The Seattle Seahawks take on the Buffalo Bills this Sunday in Toronto. With three games remaining on the schedule, it’s very important Seattle comes away with a win to maintain their hopes of playing in the postseason.
The Seahawks have a Super Bowl-caliber defense this season as SI.com’s Kerry J. Byrne demonstrates by highlighting five key stats where Seattle ranks in the top three in the NFL.
As good as the statistics show the defense is, giving up five leads in the fourth quarter this season (Cardinals, Packers, Lions, Dolphins and Bears) also shows how they’ve struggled at times when it matters most.
Fortunately the Seahawks were able to turn two of those fourth-quarter deficits into wins. But if Seattle had won at least four of those five games, they’d have their playoff berth locked up.
This game against the Bills is important to continue the momentum the team has built for itself. The Seahawks bring a two-game winning streak to Toronto, following up their win on the road against the Bears with a 58-0 win over the Cardinals.
A win on the road Sunday would be the first step. Finishing the regular season undefeated at home would be another. Going into the playoffs with a five-game winning streak would make them dangerous.
There are so many scenarios that could play out over the next few weeks. Using ESPN.com’s NFL Playoff Machine allows us to take a look at a few of those scenarios.
If the season ended today
As it stands right now the Seahawks would have the fifth seed and travel to New York to face the Giants in the first round.
The only possibility for a home game would be for the Bears to beat the Packers and Falcons on the road, and the Seahawks would have to go through San Francisco in the second round.
As the only team to lose two games at home, the Giants are the least dominant of the division leaders at home. With the Seahawks currently at 2-5 on the road, this matchup might provide them the best opportunity to advance.
All hail the NFC West
Just two seasons removed from the Seahawks making the playoffs at 7-9 to represent the NFC West, the division could earn both Wild Card spots.
This can happen if the Rams beat the Vikings on Sunday, the Buccaneers next week and the Seahawks in Week 17.
There’s also scenarios where the Bears go 0-3 and the Vikings, Redskins, Seahawks and Cowboys all go 1-2 to allow the Rams to get in with a another loss.
But my favorite would be to see the Seahawks go 3-0 and the Rams to get in at 8-7-1 with wins over the Vikings and Buccaneers. The Packers need to beat the Vikings and Bears over their final three games for this to happen. But if they lose to the Titans at home, the Seahawks could move into the second seed.
Using the Power Rankings
If we simply go by the ESPN power rankings in determining the winners in the final three weeks, the Bears drop out of the playoff picture, the Packers take the second seed and the Redskins win the NFC East.
This scenario assumes that the 49ers will lose on the road to the Patriots, but will rebound to win at CenturyLink against the Seahawks.
Assuming the Seahawks go undefeated at home and you change the outcome of just that one game, the Seahawks would get the third seed, the 49ers fall to the fifth and Seattle would have a home game against the Giants in the first round.
However, if things go the way the current rankings suggest, the Seahawks would go into San Francisco having lost twice to the 49ers. In the past few years, rivals facing each other in the playoffs have come in with one win a piece form the regular season.
The matchup wouldn’t favor Seattle, having just lost at home, but trying to avoid going 0-3 to one team in the same season would be a big motivator.
The dream scenario
It might not seem probable at this point, but it is possible for the Seahawks to earn a first-round bye.
If the Falcons and Seahawks both finish at 11-5, Seattle would hold the tiebreaker and win the first seed. Imagine this Seahawks team with the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
For this to happen, the Falcons would have to lose their final three games. They already lost to the 4-9 Carolina Panthers last weekend.
Atlanta is 6-0 at home and would need to lose to the Giants (8-5) and Buccaneers (6-7) in the Georgia Dome. They would also need to lose on the road to the Lions (4-9). But if they manage to spot each of these teams 23 points like they did with the Panthers, then it’s not impossible for this scenario to play out.
The nightmare scenario
If we look at the dream scenario, we also have to look at the nightmare scenario. Well, we don’t have to, but imagine if the Seahawks lose another game on the road that they’re supposed to win and follow that with a loss to the 49ers.
Even if they win their final game against the Rams, the Bears could go 2-1 over the next three along with the Giants and Redskins to leave the 9-7 on the outside looking in.
If the Seahawks go 1-2, either the Cowboys or Redskins would have an opportunity to go 3-0 and bounce Seattle from the postseason. The Vikings could also go 3-0 in a scenario where three teams make the playoffs from the NFC North.
This goes to show the importance of this weekend’s game against the Bills. At the very least, the Seahawks need to go 2-1 over their last three games to ensure a spot in the playoffs.
It’s a very real possibility for the Seahawks win the division. If San Francisco loses on the road to New England on Sunday, the Dec. 23 matchup between the Seahawks and 49ers will decide who takes the lead in the division.
Just because the Falcons lost to the Panthers does not mean they’re going to lose three straight to the Giants, Lions and Buccaneers. Even if they lose one or two of those games, they would still take the top seed.
This scenario would drop Green Bay to the third seed based on the head-to-head tiebreaker the Seahawks have over the Packers from the game-winning catch by Golden Tate.
It would also set up nicely for a January rematch between the Packers and Seahawks at CenturyLink.