Could All Four NFC West Teams Make the Playoffs?

December 1, 2020

The NFC West was expected to be a competitive division this season. So far, it is safe to say that the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, and San Francisco 49ers have not disappointed.

Sure, things have not played out exactly as the experts predicted in the preseason. But the division has certainly been entertaining.  

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Russell Wilson has helped make the Seahawks the team to beat. Thanks to the worst pass defense in the NFL, for the right team, that is not too hard. The Los Angeles Rams appear to be doing fine without a marquee running back anymore, but their top-5 defense has something to say about that.

Kyler Murray has made the Arizona Cardinals fun to watch, much like last season. But the difference he is winning games this season.

It is almost a shame that only one of them can win the division, but the other two stand a good chance of receiving an excellent consolation prize—a wildcard berth in the playoffs. Since only the No. 1 seed gets a bye this year, winning the division is not much better than winning the wildcard anyway.

As for the San Francisco 49ers, things have not gone the way anyone thought it would for them. But it is impossible to plan for the number of injuries they have had to deal with. However, if last week’s game against the Rams is any indication, there is still plenty of fight left in the 49ers.

While their 5-6 record with five games left is not ideal for making the playoffs, they still have a shot—especially since each conference will have three wildcard teams this year.

That also means there is a good chance all four teams from the NFC West could make the playoffs.

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How the NFC West Can Make History This Season

Should all four make it in, it will be the first time that four teams from the same division make the playoffs. But there is a good reason why it has never happened— because it was not possible.

With division winners and only two wildcards, an entire division couldn’t make the playoffs. Since there is a third wildcard this year, though, it is now possible.

It is improbable, but still possible.

The odds favor the Seahawks (Yes -10000; +1700), Rams (Yes -1667; No +850), and Cardinals (Yes -125; No +103) making it (odds via DraftKings). But the oddsmakers are not as confident in the 49ers (Yes +200; No -250).  

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Heading into Week 13, Seattle is the No. 2 seed, the Rams the No. 5, and the Cardinals the No. 7. So, how can the 49ers make it in without knocking the Cardinals out?

Over the last five years, had there been a No. 7 seed in the playoffs, the team from the NFC would have needed eight or nine wins. So, the question is whether the 49ers can hit that mark. It will not be easy with the five games they have left (Buffalo, Washington, Dallas, Arizona, and Seattle).

The games against Washington and Dallas are winnable. But they will need to steal a win from either Buffalo, Arizona, or Seattle.

Seattle is a possibility, but only if the Seahawks are locked into a playoff spot and do not need to win the game. If their defense can contain Kyler Murray, they may have a shot against Arizona.

However, beating Buffalo is not going to be an easy task. But if the offense can perform as it did against the Rams and the defense can force Josh Allen into a few mistakes, they could pull off the upset.

So – How Should You Bet?

Betting Play: Take the Seahawks, Rams, and Cardinals to make the playoffs. But pass on the 49ers.

Three of these are pretty easy to call—take the Seahawks, Rams, and Cardinals to make the playoffs. Of course, the hard part here is for the 49ers to get in without knocking the Cardinals out.

For that to happen, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to have to falter down the stretch. They have lost two in a row, but those two were against the Rams and Chiefs.

They will not be facing anyone nearly as tough down the stretch (Vikings, Falcons, Lions, and Falcons). But if Dalvin Cook gets rolling, Minnesota could be dangerous. The Falcons are struggling, but they just dominated a good Raiders team.

Should Tom Brady throw a few more interceptions down the stretch, it might not be as hard to see the Buccaneers struggling the rest of the way.

But do you really want to count on the 49ers winning at least one or two games they shouldn’t and Tom Brady not being clutch as the season winds down? Probably not.

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