This weekend the Week 17 NFL West schedule features an intra-division scrum among NFC West teams as the 49ers host the Cardinals and the Seahawks host the Rams. The 49ers-Cardinals game is a battle for draft positioning and last place. The Seahawks-Rams game is a battle for the NFC West division title. If the Rams win they win outright, while if the Seahawks win, they'll be tied with St. Louis and claim the tiebreaker courtesy of a better divisional record.
49ers fans have plenty of interests in the Cardinals matchup given the draft positioning issues. However, the Seahawks-Rams game could have sizable implications in regards to the opponents each team in the division will face on the 2011 NFL schedule. As it currently stands the 49ers list of 2011 opponents outside the NFC West is as follows:
The determination of the two unnamed teams from the NFC South and North is generally based on where the various teams end up in the final division standings. It's my understanding that the first place team plays the first place team, second place versus second place, etc. At this point the 49ers would find themselves facing Tampa Bay at home and Minnesota on the road.
However, the results of Sunday's two divisional games could drastically change that. Combinations of the 49ers winning or losing and the Seahawks winning or losing could swing the 49ers anywhere from second place to fourth place.
Scenario 1: 49ers lose - If the 49ers lose to Arizona they drop into last place and thus get the last place schedule which would be Carolina at home and either Detroit or Minnesota on the road (Min-Det is also a battle for last place). Seattle's result would have no bearing on the 49ers fate in this case.
Scenario 2: 49ers win, Seahawks win - If both teams win, the 49ers remain in third place and retain the schedule mentioned above.
Scenario 3: 49ers win, Seahawks lose - In this scenario, the 49ers would actually move into second place because of tiebreakers. Both teams would be 6-10 and they would have split their season series. However, the 49ers would have a better divisional record courtesy of this final weekend, and thus would be the number two team in the division. If that happens, the 49ers would then find themselves in the unenviable situation of getting the number two teams in the NFC South and North. They would face Green Bay on the road again and they would get New Orleans or Atlanta at home depending on the results of this weekend.
Given all that, if the 49ers were to beat Arizona this Sunday, it seems safe to say we all should be cheering for Seattle to take the division on Sunday Night Football. I realize they're a pain and they've got an annoying coach and their fans are ridiculous. However, we have to think of the common good that is the 49ers future. If the 49ers lose you can root for whichever team you want. But if the 49ers win, GO SEAHAWKS!