The Seahawks are at the nadir of Pete Carroll’s tenure as head coach: 2-5 with star quarterback Russell Wilson (finger) still on the injured reserve list. So, using future optimism as a distraction from the grim present, let’s talk about how Seattle can still make the playoffs!
Hold off on the Jim Mora Sr. clips and gifs. However, given that the Seahawks have lost three games in a row, we can all agree with Mora’s sentiment: “I just hope we can win a game.”
By divisional contrast: the NFC West-leading Cardinals are at 100 percent, the second-place Rams are at 93 percent and the 49ers are at 25 percent.
Given that the Seahawks beat the 49ers in comfortable fashion down in Santa Clara, San Francisco being a whole 13 percent higher than Seattle might be initially surprising.
The issue for the Seahawks is that they've lost games to the 3-3 Vikings and 4-2 Saints. With the 6-1, "Last Dance"-inspired Packers looking like winners in the NFC North and the defending Super Bowl champion, 6-1 Buccaneers looking to regain the NFC South, the Seahawks have lost to two of the most likely NFC wild-card teams. Even if Seattle finishes ahead of San Francisco in the NFC West rankings, the tie-breaker is over for the Seahawks (San Francisco has lost to Seattle, Green Bay, Arizona and AFC-based Indianapolis).
Of course, the NFL did expand the postseason structure in 2020. Gone are the days of just two wild-card teams from each conference. We now get a trio of nuisances from the AFC and NFC. Encouragingly, the NFC has just six teams with more than three victories: Arizona, Dallas, Green Bay, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Nine teams in the conference sit between 3-3 and 2-5.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have opened as a 3.5-point favorite over their next opponent, the Jaguars. More than anything else, though, this is a reflection at how putrid the 1-5 Jaguars have been under new head coach Urban Meyer—Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer revenge game notwithstanding. It goes without saying that the Seahawks absolutely must win this game. And they should, even with Geno Smith at quarterback.
Following the Jacksonville matchup is a bye week. Wilson will then be eligible to return off the injured reserve list for a Week 10 road trip to Green Bay. Whether that happens is another question, made less likely given that the pin inserted into Wilson’s finger—to repair his injury—remains in place.
Seattle’s schedule features some favorable matchups, like the Texans, Bears and Lions. Nevertheless, the brutal NFC West raises two bouts with the Cardinals and one more with the Rams. Damn it, I should not have promised optimism. Even if Seattle manages to split these difficult encounters (GB, AZ, LAR, AZ) into a 2-2 result, it would leave the team at seven losses. And this scenario only seems likely with Wilson returning under center. Therefore, 4-7, combined with the tie-break losses, leaves Seattle absolutely needing to win out. And does 10-7 make the playoffs?
The 2021 campaign, then, is likely to be the year that Carroll pays penance for his close game victories, instead losing four of the five one-score, early-season games that the Seahawks have participated in. They could be 6-1, or 5-2. Instead, they’re 2-5, staring down the harsh lens of "fire Carroll" talk and foreign rebuild chatter. Seattle can still mathematically make the postseason, but it will require an otherworldly effort.