Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Updated NFC playoff picture with 3 games to go

Let's take a look at the crowded NFC playoff picture with 3 weeks left in the regular season. If it ended today, this is how it would stand.

Current seeds:

1. Seattle (first-round bye) 11-2

2. New Orleans (first-round bye) 10-3

3. Philadelphia 8-5

4. Detroit 7-6 (wins tiebreaker with Chicago due to series sweep)

5. Carolina 9-4 (higher than 49ers due to head-to-head win)

6. San Francisco 9-4

Outside looking in: Arizona (8-5); Dallas (7-6); Chicago (7-6); Green Bay (6-6-1)

First-round playoff games the weekend of Jan.4-5:

Carolina at Detroit

San Francisco at Philadelphia

Here are the remaining schedules for the 10 NFC teams in playoff contention:

CAROLINA: New York Jets (6-7); New Orleans (10-3); at Atlanta (3-10)

NEW ORLEANS: at St. Louis (5-8); at Carolina (9-4); Tampa Bay (4-9)

SEATTLE: at New York Giants (5-8); Arizona (8-5); St. Louis (5-8)

ARIZONA: at Tennessee (5-8) at Seattle (11-2); San Francisco (9-4)

SAN FRANCISCO: at Tampa Bay (4-9); Atlanta (3-10); at Arizona (8-5)

PHILADELPHIA: at Minnesota (3-9-1); Chicago (7-6); at Dallas (7-6)

DALLAS: Green Bay (6-6-1); at Washington (3-10); Philadelphia (8-5)

DETROIT: Baltimore (7-6); New York Giants (5-8); at Minnesota (3-9-1)

CHICAGO: at Cleveland (4-9); at Philadelphia (8-5); Green Bay (6-6-1)

GREEN BAY: at Dallas (7-6); Pittsburgh (5-8); at Chicago (7-6)

Panther analysis: Winning two out of the final three should virtually assure a Panther wild-card spot, and it really helps that the Panthers beat San Francisco by harassing Colin Kaepernick so well (see above picture).

In case of a three-way tie for the wild card -- with San Francisco, Arizona and Carolina all finishing 11-5 -- the Panthers would win the three-way tiebreaker and get the No.5 seed, San Francisco would be No.6 and Arizona would be out (In that case, 49ers and Arizona would use the two-team tiebreaker, eliminating Cards due to 49ers' better NFC West record, and then Carolina would be seeded higher than 49ers due to head-to-head victory).

Note: Carolina could actually clinch a playoff spot this week, but it would require ALL of these things to happen: Carolina wins, and Arizona, San Francisco and Dallas all lose; OR Carolina wins and Arizona, San Francisco and Philadelphia all lose (in the Eagles' case only, a tie would also work).

Winning the NFC South division for Carolina would require New Orleans to go 1-2 over its final three games and the Panthers to go 3-0 (New Orleans wins the tiebreaker if the teams both finish 12-4). So the Saints need only to win two of three games for a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game. (Or New Orleans could go 0-3 and Carolina 2-1, although the Saints ain't going to be going 0-3).

Most likely, the Panthers will not host a home playoff game now. If they are the No.5 seed, they could host the NFC championship, but only if the No.6 seed also advances to that game.

If Carolina goes 1-2 over its final three games, the Panthers would finish 10-6 and stand a chance at being caught by a variety of teams -- that's when it gets dicey, as I point out in my Tuesday column. A 10-6 Chicago team did not make the playoffs in 2012. And an 0-3 ending would likely doom the Panthers, although I don't see that happening.

General NFC analysis: Arizona has the most difficult schedule remaining of the playoff contenders, and Panther fans should cheer for Cardinals to lose every week. Seattle needs to win two of three to assure homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by virtue of its win over New Orleans.

Detroit and Chicago are tied atop the NFC North, but Detroit's sweep of the Bears means that the Lions would win the tiebreaker. Philadelphia has a fairly favorable schedule and a strong chance at winning the NFC East, although it will likely come down to the Eagles' season-ender at Dallas. Remember, all four division champions get one home playoff game, regardless of record.


Anonymous said...

