Okay, the Seahawks have won the NFC West; now what?
Well, as we all know, there are seven teams going to the playoffs in each conference: the four division winners and three wild card teams. That means instead of the usual top two teams in the NFC getting a round one BYE, there’s only one team with that honor. That makes things that much harder for everyone else.
Here’s what we know: the Seahawks can finish with either the first, second, or third seed in the NFC. Here’s a quick breakdown on how that all works:
#1 Seed – To get this, and the resultant first round BYE, the Seahawks would need to defeat the 49ers this week. We would also need the Packers to lose at the Bears, and the Saints to lose at the Panthers. This is the least likely scenario. While it’s conceivable that the Bears could win – as they are playing for a wild card spot – the Panthers are pretty terrible (with a 5-10 record). It’s encouraging, at least, that all of these games are on the road, as well as divisional matchups (which should come with more familiarity and hatred of their respective opponents), but the talent discrepencies are probably too much for the underdogs to overcome (saying nothing of the distinct probability that it’s entirely possible for the Seahawks to biff it against the 49ers, who just defeated the playoff-contending Cardinals last weekend).
#2 Seed – To get this, the Seahawks would need to defeat the 49ers, and have either the Packers or Saints lose. If the Packers win and the Saints lose, the Packers would be 13-3, the Seahawks would be 12-4, and the Saints would be 11-5; if the Saints win and the Packers lose, all three teams would be 12-4 and by virture of tiebreakers, the Seahawks would land in the middle (with the Saints taking the top spot and the Packers falling to third). I would buy this, but it doesn’t seem quite as likely as the next scenario.
#3 Seed – The Seahawks end up here if they lose to the 49ers, regardless of what happens in the other two games. The Seahawks also end up here if they beat the 49ers and the Packers and Saints both prevail as well.
I don’t have to tell you that being the 3-seed is far from ideal, but I guess it all depends on what happens with the wild card teams.
There are four teams vying for three wild card spots. Tampa Bay is in the driver’s seat for the 5-seed (and the right to go on the road in the first round to face the hapless winner of the NFC East – still, somehow, to be determined), so we’re all but guaranteed to avoid Tom Brady & Co. in the first round. The only way Tampa would fall to a 6-seed (they can’t be lower than that) is if they lose at home to a 4-win Falcons team, and the Rams beat the Cardinals (without Jared Goff).
The Cardinals need to beat the Rams in L.A. to make the playoffs. If Arizona and Green Bay win, then Arizona will be the 6-seed playing the Seahawks (assuming the Saints also win, which I am taking as a given for the rest of this article). If Arizona and Chicago win, then the Cardinals will be the 7-seed playing the Seahawks (sending the 6-seeded Bears to the 3-seeded Packers).
If the Rams and Packers win, then the Rams will be the 6-seed playing the Seahawks. If the Rams and Bears win, then the Bears will be the 7-seed playing the 2-seeded Seahawks. Of all of the scenarios where the Seahawks fail to get the #1 seed, I think this last one is most ideal. That would send a 10-6 Rams team to Green Bay, which is conceivably a matchup they could win (assuming Goff is cleared to return for the playoffs). The downside, of course, is having to face the Packers in the Divisional Round, albeit we’d get the game in Seattle. And, if the Bucs could figure out a way to go into New Orleans and prevail, there’s a world where the Seahawks don’t have to leave Seattle until the Super Bowl.
My prediction for how this shakes out is this: the Packers, Saints, and Seahawks all win (making that the order of the top three seeds). Finally,I’m guessing the Cardinals beat the Rams, to make the first round look like this:
- Green Bay – BYE
- New Orleans vs. L.A. Rams
- Seattle vs. Arizona
- Washington vs. Tampa Bay
With the AFC looking like this:
- Kansas City – BYE
- Buffalo vs. Miami
- Pittsburgh vs. Indianapolis
- Tennessee vs. Baltimore