48 hours have been tumultuous for Seahawk fans to be sure, but as long as there's a reasonably clear path to the playoffs - and yes, we still control our own destiny right now - there's no sense in throwing up our hands in defeat. Hopefully, the events of next Sunday will cause us to look back on this episode and wonder what all the panic was about. See you next week!

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