Clayton: A Seahawks-centric guide to watching NFC playoff race in Week 12

Nov 22, 2019, 5:59 PM
Seahawks face Carson Wentz's Eagles...
The Seahawks need a win over Carson Wentz's Eagles to stay near the top of the NFC. (Getty)

There haven’t been many seasons like the 2019 season in the NFC.

Seahawks’ Lockett is good to go, Clowney a gameday decision on Sunday

Six NFC teams have at least eight wins. The San Francisco 49ers lead the way with nine, with Green Bay, New Orleans, Dallas, Seattle and Minnesota each at eight. The stakes grow even higher over this weekend. The Seahawks travel to a 5-5 Philadelphia Eagles team trying to stay with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East race.

Also this weekend, the Cowboys play the New England Patriots, Green Bay visits San Francisco in the Sunday night game, and New Orleans could all but knock the Carolina Panthers out of the playoff race.

Let’s look at the significance of this week’s games and their impact on the playoff races.

• The 49ers are the first team in NFL history to have three consecutive games against eight-win teams this late in the season. After they play the Packers, they’ll face the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints in the coming weeks.

If the 49ers win two of those three games, they could not only win the NFC West but they could lock up the NFC’s No. 1 seed. But if they lose two of these three games, they gave the Seahawks a chance to win the NFC West.

What’s trouble for the 49ers are injuries. Joe Staley, Matt Breida, Robbie Gould and Dee Ford have already been scratched, and there’s a good chance San Francisco could be without Emmanuel Sanders, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, as well. The 49ers were able to squeak out a comeback victory over Arizona last week, but this is a tougher opponent they’ll be facing in the Packers.

Next week the Niners play the Ravens in Baltimore. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray’s running ability gave the 49ers problems, and MVP candidate Lamar Jackson could cause more next week.

• If the Packers beat the 49ers, they should be able to run away with the No. 1 seed. They would be 5-0 against winning teams if they beat the Niners. After this week, they only have one more game against a winning team left on the schedule – Minnesota in Week 16. Coming up for Green Bay are winnable games against the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears.

• The Seahawks face a tough challenge against the Eagles on Sunday but they still have a chance to win. The Eagles’ offense hasn’t been clicking and they have had plenty of problems at wide receiver (more on that later).

It’s good news for the Seahawks that Tyler Lockett will return after suffering a lower leg contusion in Week 10. Russell Wilson will now have Lockett, DK Metcalf and Josh Gordon at wide receiver.

It would be a major problem if Jadeveon Clowney can’t play because of a hip injury. He was off campus getting treatment Friday and is listed as questionable. Pete Carroll said Clowney would meet the team in Philadelphia and be a gametime decision.

• This is an interesting game for the Eagles. They are getting much better on defense, but they have struggled on offense. Part of the problem has been injuries at the wide receiver position. The Eagles have had about as little production from their receivers as any team in the league.

Another consideration is defenses have found ways to slow down Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s offense. When the Eagles won the Super Bowl two seasons ago, they ran RPOs that were almost unstoppable. Teams have done a better job of stopping them this year. Defenses used to blitz Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz, and he was great at beating the blitz. Now teams are dropping more into coverage instead, and that’s making it tougher for him to get the ball downfield.

• The St. Louis Rams against the Baltimore Ravens should be a dandy. No one has figured out how the stop Lamar Jackson. The Rams finally got a little bit of a running attack last week, but the Ravens are very good at stopping the run. Depending on how things go with the eight-win teams, a Rams loss could put them in a tough position to try to make the playoffs a year after going to the Super Bowl.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton on Twitter.

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Clayton: A Seahawks-centric guide to watching NFC playoff race in Week 12