FanPost

NFC Contenders 12/6/11

Greetings fellow Falcoholics. I come to you this week with good and bad news. The bad news, as most of you are aware, is that the Falcons lost this past weekend to the Texans, who were led by their third string, rookie quarterback. This result makes it incredibly unlikely that the Falcons will be able to win the division, claim a top four seed, and host a playoff game. Instead, any trip to the playoffs would result in the Falcons having to play outside of our beloved dome. If the playoffs started today, the Falcons would barely creep into the playoffs as the #6 seed. The opponent? Why, the Saints, of course. So, what is the good news? Every single playoff contender lost this past weekend. The Giants, Cowboys, Lions, Bears and Falcons all lost. This gives us the following standings for the playoffs:


Record
Division Leaders Wins Losses
Green Bay Packers 12 0
San Francisco 49ers 10 2
New Orleans Saints 9 3
Dallas Cowboys 7 5
Wildcards
Chicago Bears 7 5
Atlanta Falcons 7 5
In the Hunt
Detroit Lions 7 5
New York Giants 6 6

As you can see, the Packers are very likely to end up with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. San Francisco, who was originally thought to be a shoe-in for the other bye, now has great competition from the Saints. The Giants and Cowboys are still fighting for their division, and only one of them will make the playoffs. Why do I say that? Follow me after the jump and catch the remaining schedules and their schedule strengths.

Team Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Atlanta Falcons at Car vs. Jax at NO vs TB
Record 4 8 3 9 9 3 4 8
Result
New York Giants at Dal vs. Wash at NYJ vs. Dal
Record 7 5 4 8 7 5 7 5
Result
Dallas Cowboys vs. NYG at TB vs. Phi at NYG
Record 6 6 4 8 4 8 6 6
Result
Detroit Lions vs Minn at Oak vs SD at GB
Record 2 10 7 5 5 7 12 0
Result
Chicago Bears at Den vs Sea at GB at Minn
Record 7 5 5 7 12 0 2 10
Result
New Orleans Saints at Tenn. at Minn. vs. Atl vs. Car
Record 7 5 2 10 7 5 4 8
Result
San Francisco 49ers at Ari. vs. Pitt. at Sea. at Stl.
5 7 9 3 5 7 2 10

I decided to add in the 49ers and their schedule as they are now in the thick of a battle for the #2 seed. With games remaining against Pittsburgh and in Seattle, the #2 seed is within reach for the Saints. Another interesting matchup is the scheduling that allows the Giants and Cowboys to play each other twice in the last four weeks of the season. One more loss basically eliminates the Giants and their playoff hopes. The Jets are another strong team remaining on their schedule, and while Washington is far from good, they aren't a pushover either. Let's look at the breakdown of the remaining strength of schedules.

Wins Losses Percentage Points Margin
Atlanta Falcons Opponents Records 20 28 0.417 25
Home SOS 7 17 0.292
Away SOS 13 11 0.542
New York Giants Opponents Records 25 23 0.521 -21
Home SOS 11 13 0.458
Away SOS 14 10 0.583
Dallas Cowboys Opponents Records 20 28 0.417 39
Home SOS 10 14 0.417
Away SOS 10 14 0.417
Detroit Lions Opponents Records 26 22 0.542 56
Home SOS 7 17 0.292
Away SOS 19 5 0.792
Chicago Bears Opponents Records 26 22 0.542 49
Home SOS 5 7 0.417
Away SOS 21 15 0.583
New Orleans Saints Opponents Records 20 28 0.417 117
Home SOS 11 13 0.458
Away SOS 9 15 0.375
San Francisco 49ers Opponents Records 21 27 0.438 127
Home SOS 9 3 0.750
Away SOS 12 24 0.333

We have much smaller sample size now, so a lot of the schedule strengths are equal. For example, the Falcons, Cowboys, and Saints are all tied for the easiest remaining schedule. For home schedule, the Falcons and Lions are in another tie. The 49ers have the easiest remaining road schedule of the NFC contenders. On the flip side, Chicago and Detroit are tied for the most difficult remaining schedule. The 49ers have by far the most difficult remaining home schedule, while the Lions have far and away the most difficult road schedule. What does this tell me? My gut says that between the Bears and Lions will come one playoff spot and between the Giants and Cowboys will come one playoff spot. The Saints will get a first round bye if they beat Atlanta. They are still in the running even if they lose that game as I can see San Fran losing two of their remaining games. Based on the remaining schedule, I would say the Falcons are still looking pretty at a playoff spot. However, after giving away a game to the Houston Texans and shooting ourselves in the foot more times than I care to remember, nothing is certain at this point. We have a big game against the suddenly dangerous Panthers. If we want to stay at the head of the pack for a playoff spot, we have to win this weekend. Let me know what you guys think in the comments.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>

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