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NFC Playoff Race: Rams win NFC West, but Seahawks get huge help in wild card hunt

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Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saint Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks need to win out and get help from other teams in order to make the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. They got major help on Sunday from the New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals. New Orleans took care of the Atlanta Falcons, winning 23-13 and denying Atlanta a playoff berth. Cincinnati stunned the Detroit Lions 26-17, and that eliminates the Lions from playoff contention.

Unfortunately, the Carolina Panthers got a very fortunate last-gasp win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Cam Newton scoring the game-winning touchdown on a run in which he literally fumbled the snap, picked it up, and ran it in. That would’ve been a bonus, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Also of note, the Los Angeles Rams hung on to beat the Tennessee Titans 27-23 to clinch the NFC West, but the division race was realistically over last week when they pounded the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

So the scenario for Seattle to make the playoffs is as follows:

—Win against the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals
—Carolina Panthers defeat the Atlanta Falcons

No ifs, ands, or buts. Carolina can still win the NFC South by beating Atlanta and New Orleans losing at Tampa Bay, and even if they don’t win the division, the Panthers can potentially knock their division rivals out of the playoffs.

If Seattle loses, none of this matters, and week 17 will be meaningless for the Seahawks for the first time since 2011.