Playoff Scenarios: Who will the Packers see in the NFC?

The Packers are playing well right now. Are they the best team in the NFC?
The Packers are playing well right now. Are they the best team in the NFC?
The Packers are playing well right now. Are they the best team in the NFC?

The Packers have already punched their ticket to the playoffs. And by defeating the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Packers would be the No. 2 seed, earning a first-round bye.

My eyes tell me that the Packers are a better team than the Vikings. And a motivated team heading to Minnesota with a first-round bye on the line should should show up ready to play.

So when looking at the playoff picture, let’s assume the Packers get the win and the No. 2 seed.

Beyond where the Packers are ultimately seeded, there’s a lot still to be determined in the NFC.

Will it be the Washington Redskins or the Dallas Cowboys as the NFC East Champions? Will the Vikings or Bears sneak into the playoffs? Are the New York Giants really done?

There is a handful of teams competing for two playoff spots, so what should you watch for around the NFL after the Packers play on Sunday? Let’s take a closer look at the potential NFC playoff field.

1) Who will win the NFC West?

The 49ers play at home against the 5-10 Arizona Cardinals this week, and the Seahawks will host the 7-7-1 St. Louis Rams. If the 49ers win, they’re the NFC West champions and would have a home playoff game.

If the 49ers lose and the Seahawks win, then Seattle is the division champions, and the 49ers would be playing on the road on wild card weekend.

What should happen: San Francisco should win the division.

Although the 49ers have been struggling, they should win easily against the hopeless Arizona Cardinals. It would take a late Christmas miracle for Arizona to beat the 49ers on the road. And even if the Seahawks beat the Rams, San Francisco would still have a better record.

Now we have five of six playoff teams set. Under this scenario, the Falcons and Packers would have first-round byes, the 49ers would be the No. 3 seed, and the NFC East champion–Washington or Dallas–would be the No. 4 seed, hosting the Seattle Seahawks.

2) Cowboys or Redskins in the NFC East?

Whoever wins Sunday night’s showdown between the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins will be the No. 4 seed in the NFC.

The two teams first met on Thanksgiving this season. Washington scored 28 first quarter points, before Dallas fought back to make it a close game. The Redskins won 38-31 and now have a chance to win the division outright.

What should happen: Who knows?

The NFC East has been an unpredictable division all season. The Giants seem to be trying to play themselves out of the playoffs despite looking like one of the best teams in the league earlier this season. And both the Redskins and Cowboys looked great some days and awful other days.

Washington is currently a three-point home favorite over Dallas. Robert Griffin III has been terrific as a rookie this season, but personally, I think the Cowboys are a more complete football team. Tony Romo and the Cowboys passing game should have a big day against a weak Washington secondary.

Even if the Redskins lose to the Cowboys on Sunday, they could still make the playoffs as a wild card. Basically, if the Vikings and Bears both lose earlier on Sunday, then the Redskins will already be in the playoffs by the time they take the field on Sunday night.

Both teams will want to win the game to earn the home playoff game, but Dallas needs this game to crack the postseason. Washington may not.

The winner of the game will host whichever team doesn’t win the NFC West–San Francisco or Seattle. With the NFC West now settled, and the NFC East winner’s spot secured, the playoff bracket would now look like this:

Updated NFC Playoff Bracket
Updated NFC Playoff Bracket

Beyond the Redskins-Cowboys game, we’re left with only one question in the NFC.

3) Who gets the NFC’s final wild card?

Scenario one: Minnesota Vikings.

– If the Vikings beat the Packers at home this week, they’ll be in the playoffs. Oh yeah, and they’d play the Packers again one week later at Lambeau Field. But for this projection, we already assumed the Packers would win, so let’s move on to the next scenario.

Scenario two: Chicago Bears.

– Assuming the Vikings lose to the Packers, then the Chicago Bears control their own destiny for a playoff spot. By beating the Lions at Ford Field, the Bears would finish 10-6 and claim the NFC’s final wild card.

Scenario three: New York Giants

– Most Packers fans would rather not see the New York Giants in the playoffs. The Giants need to win and get help in order to crack the postseason this year. A win over the Philadelphia Eagles would get their foot in the door, but they also need Washington to beat Dallas, and both Chicago and Minnesota to lose. It’s unlikely–but–weirder things have happened.

Scenario four: Washington Redskins.

– If the Redskins lose, the Cowboys would be the No. 4 seed, hosting the Seahawks, while Washington would be the No. 6 seed traveling to San Francisco.

