Here are four non-Seahawks things to watch around the NFL this week, but all with an eye on how they can impact Seattle down the road. In other words, reviewing what Seattle fans should be rooting for this weekend.
COWBOYS GO FOR IT ALL IN PHILLY
Of all the possible playoff-clinching scenarios for various teams around the league this weekend here’s what one that’s easy to remember — if Dallas wins at Philadelphia then the Cowboys win the NFC East and are assured of being the number four seed in the NFC playoffs. And as such, the NFC East winner will likely host whichever of Seattle or San Francisco does not win the NFC West (since the loser of that race will likely be the number five seed) in the wild card round.
The Cowboys beat the Eagles 37-10 on Oct. 20, which gives them the edge in tiebreakers if they beat Philly again Sunday. Both teams are also playing better of late, each standing at 7-7 and assuring that the East won’t join the 2010 NFC West in having a division champ with a losing record (barring, I guess, a tie).
SAINTS GO MARCHING INTO TENNESSEE, NO. 1 SEED ON ITS MIND
Yes, the Seahawks have a conference games tiebreaker edge on the Saints, which is why Seattle currently holds the number one seed in the NFC despite having the same 11-3 record as New Orleans and Green Bay. But, should the Saints and Seahawks end up in a two-team tie atop the NFC, then the edge goes back to New Orleans based on the Saints’ win over Seattle in September. So, Seattle fans can still root hard for the Saints to lose Sunday at Tennessee against a Titans team that remains in the hunt for the AFC South title.
And it could well happen — Tennessee has won six of eight and has looked like a different team with Ryan Tannehill. The Saints looked like world beaters last week against the Colts (34-7 win) but are also a game removed from allowing 516 yards and 48 points at home to the 49ers.
PACKERS GO TITLE-HUNTING MONDAY NIGHT
Dallas actually isn’t the only team playing for an NFC division title this week. Green Bay heads to Minnesota and needs to only beat or tie the Vikings to take the North. Seahawks fans want to root for Green Bay here since Seattle holds the tiebreakers on the Packers, and as has been noted all week, Seattle holds the number one seed in the NFC at the moment because it is in a tie with both the Saints and Packers, which in this case negates the head-to-head tiebreakers and sends it to others, which favor Seattle.
In the case of Green Bay, Seattle has a better record in common games. Seattle also holds a head-to-head tiebreaker on Minnesota, just in case that comes into play in any way, as well. The big caveat? If, say, the Saints and Seahawks lose Sunday, then Seattle would want the Vikings to beat the Packers Monday. But at this point, you’re probably better off assuming the Saints are going to win out, so root for Green Bay to keep winning to create the three-way tie scenario.
WHAT ABOUT THE 49ERS?
And, well, obviously the other big game of the weekend occurs Saturday night when the Rams play at San Francisco. What I’ve written above about playoff scenarios assumes the best-case scenario for Seattle, which is winning out and beating the 49ers next week and taking the division no questions asked (and remember that the Seahawks CANNOT win the division this week). There is a scenario where the 49ers lose this weekend and thens beat Seattle next week and the two teams tie for the division title and have split the season series.
That, then, would send it to a strength of victory tiebreaker, which favors the 49ers. As noted here, wins by Dallas and Green Bay this weekend would clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker for the 49ers, whose wins against the Saints, Packers and Washington are better than Seattle’s over Atlanta, Minnesota and the Eagles (otherwise, the Seahawks and 49ers have beaten all the same teams).
That could create a reason for rooting for Minnesota Monday. But at least heading into the weekend, the higher percentage play for Seattle would be rooting for the things that would most help the Seahawks get the number one seed.
And yes, that makes it basically irrelevant what the 49ers do this weekend. But go ahead and root for them to lose, anyway.