Hawks don’t have to beat Eagles — unless they want a first-round bye

Playoff machineThe Seahawks’ game this week in Philadelphia is full of great storylines — former Pac-12 coaching stars Pete Carroll vs. Chip Kelly, Carroll vs. his USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, the Seahawks’ No. 1 defense vs. the Eagles’ No. 4 offense.

And then there are the playoff implications.

The Hawks don’t need to win this game to make the playoffs. That can be accomplished by sweeping their divisional rivals in the final three weeks. But, if the Hawks want a shot at a first-round bye, they basically have to win this game.

The No. 1 seed seems unlikely this year. Even if the Hawks win their final four, Green Bay would need to lose at least once. That could be difficult considering the Packers’ pretty cheesecake schedule: home vs. Atlanta this week, at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay, home vs. Detroit.

If the Hawks win out, they will be guaranteed the No. 2 seed. If they lose to the Eagles, though, the only way they could get it is if they win their final three and the Eagles and Dallas end up 10-6. That would mean the Eagles would have to lose their final three games — at home vs. Dallas, at Washington and at the New York Giants. Dallas also would have to drop two of their three other games — at Chicago tonight, home vs. Indianapolis, at Washington.

Barring a 4-0 finish, the Hawks seem most likely to end up with the third seed (Football Outsiders agrees, calling it a 20.3 percent chance). That would get them a home game in the wild-card round — likely against Arizona, San Francisco, Detroit or Dallas.

A win as the third seed likely would send them right back to where they are playing this week: Philadelphia.

That’s just one more thing that makes this such a good matchup — and why Carroll is looking forward to it.

“We need these. These will get you ready,” he said. “The Arizona game, the San Francisco game, the Philadelphia game. To show what you can do out on the road against great teams is so important to us and to the growth of our team in the season.

“I’m feeling real good about this challenge and looking forward to it.”

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