NFC Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 17

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NFC Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 17

NFC Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 17

The calendar is about to turn to January which means the NFL playoffs are about to begin. This slideshow article is a look at the NFC playoff picture as we head into week 17 (AFC playoff picture article is HERE)

The NFC has had 16 teams play a total of 240 football games so far in 2012, but only the #1 seed is set in stone heading into the final week of the regular season.

There are numerous scenarios that would shake up the #2 through #6 seeds in the NFC. This slideshow article is a look at the teams that have a shot at the playoffs in this conference.

If the playoffs began right now we would see the Atlanta Falcons have home field throughout the NFC playoffs, and we would have the Green Bay Packers as the #2 seed so those two would be off for the wild-card weekend.

The Minnesota Vikings would travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers, and the Seattle Seahawks would travel to take on the Washington Redskins in wild-card weekend. The Falcons would host the wild-card weekend winner with the worst record, and the wild-card winning team with the best record would head to Lambeau Field in week two of the playoffs.

The defending champions New York Giants are likely to be the first team to not make the playoffs following a Super Bowl win since the 2008 champ Pittsburgh Steelers failed to make the 2009 playoffs.

The Chicago Bears need to win, plus they need help to get in the playoffs. As you will see on page seven I think the scenario that the Bears need to make the playoffs is very possible, if not likely.

Week 17 results will shape the NFC playoff landscape, but any scenario looks like it will provide a fun and interesting few weeks in the NFC as we march towards Super Bowl XLVII on February 3rd, 2013.


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Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons
Daniel Shirley-US PRESSWIRE

There are several things that could take place in week 17 which would shake up the current seeding in the NFC. The Atlanta Falcons (13-2) are the only team that is locked in to their playoff spot, and that spot is numero uno.

The 2012 Falcons were excellent on the road so they would be confident even if they were not the home team, but they enter week 17 with a 7-0 home record so despite their strong road play there is indeed no place like home for Mike Smith and his team.

The Falcons defense sack more quarterbacks, intercept more passes, force more fumbles, and tackle more opponents for a loss at home than they do on the road. They have allowed 21 or fewer points in six of their seven home games in 2012. Their offense is so good that opponents cannot beat the Falcons if they get 21 or less at the Georgia Dome.

The running game for the Falcons is much better at the Dome than it is on the road. Michael Turner averages just 2.9 yards per carry on the road, but he is at 4.4 at home.

Matt Ryan has been pedestrian at home in 2012 (amazing on the road) but he is the winning quarterback time and time again at home. That passing attack in the Dome is always a threat to produce regardless of their stats.

The Falcons will host the NFC team that has the lower record of the two teams that win in the wild-card round. The Falcons have been here before, recently too. In 2010 they were the NFC's top seed but they were hammered by the visiting Packers (48-21) and their home field throughout the playoffs went out the window right away. Dirty Bird fans are hoping for a significantly better playoff run this season.


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Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers

In the last four weeks the San Francisco 49ers have stumbled with just a 2-2 record. In that same time-span the Packers have gone 4-0 and that has allowed them to catch and pass the Niners on the NFC playoff chart. Going in to week 17 the Packers are the #2 seed in the NFC.

The Packers are involved in one of the bigger games for week 17 in the NFL. They travel to take on the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikes need to win to secure a playoff spot. The Packers need to win in order to secure the #2 seed which means they would be off for wild-card weekend.

The Pack would also get the #2 seed if they lose but so do the 49ers. San Fran plays at home vs the lowly Arizona Cardinals so I highly doubt that there is an opportunity for Green Bay to sneak into the #2 (they will have to win to earn the #2).

One interesting scenario is if the Packers lose to the Vikings and the 49ers beat the Cards, then wild-card weekend would be a rematch of Green Bay vs Minny next week. That game would be at Lambeau Field.

I think Green Bay will win their week 17 game and thus earn the #2 seed (if you saw my NFL Week 17 Tidbits and Predictions on then you saw that the Packers/Aaron Rodgers own the Vikings). That would mean in week two of the playoffs they would host the wild-card weekend winner with the best record.


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San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are limping to the playoffs. San Fran is 23-7-1 under Jim Harbaugh, but they are just 2-2 this month. They were looking good to repeat as the #2 seed in the NFC, but they have now been passed by the Packers.

The 49ers still have yet to clinch the NFC West. A home victory vs the horrid Cardinals in week 17 would secure the division and mean they would host at least one playoff game. If they win and they get a break in the Packers at Vikings game (Packers losing is the break) then the Niners would finish the season as the #2 seed which would mean they are off for wild-card weekend. The Vikes need to win to secure a playoff spot so it is possible that the 49ers will have a legit opportunity to get back in the #2 slot.

