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NFC Playoff Outlook: Seahawks have a no-good, terrible, very bad week

They’re not sitting quite as pretty in the conference anymore

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 8 begins Thursday with Minnesota hosting Washington. Mismatch? Maybe. Since the Vikings and Seahawks are virtually tied in the playoff chase with matching 5-2 records, the game is of heightened local importance.

But then again, with the NFC as loaded as your great-uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, every game seems to have some sort of postseason implication. Yes, already. By Monday the season will be half over for most teams. (And all the way over for some.)

Seattle could have used a better Week 7. To be perfectly blunt, all the important results went against them. As you might have noticed, they did not win their own game, and then the cascade of results shoved their playoff odds farther down.

With the 49ers, Saints and Packers all victorious, those three teams started to take control of their respective divisions and saw their odds crest above 80 percent. The Vikings won to pull even, the Panthers rested and gained half a game, the Rams prevailed easily in Atlanta — and even the Cardinals entered the playoff picture, barely, as they evened their record at .500 with a victory of their own.

Playoff Odds

Via, the best football site on the internet.

Playoff Odds (FO)

Team W-L record Playoff odds Last week
Team W-L record Playoff odds Last week
NO 6-1 93.3 2nd
SF 6-0 93 1st
GB 6-1 85.3 3rd
DAL 4-3 73.8 7th
MIN 5-2 67.6 6th
SEA 5-2 46.4 4th
CAR 4-2 38.8 8th
LAR 4-3 34.2 10th
PHI 3-4 30.1 5th
DET 2-3-(1) 14.4 11th
CHI 3-3 11.4 9th
ARI 3-3-(1) 3.2 unranked

The FO model likes the Vikings’ chances much better than the Seahawks’! Why is that? Three reasons pop to mind.

  • In Week 8, MIN hosts maybe the worst team in the conference, while SEA travels to... well I guess maybe the co-worst team in the conference. Strictly on the basis of home-field advantage, it’s more likely the Vikings exit the weekend with six wins.
  • Seattle still has to play the 49ers twice. Whatever you think of San Fran, those can’t possibly be anything close to easy games.
  • Minnesota’s carrying a nice little 69-point differential, while the Seahawks’ is a paltry plus-five. Football Outsiders bakes DAVE into their calculations, and the advantage there goes to the 6th-ranked Vikings over 10th-ranked Seattle.

It’s hard to say how much a chart like this one —

— means in a year where the NFC is loaded like we’ve rarely seen. But it is helpful to balance the FO odds against historical odds, and frame the Seahawks’ chances with a few boundaries based on history instead of DVOA. According to the chart:

  • In case of a win on Sunday in Atlanta, Seattle’s playoff odds climb to 80 percent;
  • Right now they’re 73 percent;
  • In case of a loss Sunday (it is a road game, after all), they drop to 58 percent.

All in all, it’s fair to place the Seahawks’ playoff chances as somewhere between 50 and 75 percent. That has the added bonus of feeling right, as 5-2 could easily become 8-5 after a few missteps, but accounting for those losses, 8-5 is still a great place to be. Most seasons.

Anyway, we’re all just biding time until November 11, when Seattle visits the maybe-still-undefeated 49ers. For those who would pooh-pooh San Francisco’s start — full confession: used to be me — why don’t we put our Seahawks’ performance against common opponents up against the Niners’.

(Last chance to close this tab and retain the illusion that SF will fall back to earth.)

SEA 20, CIN 19 / SF 41, CIN 17

SEA 28, PIT 26 / SF 24, PIT 20

SEA 30, LAR 29 / SF 20, LAR 7

SEA 32, CLE 28 / SF 31, CLE 3

In their four common games, Seattle has won four squeakers. The 49ers have registered three blowouts. The scoring totals are comparable (SEA 110, SF 116) but the bad guys in red and gold have been playing a much better brand of defense.

A lot can change in the second half of a season. Famously, the 2009 Denver Tebows Broncos started 6-0, then limped to 8-8. They’d traded their 2010 first-round pick to the — checks notes — Seahawks, and that selection turned out to be the 14th overall. Anyone remember how that turned out for John Carroll and Pete Schneider? Anyone?

Pretty Premature Playoff Picture

As usual, we’ll close out with an “if the postseason began today” bracket and my three tiers of teams fighting it out for a chance in January.

Wild-card round

Seahawks (5) at Cowboys (4)

Vikings (6) at Packers (3)

Minnesota and Seattle are both 5-2, but the Vikings have two conference losses to the Seahawks’ single one. Both these games would be absolute fire.

Divisional round

Worst remaining seed at 49ers (1)

Best remaining seed at Saints (2)

It’ll really get messy once the Niners lose. Good messy.

Legit Contenders

Saints (6-1), Niners (6-0), Packers (6-1)

Need A Break Or Two

Seahawks (5-2), Vikings (5-2), Panthers (4-2)

Next Loss Stings

Cowboys (4-3), Eagles (3-4), Rams (4-3), Bears (3-3), Lions (2-3-1), Cardinals (3-3-1)

That fourth loss is really going to push some teams onto the fringe of eligibility. Maybe Seattle could wait a few weeks to earn theirs?