It's 9:56 PM. The polls for the midterm elections open in about ten hours. Tonight's birthday dinner consisted of tacos and chocolate cake. And the Seattle Seahawks are 5-3.
Time for Week 10 of The Watch.
I don't think anyone here was especially concerned at the prospect of the Seahawks missing the playoffs, but spending the last couple of weeks outside the top six in the conference was certainly a bit unsettling. Fortunately, the combination of the Seahawks' win over the Raiders, the 49ers' loss to the Rams, and the Packers being on a bye week allowed Seattle to climb back into the sixth seed with their season halfway done. That's the good news.
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Unfortunately, not much broke in the team's favor outside of the 49ers losing. Sans Tony Romo, the Cowboys were no match for the Cardinals, which means that not only are the Cards still tops in the division with a league-best record of 7-1, but the Eagles have taken over the NFC East lead, making the Cowboys a potential wild card team with a head-to-head tiebreaker over us. (However, the injury to Nick Foles makes the NFC East still a division up for grabs, even if Dallas looks to be the only other team interested in grabbing it.)
Meanwhile, the Panthers lost their grip on the NFC South to the Saints, who may not have an especially strong record but would be hosting a playoff game against the #5 seed if the playoffs started next week.
Here's the full rundown of the NFC after nine weeks - and after reconfiguring the spreadsheet this weekend, here's hoping everything is accurate finally:
(Division tiebreakers are handled first, and work in the following order: head-to-head, division record, common opponents, conference record, strength of victory, strength of schedule. Conference tiebreakers are handled second, and go in the following order: head-to-head, conference record, common opponents, strength of victory, strength of schedule. Ties are valued as half of a win.)
Unlike last year where it seemed there were tiebreakers going all the way down the board, this year teams have done a fairly good job staying out of each other's way. There are a few ties to deal with, however, and here's how they work out:
1. The Lions and Eagles are tied with a 6-2 record, but Detroit's 5-1 conference record gives them the edge and the #2 seed over Philadelphia, who's 3-2 in conference games.
2. Thanks to the Seahawks' opening day win over the Packers, Seattle wins the tiebreaker and takes hole of the second Wild Card while Green Bay is ranked #7.
3. Because ties count as half of a win for percentage, the Panthers are the highest-ranked team of those with three wins and five losses. The Bears get the next slot with a 2-2 conference record, followed by the Rams who are 3-4 in the conference. The Giants, with a 2-4 conference record, are ranked at the bottom of the 3-5 traffic jam.
4. LOL Tampa Bay.
It's a bit distressing to think of just how close the Seahawks came to upsetting the top of the draft board by letting the Raiders escape with their first win of the season. Had that happened, Jacksonville would have snuck back into the top spot, with the Jets and Buccaneers also moving up in the rankings. Fortunately, the Raiders were unable to pull off the upset, and remain the lone winless team in the league.
Here are the complete draft rankings as of Week 9:
(Strength of schedule is found by calculating the win-loss records of every opponent on a team's schedule. Divisional opponents are given double weight. Ties count as half of a win for SOS purposes. Divisonal record breaks any ties, followed by a coin toss.)
For those interested in the quest for futility, Oakland's next three games are all divisional tilts: vs. Denver, at San Diego, vs. Kansas City. Consider how the Chargers have been slumping as of late, that might be their best chance in the near future to get their first win. Outside of that, they have only one opponent left on the schedule under .500 (at St. Louis in Week 13). If they're going to snap their losing streak, it will likely come sooner rather than later.
Only two teams in the NFC have a bye this week - Washington and Minnesota - and neither pose a threat to the Seahawks at this point in time. That means there's going to be a lot of scoreboard watching this coming week as the Seahawks try to at least solidify their playoff positioning, even if they can't really improve on it much. (Keep in mind who the #4 seed is at the moment.) The right outcomes would put Seattle in the #5 spot, one game behind the division leader with both matchups still to play and with a decent cushion over other competitors. The wrong outcomes would put the Seahawks back on the bubble. Remember: we don't care about these teams beyond how their wins or losses would benefit the 'Hawks in the standings.
Sunday morning: Dolphins (5-3) at Lions (6-2)
Until and unless the Seahawks wrestle control of the division away from the Cardinals, we're content with Detroit cruising to the NFC North crown and keeping Green Bay in the Wild Card category (where we have a tiebreaker over them). Not to say we want them to run the table, but Detroit as a Wild Card would be a lot more volatile than what we have right now. Go Lions.
Sunday morning: Cowboys (6-3) vs. Jaguars (1-8) @ Wembley Stadium
A Cowboys loss plus a Seahawks win puts Seattle in the #5 seed. Of course, that might be short-lived, as Dallas goes on their bye next week and a Seahawks loss puts them in a tie with Dallas, where Dallas owns the head-to-head. Still, the more games Dallas loses now, the easier it'll be to jump over them later in the season if Seattle takes the division while the Cowboys take advantage of the injury to Nick Foles. Go Jaguars.
Sunday morning: 49ers (4-4) at Saints (4-4)
As much as I'm not really keen on seeing New Orleans cement their lead in the NFC South and increase their chances of hosting a Wild Card game when the Seahawks may be one of those Wild Cards, divisional concerns are more important and I think we all want as much breathing room over our nemeses as possible. Go Saints.
Sunday afternoon: Rams (3-5) at Cardinals (7-1)
Arizona is starting to get really obnoxious. Not saying that the Cowboys would've won if only Romo was healthy, but you've got to admit that it's no coincidence that Demarco Murray's streak was snapped in a game where Brandon Weeden gets his first start of the season. The Cardinals continue to '08 Titans their way through the season, amassing a dominant record while nobody can really explain how. The Rams did us a huge solid last week by hanging tough against the Niners; let's see if they can help us out and get us within one game of these guys. Go Rams.
Sunday night: Bears (3-5) at Packers (5-3)
Just because we own the tiebreaker doesn't necessarily mean that we want the Packers breathing down our necks week after week. Go Bears.
Monday night: Panthers (3-5-1) at Eagles (6-2)
I may be counting my chickens before they're hatched, but I suspect we'd much rather have the Eagles as the NFC East team scrapping for a Wild Card than the Cowboys, because while Dallas already has a tiebreaker over us, the matchup between the Seahawks and Eagles is still yet to be determined. If the Wild Card ends up being a three-team scrap between the Seahawks, Eagles, and Packers, Seattle could potentially have a head-to-head sweep over both and get in simply on that merit. For this reason, and because I still want the South to be competitive, Go Panthers.
So ends another week of the Watch.
The Seahawks have reached the playoffs three times out of the five instances in franchise history that they've started 5-3. If they win this Sunday against the Giants (who have been neutered by injury just as much if not more than us), they'll go to 6-3, a record that's been obtained three times in the past, all three resulting in playoff berths. A loss drops them back towards the middle to 5-4, which has led to reaching the postseason only half the time. The worst case scenario would be a loss by the Seahawks and wins by San Francisco and Green Bay; that would allow both teams to jump over Seattle, give SF the #6 seed once again, and put the Seahawks back in the #8 spot. Even though the tail end of the season is really where the Seahawks are going to either make or break their playoff hopes, it definitely helps to be ranked as high as possible before the avalanche of divisional games begins.
I'll see you guys next Wednesday. GO HAWKS!!