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Seahawks clinch playoffs, re-take NFC West lead after 49ers lose

The Seahawks got the help they needed to re-take the NFC West lead. (Getty)

Not a lot went the Seahawks’ way in Week 14. Week 15, however, was full of so many gifts for Seattle that you could confuse it for Christmas morning.

Seahawks beat Panthers | Reaction | O’Neil’s column | 3 stars

After the Seahawks held off the Carolina Panthers 30-24 in a 10 a.m. contest Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams fell 44-21 to the Dallas Cowboys, ensuring Seattle will be in the playoffs for the second year in a row and seventh time in the last eight seasons. But there was one more big present for the Hawks, as the four-win Atlanta Falcons became the five-win Atlanta Falcons, knocking off the San Francisco 49ers 29-22 in an absolutely wild finish.

So what does that mean? Oh, just that the Seahawks are back in the NFC West lead and are guaranteed to hold the NFC’s No. 1 seed going into Week 16, even though the New Orleans Saints, who hold a tiebreaker over Seattle due to a Week 3 win over the Seahawks, can also move to 11-3 if they beat the 6-7 Indianapolis Colts on Monday night (more on that later).

The 49ers fell to 11-3, the same record as the Seahawks, with their loss to the Falcons. And since Seattle beat San Francisco earlier this season, the Seahawks have the tiebreaker and therefore possession of the division. Then again, none of that really matters if the two teams go into Week 17 with identical records, because in that case the winner of the regular-season finale gets the NFC West regardless.

In other words, next week is still very important for both teams.

Second time’s a charm for Seahawks

In Week 14, Seattle could have clinched the postseason with a combination of one win and a Rams loss. And as luck would have it, the Rams were the Seahawks’ opponents. Only luck wasn’t on Seattle’s side – OK, well, Los Angeles outplayed the Hawks in a 28-12 decision –and going into Week 15 the situation remained the same. This time, the Seahawks got the results they was looking for.

Seattle also had a chance to sneak into the NFC’s top seed last week with the 49ers and Saints playing against each other, but nothing went the Hawks’ way. San Francisco beat New Orleans, who had beat Seattle earlier in the year, and just like that the Seahawks had fallen out of the NFC West lead, slipped down to the No. 5 seed in the conference and still had work to do to clinch a postseason berth.

As it stands, the Seahawks are the No. 1 seed in the NFC right now, and while it would make sense that they would fall back to No. 2 if the Saints beat the Colts on Monday, there’s another factor: The Green Bay Packers, who are also 11-3.

In the event of a three-way tie between Seattle, New Orleans and Green Bay, the Seahawks have the advantage because of their record against common opponents. There’s only one common opponent – the 49ers, who Seattle has beat and both Green Bay and New Orleans lost to. Furthermore, if those three teams end the season with the same record and Seattle loses to San Francisco in Week 17 but still finds a way to win the NFC West, the Seahawks will be 1-1 against the 49ers this year, which will best the 0-1 records for the Packers and Saints against the Niners.

Week 16

The Seahawks have a better matchup than the 49ers when it comes to the last game for each team before they meet in the regular-season finale. Seattle hosts the Arizona Cardinals (4-9) next Sunday, while San Francisco has a Sunday night matchup set with an 8-5 Rams team that is hanging on to the slimmest of chances to make the postseason. And if the 49ers lose that game, chaos could reign, as Danny O’Neil laid out on his Twitter account.

The Saints will meet the 8-6 Titans and the Packers have a game against the 10-4 Vikings (who still have a chance to beat Green Bay for the NFC North) in Week 16.

Follow’s Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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