Seattle has one really simple scenario for this weekend --- beat the 49ers and make the playoffs. But there are a few others, as well.
The Seahawks have one really simple scenario for clinching a playoff berth this weekend — beat the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in Santa Clara. Do that and Seattle is assured either the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC.
But according to the NFL, Seattle also has three other possible ways to clinch a berth this weekend, all involving the unlikely event of a tie (the Seahawks have just one in their history, dating to 1976).
- A tie, and a Minnesota Vikings loss to Miami at home, and a Carolina loss or tie Monday night against New Orleans
- A tie and a Minnesota loss and a Philadelphia loss, or tie against the Rams in Los Angeles and a Washington loss or tie at Jacksonville
- A tie and a Carolina loss or tie, an Eagles loss or tie and a Washington loss or tie.
Don’t expect Seattle coach Pete Carroll to bother repeating all that to his players, though.
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As noted, a Seahawks win Sunday clinches a Wild Card berth with no other help needed.
A loss means Seattle has to wait a week to clinch a spot.
A win would mean Seattle clinches either the fifth or sixth seed regardless of what other teams do — the Seahawks can only get the fifth or sixth seed with the Rams having already clinched the division.
But Seattle can clinch the fifth seed this week with a win and a Minnesota loss. That would assure Seattle having two more wins than every other Wild Card contender in the NFC and having the tiebreakers on all of them.
That would also mean Seattle having nothing theoretically to play for in the final two games, and who knows how the Seahawks would handle that. In the Super Bowl year of 2013, they were still fighting for home field all the way through. However, the Seahawks rested their starters late in a game in 2016 against the 49ers after it was apparent they could not get a top-2 seed.
There is also a scenario where next Sunday’s game against the Chiefs — which is in the marquee Sunday night spot — has no meaning for either team.
The Chiefs can also clinch home field throughout the AFC playoffs with a win Thursday night against the Chargers in Kansas City and a loss or tie by the Patriots at Pittsburgh.
Getting the fifth seed for Seattle would almost certainly mean a trip to Dallas for a Wild Card game on the first weekend on Jan. 6 or Jan. 7.
As a fifth or sixth seed, Seattle would likely have to win three straight games on the road to make it to the Super Bowl — the top four seeds go to the division winners, which at the moment are the Rams, Saints, Bears and Cowboys, in that order.
The only way a fifth seed can host a playoff game is if it makes the conference title game and would then host the sixth seed in that game.
That has never happened since the NFL went to its current playoff format in 1990.
The closest that has come to occurring was following the 2008 season, when the No. 4 Cardinals hosted the No. 6 Eagles in the conference title game.