Not to be dramatic but the Seattle Seahawks may have saved their playoff chances on in Week 4.
They also might have dashed the same hopes of the San Francisco 49ers.
We didn’t want to add any extra pressure to the players last week, but the NFC West rivalry matchup was statistically the most important game of Week 4.
For anyone new to this playoff leverage calculation, it’s ESPN’s week-by-week prediction of playoff likelihood, forecast a week ahead by either a win or a loss. The darker color represents the team’s playoff chances if they lose; the shaded extension the chances if they win. The difference therefore gets called the “Playoff Leverage,” meaning the overall swing this one upcoming game will have.
Personally, I think there’s room for error because if a divisional opponent one game ahead of team X loses, then the chances for team X will be different than the mere outcome of their own game.
But who cares - the Niners vs Seahawks was and is a big deal.
Seattle could have fallen into the “extremely unlikely” category with the loss, as the model predicts they’d be around a 24% chance of making the playoffs. Their leverage at 22% added to San Francisco’s leverage at 22% meant this game, early in the season, was the most playoff-implying matchup of Week 4. The Niners, in last place with a divisional loss, have a long road ahead of them.
I’d include the chart for this week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, but they don’t come out until Thursday and by then, we’ll likely just be posting immediate updates like inactives. But the Rams are 3-1 and currently 78.4% odds to make the playoffs, to the Seahawks 48.6. Whatever the number, it will be another massive swing in Playoff Leverage this week to be sure - a 3-2 Seattle with two divisional wins ahead of 3-2 L.A. with two divisional losses and 4th place Niners would jump them up another 20-something points in the odds.
Like Pete Carroll says, every game is a championship opportunity and his team will treat it as such.