Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and with it comes a full slate of NFC divisional matchups, and amazingly all three will carry playoff implications for the Seattle Seahawks. Thus, it may be prudent to let your family and friends know early that your presence will be necessary in front of the television in order to support the Hawks and their playoff hopes this season.
The day starts off with the Detroit Lions hosting the Chicago Bears. While the Bears currently lead the NFC North at 7-3, the Lions have done just enough this season to keep their playoff dreams on life support, as they currently sit less than two games out of the final Wild Card spot with six games to go. In addition, if they can somehow muster up the ability to defeat Chicago this week before getting obliterated by the Los Angeles Rams next week, they have a very favorable schedule over the final four weeks which includes games against the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. So, while the odds of them pulling off a late season miracle seem slim, they’re still clinging to hope.
On the flip side, Chicago has a chance to extend its lead in the division over Minnesota to 2.25 games. With winnable games down the stretch against both the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants, that large of a deficit this late in the season could become too much for the Vikings to overcome. Thus, a win Thursday does not assure the Bears of the NFC North title, but a Bears win Thursday coupled with a Minnesota loss to the Packers on Sunday night would give the Bears a 2.75 game lead with five games to go. In baseball terms, that would put the Bears magic number at 3 (since the Vikings would max out at 10.5 wins and the Bears would have 8 wins), and so assuming the Bears can manage to not lose to the Giants and Niners would drop that magic number to just one game. That makes the early game big for both the Lions and Bears.
As I noted Monday, the afternoon game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins carries all kinds of seeding implications for the Seahawks. Washington currently leads the NFC East at 6-4, but has been decimated by injuries, including the brutal loss of its quarterback in the game Sunday. Dallas, meanwhile, once written off for dead has rallied enough that hopefully Jerry Jones decides to keep Jason Garrett on for yet another season of mediocrity.
In the Bill Callahan revenge game (Callahan built the vaunted Cowboys offensive into what it was in its days of dominance), one of two things will happen. Either Washington will extend its lead in the NFC East to two games over the Cowboys, or the Cowboys will win and take over first place in the NFC East, dropping Washington into a Wild Card spot.
To provide a better explanation than I did yesterday about the ramifications of this, let’s say Washington drops into a Wild Card spot and Seattle defeats the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. That leaves Seattle, Carolina and Washington all sitting at 6-5, which means the head to head tiebreaker between Seattle and Carolina is meaningless. With all three teams tied at 6-5, the tiebreaker becomes conference record, where Washington would be 6-3 (.667), the Hawks 5-3 (.625) and the Panters 4-4 (.500) under these assumptions. Thus, Washington would, at least for the time being, be seeded ahead of Seattle.
That in turn means whether Seattle would be in the sixth or seventh spot in the NFC rests solely on whether or not the Vikings defeat the Packers on Sunday Night Football. If Minnesota wins, they would slide up into the fifth spot (first Wild Card spot) and Washington would hold the sixth spot (second Wild Card spot). That would leave Seattle still on the outside looking in.
However, if Washington defeats the Cowboys, then Washington stays where it is in one of the four spots for division winners, Dallas drops to 5-6 and whether Seattle can work its way into a playoff spot depends solely on whether or not they can win in Carolina on Sunday.
So, it’s not as if most Seahawks fans need any extra incentive to root against Dallas on Thursday, but just in case you did, here it is.
Also, I’ve always been a big fan of Colt McCoy since his days at the University of Texas, and I’d love to see him head back to the state of Texas and have an absolutely phenomenal game against Jerry Jones & Co. in leading Washington to victory. Completely unrelated, but I’ll always maintain the Longhorns would have won the 2009 National Championship game over Alabama if McCoy hadn’t gotten injured early in the game. While McCoy will never have a chance to win a college national championship, this is an opportunity to go into Dallas and ruin Thanksgiving for Cowboys fans everywhere.
Back in 2014, while Dallas was in the midst of a 12-4 season, McCoy started for a Washington team that would finish 4-12 in a Monday Night game at Jerry World. McCoy went 20-25 for 299 yards with an interception and ran for 16 yards and a touchdown on seven rushing attempts. Specifically, he led a nine-play, 58 yard drive that culminated in a field goal to give Washington a 20-17 victory.
So, fans who want to write off Washington might want to just hold on to that. McCoy has been in Gruden’s system for years, and with a chance to start down the stretch, he’s got the experience and athleticism to potentially surprise some people.
The final Thanksgiving Day game sees the Atlanta Falcons travel to take on the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are currently percentage points behind the Rams in the race for home field advantage simply because the Saints have already had their bye week, while the Rams get their bye in Week 12. For the Saints this game is a must win in order to stay on track for the number one seed and home field advantage in the NFC.
In addition, a win guarantees that New Orleans would go into Week 13 with no smaller than a three game lead over the Panthers in the NFC South, and thus could all but lock up the division. The Saints and Panthers do play twice over the final three games of the season, but those games could be rendered meaningless as far as the division is concerned before Week 15 ever arrives.
For the Falcons this game is critical if they any hopes whatsoever of making the playoffs this season. They enter the game having lost their last two games to the Cleveland Browns and the Cowboys, so they are certainly not in midseason form. Atlanta was expected to be a major factor by many this season, however, they’ve seen their secondary ravaged by injuries and have come up far short of expectations. However, if Atlanta is somehow able to pull off a holiday upset, then it at least keeps their playoff heartbeat alive for another week.
And those are the playoff ramifications from just the Thursday games this week. The Sunday schedule has the Seattle-Carolina showdown, as well as the Green Bay traveling to take on Minnesota, so I’ll dig into what the playoff picture looks like on Friday or Saturday after the dust settles on the Thanksgiving games.
Who I will be rooting for on Thursday:
- Chicago at Detroit: Chicago holds a tiebreaker over Seattle, so I don’t want them falling out of the lead in the division in Wild Card contention.
- Washington at Dallas: I hate the Cowboys, and keeping Washington out of the Wild Card race is a good thing for the Hawks.
- Atlanta at New Orleans: A Saints victory helps keep the Falcons down in the Wild Card race, while also keeping the Rams as the number two seed in the NFC.