That was one of the best Sundays of the season for the Seahawks.
And they didn’t even play.
The Seahawks got the weekend off following their huge rally past Green Bay Thursday that revived their season. Sunday provided more positives. The teams holding the final three playoff spots in the NFC directly ahead of Seattle (5-5) all lost.
Suddenly, the Seahawks are just 1/2 game out of a playoff place.
Days after being a few minutes from 4-6 with their season on the brink, the Seahawks unexpectedly control their own postseason fate.
They were home Sunday night watching Minnesota (5-4-1) lose to NFC North-leading Chicago. That dropped the Vikings to the sixth seed, the current holder of the second wild card and last playoff spot. The Seahawks host Minnesota on Dec. 10.
Carolina (6-4) lost its second straight game, 20-19 at Detroit on Sunday. The Panthers went for the victory late with a 2-point conversion and Cam Newton threw high into the end zone on it.
The Seahawks play at the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., this Sunday. A win makes the Seahawks not just a holder of a playoff spot with five weeks left in the regular season but potentially the fifth seed, the first of the two wild-card playoff places in the conference.
The fifth conference seed plays in the opening round against the fourth seed, the team with the worst record among the four division winners. That currently is Washington.
The Redskins (6-4) lost at home to Houston, and lost starting quarterback Alex Smith for the season to a broken leg. They play on Thursday at Dallas (5-5) for the NFC East lead.
The Seahawks own the tiebreaker on the Cowboys because Seattle beat Dallas in week three. So Seattle would more directly benefit by Washington staying atop the NFC East, for now, to keep Dallas behind the Seahawks in a wild-card race for which Seattle holds that tiebreaker edge on the Cowboys.
The teams directly behind the Seahawks in NFC playoff position also lost this week: Green Bay, Philadelphia (4-6 after its 48-7 defeat Sunday at 9-1 New Orleans) and Atlanta (4-6 after its home loss to Dallas).
Even a development in the AFC on Sunday could benefit Seattle down the line.
The Los Angeles Chargers (7-3) blew a 12-point lead in the second half and lost at home to Denver (3-7) on the final play. That gives Kansas City (9-1) a two-game lead for now over the Chargers atop the AFC West. A larger division lead for the Chiefs increases the possibility they could have less or nothing to play for when they play the Seahawks at CenturyLink FIeld in week 16 next month.
Kansas City is 1 1’/2 games up on Pittsburgh for the top seed in the AFC playoffs. The Chiefs have a showdown Monday night at the Rams (9-1). Los Angeles has a four-game division lead on Seattle and is on its way to winning the NFC West for the second consecutive season.
Suddenly, two months after starting the season 0-2 and four days after the Seahawks were 6 minutes from losing to Green Bay and being pushed to the brink of playoff elimination, they are directly in the middle of the conference’s race to the postseason.
What a difference a comeback win and then a sunny Sunday make.
“We’ve got a very young team, young defense. We’ve been through a lot throughout this whole season,” Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “And it’s time for us to get over that hump and pull out these wins.
“We’ve witnessed the other side enough, and I think everybody feels that. That’s why I feel confident about us winning these next few games.”
The Seahawks got an added benefit beyond beating the Packers, getting these three extra days off and getting other results to go their way this weekend: no new injuries Thursday night.
“I’m thrilled about that. Honestly,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Really, a couple of guys that missed the game because they were banged up will be in the fight this time around, too, coming back. We’ll get healthier with a couple more guys, too. (Reserve strong safety) Delano Hill, he’ll get back (after missing the Packers game), and that’d be great to have him back out there. So it’ll help.”
Plus running back J.D. McKissic, now eligible to return from injured reserve, is scheduled to return to practice this week for the first time since he broke a bone in his foot in August.
The vibes, for now, are like everything else since Thursday: in the Seahawks’ favor.
“We’ll come back Monday and get back after it with another huge matchup going to Carolina,” Carroll said, “and playing in a place that we’re pretty familiar with, but it’s still a very difficult place to play.”