Sometimes the stairway to heaven is shorter than you think.
A week ago, there was a fair possibility that the Seahawks could lose to the Cardinals and then the 49ers and find themselves at 6-6. Meanwhile, the Cards could have won that game and beaten the Falcons on Sunday and been 11-1. A period of eight days is the difference between either being down five games (and officially out of the NFC West race) and being one game back of the number one seed in the conference.
Which is where Seattle is after Arizona lost to Atlanta 29-18 and dropped to 9-3. Here are the current NFC West standings:
1. Cardinals 9-3
2. Seahawks 8-4
3. 49ers 7-5
4. Rams 5-7
If Seattle does win it's next four games, they will win the division and guarantee themselves at least one home game. Because they play the 9-3 Eagles next week, if they beat Philly, then they'll also be in a position to grab a bye week if they win out. For that reason, the game at Philadelphia becomes quite the tipping point for the top of the NFC.
What to see in the final quarter of the season:
The 9-3 Eagles final four games: Seattle, Dallas, at Washington, at New York Giants
The 8-4 Cowboys final four games: at Chicago, at Philly, Indy, at Washington
The 9-3 Cardinals final four games: Kansas City, at St. Louis, Seattle, at San Francisco
The 7-5 49ers final four games: at Oakland, at Seattle, San Diego, Arizona
The 9-3 Packers final four games: Atlanta, at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay, Detroit
The 8-4 Lions final four games: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, at Chicago, at Green Bay
The 8-4 Seahawks final four games: at Phi, San Francisco, at Arizona, St. Louis
The only time head-to-head record matters in a tiebreaker is when there are only two teams to tiebreak with, unless one of those teams beat or lost to all the other teams in a tie. So conference record becomes the most important thing and the Seahawks can have the best conference record. If they won out, Seattle would be 10-2 in conference. The best Philly can do is 9-3. The best Dallas can do in conference is 8-4. The best Green Bay can do in conference is 9-3. The best Detroit can do in conference is 9-3.
After Seattle lost to San Diego, I said "Better to lose on the road to an AFC team than an NFC team anywhere." This is why.
- Just as I post this, the Packers beat the Patriots and move to 9-3. They can win out and go 13-3 and then obviously the Seahawks wouldn't be good enough at 12-4. But Seattle holds the head-to-head if it came to it and the conference record if it came to that. However, Green Bay is definitely on fire and has perhaps the easiest remaining schedule of any of these teams.
- The Rams beat the Raiders 52-0. I don't know how you follow that sentence up with any words of explanation because it can't reasonably be explained. Oakland played the worst game of any team this season and the Bucs (among others but mostly the Bucs) have played some terrible flocking games.
St. Louis improves to 5-7 but really ... 52-0. They scored 38 points in the first half (a franchise record for any half, besting anything from "Show on Turf") and dropped a 50+ for the first time since Kurt Warner was in town. They hadn't even scored more than 42 since 2003. Tre Mason had an 89-yard touchdown run, Tavon Austin had an 18-yard touchdown run, Stedman Bailey had 100 receiving yards, and they intercepted the Raiders quarterbacks three times.
Oddly enough, both teams had 17 first downs and the Raiders had more passing yards. I guess Shaun Hill must be human after all.
The Rams have alternated wins and losses for eight straight weeks now.
- In Jacksonville, Gus Bradley pretty much had the worst start to a game imaginable:
But then Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning heard "worst game imaginable" and said "No way, we won't be outdone like that" and promptly lost the game 25-24. The final play of the game was Manning getting sacked by Sen'Derrick Marks, forcing a fumble that was recovered by none other than Chris Clemons. The win moves the Jaguars up to 2-10, while the Raiders loss to the Rams puts them at 1-11 and in the number one spot for the 2015 NFL Draft.
I don't think it matters as much if Jacksonville "only" gets the number two pick because the first player taken will probably be a quarterback. Whether it's Oakland picking or someone else, I gather that it could be a QB and as terrible as Blake Bortles has been, they're not going to give up on him already. Therefore, picking second might be no different (to the Jags) than picking first.
Whether or not Bradley will be around to help make the pick remains to be seen, but this game was looking like the nail in his coffin and he managed to pop out of there like Beatrix Kiddo.
(Update: Apparently the Jags actually fell to fourth in the draft order because there are two other 2-10 teams, both of which had easier schedules so far.)