We broke down the AFC playoff picture earlier Sunday night. The NFC is a little more complicated. Here goes:
1. Atlanta (12-2): The Falcons clinch the NFC South and the No. 1 seed with a win at home against the Saints Monday night or a win against the Panthers in Week 17. So Monday night’s game oddly isn’t that big. (Unless Jimmy Clausen is a lot better in 2011 than 2010.)
2. Chicago (11-4): The Bears are NFC North champs. They clinch a bye with a win in Green Bay next week or with a loss by the Eagles. (If the Bears lose in Green Bay, we could have Bears-Packers in back-to-back weeks. Sweet.)
3. Philadelphia (10-4): The Eagles won the NFC East following the Giants’ loss Sunday. Philly can still pass Chicago for a bye with two home wins (against the Vikings and Cowboys) and a little help from Green Bay.
4. St. Louis (7-8): The Rams can hit .500 and win the division with a victory in Seattle on Sunday Night Football next week. Simple.
5. New Orleans (10-4): The Saints only need one more win to get in, but a loss Monday night against Atlanta would make Week 17 very interesting. Tampa heads to New Orleans for the finale and the Bucs would own tiebreaks over the Saints if both teams finished 10-6. (On common opponents. Those Cardinals and Browns losses would really hurt the Saints then.)
While it’s possible the Bucs and Saints could get in (if the Packers and Giants lose), that’s very unlikely. Basically the Saints need another victory for a playoff spot. (Two wins and a miracle by Clausen for the division.)
6. Green Bay (9-6): The Packers are in with a win next week against the Bears. They could also get in with a loss IF the Giants and Bucs lost next week. The Packers hold strength of victory tiebreaks in the event of a three-way tie. They beat the Giants Sunday, so obviously have the head-to-head tiebreak.
Essentially, the Packers are first in line in the event of tiebreaks.
7. New York (9-6): It’s not over. Really. The Giants are in if they can win in Washington next week and the Packers lose to the Bears. It’s dark right now for Giants fans, but that’s not that crazy a scenario.
8. Tampa Bay (9-6): They need a lot of help, and will really be in trouble if the Saints win in Atlanta Monday night. In that scenario, the Bucs would need the following to happen. 1) Win in New Orleans 2) Packers lose 3) Giants lose. The Bucs’ official website breaks it down in greater detail.
9. Seahawks (6-9): It’s hard to imagine this team beating anyone. They haven’t been closer than 15 points to a team other than Carolina in six weeks. Still, the Seahawks could be the first losing team to make the playoffs if they beat St. Louis. Barf.