With just 2 weeks of the NFL regular season left, the NFC playoff picture has taken quite the interesting shape. It looks as if seeds 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 will all belong to the Packers, Saints, Seahawks, Rams, and Buccaneers, but the exact assignment could very well change. All five teams have 9+ wins and project to finish ahead of the Cardinals and Bears, the only two teams with a chance of dislodging one of such five.
The Packers can lock up the #1 seed with a win against the Titans and a Seahawks loss, as well as by winning out. With no first round bye, the 2nd seed is less lucrative than before, but still a modest concession prize. The New Orleans Saints should slot in there, thanks to an easy remaining schedule, followed by either the NFC West winner in third. In Week 16, the Seahawks and Rams meet; if Seattle wins they clinch the division whereas LA needs to win out. In addition, the Buccaneers could poach the 5th seed from the Rams thanks to an easy finish against the Lions and Falcons.
The #4 seed is coming down to the Natty Light of NFL divisions, the NFC East. Football Team currently lead the division at 6-8 thanks to CPOY Alex Smith. The Giants and Cowboys are right behind waiting for Washington to slip, like “boy-best-friends” next in line, waiting for a girl to break up with her boyfriend. Don’t count out the Eagles either, who may have a shot at 4-9-1 with Jalen Hurts under center. A total of 3 division games are yet to be played, all with great implications.
|Team||Week 16 Matchup||Week 17 Matchup|
|Washington Football Team||vs. Carolina Panthers||@ Philadelphia Eagles|
|Dallas Cowboys||vs. Philadelphia Eagles||@ New York Giants|
|New York Giants||@ Baltimore Ravens||vs. Dallas Cowboys|
|Philadelphia Eagles||@ Dallas Cowboys||vs. Washington Football Team|
In addition, there are a bunch of tie-breaking implications, but most scenarios boil down to one simple path for each team. Washington can clinch the division with a win and a Giants loss in any week. The only path for the Cowboys by winning out with the Football Team losing out as well. The Giants need to win one more game than Washington does down the stretch, as they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Lastly, the Eagles have a small chance, needing Washington to lose out and New York to lose at least one game, on top of winning out themselves.
The #7 seed is coming down to a hot contest between the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears. Both teams came out strong to open the season before enduring lengthy losing spells (3 weeks for Cardinals, 7 weeks for Bears). The Cardinals have the better record but the tougher schedule as well, playing the 49ers and Rams. In the Kliff/Kyler era, Arizona is 1-5 against such opponents, so coming out with even one win would be quite the success. If they can do so, the Cardinals will finish with a 9-7 record, meaning that the Bears will have to win out to steal the final seed.
Da Bears face the Jacksonville Jaguars this week in South Florida, a matchup that screams “trap game.” The game is wedged between two big wins and the most important matchup of the year, so the Bears need not take this game for granted. Another implication is the return of Gardner Minshew, who is fighting for his future with the Jaguars. In Week 17, the Bears head into the aforementioned “most important matchup of the year.” They face the Packers, who may be resting their starters. While facing Jordan Love instead of Aaron Rodgers is a much more favorable matchup, beating the Packers is still no easy task.