The Wild NFC Playoff Picture

As the NFL season winds down, the NFC playoff picture is starting to heat up. At this point, the only teams that are safe are the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys are the favorites to win the east and top seed, and Seattle is in full control in the west. For the remaining four playoff spots, there is any combination of things that may happen. There are seven teams who are hopeful to make the playoffs in those last four spots, and on Sunday all seven of those teams won, making the race extremely tight. Let’s take a look at each of those four spots and who is in contention for each one.

NFC North Division Winner: At this point, this spot seems the safest of the remaining four, with the Detroit Lions currently holding a 2-game lead over each the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. The reason why this division may still be up for grabs is because of each teams remaining schedules. Detroit holds the lead now, but has to face the New York Giants in New York and the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas before hosting the Packers week 17. This is an extremely tough three games, and with Stafford injuring his throwing hand, it is easily conceivable to see the 2-game lead disappear. Minnesota will host Indianapolis and Chicago weeks 15 and 17 and will travel to Green Bay week 16. Green Bay Will travel to Chicago and Detroit weeks 15 and 17 and host Minnesota week 16. The only thing for certain is that the Minnesota vs Green Bay Christmas Eve matchup will be an elimination game for the loser. Detroit owns a head to head tiebreaker vs Minnesota while Green Bay currently owns a head to head tiebreaker over Detroit. Minnesota also owns a head to head over Green Bay. At this point the edge goes to the Lions, but any of the three could win this division.

Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY Sports

NFC South Division Winner: This division isn’t nearly as complicated as the north. It is a simple two team race between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Bucs. Both teams are currently 8-5 with Atlanta currently owning the tiebreaker. With the teams having split their head to head matchups, the tiebreaker could easily change hands before seasons end. Atlanta has a finishing schedule of San Francisco at home, Carolina on the road, and New Orleans at home. The Bucs have a finishing schedule of Dallas on the road, New Orleans on the road, and Carolina at home. With the easier remaining schedule, the edge right now goes to Atlanta, though Tampa Bay is hot coming off five straight wins.

Two Wild Card Berths: The two wild card berths will come down to the 3 teams who do not win the North and the South, in addition to the Giants and Washington Redskins. The Giants have the inside track on the first wild card spot currently sporting a 9-4 record, though they have a tough remaining schedule at home vs Detroit, at Philadelphia, and at Washington. The winner of the Vikings vs Packers on Christmas Eve stands a decent chance at the second spot if Detroit holds on to win the division. The runner up in the South division also is currently in a good position with only 5 losses. To throw another wrinkle into it, the Redskins have a tie on their record, currently standing 7-5-1. They finish with a schedule vs Carolina at home, at Chicago, and the Giants at home. The tie could easily come into play and make the difference this year. There will be five teams competing for these two spots, and only the Redskins own a tie. 

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Predictions: We’re going to take a shot at predicting the six NFC playoff spots. The predictions as things currently stand will go

1) Dallas

2) Seattle

3) Atlanta

4) Green Bay

5) New York

6) Detroit

With Green Bay hot and a somewhat favorable schedule, the guess now is they run the table to finish 10-6 and win the North, and Detroit with their touch schedule finds a way to win one of the next two and finishes with a 10-6 record for the 2nd wild card. With Atlanta having an easier schedule down the stretch, it looks like they have the edge over Tampa Bay. The guess now is that Tampa falls off a little down the stretch and just misses the 2nd wild card spot. 

We're going to continue to take a look at the NFC playoff picture each week and give our predictions. With seven teams battling for four spots, literally anything can happen. How do you think it is going to play out? Comment and let us know! Stay tuned for more current sports stories. Don't forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram @beyondthemetrics, and Twitter @byondthemetrics.