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Massive playoff implications for NFC West in Week 7

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the NFL season is one-third in the past, playoff odds and implications begin to mean something. Individual games carry more significance through the middle of the season, especially as divisional rivalries take place.

Many believe the NFC West is the strongest division in the league, and this week, there’s some stats to back that up.

The swing that takes place in a team’s playoff chances whether they win or lose is called “leverage.” Three of the four most impactful games this week (based on the highest playoff leverage) come from the NFC West.

The range is explained above, but if you’re on the new iPhone 12 mini and can’t read the graph above, the leverage is simply the difference between the playoff odds a team will have whether they win or lose. Teams in the middle of the league standings, in the thick of the chase, tend to have the higher leverage.

Often the teams at the very top start to become safe, battling only for seed. See the half percent swing of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The NFC West, however, is filled with great teams three good teams and the San Francisco 49ers. The four games with the highest impact on playoff potential in Week 7 are:

  1. Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams, 47%
  2. Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, 43%
  3. 49ers and New England Patriots, 38%
  4. Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, 33%

A 5-0 team and two at 4-2 can do that. The Seahawks could effectively cement their appearance in the postseason with a win over the Cardinals, taking their chances well above 90%.

It’s also interesting that the Niners and Patriots are so high, as playing cross-conference games generally have far less playoff implications than a divisional opponent, but again these are two teams who look to be battling for that second or even third wild card berth.

This could all be settled if the NFL would finally disallow any team from the NFC East from joining the postseason, allowing the entire NFC West to join the party. But that seems to have fallen down the priority list yet again, no matter how many times I email Roger Goodell.

Needless to say, it’s yet another big game on yet another big Sunday Night stage for Seattle this weekend. Just how Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson prefer it.