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Seahawks can split the last 4 games and still make the playoffs

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Losing to the Vikings doesn’t help; it also doesn’t necessarily sink the season

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
look it’s the seahawks’ score
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

If the Seattle Seahawks are going to extend their 2018 season into 2019 and earn a postseason spot, the best way is to defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. But say that doesn’t happen, and the Vikings come into CenturyLink trailing the Seahawks in the playoff race, only to leave it back in front. In this sad scenario, not all is lost.

Winning on Monday is not Seattle’s only way into the postseason. There are back doors, ventilation shafts, and maybe a window to climb through if you circle the house.

Take a look at each wild card contender’s final four games.

7-5 SEA: vs. MIN, @SF, vs. KC, vs. ARI

6-5-1 MIN: @SEA, vs. MIA, @DET, vs. CHI

7-5 DAL: vs. PHI, @IND, vs. TB, @NYG

7-5 or 6-6 WAS: vs. NYG, @JAX, @TEN, vs. PHI

6-6 PHI if the Eagles win: @DAL, @LAR, vs. HOU, @WAS (ouch)

6-6 CAR: @CLE, vs. NO, vs. ATL, @NO

Including the Eagles and Panthers is generous. Each of those teams will have a hard time getting to 9-7, let alone 10-6. But for the sake of transparency, let’s include them, as we try to find a reasonable way for the Seahawks to reach the postseason after an untimely home defeat to the Vikings.

Disclaimer 1: I’m not giving anyone any more ties.

Disclaimer 2: I’m going to grant the NFC North to the Bears, because including them is a pain.

On to the paths.

Back Door In: Seahawks split their final four with losses to the Vikings and Chiefs

Seattle, at 9-7, would need to benefit from a slew of 8-8 teams, or win a tie-breaker.

Okay. Neither order is particularly tall. First with the 8-8’s:

  • Vikings coast to the 5 seed, W-W-W-L lifts them to 10 wins.
  • Panthers lose both Saints games and end up 8-8
  • Eagles rise to 6-6 but then their remaining road schedule (DAL, LAR, WAS) is too tough to reach nine wins
  • Skins fall to 6-6 and then get nothing from McCoy, lose the road games, and they’re .500 too
  • Cowboys win the NFC East, good for their fans and ours.
  • Earn sixth seed.
  • Profit.

Setting up a favorable tie-breaker or two isn’t any harder. Seattle has the head-to-head advantage with Carolina or Dallas, and comes out on top in a three-way tie.

If the Eagles get to 9-7 it’ll be a minor miracle. Even if they do, the Seahawks have them on conference record, in this scenario where they bank two more NFC wins.

The team to avoid is a 9-7 Washington, who prevails on conference record if they win their home games (all NFC) and lose their road games (both AFC). Seahawks do not want to see them at 9-7 in a head-to-head or group tie.

Other Side Window: 3-1 because Seattle sweeps the other opponents

Why not? The Chiefs have given up 37 or more points three times. Their offense is peak potency but their defense isn’t scaring anybody. The Seahawks have scored 30 or more points four times, and three of the last four games. They hung with the Rams twice, once here, once there, and the Chiefs aren’t any better.’

I mean, the game’s in Seattle, too.

Patrick Mahomes has thrown 10 interceptions. Catch him on an error-prone day, shorten the game to 10 drives apiece instead of 15, and the Chiefs are beatable. They’re also down a star running back, which matters a lot, or not much, depending on your view of ball carriers.

The Niners have forks sticking out of all their appendages. The Cardinals are a couple years away from contention. And besides, 3-1 isn’t exactly an unreasonable expectation for a Seahawks squad that just went 3-1 in its last four games.

Upstairs Side Window (luckily unlocked): 2-2 with losses to the Vikings and a division rival

43-16 notwithstanding, road wins are hard to come by. Division road wins have a way of being especially difficult to notch; in fact, it took a last-second field goal to dispatch the Cardinals in Week 4. What if Seattle stubs its toe in the Bay Area two weeks from now?

Another conference loss is bad for the Seahawks. It makes the conference record an undesirable tie-breaker and means they need to avoid three-way ties, specifically involving the team from D.C.

So either you get Washington out of the picture, or the Vikings fall apart. There’s not much of a reason that Minnesota should lose three straight to Miami at home, Detroit on the road, and Chicago at home, but stranger things, happened, have, et cetera.

Put it this way: Vikings going 0-3 to close out the season would not rank on that franchise’s top ten list of historical collapses. (<3 u vikes fans)

9-7 is fine if there are two NFC playoff slots available at that level. The odds are back with Seattle in that case.

Ventilation Shaft: Seahawks go 1-3, beating only the 49ers or Cardinals

This is, granted, the most preposterous of all scenarios. Still, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, not at all. 8-8 squeaks Seattle in if several things happen:

  • The Cowboys stumble to 8-8
  • The Panthers also end up 8-8
  • The Skins win the NFC East and keep the Eagles from crashing the 8-8 party. The reverse works too.
  • Neither the Packers nor the Buccaneers win their final four games. Green Bay because that would put them at 8-7-1 and Tampa Bay because that screws up the tie-breakers.

But here’s the thing... the things. The reasons it could happen.

  • Dallas has two road games and a divisional date with Philly. It wouldn’t be the first time the Cowboys looked bad in December. They can lose three out of four. Easy.
  • Carolina has the Saints twice. They’re probably looking at an 8-8 finish anyway.
  • Washington sees the Giants, Jaguars and Titans. Even Colt McCoy can manage to not screw those games up.
  • Green Bay just fired their coach and Tampa Bay isn’t good.

Seattle, 8-8 and the sixth seed, is a doable proposition. It would involved a torturous path for us fans — which hasn’t really stopped our Seahawks before.

The last 8-8 wild card team was the Giants in 2006. So it happens. Just not a lot. And, hell, a 7-9 team made the playoffs this decade and didn’t acquit itself that badly.

Recap: MNF is not a must-win

To restate in a different sequence: If the Seahawks lose to the Vikings, they can still slither into the playoffs in four different ways.

A) Winning the three other games anyway. 10-6 will do it. The Cowboys and Skins would both have to somehow win out for 10-6 to be insufficient.

B) Going 2-1 in the other games and getting to break a tie with the 9-7 Panthers or 9-7 Cowboys. This requires some help but not a ton.

C) Going 2-1 in the other games while the Vikings collapse to 8-7-1. Need Minnesota to forget how to play football. Would also need to line up the tie-breakers with the Panthers or Cowboys.

C) Finishing 8-8 and receiving a ton of help, namely from the Saints and whoever is playing the Cowboys each week.

It’s better if Seattle emerges victorious from Monday Night Football. But it is by no means the end of the road if a good Minnesota team shows up and steals a critical victory.