As odd as it is to contemplate, the Seahawks’ game against Tampa Bay this weekend might not even matter. And, even weirder, the Hawks should actually be rooting for the Rams this week.
The San Francisco 49ers (5-9) are still alive in the division hunt, needing to beat St. Louis (6-8) this weekend and Arizona next week and also get one loss from Seattle (6-8). In that scenario, the 49ers would win any 7-9 tie based on division record.
But, if the Rams beat the 49ers, the Niners will be eliminated and it will be down to the Rams and Seahawks in the season finale – winner goes to the playoffs.
If the Rams win their early game against the Niners, it won't matter what the Seahawks do. Even if the Hawks lose in Tampa to drop to 6-9, the Rams will be only 7-8 and a Seattle win in the finale would make them both 7-9 and give the Seahawks the NFC Worst title based on division record (Seattle 4-2, St. Louis 3-3).
If the Hawks beat Tampa and the Rams lose, Seattle still has to win the finale to guarantee the division title. It’s possible the Cardinals could beat the 49ers in Week 17, but the Hawks won’t know before they play because the games start at the same time.
Worst case for the Hawks is the scenario in which they and the Rams both lose this week, putting the 49ers in control of the division in Week 17 with a home game against an Arizona team that has nothing to play for.
So, as completely bizarre as it seems, the Hawks will be rooting for the Rams this week. And if the Rams win their game, it won’t matter what the Hawks do against the Bucs.
HAWKS DESERVE IT, NO MATTER THE RECORD
Even if the Seahawks back into the playoffs with a 7-9 record, it would be some rare karma working in Seattle’s favor. They deserve it for all of the times they have missed the playoffs despite winning records or simply had playoff berths (or Super Bowl wins) stolen from them.
Since 1978, when the league went to a 16-game schedule, the Seahawks are tied with New England and Kansas City for the most winning seasons in which they did not make the playoffs (five).
The Seahawks’ most disappointing miss came in 1986. They were the hottest team in the league in December, after five straight wins had propelled them to a 10-6 record. No one wanted to play them … and no one had to because the Hawks (like the 10-6 Cincinnati Bengals) were edged out by the Chiefs and the New York Jets (also 10-win teams).
That was a fair-and-square postseason block. There have been a couple of times, however, when the Hawks got jobbed.
In 1990, the refs blew two calls that directly cost the Seahawks an early-season win over the Raiders, and the Seahawks finished 9-7 instead of 10-6 and were aced out by the Houston Oilers (9-7) for the second wild-card spot in the AFC.
In 1998, the Seahawks lost a game in New York on perhaps the worst ref’s call in NFL history, and that cost them a potential playoff spot (and coach Dennis Erickson his job).
Of course, they kind of got that one back in 1999, when they backed into the playoffs on the last day despite losing to the Jets again.
But karma says the Seahawks are due for one they don’t deserve.
If they happen to make the playoffs with an 8-8 or – the football gods forbid -- 7-9 record, consider it payback for all of the times they were good enough to make it but didn’t.
Winning seasons with no playoffs
In the 16-game era (since 1978, strike seasons not included)
1: Falcons, Ravens, Bills, Bengals, Texans, Jaguars, 49ers, Buccaneers
2: Cardinals, Bears, Lions, Colts, Giants, Chargers
3: Browns, Cowboys, Vikings, Saints, Jets, Raiders
4: Broncos, Dolphins, Packers, Steelers, Redskins
5: Chiefs, Patriots, Seahawks