Week 17 in the NFL is approaching quickly and while the playoff picture is beginning to take shape, there is still a lot of shuffling around that can occur. I am going to take some time here to explain all of the scenarios and then tell you which I think is the most likely.
Here is what we already know: five of the six teams getting into the playoffs have been figured out. Seattle, Dallas, Arizona, Detroit and Green Bay have all earned playoff berths. That is about all that has been determined in the NFC. There is an incredible amount of moving around that can occur in the final week. Let’s start looking at some of the possibilities.
For Seattle, a win would mean home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks control their destiny and beating Saint Louis at home on Sunday would make Seattle a legitimate threat to return to the Super Bowl as long as the Packers and Lions do not tie this weekend and Dallas does not win. That is really specific but that would give the Cowboys a tiebreaker over Seattle. The Seahawks can still hang on to a home playoff game even with a loss to the Rams if the Cardinals lose as well but the Hawks would not have a first round bye. I think a Seahawks win is the most likely outcome. The Rams have been up and down all year and Seattle seems to be hitting its stride.
Dallas is in a weird spot between the first, second and third seed. Jerry Jones’ team can’t go any lower. A win over Washington is essential and the only way Dallas earns the first seed is if the Lions and Packers tie this weekend while Seattle wins or Arizona loses. It is an odd scenario that would trigger a tiebreaker over Seattle because Dallas beat them head to head but lost to Arizona. That means Dallas would need Seattle to win the division so that the tiebreaker with the Cardinals does not come into effect. The Cowboys need a lot of help too to get that second seed. With a Cardinals loss and a Seahawks loss on Sunday the Cowboys would lock up a first round bye, even if Washington beats them. Dallas could also end up second if the Lions and Packers tie, the Cardinals win and the Seahawks win. The Cowboys will more likely be playing as the third seed come wildcard weekend as I don’t see both Arizona and Seattle falling or a tie in the NFC North title game. I do think Dallas will trounce Washington though to gain momentum going into the playoffs.
The Lions have quietly lined themselves up for home field advantage this season. Detroit will finish as the first seed with a victory in Green Bay and a loss by the Seahawks. Most of what happens to the Lions depends on a win over the Packers. Even if Seattle wins, Detroit will still have a first round bye if it holds off Aaron Rodgers and company. A loss at Lambeau will set the Lions back to a wildcard spot as the sixth seed. Detroit cannot earn the fifth seed because of tiebreakers the Cardinals and Seahawks hold. A tie against Green Bay could make things weird. Detroit would win the division but would be stuck as the third seed if Dallas and Arizona or Seattle wins. That is extremely unlikely but it could happen. Unfortunately for Lions’ fans, sixth is where I think Detroit will finish. Winning at Lambeau field has been a tough thing to do for a very long time, especially against Aaron Rodgers.
The Cardinals will need a win over the 49ers but must rely on some outside help to get a first round bye. Assuming Arizona wins, then Seattle must fall in Saint Louis and the Lions must win in Lambeau for the Cards to clinch home field advantage. Bruce Arians’ squad has a tiebreaker over the Lions but not over the Packers, meaning a Detroit win is pivotal for the Cardinals chances. A loss against the 49ers would mean being the fifth seed or even the sixth seed if the Packers and Lions tie. Arizona will win the division with a win or tie and a Seattle loss. A tie against San Francisco plus a Dallas and a Detroit or Green Bay win would make the Cardinals the third seed. All these potential ties make the NFC a crazy place. I think Arizona finishes as the fifth seed based on a likely Seattle victory no ties between Detroit and Green Bay.
Speaking of the Packers, Green Bay has a lot of shuffling to do. A win over Detroit means a division title and a first round bye with a Seattle win. If Seattle loses, then Green Bay has home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Arizona’s result does not matter due to a Packers’ tiebreaker. With a loss or a tie though, Green Bay would be a wildcard. A loss will mean the Pack is the sixth seed. A tie and a loss by either Arizona or Seattle would give the Packers the fifth seed. I think the Packers will win but so will Seattle meaning Green Bay will finish as the second seed.
The fourth playoff seed is the easiest one to figure out. If the Panthers win or tie with Atlanta then Carolina wins the NFC South and plays as the fourth seed. If the Falcons win then Atlanta is the NFC South champion and fourth seed. Finally, something is simple. I think Atlanta wins this game. Matt Ryan has been on a bit of a tear recently and the defense looks solid.
That’s all the possible scenarios here. So my wild card round matchups would be the Cowboys hosting the Lions and Arizona visiting Atlanta to play. Keep an eye for first round predictions once the playoff field is set. To see the AFC playoff scenarios, click here. Hope you enjoy this final week of regular season football.