The NFC Playoff picture entering Week 16 has a little bit of everything but clarity.
After the top five teams, which are still wide-open in terms of positioning, the race for the final Wild Card spot is a four-man race.
Let's start with the basics in the NFC:
This week we saw the Minnesota Vikings (11-3) clinch the NFC North making two teams officially in the playoffs in the NFC. Additionally, the Philadelphia Eagles (12-2) will now have a first-round bye as one of the top two teams in the conference.
On the flip side, the Arizona Cardinals (6-8) were eliminated with their loss and the Green Bay Packers (7-7) were eliminated with their loss and Atlanta’s win this week.
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For the Eagles (12-2), getting a win without Carson Wentz was huge in their preparation for the playoffs; even it was a close one. They now have a first round bye, thanks to their 34-29 win over the New York Giants and are one step closer to securing home-field advantage. A win against the Raiders this weekend, or a loss by the Vikings in Green Bay would do that for Philadelphia.
Minnesota at 11-3 is right behind them, only a game out of first place. They hold the tiebreaker over the Los Angeles Rams (10-4) and New Orleans Saints (10-4) because of early season matchups.
After that, seeds No. 3-5 are a mess. A loss by the Seattle Seahawks (8-6) or a Rams win clinches the NFC West and either the third or fourth seed for Los Angeles.
For now they are No. 3 but it is a dogfight between New Orleans and the Carolina Panthers (10-4) for the NFC South division title. The other will likely be the top Wild Card but nothing is set in stone. If both teams were to tie at the end of the year, the Saints would take the division.
Finally, there is some slight separation in the Wild Card race. Carolina’s 31-24 win over Green Bay was a huge relief to the Detriot Lions (8-6), Dallas Cowboys (8-6) and Seahawks, who are still mathematically alive for the No 6 seed. The 10-4 Carolina Panthers are now just one win away from being in the postseason.
Momentarily the Atlanta Falcons (9-5) hold the final playoff spot and hold a tiebreaker over every team trailing them. With the Saints and Panthers only a game ahead, and Atlanta playing both of them in the final weeks, the Falcons can still make the playoffs. On the flip side, either the Panthers or the Saints can fall out of the playoff picture with two losses as well.
Seattle (8-6), Detroit (8-6) and Dallas (8-6) are not going anywhere quite yet. They both need two losses from the Falcons, Saints, or Panthers in the final two weeks to have a shot. In all likely hood, at least one 10-6 team will miss the playoffs.
There are now four remaining unclaimed spots in the postseason, with seven teams battling for it.
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NFC Playoff Picture Week 16
NFC PLAYOFF BRACKET PROJECTION:
— y - #1 Philadelphia Eagles* (12-2) vs. BYE
— #2 Minnesota Vikings* (11-3) vs. BYE
— #3 Los Angeles Rams (10-4) vs. #6 Atlanta Falcons (9-5)
— #4 New Orleans Saints (10-4) vs. #5 Carolina Panthers (10-4)
NFC TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFF HUNT:
— Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
— Detroit Lions (8-6)
— Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
NFC TEAMS ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFF PICTURE:
— Green Bay Packers (7-7)
— Washington Redskins (6-8)
— Arizona Cardinals (6-8)
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)
— San Francisco 49ers (4-10)
— Chicago Bears (4-10)
— New York Giants (2-12)
*: Clinched Playoff Berth
x: Clinched Division
y: Clinched First Round Bye
z: Clinched homefield advantage
— Eagles own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Panthers.
— Vikings own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Saints, and Falcons
— Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints.
— Saints own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Panthers.
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings.
WILD CARD NOTES:
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.
— Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, Cowboys, and Seahawks.
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Week 16 NFC Games With Playoff Implications:
Sat., Dec 23: Vikings at Packers (8:30 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 24: Lions at Bengals (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 24: Rams at Titans (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 24: Falcons at Saints (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 24: Buccaneers at Panthers (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 24: Seahawks at Cowboys (4:25 p.m.)
Mon., Dec 25: Raiders at Eagles (8:30 p.m.)
NFC Week 16 Clinching Scenarios
Philadelphia clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:
1) PHI win
2) PHI tie + MIN loss or tie
2) MIN loss
Minnesota clinches first round bye:
1) MIN win + CAR loss or tie
2) MIN tie + LAR loss or tie + NO loss or tie + CAR loss
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Los Angeles clinches the NFC West:
1) LAR win or tie
2) SEA loss or tie
Los Angeles clinches a playoff berth:
1) DET loss or tie + CAR loss + ATL loss
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
New Orleans clinches the NFC South:
1) NO win + CAR loss
New Orleans clinches a playoff berth:
1) NO win or tie
2) DAL-SEA tie
Carolina clinches a playoff berth:
1) CAR win or tie
2) DAL-SEA tie
Atlanta clinches a playoff berth:
1) ATL win or tie
2) ATL tie + DAL-SEA tie + DET loss or tie