The NFL playoff picture has become much clearer after Week 16, leaving the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in control of their own destiny in the NFC.
For those three teams, earning a trip to NFL playoffs this season is nearly as simple as winning their next game, according to The Sporting News. The Washington Redskins need to win against the New York Giants Sunday to punch their playoff ticket, and the Green Bay Packers or Detroit Lions will earn a home game in the NFL Wildcard Round with their victory in the de facto NFC North title game this Sunday.
While Tampa Bay is theoretically alive, the Buccaneers need an improbable series of events in order to leap into the NFL playoff picture. Included in the series of unlikely events is a tie, meaning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are likely going to be left out of the NFL playoff lineup this season.
The following is the current NFC playoff picture and the events each NFL team needs in order to finish in that position.
No. 1 Dallas Cowboys (13-2)
The Dallas Cowboys have clinched home-field advantage for this year’s NFL playoff. The Cowboys won’t have to leave the state of Texas for the entire postseason as Super Bowl 51 is in Houston on February 5, 2017.
What’s at stake Sunday: Nothing. Dallas cannot do anything to affect their playoff positioning in their NFL finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
No. 2 Atlanta Falcons (10-5)
The Atlanta Falcons have already clinched the NFC South title thanks the to Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ loss this past week to the New Orleans Saints. In order to earn a first-round bye and finalize their spot in the NFL playoff picture this season, the Atlanta Falcons must take care of business at home against the Saints. Atlanta has already defeated New Orleans this season, earning a 45-32 victory on the road back in September.
What’s at stake Sunday: A first-round bye in this year’s NFL playoff.
No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1)
The Seattle Seahawks had the inside track at earning a first-round bye before losing to their NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals last week. Now, the Atlanta Falcons must lose their game against the New Orleans Saints while the Seattle Seahawks — winners of the NFC West title this year — defeat the San Francisco 49ers Sunday. An Atlanta Falcons victory means the Seattle Seahawks cannot advance beyond the No. 3 seed, setting up a NFL Wildcard home playoff game the following weekend. However, a Seattle Seahawks loss on Sunday would drop the team to the No. 4 seed in this year’s NFL playoff.
What’s at stake Sunday: Seeding. The finale NFL playoff picture will be determined by the Atlanta Falcons game as well as how the Seattle Seahawks fare against the San Francisco 49ers (2-13).
No. 4 Green Bay Packers (9-6)
The Green Bay Packers assumed the NFC North lead by virtue of head-to-head results after the Detroit Lions lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. The Green Bay Packers must win Sunday’s de facto NFC North title game against the Detroit Lions to cement their standing in the final NFL playoff picture. A loss to the Detroit Lions would mean the Green Bay Packers would need the Washington Redskins to lose earlier in the day to punch their NFL playoff ticket. If both the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins win Sunday, the Green Bay Packers would be sent packing this postseason.
What’s at stake Sunday: A playoff berth as well as home field advantage for the NFL Wildcard matchup. The Green Bay Packers can finish as high as No. 3 or completely miss this year’s postseason altogether.
No. 5 New York Giants (10-5)
The New York Giants clinched a wildcard berth this weekend after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the New Orleans Saints Sunday. With the Dallas Cowboys already clinching the NFC East crown, the New York Giants are locked into the No. 5 seed for this year’s NFL playoff.
What’s at stake Sunday: Nothing. The New York Giants will start the postseason on the road in this year’s NFL playoff against the No. 4 seed.
No. 6 Detroit Lions (9-6)
With their loss to the Dallas Cowboys Monday night, the Detroit Lions missed their opportunity to lock up a NFL playoff berth. There’s still an opportunity for the Detroit Lions to make the postseason, however, as the team hosts the Green Bay Packers in this season’s final NFL contest Sunday night. With a win, the Detroit Lions would earn the NFC North title and finish as high as the No. 3 seed. If the Green Bay Packers win Sunday night, the Detroit Lions would need the Washington Redskins to have already lost to the New York Giants to take the final spot in this year’s NFL playoff.
What’s at stake Sunday: A playoff berth and the NFC North title. The Detroit Lions risk missing the NFL postseason altogether after failing to win their previous two contests against NFC East teams bound for the NFL playoff.
Still in contention: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7), Washington Redskins (8-6-1)
Barring a tie in the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers Sunday night game, the Washington Redskins control their own destiny in their contest against the New York Giants. The Redskins need to win in order to make the postseason, so expect Washington to go all-out in order to make this year’s NFL playoff. The New York Giants have already punched their playoff ticket and cannot improve their positioning, leaving the Washington Redskins as the NFL franchise with the most to play for this weekend.
To earn the final NFL playoff spot, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to win their game over the Carolina Panthers as well as the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers to earn victories. Even if these games line up for Tampa Bay, the final stretch of the Buccaneers series of event is to have the Washington Redskins and New York Giants tie in their game Sunday.
What’s at stake Sunday: For the Washington Redskins, win and you’re in this year’s NFL playoff. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the squad needs a miracle scenario to unfold just to earn a ticket into this year’s NFL playoff.
How do you think the final NFL playoff picture will look after this weekend’s key contests for the Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
[Featured Image by Jeff Zelevansky, Al Bello, and Joe Robbins/Getty Images]