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NFL.com’s latest projections have Seahawks narrowly edging 49ers for NFC West title

What a difference a couple of months (and a 3-game losing streak by a division rival) can make.

Cleveland Browns v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

When the 2023 season started, NFL.com predicted that the San Francisco 49ers would win the NFC West title by, as I recall, about two games over the Seattle Seahawks.

Eight weeks later, their projections have changed.

We’ll get to the rest of the NFC in a moment, but let’s start with the two projections that matter the most to the 12s: Seattle and Santa Clara.

. . .

With a 5-2 record through 8 weeks, the Seahawks are now projected to end the season with 11.1 wins while the 5-3 Niners are projected to finish with 11.0.

Now, obviously, a difference of 0.1 wins isn’t actually possible, but the main point of those projections is this: Seattle will win the NFC West . . .

. . . barely.

My own take is that a 0.1 difference means TIEBREAKER.

According to the NFL’s tiebreaking procedures, the first tie-breaker is head-to-head record. Since Seattle hasn’t played Santa Clara yet, this tiebreaker is pending.

The second tiebreaker is best won-lost-tied percentage in division games. Seattle is currently 1-1 in the NFC West while San Francisco is 2-0. Thus, the Seahawks have some ground to make up here.

Tiebreaker No. 3 is best won-lost-tied percentage in “common” games.

If it gets to this point, it’s because the division games were equal which means the games this tiebreaker will look at are the eight games against the teams from the AFC North and NFC East. So far, Seattle is 2-1 (.667) in those games, and Santa Clara is 3-2 (.600).

Personally, I’m pulling for Tiebreaker No. 1 to be the deciding factor since it would mean we swept the division series (yay!), but I could see it coming down to Tiebreaker No. 3.

Either way, I’m stopping there.

Here’s what the NFL.com writer wrote about the Seahawks:

The Seahawks have been wildly inconsistent in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns on 58.8% of their red-zone opportunities before their Week 5 bye, as opposed to 38.5% in the three games since. If they can get that percentage back to what it had been — which should be possible with their personnel, healthy bookends and Shane Waldron calling plays — they could play late into the postseason. On defense, a quick shoutout to CB Devon Witherspoon, who has the highest win share among rookie defenders so far this season.

And, given the closeness of the projections, here’s what they wrote about Santa Clara:

The margin between the 49ers and Seahawks is only 0.075 of a game, per my models, so the reality is their two head-to-head matchups in a three-week span (Weeks 12-14) figure to decide the division. San Francisco’s trade deadline acquisition of Chase Young, who’s in the midst of a career-best season in terms of pressure rate (17.2%), adds to the team’s embarrassment of riches up front. With Young in tow, the Niners now have two of the top-five pressure producers in the league: Young ranks fifth with 40 pressures, while Nick Bosa ranks fourth with 41.

Last but not least, here are the current projections for the rest of the relevant (to us) teams in the NFC:

Note: It’s a non-paywalled article so I skipped the teams that don’t really “matter” to us - i.e., the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints, the Minnesota Vikings, et cetera.

Go Hawks!