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Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Looking at playoff scenarios

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

A tip of the cap to Tampa Bay media relations assistant Dan Berglund for shooting an e-mail last night to point out that the NFC South is the only division with three winning teams.

I sort of expected to wake up this morning and have another e-mail from Dan with charts and graphics and every playoff scenario for the NFC South teams. That’s how great p.r. departments have won the Rozelle Award in the past, but I’m not throwing out hints or anything, Dan. But the day is still young.

But ESPN Stats & Information did send along a package with all sorts of stuff on the playoff picture.

We already know that the Falcons and Saints are in the playoffs, but the 9-6 Bucs still have a chance. They can earn a playoffs spot Sunday with a win over New Orleans and losses by the Giants and Packers.

We also know that the Falcons can clinch the NFC South title and the No. 1 seed simply by winning Sunday’s game with Carolina. But the Falcons also could clinch with losses by the Eagles, Bears and Saints. If Atlanta ends up in a two-team tie with the Saints, Eagles or Bears, they lose the No. 1 seed on tiebreakers.

The Falcons would get the No. 1 seed in a three-way tie with the Eagles and Bears at 12-4 (this would require a Saints loss to the Buccaneers), but that would come down to strength of victory among the three teams. If this were to happen, the Falcons and Eagles would both be guaranteed a higher strength of victory than the Bears, but Atlanta and Philadelphia could both still win that tiebreaker depending on other Week 17 results involving the teams they defeated earlier in the season.

The Saints can win the division title with a victory against the Bucs and an Atlanta loss to Carolina. That would put the Saints and Falcons each at 12-4, but the Saints would win the tiebreaker on better division record and win the NFC South. Even if the Bears and/or Eagles finish at 12-4, the Saints would win a tiebreaker against either or both because they would have a superior conference record. So if the Saints win the NFC South, they also get the No. 1 overall seed.

Those are the basic scenarios we have at the moment. As soon as the NFL sends out its official list of scenarios, I’ll pass that along.