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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seahawks control their playoff destiny

Seattle Seahawks' Tyler Lockett runs with the ball toward a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers early in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Seattle. (Stephen Brashear / AP)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

The Seahawks didn’t get all the help they could have this weekend in terms of their playoff positioning.

But this time of year, the biggest help the Seahawks can get is from themselves. Win out, and Seattle will be assured of the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a bye in the wild card round of the playoffs and hosting a game in the divisional round.

That means that as of Monday, Seattle would host either Detroit, Atlanta or the Giants (the teams that would be the third, fourth and fifth seeds in the NFC if the season ended today) in the divisional round.

Dallas’ win on Thursday night, though, means the Seahawks remain 2.5 games behind the Cowboys with four to go. More practically, Seattle is three games back of Dallas and the tie means the Seahawks would have to win out to have a chance to surpass Dallas while the Cowboys lost three of four. Long odds, to be sure.

More pressing for Seattle is continuing to hold off the other two division leaders – Detroit in the NFC Central and Atlanta in the NFC South – for the No. 2 seed.

Seattle’s schedule could hardly be more favorable, though, as the Seahawks don’t face a team with a winning record the rest of the way.

Here’s an updated review of the schedules for Seattle and the other teams in the NFC most closely battling the Seahawks for playoff positioning.

Seattle Seahawks

Record: 8-3-1, first NFC West

Remaining opponents: at Packers, vs. Rams, vs. Cardinals, vs. 49ers.

Combined won-loss record of remaining opponents: 16-31-1.

Schedule outlook: The Seahawks have by far the most favorable schedule left among not only the remaining NFC playoffs teams, but just about the entire league. The trip to Green Bay is less tricky than it looked in August but more tricky than it looked in November, with the Packers having won two in a row to get back into the playoff picture. Sunday’s game will likely be viewed as something of a make-or-break affair for the Packers.

Dallas Cowboys

Record: 11-1, first NFC East

Remaining opponents: at Giants, vs. Bucs, vs. Lions, at Eagles.

Combined won-loss record of remaining opponents: 28-20.

Schedule outlook: The Cowboys, currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC, took a pretty mortal lock on the NFC East with their win Thursday and then losses by the Giants and Washington. Dallas needs to win just two of its last four to assure the No. 1 seed in the NFC throughout the playoffs. Its next three games are all against teams that remain in the playoff hunt, though.

Detroit Lions

Record: 8-4, first NFC North

Remaining opponents: vs. Bears, at Giants, at Cowboys, vs. Packers.

Combined won-loss record of remaining opponents: 27-20.

Schedule outlook: Detroit, currently the No. 3 seed in the NFC, may be the team the Seahawks have to worry about the most possibly stealing the No. 2 seed as the Lions just keep on winning. The victory Sunday at New Orleans kept Detroit on Seattle’s heels while also moving them two games ahead of the pack in the NFC North. Sunday, though, looms as a must-win for the Lions against the downtrodden Bears with trips the following two weeks to New York and Dallas.

Atlanta Falcons

Record: 7-5, tied first NFC South

Remaining opponents: at Rams, vs. 49ers, at Panthers, vs. Saints.

Combined won-loss record of remaining opponents: 14-34.

Schedule outlook: Former Seahawk defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s team still has a chance to make some hay the rest of the way, playing no one with a record of better than 5-7 to end the regular season. But with five losses already, Atlanta would have to win out and then have Seattle lose two of its last four to endanger the Seahawks. Atlanta currently the No. 4 seed as it has has the tiebreaker on Tampa Bay due to a better division record (3-1 compared to 2-1).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record: 7-5, tied first NFC South

Remaining opponents: vs. Saints, at Dallas, at Saints, vs. Panthers.

Combined won-loss record of remaining opponents: 25-23.

Schedule outlook: The trip to Dallas next week is ominous and could prove the difference in the battle between the Bucs and Falcons in the NFC South. Tampa Bay is currently the No. 6 seed in the NFC. As the No. 2 seed, Seattle could not play the No. 6 seed in the divisional round as the Bucs would be assured of playing the No. 1 seed if they were to win their wild-card game.

New York Giants

Record: 8-4

Remaining opponents: vs. Cowboys, vs. Lions, at Eagles, at Washington.

Combined won-loss record of remaining opponents: 30-17-1

Schedule outlook: At this point, the Giants don’t appear a threat to Seattle – remember that the four division winners get the top four seeds. But I’ll leave them here on the off chance of a total collapse by the Cowboys. If the Giants win the next two, though, it’ll be time to take them seriously again.