Two or five.
Those are the only two NFC playoff seeds remaining that Carolina can be. And they're not bad numbers -- not No.1, as Carolina would have been had John Kasay's 50-yarder gone in, but not terrible, either.
Here's the deal for Carolina: Sunday's game at New Orleans (out of the race, but still a dangerous spoiler) is now huge. If the Panthers win at New Orleans (8-7), they will be the No.2 seed and get all the good stuff that goes with that -- a first-round playoff bye and a home playoff game Jan.10 or 11 against a foe to be determined.
That No.2 seed would also happen if Carolina (11-4) loses but Atlanta (10-5) also loses to St. Louis. But that's not going to happen, I don't think -- St. Louis (2-13) is awful.
So here's the No.5 seed scenario for the Panthers: Carolina loses Sunday at New Orleans to finish 11-5. Atlanta wins. At 11-5, Atlanta wins the relevant tiebreaker (better conference record) and, thus, the NFC South.
In that case, the Panthers play a week earlier in the playoffs. They would likely go to Arizona in a first-round game to face the Cardinals either Jan.3 or 4. Then they would face a much tougher road to the Super Bowl -- three games to get there instead of two -- and might well have to go to both Atlanta and back to Giants Stadium to make it.
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