The NFC playoff picture is still quite messy entering Week 17.
There has been a lot of craziness in the NFL today, including an epic comeback by the Steelers to claim the AFC North title and a season-extending win for the Cowboys. The resulting chaos hasn’t done a ton to clarify the current NFC playoff picture, which has seen three division titles claimed and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secure their first playoff postseason berth since 2007.
What is still on the line in the NFC and how will the various tiebreakers fall? Let’s break down the Week 17 playoff scenarios by category.
Home Field Advantage
This spot comes down to the three division winners: the Green Bay Packers, who enter Sunday Night Football at 11-3, as well as the 11-4 New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks. Two wins from Green Bay means the path to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field, but things can get complicated quickly if they drop a game to either Tennessee or Chicago.
- If the Packers, Saints and Seahawks end up in a three-way tie at 12-4 the Saints will capture home-field advantage.If the Packers and Saints finish in a 12-4 tie home field goes to Green Bay on the strength of a head-to-head win in New Orleans earlier this season.If the Packers and Seahawks finish in a 12-4 tie it depends on when Green Bay loses. A Week 16 loss keeps home-field in Green Bay’s column since Tennessee is an AFC opponent while a loss to the Bears would give it to Seattle on the strength of conference record.
The NFC East
The Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys are tied atop the NFC East at 6-9 while the New York Giants are a game back at 5-10. A win over the Eagles on Sunday gives the NFC East to Washington, which would be at least a game up on the Giants and can break a tie with Dallas by virtue of a head-to-head sweep.
Dallas needs to win and have Washington lose in order to claim the division outright. The path for the Giants involves a win and a loss by Washington, enabling them to break a three-way tie at 6-10.
The winner of the division will host Tampa Bay, which is already locked into the No. 5 seed.
The final wild cards
There are two teams competing for three spots in the 9-6 Los Angeles Rams as well as a pair of 8-7 teams in the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears. The Bears have two paths into the playoffs, either with a win or a win by the Rams. No matter which route Chicago takes it cannot finish higher than the No. 7 seed.
A Chicago loss automatically clinches a playoff spot for Los Angeles since it holds a head-to-head tiebreaker on the Bears from a Monday night matchup earlier in the season. That means the Rams could lose to the Cardinals and still get into the playoffs if the Bears lose.
Arizona’s path is similar since they can get in with a win. There is no path for the Cardinals to back into the playoffs since they lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bears based on record in common games.
To summarize, here is what each combination of Packers-Bears and Rams-Cardinals results will produce.
- A Bears win and Rams win means the Rams are the No. 6 seed and the Bears are the No. 7 seed.A Bears win and a Cardinals win sets Chicago as the No. 6 seed and the Cardinals as the No. 7 seed.A Bears loss and a Rams win means that Los Angeles would be the No. 6 seed and Chicago is No. 7.A Bears loss and a Cardinals win means the Cardinals would be the No. 6 seed and Los Angeles would be seeded No. 7.