It’s a crazy year in the NFC, with an 8-4 team currently on the outside looking in, thanks in part to an NFC West that has an automatic spot reserved for a team currently at .500 and due to a Panthers team that’s giving two free wins to every team in the NFC South, it seems.
The scenarios for the Eagles can get complicated in a hurry, but for now, the simplest is this: beat the Giants. If the Eagles win their game at the New Meadowlands on December 19, they can afford one more loss the rest of the way and they’ll still win the division, as they’d hold the tiebreaker over New York.
After that, it gets very murky. The Eagles could lose to the Giants and still win a tiebreaker for the division if New York stumbles elsewhere along the way, but Wild Card scenarios aren’t favorable for the Birds. They won’t hold tiebreakers over the Bears or Packers in a head-to-head situation, and they’re currently 1.5 games behind the Saints in the conference record tiebreaker should they be up against New Orleans for a playoff spot.
Here’s a look at the NFC playoff picture as it currently stands.
1. Atlanta Falcons (10-2) – The Falcons have the best record in the conference, with a one game lead over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South and the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. With a soft schedule ahead (Atlanta plays 1-11 Carolina twice), things look good for the Falcons.
2. Chicago Bears (9-3) – Chicago is a game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North and won the first meeting between the two teams. The Bears and Packers meet again in the season finale on January 2, in a game that could decide the division. With four games left, both play once more in the division aside from their last game. Chicago visits Minnesota on Monday, December 20 and Green Bay visits Detroit this week. If both teams hold serve and win, the a Packers win would set up a complicated tiebreaker that could very well make it all the way to strength of victory.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) – The Eagles hold the tiebreaker over the also 8-4 Giants based on beating them head to head earlier this year, but a loss at the New Meadowlands would change that. Philadelphia currently has a 2-1 division record to the Giants’ 2-2, but a loss in New York in two weeks would alter that tiebreaker as well. From there it gets increasingly hairy for the Birds, who are 4-3 against common opponents while the Giants are 4-2. Both teams have Minnesota left, while the Giants still have to visit Green Bay. After that it goes to conference record, where the Giants have a one-game lead.
4. St. Louis Rams (6-6) – The Rams beat the Seahawks in their first meeting, with one more still to come. The loser in the NFC West will not be playoff bound, while the winner could get in at 8-8 or worse. This division is really causing problems for the rest of the NFC, as a couple of teams with winning records are likely to be left out while the Rams or Seahawks head to the postseason.
5. New Orleans Saints (9-3) – The Saints have won five games in a row since a shaky start and, if they don’t catch the Falcons, are in line for the next best thing to a first-round bye: a trip to an NFC West location to be named later. The Saints could be a dangerous out as a five seed, as would the Falcons. It makes you wonder if it might set up better for the two-seed than the one-seed this year in the NFC. The top seeded team is almost guaranteed a visit from the second place team in the NFC South in the Divisional round, which may pit the best two teams in the conference against each other.
6. New York Giants (8-4) – The Giants currently hold the tiebreaker over the 8-4 Packers on their better conference record (6-2 vs. 6-3), but the two teams face each other in three weeks in what may decide their postseason fate. If the Giants lose to the Eagles, they’ll need a win to secure a tiebreaker over the Packers.
7. Green Bay Packers (8-4) – The amazing thing is, 8-4 teams are on pace for 10.66 wins and 5.33 losses. They’re closer to 11-5 than 10-6, yet the Packers find themselves on the outside looking in as it stands.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) – In most seasons, the Buccaneers would be in good shape at 7-5 with four weeks left. Usually, a 2-2 finish and a 9-7 mark would give them a chance. This year, they may need to win out to get in safely.
On the next page, take a look at the five games over the last four weeks of the season that will have a major effect on the playoff scenarios.