Seahawks reporter Bob Condotta breaks down the Seahawks' playoff possibilities after they clinched a berth. But with the NFC West out of reach, how will things play out for Seattle?
What we know about the Seattle Seahawks’ playoff situation is that they are indeed in the playoffs.
Seattle clinched a spot with its win on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. For those who wondered why that is when the Seahawks could conceivably still fall into a tie with the Vikings and Falcons at 9-7, it’s that the Seahawks and Falcons would win that three-team tiebreker with the Vikings the odd team out due to strength of schedule (Seattle wins a two-team tiebreaker with the Vikings due to the head-to-head win and would win a common games two-team tie with the Falcons).
What we also know about the Seahawks and their playoff situation is that they can not win the NFC West, meaning they will be either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs and will play on the road on the first weekend of the playoffs, Jan. 9 or Jan. 10.
What we don’t know is basically everything else.
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In fact, Seattle could still theoretically face one of five teams in the first game — Washington, Philadelphia, the New York Giants, Minnesota or Green Bay.
That field could shrink considerably by Saturday night, though.
If Washington wins at Philadelphia Saturday night, then Washington will be the NFC East champs and will eliminate the Eagles and Giants from the playoff race.
Odds are that would then set up a Seattle-Washington Wild Card game. In fact, that could all be settled by the end of the weekend.
If Washington beats the Eagles Saturday, it will clinch the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
The Seahawks could then clinch the No. 5 seed by beating St. Louis while Minnesota loses to the Giants at home and Green Bay wins at Arizona.
If that happens, then the Seahawks would go to Arizona for the regular season finale on Jan. 3 with nothing on the line.
Minnesota is a six-point favorite to beat the Giants at home. But the Packers are a 4.5-point underdog at Arizona, a game the Cardinals need to win to clinch a first-round bye.
If Arizona wins that game, and Carolina wins at Atlanta, then the Cardinals will be assured of the No. 2 seed, and would mean that Arizona would have nothing to play for when it hosts the Seahawks.
Seattle could still fall to the No. 6 seed. One way is by simply losing both of its remaining games while the Vikings win at least one (remember, Seattle wins all two-team tiebreakers with the Vikings due to its win there earlier this month).
Seattle also could fall to the No. 6 seed if it ends up in three-way ties with Green Bay and Minnesota at either 11-5 or 10-6. In both of those scenarios, though, the Vikings have to beat Green Bay to win the NFC North. That would then mean another Seattle trip to Minnesota to open the playoffs (though the Vikings are sort of fans of Seattle this week since a Seahawks’ win eliminates the Falcons and secures a playoff spot for Minnesota).
If the Seahawks lose both games while the Vikings win this week but lose to Green Bay, then Seattle would end up making another trip to the “frozen tundra’’ of Lambeau Field for the wild card round.
And as one reader noted, there’s another scenario where Seattle, in a way, would have nothing to play for the last weekend simply due to the fact that it would all be out of Seattle’s hands.
If the Seahawks, Packers and Vikings all win this weekend, then Minnesota and Green Bay would play the final week (a game that will be held at Lambeau) for the NFC North title, a result that would then make Seattle’s game at Arizona meaningless for the Seahawks.
In that scenario, it would not matter if Seattle beat the Cardinals, only what would happen in the Green Bay-Minnesota game (specifically, a Minnesota win would mean the Vikings would win the North and the Packers would then be the No. 5 seed and the Seahawks the No. 6 even if they beat the Cardinals, while a Green Bay win over the Vikings would give the Packers the title and give Seattle the No. 5 seed over the Vikings regardless of the result against the Cardinals).
In that same scenario, though, Arizona could have lots to play for, potentially needing the win to secure a first-round bye.
And Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday that he won’t worry about the various scenarios and pretty much plans to play the games straight up even if they may be technically meaningless in terms of the playoffs.
“I really don’t believe that you should ask players to take a break. I think they’ve got to go,’’ Carroll said. “If we decide not to play guys for a different reason, that could happen. That’s not going to be because we’re going to take a step off of the gas pedal right now. We want to keep driving it and try to play the best we can this week and have a successful week. We’ll see what that leaves us next week. There will be no reason not to go for it again. It’s like letting someone not try their hardest. I don’t find any place for that in our game.”