NFC Playoff Picture as of Week 16

Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) reacts to his game winning field goal against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, in Atlanta. The Falcons won 30-28. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Week 16 kicks off today, and the NFC matchup to watch is the Vikings Packers game. While not the biggest game to watch this weekend, still should be exciting for all Vikings fans. Week 16 and 17 will dictate who will get into the playoffs, so it should be fun. Let’s talk about the NFC Playoff Picture.
Right now, the Eagles and Vikings are the only teams in the NFC to have clinched a spot in the playoffs. The Eagles have a first-round bye no matter what (either the one seed or the two seed) and the Vikings have seeds 1-4. The Eagles, with a record of 12-2, will play the Raiders and Cowboys to end the season. The Eagles would have to lose both games in order to not have the 1 seed, so home-field advantage is looking pretty good for Philly.
The Vikings at 11-3 play the Packers, tonight, and the Bears on week 17. A first round bye is looking good for the Vikings as well, seeing as they have two games they should win, and a tie-breaker against the Saints. Although, the Panthers have the tie-breaker against the Vikings, so it could get a little iffy there. For the Vikings, just know they are in the playoffs and most likely will get the bye. If they lose a game, the Saints, and only the Saints, could take their spot.
So, pretty easy to understand so far. Well, it’s about to get a whole lot worse. The Saints, Panthers, Falcons, Rams, Lions, Seahawks, and Cowboys are all fighting for spots. Note that the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons are all in the same division. The Rams, Saints, Panthers, and Falcons are in the 3-6 seeds, in that order. The Lions, Seahawks, and Cowboys are in the hunt, in that order.
The Rams’ last two games are against the Titans and 49ers. The Titans are playing for something, so you can expect them to come out to play. The 49ers have proved they are something with Garoppolo, so you might expect them to play with more competitiveness than expected. If the Rams win out, then they have the third seed or higher. If they win out and the Viking lose out, then they have the first-round bye. If they lose out, then they can fall out of the playoffs (but then just about everyone would have to win out). Finally, if they only win one, then they are safely in the fifth seed or higher.
It gets a lot more exciting as you get to the 4, 5, and 6 seeds. I’m going to start with the Falcons, who are currently in the sixth seed. Their last two games are against the 4 and 5 seeds, the Saints and the Panthers, respectively. The three teams are all part of the NFC south, so it will get interesting. If the Falcons win both games, that will give the Falcons the division, and they will be at the four seed or higher. But, while I respect the Falcons’ play, they will most likely not win both games. If they lose both games, they could be out of the playoffs. If they win one of the two, then they could be out of the playoffs, or still in at the six seed (it’s really up to what the teams “in the hunt” do).
Now for the Saints. If the Saints win both their games, they have the division. If they lose both games (including to the Falcons), then they could drop all the way to the sixth seed. If they win one, then it’s really up to the Panthers and Falcons. Really no team has a tiebreaker on the Saints except for the Rams and Falcons (which could change). So, there should be good spirits in New Orleans.
The Panthers make things interesting. They don’t have a tiebreaker against the Saints, but they do against the Falcons (which could change). Anything can really happen for the Panthers because of the possibility of them dropping out of the playoffs, or somehow getting to the first-round bye. If they lose both games, then the sixth seed will be highest they are at. If they win both, then they will be at the fifth seed or higher.
All three teams (the Lions, Seahawks, and Cowboys) need chaos in the NFC south. The easy scenarios for the Lions would be themselves winning out and the Falcons losing out. Both the Seahawks and Cowboys need themselves to win out and the Saints and Panthers losing out. The Lions have the most probable chance of getting in just because they have easy games against the Packers and Bengals, and the Falcons have to beat good Saints and Panthers teams. All in all, the NFC South needs to collapse for the “In the Hunt” teams.
I’m predicting that the Eagles, Vikings, Rams, and Panthers win out. This means that the Falcons lose one to the Panthers. The Falcons also lose one to the Saints. Then I have the Lions winning out against the Bengals and Packers, taking the six seed. I went back and forth on the Falcons games, and I really think those games could go either way (especially the Falcons Panthers game).
My Prediction:
1- Eagles (14-2)
2- Vikings (13-3)
3- Rams (12-4)
4- Panthers (12-4)
5- Saints (12-4)
6- Lions (10-6)

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