Due to this clutch catch by Julio Jones initially being ruled short of the goal line, then rightfully overturned —
— the Seattle Seahawks are the top seed in the entire conference, and will be until Week 16’s slate of games kicks off. The 11-3 Green Bay Packers and the 11-3 New Orleans Saints will have to grit their teeth and bear it; the 11-3 San Francisco 49ers can spend a few days wondering why they didn’t just
instead. I mean, they have the personnel.
But before we get any farther into the weeds, and there are tall, thick, prickly weeds this week, a correction. In calculating strength of victory for San Francisco and Seattle last week, this column stated the Seahawks have the advantage in that crucial tie-breaker. They do not. The 49ers do. And strength of victory becomes the determining factor, should the two teams tie at 12-4, having split the season series, both sitting at 4-2 in the division, with the same 9-3 record against common opponents.
Thus: Seattle does not have a likely path to the division title with a win over Arizona and a loss to San Francisco. Possible, but not at all likely.
I apologize for doing substandard research and will mislead you (AND MYSELF!) no more. Well, not this year at least. There are many more seasons in which to screw up galore.
Only four scenarios exist now for the Seahawks: win both remaining games, split them L-W, split them W-L, or lose them both. Let’s go over the two easy ones first.
The Happy Place: W-W
A pair of victories means a 13-3 record, 5-1 in the division, and a head-to-head sweep of the 49ers. Seahawks win the division and can do no worse than the 2 seed.
In the event of a tie with only the Saints atop the NFC, New Orleans is the 1 seed based on that fateful day at the CLink in September.
If only the Packers and Seahawks finish 13-3, both teams would also be 10-2 in conference play, activating the common games tie-breaker. Green Bay is then 3-2 against the Eagles, 49ers, Vikings and Panthers. Seattle will have swept all five games and becomes the 1 seed.
If three teams, so the Packers, Seahawks and Saints, finish 13-3, the Saints will be bumped to the 3 seed based on their three conference losses, then the Seahawks will win the tie-breaker against the Packers.
NOTE: The Packers cannot catch the Seahawks in the common games tie-breaker.
The Sad Place: L-L
Another easy scenario. At 11-5, the Seahawks finish second in the NFCW. Seattle is the 5 or 6 seed. Number 5 if Minnesota or Green Bay also finishes 11-5, but number 6 if they both finish 12-4. Obviously. The Vikings have the Packers and Bears at home; the Packers have two road games.
(In case you skipped the weekend, the Seahawks clinched a playoff spot. Two losses would not keep them out of the postseason. Woo.)
Those were the straightfoward ones.
The Decent Place: L-W
A list of the years the Arizona Cardinals have won in Seattle against Russell Wilson and Co. follows: 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017.
Three of those four home missteps were in December. Last season the Seahawks won 27-24 here. Counting any win as automatic is dumb, but especially a division one, especially late in the season, especially against the Cardinals, for whatever silly reason.
The good news is that L-W still gets the Seahawks the division crown. They’d at worst tie with the 49ers at 12-4, and with the season sweep comes the title.
What’s less obvious is exactly which seed 12-4 nets you. Not the fourth — that’s reserved for the NFC East champion. With San Francisco relegated to the fifth rung, three other teams are fighting for seeding: New Orleans, Green Bay and Minnesota.
- In a 12-4 three-way tie with the Saints and the NFC North champ, the Seahawks emerge as the 1 seed if NO goes L-W, but the 2 seed if NO goes W-L. It has to do with conference victories. Either way: 3 seed avoided, first-round bye gained.
- In a 12-4 tie with the Packers ONLY, the Seahawks will be seeded above Green Bay. So: 3 seed avoided, first-round bye gained.
- In a 12-4 tie with the Vikings ONLY, the Seahawks will be seeded above Minnesota. Again: 3 seed avoided, first-round bye gained.
- In a 12-4 tie with the Saints ONLY, the Seahawks will be seeded below New Orleans. Meaning: 2 or 3 seed. 2 seed if the Packers lose both games and stumble to 11-5; 3 seed if the Packers win both to get to 13-3.
The real key at 12-4 is to avoid a one-on-one confrontation with the Saints. Any other tie-breaker situation, where the Packers and Vikings butt in, favors the Seahawks. The second key is to have GB lose a game. Once that happens, you’re the 2 seed at least.
Better show you the remaining schedules.
GB: @MIN, @DET. We would want the Packers to drop one. Either is fine.
NO: @TEN, vs. CAR. We would want the Saints to drop one. Preferably the conference game Week 17. Both would be ideal.
MIN: vs. GB, vs. CHI. We want the Vikings to prevent the Packers from reaching 13-3, they’re a far better bet than the Lions to get the job done. We’re only hoping the Packers win out if the Seahawks do too.
Oof. That wasn’t even the messy situation, either.
The Messy Place: W-L
tl;dr: in this case, most likely, the 49ers win the division outright at 13-3 or via the strength of victory tie-breaker. Seahawks are the 5 seed.
The full story is gonna take a little more time to lay out. The Seahawks can still turn that fifth tie-breaker around, but they need a lot of help. If they do get the help, then they can lose the finale to the 49ers and still win the division. A lot has to go right. Because A) the Rams have to defeat the Niners in San Francisco first, and B) Seattle has to pick up three games in strength of victory.
The Niners’ current SOV is 79-86-2. The Seahawks’ is 76-89-2. The way to gain ground is for teams SF already beat to start losing, and teams SEA already beat to start winning.
In other words, the trio of MIN/PHI/ATL needs to perform three games better than the trio of GB/NO/WAS. If that happens, Seattle catches San Fran, and the next tie-breaker, one that favors the Seahawks, strength of schedule, kicks in.
A realistic series of events would look like this:
MIN sweeps GB, CHI
PHI sweeps DAL, NYG
ATL splits JAX, TB
That would add 5-1 to the Seahawks’ ledger. The only road victory required is the Eagles over the Giants. Then:
NO splits TEN, CAR
GB splits MIN, DET
WAS drops both NYG, DAL
You’ve already baked in Vikings over Packers, so you’re banking on the Skins continuing to be bad, and the Saints tripping up once, probably at the Titans. Now add the 2-4 result to the 49ers’ ledger and all the ground is made up.
There are other ways for Seattle to pick up three games, but the above scenario demands the least amount of farfetching. Or, you know, the Seahawks could just win Week 17 and save us all the trouble.
Odds: not dead yet
We’re still doing odds. From footballoutsiders.com and fivethirtyeight.com, as in previous weeks.
Playoff and Bye odds
|Team||W-L record||Playoff odds (FO+538)||Bye odds (composite)|
|Team||W-L record||Playoff odds (FO+538)||Bye odds (composite)|
The Rams need two wins of their own, coupled with two home losses for the Vikings, to sneak in as the 6 seed. Part of the reason for the 2.5 percent figure — winning in San Francisco is thought to be a difficult task. But, if the lowly Seahawks and Falcons can manage it...
Perfect Playoff Picture
It’s so beautiful.
(6) Vikings at (3) Saints
(5) 49ers at (4) Cowboys
That’s the second time this year we’ve seen SF-DAL as a juicy wild-card weekend matchup. Hey! Where are the Rams? Oh. Check their couches.
Worst seed remaining at (1) Seahawks
Best seed remaining at (2) Packers
Have Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson ever met in an NFCCG in Seattle before? Somebody look it up. Feels like that would’ve been big news.
Team Tiers are pretty irrelevant at this point, so starting next week this column will pivot to including Super Bowl odds. Then to playoff picks, both sentimental and sentiment-less.