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If Seahawks, Panthers do what’s expected of them, Seattle will make the playoffs again

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

When I was watching some dumb Sunday morning pre-game show, I was reminded what it was like to have every expert pick against the Seattle Seahawks: It feels good.

As the analysts went down the line picking between the Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys, each and everyone of them made it seem like an obvious foregone conclusion that Dallas would win, except for the last guy. He picked Seattle. His reason for picking Seattle: “I’m desperate. I need to catch up in the pick ‘em standings.”

The only guy who picked the Seahawks, a team that beat the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks ago and were 5-2 at one point, did it out of “desperation.”

But that only made me feel better about Seattle’s chances, because opinions are still only opinions and what these guys think about the game is ultimately meaningless. (I also just didn’t get why it was such a foregone conclusion given that the Cowboys aren’t that good and Tyron Smith was going to be, at best, hobbled. But that’s beside the point.) It’s equally non-assuring when every expert picks the Seahawks to win. After awhile, you just start to root for people to root against you. Even if it’s just meaningless “rah rah” nonsense, at least it seems to give me a psychological advantage as a fan in how I’ll respond to the results, win or lose.

It makes me feel better, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel better. If the Seattle offense is going to continue to work like a poor-oiled machine, then I definitely want more opportunities to feel better. They won when everyone was picking the Eagles. They won a year ago in New England against the Patriots. They won in LA against the Rams. They didn’t win when people were split against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They didn’t win when people were split in their most recent tilt against the Rams. They won in Dallas.

Let’s hope that this trend ... does not continue in Week 17. May the favored get the spoils.

The Seahawks opened up as 7-point favorites against the Arizona Cardinals this weekend, a game they need to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Atlanta Falcons opened up as 3.5-point underdogs favorites against the Carolina Panthers, a game that the Panthers need to win to keep the Seahawks’ playoff hopes alive.

(Author’s note: Originally had this as the Panthers being favored, but must’ve flipped the -3.5 and the +3.5. So Atlanta is the Vegas favorite, but you’ll see below why I think the Panthers are actually the team I’d expect to win most of the time; teams also tend to get 3 points just for being at home, so this would be a pick’em on a neutral field.)

If both things that are expected to happen, happen, the Seattle Seahawks will be going to the playoffs for the sixth straight year under Russell Wilson, and for seven out of eight years with Pete Carroll. Can we expect the expected? Obviously by now we know that we cannot.

The Seahawks are 2-5 against the spread at home, but the Cardinals are just 1-6 on the road against the spread. Both Seattle and Arizona seem likely to do worse than expected. The Cardinals are scoring an NFL-worst 14.5 points per game on the road. The Seahawks have gone an uncharacteristic 4-3 at home.

The Panthers are 5-2 on the road, allowing just 19.2 PPG away from Carolina, one of the stingiest away defenses in the NFL. The Falcons are also just 4-3 at home, ranking in the bottom third in home scoring.

At the end of the day though, this is what needs to happen in order for Seattle to make the playoffs: The Seahawks need to beat a team that they’re supposed to beat and the Panthers need to beat a team that they’re supposed to beat. Seattle, a historically great home team, needs to beat a bad road team. Carolina, a great road team this season, needs to beat Atlanta, a team that has a worse record at home than the Panthers have on the road.

FiveThirtyEight’s odds still have the Falcons at 71% and Seahawks at 29%, but I see it as much closer to 50/50. Two things that are supposed to happen more often than not, need to happen. That leaves us considerably far away from a guarantee, but there’s a lot more room for hope than you might have imagined a day ago.

But is that a good thing?