- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- According to ESPN's Playoff Machine, there are five scenarios in which the Carolina Panthers make the playoffs and one in which they don't.
I tested the device for the first time on Tuesday, curious what the machine would come up with after Carolina's eight-game winning streak ended with a 31-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.
Here's what the computer spit out:
Based on winning percentage: the Panthers are projected to be the sixth seed at 11-5 and open the playoffs at NFC East champion Philadelphia, projected to be 11-5.
Based on the home teams winning: the Panthers are projected to be the fifth seed at 11-5 and open the playoffs at NFC East champion Dallas, projected to be 9-7.
Based on power rankings: the Panthers are projected to be the sixth seed at 11-5 and open the playoffs at NFC East champion Philadelphia, projected to be 11-5.
Based on offensive rank: the Panthers are projected to be the fifth seed at 10-6 and open the playoffs at NFC North champion Detroit, projected to be 10-6.
Based on defensive rank: the Panthers are projected to be the fifth seed at 12-4 and open the playoffs at NFC North champion Green Bay, projected to be 8-7-1.
The only scenario in which the Panthers are projected to miss the playoffs is if the away teams win. That would leave them tied with Arizona at 10-6, and the Cardinals would win the tiebreaker based on a 22-6 victory against Carolina on Oct. 6.
Then it would be home for the holidays for the Panthers, 9-4 heading into Sunday's home game against the New York Jets (6-7).
But I'm more of an eye test person, so I had to look at where every team is, who they play and project how I saw things play out. Using this less scientific formula, I have the Panthers 12-4 and the No. 5 seed playing at Detroit, the No. 4 seed.
Here's the breakdown of my NFC projections:
Remaining games: at N.Y. Giants, vs. Cardinals, vs. Rams.
Prognosis: The Seahawks, already assured a playoff spot, stubbed their toe against San Francisco. They shouldn't again, although a home game against Arizona could be interesting. My prediction: 3-0. Record: 14-2, NFC West champion. No. 1 seed.
New Orleans (10-3)
Remaining games: at St. Louis, at Carolina, vs. Tampa.
Prognosis: The Saints are on the road for two games where they are vulnerable as their 3-3 record indicates, with a bad loss to the Jets. They won't lose twice. My prediction: 2-1. Record: 12-4, NFC South champion. No. 2 seed.
Remaining games: vs. N.Y. Jets, vs. New Orleans, at Atlanta.
Prognosis: They will be favored to win two, and they have New Orleans away from the Superdome with something to prove. Beating the Jets will be key to show there is no hangover from the loss to New Orleans. My prediction: 3-0. Record: 12-4, wild card. No. 5 seed.
San Francisco (9-4)
Remaining games: at Tampa Bay, vs. Atlanta, at Arizona.
Prognosis: The 49ers' biggest worry will be a game at Arizona, which is fighting for a playoff spot. My prediction: 3-0. Record: 12-4, wild card. No. 6 seed.
Remaining games: at Minnesota, vs. Chicago, at Dallas.
Prognosis: The Eagles are on a roll and currently in control of the NFC East. It likely will come down to the finale at Dallas. My prediction: 2-1. Record: 10-6, NFC East champion. No. 3 seed.
Remaining games: vs. Baltimore, vs. Giants, at Minnesota.
Prognosis: This team still hasn't learned how to finish, but it does have a favorable schedule. My prediction: 2-1. Record: 9-7. NFC North champion. No. 4 seed.
Remaining games: at Tennessee, at Seattle, vs. San Francisco.
Prognosis: The Cardinals have the toughest home stretch of any playoff contender. A loss at Seattle seems almost assured, making the finale at San Francisco key. My prediction: 1-2. Record: 9-7. Home for the holidays.
Remaining games: vs. Green Bay, at Washington, vs. Philadelphia.
Prognosis: Who knows with the Cowboys, who looked horrible defensively on Monday night and possibly could face Aaron Rodgers this week if he is cleared medically. My prediction: 2-1. Record: 9-7. Home for the holidays.
Remaining games: at Cleveland, vs. Philadelphia, at Green Bay.
Prognosis: The Bears were impressive on Monday night. A lot may depend on whether the Packers get Rodgers back and are in playoff contention for the finale. My prediction: 2-1. Record: 9-7. Home for the holidays.
Green Bay (6-6-1)
Remaining games: at Dallas, vs. Pittsburgh, at Chicago.
Prognosis: Even if Rodgers return, will he be able to carry this team? Not to three straight wins. My prediction: 1-2. Record: 7-8-1. Home for the holidays.
• Also, for a full list of 2013 NFL Week 15 playoff scenarios, click here.