Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks will gain NFC West lead with win Monday night; playoff bye, home game are in play

Now it’s really all right there for the Seahawks.

Seattle (9-2) already controlled its fate in the NFC West, thanks to its win at previously unbeaten San Francisco on Nov. 11. Then Sunday, while the Seahawks rested for their Monday night game, the 49ers lost again. Nails kicker Justin Tucker made a 49-yard field goal through a rain storm on the final play in Baltimore to send the Ravens past the Niners.

That kick dropped San Francisco to 10-2.

It means if the Seahawks beat the Minnesota Vikings (8-3) Monday at CenturyLink Field they will have first place in the division with four games remaining in the regular season. That’s by virtue of the head-to-head tie-breaker, the first one to determine playoff standings and seeding.

The Seahawks and 49ers have a rematch on the final Sunday of the regular season, Dec. 29 in Seattle.

Division winners are guaranteed at least one home game in the playoffs.

If the Seahawks can win out over the final five games of the regular season—versus Minnesota, at the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina, then home to Arizona and San Francisco to end December—Seattle will be 14-2 and assured of a first-round playoff bye, as at least the second seed in the conference.

The three teams with two losses atop the NFC are San Francisco, New Orleans and Seattle. The Saints (10-2) would be the one seed if they and the Seahawks both finish an NFC-best 14-2. That’s because New Orleans won at Seattle in week 3, and the Seahawks would have beaten the 49ers twice.

San Francisco plays at New Orleans next Sunday.

The Niners’ loss at Baltimore Sunday also means the Seahawks gained a margin of defeat in its attempt to win the West. Seattle can now afford one loss and would still win the division if it beats San Francisco again in week 17.

The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win Monday night then next Sunday night at the Rams. Los Angeles (7-5) rolled to an easy win at Arizona Sunday.

First things first for the Seahawks: winning Monday against the strong Vikings. They and Seattle currently own the two wild-card spots in the NFC, and are multiple games ahead of any competitors for those spots.

“I think sometimes, when you look too far ahead, it can get overwhelming. I think people get overwhelmed. Thinking about this could happen, this scenario could happen, this and that,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said.

“It’s just one football game. I think that’s the thing that we just try to focus on, to keep stacking them. Keep adding them up.”

Wilson’s next task is to outplay Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins has 21 touchdowns against just three interceptions. He is completing 70 percent of his passes. He is just ahead of Wilson (112.1) in leading the NFL with a passer rating of 114.8.

The Vikings’ Dalvin Cook is second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with 1,017 yards rushing. Adam Thielen is questionable to return to play Monday after a hamstring injury, to join Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and one of the league’s best receiving groups.

“I’ll be really surprised if he doesn’t make it back for Monday night,” Carroll said Saturday of Thielen.

“This is a really good team. There’s nothing that they don’t do well. They’re tough and physical and really well schooled in all their stuff. We got to play a really good ball game. It’s going to be a great match-up. I hope we’re up for it and play like we’re capable.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.