SEATTLE — Opportunity knocked for the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11 of the NFL season. But when the Seahawks went to open the door, they couldn’t get the deadbolt unlocked, and now they don’t know whether said opportunity is still waiting on the doorstep or has moved on to the next house.
The Seahawks could have set themselves up in good position for the playoffs Monday night in their game against the Atlanta Falcons. Instead, after losing 34-31 at CenturyLink Field, Seattle will likely spend the final weeks of the regular season engaged in a desperate race just to make the postseason.
According to ESPN’s playoff probability leverage calculations for Week 11, the Seahawks had more at stake this week than any other team in the NFC. ESPN determined that there was a difference of 29 percentage points in Seattle’s playoff odds depending on whether the Seahawks won or lost Monday — a victory would have had Seattle’s playoff odds at 80 percent, while a loss knocked it down to 51 percent. The next closest team in terms of result importance this week was the Dallas Cowboys, who were calculated to have a 26-percent difference in their chance to make the playoffs depending on the outcome of their game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In terms of chance to reach the playoffs, no one has a higher leverage game this week than the Seahawks. Seattle takes on Atlanta on Monday Night Football. pic.twitter.com/ZDwl1SUSUM
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 19, 2017
So if the math is correct, this one really hurt.
The timing was particularly unfortunate for the Seahawks, considering Seattle was the beneficiary of some favors from Sunday’s complement of games. Most importantly, the Los Angeles Rams’ 24-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings gave the Seahawks the chance to move back into first place in the NFC West. A victory would have pulled Seattle into a tie with Los Angeles at 7-3, and the Seahawks would have owned the tiebreaker by virtue of their 16-10 victory over the Rams in Week 5 in Los Angeles. Seattle, with six games remaining, could have set its sights on tying to get a bye in the first round and maximizing its number of potential home playoff games.
Instead, not only is Seattle still chasing the Rams in the division, the Seahawks fell out of playoff position entirely. Coming into the week Seattle was in possession of one of the NFC’s two wild-card berths, and a win Monday would have created some separation from the rest of the pursuing pack.
However, with the loss Seattle dropped into a tie for the last wild-card spot with Atlanta and Detroit at 6-4, with the three-way tiebreaker being conference record. The Seahawks are 4-3 in the NFC West, and find themselves last in line behind the Falcons (5-1) and Lions (5-3). In addition, Seattle will be at a disadvantage against Atlanta in the future should a playoff berth come down to head-to-head results.
Seattle’s remaining schedule is no cakewalk, either. In Weeks 13-16 the Seahawks face a 9-1 Philadelphia team that has the best record in the NFL, a 5-5 Dallas team that will be getting star running back Ezekiel Elliott back from his six-game suspension, a 7-3 Jacksonville team that’s the surprise of the AFC, and a rematch with the Rams. Even next week’s game on the road against the lowly San Francisco 49ers doens’t seem like the gimme it should be, since the Niners are coming off both their first win of the season and their bye, and they could be unveiling their new quarterback in trade acquisition Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I think we’ll respond in a great fashion in the sense that we’ll go back to work,” said quarterback Russell Wilson, ever the optimist. “We knew we were playing a good team tonight, we knew it would be a battle, we knew it could be potentially a high-scoring game that went back and forth. I think for us we move on to the next week, we still have a lot of things ahead of us. We had a really good chance to be first in the NFC West tonight. Unfortunately we didn’t, but there’s a lot more football to play, there’s a lot more challenges ahead of us, and we can’t get discouraged now.”
It’s just that those challenges are all the more challenging now.
No, Seattle’s season isn’t dead. There were positives to take away from Monday’s game, most notably that a secondary missing two-thirds of the core of the Legion of Boom — cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor — because of injury held its own against last season’s league MVP in Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. And if it wasn’t for a couple of questionable coaching decisions Monday’s outcome may have been different.
But the Seahawks’ position is such that they can’t rely on slip-ups like the Rams’ loss to the Vikings anymore. Now they have to go out and do it themselves.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.