Only seven teams remain alive for the postseason in the NFC as the final weekend commences, but only one team has its seed sewn up (the Vikings, locked into the sixth).
And reviewing what is a still-really-fluid NFC playoff picture is the emphasis of our look at what else is happening around the NFL this week.
PACKERS GO FOR IT ALL IN DETROIT
Green Bay, 12-3 has clinched the North but could still be a one, two or a three seed. The Packers can get the one seed with a win at Detroit — they are an early 12-point favorite against a Lions team going with third-team quarterback David Blough —– and a 49ers loss to Seattle. That would mark quite the turnaround for the Packers after missing the playoffs the last two years.
Green Bay gets the two seed with a win and a Saints loss at Carolina.
But if the Packers are rooting for Seattle to win — and it’s worth remembering the 49ers get the one seed if they beat Seattle, with nothing else needing to happen — the Seahawks are rooting for Green Bay to lose.
The only way Seattle can get a first-round bye of any kind is with a Green Bay loss.
That also means that by about 1 p.m. or so, the Seahawks will know what they have to play for — if Green Bay wins, the best Seattle can be is the three seed, meaning having to play on the first weekend regardless of what happens against the 49ers. And in that scenario Seattle would host the Vikings.
But if Green Bay loses, then a bye is still there for Seattle.
So, go Lions. But at 3-11-1 and having lost eight in a row, it’s gonna take a pretty big miracle.
SAINTS ON THE MARCH FOR FIRST-ROUND BYE
New Orleans, 12-3 and having already clinched the South, can also be a one, two or three seed as it enters the final weekend, where it is a mammoth 13-point favorite at Carolina.
The Saints’ playoff calculations are a little more complicated than Green Bay’s. But essentially, the Saints cannot be the one seed unless they win and both Green Bay and the 49ers lose (we’re not going to bother with all of the unlikely tie scenarios for any of these seeds for now).
The Saints will get the two seed with a win and either a Green Bay or San Francisco loss (and there’s also a scenario where the Saints get the two with a loss, and wins by Seattle and Green Bay).
If Green Bay wins, then what the Saints do doesn’t matter to Seattle since New Orleans wins a two-time tiebreaker with the Seahawks. But should Green Bay lose, then Seattle needs the Saints to lose to have a chance at getting homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
That may be worth reiterating — a Seattle win plus losses by Green Bay AND the Saints and the Seahawks get homefield throughout the playoffs.
So, go Panthers (but go Lions a lot more).
EAGLES CAN RULE THE EAST
In what could have huge implications for the Seahawks, both the Eagles and Dallas can still win the East. Whichever team does will be the four seed and host the fifth seed in the wild card round.
And if Seattle loses to the 49ers, it will be the fifth seed and travel to play either Dallas or Philly (the Vikings, as the sixth seed, will travel to play the number three seed in the other NFC game the first weekend, and that could well be Seattle if the Seahawks get the three.
The heavy odds are on the Eagles to win the East since all they have to do is beat the Giants to clinch the division. Dallas needs to win at home vs. Washington and then needs the Eagles to lose.
Seattle, of course, would prefer to beat the 49ers and not have to worry about a trip the first weekend.
And it feels like mostly eye-of-the-beholder stuff on which team you’d rather face of Dallas or the Eagles if it comes to that — both are dangerous but both have been among the most erratic teams in the NFL week-to-week this season.
But simply because the Seahawks just traveled to Philly and weather could be a real issue there, it feels like Dallas is the lesser of these two potential evils.