RENTON – They’ve played worse as the season winds down, similar to last year’s 0-4 finish that led to Jim Mora’s firing. Yet Seattle Seahawks players are only considering one thing – they’re still in the playoff hunt.
“Hopefully, we can win all of our games and put ourselves in the best position possible,” Seahawks defensive tackle Colin Cole said. “We can’t depend on other teams to lose, or whatever the case may be. You don’t want to limp into the playoffs. We want to finish strong.”
The Seahawks are dragging heavy feet right now, after losing five of the past seven games by a combined score of 190-74. But Seattle can thank the fact that it is in the middling NFC West for still having a reasonable chance of making the playoffs.
Leon Washington, who has postseason experience from his four years with the New York Jets, understands one thing: with Seattle tied with St. Louis atop the division, with 6-7 records and each having three games left to play – you can only play them one at a time.
“We’ve got one game left,” Washington said. “We can’t look ahead. We’ve got a good Atlanta team coming in this week. The NFL’s a long season. We’re still up there atop the division, so you just want to keep playing hard, keep the focus and keep the faith.”
Seattle’s task Sunday is to try and figure out a way to take down perhaps the best team in the NFC when the 11-2 Atlanta Falcons travel to Qwest Field.
A look at the scenarios remaining for Seattle to make the postseason:
• If the Seahawks win the rest of their games, they will win the division and get in the playoffs at 9-7 by virtue of beating division rival St. Louis in the final game of the season.
• If Seattle wins two of its last three games, including a win in the season finale at against St. Louis, and San Francisco loses one of its three remaining games, Seattle would go to the playoffs at 8-8.
• The Seahawks could become the first team in league history to make the playoffs at 7-9 if they beat St. Louis in the final game of the season and the Rams lose to San Francisco, and the Niners lose two out of three games down the stretch. If Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis tie at 7-9, with the Niners beating St. Louis and Arizona, then the Niners would go to the playoffs by virtue of their better NFC West division record of 5-1.
The first of 11 tiebreakers within a division is head-to-head matchups, followed by best record within the division, best win-loss percentage between common opponents and best record within the NFC. The final tiebreaker is a coin toss.
• If the Seahawks defeat Atlanta and Tampa Bay but lose in the final game of the season against the Rams, Seattle still could make it into the playoffs at 8-8 if St. Louis loses to Kansas City and San Francisco, and the Niners lose to either San Diego or Arizona while defeating the Rams in two weeks.
Confused? We hope not. Here’s a look at how the four NFC West teams break down, with all four still in the hunt for the division title:
Opponents: Sunday vs. Atlanta (11-2), Dec. 26 at Tampa Bay (8-5) and Jan. 2 vs. St. Louis (6-7).
Opponents’ combined record: (25-14).
Division record: 3-2
Conference record: 5-4
The skinny: The Seahawks still control their own destiny. If they win the next three games, they’re in.
Opponents: Sunday vs. Kansas City (8-5), Dec. 26 vs. San Francisco (5-8), Jan. 2 at Seattle (6-7).
Opponents’ combined record: (19-20)
Division record: 2-2.
Conference record: 4-6
The skinny: Like Seattle, if the Rams win their next three games, they’re in.
Opponents: Thursday at San Diego (7-6), Dec. 26 at St. Louis (6-7) and Jan. 2 vs. Arizona (4-9).
Opponents’ combined record: (17-20).
Division record: 3-1
Conference record: 3-7
Elimination scenario: If the Niners lose one of two remaining divisional games, they’re out.
The skinny: If the 49ers can go 2-1 the rest of the way, with their lone loss coming at San Diego, they can still win the division if the Rams lose to Kansas City and the Seahawks also lose to Atlanta and at Tampa Bay. If the 49ers finish in a tie for the division lead, they would win the tie-breaker because of a better division record in that scenario.
Opponents: Sunday at Carolina (1-12), Dec. 25 vs. Dallas (4-9) and Jan. 2 at San Francisco (5-8).
Opponents’ combined record: (10-29).
Division record: 1-4
Conference record: 2-7
Elimination scenario: The Cardinals are eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or tie, a Seattle win or tie, or a St. Louis win or tie.
The skinny: The Cardinals still have faint playoff hopes, but it would take Arizona winning out, the Niners finishing 1-2 and Seattle and St. Louis losing their next two and then finishing in a tie in their final game.
SEAHAWKS’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
1:05 p.m., Sunday, Qwest Field
Against the Seahawks: These teams meet for the 12th time Sunday. The Seahawks hold an 8-3 advantage but lost the previous game against the Falcons, 44-41, in the final game of the 2007 season at the Georgia Dome.
Stats and stuff: The Falcons have the best record in the NFC at 11-2 and are riding a seven-game winning streak. Atlanta is led by one of the up-and-coming quarterbacks in Matt Ryan. In his third season out of Boston College, Ryan is eighth in the league in touchdowns (22), 11th in completion percentage (63.2 percent) and 12th in passing yards (3,147). Ryan was the No. 3 overall pick in 2008... Ryan’s favorite target is Roddy White, who leads the league in receiving yards (1,219) and receptions (99), and is tied for 12th in touchdowns (seven). ... Running back Michael Turner is fourth in the league in rushing (1,174 yards) and has scored 11 touchdowns. ... Former Seahawks secondary coach Tim Lewis holds the same title for the Falcons. ... Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy played for the Falcons from 2006 to 2008.
Quotable: “We are going out there for one thing and that’s to get a win.” – Atlanta linebacker Michael Peterson on his team’s third consecutive road trip – and the longest one, to Seattle.
Eric D. Williams, staff writer
Sept. 12Steelers 15, Falcons 9
Sept. 19Falcons 41, Cardinals 7
Sept. 26Falcons 27, Saints 24
Oct. 3 Falcons 16, 49ers 14
Oct. 10 Falcons 20, Browns 10
Oct. 17 Eagles 31, Falcons 17
Oct. 24 Falcons 39, Bengals 32
Oct. 31 Bye
Nov. 7 Falcons 27, Bucs 21
Nov. 11 Falcons 26, Ravens 21
Nov. 21 Falcons 34, Rams 17
Nov. 28 Falcons 20, Packers 17
Dec. 5 Falcons 28, Bucs 24
Dec. 12 Falcons 31, Panthers 10
Sunday at Seattle
Dec. 27 New Orleans