We beat Detroit in Detroit then we beat NO in NO.

San Fran beats Philly in Philly and then beats Seattle in a shocker in Seattle.

NFC Championship in Charlotte!

Panthers beat San Fran and then go on the superbowl where it snows like crazy and we beat Peyton like a drum.

Superbowl Champs 2014!

And then I woke up this morning....

Anonymous said...

You also believe in the tooth fairy and the eater bunny...... Either that or you're 8 years old!

Anonymous said...

Yeah the panther scenario is highly unlikely. No way the panthers beat the saints at the dome or Seattle loses to anyone in Seattle. I do see Seattle losing in NJ to Denver.

Anonymous said...

If the Panthers make the playoffs, this season is a success. The fact that they have a real chance to go on the road and win during WC weekend is huge for this team. I really doubt the Cardinals will beat Seattle and the 49ers the last two weeks of the season. I think this team has a real good chance to beat the Lions, Bears, Eagles or Cowboys regardless of who they play. We will more than likely have to go into NO the next week, which would be tough, but all bets are off the third time you play a team.

Anonymous said...

Waiting for everything to play out over the next few weeks may not matter. We can clinch a playoff spot as early as this weekend if we win and SF, Ariz, Dal and Phil all lose. I know who I'll be cheering for this weekend!

Anonymous said...

No Kiddin' !

Anonymous said...

Thank god the game this week will be on CBS. Watching the FOX broadcast in 480i is ridiculous. What is this, 1997?

Anonymous said...

I like the matchup with the Lions even though the secondary could get lit up.The Lions just turn the ball over to much otherwise they'd already have their Division sewed up.

Anonymous said...

Go Titans, Go Bucs, Go Vikes, Go Pack. And most importantly, Panthers, you better beat the Jets.

Anonymous said...

Both Saints and Panthers go 12-4 and Saints win the tie breaker. Please explain why. As part of the assumption, pretend the margin of victory (Panthers over Saints in Charlotte) is greater than when they played in New Orleans.

Scott Fowler said...

It boils down to the 4th tiebreaker, assuming identical 12-4 records: Saints will end with a better NFC record in this scenario compared to Panthers (it's the Arizona loss that kills Carolina in this scenario). Total points in the head to head do not matter in this case. Thanks for asking, Scott Fowler

Anonymous said...

So - a possible 12-4 tie going to the Panthers is if the Saints lose to Tampa in their final game? In your words, "unlikely." In any case - thank you, the tie breaker rules are tricky.

Anonymous said...

Jets will come out and play like its a playoff game ,They know if they lose this game there most likely out of it. Look at the point spread were favored by more than 10 points any serious betting man knows when the bookies do this they know most people will place there money on the panthers especially after that lost to NO, That's when the upset happens and the bookies make off like bandits.Interesting to see how the panthers will come out against a team that's back is against the wall more than there own,If we don't dominate and win this game I would have to ? Us even getting in the playoffs.Remember Chicago sat at home last year with a 10-6 record.....Still can't believe we were a no show for the biggest game of the season ,Not that we didn't win it but the way we were coached inexcusable. Will this get posted my last comment didn't for some reason.

Anonymous said...

No Im not pulling for no team to lose so we can get in the playoffs, If we cant prove to everyone that we belong there by dominating these last few games them we dont need to be a team that needs to have help to get in. That always is the team that loses in the 1st round and gets a beat down, like they never should of been there in the first place.GO PANTHERS ...DOMINATE PROVE YOU DESERVE IT...POSTED FROM A HUNGRY FAN ..

Anonymous said...

Thank you Scott for posting all these scenarios. It makes it easier for me to decide who to root for in what game. I appreciate it man.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person that noticed the hit on Stewart , If you look at the replay Stewy seen the defender closing on him fast and knowing he's going to get hit extremely hard Why did he plant his foot and take that punishing blow when he could of huddled him or just lifted both legs and the defender would of slid underneath and missed him completely, l wouldn't bring this up but if you look at the replay you clearly see him look at the missle barring down on him did he actually think this guy would bounce off him,JUST SEEMED AVOIDABLE....