While there are still eight teams vying for two wild card slots in the AFC, the NFC picture has become pretty clear after Sunday’s games.
The Green Bay Packers currently hold the fifth seed, behind the division-leading New Orleans Saints (13-0, No. 1 seed), Minnesota Vikings (11-2, 2), Philadelphia Eagles (9-4, 3) and Arizona Cardinals (8-4, 4). The Dallas Cowboys (8-5) currently hold the sixth seed after a 20-17 home loss to the San Diego Chargers, on Sunday.
So who’s still in the picture?
Well, gone are the pretenders we knew weren’t going to make it anyway – the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, who were all mathematically alive coming into the weekend, but all lost.
The San Francisco 49ers, who play Arizona tonight, are in a similar position at 5-7. A loss to the Cardinals and they’re out. While that may seem like it should be a foregone conclusion, the 49ers beat the Cardinals in Arizona 20-16 in week one.
The Atlanta Falcons managed to stay alive another week, despite losing a close contest to New Orleans 26-23. The Falcons are 6-7 and would need a lot of help to get in, but they also have three winnable games left on their schedule: at New York Jets (7-6), Buffalo (5-8), at Tampa Bay (1-12).
If Atlanta loses to the Jets this weekend, you can stick a fork in them as well.
Of the teams on the outside looking in, the New York Giants have the most realistic chance of securing a wild card. Although they’re 7-6, they’ve beaten the sixth-seeded Cowboys twice this season, giving them the tiebreaker if both teams end up with the same record.
The Giants finish at Washington (4-9), Carolina (5-8) and at Minnesota (11-2). Chances are, the Vikings will be resting their starters in the final game, which would make the Giants a favorite in all three contests.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, don’t have it as easy. Their remaining schedule looks like this: at New Orleans (13-0), at Washington (4-9), Philadelphia (9-4). There’s likely one, if not two more losses in that mix. If the Giants win out, they’re a good bet to overtake Dallas for the NFC’s final wild card berth.
That brings us back to the Green Bay Packers, who at 9-4 have a two-game lead over the seventh seed with three to play. The Packers pretty much only have to win one more game put themselves in a wild card spot. The team finishes at Pittsburgh (6-7), Seattle (5-8) and at Arizona (8-4).
If the current seedings hold, the Packers would travel to Arizona two weeks in a row to play the Cardinals, who are currently seeded fourth. The other possibility for the Packers in the first round is going on the road to face the NFC East winner. Most likely, that would mean a trip to Philadelphia, but Dallas and the New York Giants are also possibilities, however unrealistic.
If the Packers somehow fall to the suddenly miserable Steelers, chances are they’ll wrap up a playoff slot the following week when the Seahawks visit Lambeau Field. It isn’t time to pop the champagne yet, but things are definitely looking up in Green Bay.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, they’re saying something like this.
If you’re a Packers fan, here’s your rooting guide from here on out.
- Packers beat the Steelers, Seahawks or Cardinals
- 49ers lose to the Cardinals tonight
- Falcons lose to the Jets on Sunday
- NFC East teams beat the crap out of each other down the stretch