Seattle still has an almost 75 percent chance to make the playoffs even if it never won again this season. But after a thrilling defeat on Thursday Night Football, the Chiefs will have plenty to play for.
The result of what was the latest “NFL Game of the Year’’ — the Chargers’ thrilling 29-28 comeback win over the Chiefs Thursday night in Kansas City — had a tiny little bit of an implication on Seattle’s post-season hopes.
Kansas City’s loss means the Chiefs were not able to clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye, nor clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs — which had also been a possibility this weekend with a win and a New England loss.
That means that when the Chiefs come to Seattle next Sunday night for a 5:20 p.m. kickoff they will have plenty to play for.
And should the Seahawks not have a playoff bid sewn up just yet, then that will create just a bit more nervousness among the Seattle fan base.
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And, maybe, that also adds just a tiny bit more urgency to win Sunday in San Francisco.
Recall that’s all Seattle has to do to clinch a playoff spot — beat the 49ers in a 1:05 p.m. game Sunday in Santa Clara. Seattle is listed as a four-point favorite, interestingly down from an opening 5.5.
Do that, and Seattle is assured one of the two NFC Wild Card spots (Seattle can not go higher than the five or six seed with the Rams having clinched the NFC West — the top four seeds go to the four division winners, each assured of hosting a game).
A Seattle win and a Minnesota loss at home to Miami — a game in which the Vikings are 7-point favorites and kicks off at 10 a.m. Seattle time — and then the Seahawks have the number five seed sewn up and nothing to play for in the final two games.
That would raise the question of how the Seahawks would approach the final two games (for all of Seattle’s success in the Pete Carroll era, the Seahawks have not had a scenario during his tenure where they entered a final game or games with nothing to play for).
The hunch is the Seahawks would play the Kansas City game, at least, as straight up as possible, if for not other reason than because of what the game would mean for the Chiefs.
But Seattle has some work to do first before worrying about that.
It’s worth noting there are no scenarios this weekend where the Seahawks can clinch a playoff bid with a loss.
There are three in which Seattle could clinch a bid with a tie (something the Seahawks have done only once in their history and of which there have been only 24 in the NFL since the institution of overtime in 1974).
Those are: a tie, and a Minnesota Vikings loss to Miami at home and a Carolina loss or tie Monday night against New Orleans; a tie and a Minnesota loss and a Philadelphia loss or tie against the Rams in Los Angeles and a Washington loss or tie at Jacksonville; and a tie and a Carolina loss or tie, an Eagles loss or tie and a Washington loss or tie.
In general, all you really need to know about Seattle’s playoff hopes is that logically, one win in any of the final three games assures a postseason bid (and a win against either the 49ers or the Cardinals in the regular season finale clinches it).
Seattle, at 8-5, is 1.5 games ahead of the 6-6-1 Vikings and two games ahead of the rest of the NFC (Carolina, the Eagles and Washington are all 6-7 with Green Bay at 5-7-1).
That Seattle has almost every tiebreaking edge (including head-to-head on the Vikings, Panthers and Packers) and would need to logically win just one more game the rest of the way to get a post-season bid is why 538.com and other such sites have the Seahawks’ odds of making the playoffs at 99 percent.
Even if Seattle lost each of its remaining three games — and the Seahawks will he heavily favored in the regular season finale at home against Arizona — 538.com still has the Seahawks’ playoff odds at 74 percent (since teams like Washington, Carolina and the Eagles would have to run the table to have any shot of passing Seattle.)
Seattle’s chances of losing out on a playoff bid if its only remaining win is against Kansas City are remote and revolve mostly around the unlikely possibility of the Bears losing out and falling behind the Vikings in the NFC North and creating some three-team tiebreaker scenarios — the Bears would have a head-to-head tiebreaker on Seattle if each somehow finished 9-7).
Getting the fifth seed for Seattle would almost certainly mean a trip to Dallas for a Wild Card game on the first weekend on Jan. 6 or Jan. 7.
And as a fifth or sixth seed, Seattle would likely have to win three straight games on the road to make it to the Super Bowl — the top four seeds go to the division winners, which at the moment are the Rams, New Orleans, Chicago and Dallas, in that order.
The only way a fifth seed can host a playoff game is if it makes the conference title game and would then host the sixth seed in that game.
That has never happened since the NFL went to its current playoff format since 1990.
The closest that has come to occurring was following the 2008 season when the number four Cardinals hosted the number six Eagles in the conference title game.