After the Saints and Falcons play tonight, just one more week will remain in the NFL regular season. As usual, there are myriad iterations of playoff matchups that could become a reality based on what happens tonight and in Week 17.
Here is a rundown of the NFC playoff scenarios. (Click here to see the AFC playoff scenarios.)
NFC Playoff Scenarios
Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants
This one is pretty easy.
The Cowboys and Giants play Sunday night. Whichever team wins becomes the NFC East champion and will get a first round home game. Neither team can make the playoffs any other way.
Image credit: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via Wyld About Pro Football
Green Bay Packers
This one is also pretty easy. The 14-1 Packers clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs with their win over the Bears last night.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers clinched the NFC West a while ago, so they will host a first round home game at a minimum. They are still alive for a first round bye as well, and in fact are in the driver’s seat.
The 49ers are 12-3, and the Saints already have three losses. Because the 49ers own the tic-breaker with the Saints, all San Fran has to do is beat woeful St. Louis next week to clinch the first round bye and #2 seed in the NFC playoffs. (Or, if New Orleans loses tonight to Atlanta, the 49ers don’t even have to beat St. Louis next week.)
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have a clinched a playoff spot, but they are playing for a lot more than just a chance at the #2 seed when they face Atlanta tonight.
New Orleans hasn’t even yet clinched the NFC South division, nor a first round home game. They can do that tonight if they beat Atlanta. Even if the Saints don’t beat Atlanta tonight, they would still clinch the NFC South and a first round home game by winning their Week 17 game against Carolina or if Atlanta were to lose its Week 17 game to Tampa Bay.
If the Saints win both this week and next week, and San Francisco falls to St. Louis next week, the Saints would lock up the #2 seed in the NFC, a first round bye, and a second round home game.
The Falcons clinched at least a wild berth last night when Chicago lost to Green Bay. If they beat the Saints tonight, the Falcons maintain a shot at the NFC South title and a first round home game. As mentioned above, Atlanta would need to defeat the Bucs (should be easy) and New Orleans would need to lose to Carolina (not so easy).
The Lions clinched a playoff spot with their win over San Diego in Week 16. Because they play in the NFC North with Green Bay, they do not have a shot at anything more than a wild card road game in round one of the playoffs, regardless of what happens in Week 17. All that is still to be determined is who they will play.
NFC Playoff Predictions
Here is how I think the pivotal Week 17 games will go:
- Saints beat Atlanta (Week 16)
- Saints beat Carolina
- Atlanta beats Tampa Bay
- San Francisco beats St. Louis
- Giants beat Cowboys
- Lions beat Packers
This would create the following first round playoff matchups:
- Byes: Packers (14-2), 49ers (13-3)
- #3 Saints (13-3) v #6 Falcons (10-6)
- #4 Giants (9-7) v #5 Lions (11-5)
What do you think will happen? Comment below.