As crazy as Week 16 ended up being, it left football fans with a better understanding of who would make the playoffs. But what the penultimate weekend of the NFL season didn't answer is where many of the NFC teams getting in would ultimately be seeded.
Here's what we know: The Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers are all in the playoffs. Here's what we don't know: everything else.
With two teams vying for every division and the final wild-card spot in the NFC, here is a breakdown of the possible seedings for every team in the conference with just one week remaining.
|NFL Playoff Seeding Scenarios|
|Current Seed||Team||Opponent||Best Case||Worst Case||Prediction|
|1||Seattle Seahawks||St. Louis Rams||No. 1||No. 5||No. 1|
|2||Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||No. 1||No. 6||No. 2|
|3||Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys||No. 3||Out||No. 3|
|4||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||No. 3||Out||Out|
|5||San Francisco 49ers||Arizona Cardinals||No. 1||No. 6||No. 5|
|6||New Orleans Saints||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||No. 2||Out||No. 6|
|7||Arizona Cardinals||San Francisco 49ers||No. 6||Out||Out|
|8||Dallas Cowboys||Philadelphia Eagles||No. 3||Out||Out|
|9||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||No. 4||Out||No. 4|
The Seahawks are in. But after being arguably the best team in the NFL all season, Seattle dropped a Week 16 game at home to the Arizona Cardinals. Now not only are the Seahawks in danger of not winning the division, but they could fall all the way to the No. 5 seed with a loss to the St. Louis Rams at home.
The most likely scenario is that Seattle will not drop a second straight home game to the Rams and will clinch both the NFC West and the No. 1 seed in the conference. But against a Rams team that has confidence after winning four out of the last six, anything is possible.
Carolina has experienced one of the biggest turnarounds this year and now sits in the No. 2 seed. The Panthers have a chance to finish in three different positions with one game remaining on the road against the Atlanta Falcons.
After defeating the New Orleans Saints in Week 16, the Panthers sit at 11-4. With a win and a Seahawks win, they would stay in the No. 2 seed. But with a win, a loss by Seattle and a win by the 49ers, the Panthers would take over the No. 1 seed and clinch home-field advantage—where they are 7-1 this season.
If the Panthers drop their final game, the seeding scenario could change drastically. If the Saints are able to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they still have a shot to win the NFC South and could finish as the No. 2 seed with a loss by Carolina.
After a long road to get back in contention for the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles have a chance to overtake the Dallas Cowboys and win the division in the final game—something both the New York Giants and Washington Redskins have done in the prior two seasons.
Though it isn't official yet, there is a possibility that the Eagles could do so against a Cowboys team devoid of their franchise quarterback, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN:
Chris Mortenson of ESPN also reported the extent of the injury for Romo:
If the Eagles win on Sunday Night Football, they clinch the NFC East division and the No. 3 seed. A loss would leave Philly out of the playoffs in its first year under Chip Kelly.
The Chicago Bears have been one of the most erratic teams all season, but with just one game left on the schedule against the rival Green Bay Packers, they still have a shot to clinch the NFC North, the No. 3 or 4 seed and host a playoff game.
For Chicago, it's a simple equation: win and in. But where the Bears finish in the seeding department is also dependent on the Cowboys-Eagles game. If the Eagles win, the Bears would finish with the No. 4 seed, with one fewer win than Philadelphia.
If Dallas and Chicago win, the Bears would overtake the Cowboys with identical records and a head-to-head win for the No. 3 seed.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are in the playoffs, but the Monday Night Football game against the Falcons might not be the final contest played at Candlestick Park, as they could still earn a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye before a home playoff game.
San Francisco sealed up a playoff berth in dramatic fashion, and head coach Jim Harbaugh commented on the play, per SportsCenter on Twitter:
"It's the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten. Second only to being born. That was awesome." - Jim Harbaugh on NaVorro Bowman Pick-6— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 24, 2013
What San Francisco needs is a win over Arizona and a Seattle loss against St. Louis. If that's how the cards are dealt in Week 17, the 49ers would clinch the NFC West and the No. 2 seed. If not, they end up in the Wild Card Round as the No. 5 seed.
New Orleans Saints
My, how the mighty have fallen. After seemingly having the NFC South won nearly all season, the Saints are now desperately hoping for a win this weekend just to stay in the playoffs as a No. 6 seed. But there is still room to move up for New Orleans.
With a Carolina loss and a New Orleans win, the Saints would move into the No. 2 seed and clinch the NFC South. If both teams win, the Saints remain in the No. 6 seed unless the 49ers lose to the Cardinals, in which case New Orleans would take over the No. 5 seed.
The worst-case scenario for the Saints would be a loss and a subsequent win by the Cardinals, which would drop them completely out of the playoffs for the second year in a row. But against a Tampa Bay team that has won just four games all season, the odds look good for New Orleans to play in January.
One of the most surprising teams in the NFL this season, the Cardinals unfortunately do not control their own destiny despite a 10-5 record. But with just one spot remaining for Arizona to squeeze into, it could make the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season.
The Cardinals' impressive win over Seattle sparked chatter in support of Bruce Arians winning coach of the year, including this reaction from Yahoo! Sports' Brad Evans:
Probably a good time to start a Bruce Arians for Coach of the Year petition. What a gutsy, hard-fought win where few ever emerge victorious.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) December 23, 2013
With a win against the 49ers, the Cardinals would still need the Saints to drop their final game against the Buccaneers just to get into the No. 6 seed at 11-5. A loss would mean Arizona would drop to 10-6 and barely miss a spot in the postseason in Bruce Arians' first season at the helm.
As if the task wasn't difficult enough against a Philadelphia team that has the No. 1 rushing and No. 9 passing offense—it is No. 2 in overall offense—now it looks like Dallas might have to do so without Romo behind center for the first time all season.
Whether Romo or Kyle Orton starts for the Cowboys on Sunday night against the Eagles, they will need a win just to clinch a spot in the postseason. As for their seeding, the Cowboys would get the No. 5 seed if the Packers win the division and the No. 6 seed if the Bears win.
But all of that is still dependent on the Cowboys winning, which would be difficult with or without Romo considering they have the worst defense in the league.
Green Bay Packers
Somehow, the Packers just continue to cling to a chance at the playoffs. And with a huge matchup against the rival Bears, their postseason dreams once again hang in the balance.
Green Bay would clinch both the NFC North and the No. 4 seed with a win. A loss would mean the Packers stay home and watch their division counterpart take their place in the Wild Card Round.