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Seahawks' playoff chances dissected

  • Michael Robinson (26) runs back a blocked punt for the Seahawks first touchdown of the game. With him are Doug Baldwin (15), who blocked the punt, and...

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Michael Robinson (26) runs back a blocked punt for the Seahawks first touchdown of the game. With him are Doug Baldwin (15), who blocked the punt, and Ron Parker.

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By John Boyle
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Michael Robinson (26) runs back a blocked punt for the Seahawks first touchdown of the game. With him are Doug Baldwin (15), who blocked the punt, and...

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Michael Robinson (26) runs back a blocked punt for the Seahawks first touchdown of the game. With him are Doug Baldwin (15), who blocked the punt, and Ron Parker.

SEATTLE -- After the Seahawks knocked off Baltimore and St. Louis to improve to 4-6, NFL fans in the Northwest started whispering the P word.
Could, as improbable as it sounded, these Seahawks make the playoffs? At the time Seattle was about to play three straight games at home. Suddenly a 7-6 record seemed possible. Well, that was followed by a home loss to Washington, which quickly put a damper on all the enthusiasm, but after two more wins, the 6-7 Seahawks are, as hard as it might be to believe, still clinging to playoff hopes.
Back when the Seahawks were 4-6, the playoffs were a long shot, and now, three weeks later, the postseason is still an unlikely dream. For starters, getting to 9-7, which Seattle would have to do, requires finishing the season on a five-game winning streak. That's an awfully tall order for a franchise that hasn't won three straight since 2007. And secondly, even if the Seahawks do win out, they'll still need a lot of help to earn a wild-card berth.
"I don't even have any attention on that at all," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said when asked about his team's playoff chances. "What our focus is is to stay with what we're doing and to bring it to life again next week against Chicago. That's our challenge. We haven't done anything yet, but we're on track to find ourselves. Where that leaves us at the end of the season -- there's a lot going on -- I don't know the scenarios, I don't even care. I want us to practice really well on Wednesday."
But even if Carroll isn't thinking about playoff scenarios, that doesn't mean you can't. I mean, after all, what's the harm in dreaming big as long as the possibility is still out there?
Since there's still (a wee bit of) hope, let's take a look at the current playoff picture.
If the playoffs started today, these six NFC teams would be in:
1. Green Bay (13-0, NFC North champ), 2. San Francisco (10-3, NFC West champ), 3. New Orleans (10-3, NFC South champ), 4. New York Giants (7-6, NFC East champ), 5. Atlanta (8-5, wild card), 6. Detroit (8-5, wild card).
These four would be on the outside looking in: Chicago (7-6), Dallas (7-6), Seattle (6-7), Arizona (6-7).
So now the question is what needs to happen in the final three weeks of the season for Seattle to move into that top six. Obviously with Atlanta and Detroit already sitting on eight wins, it will be nearly impossible for Seattle to make it at 8-8, so first thing's first: The Seahawks must win out. So for the purpose of this story, we'll assume the Seahawks win the rest of their games and finish with a 9-7 overall record and 8-4 conference mark.
Then what? Based on that assumption, we can eliminate the Bears from the conversation because Seattle winning out means a Bears' loss next week, and even if Chicago recovered to finish 9-7, Seattle would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to Sunday's hypothetical win. Arizona is also out of the picture in this scenario because Seattle would hand the Cardinals defeat No. 8 (at least) in Week 17.
So now we're left to look at Atlanta, Detroit, and whoever doesn't win the NFC East between Dallas and New York.
Falcons
Atlanta's next three game are against Jacksonville (4-9), at New Orleans (10-3) and vs. Tampa Bay (4-9). It's almost impossible to imagine the Falcons not getting at least one more win, and that's all they need to stay ahead of Seattle because Atlanta holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Likelihood of catching the Falcons with a 9-7 record: Slim to none. Fortunately for Seattle, there are two wild-card berths.
Lions
Detroit has been a tough team to figure. Since starting 5-0, the Lions are 3-5. Their remaining schedule features a couple of enigmatic teams: Oakland (7-6) and San Diego (6-7). Even the final game at Green Bay (13-0) isn't a sure defeat. If the unbeaten Packers lose before that game, or simply decide that resting starters for the playoffs is more important than a perfect season, that could become a very winnable game. If the Lions do lose two of three and finish with a 9-7 record, the Seahawks would have the better conference record, which is the next tiebreaker after head-to-head.
Likelihood of catching the Lions with a 9-7 record: As my late grandfather, John, liked to say, fair to middling.
Giants
New York's comeback win over Dallas on Sunday was bad news for the Seahawks, because it keeps Dallas in the wild-card picture and gives the Giants a game on Seattle should they fall back into the wild-card picture. Seattle won in New York, meaning the Seahawks own the head-to-head tiebreaker. New York finishes vs. Washington (4-9), at the New York Jets (8-5), and vs. Dallas (7-6). If we're assuming for a moment that the Giants are in the wild-card hunt because the Cowboys pass them, that means they would have to lose only one of those for Seattle to be able to catch them.
Likelihood of catching the Giants with a 9-7 record: Not too shabby.
Dallas
The Cowboys hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle, so the Seahawks would be better off if Dallas just wins the division and leaves the Giants to contend for the wild card. The Cowboys finish their season with games at Tampa Bay (4-9), vs. Philadelphia (5-8) and at the Giants (7-6). If Dallas isn't going to win the division Seattle needs Dallas to lose two of those final three, which is possible, but not likely.
Likelihood of catching the Giants with a 9-7 record: Not so good.
As for the possibilities that involve three-way ties, well, we'll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog.
Story tags » Seahawks

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