The NFC playoff picture will be crystal clear by late Sunday night, but for now, all football fans can do is speculate on how the postseason picture will shape up.
The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys will decide the NFC East in the season's final game on Sunday night in Landover, but before then, 14 other NFC squads will square off in seven conference clashes that are sure to bring us one giant step closer to a complete postseason picture in the NFC.
With only eight NFC matchups left to play this season, here we'll project the final 2012 NFC standings and playoff seeds.
No. 1. Atlanta Falcons (14-2)
NFC South champion Atlanta is locked into the NFC's No. 1 seed regardless of what happens Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At 13-2, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will once again go through the Georgia Dome, as it did two seasons ago in 2010.
No. 2. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
NFC North champion Green Bay can wrap up the conference's No. 2 seed and the final first-round bye with a win over rival Minnesota in Week 17. A win over the Vikings means the Pack would earn a first-round bye for the second straight season.
If the Packers lose, they will likely surrender the No. 2 seed to the San Francisco 49ers (who can clinch it with a win and a Packers' loss or tie) and wind up hosting a playoff game on Wild Card Weekend as the likely No. 3 seed in the NFC.
No. 3. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
San Francisco will play host to the lowly Arizona Cardinals in Week 17, and with a win can secure the NFC West division and a home playoff game. The 49ers will need help from the Packers in order to earn a first-round bye, however. Assuming both San Francisco and Green Bay win on Sunday, the Niners will be the No. 3 seed and host the final wild-card team next weekend.
No. 4. Washington Redskins (10-6)
Washington will host Dallas on Sunday night in what is essentially a playoff game. The winner will be crowned NFC East champion and secure a home playoff game next weekend.
Considering the Redskins are in the midst of a six-game winning streak, are playing at home and have already beaten the Cowboys once this season, I like them to finish the job and wrap up the NFC's No. 4 seed on Sunday night.
No. 5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Seattle has already secured a playoff berth but needs a win and a San Francisco loss in order to win the NFC West division and lock up a home playoff game this January. The most likely scenario is that the Seahawks beat the Rams this weekend and clinch the first wild-card spot, earning them a road playoff game against the No. 4 seed on Wild Card Weekend.
No. 6. Chicago Bears (10-6)
Chicago is currently on the outside looking in, but if the Vikings slip up against a very talented Packers team on Sunday, the Bears will just need to beat the Detroit Lions to guarantee a wild-card berth as the NFC's final playoff team.
Yes, the Bears need help, but it's not unlikely that they will get it.
Projected Final NFC Standings
|2||Green Bay Packers||12-4|
|3||San Francisco 49ers||11-4-1|
|7||New York Giants||9-7|
|9||New Orleans Saints||8-8|
|11||St. Louis Rams||7-8-1|
|12||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||6-10|
*division winners italicized
Here's a look at the current NFC playoff picture coming into Week 17.
NFC Playoff Picture
|No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (13-2) Clinched NFC South and Home-Field Advantage|
|No. 2 Seed Green Bay Packers (11-4) Clinched NFC North|
|No. 3 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (9-6) Lead NFC East|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (9-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Chicago Bears (9-6)|
|Dallas Cowboys (8-7)|
|New York Giants (8-7)|
Remaining NFC Schedule
Atlanta: vs. Tampa Bay
Green Bay: at Minnesota
Washington: vs. Dallas
Seattle: vs. St. Louis
Minnesota: vs. Green Bay
Chicago: vs. Detroit
Dallas: at Washington
New York: vs. Philadelphia
For the rest of the NFL playoff picture, check the tables below.
AFC Playoff Picture
|No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-3) Clinched AFC South|
|No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (12-3) Clinched AFC West|
|No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (11-4) Clinched AFC East|
| No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (10-5) Clinched AFC North|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (9-6); Clinched Playoff Berth|
Remaining AFC Schedule
Houston: at Indianapolis
Denver: vs. Kansas City
New England: vs. Miami
Baltimore: at Cincinnati
Indianapolis: vs. Houston
Cincinnati: vs. Baltimore
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