Get ready for a playoff race for the ages. With the Seahawks’ 37-30 win over the Vikings on Monday Night Football, Seattle has moved to 10-2, matching the San Francisco 49ers’ record in the NFC West. This is historic. Since the NFL expanded its playoff field to 12 teams in 1990, no two teams from the same division have ever started a season 10-2 or better.
The Seahawks handed the 49ers their first loss of the season in a Week 10 overtime thriller, and now these two old rivals are in a dead heat for the divisional crown—and are tied (with the Saints as well) for the best record in the NFC. It could all come down to their Week 17 matchup. Per The New York Times, the chances for each team to win the NFC West are split almost exactly 50-50. The postseason has yet to begin, but two bona fide Super Bowl contenders are already circling each other.
The stakes could not be higher. Not only will the NFC West winner get the bragging rights that come with winning the division, but will also likely earn a first-round postseason bye. The loser, meanwhile, will almost certainly be a wild-card team, facing the uphill climb that entails. Since 1990, just three teams seeded fifth or worse have gone on to appear in the Super Bowl: the 2005 Steelers, the 2007 Giants, and the 2010 Packers. In that same stretch, 46 1- or 2-seeds have made it to the final game of the season. The last team to even play on wild-card weekend and still make the Super Bowl was the 2012 Ravens. The Niners and Seahawks aren’t just in a competition for the NFC West, they’re already racing each other to the Super Bowl.
The next four weeks of NFC West football should be as exciting as hell, and the game that got us here was, too. Seattle and Minnesota went back and forth on Monday night, and just when it seemed like the Seahawks had something going when they broke open a 17-point fourth quarter lead, they did what they always do and made things hard for themselves. Minnesota rallied to within four, but ultimately couldn’t overcome the deficit.
This game had everything, including (hold your breath for this) a wild, double-batted pick-six …
… a juggling, acrobatic interception …
WHEW what an interception pic.twitter.com/3uPB4d3gmL— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) December 3, 2019
… a classic Pete Carrollian fake punt …
FAKE PUNT ALERT— NFL (@NFL) December 3, 2019
The @Seahawks special teams unit gains 29 yards on the play! #Seahawks
: #MINvsSEA on ESPN
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app
Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/1EyFLelCig pic.twitter.com/CKyhNT0Ni2
… a wild Kyle Rudolph touchdown …
… David Moore forgetting where his hands were …
… and, perhaps most perplexingly of all, Laquon Treadwell catching a touchdown:
A failed fourth-down conversion as the Vikings trailed 34-30 with 2:27 left virtually sealed Minnesota’s fate. The Seahawks got a field goal on their ensuing possession, and then recovered a fumble on the kickoff to ensure their victory.
In addition to heating up the NFC West race, the result also changes the NFC North. The 8-4 Vikings are now a game behind the 9-3 Packers, who they’ll host in Week 16. But Minnesota also has to look over its own shoulder, as the 7-5 Rams are close behind them in the wild-card race. The Vikings have only about a 25 percent chance of dropping out of the postseason, but a win would have virtually locked up a playoff spot for the team. Now nothing is guaranteed.
An earlier version of this story misidentified David Moore as D.J. Moore.