NFC South: playoff scenarios

Bucs remain in playoff hunt

December, 3, 2012
Sunday’s loss by Tampa Bay didn’t completely take the Buccaneers out of the playoff picture.

In fact, they remain right on the fringe. If the season ended today, the Falcons, 49ers, Packers and Giants would be in as division winners and the Bears (8-4) and Seahawks (7-5) would be the wild-card teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

At 6-6, the Bucs are just a game behind the Seahawks. The Cowboys and Vikings also have 6-6 records. Dallas would hold a tiebreaker on Tampa Bay and Minnesota because it has a better conference record than those two. The Bucs would hold a tiebreaker on the Vikings because they won a head-to-head meeting. Washington, which plays Monday night, also has a chance to join the list of 6-6 teams.
Every year about this time, the NFL starts sending out e-mails that detail scenarios for teams to clinch division titles and/or playoff berths.

The first came last week and it was very short, with only one scenario involving the Houston Texans. But this week’s e-mail just came and it had an NFC portion.

The Atlanta Falcons can clinch both a playoff spot and the NFC South title by the end of this weekend.

The 10-1 Falcons can clinch the NFC South title if they beat the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night and Tampa Bay either ties with or loses to Denver on Sunday. The Falcons also can clinch the division if they tie with New Orleans and Tampa Bay loses.

There also are two scenarios for the Falcons to clinch a playoff spot. The first would require an Atlanta win and a loss or tie by Seattle. The second would be if Atlanta ties with New Orleans, plus Seattle and Minnesota both lose.

Check out the Playoff Machine

November, 26, 2012
December is almost upon us and that means it’s not too early to start talking about the playoffs.

From now through the end of the regular season, we’ll have our Playoff Machine. I strongly encourage you to check it out because you can see how the playoff picture currently looks and you can use a bunch of variables to see how it could end up looking once the regular season is over. You also can get the breakdown on how tiebreakers would play out in different scenarios.

I just went through five scenarios and all of them had the Atlanta Falcons earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but their record varied anywhere from 15-1 to 13-3.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are right on the fringe of the No. 6 seed at the moment. The future scenarios are mixed with the Bucs going anywhere from 9-7 to 7-9. Even the 9-7 scenarios for Tampa Bay are mixed, with one putting them in the playoffs and two others having them come up just short.

The 5-6 New Orleans Saints still are mathematically in the playoff picture. But it’s going to take something close to a miracle for them to get to the postseason. The machine has the Saints finishing anywhere from 9-7 to 5-11.

Falcons' finale gets 'flexed'

December, 24, 2011
The NFL has announced that the Jan. 1 game between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been “flexed’’ to 4:15 p.m. ET.

I’m guessing it’s not because the league wants to drag out Raheem Morris’ tenure for three more hours. I think it has more to do with the fact that the Falcons could be playing a game that decides where they’ll be seeded in the playoffs. The game initially was scheduled to air on FOX at 1 p.m. ET.

The league also said in the release that the Jan. 1 game between Carolina and New Orleans, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Fox, could be flexed. But the league said no decision on that will come until after the Saints play the Falcons on Monday night.

By the way, here’s an updated list of playoff scenarios.

Official clinching scenarios

December, 20, 2011
The National Football League put out its official list of anything that can be clinched (division titles, top seeds or simply playoff berths) in this weekend’s games.

The only thing the New Orleans Saints can clinch is the NFC South title in Week 16. It’s a pretty simple formula. The Saints are division champions if they win or tie against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

If the Falcons win, they’ll remain in contention for the division title, but they’ll need some help in Week 17. For now, all the Falcons can do is clinch a spot in the playoffs, which would give them three postseason berths in the past four years.

Atlanta can get in several different ways. The most basic is for them to win or tie against New Orleans. The Falcons actually could be in the playoffs even before the Monday night game because there are two other clinching scenarios that would get them into the postseason.

One would be a Dallas loss or tie, plus a Chicago loss or tie, plus an Arizona loss or tie. The other scenario would require a loss or tie by the New York Giants, plus a loss or tie by Chicago and a loss or tie by Arizona.

Saints will be big Steelers' fans

December, 19, 2011
It’s a pretty safe assumption the New Orleans Saints will be watching Monday Night Football in a few hours.

That’s because they’ve got a very big interest in the result of the game between San Francisco and Pittsburgh and it’s not a stretch to imagine some of the Saints waving Terrible Towels.

At the moment, the Saints are 11-3 and the 49ers are 10-3 and battling for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff picture. The top two seeds get first-round byes and home games in the second round of the playoffs.

