From Marshall Faulk: "Being GMC Professional Grade means leveraging momentum to your advantage. Seattle-Arizona is the kind of game that could define the course of the rest of the season. When you think about their division - who needs it more? Seattle: do they need to to re-establish themselves and let everyone know that, hey, ‘we're the defending champs! We are still here!'? Or Arizona: do they feel like they need to defy all the crowd noise, maybe kick some of the people that have jumped no their bandwagon off, and let them know that, hey, it's a new season, and we are the new favorite!'?
To answer Marshall's question, I think it's pretty clear that Seattle needs this game more than Arizona does. Arizona is pretty much a lock for a playoffs berth at 9-1. Per FiveThirtyEight's ELO ratings, the Cards have a 96% shot at making the playoffs and they're at 80% to win the division. Arizona could lose this game and still have a firm grip on the NFC West, but on the other hand, the Seahawks have their backs against the wall in terms of their playoff aspirations. Per ELO, they're at 47% to make the playoffs, and just 12% odds to win the NFC West.
Football Outsiders' playoffs odds aren't quite as generous. FO has Seattle at 43.5% to make the playoffs right now and just 11.3% odds to win the West. Seattle may have the top weighted DVOA in the division, but they're currently on the outside looking in. That's what crappy losses to the Rams and Cowboys will do to you.
That's why there's no way around it for me -- I'll stop just short of calling it a must win because they Seahawks would not be mathematically eliminated, but this is as an enormous game for the Seahawks as we've seen since last year's playoffs. In all likelihood, this game will set the tone for expectations down the homestretch. Lose, and in truth, things start getting into that "we need everyone else to lose or we're finished" realm of scoreboard watching, and Seattle would fall to 6-5 and essentially needing to win out for any hope at the postseason. Win, and Seattle would move to 7-3, 1-1 in their division, and start looking at heading down to San Francisco to move to 8-4 and 2-1 in the West by dispatching the Niners.
As Kenneth pointed out yesterday in his Advanced Stats update,
According to Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight, Seattle will have 60% odds of making the playoffs if they win this game, 30% if they lose. That's the biggest potential swing for any team in the NFL this weekend.
If Seattle loses, there's not really any other way to put it: their chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions turn into nothing more than a pipe-dream. It'd remain a remote possibility, but in the savage, unforgiving NFC West, things would be looking pretty grim.
That said, the cool thing about the position the Seahawks find themselves in right now is that they are in control of their own destiny. Their Playoffs odds may be south of 50% right now, but Seattle has five of their last six games against division opponents, every game vs. a conference opponent, and will have the chance to buy their own ticket to the postseason without having to scoreboard watch.
Of course, Playoff aspirations aren't the only thing on the line. The Cardinals were the only team to come to CenturyLink last season and win, so the Seahawks are playing for pride as well. Arizona proudly proclaimed that "a new Sheriff is in town" while celebrating in the CLink locker room last December. Seattle needs to remind them who went on to win the West and win the Super Bowl.
Pete Carroll's mantra has always been to "own the West" and right now, Seattle is 0-1. Their first step toward owning the division starts on Sunday.