Entering Week 14, it was believed it was pretty simple for the Arizona Cardinals. With a win, they clinched a playoff berth. With a win and a loss or tie by the Seattle Seahawks, they would lock up the NFC West crown. Arizona won, punching their ticket for the playoffs, but Seattle also won.
So the "magic number" is one, or so we believed.
There is one scenario in which neither the Cardinals have to win nor the Seahawks have to lose. It has to do with the fifth tie-breaking scenario for determining a division winner -- strength of victory.
To determine the winner of a division, if two teams end with the same record, first the head-to-head record comes into play. If Seattle won out and Arizona lost out, they would be 1-1 against one another. The next factor is division record. Both teams would be 4-2. Then are common opponents. Seattle and Arizona would be even there, too. Then would be conference record. Both would be 8-4.
Strength of victory comes into play -- the combined record of the teams each team has defeated. According to Darren Urban at AZCardinals.com, Arizona already holds a three-game lead in that category at the moment.
But the the Cardinals can clinch the division with a combination of four things, according to Joe Ferreira, who specializes in tie breakers.
This is what has to happen this weekend: the Dallas Cowboys have to lose to the Jets at home on Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals (without Andy Dalton) must defeat the San Francisco 49ers on the road, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to lose to the Denver Broncos at home and the New Orleans Saints must beat the Detroit Lions at home on Monday night.
All four of those scenarios must play out.
It isn't crazy for that to happen. At least we know who to root for in other games.
So Arizona can be NFC West champs even if they lose and the Seahawks win. We'd prefer, though, they just win on Sunday, beating the Eagles and leave no doubting and no waiting.