The Seattle Seahawks haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet, but they’re 99% of the way there and just need to beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday to secure their place in the postseason.
In the Russell Wilson era, the Seahawks have never had “nothing to play for” late in the regular season. Just look at previous Week 17s:
2012 - Needed a win and a 49ers loss to win the NFC West.
2013 - Needed a win or a 49ers loss to clinch the NFC West and the #1 seed.
2014 - Needed a win or a Cardinals loss to clinch the NFC West and the #1 seed.
2015 - Needed a win to have a chance at the #5 seed, ultimately finished as the #6 seed.
2016 - Needed a win and a Falcons loss to earn the #2 seed. Once this was out of reach, Trevone Boykin played the final few minutes of Seattle’s win against the 49ers.
2017 - Needed a win and a Falcons loss to get into the playoffs.
It’s a bit different in 2018. The Los Angeles Rams have already won the NFC West, so should the Seahawks make the playoffs as expected, the only thing to tidy up would be whether or not they’d be the #5 or #6 seed.
Seattle is currently 1.5 games up on the Minnesota Vikings, and two games clear of everyone else in the wild card race. They can clinch the #5 seed as early as Week 15 if the following happens:
Seahawks win AND:
Vikings tie or lose to Dolphins
The Panthers are 6-7 but don’t have the tiebreaker on the Seahawks, so they do not matter in this story. Washington and Philadelphia play each other in Week 17 so they both can’t finish 9-7, and even so neither one of them has a tiebreaker over the Seahawks. The Vikings can still finish above if they win out and the Seahawks finish 9-7.
This means that there is a non-zero chance the Chiefs vs. Seahawks game in Week 16 is meaningless to both sides, with Kansas City potentially having clinched the #1 seed in the AFC and Seattle the #5 seed in the NFC.
As much as Pete likes to “Always Compete,” I’d have to think he’d be willing to not play Russell Wilson and others for full games if they know their fate this early. Yeah, it wouldn’t make for good primetime TV to see Chad Henne vs. Brett Hundley, but Andy Reid is historically very willing to not play his starters when he’s got his seeding locked up.
Of course, we can’t get too carried away. The Seahawks have to do their part this Sunday, but it’s crazy that we’re talking about the Seahawks having the opportunity to rest starters with two weeks to spare when they were 4-5 this time last month.