If there was ever a week for the Carolina Panthers to take a loss, this would be the one. Not only does New York have a pedigree of beating undefeated teams, they desperately need a win to survive the NFC East race. Add in a chance for some of Carolina’s key players to get healthy, and there’s a strong feeling that the Giants will do what they do best.
For the other two NFC East contenders, life isn’t getting easier even if the Panthers move to 14-0. Washington has been alternating wins and losses since before Halloween, and today they draw a Buffalo Bills team ready to play spoiler. The Eagles fare no better, hosting the Cardinals in an all-avian matchup on Sunday Night Football. The Cardinals might be able to clinch a first-round bye with a win, and they’re a four-point favorite heading into Philadelphia according to OddsShark.com.
As soon as the other NFC East teams drop off, the NFC playoffs are all but set. That makes it easy to look ahead to Week 17, when there are key division matchups on the final day of the regular season. The most interesting of those is Vikings-Packers, who could very well meet in Week 17, and then again on Wild Card Weekend.
The NFL’s playoff format gives the top two seeds in each conference bye weeks. The remaining teams are then matched up 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5. After the first round, the bracket is re-seeded so that the top seed in each conference is matchup up with the lowest remaining seed.
For a full list of NFL tiebreaking procedures, click here.
Here’s how the playoff standings look right now:
The Division Leaders:
1. Carolina Panthers — 14-0 — Clinched NFC South
2. Arizona Cardinals — 12-2 — Clinched playoff berth
3. Green Bay Packers — 10-4 — Clinched playoff berth
4. Washington Redskins — 7-7
The Wild Card Contenders:
5. Seattle Seahawks — 9-5
6. Minnesota Vikings — 9-5
– Carolina can clinch home-field advantage through playoffs with win and Arizona loss
– Arizona clinches NFC West with win OR Seattle loss
– Arizona clinches first-round bye with win and Green Bay loss
– Green Bay clinches playoff spot with win OR Washington loss OR New York loss
– There are five ways Seattle can clinch a playoff spot, the easiest being a win and a loss from either Washington or New York
– There are seven ways Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot, the easiest being a win and a loss from both Atlanta and Washington
Potential Wild Card Matchups:
Seahawks at Redskins
Vikings at Packers