What should happen: The second scenario is the most likely–Chicago should sneak into the playoffs, in my opinion. Assuming the Packers beat the Vikings, all the Bears need to do is beat the Detroit Lions to crack the postseason. This is not a gimme for a struggling Bears team against a Lions team with nothing to lose, but Chicago is the better team.

So, let’s take another look at the NFC playoff picture with the Bears as the No. 6 seed. This, to me, seems like the most likely scenario.

Updated NFC Playoff Scenario
Updated NFC Playoff Scenario

#6 Chicago Bears at #3 San Francisco 49ers

The Bears traveled to San Francisco Nov. 19 and got shalacked by the 49ers. Jay Cutler was out of the lineup with a concussion, but the Chicago defense was shredded by Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense.

It’s hard to see anything different happening in the postseason. San Francisco’s ticket to the divisional round of the playoffs would be all but punched if they were matched up against Chicago.

#5 Seattle Seahawks at #4 Redskins or Cowboys

The Seahawks are unbeaten at home this season, but they’re just 3-5 one the road. Travelling across the country to play the Washington Redskins would figure to be a tough task for a young Seattle team. If Dallas wins the NFC East, that would set up a Seahawks-Cowboys matchup, conjuring up memories of Tony Romo’s botched hold in Seattle in the 2007 playoffs.

This would be a really interesting matchup, regardless of who hosts the game. Of course, these scenarios hinge on the Bears beating the Lions. If Detroit knocks off Chicago, things would get very interesting.

4) If the Lions beat the Bears, then what?

Detroit and Chicago play at noon on Sunday. If the Bears win, they’ll be a Green Bay win over Minnesota away from the postseason. But if Chicago loses, things will become a little cloudier.

And depending how you look at it, this could be good or bad for the Packers.

If the Bears and Vikings lose, and the Redskins beat the Cowboys, then the New York Giants would be in line for the No. 6 seed. This would mean the Giants would travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers on wild card weekend. So either way, one of those two potentially dangerous NFC teams would be eliminated for round two.

But still, most of Packer Nation would prefer the Giants watch the playoffs from home. In which case, a lot of Packers fans would become Cowboys fans on Sunday night.

If Dallas beats Washington, the NFC playoffs would be filled with drama.

Updated NFC Playoff Scenario
Updated NFC Playoff Scenario

Right now, the NFC is a top-heavy conference. Atlanta has had the conference’s best record all season, although skeptics still remain. San Francisco and Seattle appear to be as strong as anyone in the NFC, while the Packers seem to be peaking at the perfect time.

This final scenario would offer perhaps the best “field” from the Packers’ perspective.

The Cowboys would host the Seattle Seahawks, while the Washington Redskins would travel to San Francisco in round one. Unlike if the Chicago Bears crack the postseason, the Redskins have the pieces in place to pull off the upset over the 49ers in round two. I’m not saying it would happen, but I think RG3 and that Washington offense would be more likely to beat the 49ers than Jay Cutler and the Bears.

In all likelihood, the Packers appear likely to play the 49ers in the divisional round regardless of what happens on Sunday. But it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the 49ers lost in the first round, giving the Packers one less NFC powerhouse to worry about on their way to Super Bowl XLVII.

But don’t forget about the Giants. Assuming they win and the Vikings and Bears both lose, the only way the G-Men are held out of the playoffs would be if Dallas beats Washington on Sunday night.

Otherwise, the Giants will be in the playoffs, and the bracket would look like this.

Updated NFC Playoff Scenario
Updated NFC Playoff Scenario

There are a number of different possibilities that could unfold on Sunday. Hopefully, the NFC playoff picture is now a little clearer.

An important thing to remember with all this is that there is no set “bracket” in the NFL playoffs. The league uses “re-seeding” in the postseason, giving the No. 1 seed the easiest possible path to the Super Bowl. This would mean the Packers, as the No. 2 seed, would host the highest-remaining seed.

So if the No. 6 seed advances, they’d automatically play the No. 1 seed Atlanta.

And if the No. 3 seed advances, they’d automatically play the No. 2 seed Green Bay. Make sense?

If the Packers lose on Sunday, they’ll play the Minnesota Vikings in the wild card round. No question, that’s what would happen.

But if the Packers win on Sunday, as most expect, then their potential playoff route could go a number of different directions.

