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Originally published Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 9:07 PM

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NFC West in for wild stretch run

The Seahawks had a chance to take a step forward in the NFC West. Instead, the division leaders each took a step back as the Rams lost in...

Seattle Times staff reporter; Seattle Times staff reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — The Seahawks had a chance to take a step forward in the NFC West.

Instead, the division leaders each took a step back as the Rams lost in New Orleans and the Seahawks were beaten in San Francisco.

"We had a chance to separate right here," coach Pete Carroll said. "We didn't get it done."

Not even close. Seattle trailed by 33 points at one point during a loss so grim that as soon as it was over, players tried to make sure into bleed over into next week.

"Season is not over," fullback Michael Robinson said. "We definitely can't approach it like it is."

After all the Seahawks are still tied for first place in the division. "That doesn't mean much," Robinson said.

Not right now. The four teams in the NFC West separated by two games in the standings, none of them currently have a winning record.

"It's the West man," Robinson said. "The wild, wild West."

That's one word for it. Confusing is another one. San Francisco (5-8) now stands one game behind the division leaders with a very reasonable chance at reaching the playoffs. There are too many different permutations to start labeling favorites, but here's a breakdown.

Seattle (6-7)

Remaining home games: 2.

Date Opponent
Sunday vs. Falcons (11-1)
Dec. 26 at Buccaneers (8-5)
Jan. 2 vs. Rams (6-7)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 25-14

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Division record: 3-2.

The Seahawks have the best conference record of any team in the division, but they also have the toughest remaining schedule with a home game against Atlanta, which is an NFC-best 11-2 and a road game at Tampa Bay, which is 8-5.

St. Louis (6-7)

Remaining home games: 2.

Date Opponent
Sunday vs. Chiefs (8-5)
Dec. 26 vs. 49ers (5-8)
Jan. 2 at Seahawks (6-7)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 19-20

Division record: 2-2.

The Rams host the Kansas City Chiefs next week, a game where Matt Cassel's status will be the primary question after the Chiefs quarterback had his appendix removed last week. St. Louis plays San Francisco in two weeks and if the 49ers were to win that game, they would have a head-to-head tie-breaker advantage should the two teams finish tied.

San Francisco (5-8)

Remaining home games: 1.

Date Opponent
Thursday at Chargers (7-6)
Dec. 26 at Rams (6-7)
Jan. 2 vs. Cardinals (3-9)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 17-22.

Division record: 3-1.

The 49ers have the best division record with two NFC West games still to play. Their game in St. Louis two weeks from now could be crucial in providing a tiebreaker advantage over the Rams and ensuring that they would finish with at least four wins in the division.

Arizona (4-9)

Remaining home games: 1.

Date Opponent
Sunday at Panthers (1-12)
Dec. 25 vs. Cowboys (4-8)
Jan. 2 at 49ers (5-8)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 10-28

Division record: 1-4.

The last-place Cardinals have by far the easiest schedule in the division, but they are two games back and have a record of 1-4 in the division, which makes it unlikely they would prevail in any tie-breaker scenarios.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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