Over the past two weeks with wins over the Washington Football Team and Rams, the Seahawks successfully punched a ticket to the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years and captured an NFC West title for the first time since 2016.
But peering ahead to Sunday's season finale against San Francisco, which will be played in Glendale, Arizona due to COVID-19 regulations in Santa Clara County, coach Pete Carroll still has his eyes on a bigger prize. Even with the No. 3 seed already guaranteed, with the top seed, home field advantage, and a first round bye still possible albeit unlikely, his team won't be taking the foot off the pedal at all in Week 17.
"We're going for it, we would love to have that break for players if we can get it," Carroll said in his Monday press conference. "We're playing for it, because it's good for you, it's good for your body and all that, so we're going to try to take care of business and get that thing if it's possible. So we're going all-out again this week. There's no other thought than this is a championship opportunity to put ourselves in the best situation going into the playoffs."
Per the New York Times playoff simulator, the Seahawks will enter the weekend with just a seven percent chance at earning the lone bye in the NFC after over 25,000 simulations. Beating the 49ers would only increase odds to 12 percent, as the Packers would need to lose to the Bears in Chicago and the Saints would have to be upset by the five-win Panthers in Carolina.
While such a scenario seems improbable, this NFL season has already featured several unexpected upsets. Just two weeks ago, the winless Jets traveled to Los Angeles and stunned the Rams 23-20. Last month, the Washington Football Team traveled to Pittsburgh and knocked the Steelers from the ranks of the undefeated in comeback fashion.
Though an argument could be made for resting certain Seahawks who have been dealing with injuries, including tackle Brandon Shell, running back Chris Carson, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the ever-competitive Carroll doesn't sound interested. From his perspective, the team could lose more than a chance at a higher seeding by opting to go that route and he wants to keep focus and momentum heading towards the playoffs.
"The other side of this is maintaining the consistency and maintaining the regiment that we have and the mentality that we have, I don't want to break that thing right now, I don't want to break that mentality at all," Carroll remarked. "We want to stay right with it and keep pushing, trying to get better. We've got a lot of room to get better, we made a lot of mistakes that we can we can fix during the course of this week for the next game and leading into the next couple games and all that."
"I don't like taking the chance of breaking the mentality. I think we can get up every single week, we can get every freakin' week, it doesn't matter. There's like coaches that say, 'Oh you get up four or five times a year, or three four times a year,' I've never thought that, and we're not going to mess with that right now, we're going to keep on rolling."
Further defending Carroll's stance, even if the Seahawks don't climb all the way to the top seed, they can still improve to the No. 2 seed. This would set up a wild card round matchup against the No. 7 seed, which could present a more favorable opponent in the first round against the Cardinals, Rams, or Bears.
For this to happen, coupled with a Seattle win, Green Bay would need to win in Chicago and New Orleans would need to lose in Carolina. Or in a more complicated scenario dictated by tiebreakers, the Packers losing and Saints winning would give the Seahawks the No. 2 seed due to a better record against common opponents.
Regardless, Carroll views Sunday's finale as a critical championship opportunity for the Seahawks to maintain momentum and while the team will certainly be scoreboard watching, that won't stop them from playing the majority of their starters and looking to finish the regular season on a strong note.
"This week is extremely important coming off this win to come back and play right again and to show that you can handle the success just as well as the magnitude of the games and the matchups and all that. So this is a big deal, this is a really big deal, just as it was a few weeks ago."