One of my favorite articles every season is the one where ESPN runs thousands of simulations of the upcoming NFL season - in this case 20,000 simulations - and then chooses one of those simulations to tell us how things will unfold.
As if any one simulation can nail a season.
To their credit, ESPN admits as much, writing:
In a single sim, almost anything can happen. Then again, the same is true in real life, as the idea of the Vikings winning 13 games or the Broncos falling flat on their faces to five wins in 2022 might have seemed laughable at this time last year.
For today’s article (and the article it references), we will be looking at ESPN 2023 NFL Season Simulation No. 3,818.
Before we jump into what Simulation No. 3,818 has in store for our favorite team, let’s look at some of the more unexpected things, like the Dallas Cowboys landing the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft with the same 4-13 record as the Arizona Cardinals, who the Cowboys beat in Week 3 - darn those pesky tiebreakers!
Are you one of the folks predicting the Jacksonville Jaguars will capture the AFC South title this year? If so, look away now. Simulation No. 3,818 has them finishing the season with a 7-10 record, 4-1/2 games behind the 11-5-1 Tennessee Titans, and a game back of both the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans who sport matching 8-9 records.
Any fans of the Detroit Lions here? Other than me? Well, the good news is that they win 11 games in Simulation No. 3,818, and grab a share of the division title. The bad news is that the Vikings have the tiebreaker which means that the Lions face the 49ers in the wildcard round.
Speaking of the 49ers . . .
Simulation No. 3,818 has our division rivals racing out to a 4-0 start - the only team to start 4-0 league-wide. However, the Seahawks are just a game off the pace with a 3-1 record heading into their Week 5 bye.
Fast forward three months and the Niners are 9-6. Yay! But Seattle is still a game back at 8-7. Boo!!
Note: Doing the math shows both teams went 5-6 between Week 5 and Week 16. Ouch!
After sixteen weeks, the best teams in the league, record-wise, are the Chiefs and Ravens with matching 11-4 records. In the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings are the front runners at 10-5, but the Carolina Panthers - yes, the Carolina Panthers! - are just half a game back at 9-5-1.
Should be a wild finish, right?
Not so much.
The Chiefs go 2-0 to finish 13-4 and lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while the Vikings split their last two games but still hang on to the top spot in the NFC - they get the nod over the Eagles via tiebreaker.
The Seahawks beat the Steelers in Week 17 and then avoid disaster at the House of Horrors in Glendale, Arizona in Week 18 to finish the season at 10-7. The team in Santa Clara splits their final two games to also finish 10-7, but . . . tiebreakers. Sigh!
The Seahawks draw the No. 3 Panthers in the wildcard round.
Seattle trounces them, 38-7.
In other action, the 49ers beat the Lions by two scores, 23-10 then lose to the Eagles in the division round, 32-23.
After dispatching the Panthers, the Seahawks face the NFC’s top seed and . . . Seattle loses to the Vikings by seven, 23-16.
The ESPN article isn’t behind a paywall so I’ll stop here.
Okay, not really.
I am stopping with the predictions, but I have some final thoughts . . .
If the NFL season plays out as ESPN Simulation No. 3,818 predicts, I think a lot of Seahawks fans would view it as a successful season - at least compared to the past few seasons:
- 41-23 playoff loss to the Niners last year
- 4th-place finish in 2021
- 30-20 loss to the Rams in 2020
Personally though, I would be disappointed if the Seahawks finished the year with a 10-7 record and/or if the Seahawks lost the division title on a tiebreaker.
I’m not sure Seattle has what it takes to reach the Super Bowl this year, but I think they’ve got a real shot - - - more of a shot than ESPN Simulation No. 3,818 gives them anyway.