It’s that time of the year in the NFL, where all the different scenarios by which a contending team can clinch a spot in the playoffs are enough to make your head spin.
It’s that way for the Seahawks, who can punch their ticket this weekend with a win over Cleveland (or a tie, as unlikely as that would be) plus a little help from some of the other teams in the NFC playoff picture.
As previously noted, the Seahawks are on track for the fifth seed, which is the first of two wild-card spots. They had held the sixth seed but leapfrogged Minnesota last weekend; the Seahawks and Vikings have identical 8-5 records, but Seattle has the edge right now by virtue of a head-to-head win, which is the first tie-breaker for wild-card spots.
Seattle is only mathematically alive for the NFC West title, which Arizona is almost certain to win. So the Seahawks will in all likelihood be one of the two wild-cards.
There are five scenarios by which they can secure at least one of those two spots this weekend. It’s complicated. Luckily, the NFL helped spell it out.
Seattle will clinch a playoff berth this weekend with any of the following:
1) Win plus TB loss/tie plus NYG loss/tie
2) Win plus a TB loss/tie plus a WAS loss/tie
3) Win plus a TB loss/tie plus ATL loss/tie plus MIN loss plus GB win/tie
4) Tie plus TB loss plus ATL loss/tie plus NYG loss
5) Tie plus TB loss plus ATL loss/tie plus WAS loss plus PHI loss/tie
Arizona can win the NFC West this weekend with a win over/tie with Philadelphia or with a Seahawks win/tie. Even if neither of those two scenarios play out, the Cardinals can still clinch the NFC West if they secure the strength-of-victory tie-breaker. That would happen if the Bengals and Saints both won and the Cowboys and Steelers both lost.