The surging Seahawks have a chance to move up in the NFC playoff race.
Arizona’s 23-20 win over Minnesota Thursday night clinched a playoff berth for the West-leading Cardinals and dropped the Vikings to 8-5. A win Sunday would give the Seahawks the same record as Minnesota, but Seattle would move from sixth to fifth in the conference’s postseason standings because of its win over the Vikings last week.
The No. 5 seed, the first wild card, begins the postseason at the fourth seed Jan. 9 or 10. The four seed is the division champion with the worst record, which will apparently be in the NFC (L)East. No team in that division has a record better than 5-7. Dallas, at 4-8, is just a game out of first place there.
As for the NFC West, it’s all but over. It essentially was when Arizona won in Seattle Nov. 15. The Cardinals have a three-game lead over the Seahawks, plus that win in hand over Seattle, with three weekends left in the regular season after this one.
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The only way Seattle can have its regular-season finale at Arizona Jan. 3 mean anything toward the division title is if Arizona (11-2) loses both at Philadelphia and to Green Bay at home in their next two games – while the Seahawks beat Baltimore, then Cleveland and St. Louis at home to be 10-5 entering Jan. 3.
A loss at Baltimore (4-8) Sunday would, of course, be Bad News Bears for the Seahawks’ chances -- not to mention inexplicable. But it would not be decisive.
After the first weekend the playoff pairings shuffle. The lowest-remaining seed plays at the No. 1, which looks like it will be 12-0 Carolina. The next-lowest remaining seed plays at the No. 2, which will apparently be Arizona. Those games are Jan. 16 and 17.