Breaking Down the NFC Playoff Picture
The playoff picture in the NFC is far less convoluted than that of the AFC. Five out of the six playoff spots have already been decided, so the majority of the NFC’s playoff teams will be playing for better seeds and a shot at home field advantage in Week 17. The NFC South is down to two teams, and neither of them will be finishing the season with a winning record. Here is a breakdown of the NFC playoff picture and the various scenarios for each team heading into the 2014 NFL postseason.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
Who will win the NFC South?
This situation is literally as straightforward as possible. In what amounts to a playoff game in the final week of the season, the Atlanta Falcons (6-9) will be hosting the Carolina Panthers (6-8-1), with the winner claiming the NFC South title, the fourth seed in the NFC playoffs, and a home playoff game.
Who controls their own destiny?
Seattle Seahawks (11-4)
Week 17 Opponent: St. Louis Rams (6-9)
The Seahawks are currently holding the top seed in the NFC. With a win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 17, they will lock up the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks can also still hold on to a first round bye with a loss, but they would need the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and Arizona Cardinals to all lose this week as well. With the way the Seahawks have been playing as of late, it looks like the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will be going through Seattle.
Green Bay Packers (11-4)
Week 17 Opponent: Detroit Lions (11-4)
With a win over the Detroit Lions, the Packers will clinch the NFC North title and a first-round playoff bye. With a loss, they will be looking at a Wild Card spot as the No. 5 seed. With a win and a Seahawks loss, the Packers will lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Detroit Lions (11-4)
Week 17 Opponent: @ Green Bay Packers (11-4)
The Lions’ situation is almost a mirror image to that of the Packers’. With a win, they lock up a first-round bye — and home field advantage throughout with a loss by the Seahawks. With a loss, they will be looking at the No. 6 seed due to losing tiebreakers to both the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
Who needs help?
Dallas Cowboys (11-4)
Week 17 Opponent: @Washington Redskins (4-11)
The absolute worst-case scenario for the Cowboys is the No. 3 seed. With a little help, they could also clinch a first-round playoff bye (assuming they win in Week 17). Here’s a rundown on how this can happen.
The Cowboys can clinch the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a Cardinals loss or tie, a tie in the Green Bay-Detroit game and a win against the Redskins.
The Cowboys can clinch the No. 2 seed in a number of ways:
- A win and a tie between the Packers and Lions
- A win and a loss or tie by both the Seahawks and Cardinals
- A tie and a loss by both the Seahawks and Cardinals
- A tie and a Cardinals loss or tie, a Seahawks loss, and no tie in the Green Bay-Detroit game
While the Cowboys still have a chance at a first-round bye, the odds are stacked heavily against it actually happening. But as they say, anything can happen on any given Sunday in the NFL.