In looking at the NFC Playoff Scenarios, one thing is certain: the #1 seed and home-field advantage belongs to the Green Bay Packers. After that, the playoff picture is an orgy of question marks and what if’s, a vast wasteland of unknown. Will it be the 49ers or Saints hosting a divisional playoff game? Can the Cowboys find redemption against the Giants and win the NFC East? Can the Giants still make the playoffs if that happens? Will the Lions end their 12-year playoff drought, or is heartbreak hurtling towards the city of Detroit?
With so many crucial games happening in Week 17 (Detroit @ Green Bay and Dallas @ NY Giants in particular), the NFC Playoff Picture won’t be decided until the last field-goal kicker has been froze on the last Sunday of the season. And that’s how it should be. Interest and excitement-wise, that’s exactly what the NFL wants. BUT, for fans looking to score Tickets to NFC Playoff Games or those who are just anxious to know if they’ll be watching meaningful football in January (and beyond?!?), a messy playoff situation can lead to unnecessary stress, uncontrollable emotions, and, in some cases, excessive weight gain. In order to avoid these problems, The Sports Jury will now attempt to make the NFC Playoff Picture as clear as possible. Wish us luck.
NFC PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
#1 Seed - Green Bay Packers (13-0)
-Technically, the Packers have not wrapped-up the top seed in the NFC. Technically. To make it official, all they have to do is win one of their final three games, which I think we can all agree is certain to come this week against the Romeo Crennel-led Chiefs.
#2 Seed - San Francisco 49ers (10-3)/New Orleans Saints (10-3)
-Right now the Niners have the #2 seed by virtue of the tiebreaker (see below). They also have a tougher schedule than the Saints, with games against the Pittsburgh Steelers (home) and Seattle Seahawks (road) in the coming two weeks. The Saints, on the other hand, have two easy wins (Minnesota and Carolina), and only one tough game (Atlanta @ home).
The only scenario in which a divisional playoff game is not held in San Francisco or New Orleans would be if both teams were to lose out, and the Falcons were to win out — ridiculous, I know.
#3 Seed - San Francisco 49ers (10-3)/New Orleans Saints (10-3)
-Again, assuming the wheels don’t fall completely off, whoever misses out on the #2 seed and the first round bye that comes with it, will be hosting a Wild Card Playoff game on the first weekend of the postseason. By virtue of winning the NFC West, the Niners are virtually locked into either the #2 or #3 seed, while the Saints need one more victory to clinch the NFC South and guarantee a similar fate. If they were to lose out and the Falcons were to win out, then Atlanta would be the #2 or #3 seed, and the Saints would be the #5 or #6 seed.
#4 Seed - New York Giants (7-6)/Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
-Whoever wins the NFC East is guaranteed the #4 seed. After memorably collapsing in each of the last two weeks, the Cowboys find themselves out of the playoffs by virtue of their head-to-head record against the Giants. Here’s the thing, if both Dallas and New York win their next two games, they will enter their Week 17 matchup all tied up, with the winner advancing to the playoffs, and the loser headed home (or in Tony Romo’s case, off to some country that has never heard of American Futbol).
Even if the Giants win in Week 15 and Week 16 (WAS and NYJ) and the Cowboys lose one of those games (TB and PHI) but beats the Giants in that Week 17 game, the ‘Boys will be back in the playoffs. Now, there is one other scenario, and I mention it only to unnecessarily get Eagles fans excited, but if the Cowboys and Giants lose out, and the Eagles win out … welcome to the 2012 NFL Playoffs, Dream Team.
#5 Seed - Atlanta Falcons (8-5)/Detroit Lions (8-5)
-The Falcons hold the tiebreaker over the Lions, and they have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league (Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tampa Bay). The Lions face the Raiders, the Chargers and Packers, all of whom have something they are still playing for. The loser of the Cowboys/Giants battle could sneak into this spot if things go awry in Atlanta and Detroit, but odds are strongly in favor of one of these two squads occupying the five-hole in the NFC Playoffs.
#6 Seed - Detroit Lions/Atlanta Falcons
-Odds are equally as strong that one of these two teams will occupy the six spot as well. Two wins guarantees each a spot, and in most scenarios one more win will be enough to secure a playoff berth. However, if either team were to lose out, that would swing open the door for the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, or even Arizona Cardinals to step inside.
For a closer look at how exactly the seeds are given out, here’s the simple version from NFL.com:
The six postseason participants from each conference are seeded as follows:
- The division champion with the best record.
- The division champion with the second-best record.
- The division champion with the third-best record.
- The division champion with the fourth-best record.
- The Wild Card club with the best record.
- The Wild Card club with the second-best record.