The Seahawks are NFC West champs thanks to their Week 16 win over the Rams, but still have one regular-season game left to play when they travel to Arizona to play the 49ers, who have spent the month away from home due to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara county. And while the division title has been secured, there's still plenty at stake on Sunday, seeding wise, which brings us to the first questions of this week's mailbag. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.
Rick Olson from Mountlake Terrace asks, "What happens if Seattle wins on Sunday and Green Bay & New Orleans lose?"
And on a related note, former Seahawks PR intern @helenofpullman asks, "What does the seeding look like going into Week 17?"
A: The Seahawks, who are 11-4, can finish no worse than the No. 3 seed regardless of what takes place on Sunday, but improving upon that seeding would require both a win over the 49ers as well as some help in other games.
In Rick's wonderfully optimistic scenario with Green Bay (12-3) losing at Chicago and New Orleans (11-4) losing at Carolina, the Seahawks and Packers would both be 12-4, but the Seahawks would hold the tiebreaker, based on their record against common opponents, and get the No. 1 seed and the first-round bye that comes with it.
The Seahawks could also end up with the No. 2 seed with a win Sunday if New Orleans wins and Green Bay loses, creating a three-way tie at 12-4. In that case, the Saints would be the No. 1 seed based off conference record, and the Seahawks would win the same common opponent tiebreaker with Green Bay. The No. 2 seed is less significant this year because it no longer comes with a bye, but there'd still be value in getting a divisional round game at home, and it would also increase the odds of hosting an NFC championship game should the No. 1 seed falter in the divisional round.
Sticking with the topic of playoff seeding, @dougthecoach asks, "Pete Carroll seems to miss the 12s as much as people miss being at the game. How much will seeding matter, other than the bye for the No. 1 seed, if there are no fans in the stands?"
A: You're absolutely correct that Carroll, and the whole team for that matter, really misses having fans packing Lumen Field. Carroll has brought that up on a number of occasions throughout the season, including after Sunday's division-clinching win.
"I wish our fans would have been here," Carroll said. "I hope you all had a great time at home. I hope you were hooting and hollering, going crazy. We love you, we wish we could have shared it with you today, but I'm sure you had fun. You had to have fun anyways, that's the good part. We love all the 12s, and we wish we could have had you here with us today."
As for how much seeding matters, it's definitely true that going on the road with no fans or a small crowd is less intimidating, but I do still think having home games in the postseason is significant. In general, teams are just going to be more comfortable playing at home where everything in the entire weekend routine is more familiar, from the hotel the team stays in on Saturday night, to the locker room to the field itself. And as Doug notes in the question, the bye is obviously a huge deal for the No. 1 seed, particularly because this year there's no bye for the No. 2 seed. Home-field advantage is likely more significant as well for a team like Green Bay due to weather, because as the Seahawks and plenty of other teams can attest, winning on a cold, snowy day at Lambeau Field is a very, very tough challenge.
@Calvpaz asks, "Are the Seahawks serious Super Bowl contenders?"
A: Yes, both in the sense that, by getting to the playoffs with at least one home game, they're in a position only a handful of the 32 teams have reached this season, and also in that they have what it takes to beat anyone on any given Sunday.
While the Seahawks offense isn't performing at quite the level it was early in the season—and if you look around the league, a lot of offenses have cooled off a bit from their early-season pace—Russell Wilson's play in the second half Sunday in which he posted a 137.0 passer rating, completing 10 of 13 passes against one of the league's best defenses, was very encouraging. The Seahawks running game has also been getting better as the season has gone along, and with a healthy Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Rashaad Penny, that could prove to be an important part of their game in the postseason.
But the biggest reason for optimism about the Seahawks' chances is the improvement of the defense, which over the last seven games is allowing just 15 points per game, the fewest in the NFL. Earlier this season, the Seahawks needed Wilson and the offense to be at or near their best for the team to win, but with a defense playing this well, the Seahawks can win in just about any kind of game, from a shootout to a low-scoring, defensive affair.
And lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention special teams, which has been the most consistent element of Seattle's play this season. In addition to having two Pro Bowlers in long snapper Tyler Ott and fullback Nick Bellore, kicker Jason Myers and punter Michael Dickson are both playing at a Pro-Bowl level even if they didn't get that honor, and the coverage units, led by Bellore's play, have been outstanding all year long. In a close playoff game, that kind of special teams play could make all the difference.
@Odinbn asks, "Is my prediction of 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns still in reach for DK Metcalf?
A: Metcalf, who currently has 1,282 yards and 10 touchdowns, would need to have a good game to hit that prediction, but it's definitely not out of reach. Metcalf has eclipsed the 118 yards he would need to reach that mark on two occasions this year, and has had two games with two touchdowns. And the one game where he hit both of those marks happened to be in Week 8 against the team he'll see this weekend, with Metcalf catching 12 passes for 161 yards and two scores.
Also worth keeping an eye out for with Metcalf, with just 6 yards, he'll break Steve Largent's single-season franchise record for receiving yards.
@SamithGanesh asks, "What happens with Marquise Blair coming back next year?"
A: The short answer is that, in one way or another, the secondary gets better.
The Seahawks have been fortunate to get strong play out of Ugo Amadi in the nickel role this season, but it shouldn't be forgotten just how impressive Blair was in training camp after taking over that role. The most obvious answer is that Blair and Amadi would compete for the nickel role, but there's also a good chance, if everyone is healthy, the Seahawks might get creative at times to use both given how well Amadi has played. A healthy Blair would also give the Seahawks good depth at his original position of safety behind Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs.
We're a long way off from figuring out what the 2021 secondary will look like, but a healthy Blair will make it better, one way or another.
@MatthewSugiyama asks, "Bobby Wagner bruise update?"
A: This is a reference to Carroll saying after Sunday's game that Wagner had a bruised forearm. A day later, Carroll joked that Wagner, "wont even let us look at it, so I think he's OK."
ThatWiiMaster asks, "Is there any possibility the Seahawks bring Bruce Irvin back next year assuming he's willing to play and healthy?"
A: Possible, sure? Irvin's ACL injury occurred early enough in the season that he'll likely be healthy by start of next season, and the Seahawks thought highly enough of him in 2020 to sign him, so they'd likely consider it again if Irvin expressed interest in coming back. A lot would have to go right for it to happen, from Irvin deciding he wants to keep playing in his 10th season, to the money working out right both for him and the Seahawks, but as Carroll and John Schneider have been known to say, a team can never have too many pass rushers, so a reunion could definitely make some sense.
Oh, and there's also this from Irvin in October:
@TuckerONeal1 asks, "How's your baby?"
A: She's doing great a month and a half in, thanks for asking, Tucker. Sleep could be better, but when is that not the case with a newborn?
@Rjones3438 asks, "Will the NFL ever relax its helmet rule so the Seahawks can retro uniforms with silver helmets?"
A: I have no knowledge of this being on the horizon, but it would definitely be a popular move with fans. As the question points out, teams currently cannot use multiple helmets during the season, so for the Seahawks to wear silver helmets, they'd either have to repaint them for a game, which wouldn't be very practical, or cover them with a full-helmet decal, which probably would look a little weird.
The other issue that would have to be resolved for the Seahawks to wear throwbacks is the league's limit on uniform combinations. Currently teams are allowed to have a home, away, alternate combo, plus the color rush uniforms that got added a while back. So under the current rules, the Seahawks couldn't add a throwback without getting rid of the Wolf Grey uniforms. Perhaps somewhere down the road the league allows teams to add a throwback option to the list? In the case of those old Seahawks uniforms, it would definitely look great and be a very popular choice with the fans, so perhaps somewhere down the road we'll see that happen.