In a Seahawks season that often defied convention, maybe it makes sense that a team with one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL over the last two decades suddenly did better on the road.
The Seahawks won a franchise-record seven road games this season, losing just once, compared to a 4-4 mark at CenturyLink Field, where they are 99-45 since it opened in 2002. That’s better than any team in the NFL other than Green Bay (which is 101-41-2 at Lambeau Field in that span).
The Seahawks were one of just 12 teams in the NFL with a better road record than home, and only one other team was three games better on the road than at home — Tampa Bay, which was 5-3 on the road (with one of the losses in overtime in Seattle) and 2-6 at home.
It was also just the fifth time in Seattle’s 44-year NFL history that it finished with a better road record than home. Only once had the Seahawks had a greater disparity in its road and home record. That was the bizarre 1980 season when the Seahawks won their first four road games en route to a 4-3 record and never won again, going 4-4 on the road and 0-8 at home, the only time they never won a home game.
The other three times that they won more road games than home games it was by a margin of one, including when the 2017 team went 5-3 on the road and 4-4 at home.
One reason why may be that three of the Seahawks’ home losses were against three of the best teams in the NFL — Baltimore, New Orleans and the 49ers, all teams that went 7-1 on the road this season. Of Seattle’s seven road wins, only two came against teams with winning records.
Those two were the 49ers and the Eagles, the team the Seahawks play Sunday as they open the postseason with a wild-card game.
While you can wonder why it was and what it meant that the Seahawks had a better road than home record this season, it is the team’s biggest reason for hope as the playoffs begin.
The events of last weekend (Green Bay’s comeback win and Seattle’s loss to the 49ers), mean that, barring the unlikely chance of hosting the sixth-seeded Vikings in the NFC Conference title game, the only road the Seahawks can take to the Super Bowl is, well, on the road.
If the Seahawks can get past the Eagles, they would go to either San Francisco, or less likely, Green Bay, for the divisional round. If they got past that, it’d be on the road again for the conference title game unless the Vikings meet them there.
It’s a road that’s been traveled before but not often.
Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990, only one five seed has made it to the Super Bowl — the 2007 Giants, who beat the undefeated Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. Only two six seeds have done it — the 2005 Steelers who beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and the 2010 Packers, who also won it all.
Of the 58 spots in the Super Bowl since 1990 (two each year), 46 have gone to teams that had a first-round bye, with only 12 going to wild-card teams.
So yeah, hold off on making those reservations to Miami.
But the Seahawks are understandably embracing the “road warrior” challenge as the playoffs begin.
“Some teams worry about playing on the road,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “I don’t think we do.”
Players have cited the closeness of this team and such things as deciding to take one bus together to the game as reasons for the road success this year. Wilson also cited that they often has a large contingent of fans, though that may not be as big of a factor in a playoff game with hard-to-schedule, last-minute travel. Philly fans may also come out in force for a playoff game that until a few weeks ago seemed unlikely.
“It’s everybody on this sideline against this whole stadium,” Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald said. “We like the threat. We like being the underdogs and being counted out. We thrive in those opportunities.”
The Seahawks are actually a 1.5-point favorite after the Eagles began the week as a one-point favorite. Bettors may be swayed by the Seahawks’ resume and not sold on the fact that the Eagles beat up on a soft NFC East to get into the playoffs. They also may just be thinking Seattle has a huge edge in Wilson at QB over Carson Wentz.
Wilson is 8-5 in the playoffs with a passer rating of 94.9 that is ninth in league history (just behind the 95.6 of Joe Montana).
Wentz has yet to play in the postseason, missing the last two seasons due to injury.
Like his team, Wilson was at his best on the road this season. He completed 70.46 percent of passes on the road this season compared to 62.37 at home, averaging 8.35 yards per attempt compared to 7.63.
And if the Seahawks are to truly navigate the long road it would take to get back to the Super Bowl, it’s Wilson who will lead the way.
“There’s only 12 teams left,” Wilson said. “The great thing is we are one of those 12. It really comes down to just having a fresh start. New season. Just really trying to be great on the road, trying to be great in execution. That’s what it comes down to. Trying to have a good start and have a great finish. I think that’s really what it comes down to. Nothing magical. You have to make your plays when they’re there.”