DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: Seahawks sat idle Sunday, but saw playoff help with NFC outcomes

Nov 19, 2018, 10:10 AM | Updated: 10:35 am
seahawks, panthers...
The Seahawks now have a chance to leapfrog the Panthers in the NFC playoff pecking order. (AP)
(AP)

“Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.” – Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke” (1967)

It’s one of my favorite lines, recited memorably after Newman’s character Luke wins a poker hand with rags. I thought of that about midway through the Bears’ victory over the Vikings on Sunday night to cap off a day in which the Seahawks’ playoff prospects improved immensely without the Seahawks doing a gosh-darned thing.

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Five different outcomes were decided in a way that clearly benefited the Seahawks, who are 5-5 in a year when it’s looking like it will take 10 wins to be assured of a wild-card playoff berth.

First, the biggie: Carolina lost to Detroit 20-19, the Panthers surprisingly deciding to go for a two-point conversion in the final minute instead of attempting a point-after try to force overtime. I say surprising because the Panthers – in my mind – have the better team and the more effective quarterback. That seems to me the reason to extend the game so even though Carolina was on the road, I can’t quite wrap my head around the reason why Carolina went for a two-point conversion to win the game in the final minute instead of kicking the point-after try to force overtime. The Panthers went for it, Cam Newton misfired and the Seahawks will now have a chance to leapfrog the Panthers (6-4) in the NFC playoff pecking order with a win in Charlotte on Sunday.

The next-biggest thing: The Bears beat the Vikings. The Seahawks want the Bears to win the NFC Central. Why? The Bears have already beaten the Seahawks, which would give the Bears a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage for a wild-card spot should the two teams finish with the same regular-season record. That means it would be in Seattle’s best interest to have Chicago win that division outright and remove the Bears from wild-card consideration entirely. Well, Chicago (7-3) is now two wins up in the division, and the Seahawks still have Minnesota left on the schedule.

The other three games weren’t quite so significant, but Seattle benefited from the Cowboys’ victory over Atlanta given that Seattle has a head-to-head victory over the Cowboys but won’t play the Falcons. Seattle was also helped by the Texans’ victory over Washington because the more NFC East teams lose, the less likely it becomes that the team that doesn’t win the division will earn a wild-card berth, which is why Seattle also benefited – to a lesser extent – from the Saints’ walloping of the Eagles.

The Seahawks’ odds of making the playoffs increased by nine percentage points this week, according to fivethirtyeight.com – whose interactive projections I find to be most accessible. Seattle has a 47-percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to that site’s Elo projections.

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O’Neil: Seahawks sat idle Sunday, but saw playoff help with NFC outcomes