Keep this “cheat sheet” open on Sunday and root for whatever scenario you want to unfold. It’s a nice thing knowing the Packers are playing as well as anyone in the NFC headed into the playoffs.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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  • chris k

    If the Packers win and are the no. 2 seed would they play Saturday or Sunday and do we know what time yet??? Thx

  • chris k

    After the bye week I mean of course…

  • cow42

    IF the Packers can beat the Vikings (a big “if” because the Vikings are good and are at home and will be breathing fire)… the final four could be Seattle @ Atl and SF @ GB.

    that would mean a Seattle @ GB NFC championship game is possible (not PROBABLE, mind you… just POSSIBLE – I can’t see any way GB could beat the 49’ers).

    • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

      You can’t see anyway the Packers can beat the 49ers? Have you watched them the last few weeks? We played them in week one with a bunch of untested rookies and Jarrett Bush playing. Capers even admitted after the game it was a mistake leaving Bush in on obvious passing downs. I love the effort Bush puts in week in and week out. With that said, I can barely watch the screen when he’s playing defense. To many times (week one included) have I seen Bush trailing a player in the end zone with his hands in the air wondering what happened as the other team has just scored a touchdown. I for one think the Packers can roll with the 49ers and beat them! Playing in Green Bay in the middle of January is a hell of a lot different than playing there in September. This team is FINALLY starting to hit it’s stride and get healthy, well as healthy as they can be and I don’t believe the 49ers can beat them at home in January.

  • Toch

    Espn reporting that Woodson will not play against Vikings in last game of the season. Dang!

  • GBPDAN

    If the Pack is a 2 seed and Atlanta is a 1, and if the the 3 and 4 seed win thier 1st rd games, the pack would play yhe 3 seed and Atlanta would play the 4 seed.

    More than likely the pack will win the 2 seed. 49ers will beat Arizona and will win thier game at home in WC round. The pack will host them the following week. If Justin Smith plays, this will be a tough game. The niners are just not the same with out him as proven when the pats hung 28 on them , when he went out, and how the sea chickens rolled them when he didnt play.

    If the Pack wins that game, the odds are very strong that we will be playing either Atlanta or the sea chickens next. So there’s no doubt the Pack will have played formidable competition if they make it to the super bowl.

    I’m still a firm believer that games are won and lost in the trenches . The niners and seattle have better trenches than green bay. But, Green bay has a superior quarterback over seattle or the niners rookies. I’m hoping this is the difference in these games. Im not to worried about any other team the Pack may face.Go Pack Go!

  • GBPDAN

    By the way, your brackets dont look right….if the Pack has the 2 seed, they would play the highest seed left coming out of the WC round. Atlanta would play the lowest seed left. Therefore, if the niners are the 3 seed and win thier 1st playoff game, they would play the Packers next…your bracket shows them lined up with Atlanta?

    • Chad Toporski

      From the article:

      “An important thing to remember with all this is that there is no set “bracket” in the NFL playoffs. The league uses “re-seeding” in the postseason, giving the No. 1 seed the easiest possible path to the Super Bowl. This would mean the Packers, as the No. 2 seed, would host the highest-remaining seed.”

  • GBAP

    This one doesn’t make any sense the way its written.

    Scenario four: Washington Redskins.

    – If the Redskins lose, the Cowboys would be the No. 4 seed, hosting the Seahawks, while Washington would be the No. 6 seed traveling to San Francisco.

  • http://Draftingph@aol.com Dutch

    The “SHEET of INTEGRITY” meets the NFL Playoffs! Introducing “Cover-Two”.
    Before the Playoffs start, when the Spreads are set, predict 2 teams, (1 from each conf.), who will best cumulatively cover the spreads throughout the tournament. Keep in mind that an underdog has the spreads ADDED to their scores and a favorite has the spreads SUBTRACTED.

    Example: GB (-3) at MINN – Two scenarios:

    Final: GB 28 MINN 17 GB = (28-17)-3= +8 ATS ### MINN = (17-28)+3= -8 ATS

    Final: MINN 28 GB 17 GB = (17-28)-3= -14 ATS ### MINN = (28-17)+3= +14 ATS

    Winners play on: losers drops out and ATS scores accumulate. The participants have to anticipate potential matchups, grade the possible spreads and then make their own selections in each conf. The conf. winners don’t always get to the Super Bowl. Last year, the Packers were a juggernaut going in, but the Giants won the NFC with 57.5 pts CATS (Cumulative Against the Spread). The AFC winner, Houston had 19.5 CATS but was already knocked-out in the Div. Round. The tiebreak is to guess the CATS number for each. ‘Looks easy? When the match-ups are set, make your own sheets and see how easy it is! Good Luck.

  • Zeman

    Nice work Marques, bring on Atlanta!