Seattle Seahawks

Even after biffing at San Fran, Seahawks can for now be 95 percent sure of their playoff selves

There’s a fine reason Russell Wilson and his Seahawks weren’t panicking or even bummin’ in the locker room after they gave away their game to the 49ers.

They are still 95-percent sure of themselves.

That is the probability right now that Seattle (8-6) makes the NFC playoffs as a wild card, with two games remaining. That includes Sunday’s home game against the AFC West co-leading Kansas City Chiefs.

“I think that sometimes in a season, in life, or whatever it may be, you go through times to help prepare you for what’s to come. So, hopefully we can use this to prepare us to be that much sharper throughout the next game, and the game after that, and then we’ll see what happens,” Wilson said after the Seahawks set a team record for penalties in handing San Francisco a 26-23 overtime win on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Use as much as we can learn from this film and study it, and figure out as a collective effort where we can get better as a team. That’s the great challenge. That’s the challenge that you either look forward to or you don’t look forward to. And I think this team, I know this team looks forward to that.

“We will respond in the right way.”

Turns out, the Seahawks are in the same position now they were in before their flag day by the Bay—14 flags at San Francisco, for a team-record 148 yards lost. Seattle still needs one NFC win to guarantee its place in the postseason and a first-round game Jan. 5 or 6.

The Seahawks have one conference game remaining, Dec. 30 at home against Arizona. One more NFC win gives Seattle the tiebreaker edge over every other wild-card contender in the conference.

The Cardinals are 3-11, tied with Oakland for the NFL’s worst record. It looked weeks ago like they’ve given up on their lost season. On Sunday they got smoked 40-14 by previously 4-9 Atlanta. Plus, Bruce Arians doesn’t appear to be coming out of the network broadcasting booth to coach the Cardinals in time to make what had been almost annual upsets at Seattle before he left coaching after last season.

The New York Times on Monday published an exhaustive statistical analysis using current league standings and more than 99,000 simulations of games over the final two weeks of the regular season. It was complete with flowcharts with “trees” of if-then scenarios of wins and losses for each playoff contender that would impress any systems engineer.

The Times’ analysis showed if the Seahawks beat the Chiefs Sunday they have a 99.5-percent chance to make the playoffs, but won’t quite assuredly clinch a spot.

If they lose to Kansas City and beat Arizona, as stated above, the Seahawks are in on conference wins.

If they lose to both the Chiefs and the Cardinals, well, Seattle still has a 65-percent chance to get in. It would then need one loss each by Washington and by Philadelphia. The Redskins and Eagles play each other on the final day of the regular season.

Washington (7-7) plays at Tennessee (8-6) Saturday. Philadelphia (7-7) hosts Houston (10-4) on Sunday hours before the Seahawks kick off that night against NFL MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

If the Seahawks beat Kansas City and if Washington loses at Tennessee on Saturday, the Seahawks are in. Washington is the one team that could beat out Seattle on conference-wins tiebreakers if both finish 9-7.

Want to get deep into the weeds on how the Seahawks could get into the playoffs at 8-8 and on a three-game losing streak? If Seattle loses to Kansas City and Arizona it still gets in if Houston wins at Philadelphia in Week 17, the Titans beat the Redskins and the Lions beat the Vikings in Detroit this weekend then the Eagles beat the Redskins and the Bears beat the Vikings next week.

There are more combinations that can get an 8-8 Seahawks team in, but no matter when you are reading this it’s too early (or late) in the day to dive into all that.

Then again, there’s an element that has nothing to do with math and everything to do with common sense. Suffice to say if the Seahawks lose to both the 49ers and Cardinals with the playoffs at stake, when a single win would do, they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

And if they still get in, they won’t stay longer than a day playing the way they did Sunday at San Francisco while ruining their four-game winning streak despite rushing for 168 yards and creating the game’s only turnover.

Asked if the loss to a team they had rolled past 43-16 two weeks ago is a wake-up call for the Seahawks, coach Pete Carroll said Monday: “Yeah, sometimes it can be.

“We’ve just got to see how we bounce from it. We were rolling pretty good there. We had four really strong games in a row. We’ve done a lot of good things for a long time, and that’s why there are so many positives you can see in the game. They’re all right in front of you. The numbers and the stats and the emphasis and completions and rushes and all those kinds of things, they add up to success. Usually, the turnover thing, no turnovers on offense, all those things usually spell a win for you.

“Without the added issue of getting behind on the penalty situation, we would’ve won the game. It’s really clear. It’s not like there’s any mystery of what happened in this game. We’ve just got to clean it up.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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