NFC North: playoff scenarios

Thanks to everyone who responded to Monday morning's post about playoff destiny. As I noted in the early morning hours, my pea brain wasn't up to figuring out the specifics other than the obvious: The Chicago Bears will clinch the NFC North title if they win their remaining five games.

But as it turns out, the same is true for the Green Bay Packers -- even if the Bears win their next four games and enter the Week 17 showdown between the teams one game ahead. Here's how the Packers would win the NFC North if that scenario occurs and both teams finish the season 12-4:
  • The first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchups. The teams would have split the season series, so we move to division record.
  • Each team would have a 5-1 division record, so we move to common games.
  • Each team would be 10-2 in the 12 games in which they shared common opponents, so we move to conference record.
  • The Packers would win the division based on a one-game advantage in their conference record. They would be 9-3, whereas the Bears would be 8-4. The difference would be the Bears' Week 4 loss to the New York Giants. If they win their remaining games, the Packers will have to defeat the Giants in Week 16.

With so much time left in the season, it's a little early to start talking about either team winning out. But if you're into destiny, you can rest assured that both the Bears and Packers have their own firmly in grasp.
One more housekeeping item on a busy Monday here in the NFC North: The NFL has announced the schedule of the postseason’s divisional round, to be played the weekend of January 16-17. Here’s how it impacts the NFC North:

  • Minnesota will host its game on Sunday (January 17) with a 1 p.m. ET kickoff. The game will be televised on FOX.
  • If Green Bay wins Sunday at Arizona, it will play either the Vikings or New Orleans. If it’s the Saints, that game will on Saturday (January 16) with a 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff. It will also be televised by FOX.

Put this one in your back pocket for now. I’ll remind you a couple dozen times between now and then.

Playoff scenarios one more time

January, 3, 2010
1/03/10
10:44
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Let’s resurrect our handy playoff scenario chart as we await Sunday’s game. Below, you’ll see every combination of wins and losses in the key NFC games today.

Here’s the short version of what you need to know for Minnesota and Green Bay:

  • The Vikings need to beat the New York Giants, and for Philadelphia to defeat Dallas, in order to secure the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Otherwise, the Vikings will host a wild-card game next weekend.
  • The Packers can secure the No. 5 seed with a victory at Arizona. The Cardinals may or may not be able to improve their seeding based on the results of games in Minnesota and Dallas.

Every NFC playoff scenario for Week 17

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
12:15
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Thanks to some major sleuthing from NFC West colleague Mike Sando, we have a certified chart that spells out every NFC playoff scenario entering Week 17.

You can see what it will take for Minnesota to earn the No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the playoffs. You’ll also see how Green Bay will end up with either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

One note before I let you pore over this: Only one of the scenarios would allow for a Minnesota-Green Bay matchup on wild-card weekend. In order for that to happen, the Vikings, Packers and Cowboys would all have to lose next Sunday. That would leave the Vikings with the No. 4 seed and the Packers at No. 5.

The way I see it, the NFC playoff picture could very well be in flux until the final moment of Week 17. That means Minnesota could still clinch the No. 1 seed or tumble as far as No. 4. For now, it means Green Bay has the No. 5 seed but suggests a scenario in which Arizona will have incentive to play its starters for the Packers’ regular season finale.

First, let’s look at the current NFC standings:

1. New Orleans (13-2)
2. Minnesota (11-3)
3. Philadelphia (11-4)
4. Arizona (10-5)
5. Green Bay (10-5)
6. Dallas (10-5)

The Vikings would be the No. 1 seed if three things happen:
  • They win Monday night at Chicago
  • They win next Sunday at home against the New York Giants
  • New Orleans loses next Sunday at Carolina

The Vikings must be equally wary of falling from their current No. 2 perch. A 1-1 finish could drop them to the No. 3 seed, based on losing tiebreakers with Philadelphia, and an 0-2 finish could allow Arizona to leapfrog them as well.

So based on what happens with the Vikings, the Cardinals could be in position to move up at least one position in the seedings. If that’s the case, you can expect them to play their starters next week against the Packers.

And the Packers might need a victory against the Cardinals to ensure a No. 5 seed. They could drop to the No. 6 if they lose to the Cardinals and Dallas defeats Philadelphia in Week 17.

As always, we’ll keep you updated.

