With one week still left to play, the AFC playoff picture is set. The Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens, Colts and Bengals have already notched their tickets to the NFL after-party, with only seeding left to be sussed out – but what about the NFC?
There are still two spots open to five teams trying to claw their way in, and it all comes down to Week 17 of the NFL schedule. Let’s take a look at all the “what-if” scenarios for the rest of the potential post-season party crashers.
New York Giants
If The Giants Win: New York is currently sitting in the worst position for a playoff berth. The other four teams all hold New York’s “big apples” in the palm of their hands, yet there is still a glimmer of hope for the G-men. First and foremost, the Giants need the Redskins to win the NFC East division. New York cannot contend with Washington for the wild card, so they need them out of the running. They will also need both Chicago and Minnesota to lose, giving them the tie-breaker based on a better conference winning percentage. If Dallas, Chicago or Minnesota wins, the Giants are done.
If The Giants Lose: If New York loses, the Super Bowl hangover will be official and their quest to defend their NFL title will be finished before it begins. Should the Giants lose, there would be nothing that could happen to help them savage their season. New York faces the Philadelphia Eagles next week, and reports say Michael Vick could be back in the lineup, thanks to rookie Nick Foles breaking his hand in their Week 16 loss to the Redskins.
If The Vikings Win: The way in for the “Fighting Adrian Peterson’s,” better known as the Minnesota Vikings, is simply to win and you’re in. Thanks to Minnesota handing it to the Houston Texans last Sunday, the Nordic Gods of football still control their own fates. They are currently tied with the Chicago Bears at 9-6; however the Vikings hold the tie-breaker on the strength of their winning percentage within the division.
Adrian Peterson sits just 208 yards away from the all-time single season rushing record, and he gets to go up against the Green Bay Packers, who gave up 210 yards to AP in Green Bay just three weeks ago. “All-Day” gets to go for the record at home, where he has averaged 149.5 yards per game in his last four under the dome.
If The Vikings Lose: Should Minnesota fall to the Allstate-sponsored Cheeseheads on Sunday, their playoff hopes would not be completely finished. At 9-7, Minnesota would need the Bears to lose to the Detroit Lions, in which case, they would still have the tie-breaker. But that’s not all they would need. The Vikes would also require the Redskins to beat the Cowboys since Washington beat Minnesota earlier this year, and would hold any Wildcard tie-breaker. And finally, the Vikings would also need the Giants to lose because New York’s winning-percentage in the NFC would be better than Minnesota’s in the event of a tie.
If The Bears Win: A Chicago victory does not guarantee them the post-season. After starting 7-1, the Bears are just 2-5 over their last seven and no longer control their own destiny. In a weird twist, Chicago Bears’ fans will be the loudest Green Bay Packers’ supporters in the country next Sunday. The Bears need Green Bay to beat the Vikings or it’s all over for them. It doesn’t matter if Adrian Peterson rushes for 700 yards, as long as the Bears win and Minnesota loses, Chicago is in.
If The Bears Lose: Should Chicago fall at the hands of the Detroit Lions, their season would officially be done. There would be no scenario in which the Monsters of the Midway could scare up a playoff berth. In a classic NFC North rivalry game, the Detroit Lions have nothing left to play for but to ensure their historic foes get to share in their misery of a playoff-less January.
If The Cowboys Win: Despite the Saints fumbling their way to an overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Big D can still win the NFC East division with a victory over the Washington Redskins next week. Even though both teams would be 9-7, Dallas would hold the tie-breaker over Washington based on a better winning percentage against common opponents. The game will be played at Washington; however, this actually bodes well for the Cowboys, as they are 5-3 on the road while having a losing record at home this season.
If The Cowboys Lose: Dropping that overtime heart-breaker to New Orleans means Dallas no long has a chance for the wild card. The only way the Cowboys can make it to the post-season is by beating the Redskins next week. If the Cowboys lose, their season – and maybe Jason Garrett’s tenure as head coach – will come to an end.
If The Redskins Win: Like the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins can earn a playoff berth simply by winning their head-to-head matchup for the NFC East divisional crown next week. Washington has reeled off six straight victories, despite RG3 being slightly banged-up. The Redskins beat the Cowboys 38-31 on Thanksgiving earlier this season.
If The Redskins Lose: If the Redskins allow the Dallas Cowboys to slide into the playoffs, Washington will still have a way in through the playoff backdoor, known as the wild card. If Washington loses, they will also need the Vikings to lose (Washington holds head-to-head tie-breaker) and they will also need the Bears to lose (Washington holds conference winning percentage tie-breaker).