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Seahawks playoff scenarios: ESPN Playoff Machine is wrong, Seattle can’t clinch NFC West in Week 16

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Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

A few weeks back, some idiot on Field Gulls wrote the following paragraph when breaking down the Seattle Seahawks’ ideal path to the #1 seed in the NFC.

Now you may be wondering why I specified the Los Angeles Rams beating the 49ers and left out the Atlanta Falcons. Well for starters, the Falcons aren’t going to win so that’s silly, but the next tiebreaker after head-to-head is divisional records. If the Rams beat the 49ers, the Niners would be 3-2 to Seattle’s 5-0. That ends the NFC West race right there.

Well the Falcons proved me wrong. Dead-ass wrong yet it feels so right. Dan Quinn did us a solid and Atlanta pulled off a frankly miraculous 29-22 win on the road in Santa Clara, which has put the Seahawks back in first-place in the NFC West because of that head-to-head tiebreaker. They’re also going to finish Week 15 as the #1 seed thanks to owning a “common games record” tiebreaker over the Green Bay Packers, and they’d have the three-way tiebreaker if level with the Packers and New Orleans Saints.

What does this mean for the final two weeks of the regular season? Well it assures that regardless of what happens in Week 16, the Seahawks cannot lose the NFC West race entering Week 17, which could’ve been a possibility had the Falcons lost to the 49ers.

Despite what the ESPN Playoff Machine says, Seattle won’t be able to clinch the NFC West by beating the Arizona Cardinals, coupled with a loss by the 49ers against the Los Angeles Rams. Under these circumstances, the first four tiebreakers at play would not be enough to separate the two:

Head-to-head - Seahawks 1-0 but with one more game to play against the 49ers

Divisional record - Seahawks at 4-1 to 49ers’ 3-2, but with a game against the 49ers to play

Common games - Seahawks would have same number of losses to common opponents (Ravens, Saints, and Rams) as the 49ers (Ravens, Falcons, and Rams).

Conference record - Seahawks would be 9-2 to 49ers’ 8-3, but 49ers win over Seahawks in Week 17 would make this identical.

It’s at the “common games” where the ESPN Playoff Machine says the Seahawks win the tiebreaker, but it’s obviously wrong.

Up next would be strength of victory, and at the moment the Seahawks have the superior SOV, but that probably all comes undone if the 49ers beat Seattle in Week 17. I got a bit confused but Danny O’Neil set me straight.

So whatever happens in Week 16, the NFC West cannot be won by the Seahawks as first thought, but Julio Jones’ heroics just significantly changed the complexion of the playoff hunt, and it’s to Seattle’s benefit.