The Seahawks Seahawks have already clinched a spot in the playoffs. That happened two weeks ago, and they are still the only team in the NFC to have done so in 2013.
Unfortunately, that is all that they have clinched to this point. The Seahawks' playoff fortunes have yet to be written.
A quick look into the crystal ball shows a wide range of possibilities for the end of Seattle's 2013 campaign.
Current Playoff Standings
|2||New Orleans Saints||10-3|
|6||San Francisco 49ers||9-4|
The Seahawks currently sit a game ahead of the New Orleans Saints for the best record in the conference. Having beaten New Orleans, Seattle also holds the tiebreaker, so the Saints must finish with a better record to take over the top spot in the NFC.
Despite the Week 14 loss to the 49ers, the Seahawks are still two games ahead of the San Francisco for the NFC West crown. There is no way for those two teams to end up tied that wouldn't give the 49ers the tiebreaker over Seattle, so the Seahawks need to finish with a better record than the 49ers to win the division.
This means that Seattle's magic number is two. Two Seahawks wins and they'll be the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Two more losses and they'll likely end up as a wild-card team.
|15||New York Giants||5-8|
|17||St. Louis Rams||5-8|
The Seahawks will be favored to win all of their remaining games, but none of them should be taken for granted. The Giants have won five of their last seven, the Cardinals are chasing a wild-card spot and the Rams present a major matchup problem for the Seahawks.
Seattle must avoid looking ahead to the playoffs and concentrate on the games still on the schedule.
With three losses in their remaining three games, the Seahawks lose the divisional crown to the San Francisco 49ers, who win out and finish at 12-4. At 11-5, the Seahawks would still qualify for the playoff as a wild card.
The Carolina Panthers also win out, including a win over the New Orleans Saints. The Saints win their other two games. Both NFC South teams would then be 12-4. The Saints take the division based on tiebreakers, and the Panthers end up as the NFC's top wild-card team.
Thus the Seahawks drop all the way to the No. 6 seed in the NFC, guaranteeing that there will be no home playoff game in Seattle this season.
As the No. 6 seed, Seattle heads out on the road to play the No. 3 seeded Philadelphia Eagles. This is a matchup that pits the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, against Seattle's somewhat ordinary rush defense. Making matters worse, this game is played in snowy and slick conditions, allowing McCoy to rush for over 200 yards as the Eagles breeze past the Seahawks.
After a brilliant first 13 weeks of the season that saw Seattle put up an 11-1 record, the Seahawks finish the year losers of five straight games. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, that is truly the worst-case scenario.
While the one-and-done scenario is the worst possible outcome, it isn't the only one that would be considered genuinely awful for the Seahawks and their fans. There is another ending to this story that might be even worse.
Instead of finishing as the No. 6 seed, Seattle manages to hold off the Panthers and remain in the No. 5 spot. The Seahawks then go on the road and beat the No. 4 seeded Detroit Lions. The sixth-seeded Panthers also win on the road in the Wild Card round. This means that the Seahawks travel to San Francisco for the divisional round of the playoffs.
A loss to the 49ers in the playoffs, especially a second loss in San Francisco over a six week span, is a nightmarish ending for Seattle. Even the playoff win the week before can't remove the sting caused by two losses to a hated division rival at the end of the season.
The Seahawks win in New York on Sunday, and in Seattle next week against the Cardinals, in blowout fashion. This allows them to rest their star players for portions of each of their final three games, while still clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Seahawks to go into the playoffs rested, healthy and with a first-round bye to help clear up any nagging injuries. They've also made sure that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Seattle, where the Seahawks haven't lost since 2011.
As the No. 1 seed, the Seahawks host the lowest-seeded winner in the Wild Card Round. This ends up being the six-seeded San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks shut down the San Francisco offense and run up the score in a similar manner to the last two games against the 49ers in Seattle.
The NFC Championship Game then pits the Seahawks against the New Orleans Saints. This is a rematch of the Week 12 showdown on Monday Night Football that ended in a Seahawks blowout win. The playoff rematch ends up to be much closer, but ultimately the end result is the same.
The Seahawks are headed to the Super Bowl.
In those conditions, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch grinds out over 150 yards on the ground. Quarterback Russell Wilson adds over 50 on the ground to go with an additional 230 through the air as the Seahawks dice up the Denver defense for 37 points.
Seattle's defense is able to pick up a pair of key stops to force field goals after long Denver drives. Interceptions by cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas allow the Seahawks to pull away in the second half. A garbage time score by the Broncos gets them close but not close enough. Seattles wins, 37-27.
The 2013 NFL season comes to a close with Wilson, Lynch and Sherman hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and a rainy February parade through the streets of Seattle.
Back To Reality
It is up to the players and coaches of the Seattle Seahawks to make this fictional scenario a reality. The talent is there, and the team has shown that they can win games against tough opponents. All that is left is for them to execute on the field, and to avoid the costly mistakes that could end their playoff run early.
For now, they need to concentrate on the Giants and get one step closer to making that best-case scenario a reality.