RENTON – Pete Carroll is not about to discourage his team – or anybody else, for that matter – if they want to get excited about a long-shot possibility.
Even if that includes a mid-December mention of slender postseason odds.
“It’s natural to have the conversation as long as the focus is here to do the work every day,” the coach of the Seahawks said Wednesday. “They can talk like that. If they get out of whack with it, I’ll (tell) them it isn’t what we can control. We can only do something this week. It’s a long ways away still.”
When the Seahawks had a record of 2-6 at the season’s midpoint, any talk of playoffs would have been laughably out of whack. But four wins in five weeks later – behind a rushing attack that is approaching historic productivity – postseason hopes are well above the struck-by-a-meteor level.
One online site calculated the probability at 6 percent that Seattle (6-7) will land one of the two NFC wild-card spots.
But remember, Carroll and the Seahawks have skewed the math before. Before the 2010 season, the number of NFL teams to qualify for the playoffs with a 7-9 record was exactly none.
Seattle has to go on the road in two of the final three weeks, against Chicago (7-6) and Arizona (6-7), with San Francisco (10-3) visiting on Christmas Eve. Running the table is unlikely but a necessity in the scenarios.
As it stands, five other teams – only the Cowboys in contention to win a division – are vying for two wild-card spots, including Atlanta and Detroit at 8-5, Chicago and Dallas at 7-6, and Arizona also at 6-7.
Atlanta has a tough game at New Orleans, but two likely wins against Jacksonville and Tampa Bay would leave the Falcons 10-6 and the favorite to claim the fifth-seed wild card.
Detroit, though, has lost three of its past four and has Green Bay on the schedule. The Lions’ game at Oakland (7-6) could be a loss. That would leave Detroit needing a win over San Diego (5-8) to get into the 9-7 tiebreaker.
The win-out scenario for the Seahawks would include a road upset of the Bears on Sunday. Since the Bears also face Green Bay, getting to nine wins would be difficult if they lose this week.
Dallas owns a win over Seattle, and has a relatively easy schedule with games against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia helping them get to nine wins before finishing up at New York against the Giants.
Arizona is in decent position with Cleveland (4-9) and Seattle at home and a game at Cincinnati (7-6).
Without going through the varied permutations, in short, the Seahawks need to win out and have Detroit and Dallas fall apart.
Probably more relevant than any of the math is the big-picture recognition that the Seahawks have played their way back into the discussion.
“I think it’s been a convergence of the development of the guys up front, the experience that the young guys have gained,” Carroll said. “We’ve never changed the tune on what we’ve wanted to become and where we’re going, and that we believed in these guys and they believe in themselves.”
Success then breeds confidence, and confidence sometimes sustains itself.
“We’re becoming what we knew we could become; we’re going in the right direction,” veteran punter Jon Ryan said. “Inside the building, this is what we’ve seen coming for the last year and 13 games.”
“This team had confidence even when we weren’t winning,” Ryan said, and chuckled. “We’re such a young team. I don’t want to say that these guys didn’t know better, but it’s probably a little bit of being naive. But when you’re playing with that confidence, you usually play well, and even when you’re not, you are able to push through it.”
As Carroll said, it’s a long way off.
But they’re 13 games into the season and use of the “P” word doesn’t sound so terribly out of whack.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org
ROAD TO THE PLAYOFFS
The Seahawks still have playoff hopes with their 6-7 record. Here’s a look at their competitors for the NFC’s two wild card spots:
Games left: Jacksonville, at New Orleans, Tampa Bay
The Falcons should get to nine wins, and maybe 10. Consider them in as one of the NFC wild cards.
Games left: at Oakland, San Diego, at Green Bay
Losing three straight would help the Seahawks, and it’s not hard to imagine Lions stumbling in Oakland.
Games left: Seattle, at Green Bay, at Minnesota
Bears are collapsing without Jay Cutler, having lost three straight. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they lose three more.
Games left: at Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, at N.Y. Giants
Either the Cowboys or Giants will win the NFC East. Since Dallas beat Seattle, 23-13, the Cowboys own the tiebreaker if the teams finish with the same record.
N.Y. Giants (7-6)
Games left: Washington, at N.Y. Jets, Dallas
The Seahawks’ win over the Giants gives them the edge should they finish tied.
Games left: at Chicago, San Francisco, at Arizona
The first order of business is to win out, because finishing 8-8 makes it tough to get in. And going 7-9 is not going to cut it this season.
Games left: Cleveland, at Cincinnati, Seattle
Four wins in five games have put the Cardinals in the same boat as the Seahawks. And their schedule is a bit easier than Seattle’s, too.