WEEK 15 NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
Much like with the AFC, Week 15 in the NFC brought us some blockbuster games. We saw one team jump from the #5 seed all the way to #1, while the #2 fell to #3. The NFC East continued to beggar belief, with 8-8 looking to be the best record to come out of that division. With just three weeks left, 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 15 NFC playoff picture and clinching scenarios.
All of the playoff numbers in this article are courtesy of @LeeSharpeNFL.
Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
The Cowboys are now holding onto first place solely because they beat the Eagles when they met the first time. However, they saw their chances of winning the division and making the playoffs drop down to 64%. They still have the division and the #4 seed in their own hands if they win out. However, with a matchup against the Rams this week that is going to be tough. Even then a loss this week is not the end of their season. They can still make the playoffs if they defeat the Eagles and Redskins in the final two weeks of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
It certainly was not pretty but the Eagles came away from their Monday Night Football showdown with the victory. They nearly got it all wrong against the Giants, and suddenly their last three games do not look like two easy wins and a challenge. Realistically the Eagles need to win out to take the division. They can possibly afford to lose to the Giants or Redskins, but if they do, then they will need the Cowboys to lose this week and to them in Week 16. Right now the Eagles chances sit at 38%, but realistically their season comes down to a straight fight in Week 16 with the Cowboys. However, as we have seen in the NFC East this season, nothing is ever that simple.
Green Bay PAckers (10-3)
After blowing the Redskins out of the water in the first half, the Packers stuttered and stumbled their way through the final three quarters. However, most importantly they came away with the win. However, interestingly their chances to win the division actually dropped a little (68%) with the Vikings beating Detroit.
What the win meant was that they remained with a >90% chance of making the playoffs, and can actually clinch a spot this week if they win and the Rams lose. Thanks to the Seahawks and Saints results they also gained ground this week in the race for a first-round bye and home field advantage. Entering Week 15 they sit as the #2 seed, but with their three divisional rivals still to play their chances of being their in three weeks time is just 26%. Equally, despite being just one game out of the #1 seed, their loss to the 49ers means they have a less than 5% chance of home field advantage.
Now if they win out then all of that may mean nothing, but they need some help to finish as a top-two seed.
Minnesota Vikings (9-4)
Week 14 brought a much expected win for the Vikings, and it made their future look very bright this season. Not only did their win eliminate the Buccaneers, it also kept them one game ahead of the Rams, and two ahead of the Bears. Despite that the results of both the Bears and Rams actually meant their playoff chances dropped to 83% after this week.
What the win did mean is that they now have a 32% chance of winning the NFC North. Realistically, they need to win out for that to happen. If it does, then they would also have a very outside chance of a bye as well (5%).
Chicago bears (7-6)
To the shock of nearly everyone the Bears are still alive in the playoff race. A somewhat surprising win over the Cowboys has seen their playoff chances jump to an incredible 2%! One thing going for them is that right now they have the head to head over the Vikings. If they beat the Vikings again, then they would be just one game behind, with the tie-breaker. However, they really need to win out, and hope their biggest rivals, the Packers, can also beat the Vikings. Even then they will need some help with the Rams, who are a game ahead with the tie-breaker.
To say it is complicated is an understatement, but right now the Bears will just be pleased to have even an outside shot.
San Francisco 49ers (11-2)
Week 14 was absolutely huge for the 49ers. They went on the road and beat the Saints, while their NFC West rivals lost to the Rams. Now the 49ers sit in first place in the NFC and control their own destiny. They have a 55% chance of home field and a 58% chance of a bye, but that really requires them to win out.
The Falcons this week should not be a big test, however, it is a game that is easy to overlook. In Weeks 16 & 17 they face the Rams and Seahawks. The Rams are heating up and are desperate to make the playoffs, while the Seahawks are a team you can never count out. They do have the chance this week to secure a playoff spot with a win, and that along with their chance of home field advantage should mean they stay frosty against the Falcons. These last three weeks in the NFC West are going to be a lot of fun.
Seattle Seahawks (10-3)
The loss to the Rams will have hurt, and even if they win out, it may be costly. Winning their last three games would win them the division, and more than likely give them a first-round bye. However, if the Saints win out, then this loss will have cost them a potentially crucial home field advantage.
Right now, they have a 42% chance at the division, 41% chance of a first-round bye, and 24% chance of home field. All of those odds largely rest on that massive Week 17 clash with the Seahawks.
Los Angeles Rams (8-5)
The Rams are firing now, but it might be too-little-too-late. They have a 23% chance of making the playoffs from here, but with the Vikings facing the Chargers, Packers and Bears down the stretch, the Rams remain well and truly in play. Their early season struggles have cost them a shot at a first-round bye or home field advantage. However, their home field is not massive, and they are more than capable of going on the road to win in the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints (10-3)
The Saints may have been the first team to clinch a playoff spot, but they still have a lot to play for. Their loss last week has seen them drop from #2 to #3. They now have just a 19% chance of sealing home field advantage, with the winner of the NFC West in the driving seat right now. They still have a great chance of securing a first-round bye (71%), but their schedule is no cup cake, with the red hot Titans hosting them in Week 16.