Seattle officially fell a spot in the NFC playoff standings Thursday. But the overall NFC playoff picture appeared to get more favorable for the Seahawks due to the Thanksgiving Day results.
Officially, the Seahawks dropped a spot in the NFC playoff standings Thursday due to the results of the three Thanksgiving Day games, which each featured two NFC teams.
But in the bigger picture, the standings at the end of the day were more favorable for Seattle than they were at the beginning. In fact, a scenario now exists for Seattle to officially be in the NFC playoff picture at the end of the weekend (more on which below).
First, a caveat that this is written understanding that the biggest thing that needs to happen this weekend to help Seattle’s playoff hopes is for the Seahawks to win at Carolina.
A win for the Seahawks Sunday would not only make them 6-5 but would also deal a loss to one of the teams ahead of them in the standings. Carolina is 6-4, and if Seattle beats the Panthers the two teams will have identical records but the Seahawks will have the head-to-head tiebreaker and move ahead in the playoff standings.
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A Seattle loss, meanwhile, won’t mean making the playoffs is impossible, but it will make it one heck of a lot harder.
After Thursday’s games, the Seahawks are given a 44 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
That’s down from 45 percent entering the day.
And that one percent drop is because after Thursday’s results, Seattle is — for the moment — eighth in the NFC playoff standings. Seattle had been seventh entering the day.
But Dallas’ win over Washington shook things up a bit.
Dallas had been eighth entering the day but the win over Washington means the Cowboys are now leading the NFC East (holding a divisional game tiebreaker on Washington), and as such now have the number four seed in the NFC (the four division winners get the top four seeds with the two teams with the next best records getting the two Wild Card spots).
Conversely, the loss dropped Washington to 6-5 and seventh in the NFC playoff standings, ahead of Seattle, which is 5-5 with a game to play this weekend.
Seattle will still be behind Washington at the end of the weekend no matter what it does against Carolina, since for the moment, Washington has a tiebreaker edge on the Seahawks due to a better conference record — 6-3 to Seattle’s 4-3 entering the Carolina game.
It’s for the reasons of the tiebreaker that Seattle would have preferred Washington beat Dallas — the Seahawks will hold any tiebreaker on the Cowboys due to beating them earlier this season while Seattle does not play Washington.
But Washington also now faces a tough stretch the rest of the season with three of its last five on the road and has to play those games with backup QB Colt McCoy, who started his first game Thursday in place of Alex Smith, who is out for the season with a leg injury suffered last Sunday.
Washington’s playoff odds have dropped from 67 percent to 39 percent via 538.com in the last five days due to those two losses (and as you can see, lower than Seattle’s, even though Washington at the moment is technically ahead of Seattle in the playoff standings).
The other two results helped Seattle a bit as Chicago beat Detroit and New Orleans beat Atlanta.
Chicago’s win over Detroit means Seattle doesn’t really have to worry about Detroit anymore, assuming you thought there was any reason left to worry about the Lions. But with Detroit at 4-7 and Seattle having the head-to-head tiebreaker, any anxiety about the Lions seems done.
The Falcons also fell to 4-7, having now lost three in a row, a streak that began after Atlanta had won three in a row to appear a viable playoff contender.
Atlanta, which played in the Super Bowl 22 months ago, now has just a five percent chance to make the playoffs, via 538.com — the Falcons were at 44 percent when they were 4-4.
Logically, that makes it a 10-team race for the six playoff spots.
The top six currently are New Orleans (10-1), Los Angeles (10-1), Chicago (8-3) and Dallas (6-5) as the division leaders with Carolina (6-4) and Minnesota (5-4-1) as the two Wild Cards.
Below them are Washington (6-5) and Seattle (5-5) followed by Green Bay (4-5-1) and the Eagles (4-6).
But Seattle also has the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker on Green Bay, which now plays at Minnesota.
Seattle fans can root for the Packers hoping for a combination of a Seattle win and Vikings loss that would move the Seahawks ahead of Minnesota — a team regarded as a Super Bowl favorite heading into the season — with the knowledge that the Vikings also still have to come to Seattle on Dec. 10.
In fact — yep, we tried to keep you reading this long — that combination of results would mean that at the end of the weekend, Washington would have the number five seed in the NFC and Seattle number six (in that scenario, both Washington and Seattle would have head-to-head tiebreakers on Carolina — Washington beat the Panthers earlier this season — and each would obviously have better records than Minnesota and Green Bay.)
As for the Eagles, last year’s Super Bowl champs now host the Giants and Washington the next two weeks.
The Eagles, though, not only are up against it due to their overall record but also are just 2-5 in the conference, one reason the Eagles have just a 21 percent chance to make the playoffs, via 538.com.
As for the Panthers, here is something to consider — they still have two games left against the Saints, in the 15th and 17th weeks of the season. Seattle may be needing to root for the Rams to keep the heat on New Orleans and make those games ones that the Saints have to win. Or, if the Seahawks just keep winning, maybe not.