The NFC playoff picture had been relatively straightforward for a few weeks there, but as is so often the case, it only took one Sunday to blow everything straight to hell.
The Falcons lost to the Vikings, the Seahawks beat the Eagles, the Panthers lost their second game to the Saints of the 2017 season, and the Cowboys pulled off the upset to remain in the hunt. That means nothing’s truly simple for any of the teams left in the playoff picture, but one thing is for certain: If Atlanta wins out, they’re in.
Let’s take a closer look at the playoff picture as it stands today.
NFC Playoff Picture
- Minnesota Vikings 10-2
- Philadelphia Eagles 10-2
- Los Angeles Rams 9-3
- New Orleans Saints 9-3
- Seattle Seahawks 8-4
- Carolina Panthers 8-4
Atlanta Falcons 7-5
Detroit Lions 6-6
Dallas Cowboys 6-6
The reality here is pretty simple: Minnesota controls their destiny for the top spot. The Saints will have the division unless Atlanta wins out. The Seahawks and Panthers need to play well the rest of the way—and Carolina needs to beat Atlanta one final time—to stay in. All of this is conditional on the Falcons not winning their remaining four games, because of their huge array of tiebreakers. If Atlanta simply wins out, they’re at least the sixth seed.
I can’t stress enough how straightforward this all is, and how much pressure is on the Falcons to perform well over the last four weeks. We can should have all we like with the early season fiascoes, and we’ll have plenty of time to do so in the offseason, but they’re in a better position than we might have expected them to be a month ago. They just need to take advantage of it.
If Atlanta can’t get rolling, my guess is that the top six teams you see there now will be there in some fashion. It would take an epic collapse from one of those teams and a brilliant final four games from Detroit, Green Bay, or Dallas to knock one of them out.