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How can the Seahawks clinch the playoffs? Here are the scenarios

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will enter 2019 as the league's top-paid player. (AP)

The Seahawks had a chance to clinch an NFC Wild Card playoff spot in Week 15, but that opportunity escaped them with their 26-23 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

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Even with the loss, FiveThirtyEight still lists the Seahawks with 96 percent odds to make the postseason. That’s thanks to the fact that Seattle owns a tiebreaker over several other contenders and will be playing at home against a three-win Arizona Cardinals team in Week 17.

The unpredictability of the NFL is what makes the final two weeks of the season so exciting. With so many teams still in the hunt, though, it’s also what can make the playoff picture so confusing.

Here’s a breakdown of what needs to happen for the Seahawks to make the postseason (courtesy of Brock & Salk producer James “Boy Howdy” Osborn):

Seahawks make the playoffs if…

1. They win out to finish 10-6. In this case, Seattle would lock up the NFC’s fifth seed.

2. They finish 9-7 with a win over the Arizona Cardinals. This is where Seattle’s Week 14 win over the Minnesota Vikings comes into play. The Seahawks would have the fifth seed if the Vikings lose one of their final two games and the sixth seed if the Vikings win out. (In that case, the six losses and one tie in the Vikings’ 9-6-1 record would be better than the Seahawks’ seven losses.)

In the scenarios listed above, the Seahawks are in the driver’s seat. As far as qualifying for the playoffs goes, it wouldn’t matter how other teams perform over the next two weeks.

In each of the following scenarios, however, the Seahawks would need a little help from the rest of the league.

If the Seahawks finish 9-7, but lose to the Cardinals…

Seattle would need either Minnesota or Washington to lose a game.

The Seahawks’ playoff odds will be at 99 percent if they win Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs (11-3). But unlike a win over the Cardinals, a win against the Chiefs won’t guarantee Seattle a trip to the playoffs. That’s because Washington (7-7) could still finish with the same record if it wins out, and the Seahawks are not assured of winning a tiebreaker against Washington.

The Vikings will finish 9-6-1 if they win out and would take the fifth seed because a tie is better than a loss. Washington and Seattle would face a series of tiebreakers if both finish 9-7. Because of the variables here, listed below, FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor does not give Seattle a 100 percent chance.

Possible tiebreakers (in order)

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.

Washington plays Tennessee on Saturday, Dec. 22. If the Titans win, Seattle isn’t assured a playoff spot. But a Washington loss Saturday and a Seahawks win is one of the few ways Seattle can — 100 percent guaranteed — clinch a playoff spot before Week 17. Fair warning with this scenario: the Seahawks are underdogs at home against the Chiefs.

If the Seahawks finish 8-8…

Obviously this is the worst-case scenario for the Seahawks. If Seattle loses to both the Chiefs and the Cardinals, it will need three of the following conditions to make the postseason:

• 1 loss by Washington
• 1 loss by the Eagles
• 2 losses by the Vikings

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