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Seahawks In Best Position to Win NFC West

There are currently seven different playoff scenarios in what is unanimously agreed upon as the weakest division in football, the NFC West. Luckily for the Seahawks, it is not as complicated for them to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007. What do they have to do? Just win. If the Seahawks beat Tampa Bay and St. Louis, they will win the NFC West with a record of 8-8. Four of the seven scenarios would crown the Seahawks as NFC West Champs. Two of those scenarios that put the Hawks in the playoffs involve winnig out. So what about the other two? As farfetched as it sounds, the Seahawks could actually lose to Tampa Bay next week, and with some help from the Rams and Cardinals, could still win the division. So follow closely and take a break for some Tylenol if needed, because this gets tricky.
If the Seahawks lost to Tampa Bay, but beat St. Louis, a Cardinals win over the 49ers would result in the Seahawks winning the division with a 7-9 record, and St. Louis and San Francisco would finish 6-10. Now, if Seattle lost to Tampa Bay, beat St. Louis, and St. Louis beat San Francisco, the Seahawks and Rams would finish with identical records. So how does the league decide who goes to the playoffs? NFL rules state that in the case of two teams having identical overall records, the tiebreaker goes to the team with the stronger head to head record. In a case such as this, the Seahawks and Rams would split the season series with a win each. When the head to head record is also a tie, the tiebreaker goes to the team with the stronger divisional record. In this second scenario, the Seahawks would finish with a 4-2 record in the NFC West, and the Rams would finish with a 3-3 divisional record. Advantage Seattle.
However, a Seattle loss to Tampa Bay along with a San Francisco win over St. Louis would put the 49ers in the driver seat for the division. All San Francisco would have to do it that situation would be to beat the last place Cardinals in the final week of the season, and the 49ers would win the division with a 7-9 record. Right now, San Francisco's strong divisional record of 3-1 is just about the only thing keeping them afloat.
The Rams also control their destiny. If St. Louis wins out, they will clinch the NFC West with an 8-8 record. The Rams are also in a similar position as Seattle, where they could actually lose to San Francisco, and then a win over Seattle the final week paired with a San Francisco loss to the Cardinals would put the Rams in the playoffs with a 7-9 record. This weekend for both the Rams and 49ers, it will be the biggest game for the two teams since they last reached the postseason. The Rams last reached the playoffs in 2004 when they clinched a wild card birth with an 8-8 record. The 49ers haven't played a postseason game since 2002 when they won the division with a 10-6 record.
So what will next week's game between the Rams and 49ers mean for the Seahawks? If the Rams win, the 49ers are eliminated, and regardless of what happens against Tampa Bay, it will set the stage for the biggest game at Qwest Field since the playoffs three seasons ago. The winner will clinch the NFC West and host a playoff game the next weekend. The loser goes home and will watch that game from the couch. If the 49ers beat St. Louis however, things get a little more complicated. If the 49ers went on to beat Arizona the next week, Seattle would have to also win out to clinch the division. The equation is simple in that scenario. Two San Francisco wins plus one Seattle loss equals elimination. However, if the 49ers beat St. Louis, but lost to Arizona, that would bring us back to the winner take all scenario between the Rams and Seahawks on January 2nd in Seattle.
As of right now, the Seahawks have a 50% chance of winning the division, while the 49ers and Rams both have a 25% chance. So buckle up, these last two weeks of the season are sure to provide some fireworks. It's still anyones division. Criticize the NFC West for being perhaps the weakest division in professional sports if you must, but there is no denying this will be a thrilling finish that comes down to the final moments of the season.

-Article by Sean Larson-

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