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The Seahawks road to the playoff following Week 10

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On Sunday in Week 10 in Los Angeles the Seattle Seahawks dropped a second consecutive game to a quality opponent, leaving the Hawks under .500 in the second half for just the second time in Russell Wilson’s time with the team. At just a game under .500 with seven games remaining, there is plenty of time for Seattle to right the ship and earn a postseason berth.

But at this point the Seahawks have built themselves quite an obstacle course to maneuver over the second half of the season in order to obtain that berth.

To start with, the Hawks are currently 4.5 games behind the Los Angeles Rams, so I’m not really going to bother to get into the slim chances of the Hawks overtaking the Rams. If Seattle were to win out they would finish at 11-5, and since L.A. swept the season series between the two teams, the Hawks would need to finish a full game ahead of the Rams in order to win the division. What that means is that the Rams need any combination of two wins or Seattle losses between now and the end of the season to clinch the division. With games left against both the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers, I’m willing to operate under the assumption that the division title is out of reach at this point.

That leaves the Wild Card as the only viable option.

At this point the NFC Wild Card race is absolutely wide open. Here’s a look at the current NFC standings for the division as a whole.

NFC Standings through Week 10

Team W L T PCT
Team W L T PCT
Los Angeles Rams 9 1 0 0.9
New Orleans Saints 8 1 0 0.889
Chicago Bears 6 3 0 0.667
Washington Redskins 6 3 0 0.667
Carolina Panthers 6 3 0 0.667
Minnesota Vikings 5 3 1 0.611
Green Bay Packers 4 4 1 0.5
Atlanta Falcons 4 5 0 0.444
Seattle Seahawks 4 5 0 0.444
Dallas Cowboys 4 5 0 0.444
Philadelphia Eagles 4 5 0 0.444
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 6 0 0.333
Detroit Lions 3 6 0 0.333
Arizona Cardinals 2 7 0 0.222
New York Giants 2 7 0 0.222
San Francisco 49ers 2 8 0 0.2

Now, normally it doesn’t make a lot of sense to include the entire conference in playoff standings, but in this case I wanted to make an exception simply because our good friends, the 49ers, currently occupy the 16th spot in the NFC playoff picture following the loss to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. In addition, I’d like to take a second to point out that the two teams directly ahead of the 49ers in the standings are the Cardinals and the Giants, who are a combined 4-14. However, that record is somewhat misleading, as those two teams are actually 1-14 against all NFL teams not named the 49ers and 3-0 against the Jed York & Co. Yes, off topic, and nothing to do with the Niners, but this is what they get for “mutually parting” their coach nearly four years ago.

Back to the playoff race, the top four spots in the NFC will go to the division winners, leaving the two Wild Card spots up for grabs. As noted, one of these spots likely goes to the Rams, and the other three divisions see the leader with a solid, but not 4.5 games solid, lead. In the NFC South the Saints hold two game lead and their next games are against teams that are currently under .500, so they have the inside track on the division, but they do play the Carolina Panthers twice over the final three weeks of the season.

In the NFC East the Washington Redskins sit at 6-3 and hold a two game lead over both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Washington has been decimated by injuries this season, but their schedule includes five of their final seven games against teams that are under .500, with only the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans not meeting that description.

Lastly, the most hotly contested division will be the NFC North, where the Chicago Bears currently hold a small lead over the Minnesota Vikings and a slightly larger lead over the Green Bay Packers. As a result of the tie between the Packers and Vikings earlier this season, and the fact that the Bears beat the Seahawks and thus hold the tiebreaker, the NFC North could be the division that poses the biggest threat to keeping Seattle out of the playoffs. The Packers have a very soft remaining schedule, as they have games against Seattle, Minnesota and Chicago, but then get to pad that with games against Arizona, Atlanta, Detroit and the New York Jets. Meanwhile, the Vikings schedule is much tougher, as they face the Bears, Packers, New England Patriots and Seahawks over the next four weeks before finishing up against the Miami Dolphins, Detroit and then Chicago.

In short, there are currently three teams ahead of the Seahawks in the Wild Card Race - the Panthers, Vikings and Packers, and Seattle plays all three of them over the final seven weeks of the season. That effectively makes all three of those games must-win games, and does not leave a lot of margin for error in the rest of the Hawks’ remaining schedule, as the team’s playoff hopes could hinge on the Week 16 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs currently occupy the top spot in the AFC, and the best hope for the Seahawks is that K.C. comes to town in Week 16 with the top seed in the AFC and home field advantage wrapped up. That is possible, and aiding things could be the schedule makers, as the Hawks and Chiefs play on Sunday night, while the Patriots play in the early time slot. Thus, K.C. will know when that game kicks off whether they need to win to clinch home field advantage or not, and making things easier is the fact that the Chiefs have a Week 17 game against the toothless Oakland Raiders to close out the regular season the following week.

Thus, if Seattle wants to have playoff aspirations, it comes down to the fact that Seattle needs to win its games against the teams they are chasing in the Wild Card race, and that starts Thursday with the game against the Packers.

Here’s a quick look at the games for all the teams ahead of or tied with the Seahawks in the playoff race for this weekend and what I’ll be hoping for (team I’ll be rooting for is bolded:

  • Chiefs at NFC #1 Rams: A Chiefs win makes it more likely KC is resting starters when they play in Seattle in Week 16.
  • NFC #11 Eagles at NFC #2 Saints: the Eagles are technically in a four way tie for 8th in the NFC with Seattle, Atlanta and Dallas, but fall to 11th because of tiebreakers, so an Eagles loss is good for the Hawks.
  • NFC #6 Vikings at NFC #3 Bears: A Bears win extends their lead in the NFC North and makes it easier for Seattle to potentially catch the Vikings.
  • Texans at NFC #4 Washington: This is counter intuitive, but I’ll be rooting for the AFC team in this game because the Hawks best bet is for Washington to hold on, the Eagles to fall apart and Dallas to not pose a threat down the stretch because of the head-to-head loss to Seattle.
  • NFC #5 Panthers at Detroit: Seattle is two games back of Carolina, so a loss by the Panthers coupled with a Seattle win against Detroit sets up a chance for Seattle to move into a Wild Card spot in Week 12 when the Hawks travel to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers.
  • NFC #7 Packers at NFC #9 Seahawks: Go Hawks.
  • NFC #10 Cowboys at #8 Falcons at NFC : I hate the Cowboys, but the Hawks hold the tiebreaker over Dallas and this game will help breakup the four-way log jam at 4-5 in which Seattle currently finds itself.