A Seahawks loss at home vs the St. Louis Rams would also clinch the NFC West for San Fran regardless of their week 17 result.

If the 49ers get upset at home and the Seahawks take care of the Rams then San Fran would drop alll the way down to the #5 seed which means not only will they play in wild-card weekend, they would be on the road. The #5 seed will play at the NFC East winner.

A game vs the Cardinals is equivalent to a bye week so I certainly think the Niners will win this week and thus lock up the NFC West, but their seeding would still depend on the result of the Packers at Vikings game.


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NFC East

NFC East
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

We know the #4 seed will be the NFC East champ, but we do not know who that will be.

Following a week 9 loss to the Carolina Panthers the Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan declared their 2012 season over. He said the rest of 2012 would be spent auditioning for 2013. Six straight wins later the Redskins host the Cowboys in a game for all the marbles.

The most likely scenario is that the #4 seed will host the Seattle Seahawks in wild-card weekend. For that to change the 49ers would have to be upset at home by the putrid Cardinals and the Seahawks would have to beat the Rams. That would make the 49ers the #5 seed and they would play at the NFC East winner in wild-card weekend.

If the Cowboys lose this week 17 showdown then they will fail to make the playoffs for the third straight season. If the Cowboys win their week 17 game then Cowboys Stadium will host its second ever playoff game next week.

If the Redskins win they will host their first playoff game since January 8, 2000. There is a scenario where the Redskins could lose and still get the #6 seed which would mean going on the road for wild-card weekend. For that to happen the Redskins would require the Bears to lose at the Detroit Lions, and the Vikings to lose at home vs the Packers.

The better scenarios belong to the Redskins thanks to their Thanksgiving day 38-31 win at Dallas.


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Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

The Seahawks are en fuego. In the past three weeks they are winning by an average score of 50-10 (what?!?! wow). Their beat-down of the 49ers last week has given them a chance to win the NFC West.

The Seahawks host the Rams this week. They would need to win that game and have the Cardinals upset the 49ers at San Francisco to get the NFC West crown. Better still is if the Seahawks win, the 49ers lose, and the Vikings beat the Packers then the Seahawks would move allll the way up to the #2 seed in the NFC. That is worst-case scenario for the NFC as it gives the hottest team a week off and they would host a minimum of one playoff game. The 2012 Seahawks are pretty much unbeatable at home.

If the 49ers win then the Seahawks are locked in to the #5 seed which would mean they play next weekend at the winner of the Cowboys at Redskins game.

Even if the Seahawks get upset in week 17 by the Rams they still have tie-breakers over the likely #6 seed Vikings or Bears as they beat both of them in 2012.

The Seahawks are very likely going to remain in the #5 slot, but there are week 17 scenarios that could mean the Seahawks could be #2 or #3.


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#6 seed

#6 seed
Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

The Vikings host the Packers in week 17. If Minny wins then they are in the 2012 playoffs. The Seahawks victory over the 49ers in week 16 bumped the Niners from #2 to #3, and gave the Packers huge incentive to win this game to remain as the #2 seed so the Vikes are surely in for a tough test this week.

Not only are the Packers motivated to win this game, but they own the Vikings so despite being a pleasant surprise in 2012 the Vikes playoffs hopes are in peril.

The Vikings can get the #6 seed even if they lose, but they would require upsets/help. The Bears would have to lose to the Lions, the Giants would have to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Cowboys would have to lose too.

The Chicago Bears were once a lock for the playoffs as their 2012 got off to a 7-1 start. A 2-5 free-fall has them in the #7 slot entering week 17, and they are in need of a victory plus help to get into the playoffs.

The Bears are at Detroit. They need to win, and they need their hated rivals - Packers - to beat the Vikings. That would land the Bears in the sixth and final NFC playoff spot and send them on the road to take on the NFC's #3 seed in wild-card weekend. For the Bears to make the playoffs they would need to win their week 17 road game which would put them at 5-3 on the road so they would be confident heading into the playoffs that they can be road warriors.

The defending champ New York Giants need to win their week 17 game vs the Eagles, plus they need a ton of help. The G-Men need to win, plus have the Bears, Vikings, and Cowboys all lose. They would also have to turn Lindsey Lohan around, and get Donald Trump to shave his head. Okay, maybe they do not need to do all of that, but we see their odds are poor to defend their championship.

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