Week 14 NFC playoff Picture
After a blockbuster week in the NFL the playoff picture in the NFC saw a major shakeup. One team clinched their division, while another fell from top of the pack to the #5 seed, and the NFC East made itself look silly all over again. Which teams are virtually assured to make the playoffs, and how are the races shaping up for the wildcards, divisions, first-round byes, and home field advantage? Let’s take a look as we review the Week 14 NFC playoff picture and clinching scenarios.
All of the playoff numbers in this article are courtesy of @LeeSharpeNFL.
Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
Could this division get much uglier? Well, sadly, yes it actually could. If the Cowboys lose this week we are looking at a realistic scenario of the winner of this division being just 8-8. Even worse, a loss this week would actually give the Redskins a realistic chance to win this division! Right now the Cowboys remain masters of their own destiny, and nothing that happens this week will change that. However, they will want to lay down a marker against a playoff team from last year on Thursday Night Football.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
What a chance the Eagles had! A win against the Dolphins could have put them in control of their own destiny. However, now they not only need to beat the Cowboys in a few weeks time, they may actually need more help down the stretch. In Lee Sharpe’s simulations, the Eagles make the playoffs just 24% of the time from here.
Washington Redskins (3-9)
You think I am joking don’t you? I am really not. If the Redskins win out they can still make the playoffs at 7-9. They need the Cowboys to lose their remaining four games, and the Eagles to lose all their games other than the Cowboys game. It is a less than 1% chance, but it is a chance and we should acknowledge it, simply for the hilarity it is even remotely a possibility as much as anything else!
Green Bay Packers (9-3)
This has become a two-horse race for the division, with the Packers in prime position right now. They have a 71% chance to win the division, and with two games against the Redskins and Lions to come you have to like their chances. Whatever happens, it would be hard for them to drop out of the playoffs altogether from here (96% playoff likelihood). In terms of the division there is still some question marks, especially if the Packers slip up against the Bears. Then they would let the Vikings back in the race for the division.
The bigger question is can they get into contention for the first-round bye? The answer is yes, but it will be tough. Losing the head-to-head with the 49ers is a big problem, and makes this complicated. They either need the 49ers to win out and push the Saints and Seahawks down to three wins, at which point it gets very complicated, or they need the 49ers to lose two more, while one of the Saints and Seahawks also slip up. Oh, and they need to win out. Simple right?
Minnesota Vikings (8-4)
That loss last week is going to hurt. They now really need the Packers to slip up once more, and then they need to beat them as well to have a realistic shot at the division. With four losses and lacking the tie-break with the Seahawks, they can probably forget the first-round bye, and probably the #5 seed as well. Hosting a wildcard game is obviously going to be far more preferable than a trip to Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco or New Orleans. Therefore, they need to focus on winning out and hope they do enough to steal the division.
However, they also need to keep their wits about them, because the Rams and Bears are hovering just one and two games back respectively. If they are not careful they could find themselves watching the playoffs. At an 88% likelihood of making the playoffs, they should be fine. However, their last three games, @LAC, vs. GB and vs. CHI have the potential to be an extremely tough road home.
Chicago Bears (6-6)
Thaksgiving week has kept the Bears alive for another week. Their chances are slim (2%), but win out and they just could sneak in. They would still need the Vikings to lose at least one more game, but given the way their season has gone they will be grateful just to be alive in the playoff race right now.
Seattle Seahawks (10-2)
That was a monster win for the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Realistically it did not change their division destiny, as they were in control of their own future regardless. However, this win puts them in with a shot of the #1 seed (29%). Interestingly, they actually need the 49ers to do them a favour this week and defeat the Saints, because they will then have the chance to win out, secure home field, and send the 49ers on the road at least in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers (10-2)
The 49ers demonstrated just how good they are on Sunday. Just staying in contention with the Ravens is a success right now. Sadly for the 49ers it is a hollow moral victory, because now even beating the Seahawks in Week 17 may not be enough. A loss this week in New Orleans combined with a Seahawks win could spell the end of any hopes they have of winning this division.
However, win out and not only will they win the division, but they would have a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. It is hard to understate how huge this week is for the 49ers.
Los Angeles Rams (7-5)
For all the troubles they have had the Rams are still well and truly alive. It may just be a 14% chance of making the playoffs, but the Vikings road home is not easy. In the next three weeks the Rams playoff future will be decided. They face the Seahawks, Cowboys and 49ers, realistically knowing they need to win at least two, and possibly all three of them. Right now they will be thankful to be alive in the playoff race, but they must step up big this week when the Seahawks come to town.
New Orleans Saints (10-2)
The Saints were the first team to clinch their spot in the playoffs and now it becomes all about getting that bye and the #1 seed for them. Right now, they have an 87% chance of getting a bye, and a 52% chance of securing home field advantage. However, one slip up down the stretch and those numbers can plummet quickly. That is especially the case with them hosting the 49ers this week, who will be desperate to make amends for letting the game slip through their hands last week.
Lee Sharpe’s leverage chart this week for the Saints and the #1 seed is incredible. A win this week could see them have an 80% chance of locking up that #1 seed and a 95% chance of a first-round bye. However, a loss could see those numbers swing as low as 14% for the #1 seed.