NFC playoff picture: Seahawks need 2 wins and Panthers to beat Falcons next week
The Seahawks were less than a minute away from controlling their own playoff fate before they even began Sunday’s game in Dallas.
But when Carolina’s Cam Newton scooped up a fumbled snap and scored on a 2-yard run with 35 seconds left against Tampa Bay, it left Seattle still dependent on help to reach the playoffs.
Not as much help as they needed when this week started, though.
Specifically, the Seahawks must win their final two games, starting with Sunday’s game against Dallas, and then have the Panthers (11-4) beat the Falcons (9-6) next week in Atlanta.
If that happens, the Seahawks would make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
Here’s a summary of the playoff implications from the Sunday games that affected Seattle’s postseason fate:
• Los Angeles Rams 27, Tennessee Titans 23. The Rams (11-4) clinched the NFC West. The Titans had the ball past midfield with less than 2 minutes left, but Marcus Mariota was sacked on fourth down, resulting in a turnover on downs. It was the Rams’ first division title since 2003.
• Cincinnati Bengals 26, Detroit Lions 17. The Lions would have held a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage against Seattle, meaning the Seahawks needed Detroit to lose one of its final two games to even have a chance at the playoffs. Well, the Lions lost the first of their final two games.
• New Orleans Saints 23, Atlanta Falcons 13. One of these teams had to lose, which was good news for Seattle given that it needed someone in the NFC South (other than Tampa Bay) to go 0-2 over the final two weeks. The fact that it was Atlanta that lost was actually better for Seattle given that the Falcons face Carolina next week, a more difficult opponent than the Saints, who will wrap up their season against Tampa Bay.
• Carolina Panthers 22, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19. The Panthers got a little help late. Facing fourth-and-3 from the Tampa Bay 5, the Bucs first jumped offside and then the Panthers converted a first down with a 1-yard run. Newton scored on a 2-yard run to give Carolina the lead, and the Panthers cinched the game recovering a fumble from Jameis Winston on the ensuing possession.