Playoff Outlook NFL Week 17 2012

1) 13-2 NFC South Champion Atlanta Falcons (Hosting 6-9 Buccaneers)
2) 11-4 NFC North Champion Green Bay Packers (at 9-6 Vikings)
3) 10-4-1 NFC West Leading San Francisco 49ers (Hosting 5-10 Cardinals)
4)   9-6 NFC East Leading Washington Redskins (Hosting 8-7 Cowboys)
5) 10-5 NFC Wildcard Seattle Seahawks (Hosting 7-7-1 Rams)
6)   9-6 NFC Wildcard Minnesota Vikings (Hosting 11-4 Packers)
7) 9-6 NFC playoff hopeful Chicago Bears (at 4-11 Lions)
8) 8-7 NFC playoff hopeful Dallas Cowboys (at 9-6 Redskins)
9) 8-7 NFC playoff hopeful New York Giants (Hosting 4-11 Eagles)

The Atlanta Falcons are the top seed no matter what. They have clinched home field advantage through the entire playoffs. They may play backups next week, leading to the rest vs rust argument.
But below the top seed, all heck breaks loose.

As of now the Packers are the two seed. They have clinched their division. If they win a tough road game next week against a hated division rival, fighting for its playoff life, they get the other first round bye and the week off. If they lose and either the 49ers or Seahawks win, the Packers would drop to the three seed, the lowest they can fall.

Right now the 49ers are the three seed. They have clinched a playoff spot but only lead their division by half a game. They have an easy game at home against a team that lost 9 of their last 10. If they win, they at worst division champions and the three seed.  If they win and the Packers lose, the 49ers would be the two seed and get the first round bye. The Packers would drop to the three seed. However, if the 49ers lose and the Seahawks win, the 49ers drop to the five seed as a wild card and would have to go on the road.

At this minute the Washington Redskins are the four seed, but they have clinched nothing. They host archrival Dallas next week. The winner wins the division and is the four seed. Washington can lose and still make the playoffs as the six seed wildcard if the Vikings and Bears both lose.

The Seahawks have clinched a playoff spot and are right now the wild card five seed, meaning road travel. Yet if they win their home game against a team eliminated from contention and the 49ers also do  the same, the Seahawks would win the division and be the three seed with a home game. If the Seahawks win and the 49ers and Packers both lose, the Seahawks would vault all the way to the two seed and get the first round bye.

The Vikings are the number six seed but have clinched nothing. They cannot win their division, but winning a tough game at home against a Green Bay team with everything to play for means the Vikings are automatically in the playoffs as that six seed. If the Vikings lose, they can still make the playoffs if the Bears, Cowboys, and Giants all lose.

The Bears are on the outside looking in. They are on the road against a weak but dangerous team playing for pride. If the Bears lose, they are done. If they win and the Vikings lose, the Bears are in the playoffs as the six seed and the Vikings are out.

The Cowboys have one very simple option. They are on the road next week at division rival Washington in the final game of the season Sunday night. If Dallas wins, they win their division and are the number four seed. If they lose they are finished. Dallas cannot be a wild card.

The New York Giants are hanging by a thread. They cannot win their division. They host a team that has given up on the season. If they lose, they are out. If they win, they need the Bears, Cowboys, and Vikings to lose. That would allow them to sneak in as the six seed wild card. While the Cowboys and Giants both winning would have them and the Redskins in a three-way tie atop the division at 9-7, the Giants lose the tie-breaker and would be finished.

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