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NFC Playoff Picture: One team and lots of seeds left to be decided

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We know five of the six teams, but we don’t know the seeds yet

With the late games for Week 16 in the books. . .remember, there is no Sunday Night Football game this evening. . .we can safely take a look at the NFC Playoff Picture as we head into the final week of the regular season. As things stand right now, we know who five of the six playoff teams are going to be, but we don’t know where any of them are going to be seeded. We’re going to decipher all of it for you right here.

Teams That Are Officially In

#1 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (12-2, NFC East Champions, clinched first-round bye)

The #1 seed in the NFC is still in play, but only if the Eagles lose both their Monday Night game against Oakland and their Week 17 contest against Dallas (which no longer has anything to play for, as they were just eliminated). If they win either of those games, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will run through Lincoln Financial Field.

Remaining schedule: vs Oakland (Monday night), vs Dallas

#2 seed - Minnesota Vikings (12-3, NFC North Champions)

The Vikings can make things really easy for themselves by taking down Chicago next Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. If they should fall to Chicago, they can still take home the #2 seed as long as they don’t wind up in a tie at 12-4 with Carolina and only Carolina. The Vikings get the #2 seed in the case of a three-way tie between themselves, Los Angeles, and Carolina, as well as a three-way tie that sees New Orleans win the NFC South. The Vikings still have a 99% chance to wrap up a first-round bye, but we’re going to have to wait until the last week of the season to see if it becomes official.

Remaining schedule: vs Chicago

#3 seed - Los Angeles Rams (11-4, NFC West Champions, at #3 by virtue of head-to-head win over New Orleans)

The Rams have wrapped up their first division championship in a long time, and are still the #3 seed as things stand right now. But things are going to be awfully interesting for them next week, as they have to face a San Francisco team that is, suddenly, not a gimme and hasn’t lost since they inserted Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback.

Remaining schedule: vs San Francisco

#4 seed - New Orleans Saints (11-4, clinched playoff berth, at #4 by virtue of head-to-head sweep of Carolina)

It’s very easy for the Saints, too. If they beat Tampa Bay next weekend, they win the NFC South (and help Minnesota to lock up their first-round bye). If they don’t, then Carolina could pass them for the top spot in the division, which is something that Vikings’ fans don’t want to see.

Remaining schedule: at Tampa Bay

#5 seed - Carolina Panthers (11-4, clinched playoff berth)

Carolina can win the NFC South with a win and a New Orleans loss next week. They’re going to be taking on an Atlanta team that is still going to be fighting for a playoff spot. That might be the game that gets flexed to the NBC Sunday Night Football spot, so if things don’t break correctly for the Vikings, we may have to wait all day for Sunday night to see what happens.

Remaining schedule: at Atlanta


The Battle For The Last Spot

#6 seed - Atlanta Falcons (9-6, at #6 by virtue of head-to-head win over Seattle)

Right now, if the Falcons win, they are in. If they lose, then Seattle can sneak into the final NFC playoff spot. If both Seattle and Atlanta finish with the same record, whether it’s 10-6 or 9-7, Atlanta will get in based on their head-to-head win over Seattle on Monday Night Football a few weeks back. Again, it would be surprising if this game didn’t happen on Sunday Night next week.

Remaining schedule: vs Carolina

#7 seed - Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

We’ve already outlined what the Seahawks need to do. They need to hold serve at home against Arizona in Week 17 and hope that the Falcons lose to Carolina. They’re out with a loss, and might even be out with a win if Atlanta wins, too.

Remaining schedule: vs Arizona


Officially Mathematically Eliminated

#8 seed - Detroit Lions (8-7, at #8 based on better conference record than Dallas)

#9 seed - Dallas Cowboys (8-7)

#10 seed - Green Bay Packers (7-8 at #10 based on better common games record than Washington)

#11 seed - Washington Redskins (7-8, at #11 based on head-to-head win over Arizona)

#12 seed - Arizona Cardinals (7-8)

#13 seed - San Francisco 49ers (5-10, at #13 based on head-to-head win over Chicago)

#14 seed - Chicago Bears (5-10)

#15 seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)

#16 seed - New York Giants (2-13)


That’s a look at the NFC Playoff Picture now that we’re just about done with the action in Week 16. Things are coming more and more into focus, but there are still plenty of things that need to be decided, but to summarize, in order for the Vikings to not have a first-round bye, all of the following things need to happen in Week 17:

  • Chicago defeats Minnesota
  • San Francisco defeats Los Angeles
  • Tampa Bay defeats New Orleans
  • Carolina defeats Atlanta

In that scenario, Minnesota and Carolina would finish with 12-4 records, while Los Angeles and New Orleans would finish 11-5. That means Carolina would win the NFC South and would overtake the Vikings for the #2 seed based on their head-to-head win in Week 14. If one of the four games listed doesn’t break the way it shows above, the Vikings are your #2 seed in the NFC.

Hopefully the Vikings will make things easy on themselves (never mind the rest of us), but now you have the full outline of everything that would need to happen.