With half the season in the books, the top of the NFC West is exactly what many thought it would be. Seattle and San Francisco were the betting favorites entering the season and they have begun to separate themselves from the rest of the division.
While a lot can still happen over the final eight games, it appears the NFC West title -- and the home playoff game that comes with it -- will come down to a close race between the Seahawks and 49ers. At 7-1 and with a win over San Francisco, the Seahawks currently hold the advantage. But they still have to go on the road to face the 6-2 49ers. Here is a look at how the schedules match up for the rest of the season.
Seattle: @Atlanta, @San Francisco, @New York Giants
San Francisco: @New Orleans, @Washington, @Tampa Bay, @Arizona
Both teams have played well on the road this season. The Seahawks are 4-1 as visitors, while San Francisco is 3-1 with their only road loss coming against Seattle. Seattle has three road games remaining, including the Dec. 8 contest at San Francisco. But its two other road games looked a lot harder early in the season. New York and Atlanta have been disappointments and have combined for a 4-11 record.
The 49ers have four road games left, including a very difficult contest at New Orleans. The Saints are 6-1 and 4-0 at home. Washington and Tampa Bay have both struggled this season and the 49ers will likely be favored in both contests. A Week 17 road game against 4-4 Arizona could prove to be pivotal.
Both teams should be favored in the majority of their remaining road games. Seattle's matchup against San Francisco compares to San Francisco's road contest against New Orleans. The Seahawks have a major benefit of playing one less on the road.
Seattle: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans, Arizona, St. Louis
San Francisco: Carolina, St. Louis, Seattle, Atlanta
The 49ers have four home games remaining beginning with a tough test against a very good Carolina team. The Panthers have possibly the best defense in the NFL and have won three straight games with Cam Newton playing at an extremely high level. The Week 14 home game against Seattle may very well be a must-win for the 49ers. Lose and not only will the Seahawks pick up a game on the 49ers, they will also hold the tiebreaker.
Seattle has won 11 straight home games and has the advantage of having an extra home game to play compared to San Francisco. New Orleans is the only opponent left on Seattle's home schedule with a winning record. The other four opponents have combined for an 8-22 record including 2-12 on the road. Looking at the matchups on paper, it's hard to imagine Seattle not winning at least four of its final five home games.
Seattle has a one-game advantage and will play a considerably easier schedule. Seattle's final eight opponents combine for a 24-36 record and .400 winning percentage. San Francisco's opponents have a 28-31 record and .474 winning percentage.
Take out the head-to-head matchup and the teams have common opponents in five of their other seven games. Seattle will play 1-6 Minnesota and 2-6 New York while San Francisco plays 4-3 Carolina and 2-5 Washington. With five home games and a manageable road schedule, Seattle is likely to be favored in seven of its remaining eight games. San Francisco is also likely to be favored in seven of its final eight games.
The schedules are comparable, but Seattle does hold a few slight advantages.