It was a familiar refrain for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Once again the Seahawks faced a daunting foe.
Once again Seattle mounted a dramatic late comeback.
And once again the Seahawks fell short.
All of which leaves one still wondering whether this is a playoff-caliber team or not.
For the second straight week Seattle nearly pulled off the upset, driving into opposition territory with less than a minute remaining before falling to the Los Angeles Rams 36-31 on the road. The Seahawks came into the game as heavy underdogs, and Seattle seemed done when the Rams scored with 5 minutes, 55 seconds remaining immediately after a turnover to take a 12-point lead. But one thing the Seahawks have shown this season is fight, and Seattle fought itself to a touchdown, a defensive stop, and within reach of the end zone for the game-winning score in a road game against a team with just one loss.
This was eerily similar to the preceding week. At home against another team from Los Angeles with Super Bowl aspirations, the Chargers, the Seahawks appeared out of it when Russell Wilson threw a pick-six that gave L.A. a 25-10 lead with 6:44 remaining. Yet Seattle somehow rallied to score a TD, get a stop and drive all the way down to the Chargers’ 1-yard line with a chance to tie it with a touchdown and a 2-point conversion, only to fall short on the game’s final play in a 25-17 defeat against a daunting foe.
After that game I wrote about how the nature of the loss to the Chargers didn’t provide a lot of clarity on whether the Seahawks were a legitimate playoff-caliber team. I’m not sure the loss to the Rams does much to clear up the situation. Seattle was right there against a team many consider a favorite for the Super Bowl, and the Seahawks racked up an astounding 273 yards on the ground. But Seattle also put up little defensive resistance, allowing Los Angeles 456 yards of offense and 36 points, and ultimately came away from the game with nothing.
And that’s the concern. The NFL has reached the point of the season where moral victories don’t count for much. The back-to-back losses dropped the Seahawks to 4-5, and the path to the postseason looks tenuous.
According to the FiveThirtyEight.com, the Seahawks’ playoff odds are now at 28 percent. That’s down from 55 percent prior to the Chargers game. So these two losses, despite being close defeats to two teams almost guaranteed to get into the postseason, have dropped Seattle’s playoff hopes from better than 50-50 to about one-in-four.
The main issue is that the Seahawks are now 4.5 games behind the Rams in the NFC West, which means making the playoffs as the division champion is off the table. Therefore, Seattle has to make the postseason as a wild card team, and that’s no easy task. If we look at the years Pete Carroll has coached the Seahawks, just one NFC team has made the playoffs with a 9-7 record, that being the 2016 Detroit Lions. That means a team has to target at least 10 wins to believe it has a realistic chance at the postseason, meaning Seattle would have to go at least 6-1 over its final seven games.
Taking a look at Seattle’s schedule, that’s going to be a challenge regardless of whether the Seahawks are legitimately a playoff-caliber team or not. Seattle’s remaining schedule includes games one would expect the Seahawks to win: two games against San Francisco, a home game against Arizona. But the schedule also includes Thursday night’s home game against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay (4-4-1 record), a tough trip to Carolina (6-3), a home game against playoff aspirant Minnesota (5-3-1) and a home game against AFC powerhouse Kansas City (9-1). To get to 10 wins Seattle needs to win at least three of those games.
It’s doable. The tough games are mostly at home, and the Seahawks have shown they can compete with tough teams. But can they get over the hump and actually with those games? Do they have what it takes to get into the postseason? What do you think of Seattle’s playoff chances?