The Seahawks Don’t Need an NFL Wild Card
Saturday, December 20, 2014
That’s really good news. Here’s why: Wild Card? Worthless. The top NFC contenders are kings of their home domains. Two of the top four NFC teams are undefeated at home. Two other teams have one home loss each. The worst home owner of that bunch? The Dallas Cowboys, who have dropped two home games against conference opponents.
Four NFC teams currently have a realistic shot at the No. 1 overall seed: The Seahawks, the current division-leading Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys and one of either the Detroit Lions or the Green Bay Packers. Any one of these five teams can win out and capture the top overall conference seed — guaranteeing the playoffs go through their stadium.
The difference among these temporary kings is that the Cowboys, Packers and Lions need help, while the other two can merely win to get to No. 1. The fact that the Seahawks and Cardinals are set to play each other on Sunday helps to simplify things. The winner will hold control of not only the NFC West division, but also the NFC’s top seed. That the Packers and Lions play each other in week 17 means one of them will be eliminated from top seed contention — and maybe the playoffs entirely.
At this stage, the seeding machinations are not simple, but look at it this way: The winner of the NFC North (either Green Bay or Detroit) must avoid a tie with the winner of the NFC West (either Arizona or Seattle.) If the NFC North winner has a better record than the NFC West winner, they will earn the No. 1 seed. If the North winner merely ties with the West winner, the top seed goes to Seattle or Arizona. Fortunately, one week from now it will all be much clearer for everyone except the Packers and Lions.
That’s not to say that the No. 2 seed is not immensely coveted by all concerned with its first-round playoff bye as the prize. With the No. 2 seed as a target, the Packers and Lions both have their playoff destinies entirely in their hands. They just need help to get to No. 1. And they certainly do not want to end up as the playoff road fodder for the top two seeds — whomever it may be.
The resurgent Cowboys win a two-team tiebreaker over the Seahawks, but lose tiebreakers against the Cardinals, Packers and Lions. But here it is: The Cowboys are not going to win the No. 1 seed — mostly because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears are folding like December rain-soaked cardboard. In order to get the top seed, the Cowboys would need to win out (far from a given) and have one or both of the Packers and Lions lose their week 16 games to the aforementioned Buccaneers and Bears, plus have the Cardinals lose twice.
Whoever “wins” the NFC South will automatically be gifted into the fourth seed. The NFC East, on the other hand, is offering the (likely) third seed (and a Wild Card home game) and not much else in terms of playoff future. Currently, The Dallas Cowboys have a tenuous grasp of the No. 3 NFC seed by virtue of their surprising road win in Philadelphia on Sunday night. The Eagles are now on the outside looking in at the Packers (#6) and the Seahawks (#5).
Given their 3 – 3 road record to date, missing the playoffs might actually end up as a more merciful fate for the formerly high-flying Eagles.
Things Are Going South
NFC South has managed to brand itself as the controversial division in your 2014 NFL season. The champion of this division, currently the 6 – 8 New Orleans Saints, is extremely unlikely to do what Seattle did in 2011 and steal a first-round win. The South division winner, which still could be the Atlanta Falcons or the Carolina Panthers, may boast a division “winner” with a losing record — and get to host a first-round playoff game for their efforts.
Pick your Wild Card poison — the NFC South “winner” is not going to be favored against any NFC playoff team that comes to town.
Here are your and my assumptions for this weekend’s games: Seattle will beat the depleted yet resilient Arizona Cardinals. The Packers will beat the 2 – 12 Buccaneers. The Lions will beat the folding Chicago Clausens. The Cowboys will lose at home to a tough Indianapolis Colts team (4 – 2 on the road).
Where does that leave us? The Seahawks will be in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed. The Packers or Lions will have the opportunity to earn the No. 2 seed in week 17 and the Cowboys or Eagles will nail down the NFC’s consolation prize: the No. 3 seed. Seeds four through six? Stick a fork in ‘em.
The only way this plan goes haywire is if the Seahawks lose in Arizona. Then, they become the uninvited relative nobody wants to see on their Wild Card doorstep. Barring that, your Seattle Seahawks are looking at a restful, post-holiday Wild Card weekend.