The Saints can clinch the No. 2 seed if they win Dec. 26 against Atlanta and the 49ers lose to the Steelers and then lose again Sunday to Seattle.

Also, the Saints can clinch the NFC South title by winning either the game with Atlanta or the season finale with Carolina. The Saints can also clinch the division if Atlanta loses either of its final two games.

The Falcons can only win the NFC South if they defeat New Orleans and Tampa Bay in the season finale and the Saints also lose their season finale to Carolina.

Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for providing all the clinching scenarios.

Looking at the playoff picture

December, 19, 2011
If the playoffs started right now, the NFC South would have two representatives.

The Atlanta Falcons would be the No. 5 seed. The Falcons and Lions both are 9-5, but Detroit would be the No. 6 seed because the Falcons won a head-to-head meeting.

The 11-3 New Orleans Saints also would be in, but we can’t really say where they’d be seeded just yet. It could be No. 2 or No. 3. But the San Francisco 49ers are 10-3 and don’t play until Monday night.

The Saints can clinch the NFC South title if they beat the Falcons next week. At the moment, the Falcons would play No. 4 Dallas in the first round.

Here’s a look at how the playoff situations stand for both conferences right now.

And here’s our playoff Machine, where you can run all sorts of possible scenarios.

How Saints can clinch NFC South

December, 6, 2011
The NFC South can be won this Sunday.

There’s a scenario in which the New Orleans Saints can clinch the division title this Sunday. It’s pretty simple. If the Saints win in Tennessee and the Falcons lose at Carolina, New Orleans wins the NFC South title.

Even if Atlanta wins, there still are some scenarios in which the Saints can at least clinch a wild-card spot this Sunday. If they win and either Detroit or Chicago loses, the Saints are in the playoffs.

By the way, the Falcons (7-5) remain very much in the playoff picture. But there is no scenario in which the Falcons can clinch a playoff berth this weekend.

Looking at the playoff picture

November, 27, 2011
If the season ended today, the NFC South would have two teams in the playoffs.

ESPN Stats & Information just sent out a package that included the playoff picture as it now stands for both the NFC and AFC. We’ll stick with the NFC here because that’s what we do.

At the moment, the Saints, who host the Giants on Monday night, would be the No. 3 seed and NFC South champions. The Packers would be the No. 1 seed and the 49ers would be No. 2. Dallas would be the fourth seed as the NFC East champion. The Bears and Falcons would be the wild-card teams. Both are 7-4, but Chicago would be the No. 5 seed because the Bears defeated the Falcons in the season opener.

As long as we’re talking about the future, let’s talk draft order. ESPN Stats & Information sent out the order for the top 10 based on current records. At the moment, the Panthers would hold the No. 5 overall pick (anybody think general manager Marty Hurney already is looking hard at defensive players?). They’re the only NFC South team that currently would be in the top 10. But it sure is looking like the Buccaneers (4-7) could be headed for a top-10 pick.

Official NFC South playoff scenarios

December, 28, 2010
We’ve got all the playoff scenarios over on our NFL Nation Blog, but I wanted to break out the NFC South here.

Let’s run through the entire list of official clinching scenarios the NFL sent out this afternoon.

Let’s start with the Falcons, who have more ways and more things to possibly clinch than the Saints and Buccaneers.

Atlanta claims the NFC South title if it wins or ties its final game with Carolina. The Falcons also would clinch the division if New Orleans loses to or ties Tampa Bay. A win or a tie also would give the Falcons the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. But they also could lose and get in with either of the following scenarios:
  • A New Orleans loss or tie, plus a Chicago loss or tie, plus Philadelphia loses or ties one of its two remaining games.
  • A New Orleans loss or tie, plus a Chicago win, plus two wins by Philadelphia (in this scenario, Atlanta would win a strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Philadelphia). The Falcons also could clinch a first-round bye even if they lose to the Panthers if New Orleans loses or ties and Chicago loses or ties or New Orleans loses or ties and Philadelphia loses or ties one of its games.

The scenarios are a lot less complicated for the Saints. If they win and Atlanta loses, the Saints claim the NFC South title and the No. 1 seed. If they don’t win the NFC South, the Saints already are in with a wild-card berth.

At 9-6, the Bucs are trying for a wild-card spot, but they’re going to need some help. There are two scenarios that will get Tampa Bay into the playoffs.
  • A Tampa Bay win, plus a loss or tie by the Giants and a loss or tie by the Packers.
  • A Tampa Bay tie, plus a loss by the Giants and a loss by the Packers.

