The Seahawks (10-2) are now in first place in the NFC West after their 37-30 victory over the Vikings to close Week 13 of the NFL on Monday night. They have the division led by the thinnest margin over the 49ers (10-2), who beat San Francisco in the game of week 10 on Monday night.
Both teams have four games left in the regular season to determine who wins the division and advances to the NFC playoffs as a probable first-placed winner, winning at least one first-round goodbye and a potential advantage in the home field to the Super Bowl The runner-up of the division faces a difficult path in the playoffs, since it is likely that No. 5 will probably achieve a wild card in the eventual NFC East champions, whether the Cowboys or the Eagles.
Breaking down the remaining schedules for the Seahawks and 49ers, the Seahawks have a slight advantage during the rest of December before the two teams meet in week 17.
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Here are the next three Seahawks games: in Rams, in Panthers, vs. Cardinals At the same time, the 49ers face this list until week 16: in Saints, vs. Falcons, vs. Rams
Seattle opponents have a combined winning percentage of .431 (15-20-1). The next enemies of San Francisco have a combined winning percentage of .556 (20-16).
By far, the 49ers' trip to the Saints in Week 14 is the most difficult game that any team has left before facing each other. By far, the Seahawks that house the Cardinals in Week 16 is the easiest. Both teams already beat the Rams, so those two rematches are a wash in terms of degrees of difficulty.
The Seahawks have to go back east to play Carolina, but they are undefeated away from Seattle this season, and the Panthers are in freefall again. The 49ers should also deal with business as big favorites when the Falcons visit San Francisco.
Then it all comes down to Week 17, when the Seahawks welcome the 49ers to close the season. In case the teams win before that, both will be 13-2, and that final will become the winner for the division. We know that the only way the division will be decided before Week 17 is whether the Seahawks or the 49ers are 3-0 and the other is 1-2 or worse.
The real question is, if the Seahawks have a full advantage of a game before Week 17 and the 49ers win the rematch to match things, who would win the division if they tied?
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The first tiebreaker is the division record. The Seahawks are 3-0, while the 49ers are 3-1 because they lost to the Seahawks. Assuming Seattle beats Arizona, sweeping Los Angeles would be key for both teams. There is a good chance that both teams can finish with a 5-1 match in the division game.
The second tiebreaker is the common games. The Seahawks (Vikings, Eagles) and the 49ers (Packers, Redskins) were 2-0 each in their two unique games. Both teams lost to the leading Crows of the AFC. The Seahawks lost at home to the Saints. So, if the 49ers can win in New Orleans in Week 14, it would be huge for the tiebreaker scenarios; both teams have already won three quarters of the AFC North, and are likely to beat at least three quarters of the NFC South. Rams can also make a difference.
The third tiebreaker is the conference record. Both teams are 7-1 now, and if they stay even, the tie won't break there, because both teams have only NFC games left.
Then, it all comes down to the strength of victory. The 49ers beating 10-2 Saints would be a big boost. That's also where uncommon games come into play. For Seattle, Minnesota and Philadelphia are combined 13-11. For San Francisco, Green Bay and Washington are a 12-12 combination.
Because the Eagles have an advantage over the Redskins, the Seahawks would be obliged to get the fourth tiebreaker, if the 49ers, like them, lose to the Saints. Because the fifth tiebreaker is the strength of the schedule, the difference in the level of the NFC East opponent already gives the Seahawks the advantage there.
Anything can happen during the last month, and it usually happens. But according to what we think we know about the Seahawks and the 49ers now and who they play in the future, until their rematch in Seattle, the odds are with the Seahawks to take the division.