NFC Playoff Picture 2013: Updated Standings and Scenarios Heading into Week 17

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IDecember 23, 2013

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) reacts in the fourth quarter. The Panthers defeated the Saint 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a wild and crazy Week 16, the NFC's playoff picture came into a bit more focus with just one game remaining before the postseason tournament begins.

The Seattle Seahawks were the only NFC team that had clinched a playoff berth heading into the action on Dec. 22, but the Carolina Panthers clinched a playoff spot after beating the New Orleans Saints 17-13 at home.

Heading into Week 17, there is still plenty of maneuvering left to be done, as pointed out by Ian Rapoport of

Here's a look at the NFC playoff picture, followed by a closer examination of what's at stake in Week 17:

1Seattle Seahawks12-3
2Carolina Panthers11-4
3Philadelphia Eagles8-6
4Chicago Bears8-6
5San Francisco 49ers10-4
6New Orleans Saints10-5
7Arizona Cardinals10-5
8Dallas Cowboys8-7
9Green Bay Packers7-7-1

NFC West

TAMPA, FL -  DECEMBER 15:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers leaves the field after play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 15, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The 49ers won 33 - 14.  (Photo by Al Messersch
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

With Arizona's impressive 17-10 win in Seattle, the San Francisco 49ers have a shot to claim the division.

The 49ers will be in the desert for a matchup with the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17, and it's possible both teams will be playing for their playoff lives. If the 49ers win and the Seahawks lose to the St. Louis Rams, then San Francisco will finish atop the division (provided the team wins on Monday Night Football against Atlanta).

Conversely, Seattle needs to simply win at home against the Rams to clinch not only the NFC West but also a first-round bye plus home-field advantage, as pointed out by the Seahawks on Twitter:

NFC South

The Carolina Panthers took a huge step toward claiming the NFC South crown by beating the New Orleans Saints in Week 16, 17-13.

Cam Newton hit Domenik Hixon on a 14-yard touchdown strike with 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to improve to 11-4 on the season, going up by one game over the Saints with one game left to play. 

After the game, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer pointed out the Panthers can clinch the division with a win over Atlanta in Week 17 and/or a loss by New Orleans to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:'s Doug Farrar believes the Panthers are a team nobody wants to face this postseason:

If everything goes their way from here on out, they’ll have the NFC’s second seed, they’ll get a first-round bye, and even if they have to head to Seattle at some point in the postseason, they can be satisfied in that they’ve established themselves as the team no NFC opponent wants to face.

NFC North

The Chicago Bears led the NFC North by one-half game heading into Week 16, but they are currently getting hammered 21-0 by the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football

Should the Eagles hang on to win, then the Bears will fall to 8-7 on the season. The loss would mean Chicago would be playing for the NFC North title in Week 17 when they host the Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Soldier Field. 

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 04:  Roberto Garza #63 of the Chicago Bears prepares to snaps the ball against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 4, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Packers 27-20.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Ge
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions had a shot at sneaking into the title with two wins and some help from the Packers and Bears.

However, a devastating 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants in Week 16 was the final straw in Detroit's season, as pointed out by ESPN, which also lamented the fact that Calvin Johnson won't be playing in January:

NFC East

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 20:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys talks with Matt Barkley #2 of the Philadelphia Eagles after the game on October 20, 2013 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania.The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelph
Elsa/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys barely hung on to beat Washington in Week 16, 24-23, thanks to a brilliant fourth-quarter performance by Tony Romo. With the win, Dallas improved to 8-7 on the season.

Should Philadelphia continue dominating the Bears on Sunday night, then the Eagles will improve to 9-6 on the season. That said, it won't matter if the team wins or loses—the division will be settled in Week 17 when the Eagles head to Dallas. 

The reason for this is the Cowboys' perfect 5-0 record within the division. Should the Cowboys win at home in Week 17, then the Eagles will watch the postseason from home.

As pointed out by ESPN's Chris McKendry, history suggests the Eagles will have a good shot to advance:

NFC Wild-Card 

Dec 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) hugs Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) following a 17-10 Arizona victory at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There are currently five teams that could make it into the playoffs as the NFC's wild-card teams. 

If Seattle clinches the NFC West with a win over St. Louis, then it's possible for the Cardinals and 49ers to get in as wild-card teams. All it would take is this: The 49ers beat Atlanta on Monday Night Football to close out Week 16, then Arizona beats San Francisco in Week 17, while the Saints lose to Tampa Bay. 

Seattle would lose the division to San Francisco if the Rams beat the Seahawks and the 49ers win in Arizona. That would mean Seattle (12-4 with a loss) would claim the No. 5 seed, with the final spot coming down to the Cardinals, Saints and Panthers—depending on how things shake out for all three teams.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 


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