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Seattle Seahawks

Here is what the path to the playoffs looks like for the Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) catches a touchdown pass as Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland (26) trails in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Arlington.  (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

The Seattle Seahawks’ mini-bye is over.

As they return to work this week, they do so technically out of the playoff picture in the NFC and in third place in the NFC West for the first time since September.

That’s because the Rams won their third straight Sunday, beating the Browns 34-19 to forge a tie with the Seahawks – who have lost their last three – at 6-6 in the NFC West.

Thanks to L.A.’s sweep of the season series, the Rams own second place.

That is enough to move the Seahawks out of the top seven in the NFC and on the outside looking in on the conference playoff ladder.

So, the Seahawks return to work with some work to do after seeing their playoff odds drop from 81% five weeks ago, when they held a 5-2 record, to 28%, according to The Upshot’s playoff simulator.

And now they travel to San Francisco to play the red-hot 49ers on Sunday. San Francisco improved to 9-3 with a dominant 42-19 win at Philly in a showdown for NFC supremacy with the Eagles.

The 49ers are listed as an early 12-point favorite against the Seahawks , via betonline.ag

The Seahawks have not been a bigger underdog since Week 2 of the 2011 season when they were 14-point underdogs at Pittsburgh. The Steelers won that game 24-0.

Coach Pete Carroll said he remains confident the Seahawks can make it to the postseason.

“I just believe we are of that caliber,” Carroll said. “We have to find our way through it and get there. I don’t know if there are enough games. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe we run out of games. I don’t know. We’re going to have to make some big noise here in the next couple of weeks and we just must keep on going.”

Big noise is indeed a good way to describe it.

The Seahawks are logically competing for one of the final two playoff spots in the NFC, with four going to division winners, and whoever doesn’t win the NFC East of the Eagles or Cowboys seeming set for the fifth spot.

That leaves the Vikings, Packers, Rams and Seahawks all at 6-6 and in a four-way battle for the final two spots. The tiebreakers mean the Seahawks are last of that group.

The Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Seahawks don’t play the Vikings or Packers, so conference record would be the first tiebreaker with those teams. The Vikings and Packers have the better conference winning percentages than Seattle, but those can obviously change.

Let’s review who the Seahawks will have to make that noise against, likely having to win at least three – which would get them to 9-8 – to make the playoffs.

Sunday at San Francisco: The Seahawks will be heavy underdogs against a team that has won four in a row, all by 13 points or more, including a 31-13 victory at Lumen Field on Thanksgiving night. The 49ers appeared to come out of their win over Philly with all their key players healthy.

Dec. 18 vs. Philadelphia: This game was changed from Sunday afternoon to Monday night. The Seahawks could be entering the game on a four-game losing streak and at 6-7. The league decided Seahawks-Eagles is still better than a game featuring Kansas City against the 2-10 Patriots. Seattle could be catching the Eagles at a good time – or, maybe, a bad time, depending on your perspective. After losing to the 49ers, the Eagles travel to play at Dallas in a game that if Philly were to lose, could create a three- or four-way tie for the No. 1 seed in the NFC and put the Eagles in must-win mode. In the strange bedfellows department, the 49ers could well be rooting for the Seahawks to win this one to improve their chances at the No. 1 seed.

Dec. 24 at Tennessee: One aftereffect of moving the Eagles game is the Seahawks having a shorter week of preparation for a fairly long trip to Tennessee. They typically leave Friday for games two time zones or more away. The Titans fell to 4-8 Sunday and suffered injuries to running back Derrick Henry (concussion) and punter Ryan Stonehouse (leg) and face a tough schedule the rest of the way – at Miami and home to surging Houston the next two weeks. The short week and long trip mean this will be a challenge, and even more so if Henry plays.

Dec. 31 vs Pittsburgh: The Steelers, who entered the week 7-4 despite being outgained by an average of almost 62 yards per game, fell to earth some on Sunday with a 24-20 home loss to Arizona. Home games over the next three weeks with New England and Cincinnati could mean the Steelers are still right in the thick of the playoff race when they come to Seattle, and you know how tough it is against a Mike Tomlin-coached team.

Jan. 6-7 at Arizona: For much of the year this game has seemed like a winning hole card for the Seahawks to end the year. But as their win at Pittsburgh showed, the Cardinals are hardly just playing out the string and tanking for the first overall pick. It’s worth remembering that neither quarterback Kyler Murray nor running back James Conner (who had 105 yards and two TDs against the Steelers) played when the Seahawks beat Arizona 20-10 at Lumen Field in October.

Can the Seahawks get the three wins likely necessary to get in? Carroll on Friday said that if they do, they’ll be ready for whatever would await them once they got to the postseason.

“We will be hardened,’’ Carroll said. “We will be competitively battlefield tested, as well as you could be prepared. I think all of that will add to it if we keep growing with it. If we keep taking the proper steps forward, that’s the way I’m seeing it. It’s only one shot at a time, but a month from now, we will have been through everything that you could go through in preparation for a playoff opportunity. Whether we have enough wins, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how it goes.”