The Seahawks’ chances of making the playoffs might be better than you think

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SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 22: Running back Thomas Rawls #34 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on November 22, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

SEATTLE – OK Seahawks fans, let’s talk playoffs.

Specifically, let’s talk about what needs to happen in the NFC for Seattle to get to the playoffs after its 29-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday kept everybody’s hopes alive.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Seahawks (5-5) are competing for one of three playoff spots: The NFC West title, and the two wild cards. The most important factor is also the most obvious: Seattle’s going to have to win, a lot, in its final six games to have any shot. If it does that though, things look pretty good.

The Arizona Cardinals (8-2 overall, 2-1 NFC West) have a three-game lead on Seattle in the West. With just six games to play, that’s right on the verge of insurmountable. Two things keep it from being completely impossible though: The Cardinals’ remaining strength of schedule, which as of last week was rated as the second-toughest in the NFL, and the fact the Seahawks get one more shot at them in the final game of the season.

If you’re going to envision a scenario in which the Hawks win the West, they’ll almost certainly have to win out, giving them an 11-5 record, a season split with the Cardinals, and a 4-2 record in the division.

So, under that scenario, by far the Seahawks’ best shot to win the division comes if Arizona loses one of its other two remaining games in the division – most likely beating the 49ers on Nov. 29, then losing at the Rams on Dec. 6 – then loses one of the three games against the Vikings, Eagles or Packers before falling to Seattle in the all-important finale.

That would leave Seattle at 11-5, 4-2, and Arizona at 11-5, 3-3 in a not-terribly-implausible scenario.

The fight for a wild-card spot looks much more friendly though.

The two slots are occupied right now by the Vikings (7-3) and the Falcons (6-4). Seattle and Tampa Bay are both a game out at 5-5, followed by a whole mess of teams at 4-6.

Seattle gets a crack at the Vikings in two weeks in maybe the single most important game left this season. It’ll be a tall order on the road, but one that will give it a shot at being in the thick of the wild-card race. The Vikings could very well falter down the stretch; their remaining strength of schedule as of last week was rated the toughest in the league (the Falcons were at sixth, the Bucs tied for seventh and the Seahawks 14).

Even if the Seahawks lose another game – or, God forbid, two – don’t count them out completely. The New York Times has a fun simulator that predicts teams’ odds once you plug in your prediction for the rest of their season. There are numerous scenarios in which Seattle goes 4-2 that still give it a better than 50-50 shot of making the playoffs – although that number drops significantly if they lose at the Vikings.

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