Seattle's hopes for winning the NFC West dimmed greatly with Arizona's win over the Vikings Thursday night. But the chances of getting the No. 5 seed in the NFC got a whole lot better.
The Arizona Cardinals beat the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night 23-20, a result that went a long way toward clarifying the playoff picture for the Seattle Seahawks, in ways both good and bad.
First, the good, since why not?
The good is that a Minnesota loss drops the Vikings to 8-5 and means that if the Seahawks win at Baltimore Sunday and get to 8-5, then the two teams would be tied for the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks, though, would have the edge due to holding the head-to-head tiebreaker after winning in Minneapolis last Sunday.
That’s big because that would mean a trip to the No. 4 seed in the Wild Card round — a 5-7 Washington team — rather than another journey to the No. 3 seed, Green Bay.
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Now the bad — the win by Arizona made the Cardinals 11-2 and just about sewed up the NFC West.
All Seattle can do now is hope that Arizona loses its last three while the Seahawks win their final four to force a tie at 11-5.
However, at that point the tiebreakers would likely favor Arizona — though it takes a while to get there.
Under that scenario, Arizona would lose to the Eagles, Green Bay and Seattle to get to 11-5 while the Seahawks would beat Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis and Arizona to also get to 11-5.
That would mean the two teams would be tied in each of the first four two-team tiebreakers — head-to-head, division record (they would each be 4-2), common games (they would each be 10-4 since each would have gone 1-1 in their only two uncommon games with Arizona splitting with the Saints and Eagles and the Seahawks splitting with the Cowboys and Panthers), and conference record (they would each be 8-4).
At that point, it would go to strength of victory, and that favors the Cardinals, whose two wins against teams other than those that Seattle also defeated would be the Saints and Bengals, who are a combined 14-12, while the two teams the Seahawks beat that the Cardinals would not have beaten are the Cowboys and Steelers, a combined 11-13. As of now, the two teams’ games against the Bengals (10-2) and Steelers (7-5) would prove the deciding factor in that scenario.
So in short, when it comes to keeping hope alive of winning the NFC West for a third straight year, root against the Saints and Bengals, root for the Cowboys and Steelers, hope for the Seahawks to win out, and for the Cardinals to lose out.
Yes, there’s a chance. But slim is edging in on none.
As for the Wild Card, Seattle remains a game ahead of Tampa Bay and Atlanta for the No. 6 spot at the moment. As noted earlier, a win Sunday puts Seattle in the No. 5 position.
But a loss and a Tampa Bay win over New Orleans at home and then the Bucs would hold the No. 6 seed due to a better conference record.
At this point, though, Seattle’s path to the No. 5 seed is simple —win out.