The Seahawks helped their playoff chances as much as any team in the NFL last weekend.
Of all the things that the Seahawks’ win over the Eagles did for the team —- established that rumors of their demise had been greatly overstated, proved that they remain capable of beating anyone on Any Given Sunday — what may be easy to overlook is how much it helped them in the playoff picture.
In fact, according to 538.com, no team improved their postseason odds last weekend more than did Seattle, which it estimated now has a 28 percent better chance of making it to the playoffs than a week ago.
Those odds, according to 538.com, are now at 80 percent to make the postseason after resting at 52 percent last week.
That’s the result of Seattle not only getting a win many didn’t think it would, but also losses by Atlanta (at home to Minnesota) and Detroit (at Baltimore) that dropped each of those team’s odds markedly, according to 538.com — the Falcons by 22 percent overall to 46 percent and the Lions by 25 percent to just 10 percent.
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In fact, the results of the weekend appear to realistically make it a seven-team race for six playoff spots in the NFC.
To reset where things stand with the Seahawks, Seattle is now 8-4 and second in the NFC West behind the 9-3 Los Angeles Rams (more on which in a minute).
That record has Seattle holding the No. 5 spot in the NFC playoff picture at the moment ahead of Carolina, which is also 8-4, due to a better conference record (the Seahawks 6-3 and the Panthers 4-4). Since the two teams don’t play this year, that’s a critical tiebreaker for Seattle to hold, and another thing that was a great benefit of the win over the Eagles.
That means that if the season ended today the Seahawks would play at New Orleans in the wildcard round of the playoffs as the Saints hold the No. 4 seed by virtue of a 9-3 record. That has the Saints tied with the Rams behind the 10-2 Eagles and Vikings, but with the Rams getting the No. 3 seed since Los Angeles beat New Orleans two weeks ago.
The Falcons fell to the seventh spot at 7-5 with their loss to Minnesota while the Lions, who have lost their last two, are now 6-6 as are Green Bay and Dallas.
Both the Packers and Cowboys got wins over the weekend and there’s much excitement in Green Bay, in particular, with Aaron Rodgers returning. It’s also worth remembering that the Packers beat Seattle earlier in the year, and that Dallas hosts the Seahawks on Dec 24. So Seattle could fall into somewhat dangerous territory if it ends up in ties with either team.
But making up two games in four weeks isn’t easy as the 538.com odds for each team detail — Green Bay is at 7 percent to make the playoffs and Dallas at 5 percent.
Everybody else in the NFC is logically out of it at this point.
But while the Seahawks are in demonstrably better shape to make it as a wildcard than a week ago, the real goal remains winning the division.
The difference in winning the division versus the wildcard is getting at least one home game, and if Seattle could somehow sneak into a top two seed, getting a bye in the first round.
A top two seed won’t be easy, though — to reference 538.com again, the site gives the Seahawks just a 4 percent chance.
But the division at this point remains in Seattle’s control since the Seahawks beat the Rams earlier this season in Los Angeles 16-10. That means that if Seattle beats the Rams again on Dec. 17 and the two teams end up in a tie, then the Seahawks would get the division title.
Both the Seahawks and Rams have challenging schedules ahead.
Seattle plays at 8-4 Jacksonville Sunday, then hosts the Rams, plays at Dallas and then hosts Arizona.
The Rams host the Eagles, play at Seattle, pat Tennessee and then host the 49ers.
The edge there would seem to go to Seattle due to getting to host the Rams.
But the Seahawks have to overcome some slight odds to make that game as important as it can be — while the Rams are 2.5-point favorites over the Eagles Sunday, Seattle is a 3.5-point underdog against the Jaguars.
Atlanta, obviously, also remains worth watching since the Falcons own a head-to-head tiebreaker edge on the Seahawks. The Falcons also have a brutal schedule the rest of the way, though, hosting New Orleans Thursday, then playing at Tampa Bay, at New Orleans again and then hosting Carolina.
If the Saints beat Atlanta Thursday then the Seahawks will enter the weekend knowing that the worst thing that could happen is falling to the No. 6 spot, though Carolina has a tough matchup of its own, hosting the Vikings.