How Minnesota could fall from No. 2 seed

December, 23, 2009
12/23/09
11:38
AM ET
Upon further review, Brian of Madison is absolutely right.

During Tuesday’s SportsNation chat, we touched briefly on the possibility that Minnesota could fall from its current perch as the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed. The bottom line: It will happen if the Vikings finish the season with the same record as Philadelphia, which is one game back but has two key tiebreaker advantages.

In order for Minnesota to be overtaken, it would need to lose one or both of its final games while the Eagles finish 2-0 or 1-1. Here are the two ways that could happen:

1. Both teams finish 12-4

Philadelphia wins its final two games, at home against Denver and then at Dallas.

Minnesota loses one of its final two games, at Chicago or at home against the New York Giants.

Eagles win the tiebreaker because of a better conference record. Philadelphia would have the No. 2 seed. Minnesota would play on wild-card weekend.

2. Both teams finish 11-5

Philadelphia beats Denver and loses to Dallas while Vikings lose both games. Teams finish with same conference record (9-3), but Eagles win the next tiebreaker: Winning percentage against common opponents. Eagles are 5-0 against Carolina, the Giants (twice), Chicago and San Francisco. The Vikings are 2-1 so far against those teams.

Or, Philadelphia loses to Denver and beats Dallas while the Vikings lose both games. Eagles win based on better conference record.

Green Bay's Week 16 playoff scenarios

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
9:45
AM ET
The New York Giants closed out Week 15 with a 45-12 victory Monday night at Washington, allowing us to clarify the scenarios by which Green Bay can clinch an NFC wild-card spot this weekend. Here are the three possibilities:

1. Defeating Seattle on Sunday, while the Giants lose (or tie) to Carolina, OR;
2. Defeating Seattle on Sunday, while Dallas loses at Washington, OR;
3. Tying Seattle on Sunday, while the Giants lose to Carolina.

Updating Green Bay's playoff scenarios

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
1:14
PM ET
I want to update you on Green Bay’s latest playoff scenario, but be forewarned that it will be a bit complicated until we know who wins Monday night’s game between Washington and the New York Giants. So, for now, let’s look at both possibilities:

1. If the Giants beat Washington, the Packers can clinch a playoff spot by:
A.) Defeating Seattle next Sunday, while the Giants lose (or tie) to Carolina, OR;
B.) Defeating Seattle next Sunday, while Dallas loses at Washington, OR;
C.) Tying Seattle next Sunday, while the Giants lose to Carolina.

2. If the Redskins beat the Giants, the Packers can clinch a playoff spot by:
A.) Defeating or tying Seattle, OR;
B.) The Giants losing to Carolina.

We’ll revisit and clarify after Monday night’s game.

Minnesota's chances for the No. 2 seed

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
10:45
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Punch-drunk with playoff fever, many of you have asked what it would take for Minnesota to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff picture and a first-round bye.

There have been plenty of scenarios presented in various comment sections of this blog, so let's bring them all together and provide a definitive look. Every scenario requires the Vikings to win their final two games and is aided by the current top seeds, Carolina and the New York Giants, facing off Sunday night at Giants Stadium.

Let's look at the two primary possibilities:

1. Vikings win out. Carolina loses out. Both teams finish 11-5. New York Giants take No. 1 seed. Vikings take No. 2 seed based on head-to-head tiebreaker with the Panthers. (Minnesota 20, Carolina 10 on Sept. 21.)

2. Vikings win out. Carolina wins at least one game. Giants lose out. Vikings and Giants finish 11-5. Carolina takes No. 1 seed. Vikings take No. 2 seed based on head-to-head tiebreaker with Giants. (In order to win out, the Vikings will have to defeat the Giants on Dec. 28.)

There is one complication, however. Carolina hasn't yet secured the NFC South title. Tampa Bay (9-5) or Atlanta (9-5) could win out and overtake the Panthers for the division title.

If the Buccaneers win the division, they would take the No. 2 seed because of a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings. (Tampa Bay 19, Minnesota 13 on Nov. 16.) The Vikings and Falcons square off this weekend, so if Atlanta wins the division, that means the Vikings would have lost at least one of their final two games and would not be a factor for the No. 2 seed.

Hope that makes sense. There will be a quiz on Friday. 

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