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Moore: Should Seahawks root for 49ers or Saints? It’s all about NFC’s No. 1 seed

The Seahawks lost to the Saints in Week 3, giving New Orleans a tiebreaker advantage. (AP)

John Clayton thinks the Seahawks need to focus on winning the NFC West more than earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Danny O’Neil feels the same way, saying that Seahawks’ fans should root for the Saints to beat the 49ers on Sunday in New Orleans.

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With all due respect – toward the Professor anyway – they’re both wrong. If I’m a 12, I’m pulling for the 49ers. I’m dusting off my Richard Sherman jersey and hoping he gets a pick 6. I’m hoping Jimmy Garoppolo outplays Drew Brees, and the 49ers beat the Saints.

I understand the importance of winning the NFC West. It assures you of at least one playoff game at CenturyLink Field. It prevents you from being a wild-card team and having to win three straight road games to go to the Super Bowl. But even if you win the NFC West and don’t secure the No. 1 seed, it likely requires you to play the NFC Championship Game on the road against a slightly superior team based on regular-season record.

The Seahawks need to shoot for the No. 1 NFC seed above all else. The three times they’ve made it to the Super Bowl, they were a No. 1 seed. To have their best shot at being a No. 1 seed this year, they need the Saints to lose to the Niners.

As you know, all three teams have 10-2 records. The Seahawks hold the tiebreaker over the 49ers because they beat them in overtime, but they lost to the Saints in Seattle. So for the Seahawks to get the No. 1 seed, they need to finish with a better record than the Saints.

Of the three teams, the Saints have the easiest schedule after they play the 49ers, hosting Indianapolis in a Monday night game before traveling to Tennessee and Carolina. Certainly they could lose two or three of those games, but I’m guessing they’ll be favored in all of them. So it would help to get a loss from them now.

As far as the NFC West race goes, it’s conceivable the 49ers and Seahawks could both finish 13-3 if San Francisco wins the regular-season finale Dec. 29 in Seattle. If that happens, it might go to the fifth tiebreaker to determine the division champion. They could still be tied after the first four tiebreakers: 1) head-to-head record; 2) best win-loss percentage within the division; 3) best win-loss percentage against the same opponents; and 4) best win-loss percentage in conference games.

The fifth tiebreaker is strength of victory – best combined win-loss percentage of different teams that a club has defeated. As O’Neil laid out Wednesday during “Danny and Gallant,” the two teams that San Francisco has played that Seattle hasn’t are Washington (3-9) and Green Bay (9-3). The two teams that Seattle has played that San Francisco hasn’t are Philadelphia (5-7) and Minnesota (8-4).

Added up, the 49ers and Seahawks would still be tied since the combined records of those opponents are 12-12. So, oddly, if you think it will come down to this tiebreaker, you might as well root for the Eagles and Vikings to win out while hoping the Redskins and Packers lose out.

But forget about all of that and simply pull for the Saints so none of the tiebreaker stuff matters. If you’re still not convinced, what about this? Five of the last six Super Bowl champions have been No. 1 seeds. Last year the Patriots won as a No. 2, but before then, a No. 2 seed had not won the Lombardi Trophy since 2008. Also, by my research at least, only five No. 2 seeds have won it all this century, and the only NFC No. 2 to do it was Tampa Bay in 2002.

So if you think history has anything to do with this, call your buddies and invite them over for the 10 a.m. game between the Niners and the Saints on Sunday. Then practice sarcastically saying “Who Dat?” while hoping the 49ers roll past the Saints.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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