Despite Sunday’s two-point loss to the 49ers in San Francisco, the already-in-the-playoffs Seahawks remain on point as far as achieving their season-long goal – winning the NFC West championship.
After Sunday’s loss to the 49ers in San Francisco, which prevented the Seahawks from clinching the NFC West title and a first-round bye in the playoffs, Russell Wilson offered, “All our goals are still in front of us.”
Just the latest good read by the Seahawks’ second-year quarterback, because the Seahawks have an opportunity this week against the New York Giants to do what they didn’t get done against the 49ers. But this week, they’ll need a little help, as well.
The Seahawks will clinch the division and a first-round bye with a win over the Giants at the Meadowlands and a 49ers’ loss or tie against the Buccaneers in Tampa, or a tie and a 49ers’ loss. And the Seahawks will clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win, a 49ers’ loss or tie and a loss by the New Orleans Saints against the Rams in St. Louis.
Not as cut and dry as last week’s win-and-you’re-in scenario against the 49ers, but the 11-2 Seahawks still control their own destiny – and are the only NFC team that already has clinched a playoff spot.
The loss to the 49ers snapped the Seahawks’ seven-game winning. It also was their first loss since Oct. 6 and only their third in the past 21 regular-season games. But losses have a way of helping a team refocus, especially a team like the Seahawks that has gotten so used to winning.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It can help if you utilize it. It’s a learning opportunity again, a reality check (on) how the littlest of things can determine the outcome of a game. And being in a good, hard-fought, tough game is good always.
“So there will be an emphasis throughout the last three games this year. Every one of them is going to count in a big fashion and they’re all going to make a difference that will call for us to be on it all the way throughout. That should be crucial in helping us stay sharp for playoff time.”
After traveling to play the Giants (5-8), the Seahawks close the regular season with home games against the Arizona Cardinals (8-5) on Dec. 22 and the Rams (5-8) on Dec. 29.
The significance of holding home-field advantage throughout the playoffs cannot be overemphasized. The only time it happened for the Seahawks was in 2005, when they won the NFC West with a 13-3 record; had a first-round bye in the postseason; defeated the Washington Redskins in a divisional playoff game in Seattle; hosted the NFC Championship game and defeated the Carolina Panthers; and advanced to the Super Bowl for the only time in franchise history.
Just as in the regular season, the Seahawks always have been a different team at home in the postseason. They are 7-2 in home playoff games and 2-9 on the road in the postseason – with those rare road wins coming after the 1983 season in Miami and last season against the Redskins.
The Saints, 49ers and Panthers (9-4) can clinch playoff spots this week. All the Saints (10-3) have to do is beat the Rams, but they also can clinch in six other scenarios. The Panthers need a win, as well as losses by the Cardinals, 49ers and Dallas Cowboys (7-6) or Philadelphia Eagles (8-5). The 49ers are in with a win and losses by the Cardinals and Cowboys or Eagles.