Thursday evening the Seattle Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals in a game that will determine which team is in first place in the NFC West for at least a few days, pending the outcome of the Monday Night Football matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After a 5-0 start saw Seattle atop not just the division, but the entire NFC, there were visions of home field advantage and a first round bye in the minds of many fans.
However, those dreams were rudely interrupted by the Cardinals in Week 7, and a stretch that has seen the Seahawks drop three of four, including consecutive losses to the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams, has the Hawks at 6-3 entering Thursday Night Football. That has many fans declaring the game against the Cards as a “must win” game, or at least something closely resembling a must win game. That said, the truth of the matter is that the game is far from a necessity when it comes to the Hawks’ ability to make the postseason due to a combination of a couple facts. Before jumping into those facts, though, here is the truth of how important the game Thursday night is for the Seahawks playoff aspirations.
Playoff leverage, week 11. pic.twitter.com/j1Y5GDhyqw— Brian Burke (@bburkeESPN) November 19, 2020
Basically, if Seattle wins they have about a 95% chance of making the playoffs, while if they lose they are somewhere around the 80% range. That means that a win against the Cardinals would be nice, but it’s not likely to make or break the season or keep the team out of the playoffs.
The first reason that is the case is that the next four games set up very nicely for Seattle regardless of the outcome in Week 11. Those games are:
- Week 12: at Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1)
- Week 13: New York Giants (3-7)
- Week 14: New York Jets (0-9)
- Week 15: at Washington Football Team (2-7)
That means those four games are against teams that are currently a combined 8-28-1 on the season, and that Russell Wilson will likely have the offense locked in and ready to go against defenses that don’t particularly strike fear in the opposition. All of those teams give up an average of 23.6 points per game or more, and even after putting just 16 points on the board against the Rams, Seattle is still the highest scoring team in the NFL at 32.2 points per game. So, even if the Hawks drop the game against the Cardinals Thursday, they have a very good chance to hit double digit victories before Christmas, with matchups against the Rams and San Francisco 49ers on tap to finish out the regular season.
The second reason the Seahawks have a very good shot at making the playoffs even with a loss against Arizona is the distribution of the standings in the NFC. Here is a look at the current standings for the conference from top to bottom.
Basically, as the league heads into Week 11, the majority of the teams immediately behind Seattle in the standings can only get to ten or eleven wins by winning out. In short, the teams behind the Seahawks in the standings would finish with the following win total, if they win out:
- Chicago Bears: 11 (currently 5-5, play the Green Bay Packers twice, along with games against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings)
- Detroit Lions: 11 (currently 4-6, play the Packers, Bucs, Bears and Vikings)
- Minnesota Vikings: 11 (currently 4-5 with games left against the Bucs, Lions, Bears and New Orleans Saints)
- Atlants Falcons: 10 (and Seattle holds the head to head tiebreaker)
- Carolina Panthers: 9
- NFC East: Not worth the time or effort because
The NFC East still has only 2 wins outside of the division— Anthony Amico (@amicsta) November 16, 2020
We are 10 weeks into the season
So, I could spend more time mentioning how the 2018 Seahawks were 4-5 heading into Week 11 but still managed to make the postseason or some other irrelevant comparison, but at the end of the day it boils down to this: the Seahawks upcoming schedule is soft and the teams behind them are unlikely to catch up with them.
Now, that is, of course, just looking at the potential to make the postseason and not evaluate the probability of getting the top seed, home field advantage and a first round bye in the playoffs. However, they would need to leapfrog all of the Bucs, Saints and Packers for that to happen, so that’s a situation for which the Thursday Night game against the Cardinals might be considered a must win game.