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Seattle Seahawks
Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: Can a 2-4 team make the playoffs? The Seahawks have done it before

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 19, 2021

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct.17, 2021, in Pittsburgh.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct.17, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – If you’re seeking a precedent that the Seahawks can overcome a 2-4 start and make the playoffs, you need look no further than some of the team’s recent history.

The 2015 Seahawks also started 2-4 before righting the ship and finishing 10-6 and getting a wild-card berth and advancing to the divisional round of the playoffs.

But most precedents aren’t as promising.

According to research from The Providence Journal, of the 205 teams to start 2-4 since 1990 (during the era of six- and seven-team playoffs) only 19 made it to the postseason (9.3%).

None went on to win the Super Bowl.

The most recent 2-4 team to make the playoffs was the 2019 Titans, who used a quarterback change from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill to get hot down the stretch and sneak into the postseason at 9-7 and advance to the conference title game.

The 2015 Seahawks – who were also coming off two straight Super Bowl appearances and still had the bulk of what was the most talented collection of players in franchise history – are the only team in club history to make the playoffs after a 2-4 start.

In the other 18 years Seattle made the playoffs, the Seahawks started 3-3 or better.

These, though, are unprecedented times.

There are two things that work in Seattle’s favor and somewhat change how to view precedents.

One is that seven teams qualify for the playoffs each year instead of six like from 1990-2019 (and five from ’78 to ’89).

The second is that this is the first year teams play 17 games, which if you’re the Seahawks will be viewed as one more game to try to make up ground in the division and the overall playoff race.

But the odds look bleak.

According to FiveThirtyEight.com’s playoff calculator, Seattle has a 22% chance of making the playoffs, a 1% chance to win the division and a 0.5% chance to win the Super Bowl. Those are down from 57%, 27% and 4% before the season.

Put another way, Seattle now is 100-1 to win the Super Bowl via Betonline.ag, down markedly from 18-1 after the first week of the season, and now 33-1 to win the division compared to 3-1 when the season began.

The division race odds are obviously heavily influenced by the fact that two teams in the NFC West are already 5-1 or better – the Cardinals at 6-0 and the Rams at 5-1, with the only loss either has suffered coming when the Cardinals beat the Rams in L.A.

Each is heavily favored to win again this week – Arizona is an 18.5-point favorite at home against Houston while the Rams are 15-point favorites at home against Detroit. The 49ers, who are 2-3 and a half-game ahead of Seattle in the division, also are favored at home this week against the Colts, by 3.5 points.

Seattle, meanwhile, is the only team in the division not favored to win this week. listed as 5-point underdogs against the Saints, a line that has already shifted two points in favor of New Orleans since the opening line was set.

Seattle hasn’t been as big of an underdog at home since the Rams were a 7-point favorite against the Seahawks in Week Five of the 2018 season, a game Los Angeles held on to win 33-31.

Could the Seahawks make the playoffs following a 2-5 start? Eight teams have since 1990, including Washington a year ago, though that was with the asterisk of winning the NFC East with a 7-9 record. Seattle can’t count on that this year.

But if you think long odds have dimmed the enthusiasm of Seattle coach Pete Carroll, then you haven’t been paying attention the last 11 years.

Midway through his session with media Monday, Carroll delivered an answer that sounded much like the speech he is likely to give his team this week, emphasizing that there are 11 games remaining and much that can still happen. That Seattle has played four of its first six games on the road and now has three of the next four at home to try to get back in things. And that even if winning the division may be tough, the battle for the last wild card spot or two figures to remain wide open for a while.

“It is a challenge for all of us in that it this didn’t start the way that we planned (and) what’s going to happen now,” Carroll said. “I think a year ago we were 5-0 or something like that (editor’s note: they were) and you’re flying and going and feeling all of the positives about it. This is a different challenge for us, and we will not be able to call this the story of the season for another couple of months. It’s going to take eight to 10 games before we know what’s going on. It’s going to be a long way down the schedule, there are a lot of things that will happen around the league, and we have to take care of our business.

“As it is always the case, postponing judgment is a powerful tool if you have it and that’s what we have to do. We have to take it one game at a time just like we know how to do, but we have to stay really focused and postpone what the story is going to be. We know that is the truth, but it’s hard to do. So that’s what we are going to go about doing. It’s a challenge, I have to lead the charge, and I’m going to kick ass on that.”

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