Sorting out the NFC playoff picture
Here's a team-by-team look at where we stand in the NFC going into the final week of the regular season. We'll cover the AFC later today. These scenarios do not include ties, which I thought would only confuse matters. Four teams have clinched: the Giants, Falcons, Panthers and Cardinals. Two spots are up for grabs.
With their OT win over the Panthers last week, the Giants clinched a first-round bye and home-field throughout the NFC playoffs. New York was 7-1 at home this season, its only loss coming in Week 14 against the Eagles. The Giants play at the Vikings Sunday and then won't take the field again until Jan. 10 when they host a divisional playoff game.
The Panthers have clinched a playoff spot, but not the division. Carolina could either be the No. 2 seed or the No. 5 seed, depending on what happens this weekend. If the Panthers win OR the Falcons lose, Carolina takes the NFC South and gets the No. 2 seed, which means a first-round bye. If the Panthers lose to the Saints and the Falcons beat the Rams, Carolina will be the No. 5 seed, meaning a road playoff game in the first round.
As I just stated, the Falcons need a win over the Rams and a Panthers loss to the Saints to win the NFC South and get a first-round bye. A Panthers win OR a Falcons loss means Atlanta will be the top wild-card team and play a road playoff game as the No. 5 seed, most likely at Arizona.
They've clinched the NFC West and will host a first-round playoff game against a wild-card team to be determined. The Cardinals are 5-2 at home in the regular season. They host the Seahawks this weekend, but have lost four of five.
If the season ended today, the Vikings would host a first-round playoff game as the No. 3 seed. Minnesota is the NFC North champ with a win over the Giants OR a Bears loss at Houston. A loss to New York combined with a Chicago win over the Texans would leave the Vikings on the outside looking in.
This is probably the most simple one. Win and they're in. Lose and they're out. There is no in between. Despite the recent turmoil, if the Cowboys beat the Eagles at the Linc Sunday afternoon, they're in the playoffs as the second wild-card team and the No. 6 seed. That would mean a road playoff game, likely at Minnesota or Chicago, in the first round.
The Bears have a shot at both the wild card and the division after Monday night's win over the Packers. A win at Houston and a loss by the Vikings against the Giants would give Chicago the NFC North and the No. 3 seed, meaning they'd host a first-round playoff game. Chicago gets the wild card with a win combined with losses from both the Cowboys and the Bucs. That would be the No. 6 seed and a road playoff game in the first round.
and company need help from the Eagles this weekend. Tampa Bay gets in with a win over the Raiders and a Cowboys loss to the Birds. That scenario would give them the second wild-card spot, the No. 6 seed and a road playoff game in the first round.
The Eagles need three things to happen: a win over the Cowboys, a loss by the Bucs to the Raiders and either a loss by the Vikings to the Giants OR a loss by the Bears to the Texans. That scenario would give the Eagles the No. 6 seed and a likely first-round game on the road in Minnesota or Chicago.
And there you have it. Chime in with questions or comments or what-ifs. That's what this time of the year is all about.