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How the Seahawks can catch the Cardinals in 6 easy steps

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Though the chances for the Seahawks to catch the Cardinals in the division got a lot more dreary after Arizona beat them in Seattle, the truth is that this isn't all too unfamiliar territory: The Seahawks were down three games in the division with six games left to go last season, and now they are down three games with five games to go. Impossible?

It's not as bad as you think. Here is what needs to happen:

1. They really only need to close the gap by two games over the next four weeks

Because the Cardinals and Seahawks meet in Week 17, we don't even really need to focus on the three-game deficit. It's a two-game deficit with one less game to close the gap. Here are there schedules over that period of time:

Arizona Cardinals

at St. Louis Rams

vs Minnesota Vikings

at Philadelphia Eagles

vs Green Bay Packers

Seattle Seahawks

at Minnesota Vikings

at Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

St. Louis Rams

The Cardinals remaining strength of schedule is ranked as the seventh-hardest by DVOA, compared to 18th for the Seahawks. Not only that, but I think DVOA would be even more favorable to Seattle if it accounted for the fact that they are facing the Ravens with Matt Schaub and the Browns with Austin Davis. They also get the Rams at home compared to Arizona having to travel to St. Louis this week.

If the Seahawks go 4-0, then they need the Cardinals to go 2-2. Is it a stretch to see them lose two of those games? If Seattle does go 3-1 though, it still seems possible that Arizona goes 1-3 and leaves open the door to the NFC West.

2. A Rams win this week

It would have been really nice to see the San Francisco 49ers pull an upset over the Cardinals this week ... and it almost happened! Arizona had a pretty poor game against one of the worst teams in the NFL, so it's not that hard to see them lose to St. Louis, a team that already beat them once this year. What's so big about this game?

The Seahawks have a 2-2 record in the division compared to 3-1 for the Cardinals. If Seattle and Arizona have the same record at the end of the season, then the next tiebreaker is divisional record. So even if the Cards do win this week, as long as the Seahawks beat the Rams in Week 16 they will both have identical 4-2 divisional records if Seattle wins their finale against Arizona. What's the next tiebreaker?

3. The Cards lose two more conference games; they only have conference games left

If both teams have 4-2 divisional records, then the next thing to look at is conference record. The Seahawks are 5-4 in the NFC, which is okay, not great. But if they win the rest of their games, they'll finish 8-4. What's Arizona's conference record?

A very good 6-1, but they have been frontloaded with AFC games to open the year. It's only NFC left for them.

We already know that Seattle pretty much needs to win in Week 17 to win the division, so let's just assume that as a loss. Now that's a 6-2 NFC record. We also know that for it to happen, the Cards need to lose two of the next four games. So automatically, we know that the door is open for identical 8-4 conference records. But if one of those losses is to the Rams, and if they lose to the Seahawks, then Arizona can do no better than 3-3 in the division.

That's the most ideal situation. Go Rams.

4. David Johnson isn't the answer for his brother Chris Johnson

I'm assuming that David and Chris are brothers since Johnson is such a unique last name.

Chris was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return this week, which basically means he can come back for the Super Bowl and not a day sooner. Well, even though he was the butt of many of my jokes over the last few years, the truth is that Chris turned out to be one of the best free agent signings of 2015.

He ranks fourth in carries and fourth in rushing yards this season. David came in last week after Chris was injured and got the most extensive work of his career: eight carries for 21 yards. This against a 49ers defense that ranks 31st overall and 27th against the run, by DVOA.

This week they face St. Louis, a defense that ranks third overall and fifth against the run.

5. The Seahawks play as a better team than the rest of their opponents, which they are

Seattle has lost five games this season, and the teams they lost to are ranked 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 18th in DVOA. They finally beat a team ranked in the top 15 of DVOA last week when they knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are now ranked fifth in DVOA, ahead of the Cardinals at sixth.

What's next?

The Vikings are 13th, the Ravens are 14th (really), the Browns are 31st, and the Rams are 18th.

The Seahawks are better than Minnesota, of that I have no doubt, but winning on the road at 10 AM is an old fairy tale of which we are all very aware of by now. We know how that story has typically ended, especially in this season of our discontent.

I would say that overall this week is very important. If Seattle wins and Arizona loses, then it's game on. Anything else, and the next three games become nearly meaningless for anything other than the wild card.

But I believe that it is very possible that you'll see a Seahawks win and Cardinals loss.

6. Win Week 17

Of course, if everything breaks perfect over the next four weeks, then it all comes down to the Week 17 matchup in Arizona. The Seahawks have won their last two games in Phoenix by scores of 34-22 and 35-6. Overall, the Seahawks are 7-4 against the Cardinals in the Pete Carroll era, with Arizona's largest margin of victory being seven points.

If Seattle goes into that game at 10-5 and the Cardinals at 11-4, which doesn't seem to be too much of a stretch when you really think about it, then the division really could come down to the season finale and a home game (perhaps even a bye week) isn't that much of a stretch. It didn't seem very likely to happen last year either, but then Arizona got down to their third-string QB and the NFC West became the Seahawks' division again in a hurry. The Cards might not lose Carson Palmer again, but the division still isn't there's to keep yet.