As the Monday Night Football contest between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders will have no effect on the NFC playoff picture, we can take a look at the whole thing going into the final week of action.
Five of the six playoff teams have been decided, and two of the seedings are locked in place. As we passed along in the Week 17 schedule post we did earlier, all of the games that matter to the NFC playoff picture will take place in the 3:25 Central time window on Sunday afternoon, so we’ll go over what everything means.
#1 seed - New Orleans Saints (13-2, NFC South champions, clinched home field advantage throughout NFC playoffs)
The Saints locked the top seed in the conference with their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon. The word has already gone out that they’re not going to be playing any of their starters, so they’ll essentially have two weeks off before the NFC Divisional playoffs. The Saints are a totally different team at home, and now they don’t have to leave there for the whole month of January.
#2 seed - Los Angeles Rams (12-3, NFC West champions)
The Rams took another step towards securing a first-round bye on Sunday with their win over the Arizona Cardinals. If they win this coming Sunday against San Francisco, they will secure the second first-round bye in the NFC. The Niners have been a tough out for the past few weeks, but I think the Rams know what’s on the line on Sunday for them, particularly with the health of Todd Gurley in question.
#3 seed - Chicago Bears (11-4, NFC North champions)
The Bears are still playing for a bye in the NFC playoffs, and they’ll get it if the Rams should lose and they manage to defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen, but I wouldn’t expect the Bears to let up. Then again, they might want an immediate rematch against the Vikings in the Wild Card round. It’s tough to tell what anyone’s thought process is in this league anymore.
#4 seed - Dallas Cowboys (9-6, NFC East champions)
The Cowboys are locked into the #4 seed, as they can’t catch Chicago for the #3 spot, and as a division champion they get one of the top four seeds. They will host the #5 seed on Wild Card weekend.
#5 seed - Seattle Seahawks (9-6, clinched playoff spot)
With their big victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seahawks have wrapped up a postseason berth. If they defeat the Arizona Cardinals this coming Sunday, they will lock themselves into the #5 spot. If they lose to Arizona and the Vikings defeat the Bears, Minnesota would leapfrog them into the 5-spot, as Minnesota’s 9-6-1 record in that scenario would be better than Seattle’s 9-7 mark if they lost to Arizona.
#6 seed - Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)
The Vikings remain firmly in control of their own destiny going into the final week of the season, which is about as much as you can hope for. If they defeat the Bears, they’re in the postseason. If they should lose. . .well, they don’t, in all likelihood.
#7 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
The Eagles need to take down their division rivals, the Washington Redskins, next Sunday afternoon and hope that the Vikings lose to the Bears. Philadelphia is on a roll again behind Nick Foles, but if the Vikings beat the Bears it won’t matter. Here’s hoping that the purple don’t have to rely on the Redskins showing up for long enough to defeat Philadelphia.
Every other team in the NFC has been eliminated from postseason consideration.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. We know the scenario for the Vikings, and hopefully they can do what needs to be done on Sunday afternoon against the Bears and push themselves into the playoffs.