‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the league NFC teams were checking the scores, in hopes of seeing their playoff chances soar. Heading into Week 16, only two of six NFC teams have punched their postseason tickets.
Christmas Eve could decide who gets lumps of coal in January while others unwrap a postseason birth. There are two key Week 16 NFC matchups that will have major playoff implications. The Saints host the Falcons in a game with NFC South implications as well as having an impact on the Wild Card standings.
Finally, the Cowboys take on the Seahawks as both teams face an uphill battle to make the playoffs. The losing team will find it almost impossible to make the playoffs.
Here’s a look at the NFC playoff standings, and our postseason predictions heading into Week 16.
NFC Playoff Standings
The teams in bold have already clinched a playoff spot, and the first six teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Philadelphia has won the NFC East, while Minnesota clinched the NFC North division title. The Rams have clinched the NFC West. With their win over the Falcons, the Saints clinched a playoff spot.
|1. Philadelphia Eagles-x||12||2|
|2. Minnesota Vikings-x||12||3|
|3. L.A. Rams-x||11||4|
|4. New Orleans Saints||11||4|
|5. Carolina Panthers||11||4|
|6. Atlanta Falcons||9||6|
|7. Seattle Seahawks||9||6|
|8. Dallas Cowboys||8||7|
|9. Detroit Lions||8||7|
|10. Green Bay Packers||7||8|
|11. Washington Redskins||7||8|
|12. Arizona Cardinals||7||8|
|13. Chicago Bears||5||10|
|14. San Francisco 49ers||5||10|
|15. Tampa Bay Bucs||4||11|
|16. N.Y. Giants||2||13|
NFC Playoff Matchups Heading Into Week 16
If the playoffs started in Week 16, here’s a look at what the NFC playoff matchups would look like.
No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles (bye)
No. 2 Minnesota Vikings (bye)
No. 3 L.A. Rams vs. No. 6 Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is winning games, but not in the attractive fashion they were last season. The Rams have the sexiest offense in the NFL since Sean McVay took over as head coach this off-season. The Falcons would have the edge in the experience column, but the Rams have been a more consistent team this season.
No. 4 Carolina Panthers vs. No. 5 New Orleans Saints
The NFC South owns half of the NFC playoff spots as things stand. The Saints won both matchups against the Panthers this season by double digits. With the way the Saints rushing attack has performed, New Orleans would likely be favored in this matchup even if they are on the road.
NFC Playoff Predictions
Here’s a look at Heavy’s projections for the NFC playoffs.
No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) (bye)
Here’s a look at the tiebreakers (per the NFL) that would likely give the Eagles the edge for the top seed, even if they finish with an identical record with the Vikings.
1.Head-to-head, if applicable.
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
No. 2 Minnesota Vikings (13-3) (bye)
Our projections have the Vikings and Eagles finishing with the same conference record. The Vikings loss to the Panthers likely ends up costing them a shot at the top seed as the Eagles are 4-0 in common opponents, while the Vikings sit at 3-1. Minnesota does have the edge in strength of schedule and victory, but the tiebreakers are unlikely to move that far down.
No. 3 New Orleans Saints (12-4) vs. No. 6 Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
The Saints edge out the Rams in seeding thanks to a better NFC conference record. Atlanta could upset the seeding with a win in New Orleans. These projections are based on the Falcons losing to the Saints. Even with a loss to the Saints, Atlanta edges out Dallas and Detroit thanks to a better conference record.
No. 4 L.A. Rams (12-4) vs. No. 5 Carolina Panthers (11-5)
Despite being one of the better NFL teams this season, the Rams are projected to be the No. 4 seed by virtue of tiebreakers. New Orleans has the edge in conference record. Would the Carolina defense have an answer for a potent Rams offense? The answer to that question likely determines the outcome of this game if they square off in the playoffs.
Just Miss Out
No. 7 Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
No. 8 Detroit Lions (10-6)
Both teams would have made the playoffs if they were in the AFC, but the strength of the NFC this season is likely to leave a couple of 10-win teams out. Both the Cowboys and Lions lose the tiebreaker to the Falcons thanks to Atlanta’s stellar 8-2 conference record heading into Week 16. In addition to winning their own games, Dallas and Detroit need some help this week to advance to the playoffs.