Looking at playoff scenarios

December, 28, 2010
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.

Looking at NFC South playoff picture

December, 26, 2010
ATLANTA -- I just arrived in the city that has a very good chance to be the temporary home of headquarters for the NFC South Blog throughout the postseason.

We already know the Falcons have secured a playoff spot and can win the division and the NFC’s top seed by winning Monday night’s game and we’ve previously covered some postseason scenarios for the Saints.

We’ve got a little update on playoff-clinching scenarios for the Saints, who we already told you still can win the division and the No. 1 seed by winning their final two games and Atlanta losing its final two.

But there are scenarios now on the horizon in which the Saints simply can clinch a playoff spot. They can do it by winning against Atlanta on Monday night or by defeating Tampa Bay in the regular-season finale. Even if the Saints lose both games, they still can clinch a playoff spot next week if the Bears beat the Packers and the Redskins beat the Giants.

The Buccaneers also remain in the playoff hunt, but they face a tougher road than Atlanta and New Orleans. Tampa Bay needs to win its final game at New Orleans and two of the following three to happen: the Saints lose to Atlanta on Monday, the Packers lose to Chicago next week or the Giants lose to the Redskins next week.

More on NFC South playoff picture

December, 21, 2010
Soon after the NFL sent out its updated playoff scenarios earlier this afternoon, ESPN Stats & Information sent out a supplemental package. This goes a little beyond the NFL’s package, which was simply limited to clinching scenarios that can happen this week.

I’ve kept this in my back pocket for a few hours because I wanted to give Trent Dilfer, my new all-time favorite player and co-worker, a nice long run in the top spot in the NFC South Blog. But now that Trent’s done some serious traffic directing, we’ll go ahead and move him into the No. 2 slot on the blog.

Again, our earlier post showed what Atlanta can do this weekend to clinch the NFC South title and home-field advantage and what the Saints can do Monday night to clinch a playoff spot.

But, now, let’s look at the supplemental stuff that looks beyond this week. Although they would be the No. 5 seed in the current playoff picture, there still is a scenario where the Saints can win the NFC South and earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC, which means home-field advantage through the playoffs.

For that to happen, the Saints would have to beat the Falcons on Monday night and Tampa Bay in the season finale. The Saints also would need the Falcons to lose to Carolina in Week 17.

If that happens, the Saints and Falcons would be tied at 12-4. In that situation, the Saints would win the tiebreaker because they have a better record within the division. Even if Philadelphia and Chicago also end up at 12-4, the Saints would get the No. 1 seed because they would hold tiebreakers on both the Bears and Eagles.

Updating NFC South playoff picture

December, 21, 2010
The NFL just sent out the updated and official list of postseason-clinching scenarios for this weekend’s games and we’ve got several things to look at from an NFC South perspective.

Let’s start with the Atlanta Falcons, who already have clinched a playoff berth. But there is one very clear scenario in which the Falcons can clinch the NFC South title and home-field advantage.

They can do it by winning against or tieing the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.

Now, let’s move over to the Saints. There are a couple of ways they can clinch a playoff berth this weekend and it could already be taken care of before the Monday night game. That would happen if Tampa Bay loses to or ties with Seattle on Sunday afternoon.

The other way the Saints can clinch a playoff berth is to win or tie against the Falcons. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) still have a mathematical shot at a playoff berth. But there are no scenarios in which the Bucs can clinch anything (other than a winning season) this weekend.

How Falcons, Saints can win NFC South

December, 19, 2010
BALTIMORE -- I’ll give you the most up-to-date NFC playoff standings as soon as Sunday night’s game between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers ends because the outcome is going to impact some things.

But, what I can tell you at the moment are scenarios of how the NFC South can be won. It’s down to a two-team race right and, at 12-2, the Atlanta Falcons have a pretty big lead on the Saints for the division title.

The following information is courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. The Falcons can clinch the title with a win in either of their final two games (excluding scenarios involving tie games). They also can clinch if New Orleans loses either of its final two games. That’s where we should point out the Falcons host the Saints in the Dec. 27 "Monday Night Football" game.

So, basically, the Falcons control whether they can win the division title. But the Saints still have a chance to repeat as division champions.

For that to happen the Saints would have to win their final two games (at Atlanta and home against Tampa Bay) and hope the Falcons lose their final two games. Besides hosting the Saints, the Falcons close out the season with a home game against Carolina.

If Atlanta were to lose its last two games and New Orleans wins its last two, the Saints would win the division title because they would have the better division record.