This has been a strange, strange season thus far. And I’m not just talking about our beloved Seahawks losing their first 3 home games for the first time since 1992 and having their NFC West title defense effectively neutered even before Russell Wilson went down in the Week 5 loss to a hated rival. I am also talking about:
- Arizona being the last team to suffer a loss (24-21 on 10/28)
- Davis Mills having more snaps for the Texans than Deshaun Watson (327 v. 0)
- Derrick Henry having more touchdown passes than Patrick Mahomes last weekend
The Haves and the Have-Nots
If the playoffs started today, the NFC field would be:
- Green Bay Packers (7-1)
- Arizona Cardinals (7-1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1)
- Dallas Cowboys (5-1)
- Los Angeles Rams (6-1)
- New Orleans Saints (4-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (3-3)
The Atlanta Falcons are also 3-3 (surprisingly) but lose the tiebreaker to the Vikings based on win percentage in conference games. Every other team in the conference is below .500.
Seattle (2-5) currently sits in 15th position, ahead of only the Detroit Lions (0-7).
Had the Seahawks managed to win their last 2 games (at Pittsburgh, vs. New Orleans), rather than lose them by a combined 6 points, they would be 4-3 and in 6th place.
My point here isn’t that Seattle still has a chance to make the playoffs (although they do), it’s that the difference between 15th place with a 2-5 record and 6th place with a 4-3 record is six points. Two very winnable games that were not won.
A parallel point is that the NFC West is very top-heavy with five 1-loss teams atop the standings.
Meanwhile, over on the AFC side of the league, this would be the field if the playoffs started today:
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)
- Las Vegas Raiders (5-2)
- Tennessee Titans(5-2)
- Buffalo Bills (4-2)
- Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
- Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)
- Cleveland Browns (4-3)
Six 2-loss teams and the Cleveland Browns at 4-3. The Steelers are the first-alternate with a .500 record (3-3). Every other team is below .500.
Side note: The idea of the Bungles as the 1-seed in the AFC makes my head hurt.
An Interesting Comparison
Who is the “biggest” team that is absent from the current AFC playoff list?
A case could probably be made for the New England Patriots if they still had TB12 and had made the playoffs last season. But they don’t and they didn’t so ... It’s the Kansas City Chiefs who currently sit at #11 with a record of 3-4.
#11 is obviously better than #15. The same clearly holds true of 3-4 versus 2-5. Seattle has been without their all-world quarterback for the past two games though and the Chiefs have had theirs all season. Thus, the difference might be less than it seems.
I, however, am not interested in the differences right now, I’m interested in the similarities between these 2 teams. (Note: This is far from an extensive list.)
Similarity #1: Both were expected to be Super Bowl contenders and neither one currently is.
Similarity #2: Each has lost to 4 teams that currently hold a playoff spot.
- Versus Tennessee (Lost by 3: 33-30 in OT)
- At Minnesota (Lost by 13: 30-17)
- Versus LAR (Lost by 9: 26-17)
- Versus New Orleans (Lost by 3: 13-10)
- At Ravens (Lost by 1: 36-35)
- Versus LAC (Lost by 6: 30-24)
- Versus Buffalo (Lost by 18: 38-20)
- At Tennessee (Lost by 24: 27-3)
Note: Kansas City also has a W against a team that currently holds a playoff spot, having beaten Cleveland in Week 1, 33-29.
Similarity #3: Both teams have struggled defensively.
- Total yards allowed: Kansas City ranks 28th with an average of 404.6 per game; Seattle is 31st with an average of 414.7
- Passing yards allowed: KC is 26th (275.7 per game); Seattle is 27th (280.6)
- Rushing yards allowed: KC is 27th (128.9 per game); Seattle is 30th (134.1)
Pretty similar, no?
It is worth noting, however, that Seattle is better at the “bend don’t break” approach as they are currently tied for 14th in the league with an average of 23.1 points allowed per game while the Chiefs are tied for 26th at 29.0.
Similarity #4: Overall, the point differentials are remarkably similar. Through 7 games, Seattle is at minus-12, having scored 150 points against 162 allowed. For Kansas City, the difference is minus-15 (188 vs. 203).
Don’t give up on either team just yet
Nationally, I suspect that the consensus is that the Chiefs have a better chance to make the playoffs than the Seahawks do. I’m not sure I buy that though.
As mentioned, KC has had Mahomes all 7 games and is 3-4 in those 7 games. Last Sunday, they got shut out in the first half by the Titans, 27-0, then proceeded to do next-to-nothing in the second half despite Tennessee taking their foot off the gas pedal.
On the other hand, Seattle has had Russell Wilson for only 4-1/2(ish) games and is 2-5. They were 2-2 with Wilson starting and finishing the game and they (and Geno Smith) had a chance at a game-winning drive in the closing moments of each of their last 3 games.
Then there’s the teams ahead of them to consider.
For Kansas City, the “vulnerable” teams in the playoff standings are the Chargers (4-2) and the Browns (4-3) with the Steelers (3-3), Patriots (3-4), and Colts (3-4) at least technically in between the Chiefs and a playoff spot.
For Seattle, the “vulnerable” teams are the Saints (4-2) and the Vikings (3-3).
I would list the teams in between Seattle and a playoff spot, but (a) there are a bunch of them, and (b) none of them are legitimate threats if Seattle starts playing better (and has a healthy RW3 under center).
The downside for Seattle, of course, is that both the Saints and the Vikings hold a head-to-head tiebreaker so Seattle has to finish ahead of them record-wise to displace them in the playoff field.
The other thing to consider when looking at just the Seahawks and the Chiefs and trying to determine whether either team is likely to make the playoffs is who they have left to play. Rather than looking at their entire remaining schedules though, let’s look at just the playoff teams (based on today’s standings) ...
- 11/14: at Packers
- 11/21: vs. Cardinals
- 12/19: at Rams
- 1/9: at Cardinals
- 11/7: vs. Packers
- 11/14: at Raiders
- 11/21: vs. Cowboys
- 12/12: vs. Raiders
- 12/16: at Chargers
- 1/2: at Bengals
Both teams have a mountain to climb over the final 11 weeks of the season. Both have what should be relatively easy “first steps” today - Kansas City is hosting the Giants (2-5) and Seattle is hosting the Jaguars (1-5).
Next week, the Chiefs play the Packers. We get the Pack the following week. Here’s to the Packers being 7-3 come November 15th.
Realistically, both teams probably need to go at least 8-2 over their final 10 games. Personally, I think both teams might pull it off. If only one does though, my money is on Seattle.