The bye week went about as well as the Seahawks could have hoped.
Not only did they get Russell Wilson back to practice, but they also saw their playoff chances improve without doing anything.
Losses by a slew of other NFC teams with records similar to Seattle’s — and in theory, their most direct competition for a playoff spot — such as the Saints, Bears, Vikings, 49ers, Eagles and Panthers helped the Seahawks go from a 24% chance to make the playoffs to 29%, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
And thanks to the 49ers’ loss, the Seahawks moved out of last place in the NFC West, officially tied with San Francisco at 3-5 but with a head-to-head win.
And when the dust cleared on the weekend, the Seahawks were seeded No. 10 in the 16-team NFC playoff picture, three spots out of the final wild card spot — remember, there are now seven — but only a game behind the team holding that position, the 4-4 Falcons (the 7-2 Rams and 5-3 Saints hold the other two wild card spots behind division leaders Arizona, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Dallas).
Seattle also trails No. 8 Carolina (4-5), and the Vikings, who like Seattle are 3-5 but have a head-to-head tiebreaker on the Seahawks (as do the Saints).
But the Seahawks have renewed optimism not just because of how the weekend evolved on the field but what happened off it — Wilson returning to practice, Seattle also potentially getting back Dee Eskridge and Chris Carson this week (Eskridge has returned to practice while Carson is expected to on Wednesday, Pete Carroll said). And as this is written, maybe adding receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“We are looking as if this is a new beginning on the season,” Carroll said Monday. “This is a huge matchup coming out of the chutes here with Green Bay, and we will take it one game at a time to see how far we can go with every intention that we are starting over again.”
But if Carroll wants to take it one game a time, the team’s “new beginning” also makes it a good time to review what the Seahawks will face in the second half of the season, a stretch that features nine games in nine weeks.
Nov. 14 at Green Bay (7-2): As this is written, it looks like we may well get Wilson vs. Aaron Rodgers after all. Also a challenge for the Seahawks is a Green Bay defense under first-year coordinator Joe Barry emerging as one of the best in the NFL, having held five of the last eight opponents to 17 points or fewer (though a stat that will catch Carroll’s eye is Green Bay allowing 4.6 yards per rush, more than all but six other teams).
Nov. 21 vs. Arizona (8-1): It also looks like the Seahawks will see Kyler Murray, who missed Sunday’s win over the 49ers with an ankle injury but appears to have a better shot to play Sunday against Carolina. More ominous? The Cardinals just seem like a solid all-around team, ranking second in points scored and third in points allowed and also top five in both yards gained and yards allowed (though oddly, allowing 4.8 yards per carry, 31st in the NFL).
Nov. 29 at Washington (2-6): WFT’s defense has been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL, widely hyped before the season but ranked 29th in both yards and points allowed this season. And with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said to be nowhere close to returning from a hip injury, the Seahawks will likely see backup Taylor Heinicke.
Dec. 5 vs. San Francisco (3-5): The 49ers have faceplanted following a 2-0 start, losing five of six since then with continuing discussion of how long Jimmy Garoppolo will be the QB. One weird number about the 49ers — they are averaging almost a yard per play more than their opponents, 6.1-5.3, painting the picture of a still-dangerous team.
Dec. 12 at Houston (1-8): This is one of two games remaining Seattle has against a team that could be considered the worst in the NFL. That represents both opportunity for Seattle but also makes this an absolute must-win.
Dec. 19 at Los Angeles Rams (7-2): The Seahawks will catch the Rams in a somewhat advantageous situation, coming off a Monday night game at Arizona. The Rams’ 476 yards in the first game against the Seahawks remains L.A.’s season high.
Dec. 26 vs. Chicago (3-6): The emergence of Justin Fields makes this a potentially much more interesting and dangerous game. The Bears also will be coming off a Monday night home game against the Vikings.
Jan. 2 vs. Detroit (0-8): If the Texans aren’t the worst team in the NFL then it’s the Lions — Detroit has not scored more than 19 points since the opening week of the season. The big question will be if the Lions will be playing to avoid falling to 0-16 and in danger of then becoming the first 0-17 team in NFL history.
Jan. 9 at Arizona: This game will be all about what is on the line for either or both teams. Will the Cardinals need it to hang on to home field advantage or win the division? Will the Seahawks need it to clinch a playoff spot? It’s hard to imagine it won’t mean something.