Who could the Seahawks host in the first round of the playoffs?
Week 17 will be a fun one for the Seahawks and the rest of the NFL, as playoff berths, first-round byes and seeding are all up for grabs in the last week of the regular season.
In the NFC, the Seahawks have won the NFC West and will host at least one playoff game. The Seahawks are one of four teams who have clinched a playoff spot already, but between them, the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, it has yet to be decided who will secure the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds.
Entering Week 17, the Packers are 12-3 and hold that top spot, which comes with a first-round playoff bye. Then, the Saints and Seahawks are 11-4, but due to a conference record tiebreaker, the Saints hold the No. 2 seed while the Seahawks are No. 3. The winner of the lackluster NFC East will hold the No. 4 seed, and then three of four possible teams will be seeds five-seven.
The Seahawks’ road to the top spot in the conference and a first-round bye is uphill, as they would need to beat the San Francisco 49ers this week while the Packers and Saints both lose. That’s not impossible, but at the moment, it seems unlikely that will occur. More likely than not, the Seahawks will be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed and play in the first week of the playoffs.
If that’s the case, who could Seattle host? Here are the four teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is the lone team to have clinched a playoff spot without winning the division, and the Bucs will be at least the No. 6 seed and possibly the No. 5 seed.
The 10-5 Buccaneers would have to lose their Week 17 contest to the 4-11 Atlanta Falcons while the 9-6 Los Angeles Rams would have to lose to the 8-7 Arizona Cardinals in order to drop from the No. 5 seed to the No. 6 seed in order to come to Seattle to play the No. 3 Seahawks. If Seattle clinches the No. 2 spot or if the Buccaneers win in Week 17, it’s impossible for those two teams to meet in the first round.
Of the four potential Wild Card teams, Tampa Bay is arguably the most dangerous.
The Bucs have been extremely up and down this year, with highs of blowing out the Packers 38-10 in Week 6 and lows of getting swept by the Saints, including a 38-3 Week 9 loss. But, with Tom Brady at quarterback and a wide array of weapons catching passes like receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown as well as future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski, it’s clear that Tampa Bay has all the tools to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The Buccaneers are 11th in yards per game, fifth in points per game, and their defense has been solid this year as well. That group is sixth in yards allowed, first in rushing yards allowed and seventh in scoring defense.
Los Angeles Rams
If the current playoff standings hold, the Seahawks and Rams would face off for the third time this season, as Los Angeles sits at the No. 6 seed. The Rams won the first matchup 23-17 in Week 10, but the Seahawks won 20-9 last week to clinch the NFC West.
As noted, the Buccaneers have clinched a playoff berth already, and the Rams are one of three teams fighting for the two other Wild Card spots. But unlike those other two teams, the Rams enter Week 17 with nine wins.
The Rams end the season with one of the biggest games of the final week, as they host the 8-7 Cardinals, who are also fighting for a playoff spot.
For the Rams, they need to win or tie in their game or hope the Chicago Bears lose or tie their game against the Packers in order to clinch a playoff spot.
The Rams are in an interesting spot as they could get the No. 5 seed with a Week 17 win and a Buccaneers loss, but they can also get the No. 6 seed, No. 7 seed or miss the playoffs altogether if they lose and the Bears win.
As with the Buccaneers, the Rams couldn’t play the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs if they get that No. 5 seed. But if seeding remains the same or if the Seahawks get the No. 2 seed the Rams wind up with the No. 7 seed, then Los Angeles could come to Seattle for the first game of the playoffs.
The Rams will be without starting quarterback Jarred Goff in Week 17 against the Cardinals as he had surgery on his right thumb. Head coach Sean McVay says it’s possible Goff returns for the first round of the playoffs, so with the Rams as the Seahawks’ most likely first-round opponent, that situation should be monitored going forward.
The Rams currently have the No. 1 defense in terms of yards allowed and are third in points against. On offense, they rank seventh in yards per game and 19th in points per game.
The Bears are maybe the most surprising NFL playoff contender outside of the NFC East as their offense has been up and down with Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles playing hot potato with the starting quarterback position.
For the Bears to get to the playoffs, it may well be in the hands of the Rams-Cardinals game as the Bears host the Packers in Week 17.
The Bears can earn a playoff spot with a win or if the Cardinals lose. If the Bears lose and the Cardinals win, Chicago will be out of the playoffs and the NFC West will have three playoff teams.
The Bears can earn either the No. 6 seed or the No. 7 seed, with the latter seeming more likely at this point. Either way, it’s possible Chicago comes to Seattle for the first round of the playoffs.
As noted, the Bears’ offense has struggled, which would be good news for a surging Seahawks’ defense. Chicago ranks 25th in yards per game and 18th in points per game. Like two seasons ago when the Bears were one of the top teams in the league, the defense is the team’s strength. They rank 11th in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed.
The Cardinals have the longest shot of making the playoffs as they’re currently on the outside looking in, but facing a Goff-less Rams team in Week 17, Arizona’s chances have gone up.
For the Cardinals, they can earn either the No. 6 seed, No. 7 seed or miss the playoffs altogether. With a win, the Cardinals clinch a spot and whether the Bears win or lose would determine whether Chicago or Los Angeles makes the playoffs.
Like with the Rams, the Seahawks and Cardinals split their season series, with Arizona winning 37-34 in overtime in Week 7 and the Seahawks winning 28-21 in Week 11.
The Rams will enter Week 17 without their starting quarterback, and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is also banged up heading into the contest, but he told reporters he expects to play despite having a lower-leg injury.
Entering Week 17, the Cardinals rank second in yards per game, 10th in points per game, 14th in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed.