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Even More Ridiculous

December 8th, 2004

I’m not sure why I’ve become obsessed with this, but I have, so bear with me. Here’s an update on the pathetic NFC West situation I wrote about yesterday (see “Ridiculous” just below).

As of this morning, Seattle is getting five and a half points from Minnesota, St. Louis is getting six and a half from Carolina, and Arizona is giving five and half to San Francisco. No big surprises there, but look at what this means. If the oddsmakers are correct about these games (that is, if they’re correct about the probable straight-up outcomes), this is what the NFC West standings will look like come Monday morning:

St. Louis, 6-7
Seattle, 6-7
Arizona, 5-8
San Francisco, 1-12

That would put Arizona, which right now has four wins going into the last four weeks of the season, one game out of a tie for first in its division.

Now, as noted below, in week 15, the Seahawks travel to the Meadowlands to play the Jets. It’ll be a second-straight road game for the ‘Hawks, who don’t play well on the road to begin with, and unless something horrible befalls a number of Jets players in Pittsburgh this weekend, Seattle is going to lose that game. So that’s Seattle at 6-8.

Also in week 15, the Rams travel to Arizona. This, obviously, is big. The Rams beat the Cards 17-10 back in week one, but that was week one. And if Josh McCown, who is returning to the starting QB position for the Cards this week, can get back to playing as well as he was playing before he was benched (he wasn’t tearing up the league or anything, but he was winning games), the Cards have a decent shot at winning that game (I’ll bet that unless something happens to change the picture this weekend, the Rams go into that game as two- or three-point favorites at best). If the Cards can pull off a win over the Rams, both teams will go to 6-8. That’s a three-way tie for first.

The tie-breaker in that scenario would go to the Rams, who would have the better won-lost record between the three teams having beaten Seattle twice and split with Arizona, while the Cards would have split with St. Louis and still have a game with Seattle pending (Arizona beat the Seahawks 25-17 in their first meeting week seven).

Let’s go ahead and look at week 16, shall we? St. Louis hosts Philadelphia. And unless Philly has wrapped up home field through the playoffs (which is entirely possible, maybe even likely) and opts to rest its starters the last two weeks of the season (which would be foolish and is unlikely) the Rams are going to lose that game. So there’s the potential for the Rams to come out of week 16 at 6-9. Arizona, meanwhile, travels to Seattle, where they’ll be underdogs by something like a touchdown. But, you know, so were the Cowboys. The Cards probably don’t win that game, but they could. And if they do, they eliminate the Seahawks from contention in the division, because even if the Seahawks win in week 17 and Arizona loses (doesn’t matter what St. Louis does), they’re cooked in the tie-breaker scenarios.

That leaves us with 6-9 St. Louis and 7-8 Arizona in contention for the division heading into week 17. Arizona is at home that week, hosting Tampa Bay. The Bucs will probably beat the Cards regardless of whether Tampa Bay has anything left to play for. St. Louis is on the road, playing the Jets, who will likely be playing either to secure a wildcard spot or the five seed (which will probably be the difference between playing at San Diego or playing at Indianapolis; neither is a great position to be in, but it ain’t a coin toss; I know I’d rather take my chances with the Chargers than face Indy in the dome). And if both Arizona and St. Louis lose, Arizona, 7-9, will win the NFC West. (Remember, even if Atlanta rests its starters and loses to Seattle, a 7-9 Seahawks team would lose the tie-breaker to Arizona.)

Unlikely? Sure it is. But not that unlikely. And remember, the real point is not that Arizona will (or even might) win the NFC West, but that the division winner (and conference four seed) will win the division with a losing record. And the more I look at things, the less unlikely that scenario appears.

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